Letter from the Chairman: Happy Holidays… and Thank You
As 2015 draws to a close, I would like to thank everyone in the Star Citizen community for your incredible support. It’s amazing to think that this journey started out just over three years ago with the simple idea that there had to be more people out there than myself who liked space and PC games. Why weren’t the big publishers interested in supporting space games? Why did they think the PC wasn’t a viable platform?
To say that all of you proved them wrong is an understatement. To date, you’ve done that to the tune of over $ 102 million in crowd funding raised to build this game and a million Citizens signing up to follow what we’re doing here. It’s the game I’ve been dreaming about ever since the moment I learned to program… and I’m pretty sure it’s the game all of you have been dreaming about, too!
For making all of this possible, I can only say: thank you. With this funding we are now building a game that can compete with any AAA publisher backed game out there. No corporate suits deciding what franchise to milk or license. I promised a long time ago that the funds that we raise prior to what we consider the commercial release of Star Citizen would go towards additional development. Because of all of your support we can build this game bigger and better than anyone thought possible a few years ago.
With big numbers comes big attention. Some people look at the number and say “Why should they have all that money?” Well it’s because you want to build a big, bold game that doesn’t compromise! This is the secret. The additional money that comes in doesn’t go towards dividends for shareholders or making analysts happy with our profitability. It gets invested into making Star Citizen the best it can be. Hiring the best talent possible and allowing them to reach for the stars. Your contributions are going towards making the game better for you and all your friends. How could that possibly be a bad thing?
Technology like the procedural planet that we demonstrated in the Pupil to Planet demo during the December livestream is a direct result of your contributions. Without it we wouldn’t have the Frankfurt office or the technical wizards that reside there. Or the incredibly talented team in Manchester! Without the continued support and enthusiasm of the best community in gaming we would have never been able to hire up in the UK, Germany or expand our US development team. Thanks to you, we have been able to build a truly world class team.
But Star Citizen isn’t really about the money, that’s just what’s allowing us to build a game of the ambition and fidelity that people thought wouldn’t be possible.
A huge milestone towards achieving this goal was the release of Star Citizen Alpha 2.0 earlier this month, with the ability to play in a huge area (the biggest yet in gaming thanks to 64 bit floating point positional coordinates) and offering up all of these exciting options in that world: walking around a space station on foot or boarding a space ship by yourself or with friends… walk around that ship and/or have your friends man various stations while you are flying… fly thousands or even hundreds of thousands of kilometers, engage in ship to ship combat against AI or other players, exit your ship to EVA and explore space stations… engage in FPS combat (on foot or in EVA), rescue stranded players, perform various missions. All of this happens seamlessly without loading screens at a fidelity and scale that has not been seen before in any game.
Star Citizen Alpha 2.0 is the first time that you can see how the various elements; space combat, FPS, social interaction, huge play spaces will all fit together into one seamless holistic game experience. You can really see the dawn of the first person universe. Combining the fidelity that we are aiming for with the scale we want has always been our biggest technical challenge. We’re aiming for detail that is as good or better than any AAA first / third person game but that can go from picking out details from several centimeters away to seeing planets hundreds of thousands of kilometers in the distance, all simulated and rendered from the 1st person view of your avatar that can go anywhere.
2.0 shows the naysayers it can be done!
We still have a lot of work to do, many game systems to complete, content to generate, code to optimize, bugs to squash but you can now see what Star Citizen will feel like and in 2.0 you can get an experience you can’t get with any other game. I know that’s a pretty bold claim to make but you just have to visit our forums, or Reddit, or watch hundreds of YouTube videos or Twitch streams to see this happening every day.
The aspect that most excites me is that players are building their own narrative around what happened to them in their 2.0 game sessions. It reminds of when Wing Commander first came out and I noticed people talking about their wingmen / women as real people – not just a game character who you should team up with to complete a mission or level. Instead people were picking their flying partner based on personality and who they liked. That was the moment that I realized something special was happening and the whole was more than the sum of the parts.
Just imagine what you can do with the Star Citizen Alpha 2.0 experience but with even more content and features? More locations and interactions? It’s not really a space sim as we understand them. I find it hard to put my finger on why it seems so liberating but I think the ability to really feel like you can go anywhere and have the universe rendered with such detail and fidelity gives a different sense of immersing oneself in a game. With a lot of other space games, the experience still feels like a game. This feels different. You can even see it in the player behavior in 2.0. There is no win. Just experience and adventure.
And this is just the beginning!
What’s coming next?
Star Citizen Alpha 2.1 goes live to all backers on the PTU today. 2.1 includes a couple of new ships; the re-modeled Freelancer is now flyable and the Sabre, the new experimental medium fighter that we announced at CitizenCon 2015 is hangar ready. Both the Freelancer and the Sabre have benefited from the new ship modeling processes that the Ship Team has developed. Once a manufacturer’s style and look has been defined and we have built out its material set, the process of taking a ship from detailed 3D concept to in-game is much faster than it was previously. As we flesh out the various manufacturers in this manner expect to see quicker turn around from concept to in-game.
