Over the past few days I've fallen deep into the Star Citizen rabbit hole. It is an incredibly ambitious project, a crowd funded triple-A space-sim set in a persistent world that exists holistically with a worthy single player campaign. They're really going all out. A massive universe players will be able to explore and leave their mark on, a massive game world but with enough feidlity to dogfight like an action game and scalable for massive capital ships or getting out and walking around in your one-man shuttle, or raiding other vessels on foot. They want large-scale military struggles for dominance over systems similar to EVE, and a player controlled economy of resources and black-market trade. Players can be upstanding citizens of the United Earth Empire and lend their aid to the military or work in legitimate concerns for the benefit of all. Or they can be pirate scum, preying on the weak and taking what they want. Or perhaps something in between, a rogue-ish Han Solo/Captain Mal type, smuggler with a heart of gold (or at maybe tarnished silver).
I bought in. Picked up the $45 starter package which gives a backer access to the Alpha/Beta, the full game on release, and a snazzy beginner ship to take those first fledgling steps into the black. This is the first game I've ever backed, and not something I do lightly. I'm a little suspicious of this crowdfunding business, on one hand it's opening the door for great indie titles and things that we'd never otherwise see because publishers won't invest in them (space-sims and giant stompy robot games spring to mind). But at the same time, the situation is rife for scamming and disappointment. Good ol' Mechwarrior again springs to mind, with some early-Founders putting up $120 or more (much more in some cases) two years ago, and are stuck with an extremely limited, bug-ridden, and overall shoddy product to show for it now - with a development team that was once had such good relationship with the backers now totally alienated and on hostile terms with the community. I don't like the idea of pissing $45 real dollars into the ether based on a promise. For all the talk and awesome inside access the development team behind Star Citizen is offering now, there is no telling what the future holds, it could all turn to ash and that money as good as burned. But...
This shit is so cool!
I wish I could say I was inspired by the developer's legacy. I wish I could say it was the audacity of the project, the sheer ambition that really put me over the edge and made me plunk down cold hard cash. But I can't. I got sold on the silly stuff, as always. The super snazzy in-fiction brochure for the Aurora LX spaceship that reads like the glossy fold-out advertisements you'd read in a Ford dealership. I took a look at the design specs and early mockups of the RSI Constellation ship, deliberately designed to call to mind images of the Millennium Falcon and Firefly's Serenity. A mid-sized transport ship designed for a small 4-man crew, with a good bite on it to boot. Perfect for ensuring the safe delivery of cargo (legal or otherwise) to it's deep-space destination on the rim. The developers talking about how enthusiastic they are for the Oculus Rift and are developing specifically to make use of it.
I got sold on the dream of being cyberpunk Captain Mal. Judge me all you like.
"I do the job, I get paid."
It's still in the crowdfunding process and a long-way off. The plan is to release the game in two years, but I assume that will just mark the date of their first delay. Nothing ever goes smoothly the game business, not even for industry legends like Chris Robert, creator of the Wing Commander series and other games like [iFreelancer[/i]. Star Citizen is his dream game, his magnum opus, and Robert Space Industries (RSI) is milking his reputation for everything it's worth. He's at the front of this thing in a way that is rare for the videogame industry, with interviews and retrospectives over every inch of the site and personal letters from him to the fanbase presented like Moses and his tablets coming down from the mountain. I respect the guy a hell of a lot, but the cult of personality over on the official forums boarders on treating him like a messianic figure, the great last hope of the PC hardcore space-nerd, here to rescue us from a doomed world sliding into the black hole of consolization and quicksaves. It's impossible to ignore the whiff of superiority and the insular smugness that is developing over there, and the game isn't even in Alpha yet.
But man, if even half the things they want to accomplish turn out, it's going to be a hell of a game. Some of that haughtiness might actually be justified.
When they start talking about holistic persistent worlds that merge the single and multiplayer aspects, I get a little weak at the knees. When they talk about action packed skill-based dogfighting, of an MMO based on your abilities and skills in the cockpit rather than the sterile combat dance we've come to expect over the years and your stats on a spreadsheet, my heart-rate starts climbing.
Then they had to go right for my weakpoints. They had to start talking about how much respect they have and inspiration they're drawing from Demon Souls and Dark Souls. The contextual PvP, the merging of single/multiplayer experiences, the stark grimness of the world and the importance of each step and decision.
Oh Chris Roberts, you've made me the happiest girl in the world.
It's a minor detail in the long run, but I'm fascinated by the proposed way they want to handle death in the world of SC. Taking some hints from Dark Souls, the idea is to make death an actual "thing" in SC rather than the mild inconvenience it usually is in a MMO style game. Being wiped out in combat will have an actual effect on your character depending on the nature and severity of your death. If your ship is blown up in a dogfight in a civilized area of space and you punch out successfully in an escape pod, you'll likely get away with a tiny scar or burned patch to remind you of the occasion. Get headshot while trying to raid a player-merchant vessel in a pirate raiding action? Well, not only is a headshot more likely to permanently kill your character, but the fact that you were the aggressor in a PvP scenario means the stakes are higher, the risk greater. You could wake up in a med lab missing an eye. Same with losing a dogfight in the dark edges of unpoliced space, you could end up with a cybernetic arm to replace one lost in a nasty hull breach. Worse yet, if some scumbag decides to target your escape pod floating in space and take you out, uh-oh.
Future medicine is pretty damn good, and doctors can perform a "Shepard-job" on you, essentially re-building your charred and dead body, but that will only work so many times. Eventually your character WILL die, you will see a funeral for him/her that marks all the big moments in their life (military honours, prestigious bounties, audacious raids, discovered planets/species) and all their worldly possessions will pass to heir. A child, sibling, significant other, ect that will take up the torch and carry on in their stead (with a little less reputation and prestige until they make their own mark).
- I don't remember if they had this scene in the SNES version of Wing Commander, but I sure do remember dying a lot.
What a crazy and daring thing to do. I'm not sure how that will work out. How do you give death a sting in a game where you are encouraged to engage in epic battles, PvP, and explore dangerous uncharted areas? Will it make everything feel more important and keep you engaged, or will it just lead to untold levels of griefing and rage? I have no idea, but I really want to see it.
I don't know if SC will be the end-all be-all of PC gaming that is already entrenched core thinks it will be. I don't know if my Captain Mal dreams will ever come to fruition, if by the time this game is done if it's even something I'll want to play. But man, do I want to see it develop.
If nothing else you have to respect SC's swagger. $45 dollars to see this wild experiment grow over the next few years, to be in the Alpha and Beta stages and see what makes the cut and what hits the floor, might be worth it in it's own right.