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Star Citizen release date: Alpha 3.3.5 update features an entire planet

Pete Clark Tom Bruce Will Georgiadis
14 Dec 2018
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Star Citizen may not be any closer to launch, but it does now feature an expansive planet to explore

Star Citizen, the infinite sci-fi adventure from Cloud Imperium Games (CIG), seems no closer to release than it did in January 2018.

Fortunately, a constant slew of game updates has kept the community thriving, and since we wrote this article the game has received another sizeable patch that brings with it a ton of new features. Here's a quick glimpse of a gameplay demo, courtesy of BoredGamer:

Front and centre for update Alpha 3.3.5 is the introduction of Star Citizen's first full-size planet. Hurston is the largest environment that Star Citizen has ever hosted, and features 6 unique biomes and a ton of surface settlements. The largest of these is Lorville, a Major Landing Zone that is chock full of NPCs, missions, and stores (including a bar, multiple hangars, and an equipment shop). The planet Hurston is some 2,500km in circumference, and the city of Lorville, 25km in diameter; this makes Lorville - in relation to Hurston - the size of Austin, Texas in relation to Earth. If you were wondering how massive this project is, wonder no more. 

But that's not all: Hurston is orbited by no less than four moons, each offering their own array of outposts to visit. Other new features include no-fly zones, new attire, and seven new Rest Stops. This update also makes impressive use of the object manipulation and interaction updates implemented previously.  

For weekly updates on Star Citizen’s progress, delivered directly from Wing Commander Chris Roberts, head over to the Roberts Space Industries ‘This Week in Star Citizen’ blog. Alternatively, give their monthly 'Around the Verse' studio report a read.

CryTek's Star Citizen Lawsuit

UPDATE: Since the original article was first published, the lawsuit levelled by Crytek against CIG has been all but resolved. The court appears in favour of CIG's pleas for a dismissal, finding that Crytek did not offer strong enough evidence to warrant a trial. It seems that although CIG were contractually prevented from licensing a different game engine to a third-party licensee, there was nothing stopping them from licensing that engine to themselves. Obviously, this is great news for fans of Star Citizen who have been waiting long enough without lengthy court proceedings. 

Our original article continues below.

Star Citizen could be in trouble if Crytek gets its way against game developer Cloud Imperium Games (CIG). In a new lawsuit brought against Star Citizen's developer, Crytek claims that CIG breached its contract and infringed upon its copyright by jumping ship from CryEngine to Amazon's Lumberyard. Ironically, Lumberyard is actually based on the same CryEngine technology, as Amazon bought it from Crytek to help save the ailing company's fortunes. 

The lawsuit against CIG states that they "promised, among other things (i) to use the CryEngine game development platform exclusively and to promote that platform within the video game, (ii) to collaborate with Crytek on CryEngine development and (iii) to take a number of steps to ensure that Crytek's intellectual property was protected."

It also states that "[CIG] utterly failed to follow through on those promises, and their actions and omissions constitute breaches of contract and copyright infringement and have caused substantial harm to Crytek."

CIG and Crytek's relationship began around the start of Star Citizen's development, with CIG using CryEngine for development while Crytek worked with CIG on marketing and helping improve CryEngine's technology. The relationship fell apart when Crytek began to lose money and staff members jumped ship to CIG's Frankfurt office instead. The final nail came when CIG made the move to Lumberyard after Amazon bought up CryEngine.

This engine switch is a crucial component of Crytek's lawsuit, going so far as to state that CIG violated terms by bringing CryEngine to a totally separate project – Squadron 42. It's worth noting that, initially, Squadron 42 was intended to be a part of Star Citizen before being spun out into a standalone game. Crytek also claims that CIG shared its engine code with other parties, including a video series producer, which is in direct violation of confidentiality agreements between the two parties.

Currently, CIG is shrugging the lawsuit off, claiming that it is "meritless" and stating that it will defend itself "vigorously" against it. What this means for the future of Star Citizen remains unclear, but let's hope they can at least make a Beta release happen before the project goes under.

Kickstarter Campaign - $181 million and counting

Seemingly still lightyears from release, Star Citizen has managed to raise more money than any other fan-funded project on any other platform in history. And yet it appears no closer to being released than it was in early 2017. The open universe sci-fi game’s developers, Roberts Space Industries and Cloud Imperium Games, reported that, as of April 2018, almost two million fans have donated $181,058,276 and counting. But with the ambitious project’s development dragging on, there has been mounting unrest from some of these same supporters. While most people are applying pressure on the games company through social media, a number have demanded their money back. One supporter, Phillip Schulz, has even taken legal action in a bid to reclaim $25,000 in donations made since 2012.

And on top of several high-profile refunds from some of Star Citizen’s most prominent backers, RSI and CIG are also battling with the aforementioned lawsuit from CryTek games, who have accused them of breaching an agreement and infringing copyright by ditching the CryEngine software in favour of Amazon’s Lumberyard.

