Roberts later said that, although humans would be the only playable race from the get-go, plans to make the game's alien races playable--perhaps even with their own story-based content--will be considered post-launch. The eastern part of the empire is near friendlier alien races more interested in trade and peace, whereas the alien races to the west of the empire are more aggressive and imperial in nature. "The empire itself has a bit of a schism, where the eastern side of the empire--based on a (much bigger, Earth-style) planet called Terra," Roberts said. "On the other side of the galaxy, there happens to be a system that has this nexus of jump points, so it's really good for communication and travel. Whereas Earth, the historical capitol, only has a couple of jump points, so it's a bit more isolated." In the 30-to-40-mission single-player campaign, players will join up with Squadron 42, an elite unit typically sent to make peace in the universe's worst hell-holes. The player can also elect to take the campaign online, and call in friends to be wingmen during missions, similar to the online in Demon's Souls. Furthermore, Star Citizen will include what Roberts describes as "Millenium Falcon-style" ships, in which player will actually be able to get up and walk around to different stations. Friends can climb aboard and mount the turrets in the back. Even more exciting, was the prospect that some player-controlled ships would be large enough to carry a smaller ship in its hanger bay that a friend can jump into when the fighting breaks out. A helpful thing if, as Roberts put it, "we're going on a trading mission to the edge of the galaxy where there's no law and order." Post-launch support, as described by Roberts, is a very big part of what makes Star Citizen so enticing. More campaign-based content, as well as physical expansions of the universe are all planned. "The big persistent universe is an open-world universe, like Privateer or Freelancer. It has a dynamic economy. And it is also built in such a way that it reacts in real-time to what the players are doing," Roberts said.
You'll be able to park the little ships in the big ship.
"One of the ways we achieve that is a focus on what we're calling micro-updates. We don't want to do these sort of monolithic, once-a-year [patches]. So maybe one week we add another star system over here, and one week we add a four-mission story campaign over here," said Roberts. "The tools are in place for the content team to riff off what's going on sort of like a Dungeon Master in an old-school D&D game." A prime example of this is when the content team adds a new star system to the persistent, open-world portion of the game: They're not necessarily going to tell anyone. Instead, players inclined to explore will have further incentive to do so. Exploration-driven players might come across a gravitational anomaly that indicates an uncharted jump point. Normally traveling via a jump point is automatic because it's already programmed into your ship's navigational computer. However, when a new jump point is discovered, players can choose to fly through the uncharted point, and attempt a "pretty tricky" flying sequence that's like "riding a really hairy, massive wave on the north shore," according to Roberts. If successful, the player can sell his flight navigation results to one of the space corporations for a big profit, because people will pay to download it, rather than having to take the risk of navigating it themselves. Roberts is also promising to release mod tools. In addition to being able to run modified versions of the game on their own servers, players will be able to submit ship builds to be considered for inclusion in the official version. The best part? If your ship design is approved by the content team, it'll appear at a few in-game ship vendors, and you'll make some in-game currency whenever another player purchases one. Having an ongoing discussion with the Star Citizen community is something Roberts feels is very important both before and after launch. The tech demo Roberts showed me was created using investor capital, but the bigger picture will involve a round of crowd-funding. "As long as we raise between $2 and $4 [million]," Roberts explained, "it triggers the rest of the investment, and we're off making the game." Since the project is so ambitious, is aimed at high-end PC's, and focuses on a genre that has made bigger publishers traditionally shy in recent years, Roberts is "making a bet that there's a core audience willing to put their money where their mouth is." As with most crowd-funding situations, there are tiers of rewards depending on the contribution, including special designer types of in-game ships, and even physical models of said ships. Early access to the game, though, is planned. "One year in you're playing the multiplayer build. Eight months later, you're playing the alpha," Roberts estimated. Though we won't see an official release of Star Citizen until at least late 2014, about 200,000 folks will be able to get in on the multiplayer stress-tests and full-game alpha builds. Early backers will be able to get the game cheaper than will be possible on, or after release. Upon release, Star Citizen will employ a Guild Wars 2 style of monetization: an up-front purchase price, and no monthly subscription fee. Microtransactions will also be present for those who want to trade-in real money for a bit more in-game currency, but Roberts asserts that in-game purchases won't be of the "pay-to-win" variety. Folks looking for a next-gen, zero-G dogfight have plenty of reasons to be excited. "I'm focusing on high-end PC, because that's sort of what I was known for in the past," Roberts said. "I feel like PC game players out there are like the Rodney Dangerfield of the industry. They're not getting any respect. What you get is a port of a 360 or PS3 game that's running on, now seven-year-old technology. A top-end gaming PC these days is about 10 times more powerful." Star Citizen's crowd funding stage should begin soon. In the meantime, you can keep up with the latest developments at the Roberts Space Industries website.