Last week a Star Citizen (opens in new tab) player made a video about its atmospheric room system, which has been in the works for four years, expressing frustration with the amount of progress made. Cloud Imperium Games director Chris Roberts replied on the Star Citizen forum, saying that the systemic approach being taken would mean more emergent possibilities, but "The downside of this approach is that it takes longer to see results as opposed to scripting actions as you have to build the fundamental systems first and have them interact with each other before the full extent of the gameplay becomes apparent."
His appearance caused a brief fuss, with the video's maker addressing him directly to say, "What you, Chris, describe in your comment would take at the very least take another 10-20 years."
Roberts replied at length (opens in new tab), providing some insight into his thinking as well as the game's future.
Roberts began philosophically, saying that, "My biggest disappointment with modern internet discourse is that there's a significant amount of cynicism, especially in forum or reddit debates, and a portion of people assume the worst. If a feature is missing, late or buggy it's because the company or the developer lied and or / is incompetent as opposed to the fact that it just took longer and had more problems than the team thought it would when they originally set out to build it."
He went on to say that Star Citizen's developers can be just as frustrated by how long things take, pointing out that, "Management doesn't dictate timelines, we just set priorities for the teams as there are always a lot more things to do at any one time than we have people to do them."
He explained that as Star Citizen grows the amount of work it takes to maintain what's there also grows, creating a tension between the desire to add new features and the need to improve and provide support for what's already there. This has led to the new format for quarterly Star Citizen roadmaps (opens in new tab), which include several caveats—like the note that singleplayer component Squadron 42, "will only be released when we have achieved our final, polished, creative vision."
Among Star Citizen's players (hi, I own a ship) its community is often called fractious and argumentative, but compared to almost every other forum for a specific game on the internet, Star Citizen's forum is a den of civility. It's hard to imagine a director descending into their own forum elsewhere with an essay like this and having it responded to, even by those who remain upset, with predominantly thoughtful and articulate statements.
In Roberts' closing he notes that, "I can promise you the gameplay I described is not a pipe dream, nor will it take 10 to 20 years to deliver."
Star Citizen is currently having a Free Fly trial period (opens in new tab).