Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts’ new game, Star Citizen, was announced back in 2012, and–though parts of the game have been released–fans are still waiting for the final product. Roberts has now written an in-depth forum post that seeks to address concerns about the game’s development status and why the project is taking so long.
“This is the game I’ve dreamed of my whole life. Now I am in a position to realize it, I am not willing to compromise it’s potential because it is taking longer than I originally envisioned,” Roberts said. “What I will commit to, and what is an internal priority is to improve the current gameplay and quality of life as we go, as Star Citizen is already fun in many ways, even if more buggy and not as stable as I would like, and just finishing off and polishing the basics will make it play as well or better than most other games.”
Roberts went on to say that the gameplay elements for Star Citizen is “not a pipe dream,” and he doesn’t expect it to take 10-20 years to deliver. “I described systems we either have working, or are working on; we’ve even shown early versions of some of this like fire on Inside Star Citizen. I can’t promise you exactly what quarter it will come together but once the new Road Map web work is done you’ll be able to see the teams progress to achieving what I describe in real time,” he said.
Although Star Citizen isn’t fully released yet, the alpha version is available, and it is very popular. Roberts said “tens of thousands” of people play it every day, and the peak userbase on an average day is about 30,000. During major in-game events, Star Citizen’s alpha has achieved 100,000 players in a single day, Roberts said.
“We are on track to have over one million unique players this year,” he said. “Star Citizen already has the main gameloops of a space sim; cargo hauling, commodity trading, mercenary, pirate, bounty hunting, and mining. Just spending time refining and finishing out these would make Star Citizen with all its detail and fidelity more engrossing than any ‘finished’ space sim you can play today.”
Roberts also used his forum post to speak about the current state of internet discourse and why he is frustrated by what he’s seeing online.
“My biggest disappointment with modern internet discourse is that there’s a significant amount of cynicism, especially in forum or Reddit debates, and a portion of people assume the worst,” he said. “If a feature is missing, late, or buggy it’s because the company or the developer lied and or / is incompetent as opposed to the fact that it just took longer and had more problems than the team thought it would when they originally set out to build it.”
Roberts went on to say that developers are usually themselves optimistic. While this enthusiasm might run the risk of a developer not anticipating a future issue, this is not a bad thing, Roberts said.
“Developers by their very nature are optimistic. You have to be to build things that haven’t ever been built before. Otherwise the sheer weight of what is needed to be done can crush you. But being optimistic or not foreseeing issues isn’t the same as lying or deliberately misleading people,” he said. “Everyone at Cloud Imperium Games is incredibly passionate about making Star Citizen the most immersive massively multiplayer first person universe sandbox, and everyone works very hard to deliver that. If we could deliver harder, faster, better we would.”
“We get just as frustrated with the time things take. We practice bottom up task estimation where the team implementing the feature breaks it down and gives their estimates of how long it will take them,” Roberts added. “Management doesn’t dictate timelines, we just set priorities for the teams as there are always a lot more things to do at any one time than we have people to do them. We are constantly reviewing and trying to improve our AGILE development process and how we estimate sprints. As the code, feature and content base grows there is more maintenance and support needed for the existing features and content, which can eat into the time a team has for new feature development, meaning you always have the push and pull of current quality of life in a release versus delivering new features and content. The same push and pull exists in the community as there is a strong desire for polished bug free gameplay now but also new features and content, often from the very same people.”
Roberts added that he hopes the Star Citizen community can do a better job at speaking to developers in a constructive manner instead of lashing out with ad hominems.
“If you want to encourage me or other developers to answer questions then it helps to not turn around and question people’s professionalism or make sweeping statements,” he said. “If someone did that to you in your job I am sure it would be irritating. I have a thicker skin than most of the developers at CIG, and realize that not everyone is speaking in their first language or realizes how they phrased things may not have been the best, but in general it is best to approach things with constructive criticism, leaving the ad hominems out. Just saying something sucks isn’t helpful. Explaining why it sucks for that user, and their ideas to potentially rectify it is helpful.”
The Star Citizen development roadmap is publicly available and updated frequently. Roberts acknowledged that people might not always agree with what the studio has chosen to prioritize, but he hopes it can offer a level of transparency to the community.
“This won’t stop people from disagreeing with our priority calls or how long something takes, but at least it will share the overall picture and people can see exactly what everyone is working on at any moment and how long it is projected to take,” he said. “They will be able to see it change when it does for us and hopefully appreciate how many people are working really hard to make Star Citizen a game like no other.”
In addition to Star Citizen, an off-shoot FPS game called Squadron 42 is in the works with some very big names attached to star in it. The cast includes Mark Hamill, Gary Oldman, Liam Cunningham, Gillian Anderson, Andy Serkis, John Rhys-Davies, Henry Cavill, and Ben Mendelsohn, among many others.
Star Citizen is the most successful crowdfunding project in history. As of September 15, the public funding campaign has exceeded more than $313 million USD.
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