Now, aside from learning that working 20-hour days at PAX East all weekend makes me look like some sort of bear-monster, we also learned a good deal about Star Citizen's PvP incentives, testing intentions, and ambitions. I'll recap the key points of the interview and the panel below, but before that, here's the video of the discussion panel (~40 minutes long):
For those who don't have the time to watch the panel entirely, here's a quick recap of some of the major elements (though we really do suggest watching -- the panel is quite funny and entertaining):
- Chris Roberts, as he has said many times before, is creating the game he's always wanted to play. In response to a question on balancing the "public sense of ownership" versus how it can be realistically designed, Roberts stated:
"There won't be anything in Star Citizen that isn't what I want in Star Citizen, but that doesn't mean that I don't listen to the community [...] The community is a bigger sounding board. The community will sort of run [everything] to the nth degree [they'll say], 'well, what about insurance fraud?' And that's something we may not have thought about until beta."
Roberts further noted that crowd-sourced development is a boon to his team, stating that "the team feels incentivized because they're directly connected to the community."
- He also talked about the scope of the game and how if a desired feature isn't up to his standards for Star Citizen, they won't implement it until later (or at all, depending on if it's technologically realistic). Planet-side combat was an example of this. Roberts noted that while planet-side combat has been requested and though CryEngine is natively prepped for such a feature, it wouldn't be added until post-launch because he'd want more time to refine combat for fluidity and to meet gameplay standards.
Chris Roberts has been in the industry for quite a while now, so he's well-versed in the monetization, the design ups-and-downs, and general progression of content over the years; this is all evidenced by his answers to questions in the panel, where he's able to constantly maintain an ambitious-yet-realistic view on game development and scaling. In fact, one of the best-phrased questions of the entire panel came out of an attendee, who asked at ~33:40 in the above video:
"There's always the contentious issue of pay-to-win, but also in a game like Star Citizen [...] there are things like new ships, new modules, [and] new weapons that really feel like a sense of accomplishment or progression. But on the other hand, there's the reality that with a single-purchase game and no subscription, you need money to fund the servers, the world, the dev team over a long period of time... so for instance, when you come across a beautiful, big ship, totally tricked-out, you never really know if they've done cool things in the game to earn it or if they've reached into their pocket. What are your thoughts on balancing the sense of progression or accomplishment for yourself and all those around you, versus the reality of needing to use microtransactions to fund your dev team?"
To which Roberts answered in great detail, and with an interesting note on in-game economy:
"For me, there's a couple things. My definition of pay-to-win is: 'You can buy something you can't earn in-game by just playing, and that item gives you an unfair advantage over someone else,' and I absolutely hate that. So there's nothing in Star Citizen that you won't be able to earn in game. In fact, there will be plenty of weapons and ships and items that you can only earn by in-game play. And by the way, all you'll be able to do—and we kind of need to do this because we need to support the game, we're probably not going to have enough people over time buying a package—is you'll be able to buy some credits with money, and we'll limit that on a monthly basis or something so someone can't spend all their money and flood the economy. For me, there's a lot of things that I'd like to see in terms of player progression -- we talked about having age on the ships and characters.
So if you see someone's got a brand new shiny ship, you can look at their [play/time] history and then you can look at someone who's got something a bit more beat-up and you have an idea of how much they've invested in the game. You can kind of discern whether someone's super-charged themselves. But I'd say for me it's import to make sure that people that have lots of time can get ahold of stuff they want, but also -- you know, there's a lot of Wing Commander fans and players out there that now have jobs and have kids, and don't have 40 hours to spend earning [all this stuff]. So I think it's important for me to say to these guys, 'I'll let you get some credits because you want to focus on dog-fighting, or...' you know, you can be all into combat or all into trading, there's a lot of areas you can focus on, so I don't want to give an unfair advantage to someone that's got all the time in the world and I don't want to give an unfair advantage to someone who's got all the money in the world."
Unfortunately we had to cut the panel video off at this point due to travel scheduling conflicts, but the content we managed to capture was fantastic and very informative. We walked away with a bit of insight to the crowd-sourced industry and bolstered hopes for Star Citizen; the game's still got a long way to go, but Roberts told us that he is still on-target for an alpha-phase dog-fighting build in 2013. They face logistical concerns with the alpha launch simply by the nature of having such a large base of players, but may work-out a way to release it in waves to ramp-up the servers. Strictly in terms of schedule, it sounds like everything is progressing as planned (and even a bit better than planned) - we're still looking at a 1-year alpha and 2-year launch. In fact, he noted that they've even discussed increasing the scope of the game to accommodate new ideas from the team and the backers.
Crazy. If you'd like to show some support for Star Citizen, the team, and Chris Roberts, go hit their website over here. As always, we've got more content in the pipe for Star Citizen and will be following-up somewhat regularly with development when possible, so be sure to check back, follow us, or subscribe via RSS.
Our thanks to Chris for taking time in his back-to-back day to meet with us; it was a lot of fun to just talk tech, hardware, and Star Citizen. Oh, and a shout to /r/StarCitizen for supplying some fantastic, community-sourced questions.
One final note: For our hardware enthusiast -- which most of you are -- you can check out a blog post on the RSI site with Chris' gaming/dev machines over here.
- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.