A design for life: how game designers are shaping entire worlds

Reach for the stars

Star Citizen began in October 2012 with a crowdfunding campaign by Chris Roberts (Erin's brother), which attracted an incredible $4.2 million. But it didn't end there: by June 2013 it had reached $10 million. Erin jumped on board at $17 million. In September 2014 it had funds totalling $55 million at its disposal. It's clear that this new way of funding interactive entertainment requires a whole new approach to making games.

Fortunately, Cloud Imperium had success in mind from day one. "We always had a very long-term plan for what we were going to do," says Roberts. "The fact that the crowdfunding's taken off to such an extent has allowed us to put in a bunch of the stuff we wouldn't have at first. We haven't really changed the idea of the game, but we certainly have increased what we're working on, and the fidelity."

Star Citizen's design is shaped as a series of modules, each of which is positioned within the game's universe and tackles a different area of gameplay. It's an all-encompassing approach that makes it remarkably hard to nail down the game in terms of genre and next to impossible to review - Star Citizen has become a gaming format and ecosystem unto itself. But it's also the best way to get the game working - Cloud Imperium has released modules in dribs and drabs, satiating the thirst of eager backers and reiterating the game based on their input and ideas.

Star Citizen

Star Citizen has a bright future

"You've got hundreds of thousands of people out there and you're working on their dream for them," says Roberts. "We work on it, and when we have something really cool to show we put it out to the community, and we get feedback from them. Then we work on some more stuff. I just can't think of a better way of making games right now, as long as you've got the right people making the game, and the community behind it."

Erin and his brother can't grant miracles and - we hate to say it - they probably aren't going to live forever. But they are building an entire universe - one more complex than anything ever imagined before. And they're living proof, surely, that mankind has just taken one more step towards godliness