Nine years and over $434,000,000 (£320m) after starting crowdfunding, space sim Star Citizen and its singleplayer spin-off Squadron 42 are still very far from completion. They’re sustained by fans’ hopes and dreams of what the games might one day become but this is a double-edged sword. The developers, Cloud Imperium Games have now decided to make their public development roadmap for future updates more vague, because some players get dead narked about delays. I can see that happening after nine years.
The devs explained in a blog post this week that they’re trimming the calendar section of their public roadmap tracker doodad because the schedule was causing upset every time a feature was delayed.
That Release View had plenty of warning that only plans for the nearest update were mostly solid, and that plans got hazier beyond that, and that features might always slip until later. But every time something did slip, people noticed, and some weren’t best pleased. I’d guess that’s partially because they’re, you know, running years late and, thanks to feature creep, still six eternities away from being done. So CIG are, uh, calling out their fans.
“It has become abundantly clear to us that despite our best efforts to communicate the fluidity of development, and how features marked as Tentative should sincerely not be relied upon, the general focus of many of our most passionate players has continued to lead them to interpret anything on the Release View as a promise,” they said. “We want to acknowledge that not all of you saw it that way; many took our new focus and our words to heart and understood exactly what we tried to convey. But there still remains a very loud contingent of Roadmap watchers who see projections as promised . And their continued noise every time we shift deliverables has become a distraction both internally at CIG and within our community, as well as to prospective Star Citizen fans watching from the sidelines at our Open Development communications.”
Anyone watching a game’s development should be aware that it’s hard and unpredictable. However, CIG should know better too. For nine years, they’ve sold dreams of what’s around the corner, using talk of tomorrow to lure players into buying more spaceships today. They’re raised $434 million largely from dreams of what the game might become. Yet tomorrow never comes. I can understand why some of the people who coughed up that $434m might have expectations, and might be frustrated watching tomorrow forever slide away.
I also note that one of CIG’s main stated concerns is that “continued noise” from malcontents is “a distraction” to “prospective Star Citizen fans”—ie people who might buy spaceships but are put off by complaints that it’s taking forever. Which, uh, yeah, newcomers should be wary of that. Here’s me warning you too: Star Citizen is still super-barebones compared to what they pitched, and (as with any early access game) you should only buy it if you want exactly the game it is right now. Quite a few spacemen like Star Citizen as is, and good for them! But if you’re buying the dream, be aware that it will take years to manifest, or might never.
The answer, as always, is to say less. CIG have now decided to limit that Release View to only the next quarter, only laying out plans for features they’re mostly certain will make it. They’re in a tight position: say too much about their plans, and people get annoyed when they don’t materialise; say too little, and people won’t buy more spaceships, and funding might grow short. I don’t envy them.
That’s probably my hot take: I don’t envy Cloud Imperium Games. Chris Roberts and company are seemingly getting to make the game of his ever-growing dreams, but they’re doing it beholden to the public at every step across a decade. They can’t just go quiet until it’s actually done. And it’s a situation entirely of their own making. Yeah, I don’t envy them.