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Star Citizen's Biggest Goal Yet: A Procedural Gen Team

Star Citizen is going to be colossal. That was never in question. Then it became even more not in question with the crowdfunded additions of everything from first-person combat to facial capture tech to a collaboration with Kingdom Come to probably, like, the virtually reanimated consciousness of Chris Roberts himself, a beaming face of ceaseless encouragement winking at you from the stars. But those are all handcrafted bits and bytes. They are finite, limited by the work of human hands. Thus, given proper funding (which they will no doubt receive), Roberts and co would like to bring on a full-blown procedural generation team. The goal is to procedurally whip up “entire planets worth of exploration and development content.” And then Star Citizen was all the games.

Star Citizen has now tractor beamed in a whopping $39 million, which means another user-picked star system. Procedural generation, meanwhile, will come online when the surging space sim reaches $41 million, and that will go a little something like this:

“Among the most common feature requests for Star Citizen are atmospheric combat and ground exploration. These are the single biggest things we would like to include in the game, but they’re also something we know we can’t have day one. Our universe is a big place, and creating the hundreds of existing landouts properly is enough of a challenge… building entire continents and atmospheres in the current system would take a lifetime. That’s where procedural generation comes in.”

“This stretch goal will allocate funding for Cloud Imperium to develop procedural generation technology for future iterations of Star Citizen. Advanced procedural generation will be necessary for creating entire planets worth of exploration and development content. A special strike team of procedural generation-oriented developers will be assembled to make this technology a reality.”

“Future iterations,” by the way, doesn’t necessarily mean new games. Roberts added that he wants to keep Star Citizen fresh for upwards of a decade or more, so procedural generation would presumably be bolted onto the existing game. Granted, highly sophisticated procedural generation isn’t easy, especially when it comes to the creation of truly unique places that feel natural and – as Roberts put it – “atmospheric.” I want massive landmasses of mystery to dig into, but not if they turn out to only be haphazard patchwork quilts of recycled material.

Is it madness? Only time will tell. At this point, we don’t even have Star Citizen’s long-awaited dogfighting module yet, and that’s kind of the core of whole shebang. Baby steps, then, for an infant of a game that dreams of growing up to be the whole goddamn universe.

We shall see. We shall see.

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Nathan Grayson

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