Today Chris Roberts showed off three portions of his space game to be/end all space games, Star Citizen. Portions of the demo were definitely impressive, but the game's still got a ways to go.
You can view the entire obscenely lengthy presentation — complete with a cosplay showcase and a raffle to win Chris Roberts' jacket for some reason — below. However, the important parts (read: gameplay) come at 33:15, 48:50, and 1:34:00. Unfortunately, the audio isn't working for some of it. Let us join hands and blame Twitch.
In the presentation, Roberts and co presented demos of Star Citizen's social, FPS, and multi-crew space combat modules. Each is being developed at a different Cloud Imperium Games studio, and it shows. Quality and relative completeness varies wildly between the three.
The social module came first, and it's also releasing the soonest. If all goes according to plan, it will be out "in a couple weeks." The first version will let you and your friends walk around a menacing, slightly grimy cityscape that possesses a pretty impressive sense of scale. However, it also seems fairly constrained and, frankly, bland. There's a main plaza and corridors and interiors you've seen in a hundred other sci-fi games and... yep. Future versions will apparently include NPCs and the ability to interact with shops (weapons, clothes, a job center, etc), but it looks to be launching pretty barebones. Roberts also noted that, while there won't be any PVP on planetside areas like the one in the social module, maybe you'll be able to get mugged by NPCs or something like that. Maybe. At the moment, it sounds more like a twinkle of an idea than a fully fleshed out feature.
After that, Roberts gave a morsel of screen time to a demo of Star Marine, Star Citizen's FPS module. It was easily the roughest of the three, more a means of saying that the rumours of its death had been greatly exaggerated than announcing that it'd be live anytime soon. As people ran around and shot each other — in a decidedly non-scripted fashion, which is admirable given how often game conference demos feel like they're being filmed in front of a live studio audience — bullets magically missed their mark, people keeled over for what appeared to be no reason, and it looked extremely tough to tell when players were getting shot. Roberts confessed that there's still a lot of work to be done, but he noted that the animation system — which stays consistent between first and third person views, unlike some other shooters — is making good progress. Star Marine will hopefully be out shortly before Citizen Con, which takes place in early October.
Direct feed footage of Star Citizen's multi-crew functionality, courtesy of PCGamesN.
Last up was a demo of multi-crew ship functionality, a portion of the upcoming Arena Commander 2.0 module. While the presentation itself was a mess (PLEASE JUST PICK ONE CAMERA AND STICK TO IT FOR MORE THAN FIVE SECONDS), this portion of the game showed legitimate promise. Everything felt enormous when players were running around outside their ships as tiny gnat men or boarding derelict crafts to take them over. The actual space in which everything happened was far larger than Arena Commander 1's comparatively claustrophobic 8km. In a single quantum jump, the in-game crew covered a few million miles. Roberts said you could fly that space at regular speed too, if you really wanted.
The actual multi-crew functionality was impressive, but it didn't quite blow me away. Once players got a larger ship up and running, one steered and the rest manned turrets. I was hoping to see people scampering around and putting out fires, monitoring the ship's inner-workings, or slipping out into space and boarding slower enemy vessels. The battle we got instead was typical, semi-slow-paced Star Citizen fare, just with more people occupying each vessel. It looked pretty cool, but not stellar.
What Roberts and co showed looked like it could be fun to play with some more polish, so that's encouraging. Still, I couldn't help but notice that, in the grand scheme of things, there still wasn't a whole lot to, you know, do. The social module pretty much just let you walk around and, um, dance, shooting looked like it won't hold a candle to genre kingpins for quite a while, and Arena Commander 2.0 struck me as an upgrade to a demo — not the meaty muscles and bones of a complete video game.
Will all these disparate elements come together to form the massive fucking video game balanced on four giant elephants standing on the back of an even giant-er turtle we were promised? Time will tell. Don't get me wrong: it is heartening to see some of the fruits of CIG's labour start to ripen. But for a game — one of the most ambitious ever, no less — that's set to release in 2016, it looks awfully early.
We're continuing to follow Star Citizen closely, and we hope to report everything we've found out soon.