If you’re interested in crowdfunded space sandbox Star Citizen [official site], do set aside 45 minutes to settle down with a cup of tea and read Kotaku UK’s mega-feature on the game’s troubled development. Julian Benson has spent seven months talking with people who’ve been working on it, from displeased devs who wish to remain anonymous up to the big cheese himself, Chris Roberts. It’s a cracking look inside and a fine bit of work. Recommended!
Though obviously Roberts and other official responses disagree with parts and look more optimistically upon others, their thoughts combined with word from the anonymous devs (the video games industry is not kind to people who talk) paint a fairly coherent picture. To briefly (and crudely) summarise, it sounds like Star Citizen has struggled from being overscoped, from building upon the rarely-used CryEngine then struggling to find people experienced with it while needing to replace a lot of the engine’s guts, from having too many studios and not communicating well between them, from trying to make all parts at once rather than starting small, from shuffling people around as priorities changed, from poor planning, from trying to add more and more, from bottlenecks of technology and staffing, and from Roberts being too involved in too many ways on too many levels.
Which is about what it’s looked like from the outside.
I’ve been sceptical about Star Citizen since its crowdfunding really took off (it’s now past $124 million) and Cloud Imperium Games kept promising more features as stretch goals. Their vision was grand and exciting but seemed wildly overambitious.
That said, the gameplay demo of Star Citizen alpha 3.0 they had at Gamescom was quite exciting. Yes, it was likely hugely massaged for the show but for the first time I felt they might actually be able to do this. There’s still a long, long way to go from that demo to a full game with everything that’s planned, mind. As one source said:
“Star Citizen started from this small development targeted at doing this one specific thing with a specific set of technology, which was absolutely fine – and then it grew and grew. Rather than adapting to new technologies and approaches for the new scope they stayed with what they had, which slowed everything down. In the end, what they should have done was decide a figure after the Kickstarter and gone ‘Right, we’re going to $25 million’, and if they had hit that, they should have gone ‘We’re done. This is the game and with $25 million we can make it in this time.’
“But instead they just let it grow and grow and grow. I know they’ve said ‘we’re not adding features anymore’, but the feature set they’ve already got is so vast and unwieldy and huge and the tech they’re trying to adapt is not supporting it. If it had infinite time and infinite money and everyone working on it had infinite patience then, yeah, at the end you’d probably see something and it would be pretty cool.”