Star Citizen is the most crowdfunded game in existence. After its initial round of crowdfunding finished back in 2012, leaving Star Citizen developer Cloud Imperium Games with $US6.2 million in funding, it's gone on to raise well over $US145 million in its lifetime.
That's certainly an impressive figure, but the trouble with Star Citizen is that Cloud Imperium Games still hasn't delivered on its promise. Originally slated for a 2014 release, Star Citizen has been delayed countless times, sliding from 2014 to 2015, then to 2016, and now it no longer has an expected release date.
Don't hold your breath on a release any time soon, either, as Cloud Imperium Games has shifted some of its focus to delivering another title in the Star Citizen universe. Known as Squadron 42, and slated to land by the end of this year, confidence in the franchise is waning as that too missed its initial release date of autumn 2015.
From the outside, Star Citizen basically just looks like a ponzi scheme. Scientology in video-game form, you might think, from the mind behind Wing Commander – both the game and the terrible film – but you'd be wrong. This isn't a cash cow left out in the field to graze, this is one of the most ambitious video games ever made, and it seems that no matter how much money feeds it, its ambitions just keep on growing.
To help give you a quick rundown of exactly what Star Citizen is and why you should care about it, we've collated your burning questions into a handy list.
Star Citizen: Everything you need to know
When is the Star Citizen release date?
I wish I could tell you, but it seems that even Star Citizen developer Cloud Imperium Games doesn't know when to expect it.
Fan pages have speculated that it will arrive by the end of 2018, with a beta starting at the end of 2017. Going by previous release schedules I'd say that's a rather ambitious estimate but, as the game's creator Chris Roberts has stated, Star Citizen won't have a traditional commercial launch, so it's entirely possible that it will leave alpha by the end of this year/start of next.
What is Star Citizen about?
It's hard to really say what Star Citizen is. It's such an ambitious title that it feels like it's no one thing, it can't fit into any single genre, but that's also part of its draw. In essence, Star Citizen is part Elite: Dangerous, part EVE: Online-style MMO, part sci-fi craft porn and part immersive first-person shooter. It's all things to all people, but that comes with a whole bunch of issues.
Currently very little is known about the general direction of the game and, as it stands, you'll only have to buy the full release once to have access to it for life. As far as big, open-world, MMOs go, that's one sweet cost of entry, and likely to change over time if Cloud Imperium Games wants to keep itself afloat when backers finally dry up after a final release. Micro transactions have already been confirmed, but they tend to be for aesthetic reasons rather than stat-boosting ones, and everything you can buy can also be earnt instead.
Why is Star Citizen taking so long to come out?
As you may have gleaned from the above section, Star Citizen is massively ambitious – and that's an understatement. The biggest problem Cloud Imperium Games has is nailing down a 'final' version of a game whose scope refuses to cease. With more backers jumping aboard to gain access to Star Citizen's alpha, more money flows into CIG's coffers, thus increasing its potential scope – just where do you stop when the funds seem almost never-ending?
Having been stuck in development now for five years, Star Citizen isn't just floating adrift in limbo as everybody thinks. Hopefully with the launch of Squadron 42 and the launch of its final module (two things I'll cover a bit further down), perhaps we'll be one step closer to completion. According to Star Citizen creator Chris Roberts, the underlying tech is almost entirely in place, meaning it's just world building and mission populating left to sort.
What do I get for backing Star Citizen now?
If you back Star Citizen now, it's not really all that clear what you get for your money. Original supporters and Kickstarter backers already have access to the Star Citizen Alpha 2.6 build and a smattering of ships. For newcomers, however, there's a slightly different set of ways you can get into a version of Star Citizen you can play.
Heading over to the Pledge or Game Packages section of the official Star Citizen website shows you what you can buy to enter into the world of Star Citizen. Ultimately these packages tend to revolve around either picking up Squadron 42 as a standalone purchase, or buying various ships to play with in the main persistent universe of Star Citizen. Each ship you buy gives you access into the Alpha build, and some of the higher-priced packages dish out some extra bonuses too.
