Star Citizen is Wing Commander creator's next game

Chris Roberts, creator of the Wing Commander series Privateer, and Freelancer, stopped by the Shacknews offices to demo his upcoming epic space-combat sim, Star Citizen.

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Just one short month ago, we reported that Chris Roberts, the creative mind behind titles such as Wing Commander, Privateer, and Freelancer, was working on a new game. This past Monday, Roberts dropped in to give us a first-look at Star Citizen, and talk about his return to creating epic space sims. If you were a PC gamer back in the early 1990's, there's a pretty good chance that you're familiar with the Wing Commander series. As a gamer, I'd thoroughly enjoyed much of Roberts' work, so I was was optimistic about the early tech demo. The "visual and technical prototype," as Roberts described it, was quietly built over the past 12 months by a small team, consisting of some of his previous developer compatriots from Wing Commander and Freelancer, along with some new blood. Star Citizen will employ the best aspects of Roberts' previous work--like intense ship-to-ship combat, open-world exploration, and a dynamic economy--while taking advantage of high-end PC gaming hardware. What I saw, and what the screenshots can only partially convey, is that Star Citizen is impressive in motion. Built using a heavily modified version of CryEngine 3, the live demo was a combinations of extreme detail and massive scale. Roberts began the demo controlling a space-suited pilot, walking around the flight deck of a huge carrier ship. Without much hesitation, he jumped into a nearby fighter, fired it up--his pilot's in-cockpit movements corresponding to each button press--and flew out for a tour around some asteroids. Exterior thrusters rotated on the craft when maneuvering. Every part of the ship seemed mechanically alive. Roberts said that every single system on the ship could be independently damaged, and would affect control of the vessel in real-time. Likewise, players customizing their ships will have to be aware of the rock-paper-scissors balance between power, durability, and speed. Designing a flying gun rack, for example, will require a very heavy power supply. Power can be diverted to other systems on the fly as well, allowing players to boost weapons, speed, or shields, at the expense of the other systems. After a quick tour around the asteroid field, Roberts parked his ship on an exterior wall of the enormous carrier ship, where some other spacecraft had been parked. He exited his own ship, walked across the exterior of the carrier, and boarded another small craft, before flying back around and landing the second craft in the belly of the carrier. "What my goal is, is to sort of build a universe that encompasses everything that worked about Wing Commander, Privateer, [and] Freelancer. I want to build a holistic universe," Roberts said. "It's called Star Citizen because citizenship is an important aspect of the game. You have to earn it. You don't get it automatically." As it turns out, there will be a number of ways in which an enterprising pilot can become an Imperial citizen. "You can earn it through military duty, by playing the Wing Commander-like single-player campaign on the front-lines, or you earn it through civic duty, in missions that you'd be doing in more of a Privateer/Freelancer open-world aspect," Roberts said. "Or you can just make a lot of money and buy your citizenship," he added. Earning citizenship isn't mandatory, however. "In the game you don't necessarily need to be a citizen," Roberts clarified. "In fact, some people may not want to be. Say, if you're a pirate, or on the outer edges of the galaxy, or if you've gravitated to the moral gray area, let's say, then citizenship is not so important for you." The game's narrative underpinnings seem like a fertile ground for Roberts' trademark space-opera drama. "The galaxy is kind of patterned after the decline and fall of the Roman empire," he said. "But instead of being in Roman times, we're in [the year] 2942, and the Earth has sort of spread [its empire] across the galaxy. On its western borders, there are several barbarian races, and on the eastern borders there are some more-friendly alien races."

You'll be able to park the little ships in the big ship.

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.

Spaaaaace!

"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.
From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 10, 2012 7:00 AM

    Jeff Mattas posted a new article, Star Citizen is Wing Commander creator's next game.

    Chris Roberts, creator of the Wing Commander series Privateer, and Freelancer, stopped by the Shacknews offices to demo his upcoming epic space-combat sim, Star Citizen.

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      October 10, 2012 7:22 AM

      lots of good details in here, thanks!

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      October 10, 2012 7:28 AM

      This sounds AWESOME! And I think he's a in a great place to make this game because there is a huge gaping hole where large scale space shooters should be. It's a genre which almost doesn't exist anymore and you know there are people out there looking for something like this (and some of the younger gamers who have never really had a chance yet). Who better to do it than one of the guys who basically created the genre?

      Screenshots looks gorgeous too. When I first heard he was making a game I was kind of expecting a smaller, simplified look with an indie kind of feel. This looks more big budget blockbuster and high end than I expected.

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      October 10, 2012 7:34 AM

      2 years away at least?

