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"I do get a bit disappointed," he admits. "I mean, it's today's news cycle... If you're on the online 24/7 game blog, they don't have time to [do in-depth articles], so they're always about the headline. So for them it's like, 'Oh, Star Citizen's made X million or X million,' and everything focuses on the money. And then you can read it and say, 'Well, all they care about is the money.' Not really."
It is the distorting weight of $60m and counting, raised by some 640,000 backers, which has seen the developer variously accused of running a cult, a scam and, thanks to the $30 to $15,000 game packages on the Roberts Space Industries site, a pay-to-win operation. Alternatively, for the faithful, this is the second coming of Chris Roberts after a ten-year break from games. But Star Citizen's even harder to get a read on: it's a space dogfighting game, only with ships big enough to walk around and live in, except when it's an FPS, set in an online universe.
The problem for outside observers is really scale. Baffling, mind-boggling scale. "We're essentially giving them four huge games all in one," Chris explains. "Squadron 42 is going to be what, or better than what, a next-generation Wing Commander would have been, and that's just by itself. And its level of fidelity – I mean, the scope and the size of the story and the missions we're doing in it is huge. I mean, I'm pretty sure if I was doing another Wing Commander for EA, I don't think they would allow me to do as much content. Because right now I think we're estimating something like 50 hours or so to play through the full narrative story.
Five dev studios?
Ambition of this scale takes not one studio, but five, each working on separate modules of the game. While Chris heads up development on the persistent universe in Los Angeles, CIG also
has satellites in Texas and California. IllFonic, a relatively unknown quantity whose output includes the lukewarmly received Nexuiz, is in charge of the FPS module. Rather more promisingly, Erin Roberts is studio director of the Manchester-based Foundry 42, entrusted with creating the singleplayer campaign, Squadron 42.