At the beginning of the year, we posted a short article listing a handful of games that we wanted to see make a comeback. It appears that the gods were listening; or one god at least. Mr Wing Commander himself, Chris Roberts, has returned to games development following a 10 year abscence with what is set to be his most ambitious project to date.
A teaser website launched last month under the guise of Roberts Space Industries merely hinted that armchair space jockeys might have reason to rejoice, but it wasn't until Roberts stepped out on stage at GDC Online in Austin, Texas that the true scope of his vision became clear.
Whilst Roberts' most famous franchise, Wing Commander, was a purely mission-driven single-player; the well received (but flawed) follow-up, Freelancer, sought to take the open universe approach that had made Elite such a success. In his absence however, the gaming world has moved on and multiplayer is the order of the day, which is why his new project, Star Citizen, is going to be an MMO. And at the same time; it isn't!
Star Citizen takes place in a universe where citizenship must be earned, either through civic duty or military service. The military service in this context will take the form of a branching narrative campaign, in the style of Wing Commander. Named 'Squadron 42', the campaign can be played as an offline single-player experience, or co-operatively with friends taking on the roles of your wingmen. Complete a tour of duty with the eponymous squadron and your character can opt to re-enlist or set out for fame and fortune in the persistent online universe.
Out in the wider online experience there looks set to be a multitude of viable careers ranging from trading and industrial vocations, to the eternal lure of piracy. For those finding themselves deterred by the MMO aspect may find themselves intrigued by the prospect of hosting their own moddable server. Throw in the plan to produce weekly "micro updates" influenced by the actions of the community, and you have the potential for a rich player-driven universe without a monthly subscription.
Head over to the Star Citizen website for more details and the obligatory crowd funding tier.