Chris Roberts (game developer)
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Chris Roberts at GDC Online 2012
May 27, 1968 |
Redwood City, California, US
|Occupation||Game designer, film producer|
Chris Roberts (born May 27, 1968) is an American video game designer, programmer, film producer and film director. He is best known for creating the popular Wing Commander series while employed at Origin Systems. Currently, he is working on the crowd-funded space simulator Star Citizen.
Born in Redwood City, California in the United States, Roberts grew up in Manchester, England. He attended the same school as computer music composer Martin Galway. As a teenager, he created several video games for the BBC Micro, including Stryker's Run.
Roberts returned to the United States in 1986. He found a job at Origin Systems, where he created Times of Lore, published in 1988. The game's interface had a strong influence on other Origin products such as the popular Ultima series. A similar game system was used in Roberts' next release for Origin, Bad Blood (1990).
Wing Commander was published later in 1990 and was highly acclaimed. Wing Commander (and the franchise it spawned) soon became Origin's most successful product, eclipsing even the Ultima series. Roberts wasn't as heavily involved in the sequel Wing Commander II, which he only produced. He instead concentrated on Strike Commander. First shown to the public at Summer CES 1991, the project suffered from numerous delays and was not released until 1993. He returned to Wing Commander soon after, devising the original concept for the spin-off Wing Commander: Privateer (which his brother, Erin Roberts, produced) and being more deeply involved in Wing Commander III and Wing Commander IV. For these sequels, Roberts directed the live-action cinematic scenes.
Following the traditions of Origin Systems, Chris Roberts' residence at the outskirts of Austin, Texas was named "Commander's Ranch", a reference to the Wing Commander series.
Roberts left Origin in 1996 and founded Digital Anvil along with EA PC national sales manager Marten Gerald Davies, Origin producer Tony Zurovec, and his brother Erin Roberts. The fledgling studio set up shop in Austin and for several years worked quietly, inking a publishing deal with Microsoft in 1997.
Roberts had stated that he desired to produce films as well as games with Digital Anvil. The 1999 feature film release of Wing Commander directed by Roberts himself, starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and featuring visual effects from Digital Anvil failed to attract either critical praise or financial success.
Digital Anvil's first finished game was Starlancer, released to a generally warm critical reception in 2000. Developed externally at Warthog, the game was produced by the Roberts brothers, and featured only some contributions by Digital Anvil. The company was acquired by Microsoft soon after, who sold two of Digital Anvil's projects to Ubisoft. Roberts left the company after the acquisition, abandoning the director position of his ambitious project Freelancer, although he remained with the game in a consulting role for a while. The game was commonly regarded as vaporware due to its promised release date of 2001 however it was eventually released in 2003 with a markedly different feature set than the initial plans. It was received very favorably with a Metacritic score of 85%.
Point of No Return Entertainment/Ascendant Pictures
After leaving Digital Anvil, Roberts founded Point of No Return Entertainment, planning to produce films, television and games. However, no projects materialized from Point of No Return. Roberts founded Ascendant Pictures in 2002 and served as a producer for a number of Hollywood productions including the 2004 adaptation of The Punisher, The Jacket and Lord of War.
Cloud Imperium Games Corporation
In 2011, Chris Roberts founded Cloud Imperium Games Corporation, together with his business partner and long-time international media attorney Ortwin Freyermuth, to work on a new game. A teaser website for his new game launched on September 10, 2012 at http://robertsspaceindustries.com/.
On October 10, 2012, Cloud Imperium Games launched a crowdfunding campaign from the Roberts Space Industries website with the stated goal of raising between two and four million dollars to produce a space sim game for the personal computer in a sandbox vein. It was being built on the Cryengine 3 game engine. The game promised to integrate a traditional "branching storyline" game to be called Squadron 42 with a persistent online universe game to be called Star Citizen. On October 18, 2012, at the request of fans, a Kickstarter campaign was launched to run in conjunction with the Roberts Space Industries website. By November 19, 2012 when the combined campaigns concluded, they had earned $6,238,563, approximately 4.1 million from the RSI campaign, and approximately 2.1 from the Kickstarter campaign. This surpassed all stretch goals set for the campaign, and broke video game industry crowdfunding records, both in funds received and in number of backers. Chris Roberts had stated that if at least $23 million could be raised over the course of the crowdfunding campaign, no outside investors' or developers' funding would be required. This goal was reached October 18, 2013. As of September 3, 2014, they have raised over 52 million dollars.
In 2013 Chris Roberts announced Star Citizen would be created in modules to be released when playable. The first, the Hangar Module, was released on August 29th 2013,  and allowed the player to interact with certain ships planned for the game. The Dog-Fighting Module was released on June 3rd, 2014 under the name Arena Commander and allowed playing and testing of the game's dogfighting mechanic.
- "Christopher Roberts". The New York Times. Retrieved December 31, 2011.
- "Freelancer for PC Reviews". Metacritic. March 3, 2003. Retrieved April 2, 2013.
- Ryan, Vincent. "Star Citizen Smashes Game Crowdfunding Record". THE MITTANI DOT COM. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
- Makuch, Eddie. "Star Citizen funding passes $23 million". GameSpot. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
- "Roberts Space Industries". Roberts Space Industries. Retrieved November 3, 2013.
- "Hangar Module Released". Retrieved July 15, 2014.
- "Arena Commander Launched!". Retrieved July 15, 2014.