Star Citizen – Flight of Fancy

Star Citizen is the undisputed king of crowdfunded games, an enterprise of galactic proportions that has everything to go horribly wrong. Cloud Imperium Games’ ambitious project boasts an epic scale that makes other far-reaching games look like a tiny speck of dust in comparison. It’s an endless feature creep that still lacks a release date, despite being in development since 2011 and having raised nearly $300 million so far.

Chris Roberts has the creation of the Wing Commander series to his credit, giving him an authority that very few video game designers can brag about. He is clearly passionate about Star Citizen and has an unwavering vision and a grand scope that plays in his advantage, as much as it is encumbering the game’s progress with stories of endless micro-management. Star Citizen is the greatest game that may never see the light of day.

But we are getting closer to… well, something, and the proof of that is the Free Fly event where anyone could try the Star Citizen Alpha 3.5 and see for themselves how this space epic is shaping up. Spoilers: it’s buggy, the system requirements are sky high and clearly there is an irrational amount of work yet to be done, but I’ll be damned if Star Citizen doesn’t make you feel like a space cowboy in the greatest sci-fi universe ever designed for a video game.

If it will ever be finished – as much as any online game can be –, that is another subject entirely.

Star Citizen Preview Ship Exterior

In Space No One Can Hear You Blow Up

Star Citizen stands out from the crowd as soon as you click the shortcut; this is an absolute resource hog that will make Crysis and Doom 3 feel like the most optimized games ever at launch. After several minutes of loading to reach the main menu and several minutes more to deploy at the space station, you suddenly come to the realization that backing this game wasn’t enough – maybe the time has come to upgrade your computer. However, that isn’t enough to hide the fact that Star Citizen needs some serious optimization, or it will be roasted by a community that isn’t solely comprised of players with high spec computers.

The Free Fly Alpha 3.5 offers three different ventures into Star Citizen, and that goes without mentioning the stand-alone star-studded single-player adventure Squadron 42, which is slated to launch in 2020. You can go for the full Universe experience or taste some more immediate action-oriented tidbits via the Star Marine and the Arena Commander modules, with the former for first-person shooter gameplay and the latter for epic space dogfights or races.

Star Marine is the module to go if competitive shooters are your thing. It’s intense and visually impressive, with little touches like your heart rate playing an important part – let’s call it stamina –, but you’ve played many shooters before that feel similar. It’s a solid effort that for now offers a scant selection of game modes, Elimination (free-for-all where the player with the highest kill count wins) and Last Stand (battle for control points). Up to 24 players may enter the arena and you can customize your loadout with weapons, armor and utility items such as MedPens and grenades.

Star Citizen Preview Star Marine Last Stand

Arena Commander offers a similar approach to Star Marine but takes the fight to deep space. This is more uncommon, as there aren’t many games with the looks and sheer maneuverability of Star Citizen’s ships. You will not only be impressed by the amazing views, but the exhilarating dogfighting also comes out strongly commended, shooting other ships while carefully dodging asteroids. It takes a deep knowledge of each ship’s strengths and failings to make the best of every situation, but this obviously is a task that takes a fair length of time.

There is more to Arena Commander than dogfighting, as you take the seat of your ship and race other players through the gigantic rings of a space station, with a beautiful forest on the surface of the planet. Or you can relish on the delights of leisure flight, going to space stations and purely enjoying your time. But if you are of the truly competitive kind and prefer a Battle Royale mode of sorts, Star Citizen has got you covered. Squadron Battle is team deathmatch at its heart, while Vanduul Swarm and Pirate Swarm are both about holding off enemy onslaughts.

While Star Citizen has this everything-for-everyone approach right off the bat, this is a game that is more than the sum of its parts, at least in theory. The mere thought of a game that mixes elements from its modules with a persistent universe where you can be whoever you want, go where you feel like and act as you want is mouth-watering, thrilling and, quite honestly, hard to believe. Seeing is believing won’t cut it in this case; what Star Citizen has to offer right now may feel ambitious and grand, but promises were made about a magnificent scope that is light years away from its current state.

