Dual Universe, the ambitious sci-fi MMO that got a McDonald's before it got a release date, is now officially in alpha testing. That's still a long way from launch, but it means that anyone willing to shell out the hefty cost of admission can jump into the game and start exploring, building, and trading.
The alpha release features a significantly increased land mass, with an area that's close to the size of Great Britain, according to developer Novaquark. The player-driven in-game markets will also be enabled in the alpha, along with "a wealth of tools to help players mine, harvest, transport, store, and sell all manner of building resources."
Building is the big hook in Dual Universe: Novaquark aims to create a massive interplanetary MMO that can support millions of players on a single server, and that enables those players to build out the universe as they see fit. (Which is how it ended up with a Mickey D's in pre-alpha.) Novaquark founder JC Baillie told us at PAX West last year that the endgame is about mastering Lua, a built-in scripting language that can be used to modify the game and even program different interactive elements—although he emphasized that it's entirely optional.
The first Dual Universe alpha test is clearly only for committed followers: You'll need to purchase a Sponsor Pack for €120 ($137), or a Patron Pack for €180 ($205) to get in. The less (but still) expensive Contributor Pack goes for €60 ($68) will get you into the second round of alpha testing, which is currently planned for the first half of 2019. Novaquark plans a third alpha test for the second half of 2019, followed by a beta test and release in 2020.