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Star Citizen Technology Interview: Gaming for HW Enthusiasts

Posted on December 15, 2012

When left uncorrupted by the technologically-crippling nature of consoles, PC gaming's propensity for visual and mechanical immersion provides an unrivaled entertainment medium for gamers. Even the cheapest, most stripped-down budget gaming PC has technology that far-and-away surpasses the capabilities of the current-gen consoles. Transistor count alone is indicative of the vast leaps made in the last 7 years: the Xbox 360's original Xenon CPU architecture (168mm^2) uses 65nm manufacturing process and sits on 165 million transistors, where a current-gen, 22nm 3570k offers 1.4 billion transistors on a 113mm^2 chip. Smaller, lower TDP, and more processing power.



Unfortunately, all the technology in the world doesn't matter if enthusiast-grade hardware is underutilized by console-bound games. Luckily, there are still game developers out there who push the limits of PC hardware: Crytek (Crysis), THQ/4A (Metro 2033), Creative Assembly (Shogun 2), and Cloud Imperium Games (Star Citizen) all provide tech enthusiasts a means to get the most out of new components.

We interviewed Chris Roberts, the lead space enthusiast behind Star Citizen, to discuss the game's technology, some of its gameplay mechanics, and their support of PC gaming. The game recently secured over $7m in crowd-sourced funding, split between more than 100,000 gamers. If Star Citizen isn't on your radar yet, it should be.

We covered topics ranging from the viability of SSDs for gaming (see also: "Do I need an SSD for gaming?") to multi-core utilization in game software, but before that, here's a brief overview of what Star Citizen is:

What Is Star Citizen? 

Star Citizen is an up-and-coming space sim game built atop a heavily-modified CryEngine 3. The game aims to present space combat and space RPG elements in a scale we've never seen before, promising full FPS gameplay, dogfighting, and even teasing "on the planet" play.

It's impossible to adequately summarize all of the features we discussed with Chris Roberts in a single post, so I'll cover the items I personally find most intriguing:

In terms of scale alone, the game will be playable from the player character level all the way up to the giant battleship level; you can walk around the insides of a carrier (think Battle Star Galactica or Star Wars scale), interact with the ship, hop into a local defense fighter in an emergency, man the turrets, and even board enemy ships in first-person mode (it is CryEngine) and disable key systems, then spacewalk back to your docked ship. The game is customizable to your playstyle - mercantile work, piracy, and military are all viable approaches to play. It also features massively multiplayer systems (not in the traditional MMO sense) that will implement a persistent, evolving universe in the truest sense. The scope is gargantuan. Completely impossible to convey in a reasonable amount of space, so we'll let this video do the talking:

Now, the game's not made yet -- the team has at least two years ahead of it for an initial release, though alpha/beta has been promised within a year for early backers of the game. It's tough to separate hype and cinematics from the real play experience (all the features in the world don't necessarily make a good game), but if nothing else, things are looking promising; in fact, a lot of features you see in the trailer are interactions that will happen in the game, albeit in first person. Here's another video to help give some perspective on gameplay:

I'll reserve my comments on his use of an Xbox controller.

We'll keep the rest of the speculation and in-depth mechanics discussion for future articles, but for now, let's stick to the scope of the game's underlying technology. Here's the order of topics, if you'd like to skip around:

  • CryEngine's multi-core utilization, accurate physics, and quad-core preference.
  • SSD discussion as they pertain to gaming; the future of gaming and SSDs.
  • Supported interfaces (Oculus Rift, stereoscopic 3D, Leap Motion, etc.).
  • Visual FX, graphics, and rendering tech in CryEngine 3.
  • "What kind of computer do I need for Star Citizen?"
  • Conclusion and other thoughts.
Time to take a look under the primary buffer panel.

