Free Space: Star Citizen Safe From Oculus-Style Sale

By Nathan Grayson on April 2nd, 2014 at 9:00 am.

Next stretch goal: the ability to record my own sound effects for the entire game so I can go 'FWOOOOOOOOOOSHWHEEEEEEEEE' every time a ship does this.

These are uncertain times. Oculus Rift got purchased by Facebook, and let’s face it: anyone could be next. You are probably cowering under some form of social-media-proof mountain outcropping as we speak. There really is precedent in Oculus’ actions, though. A large-scale Kickstarter project opted to pick the path of least less independence. And they gained a lot by doing so. One company that won’t be selling, though? Star Citizen developer Roberts Space Industries.

After voicing overall support of the Facebook/Oculus deal despite the fact that it disappointed many Kickstarter backers, Roberts did what he frequently does quite well: turned attention toward himself. The gesture was not without purpose, however. Star Citizen is another crowdfunded titan, and I can’t imagine that larger companies have simply turned a blind eye to it.

That said, Roberts is quite happy where he’s at, thank you very much:

“Now to answer the myriad forum threads that popped up worrying about the possibility of Cloud Imperium being acquired by another, bigger company – don’t worry! We have no plans nor interest in following this path! We don’t need to go to anyone with deep pockets to make OUR dream a reality. To mass-produce hardware like the Rift, you need an outlay of hundreds of millions of dollars. Luckily our ships are digital so we have hardly any cost of goods, just the cost of developing the universe of Star Citizen and running servers that Star Citizen’s universe will be simulated on.”

“And last but not least I’m having way to much fun building the universe of my dreams for everyone to adventure in! I’ve been down the big company acquisition route twice before and there’s a reason I am making Star Citizen totally independently.”

So that’s good news. Related to the whole probably-not-in-desperate-need-of-a-cash-transfusion thing, Star Citizen just passed $41 million in funding. That means the much-anticipated addition of (eventual) procedural generation is a lock. Someday, the stars themselves will stretch out in front of you, building bridge after bridge to… I don’t know. Probably more stars.

For now, though, independence is pretty neat, and it’s good to see Roberts and co sticking to their guns. Speaking of guns, Star Citizen’s dogfighting module should finally release sometime toward the end of this month.  Will we see a promising proof-of-concept? Here’s hoping. I hear a few people have some money riding on it or something.

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44 Comments »

  1. MuscleHorse says:

    I’d love for this to happen just to see forums implode.

    Let’s face it, this game isn’t going to be anything like what is promised. They’d need a GTA V size budget to deliver on half of the features to be of a fun quality. I’d love to be wrong, but I don’t see it happening. I’m also slightly worried by these people spending thousands of dollars on virtual space ships.

    • Thurgret says:

      The game’s primary quest involves the player spending half a year’s worth of disposable income on the game in order to get the ‘good’ epilogue, otherwise they’re threatened with being stuck with the one in which a conglomerate of major game publishers bands together to rule Earth.

    • drinniol says:

      I dunno, how much of GTAV budget was spent on marketing and admin overheads? By release time they might have raised the actual development costs.

      • Cinek says:

        Almost all of it – lol. In UK there were buses, billboards, shops – everything with GTA V adverts. Plus tons of TV spots. In Poland: Billboards + TV spots. And I’m quite certain situation was similar in other countries. That quickly adds up to millions of dollars. And we’re just starting.

      • SanguineAngel says:

        I read somewhere that about $135m of the budget was the projected spend on development (I think based on 250 odd employees over 5 years) which would mean $130m on advertising etc.

        Whilst SC has a comparatively low $41m it’s worth remembering that this is almost entirely devoted to development. That means that the development budget of SC represents about 30% of the that, which is a really significant chunk of most expensive game in history.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Both Elite and SC won’t launch with the full feature set, the latter is also taking a pretty large amount of time to develop.

      we got to see stuff from the start but that needs to be approached with some perspective, mostly because we’re talking about parallel development, which means slow start and faster towards the end.

      Also, i think this game is going to get right almost all the points it really promised, but it will off course turn out to be a total failure for those who either don’t understand what’s feasible or not or those who hyped it to a point of letting their wild dreams run without control.

      Oh and, about the ships: some people can’t control their spendings, and that is both true and scary, but some other are stupidly rich. Sure, we could call them decadent pricks, but that’s life.

      Ultimately, this funding model works, because if you want alpha access you can still get it cheap. Who wants to pledge more has something in exchange, who doesn’t can still get in. Please also remember that you can buy everything in game and that starting out with an Idris is probably impossible due to maintenance and crew costs anyway.

      If Elite did the same, i’d already be in the alpha. Maybe, in time, i’d have spent even more money on it, who knows.

    • 2late2die says:

      Or they just need to spend their money faster. A huge part of GTA V’s budget went on advertising, paying publishers, distribution, printing boxes and stocking them, the stupid collector’s edition. None of these things are applicable to SC.

