Star Citizen, a hugely ambitious space epic, one of the first crowdfunding success stories to also pledge virtual reality support, has just launched its Alpha 2.0 release. Not only that, their total funding pot has now reached an astonishing $100M.

One of the great, early success stories of the crowdfunding ‘revolution’, Star Citizen smashed their original Kickstarter goal back in 2012, raising a cool $2.2M by the time the campaign closed. But that really was just the beginning for the title that promises to bring epic, persistent universes, realised with some astonishing attention to detail.

It’s common for projects now to use Kickstarter as a launchpad to further funding, but Star Citizen has taken this idea to new levels of success. Their post-Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign has continued to gain momentum, with the grand total now surpassing $100M. It’s clear people really want this.

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The title just reached a development milestone too, with the 2nd alpha release going live to backers yesterday. The feature list illustrates the level of ambition the development team at Cloud Imperium Games has.

Star Citizen’s developers are building a beautiful, detailed, persistent universe filled with crafts modeled with mind-numbing detail. Not content with just that, this latest alpha also introduces first person shooter style combat, occurring in space stations, decks of ships, or even in EVA.

Elsewhere, the new alpha brings multi-crew ships where you can mix with online friends and “assume different responsibilities at different crew stations, such as ship’s pilot or copilot, engineer, or turret gunner.” The development team’s vision of seamless transitions between ship-based gameplay and exploration of landing sites and space stations has been realised too with the ability to “transit between the interior of your ship to outer space and back without any loading screen! Fly, fight, and spacewalk all in the same game.”

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The list of features goes on, take a peek and you can see how much love (and not to forget that money) is being poured into the project.

News on that promised virtual reality support isn’t quite so rosy however, with VR still not natively supported for the Oculus Rift DK2 headset and only hangar based support for the much older DK1. The title is based on CryEngine, which was originally lacking VR support when the project began. Since then however, Crytek has thrown itself headlong into VR development, with CryEngine now producing some of the best looking VR games on the platform.

See Also: Hands On – Crytek Unveils Oculus Rift Exclusive Title ‘The Climb’

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The development team still seem keen on getting VR support in there, but apparent design considerations (which were in their infancy when Star Citizen began as a project) have not been made for VR, with the experience apparently uncomfortable when using the VR injection Driver VorpX to tack on DK2 support, for example.

Chris Roberts, founder of the project, stated in a video Q&A in July that more work and news on VR support would be forthcoming “after Gamescom,” and that they were working on implementing all the VR support enhancements added in the latest version of CryEngine (3.8). Since then it seems things have once again fallen silent on the VR front. We shall have to wait and see.

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  • Sigille

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  • Mageoftheyear

    Excellent selection of screenshots for the article Paul!

    During
    yesterday’s end-of-year livestream Chris Roberts was asked what the
    status of VR integration was and the TL;DR of the transcript I’ve made
    below is that his engineering team (some of the same guys who started
    investigating VR at Crytek) is busy on core systems that affect the
    quality of experience of the game as it stands right now.
    They will
    integrate Crytek’s VR work and do their own but because so much work is going into their
    customisation of the engine (e.g. low-level integration of DX12 – and
    Vulkan subsequently but not right now) they feel that they would
    constantly be breaking and re-fixing their VR integration. So the ETA on basic VR integration is tentatively “sometime early next year.”

    By the way, during the livestream the following demonstration of planetary procedural generation was given and played live as a confirmation a minute later. I *HIGHLY* recommend everyone watch it: https://youtu.be/-yLTm8DZ8s4

    And if you’re looking for a version that hasn’t been compressed by YouTube’s transcoding you can thank the most excellent Gamersyde for this: http://www.gamersyde.com/hqstream_star_citizen_from_pupil_to_planet-36350_en.html

    One last item of housekeeping: /r/StarCitizen has setup a Referral Code Randomiser in an effort to curb the spam you see below/above. If a friend recruited you to Star Citizen then use their code but otherwise we suggest you use this little community tool: https://redd.it/3oiokc

    ——
    “The
    status of VR integration is that we’ve been pretty busy with getting
    [Alpha] 2.0 [out] and we’re trying to get 2.1 so I would say we still
    have some stuff to integrate from the most recent CryEngine drops.
    They’ve been actually doing quite a lot of VR, I’m pretty sure you guys
    have noticed that they’ve completely doubled down and they’re all VR
    now.

