Updated Thu, May 02, 2013 by ricoxg
One of the reasons I’m so interested in what CIG is doing, and how they make each step, is that I foresee a serious impact on the future of the industry as they break with tradition. The impact of their changes can already be felt, as I mentioned in my article on the crowd funding phenomenon.
I suspect their development model may have similar ripples moving forward. Crowd funding and indie development has started giving gamers a much deeper look into how games are created, and given them a voice much earlier in the development cycle. Developers could find it increasingly difficult to explain away bad mechanics and poor design in their betas. Players may ask why a game like Star Citizen can accept and adjust based on their feedback while the latest Dubsteb Call of Battlefield or World of RaidCraft can’t. A more discriminating player base can’t help but be good for the industry as a whole.
Additionally, Star Citizen is proving that players want to care about their games and want to be involved more. Getting players involved early means free publicity and greater retention numbers. It’ll be interesting to see how many players stay around from announcement to release with Star Citizen. From reading forums and observing community interaction, I suspect the number will be significant. Larger developers would be wise to pay particular attention to those statistics in order to figure out how to take advantage of the idea with their next game.
One of the biggest impacts I think could be this concept of modular design. It’s certainly not completely new, but it’s never really been applied this way in any major game that I know of. As Chris pointed out while we were discussing it, one of the big costs of larger games is developers being paid to sit around after finishing their part of the projects. You can’t just fire people as they wrap up their piece of the game, but you can’t let them continue changing things as you’re approaching launch either. That creates overhead. Modular designs could be a way of either bringing those costs down by staging development, or at least allowing continued development on some component without breaking the rest of the game.
The other advantage from a company’s standpoint with that development model is that it allows them to periodically offer something significant and new to the community before release, or even beta. That should help maintain higher interest in the game over time, and not have the typical massive drop in interest that tends to follow a month after the game is announced. It’ll be somewhat hard to tell how effective it is with Star Citizen because the game has such a solid following anyway, but when it comes to other games without that established base, it could make a significant difference.
While there are bumps in the road ahead for Star Citizen, I suspect they won’t kick the game off its track towards success. The guys at Cloud Imperium Games are already making a name for themselves as innovators and people who can produce results. As a gamer, I’m excited to see how their close ties to the community help produce a fantastic game.
Then there’s another guy in me who takes a lot of interest in the industry itself. I’m really interested in seeing how they over-come the obstacles along the way and seeing just how the industry shifts in response over the next few years. I don’t think SC will flip the industry on its head, but rather think of it more as some gravity well adjusting the course of another celestial body just slightly as they pass each other by.
Regardless of your point of view, I think Star Citizen is a game to watch and there are plenty of reasons to be excited about their future. Hopefully you find it as fascinating as I do, but either way… I’ll see you in the ‘verse!