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Starfighter Inc. struggles to manage expectations, unveils single-player stretch goal

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

Originally billed as "World of Tanks meets Counter Strike in space" when it launched on Kickstarter just a few days ago, the team behind Starfighter Inc. has added new gameplay modes in the form of stretch goals in response to community demands.

"Will there be a single player campaign?" a project update posted late yesterday asks. "In short, we hope so! We loved the story-driven single player campaigns in the X-Wing series and we would be thrilled to bring that type of experience back to the modern gaming scene.

"That said, we want to make sure that we make a great game at its core. If we can build a strong foundation via multiplayer and then lay a single player/co-op story on top of that, we'll be able to pair awesome core gameplay with an epic story the way that X-Wing and Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries did."

Impeller Studios has been in stealth mode for nearly two years developing the game. It is a small, 15-person team including David Wessman, the lead designer of the X-Wing series, as well as industry veterans who have helped to make Far Cry, Crysis, Mechwarrior 2: Mercenaries and Halo 2, 3 and 4 as well as Elder Scrolls Online. Their original, multi-player only space dogfighting game was met with a wave of initial interest and so far has them trending towards more than $800,000 according to Kicktraq.

But the community interested in the game was quick to demand more, in the form of a single-player campaign. That, the team said, would require at least $10.5 million dollars for a "dynamic" version, while a scripted version would take $17 million.

"If you’re wondering why the single player campaigns are so expensive, think about the last Call of Duty, Mass Effect or Halo game you played," the Kickstarter update said. "Those games cost upwards of $50,000,000 to make (on the cheap side), because it takes a large group of people working for a long time to deliver something of that quality."

Milestone stretch goals include player-created missions, player-owned bases and Steam Workshop integration at $2.25 million. You can read the complete update here.

Additionally, backers had lots of questions about Starfighter Inc.'s future monetization model. By name-dropping World of Tanks the team seems to have invited comparison to pay-to-win iterations of that game's past. But that, says the team, couldn't be further from the truth.

"We think we have a really unique model that capitalizes on the benefits of both free-to-play and premium games," the update said. "The game itself is premium. You can buy it and then own it for life. We'll have DLC and new content packages that launch from time to time which you can buy, or not.

"We don’t anticipate any DLC segmenting the player base, so you won’t see things like premium maps that only people who paid can play. ... One of the things we love about free to play games is that there are always tons of people to play with. So, we want to offer some sort of basic free access to the game. This will basically be a trial where players can jump in and use stock ships, but can't customize or level them up.

"It'll take some balancing to get it just right, because we want to make sure that free players have a great time, but that paying players get a premium experience, but we think once we find that happy medium, it'll really appeal to players from both ends of the spectrum."