Today, Citadel Studios is pleased to announce that launch dates for the highly anticipated Pre-Alpha 3 phase. The soft-launch for all backers $75 and above will begin on December 3rd, and all backers at the $40 level and above will begin a week later on December 10th.

“We’re incredibly excited about this next major step in the development of Shards Online,” said Derek Brinkmann, Citadel’s Founder and CEO. “Pre-Alpha 3 is one of the biggest updates to the game since we fully funded its development, and marks the culmination of so much feedback and testing from our backers. We can’t wait to let all of our backers in, and with PA3 we’re that much closer to doing so.”

During this phase, the Citadel Studios run servers will be up 24/7, and no character wipes are planned during the course of the testing phase. Sometime during the PA3 phase, the Cluster system will also go live. This is key step towards the vision of Shard’s interconnected worlds, as this allows players and server admins to connect their maps and games together, creating fully functioning player-run universes.

The major focus of game system updates for the Pre-Alpha 3 phase is on controls and the new player experience. As such, we’ve completely revamped the controls, added a brand new targeting system to make combat far more responsive and accurate, and we’ve extended the new player quest that includes 7 profession quests and 4 exploration quests to get players acclimated to life before setting them out on their own.

Also of note, this weekend’s developer roundtable carried some news about the Alpha 1 phase of testing. Firstly, the Outlands map will be added and the Catacombs map will be fully fleshed out and supported when the game hits Alpha 1. Currently, Alpha 1 is targeted for a March 2016 release, and will be rolled out in two phases like PA3. The second phase will include a Steam Early Access launch, bringing thousands of new players into the world of Shards Online.

Watch the highlights from Saturday’s Community Roundtable: