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Gameverse | August 25, 2019

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The road to Star Citizen & Squadron 42 may be long, but may be worth it

Robert Endyo

When will Star Citizen release?

That’s the question seemingly on everyone’s mind these days, and often met with the standard responses “it’s never being released” or “when space travel is a reality.” However, the real answer is a rather boring, “we don’t know.”  That’s not to say we don’t know anything at all about the future of Star Citizen and what is going to be released within the coming months.  In fact, Cloud Imperium Games has made a very clear and concise roadmap detailing what will be in its upcoming patches and when they will be released.

The Roadmap

Star Citizen Alpha 3.5 (yes, it’s still in Alpha) was the last version to release on April 18, 2019.  It included a variety of additions like a new character creation system, a playable female character model, a variety of new ships, a reworked flight model, and the star (or planet) of the show, ArcCorp.  Adding a new planet and its moons is a daunting task on its own considering the addition of literally thousands of square kilometers of surface that can all be thoroughly explored. But this planet has some unique features.

What makes ArcCorp special is that, rather than being relatively barren like most planets and moons in the game, it’s covered entirely by a planet-sized city.  It’s very reminiscent of Coruscant from the Star Wars universe, but here you get to fly in and around every building and land at a variety of different zones.  It does have some caveats though, namely that there’s a no-fly zone closer to the surface to prevent people from smashing into buildings and maintaining a little realism.

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By the end of June or early July, 3.6 should be releasing.  It will be adding a new collection of content and updates including more flyable ships, an in-game rental system, and a law system.  The Q3 and Q4 updates will bring their own new gameplay improvements and expansions moving Star Citizen ever closer to that indeterminate release date.

Squadron 42

Along with Star Citizen and its online MMO-styled design will come a single player portion named Squadron 42.  Anyone familiar with Chris Roberts’ Wing Commander series will recognize the concept in the development of this title.  Squadron 42 has its own roadmap that, as you would expect, has some overlap with Star Citizen since they’ll be using most of the same ships, assets, and gameplay throughout.  However, the single-player experience will have a variety of cutscenes and in-game character interactions featuring a surprisingly well-known cast of famous actors like Mark Hamill, Gillian Anderson, and Gary Oldman (just to name a few). You can see some of their work in this Squadron 42 trailer.

This roadmap, much like the one for Star Citizen, outlines the progress being made in the different areas of development.  Yet, one surprising difference is that its final update is the beta release of Squadron 42.  At the moment, that is set for Q2 2020.  Now, if you’re not new to following Star Citizen, you’ll know that Squadron 42 has had a couple of release dates over the years.  They’ve always been passed by with an explanation arriving months later.  Generally, the issue has been certain key components of the development hitting roadblocks or needing refactoring to achieve the standard of fidelity on which Chris Roberts won’t compromise.  While that’s frustrating for someone waiting to play, it is admirable to see quality as the deciding factor in releasing a game.

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Release Dates

It seems odd to me that so many people appear to be up in arms about the release of Star Citizen.  We have all seen so many games over the years release too early with tons of bugs and missing content just to meet deadlines and ensure maximum profitability.  It’s refreshing to see that approach tossed out the window in favor of making the game right rather than right now.

With that preface, it is my opinion that 2020 is going to be a big year for both Star Citizen and Squadron 42.  If Squadron 42 is in “beta” and is tested as rigorously and by as many people as Star Citizen has been over the years, I think there is a strong chance that it will see a full release of Squadron 42 before the end of 2020.  That’s assuming that everything goes as planned up to that beta.

With the release of Squadron 42, Star Citizen may not be far behind.  At least as far as having all of the core mechanics and gameplay interactions rolled out and playable.  Even if Star Citizen reaches something that people would dare label a “release,” it’s going to have years of content that needs to be developed and added.  The end goal is to have over 100 star systems and, currently, they’re still fleshing out a single one.  However, once two or three full star systems are in the game, they’ve essentially developed all of the elements necessary to create more.

Given the nearly seven years (my god it’s nearly been seven years) that I’ve followed Cloud Imperium Games’ development, it’s hard to be even mildly certain anything is going to happen when it’s supposed to.  Along with many of the game’s backers, I take what we get when we get it and never bank on anything more.  Yet, since the roadmap went live early in 2018, the delivery of patches has been infinitely more consistent than it ever was.  They have stated and followed through on the idea of pushing out patches in a timely manner rather than holding them up for stalled development or bugs.  It has meant that some features I’ve been waiting for (like Salvage) have been pushed back multiple times, but I would always rather have consistent updates and the impression the game is making progress rather than hold things up for one or two pieces of gameplay.

Source: Cloud Imperium Games