An Engine for Enthusiasts: Multi-Core Utilization, Accurate Physics

When we recently looked at BlackSpace's technology, we were happy to learn about hardware-software interactions and get developer insight on the acceleration of high-end hardware support. As companies like nVidia, AMD, and Intel continue to offer resources to game developers (even indie startups), we've seen a larger push for SLI/CrossFire, 3D tech, multi-core utilization, and SSD support than ever before.

star-citizen-fighter1One of Star Citizen's fighter renderings.

Star Citizen aims to continue this trend. The game will be powered by a heavily-modified version of CryEngine 3, perhaps best known for its advanced graphics capabilities (HDR lighting, volumetric FX, SSAO) and native eight-core support.

CryEngine 3 is constantly receiving updates from Crytek, but as it stands now, the engine runs a separate physics thread, game/logic thread, and rendering thread, and occasionally spawns additional threads on an as-needed basis. Chris Roberts had this to say about multi-core support:

"Right now, whether you're on an i5 or an i7, you definitely want a quad-core CPU or better. Those cores are being used. In the setup we've got right now, there are at least three threads being used and it can go to more than 4 threads sometimes, but on the game side, 4 threads [max] is kind of where it's at."

We regularly receive the "i5 vs. i7" question on the forums, and while many games actually see a (very small) performance hit on the i7 due to hyperthreading overhead, Roberts hopes to utilize all the threads he can get his hands on: "Going forward, there should be an advantage with hyperthreading in gaming. I've got 6 cores and I'd like to use them all properly."

So the game can scale upwards nicely, due to native eight-core support on the engine's part, but I was still curious about the part that APUs and IGP-enabled CPUs might play in Star Citizen's future. AMD's A10-5800k APU is easily OC'd and is equipped with a 384-core (800MHz) 7660D GPU, which is certainly nothing to be laughed at. Intel's HD4000 is an admirable first step into the integrated market, but still has a ways to go before we'd recommend it over AMD's options for integrating gaming. CryEngine 3 scales well, but Star Citizen's focus on visual fidelity was cause for the question; here's what Roberts had to say on integrated chips for his game:

"I don't think they're out of the question. The [HD 4000] won't do it, but the way things are going, Intel or AMD may have an IGP/APU solution that's good enough to play this game in a year or two. I wouldn't rule it out at all -- probably by the time the game comes out, the IGP solution on whatever the new chip is will probably be able to run this game decently; not great - not as well as on a dedicated GPU—but on low settings?—yes, it's possible."

They're powerful chips and make for great living room gaming machines, so we're hopeful. We'll run benchmarks on modern chips once the game's out, of course!


CryEngine 3 also runs a software-side (non-accelerated) physics solution that Star Citizen will use to simulate real-time rigid body physics interactions. Each thruster will apply an appropriate amount of propulsion to respond to the player's input requests.

The thruster calculations are dynamically simulated, so if an enemy blows out one of your fighter's six thrusters, the ship will respond by dragging on the side corresponding to that thruster. This presents interesting gameplay mechanics for combat: Rather than simply blowing the enemy to smithereens, you could target their ability to move, target sensors, target all kinds of individually-checked components within the game, then commence piracy or raiding / boarding / thievery as desired. This also supports Roberts' focus on player skill rather than "bigger is better" for a ship approach -- a squadron of small fighters might be able to completely immobilize a massive Constitution-class ship, for instance.

A Move Toward SSDs for Gaming 

After our exploratory "How SSDs Are Made" article with LSI / SandForce andKingston, we've kept a heavy focus on explaining solid-state drive functionality. The GN team is in complete agreement: SSDs are the next break-out component in the consumer-side PC gaming world. There's no excuse not to have them in any mid-range or better PC, and at this point, we've often recommended cutting costs on other components to invest in an SSD. It just doesn't make sense to run a 3570k, GTX 670, Z77 board, and be throttled by mechanical components.

star-citizen-constellationAnother rendering - this time of the Constellation.

