Friday, 11 October 2013

Star Citizen - Too good to be true?

Recently I got bit by the gaming industry with Total War Rome II, a game I was sold on before they had even released screenshots.  Total war has always been one of those top of the line games featuring tonnes of depth, strategy and more importantly fun.  When Rome II was close to release the team at Creative Assembly constantly reassured fans of the games quality and how it was going to be the best entry into the series since the original Rome way back when.

Sadly upon launch the game was quite far from what had been promised.  Players couldn't launch the game at all, others reported massive framerate issues, unplayable lag and a near endless stream of bugs and glitches that pretty much ruined the experience.  Now CA have done a remarkable job getting the game to a somewhat playable standard for most, but really it should never have launched the way it did.  This was a game that was at the mercy of publishers, in this case SEGA.  Someone in SEGA decided to set a deadline for Rome II and Creative Assembly had little choice but to wrap up development for that date when it rolled along.  I don't blame CA for the shoddy launch, since I know that given the option 99% of developers would prefer to take their time and make a game that matched their early concepts of what they wanted to make.

So in the world of gaming the publisher is the enemy in a way.  They drive development studios to work harder in shorter time frames with the same money expecting a top quality product.  Then when you look at the lucky few out there such as Valve, who can create games at their own pace and release them when they decide it's to a standard they themselves would accept then you see a world of difference. 

Presumably this carrier will be available one day
But there has been a growing interest in the crowd funding area of the Internet.  Kickstarter has allowed developers and other smaller companies to pretty much self publish with the help of interested parties.  People who look at a product and decide that it would be worth their money to see that design come to life.  Kickstarter isn't all roses and sometimes shady dealings occur but for the most part it has allowed customers to basically vote with their wallet.  You have to have a good product or at least a good pitch to get the backing of your intended market and that's what makes the crowd funded sector so popular.

Star Citizen is a unique entry into this market.  It started life on Kickstarter and was so successful that it has become a global phenomenon in gaming.  The first ever fully crowd funded triple A title for the PC exclusively, no console interference, no publishers calling the shots, just Chris Roberts, his vision and the team who make that vision a reality.  Or so we all hope.  Star Citizern is one of those too good to be true things in life.  Everything about it sounds awesome and really makes me want to play it without seeing any gameplay yet.

It's impressive that a couple of pre-rendered videos a hangar bay module and a list of promised features can garner nearly $22 million dollars in pledges from the gaming community.  Some players have dropped literally thousands of dollars on additions for their characters and this is for a title that won't be out until at least late 2014 if not the year after.  But I can see the appeal really.  Chris Roberts has a great track record of producing space simulators from the likes of Wing Commander and Freelancer amongst others.  His team are made up of industry veterans and the game itself promises something that really does seem to challenge the big boy in the space market, EVE online.

Despite Roberts' claim that Star Citizen isn't going head to head with EVE, it's hard not to make comparisons.  Star Citizen will be a completely open ended, player driven setting with a player run economy and political system.  Basically anything that can be done in EVE will be available in Star Citizen but with one major difference.  It's free to play.  Yes the free to play versus the pay to play discussion is here once again and in this case EVE loses outright.  A game that essentially boils down to point and clicking like a old school MMO with practically zero skill required for combat and demands a regular subscription will be going up against a skill based, as in you actually fly the ship and fire the guns yourself (I know shock) free to play game that does everything EVE does and more for free.

Hell you can even walk around as your pilot/avatar on planets and have laser battles.  Board enemy vessels and kill the crew, hire NPC crew to man the other stations of your craft or hire real players to do this for you instead.  The ships are incredibly detailed which is one of the few things that can be confirmed since the hangar module allows you walk around and access the ship.  They are each built to work in a realistic manner so if the ship has a crew quarters you can use them and even watch holo vids in them.  Compared to EVE the details are staggering and it's only set to get better as more updates for the module are released, allowing more areas of the ships to be accessible.  Honestly look for youtube videos of ships like the Constellation, it's really cool.  If only Lucasarts would release a star wars game of this level of quality.

it's a Hornets life for me
Subscriptions are available though for nifty things like e-zines and other little bonuses and these things keep the game running.  Micro transactions that don't have any impact on the games player run economy will drive development.  No doubt other incentives will come when the title launches in the far future but as a starting point I doubt they have much to worry about when you look at how much money they are taking before the game has even become playable. 

Probably the most attractive part of the deal is Roberts himself.  An industry veteran himself who knows what he wants and is willing to go the extra mile to ensure his game is the game he wanted to make.  But always remember that until the game becomes largely playable you are effectively putting faith and money into vapourware, but it's pretty looking vapourware and promises quite a lot.  I just hope the community doesn't become as pretentious and snobbish as the EVE community otherwise I might just back out of the deal.

There is so much more information out there for this game though and I highly recommend you take a look at and see just how good this is looking to date.


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