Star Citizen Preview Character Customization

Lost in Stanton

Star Citizen recently saw the addition of female characters, with the visual quality being sky-high – human eyes are universally acknowledged as one of the most difficult features to faithfully reproduce in video games, but the result here is mind-blowing. I can’t say the same for hair, though, which still seems to be a work-in-progress and is particularly lacking on proper female styles. The DNA system is another new feature and raises the level of a character customization system that is trying something new. Instead of using the classic sliders to adjust every facial feature of your avatar, you choose up to three source heads to combine and slightly adjust their traits in a way that should never return a freaking abomination as an option. No offense, Fallout 4.

And now you ask: why should I bother spending two or three hours creating a stunning face for my space hero if it will be covered by a helmet? Well, because you can remove it in space stations, and your lovely face is visible in some helmets anyway, so your work won’t go to waste. The current iteration of Star Citizen’s character customization doesn’t offer any body customization options, but this is on the to-do list. Just don’t ask us when it will make it into the game, because… well, it’s Star Citizen.

My Free Fly adventure begins as soon as I get up from my bed in Port Olisar, a space station in the Stanton Star System. This place is just a tiny dot in a vast universe, as Cloud Imperium Games promised that 100 unique star systems would make it into the game, and there is a star map to prove it. However, Chris Roberts himself said that players should expect between five to ten star systems with the core mechanics in place, something that sounds more reasonable considering the scope of each one and the amount of time and resources that this endeavor demands from the team.

Star Citizen Preview Shiny Armor

Moving through the space station, I can try on and purchase new Undersuits using the UEC currency. I can’t get anything too fancy, but it’s always nice to change from your base costume. After that I ran to the ship retrieval terminal where I spawn my spacecraft – the Free Fly demo had five on offer, some more suited to combat, others for delivery or racing: Anvil Arrow, MISC Prospector, Drake Cutlass Black, Aegis Avenger Titan and Drake Dragonfly. As soon as your ship reaches the landing pad, make sure to hurry up as you may be occupying valuable space for other players’ ships.

Before heading off to the designed landing pad, it’s important to check your MobiGlas, Star Citizen’s version of Fallout’s Pip-Boy. This device includes vital information for all the needs of a regular space hero, bounty hunter or galaxy courier, whoever you want to be. You can use it to track all your details such as current balance, vitals, atmosphere, suit, vehicle and mission status. But there is much more to it, including managing your equipment, chat with other players, set travel routes or accept contracts. This last one is what makes any Star Citizen adventurer tick, ultimately defining where you need to travel and what type of missions you get to tackle. You can pick some simple delivery jobs, which can go awry at any moment, or you can opt for maintenance, bounty hunter or mercenary contracts.

I didn’t have much luck with my first contract, which consisted in picking up a package from an outpost on Cellin and delivering it to an aid shelter on the same planet. But it wasn’t a matter of space pirates, fuel usage miscalculation or poor piloting skills; no, it was a bug of interplanetary proportions that reared its ugly face in the shape of a non-existing package. How am I expected to deliver something that isn’t available in the precise place where I was told to pick it up?

As it turns out, this is a bug that was previously reported and still needs fixing. Star Citizen has bugs, who would have thought? But it gets worse, with planet surfaces or space stations that fail to render, ships that explode out of nowhere, landings that will give you severe headaches, random crashes… the galaxy is dark and full of bugs.

Star Citizen Preview ArcCorp Arrival

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Boarding Your Ship

Much has been said before about Star Citizen’s ships, not all of it praiseworthy. Before jumping into the controversial details I’ll take a quick ride through some of the details and highpoints of these ambitious spacecrafts.

Ships come in all shapes and sizes, often turning a simple task such as entering and getting to the pilot seat into an adventure. You must discover where the ship door is, if there is a ladder to activate, whatever possible means are there to get on board. It’s not an obvious task at first but you’ll soon get the hang of it as you become acquainted with each ship. Once inside, you have a few accommodations at your disposal, usually including a bed which is said to serve as a safe log off/log in feature, but this mechanic seems to be broken at the moment.

Larger ships have one-man turrets, vast cargo space, co-pilot seats and more. When you’re finally seated at the cockpit, your jaw may eventually drop as you look at several fully-functioning displays and feel flabbergasted at what you’re experiencing. It’s a mix of awe and concern, but far from the complex, unintelligible design that the first impression may let on. You only need to find the switches for the basic functions such as powering up the ship, turning the engine on and you should be clear for takeoff.

Star Citizen is a hot topic when it comes to its spacecraft and the asking prices for some of them, with many ships costing over $100 and a few select spacecraft retailing for more than $1,000. While this may sound bonkers and a huge leap of faith for some backers, I absolutely respect the amount of work and character that goes into each ship. It’s a colossal endeavor in some cases, and it feels acceptable if you have some extra cash burning a hole in your pocket and absolute faith in the vision driving Star Citizen. It’s a trophy for backers to proudly display and it’s far from your traditional overpriced piece of armor, or perhaps your useless set of horse armor. It’s a matter of how much you’re willing to spend on Star Citizen and your confidence in the future of the project.

Star Citizen Preview Drake Cutlass Black Ship

Ship insurance is another controversial subject, as you must pay an in-game fee in order to avoid losing your ship for good – that surely won’t be fun if you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on it. While a few initial backers were rewarded with lifetime insurance, the most likely scenario is that you’ll have to pay a regular fee to get a replacement ship in case it is destroyed – and believe me, it will, either by mistake, space pirates, planetary storms, unfriendly players, fuel loss and other hazards. During the alpha there was no insurance fee, but when it comes into play it will surely make quite some noise, and probably not the good kind.

It’s impossible to go places in a single star system such as Stanton without resorting to Quantum Travel. This is how you navigate the vast space between each planet or outpost, and even a Quantum Jump may take several minutes, as you’ll realize when you decide to travel to ArcCorp, an impressive new planet mostly covered by man-made structures. Quantum Travel is a simple matter of finding your destination on your MobiGlas, setting up the route (and checking if you have enough fuel for the entire ride) and align your markers with the jump location. After spooling you should see your ship bending space and time as it travels to the destination. It’s a simple process that you’ll have to resort very often.

Star Citizen looks stunning and is brimming with details, a lot of them not entirely obvious at first glance. A simple task such as landing on ArcCorp becomes a challenge when you failed to realize that you need to access your MobiGlas and request landing permission to the ArcCorp Landing Services. You’ll then be assigned a landing pad which you may or may not have a hard time finding, carefully avoiding the deluge of invisible walls on this planet. After a tricky landing you are finally able to explore the area, travel to other regions using the tram and fulfill some of your contracts. ArcCorp surely is a wonderful sight from the skies, but it is also a clear indication of the unmeasured ambition that fuels Star Citizen – most of the buildings will surely be just for show, and it couldn’t be otherwise, as there are dozens of other star systems waiting to be created.

Star Citizen Preview ArcCorp Third Person

I have mixed feelings about Star Citizen. It clearly isn’t a hoax, vaporware or whatever wicked words have been uttered about it. On the other hand, despite a feeling of grandeur, it’s far from the game that it wants to be, even after all these years of development and all those millions in crowdfunding. In a perfect world, Star Citizen would turn out to be the ultimate space epic game, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. What this alpha showed us was that it is a jaw-dropping, feature-rich game that is equally frustrating and buggy.

I have no doubts that Star Citizen is trying to reach for the skies and will probably fall on its face when it launches. Because it will never be “officially released”, it will be stuck in a perpetual state of continuous development, a “game as a service” that will require huge amounts of money and a skilled development team to rise to the inevitable challenges. Star Citizen is No Man’s Sky turned up to eleven, boasting a much larger scope and a lot more controversy stemming from Chris Roberts’ unwavering vision – hopefully with the same happy ending as Hello Games’ once disappointing science-fiction epic.

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Star Citizen Developer Valued at Nearly Half A Billion Dollars

Star Citizen developer Cloud Imperium Games is now worth nearly half a billion dollars. This news comes after they recently raised $46 million from a private investment which brings them up to $496 million in value for the company.

The new investment comes from a father and son team Clive and Keith Calder and the company has told Variety that the money will be used to create a marketing war chest for the 2020 release of Squadron 42. The deal has given the two Calders an approximately 10% share of the company. Two new people have also been added to the board. Dan Offner, who is the Calder’s nominee, and Eli Klein, who has served as an advisor to the company.

In an interview with Variety, Chris Roberts explained that the reason they went looking for an outside investor is that he wasn’t happy using crowdfunded money for marketing Squadron 42. That left the option of going public, selling the company, or working with an outside publisher. None of these options were really what Roberts wanted so he went looking somewhere else.

So who are the two who invested another $46 million in a game that has the industry so divided? Clive Calder is a billionaire known for co-founding the Zomba Music Group, a massive name in the music industry. Meanwhile, his son Keith Calder is an indie film director who is best known for All the Boys Love Mandy Lane and The Wackness.

This investment and the announcement of the value of the company is sure to stir up conversation about the studio all across the internet once again. Opinions on  Star Citizen and Cloud Imperium Games could not be more divided and people on both sides have very strong feelings on the matter. In fact, even opinion in the MMOGames office is split.

 

Source: Variety

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Glassdoor Review of Cloud Imperium Confirmed as a Fake

Those following the development of Star Citizen have likely already heard a bit about a Cloud Imperium Glassdoor review presumably posted by former senior physics programmer John Pritchett taking management to task for the sandbox MMO’s scope. Well, the real Mr. Pritchett has stood up and said the review is a fake.

star citizen glassdoor review

According to the review, which is still live at the time of this writing, Pritchett suggested to management that the team is stretching itself too thin:

“The scope of the project needs to be massively reigned in, and realistic expectations of what will actually be delivered in the next decade or two need to be communicated honestly and clearly to the community supporting the business. There’s no point wasting huge amounts of money, time and resources (+ community goodwill) hiring top-end specialists and starting projects when you don’t even know what you want the finished product to look like or if it’s even technically feasible.”

Mr. Pritchett repudiated the review in question, stating that he had already flagged it with the site but also wanted to personally address the matter. Pritchett seemed to particularly take difference with the segment of the review that said his systems – and by extension, himself – had been made obsolete.

“Any game in alpha is always evolving, and any system as critical as the flight model is therefore also evolving,” wrote Pritchett. “Had I remained with CIG, it would have continued to evolve, and it will certainly evolve without me. Very little from the review reflects my personal experience.”

Our Thoughts

…wow, pretty depressing that someone would go all this way to try to sling mud at Star Citizen. Some folks just REALLY don’t wanna see a game get developed. Even if Star Citizen’s cook time is an exceedingly long one, that doesn’t really excuse one from putting on a fake identity and trying to screw over the studio. Just yell into the void of Reddit instead. At least there you’ll get some thumbs up and feel better about yourself.

Sources: Facebook and Glassdoor via Massively Overpowered

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Star Citizen Says the Legatus Pack was Requested by Fans

By now you’ve had time to wrap your head around the Star Citizen Legatus Pack, the $27k bundle that hooks together a little over 100 different ships and over 100 other digital goodies for the in-development sandbox title. Still, the question may remain: just who the heck would want that? A statement from Cloud Imperium has provided a little bit of insight on that front.

legatus pack

Statements provided to Polygon remark that the bundle of items is meant for those who apparently view Star Citizen as a form of “lifestyle hobby” akin to golf or sailing. Additionally, the bundle wasn’t just slapped together by the company, but was actually requested by such fans.

