We’re now firmly ensconced in the second decade of Star Citizen‘s crowdfunding-driven development. And while backers can currently play a minimally functional alpha version (that’s still missing many promised features), there’s still no sign of even a fully playable beta version in sight.
Don’t worry, though—that state of affairs hasn’t stopped developer Roberts Space Industries (RSI) from finding new and interesting ways for the game to break.
Star Citizen‘s current problems revolve around this week’s rollout of the Alpha 3.18 “Lasting Legacies” update, which RSI is selling as “the biggest Star Citizen update yet.”
In addition to graphics and physics updates, new ship salvage gameplay, and a handful of new combat missions, the update also introduces the game’s long-promised “Persistent Entity Streaming” technology, which allows items to stay where you put them even after you leave a server shard.
Unfortunately, the Star Citizen servers were not up for the high volume of interest in the update from many of the 4.4 million backers who have funded the game so far. Just a few hours after the update rolled out last Friday, RSI reported that “due to the high volume of traffic related to the launch of Star Citizen Alpha 3.18.0, the RSI Launcher can become non-responsive.”
After some initial work to “mitigate the problem,” RSI reported on Sunday that the game was still in a “slow/non-responsive state,” warning that “players will experience periods of extreme difficulty getting into the [persistent universe].” By Monday, the RSI team upgraded the problem from a “minor outage” to a “major outage” before reporting “increasing error rates” later that day.
This led the game to be shut down for a few hours of “live service maintenance” Tuesday “while the team performs a series of modifications to the PES Infrastructure to help mitigate the issues encountered over the weekend.” As of Thursday, RSI says the “new infrastructure is trending in the right direction” despite “periodic waves of instability.”
“A great deal of changes were made to the way the game handles certain things and this is part one of growing pains as all our players come to see the new things added in the 3.18 patch,” RSI wrote in a Knowledge Base update. “Currently this appears to be caused due to extreme server load and so it may take some time for things to clear up.”
“We’re sorry for the super rough start,” RSI tweeted on Sunday. “Our team is all hands on deck working to get things running smoothly as quickly as possible. We’ll keep you updated!”
We’re still waiting
These kinds of server load issues are far from uncommon in the gaming world, of course. And the server-melting interest in this latest update could be seen as a positive sign that many of the game’s patient backers are still interested in the game.
Still, it’s striking to see these kinds of growing pains after more than a full decade of active development on the ambitious space sim. We also have to wonder how much of Star Citizen‘s $555 million in crowdfunding thus far—including tens of millions of dollars in the last six months—is going to the purchase and maintenance of those recently overloaded servers.
Those server issues echo our 2012 report on the game’s funding, which noted that “initial interest in [Star Citizen] was so high that it overwhelmed Roberts’ servers and brought down the site’s proprietary crowdfunding solution for a few days.”
Problems aside, does this latest update actually bring us materially closer to an actual release date for Star Citizen? Well, after rolling out a new development roadmap back in 2020 (no, that’s not a typo), RSI scaled back the specificity of its feature release date targets last year. At the time, RSI said those timeline specifics were a “distraction” that led some players to treat “projections as promises.”
“Star Citizen isn’t a sprint; it isn’t even a marathon,” RSI founder Chris Roberts said way back in 2015, while denying accusations that “feature creep” was slowing the game’s path toward a final release. “There is no final finish line the way you would have with a traditional retail game. Star Citizen is a way of life for as long as the community is engaged by it.”
Listing image by RSI