The very important 3.0 alpha build of Star Citizen appears to be out, at long last, but isn't available to everybody and probably won't be for a while.
Why "appears"? Because the first external phase of testing is done by a supergroup of Star Citizen community members known as The Evocati Test Flight, who are under NDA so cannot talk openly about what they're playing.
A post apparently from the Evocati forum, reposted on Reddit, announced 3.0's arrival. "We're absolutely thrilled to announce that an early version of 3.0 is now available for the Evocati Test Flight on PTU [Public Test Universe]," the post said.
There is also a Pastebin copy of the alpha 3.0 patch notes.
Evocati testing will likely continue for a couple of weeks depending on what bugs and issues are identified. From there, alpha 3.0 will go into restricted PTU testing before gradually widening to include more and more people. Finally, once all issues have been satisfactorily addressed, Cloud Imperium will send 3.0 out to the backer masses.
It's at this point Star Citizen will resemble, more or less, an Early Access release. You pay $45 for a Starter Package as you would pay a similar amount for a game - though Chris Roberts has told us Star Citizen's price may go up "a little bit" after 3.0 arrives - and away you go. You needn't pay anything else but, of course, you can.
Remember, Star Citizen alpha 3.0 will still be a work in progress even at this point. There's hope of it reaching beta sometime in 2018, and then reaching some kind of final form not long after, but as with all things Star Citizen, this could, um, elongate.
Star Citizen 3.0 brings planets into play. Those rousing videos of people flying down from space and onto a planet's surface, they come from 3.0. It's the flagship feature but, as the above patch notes suggest, far from the only one. This is the biggest update in Star Citizen's history and should serve as a good time to assess whether all that crowdfunded money has amounted to something special or not.