Star Citizen fans might possibly be the most patient group of humans in the universe. Not only have they tolerated one of the longest and loudest development cycles for a game in history, they’ve continually poured out their wallets to make the space epic’s feature creep a reality, making Star Citizen the most expensive game in history.
But even the diehard have their limits.
A thread on the official Star Citizen sub-reddit has been gaining a lot of steam over the last 72 hours. The main point of contention? A promise made by the Star Citizen developers earlier this year to include more Squadron 42 — that’s the single-player focused offshoot of Star Citizen, for those who haven’t kept track — content into their regular updates.
Here was the specific promise from Cloud Imperium Games back in March, days before the whole planet went into lockdown:
When we first embarked on this Roadmap journey two years ago, our goal was to make communication more transparent, specific, and insightful for all of you who help make Star Citizen and Squadron 42 possible. While this goal remains unchanged, we’ve found that the format in which we’ve attempted to visualize our progress linearly does not match the approach we’re taking in the development of Squadron 42.
We want to be clear: progress on Squadron 42 is happening and we’re broadly happy with that progress. But we know that our roadmap is not reflecting that progress. Over time, we’ve found that the roadmap as presented does not and cannot accurately represent development on a AAA chapter-based, story-driven game like SQ42. So, we’re going back to the proverbial drawing board to explore different approaches for Squadron 42.
With immediate effect, we will incorporate more Squadron 42 content into our regular Sprint Reports on ISC, Calling All Devs, AMAs (Ask Me Anything Q&As), and more. In addition to our scheduled content such as the SQ42 Monthly Report, we’re also looking forward to providing regular video check-ins with Brian Chambers and a variety of members of the Squadron 42 team.
The impact of the post meant that the public Squadron 42 updates were suddenly a lot less public. While regular communication on Star Citizen continued, and backers received monthly Squadron 42 news through email newsletters, the extra communications and visibility on Squadron 42‘s release has never emerged.
Given Star Citizen‘s history of oversharing — more than any developer before them — the sudden lack of clarification has gotten backers, unsurprisingly, a bit upset. Some aggrieved users went as far as to put together an Imgur album of quotes from Star Citizen executives, including Chris Roberts, outlining promises and timelines quoted over the last several years. The discord has been growing on the official Star Citizen forums too.
Concerns around Star Citizen‘s development have been rising within the Star Citizen community for a little while. A lengthy post last week from a “senior software developer”, and relitigated by Star Citizen update channel BoredGamer below, outlined some of the glaring issues the community has with the level of bugs in Star Citizen‘s persistent universe.
“On top of that, the game is (so) broken that it’s barely playable. If bugs were hotfixed and the overall gameplay experience were more polished and more stable during the current alpha, I could almost guarantee there would be more players pledging ships – which would mean more money to spend on development – which would mean the dream of the fully realized MMO (and S42) coming true a lot sooner,” the post reads.
Star Citizen‘s bug woes aren’t unique to the space MMO, but the level of communication Cloud Imperium Games have maintained over the last several years have left it in a unique quandary. The developer still communicates vastly more than, really, just about any other developer does. That’s the nature of the project. And when your company is still raising millions of dollars every month amidst a global recession and pandemic, fans are going to get even crankier.
Something that’s not mentioned in a lot of these complaints is what the impact of the coronavirus might have, or still be having, on development. But to be fair, it’s also something that hasn’t been addressed in the last four Squadron 42 email updates. There’s lots of granular detail on individual bits of tech, animations, reductions in DirectX function calls, fixes to performance regression, working on technical debt, and all the nitty gritty that goes into the development of a AAA title.
There’s just none of the detail that really matters to most: A release date. And given how the last few months have gone, it doesn’t seem like one will emerge any time soon. Squadron 42 entered the year with, if not a promise, then a hopeful target of launching by the end of the year. It’d be perfectly understandable for that target to be missed — coronavirus has thrown everyone’s plans into disarray.
All that’s left for Cloud Imperium Games to do, really, is tell people. But in a way, that’s also the problem.