      I miss the old days when killer games would just show up with only a month or two of pre-release hype.

      (TAKE MY MONEY PLEASE CHRIS!)

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      October 10, 2012 7:34 AM

      Oh man, oh man ohmanohohmanohmanohmanohman!!!!!!!

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      October 10, 2012 7:36 AM

      Super cool. And the good thing about targeting High end PCs with a 2014 official launch is that it'll be around long enough for those high end pcs to become medium end and thus expand the number of people who'll be able to play it after the core group of dedicated fans who own high end pcs during the alpha and beta stages have helped fine tune the game so that it's hooks more people into it.

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      October 10, 2012 7:37 AM

      But will it have completely awesome live action FMV cut scenes like Wing Commander?

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        October 10, 2012 11:34 AM

        if the kickstarter reaches 10 million they'll hire jean luc picard as your captain

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      October 10, 2012 7:41 AM

      Well this is relevant to my interests.

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      October 10, 2012 7:45 AM

      online? ehhhhh

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      October 10, 2012 7:47 AM

      Crying

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      October 10, 2012 7:48 AM

      omg omg omg omg omg

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      October 10, 2012 7:49 AM

      Sploosh

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      October 10, 2012 7:55 AM

      awesome but i must ask when did shacknews get offices?

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        October 10, 2012 9:10 AM

        Been in LA for awhile.

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          October 10, 2012 10:12 AM

          pics or they don't exist

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            October 10, 2012 1:57 PM

            LA means Gamefly offices. Shacknews prob gets a janitor closet or something similar in size.

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      October 10, 2012 8:03 AM

      I can't tell how much of it is online and how much is a single player campaign. It's implied that they exist as separate pieces of the game, but then it states you can play the single player campaign online and invite friends as wingmen. Either way, interest piqued!

      I just hope it doesn't turn into an MMO space sim!

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      October 10, 2012 8:06 AM

      Is it a MMO? Or single player worlds that you can do multiplayer in with your friends? I'm wondering if there is a offline single player..

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        October 10, 2012 9:34 AM

        he said there is offline singleplayer, but if you do the single player online you get a ranking system in the world, so prob best to do it online.

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      October 10, 2012 8:12 AM

      My interest in this game just fucktupled. I shall play the shit out of this.

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      October 10, 2012 8:13 AM

      occulus rift plz http://i.imgur.com/UpSJS.jpg

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      October 10, 2012 8:25 AM

      Cryengine 3, in space!? /throws wallet at screen

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      October 10, 2012 9:42 AM

      unf unf unf unf unf unf unf unf unf

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      October 10, 2012 9:45 AM

      UUUUUNNNNNNFFFFFF

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      October 10, 2012 9:46 AM

      on my face please

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      October 10, 2012 9:48 AM

      I'LL BE IN MY BUNK

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      October 10, 2012 10:07 AM

      So I'm considering paying $250 for a game I'll get in TWO years...

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        October 10, 2012 10:12 AM

        Dude I've done this like 3 times already. PULL THE TRIGGER.

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        October 10, 2012 10:14 AM

        if they bundle this with a new unannounced nvidia card I'll preorder ALL OF IT RIGHT NOW

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        October 10, 2012 12:25 PM

        [deleted]

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          October 10, 2012 1:51 PM

          The terms include a copy of the game. So yes I am doing more that buying the game but fundamentally to me the difference is minimal.

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            October 10, 2012 1:52 PM

            [deleted]

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              October 10, 2012 2:15 PM

              There's still very little change in impact to me between a pre-order at Amazon and funding the game.

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                October 10, 2012 2:33 PM

                Well the possible difference is the project folds and you get no money back. On Amazon you aren't charged till it launches.

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          October 10, 2012 2:26 PM

          This isn't Kickstarter :O

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      October 10, 2012 10:13 AM

      DO WANT

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      October 10, 2012 10:22 AM

      Crysis engine, Y U SO PRETTY?!

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        October 10, 2012 10:22 AM

        Longer trailer here
        http://robertsspaceindustries.com/star-citizen/

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          October 10, 2012 10:32 AM

          My lord, this is amazing. TOM HALL THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT

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          October 10, 2012 11:08 AM

          Incredible. How did he manage to get this greenlit? Is this the Battlestar Galactica effect?

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            October 10, 2012 11:40 AM

            I'm assuming that he has tons of connections and investors trust his abilities to produce things. The Wing Commander games were the highest budget games at the time but were still very profitable and after Freelancer he left the industry to be a movie producer for a while.

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      October 10, 2012 10:26 AM

      So... A Wing Commander and EVE hybrid of sorts?

