Imagine sitting in the cockpit of a space fighter, locked in a gruelling dogfight with pirates. You dart through the asteroid field, calling out to your wingman for assistance. After a few close calls, the two of you manage to take out the pirates and you cruise back to the carrier, taking note of the asteroid field for a potential mining expedition. It was tense, but the cargo is safe and your crew is set to make the delivery and get a long awaited payday. Maybe you’ll be able to add a little more firepower. You decide to stretch your legs, walking the length of the 2 kilometre carrier, before heading back to the bridge.
Welcome to Star Citizen, perhaps the most ambitious space sim yet.
Space simulators, by nature, are big. Massive. Star Citizen wants to raise the bar even higher. You don’t just control a ship, or navigate menus at hubs; you control a character and can explore your carrier, sit inside your cockpit, land on different planets, interact with other players and NPCs. Your character will physically travel to worlds to accept quests and missions, and to buy and sell goods and ships.
The core of Star Citizen is its MMO-like sandbox, but there is also a single player or co-op mode known as Squadron 42, reminiscent of Wing Commander. Director Chris Roberts says it’s designed to “lead you into the open sandbox game.” Friends can easily drop in to assist, acting as wingmen.
Realism and immersion are tossed around a lot, but they are two key criteria for developers Cloud Imperium Games. You can go from dogfighting to standing on the bridge without a single loading screen. The largest ships have 7 million polygons, giving unparalleled detail. Ships can be intricately customised, right down to cockpit decorations. There are no character skills to level up, only your own as a player, and no character classes to choose except those you designate yourself. Star Citizen gives you the freedom to play how you want, bound only by your own ability. Not even the sky is the limit.
And it’s hard to look past the heritage. Roberts has a long legacy of great space games, with titles like Wing Commander, Privateer, and Freelancer under his belt. Few have his credentials or his ambition, and fans are confident of success: crowdsourcing efforts raised over $26 million—and counting. The strong support has prompted Cloud Imperium Games to reach out further, getting fans involved in the development process. Financial backers can give feedback, submit ideas and play test parts of the game early. Mods and custom ship designs are also encouraged and can be submitted for inclusion in the game.
Star Citizen is big. It plans to launch with 100 star systems, with more content being added weekly or fortnightly. With Oculus Rift support planned, maybe we don’t have to wait before we can be the next Han Solo or Commander Shepard. Maybe we can live out our space fantasies soon.
Originally published in HYPER Sci-Fi special.