We're always eager to hear from devs if they see a clear path to SSD utilization in games, and when it's a PC-only game, the answer is almost always "yes." Games that are developed for consoles and later ported don't really show any major gain, of course -- Skyrim was a difference of maybe one or two seconds in our load tests -- but high-end PC games will more readily exhibit those differences.

Just Cause 2 and Shogun 2 are fantastic examples of games that have significantly decreased load times on SSDs, given the large amount of data they're pulling. SSDs also help cover for memory limitations, cache misses, and caching out in games that stream data, like Just Cause 2 does (no loading screens when wandering around -- it's all streamed in cell format, a la the TES series).

It all comes down to the way the game handles its content loading. Whenever you see a loading screen in a game, it is almost a certainty that non-volatile storage is being accessed and files loaded into memory; that memory is then referenced for almost all interactions contained within the level/map that was loaded. In the case of games that don't use traditional "zones," to steal an MMO phrase, and loading screens, but rather stream data from non-volatile storage for constant cell/chunk updates, storage hits will be infinitely more noticeable.

For example, if you've modded Skyrim to use high resolution texture packs with large file sizes, you may notice an instance between cells (take the Whiterun/Riverwood transition) where there's a jitter or interruption of fluid movement. This is because the game is dumping data from one cell and loading data (from storage) into memory for the new cell; if you're on a mechanical drive, the drive has to physically move the header to each file's location on the platter, send that data to memory, and then jump to the next file. The best GPU in the world won't bypass that problem.

carrier-sideA side view wire/rendering of a carrier.

SSDs will, though. This potentially delves into deeper SSD spec discussion, so we'll point you to our "Understanding SSD Specs" article for that, but I want to briefly discuss how to prioritize specs for SSDs in gaming applications: We're all familiar with the IOPS vs. Sequential argument at this point -- sequential read/write operations benefit from increased transaction speeds, whereas random I/O operations are harder to measure in pure MB/s due to their, well, randomness. With exception granted to cut-scenes, games will almost exclusively be represented by prolonged 4K random read IOPS performance on SSDs. This is because games are loading countless relatively small files, which are then assembled to build the experience we're presented with in-game. Mechanical disks suffer during these tasks when heavily fragmented or otherwise occupied due to the sheer number of items being loaded (as opposed to a single, large sequential read).

I was elated when Roberts went into the SSD discussion without being prompted -- it's normally something I have to specifically bring up, but this proved to me that SSDs have come to the forefront of system building:

"For me, the big performance difference is an SSD. If you're going to invest some money in a system and your choice is a mechanical drive and an i7 or an i5 and an SSD, take the SSD every day of the week. That's going to be a massive performance difference. SSDs are definitely going to matter in Star Citizen because we're PC only -- we're going to be doing a fair amount of streaming, so... you know, you're going to be sitting on your hard drive. If you ever get into memory issues and you're caching out, then obviously it's much better on an SSD than an HDD.

I think part of the issue with a lot of games is they're built for consoles and they're constrained, but we're not. So an SSD is going to have a lot bigger impact on the Star Citizen experience than maybe it would do on another game. If it's a game that's specifically for a PC and it's heavy, then an SSD will make a big difference for you."

We also delved into level/loading methodology, though that's all still in discussion among the Star Citizen team. For now, here's what we know about "level" loading plans:

"I'm trying to see if I can have a fully-continuous universe where we just load in 'areas.' The higher-level concept is that areas stream in and out as you fly around. Imagine each area in space as being a section, or sector, or square -- and that area is streaming in. In a lot of cases that area will be an empty area, but in some cases it might have asteroids or a space station, or something like that."

If it works out as he plans, you can think of Star Citizen's "area" model as similar to Skyrim's cell loading methodology. Cells stream in and out of data as necessary in favor of a more seamless experience. Because Star Citizen will be primarily composed of empty space (as opposed to a filled environment, like any non-space game would have), that means the majority of asset data streaming will be centered around objects, like ships, asteroids, space stations, and other items that are summoned forth by procedural generation. A player entering your area (in multiplayer mode) with a large, uncached ship is an example of when storage will be hit. The faster you can access storage, the faster you can render that player on the screen.