Star Citizen's £20,000 in-game purchase

There's now a £20,300 ship pack available to Star Citizen players who have enough money – or lack of judgement – to buy it.

The Legatus Pack, costing a cool $27,000 (£20,300) in real money gives you access to all 117 ships, skins, extras, really everything Star Citizen has to offer. This one purchase means you'll never have to think about not owning that dream ship, or dream paint job – until Cloud Imperium Games put new ships on sale that is. It's also a sign that CIG clearly believes that Star Citizen content is worth such an absurd amount of money in the first place.

Seeing as Star Citizen has raised well in excess of $175 million in fan contributions alone, clearly, the development team believe such an absurd package is completely viable for their fanbase. Interestingly, you can't actually just wade in and drop down a wad of cash to nab your ships. CIG has only opened the sale of the Legatus Pack to those who have already spent $1,000 (£700) on Star Citizen purchases already – a sign that they have the money to spend in the first place.

Star Citizen: Everything you need to know

Star Citizen remains the most crowdfunded game the world has ever seen. The genre-busting sci-fi/MMO mash-up has gathered over $180 million in funding since originally appearing on Kickstarter, quite a staggering figure for a game delayed more times than even a high-grossing AAA title like Rockstar's GTA V.

In defence of Star Citizen, this is a title set to offer space combat, first-person gunfights, and realistic passive experiences such as trading and recreation in a virtually limitless explorable universe. Star Citizen's universe is certainly ambitious, to say the least.

Not only is Star Citizen aiming for great gameplay, with Chris Roberts (the guy that gave us beloved Wing Commander in the 90's) and Mark Hamill lending their voices, it should boast a great cast in the final build. Though Star Citizen can currently only be found on PC (and you'll need a beast of a rig to handle it), many are hoping for PS4 or Xbox One launch further down the line. At this rate, though, the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Two are looking much more likely as potential platforms.

The game is currently in Alpha with no actual release date, despite a steady stream of community fund donations since 2013. The team has also now shifted focus to their single-player project Squadron 42 set in the same universe. That spin-off was due out back in 2015 so we don't suggest holding your breath for either title.

Nevertheless, Star Citizen is already shaping up to be one of the biggest game of all time (we're not kidding). With over five years in development, there is still much unknown about Star Citizen, but you can acquaint yourself with the current details on all things including its wider universe right here.

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Star Citizen: What exactly is it?

The development team behind Star Citizen has a seriously ambitious plan for the game, so much so that it's difficult to pin down exactly what it will be when it finally arrives. Part space combat dogfighter, part MMO, part epic single-player campaign and part expansive open world, Star Citizen should be all things to anyone remotely interested in sci-fi and space games in general.

The plan is to eventually launch a full retail version of the game, which players will only have to buy once in order to play forever. There are no plans for a subscription model, and although there will be in-game micro-transactions, the developer has pledged that everything available to buy can also be earned through gameplay.

Star Citizen: Release date

Given Star Citizen's modular design and entirely fluid launch schedule, every part of the game is likely to arrive earlier or later than originally anticipated. Based on rough estimates, the final, finished game was supposed to arrive at the end of 2016, but that's come and gone without a trace. The game’s creator Chris Roberts has gone on record to say Star Citizen won't have a normal commercial release, meaning it is likely to come out in chunks over time. Fan pages had predicted the end of 2018 for it to see public eyes, but even 2019 might still be a little ambitious for a game this big.

Star Citizen space combat

If you're desperate to get into space, there are plenty of ways to do it without waiting for the inevitable full retail release.

Star Citizen: Modules

Star Citizen was designed as a modular title, with the development team working on one aspect of the game at a time and drop-feeding content to Kickstarter backers and early adopters. The first release was the Hangar module, which lets players explore a virtual starship hangar and walk around their personal craft in first person. You can jump in and inspect the cockpit, plus see all the mechanical features and electronics in action. You'll eventually be able to see all your cargo, organised into something like a warehouse, rather than simply open a menu to see a number symbolising your material wealth.

Star Citizen FPS

This initial release was followed by the Arena Commander module. It lets pilots take their ships out into space and pit them against AI opponents or other players to see who has the better dogfighting skills. It also includes the option for free flight, with no enemies to worry about, and the single player Vanduul Swarm mode for fighting information with AI-controlled wingmen.

Plans to add a racing mode are slowly coming to fruition, with some bare-bones functionality in place already to help you find out which of your friends or clanmates have the fastest ship. Fans got their first look at 'Galactic Gear' to coincide with the launch, a Top Gear-inspired trailer showing off one of the new racing ships in all its glory, while in-depth details of the latest update were released via the RSI monthly status report.

So far, the standout game mode is Capture the Core, a riff on the typical capture the flag mode normally found in first-person shooters. Now with the additional challenge of moving in three-dimensional space, players must capture an enemy core then transport it to their team's energy stockpile. It's currently available to all Arena Commander-eligible backers. A private match function was added in a recent update too, letting you pick exactly who to play against if you only want to dogfight with friends.

