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Star Citizen's FPS module delayed, as Roberts exposes AAA dev to the public

Star Citizen has almost $85 million to play with, but even a massive budget like that doesn't isolate you from production problems: its FPS module has been delayed.

The crowdfunded game from Wing Commander creator Chris Roberts, Star Citizen, is being developed in a series of "modules" -- both so these pieces can be distributed piecemeal to funders so they can try out the game in advance of its release (both as a reward, and to offer feedback) and so multiple, geographically disparate studios can create the game concurrently, Ubisoft-style.

So far, Roberts has raised almost $85 million -- partially by releasing new, pre-release content to backers on a regular basis.

In a significant new update, Roberts himself has announced that the FPS module, "Star Marine," has been delayed indefinitely as both the game's networking code and other fundamentals, and its gameplay systems, are being reworked.

The module was originally due to ship out to backers this April.

In a developer letter, Roberts goes into great depth as to why the module has been delayed, the knock-on effects this move has on the rest of the game -- both good and bad -- and what his plans are, pledging weekly updates until the module comes on-line.

The sorts of compromises Roberts describes will be familiar to developers of large, triple-A games and those who read behind-the-scenes development materials (like Gamasutra postmortems.) But this level of candor is unusual for a game that's still in-progress, and highlights the significant changes crowdfunding has brought to the developer-player relationship.

For example, Roberts acknowledges that a prior shipped mode, Arena Commander, shipped with a control scheme that was "what we were able to do before a clock ran out" -- a situation he wants to avoid this time around.

He also talks about staffing and production issues openly:

"We’ve tapped the new Frankfurt studio, which is staffed by Crytek veterans who know every in and out of the engine and some key ex-Crytek leads from LA and Austin to help the team in Denver make this work."

He even goes into depth on how the game's servers propagate data, and the fact that production work progresses on the front-end parts of the game even if the back-end is under reconstruction. It's worth a read.

This isn't the first major misstep from a triple-A developer who's gone the crowdfunding route. Peter Molyneux's Godus ran into significant development problems, which has lead to much public scrutiny of the in-development title; Double Fine was forced to change gears during the development of Broken Age (aka Double Fine Adventure) to roll with the punches of its production cycle.

For more on Star Citizen and Roberts' approach to developing the game, read our 2013 interview with the creator. Of course, some things have changed since then, but the ethos for the game remains much the same.

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