author: Michael Pajda
Great Expectations and Great Turmoil - Star Citizen, and Its $95 Million
Star Citizen is a very promising project – after all, it raised $95 million in crowdfunding. What's the progress after so many years? Will the turbulence around the title affect the quality of the final product?
Slated for release: TBA.
This text was based on the PC version.
Crowdfunding is easily one of the best byproducts of the Internet. It gave us such games as Video Game High School (a great online series by Freddie Wong and RocketJump), the amazing RPG Pillars of Eternity, or the entire Shadowrun series. However, the money raised for the above games are nothing compared to the amount gathered for the purposes of the production of Star Citizen... allegedly. Now, 95 million dollars is over 2,000 pounds' worth of 100-dollar bills – how did they even manage that?
Let's go back to October 2012. Back then, a Kickstarter campaign of a certain space-game was launched, and it was spearheaded by none othere than Chris Roberts, the legendary creator of space simulators. The man had just returned to the world of video games, having released his last game back in 2003, and then being involved, i.a., in the film industry, where one of the movies he produced was severely delayed, and the production of which caused numerous legal battles in US courts. He planned to raise $500,000 for the game in one month, and he managed to amass $155k in the first twenty four hours. That's $6,500 every hour.
After achieving the main objective, we get to the heart of crowdfunding: money can be collected further – until the end of the campaign. The people running the campaigns can come up with different, additional objectives that they promise to deliver after achieving subsequent funding thresholds. And so, for $750,000, the donors unlocked the possibility of starting their adventure in Star Citizen with the AMX-1 repair drone. Subsequent goals included various types of spaceships to be available in the game. The whole campaign was an incredible success – over 2 million 130 thousand US dollars were collected from over thirty four thousand founders. Ok, but we're still 92 million 870 thousand short of 95M.
Apart from Kickstarter, the fundraising campaign was carried out – simultaneously – on the official Star Citizen website. The crowdfunding goals there were similar to Kickstarter, with ships, missions in the Squadron 42 mode, the ability to customize ship cockpits (from posters and framed pictures to had-bobbing figurines), professional mo-cap sessions for Squadron 42, additional star systems to explores, and an additional alien race. After achieving the threshold of $10 million, Cloud Imperium Games (the parent company managing this project) declared that it would build its own studio for motion capture sessions, as well as use face animation recording technology similar to that from LA Noire.
Later, the founders also paid for the development of three alien languages from scratch (sic), the ability to travel with their own pet on board a spaceship, and professional voice acting by such household names as Gary Oldman and Mark Hamill. The last recorded threshold that guaranteed the community additional bonuses was $65 million, and we can only guess whether that was due to lack of ideas of the creators, or rather their prudence in planning the workflow, supported with concerns as to their abilities to actually deliver all their promises within a reasonable time frame.
There were many ideas about how Star Citizen should ultimately look like during the last three years. As long as the game is indeed released, we will get a regular, single-player campaign entitled Squadron 42, in which we will have to complete a number of missions, such as, for example, protecting the borders against the warlike hordes of the Vanduul. After we complete our service in the squadron, we will get a civilian ship. This will be the ticket to the MMO mode, which will give us control over our fate – we will join the ranks of a trade company, a pirate fleet, a group of explorers, or a brigade of head hunters. The creators stated that "where one conflict ends, the next one begins just around the corner," and we will be given full freedom in creating gameplay, without a moment of boredom.
The online portion of Star Citizen is where most of the game's attractions and possibilities will be found, which Roberts himself described on one occasion as "as vast as outer space" – and which are intended to redefine the idea of sandbox. For example – if we discover a new planetary system, we will not only get a big money reward, but also be able to name the given celestial body! Cloud Imperium Games makes sure that players also take active part in building the entire universe. Cooperation between ought to be an important element of the game, also when handling a ship – we should be able to travel the galaxy with friends on board the same, powerful vessel, experiencing galactic adventures together, taking shifts behind the helm and manning the cannons. The damage system will provide a great depth to space battles, as it should be able to generate thoroughly detailed destruction of the ship and its individual elements. All of this will obviously affect the maneuverability and defense of our ship.