It’s October 2018 and 2,000 video game fanatics are jammed into Austin’s Long Center for the Performing Arts to get a glimpse of Star Citizen, the sprawling online multiplayer game being made by legendary designer Chris Roberts. Most of the people here helped to pay for the game’s development—on average, $200 each, although some backers have given thousands. An epic sci-fi fantasy, Star Citizen was supposed to be finished in 2014. But after seven years of work, no one—least of all Roberts—has a clue as to when it will be done. But despite the disappointments and delays, this crowd is cheering for Roberts. They roar as the 50-year-old Englishman jumps onto the stage and a big screen lights up with the latest test version of Star Citizen.
The demo starts small: Seeing through the eyes of the in-game character, the player wakes up in his living quarters, gets up and brews a cup of coffee. Applause quickly turns to laughter when the game promptly crashes. While his underlings scramble to get the demo running again, a practiced Roberts smoothly fills minutes of dead air by screening a commercial for the Kraken, a massive war machine spaceship. Eventually the Kraken, like all the starships that Roberts sells, will be playable in Star Citizen. At least that’s the hope. But for $1,650 it could be yours, right away.