Star Citizen has been in development for well over a decade now, during which time it has raised more than $450 million in crowdfunding, and if you're wondering why it's still in an alpha state after all that time and money, the latest update from developer Cloud Imperium Games might hold a clue.
It all comes down to something called “bedsheet deformation,” which is exactly what it sounds like: Ensuring that blankets on beds are mussed up accurately, just like they would be in real life. This is important because the “sleep and bed relaxation” element of Squadron 42, the singleplayer portion of Star Citizen, was recently updated so NPCs are now able to find and enter their beds, and then sleep until they're scheduled to get up.
“We knew early on that, to hit the fidelity we expect for Sq42, we would need to do some R&D on bedsheet deformation,” the AI Content team explained, apparently straight-faced. “This work is currently underway and, if successful, will allow the AI to deform their sheets when entering, exiting, or sleeping inside them. This is a challenging assignment and expands the complexity of the feature. For example, what happens to the sheets if the AI needs to exit the bed in an emergency?”
That's certainly a concern, I guess, although to be honest I suspect that in the midst of a crisis like an alien attack or a catastrophic blowout, I wouldn't be spending too much of my time looking to see how believable the NPC sleeping quarters are. Based on reactions to the update on Reddit, it seems that quite a few Star Citizen players feel the same way:
🚀 “what the actual fuck lmao this game was supposed to be out years ago and they're implementing fucking BEDSHEET DEFORMATION?? I'm done lol” – torvi97
🚀 “R&D on bedsheet deformation….for a game that is 10 years overdue. That's the 'fidelity' that players are waiting for? I'm not sure about the rest of you, but this is a feature I can safely say we could wait for the patch in 2083.” – InconspicuousBastard
🚀 “Is this a joke? No wonder they can't finish this thing. Pointless feature creep at its most extreme.” – Valerian_II
🚀 “How about just GETTING THE GODDAMN GAME OUT THE DOOR before worrying about how a fricking BEDSHEET will deform.” – BotdogX
🚀 “I thought Rockstar shrinking horse balls were ridiculous already but that's a new level of uselessness.” – Radulno
🚀 “Do sheets with different thread counts deform in a consistent way, or does the physics model need to be able to deal with Egyptian cotton separately?” – Ancillas
🚀 “Well congratulations you just set the game back two weeks” – ryhaltswhiskey, replying to Ancillas
🚀 “*Two years – fixed that for you” – Chemical_Excuse
Some of the unhappiness seems to stem from the fact that the new bedsheet system is the very first thing listed in the briefing, which some readers may have taken as a sign of its priority. In fact, the updates are ordered alphabetically, by team, and AI Content just happens to come first. There's plenty of other activity going on: The Animation team, for instance, worked on improvements to facial animations for several characters, while the Gameplay Story team updated several scenes in chapter one with new motion capture.
Most of that work, though, seems like it will have some material impact on the game. Bedsheet deformation? Not so much. Immersion is certainly a worthwhile goal but at some point I feel like it might be the sort of thing that you could sacrifice in favor of, you know, some focus.
Even though neither Star Citizen nor Squadron 42 are out yet, Cloud Imperium began talking about potential sequels earlier this year. In February, the studio also reworked its development roadmap—ironically, to avoid “distractions” from unhappy followers.