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William George (Product Development)

Our Favorite Games: Star Citizen / Arena Commander

Written on May 22, 2014 by William George

There is a game in development I have been following for almost a year now, which I am extremely excited about. For anyone who was into PC gaming back in the 90s, the genius behind the Wing Commander series of games and Freelancer has returned to the game scene, to create the ‘best darn space simulator ever’: Star Citizen. It is a very ambitious project, entirely crowd-funded, with almost $44 million raised so far from its fanbase. I’ve contributed more than I would care to admit myself, alongside over 450,000 other ‘backers’.

Because this game is being crowd funded, the development team has opened up to the game’s backers - giving information out in a consistent stream, and details that would normally only be delivered to a publisher that was funding the game. We are the publisher, in a sense, and getting to be this involved in the process of making a game is fascinating and engrossing to me.
With that said, the first playable phase of the game is about to be released. What has been referred to for months as the ‘dogfighting module alpha’ now has a name: Arena Commander. It is going to be a space combat simulator, with several play modes:

   - Free flight

   - Single player vs waves of enemy swarms

   - Multiplayer free-for-all

   - Multiplayer team battles
The latter has been described as being akin to a game like World of Tanks, but in space of course. I think it is the portion of Arena Commander that most people are looking forward to, but I am planning to spend a decent amount of time in free flight to master the controls… and then I will be using the more predictable / repeatable swarm mode to do some benchmarking.
Perhaps the coolest fact about this release, though, is that it is actually going to be a part of the final game’s persistent universe as well. It is a game within the larger game: a way you can practice and play with other folks inside the game universe, without actually risking your ‘real’ ships in combat. The developers even released a bit of in-universe fiction to explain where the game came from, as they have done with other fiction pieces detailing all sorts of aspects of the rich world they are creating.
For those who want to learn more about the game, there is a wealth of info on the official Star Citizen website. The original video from the announcement in late 2012 has a good summary of the game’s vision as well, and there are dozens more videos from the course of development on their YouTube channel.

If you have ever enjoyed space-based video games, Star Wars movies, or sci-fi and gaming in general I would highly recommend checking this out! I will be doing some benchmark articles on the game's performance in the coming weeks, and likely another blog post as the game nears its full release in 2015/2016.
Tags: space, sim, simulator, star, citizen, arena, commander, bdsse

Ooh, glad to see others interested in this. I backed this too, though not high enough to try alpha/beta releases. Really looking forward to Star Citizen. Arena Commander sounds pretty good. Your description reminds me a bit of a multiplayer Freespace 2 or Allegiance.

Posted on 2014-05-22 21:49:03

William, will this game be available on iPad?

Posted on 2014-05-22 22:50:45

Not the game per se, no - but they did have a stretch goal a while back for an iOS / Android app that will interface with the game. The idea is for you to be able to check for missions, chat with folks in organizations you are a part of, maybe even buy / sell goods and upgrade your ships from there, so that you can keep in touch with what is going on in the game even if you aren't at your computer.

Posted on 2014-05-22 22:56:02

If the release date is scheduled for sometime in 2015 or 2016, does that mean we should expect an actual release date well into the mid 2020s?

Posted on 2014-05-23 01:05:12

Well, it depends on what you consider release :)

This game so far has had:

- The Hangar Module, where you can see the ships you pledged for, which came out late in 2013

- The Organization System for creating social groups, which came out a month or two ago

- Arena Commander, which is coming out in one week (that is what I was writing about above)

After that, the following is planned:

- An update to Arena Commander with multi-person ships, as well as additional ships being added as they finish making them

- FPS Module, for first person combat; this will also tie in to Arena Commander, allowing combat to take place on / in larger ships

- Planetside Module, for testing out interacting with other players and NPCs in non-hostile areas on planets; buying/selling stuff and the like will also be here

- A rolling release of the single-player portion of the game, called Squadron 42. This will be released in mission packs, a few weeks or months apart, until the full story they want you to be a part of is finished

- A beta of the persistent universe, the 'full' game in effect, starting with just one or two star systems and expanding eventually to over 100

- Final release of the persistent universe once all of the parts comprising it are finished

The single-player and beta of the full game have been advertised as being in 2015, which is why I expanded the estimate I put in the blog to include 2016 too (in case they slip / take longer than expected). It is possible, I suppose, that the 'finished' game may take even longer to really roll out... but at the same time, it will never really be 'finished' because they will be continually adding more star systems, ships, and single-player content.

Posted on 2014-05-23 05:42:07

For those interested, here is a link to our new article with some limited benchmarks:


Posted on 2014-06-06 21:52:55

No mention of the closest thing SC has to competition: Elite Dangerous? Talk about nostalgia, Elite has been around since 1984 and while not as widely marketed as Wing Commander was still an impressive bit of work. In fact, the Elite series has often been cited as one of the best representations of procedural generation in gaming history. Worth a look in my opinion. Do note that Elite Dangerous and Star Citizen are different enough that I wouldn't put them in the same category but I do call them competition since they will both compete for many of the same players.

Posted on 2014-08-26 21:08:29

Yeah, I am aware of Elite:Dangerous but have no hands on experience with it or any of the prior Elite series games. As such, I didn't mention it either in a positive or negative way; no sense bringing controversy in if I can help it :)

Posted on 2014-08-26 21:57:41