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How Do You Solve A Problem Like Star Citizen?



FULL DISCLOSURE: I backed Star Citizen at the $30 tier.

It has been a challenging few weeks and months for Cloud Imperium Games and Chris Roberts, who are currently developing Star Citizen – the most backed crowdfunded game to date (currently $90 million and counting).

This is not going to be an editorial that tears into the recent Escapist-Star Citizen battle royale; for that you can use Google and find plenty of other examples of it; this is a good one. This editorial will instead examine unrealistic expectations both from games at large and Kickstarted games in particular.

Star Citizen‘s Kickstarter campaign concluded in 2012, with a projected release date of November 2014. Obviously that date has come and gone, but what do they have to show for it? Quite a lot actually, if you can cut through both the pro and anti-SC hype. Full disclosure here: I did back Star Citizen to the tune of $30 (I know, high roller) largely due to my near-obsessive love of Freelancer. Star Citizen has been intentionally designed using a modular system, meaning that the game has several different “pieces” which can be released in stages. The two most high-profile of these are its single-player campaign, dubbed “Squadron 42”, and the MMO-like persistent universe.

Other smaller modules have already been released to backers, such as the Hangar module, where you can walk around your ship’s hangar and both look at and get in any ships you have purchased. It’s fairly basic, but is quite cool. After that came the dogfighting module (“Arena Commander”) which was released to backers in 2014. Both of these modules are fully playable, and continue to be developed in addition to Squadron 42 and the persistent universe. The point I’m making: this is not vapourware. Very real parts of Star Citizen exist, and I and other backers can login and play them today.

Now, the issue here is that the game’s projected release date has slipped quite significantly from its original November 2014 timeframe. I would submit that CIG became a little too successful, and did not account for raising close to $100m from their crowdfunding efforts. Raising such large sums of money has been the main impetus behind adding other modules such as “Planetside” aka the social module, whereby you will actually be able to leave your ship and walk around planets, space stations, and other installations, interacting with the environment.

Another module added as a result of the crowdfunding was an FPS component known as “Star Marine”. You can argue that instead of adding these other features that CIG and Chris Roberts should have just shunted that money into delivering what was promised in the Kickstarter campaign and nothing else, but that was not the direction they chose to move in. CIG wanted to make the best, biggest game they can that will stand the test of time, and not just another space sim that would be “good enough” for most people. I have no strong opinions one way or the other. I would obviously love to have the finished game in my hands right now, but on the other hand some of what they have added looks genuinely exciting.

And this brings me to my larger point: the time to sit down and judge whether this has all been worth it will be after the game is released. I know this is a novel concept, but trying to review art (and whatever you think about games I think it’s clear that a great deal are works of art – to a greater or lesser extent) before it’s finished is an exercise in futility.

I would give two examples here. The first is Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight. I remember first reading about it, and I could not have been less enthusiastic. I was convinced that this was going to be Christopher Nolan’s first misstep in his Batman films, and an iconic character such as the Joker was going to be completely ruined by Ledger’s portrayal of him. Well, we all know how that turned out, and his (sadly posthumous) Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor has rarely been given to a more deserving performance.

Example two is Team Fortress 2. I was a big, big Team Fortress Classic player back in the day, and Team Fortress 2‘s long development cycle became something of my white whale: always slightly out of reach. When Valve began to finally reveal what TF2 had evolved into, with its incredibly cartoony, stylized approach, I was aghast. “They’ve ruined the game!” I complained to anyone who would listen, and was convinced it would bomb and sully the good name of Team Fortress. Well, TF2 has gone on to win numerous accolades, and I am well into four digits of hours played, so… apparently it turned out ok!

I cannot sit here and tell you that Star Citizen will be great, or terrible, or somewhere in between because the truth is I don’t know. I cannot see the future. I do know that other Kickstarted and crowdfunded games, such as FTL, Shadowrun Returns, Shovel Knight, and literally dozens of others have come out to both critical and commercial acclaim – but at the same time there are plenty that have crashed and burned, and some of them burned hard.

If this was 5-6 years after Star Citizen‘s Kickstarter and it still wasn’t released, then I think questions should be asked with regards to funding and the game’s development. Barely three years in though? It’s simply too soon to get into that right now. Backing any crowdfunding project is a gamble, and more than one person has found themselves sans money and any promised rewards. Unfortunately that’s how it works. Someone looking to back a project needs to do their homework and decide for themselves whether they believe in the people proposing it, and if they think it can be delivered.

I hope Star Citizen will be great, and so far nothing I have seen has persuaded me that it won’t be, but there’s only real way to find out. Ask me again in a  year or two, and you’ll likely have your answer.

This article is an opinion editorial which reflects the views of the author and may not represent the entirety of OnlySP as an organisation.

I write about PC games and sometimes it even makes sense. I'm a refined Englishman, but live in Texas with my two young children whom I am training in the ways of the Force.


Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019



Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.


Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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