Checking in with Star Citizen

From time to time I like to check out how things are going with Star Citizen and see how some of the development for that title may affect things over here for people who may want to stay a little closer to the ground with combat flight simulators like IL-2 and DCS. On October 10, Cloud Imperium Games & Roberts Space Industries hosted their yearly Citizen Con showing off some of the latest work on the series. Let’s have a look.

Industry influencing technology

Planetary areas area huge and you can fly over entire planets, visit their cities, and then blast off into space and visit another one.

Star Citizen is an ambitious project that has grown to become even more ambitious as time has gone on. Although scope creep is a definite concern for this series, fans of the series seem undaunted and continue to pledge support as backers. Yes, if you didn’t know that already, Star Citizen is entirely funded through crowd sourcing and is in-fact the fourth largest crowd funded campaign ever currently sitting just under $200-million.

The funding has enabled Chris Roberts, the founder and mind behind Star Citizen, to create multiple game studios and has absorbed a number of developers for the Crysis-engine engine and other industry experts (the project has since moved on to the Cry-engine based Amazon Lumberyard).

The project is juggling a lot of different balls at once:

  • Space combat simulator with complex physics and both space and planetary flight
  • First person shooter with gravity and zero-G combat
  • Massively multiplayer persistent universe with multiple star systems, planets, planet sized cities, transit systems and with trade and commerce systems built-in

I said ambitious and I don’t think I was overstating it.

Star Citizen is pushing PC gaming technology and its pushing it hard. Networking, graphics engines, physics, and AI are all being brought to bear. Most recently, the series is bringing voice over IP into the series along with something that I haven’t seen in a game before – face over IP. They are able to map facial expressions and translate them to your character (using a web camera or a dedicated piece of hardware).

It’s far from a polished product but you can play it today and enjoy some of the pieces of this world that have already been created.

A common denominator – combined arms

There was something about the Star Citizen gameplay demo at this year’s Citizen Con that struck me as familiar and that was the use of some combined arms. A player was walking around a planet looking for a mission objective when his landed ship is destroyed by a rival faction.

Watch the segment starting at the 1:00 hour mark to see some planetary gameplay including some flying with the new drop ship and some combined infantry and vehicle gameplay.

There are obvious possibilities of some layered combined arms stretching from ground to air to space in Star Citizen. This is not the only title trying to do this…

DCS already has been doing combined arms for years with DCS: Combined Arms and the so had the IL-2 series which had tentatively added a couple of playable tanks that enabled some limited combined arms. Of course ambitions for both series are bigger and Eagle Dynamics has said that they do intend to expand the scope of DCS: Combined Arms at some point. Meanwhile, 1CGS is busy working to expand IL-2’s combined arms abilities with Tank Crew.

Cinematic excellence

There’s the Persistent Universe that Star Citizen is championing where you can go anywhere, do anything, and fly whatever ship you or your organization can afford. Then there’s the single player experience which is called Squadron 42. This experience draws from elements of Chris Robert’s own Wing Commander (which he created for PC and then went on to direct the movie version), Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, and just about any other military based space opera you can think of.

This year the team delivered a subdued and near ominous trailer release previewing some of the epic space battles still to come paired with some of the best looking motion capture technology I’ve seen in a game anywhere. Connected with that motion capture is a raft of celebrity names including Mark Hamill, Gillian Anderson, and Liam Cunningham (HBO fans will know his excellent work as Davos Seaworth on Game of Thrones).

This kind of cinematic experience where you play the cinematic and your experience inside the cockpit and back out of it is a fully realized idea is an area that flight sims don’t really do. Still, its certainly fun to have a look at what this title is pushing for.


