Star Citizen was first announced during a panel way back at GDC 2012. Chris Roberts, the creator of Wing Commander and Freelancer took to the stage and revealed the project, leading to a very successful Kickstarter campaign. One of key features listed in the Kickstarter was Squadron 42, a full single-player campaign playable on- or offline. One of the stretch goals even added "celebrity voice acting" to Squadron 42.
"The scope and scale and ambition of it now is gonna be up there with anything I could’ve done with Wing Commander [thanks to crowdfunding]. Like, if I was doing a Wing Commander at EA, Squadron 42 is gonna be that," Roberts told Rock Paper Shotgun in 2013. "At that level. We already have a bunch of stuff that I really like. We have our own motion capture studio. We have a whole face rig thing."
The narrative mode later added top-tier actors like Mark Hamill, Gary Oldman, Gillian Anderson, Mark Strong, Ben Mendelsohn, Andy Serkis, and John Rhys Davies to its cast. It promised full performance capture of the actors. Fans were excited.
Sadly, the community hasn't heard anything about Squadron 42 for some time now. The last full update regarding the single-player mode was on March 13, 2020. During that update the community team acknowledged that the previous Squadron 42 roadmap, which showed the mode entering alpha in the second quarter of 2020, was wildly incorrect.
"Over time, we’ve found that the roadmap as presented does not and cannot accurately represent development on a AAA chapter-based, story-driven game like SQ42. So, we’re going back to the proverbial drawing board to explore different approaches for Squadron 42," said the post.
Prior to that update, the last mention of Squadron 42 was a visual teaser released on YouTube in December 2019. Fast-forward to last week, when a user on the Star Citizen subreddit acknowledged that while Cloud Imperium Games had promised more consistent updates about Squadron 42, that hadn't happened. In fact, the developer hadn't talked about the narrative mode at all.
"I'm disappointed and frustrated at the lack of communication on Squadron 42, both with the roadmap replacement we were told was forthcoming back in early March and the video update in May that never came," said Reddit user Electr0freak. "Delays to a certain extent are acceptable, but this has passed well beyond that for what amounts to a 'State of the Union' on Squadron 42."
"What is going on is that [we are] constantly signaling that we're okay with how things are," wrote user Valdenburg. "We have a record breaking month in funding every other month. People don't stop buying new ships. No reason for CIG to change anything. They can say and do whatever they want and people keep throwing money at them. I don't think anything will change unless we have some noticeable decline in funding at least for some time period."
The realization about the lack of update became the most popular and most commented post on subreddit, with 2,600 upvotes and more than 1,400 comments. And that forced Cloud Imperium to respond with the first update in a long time, over on the official Roberts Space Industries forum. In the post, RSI director of community Tyler Witkin said that planned video updates "didn’t meet our standards," forcing the team to redo the video. Witkin added that the Squadron 42 update video was still likely coming in the "next few weeks."
Finally, Witkin wrote that they're still working on the updated roadmap. "The new Roadmap is something we hinted at in March but because that is still very much in development, we can’t share as much about it as I would like," said Witkin. "Believe me when I say I’m personally very eager to release it to you. We took the time to explore options for how we could better represent our progress, and I believe we are getting close to landing in a pretty great spot. Our goal with this new Roadmap is to give you better visibility into what teams are working on, share the progress of more teams, and go so far as to indicate the size of the projects for our tech, features, and content teams."
He ultimately stated that in the immediate future, the team wants to explain the goals of the new roadmap, show a rough mock-up of the planned roadmap, release a work-in-progress version of the roadmap, and then transition Squadron 42 and Star Citizen to this roadmap. It addressed the lack of updates for Squadron 42, but didn't entirely alleviate concerns from the community.
"So now we have a roadmap for the roadmap," Reddit user TrueTom noted about the post.
"Amazing that every other pieces of media with the explicit purpose of selling ships all went without a hitch or disruption to the development team," added user Nofuture09, the user behind the original thread.
Squadron 42 is, at this point, multiple years late. It has been pushed off many times, and unlike Star Citizen itself, the community has nothing to show for it. There's been speculation that the Squadron 42 update will drop during the Anniversary sale, which usually comes around November of each year. "They artificially inflate the roadmap for ship sales then axe it afterwards. Been saying it for years," wrote user AllansSnackBar1068.
It paints a picture of a community that's beginning to become a bit tired of Star Citizen kicking the ball forward. As it stands, the main game is currently in Alpha, which is on update 3.10 as of last week. That update added AI improvements, player trading, and changes to a host of other systems. There is a game being worked on, but players are increasingly wanting Star Citizen to be finished: in a market of early access and live service games, Star Citizen is the ur-example of a game never being done.