    So there are some updates on VR that we need to integrate
    in. It’s a little more complicated because we’ve changed the engine so
    much, we’ve changed the rendering pipeline to enable us to do a lot of
    things that we need to do so it’s not very easy. Nowadays we’ve diverged
    from CryEngine where we don’t take regular updates from them any more
    although we will cherry pick certain features that maybe we’re not
    working on that we think would help out well and VR is a good example of
    that.

    So it’s really just a matter of getting some engineering
    time in the Frankfurt team. The Frankfurt team by the way are the – a
    bunch of the folks that are [team] leads there are – the guys that
    originally did the VR work at Crytek so they know it pretty well but I
    would be expecting it to get up to speed with the most recent [VR] stuff
    sometime early next year.

    It really all sort of depends, I mean
    there’s so many things going on; do you want better performance around
    the Comm Arrays in 2.0 [etc.]? So a lot of the engine guys were spending
    a lot of time trying to optimise the engine for the sort of load that
    you’d never get in a standard single-player or even a standard
    multi-player game. So for instance in something as big as the 2.0
    Crusader map the players can all jump to these different locations – to
    each one of the Comm Arrays – and each one of the Comm Arrays generates a
    bunch of AI, and so what happens all of a sudden is you’ve got hundreds
    of AI all processing on the server at the same time, so that kind or
    requires intelligent updating.

    We’ve got a whole bunch of stuff
    that’s in the works that’s not in 2.0 that’s for later on, for how our
    entities are updated (intelligent updates over networks) so you’re not
    sending everyone’s position to everybody – you don’t need to do that –
    but all those things are to enable a server to handle an area as big as a
    star system like Crusader and have lots of things happening in
    different corners of it but be efficient.
    That’s kind of one of the
    things you see a bit of the [game performance] slowdown on. As the
    instance gets full and there’s sixteen players in it and the players go
    into different areas they’re triggering a whole bunch of other stuff
    that’s happening and so it brings the server framerate down. It doesn’t
    have to render stuff but it has to do a lot of simulation and that
    affects the various clients in different ways.

    So right now for
    me the primary low engine focus for our top guys is making all that work
    better. Which is kind of one of the reasons why VR as much as we dig
    it, we love it and it’s cool, it gets pushed back a bit because I’d
    rather get the performance for everyone up.”

    BEN LESNICK INTERJECTS: “It’s the same thing for things like Track-IR, it’s a lot of work but it’s still coming.”

    CR:
    “Yup. We want to have all the VR [major VR devices supported]. I think
    we were playing around with the Toby eye tracking device too. So we like
    it [referring to VR] and we think it’s going to be super immersive but
    we’re almost at three hundred people now – I know people think that
    we’re going down [in employment numbers] but we’re going the other way
    actually, there’s just under two-hundred people in Europe now – and even
    with that many people working on we’re short.
    We feel like we don’t
    have enough network guys, we don’t have enough physics guys – network
    and physics are two of the bigger ones – animation would help and we
    need more gameplay people and this is all on the engineering [front] so
    we’ve always feel like we’re short on engineering. I’ve never done a
    project… every project I’ve done in my life even when they were much
    smaller ones, everyone wanted more people.
    That’s just the nature of
    the beast but the point is that of a list “to do” there’s a list this
    big and then there’s [only] enough people to tackle this much so things
    like VR and Track-IR tend to – because they’re not for everybody – we
    pull that back to ‘okay let’s get the game further along and then and
    then integrate it’ because if you keep [re]integrating it you still have
    to change it because we’re changing so much of the base system
    ourselves anyway because we’re re-witting the rendering system for
    DirectX12 and all that kind of stuff.”
    ——
    [ Wow, transcribing CR is hard. Here’s the source for those interested: https://youtu.be/b9u9yPDNI1o?t=54m32s ]

    • Raphael

      As someone who loves Elite Dangerous and Horizons… The procedural planet detail and atmosphere shown in your video beats anything from Frontier. If they can maintain that detail and fix their awful flight model and controls then it could be amazing. VR support is essential too.

      • Mageoftheyear

        And that’s just their proof of concept. They still have tons to do with this such as fauna, flora, weather etc. etc. Good to hear an Elite player like it though! David Braben is an excellent chap, I’m glad he sees the big picture (that the SC and E:D community should not be fighting each other.)

        I’ve read that their greatest challenge in this will be syncing the procedural generation with other players over the network. But CIG have been rewriting their version of the CryEngine’s network code for some time now.

        Concerning the flight model; it’s constantly changing. I haven’t played SC in about a year myself, but 2.0 has brought some big changes to their mathematical models.