“It wasn’t created in a vacuum,” said Cloud Imperium LA’s Eric Kieron Davis. “We were responding to what the community asked for. We have some passionate supporters that are not looking at Star Citizen as your typical game purchase/transaction but rather a dream project they want to see happen.”

Davis further remarked that the Legatus Pack isn’t necessarily being offered for a single person to surround themselves with ships, but heads of guilds or corps who can then distribute the internet spaceships to their members, which can often number in the tens of thousands apparently.

All this said, another representative from Cloud Imperium wasn’t able to elaborate on how many of these bundles have been sold, if any at all. Presumably, that information will likely remain under lock and key.

Our Thoughts

Even though one of our own writers poked a bit of fun at the price tag of this bundle, we can…maybe appreciate that some folks have that much money to light on fire for an unreleased game? Maybe? We don’t know, honestly…and personally speaking, I’d buy all the Big Macs first.

Source: Polygon

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How Much Money MMO Developers Make

Talking about wages is an incredibly taboo subject, you’d never just ask someone how much they make (if you’re curious why this is a bad thing watch this). So with that in mind, let’s look at some wage information from the United States Department of Labor. Specifically, we’re looking at how much money MMO developers make every year.

Before we dive into the numbers we should talk about where this data comes from. If a company wants to hire foreign employees on an H1-B visa they must first submit a labor condition application, in which you must list the base salary for the job. This information is then public knowledge. The fine folks at loveforgames.com have taken the data and sorted it into a very easy to use tool and now we’re going to take a look at it. Keep in mind that this is just the base salary and it doesn’t include bonuses or equity programs. It’s also broken down by company by loveforgames or you can search by job title. Job title is a little bit more challenging because studios all have slightly different names for positions. Each listing also has the start date so we know roughly when the opening was available.

 

Gazillion

How Much Money MMO Developers Make

We start with one of the strangest studios to see on the list, Gazillion, who of course made the last few months of 2017 very interesting with everything that went down with Marvel Heroes and the studio suddenly closing. The last job they had listed before they closed was for VP, Engineering. What makes this job most interesting isn’t the $215,000 salary, it’s the fact that the start date would have been October 23rd, 2017. So the studio was looking to fill this position just as everything started going south. If they hired anyone for the position, they would have arrived to a studio that had already missed out on doing anything for the release of Thor: Ragnarok, which was really the first sign that things weren’t normal.

 

Riot Games

One of the studios with the most jobs on this list is Riot Games with 334 listings since 2010. For reference, League of Legends was released late in 2009. The very first job on the list is for a Systems Engineer and at that time the pay was $115,000. This was a position they were looking to fill again by October 2011 with the same salary. In September 2017 they were looking to hire a Senior Producer who would make between $180,000 and $190,000 a year. Starting just a month earlier was a Senior Software Engineer position which was given a range of $127,608 and $220,000. Not only is that a massive range, it also shows that being towards the top of the command chain isn’t always where the pay is at. For reference, all of these were for their Los Angeles office, which is currently hiring for 91 positions.

 

EA

Shadow Realms Screenshot Coast

EA actually tops the list with 476 listings, which makes a lot of sense because EA has many fingers in many markets. Unfortunately, it also makes it a bit of a challenge to know exactly where in the company the job listing was for. Some of them do list Visceral or Origin and they all have a location listed. So if there’s an EA job listed for Austin, Texas, you know that’s Bioware. Which, as it so happens the most recent job on the list was for a Database Engineer and they would have started March 2nd, 2018 with a base salary of $114,354. In late 2016, Bioware Austin was looking to hire a Senior Database Engineer for $115,277. In 2012, at their Playa Vista office, they were looking to fill a position for “Software Engineer Ii” and the salary for that job was $191,360,000 which is, hopefully, a mistake on loveforgames’ part because this application was approved. In reality, their highest paying position listed is for Vice President, Mobile at the end of last year who would have started out making $255,000 to $270,000. If you’re curious about the artistic side of things, a Concept Artist in August of 2017 in Playa Vista, California was looking at $80,000.

