Four years ago today the initial Crowd Funding Campaign for Star Citizen came to a close with equal amounts of exhilaration and exhaustion.
I am always humbled by the incredible response that Star Citizen received from space sim fans and PC gamers. The groundswell that swept up the project from its announcement and carried it forward ever since has been something the team and I have never taken for granted.
Thanks to all of your support, we’ve been able to expand the scope of Star Citizen to create a living, breathing universe. No other game tries to deliver the scale and fidelity that Star Citizen does with its detailed worlds that can have you walking through a dense jungle, wandering the dark alleyways of a futuristic city, landing on a space station orbiting a moon, or piloting a space ship across vast star systems teeming with activity, all from a seamless first person viewpoint.
Your contributions have enabled us to hire some of the best and brightest in the video game business. The planetary tech we showed at Gamescom and CitizenCon is a prime example of something that only became possible with your continued support. We now stand at four internal studios and 377 employees all dedicated to building the best game we can. We are not building something to be played for a week and then discarded, we are building Star Citizen to be an online destination that can grow and flourish for years to come.
With this ambition comes a price. Not just in the salaries of the hundreds of people pouring their hearts into the project, but in the unpredictability of the groundbreaking technology that we need to develop to achieve a game of this scale and detail. We have taken a lot of flak over the last couple of years for the extending timeline of Star Citizen, but the simple fact is that game development, especially game development on the scale of Star Citizen, is complicated. If you talk to any developer that works on large titles they will tell you that schedules, especially early in the development cycle, move all the time. Most people never see this because a publisher won’t announce a project publicly until it is very far along; normally at least in Alpha, with all the technology and gameplay R&D completed. Even then, the timelines can be unpredictable as can be seen in the delays on big name titles from publishers.
With Star Citizen, we never had the luxury of developing behind closed doors until all the technology has been built. We’ve been public since before we opened the doors of our first office in early 2013.
Having the participation and feedback from all of you as we build Star Citizen block by block is vital to making a game that will stand the test of time. Polish and iteration help make good games great and we have the opportunity to do this with the participation of an engaged and active user base. That’s a luxury that most other games don’t have.
Open Development does have its drawbacks. Not everyone understands the process or how difficult it can be. We have always tried to be open and share our progress. We refactored Around the Verse to focus more on developers showing and talking about their work to help give insight into the process. Our monthly reports have more information than any monthly report I had to do for Electronic Arts or Microsoft when at Origin or Digital Anvil.
The only thing we currently don’t share is internal estimates on completion and dates.
As you know we’ve not been keen to give hard dates on the project after the initial set of dates which we had estimated when the project was a lot smaller in scope. When I’ve talked about releases, I’ve always qualified any discussion of timing with “we’re hoping to” or “the goal is” to give a rough timeline for people, but unfortunately some people often tend to forget the qualifiers and treated my comments nonetheless as a promise.
Because of this we have been reticent to share our internal timelines, even with caveats, as it always seems to cause trouble; one section of the community gets annoyed because things are perceived as late while another gets annoyed wondering why we shared dates at all if they aren’t solid. Of course even when we don’t give dates we have yet another part of the community getting annoyed because they feel left in the dark and have no idea when the next build will drop.
Basically it is a Kobayashi Maru.
I’ve reflected long and hard on this dilemma and have concluded, to quote another Eighties film, “the only winning move is not to play.”
What if we didn't give you just an estimated date, but instead shared our internal schedule? No filter, no hedging. You see what we see.
Whether or not to share this kind of information has been a long running debate among the team here at Cloud Imperium Games. Target dates are not release dates, and everything you see will shift at some point, sometimes slightly and sometimes wildly. The danger in doing this has always been that casual observers will not understand this, that there will be an outcry about delays every time we update the page.
We’ve taken stock, thought through everything and decided that, while that is a risk, above all we trust the community that has given us so much support. The community that has let us focus our passions on this incredible project. You have allowed us to take this journey, you have tracked and followed so much of how game development works… and now we think it is right to further part the curtain and share with you our production process.
So for Star Citizen Alpha 2.6 we’re going to share our internal schedule and its breakouts on a weekly basis. These are the very same schedules we update daily and are circulated internally on our intra-studio hand-offs with a few exceptions: the individual developer names assigned to the tasks will be omitted (for obvious reasons), we’ll remove the JIRA details and we’ll modify the technical wording to make it readable for a wider audience, but otherwise, when something changes, slips or is completed, you will know.
This schedule will always be available on the RSI Website and we will be updating this page weekly with a snap shot of our internal schedule.
