CIG released Star citizen 2.6 on the limited test server for the holidays. Many active players have been invited to partake in the Public Test Universe. It includes many UI updates, addition of the Caterpillar star ship and the long awaited Star Marine. I have had a chance to test it and it looks promising but is bug laden from errors getting on the server, getting booted and some common alpha gameplay issues.
Perhaps the most notable of the release is that CIG has abandoned CryEngine. CryTek has gone bust and is restructuring. In the process sometime last year the decision was made to switch to Amazon's Lumberyard game engine. Abondoning CryEngine can only be a good thing IMO. Lead programmers at CIG says this is actually not a setback.
“Looking at Crytek’s roadmap and Amazon’s we determined that Amazon was investing in the areas we were most interested in. They are a massive company that is making serious investments into Lumberyard and AWS to support next generation online gaming. Crytek doesn’t have the resources to compete with this level of investment and have never been focused on the network or online aspects of the engine in the way we or Amazon are. Because of this combined with the fact we weren’t taking new builds of CryEngine we decided that Amazon would be the best partner going forward for the future of Star Citizen.” - Chris Roberts
"Roberts added that Lumberyard provided groundbreaking technology for online games, such as deep back-end integration on Amazon Web Services and a social component with its connection with video game streaming platform Twitch." - Tech Times