It seems that my previous column, my specific opinion on a subject, wasn’t well received by the Star Citizen community. While not specifically news, per se, and my opinion, I can understand some of the frustration some members of the community may have, but I will counter with the following:
Star Marine as a Standalone Product is Canceled
That is what the title “Star Marine” meant up until this point, as it was a label for the FPS module.
Therefore, Star Marine is canceled.
Unless Chris Roberts is lying, you are not getting the Star Marine module. You’re not getting a standalone game that is going to be playable outside of the persistent universe first. You’re getting FPS combat built within the persistent universe, with FPS style maps coming at a far later date than now. The distinction here is that Star Marine is not a standalone product anymore, but instead “just a game mode” within Star Citizen.
The module was canceled.
So why exactly is this notable? Well, over a year ago, we were supposed to have Star Marine. It was supposed to be released, already, playable and in everyone’s hands. Now everyone is being told that the combat that you see right now within the baby PU (the alpha version of the persistent universe) is Star Marine, that it has now been delivered, and they’re going to be building from there up.
There is some background you have to understand with this. Star Citizen has received over 100 million dollars in funding from the community. Mostly from the purchase of various spaceship packages, including one ship, the Javelin, which costed $2,500. The original Kickstarter went live on October 18th, 2012, which was over 3 years ago now. Since that original Kickstarter, the game has expanded drastically in scope.
Originally, Star Citizen was to be built out in a series of modules. The first module players got their hands on was the hangar module, followed by Arena Commander which was the ship combat module. Star Marine was supposed to be the FPS module, which would include in its various pitched forms all of the elements that would have player avatars and FPS combat.
The general idea was that Star Marine would be its own standalone game mode, accessed from your ships console in the final game release, where you could play various FPS style maps. For many fans, Star Marine was what interested them the most, whereas for others, the ship combat. CIG (Cloud Imperium Games) had an outside studio, IllFonic, work on developing their FPS module, which when finished was supposed to plug right in with their game
From the module’s announcement, it was riddled with delays. It was originally supposed to come right after PAX East 2015, which was in April, but missed that deadline by several months. By June, Polygon had published an article, in response to vague wording about where Star Marine was at, with the title, “Star Citizen’s FPS module delayed indefinitely.” This upset the community, because it wasn’t delayed indefinitely, it was going to come out soon.
Lots of back and forth discussion was had at this point, because CIG was stating they wanted the FPS module to be complete and released all at once and various levels of polish were needed, along with promises of various maps and modes that would be featured in Star Marine.
Throughout the third and fourth quarter of 2015, Star Marine was still being promised. It was slotted into various design priorities, which I even was witness in person to at D*C 2015. Ultimately, the entire design was simple: a fully functional FPS combat game with various maps, both with and without gravity, and playable separate to the PU.
However, in the latest 10 for the Chairman, Chris Roberts said:
“Star Marine was just a game mode for people to play the FPS element in Star Citizen until we could combine everything together, flying, walking around, shooting, doing all of the rest of the stuff all together. That’s what’s in two point zero! That’s what’s in two point one! So, with SC Alpha 2.0 onwards, you have pretty basically what we were planning from the very beginning. If you go back and look at the original pitch, you will see we said we will have FPS and we will have boarding. You have FPS and you have boarding right now. What really is happening is there will not be features that will only be for Star Marine outside of a competition map and scoring.” ~ Chris Roberts
So what was originally a fully complete standalone game mode, completely separate of the PU, is now being developed within the PU first, and at a later date the FPS maps will be turned on after various iterations on the FPS combat within the PU. This is good for Star Citizen, because it means the PU is going to be getting updated and constantly grow and evolve, and I think most will agree building the PU from the ground up is important and intelligent.
However, Star Marine as it was pitched and developed and being delivered within the last year isn’t happening. Instead, they’re doing something different – this is fine, but for people who have put a lot of hopes and dreams into Star Marine, including the many members of the community who were backing the game specifically for that game mode, then you’re going to have to wait for whatever comes far down the pipeline. The Star Marine being offered up as something that was going to be its own standalone product is now canceled.
