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Star Citizen tech in-depth: seamless scaling from gas giants to detail-rich alien worlds

Cloud Imperium Games’ Star Citizen is a unique proposition: a game designed from the ground up to support the seemingly limitless scalability and scope of the PC platform – something of a rarity in the multi-platform age. Unfettered by the limitations of the current-gen consoles, CIG’s efforts stand apart simply by virtue of the fact that it is not beholden to locked, ageing hardware designs – it’s forward-looking in every regard and the way the technology scales and renders everything from a far-flung star system to the smallest piece of debris on a barren moon is an extraordinary technological achievement.

Of course, Star Citizen is a game that has attracted plenty of controversy in the way it is funded and related to that, how CIG has interacted with customers unhappy with its extended development. In 2012, the game raised $2.13m from its initial Kickstarter from 34,000 backers with a mooted 2014 release date. Recently, the studio revealed that investment stands at around the $250m mark with over 2.5m backers. The scope of the project has evolved alongside the size of its backing. An actual release date for what could be considered an actual game remains unknown but this clearly isn’t vapourware – there is a real achievement here and on a recent visit to CIG in Wilmslow in the UK, I got to see something rather fundamental: how Star Citizen seamlessly scales from solar-level rendering to offering up the most minute detail on its richly rendered worlds.

One of the greatest challenges in getting Star Citizen working in the first place as a massively multiplayer game is due to the nature of its scale. In a typical game, you have dedicated levels or dedicated open worlds of limited size. Star Citizen operates on an entirely different level of magnitude – and to enable this, the developers converted the engine to use 64-bit coordinates to enable solar system-sized game spaces – 536,870,912 times larger than a space based on 32-bit float coordinates.

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