Star Citizen may be the world’s most ambitious Early Access project (and quite possibly the next textbook example of Development Hell). For those still holding their breath, the company has recently affirmed that VR support is still planned as an eventual feature, and the game’s developers say that a new UI design is made with VR in mind.
Beginning development as a 2012 Kickstarter project that raised a respectable $2.1 million, Star Citizen has in the years since ballooned in scope and scale, having now raised $156.1 million to date. The huge AAA budget hasn’t served to get the ambitious space action simulator out the door any sooner, with an initial release date planned for 2014, though now no firm date set even as of 2017.
Star Citizen is taking a very open development route compared to games of the same blockbuster scale, which means that players have been able to follow along as developer Cloud Imperium Games adds steadily to the alpha version of the title. The game has expanded quite a bit throughout the course of development, though one missing (but promised) feature has been VR support.
As it’s been more than a year since the launch of the Rift and Vive headsets (and because VR isn’t something you can simply slap onto an FPS and expect it to play well or comfortably) onlookers have been growing increasingly restless at the lack of even experimental VR support.
At the beginning of 2016 the studio said they planned to refocus their VR efforts in “early” 2016. When we last checked in with the game’s VR status in February 2017, a senior developer wasn’t sending very reassuring of signals, telling folks “don’t hold your breath” with regards to VR support.
We reached out to the company this week to ask if VR is still coming to Star Citizen. The response wasn’t inspiring, but the company at least says they are still committed to VR. A spokesperson offered the following: "Nothing new really to report here. We do plan on having VR support for Star Citizen. But it’s just having to fit in as a technology with all the other tech that we are currently incorporating into the game. As I’m sure you know, VR technology is evolving quickly. As with anything that fits this category, we are going to spend the time to make sure it’s integrated properly for our game."
There’s at least one hint that the studio is considering VR support as a factor in their design decisions: in the studio’s latest weekly update video, spotted by Reddit user KrisTiasMusic, the developers showed off a new UI that’s in development which they call mobiGlas—a wrist-mounted interface projection which appears in-world, rather than being attached to the player’s game camera. They say that one reason for this design approach is to ensure it makes sense with the first person view of a VR headset.
Fundamentally mobiGlas is a diegetically projected UI. And what this means is that the UI is meant to be seen by not just you as the player, but also is meant to be visible by your in-game character as well. So basically your player-character is aware of the UI just as you as the player are aware of it through your screen. And we do this for a couple of reasons. One is because the fact that we retain the visual connection between your player-character and the UI makes it much more immersive to use. Because we will be a VR capable game, we’re kind of forced to project the UI in 3D space, because otherwise it just wouldn’t work. In a traditional flat 2D menu you just wouldn’t be able to read it. So you need to project it at some sort of distance away for it to actually be usable. So we sort of do that from the get-go and that’s sort of always been our driving paradigm in UI design.
So at least for the game’s interface, the developers are thinking a bit about how to approach it to ensure it makes sense for eventual VR support. Of course, there’s much more to Star Citizen than just the interface, and much to sort out in order to make it a truly viable VR title.