24 Comments Add yours

  1. Nil says:

    I like star citizen because of the innovation . they pushes the limit ! it is fantastic because I see in it the future of gaming and simulations.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Exactly right. One of the areas that sim pilots have benefited is a slightly reinvigorated hardware market. I think Star Citizen has helped push things along and we have some of the joystick makers trying to create themed versions of existing sticks or trying new things like Virpil’s Constellation Delta (and VKB’s Kosmosima sometime down the road).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dave Sears says:

        I suspect VirPil, VKB, NaturalPoint (TrackIR), thrustmaster… even Intel, AMD, and nVidia all follow this project closely… it has potential to move boatloads of hardware

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Edward says:

    Chris Roberts REALLY needs to moderate the B-Movie drama. Wing Commander suffered for it, Freespace did it better, B5 had at least some sense of humour…

    Personally – apart from doubts that anything approaching what is advertised will see the light of day in a realistic time-frame – I find the costs system insane and the ships look like the output from a 12-year-old with no concept of physics: all spikey bits, wings, cocpits exposed and hanging off the nose, big gaps in the hull etc.

    Despite all its short-comings, I feel ED did it better.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      It may not appeal to everyone but I kind of like the B-movie drama of the Wing Commander series. I grew up playing those games and have many fond memories so it could just be some nostalgia on my part.

      As far as ship design versus aircraft. Well… space ships in something like this get a fair bit of artistic license because stuff looks cool rather than real. I suspect real spaceships would be rather boring so this is definitely in the vein of Star Wars and an anything goes approach.

      Eagle Dynamics and 1CGS are limited by what’s real. It’s a different appeal to be sure.


      1. Dave Sears says:

        It’s referred to as ‘the rule of cool’… classic example of rule in force? Explosions in space except for… what? Serenity and the expanse? Everyone else bends that rule because…. The Rule of Cool overrides it.

        The problem with a crowdfunded project with 2 million backers is taste. 98% want space explosions to make sound…. well, that’s still 40k people furious space isn’t silent and complaining about it (purposefully simple example)

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Dave Sears says:

      You know Edward? I’m an old school flight and space sim fan. The space sim genre was nearly dead with only the X series (not counting rebirth… uhg) keeping the entire GENRE on life support.

      I backed ED. Love it.
      I backed SC. LOVE IT…

      It’s not a binary choice, as the wise little girl said… ‘why not both?’ I want more space sims, not less. We have room for Elite, Star Citizen and more besides… I’m honestly hoping No Man’s Sky finally gets patched into a game I’ll buy.

      Not bashing you, cool to prefer one over the other, and no need to even like SC… just saying I was starving for space sims for too long… bring on the feast and observe my gluttony as I log countless hours in my Vanguard…. _AND_ my Vulture.

      There is plenty of room for both.

      Elite or Star Citizen? My honest answer is ‘both please, and what else is on the menu?’

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Blue 5 says:

    Sure, I just thing others did a better job. Personal opinion only.

    There was an in-depth report over at Kotaku that was quite interesting:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      That is quite interesting and thanks for sharing. I may have read this before or a similar article. As they say in there, Star Citizen has certainly been a lightning rod for controversy.


  4. Dave Sears says:

    Holy crap! This was neither misinformed, overly negative or biased!!!

    No, things are not perfect, you mention scope creep… but you also mention the ambition that drove that scope creep.

    It’s short, to the point, captures current state of game, warts and all.

    You wouldn’t think this to be rare, but it is. You either get trash journalism sucked into Derek Smart’s B.S., or you get gushing fan boys that wave aside bugs and scope creep.

    So, ShamrockOneFive, whomever you are, good job. Wish more applied your research and writing approach to this project.

    Love or hate, whether it succeeds or fails, this is the gaming world’s ‘moonshot’. Like Apollo, not everyone is 100% it will succeed (spoiler alert; what they are trying isn’t easy, only a fool would assume success in any project this ambitious). Progress is slower than expected, scope creep is a thing, some backers want refunds, whilst many shout ‘MOAR!!!!!’….

    But on the flip side, SOMEONE had to try to bring 3d spatial chat and FaceOverIp to an MMO Right? Even if sci-fi isn’t your bag, it’s good for all of gaming is _soneone_ figures this out…. and CIG is figuring it out. Just one example, but again, like the Apollo program, we can all benefit from the spin off tech coming from this project.

    It’s possible to hate Star Citizen and STILL see it’s good for the industry. They are pushing hard on many tech boundaries simultaneously. At a minimum, that should be respected.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Thanks for the comments! Feel free to check back often although I can’t promise that many Star Citizen related articles as its not my focus – but I do like to check in from time to time as the game is definitely helping to push the industry forward in a few different ways. It has some warts and has attracted controversy but they have done some incredible stuff too.


