Star Citizen is an upcoming multiplayer space trading and combat game developed and published by Cloud Imperium Games for Microsoft Windows. Development of the game began in 2011 led by director Chris Roberts, and is being mostly financed from a large crowdfunding campaign of over US$250 million. The game's full launch was originally anticipated to be in 2014, but significant expansion of gameplay features have led to postponement. Squadron 42, a single-player story-driven game set in the same universe as Star Citizen, is also being developed.
|Developer(s)||Cloud Imperium Games|
|Publisher(s)||Cloud Imperium Games|
|Genre(s)||Space trading and combat, first-person shooter|
During the game's early development and funding, work was being conducted on separate modules, each with their own set of features and gameplay. Features from the three main modules were then combined into the Universe module, which would serve as the platform for subsequent development.
The Hangar Module was the first playable alpha component of Star Citizen, released on August 29, 2013. The hangar module allows players to view, manipulate, and modify ships in a realtime, closed environment. Also included are decorations and flair that can be placed and arranged within the hangar.
Arena Commander was the second playable alpha component of Star Citizen, released on June 4, 2014. It is an in-fiction space combat simulator allowing players to playtest ship combat against other players or AI opponents. According to the developers, it features a highly detailed ship flight model, simulating space flight using the mass of the ship and location and force of the thrusters. Other claimed features include realistic application of g-force on the pilot and a high level of visual fidelity. Racing and cooperative game modes were added in an update.
Star Marine is the first-person shooter element of Star Citizen; like Arena Commander, Star Marine is an in-fiction combat simulator, released on December 23, 2016. There are two ways to play Star Marine: one game mode is a "capture-and-hold" game ("Last Stand") in which two opposing teams (the Marines and the Outlaws) each attempt to capture one or more "control points" (Laptops) to gain points; as a team captures more control points, they gain points at a steadily increasing rate. "Elimination" is a free-for-all "last man standing" match; unlike the team-based "Last Stand", players work individually to gain the highest kill-count before the match ends. Both game variants last for ten minutes or (in the case of "Last Stand") until one team accrues the higher score. The first-person shooter mechanics are claimed to be relatively realistic, with armor levels, weapon stances and stamina effects manifesting as heavy breathing.
Following the completion of the Kickstarter in 2013, the development of Star Marine was contracted out to the third-party studio IllFonic; in August 2015, the contract was terminated and development of Star Marine returned to an in-house team at Cloud Imperium Games, finally releasing on December 23, 2016.
Also referred to as Crusader (although this does not encompass the current scope), or the Persistent Universe - this is the game's primary module - first released on December 11, 2015 and designated as Star Citizen Alpha 2.0 (all subsequent Alpha versions were additions and modifications to the Crusader module). This module combines the gameplay aspects of the Hangar, Arena Commander, and Star Marine modules into one multiplayer platform. As of Alpha 3.3.6, this module allows players to freely navigate around and on the surface of one planet, seven moons, a planetoid, and a (currently untraversable) gas giant. Space stations, asteroids, and other points of interest in the play area allow players to interact, engage in combat, or conduct missions. Given the modular approach to development, the Universe module will continue to have features added and expand into what will become known as Star Citizen.
Squadron 42 is a story-based single-player campaign set in the Star Citizen fictional universe described by the developers as a "spiritual successor to Wing Commander". It is being developed by the Foundry 42 studio under the supervision of Chris Roberts' brother Erin, who had already worked with him on the Wing Commander series and led the production and development of games like Privateer 2: The Darkening and Starlancer. It was originally announced for release in 2014 during the Kickstarter campaign, but significant expansion of gameplay features have led to postponement. In December 2018, a development roadmap showed that a beta was planned for release in Q2 2020.
The developers state that the interactive storyline centers on an elite military unit and involves the player character enlisting in the United Empire of Earth Navy, taking part in a campaign that starts with a large space battle. The player's actions will allow them to optionally achieve citizenship in the UEE and affect their status in the Star Citizen persistent universe, but neither of the two games has to be played in order to access the other. In addition to space combat simulation and first-person shooter elements, reported features include a conversation system that affects relationships with non-player pilots and an optional cooperative multiplayer mode. The game is planned to be released in multiple chapters, and according to the developers will be offering an estimated of 20 hours of gameplay for SQ42 Episode 1 with about 70 missions worth of game play, "Squadron 42 Episode Two: Behind Enemy Lines" and "Episode 3," will launch later. The cast for Squadron 42 includes Gary Oldman, Mark Hamill, Gillian Anderson, Mark Strong, Liam Cunningham and Andy Serkis, amongst others.
Star Citizen was announced in 2012 as a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to be a spiritual successor to Robert's previous games, the Wing Commander series and Freelancer. The initial estimated target release date was said to be 2014, and has since been delayed repeatedly as the game grew in scale.