We take the process of production very seriously and spend a lot of time on improving our ability in this area. Our worldwide Production Team is twenty-five strong and they are the backbone that drives our development forward. They work closely with developers to break down and create tasks, chase up task completion daily, update their respective team’s schedules, encourage and strengthen open communication by organizing meetings, agendas, and creating action items to help push the project forward day by day. The Production Team has many collective years with some of the biggest developers, publishers and games. They are like the rest of the CIG team, World Class.
Game development is, at its very heart, a process of constant improvement. We view our communications as part of this process, whether that means improving the quality of our videos or finding new ways to share information with our community. I hope you enjoy this new, even more detailed look at Star Citizen’s development.
If this initiative is well received, then we will continue this process as we move onto the next milestone.
The Anniversary Livestream
This afternoon, at 1 PM Pacific, we are kicking off the fourth Star Citizen Anniversary Livestream. If you’ve discovered Star Citizen more recently, the anniversary livestream celebrates the last day of Star Citizen’s original crowd funding campaign. Back in 2012, we celebrated the incredible support we received with a 24-hour livestream. Today, we have too much work to do to break from it for a full day, but we want to honor the spirit of the campaign by appearing live and celebrating our passion for what we’re doing.
The livestream will be followed by a weeklong sale. This year, we are patterning the event after an in-universe ‘air show’ called the Intergalactic Aerospace Expo. All of our companies, from Esperia to Aegis, will present their ship lineups with a different company’s spacecraft showcased each day (along with some special surprises you’ll learn more about during the stream). If you’ve missed out on a ship in the past that you’ve been itching to pick up, this is your chance; if you’re happy with your current fleet, I hope you enjoy some of the additional materials and content we have put together for the event.
With that in mind, I wanted to take a moment to address a common question: why we do ship sales.
First and foremost, I want to stress that the universe will always be open to anyone with a starter package. No backer is being asked to pay more to enter the game world or to unlock some otherwise unavailable endgame content. Your initial Aurora or Mustang is your ticket to a bigger universe where you can earn your fortune and make your name.
If you chose to buy an additional or bigger ship, you are doing this primarily to support the project. The backers that choose to purchase concept ships are helping us add top tier talent to the game, expand our development tools and facilities and give us the time and bandwidth to pursue the kind of pure creativity that continues to make this project so exciting.
The additional ships are rewards for helping expand our dream, to make sure we continue to go above and beyond what we set out to create. Every ship you can buy now will be available in the finished game, for purchase with in game currency. But early supporters receive some convenient rewards (such as LTI) and the option of having a different starting experience with larger or role-specific ship designs. We feel this is the least we can do for the portion of the community that continues to support us well past what they need to contribute to play Star Citizen. We feel comfortable with this exchange as Star Citizen is not a stats based MMO with typical end game content. Just like real life there is no real end game in Star Citizen. It is more about what you want to do. Do you want to be a fighter? A trader? An explorer? A miner? A pirate? Player skill counts heavily as well as the role the ship was designed for. There is no ship that will sweep all before it. Different ships are needed for different situations. Having an Idris does not mean you will crush all before you, but an Idris manned by a group of friends that work together will be formidable. However, it’s a pretty bad bulk cargo carrier or mining ship, and if you’re chasing nimble outlaws through a dense asteroid field, you’re likely to take quite a bit of collateral damage and be left in the dust.
The desire to continue to improve Star Citizen is also why we have begun offering an incentive to purchase a new concept with fresh money rather than melting a ship and using store credit. We offer backers a more comprehensive system for melting and refactoring their pledges than we had ever dreamed possible back in 2012, which is a system I believe no other game offers, and as a result you can often swap to a more favored ship without impacting funding at all. We built this to allow you all to be able to purchase a ship with confidence, knowing that if something you like better comes along you can switch out to it with minimal hassle and no loss. We do not intend to change this system, but maintaining it means that we need to find other ways to encourage new contributions rather than just recycling old ones as the continued funding means we can continue to make the game as good as it possibly can be. Going forward, these cash sales will focus on newly introduced concept ships and top tier limited capital ships.
Having said all this I want to reinforce that you should only participate in the anniversary sale as a way of supporting the project. There is no need to own anything other than basic starter ship if you just want to have some fun. You will be able to earn all the ships we offer in these sales once Star Citizen goes live.
With that, I would like to wish every backer a happy fourth anniversary and thank our subscribers whose additional support allows us to put on events like this. To all of you, Star Citizen is what you are making it… and you are making it something that I believe will provide an incredible escape to people around the world. Every day, we get closer to our shared dream of a living, breathing science fiction universe where we can immerse ourselves like never before. That’s the dream that keeps us working as hard as we can on this project and it’s something I hope you will continue to support and celebrate. There’s more work to do, but with every production milestone, with every community event, with every bright idea made code I know we are getting closer to that most important promise: we’ll see you in the ‘Verse.