Intel is partnering with Roberts Space Industries’ Star Citizen team for a promotion on the hardware maker’s new line of solid-state hard drives. The promotion was announced today as part of the CitizenCon fan event in Frankfurt, Germany.
Intel plans to give away a key to the early alpha of the Star Citizen persistent universe with every one of its new Optane line of solid-state consumer hard drives. The offer also includes an exclusive in-game ship that won’t be available anywhere else.
Intel’s new line of SSDs is the commercial extension of its Optane technology, which differs from traditional DRAM and NAND memory technology by being a fast, dense storage format that does not depend on transistors. Marketing materials claim that it has helped push through technical barriers preventing some storage technologies from increasing in speed and reliability.
The 480 GB version of the Optane SSD 900P will run $599, while the 280 GB version will be $389. Both will come with a key for the early alpha of the Star Citizen persistent universe. That bundle will also include the Sabre Raven, a variant of the existing medium-sized Aegis Sabre previously available for purchase on the Star Citizen website.
Roberts Space Industries (RSI), the subsidiary of Cloud Imperium Games working to build out Star Citizen, says it’s particularly interested in the Optane technology because it will give more overhead to its ambitious spacefaring game.
“We have engineers all around the world ... working on the kind of technology that you need to create planet-sized environments that are inside solar systems which are, in turn, inside universes,” said Carl Jones, RSI’s chief operating officer. “When Intel started talking to us about this new technology, and how storage and memory were starting to come closer and closer together, and that there was this new storage that potentially would be close to RAM speeds and that would potentially allow us to do some different things, it was interesting to us.”
Jones said that the kind of performance that Intel’s drive provides would be integral for giving players the very best experience of the finished product.
“I think that for the first time in game development ... the drive is a part of the [performance] equation,” Jones said. “We’re drawing so much information and delivering so much content to the player we need to start streaming it from disk as well and the faster that we do that the smoother the experience to the player.”
The Star Citizen project is, in reality, an effort to create two massive AAA experiences simultaneously. The first piece is a single-player game called Squadron 42, billed as the spiritual successor to the Wing Commander franchise. That game will not be part of the Intel offer. Instead, each new drive will ship with access to the Star Citizen persistent universe (PU), an MMO-like adventure game with spacefaring and first-person elements.
The exclusive ship that will come with the drives, called the Sabre Raven, was apparently designed at Intel’s request.
“It’s a medium-class fighter,” Jones said. “It’s the fastest ship in its class. It’s significantly faster than any of the other medium fighters.”
The Raven is kitted out as a “data runner,” capable of quickly ferrying sensitive digital information throughout the Star Citizen universe. It will also feature two, unique electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) weapons for disabling larger prey as well as stronger, longer-range laser weapons than a standard Sabre would normally be able to bring to bear.
The original Aegis Sabre was available for a time directly from the Star Citizen website, but is no longer available for purchase. It cost backers around $170-$185 at the time, according to a fan-made wiki. One version of the ship is currently available on eBay for around $200.
Jones tells Polygon that the only way to purchase the Raven will be alongside the new Intel Optane SSDs. The new ships will be available for fans to test drive this weekend at CitizenCon, and will be flyable in the Star Citizen 3.0 update when it goes live at some point in the future. There is no current release date for Squadron 42.
This isn’t the first time that RSI and CIG have struck a deal with a major technology provider. Earlier this year they worked with Spectrum Enterprise to promote their internet service to businesses around the world. Representatives tell Polygon that neither Intel nor RSI/CIG will be revealing details of this particular business relationship.