  2. Drake Sigar says:

    With a cool 40 mil under his belt purely on the faith and trust of his audience,, I can’t even begin to imagine the fallout from being absorbed into a bigger company.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I suspect that the case for being bought out is different for a game developer compared to someone building a new piece of hardware that’s applicable beyond gaming. While sure, developers can be bought out, I imagine the situations are different, and there’s a stronger case to maintain creative control over your work (issues of privacy, etc re: the Oculus sale aside).

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Yeah with a piece of hardware its more difficult to rush it out before its finished, broken physical products don’t do well. This seemingly isn’t a problem with games as we are seeing 90% of AAA releases in a somewhat unfinished state or at least need some patching after launch.
        Star Citizen is certainly behind on its initial release estimate and a big publisher taking it over would certainly be setting a release date and demanding the game be pushed out for then regardless of how finished it was, which would be very bad in this situation imo.

        • Gap Gen says:

          True, I hadn’t thought about that. It’s true that selling your company loses you control over its direction (I mean, obv), so if you can avoid it then it gives you greater freedom. And you’re right that it’s better to have a product late than have it rushed and broken.

    • Cinek says:

      Fallout will be identical to the one after Face Brick become reality. You can see outraged people in nearly every corner of the internet.

      • witzkawumme (wkw) says:

        yeah, and some day it will just stop…

        look people we outraged by the initial information Snowden provided, now nearly nobody cares about it anymore or about new information… outrage trickles away.

        but I guess nobody (of “us” (First World)) ever paid a penny for fundamental rights so far, hence it could be completely different… hmm maybe taxes should be called “my right to vote and hold politicians accountable for their actions”-fee

  3. Cinek says:

    “That means the much-anticipated addition of (eventual) procedural generation is a lock.” – let’s not go over the board with that “much-anticipated”. Majority of people in community was against procedural generation – though certainly there was a large portion that did wanted it (and posted new topics each time old were ignored and pushed into vacuum). Still though – I think that the way they proposed to implement procedural generation sounds really good even for people like me who were against getting it in Star Citizen.

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      Procedural generation is not meant to replace all the content that was previously announced, it is meant to unlock planetary exploration and atmospheric flight which was a feature that was originally scrapped due to obvious reasons.

      And it’s not on-the-fly procedural like most games who use it as a “endless sandbox” device, it’s an in-house only tool that developers will use to generate more content while still authoring the process. Planet X will be the same for everyone, it’s still a work of artists.

      There is a lot of confusion about this process, but games that already use it as a gameplay device are no indication of what this technology can do, mostly because they run it in real time and it doesn’t devour resources as you play, which means limited set of rules and more repeated patterns, but most importantly it’s purely 100% automated which obviously means that there’s no artist’s fine tuning on the final results.

    • derbefrier says:

      ” Majority of people in community was against procedural generation”

      bullshit

  4. caff says:

    Am I the only one who has joined up to the Star Citizen crowdfunding without really knowing what they are getting themselves into?

    I mean, I know what Wing Commander is, but I have no idea what Star Citizen will actually be.

    I get so many emails with “RSI blah blah blah” in the title, they’re actually causing me repetitive strain injury reading them.

    • Taidan says:

      I jumped into the Crowdfunding without knowing what I was in for.

      When I put my money down, the big goal for for “access to the 30-mission Squadron 42 campaign upon release”, and that was all I thought I’d be getting for the money.

      Everything since then has been an increasingly pleasant surprise.

      • macc says:

        If you throw money into something without prior research, that’s your problem.

  5. Entitled says:

    Well, I wouldn’t mind an “Oculus style” sale, with them first delivering the product that was backed on Kickstarter, and THEN continuing the future growth of the company under a publisher.

    However, if they actually sold the company before fulfilling backer rewards, that would be rather troubling.

  6. DasBlob says:

    If Star Citizen keeps taking in money like it does, Roberts is going to buy Facebook in a couple of years.
    It would make for a great stretch goal, at least.

  7. mashkeyboardgetusername says:

    Chris Roberts in “Saying what people want to hear” shocker!

    (Sorry, I am hopeful that the game turns out good, and so far there’s nothing to think otherwise, I just find some of his marketing rubs me the wrong way with its anti-console or anti-this-week’s-shitstorm slant. It’s a bit like that city-building game that was announced recently which was marketed as Totally Not SimCity, rather than saying what’s good about their game.)

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      That’s true, that’s the side i don’t like about him. It made him the money needed, so it’s good, but the price to pay was attracting a lot of idiots who in turn need to be constantly reassured by him with predictable speeches.

      I’m aware this casts a bad light on the whole thing, i’m pretty sure he’s someone i wouldn’t really like if he was an acquaintance of mine, but his passion is true.

    • derbefrier says:

      i guess you missed the whole last year when they were explaining whats gonna be good about the game. This was just to shut up the idiots on the forums(to which there are a lot I will admit) but to say his entire marketing campaign has been on “we are not like these guys so give us money” is complete crap. Is really not fair to focus on one small aspect and ignore all the rest just to try and justify your cynicism.

  8. Havalynii says:

    Just to clarify, Roberts Space Industries is an in-fiction corporation. The actual company that Roberts is CEO of, and that is making the game (along with a healthy side of contractors), is Cloud Imperium Games.