Development started in 2011 initially using CryEngine 3. It will be released for Microsoft Windows, with plans for other platforms, such as Linux, being planned by the developers after the final version releases. The game was migrated to the Amazon Lumberyard engine in 2016. Star Citizen is being developed using a modular approach, with the first module, dubbed the "Hangar Module," released August 29, 2013. The Hangar Module allows backers of the project to explore their virtual ships from a first-person perspective. Arena Commander, the second module, was released on June 4, 2014. It allows players to test the ship combat and racing portion of the game against other players or AI opponents. Development on a first-person shooter component of the game, to be called Star Marine, was announced at PAX Australia 2014, promising features like artificial gravity and weightlessness. After a lengthy period of development, with multiple online publications reported it being cancelled, Star Marine was released at the end of 2016. The culmination of the development work on the separated modules was the December 11, 2015 release of Star Citizen Alpha 2.0, known as Crusader, or alternatively, the mini-persistent universe. This "mega-module" became the version to which future updates would build on.
The game is produced in a distributed development process by Cloud Imperium Games and Foundry 42 with studios in Austin, Frankfurt, Santa Monica, Wilmslow and Derby in cooperation with Behaviour Interactive and formerly IllFonic. The games utilize the artificial intelligence system Kythera, developed by Moon Collider. Additional partners that are or have been working on the project include Crytek, CGBot, Rmory, The Imaginarium, Turbulent, Virtuos, voidALPHA, Wyrmbyte, FaceWare Technologies. The developers also exchange knowledge and technology with Warhorse Studios, the creators of Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
Version 3.0 of the Star Citizen alpha, the developers stated, which would be a major forward step in development and contain many of the promised features, was announced on August 19, 2016 at Gamescom for a scheduled release in December 2016. It was then announced in October 2016 that it will be split into four smaller releases. Alpha 3.0 which contained the first version of planetary technology, was finally released on December 23, 2017, over a year after it was originally promised.
Star Citizen aims to combine multiple video game genres, including space, trading, flight combat simulation and first-person shooter, in a massively multiplayer online game. In a 2012 interview, lead developer Chris Roberts emphasized immersion: "The changes in the technology in the industry will allow me to do a much more immersive experience. [...] It's all about that suspension of disbelief."
According to Roberts, players will complete objectives to gain currency used to buy, repair and upgrade their ships or to purchase items used in trade. The game will be set in a 30th-century Milky Way, centered on the fictional United Empire of Earth (UEE). A central theme of the game is citizenship – or lack thereof – in the UEE, which must be earned through player actions such as completing a period of military service. It is anticipated that citizens will enjoy certain in-game benefits, like paying a reduced tax rate, but the exact details are yet to be determined.
In a 2014 interview, Roberts highlighted the importance of player-driven content: "It's like a sandbox for everybody, and occasionally you'll sprinkle in little bits of scripted content to give a bit of character, but you're letting a lot of the players generate the intrigue and the drama." In 2013, he described a non-player character-driven economy, where players could gradually take on a greater role over time.
In accordance with the $50 million stretch goal of the game's crowdfunding campaign, developers partnered with linguists to create distinctive fictional languages for the three most prominent alien races, the Banu, the Vanduul and the Xi'An. The game's first-person shooter mechanics are reported to be inspired by games such as Rainbow Six, ARMA, Counter-Strike and Killzone.
The developers state that Star Citizen will continue to develop after commercial release via a combination of emergent gameplay generated by players and new content which will be developed by Cloud Imperium Games on an ongoing basis. Players and organizations will be able to own certain production nodes including factories and mines. Capital ships can be owned and operated by players. Select lawless planets and moons will feature ground-based combat using infantry style weapons and vehicles. Personal armaments can also be used to board disabled ships and stations.
The developers state that players will not be separated by different game servers. A matchmaking and instancing mechanic will handle how players connect to each other. The developers plan to include a slider allowing players to determine their level of exposure to other players.
The developers of Star Citizen began crowdfunding in 2012, on their own website and Kickstarter. Funding quickly surpassed initial target goals and subsequently additional stretch goals have been added to the funding campaign, most promising more or expanded content at release.
On November 17, 2012, two days before campaign closure, the game achieved the record for highest crowdfunded game project with over US$4.2 million. At initial pledge campaign end, the total pledge amount was above all goals initially set by Cloud Imperium Games and reached US$6.2 million. In mid-2013, with US$15 million raised in less than a year, Star Citizen became the "most-funded crowdfunding project anywhere". In 2014, Guinness World Records listed the sum of US$39,680,576 pledged on Star Citizen's website as the "largest single amount ever raised via crowdsourcing". During the 2014 Gamescom event on August 15, Chris Roberts announced the crowdfunding campaign had surpassed US$50 million. On May 19, 2017, crowdfunding surpassed $150 million. In addition to crowdfunding, funding for the game's development has continued through a variety of in-game transactions and subscriptions.
