GDC Online 2012: Chris Roberts Announces Star Citizen
Show of hands — how many of you guys, at some point, have wondered ‘Why don’t they make a World of Warcraft game in space where I can fly around, shoot some spaceships, upgrade my ship, and explore new nebulas and galaxies and stuff?’
Ah, everyone has.
That game is finally being made. Developed by Chris Roberts (Wing Commander, Freelancer), Star Citizen looks like it’s exactly the game that the space nerd in all of us have been waiting for.
“I want to say, ‘Hey, PC games are cool, space games are cool, and it’s kind of a community…’ I want to pull a community together and build a great universe,” Roberts said during the reveal announcement at GDC Online this morning.
Star Citizen is extremely ambitious. To start off, it’s PC only, and not in a simple tech spec World of Warcraft or The Old Republic sort of way. It will be for high-end PCs, which presumably all gamers that want to live in space already have.
“This is what you can do when you’re not worried about fitting inside 512 megabytes and working on seven year old technology,” Roberts said while running through a demo of Star Citizen.
The demo was certainly impressive and unquestionably real-time. It opened with Roberts running around the decks of a carrier class ship as a pilot. The hangar bay bristled with pipes, struts, and strobing lights that perfectly recreate the hustle of a military operation in space. Pulling into a third-person view, Roberts even shows a look at the flight suit which is likewise replete with hoses, zippers, folds of fabric, and studs.
“There’s a huge amount of work that goes into putting the tiny nuances and details into a world that makes it feel more realized,” Roberts said.
But enough walking, we’re in space damnit. Roberts then runs up to a fighter and climbs in, with every second played out in first-person. The cockpit itself is a wet dream of buttons, moving monitors, and glowing displays, each one flickering to life as the pilot hammers out a sequence of buttons to bring the ship to life. This is starship porn, no question about it. It’s been a long time since simple graphics and detail made me giddy, but the resolution of vision in Star Citizen already eclipses other games.
Roberts then guides the ship out of the hangar and shows just how deep his dedication to detail goes. In third-person view, you can clearly see eight vectored thrusters controlling the roll and pitch of the ship. This isn’t just smoke and mirrors either. Every ship has a flight computer that converts roll and pitch input into a sequence of fires on each vectored thrust. If one of those jets is damaged, your ship will suddenly control in very bizarre ways.
If that weren’t deep enough into simulation territory, Roberts remarked that “once you fire a lot of your missiles, you’ll be slightly lighter.”
It’s clear that this isn’t a token or safe attempt at wading back into space combat games. Roberts is jumping in with both feet, and the results are already incredible.
But so far I haven’t said much about the actual game. There isn’t much to show on that front for obvious reasons.
“I’m showing you a build a year before you would typically do so,” Roberts said. “In the old days this would be my greenlight meeting with EA or Microsoft.”
But Roberts did have plenty to say about his vision for Star Citizen. The main thrust of the game will be earning your citizenship (hence the title). There will be a militaristic campaign similar to Wing Commander that you can play alone or with a friend. If shooting aliens isn’t your bag, you can either complete civic-service style missions or simply buy your citizenship by accumulating money through trade. Earning citizenship is meant to be the larger goal of the game, but it is by no means the only goal.
Star Citizen aims to be a persistent-world Wing Commander: Privateer or Freelancer. As a player, you can attack other players to loot their ships, carry supplies to other systems, or even chart unknown areas of space. Roberts described a scenario in which a player could discover an uncharted jump point. If that player successfully navigates the jump (a process that Roberts likened to surfing a difficult wave), the player could then sell the flight computer data to a corporation for a massive amount of money. The corporation would then sell the flight chart to other pilots.
Even though it’s all theoretical at this point, doesn’t that sound like the coolest thing since, well, ever?
By Roberts’ estimations, Star Citizen is still a good two years off, but it is not wanting for drive and ambition. The design tenets from Roberts are clear: immersion through detail and production.
“I want to play this game and I don’t want to feel like I’m playing a game,” Roberts said. “I want to feel like l’m lost in a world.”
If something about that sentiment feels nostalgic, it should. Not only does it remind me of Origin’s old, ‘We Create Worlds’ mantra, but of a mentality that used to run deep and strong in the PC developers of the early ’90s.
“I feel like the games I made in the past, at their heart, were always PC games,” Roberts said. “It’s about pushing the aspiration and the dream of it all.”
Roberts is betting that there’s still enough market in the high-end PC crowd to make his dream a reality.
“If this is something that you’re excited by, please come to robertsspaceindustries.com and support us,” Roberts said, closing his talk.
Shortly after the presentation, the website died thanks to an overload of traffic, so signs are good.