Star Citizen is a first person space MMO being developed by Cloud Imperium Games currently in alpha. Those of us who have been following along with the development and playing the alpha builds have been eagerly awaiting the production schedule for the next big update, Alpha 3.0 (current release is 2.6.3). On Friday, CIG released the production schedule with great fanfare, but it might disappoint those diehard backers looking for more.
In the current 2.6.3 alpha release, backers of the Star Citizen development can engage in several different game modes. Arena Commander allows players to fly ships against each other in deathmatch and team deathmatch modes as well as against enemy AI either alone or in co-op. Star Marine gives players a chance to test their FPS prowess in a small and large map. Then there is the Persistent Universe mode centered around a gas giant planet named Crusader. In the Crusader map, players engage in MMO like gameplay, spawning their ships and exploring a very large open space complete with space stations, asteroid fields, and some predefined missions all beside a couple dozen other players who might help you or take a more adversarial stance. All of these modes give backers a chance to play incremental builds and also submit feedback for development.
At the “CitizenCon 2016” event held October 9 by CIG, the plan for the 3.0 alpha release was presented to the game’s backers. The plan was to expand the Persistent Universe mode to include not only the Crusader gas giant and its moons, but also the entire Stanton star system in which it resides. There were statements that greater than 40 points of interest (landing zones, etc) would be available to players in addition to brand new game tech that enabled players to land on the surface of moons and planets. 3.0 would also introduce a cargo transport system and several procedural mission generators, bringing the first implementation of the many careers to be available to players in the final release. Since that time, CIG has also said that mining mechanics would also be in 3.0, as well as some ships that were not slated until much later. The hype train was well down the tracks with all of the backers.
Introduce the alpha 3.0 production schedule, which lays out what needs to be accomplished before the release can be made available as well as current dates. The production schedule in itself is fantastic, showing every bit of gameplay and assets that are going to be implemented over all of 2017. The website providing the schedule also pointed out what was to be expected in 3.0 as well as the follow-on updates 3.1 and 3.2. A video on the website (included below) gave an in depth explanation of how the production schedule was created and what must be considered when such a large project is being undertaken. All of the information presented is fantastic and credit needs to be given to CIG for sticking their necks out when most other developers do not. There’s only one small problem…the 3.0 alpha release has been scaled back and the production schedule shows a long road ahead.
Instead of given backers the entirety of the Stanton system, 3.0 is now slated to give players the Crusader map, but with the added features of being able to land on the planet’s moons. Outposts on the moons as well as other stations will be included to fill in the area. There is also a stretch goal of another planet in the Stanton system. Again, while it will be great for the players to finally set foot on a planet, it is but a fraction of that originally suggested at CitizenCon. Reading through the detailed production schedule reveals the expected completion of the Stanton system in full is expected in Q1 2018. CIG indicates in their write-up that their environmental art contractor, Behaviour, left the project in order to pursue their own game development and that CIG is hiring to replace the talent. While I can certainly understand this as a setback, I would also assume this did not catch CIG off guard. It is a difficult position to be in, not wanting to disappoint backers who have put in an average of $116 each toward the game development and other “subscribers” who contribute $10 a month for additional content. However, many backers have said that all they want is the information, regardless of what it means. It’s a balancing act that is still up in the air.
One point not discussed during the production schedule reveal is the current status of the single player campaign, Squadron 42. There is a bullet point on the website that states this schedule does not represent the Squadron 42 schedule. However, diving into the production schedule in detail shows a number of gameplay elements and assets that are certainly shared between the two. These gameplay elements include female character locomotion (animations) and hand-to-hand/melee combat. The current schedule dates for these features put a Squadron 42 release in Q4 2017 at the earliest if not Q1 2018. Only time and the forthcoming Squadron 42 production schedule will tell if this is the case.
Do not get me wrong, Star Citizen fans and newbies alike. I want the alpha 3.0 update regardless of how much or how little is provided. And the production schedule includes a lot of information that will be discussed by people like myself for months to come. What many of us wanted to see sooner is now just going to be later, but I have every confidence CIG will make it happen.
If you are interested in seeing what this Star Citizen thing is all about, CIG is hosting a free fly until April 18. You just need to create a free account on their website and download the current release to play. Should you decide to back the game, currently on sale for $40 (normally $45), using my referral code will get you an added bonus when purchasing.