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Star Citizen’s first quarterly update now live; adds ships, improves performance

The early alpha remains a work in progress

A pit crew works on a small blue spaceship, its profile not unlike a formula one car.
The Misc Razor is a specially designed racing ship. Previously it had only been available as a pre-order for the as yet unfinished online game.
Roberts Space Industries
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.

The early alpha of the Star Citizen team’s persistent universe game has received its first quarterly upgrade. Called Alpha 3.1, it is the first of four promised upgrades for Star Citizen planned for this year.

“This is the first step in fulfilling the pledge we made to our community last December to target quarterly updates to Star Citizen,” said creative director Chris Roberts in a press release. “These are important updates and our fans should see some significant improvements to Star Citizen’s overall experience.“

The Star Citizen project is an ambitious collection of spacefaring games. It includes the persistent universe (PU), which is an online multiplayer game that is currently in an unfinished, early alpha state. It also includes a single-player game called Squadron 42, which has not had a release date of any kind since 2016. Both games are sold separately.

The persistent universe was upgraded to Alpha 3.0 in December, adding several new planets and moons as well as other features to the game for the first time. The Alpha 3.1 update includes a host of performance upgrades, among them improvements to the game’s damage model and physics systems, as well as changes in its buggy user interface. The update also adds five new playable ships and vehicles, all of which must be purchased at an additional cost.

The Star Citizen project is the single most heavily-funded crowdfunding campaign of any kind, on any platform, for any thing. Since its initial Kickstarter campaign in 2012, the developers at Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) and Roberts Space Industries (RSI) say they have raised more than $181.6 million.

To put that in perspective, the project raised more than $71 million in 2016 and 2017 combined. That’s more than twice the amount raised by every other video game on Kickstarter combined over the same period of time.

Star Citizen’s protracted development have made CIG and RSI the target of plenty of abuse and harassment these past few years on social media. Some backers have gone so far as to lodge formal complaints with consumer watchdog groups. Recently, complications resulting from several high-value refund requests led to a meeting with the Better Business Bureau of Los Angeles and Silicon Valley to discuss issues of transparency.

CIG and RSI are also being sued by Crytek, makers of the CryEngine game engine, for breach of contract. Court documents allege improper behavior by both sides.

Star Citizen is an ambitious game,” Roberts said over the weekend. “We are working tirelessly to build a fully immersive experience where players will be able to have the adventures of a lifetime. One universe that can be a home for all gamers and one that will continue to grow and evolve.”