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As of June 2023 there have (so far) been over 28 named updates, and 5 medium content patches, after the game's initial release (as well as hundreds of patches).
Each major release has been specifically named & given a number of it's own e.g. 2.3 Living Ship.
The Bytebeat Update Patch is not included in these; despite being a content update that also changed & improved a lot of the game's systems; nor are several holiday themed mini-updates, such as the various Halloween patches; and not every Expedition counts as a full update.
LEADUP TO AN UPDATE:
Since the start of 2021, all except one update has been on a Wednesday (almost always just before UK school holidays).
The following things happen in the leadup to another update; although sometimes there are slight variations on the order:
1) HelloGames work on the next update.
2) The game usually goes on sale leading up to an update.
It also goes on sale sometimes when there is no update incoming; so by itself it's not an indication of an impending update.
3) Sean Murray starts retweeting screenshots like crazy.
4) HelloGames put their next update onto Internal Branch; a version of the game that only they have access to.
They test it out for around 1-5 days & make some tweaks.
5) Sean Murray tweets a single emoji related to the upcoming update. At this point, expect the update within 48 hours.
6) The internal branch gets copied over to the public branch; which means our PCs and Consoles download the update to the game.
Now the internal & public branches are identical.
7) HelloGames start working on & they release 2-5 patches in the first fortnight after an update; which fix any issues that the update may have caused.
These are tested out by willing players in Experimental branch; before being released as patches into the public branch (your game).
The Experimental Branch on Steam is a version of the game that is updated earlier than anywhere else; for the purposes of testing the game & ironing out any kinks, bugs & crashes caused by the changes made by the update or patch; prior to release to the rest of the general public. You can opt in to this (or out at any time) via Steam. Always create backups of your save first; just in case something goes wrong.
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