Star Citizen's Supported Interfaces, 3D Technology, and HUD Design 

oculus-rift-conceptAn early concept of Oculus Rift.

System internals aren't the only item on the menu for Star Citizen, though. Along with all of its mechanical ambitions—FPS boarding gameplay, flight systems, crewed battleships, and planet-side missions—the game also hopes to fully-integrate all the control interfaces they can reasonably support. Here's a quick list of what we know -- though I'm sure we've left something out:

  • Support for Leap Motion, the motion sensing input mechanism; can be used to slide items around between multiple monitors and interact with the HUD, among other things.
  • Support for Oculus Rift, the new VR headset.
  • Support for 3D Vision and other non-proprietary 3D tech.
  • Support for HOTAS (Hands-on Throttle-and-Stick) input; support for other joysticks and gamepads.
  • Support for flight chairs and rudder pedals.
  • And of course, support for the trusty keyboard and mouse.
Roberts excitedly attempted to convey the experience of playing his game while equipped with 3D glasses and the other exotic peripherals, though conceded that these technologies are nearly impossible to explain without simply trying them:

"The HUD system is specifically designed to work inside of stereoscopic 3D. It's actually much cooler than, say, playing Crysis 2 in 3D, partly because space is perfect for 3D. If you watch any 3D movie, it's usually the flying sequences that tend to be best because you have distinct objects at different depths and you don't have the crosstalk of the rest of the environment or scenery that you get normally. You have the HUD and interface floating sort of in front of your eyes, sort of like Minority Report style, and you can see the cockpit around you -- it's really cool, one of the things where I think Oculus Rift will be awesome with Star Citizen and Squadron 42. The key thing with Star Citizen is you're not really running around that much, most of the time you're sitting in a seat -- in real life, you're also sitting in a seat -- so if you've got Oculus Rift on and a joystick in front of you, that's about as close to VR as you get, it will feel very natural.

The only thing that sucks about it is it's not really very easy to demo, it's a personal experience; you have to put the goggles on and do the experience yourself to try it out. Because we have stereoscopic 3D already supported, it's going to work very well with the Rift - you have zero crosstalk because you're essentially simulating exactly what happens in the real world."

For those who remember our 3D Vision review, you may recall issues we had with z-fighting (tearing/flickering textures) that required the disablement of key graphics options -- high-quality shadows, motion blur, AO -- in order to properly play certain games with the glasses. This was primarily a result of the games' programming/art assets, not necessarily the technology. The 3D software and hardware were unable to adequately interpret the multi-depth interference between objects/textures that were not created with stereoscopic 3D in mind. This wasn't necessarily a fault with stereoscopic 3D interfaces themselves, though it did often prove to be more effort than it was worth to properly tweak settings for compatibility.

This is all very different in Star Citizen for a few reasons: First, CryEngine has a global 3D software solution built-in, meaning support from the get-go; second, Star Citizen is a space game, and as Roberts mentioned above, environmental crosstalk is minimized given the game's existence in large, mostly-empty space. With Star Citizen's high-quality, high-resolution assets and detailed models, we suspect that the "3D experience," as long as it's supported throughout the dev process, should be more engrossing than all the games we've seen ported to PC in recent years. Cockpit-centric gameplay only helps further the game's feasibility as a stable 3D platform.

Continue on to page 2 for Star Citizen's HUD Design, complete with a HUD screenshot!


Star Citizen's HUD Design

star-citizen-cockpitThis is the cockpit we were shown in the game's cinematic trailer -- "You haven't seen anything yet," Roberts says.

