The recent delay of Star Marine, the FPS module of Chris Roberts' much-crowdfunded Star Citizen, has caused a stir of both criticism and defense of developer Cloud Imperium Games. The project has pulled in $85 million in crowdfunding over nearly three years, and there's still a lot to release, so it's understandably under a lot of scrutiny. But in a series of messages posted on the Roberts Space Industries forum, Ben Lesnick, CIG's director of community engagement, addressed the complaints point-by-point, and insisted that overall, things are going as they should.
First on the list is the statement that Star Marine has been "delayed indefinitely," which he said is not the same thing as not having a release date. "'Delayed indefinitely' is a games industry PR term for ‘cancelled.’ Anyone (and apparently this is a great many people) reading clickbait headlines will believe we’ve canceled Star Marine. This is not the case, to the point that it implies the absolute opposite of what’s actually happening," he wrote.
"The weekly updates from the team will give you a better idea [of what's happening], but the short story is that Star Marine was not ready for launch when we had hoped (and planned). We spent several weeks expecting that resolving a then-current crop of blockers would allow a PTU publish. When this didn’t happen, we conducted a full review of the module lead by our top technical folks from around the company. What they determined was what you read in Chris’ letter two weeks ago: we need to rebuild several ‘boring’ backend pieces and we need to fix serious animation issues before there would be any benefit to a release."
The delay is a matter of "weeks and not months/years/decades," said Lesnick.
CIG's long-standing practice of "concept sales" also gets coverage, as Lesnick said that concepts are generally outsourced to contractors who wouldn't otherwise wouldn't be working on the game, and thus aren't actually a draw on the studio's resources. Regular concept sales should be taken as a good sign, he explained, because they're evidence that "we have the [design] pipeline working properly," and ships that haven't yet moved from concept to production, like the Xi'An Scout, Constellation, Orion, and others, are all scheduled based on internal priorities: Squadron 42 at the top, followed by ships for Arena Commander 1.0, then Arena Commander 2.0, and finally those that don't fit into the current state of the game, like tugs, science ships, and miners.
Lesnick also had some reassuring words about the recent high-profile departures of Alex Mayberry, Travis Day, and Chelsea Ann Day as well. "As I said in a recent post, turnover sucks… but it’s a constant in this or pretty much any other industry," he wrote. "The sky is not falling."
From an outsider's perspective, I think it's valid to have some concerns about Star Citizen. After all, this is a game that's pulled in an unprecedented amount of funding from long-suffering space sim fans with (almost literally) stars in their eyes. But a project of this scale is bound to hit snags, too, and those problems will seem amplified when so many people have a stake in its success. There still isn't a target date for the Star Marine module, but it shouldn't be long before it's released if Lesnick's prediction holds.