Watching Star Citizen

When I started this blog with the intent to share my opinions on game news and my struggle against the ever growing Cache, I knew that one of the most frequently covered topics was going to be the development of Star Citizen. To set the stage for those of you not aware of the project, I thought I would cover why I am so interested in its success.

The development of Star Citizen started in October 2012 as a crowdfunding campaign using a plugin for WordPress followed shortly by a Kickstarter campaign. A month later, the campaign had raised $4.2 million, surpassing many if not all records for crowdfunded games. In December 2012, I started paying attention to the project when an off-the-cuff web search lead me to Chris Roberts and his latest project. A few months later, I was a backer of the project and I have been following the progress ever since.

Chris Roberts is the chairman of Cloud Imperial Games, the development team behind the creation of Star Citizen and accompanying project, Squadron 42. To anyone interested in space combat sims, Chris Roberts should be a known quantity as he revolutionized the genre with the first Wing Commander game. Wing Commander was released in 1990 to much of the same praise as Mass Effect received in 2007. Wing Commander was seen not only as a game that raised the bar for the entire space sim genre with graphics and gameplay, but also told a story, introduced characters, and created a universe that pulled in nearly every player. As the main character in Wing Commander, you not only protected your fellow crew members launching off of a carrier in space, but your choices outside of combat also made a difference in the telling of the story. Wing Commander went on to have three sequels, two spin off titles, a line of novels, a movie also directed by Chris Roberts, and a host of inspired games and films.

So, with some nostalgia and an awareness of what Chris Roberts had done in the past, I backed the Star Citizen project. I was not really a backer for the more MMO inspired Star Citizen, to be set in an open universe with any number of jobs available, but rather of the single player campaign now called Squadron 42. Squadron 42 was then and is now set up to be the follow-on to Wing Commander that the gaming industry needs, a AAA, story driven, envelope pushing game where choices matter.

What is Star Citizen? Many have been trying to define that over the years since the initial crowdfunding campaign finished. Cloud Imperium Games released a short video to define it themselves, only scratching the surface. Star Citizen will be a first person, space sim MMO in which your character and those around you drive the action. You experience the game from your point of view, walking around cities and space stations, flying ships in space, combating aliens and outlaws (or being an outlaw), and exploring planets of a hundred star systems. Think of it as a more alive Elite Dangerous. Then there’s Squadron 42, a single player campaign set in the same Star Citizen universe, but some years earlier at the outbreak of a war with a new alien species. You play a military pilot coming up through the ranks during one of humanity’s greatest challenges. The game will feature a 20+ hour campaign and a top notch cast.  The best part…if you own both Squadron 42 and Star Citizen, your character is the same between both, experiencing their military career and folding that into their own self-employed future.

A lot of negative comments have been made about Star Citizen in the game media. Articles about squandered funds, release delays, and even comments about the game being vaporware. While I do not have insight into the day to day or the budgets of Cloud Imperium Games, I can say that there are 350+ people working the project across at least four studios. Major refactors of Cryengine, now Amazon’s Lumberyard, delayed the project in order to push the envelope of what is possible both visually and across a network of many players. Through it all, many of the nearly 1.25 million backers and 1.75 million forum members continue to support the development, watching what is being done, playing alpha releases of game components, providing feedback to the developers, and generally enjoying being part of the process. And Cloud Imperium Games continues an effort into open development with multiple videos released each week on their website and Youtube channel. There’s no sign of struggling funding, no large exodus by developers, and certainly no possibility of vaporware.

When will Squadron 42 and Star Citizen finally go gold? One drawback of an overly ambitious chairman and the cause of the rollercoaster ride of the backers is a difficulty with release dates. While nothing has been said officially, the community is hopeful for a Squadron 42 release in late 2017 and Star Citizen in late 2018. Meanwhile, every project backer has access to the alpha, which is about to get a lot bigger as Alpha 3.0, hitting around the summer, will introduce the first full star system with explorable planets, procedurally generated missions, and the start of the many careers available to players. It’s an exciting time for those of us who have watched the project since 2012.

With all that being said, if you are a Star Citizen backer, feel free to leave a comment as to your introduction to the game and your outlook on the future, and come back as I will be posting some news and opinions of progress. If you are not a backer, visit the development website and watch some Youtube videos to decide if it is right for you. If you want to back the game, use this link as a referral to get a few bonuses upon signing up, then sit back and enjoy the ride with the rest of us.

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