If you asked a bunch of space-sim fans to describe their dream game then a lot of the answers you got back would be “Wing Commander crossed with Privateer” or “Wing Commander crossed with Freelancer”. All those games coincidentally were created by the legendary Chris Roberts, who has come back from a decade producing films like “Lord of War” to announce his aim to make “Wing Commander crossed with Privateer/Freelancer”. As titles go that doesn’t really roll off the tongue easily, and it kind of resembles a weird maths problem when abbreviated (WCcwP/F), so he’s gone for the far snappier title of Star Citizen instead.
According to Roberts, in his appropriately well-crafted announcement trailer, Star Citizen is the game he’s always wanted to make but couldn’t due to the limits of available technology. A game with a strong single player storyline nestled within an open online universe in which players can trade, dogfight, discover new systems, or simply stand on the bridge of a massive carrier watching a friend fly past the window in real time. Ships governed by proper physics so that if you lose a maneouvering thruster you’ll actually feel it in the way the ship handles. Seamless transitions in scale between walking around on a ship and flying past it in all its immense glory. Such ideas sound ambitious to the point of insanity, and if the trailer were just Chris Roberts talking over some concept art I’d dismiss it all as the Molyneux-esque ravings of a man who’s been away from the games industry too long.
Or I would if Roberts hasn’t actually shown off a lot of what he talks about, moreso at his Austin GDC panel where he officially unveiled the game. In his working prototype you can stand on the bridge of a massive carrier looking out into space, then walk down to a huge hangar deck and admire your avatar scratching his arse in third person. From there you can hop straight into the cockpit of a space fighter and look around inside, while doing your pre-flight checks, then jet out into the wide black yonder. While you’re out there you can then fly up close to the bridge and peer inside to see exactly where you were standing not five minutes earlier. All supposedly seamless, completely in-engine and without any loading screens.
Like the original Wing Commander, Privateer and other games created by the legendary long-departed Origin Systems, where Roberts began his game development career, Star Citizen will be a PC-only game. That and Star Citizen being a space-sim means no big publisher will touch it with a bargepole so Chris is relying on a combination of private investment and crowdfunding to get Star Citizen created. If you’re cash-strapped you can pledge $10/€8 just to help fund the game, or $30/€24 for access to Alpha, Beta and full versions of the game if you’re a tad more flush. If you’re someone as rich as Notch on the other hand you can contribute up to $10,000/€8,000 for early access, a shit-load of in-game bonuses and the satisfaction of giving a massive boost to actually making this game real.
At time of writing the official Star Citizen site is down and out due to the sheer numbers of visitors, all presumably staring at it in slack-jawed wonder whilst gently caressing their monitors and weeping with joy. Much like I’m doing right now and the reason this is taking me so long to write. Two backup sites have been set up in the meantime for aspiring North American and European space jockeys to throw money at, and I choose to interpret this as a positive sign because the idea of something this wondrously, insanely ambitious never getting past the prototype stage is too horrible to contemplate. We might as well all go back to banging rocks against other rocks in a fucking cave somewhere.