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Forward-looking: After spending over a decade developing Star Citizen and Squadron 42 with over half a billion dollars of crowdfunding money, Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) recently showcased notable signs of progress. The extensive development timeline and substantial budget have given rise to one of the most technologically ambitious game engines ever witnessed, surpassing even other recent space simulation titles.
A new trailer unveiling the "Star Engine" provides a comprehensive overview of the unique technology that powers the online space game Star Citizen and its single-player counterpart, Squadron 42. The trailer highlights the engine's capability to render diverse scenes and characters on an impressive scale.
The half-hour video takes viewers on a flyby tour of various environments across multiple planets and star systems, all rendered in real-time without camera cuts or loading screens. It showcases advanced lighting and physics simulation effects, displaying entire planets from a distance before zooming in to reveal cities, mountains, caves, ships, space stations, and other locations with seamless transitions. The only compromise acknowledged by CIG is that the engine compresses distances between planets to save time.
One of the most significant criticisms of Bethesda's recent space exploration game, Starfield, is its excessive use of loading screens between space, planet surfaces, ships, and other locations. The absence of these transitions is a primary focus of CIG's trailer. While titles like No Man's Sky, Elite Dangerous, and SpaceEngine also aim for seamlessness, the Star Engine takes it to the next level.
Arguably, the trailer's most noteworthy feature demonstrates how the engine allows characters to engage in various activities inside ships, cities, trains, and space stations while other characters simultaneously perform actions in the surrounding universe. Previous trailers suggest that this is possible across vast distances, enabling synchronized multiplayer gameplay at an interplanetary scale.
The gameplay demonstrated by CIG so far doesn't seem fundamentally different from what players have experienced in titles like Starfield, No Man's Sky, and Elite. However, if CIG can successfully release one or both of its projects, it may amalgamate most elements from other space titles and achieve more.
CIG recently announced that Squadron 42 is feature-complete and entering a polishing phase. Despite a decade of development with no apparent finish line, the growth of Star Citizen's crowdfunding budget has significantly accelerated as of late. Last year marked CIG's most successful ever, and the alpha received its largest-ever patch in May 2023.
Although CIG likely has several years to go before shipping a title, the company's projects show no signs of slowing down.