We've also been treated to the excellent "ship boarding" first-person shooter module. This is known as the Star Marine module, and it acts as the third of the three main modules. Not only does Star Citizen do space combat incredibly well, it'll also be taking a stab at shooters too, with proper on-foot combat and squad-based shooter experiences. 

Tying everything together is the Universe module. As of update Alpha 3.3.5, this combines the Hangar, Arena Commander, and Star Marine modules and contextualises them within one enormous open universe. This vast expanse of space features one full-sized planet (Hurston), one small city-planetoid (ArcCorp), one gas giant (Crusader), and a tiny planet that was ruined by bad terraforming (MicroTech). As if that wasn't enough, it also features a huge assortment of moons, orbital satellites, and other general space stuff. This is what turns the game into a frankly overwhelming MMO experience, and is also the closest we've come so far to a finished product. 

Star Citizen

Why is Star Citizen taking so long to come out?

Star Citizen has been trapped in a strange development limbo for five years. The game is still very much in development but the business model it has adopted means Star Citizen keeps having money thrown at it by those wanting to access the Alpha. With endless cash, the team behind Star Citizen are faced with the bizarre problem of not really knowing when to stop and actually ship the game to audiences. Having also announced single-player spin-off, Squadron 42, set to debut before Star Citizen's full launch, the team have a lot on their plate as they try to meet expectations for both titles.

Star Citizen: Alpha and subscriptions explained

If you weren't one of the early birds that supported Star Citizen, either through the Roberts Space Industries website or on Kickstarter (which only raised a small percentage of the massive $50 million+ total), it can be a little tricky to understand exactly how to gain early access to the game. Officially, everything playable right now is in an "Alpha" state, but that doesn't mean you have to wait for it to be finalised to start playing.

Star Citizen concept art

You'll need to head to the Pledge section of the official website and choose a game package to get started; there are plenty to choose from and prices can skyrocket depending on the size, performance and hold capacity of the ship you opt for. You want one that includes Arena Commander access, and the cheapest is currently the Mustang Alpha SC - a personal transport ship that includes a copy of the game, a personal hangar, digital manual, 1,000 in-game credits to spend on upgrades, a digital download of Squadron 42 when it launches and 3 months of ship insurance.

You aren't limited to single-seater ships either; although smaller, more nimble machines might be better suited to dogfighting, sometimes you need serious weaponry to deal real damage. The Constellation Andromeda is one of the largest ships currently available for early access customers to pledge for, and at $330 a piece it's also one of the most expensive, but it is designed to be manned by multiple players and can be fully loaded with bombs and turrets.

Insurance, just like in real life, protects your ship and cargo in the event it gets destroyed. For a set amount of in-game cash, it will be replaced if you have an accident or get destroyed in a dogfight. The idea is that it will form a part of the in-game economy, which will also include paying landing fees and trade tariffs, resupplying your ship with fuel, hiring help, making upgrades and buying cargo. Risk levels will be assigned to different star systems so you know where you are covered and where your policy will be invalidated. If you fly an uninsured ship and it gets destroyed, but don't have enough in the bank to immediately replace it, you'll have to fly missions for third parties and NPCs in order to earn enough credits to buy a new one.

Although there are subscriptions available through the Star Citizen website, they aren't necessary to play and simply earn you bonuses like a monthly digital magazine detailing development, cosmetic items to put on display in your virtual hangar, and after twelve months of membership exclusive access to work-in-progress sections of the website. It's purely for serious fans or anyone that wants to help out with development costs, so you can play without a monthly payment if you choose.

Star Citizen: Single Player - Squadron 42

Originally a crowdfunding stretch goal, Star Citizen's single-player campaign was funded when the overall total exceeded $29 million. Playable offline, with no need to connect to the internet in order to play, it looks set to expand the Star Citizen universe with a comprehensive backstory and a huge number of missions for pilots to attempt.

According to the official Roberts Space Industries website, Squadron 42 is an elite unit of the United Empire of Earth Navy. Having become notorious during the second Tavarin war for turning problematic pilots into an effective (yet difficult to control) fighting force, the Squadron is well-known for its unorthodox approach to military manoeuvres, battle plans and space combat.

Anyone that enlists with the 42nd Squadron may earn UEE Citizenship, which is why players should be keen to sign up - it will unlock bonuses in-game, including quicker police response when being chased by space pirates. There will be other ways to gain Citizenship without enlisting, so conscientious objectors will still be able to become a part of the UEE through other means, although these have yet to be finalised.

When it first arrives, Squadron 42 will include around ten finished missions, with others due to be added at a later date. There are currently four chapters, each with ten missions, planned in addition to the original introduction chapter, so there should be plenty of content for players that aren't interested in dogfighting online.

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