We caught up with designer and community manager Ben Lesnick and lead writer Dave Haddock for an update on all the Star Citizen things. Well, OK. Some of the Star Citizen things. Join us after the cut for tidbits on the dogfighting alpha, CitizenCon, and more.
Massively: Is the team feeling the pressure of SC's rather enormous fan expectations yet?
Ben Lesnick: No question. Just over the past couple of weeks they've been killing themselves to get the hangar out, and doing a fantastic job. They definitely know what people expect, and they can deliver.
Given your modular development approach, has the entire team been crunching on the hangar, or are there different pockets of responsibility at this point?
Lesnick: The entire team worked on the hangar, though we'll be expanding soon with different teams for different modules. Right now we've all been crunching on the hangar, and it's not really standard development procedure, but it's necessary for us because we feel like we need to prove to our backers that we're actually doing something really cool with their money.
Do you think we'll still see the dogfighting alpha by the end of 2013?
Lesnick: That's what we're aiming at. We're going to sit down and look at our schedule for that next week, but Chris is still saying end of the year.
A rabid community like SC's practically cries out for a dedicated convention of some sort. Any plans to make that official or officially support one at some point?
Yes, we had actually hoped to do a CitizenCon in October of this year for the anniversary of the game announcement, but it didn't quite work out. We had our livestream and we saw how rabid our fans were and how many of them there were, so we needed a little more time to plan. But certainly next year there will be an official CitizenCon.
It sounds like this whole thing has been overwhelming for the team.
It's amazing. I was in Germany last week; 30 percent of our audience is German, and they treated us like rock stars. We walked down the street in Cologne and random people would come up and go, "Oh my God, you're Ben Lesnick! You're the community manager for Star Citizen!" So yeah, this is something. And the rest of the team is back home crunching, so I wish I could bottle that and bring it to them. But they definitely understand how amazing our fans are.
Any advice for fans looking to break into the game industry as you've done?
Well, just spend 15 years not trying to do it, and then eventually Chris Roberts will ask you. My experience was to get to know the devs and learn the inside of the industry rather than just being a fanboy. I got here by learning behind-the-scenes stuff and being fascinated by that. I had no intention of ever making games, but I ended up learning how and now here I am.
How much of the fiction that we're seeing on the website will make it into the finished game? And what form will it take? Maybe NPC dialogue, mobiglass screens, something else?
Dave Haddock: The news feeds will definitely be a part of it. Once the persistent universe goes live, the news updates will actually be based on what the players are doing, what the NPCs and government are doing. We want to have a lot of the stuff carry over.
As far as the stories go, we're still working that out. I imagine we'll have some kind of reading material on your mobiglass, maybe something like an in-game Kindle. But there will definitely be some sort of crossover.
How do those story and news updates work? Is there a schedule or anything notable coming up?
Haddock: The interesting thing about approaching the news updates... Ben writes the Galactic Guide for Jump Point Magazine, and then we have a weekly one that's like a Lonely Planet guide to our various worlds. So sometimes the news updates are actually news, but sometimes they're our attempt to kind of tease out information and ideas about game mechanics and see how the community reacts, what they lock onto, and what sort of questions they have.
So it's interesting because if the design team comes up with something on bounties, I'll try to incorporate that into a news update with some kind of fictional angle to gauge backer reaction, which we'll then take and reincorporate back into the bounty system. It's almost a symbiotic relationship at times. It's a weird blend and we don't necessarily plan it out far in advance.
Lesnick: In terms of stuff coming up, the Hornet brochure and commercials are in the works. We don't have a specific date yet, but they're coming.
In terms of the backer reaction and symbiotic relationship, how important is player feedback at this point? Are community preferences helping to mold the game?
Lesnick: It's very important. Just recently we did our credit store, and a lot of players were not happy. We sat down to hash out how to do it differently, and there's going to be a post tonight talking about how we're going to change that. So it's hugely important because players know what works and what doesn't. They aren't always right, but we get a lot of great feedback.
Sounds good. Thanks very much for chatting with us!
Dragon Con 2013 is more MMOsy than ever! Massively's in Atlanta, Georgia, from August 30th to September 2nd this year to report back on Guild Wars 2, EverQuest Next, Star Citizen and all the other MMOs at the con. Heck, we're even hosting a panel. So check back as we post up the highlights gamer-flavored geeks crave!