      As much as I don't like MMOs, this one... This one can be worth the wait.



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      October 10, 2012 10:45 AM

      I have not funded any kickstarter projects but I will for this day one. I loved Freelancer so much. It was a great simple balance of everything.

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      October 10, 2012 10:48 AM

      Now I don't have to wait for LucasFarts to never remake Tie Fighter. This will do just fine.

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      October 10, 2012 11:33 AM

      Oh god oh god oh god. I'm having a nerdgasm over here.

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      October 10, 2012 11:37 AM

      Glorious!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • rms legacy 10 years mercury mega
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      October 10, 2012 11:48 AM

      Service guarantees Citizenship!

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        October 10, 2012 12:22 PM

        Would you like to know more?

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          October 10, 2012 7:21 PM

          Yes. Yes I would.

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            October 10, 2012 7:36 PM

            Good, we have enough information that wasn't in the preview for another interview sometime soon ...

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      October 10, 2012 1:27 PM

      This will have to suffice while I wait for Tie Fighter 2. Of course I doubt LucasArts could even do justice to their own Star Wars universe anymore.

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      October 10, 2012 1:31 PM

      Dibs on my bigger ship carrying smaller ships being named The Bebop.

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      October 10, 2012 2:27 PM

      I cant believe this shit! I better contact my lawyer and get the divorce papers ready, looks like im going to get lost in a couple of years.

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      October 10, 2012 2:29 PM

      Cool.

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      October 10, 2012 3:29 PM

      Kickstarter without kickstarter.com? Smart.

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      October 10, 2012 4:11 PM

      Looks great, but meh on the citizen angle. Space Citizen is a boring title. Sounds like a board game. I get to vote, pay taxes, marry, have kids? Forget all that nonsense. Stick to the core gameplay of WC and Privateer. Title needs more red meat - something like Strike Squadron.

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        October 10, 2012 4:21 PM

        don't vote, cheat on your taxes, sell wife to space slavers and put kids out of airlock. become a pirate.

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      October 10, 2012 4:22 PM

      Star Citizen, I mean. Jeez, title was so boring I could not even remember it.

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        October 10, 2012 5:22 PM

        I sorta agree. If this was on Kickstarter I'd say it was the most polished and professional of the game pitches out there. And the most likely to succeed (aside from Double Fine). But it could use a tiny bit of marketing polish to complete the package.

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      October 10, 2012 4:38 PM

      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

      Okay, Im calling my character Jet Black and my ship Bebop.

      Who is gonna be my Spike Spiegel?

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      October 10, 2012 5:02 PM

      I will pay $20 for an official dlc firefly ship

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      October 10, 2012 6:36 PM

      Wouldn't they get more exposure with Kickstarter? I think a lot of Kickstarters are like a avalanche. People see how excited other people get about a project and jump on the bandwagon...

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      October 10, 2012 6:48 PM

      this really needs to reach completion. it's pushing limits in a way games haven't for a long, long time

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      October 10, 2012 7:07 PM

      This game looks really amazing in scope and detail.

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      October 10, 2012 7:38 PM

      Where are people finding how much it has raised so far?

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      October 11, 2012 12:31 AM

      First 0x10c and now this!

      Simply AWESOME.

      I wonder if this will cause Notch to reconsider their "likely monthly subscription fee model" for 0x10c after this?

      Now all we need is XWing, Tie Fighter and Freespace 3 to join the party. :)

      Loved everything about the video except the fact that he was playing the game with a gamepad!

      I always personally prefer a Joystick for these sort of games. Still, the game does officially support sticks and they did show a couple of images of the Saitek (I think) so hopefully it shouldn't be a problem.

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      October 11, 2012 3:47 AM

      Good. To hell with the Justin Beibers and Lady Gagas of the gaming world (Mass Effects and Battlefield 3s and WoWs)!

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      October 11, 2012 6:19 AM

      Dear Mr. Roberts,

      Please take all my monies now. Thanks.



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      October 11, 2012 9:22 AM

      Hope it's incredibly successful. Maybe we'll get a nice TIE Fighter/X-Wing reboot?

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      October 11, 2012 4:30 PM

      Yes please, its like my dream game. If only I wasn't so paranoid about credit cards I'd donate right now.

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      October 12, 2012 8:39 PM

      Chris Robers...shut up and take my money!

      Seriously though...if this thing is done right and works out...it could be, in the words of our ever eloquent vice president, a huge fucking deal.

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      October 13, 2012 6:28 AM

      Few questions, Can you land on planets? can you get out of your ship to explore?

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