The gaming industry as a whole has seen many twists and turns, and there’s a wide gap between how small, unknown indie developers handle their products over how major companies like EA or Bethesda view them. The balance between creating a good game and creating an “accessible” game has become a constant battle, and there is a rising concern that larger developers have begun focusing more on metrics and graphs than they focus on really making a great game; game’s that sell millions of copies are considered failures by their developers just because they didn’t reach unrealistic expectations based on analysis of the market, and games are repeatedly put out with a demographic in mind, rather than just being made well and left to find their fanbase.
So, in walks Kickstarter.
Kickstarter has been heralded in many ways as a savior of indie gaming, alongside Steam Greenlight. Rightly so; Kickstarter’s system has allowed amazing indie games to be made, and sequels to obscure (but amazing) games to find light. While not without its issues, it has been an important part of the indie scene since its inception.
I don’t think any developer has shown how effective Kickstarter can be like Chris Roberts has.
Roberts has used his name for an in-game megacorporation, letting him use the Star Citizen website as an immersion tool.
Roberts is the mind behind the acclaimed Wing Commander series, generally regarded as the best space-combat sim games ever made. I spent a good chunk of my childhood playing Wing Commander III back in the day, and while the games began to see trouble in their more recent releases, overall the series is highly regarded. In 2011, Cloud Imperium Games was founded and in October of 2012, the crowdfunding campaign for Star Citizen began, originally using a WordPress crowdfunding plugin but eventually moving on to Kickstarter.
Prior to its close on Novermber 17, 2012, the game took the record for highest crowdfunded game project at $4.2 million, but has since raked in over $28.5 million, making is scope absolutely massive. Roberts has since been keeping very close contact with the community funding his brainchild, and the things that have been promised, and the things we’ve seen so far, have been breathtaking.
The scale of Star Citizen is truly something to behold.
So what exactly is Star Citizen?
Star Citizen is, at its core, a Massively Multiplayer Online Space Simulator; this, of course, brings to mind EVE Online. There are overlaps between the two games, but more in concept than in execution. Star Citizen will feature first-person control of your ships, whether they be small interceptors or massive carriers, and puts much store in immersion.
The game will feature a massive universe, entirely player-driven events and economy, and a dedication to immersive gameplay rarely seen in gaming. Dogfights happen in space, ships can dock on carriers and send in boarding parties, adding a first-person shooter style element to the game as you attempt to take the ship by storm. Trading, mercenaries, pirates, policing, industry, anything you want to do is entirely available to you.
Why is this important? Star Citizen is very much the culmination of decades of gaming industry evolution.
While it is a technical marvel and one of the most visually appealing games I’ve seen in a long time, its the mentality of the developers that has helped make it unique. Through internet forum, twitter, reddit AMA’s, and any number of other mediums, developer/consumer communication is very simple. It’s not uncommon for the developers to actually have regular conversations with people watching their games, with the constant use of forums by both consumers and devs. This has created the side effect of gaming companies spending too much time listening to what players want rather than what is actually going to be good; there is a balance there that is not often met.
Cloud Imperium Games has found a fantastic balance of listening to the interesting ideas their playerbase has come up with, while also objectively maintaining the integrity of the game istelf. Through the episodal Wingman’s Hangar youtube series, they have kept unprecedented transparity with their fans, not hiding any information on the development without very good reason.
Star Citizen is among my most anticipated games of the coming year, alongside well known titles like Elder Scrolls: Online and Destiny.
Chris Roberts is a game director who knows his job, and has been given an opportunity to make exactly the game he wants with the massive help of a multitude of Kickstarter backers; I expect that he will not disappoint.
Check out Star Citizen here!