The heads-up display is arguably the most important component of any cockpit-oriented game; to feel like a pilot in the seat of a squadron fighter -- because we don't have that comparison in the real world -- must compete with our cinematic expectations. There has to be a canopy for optically tracking enemy fighters who speed by, targeting systems on the computer, a joystick for missile and flight control, and all manner of instruments responsible for ship vitals. Everyone has different expectations of what this should feel like, making for especially challenging design.

The team behind Star Citizen is focusing heavily on the immersive nature of their game, as demonstrated in the above "Star Citizen - Immersion" video, and hopes to create one of the most interactive and realistic game HUDs ever made:

"You haven't seen anything yet -- it's crazy. If you've seen Iron Man, Iron Man 2, or the Avengers and the Iron Man HUD - that's basically what it is. It's that level of detail. It individually tags and tracks targets, it [can zoom and pan] from your view, it brings up vital readouts, it can switch between autopilot and fly-by-wire. I've actually disliked all the HUDs I've seen in games, they sort of feel very flat to me, they feel very game-y, they're not like a natural HUD; it's almost like you might as well put a score up there, with the way it feels."

On a mechanical level, the HUD is highly-interactive and will be the centerpiece of all the best action in the game. You'll be able to toggle numerous computer-aided systems, go completely auto-pilot, or go completely unaided, Roberts told us. Everything is fully customizable, too: individual panels can be traded in or out in favor of others, swapped between monitors on a multi-monitor configuration; flight control systems can be toggled on and off; power can be cut to minimize detection on sensors; auto-pilot can be enabled for long trips or if you'd like to walk around the ship; and all support systems can be disabled for fly-by-wire play, Roberts noted.


This all sounds fantastic, but I had one immediate concern: Gameplay suddenly sounded very complex and intimidating, and as much as I love depth in a game, I don't always have the time to learn every underlying mechanic. Roberts squelched those concerns:

"The systems underpinning everything are far more detailed [than Wing Commander] and— a lot of it is procedurally-driven... A lot of [the detailed interactions] are simulated in the background, and then on the top-layer we've got a flight control system that's the equivalent of a modern-day flight system or fly-by-wire computer. [It does] all the calculations of where you want thrust to be applied and what part of the rigid body needs to rotate at what angle and degree.

We want it to be very simple and easy to play, but if you really want to get into it, you can get down to assigning hotkeys to different thrusters. We give controls to the power users, but for someone who wants to play casually, it's pretty easy for them to play and enjoy as well. It's sort of like StarCraft 2 - you can play and use your mouse and click around, but the hardcore players know every single hotkey.

If you wanted to disable all the flight computers and spin around Asteroids style, or turn off parts of the computer and not others, you can do all that. That's the kind of philosophy we're approaching it with: Easy to learn, hard to master— said a very long time ago and very appropriate for our game design."

This whole block contains important information -- the game is accessible and enjoyable to more casual players, but has the level of depth that would turn a flight sim veteran green. Roberts later went on to note that with Leap Motion or other touch-enabled devices, you'll be able to sweep elements of the HUD between monitors for full immersion and customization, as briefly mentioned above. I have to say: This level of depth makes me want to build a monitor-encased gaming throne. Arcade style. We'll need at least six monitors for, ah, testing purposes. Better make it eight.

Star Citizen / CryEngine 3 Graphics Capabilities

Crytek has introduced several new graphics techniques to the gaming world, mostly enabling cinematic-quality graphics to be rendered dynamically in real time. SSAO (Screen Space Ambient Occlusion), DirectX 11 tessellation, parallax occlusion mapping, real-time volumetric FX, and displacement mapping are all solid examples of CryEngine's attempt to streamline graphics pipelines.

All of these items aid in the elimination of pre-baked lighting effects and pre-rendered cut-scenes, and Star Citizen plans to take advantage of all of it. A full discussion on graphics technology is out of the scope of this article, but we'll provide a few brief examples of some of the most noted options available in CryEngine 3. NVidia created a series of .GIFs for its more in-depth article on these topics, so we urge you to visit their post for further detail.

