If you're a PC gamer who's not heard of Star Citizen, we promise that you will hear a lot about it in the near future. Three years ago yesterday, legendary developer Chris Roberts, creator of Wing Commander and Freelancer, launched a crowdfunding campaign for his most ambitious project yet.
Returning to games after a brief stint in Hollywood, developing the Wing Commander movie and producing others including The Punisher and Lucky Number Slevin, Roberts planned for Star Citizen to be a return to form for triple-A video game development and the long forgotten space sim genre. It was going to take advantage of the most powerful PCs and offer a massive, shared universe, where players not only fly starships of various sizes (many of them with other players serving as crew), but could walk around within them, even boarding others and space stations in first-person shooter fashion.
Needless to say, the sales pitch was a successful one, the most successful for any crowdfunding campaign ever. It not only reached its goal of a few million dollars, but eager games came in droves, helping the developer raise $10 million to cover half the title's budget, then rocketing up to $20 million where the project no longer needed investors. It was being fully paid for by fans and funding even covered a studio-owned state of the art motion capture studio. More on that in a moment.
Since launching, Star Citizen has amassed nearly a million paying supporters and a whopping $91,572,259. It is the biggest budget space sim ever, but one fully supported by the gamers who will play it. The unique process has allowed the industry to follow Star Citizen's development since day one, from every ship design and interface tweak, to playable modules that let players test out every ready or in-development aspect of the game. There are weekly community-focus videos and events all throughout the year. And now, one of the core elements of the game - its Squadron 42 story campaign - has a buzzworthy Hollywood cast to go with it.
Yesterday at the official celebration/fan event, CitizenCon, Roberts and his development team at Cloud Imperium Games unveiled the star-studded cast of the Squadron 42 story, headlined by Gary Oldman. Oldman's character (Admiral Ernist Bishop) is the only one unveiled so far on the official site, but the full cast includes many notable stars including:
- Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
- Mark Strong (everything)
- Gillian Anderson (X-Files)
- Ben Medelsohn (Bloodline)
- John Rhys Davies (Lord of the Rings)
- Rhona Mitra (The Last Ship)
- Andy Serkis (Planet of the Apes)
- Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire)
- Sophie Wu (Kick-Ass)
- Craig Fairbrass (EastEnders)
- Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones)
Roberts is not messing around when selecting talent, including motion capture elites and a few stars with video game backgrounds. Just like he's not messing around in taking the space sim experience seriously. All of the ships feature fully designed interiors, and not just the cockpit that you can move around in an exit at anytime, but the actual components down to the wiring inside each vessel. The ships take advantage of realistic space physics too, meaning unlike classic arcade games, when you turn your ship, you'll still be moving in the initial direction, sliding until correct with thrusters. We won't get too deep into details right here since there's years of stuff to discuss but from last summer, here's a video of me demoing some of the space features when the developer released the flyable Arena Commander module.
Currently, buying into Star Citizen in its current alpha status involves buying one of the many ships available (most of them very expensive though) and there are three modes to play with other players in Arena Commander, plus working hangars for your crafts and a social module to hang out with other players. The next two pillars of the game, the Star Marine first-person shooter mode and the Squadron 42 campaign (playable cooperatively with friends) are in the works across the several international studios working on Star Citizen and once all the pieces are in place and polished, the larger, persistent shared universe will be next.
There, players will be able to be pirates, traders, miners or work for the military for their citizenship. You'll literally be able to do anything you want and affect the economy much like the popular space MMO EVE Online.
For more details, or if you have questions, hit us in the comments!
Star Citizen is currently in active development with its Squadron 42 modules scheduled for release in 2016.