  5. Air-Striegler says:

    Personally, I couldn’t care less about SC. In my opinion it is everything BUT a simulation since there are no RL models to be simulated. I find the design not only to be very boaring and uncreative but the pricing is simply ridiculous. Compare the development time and the resources of “Christ Robats” with ED’ s, look at the results and put them into perspective.
    I am still strongly convinced that it is one of the greatest rip-offs of all times in the history of gaming. Furthermore one should undergo all efforts in order to not promote this kind of behavior so as to not make it attractive or popular among other gaming companies for the sake of the consumers. I would like to go even further and express my deep disappointment over the fact that this serious website dedicated to (flight!)-sims even features SC related articles. My personal advise to consumers as well as editors would be to stay way off such fraudulent and suspicious money sucking “products” as SC is in my eyes. You might as well advertise derivates of Goldman &Sachs!


    1. Dave Sears says:

      $45 is expensive? But you are fine with DCS’s per plane, per campaign pricing model I assume?

      Also if it’s a scam, they suck at scamming…. wasting all that money on 4 offices stocked with ~500 developers actually working on it on making demonstrable progress….

      … I don’t know where you ‘scam’ source is, but it’s full of crap honestly. Complain about scope creep, that’s fair, complain 2018 is ending and SQ42 still isn’t out, also fair…. but don’t call it a scam unless you can back that claim up…. and you can’t. Just crap you’ve heard elsewhere and are likely repeating here in ignorance.

      Climb off your soap box before blasting the site for the article, it’s you who look ignorant, not the site.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ShamrockOneFive says:

        Indeed the pricing is about what you’d expect these days in the industry. Star Citizen does have some expensive ship options for backers but they have also done a good job, in my mind, of letting people know that they can also buy these ships using in-game credits. I haven’t backed/bought into Star Citizen yet (I’ve been cautiously waiting it out) but you can get into things for $45 as you say and that’s not too bad.


    2. Mischiew Rithe says:

      While I feel little sympathy for Chris Roberts, there’s something to learn from his project, and I believe there’s such a thing as constructive criticism.

      Besides, it’s always healthier and refreshing to keep an eye to other similar sims, now and then, even if they’re quite remote like this one. If that’s out of your comfort zone, try it, and if that’s still not to your liking, just pass – it’s not as if there were many out-of-the-box articles (for my part, I do enjoy them and so are others).

      About the money part, I must say I was surprised at how much some people were pouring into the funding, one can easily find Youtube videos of extreme fans having spent hundreds of Euros in hangars and ships (and that was years ago, who knows how it has evolved today). Perhaps it’s naive, but at some point it’s called investment rather than participation, and this level requires more return than just virtual items.

      But then when I see how much one can spend on P3D sceneries, aircraft, airports, chart, navigation and planification tools (and subscriptions!), hardware… it’s probably as expensive.

      So yeah, the guy’s selling dream and he’s found a soft spot, is he to blame for that? It’s not fraudulent nor suspicious because the customers are happy and coming back, like others come back to buy more sceneries in P3D. It’s just an expensive hobby if you’re ready to go deep, like so many others.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. ShamrockOneFive says:

        Roberts has tapped into what I think is a childhood dream of pretty much everyone who played these games back in the day. I know I said it and others probably did too when they played the first couple of Wing Commander games – wouldn’t it be awesome to walk around the ship. Walk up to your fighter. Run the corridor for a scramble. Roberts has expanded on that (almost exponentially) in some wonderful ways… There is of course the concern that he’ll never be finished.


    3. ShamrockOneFive says:

      You’ll find that I write articles mostly about flight sims but I also write articles about other stuff going on in the industry. Where I think there are intersections between what is happening elsewhere and what is happening “here” and I feel like writing about it, I do. I have on occasion written Star Citizen articles before, and Battlefield articles, and a bit more frequently I check in on things happening with War Thunder (I need to do that) and Ace Combat.

