Updated Mon, Dec 16, 2013 by ricoxg
A couple days ago I was checking out the latest Minecraft release when my cell phone rang. To my surprise, Chris Roberts was calling to talk about Xerin’s recent article, which happens to echo some of the same points I’d made in another article touching on the dangers of crowd-funding. Though I guess I shouldn’t have been all that shocked, as it’s no secret that I’m an open supporter of this project.
Interestingly enough, I’d just had this conversation with a friend thinking of supporting SC a few days ago, so I was really glad to talk to Mr. Roberts about it. My friend had some of the same concerns about all the additional stretch goals and schedule slip that Xerin had referred to, so I asked Chris about it.
Chris Roberts: Star Citizen is still scheduled to come out 2015, and we’re on target for that. What I think gets missed is that backers get access to the game much earlier than that. We’ve already released the hanger module, and as we complete the various components of the game, backers will get patches to add those components to their clients. So yes, we release in 2015, but backers will actually be seeing the game much earlier than that. Also, the alpha should be out late next year for those backers who’d rather wait for something more like the complete game before looking at it.
Ricoxg: There have been some rumors of schedule slip, so those aren’t true?
Roberts: Well, there has been some slipping here and there, but that’s typical for internal milestones. Inside the industry you see these sorts of slips all the time, but the release date for the game itself doesn’t change. What a lot of backers are seeing is just something that’s common for us, but because they haven’t been exposed to other side of development like they are here, it’s not something they’re used to seeing.
And honestly, some of those slips will likely be due to them, which is one of the things I’m most proud of with how we’re making Star Citizen. For instance, we showed some of the HUD concepts during our Anniversary Live Stream and the immediate feedback was that it was too busy. A traditional game, we would have gotten that feedback at release, or maybe just before it, and then had to decide whether or not we had resources to change it. In Star Citizen, we got that feedback way earlier, so the HUD team can adapt on the fly. It might cause a minor schedule change with that one component, but because of the modular development process we’re using, it shouldn’t impact any other parts of the game schedule-wise.
Ricoxg: I think the specific slip everyone’s curious about, and a hot item in the forums, is the dogfight module. How are we looking on that one?
Roberts: I’m making a decision on that one next week, so it’s not set in stone yet. Because of the additional funding we’ve been able to put a lot more work into the back end than we would have been able to accomplish otherwise. There is a Crysis backend that could be used for dogfighting, but we’ve always planned to design our own. Rolling out the dogfight module on something we don’t really plan to use long-term would eat up time that might be better spent somewhere else. But then getting the backers into the dogfight module is important to us as well. There’s a lot of data we need to collect as they test it out that goes into making the rest of the game. So, it’s hard to say right now, but there’ll likely be a decision in the next week.
Ricoxg: Still, there has been a lot added to the game or expanded on in some of these stretch goals. Fears about getting everything done on time seem pretty founded. What do you say to those concerns?
Roberts: I can see that. Everyone sees us expanding the scope of the game, but we’re additionally expanding the team to meet those new needs. For instance, we also just added a new team in Manchester, UK that will be led by my brother, Erin. These are some of the same guys that worked on Privateer, so they know what they’re doing. Also, we’re expanding wide as well as deep, so we don’t just bring on people to handle new components like the boarding actions. We also add to existing teams so that they can do more as well.
Lastly, feature-creep doesn’t mean quite the same with Star Citizen as it might in other games. In other games, it’s a concern because they have a hard release date and as you add new stuff it gets to a point where other things have to be rushed or dropped. We add new people to the team to cover the new features and because everything is so modular, it has minimum impact on the rest of the game.
Besides, absolute worst case scenario our way of releasing new content to backers as it’s completed means the whole game doesn’t wait because some piece isn’t done. I don’t think it’s likely, but the design process we’re using allows us that sort of flexibility.
Ricoxg: I guess my last question would have to be one about cash, then. A lot of money is being thrown at Star Citizen and there are some individuals throwing a lot more than others. How do you respond to the suggestion that this could be somehow exploitive?
Roberts: I don’t think you should ever under estimate the power of the people and what they want. We live in a culture where the people have the power to vote for what they want with their wallets and their feet, and the people are saying that they want this game. Quite frankly I’m happy that so many people are excited about this game.
It’s not like some other games where more people, means more money in our wallets. All this money directly goes to the game and expenses in making it. We don’t want to add people to our list of customers to get rich, we want them to help us make a bigger, more awesome, game. People see that and it’s not the traditional model for how games are made, so they maybe misinterpret what they’re seeing.
We'd like to thank Chris for taking the time to talk with us, and providing some new insights into the ongoing development of Star Citizen. As always, we'd love to hear your thoughts on the game, and how crowd funded projects on the scale of Star Citizen will impact our role as consumers in future games development, so be sure to drop your comment bombs below!