Chris Roberts (video game developer)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Chris Roberts
Chris Roberts GDC 2012 (cropped).jpg
Chris Roberts at GDC Online 2012
Born (1968-05-27) May 27, 1968 (age 54)
OccupationGame designer, filmmaker
Known forWing Commander
Star Citizen

Chris Roberts (born May 27, 1968) is a British-American video game designer, programmer, film producer and film director. He created the Wing Commander series while at Origin Systems and as of 2011 has been working on the crowdfunded space simulator Star Citizen.

Early life[edit]

Born in Redwood City, California in the United States, Roberts grew up in Manchester, England.[1] He attended Parrs Wood High School, 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, Wizadore, and King Kong.[2]


Origin Systems[edit]

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.[3] A similar game system was used in Roberts's next release for Origin, Bad Blood (1990).[4]

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. 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. Roberts's major role in developing the Wing Commander games led Next Generation to name him one of their "75 Most Important People in the Games Industry of 1995".[5]

Following the traditions of Origin Systems, Chris Roberts's residence at the outskirts of Austin, Texas was named "Commander's Ranch", a reference to the Wing Commander series.[6]

Digital Anvil[edit]

Roberts left Origin in 1996 and founded Digital Anvil with Tony Zurovec and his brother Erin Roberts.[7][8] He cited disillusionment with working with large development teams and Origin parent company Electronic Arts' unwillingness to give substantial funding to games that weren't sequels.[7] The fledgling studio set up shop in Austin and for several years worked quietly, inking a publishing deal with Microsoft in 1997.[8]

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 favorable critical reception in 2000.[9] Developed jointly between Warthog and Digital Anvil, the game was produced by the Roberts brothers, and Eric Peterson. The company was acquired by Microsoft soon after, who sold two of Digital Anvil's projects, Conquest: Frontier Wars led by Eric Peterson, and Loose Cannon led by Tony Zurovec 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.[10][11]

Point of No Return Entertainment/Ascendant Pictures[edit]

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 Edison, Timber Falls, Outlander, Who's Your Caddy?, The Big White, Ask the Dust, Lucky Number Slevin and Lord of War, which were almost entirely financed by a loophole in the German tax laws that was finally closed in 2006. Robert's activities as a film producer ended with the depletion of the funds raised by this controversial financing scheme.[12][13] In 2005, actor Kevin Costner sued Ascendant Pictures for breach of contract on an unreleased film.[14] The company was acquired by Bigfoot Entertainment in 2010.[15]

Cloud Imperium Games[edit]

In 2011, Chris Roberts founded Cloud Imperium Games with his wife Sandi Roberts, as well as business partner and long-time international media attorney Ortwin Freyermuth, to work on a new game. In October 2012, Cloud Imperium Games launched a crowdfunding campaign on their website to produce a space simulation game, Star Citizen, and later added a Kickstarter campaign in conjunction. By November 2012, they had earned US$6,238,563, surpassing all stretch goals set for the campaigns, and breaking video game industry crowdfunding records.[16] 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.[17]

As of February 22, 2022, Cloud Imperium Games has raised over US$474 million in crowdfunding and over $63.25 million in external investments.[citation needed] Cloud Imperium Games' other title in development, Squadron 42, a single-player campaign set in the Star Citizen universe, is still in development and has no confirmed release date as of March 2022, although Cloud Imperium Games has announced they are allocating more resources toward its development.[citation needed]


