Star Citizen Alpha 3.3 thoughts

The first space game I played was Elite on my brother’s BBC micro back in the 80’s complete with analog potentiometer joystick for control, the game had simple wire-frame graphics at a time when most home-computer games had sprite graphics; it was amazing.  Over the decades I have played a number of other space games but less and less as other game genres became dominant.  A few years ago when Elite Dangerous came along I wasn’t sure a space sim was still viable in an age of FPS, MMO and MMORPG and other popular genres.  It took me a long time to decide if I was going to purchase Elite Dangerous, in the end it was an Arsetechnica review that swayed me into buying.  I can say that I have not regretted purchasing Elite, it’s a time-absorbing experience where I jump from one system to another, fly around a star gathering fuel, head to a space station or head towards a landable moon.  And therein lies one of the annoyances of Elite, any time I see a large sphere that isn’t a dry rock or frozen moon, a planet with oceans and clouds, I know I am NOT ALLOWED to land on that planet.  I am given access to countless barren moons, but planets with atmosphere are off the table… for now.  Apparently atmospheric planets will arrive at some point in the future, I have no reason to doubt this. Elite is a stable long term development, unfortunately it’s not a particularly fast development.  I suspect this may have something to do with the fact that Frontier aren’t focused exclusively on the one game.  A growing portfolio including dinosaurs and theme parks means a more diluted Elite development schedule.

Star Citizen on the other hand…

A very focused development, a number of teams spread across different physical locations all working on the one challenge…  of creating the most complex space game (most complex any game) of all time.  I have read the statements made by various critics – “it will never be finished”, “pay to win”, “it’s a scam”, “mismanagement” etc etc.  I am unswayed by emotive negatively charged opinions. I prefer a wholly logical approach:  Q: What does Star Citizen have to show for this length of time in development?  A:  Quite a lot…  Just like Elite Dangerous, Star Citizen is many years from completion and one could argue that a development like this is never really finished, however, it will be playable long before any “finished” declaration is made.

Star Citizen is groundbreaking in many ways.  Scale of project, budget of course but in terms of project complexity, coding challenges and cinematic realism, there is nothing else to compare it to.  Looking back to when I first tried the game a few years ago, I wasn’t impressed by the experience, disliked the default control scheme and the time spent trying to setup a more sane flight control system for my HOTAS.  I have spent precisely zero money on this game, but I have maintained an interest in its development and have been more and more impressed by what I see.  I have no complaints over the time it’s taking to make (there are games that have taken much longer to produce, very simple games by comparison).  A game of this complexity can’t be nailed down to any precise “finished” date.  It’s ready when it’s ready and will be playable long before it goes “gold” in conventional game development speak.

Over the years I have come to admire this project greatly.  It’s an open-development on a colossal scale.  Yes I’ve heard the detractors complaining they aren’t given access to all financial records (because that happens with other games right? (sarcasm)).  Star Citizen development is a public affair and that is refreshing after decades of secretive developments from some very well known publishers.

Anniversary special open event…

I downloaded and installed the game during this week long event.  I had some issues trying to configure the flight axis in-game for my Thrustmaster Warthog HOTAS, after an hour of trying to get the axis to respond, I gave up, went to Thrustmaster website, downloaded a Star Citizen HOTAS profile, loaded it into the Target GUI software and started it up.  Was pleasantly surprised to find the HOTAS responding well in-game and I was able to modify control in-game.

Having watched many youtube videos of gameplay over the past year I didn’t have too much trouble figuring out what to do when my character awoke in the crew cabin.  After requesting a ship, heading to the deck and getting in and switching-on, I began my first flight.  It’s certainly very different to Elite Dangerous; Quantum drive spooling, jumping between planets, a very nice experience.  Orbiting a planet or moon with astonishing graphical realism and having the absolute luxury of being able to LAND ON A PLANET WITH ATMOSPHERE!!!!  Over the years I have become more and more in-awe of Chris Robert’s vision.  I look at the end result rather than getting swept up in subjective complaints and criticisms.  The only thing that matters to me is the end result and even at Alpha 3.3 Star Citizen is going to be the defining space sim for many years to come.

It takes a lot for me to feel really inspired by a game but Star Citizen does that for me.  I love how real it all feels, being able to explore alien worlds and not being restricted to sitting in one cockpit.  I will still continue to play Elite Dangerous, I respect the development and Braben’s vision but I can see that even at 3.3 Alpha – Star Citizen is pulling away from it at a high rate of miles per second.  Given the budget for SC and the entire focus by the company on that one game… There will be no hope of other games catching up or surpassing it.

Having said all that… I haven’t as yet purchased the game or spent any money on ships.  My purchase is dependent on whether Virtual Reality support returns.  At this point in time that’s one big advantage Elite Dangerous has.

 

 

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