Posted Fri, Jul 26, 2013 by ricoxg
He’s produced movies such as Lucky Number Slevin, The Punisher, and God of War. You most likely know him as the CEO of Cloud Imperium Games and Creative Director of the game Star Citizen. Ten Ton Hammer’s Ricoxg had a chance to interview Chris Roberts this week about the continuing success of Star Citizen’s crowd sourcing campaign.
Ricoxg: You’ve raised over $12 million in contributions from a little over 200,000 members of the gaming community as of this weekend. Congratulations!
Roberts: Thanks! We just finished a live stream event [recently] that really helped to put us over the $12 million mark. We never expected anything like this. I went into it with a plan to raise a little from the community and then I had backers lined up for the rest.
Ricoxg: I’ve heard you say you originally hoped to get about $2 million from the community and now you’re setting stretch goals of $14 million. How far do you think this will go?
Roberts: We’ve just done way better than any of us expected to. There’s a real chance we could crowd fund the whole thing, and that’s just really exciting. That would mean everyone involved with the game would be the people who are really excited about the game and want to see it done right.
Ricoxg: We've seen at least one new stretch goal since the live stream. Are there more ready, or are the fans just burning through them as fast as you can come up with things to do in the game?
Roberts: We have several of them in mind, and are announcing each as we reach certain milestones. Though the fans really are reaching them far more quickly than any of us ever imagined they would.
Ricoxg: The crowd funding really has been a phenomenal success. Were you aware of anything else out there that compared to what you're trying to do here now, or did you just get the idea and decide to go for it?
"The industry has always looked at crowd funding as great for small indie games, but no one would have taken it seriously if you’d have went to one of the big publishers a year ago and pitched the idea of crowd funding a game this big."
Roberts: No, there really wasn't anyone out there doing anything like this. There were a few indie developments being done this way, but nothing on the level that we decided to try for. Even when we'd funded it, we were sort of at a level where publishers were saying, ‘Well, four million... that's not really that much,’ but now we're over twelve million and that's sort of another story. Now people are really starting to take notice.
The industry has always looked at crowd funding as great for small indie games, but no one would have taken it seriously if you’d have went to one of the big publishers a year ago and pitched the idea of crowd funding a game this big.
But that’s a good thing because now everyone involved with the game is someone who cares about it. We’re in a great position to make a great game without anyone forcing us to do things just to make it more marketable. We can make the game we want to play and that we think our community wants to play.
Ricoxg: When you guys decided to crowd fund, you also announced that you would be treating backers like publishers with periodic updates. That's a pretty unique approach. How has it worked out so far?
Roberts: I think it's worked out really well. It's helped to generate a lot of excitement about the game and backers seem to have responded well to it.
Ricoxg: Did that idea create the new development process you're using, or had you already decided to go that route?
Roberts: Well, no. I already had an idea that I wanted to use shorter milestones and give programmers specific deliverables. I'd originally planned to offer the alpha to backers about a year out, but during the crowd funding campaign I just kind of felt there was another idea there. We decided to really involve the community more and offer more transparency into the process, and looking at it now, I think that was a really good way to go with it.
Ricoxg: How have that new development process and the extra community involvement worked out so far?
Roberts: I think it's worked out great. The community has really helped with great feedback and excellent support for the game. I think when we start introducing new game components to the public, it'll be even more important. Having community to help test each part of the game as we get it ready will really help us deliver a better product in the end.
This scrum development process has worked as well, I think. It’s more focused and relies on deliverables during a shorter time period. It makes it harder for people to sort of push stuff off, and I think has really done well to make us more productive. We’re still looking for more developers, but we’ve really accomplished a lot already.
Ricoxg: Between crowd funding and the modular development, there's a lot of early visibility for this game, how has that been good or bad?
Roberts: Well, I think it's been really good. There's of course the risk that we'll have a delay or something and where it would have been transparent before, it'll be in the open now. I think our fans are very mature, though. I've seen several posts in the forums where someone said something to the effect of, ‘Take the time you need. I just want it done right.’ That’s what we’re trying to do, and I think the community understands that. They trust us to deliver a fantastic game in the end, and because we're keeping them informed and involved, I think they'll understand if there's some delay. Like if there's a problem with the engine and we have to go to Crytek for help or something like that. If it delays a release by a few weeks, they'll see it coming and they’ll understand why.
Ricoxg: A lot of that excitement is due to your Wing Commander fame, have you attempted to give a nod to that community, and how so?
Roberts: Oh yeah. For instance, during the 300i Director's Cut commercial, there's a fly-by of a downed carrier and that was sort of a nod to the intro movie in Wing Commander III. Then Squadron 42 really is very much a Wing Commander with modern graphics and larger ships.
Ricoxg: Is there anything you wish you could have done with any of the earlier games that you're determined to nail this time around?
Roberts: Boarding actions were something I really wanted to do. Being able to do it and having ships big enough for it was the problem, but we'll have it in Star Citizen. Also, having flyable capital ships on the scale that we're going to have in the game is something I've always wanted to do. I'm really excited about those two things.
Ricoxg: One last question. Let’s say I've just stumbled onto the SC community and I'm not sure what I think about it yet. What do you want me to know about the game, the community, you, or whatever? What would be the one take-away that you really hope people get?
Roberts: I think just a sense of what we're doing here. We're building the game that I think our community wants to play, and we're not dumbing it down to make it more approachable. We have a great community that's excited about what we're doing, and we're excited to show it to them.
There are other great games out there, and I play a lot of them myself, but Star Citizen is different. There are other space games, but we think Star Citizen will be more immersive. There are other sims, but Star Citizen will be on a much larger scale. It’s really just a very unique game, and one I think a lot of people have really been waiting for.