Over the years, I’ve purchased more games than I’ll ever know what to do with, and truth be told, most of these titles end up in the pile of games where I say, “I’ll play that again”, but in reality, end up sitting on a shelf gathering dust. Admittedly, there are still few decent games that catch my attention when I’m looking for an enjoyable trip down memory lane. However, more often than not I am faced the sad realization that perhaps some of these games are not nearly as good as I remembered, and thus, get added back into the pile.
However, there is still definitely that cream of the crop, games that are not only great, but amazing. Those games that aspire to be more than a few hours of entertainment. They’re experiences; they’re moments that change us as a gamer. You never really see them coming till you start playing them and then that moment happens. When it happens to you, you become hooked, and they drive you to experience everything they have to offer.
They’re the water cooler games. We raid in them, we tournament them and sometimes we live in them. We call them World of Warcraft, League of Legends, Bioshock or even Shadow of the Colossus. I bring these up to explain precisely what the feeling is watching Star Citizen being built before my eyes.
You see, back towards the end of 2012, there was a little rumor going around that Chris Roberts was stepping back into the game, and naturally, being a fan of Wing Commander, I was expecting another trip back to the Tiger’s Claw to battle the Kilrathi. However, what I ended up finding was an entirely new universe and an original story; his story. The footage that was provided was enough to open my wallet and dig deep. I had passed my story around to friends and co-workers, and immediately their faces said it all.
It’s been too long since Chris has done something big, and were all ready to welcome him back into our lives.
Any geek worth his card could tell you this kickstarter was going to be successful, and yet, I don’t think anyone anticipated the overwhelming response that would soon follow. As it stands to date, the kickstarter campaign has accumulated just over $2 Million, with public funding through the game’s website collecting over $25 Million and still rising with the final product still a year away.
Maybe that’s the power of Chris’s name or maybe it’s how starved we are for a decent space SIM.
Star Citizen is an Open-Space Ship Simulator Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game or “OSSSMMORPG” for short. You are given a ship, a handful of credits, pushed out into the universe and simply told to work it out.
“Great, they’ve created EVE” I hear you chirping in. Hold on it gets better.
All activates and functions are performed from a first person perspective. Meaning you have to walk to each station or set of controls to use them. Meaning you’re going to need a crew. This is where the MMO side kicks in. We’ve all watched Star Trek and had those childhood fantasies of running a ship together with our friends. This will be as close as you can get to the real deal without shooting a resume off to NASA.
The great thing about the design is that every ship is created with the mindset that this has to be real. The mechanisms of each ship have to have real world possibility. For example, the ramps to board your ship must have somewhere to go in the ship, no Jedi hand-waving, disappearing off into the void only to appear when needed. The detail is extended to other points of the ship both inside and out. Flaps move, retract, deploy and panels display the correct data. Nothing is here just to “look pretty”, everything has a purpose.
It doesn’t stop there though as every space ship is actually designed and manufactured by different companies within the universe. Ranging from the flashy “RSI” that are known for their elegant designs, to the “Anvil” for their rough but utility designed focus. Honestly, the amount of detail is just incredible, and would you believe that many of these organizations already have a dedicated fan-base with real world buyers? In fact, you could almost say there’s a bit of a Holden vs. Ford vibe to it all, but personally, I like to fly in the comfort of an RSI ship.
I challenge anyone to watch a commercial for the RSI 300i flagship and not get the impression this could be real.
It’s been confirmed that these companies will actually exist somewhere in the universe with real production chains and locations. How will this affect the game? Allow me to lay out the scenario:
You’ve lost your ship in the heat of battle. You’ve placed an order for a new ship, let’s say the Aurora back at your home planet. The order is sent to the factories at RSI. This begins the entire production process from materials being gathered, to assembly and delivery. All with real-time mechanics in place that could take a few days or even longer. However, player actions could affect this. Players could attack a mining system, it could be owned by RSI, all of a sudden everyone’s orders are being delayed, and you’ve been marked for death by an entire RSI fan base.
Player actions will affect not only themselves and others, but the entire universe as well. Players could raise stocks of missiles by attacking delivery ships or buying too little of a product. Missions will also change based on player actions as companies need help based on the activities within the universe. Protection missions will appear frequently should pirate activities rise. Admittedly, this is not the first time that someone has promised a persistent universe that reacts to the players actions, but it may be the first time I actually believe it is possible.
Chris has also promised a lengthy single-player campaign that will be released sometime next year. This has been described as an engaging story as you join “squadron 42” and rise through the ranks, from the rookie to squad leader. Promised within this is a story that will get you to know the squad and develop relationships with them. Not much else is really known about this, but with Wing Commander under his belt, I’m feeling confident on a rewarding single-player experience that’ll have me ready to enter the void that is the online universe.
As it stands, the game is playable only with a single option called “The Hangar”. Basically, this mode allows you to both see and explore each of the ships you’ve purchased, almost as if you were checking it out on the showroom floor. Disappointingly, there is no option to preview the ship before purchasing, but you can at least exchange your purchase for in-game credits. Additionally, there’s is no soundtrack or background music, but instead, sounds of the hangar, the humming of the ships and the solitary sounds of your own footsteps. Fortunately, recording for the soundtrack has commenced, with the promise of an orchestral score to accompany the game.
Whilst the graphics are still a work in progress, there has been a lot of love and care put into the presentation. From the scratches of a poor paint job to the lighting of control panels, it’s something to be taken in awe of. You’ll even see what appears to be minor imperfections in the glass of your ship, and the same level of detail and care has been applied to each ship, with none of them appearing to have picked the short straw in the design room. Each one looks like they could be real. Honestly, the only visual set back is with a couple of the animations at the mement, but that’s expected to improve. Right now, i’d prefer to reserve judgement until I see the final product.
It’s true that the game still has a long way to go, but the community is strong, and the developers have established a close bond with them. In fact, right now, a lot of the design choices are being heavily influenced by the voices of the community, with some ships being re-designed purely on the feedback from the fans. Additionally, upcoming features have been selected as a point of focus through the votes of the community, and it certainly appears that everyone’s voice is being heard and treated with consideration.
The only turn away that I can see is having the option to purchase a lot of the ships with real money. However, some will at least be limited to in-game purchase only, so hopefully, this should help to limit those with deep pockets from making everyone elses life a living hell. And yet, with all this being said, I still believe that it’s worth the price of entry. It’s hard to sell a game where the only gameplay at those moment is to sit in a seat and make engine noises yourself, but I believe we are looking at the beginning of something that could be revolutionary.
I warn those with pleasant optimism that this game will be difficult by yourself, this game is meant for those with a voice needing to be heard and friends in your corner. Yes you can play with the AI running a ship but honestly the experience will just be a shell of what it’s meant to be. With each patch and release notes, we’re drawing ourselves closer to a vision of an immersive universe. With promises of more detailed ships, meaningful co-op and a large responsive universe to our actions. Only time will tell if Chris and his team can deliver.
Star Citizen is being developed by Cloud Imperium Games, and is expected to be released near the end of 2014.