SSAO: Screen Space Ambient Occlusion is a graphics rendering option that intelligently approximates real-world lighting effects without needing to prebake scenes. It can dynamically interpret how light should interact with surfaces in games, and perhaps most importantly, it's at a (relatively) low performance cost.

crysis ssao

Dx11 Tessellation: This was all the rage during the Kepler launch and upon Crysis 2's ultra add-on release. At its most basic level, tessellation in game environments is the rendering of non-uniform objects (tiled floors, brick walls, rubble-strewn landscapes, spike-backed dragons) in a way that really makes them pop-out; it reduces the sharp edged nature of objects and also adds depth to environments. You can read a technical overview of its inner-workings here, and see a very helpful example below:


Volumetric FX: These visual effects -- normally involving clouds, mists / fog, lighting, 'godrays,' and smoke -- appear to have actual depth. CryEngine 3 is also capable of rendering shadows for volumetric effects somewhat realistically, which adds to the sense of true depth. Crysis' explosions and other smoke-producing effects are good examples of this.

All of these (and far more that we won't cover) are natively supported by CryEngine 3, though Roberts mentioned that his team is working to integrate film-class particle effects on top of the existing options. Most of CryEngine 3's rendering is handled by the GPU and scales fluidly with larger GPU arrays, meaning full support for SLI/CrossFire systems.

Aside from the effects, Star Citizen will also feature complex models with a high poly-count: Carriers will be composed of 7 million polygons, characters will hover around 100,000 polygons, and other ships will consist of several hundred thousand. These numbers don't mean much when provided sans context, so we asked Chris Roberts to put this into perspective for us:

"Everything will be about 10X what it is in most modern triple-A games. In a typical FPS, you also have to render the environment, but most of what we're dealing with is empty or mostly-empty space. The high-end [of polygons on screen for an FPS] is about 1.1 to 2 million polys on-screen at any given time for games like Crysis 2, Uncharted, and Assassin's Creed 3. That's where they peak out on a console before dropping below 30FPS."

The next obvious question was one of detail: Because we won't ever be rendering all 7 million of that carrier's polygons simultaneously (if it's a tiny square in the distance, you don't need that level of detail; if you're close enough for finer details, you can't see the whole thing), we asked Roberts where those polygons will be noticeable:

"The difference is in the small details: You'll really be able to tell when you get up close to stuff -- you'll see the ridging on a hose or a pipe, the individual plates and moving parts on a carrier -- you'll see these things in a 10 million [poly] scenario, but not necessarily with 1 million polys."

When we attended an nVidia conference a year back, nVidia projected its post-Maxwell line of GPUs would increase graphics capabilities on CUDA by 1000%. Star Citizen is being developed now and will be under way for another two years, so we were curious as to how the game would make use of hardware that isn't available yet; Roberts insists that the game will possess enough graphics options to make use of any reasonable amount of hardware thrown at the game, creating an increasingly smooth gaming experience.

Star Citizen Gaming PC - "What Kind of GPU / CPU Do I Need for Star Citizen?"

If you're building a rig only for Star Citizen, it is (of course) advisable that you wait it out until the game is closer to launch. With that said, if you're looking to build something today that will run the game admirably in the future, we'd steer you toward an i5-3570k (if you plan to overclock; 3450 if not), Z77-equipped motherboard for best SRT/SLI support, mid-range GPU array (2x7850s in Crossfire) or a single, high-end card, probably a GTX 670, and an SSD (favoring the Vertex 4, HyperX, and Samsung 840 Pro SSDs) or two smaller SSDs in a striped RAID 0 array.

It is impossible for us to accurately predict what the game's ultimate requirements for maxed settings are, but given outlines from Roberts, that's what we can conclude for now. A recent email blast from Cloud Imperium Games listed these specs as tentative requirements:

Official Star Citizen System Requirements (Tentative)

  • CPU: "Playable on a dual-core." (GN: We recommend an i3-3220 or better for dual-core rigs).
  • GPU: GTX 460 or greater.
  • RAM: 4GB.
  • Storage: Unknown at this time.


