For the last three and a half years my main video game has been StarCraft 2. I finished the main and expansion campaigns almost immediately, and the majority of my time has been spent playing against other players online.
I played several thousand games, and if I had to make a rough estimation of 10 minutes per game that’s several thousand hours of entertainment for $120 (original plus expansion).
In addition to play StarCraft, Sedagive? and I have spent a lot of time observing the StarCraft community and competitive scenes. We had our favorite professional players (I really like Grubby and MC) and our favorite StarCraft commentators (Sean “Day9″ Plott).
It was great participating in a community and watching live international tournaments.
And then at some point, the wind started to go out of my sails. I stopped playing 1v1 almost completely by the end of Wings of Liberty a played a lot of 2v2 or 3v3 games with my friends Ajar and Wurmr.
Heart of the Swarm (the expansion) came out this year and I played only enough 1v1 to pass the time before my partners got online. Wurmr was fortunate enough to have a son this summer, and given how shitty the weather is in Minnesota Ajar and I didn’t play much, either.
As professionals are leaving StarCraft to play other games, I am also leaving SC. I’ll be playing another SC — StarCitizen.
StarCitizen is spearheaded by Chris Roberts, who was the brain behind Wing Commander, Freelancer, and Privateer, as well as producing movies such as one of the Punisher films and Lord of War, the latter I really liked.
The game is actually two pieces: a single player campaign called Squadron 42, and a persistent online game. The best way I can describe the online persistent game is a flight simulator version of EVE Online, which I have also previously played and liked a lot. StarCitizen will put you behind the controls of a variety of spaceships and it is up to you (and your crew, if your ship is big enough) to fight, outrun, hide and out maneuver your opponents.
There’s a lot to learn about the game, and I won’t attempt to summarize it here. Some of my favorite parts about it so far are:
- 100% community crowdfunded via Kickstarter and an independent backing campaign. This means that Cloud Imperium Games (the folks making StarCitizen) won’t be beholden to publishers, investors, etc. Chris and his team are going to get a real chance to make the game they want to play. As of this writing, they’ve raised over $24.5 million USD and typically receive another million dollars every seven to ten days.
- Semi-automatic gameplay. What I mean by this is that you can fly with friends or fly with computer controlled players, or a mix. If you have a ship that requires a crew you can hire generic computer players to fill those roles, or use bonus character slots purchased from the fundraising stage to serve as more custom computer players, or your friends can join you and manually help fly the ship, fire weapons, use scanners, etc. Even better, human players can hotseat in and out at any time, which means you won’t be screwing your friends over if you have to go take care of your kid or feed the dogs or do some chores around the house.
- Play your own game. Want to be a pirate? Fine. Want to be a bounty hunter who hunts those pirates? Fine. Want to be a merchant that makes and sells goods that pirates want to pirate, which in turn generates missions for bounty hunters to hunt those pirates which in turn may create escort missions for your corporation and/or associate organizations? Fine. StarCitizen allows for all kinds of gameplay, similar to EVE and some other MMOs.
- No really, play your own game. The game has a big emphasis on flying the planes, but with a recent stretch goal it was announced that public transit would carry players over and between worlds. That’s right: if you don’t want to fly spaceships in a game about flying fucking spaceships, StarCitizen still has a spot for you.
- It’s beautiful. The game is being developed for top of the line hardware that won’t come out for another year or two. It was suggested that the development machines are liquid cooled and heavily modified to allow for capabilities beyond the cutting edges of computer hardware. All of the video footage and screen shots are made using the in-game engine. What you see is what you can play, if your computer is up to the task.
- One-time purchase retail model. Unlike most of the MMOs I’ve played (with the exception of the first Guild Wars), there’s no monthly fee. You buy the game (rumored to be $50 / $60) and you’re done. There will be micro-payments of some kind in the game, but I don’t know much more information than that.
- The alpha / beta will be in chunks. The full game won’t be done until late 2014 or early 2015, but the game is still being rolled out even this year. Parts of the games, called “modules,” will be published for the community to experience well ahead of the full release. For example, the hangar module is out right now and you can walk around and sit in whatever ships you own. The dogfighting module is supposed to come out this fall or winter, which will give backers a chance to fly around without waiting for the rest of the game to be done.
If you’re interested in getting your foot in the StarCitizen door you’d better hurry. The pledge period will end November, 2013. At this point all benefits / discounts / opportunities will be locked, and then you’ll have to pay full retail for the game and start from scratch.
I pledged enough to get two full copies of the game — one for me and one for Sedagive? — as well as two starting starships. My friend Bond was kind enough to gift me a two-person ship, so Sedagive? and I can start flying side by side from the very beginning. We’re so excited to play this game that we’re going to reorganize my home office so we can sit next to each other.
If you’re interested in learning about the pledge program you can check out the RSI pledge page.
If you want a little more reason to play the game, check out this trailer for the Hornet, one of the ships I’ll be flying. Remember, all of the footage is made by the game’s real graphic engine, so if your machine can handle it this is what it will look like. The camera control is altered for a cinematic experience, but the ships, effects, and environment will look like this.
So, after three and a half years of play, I don’t expect to be logging into StarCraft any more. But I will be logging into StarCitizen, and we’ll see what the future brings after another three and a half years.
You can’t take the sky from me.