Star Citizen and Squadron 42 are produced by Chris Roberts' company Cloud Imperium Games and its European counterpart Foundry 42 and marketed under the Cloud Imperium Games subsidiary Roberts Space Industries. Game development is financed by a record-breaking crowdfunding campaign and the pre-sale of game items and currency on the company's homepage.
Development of Star Citizen began in 2011 and was originally planned for a release in 2014, and again in 2016. As of 2017, there is no official release date, and the game is still in active development. Squadron 42 was originally announced for a late 2015 release, but was delayed. , there is no definite release date.
During the game's early development and funding, work was being conducted on separate modules, each with their own set of features and gameplay. Features from the three main modules were then combined into the Crusader module, which would serve as the platform for subsequent development.
The Hangar Module was the first playable alpha component of Star Citizen, released on August 29, 2013. The hangar module allows players to view, manipulate, and modify ships in a realtime, closed environment. Also included are decorations and flair that can be placed and arranged within the hangar.
Arena Commander was the second playable alpha component of Star Citizen, released on June 4, 2014. According to the developers, it features a highly detailed ship flight model, simulating space flight using the mass of the ship and location and force of the thrusters. Other claimed features include realistic application of g-force on the pilot and a high level of visual fidelity. Racing and cooperative game modes were added in an update.
Star Marine is the first-person shooter element of Star Citizen; like Arena Commander, Star Marine is an in-fiction combat simulator, released on December 23, 2016. There are two ways to play Star Marine: one game mode is a 'capture-and-hold' game ('Last Stand'), where two opposing teams (the Marines and the Outlaws) each attempt to capture one or more 'control points' (Laptops) to gain points; as a team captures more control points, they gain points at a steadily increasing rate. 'Elimination' is a free-for-all 'last man standing' match; unlike the team-based 'Last Stand', players work individually to gain the highest kill-count before the match ends. Both game variants last for ten minutes or (in the case of 'Last Stand') until one team accrues the higher score. The first-person shooter mechanics are claimed to be relatively realistic, with armor levels, weapon stances and stamina effects manifesting as heavy breathing.
Following the completion of the Kickstarter in 2013, the development of Star Marine was contracted out to the third-party studio IllFonic; in August 2015, the contract was terminated and development of Star Marine returned to an in-house team at Cloud Imperium Games,
Star Citizen was announced in 2012 in a Kickstarter campaign as a spiritual successor to Robert's previous games, the Wing Commander series and Freelancer. The initial estimated target release date during the crowdfunding campaign was 2014, and has since been delayed repeatedly as the game grew in scale.
Development started in 2012, initially using CryEngine 3 with plans to release for Microsoft Windows first, followed by a possible Linux release. The engine was migrated to Amazon Lumberyard in 2016. Star Citizen is being developed using a modular approach, with the first module, dubbed the "Hangar Module," released August 29, 2013. After a lengthy period of development, with multiple online publications reported it being cancelled, Star Marine was released at the end of 2016. The culmination of the development work on the separated modules was the December 11, 2015 release of Star Citizen Alpha 2.0, known as Crusader, or alternatively, the mini-persistent universe. This "mega-module" became the version to which future updates would build on.
The game is produced in a distributed development process by Cloud Imperium Games and Foundry 42 with studios in Austin, Frankfurt, Santa Monica, Wilmslow and Derby in cooperation with Behaviour Interactive and formerly IllFonic. The games utilize the artificial intelligence system Kythera, developed by Moon Collider. Additional partners that are or have been working on the project include Crytek, CGBot, Rmory, The Imaginarium Studios, Turbulent, Virtuos, voidALPHA, Wyrmbyte, FaceWare Technologies, and Amazon. The developers also exchange knowledge and technology with Warhorse Studios, the creators of Kingdom Come: Deliverance.
In March 2017, CIG announced Star Citizen would eventually use Vulkan (API) and drop support for the DirectX 12 API to support Linux and pre-Windows 10 users.
Version 3.0 of the Star Citizen alpha, which the developers have stated would be a major step in the development containing many of the promised features including planetary landing, subsumption architecture AI, optimized network performance, professions such as transport/mining, and numerous points of interest was announced on August 19, 2016 at Gamescom for a scheduled release in December 2016. It was then announced in October 2016 that it will be split into four smaller releases (3.0, 3.1, 3.2 and 3.3) but failed to make the 2016 release date. In April 2017, the company released a detailed schedule report detailing everything that needed to be finished for 3.0 as well as expected feature completion dates.
Star Citizen aims to combine multiple video game genres, including space, trading, flight combat simulation and first-person shooter, in a massively multiplayer online game. In a 2012 interview, lead developer Chris Roberts emphasized immersion: "The changes in the technology in the industry will allow me to do a much more immersive experience. [...] It's all about that suspension of disbelief."