Official Star Citizen Recommended System Specs (Tentative) 

  • CPU: "i7-2500 or better." (GN: There is no i7-2500 -- we believe they meant the i5-2500k or better).
  • GPU: GTX 670 or greater.
  • RAM: Unlisted. (GN: We recommend 8GB of 1600MHz memory or higher; if you're running an APU, you'll want 1866MHz).
  • Storage: Unknown at this time.


What is Star Citizen's admiral using? Read for yourself:

"The machine I'm talking to you from is one I built myself... I don't know if I'm going to make all of our developers do this, but I kind of like the idea of understanding your hardware. It's a Thermaltake G10 case, ASUS X79 Pro motherboard with a 3960X that's overclocked, I think it's about 4.4GHz, and a corsair H100 as the cooling solution, mainly because I'm not quite the enthusiast that's going to build my own water cooling solution. I also have 32GB of Corsair 1600MHz memory in it and it's got twin EVGA Superclocked GTX 680s in it in SLI, and a 1200W Corsair PSU; it also has a 512GB SSD as the system and dev drive, and then a cached 2TB 7200RPM HDD cached with a 128GB Corsair GT SSD. I can't be making this game without a really badass system, right? I'm basically making a game to push this system."

Granted, we'd probably recommend a smaller SSD (~32-64GB) for SRT / drive caching, but that's not to take away from the awesome layout. Maybe push the RAM and CPU a bit harder, Chris! The H100 can handle it.

For those of you who need help building your own system for the game, head over to our hardware forums for dedicated PC build support from our build specialists. That's what the site's here for, after all.

Final Thoughts / Conclusion 

Star Citizen is an overwhelming scope with an overwhelming amount of data. From a hardware enthusiast perspective, the game is exciting on multiple levels (fingers crossed for a shipped benchmarking simulation). It's encouraging SSD adoption, driving for proper quad-core utilization, and supporting more interfaces than you can shake a HOTAS at. We can't really comment heavily on gameplay mechanics, playability, and whether the game will be "good" or not yet, obviously, but the technical details are promising.


We haven't even really touched on the multiplayer aspects or some of the cooler gameplay mechanics either, but I can promise that we've got loads of content to follow-up in another post. We'll work to post an article centered around those items in the coming weeks, hopefully including some of our info on mod support and dedicated server options.

With a core team of roughly 60 people (split between Austin, Montreal, and LA), an expandable base of contractors, tons of funding from supporters, and 100,000+ fans on the Roberts Space Industries site, the game has serious potential.

The HUD's integration with abstract interface technologies makes for what could be one of the most engaging input experiences in the gaming world, right up there with HAWKEN's recent Oculus Rift promises. I think that's probably the take-away message for Star Citizen: The game wants to be as "realistic" as it possibly can, but still keep the cinematic quality of our imaginations. We asked Roberts what he most looks forward to with the game's launch, to which he said:

"The level of detail in the spaceships is what I'm most looking forward to. Our ships are fully functional on all levels - I've never had that experience and that's sort of what I want. And the first-person aspect of it where you can spacewalk to board someone else's ship, disable the ship, spacewalk out, blast their airlock and try to take it over, that'd be kind of cool. Those are the kinds of things I'm most excited about."

As with any game that is still in full development, I remain cautious with my optimism. We really will just have to wait and see how things pan out. That wait won't be long, though -- alpha should be ready for backers by next year.

Personally, I'm very curious to see how the game stresses hardware in its more intense combat- and player-heavy scenarios; I'm also looking forward to benching SSD performance vs. HDD performance, if we can determine a reliable way to implement the game into our benchmarking suite.

Post a comment if you have any questions you'd like us to bring up for the next article or interview!

- Steve "Lelldorianx" Burke.