Oculus VR, the Kickstarter-backed spearhead of the resurgence of virtual reality headsets and technology, is now owned by Facebook and the $2 billion acquisition has been the talk of the industry since the announcement was made last week. The reaction to the deal however, has been mixed to say the least (especially from the perspective of gamers) and while most developers are in support of the VR headset getting more funding and better chances of penetrating the mainstream consumer market, others (see: Notch) aren't so keen on the idea of big corporate Facebook's involvement.
For Chris Roberts, the mastermind behind the in-development biggest-budget space sim of all-time, Star Citizen, the news isn't at all bad. After all, the game is being designed with Oculus Rift in mind. And for fans and gamers worried that the game maker may "sell out" in the same way some perceive Oculus VR did, Roberts says not to worry.
In a pair of blog entries by Chris Roberts on the official Roberts Space Industries website, the founder of Cloud Imperium Games Corporation wrote another "Letter from the Chairman" entry to talk about the latest crowdfunding milestone achieved, and shared his thoughts on Facebook's widely publicized acquisition of Oculus VR, makers of the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.
In order for the Rift to succeed, it really needed a lot more funding than it has raised from its past two VC rounds. Hardware is expensive: it’s one thing to perfect the technology, but before you can sell a single Rift, you need to spend hundreds of millions on manufacturing and building a supply chain if you intend to make the Rift (and Virtual Reality) relevant for the mass market. Microsoft invested well over a billion dollars just to launch the Xbox One this fall! My hope is that Facebook’s funding will let Oculus compete with much bigger companies and deliver an attractively priced consumer headset at the scale needed for mass market adoption without the loss of the incredible passion that convinced me to back the project. I haven’t heard or seen anything to the contrary so until I do we are fully committed to supporting the Rift.
On the topic of acquisitions:
Now to answer the myriad forum threads that popped up worrying about the possibility of Cloud Imperium being acquired by another, bigger company — don’t worry! We have no plans nor interest in following this path! We don’t need to go to anyone with deep pockets to make OUR dream a reality. To mass-produce hardware like the Rift, you need an outlay of hundreds of millions of dollars. Luckily our ships are digital so we have hardly any cost of goods, just the cost of developing the universe of Star Citizen and running servers that Star Citizen’s universe will be simulated on. Thanks to the generosity of the Star Citizen community we have these two things covered.
And last but not least I’m having way to much fun building the universe of my dreams for everyone to adventure in! I’ve been down the big company acquisition route twice before and there’s a reason I am making Star Citizen totally independently!
EVE: Valkyie, the space sim starfighter game by CCP Games, built from the ground up as an Oculus Rift prototype, will also release as planned for the hardware. The Facebook deal will only open up the game to support even even larger player base.
As for the development of Star Citizen, the playable dogfighting module was delayed until April 2014 to launch around the time of the PAX East even in Boston (April 11-13), so we're only a few weeks away and momentum is already building. It was only five weeks ago when the crowdfunding campaign crossed $39 million and a major stretch goal was added for procedural planet generation at $41 million. That goal was just hit.
I’m incredibly happy to hit this goal as it green-lights a very important research project aimed at improving Star Citizen’s long term future. With this funding, we’ll be looking into procedural generation to help build the universe out in a greater detail and scope in ways we didn’t think possible when we started developing the game! We will have some exciting announcements to make down the line involving some of the talent we’ve been talking to about helping us with procedural system and planet building.
Here's what comes next at $42 million:
- Updated Observist Guide — Additional funding from the $42 million level will go to expanding the website area of the Galactapedia: expect to see holographic ships, items and navigation interface in 3D! Imagine admiring your ships or planning your loadouts right here at the RSI website.
- Explorer-class mobiGlas Rig — Every player who backs before we hit $42 million will start the game with their own, visually distinctive mobiGlas “ExoGlas” rig which can be used to access the Observist at any time. I’ve charged the mobiGlas team with a very difficult task: creating a realistic interface that will help keep your affairs in order in an expansive galaxy that we hope players will expand in unknown directions. It’s almost like building our own in fiction operating system for an imagined future, and it’s very different task than building spaceships. This backer-exclusive mobiGlas kit will come pre-loaded with additional galactic information that new players would ordinarily need to explore or barter to fill out; it’s our way of honoring the information you’ve collected about the Star Citizen universe through the RSI site and community over the past year!
- Gladius — The Squadron 42 team will develop an additional fighter for the game, the Aegis Dynamics Gladius-class light fighter. The Gladius will be the first fighter built entirely from concept to CryEngine in the UK! Here’s the official description: The Aegis Gladius is the UEE’s reigning light short-range patrol fighter. A single-seat ship with no room for expansion, the Gladius is fast, maneuverable and capable of punching far above its weight. The main advantage to the design is simplicity: cheap to produce, easy to repair and outfit and quick to train new pilots on. The Gladius is an aging design nearing the end of its life-cycle, although iterative updates have kept it the most nimble fighter in the active fleet.
- Towel — And of course, everyone who backs before we hit $42 million will also receive a towel for their hangar. Don’t explore the galaxy without it!
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And the just-announced $43 million stretch goal:
- Omni Role Combat Armor (ORC) mk9 Manufacturer: CDS (Clark Defense Systems) The ‘standard’ Marine armor for almost twenty years, ORC armor is prohibitively more expensive than standard-issue infantry body armor used by Army Ground Forces, but the Marines boast far fewer numbers and tend to make compelling arguments to get what they ask for. Clark Defense Systems’ ORC armor is created of composite mesh of fibers reinforced with ablative plates, offering a modest protection against both energy and kinetic weapons. While it doesn’t offer the same protection of the Marines’ proprietary Nail-armor or their SpecOps variants, ORCmk9 armor is a baseline solution for any number of situations the average Marine will encounter on any given day. Besides, in the words of Lt. Col Armin Trask, “you wanna know the best armor? Not getting shot.”
With the PAX East event and the imminent launch of the dogfighting module, the community will go nuts and the internet will flood with gameplay videos and first impressions, generating even more buzz than the game already is earning. And that means both of these goals will be hit in no time. Keep in mind, the initial budget for the game was $20 million and so with more than two times that already raised, expectations are through the roof as Roberts and co. are tasked with delivering the best and most comprehensive space sim ever created - all without any publisher interference. It's an exciting time for longtime space sim fans!
The images throughout the post are of the Idris from Star Citizen, initially a Corvette-class starship that had to grow in size to accommodate extra rooms like a medical bay and extra hangar space to fit the large Hornet fighters featured in the earliest Star Citizen gameplay footage. Since the Idris had to expand by 100 meters or so, it has since been reclassified as a Frigate and is part of the Squadron 42 campaign. All backers who purchased the Idris corvette just got a free upgrade. A new corvette-class ship is going to be designed to eventually fill the void.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.