Star Citizen has been in development for a long, long time now, as the original Kickstarter campaign began in October 2012. Pieces of the game have been released, but the full thing isn't out yet. The game has grown in scope over the years, so the initial target release dates have come and gone. In a frank and candid blog post today, director Chris Roberts announced a major change for how the studio will communicate release dates, namely that the studio will share "target" dates that could change.
"Whether or not to share this kind of information has been a long running debate among the team here at Cloud Imperium Games," Roberts said. "Target dates are not release dates, and everything you see will shift at some point, sometimes slightly and sometimes wildly. The danger in doing this has always been that casual observers will not understand this, that there will be an outcry about delays every time we update the page.
"We've taken stock, thought through everything and decided that, while that is a risk, above all we trust the community that has given us so much support," he added. "The community that has let us focus our passions on this incredible project. You have allowed us to take this journey, you have tracked and followed so much of how game development works… and now we think it is right to further part the curtain and share with you our production process."
Beginning with Star Citizen Alpha 2.6, Cloud Imperium will share its internal development schedule on a weekly basis. "These are the very same schedules we update daily and are circulated internally on our intra-studio hand-offs with a few exceptions: the individual developer names assigned to the tasks will be omitted (for obvious reasons), we'll remove the JIRA details and we'll modify the technical wording to make it readable for a wider audience, but otherwise, when something changes, slips or is completed, you will know," Roberts went on to say.
This schedule will be permanently posted on the Roberts Space Industries website; additionally, the developer will provide updates every week with a new "snapshot" of its internal schedule.
"We take the process of production very seriously and spend a lot of time on improving our ability in this area," Roberts added. "Our worldwide Production Team is twenty-five strong and they are the backbone that drives our development forward. They work closely with developers to break down and create tasks, chase up task completion daily, update their respective team's schedules, encourage and strengthen open communication by organizing meetings, agendas, and creating action items to help push the project forward day by day. The Production Team has many collective years with some of the biggest developers, publishers and games. They are like the rest of the CIG team, world class."
Also in the blog post, Roberts spoke about how the studio has "take a lot of flak" over the years for pushing Star Citizen's timeline further into the future.
"But the simple fact is that game development, especially game development on the scale of Star Citizen, is complicated. If you talk to any developer that works on large titles they will tell you that schedules, especially early in the development cycle, move all the time," he said. "Most people never see this because a publisher won't announce a project publicly until it is very far along; normally at least in Alpha, with all the technology and gameplay R&D completed. Even then, the timelines can be unpredictable as can be seen in the delays on big name titles from publishers."
"Open development does have its drawbacks," he added. "Not everyone understands the process or how difficult it can be. We have always tried to be open and share our progress. We refactored Around the Verse to focus more on developers showing and talking about their work to help give insight into the process. Our monthly reports have more information than any monthly report I had to do for Electronic Arts or Microsoft when at Origin or Digital Anvil."
Star Citizen fans should really read the full blog post here from Roberts.
As alluded to, not everyone has been thrilled with Star Citizen's delays. One backer recently received a refund after complaining to California's Attorney General.