Massively's podcast fielded a listener question about Star Citizen and various other Kickstarters a couple weeks back, and while I answered it on our weekly show, I'd like to expand on it in more detail here. Call it a public service for people who are mildly interested in Cloud Imperium's space sim but not interested enough to scarf up the considerable amount of news flowing out of the studio these days.
The question, in a nutshell, was how can a 30-person dev team make a triple-A title. There was more to it, including the usual concerns about crowdfunding, trust, and bits about investing vs. donating, but the dev team portion is the portion that I want to highlight.
See, Cloud Imperium hasn't been a 30-person dev team for quite some time. While the core developer group headquartered in Austin, Texas, numbers close to 30, there's also Cloud Imperium Los Angeles, which houses various business and legal personnel as well as writers, renderers, designers, and concept artists including Star Wars veteran Ryan Church.
Then you have the contract dev teams, which are doing a ton of heavy lifting on things like back-end architecture, art, and various IT tasks. Companies involved include Behaviour and Turbulent, both located in Montreal; Massive Black, which is located in Los Angeles; and engine-maker Crytek, which has regularly sent engineers and specialists to assist CIG in adapting the CryEngine 3 for Star Citizen's particular needs.
Oh, and don't forget about CIG's team in England, led by Chris Roberts' brother Erin. That group is composed of industry veterans who made Privateer and Starlancer, and it's focused exclusively on the single-player/co-op Squadron 42 deliverable. What's Squadron 42? It's a story-based campaign similar to the old Wing Commander titles that serves as a primer for players prior to entering the Star Citizen persistent universe proper.
In my estimation, Star Citizen's dev team numbers closer to 100 than 30, and it will most likely grow even larger as things like planetary environments, FPS combat, and other additional features are farmed out to pro contract teams and various pre-existing studios around the world. The best way to keep abreast of CIG and its inner workings is Wingman's Hangar, the weekly webcast hosted by producer Eric "Wingman" Peterson. Every single episode features an in-studio dev guest and a lengthy interview. Lately, several episodes have also broken the news about the latest dev team hires. Peterson has even been known to solicit contact info from particularly talented community members, so it's pretty clear that Star Citizen's dev team is on the uptick.
The core group is in Austin, though, and it includes lead game designer Rob Irving, production designer Chris Olivia, chief technology officer Jason Spangler, and a host of programmers and artists. Irving in particular is extremely visible in the community; he shows up on just about every episode of Wingman's Hangar and directly answers gameplay- and design-related questions submitted by viewers.
As for Chris Roberts himself, aside from being the ringleader, he's currently got his hands all over the code for this winter's dogfighting module, according to reports on Wingman's Hangar. He's also doing the interview and convention circuit, and his post-GDC Next chat with Rock, Paper Shotgun is worth a read if only to hear his take on Star Citizen's increasingly vocal doubters.
"When there's an article about us, there's always one person who's like, 'IT'S A SCAM,'" Roberts told RPS. "[Gradually releasing each part of the game and then combining them into one] is a conscious plan. I mean, I'm building a really big game. If you ask people what they want, they'll tell you they want the best game possible. But if you take a look at Blizzard or Valve or Irrational or Rockstar, those guys all make games people love. But then, people are still asking where Half-Life 3 is. These companies are like, 'It's done when it's done.' When some of the best in the business can't run to some preordained schedule, [it says a lot about how this stuff ends up working out]."
The info I've shared in this article is publicly available via the Star Citizenwebsite, the CIG forums, the game's weekly webcast, or a simple Google search. I've been following the game industry for a couple of decades now, and I've never seen a high profile development project that is as accessible to fans and interested onlookers as Star Citizen currently is.
CIG is making a substantial effort to educate gamers on how AAA games can be made (and, of course, making more money for itself in the process), so even if you're not keen on the title's gameplay but you are a budding developer (or even a game journo), it's probably still worth availing yourself of all the transparency.
I have no personal connections inside Cloud Imperium or any of the other studios working on the game, but the good news is that on this project, you don't need connections in order to be informed.
Whether it's interviews with Chris Roberts and the Cloud Imperium team or tips and guides for pushing your ship's performance envelope, Stick and Rudder is your source for news and commentary on the world of Star Citizen. Join Jef Reahard every other week during the run-up to alpha, beta, and beyond.