Thursday, September 03, 2015

Star Citizen and the Value of Containers

Chris Roberts wanted to make a space game.

So far, he's raised over eighty million dollars. Eighty million.

In comparison, the Wing Commander movie, which Roberts directed and was released in 1999, had a budget of thirty million. And it was a complete flop.

With eighty million dollars and counting, it appears that Roberts wants the game to do everything.

That's a problem, and a big one. The budget is so big that the game has no container.

Containers are valuable. They force you to make choices. They force you to have discipline.

Haiku? Three lines, seventeen syllables, five/seven/five. That format, that container, forces the artist to be incredibly disciplined in expression.

Container problems happen to bands all the time. They start off unknown, they record an album in someone's garage or basement, and it winds up pretty damn good. They get signed to a label, they have money, they go to a huge recording studio that's ultra-high in quality--and they can't record anything even remotely as strong as their first album.

Too many choices. Too many opportunities, as odd as that sounds.

Actors, too. When they just play a role, they have a container. Then they decide they want to direct, or maybe even write. Suddenly, no container, and they lose control of their process.

Jack White did an interview once where he talked about the guitar he played with the White Stripes. It was a crappy Japanese department store guitar, and some nights it took him two hours to tune it before a gig. He said he did it because playing that guitar limited his choices. It limited what he could do, so he had to be better at what he could do.

So what do you do when you have $80+ million to make a game?

I'm guessing that without containers, you wind up needing 120 million, you don't get it, and the game is never finished in any real sense of the word.

I hope I'm wrong, though. I'd love to play a completed version of all the things Roberts wants to do. I just don't think it can be done.

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