Chris Roberts, creator of cult space sim series Wing Commander, has returned with a new game he hopes will melt your PC.
Star Citizen is a PC exclusive that looks for all intents and purposes like a modern day Wing Commander sequel. Its debut trailer, built using in-game assets, is above.
Roberts, who has been out of the public eye for the best part of a decade, founded developer Cloud Imperium Games Corporation in April 2011. He has alongside a small team worked on the creation of art assets, story elements and an extensive prototype of Star Citizen, a persistent online universe due out at some point in 2014.
Star Citizen features a dynamic economy and an open world. Roberts describes it as a mash up of Freelancer and Privateer, two of his previous games, and a Wing Commander game. The single-player mode can be played offline or co-op with friends in a similar fashion to the way players impact each other's games in Demon's Souls, he said.
The story revolves around a political drama inspired by the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. But players will be most concerned with Squadron 42, a sort of sci-fi French Foreign Legion. 42 has a reputation for always pulling through even during the most difficult of missions, and your goal is to get accepted into its ranks.
This being an online game of sorts, Roberts will add micro-updates over time. An example could be a new star system or a set of new missions. Players will be able to name a star system if they are the first to chart it, then sell those charts to space corporations for virtual currency.
Roberts and his team are still fleshing out much of the game mechanics, but he did show Eurogamer a working demo, which included third-person pilot movement in a space carrier and space combat, switching between third-person and in cockpit views. Space ships operate under a procedural physics system, with thrusters generating forces on the rigid body of the craft for realistic motion. Star Citizen will support stereoscopic 3D and the Oculus Rift headset, which, Roberts believes, will make for even more immersive in cockpit dogfights.
The most impressive thing about the game at this stage is the fidelity of the CryEngine-powered visuals, which Roberts admits are a deliberate ploy to "melt hardcore gamers' PCs".
"I'm a gamer," he told Eurogamer. "I've never made any game I've made in my life because I'm like, oh, I'm going to sell a million or two million or three million copies and make lots of money. The reason I built Wing Commander was I saw Star Wars as a kid and I always wanted to be the hotshot star fighter and save the galaxy, and not just watch it but go and do it.
"What I'm building now is something I'm missing. I've always had high-end PCs and played PC games, but I also have consoles. Quite frankly, most of the time I'll play the game on a console because I know they built the game for the console. I think there's a fair number of people like me who have PCs and consoles and do what I do. I'm not going to play Call of Duty on my PC. I'm going to play it on my console because that's what I feel like it was built for.
"There are about 40 million people on Steam. PC gamers aren't getting the love. It's an open platform. It's changing all the time. It's always creatively interesting and there's no-one controlling what you can or can't do, which is a problem on the closed console platforms.
"If you're online and you're on PC, you can make money and you don't need to be selling four or five million units. You don't have the same inventory risk. People like me probably represent a million or two million unit sales. There's an opportunity right now to come into the business if you focus on PC and sophisticated gamers who aren't getting a lot of content and say, look, I'm one of you. I want to make a game for you guys. Hopefully, and I could be completely wrong, they'll be like, that sounds fresh to me.
The PC gaming business is still a pretty strong valid business, but it hasn't been getting a lot of love recently. I want to come back. That's where I made my name.
"The PC gaming business is still a pretty strong valid business, but it hasn't been getting a lot of love recently. I want to come back. That's where I made my name. PC is the place where a lot of great games were started. Even a lot of the top console franchises started on the PC. I wan't to do my part. I'm a PC owner. I'm a PC game player and I'm proud of it. I'm going to stand up and be counted."
Roberts will create Star Citizen without a publisher. He has private investment, but needs to do "an element" of crowd funding to raise between two and four million dollars and validate the private investors' valuation of the project. The game itself will cost between 12 million and 14 million dollars to create.
"I can make it for this price because I'm not making it inside the system," he said. "If I did it inside the system that would be $20+ million."
Roberts decided not to use Kickstarter to raise the money because "it's an extra step between the developer and the community". Instead, the game's online face will be robertsspaceindustries.com, where Star Citizen will eventually launch. It contains a custom crowd funding plug-in that goes live today.
Those who support the game early will get to play builds ahead of the release of the final version. Roberts hopes a year from now an alpha multiplayer version of the game will be available. This won't take place in the persistent universe, but will act like a World of Tanks battle session. 10 months after this release the alpha persistent world will launch, with the full game due out just over two years from now, at some point late 2014.