Tonight saw the last day of Citizencon, Star Citizen's annual fan convention. As has become tradition, the event closed with a keynote from Chris Roberts, Cloud Imperium Games' CEO, which detailed Star Citizen's development road map and showed off some in-game footage of what CIG has been working on behind closed doors.
We recently ran a series of articles that result from seven months of investigation into the development of Star Citizen, the most successful crowdfunded game ever. If you want to get up to speed on its struggles you should read part one.
You can watch through the whole stream of the event on Twitch but I've collected together all the announcements below:
- The first announcement of the night is something called Star Citizen Spectrum. It's essentially Star Citizen's take on Battlelog. Spectrum is an app that can be opened in a browser, from your desktop, and on mobile devices and it lets players take part in text and voice chat with other people in the Star Citizen community. You can message people who are in the game and access organisation-only chatrooms (organisations are Star Citizen's equivalent of guilds).The first release is apparently “a few weeks out” (though, also described as “before the end of the year”, so there is some wiggle room).It’s a neat set of tools but it’s a little surprising to be the first announcement of the night. A lot of time is being given over to what is essentially a chat app.
- With the Spectrum announcement wrapped up, Chris Roberts takes to the stage to announce some not entirely surprising news: Squadron 42, Star Citizen's single player campaign, will not be making its 2016 release window. Apparently the team is currently working hard to complete one of the campaign's 28 chapters, so as to be able to show off what the campaign will be like, but Roberts wouldn't say when that will be managed. In fact, Roberts was clearly making a point of giving no release dates for the campaign.
- Roberts next talked about the 2.6 update:
First announced at Gamescom in August, the 2.6 update is supposed to add, among other things, Star Marine – Star Citizen's first-person shooter module. The 2.6 update hasn't yet had an official release date, though it is supposed to be a stepping stone towards the 3.0 update that is due before the end of the year. Presumably, then, 2.6 will be out before then. However, Roberts did not give any indication of when this update would be released.
- Roberts went into greater detail for some of the updates coming in 2.6. For instance, Arena Commander, the dogfighting module players currently have access to, is getting a string of changes:
CIG is working on introducing an updated flight model with 2.6, which will also affect the Arena Commander module.
- Next Roberts spoke briefly about Star Marine. Now, Star Marine was first shown off back in 2014 and was due for release in early 2015. It has had a long and troubled development that you can read about in more detail here. However, CIG thinks it will finally be coming out soon. The version it is releasing appears to be quite different from what was previously shown.
The original Star Marine was an objective-based, team shooter set around a space station map called The Gold Horizon. The new version will release with two maps and two modes. Neither the maps or the modes seem to be the same as what was previously shown:
There was no mention of the zero-G sports game, SATA Ball, which had previously been announced.
Also, considering all this content is apparently due for release in the near future, it was surprising that no in-game footage of the updated modules was shown. Although CIG has talked about Star Marine coming in 2.6, it hasn't properly shown the FPS module in action.
- Roberts moved from the brief overview of 2.6 to a look at what will be contained in the 3.0 update. Again, Roberts gave no new indication of when the 3.0 update would be released.
3.0 looks to be a significant update for Star Citizen. It is set to bring professions like trading, piracy, and bounty hunting to the space sandbox – systems that will give players purpose. It should be the update that makes Star Citizen start to resemble the game we've been hearing so much about these past four years.
Along with professions will be the release of the whole Stanton system. The current releases players can explore – Port Olisar and Grim Hex – are located in the Stanton System but there are many planets and stations that aren't yet reachable.
- Roberts then proceeded to reveal what was slated for the updates following 3.0, fleshing out the release road map for players. Though, again, this was with no release dates to be held to.
3.1 will focus on the mining profession:
- 3.2 introduces the ability for players to both repair each others ships and salvage goods from wrecked vessels:
- Farming and rescue missions are next:
- And, in the far off future is the 4.0 release, which will finally expand the game beyond a single star system. CIG has promised to create at least 100 of them so, clearly, it has its work cut out for them:
- What came next was deeply impressive: the in-game demonstration of Star Citizen's planetary landing technology. I've gone into much greater detail in a separate post, but let me summarise: Star Citizen has a planet where Star Wars' sand people fight Dune's sand worms.
- The demo was followed by a a look at the engine technology that allows CIG to both procedurally generate the surface of vast planets and have artists go in and detail the landscape by hand. It was all a great advertisement for what the technical team has managed rewrite the CryEngine to do.
You can watch the last few (and best) minutes of the planetary demo and the engine demonstration in this clip below:
Responses to the conference that I've seen have been mixed. The planetary technology has been largely well received – as I said earlier, it is deeply impressive to have such a highly detailed game running seamlessly – but the absence of Squadron 42 and the news of its delay has been a disappointment. The lack of release dates for the 2.6 and 3.0 update leaves players in the lurch, too. It's not clear what exactly players can expect to release in 2016 and what will slip into 2017.