In January 2017, when asked about the financial situation of Star Citizen, Chris Roberts said: "I’m not worried, because even if no money came in, we would have sufficient funds to complete Squadron 42. The revenue from this could in-turn be used for the completion of Star Citizen." For contributing to the project's funding, backers receive virtual rewards in the form of tiered pledge packages, which include a spaceship and credits to buy additional equipment and to cover initial costs in the virtual economy, like fuel and rental fees, but according to the developers, players will be able to earn all backer rewards in the game itself, with the exception of certain cosmetic items and Lifetime Insurance (LTI), without having to spend additional money. In November 2018, the game reached $200 million pledged by more than two million backers. In December 2018, the developers announced that they had raised over US$46 million from private funding.
In a Polygon opinion article, Charlie Hall compared Star Citizen to No Man's Sky and Elite: Dangerous, writing that "Last time I checked, Star Citizen writ large was a hope wrapped inside a dream buried inside a few layers of controversy", while stating that each game has something different to offer within the space sim genre. PC Gamer writer Luke Winkie also compared Star Citizen to No Man's Sky, describing Star Citizen as "the other super ambitious, controversial space sim on the horizon", and indicating that fans of the genre, disappointed in No Man's Sky were turning to the as-yet-unfinished Star Citizen, while sometimes expressing concerns should the latter fail to deliver.
The game's developers have attracted criticism for continuing to raise funds enthusiastically while failing to meet project deadlines, as well as the technical feasibility and the ability of the developers to finish the game.
During the 2012 crowd-funding campaign, Chris Roberts suggested that the game might be released in 2014. At the time, Roberts said that "Really, it's all about constant iteration from launch. The whole idea is to be constantly updating. It isn’t like the old days where you had to have everything and the kitchen sink in at launch because you weren’t going to come back to it for awhile. We’re already one year in - another two years puts us at 3 total which is ideal. Any more and things would begin to get stale." By November 2014, the scope of the project had increased, with stretch goals raising the donation total to $65 million.
Ongoing online disputes exist over the scope of the project, the project's funding, as well as the project's ability to eventually deliver on promises. Some writers have been the subject of e-mail attacks for their coverage of the project. At least one popular YouTube personality was allegedly sent death threats by a fan of the game. Various articles regarding the controversy surrounding the project also focus on both sides of the argument.
In July 2015, independent game designer Derek Smart, one of the original early backers of the project in 2012, wrote a blog in which he claimed that due to the project's increased scope and lack of adequate technology, that it could never be completed as pitched. Following the publishing of the blog and widespread news coverage, Cloud Imperium Games refunded him and canceled his account. In August 2015 via his attorneys, Smart sent a demand letter to Cloud Imperium Games asking for the promised accounting records for backer money, a release date, and a refund option for all backers no longer willing to support the game. CIG's co-founder and general counsel Ortwin Freyermuth characterized Smart's claims as "defamatory" and "entirely without merit". Smart has continued to be critical of the project following his refund.
Between September and October 2015, The Escapist magazine wrote a pair of highly controversial articles citing various sources who claimed that the project was in trouble. After Roberts wrote a scathing response to the articles, Cloud Imperium Games threatened the site and its owners with legal action which never materialized. In March 2017, Smart wrote that both parties had settled the matter out of court. The statement from Defy Media reads "In response to your request for comment, I can share that CIG and The Escapist have mutually agreed to delete their comments about each other. We wish each other well and look forward to better relations in 2017". The writer later won an award for the article by the Society of Professional Journalists.
In July 2016, a backer attempting to obtain a refund after the terms of service was changed reported the matter to the California authorities. He was later issued a refund and went public with his story. In September 2016, Kotaku wrote a five-part series about the various controversies surrounding the project. One article in the series was related to a long-rumored feud between Smart and Roberts. In December 2016, Star Citizen was the recipient of Wired's 2016 Vaporware Awards. Massively OP awarded the game its "Most Likely to Flop" award for both 2016 and 2017.
In December 2017, Crytek, the developers of CryEngine, filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement and breach of contract in the United States District Court for the Central District of California Western Division against the developers of Star Citizen. The following month, Cloud Imperium Games revised its Terms of Service to limit refund requests to a 14-day "cancellation period". Earlier versions offered refunds if the project wasn't released within 12 months of the promised Nov. 2014 date. That offer was changed to 18 months in a later update, and replaced with the current 14-day refund terms in 2018.
In July 2018, a backer attempting to get a $4,500 refund sued Cloud Imperium Games, but lost the case. In August 2018, Cloud Imperium Games attempted to monetize the live stream broadcast of the project's annual CitizenCon event, eventually backing down due to online protestations. Later on, they removed the cap on in-game currency, resulting in renewed criticism over the game's pay-to-win mechanics.
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