According to Roberts, players will complete objectives to gain currency used to buy, repair and upgrade their ships or to purchase items used in trade. The game will be set in a 30th-century Milky Way, centered on the fictional United Empire of Earth (UEE). A central theme of the game is citizenship – or lack thereof – in the UEE, which must be earned through player actions such as completing a period of military service. It is anticipated that citizens will enjoy certain in-game benefits, like paying a reduced tax rate, but the exact details are yet to be determined.
In a 2014 interview, Chris Roberts highlighted the importance of player-driven content: "It's like a sandbox for everybody, and occasionally you'll sprinkle in little bits of scripted content to give a bit of character, but you're letting a lot of the players generate the intrigue and the drama." In 2013, he described a non-player character-driven economy, where players could gradually take on a greater role over time.
In accordance with the 50 million dollar stretch goal of the game's crowdfunding campaign, developers partnered with linguists to create distinctive fictional languages for the three most prominent alien races, the Banu, the Vanduul and the Xi'An.
MMO Persistent Universe
The developers state that Star Citizen will continue to develop after commercial release via a combination of emergent gameplay generated by players and new content which will be developed by Cloud Imperium Games on an ongoing basis. The developers plan to include a slider allowing players to determine their level of exposure to other players.
Squadron 42 is a story-based single-player campaign set in the Star Citizen fictional universe described by the developers as a "spiritual successor to Wing Commander". It was originally announced for release in 2014 during the Kickstarter campaign, but has been repeatedly delayed. Roberts claimed in an January 2017 interview that it would be released in 2017, and , the game's homepage shows 2017 release date. It is being developed by the Foundry 42 UK studio under the supervision of Chris Roberts' brother Erin, who had already worked with him on the "Wing Commander" series and led the production and development of titles like Privateer 2: The Darkening and Starlancer.
The developers state that the interactive storyline centers on an elite military unit and involves the player character enlisting in the United Empire of Earth Navy, taking part in a campaign that starts with a large space battle. The cast for Squadron 42 includes Gary Oldman, Mark Hamill, Gillian Anderson, Mark Strong, John Rhys Davies, and Andy Serkis amongst others.
The developers of Star Citizen began crowdfunding in 2012, on their own website and Kickstarter. Funding quickly surpassed initial target goals and subsequently additional stretch goals have been added to the funding campaign, most promising more or expanded content at release. Stretch goals included:
- numerous new ships unlocked;
- 100 star systems available on release for players to explore;
- a galactic public transportation system;
- a salvage mechanic, with its own story tie-ins and universe-shaping endgames;
- procedural generation and motion-capture technology;
- an independent arbitrator's guild for settling disputes between players;
- expanded roles for AI characters; and,
- various perks for backers, like cosmetic awards and secret star systems.
- starter packages, which include access to the game client and a starter ship, for $45;
- a wide variety of spacecraft, ranging in price from $45 to $2,500;
- packages of spacecraft, such as the "Completionist" package for $15,000;
- upgrades for previously-purchased ships;
- subscriptions to online content, for $10-$20 per month, including videos, a monthly magazine, and perks;
- in-game cosmetic upgrades and currency;
- pre-orders for Squadron 42;
- branded merchandise and gift cards; and,
- tickets to real-world events, such as "Citizencon."
On November 17, 2012, two days before campaign closure, the game achieved the record for highest crowdfunded game project with over . At initial pledge campaign end, the total pledge amount was above all goals initially set by Cloud Imperium Games and reached . In 2014, Guinness World Records listed the sum of pledged on Star Citizen's website as the "largest single amount ever raised via crowdsourcing". During the 2014 Gamescom event on August 15, Chris Roberts announced the crowdfunding campaign had surpassed . On May 19, 2017, crowdfunding surpassed $150 million.
In January 2017, when asked about the financial situation of Star Citizen, Chris Roberts said: "I’m not worried, because even if no money came in, we would have sufficient funds to complete Squadron 42. The revenue from this could in-turn be used for the completion of Star Citizen."
For contributing to the project's funding, backers receive virtual rewards in the form of tiered pledge packages, which include a spaceship and credits to buy additional equipment and to cover initial costs in the virtual economy, like fuel and rental fees, but according to the developers, players will be able to earn all backer rewards in the game itself, with the exception of certain cosmetic items and Lifetime Insurance (LTI), without having to spend additional money.
In a Polygon opinion article, Charlie Hall compared Star Citizen to No Man's Sky and Elite: Dangerous, writing that "Last time I checked, writ large Star Citizen was a hope wrapped inside a dream buried inside a few layers of controversy", while stating that each game has something different to offer within the space sim genre. PC Gamer writer Luke Winkie also compared Star Citizen to No Man's Sky, describing Star Citizen as "the other super ambitious, controversial space sim on the horizon", and indicating that fans of the genre, disappointed in No Man's Sky were turning to the as-yet-unfinished Star Citizen, while sometimes expressing concerns should the latter fail to deliver.
The game's developers have attracted criticism for continuing to raise funds enthusiastically while failing to meet project deadlines. From the outset, Chris Roberts, the game's lead developer, pledged to treat every customer with the same respect as a publisher. However, he has been late to disclose major events like an engine change and missed release estimates.