[Update: Star Citizen is now on Kickstarter!]
You are not a citizen until you earn your place. Unless you're rich, of course. For the rest of us, suit up, hop into the cockpit and get ready to launch into space as a proud member of Squadron 42. If veteran PC gamers weren't already gitty about the classic MechWarrior franchise returning with MechWarrior Online, another classic PC simulation genre is about to get a major boost in appeal thanks to industry legend Chris Roberts. The man behind Wing Commander, Starlancer and Freelancer is bringing us the next big thing in space sims and it's called Star Citizen.
You can partake in crowd-sourcing via Roberts' official site, but if enough fans demand it, the project may make its way over to Kickstarter, where Obsidian Entertainment's Project Eternity just passed Double Fine's Adventure as the biggest video game kickstarter ever. Needless to say, the time is right.
Although we compare Star Citizen to MechWarrior Online as they're both ushering the return of important PC-only '90s gaming genres (and both run on CryEngine 3), their pricing models are not the same. MWO is free-to-play and earns revenue through microtransactions and premium offerings. Star Citizen on the other hand, will likely follow the Guild Wars 2 model in that it'll retail for a certain price and players can play it from then on, with purchasable additional content down the line.
Also like MWO, Star Citizen takes place nearly a thousand years in the future. In this universe, the Earth empire is beginning to crumble and there are unfriendly aliens and friendly ones to deal with, whether by battle or trade. Players play as humans (at launch, anyway) and can earn their citizenship through civic duty or military service, that is, if they choose to. Players don't have to follow that path at all and this is just another element that could divide or form communities and factions.
Roberts and his team have been developing the game for a year now and it won't release until 2014. Despite that distant date, the trailer above - using in-game assets rendered on the CryEngine 3 - looks incredible, and that's the plan. Roberts is specifically targeting high-end visuals as a pillar for the game's creation - it's a way they can immerse people in this universe, and they plan to have it compete with the best triple-A titles out at that time. They have investors lined up, ready and willing to back the project, but as a show of force to demonstrate interest from the PC gaming crowd, crowd-sourcing is the first step and fans can pledge via the official Star Citizen site. And only their own site. Why not Kickstarter, you ask?
This is what the Star Citizen FAQ says about the game not being on Kickstarter:
We love Kickstarter. We’ve backed projects on their site and believe everyone in the development community owes a debt to Kickstarter for putting crowd funding on the map, and making it legitimate. But for us the ultimate goal of crowd funding is about connecting the “crowd” directly with the creators with as little friction as possible. By building a crowd funding component directly into our site we can insure everyone who wants to back the game can — we provide multiple payment options to make sure that wherever in the world you are there is an option that can work for you. It means you just have one destination to support the project, read updates, and most importantly participate with other members of the community! All on a site that’s designed around the game universe being created, providing the least friction possible. Kickstarter, as great as it is, can’t deliver this experience, which is why we’ve decided to go it alone.
This is what it says on the Star Citizen Facebook page as of today:
The opinion of you all as a community is paramount to us and we are listening. Please click to like this post if you would like to see 'Star Citizen' on Kickstarter.
The nature of crowd-sourcing is to let the crowd decide, so if the crowd wants Kickstarter, the crowd can have it. Just click the link and 'like'.
Kickstarter will drastically increase the visibility of Star Citizen to the masses and to the media, just as it's done recently for Obisdian Entertainment. Obsidian took to Kickstarter to gauge interest and find financing for Project Eternity, yet another throwback to PC gaming of the '90s, this one a top-down party-based RPG. At the time of this writing there are seven hours left to go and they've managed to raise nearly $3.57 million on a target goal of $1.1 million. That's a lot of happy developers and with that number, Obsidian breaks the record for most-backed Kickstarter video game, surpassing Double Fine's Adventure game which lead the way to various developers embracing the crowd-sourcing model for funding development.
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Would you back Star Citizen on Kickstarter? If you want to back Project Eternity, act quick!
Follow Rob on Twitter @rob_keyes.