Chris Roberts returns to the stars to make a game that will hopefully see the rebirth of a dormant genre.
Late last year, I had the pleasure of interviewing space-sim legend, Chris Roberts. As you may well be aware, Chris is the mind behind classic space simulators such as Freelancer, Privateer and Wing Commander. Now that he’s returned from making movies in Tinseltown, he has his HUD sights set on creating a PC-only, super-ambitious space sim otherwise known as Star Citizen. For those who’ve purchased and read the latest edition of PC & Tech Authority, you’ve already seen the meatiest parts of the interview. For everyone else, go buy the mag! What’s reflected below is an abridged version of my interview with Chris. (Bear in mind that this interview took place one week before the end of the crowd-sourcing drive.)
Atomic: What’s the public reception to Star Citizen been like thus far?
Chris: It’s been awesome, it’s been really good. It’s actually quite nice. Obviously, I went away for quite a while, and so it’s really nice to come back and see pretty much, universally on the press side, how enthusiastic and excited people were, but also just on the fan side or the community side. We’ve got about 45,000 people who’ve already backed what we’re doing, and it’ll probably end up being closer to 60-70,000 at the end of the time. We’ve got a good shot at being the number one… well, we’ll definitely be the number two, but we could be the number one crowd-funded thing, to date. We’ll see what happens, but it’s quite nice when you’ve gone a way for a while and people still remember you. I’m feeling quite decent about that.
Atomic: Have you had any support from within the industry, outside of press?
Chris: Definitely. Yeah, yeah, so even before I was doing this, I was kind of having some talks with people like Alienware and NVIDIA and Logitech and Razer and stuff. I want to focus on PC and sort of build high-end PC and embrace peripherals and embrace all that kind of stuff. A lot of the stuff that I used to do with my old games… and obviously a lot of the big publishers are very focused on the console, which is a different kind of setup, market. I think there’s a lot of support from the high-end PC gaming industry, so to speak, for what we’re doing. They’re all like, ‘Look, we want to give you a computer, we want to give you this equipment, do this.’ And then the competition [to win an Alienware PC] was really just about, they were actually not giving us 40,000 things, so we’re trying to think what would be the best way that everyone would have a shot at it, versus just putting a bit of a swag in a more expensive pledge level, which only one person will get, we thought, why don’t we just… everyone’s already trying to get their friends to join the game anyway, let’s make it a bit of a fun competition and the winner gets a badass computer, an Oculus Rift, and all that kind of stuff. That’s kind of how the competition came around.
Atomic: You did mention PC-only there. Isn’t that a bit risky in this multiplatform-loving world we game in?
Chris: No, I don’t think so. I mean, World of Tanks is pretty much only PC. League of Legends is pretty much only PC. World of Warcraft is only PC. Diablo is only PC. They all seem to be doing quite well. I mean, I think from my standpoint, yeah, it’s great when it’s on a whole bunch of platforms, but if it’s going to compromise the gaming experience that you can do, I think you have to make a choice. So, for me, I think, there’s a big enough community in the PC gaming world that will support this, and they’re a pretty loyal audience. They also tend to be an audience that… they’re not your mobile gaming audience that’s used to getting everything for free or 99 cents; they don’t mind paying if it’s quality content, which is what you need to do something that’s a sort of ambitious quality project. I mean, I also feel like it’s an audience that doesn’t really get a lot of stuff made specifically for them, so I feel I can be maybe a bigger fish in a smaller pond in that situation. I think this whole world where everyone’s focused on trying to get 300-million players or a billion downloads, Angry Birds style, I don’t think you always necessarily need to chase the most number of people. Sometimes you need to chase a small number of loyal people that really like your kind of game, and then you can have a profitable niche that you deal in, and that’s where I’d rather go. I don’t really want to be competing with Activision on Call of Duty or something, I’d rather… there’s a bunch of space-sim fans who love space, I love space, I want to build a game for you guys. That’s kind of my approach.
Atomic: Kudos for the PC love. I’m definitely all for it. Why do you think it is that devs have turned away in more recent years from PC and are now finally coming back?