Chris Roberts’ $300 Million “Star Citizen” Video Game

Chris Roberts’ $300 Million “Star Citizen” Video Game

Star Citizen and Squadron 42 has hit $300 million dollars and after 7 1/2 years has still not been released.

That’s the single-sentence summary most news sites are going to drive. Realistically, they are correct. They’ll probably take jabs saying the game is full of bugs, too. Also true. But what they won’t give you are details. So here they are, because believes in full disclosure.

First, some backstory and background for the uninformed.

Star Citizen’s kick starter began in October 2012 and very quickly met its goal of $2 million by supporting gamers. Many backers were nostalgic of Wing Commander and Freelancer that Chris Roberts had been behind.

What originally started out as a modern single-player game similar to Chris Robert’s previous games quickly grew along with its funding. Two years and one month later it had hit $63 million in funding.

Star Citizen Funding Stretch Goals

But today, nearly 8 years later, it has nearly hit $300 million dollars and the game is not yet released.

The current state of the game has it in alpha test. An alpha test is the point where the developing studio has put together a work-in-progress sample of the game code for testing while the game is undergoing development. The game’s feature set is not complete and there is an expectation of bugs, some game-breaking. Things will change. Things will be added. Things will be removed. That’s where the game’s development is at.

Star Citizen’s alpha test gets a lot of grief from the public due to the bugs. This misunderstanding comes from not understanding the above paragraph – you don’t fix the majority of bugs while developing software or games. It doesn’t make sense.

The fact is that during development code and content is developed “to see if it’ll work”. Sometimes the addition works and sometimes it does not. Sometimes the only way to find out is to try it. So you mash together some basic framework of how it is supposed to work. This basic framework is enough to test it – possibly full of bugs – but it’s enough to see if the idea works. Sometimes these basic frameworks can take months to implement for a test. It’s really going out on a limb, especially when you are pushing the envelope of what the industry believes is possible.

It’s only once the product’s framework and functionality is completed do you start squashing all of the bugs. This is what the beta test is for: your product is feature-complete and now you are going through and finding bugs and removing them.

But Star Citizen is taking so long to release!

It sure is but most large AAA game titles take a while to develop. We also have an altered perception of Star Citizen’s development because we’ve been practically hands-on with it less than a year from the announcement. It’s open development so we see everything. Watching this game develop has been like peeling a band-aid off slowly.

Are you waiting for Cyberpunk 2077? Did you know it was announced May 2012? 8 years in development – just like Star Citizen. Unlike Star Citizen, CD Projekt Red didn’t have to put together a studio – they already had that in place. Also unlike Star Citizen, Cyber Punk 2077 isn’t being developed in parallel of a second game – Star Citizen AND Squadron 42 are being developed in parallel. Star Citizen is the MMO and Squadron 42 is the single-player campaign.

Plenty of other AAA titles take 8+ years to develop. Elder Scrolls online took 7. Lord of the Rings Online took 9 years. Team Fortress 2 took 9 years. Star Craft II took 7 years. Diablo III took 11 years. Duke Nukem Forever took 15 years (and gamestop didn’t honor my preorder… grr). My point is that good games take time to develop and there is and should be no rush by developers, studios, publishers, or the public to push them out prematurely.

Star Citizen is unique in that players have had access to some form of playable aspect of the game since August 13th, 2013 with the release of the hangar module or June 4th, 2014 with the release of Arena Commander if you only count multiplayer as “playable”. For a game of this scope, both of those dates are really early for players to have access to a playable aspect of a game.

This ability for players to experience the game has given them the ability to provide direct feedback to the developers of the game. Plenty of changes have been made to the game based on community feedback. Additionally, developers have been able to perform various angles of analytics to best optimize the game and adjust gameplay mechanics all for a better experience.

I haven’t backed Star Citizen yet. Should I?

I’d say yes if you aren’t bending over backwards to afford a game package. For me, this game is well worth it. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a space game. Playing the Wing Commander series and Freelancer, I always dreamed I’d be able to do what I can and will be able to do in Star Citizen. It’s finally happening – I’m getting that game.

If you really love the game but can’t quite afford it, follow me on Twitch – I’m planning on giving away some starter packages to players who do not own the game in the near future. No need to donate or subscribe – just follow. It’s free and it’s the best thing you can do.

Full disclosure: I’m not happy with some of the management decisions CIG has had in managing the development of the game in the past but they are making improvements. The thing is: It’s okay to be critical of Cloud Imperium Games if you’ve backed their game. I’m critical of any product I pay for – I want it to perform to my expectations. I provide constructive criticism where it is due and my criticism can be good or bad. If I can provide criticism which helps CIG identify a problem and fix it, even better – that’s the best kind of criticism.

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[…] Citizen is in an alpha test right now so it is full of bugs. It’s to be expected. One of the bugs is a particularly nasty Error 30009 and another is the dreaded “Infinite […]


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