Two hundred twelve developers. Eight studios. Over $40 million. More than 300,000 backers.
With such daunting numbers, it’s easy to be intimidated by the unfathomable success of Star Citizen. The community is gigantic, the developers push out a number of news updates each week and they’re in constant communication with forum posters.
But if you’re late picking up on the trend, don’t look up at the high-spec galactic shooter in fear and retreat to less expansive land-loving worlds. Now is a better time than ever to get involved with Star Citizen.
If you’ve ever played Wing Commander, Freelancer or any modern space combat game, chances are you’ll want a fresh cut of star-gazing goodness from the man that pioneered it all.
With Oculus support just added to the Hangar module and the team finally readying the Dogfighting module for public release, development is about to kick into lightspeed. It’s bound to whip up a ton more excitement for the project, so if you hop on board now, you’ll be one of the cool kids.
That means you’ll be flaunting your dogfighting, ship-building, persistent universe galactic traversal simulator like there’s no tomorrow. But first …
Where did it come from?
Chris Roberts — maker of games such as Wing Commander and Freelancer — founded Cloud Imperium Games Corporation in 2011. The company launched a Kickstarter for an expansive space trading and combat simulator in 2012.
With PC gamers fondly remembering Roberts’ previous games, the campaign managed to raise $2 million — but the story doesn’t end there. Crowdfunding continued and, at the time of writing, the total stands at $40,029,639.
That makes it the most crowdfunded project in history. This has caused Cloud Imperium to employ the work of several studios across the globe, encompassing 212 developers.
The full release, which will include persistent MMO Star Citizen and a single-player component titled Squadron 42, is expected to launch early-to-mid 2015. It’s a universe that will continue to expand far beyond the initial release.
What can I play now?
Star Citizen is being released in a modular fashion. The only module currently available is the Hangar module. As impressive as it is, it’s really a glorified museum for ships you’ve bought and customized yourself.
That being said, it’s really pretty and immersive. Taking place in nearly seamless first-person, you’re free to walk and drive around your hangar, inspecting and customizing your ships with fancy holographic menus.
There’s an unprecedented amount of detail, and ship interiors are fully modeled, complete with controls and indicator lights. There’s a huge variety of ships (which you purchase in the Star Citizen store), ranging from tiny fighters to massive behemoths than can house two or three other littl’uns inside of them.
It’s all built on CryEngine 3, and just last week, support for the Oculus Rift was added.
So … When can I shoot stuff?
Good news! You already can! Well, you can shoot cardboard in your hangar, but that’s probably not what you’re going for.
The Dogfighting module is Star Citizen‘s next (huge) milestone. It’s all hands on deck for the majority of the 212 developers on board.
They’ll be showing off the module in a backers-only event just before PAX East from April 11 to April 13. Release of this module has always been slated for April, so you can expect a public release shortly after.
Chris Roberts has said himself, “At this point, we can now regularly dogfight here in the office.” Still, they’ve yet to show off much in terms of gameplay, apart from one soundless sneak peek back in December.
Roberts continues, “The team is scurrying to take care of thousands upon thousands of necessary details: variable damage stats, HUD detailing, weapons cameras, engine sounds and countless other things that go into creating an immersive space combat experience.”
When it’s released, it’s unlikely to give players a whole lot of freedom. There won’t be a big, expansive world to explore — that comes later. The Dogfighting module will be very much for players to test the firepower and maneuverability of their ships against each other.
Being core to the game, your success in dogfighting depends on your skills and ship upgrades. There will be no arbitrary RPG-like stats to increase. It’s all down to stick skills and the guns you stick onto your tin can.
But what if I just want to roam around like a true space freelancer?
That comes even later.
The Planetside module will be a first-person experience where players can customize their avatar, lounge around in bars and shops and engage with the interstellar economy.
Nothing has been shown of this element yet barring a handful of concept art shots. There are various reports from members of the development team, but it’ll definitely launch some time after the Dogfighting module.
Some sites estimate it’ll be released in April, but we wouldn’t get your hopes up.
And can I interact with other players?
Eventually. Both the Planetside and Dogfighting modules will be worked into a persistent online universe. You’ll be able to hop in and out of ships, visit planets and take people around your hangar. You know, like Novus AEterno, but in first-person.
Back in May, Chris Roberts said the persistent universe should go online by the end of 2014. It currently looks like they might just about make that goal, but the release would be limited. As Roberts said, “It’s not really a beta if you’ve got a million players.”
What’s this single-player I’m hearing about?
It’s called Squadron 42. This component shares much of the same DNA as Star Citizen, but it’s a bespokely single-player experience.
Like Wing Commander and Freelancer, Squadron 42 will take place in an expansive universe, complete with hundreds of planets and AI characters to interact with, take jobs from and do favors for. But it won’t be online.
The space combat and planetside elements will be sewn together by an FPS-driven story known as Squadron 42. Again, this will be even further down the line than the Planetside module, but development is still continuing, fronted by Manchester-based studio Foundry 42.
The story will be open-ended and branching, incorporating space travel, space combat, social interactions, mining and off-ship first-person gun combat. The FPS combat will also be featured in Star Citizen, but it’s being developed by a mysteriously nameless team.
“This month our focus has been on extending and overhauling the movement system to accommodate zero gravity and Star Citizen’s intensely immersive animation-driven movement,” an unidentified developer wrote in the monthly update. “Everything is getting a hyper-technical going over and rebuild to ensure the vision of the game gets the support it deserves.”
Great. Where do I sign up?
You can back the project for $40 for immediate access to the Hangar module (with one ship) and all subsequent modules. A lot of backers tend to up the stakes, though, with monster ships being unlocked at $125 and more.
Once in the hangar, you can also buy a number of weapons for your ship and decorations for you hangar. No doubt a host of new upgrades will be available when the Dogfighting module launches.
You’ll be adding to the game’s huge pile of money, which is about to reach $40 million. The developers are still setting stretch goals. At $41 million, they’ll be able to employ a procedural generation R&D team to ensure a huge amount of varied planets can be generated.
Can you review that all for me?
$40. Beautiful spaceship museum now. Dogfighting in a few weeks. Socializing in fall. MMO switch-on by 2015.
With so much information constantly spouting out from the game, it’s probably the most transparent AAA title ever. Yet, that also poses problems, as it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on. The developers have tried to summarize it succinctly, but they’re not doing a great job.
Now that we’ve got the basics down, we’ll be delivering Star Citizen as it happens, keeping you caught up with all the updates, reception and promises.