Star Citizen's 10-Year Development History
Star Citizen promised its backers the stars and beyond when its Kickstarter launched in October 2012. The game had a shining vision of how players could navigate the vast universe, with mechanics that (at the time) did not exist yet. The game raked in an impressive $6.2 mil (USD) from initial crowdfunding and has gone on to collect an even more stunning sum of $500 mil (USD) at its 10-year mark of being developed.
So how has a game a decade deep into active development not seen the light of day? You can read about Star Universe's turbulent history and what may lie in store for its future below.
Delays, Scandals, and Controversy
Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) has an extensive history of lawsuits, questionable behavior, and miscommunication with supporters. While an Alpha for the game exists and has had some development updates (with modular drops happening since 2014), it is nowhere close to being published in completion. The Alpha updates have been disjointed, and while updates to the Persistent Universe gameplay mode have been somewhat consistent, fans have complained about murky communication and unclear roadmaps. In response to fan frustrations, Cloud Imperium Games made an official statement in February 2022 that not-so-subtly blamed "a very loud contingent of roadmap watchers" for distracting developers and forcing shifted deliverables. This was followed by the team dropping some tentative game features and parsing their development roadmap.
Lacking communication seems to also be an internal problem of CIG as well, and it's not just players who have been left in the lurch. One of the latest public issues between CIG and its global network of developers occurred during last year's Texas winter storm that saw over 200 people die. CIG reportedly told its Texas-based developers to try and continue to work and make it into their offices or to use their own PTO to cover their inability to work during a natural disaster. (The reports were made anonymously by multiple developers working for CIG, and these reports were disputed by CIG officials. Take that as you will.)
Squadron 42 was initially slated to be a playable campaign within the larger game of Star Citizen. Roadmap changes and development have seen this star-studded space adventure scheduled as an independent game, though it will still exist as part of the game's canon and the universe. (The main cast includes actors like Mark Hamill, Gary Oldman, and Gillian Anderson.) Despite this shift (and the fact that Squadron 42 has existed for nearly as long as Star Citizen has), Squadron 42 missed both its projected publication dates (first in 2016 and again in 2020) and has since kept quiet with no updated publication date in sight.
Star Citizen has continued to make money by selling ships and cosmetics that, like most of the game, are still in development and will be unusable for an unseen time. CIG has also had some generous private investors that refreshed the internal coffers. Supporters began flaking away support in 2015, and many have sought out refunds-- and while initial requests were quickly refunded, delays for later requests have continued to this day. In 2016 CIG updated its legalese regarding refund eligibility, and the company has since faced multiple court claims from supporters seeking their money back. The USA FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has received 100+ complaints regarding CIG (as of early 2019.)
Where it stands now
Many doubt Star Citizen will ever get published, least of all in the glorious form that was initially promised. The game has been riddled with bad PR-- still, the amount their company has been able to fundraise is impressive. There are still stalwart backers out there that believe in CIG's vision of what it can achieve, though I am curious to see how much Star Citizen will differ from games like No Man's Sky which boasts an impressive, large-scale explorable universe.
For reference regarding Star Universe's timeline, here are some noteworthy games that were released in 2014, its original anticipated release year:
- Dark Souls II
- Dragon Age: Inquisition
- Wolfenstein: The New Order
- Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor
Star Citizen's recent news cycle has brought up the topic of Early Access games, with hot takes and heated debates on both sides of the fence. While Star Citizen is an exceptional case, there are plenty who scorn Early Access as a commonplace practice in game publications today.
What are your thoughts on Star Citizen? More importantly, what are your thoughts on games publishing in Early Access well before they're officially done? Let me know in the comments below!