Video games[18][19]
Name Year Credited With Publisher
King Kong 1983 designer[20] BBC Micro User
Match Day 1985 designer (BBC Micro port)[21] Ocean Software
Wizadore 1985 designer Imagine Software
Stryker's Run 1986 designer, programmer, artist Superior Software
Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny 1988 designer[22][23] Origin Systems
Times of Lore 1988 director, designer, writer, programmer, tester Origin Systems
Bad Blood 1990 director, designer, programmer Origin Systems
Wing Commander 1990 director, lead designer, producer, programmer Origin Systems
Wing Commander: The Secret Missions 1990 producer, programmer Origin Systems
Wing Commander: The Secret Missions 2: Crusade 1991 producer, programmer Origin Systems
Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi 1991 producer Origin Systems
Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi: Special Operations 1 1991 creative director Origin Systems
Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi: Special Operations 2 1992 creative director Origin Systems
Strike Commander 1993 director, producer, artist, programmer Origin Systems
Strike Commander: Tactical Operations 1993 producer Origin Systems
Wing Commander: Privateer 1993 executive producer Origin Systems
Wing Commander: Armada 1994 producer Origin Systems
Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger 1994 director, producer, writer, actor Origin Systems
Wing Commander IV: The Price of Freedom 1996 director, executive producer Electronic Arts
Starlancer 2000 executive producer Microsoft
Conquest: Frontier Wars 2001 producer, writer Ubisoft
Freelancer 2003 original concept Microsoft Game Studios
Star Citizen TBA director Cloud Imperium Games
Squadron 42 TBA director Cloud Imperium Games
Name Year Credited With Distributor
Wing Commander 1999 director, actor 20th Century Fox
The Punisher 2004 executive producer Lions Gate Entertainment
The Jacket 2005 executive producer Warner Independent Pictures
The Big White 2005 producer Momentum Pictures
Lord of War 2005 producer Lionsgate Films
Ask the Dust 2006 executive producer Paramount Classics
Lucky Number Slevin 2006 producer Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Who's Your Caddy? 2007 executive producer The Weinstein Company
Outlander 2008 producer The Weinstein Company
Black Water Transit 2009 executive producer[24] Capitol Films


  1. ^ "Chris Roberts". Moby games. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  2. ^ "Blast from the Past: King Kong". Cloud Imperium Games. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  3. ^ "Blast from the Past: Times of Lore". Cloud Imperium Games. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  4. ^ "Blast from the Past: Bad Blood". Cloud Imperium Games. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  5. ^ "75 Power Players: Mr. Big Shot". Next Generation. No. 11. Imagine Media. November 1995. p. 53.
  6. ^ "Wing Leader". The Escapist. Archived from the original on June 28, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  7. ^ a b "The Great Escape". Next Generation. No. 34. Imagine Media. October 1997. p. 44.
  8. ^ a b "Wing Leader". The Escapist. Archived from the original on July 7, 2015. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  9. ^ "StarLancer". Metacritic. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  10. ^ "Freely Lancing". IGN. Retrieved August 23, 2015.
  11. ^ Wojnarowicz, Jakub (January 14, 2003). "Freelancer Preview". FiringSquad. GX Media. Archived from the original on January 10, 2013. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  12. ^ "With Ascendant Pictures (Sorted by Popularity Ascending)". IMDb.
  13. ^ Perez, Matt. "Exclusive: The Saga Of 'Star Citizen,' A Video Game That Raised $300 Million—But May Never Be Ready To Play". Forbes. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  14. ^ " – Kevin Costner sues Ascendant Pictures".
  15. ^ "Bigfoot | Updates | Press Releases".
  16. ^ Ryan, Vincent. "Star Citizen Smashes Game Crowdfunding Record". THE MITTANI DOT COM. Archived from the original on February 4, 2013. Retrieved December 11, 2012.
  17. ^ Makuch, Eddie. "Star Citizen funding passes $23 million". GameSpot. Retrieved November 29, 2013.
  18. ^ "Chris Roberts Video Game Credits and Biography". MobyGames.
  19. ^ "Meet Chris Roberts – Roberts Space Industries | Follow the development of Star Citizen and Squadron 42". Meet Chris Roberts – Roberts Space Industries | Follow the development of Star Citizen and Squadron 42.
  20. ^ "Blast from the Past: King Kong – Roberts Space Industries | Follow the development of Star Citizen and Squadron 42". Blast from the Past: King Kong – Roberts Space Industries | Follow the development of Star Citizen and Squadron 42.
  21. ^ dransfield, ian (September 13, 2014). "The Stars His Destination: Chris Roberts from Origin to Star Citizen".
  22. ^ "Ultima V: Warriors of Destiny (1988) DOS credits". MobyGames.
  23. ^ "Chris Roberts In and Around Ultima V – Wing Commander CIC".
  24. ^ "Black Water Transit Lawsuit Settled, But We Still May Never See It". CINEMABLEND. January 5, 2010.

External links[edit]