The makers of Star Citizen will make their production schedule public in a show of transparency, four years into a $131 million, crowdfunded project which shows no signs of a completion date, much less one by the end of this year.
In a lengthy note to donors, Cloud Imperium Games founder Chris Roberts said the schedule for Star Citizen Alpha 2.6 will be shared on a weekly basis with the public. This page breaks out production schedules for the Star Marine and Arena Commander modules; the technology/systems, content and UI teams, and the Mega Map stretch goal, with bullet-point notes on where they stand.
Notably, the production schedule for Squadron 42, the single-player campaign, is not among them. That long anticipated module, originally expected in the fall of 2015, was not even shown at CitizenCon in October. There is no timeline on when the campaign, which stars Mark Hamill and Gillian Anderson, will be shown or made available to backers.
"As you know we’ve not been keen to give hard dates on the project after the initial set of dates which we had estimated when the project was a lot smaller in scope," Roberts wrote. He insisted that any dates he'd given for the completion of a module or the release of a beta were rough guidelines only, "but unfortunately some people often tend to forget the qualifiers and treated my comments nonetheless as a promise."
At this point in Star Citizen's development, though, he and a development team of 377 across four internal studios felt it was appropriate to share the schedules with the more than 1.6 million individuals who have given to Star Citizen's campaign, a record-setter in video games development and crowdfunding as a whole.
"These are the very same schedules we update daily and are circulated internally on our intra-studio hand-offs with a few exceptions," Roberts said. Individual developer names will be removed for privacy purposes, technical wording will be rewritten to make it understandable to non-developers and the JIRA project tracking details will be omitted. "But otherwise, when something changes, slips or is completed, you will know," Roberts wrote.
The ambitious, sprawling space epic led by Roberts, the creator of the Wing Commander space combat simulation series, has published an alpha (currently version 2.5.0) but the repeated delays of modules and features along the way to that have made some backers restless. Some have demanded and received refunds.
Roberts said sharing deadlines and completion goal dates seemed to divide Star Citizen's community between one group upset that the game is continually portrayed as delayed, and another that wonders why a date would be shared if developers aren’t solidly assured it is attainable.
"We have taken a lot of flak over the last couple of years for the extending timeline of Star Citizen, but the simple fact is that game development, especially game development on the scale of Star Citizen, is complicated," Roberts wrote. "If you talk to any developer that works on large titles they will tell you that schedules, especially early in the development cycle, move all the time. Most people never see this because a publisher won’t announce a project publicly until it is very far along; normally at least in Alpha, with all the technology and gameplay R&D completed."
Star Citizen, of course, has no publisher and was announced with practically nothing built at all, in the form of a $2.1 million Kickstarter campaign at the end of 2012. Its crowdfunding has continued since, largely through the very lucrative sale of in-game spaceships.