One could easily argue that the space sim was essentially dead before Chris Roberts resurfaced last year with the announcement of Star Citizen. Games along the lines of Freelancer or Wing Commander were just seemingly too niche to earn solid returns in an environment where the cost of game development continues to skyrocket. As a long-time fan of these sorts of games, I’ve been waiting for the next X-Wing Alliance for probably more than 10 years now, though I’d all but given hope.
I knew there were many others like me, perhaps not enough, but certainly many others. However, it wasn’t until the success of the Star Citizen crowdfunding campaign that I found myself able to appreciate just how many gamers like me are really out there and how starved we all are for these sorts of experiences.
I met Chris back at PAX East this year and chatted him up in casual conversation after our Future of Online Games panel. We discussed space sims and Star Citizen and I pretty much gushed about how excited I was to see Chris and his team not only undertake such an ambitious space sim project, but also push the envelope of PC gaming at the same time. PC gaming as a whole has been held back by the current generation of consoles for too long and Star Citizen looks to show us what a truly next-generation space sim can be like while also championing the power of the PC platform. It’s an exciting time to be a PC gamer for sure!
We caught up with Chris Roberts once again at this year’s E3 to discuss what’s been going on with the project over the last couple of months as well as a myriad of other topics related to Star Citizen.
Crowdfunding and Stretch Goals
Star Citizen has long surpassed its crowdfunding needs to get the core experience going ($500K), but with money still coming in, the team has been hitting a number of stretch goals. Currently, Star Citizen’s crowdfunding efforts have brought in $10.6 million making it the most successful crowdfunding campaign ever. We asked about the sort of things Cloud Imperium Games has been aiming for with their stretch goals and we were told that some of the recent stretch goals included Lifetime Insurance for backers who back the project before the new website launches as well as a partnership with NaturalPoint for the purposes of adding a mocap system to the game’s production pipeline.
Chris Roberts has a pretty interesting development plan for Star Citizen. Most of us are used to waiting with bated breath for our favorite games for an often overly extensive period of time. Some publishers or developers have mercy on us from time to time and don’t even announce their games until around six months out, but this isn’t often the case. Instead of waiting around with nothing to show for your backing until the game fully releases, Cloud Imperium Games will be releasing Star Citizen bit-by-bit in the form of modules.
The first module, which is the player’s hangar, will be released as early as this August. Players will be able to check out their ships and even invite friends over and walk around. You’ll even be able to do some early levels of modification to your ship with the initial release, with plans to develop the module further as overall development continues.
The dogfighting module releases in December. With this release, players will be able to take the ships they’ve pledged for and fight other players or even the AI.
The planet side module releases sometime next year (Chris tells us perhaps March or April) and will include the social aspects of being on a planet. You’ll be able to do things like go to the bar and chat.
Further out is the single player alpha (roughly August 2014) and the alpha for system universe (again, roughly December 2014). It appears the full release is set for some time in 2015 and CIG is aiming for a new module every six months on the run-up to launch.
Each module essentially has its own team, so it’s not to say that CIG is working on these modules in a linear fashion, moving from one to the next. Instead, they are all being worked on somewhat concurrently and when a new module is released that same team is able to keep iterating on that aspect of the game and improve on it while players wait for the next module to come online. Expect major additions to each module roughly three months out from their respective release. The aim here is to keep fans of the game engaged throughout the whole process and it sounds like CIG has an excellent plan to do just that.
Star Citizen isn’t just dogfighting. While the game will launch with 100 star systems, they won’t necessarily all be mapped out for players. Instead, intrepid explorer types will want to go and find their jump points, successfully navigate the jump point (it’s an actual flying challenge), and then explore the system themselves. Players who locate a new system or nav point will be able to name it and they can even sell the mapped out information to other players, keep it to themselves, or share it just with their friends.
One of my favorite aspects of Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed were the POBs or group ships. Ironically, SWG did an excellent job of creating a smaller scale “Star Trek” experience of having actual players crew your ship in combat filling various roles. I had to find out if this were a possibility in Star Citizen and I came away pleasantly surprised. In fact, the largest ship currently in the game is the Corvette, and this ship can be manned by anywhere from eight to ten players. It will even hold three fighters in its bay that players can launch out from and do battle in. You’ll be able to fill maintenance roles, man turrets, and more. It all sounds very cool and should be fun for clans to work together on.
Re-routing energy to different systems and even tuning or overclocking components are all possible in Star Citizen. Each component of your ship is an item and that item features multiple pipes that link into the ship. Data, energy, heat pipes, that sort of thing. Components generate heat and must be cooled, but there’s around 10-30% of additional performance per component that you can squeeze out of it and this is where overclocking comes in. It’s kind of like a PC in that sense. You’ll have a sort of bench to work on where you can try to push as much out of the component as you can without pushing it too far and destroying it. Still, the component will generate additional heat and this is something to consider in Star Citizen as it may have implications as far as what other components you’ll be able to have working in your ship at the same time. Additionally, heat affects your radar signature – so if you plan on playing a stealthy scout role you may want to devote significant amounts of your ship’s capabilities to cooling components in order to reduce that signature.
You can learn more about Star Citizen at the game’s official website. The new website launches June 28th and if you want that Lifetime Insurance perk you’ll need to back the game before then!
Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB