A Look at Star Citizen Stretch Goals and Features

(There’s a lot.)

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Chris Roberts wants you to give him money, in order to help him make Star Citizen. In return for fulfillment of stretch goals, which will make sure the game is completed on time achieve the full vision of what he wishes to make, no matter how long it takes. A good approach would be to show how CIG is no longer delivering the original product by reducing core features promised by Kickstarter, expanding other features never mentioned, and not meeting their original promise of delivering without delay.

Here’s Chris Roberts definition of Stretch Goals between November 2012 and July 2015. The stretch goals went from being intended to help deliver the game on time by November 2014 as intended, to being the reason why Star Citizen would take longer to finish.

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This in itself is what warrants a look at this particular aspect of the Star Citizen project. The stretch goals are the catalyst of changing what the game was as originally pitched, to what it became today. What was Star Citizen, the base game as described in the Kickstarter page? It was going to be both a persistent universe (Star Citizen), alongside a singleplayer Squadron 42 campaign game. At the core of it was space combat and adventuring, a culmination of the best of Roberts’ game series of the past. The initial offering of Squadron 42 had 30 missions. Star Citizen was initially going to include 40 star systems. It was going to release in November 2014. Your GTX 460 would’ve done fine. You’d be able to fly your ship around and do sci-fi roleplay.

“We’re trying to raise between two and four million from the crowd, and that triggers all the rest of the stuff,” he said. “Inside the site itself, we have our own [Kickstarter-like] platform – because we wanted to theme it inside the world. So the idea is that you are pre-ordering your space-ship.”

Kickstarter in itself is a bit of a red herring. Roberts wanted to keep everything on his website alone initially. Kickstarter takes a 5% cut of all pledges made via their campaigns, and that would be circumvented if Star Citizen did things in-house. That’s where their internal funding system for the project came from, anyway. But the RSI website overloaded with requests when the project was first announced. Chris turned to Kickstarter in the meantime in order to keep that crowdfunding momentum going.

As noted in a post he made when the site went back up:

I’m very pleased to announce that the Roberts Space Industries website is coming back online as originally intended. Thanks to the heroic efforts of our web team, you can now pledge as originally intended as well as access your account information and view the real time pledge counter.

But in addition to that, one of the main reasons he embarked on crowdfunding in the first place was to show that there was a gaming community interest in his product, in order to entice private investors. A quote from Eurogamer at that time:

“Roberts will create Star Citizen without a publisher. He has private investment, but needs to do “an element” of crowd funding to raise between two and four million dollars and validate the private investors’ valuation of the project. The game itself will cost between 12 million and 14 million dollars to create.

“I can make it for this price because I’m not making it inside the system,” he said. “If I did it inside the system that would be $20+ million.”

Chris Roberts promised Star Citizen could be done within $20 million dollars, yet here we are at $118 million. One of the things Star Citizen is most straightforward about is their dreams and goals. This manifests itself in the Stretch Goals page, where a majority of these are outlined. What isn’t outlined is the progress of these specific individual goals on a case by case basis, which I intend to correct with writing this article here. What’s the state of affairs for Stretch Goals?

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Crossed-Out Ones are redundant, as in they’re nullified by a later Stretch Goal.

Green: Completed.

Red: Not done yet.

Blue: This is for multi-item stretch goals, where one item might be done while another isn’t yet.

The initial set of Stretch Goals was a result of the Kickstarter Campaign and initial launch, breaking their first milestone on October 25th.

Here we are at $6 Million, November 19th 2012.

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Starting at $9,000,000 onward – the stretch goals increased at a uniform amount of $1,000,000 increments. But to claim everything had the same value would be inaccurate, as there’s a clear distinction between some stretch goals and others. $9 million wasn’t met until April 29th 2013.

By this point, 14 ships. (Source) Another person had the count at 15. Or 17 ships if you include GDC Announcements.

  • $9,000,000: RSI Class II space suit.
  • $10,000,000: “Cloud Imperium Games will build their own mocap studio” As shown in this post and video, this one is done.
  • $11,000,000: “Move CIG Austin to a larger facility that will support expanded development.” This became the subject of controversy in September/October 2015 when the Escapist had uncovered that the Austin studio was going to close. Here’s the office itself, as seen in this early video from April 26th, 2013.
  • $12,000,000: Build professional sound studios, Hanger Module gets Oculus Rift support. The Sound Studios pop up in May 2014 and June/July 2015.
  • $13,000,000: The Frigate (it became the Idris-M and Idris-P), a Command and Control Center. (This mode process is described here and here)
  • $14,000,000: Hibernation Mode (Saving your game), “Behind the Scenes of Star Citizen” documentary film, and a fourth landout option on Earth.
  • $15,000,000: Escort Carrier, digital 42-page “overclock” Upgrade Handbook
  • $16,000,000: Arena Commander (6.4.2014 – Arena Commander Launched!), Laser Pistol (1.9.2015)
  • $17,000,000: ship engine modifier upgrade package, Battlecruiser
  • $18,000,000: Pre-launch backers get exclusive star system

By this point, Star Citizen was reaching the $20,000,000 goal that Chris Roberts told Forbes would be sufficient to make the game. But it also served as a fork in the road as to how the Stretch Goals would continue.

He put out a poll at the bottom of his September 17th 2013 Letter from the Chairman – 19 Million! post.

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But why this is important is because it (apparently) shifts the blame for the game’s delays to the backers themselves.

By $20 Million, on September 26th 2013, there were 18 ships or 21 ships, based on two different lists.

  • $19,000,000: Jane’s Fighting Ships style manual, Manage Space Stations, RSI Museum will air monthly. They tried RSI Museum but gave up on it.
  • $20,000,000: Planetside FPS combat.
  • $21,000,000: Salvage Mechanic.

Here we are at October 8th, 2013 at $21 million.

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The salvage mechanic was the last of the main core features.

Salvage isn’t an aside: it’s a career, with its own mechanic, story tie-ins and universe-shaping endgames. Search the galaxy for a host of valuable and interesting secrets using both the flight and FPS components. Discover the secrets of the ancient Hadesians, locate valuable components and cargo… or go down in history as the first to make contact with an entirely new alien race!

In a very revealing Letter from the Chairman, we get the answer as to why $21 Million isn’t the end of the crowdfunding campaign.

Some Citizens have asked if $21 million will mark the end of the funding campaign and the stretch goal unlocks. The answer is no: For a couple of key reasons – The first is that the goal of achieving $20M in development funding will actually be reached approximately at $23 million in funds raised. This is because we display the gross amount of funds received, but out of this we had to pay Kickstarter (approx. 10% of funds raised), Paypal/Credit card providers (approx. 4-5%), we have to reserve the fulfilment costs of the physical goods you have pledged for (over $1M right now) and finally the costs of building and maintaining the RSI site (which is a significant but very worthwhile investment, more so as some of the planned features like “organizations” rolls out).

But then he goes on to promise more content if crowdfunding was able to continue.

the more funds we can raise in the pre-launch phase, the more we can invest in additional content (more ships, characters etc.) and perhaps more importantly we can apply greater number of resources to the various tasks to ensure we deliver the full functionality sooner rather than later.

Yup. He even teased that he would be able to deliver the the game even earlier if people gave Chris Roberts more cash. With these added features, it would obviously take longer for these promises to have a chance at fulfillment. This is why crowdfunding went on beyond this $20 million goal.

By the time of November 19th 2013, about a year after the initial crowdfunding campaign had ended, we get more of an idea of where the Stretch Goal money is being distributed. According to the Letter from the Chairman released at that time:

We are constantly asked where the additional money goes. Surely new mocap hardware or a new starship design doesn’t cost a million dollars. The answer is that the stretch goals are an example: one big thing we will be doing with some of the money. Every additional million means that we’re hiring additional artists and programmers, equipping the team with better development tools and increasing the size of the talented outsource groups being trusted with aspects of Star Citizen’s development. It means more actors and time for mocap studios, more reference for designers, greater variety in game characters, more options in clothing and armor and a large array of ship items and weapons.

To put it another way, not all the money went towards that specific stretch goal. Instead, that additional million dollars went where Chris Roberts wanted it to go. This statement was given in other Letters from the Chairman. At $33, $35, $40, and $43 million this reiteration about stretch goals being symbolic, happens. It continues to be said at $47, $49, $52, $53, too.

  • $29,000,000: Enhanced Mission Design for Squadron 42.
  • $30,000,000: Origin 890 JUMP.
  • $31,000,000: RSI Orion.
  • $32,000,000: Aegis Surveyor. (renamed to Reclaimer)
  • $33,000,000: Anvil Carrack.
  • $34,000,000: MISC Hull C. (Not only do they have Hull C, but they also added a Hull A, Hull B, Hull D, and Hull E)
  • $35,000,000: Drake Herald.
  • $36,000,000: Tamsa System.
  • $37,000,000: Tanga System.
  • $38,000,000: Cano System.
  • $39,000,000: UDS-2943-01-22 System.
  • $40,000,000: Kabal System, Oretani System.
  • $41,000,000: Procedural Generation R&D Team. (With the December 2015 “Pupil to Planet” video, they claim procedural generation teams are doing stuff.)
  • $42,000,000: Updated Observist Guide, Explorer-class mobiGlas Rig (comes up in 10FTC, twice), Gladius ship (video), and a Towel.
  • $43,000,000: Omni Role Combat Armor (ORC) mk9
  • $44,000,000: Stellar Cartography (It’s defined as a map room that’s in the game directly, not to be confused with the $51 Million Map goal)
  • $45,000,000: Hadesian Artifact
  • $46,000,000: Updated Scanning Software.

When June 12th, 2014 rolls around, and Chris Roberts makes his remarks about passing $46,000,000.

This brings me to the topic of stretch goals. When we started the Star Citizen campaign, the purpose of the stretch goals was to make things we had imagined but didn’t think we could afford possible: adding capital ship systems, studying procedural generation, hiring additional artists to build more ships at once and the like. The additional funding continues to expand the scope of the game and make what we’re doing possible… but it’s becoming more and more difficult to quantify that with more stretch goals (and to explain that to the rest of the world, which likes to focus only on how much money we’ve made.) My preference would be to use these letters going forward to update you on what we’re already doing with the money; sharing additional parts of Star Citizen’s development. We would also continue to award flare and other extras to our backers as we hit milestones, whether they’re funding or schedule-related. If we discover additional technologies or come up with new elements to the game’s design we want to incorporate, we’ll let you know about those as they happen.
He seems to be aware of how massive the scope of the game is getting, but decides to let the community (which has no idea about game development and how things take time to make) vote on it again. Roberts makes another Stretch Goal poll.
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Despite the fact that there’s much less of a desire for more stretch goals (combining No and No Preference together here), Roberts keeps on going anyway. He could’ve stopped there and saved so many extra months of development time.

December 6th 2014. $65 Million. The stretch goals themselves overtake the clear picture that the team had when they began.

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What happened to all the Stretch Goals? December 6th, 2014’s Letter from the Chairman has an answer to that.

Of course, $65 million isn’t the only milestone we need to discuss in this letter. Starting with $66 million, I want to start focusing everyone on the level of detail and immersion that everyone’s support is enabling. So instead of always having a feature or a reward I want to share a deeper view into an element of the design that has been enabled by your continuing support.

Thus ends the visible line of Star Citizen‘s stretch goal road. 100+ star systems. It’s not clear if a GTX 1080 will do any good, if the graphics aren’t optimized.

As for Squadron 42? As told by Erin Roberts (translation):

“Even though Squadron 42 is released as a final product, players will also here have to be patient: “The one player campaign in Squadron 42 is played out in five chapters, with around 15 hours of content in each chapter. Each chapter will be like a game in it self, and when all the chapters are released Squadron 42 will contain over 70 hours of content.”

70 hours.

According to Chris Roberts on September 30th 2014, he had his own reasons as to why he continued to crowdfund money.

I sometimes get asked why continue to raise money. Haven’t you already raised enough to make the game? The answer is that Star Citizen isn’t a normal game. It’s not being developed like a normal game and it’s not being funded like a normal game. I’ve had to toss aside a lot of my knowledge from the old way of developing and embrace a completely new world. There is no publisher. There is no venture capitalist wanting a massive return in three years. There is no need to cram the game onto a disc and hope we got it all right.

But if we look at the state of Star Citizen now, what do we see?

This is a progress map of all the ships available, although it’s a month or two old it’s sufficient in demonstrating how the scale of Star Citizen has grown over the years (To see it up close, check it out here). From the 18 to 21 ships Chris Roberts had planned at $20 million, by May 2016 he ended up at 81.

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Roberts once explained the Ship Pipeline process in a Comm-Link letter. This explains how each individual vessel goes from idea to completion. To make it simple for us common folk, he made a chart. (Bigger view here)

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The only final word about stretch goals can come from Chris Roberts himself. Here he is on his April 18th 10 for the Chairman explaining it. According to a transcript from Reddit (which may be from SomethingAwful due to it’s 1:1 accuracy, as seen in the transcripts by SA user SomethingJones):

we’ll have what will sort of determine a sort of… MINIMUM VIABLE PRODUCT FEATURE LIST for what you would call STAR CITIZEN the COMMERCIAL RELEASE, which is basically when you say, “OK! Ah, we’ve gotten to this point and we’ve still got plans to add a lot more COOL STUFF and MORE CONTENT and MORE FUNCTIONALITY and MORE FEATURES”, which by the way includes some of… the LATER STRETCH GOALS we have cos not all of that’s meant to be for ABSOLUTELY RIGHT HERE, on the commercial release… but we’ll have SOMETHING that we’ll think, “Ok yeah!”, now everyone can play it you know, it doesn’t matter, you can load it up, it PLAYS really well, it’s really STABLE, there’s lots of CONTENT, there’s lots of FUN THINGS TO DO, different PROFESSIONS, lots of PLACES TO GO… aahm, you know, we’ve got a really good ECO SYSTEM… aaahh… so when we GET TO THAT POINT, that’s sort of when we’ll sort of say, “now it’s not ALPHA it’s not BETA, it’s STAR CITIZEN ONE POINT ZERO”

Which leaves questions. If they’re choosing to deliver some stretch goals later, why did they waste time in the three years prior to that working on these features instead of the base game?

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Taking everything stated above into consideration, that still does not cover the whole gambit of Star Citizen‘s development process. Not by a long shot. Stretch goals are only the features of Star Citizen that they can blame the community on wanting. But what would stop Chris Roberts from making requests of his own to the team? Nothing can. He’s the sole leader of the Star Citizen project, therefore the team has to put in time and effort to whatever he deems worthwhile.

That’s what the 10 for the Chairman show basically turned into. This list is based on what was found by this Reddit user, and it may have expanded in size since it was published.

These are specifically features that aren’t stretch goals.

Ship: Rentable ships, Some ships with artificial gravity (or not), Multicrewing (2), Different HUDs for different ships, Hull Breaches (2), Shuttles for larger ships to land on planets, Banu ports and stations for trading, Parking smaller ships in the Idris, Inertia on objects not anchored on ships, Beam weapons for larger ships, Tractor beams and EVA for cargo, EVA ship repair, Wreck exploration, Benefits for ejecting from a ship about to explode, Wreckage as a navigational hazard, Using inertia for flight rather than burning fuel all the time (2), Dangerous and Dynamic Jump Points (2), Changeable gravity systems for ships (2, 3), Booby traps and trackers for cargo, Detailed navigation system, Weapon slaving, Detailed ship destruction for large ships, Ship repair and cleanliness/degradation (2), Ship Trade-in and buying used ships, naming your ship (2), Manual and auto-docking, Customizable AI voices for different aspects of your ship

Tech: multi-core processors, Customizable controls and keybinding, Double precision for Cry Engine (2), Linux Support

Misc: Organization Infiltration, Racing (2, 3), “Job” or “Contract” System, Playing as another alien race (2), Relaying radar information to C&C Center, Run your own business, In depth non-FTL communication (2), Bounty hunting system (2, 3), Player influenced politicsIn-game VOIP and “Live Driver”, Track IR Support (2), Shareable star map locations, Group mining operations, In-fiction “Live Team” that will report player driven events as in-fiction news (2), Dynamic population count, Character damage and aging (2), Character histories and/or ancestral trees, Large scale dynamic events (2), Player Rating System, Taxes for Organizations (2), Dead (Wounded) body recovery, Player or organization ran medical facilities, User generated content, Shared organization hangars, Combined arms missions, Location for contributors’ names to be found in the PU, Organization reputation system (2), Damageable cyborg limbs and cybernetic repair facilities, Dynamic social interaction with NPCs, Galactapedia, Space creatures, Planet day/night cycle, Cargo damage (item damage), Potential In-game “Voice Attack” system

ATMOSPHERIC FLIGHT.

You’ll find Chris Roberts giving every sort of answer in these videos, except the word “No”.

You don’t even need to understand game development to know what a god damn mess looks like.

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