When I talk about the game coming to a state where it could be considered complete, I am talking about a finished product – something developers could (theoretically) stick in a box, and sell on shelves (or in a digital storefront), and charge a full price in exchange for a finished product.
With that in mind, Star Citizen (even after all these years of development) has not come close to achieving a finalized state even after all of these years in production. Instead, what the backers of Star Citizen have received is a series of updates for the game that have slowly introduced more and more promised gameplay features to Star Citizen gradually, with each of these updates being given a different ‘modular’ title.
The first module to appear for Star Citizen that gave its financiers a look into the game was the hangar module. In this update, players were able to explore the different ships that were eventually going to be in the game and modify their purchased ships to their fancy for use in the game when they became available.
Really, this was little more than a visual demo, as, despite the fact that players could interact with their ships, there was no flying or gameplay involved other than interacting with your ship in minimal ways (and cosmetic changes to the hangar itself). Players were understandably underwhelmed with this gameplay – but there was a sense within the community that eventually, all of the waiting would pay off, and there were some who thought that the ships were indicative of the gameplay to come – for example, some players saw the inclusion of holding cells in some of the ships to be indicative of future plans to hold other players captive.
So, outside of the hangar module and players finding supposed confirmation of future gameplay elements in the hangar, what other modules were there? Well, there was Star Marine. Star Marine provided Star Citizen players with a taste of what to expect from the first-person shooter aspects of the game, with players able to enter into deathmatch like modes and battle it out with other players. This mode included both grounded and zero-g gameplay, giving the players a better grasp on what it would be like to traverse and play in the Star Citizen universe – but, like the previous mode there was a drawback.
Star Marine took place in sterilized, secluded areas of what players expected to be a massive, expanded universe. And whilst the gameplay was promising, it still wasn’t as expansive as gamers might have hoped, with no real way to jump from ship to FPS combat as many players wanted to do. As a tech demo, it was fine – but it wasn’t the space sim that people had paid for.
Then there was the Arena Commander module. Arena Commander allowed players to fly the ships they had long been able to look at, even within a PvP or PvE situation – which seemingly placated a lot of the gamers looking to jump into the space combat action they had been promised. Arena Commander had decent physics, and the updates added to each module made it seem that Star Citizen was going to be a very good game once all the separate ingredients had been added to the same mixing pot, and allowed to merge. The thing is, this took a while to be put in place.
At the time though, gamers were happy to contend with this staggered and diversified approach to development as they thought it was all going to lead to a finished Star Citizen product that they would be able to play at the end of the development cycle – but that wasn’t the case.