 

ArenaNet

ArenaNet, currently just one studio working on one game…or are they? Guild Wars 2 isn’t known for being mobile friendly but in September, they were looking to hire a Head of Mobile Production Management and Analytics. A position that offers $220,000 to $230,000. A 3D Artist in April 2017 would have made between $47,965 and $67,000. Though the most recent position they have listed is for Senior Producer, which pays $130,000 to $140,000 a year. That’s the same they were offering for a Systems Analyst position just a few months earlier.

 

Trion

Many of the positions Trion has been looking to fill through the years have been related to localization, something that makes a lot of sense. Languages have included the two you would expect to see; German and French, but Korean and Russian also make an appearance. Also, very oddly, most of the applications were withdrawn. It may have been because they filled the position with someone in the US, or maybe they decided not to hire for the job overseas after all. We can also compare their Senior Producer job with ArenaNet for a moment. In late 2016, Trion was looking to hire one with a salary between $131,000 and $144,000. They’re pretty much the same, despite being a year and a half apart and two states away. It does seem to suggest that pay isn’t really a reflection of where the studios are located, so maybe if you were deciding between the two you might make the move to Washington to work for ArenaNet where your money would go a bit further than Redwood City, California where Trion is based.

 

Cloud Imperium

At this point, we kind of have to talk about Cloud Imperium since they’re on the list. Unlike many of the other studios, this one has only had 3 job listings. They were for Character Artist, 3D Artist, and Graphics Programmer. The jobs had starting dates in 2014 and 2016 and the salary ranged from $54,000 for Graphics Programmer to $80,000 for Character Artist.

 

Blizzard

We can’t talk about MMOs without talking about the king of them all, World of Warcraft, or at least the creative minds behind it, Blizzard. The most important thing I learned through my looking into Blizzard is that their Austin, Texas office holds Dodgeball tournaments. If that’s not the best perk, I don’t know what is. Most of the jobs though are, as you might expect, for their main office in Irvine, California. The most recent job was for Senior Concept Artist II which pays $112,504 a year. They also have one of the few community management listings, in 2016 an Associate Community Manager job had a salary of $53,601.

All of this has just barely scratched the surface of the information available, so, if you’re interested in knowing how much money MMO developers make head over to loveforgames where you can find information on even more studios like Hi-Rez, Turbine, ZeniMax, and Daybreak Games.

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CIG Fires Back at Crytek Lawsuit

The attorneys for Cloud Imperium Games have been busy writing up some words in response to the Crytek contract lawsuit that was filed in December. Words like “immaterial, impertinent, and scandalous” and “contrived”.

crytek contract lawsuit

According to a filing made by CIG’s lawyers, the game license agreement that Crytek is referencing in their initial suit “eliminates virtually every claim and remedy Crytek seeks” while the company’s own admission that CIG are using Lumberyard to develop Star Citizen and Squadron 42 “gets rid of the rest”.

“This action never should have been filed. The allegations[…]bear absolutely no material relation to any claim or named party, and have everything to do with generating misleading, scandalous press.”

The lawyers counter that the original Crytek agreement states CryEngine’s use in developing Squadron 42 and the then-called Space Citizen title were covered in the contract. Additionally, the filing states the agreement provided CIG with an “exclusive right, not a duty” to use CryEngine, and that Crytek is hiding the agreement in order to contort exclusivity as a requirement for the company to use the engine.

CIG is recommending that the court read the license agreement associated with the suit and is asking for the case to be dismissed “in its entirety, with prejudice”.

Our Thoughts

Assuming that the agreement does indeed include the statements referenced by CIG, then it sounds like this case is probably one for the trash bin. That said, we have no access to the agreement at the heart of this entire matter, so we’ll just wait and see what the court has to say.

Source: Motion to Dismiss filing via Eurogamer

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