Around American Thanksgiving time, Chris Roberts and the teams working away on on the ambitious space sim universe known as Star Citizen, hosted a four-hour livestream to talk about the game, the staff, answer fan questions, etc. and during that busy week the already-record-breaking crowdfunding campaign raised hundreds of thousands of more dollars. Only a few short weeks after, the game’s fundraising efforts crossed the $34 million mark and yesterday, it hit another milestone at $35 million.
For a game that was budgeted at $20 million, and according to Chris Roberts is already far beyond the most expensive space sims ever, expectations are higher than ever. There are eager supporters and players literally spending over $1000 for a single rare ship so for them, for the industry, and for the future of big budget crowfunding, Star Citizen needs to be the best space sim of all-time.
It’s because of those extremely high expectations, the money invested by the community and therefore the stakes, that Roberts and co. recently delayed the hotly anticipated dogfighting module which was slated for release December 2013. They could have had it out, but doing so would result in the devs spending time and resources working on framework they’d have to essentially throw out. So instead of doing that, they’re focusing efforts on the core game and will release the playable module in the spring. From there they can continue building off of it for the main game. Part of it is simple long-term efficiency, another part of it is making sure the gameplay it eventually offers, is perfected since it will be under very close scrutiny.
In a ‘Letter From The Chairman‘ post on the official Star Citizen website, Roberts explains the decision to delay:
As time has progressed I’ve become more nervous taking the down and dirty route with the initial dogfighting build, especially as our numbers grow. With so many people in the Alpha we need a whole other level of backend support, which would require serious work on CryEngine’s existing multiplayer structure — a lobby system, spinning up servers to handle each session — all things that we are building the new Star Citizen backend to handle. Unfortunately the server backend technology will not be ready for prime time for a couple more months. But this is really what I would like to run the dogfighting on, as it will link into your hangar, friend’s lists, chat and so on.
We had considered just going single player and having a few combat scenarios available for the first stage of the Dogfighting module, but ultimately we decided this will not be beneficial as even the single player part of Star Citizen, Squadron 42, is built on the multiplayer backbone and is intended to have cooperative play out of the box. And even in this scenario with AI only we would be creating a lot of throw away content as we had always intended for the dogfighting module to be more about head to head than player vs AI.
The other part of it is releasing a product the community and media will eat up – Roberts explains that there’s still a lot of work to be done in balancing gameplay and making it fun and fair for players using different ship classes. It needs to be more than just two fighters doing endless circles around each other.
I feel that the Dogfighting module, especially with Star Citizen’s greatly increased profile, needs to be more polished than a typical “alpha”. There are a lot of eyes on the game, and more than a few people wanting us to fail. Because Dogfighting is the first module that will involve significant gameplay, it has to be good — I don’t feel that we will get a pass just because it is pre-pre alpha.
Our goal isn’t just to make Star Citizen good enough. Big publishers make games that are good enough; this is about creating a game that matches a vision. The beauty of crowd funding is that it allows us the creative freedom to do exactly that… and the one great downside, is that I feel your disappointment in a way I never would otherwise. I don’t just want to make a great game… I want to play and live it. But even more than that, I have come to find myself a part of the Star Citizen community, in a way that I never expected.
In our last article on the progress of the game’s development we posed a question of whether or not it could meet expectations and its date. The dogfighting module is not meeting its date but for good reason, and according to Roberts in an interview with Ten Ton Hammer, the game is still on track for its late 2014 release for backers, with a full public release in 2015.
As for the $35 million milestone, the developers are proud to announce that it’s mainly coming from new backers, meaning the word-of-mouth is still spreading and impressing, and there are 6,617 new Star Citizens in the community. With this tier unlocked, another ship (the Drake Herald) has been added to the game – a design voted on by fans. The $36 and $37 million tiers both unlock additional star systems and by comparison, are rather underwhelming additions to the game.
While the dogfighting module isn’t coming soon anymore, there will be lots of updates coming to the already available hangar module. So if you’ve backed the game, stay tuned!
Star Citizen will launch in November 2014 for backers, and for the public in 2015.
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.