The cold, black years since the dying embers of the 20th Century have been a barren time for the space game enthusiast. Many placed themselves into the timeless slumber of stasis, preserved in pods, a sophisticated artificial intelligence left in place to monitor the sensors and awake the sleepers should a favourable home be found. Of course the AI immediately became corrupted by contradictory instructions/a sinister hacker/an alien broadcast, went rogue, shut off the life support of half the passengers and turned the other half into killer zombie-mutant-cyborgs, because that’s what AIs do, it’s almost like nobody had taken any notice of any sci-fi book, film or game. Fortunately a solitary hero overcame the nigh-insurmountable odds, shut down the AI (at least until the sequel) and reversed the zombie-mutant-cyborgification, setting the interstellar ark back on course under a much more basic autopilot whose source code definitely did not include comments like “/* Fairly sure this subroutine won’t cause genocidal insanity but double check before going live */”.

Fifteen years later, there are several promising blips on the space-game-radar: new games under development; the Oculus Rift offering the possibility of a fully immersive cockpit; an update for a patch to a fix for X Rebirth 2.0 Game Of The Year Edition… The two clearest contacts offering the most promise for sustenance are Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous, projects spearheaded by grizzled space-veterans Chris Roberts and David Braben. With initial thrust provided by Kickstarter they made it out of the earth’s atmosphere, the crowdfunding boosters dropping away as both games start to release playable elements, setting course for the mythical destination of An Actual Released Game.

Having two such promising games in development is a great situation. Healthy competition spurs development and discourages complacency, differences in emphasis allows players to gravitate towards the game most suited to their preferred style of play, and, most importantly, gamers can form themselves into two tribes, blindly worshipping one of the two games and hunting down treacherous unbelievers who dare speak positively of the other on official forums, unofficial forums, comment threads, or, after consuming sufficient quantities of special brew, in the queue at the post office and on benches in the local park. Roberts and Braben are at pains to stress the friendliness of the competition between their companies, both being backers of the other game and wishing each other success, but wouldn’t it have been fun if the overlapping Kickstarter projects had taken on some of the insanity of the forum zealots…

November 7th, 9am, new Star Citizen stretch goal: “We will add a new NPC, a washed-up alcoholic Commander, named after his favourite whiskey, who used to be a hot-shot pilot but got all obsessed with physics and boring and nobody likes him any more.”

November 7th, 3pm, new Elite: Dangerous stretch goal: “We will add a new NPC, Colonel Christopher ‘Callsign Blatantly Ripped Off From Top Gun’ Brown, who used to be a hot-shot pilot but got all obsessed with movies and made everyone watch a ten minute film before they could fly anywhere and nobody likes him any more.”

November 8th, 10am, new Star Citizen stretch goal: “Your starship will include a full copy of Elite: Dangerous running its navigation console if you want to play it. Which you won’t. Because even just flying through space in Star Citizen will be, like, loads better.”

November 8th, 2pm, new Elite: Dangerous stretch goal: “An expanded galaxy featuring billions of star systems, each modelled in incredible detail, featuring countless fully populated planets. And on not a single one of those planets did the Star Citizen Kickstarter meet its goals.”

November 8th, 4pm, new Star Citizen stretch goal: “If we reach this target, we’ll just buy Frontier Developments and sack the lot of them, muahahahaha!”

November 9th, 7am, new Elite: Dangerous stretch goal: “If we reach this target, we’ll donate the additional money to Cloud Imperium Games, and they’ll get so stupidly overambitious that the game won’t be released until 2094″

November 9th, 7.30am, new Star Citizen stretch goal: “Yeah, whatevs. With that much backing we’ll give every one of our players an actual working spaceship in 2094.”

November 9th, 8am, new Elite: Dangerous stretch goal: “Yeah, right, like you could actually… hang on, where have all our backers gone?”

November 9th, 8.01am, “Huh, everyone’s withdrawing their pledges, what the…”

November 9th, 8.02am, “Oh, god, Molyneux’s set up a Kickstarter.”

November 9th, 8.05am, “… fly through both all of space and all of not space creating and destroying and ignoring entire civilisations and galaxies and universes and blocks of cheese… oh come on, everyone knows Kickstarter projects are stupidly overhyped and can never live up to the pitch, why are people backing that?”

November 9th, 8.07am, “Pff. No accounting for taste. Shall we go down the pub?”

November 9th, 8.08am, “Yeah, all right.”

November 9th, 9am, new Elite: Dangerous stretch goal: “Seven pints of bitter, two bottles of lager and a Diet Coke”

November 9th, 9.01am, new Star Citizen stretch goal: “And a bag of peanuts.”

Posted by Zoso at 2:48 pm