So you heard the developers of 7 Days to Die have added a hot new "Experimental" version of the game, and you want to check it out, and get a sneak peak of the all the new features being added to the game?
This article will show you how to do that, by setting up your server, and opting into the beta branches in your steam client!
What are "Experimental Branches"?
The "Experimental Branches" of 7 Days to Die mark the beginning of a series of fast paced updates to the game. New features, mechanics, items, abilities, etc are continually added in stages, along with very fast tweaks and adjustments.
These Experimental Branches can also include major changes to the game, which have included in the past such things as switching to an entirely new game engine and an entirely new terrain/world generation system (ah, I missed the roads that cut through lakes, it was cool!). Some of these changes have been HUGE.
Sneak Peak, Feedback, and Bug Stomping!
The Experimental Branch allows players to check out the new content early, and also to participate in testing and feedback. The developers of the game value your feedback, and you can have a part in how the new content is adjusted, tweaked, and balanced.
The game developers also appreciate any feedback on weirdness and bugs that you see while playing, so that they can get a head start on stomping those out too!
When Experimental ends, it becomes the new "Stable"
When a new Experimental Branch begins, development on the "Stable" version stops completely. The "Stable version is now frozen, no work will be done on it.
Eventually the round of Experimental updates will end, and the current state of the Experimental Branch becomes the new official Stable version of the game.
Switching your Server to Experimental Branch
When an Experimental Branch of 7 Days to Die is made available, it will be added to the One Click Installer by the Nodecraft staff. It unfortunately requires special setup to be added to our installer, and it will be added as soon as the information about the version is made available on Steam.
Once the new Experimental Branch has been added, it will show as a thumbnail along with the official stable version of the game. Thumbnails will be clearly labeled with the "Experimental Branch" title, such as "Alpha 18", "Alpha 19", etc.
Once you have selected the latest Experimental Branch, the Nodecraft control panel will handle the installation and setup of the game files. It will completely replace the existing files on the server!
We highly recommend creating an entirely new instance for the Experimental server!
In case you change your mind about switching permanently to the Experimental version of the game, we really really really recommend taking advantage of the "Instances" feature of our server control panel.
We have a guide (and video) that explains how the entire "Instances" system works, located here: What Are Instances and How To Use Them
When a server is archived, the entire state of the files (including your save games) is saved. You can restore it at any time later on. So, if you were just curious about the Experimental Branch, or it's just not your thing, you can switch back very easily if you created it on a separate Instance.
Opting out of Experimental Branch
To switch your server back from Experimental, you can either:
Archive your Experimental server, and deploy your old server (if you made separate Instances). All your progress on the original server will still be there, and you can continue playing on the Stable version of the game. This is really the easiest way to switch back.
Go to the One Click installer section of the Nodecraft control panel, and choose the "Official" branch. Choose the 'Fresh Install" option. This will install a completely blank new server, and it will be back on the Stable version of the game. You can then start a new game.
Switching your Client to Experimental on Steam
Connect to Steam
Launch the Steam application, and go to your game library on Steam.
Find 7 Days to Die in the list, and right-click on the game's name.
When the pop-up menu appears, click on "properties".
This will cause another window to appear. Click on the tab labelled "BETA" across the top.
Click the small triangle at the end of the box for selecting betas. This will open a drop down menu of all the beta versions.
Find the beta you want to join, and select it. The new Experimental Branch is usually labelled "Latest Experimental". There's only one Experimental Branch active at a time, so it should be the only one on the list.
Steam will begin downloading new files, and convert the client to the Experimental Branch.
Once your server is also switched to the Experimental Branch, you're ready to play!
Opting out of Experimental Branch on Steam
If you decide you want to go back to the Stable branch (maybe the Experimental Branch, is a little too experimental), you can do this by following the same steps as before, and choosing
NONE -Opt out of all beta programs in the drop down menu. This will trigger another file download, to restore the stable version of the game.
Remember to switch the game version installed on your Nodecraft server, too.
Bug Testing the Experimental Branch
If you want to help improve the game, and submit bug reports on any strange behavior you see while playing on the Experimental Branch, the developers of the game (the fine folks at Fun Pimps), ask you to do the following:
Start a whole new game. Importing characters or worlds into the experimental branch can cause huge issues and conflicts with any new changes in the game's code. In many updates, the developers will flatly state that the Experimental version cannot load older game saves. Any bugs you encounter might simply be the results of garbled data between the old saves/characters, and the new code. And besides, how are you gonna see all the new traits, skills, items, etc. if you're playing on an old save? It's so much fun starting over and trying to kill zombies with a stone axe that falls apart in your hands.
No mods. If you have mods installed, then the developers have no way to tell if the bug is a result of the mod itself (being badly coded), or not being updated to run on the new code for the experimental branch (dang those pesky mod developers not using their crystal balls and changing their mods in advance!). Given how massive the changes are in some updates, expect existing mods to either not work, or crash the server.
If you do both of these things, consider helping the developers at Fun Pimps out by reporting any interesting bugs you find on the Experimental Branch on the official forums for the game.
The developers will create new forum boards for each new Experimental version that is released. You can help shape the new version, and the game developers really appreciate your feedback and involvement in making the game better!