If you're wondering how much a general ship will set you back, a base-level ship costs $54, which includes access to Star Citizen too. Bigger ships come in at around the $100-$150 mark, and if you start getting involved in buying the “Battle Pack”, “Fleet Pack” and other various “Pack” options, you're looking at spending anywhere from $1,300 up to $18,000. And fans wonder why some people call Star Citizen a scam…
Once you've picked up a pack you like the look of, you can also opt for insurance on your craft. Intended to help replicate and fuel the in-game economy, this allows you to replace your ship if something happens to it which, let's be honest, is likely to happen in the wilds of space.
Subscription options are also available to Star Citizen players, although these aren't essential. Subscriptions will provide you with some in-game bonuses like cosmetic items for your virtual hangar or a real-world digital monthly magazine about what's happening in Star Citizen's development team. It's clear this is really only intended for the Star Citizen purists.
Is Star Citizen coming to PS4 and Xbox One?
Envisioned first and foremost as a PC game, Star Citizen is still slated to arrive only on PC, with no confirmed PS4 or Xbox One builds in development or on the way. Star Citizen was initially built using CryEngine but now that it's running on Amazon Lumberyard it's more likely we could see console ports coming in the (distant) future.
Many have flagged current-generation consoles' lack of power as a reason why Star Citizen won't make the jump, but with the power available to Xbox Project Scorpio, there's really no excuse.
What are Star Citizen's different modules all about?
At the core of Star Citizen's design are modules. Cloud Imperium Games have worked on Star Citizen in chunks, focusing on laying the groundwork in four separate areas to help build up its gargantuan title with ease. These modules all work together to create a final product, but they're also completely standalone from one another to allow for players to dive into the areas they enjoy most while the game is still in development.
The first module to be released was the Hangar Module, essentially a viewing gallery for virtual starships, where you can explore every inch of the incredibly detailed craft in first-person view. Eventually the Hanger is intended for you to be able to see all your cargo organised inside a warehouse, rather than just viewing it as a static menu.
After Hangar came the Arena Commander Mode – basically a dogfighting module. Thanks to this addition pilots could take ships out into space and pit them against AI opponents or other players to see who's the better ace pilot. Arena Commander also lets you explore space in a free flight mode with no enemies around, or drop into a single-player mode known as Vanduul Swarm where you can square off against the computer with AI-controlled wingmen. A racing mode is planned, but for now you can enjoy a match of Capture the Core – basically Capture the Flag in space.
The final module that's coming is Star Marine, a first-person shooter expansion that lets you board and capture other players' ships from the eyes of a soldier. It's still not quite ready, and is seemingly going to arrive around the same time as Squadron 42 – as that's built using the same tech – but who knows?
There's also a Persistent Universe module, which is simultaneously already available yet still to come. Expected to release fully once Squadron 42 and the Star Marine module have landed, the Persistent Universe is the open-space MMO-style aspect of Star Citizen and thus combines all the modules into a final game.
What is Star Citizen's Squadron 42 game?
Having initially started as a stretch goal for Star Citizen's funding campaign, Squadron 42 is a standalone single-player campaign designed to feed into the Star Citizen universe while rewarding players with in-game Star Citizen bonuses. Described as a “spiritual successor to Wing Commander” by its developers, Squadron 42 centres around an elite military unit and your character's journey from enlisting in the United Empire of Earth (UEE) Navy to their eventual – and optional – citizenship. It plays out as a mix of spaceship combat and first-person shooter and apparently contains a complex conversation system and optional co-op play.
Initially slated to release in multiple chapters, with around 20 hours of gameplay on offer for each chapter, Squadron 42's first episode is still yet to arrive. When it does eventually turn up – which should be at the end of 2017 – voice talents such as Gary Oldman, Mark Hamill, Gillian Anderson and Andy Serkis are on board to provide voiceovers.
Where can I go to find out even more about Star Citizen?
With thousands of players already neck-deep in the current Star Citizen Alpha build, there are plenty of places you can go to find out about what's happening in Star Citizen or in the wider community. Heading over to Reddit's /r/starcitizen is a great place to start – although it's worth reading the FAQ before jumping in on the discussion. If Reddit seems too intimidating, the official Star Citizen forums are a good place to look, and you can also head to Imperial News Network for a rundown on anything Star Citizen-related.