Star Citizen developer Cloud Imperium Games annonced a substantial change in the way it distributes feature development among its teams.
The method, defined “staggered development” involve the assignment development tasks to teams with a six-months development window as opposed to quarterly. Yet, since they’re staggered, updates will still reach players every three months, as teams alternate in delivering.
According to the developer, this will improve the ability of the game’s designers to deliver updates with less bugs and issues and with bigger features.
As a result, the development roadmap has been partly reshuffled, and the beta of the single player campaign Squadron 42 has been delayed by three months to Q3 2020.
Below you can read a full FAQ posted on the official forums, in which Cloud Imperium Games shares the reasons behind the move and its effects.
What is staggered development?
Staggered Development is an approach that splits the various development teams between multiple delivery dates. This puts teams into a cadence whereby they are delivering larger features every couple of quarters instead of every quarter, but due to their staggered nature, you would still receive an update every quarter.
To oversimplify for clarity’s sake, an example of this would be that half our dev team may be working on 3.7 features, tech, and content, while the other half would be working on 3.8. Once the team working on 3.7 delivers the patch, they would then transition to 3.9. Rinse and repeat.
Staggering the teams like this means 6-month cycles for development instead of 3, which means more time to ensure features are more complete with fewer bugs – all while still delivering quarterly patches.
Why staggered development?
This positive change allows us to continue delivering quarterly patches, but at a higher level of quality with fewer bugs. This does however mean we’ll need to re-shuffle our schedules initially to better match this new cadence, but the result should provide a much more satisfying gameplay experience.
It’s important to note that we are still in Alpha, so some bugs are of course expected. Still, we see bugs being reduced as staggered teams will have more time to develop/refine their features, tech, and content and put it through more thorough testing before it hits the live servers.
Does this mean no more quarterly releases?
No, this does not impact quarterly releases. We will still release 4 major Star Citizen patches a year.
This change reduces the risk of delivering patches late because it gives us more time to prepare for PTU and Live Releases, and to make Star Citizen a polished, working, and fun game for everyone to enjoy.
Does this mean we’ll receive less content each quarter?
Initially, as we split features between different development teams, it may feel like the first patch under Staggered Development is lighter than previous patches. But as we ramp up and enter into a rhythm with Staggered Development, our goal is to have every patch as robust as previous patches prior to Staggered Development, but in a more polished and timely state.
Furthermore, we remain committed to delivering features that are exciting and add to the overall Star Citizen experience every quarter, taking the time to do them right, and communicating with you every step of the way. That’s what this new initiative is truly about.
Staggered Development is a new initiative for us, but one that’s already showing promising results internally. Game development is a creative endeavor. Some things are going to come together faster than others. It can be difficult to fully predict the cadence at which any feature, tech, or content will come online, but it’s a challenge we want to continue taking head on.
What does it mean if a feature previously listed on the public Roadmap is now missing? Does this mean the feature is no longer being developed?
No, the feature is definitely still being developed! To be as transparent in real-time as possible, we have updated the Roadmap mid-planning so you can see exactly where we’re at right now. Therefore, some features’ release dates are actively being discussed/prioritized and will land in their proper place once those discussions are completed.
Is this the last time you’ll be doing a major Roadmap update?
We can’t promise you that. The Roadmap will undoubtedly evolve and change as the development of Star Citizen and Squadron 42 continues. This is the nature of game development, not often seen by the public eye. As we’ve done in the past, this update to the Roadmap is our best reflection of the direction we’re currently heading in. We want to be as transparent and open as possible as we continue to develop Star Citizen and Squadron 42, and we have been actively brainstorming several ways that we feel can do even more in terms of communicating and keeping you all in the loop with our progress. We look forward to sharing those with you in the near future.
What does this mean for the final feature list for Star Citizen?
We’re still making the Best Damn Space Sim Ever (BDSSE). That’s not changing. We are improving how we make the game, and because you’re along for that ride with us, we’re telling you about it!
How will this impact features on the Roadmap?
With a change to team timelines and sprint cycles, we’ll definitely have an initial re-calibration to adjust, both for Star Citizen and Squadron 42, but ultimately, we feel this will ensure more complete features with fewer critical bugs.
How does this impact the vehicle pipeline?
It doesn’t. In fact, our vehicle teams have been working in a form of this “Staggered Development” cycle for a while now. For example, you may have noticed we have recently shown off work being done on both the Carrack and Prowler which are not slated to come online in the next patch.
What does this mean for Squadron 42?
Ultimately, this is a really good thing for Squadron 42 development as well. Both Star Citizen and Squadron 42 share a codebase and as features come online for both games, they will be in a more stable/playable state, reducing potential blockers that can hinder and slow down development. You will of course notice that our target Beta date for Squadron 42 has moved back by 12 weeks in today’s Roadmap update, but this is a necessary step as a result of changing the overall development cadence, which we expect will create positive results in the overall delivery and experience of Squadron 42.
I still have a lot of questions.
Great! We expected you might. As mentioned above, we’ve been exploring creative ways we can do even more to stay in close communication with you all. Next week (September 6th), Star Citizen Live will be dedicated to answering your questions about Staggered Development and the Roadmap. Once we’ve updated the Roadmap later today, we’ll also publish a Question Gathering Thread so we can start collecting your top questions for the show. We’ll also be closely monitoring Spectrum over the course of the next week and joining in on the conversation where we can.
Now that you’ve added 4.0 to the Public Roadmap, it seems to be light on tech, content, and features. Is this the full list of items coming in 4.0?
The 4.0 patch plan is still a work in progress, so what you see is by no means complete. We still have major plans for 4.0 and will update that card as and when we get clarity on features, tech, and content for that time frame. Stay tuned.
If you’d rather hear about it in video form, you can also check out a clip featuring a discussion on the topic below.
If you want to see more of the game, you can take a look at an earlier video vdeo, which focused on the Aegis Nautilus and more.
You can also check out our article about the launch of Alpha 3.6, which is the latest major update added to the game.
For the sake of full disclosure, you should keep in mind that the author of this article has been among the backers of Star Citizen since the original Kickstarter campaign a long time ago.