When I first heard the name Star Citizen, I quite foolishly assumed that this was yet another space-bound MMO, like EVE: Online or Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. I have never been so astronomically wrong. This game isn’t just massive — it’s positively gargantuan, and it’s not even finished yet…
For those of you completely out in the vacuum of space, Star Citizen is an ongoing PC project headed up by Chris Roberts, the man behind Wing Commander series: a 90s space-flight simulator with dog-fighting gameplay. Nearly 20 years later, Roberts embarked on the pioneering mission that is Star Citizen, with a nigh-on impossible objective: “I don’t want to build a game. I want to build a universe.”
The premise of the game is two-fold: on the one hand there is the single-player campaign, entitled Squadron 42, which will consist of both flight-simulation mechanics as well as a boots on the ground, first/third-person shooter experience. On the other hand, the star of the show is what is being dubbed the “Persistent Universe”; this is comprised not only of the massive multiplayer format but upon completion is designed to be the biggest game map ever.
Not only do the current builds feature several planets for the player to visit, all of which are designed to match a true planetary scale—we’re talking vast expanses, towns and cities, all with fleshed out interiors — but the ultimate goal is to create a virtual solar system for players to disappear into for weeks on end.
The sheer gravity of this project is mind-blowing and the approach itself is worthy of note too. This game’s production is very much like the construction of a spacecraft itself, in that it is being described as “modular”, meaning that sections and versions of the game can be purchased as and when available.
Roberts Space Industries is the umbrella that envelopes both Cloud Imperium Games — situated in Manchester of all places — and Foundry 42 (Frankfurt). It is this team of developers that are making video game history and they’re taking you along for the ride.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Kickstarter and other crowd-funding sites. They are platforms for creative people to finance their projects through funds generated by the fans and for the fans. Star Citizen has taken this to the next level.
Whilst most top off their own money with that made through crowd-sourcing, Roberts’ vision for Star Citizen was to develop a game entirely from the donations made by fans and respected peers within the industry who understood what this game was all about. The fans.
As of 2011 (the official start date for production), the project has been 100 per cent crowd-funded. The team initially expected to raise around $4 million. This has become merely a drop in the pond, with the current estimation of total funds raised clocking in at a stellar $150 million – give a take a million or so…
So, what does $150 million in funds get you then? Well, nothing finished as of yet; in fact, as of right now there is no official release date. This has become a bit of a running joke amongst the gaming community but has also lead to a great deal of backlash amongst those who donated their hard-earned cash for a game that was supposed to be here three years ago.
In truth, it has come to the point that there is little use for a release date, as the original projection was 2014 and it is still no clearer when the game will be actually finished. Though there are rumours that the target is now late 2018, the issue is that so much money has now been pumped into the game that the community, as well as Roberts himself, feel that there is the capability to push this further: “If I can build a bigger and more robust experience, I will.” (NY Times).
It is not just that this game promises to be the biggest game ever, as we’ve been done dirty by that phrase before (No Man’s Sky), but more so that the level of time and effort being put into the project is backing that statement up. Furthermore, this game is huge in significance purely because of the showcase it has given for crowd-sourcing, with the scrutiny being part and parcel of it too – it almost has to the biggest game ever now.