Chris Roberts Addresses Star Citizen Delays And Feature Creep Concerns
Star Citizen creator Chris Roberts isn't ignoring the discussion that's happened over the past week regarding the game, offering updates on the project and addressing the recent concerns over its development. Today, over 925,000 people have contributed more than $85 million to the project, making it one of the more successful video game campaigns to date.
Last week, Star Citizen became a big discussion point, but not for the best reasons. After independent game developer and backer Derek Smart raised concerns in a lengthy blog post concerning delays and "feature creep," Cloud Imperium Games canceled his backer pledge, insisting that Smart was misusing the platform and trying to promote his own space game, Line of Defense. Smart says he did no such thing. Either way, it raised questions for backers who were originally promised a game back in November 2014, especially when the FPS module was recently delayed and not given a new release window. This has caused some backers to inquire about refunds, even conducting a poll on the Star Citizen forums if it should be done (25 percent of the 1,173 respondents think so).
After all of these developments, Chris Roberts addressed his backers in a new "Letter from the Chairman" on the official site. In the letter, Roberts states he's been plenty busy with the capture shoot for the game, but he also discusses in detail some of the recent challenges and why certain decisions had to be made, like converting the engine to 64-bit precision and why new technologies like the Zone system and local grids were created. "Star Citizen (and even Squadron 42) presents a challenge in terms of detail and scale that no game has tackled successfully to date," Roberts says. "To do what the game requires there needs to be a different approach to how things are organized, rendered, and updated."
He then hashes out why no release date has been announced and specifically discusses the delay on the FPS module, saying backers should have access to it sooner rather than later. Roberts writes that until they are absolutely sure, they don't want to put a date on module releases. It's too hard to put an accurate date on something in open development, so until the project reaches the Public Test Universe, it won't have one. To Roberts, this doesn't mean anything is delayed indefinitely or canceled. "We have been burned by this multiple times before so I have heeded all your wishes to not give out dates until we are sure," he says.
Roberts also addressed the recent turnover at Cloud Imperium Games, saying it's inevitable with such a large company, given that there are currently six development studios working on the game. "The turnover at CIG is no more or less than it was at Origin, EA, Digital Anvil, or Microsoft when I was making games there," he says.
Roberts also admits he originally thought he'd build a smaller game, but over time he decided to add features and content "to get close to the full living universe that I have always wanted to realize." He thanks all the backers for their support and for making it possible, but also realizes that this is a big project and it's going to take time to develop. He knows people don't have the patience to wait around forever, that's why he's embracing open development to share things and get feedback before the final game launches. "So while it will take longer to build the full vision that all of you are helping to achieve by contributing your funds, our plan is to have you play large sections of it without having to wait for everything to be done like you would on a normal retail product."
As for the whole feature creep debate, Roberts says that's just not the case. "Is ‘feature creep’ a worry? Sure… it’s always a worry, and we are well aware of it,' he says. "However, building the game to the stretch goals embraced and endorsed by the community is not feature creep! " He even goes on to say that the point of crowd funding is to allow creators to "go beyond limitations" and "to do more."
It's important for backers to be informed on why decisions are made, which is why I'm happy Roberts is lending some insight here. However, numerous times during Roberts' post he emphasizes how much scope and ambition this game has. That always lends some concern. I like when developers have ambition, but it's important to stay in the realm of reality. Star Citizen no doubt garnered plenty of money to try some new things and raise the bar for technology, but at one point a game needs to surface. Some degree of concern and questioning is certainly valid here. I'm hoping for the best, but cautious. A lot has been promised, and we'll just have to wait and see if the final product lives up to it all.