Chris Roberts: Star Citizen gameplay 'is not a pipe dream'

Last week a Star Citizen 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, 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, 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.

Jody Macgregor
Weekend/AU Editor

Jody's first computer was a Commodore 64, so he remembers having to use a code wheel to play Pool of Radiance. A former music journalist who interviewed everyone from Giorgio Moroder to Trent Reznor, Jody also co-hosted Australia's first radio show about videogames, Zed Games. He's written for Rock Paper Shotgun, The Big Issue, GamesRadar, Zam, Glixel, Five Out of Ten Magazine, and, whose cheques with the bunny logo made for fun conversations at the bank. Jody's first article for PC Gamer was about the audio of Alien Isolation, published in 2015, and since then he's written about why Silent Hill belongs on PC, why Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale is the best fantasy shopkeeper tycoon game, and how weird Lost Ark can get. Jody edited PC Gamer Indie from 2017 to 2018, and he eventually lived up to his promise to play every Warhammer videogame.