Star Citizen – On A Wing And A Prayer

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If I was A Rich Man

Back in October 2012, Chris Roberts of Wing Commander fame returned.  Like the mythical Moses leading his tribe to the promised land of space adventure games, he gave thousands of geeks, both old and young alike, hope that the type of games we really wanted to play were just over the horizon.  Star Citizen was born! All he needed to realise this shared dream was money, my money, your money and the more of it the better.  Nearly two years down the line and over $53,000,000 later, I find myself increasingly unconvinced that he can really pull off the whole ambitious if rather bloated endeavour.

Having decided to release the game in modules, so backers could go hands-on with certain segments, sooner rather than later. Two elements are currently “playable”.  Just over a year ago the Hangar module was released.  Ostensibly nothing more than a garage for whichever ship or ships you have plonked down real word cash for, a year later it’s still rather a bit of a mess. Controlling your in-game avatar as you inspect your shiny future ships is, to be quite honest an awful experience. Controls feels sluggish, if they had been going for a ‘drunken stupor’ kind of control set up, then they have hit the nail on the head.  Then there are the numerous graphical glitches. Screen tearing, missed frames of animation, not to mention ridiculously laborious loading times, it’s all common place even running on high spec PC’s.  For a module that has been released for over a year and in development for much longer it’s a sad state of affairs, especially considering all you’re doing is walking round a pretty but empty room.

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Arena Commander is the biggest by far of the two modules available. Dressed up as a in-game simulator to hone your piloting skills, it gives you a chance for plenty of flight time. Currently, 2 dog-fighting modes are available.  Vanduul Swarm pits you against waves of AI enemies and a multiplayer mode was added about a month ago. On top of the combat, atmospheric racing has just been added in the last week. Both of these different game types are a visual feast, but at the minute that’s the main selling point. Ships control well and combat can be fun, racing is best avoided unless your ship is suitable. My Aurora really just doesn’t cut the mustard when it comes to racing, this takes away any fun that could be had here. Other more suitable ships are available, but like everything in Star Citizen it’s going to cost you money.  The Arena module was scheduled to release back in December 2013, it didn’t end up in the hands of eager backers until June this year.  So in knocking on for two years since the project started this is really all we have.  Did I mention that you can’t even customise controls yet? Better still, even though I shelled out the cash for a pledge that included Beta access, I still had to stump up more money to access the Arena Commander module.

Whether the game is going to achieve its grand vision and ever expanding scope remains to be seen.  Ardent supporters will tell you that it’s still got another 18 months development at minimum to just complete the basic features. Without doubt it’s a valid point, but it’s the creators drive for more and more funding that has led me to set condition one throughout my ship.  Everything, and I do mean everything that I’ve seen so far really does seem to have been constructed and developed to convince you to part with more and more cash.

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Money, Money, Money

The Hangar module has recently been updated. Where my Aurora previously looked at home in its surroundings, it now looks positively tiny. A huge hangar fit for a huge ship or several smaller ones, just spend some more money. These ships will run you anything from around $40 to well over $200,  more and more ships are being added all the time. My hangar also includes a lovely fish tank, it’s currently sitting there empty.  It would look great with some alien fish in it. You’ve guessed it I can buy some, $1 fish, as many as I’d like.  Little things like this are everywhere. Add to that the recently added Murray Cup racing and the cynic in me just sees this as another grab for cash.  Buy faster more nimble ships? Money Money Money!  On top of all this is the constant, almost weekly stream of new promotional videos, featuring new ships with better designs. These adverts (lets be honest that is exactly what they are), are not really being produced to attract new customers either, it’s all about milking more and more money from an already generous fan-base.

I could go on and on about my issues with Star Citizen, the way it’s being developed and the constant clamouring for more money, but at the end of the day somewhere underneath all this is a game right in the middle of development and it’s a bit of a whopper. If Chris Roberts can pull it off, then the man really will deserve all the plaudits that will undoubtedly come his way.  A project of this size is unheard of for an independent developer, whilst publishers are seen by many as a bane to development, they do provide a constant reality check.  Without all the checks and balances that can come with being funded by a big investor, there is every chance that whatever gem of an idea Star Citizen started out as, might well be swallowed by spiralling budgets and pie in the sky unachievable ideas.

As unconvinced as I remain, I truly have got everything crossed that Star Citizen ends up being the game that so many people have wanted to play for so, so long. Nearly 600,000 people have bought into this project, myself included, and we are all willing it to succeed.  All we can do now is watch and wait, and continue to dream of what might be.

If you are interested about Star Citizen much more information can be found HERE at the Roberts Space Industries website.