Star Citizen boss rests feature delay blame on COVID, touts rise in new players, and marks a path to beta

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Chris Roberts has seen fit to peer down from his tower and issue his annual Letter from the Chairman, which looks back at the prior year’s pitfalls and advances for Star Citizen over the past several months and offers some vague windows for major updates, all sprinkled with another smattering of hopes, dreams, and promise.

The first portion of the address acknowledges the delay of many features to the game’s persistent universe, assigning blame to work-from-home requirements imposed by COVID-19. “When everyone is working remotely it becomes more of a slog to problem solve on the fly, or easily get or give feedback, and you end up with far more meetings / video calls,” Roberts writes. “I personally felt the difference in our release cadence; it took us a little longer to get each patch out than before, and it became harder to solve or fix bugs which hung around longer than previously.”

With that said, Roberts does promise that despite moving back to their offices, the various studios that comprise CIG are altering work policies to allow more flexible hours and hybrid in-person and WFH options depending on management needs, employee needs, and employee life situations.

In spite of the slowed release cadence, Roberts notes an increase in player numbers for Star Citizen overall, with over 2,000 new players joining the PU as of alpha 3.17’s release, a 50% growth in daily active users since December 2020, nearly one million new accounts created since 2020, and more than half a million new pledging players joining the game. The game’s growth is on track to break 4 million total accounts, over 1 million unique logins this year, and more than $500 million in lifetime revenue according to Roberts.

The letter then moves on to outline its “road to 4.0,” which is composed of persistent entity streaming (PES) tech development that allows for significantly more persistence, the introduction of server meshing, and finally the release of the Pyro system. PES tech has successfully worked as intended in an internal build, and is due to arrive in alpha 3.18 after an extended period of Evocati and public testing phases; testing is planned to run for about two to three months in total, with a projected release sometime in the third quarter.

Once PES is implemented, server meshing work can begin, starting with static server meshing (SSM) and then dynamic server meshing. After that, the Pyro system is set to arrive along with more content, gameplay, and polish that will “get [SC] to beta.” Testing timelines for these features are nebulous, but Evocati players should start taking their first stabs at server meshing in the fourth quarter of this year and a projected arrival to live sometime in the tail end of Q1 2023, though Roberts leaves open the possibility of timelines adjusting based on how well the tech works in PTU.

Roberts then moves on to talk about the growing head count of CIG, noting the opening of new offices in Manchester, UK, and Frankfurt, Germany, along with plans to move the Austin, TX studio to a new building and expand the Los Angeles, California office. Ultimately, the studio is set to grow to approximately 840 people in total.

Finally, the letter nods in the direction of the next CitizenCon, announcing that the event will once more be a digital one, and the event will not have a keynote demonstration this year, since putting together one will “pull valuable resources away from our game development teams that are working hard to get persistent streaming, Gen 12/Vulkan, and server meshing in [players’] hands.” The letter further notes that Squadron 42 isn’t going to be brought forth either, as the team is “not quite there yet” in terms of releasing the campaign.

source: official site, thanks to Fastcart, Mothballshow, and Eggbert for the tip!
Longtime MMORPG gamers will know that Star Citizen was originally Kickstarted for over $2M back in 2012 with a planned launch for 2014. As of 2022, it still lingers in an incomplete but playable alpha, having raised over $450M from gamers over years of continuing crowdfunding and sales of in-game ships and other assets. It is currently the highest-crowdfunded video game ever and has endured both indefatigable loyalty from advocates and immense skepticism from critics. A co-developed single-player title, Squadron 42, has also been repeatedly delayed.
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