Star Citizen is a polarizing project. True believers in it will hear no criticism and have stumped up the dollars to back their words. Critics think it's good at hoovering up cash and spitting out little of worth at the production end.
Star Citizen has pushed itself back into the wider gaming consciousness recently, with the release of version 3.3.5 to the public test environment and now to the live environment. Featuring the city of Lorville and the explorable planet of Hurston, along with its moons, Cloud Imperium Games has finally given its backers something properly playable.
You would have to a sour person indeed to not be impressed at least subjectively by what we’re seeing. Those with access to Star Citizen are finally free-flying in some of the most detailed and great looking spaceships the gaming world has yet seen. They’re landing on planets and then walking around. They have a city in the stars to use as a base. They can feel like they’re in a science fiction movie. And that is exactly what they wanted, and why they’ve given so much money to Chris Roberts and his team.
Are they fools? Have they been misled, or even worse, lied to?
Well, let’s deal with the worst case scenario. CIG never delivers a finished game, either the single player Squadron 42 campaign or the wider multiplayer universe. Feature creep, enabled by the irrepressible Mr Roberts and supported by wildly unrealistic backers, sees Star Citizen spiral into a never-ending loop of development issues in which the space wood can’t be seen for the space trees.
Then people lose heart. All the funds are used up, existing backers won’t stump up more money and new backers who believe in the project can’t be found. Star Citizen goes supernova, leaving behind only small, pulsing traces of interesting tech and ideas as its legacy in the gaming universe.
But we believe that the vast majority of backers have gone into this with their eyes wide open, and certainly those backers from the last three or so years. And frankly, if they didn’t, they shouldn’t have access to a credit card to begin with.
If this worst case scenario were to happen, then whose fault would it be?
CIG of course for promising too much, and in such a crowd pleasing way - a crowd funding pleasing way - but also each and every backer, including ourselves. There was no gun to anyone’s head. No compulsion. No deliberate deceit. And if you think spending money on gaming is a rational decision, we’d like to introduce you to an entire world of wealthy publishers offering Early Access games to ever-willing and enthusiastic wallets.
What people have bought with the $200 million plus raised so far is hope. Hope that CIG can smash some boundaries, hope that CIG can produce a PC-only game that shows off the superior abilities of their hardware versus the limiting demands of consoles, hope that a major game can be produced that started from “what if we” rather than “how much to”. Hope that the stifling grip of the major games publishers can be broken with overwhelming ambition. Hope that we can have some honest-to-goodness space trucking fun.
So if you haven’t tried it yet, should you part with your money? Well, the question to ask yourself is “do I have the money to lose?” If you can afford to part with at least $45, and you like the idea of what CIG is trying to achieve, yes, do so by all means. You can even try it for free for a period.
Don’t expect an immediately, or even imminently, playable game though. Do know yourself and how open you are to temptation - because Star Citizen offers temptation to spend more once you’ve started. And that’s the funding model, be aware of that and don’t be the kind of sucker who complains about being suckered after they’ve been suckered. Because you’ve suckered yourself.
The final scenario we’d like to talk about is the one that gives us most joy. Star Citizen comes to full fruition. We get an amazing space sim - not the spreadsheet world of Eve, not the limited-to-ships world of Elite, not the improved but still flawed No Man’s Sky, with its matter-of-taste visuals. No, we get Star Citizen multiplayer and get to feel like we’re in a movie with our friends. And we get the single player Squadron 42, with Gary Oldman, Mark Hamill and Gillian Anderson. We even get Star Marine for some FPS relief.
Cloud Imperium Games
And that’s the possibility. It’s looking more of a distinct possibility after 3.3.5, even if masses of work remains to be done by Cloud Imperium Games.
All we’d add is this: The first time we full afterburned out of Lorville in our Origin 315P, climbing up through the atmosphere and looking down at the city dwindling behind us, we felt a gaming tingle like we’ve not felt in a long time. And that tingle could be the secret of Star Citizen.