Giving Chris Robert’s tone in the video, and considering he’s treating maps like Gold Horizon, SATABall, and the rest as afterthoughts, after years of fleshing out the various details and depth that Star Marine itself was going to have, makes me extremely curious as to why these things have occurred the way they have. If, according to him, they’ve got the FPS gameplay to where they want it, and it’s as simple as flipping a switch, then why not flip the switch for Gold Horizon, Crusader, and the other maps?
With that said, there is now a series of questions that I and many others have, including where did IllFonic’s work go? Is it being integrated into the game now, was that work discarded, and was IllFonic at fault for the series of delays? When they handed it off to CIG, it should have been as simple as turning it on, if everything said about their relationship is true. Some pontificate that there is issues with CryEngine that make plugging in something like the FPS module an impossibility, while others believe something more nefarious is up, including the work done by IllFonic was to create a prototype in order to pretend that the FPS module was a thing.
“Star Marine was originally our idea of how to get people to play the FPS before we could put everything together. But since that obviously took longer than expected, by the time we got it to the level that okay you guys can play this, well we had everything else in for the large world, 64-bit coordinates, so that was it.” ~ Chris Roberts
This statement is being called by some members of the community “historical revisionism,” believing that Star Marine, up and until this point, was promised as a standalone, fully fleshed out game mode, that was to be delivered within 2015, which is now being retcon’d into a “game mode” afterthought. Other elements of the community claim that this is how it’s always supposed to be and everything and everyone else before the video were wrong.
For me, personally, I believe that this is a good thing for Star Citizen. Star Marine should have been canceled, as it was, and focus should have been building all of one game together. Did IllFonic drop the ball? Did CIG drop the ball? Where did all of those years of work go? Is that what we’re seeing in the game now or did they have to start over? What accountability does IllFonic have for the current status of Star Marine? Why is there so much silence over at IllFonic and why is their relationship with CIG such a mystery?
These are questions that as far as I know have no answers.
“The important thing that I want to point out here is that Star Marine isn’t an aside in any way… it’s an essential part of Star Citizen, something the rest of the game must have.” ~ Ben Lesnick, July 8th, 2015
Is Star Citizen a victim of not managing expectations properly or is there something more nefarious afoot? I don’t specifically know, because obviously I’m not a fly on the wall at CIG. I have various accounts from people going all different directions, and I can’t say for sure. Like I’ve repeated a dozen times, building Star Marine within the PU is a good thing, but all of these promises and expectations that to me, have been broken so many numerous times, isn’t specifically a good thing and I feel as if a more clearer and more transparent development process would alleviate many of the concerns the community has.
If you’re interested in Star Citizen, I urge you to purchase the lowest tier ship package to see how you like the game so far, and when you’re confident that the game is what you desire, move up to something more expensive. As is, considering to me CIG has not managed expectations well and has provided a lot of confusing rhetoric about where their game is and has been going, I wouldn’t “donate” into the game until you were sure it would provide you a good experience.
Addendum – Timeline of Events
- November 5th, 2014: Star Marine’s footage introduced, IllFonic tagged as the developer of the module.
- March 6th, 2015: Star Marine to be released the week of March 30th. They simply only needed to finish transition animations and Zero-G combat.
- June 27th, 2015: The letter from the chairman includes updates on Star Marine, notes that no release date is available.
- June 30th, 2015: Star Marine is Delayed Indefinitely, by Polygon, building off of the previous Letter from the Chairman. The community reaction is severe, as the semantics of the title assumes Star Marine has been canceled.
- July 8th, 2015: CIG publishes a response, calling Polygon’s title clickbait, and providing an alternate definition of “Delayed Indefinitely” which insists that such terminology is colloquial, not literal, and implies cancellation.
- August 7th, 2015: Chris Roberts claims Star Marine will be playable before CitizenCon.
- October 10th, 2015: CitizenCon occurs, Star Marine is not to be seen yet.
- October 17th, 2015: It’s announced that Star Marine is folded into the PU.
- January 25th, 2016: Chris Roberts provides the above commentary about the status of Star Marine, noting that “it’s just a gamemode.”
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