Going forward we will be changing our patch release strategy to be less feature driven and more date driven. Our goal is to release a new update every month (so January’s would be SC Alpha 2.2). We have many features in development separate to the release stream, and the idea is that we assess which features are ready for prime time a few weeks out from the release and then greenlight them for inclusion in that month’s release. We would then have a good PTU test, make sure the features really are ready for primetime, fixing up the issues we see and in the case of a feature needing more work, we would pull it out of the release. Physicalized EVA is an example of this. After testing in PTU we felt we needed to do some more work in order to polish it for better usability in certain circumstances.
We feel like this strategy will be better for both development and the community at large. It will ensure constant updates and patches and a good flow of features. But as we’re not defining which features make a particular release, we won’t be in a situation like we were earlier this year where the delays on the FPS development in Star Citizen ended up blocking game updates for the community.
With 2.0 as our foundation, which combines the various game modes into one holistic experience we now have a good strong framework for any new feature updates whether they involve FPS, ship, social or planetside. Expect to see us flesh out a huge amount of the Persistent Universe and its functionality in this coming year.
In addition to this we’ll be hard at work in completing Squadron 42, which is something I’m incredibly excited about. I had a lot of fun working with a great script and amazing set of actors earlier this year and it’s a lot of fun to start seeing all this come alive inside the engine. I will be personally spending a lot of time in the UK with the Foundry 42 team in 2016 closing out Squadron 42 for all of you to play. I can’t wait as Squadron 42 really is how I would have made a next generation Wing Commander. The fluidity that is so compelling in 2.0 only serves to enhance the feeling of immersion and being inside the story for Squadron 42. Combine this with some amazing performances and technology that can transcribe the performance into our game engine… I think the sense of emotional connection to the characters and story will take it to a whole other level than people are used to.
2016 is going to be a great year for Star Citizen!
I’d like to end the year by thanking everyone who is working to make Star Citizen better than I had thought possible. First of all, our amazing, million-strong community. Without you, we would not be here today. Your pledges have made all this possible… the sharing of your passion with others have allowed us to grow… and your excitement and creativity routinely reinvigorate the development team. I can’t properly express what you have meant to Star Citizen. In honor of the $ 100 million milestone, we’re attributing a UEE War Bond to each of your Hangars. The bond will be issued in the year you started backing (2942 for 2012, 2943 for 2013 and so on). For now, it’s just a small piece of decoration… and someday, when this cruel war with the Vanduul comes to an end, we’ll give you the option to redeem it for credits! (A small example of the kind of fun, immersive things a larger team lets us add to the game.) A special thank you to Algared, the backer who pushed crowd funding into the triple digits. Here’s to our “$ 100 million dollar man”… and everyone else who got us here.
Next, the incredible development teams around the world who have already transmuted Star Citizen from imagination into reality. I am honored to work with several hundred of the most talented game developers in the world, people who are truly passionate about this project in the same way I am. We have come so far from the tiny original troop of volunteers working to build the proof of concept demo and the crowd funding campaign. I know how hard each of you work, how much you put into Star Citizen. I know how much each of you believes in the universe we’re creating. And most importantly, I know that we will all someday look back, like the backers who supported us, and find incredible satisfaction in these five words: I helped make Star Citizen.
Here are some other ‘end of year’ numbers that speak to the incredible scale of what we’re doing on Star Citizen:
- The Roberts Space Industries website served 178 million page views, with over 9.5 million visitors in 2015
- Citizens have downloaded more than 30 petabytes of content this year.
- 80,000 backers have explored Crusader in 2.0 in the week since its launch.
- The development team created 16,503 tasks in 2015 and resolved over 15,000 of them.
- Developers made 204,716 Perforce checkins/changelists.
- The team generated an average of 6 game builds per day.
- QA has generated over 17,000 bug tickets this year, and the bugsmashers have since resolved almost 12,000 of those.
Finally, I would like to add a sincere thanks and well wishes to the other development teams around the world that share in our passion for space sims. I often see arguments online about which game to play; Star Citizen or Elite, Elite or No Man’s Sky and so on. The truth is that there’s no right answer: the space gaming renaissance is nothing but good news for gamers everywhere. Just as Wing Commander and X-Wing improved one another through competition, so too has Star Citizen been improved by other space games in development. The fantastic teams behind Elite: Dangerous, No Man’s Sky, EVERSPACE, Infinity: Battlescape and others inspire us daily. I wish you and anyone else expanding the frontiers of space and PC gaming all the best for 2016 and beyond!
Thank you all. I hope that everyone has a merry Christmas, a happy holiday and that you will join us again in 2016 for an incredible new year!
— Chris Roberts