  9. Bull0 says:

    His company is called Cloud Imperium. Doesn’t really seem like he’s about to sell that.

  10. Thrippy says:

    Chris Roberts may be many things, but I truly believe he truly believes he’s the Johnny Paycheck of PC developers. After a career spent under several mega-publishers telling him he couldn’t do something, given the magic of crowd funding, he now will not allow any corporate management executives to stand in the way of unbridled creeping featuritis. He makes the Kool-Aid but he drinks the most himself, more than any misguided true believer who has already given him way too much money.

    Reassurances weren’t necessary for previous customers. We were there when the plug was pulled by EA/Origin and Microsoft. The emergent feasibility of not selling out was what brought him out of retirement, just as he initially said. Which is good because I don’t suppose there are very many angel investors looking to bankroll PC only games. They’d want concessions. Evil forces are conspiring to cram all of personal computing into battery powered little screens with no input peripherals except fingers. What kind of small minded dim future is that, absent any high performance gaming accompanied by the whisper of cooling fans?

    The price of PC gaming is eternal vigilance. Long live the TCS Concordia.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Obligatory snarky comment: Roberts does drink his own koolaid. He’s an ego-maniac who probably believes all the folderall he spouts. Don’t think he’d give up his company, as it would take away from him being the center of attention.

      I suspect a lot of the stretch goals are predicated on the premise that in a couple of years time, someone will have come up with a way to do the promised things. In the meantime, he’s banking the money. I talked to someone recently who was at the original Wing Commander design meeting. Roberts essentially said, ‘I saw this bad WWII fighter plane movie; lets make something like that, in space.’ No grand plan, no genius vision. And later, lots of self aggrandizing appropriation of other peoples’ work.

      Now, he has managed to deliver finished games as a producer, even if he gets credits for games he was only peripherally involved with, and for games that had huge delays. I fully expect Star Citizen to be delivered. I also fully expect that there will be tremendous issues with it.

  11. waltC says:

    I don’t know where on earth Roberts gets the idea that “in order to mass-produce hardware” it requires hundreds of millions of dollars. Before the mass-production part, two things have to happen: 1) You have to bring the hardware to market, and 2), there has to be mass-demand for that product in the form of orders. So far the Diving Mask seems to have the money part accomplished, it’s just the niggling matter of of 1 & 2 above that need to happen now. Roberts is a software guy and as such he should stay away from hardware ruminations, imo. Generally the product and the mass-demand have to happen *before* the mass-production, requiring a huge outlay of funds.

    • Zap Brannigan says:

      You are saying that there was a huge demand for the first iPod before Apple built it? um… No. When Apple announced the first iPod they were in the process of already building millions and millions of dollars worth of hardware, having already contracted the parts from their suppliers, the factories to build them, the shipping companies to ship them. All that costs serious cash upfront.
      Companies build as much hardware as they can upfront because they get volume discounts from their suppliers, so they can make even more profit as soon as possible.

  12. SuicideKing says:

    I like some FreeSpace Too, thank you very much.

    • Gap Gen says:

      You know, I’d never have guessed it from your name or posting history. ;)

  13. macc says:

    Why does RPS post Star Citizen articles with such a cynical undertone? It could be it’s not your type of game or that you don’t like Chris Roberts, but please keep being a journalist, it’s your job.

    Anyway, for who wants to know where the game is at, another monthly development report was just released:

    https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/transmission/13785-Monthly-Report-March-2014

    • Havalynii says:

      Right on, thanks Macc.

    • Arglebargle says:

      As someone who knows a lot of people who worked with Chris Roberts, RPS is not being nearly cynical enough. They are also not being particularly journalistic, imo; not digging into the story much.

      • sgstorm says:

        I don’t think you know anyone who works for Chris Roberts as your information is always incorrect.

  14. Stardreamer says:

    Bah.

  15. Fry says:

    “Why on earth would I accept a fixed price from some buyout group when you sad bastards keep throwing free money at me?”

    • macc says:

      Sad bastards? Ah the jealousy.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        Do you genuinely believe that people are jealous that someone has spent hundreds of dollars on a pretend spaceship inside a computer game?

        Its like telling me you bought world of warcraft for $150 instead of it’s normal price because you got some mid tier armour from the beginning. Well done, you spent more money to get less game.

        There’s only three ways this plays out:

        1) The game is only worth playing for a very short amount of time. Your accelerated start is significant. You paid hundreds of dollars for a game that’s over in a week or two. Not jealous.

        2) The game is long and satisfying. You paid hundreds of dollars more than me for virtually the same experience. Not jealous.

        3) The game has been balanced around a slow progression to encourage you to buy ships with microtransactions. Like facebook games. You’re a whale, who paid out before there was any gameplay. There are conferences at the next GDC on how manipulate whales like you to pay out before the game is even launched. Not jealous. Not playing the game either.

        • macc says:

          Lol so much misinformation in this comment. Maybe do some research before reacting.

          The kickstarter concept is obviously not for you.