Wing Commander creator reveals Star Citizen, his first game in a decade

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One month after his surprise announcement of new game studio Cloud Imperium Games, Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts has unveiled his first game since 2003’s Freelancer. PC exclusive Star Citizen looks like a successor to Roberts’ dramatic science fiction adventures of the ‘90s but with the graphical glitz of modern AAA games.

“At its core, Star Citizen is a destination, not a one-off story,” writes Roberts on the studio’s homepage, “It’s a complete universe where any number of adventures can take place, allowing players to decide there own game experience. I’ve always wanted to create one cohesive universe that encompasses everything that made Wing Commander and Privateer/Freelancer special. A huge sandbox with a complex and deep lore allowing players to explore of play in whatever capacity they wish.”

In short, he wants to make the science fiction game to end all science fiction games, melding the freedom of PC classics like Elite with the deep story building of his own famous series. Easier said than done. Roberts’ is claiming his game will do it all while still being a technological powerhouse. How realistic is that goal?

Since opening the studio in 2011, Roberts says that he and his team have put together the assets (art, story, etc.) for Star Citizen’s world as well as a substantial prototype of the game, but the persistent online world he’s promising, with both single- and co-operative play, won’t be ready until 2014. That’s if and only if actual players fund the game and play the prototype. Cloud Imperium is selling 200,000 alpha slots to backers of the game at $40 a pop. (The game, when it’s released, will be $60.) $8 million in crowd funding is a far more ambitious goal than the average Kickstarter project, but the average Kickstarter project doesn’t invite backers to automatically help test the game. Roberts is aiming for total funding, when private investment is included, of around $15 million.

“The PC gaming business is still a pretty strong valid business, but it hasn’t been getting a lot of love recently,” Roberts told Eurogamer, “I want to come back. That’s where I made my name. PC is the place where a lot of great games were started. Even a lot of the top console franchises started on the PC. I want to do my part.”

Cloud Imperium Games has a long road to ho. Roberts cites Minecraft as an example of a game that didn’t need a massive publisher to support, but Minecraft, vast and dense a game as it is, didn’t need $15 million to develop.