      Flight sims don’t happen in a vacuum and when you have something that is genre defying and pushing hard on the technology front as Star Citizen is, it’s wise to check in and see what’s happening in that space because what’s happening there isn’t that far away from what’s happening with “more serious sim” titles like IL-2 and DCS.

      One thing is for sure, I don’t do these articles often and I don’t intend to cover a lot of news on that front but when I feel like writing about it… I do.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Mischiew Rithe says:

    Star Citizen is an interesting phenomenon!

    It shows the risk of not being able to limit the scope of a project, this has nothing to do anymore with the roadmap we saw a few years back, and I’m pretty sure what were the “next features to be implemented” are still waiting, but other, more ambitious features sprouted up instead.

    Yet it survived. It probably tells us that this kind of environment, which is less realistic but offers MMRPG – so potential online status upgrade, a vast world to explore, economy, and fancy sci-fi environment and devices, has more appeal than ultra-realistic simulators. There’s more varied things to do which each requires less commitment.

    When I say less realistic, I think the early physics were not bad in outer space, and they did say they meant to improve atmospheric physics, although it’s unclear how they’ll get a model of their ships (especially those which are obviously not meant to fly in those conditions).

    We can’t deny there’s something about the scale of what is possible now in Star Citizen, it’s getting like a megalomaniac version of Mass Effect, just … too much online. And I’m not a huge fan of massively online because it’s so easily ruined by a poor average level of users when it becomes too accessible.

    Could DCS audience increase with more freedom of movement between aircraft, tanks and perhaps soldiers, a little bit like merging with Post Scriptum? Or by being massively online in a persistent world and adding a military status with related perks?
    And any of that without losing its identity?

    In any case, I’m sure glad if it keeps an offline option, but that’s only personal 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Well said Mischiew! It is interesting to think about what would happen if DCS or IL-2 adopted some of the other features we’ve talked about here. I suspect they wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) but it is interesting to think about how game technology could end up pushing that direction eventually. Already we’re seeing a unique ability for IL-2 and for DCS to offer combined arms, with not that much reinventing of the wheel, where it was simply impractical ten years ago.


  7. Blue 5 says:

    The article was balanced and informative – I turn to this blog as a very useful summary of what is happening – but I cannot help but feel caution about SC. I remember Elite early games in the ‘90s and I think ED is mostly good, but I simply do not believe in Roberts and hence doubt his ultimate output (asthetic complaints aside).

    I will throw money at Jason Williams, support TF efforts and begrudgingly pay DCS only when I feel their / outsourced efforts are mature, but SC? It looks immense, but see Obsidian Ant’s review of 3.2 – including CIG’s livestream that after 30 minutes of train travel the player died and would have to start over after a 1 second jumping error – and my skin crawls.

    When CLOD was in pre-release they showed the ‘heart-breaker’ element. I opined in the forums tht this was a worrying deviation from what should have been the central focus of delivering the core game but was shouted down.

    SC seems to me this problem magnified substantially. I hope that I am wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I share your caution Blue 5. I’m not yet invested in Star Citizen as a player but I keep tabs on things and see how they are progressing over time. Undeniably they are doing some cool stuff and that’s why I felt like I should write an update on it. They do suffer from scope creep in a big way and not a lot of focus.

      I have a lot of respect for the 1CGS team in particular who have had to deliver on a fairly aggressive schedule in order to make it all work and they have had to be very focused on what they are doing to make that happen. It’s worked out well for them IMHO.


  8. Blue 5 says:

    But Shamrock, keep it up: I always check and appreciate your posts.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Thanks Blue! I appreciate it!


  9. ShamrockOneFive says:

    I wanted to thank everyone for their comments on this article and for keeping things civil. One of the things that I really value on the comments section here is the different ideas and the willingness to keep on topic and stay focused on some of the stuff that really interest us.

    This has been one of the most commented on articles in the history of this blog. Obviously people have a lot to say about Star Citizen. I won’t be making regular updates on SC related news items but I will continue to check in from time to time.

    If there are other titles or topics out there that are pushing the technology or making some big change in the way that we may interact with flight simulation in the future – I’m all ears on those kinds of topics.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s