The highly anticipated, gorgeous looking spearhead of the return of space sims known as Star Citizen was estimated to cost $20 million to develop. Via crowdfunding, the game has raised $25 million and has no need for a publisher or third-party investors and the game still has over a year before release. It’s a win for the genre as much as it is for the players.
So, where is the extra money going? To stretch goals that help the team at Cloud Imperium Games develop and expand features they couldn’t otherwise implement, and to set the groundwork for additional features and expansion that can come once the game launches next November.
At this point it’s a little unclear what the “release” of Star Citizen means when November 2014 comes around or if that date will hold up since it’s still early – sames goes for what exactly will be ready, if it will be labeled a “beta,” etc. It’s still over a year away, the team has the money, and all of the videos (check out the latest on the Hornet below) so far look great. There’s even a playable module that backers can download that lets players walk around and inside their pre-purchased ships. They’re very expensive, but they’re also pretty cool and other games of the genre haven’t offered that sort of immersiveness when it comes to boarding and exploring a space vessel.
There’s also another module on the way before the year’s out, one that actually lets players play a part of the game. The Dogfighting/Arena module will allow players to actually fly their ships and enter PvP combat against other players. How that’ll work with vastly different sizes and ship armaments we’re not quite sure, but the excitement for it combined with other upcoming developments is helping Star Citizen sell itself. Long-time PC gamers who remember the good ‘ol days of space sim domination in the ’90s couldn’t be happier and the game looks so good, that new players are jumping aboard daily.
In a Letter From The Chairman post on the game’s official site, creator Chris Roberts (the man behind the Wing Commander franchise) spoke about the game hitting the impressive, record-setting $25 million goal in less than a week, outlining the new features they’ll be able to work on and announcing the next stretch goal that’ll likely be hit in a few weeks or less.
What was unlocked at $25 million:
- Enhanced Alpha — We will use additional funding to build a wider alpha test than we had originally intended for the first phase of Star Citizen’s launch. The initial plan was to first launch servers in North America and then expand to areas such as Europe and Australia to decrease latency in these areas, perfecting the game as we improve the experience around the world. This funding will allow us to invest in a wider infrastructure for our early testing, spinning up remote servers earlier. Hitting this goal will also allow us to increase the number of remaining alpha slots. Extra alpha slots not only means more Star Citizens will travel the ‘verse at launch, but that we will receive more feedback and more stress testing. This in turn will allow us to better balance and enhance the Star Citizen experience!
What’s next to be unlocked at $26 million:
- Enhanced Capital Ship Systems — In addition to the command and control systems we’ve already outlined, we’re going to expand capital ship functions! Lead a damage control team to fight fires and repair key systems during battle, control internal bulkheads to slow boarders and man a number of consoles, like navigation and engineering, that will make commanding a capital ship feel even more immersive.
The just-announced $27 million goal:
- Banu Merchantman Unlocked — Banu traders are renowned for their merchant prowess, traveling the spacelanes and trading with everyone from humans to the Vanduul! Their sturdy, dedicated trading ships are prized beyond all other transports, sometimes passing from generation to generation of Banu. At $23 million we dedicated additional resources to making Xi’An spacecraft a unique experience. At $27 million, we will expand that same thinking to the Banu! Starting with the merchant ship, the design team will expand Banu technology to offer players a completely different way of experiencing their universe.
The next goal, expanding capital ships, builds upon one of the most exciting elements Star Citizen is aiming to include – the ability to not only fly/command ships of various sizes, but the ability to join other players in actually boarding them in first-person combat scenarios. As for the newly announced Banu goal, the idea is to expand the lore and variety of ship types and alien races in the game. More the merrier.
As to the growing concern for “feature creep,” a topic we addressed when discussing whether or not the stretch goals were adding “enough” to the game with the additional millions of dollars, Roberts again addressed the issue in his letter.
Even though we’ve fully funded the base game, every extra dollar helps to make the experience better. The content we talk about in these stretch goals isn’t “feature creep”; it’s elements we’ve been building and planning that will be all that more impressive with additional resources. In essence, you’re putting things we’ve already discussed for the future into development now. The extra funding means we’re secure in assigning resources to go ahead and begin developing that richer content we had initially planned to fund through the game’s success upon release.
In the coming months, Star Citizen will raise millions and millions more and expectations will continually rise with the surplus cash. Cloud Imperium will have to deliver fully on their announced intentions with a quality product – which we and backers have faith they can. The worst thing that can happen is if the game’s already profitable and brings in $30-40 million (or more) before release (i.e. twice it’s initial budget) and it doesn’t deliver on its promises when some players are paying as much as several hundred dollars to back it. With the crowdfunding campaign trending very high, it’s actually possible there’s more money than planned feature costs and that dreaded concept of “feature creep” may be looming on the horizon. We hope not with the pre-purchase/backer price of in-game ships costing more than full retail games.
For a taste of the first iteration of the Hangar Module with the most basic of purchasable ships, check out our gameplay video. See the latest stretch goals here. Screenshot galleries up top are of the Hornet vessel.
Star Citizen will launch in November 2014.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.