Chris Roberts Talks Star Citizen, The Last of Us, Broken Age, and More
Fallout: New Vegas, Uncharted 2, Dragon Age: Origins, and Demon’s Souls — without them, it’s likely Chris Roberts would still be behind the camera. The creator of Wing Commander left the game biz for the movie biz nearly a decade ago because he felt he could create more immersive worlds with film than with pixels. After playing the aforementioned games, though, his eyes were opened to just how far the industry has come in the past 10 years. Now, he believes he can create the world he’s always envisioned. Check that: the universe he’s always envisioned. It’s called Star Citizen, and more than 200,000 people have contributed nearly $15 million to make Roberts’ dream a reality – a record-setting crowd funding campaign that shows no signs of slowing down and could make Star Citizen the first truly AAA self-published game.
With the first Star Citizen module set for launch in a few weeks (a Hangar app that will allow supporters to walk around the digital ships they’ve purchased), I figured it was a good time to check in with Roberts. What I originally planned as a simple Star Citizen update quickly morphed into a wide-ranging conversation about crowd-funding, storytelling, the lessons Roberts learned in the film industry, The Last of Us, Oculus Rift, and even Tim Schafer’s own Kickstarted project, Broken Age — a timely topic, and one that Roberts feels strongly about.
“In the normal development world, every single day, developers are late for publishers like EA or Activision,” Roberts said of Schafer’s much-talked-about decision to transform Broken Age into two episodes and push back the full launch until 2015. “Every day, people decide they need to change a game or can’t finish a game, and they kill it, or publishers kill it, they cut their losses and walk away. In the crowd-funding model, people aren’t used to that, they’re not exposed to it. But it’s no different. Some things won’t work. Some things will be late, and people are now becoming aware of that. In the case of Broken Age, people were upset, but it’s &*%$ing Tim Schafer. If you want to play a graphic adventure, he’s the guy. I would rather have Tim overachieve than underachieve.”
Despite his uncompromising support for Schafer and the Double Fine team, Roberts admitted there is a lesson to be learned in the case of Broken Age: in this brave new crowd-funding world, backers want to be, or at least feel like they are, involved in the development process. Cut them out of that process, even for a single step, and you risk a backlash.
“We’re early in the process,” Roberts said. “It’s always easy to be on track earlier in the process than later in the process. On my side, we’re building such a big complicated game, I can tell you right now, not everything will work out how and when we’ve planned. I’d be lying if I said we could do that. I think people complained because they weren’t told. They thought they were getting this and now they’re getting this. With us, we’re open. We’re giving you what we’ve got at the time, like with the Hangar module, and letting you play with it. There will be hiccups. Hopefully this will alleviate them.”