The (Eternal?) Journey of Star Citizen

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The (Eternal?) Journey of Star Citizen

The Aurora MR, one of the starter ships available with purchase of the game.

The Aurora MR, one of the starter ships available with purchase of the game.

Photo Credit to Cloud Imperium Games

The Aurora MR, one of the starter ships available with purchase of the game.

Photo Credit to Cloud Imperium Games

Photo Credit to Cloud Imperium Games

The Aurora MR, one of the starter ships available with purchase of the game.

Nicholas Silva, Editor in Chief

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Star Citizen is an infamous title amongst many forward (or past) seeking gamers. It is, at its core, a multiplayer space exploration game. Its goal is to offer a simulation-like experience, letting the player live out a fictional life inside of a persistent universe. In a way, it’s kind of like the Oasis from Ready Player One, just on the PC instead of VR, and without all of the nerdy references or easter-egg hunts.

But let’s look now to the controversy to start this off. Star Citizen began its journey in 2012, under the guidance of Chris Roberts. Roberts had previously worked on the popular Wing Commander series, as well as producing several movies. However, he faded off the radar until announcing Star Citizen and its crowdfunded mission.

He quickly reached over six million dollars in crowdfunding, and that number has only climbed. But here’s the catch: Star Citizen was expected to release in 2014. Now, in 2019, some critics are beginning to cast a suspicious eye towards the studio.

Since the crowdfunding campaign started, Imperium Games -Robert’s company- has brought in over 260 million dollars. This has either been donated directly, or through the purchase of in-game goods. This is another aspect of the game that has raised criticism. Some propose that it isn’t a good practice to sell $1,000+ digital ships, that aren’t playable in the current Alpha build, for a game that has been under development for seven years. However, it really isn’t that bad. Roberts needs money to fund the game, and instead of just asking gamers to open their wallets and donate, he is looking to give them something in return, a vehicle that will enhance the eventual gameplay. But the game is, as critics state, not looking like it will offer that gameplay anytime soon. So far, only two of the promised one hundred or more star systems have been finished.

However, Forbes, one of the game’s biggest critics, did have a meger concession to offer, a grain of truth and understanding amongst alleged character assassination towards Roberts. In a report published in late October, 2018, they stated, “This is not fraud—Roberts really is working on a game—but it is incompetence and mismanagement on a galactic scale.” Well, some understanding, at least.

But there isn’t all just doom and gloom on the horizon for Star Citizen. At the very least, there is a playable build, accessible for life if you “pledge” $45 for the starter pack. Players do complain that the build has suffered from long-running performance issues -with the game even crashing during a demo played by Roberts- but it is still there. It is something; a promise, perhaps, of the great things that lie somewhere down the road.

And Roberts and his team are very good at supporting the community in the interim, while there isn’t necessarily much progress game-wise. They are very transparent about what is going on in the studio, offering regular community updates in both article and video form. Also, they publish regular lore-building magazines, with the big articles -written as if they were part of the game, which in a sense, they are posted to the Roberts Space Industries website, the real world tie to the game, and portal for purchases.

These articles vary from transcripts from fictional radio talk shows, reports on galactic politics, and opinion pieces on which is the best (yet unreleased) system in the Empire. This is an amazing contribution to fans, as the type of fan donating to an eternally Alpha-build game are generally the type of fan who really, really like lore. And the articles are good, too; nothing cheap or rushed. All of the articles feel well thought out, and meaningful, and offer a taste of the galaxy that lies beyond the delineation of game development. If the actual game ever lives up to a life anywhere near that portrayed in these pieces, then it will likely be worth the wait for the millions of players that have come to support the game, its concept, and its future.