Welcome to some more Star Citizen, there has been some major development changes in the way patch cycles & the roadmap. Star Citizen is moving to a 6 monthly staggered development cycle BUT what does this actually mean.
Staggered Development FAQ
Staggered Development Question Thread
Staggered Development changes the way the teams focus on the Roadmaps.
Instead of focusing mostly on the next patch in the cycle, they look at the next 2.
We still have Quarterly Releases.
They split the various development teams between 2 delivery dates & patches. This puts teams into a cadence whereby they are delivering larger features every couple of quarters instead of every quarter, but due to their staggered nature, you would still receive an update every quarter.
An example of this is that half the dev teams may be working on 3.7 features, tech, and content, while the other half would be working on 3.8. Once the team working on 3.7 delivers the patch, they would then transition to 3.9.
Once the Devs that were working on 3.8 finish they move onto 4.0.
Staggering teams like this means 6-month cycles for development instead of 3,
CIG have said this means more time to ensure features are more complete with fewer bugs.
CIG have chosen to do this to improve delivery, they had been slipping by a few weeks on each of the recent patch deadlines and having interim patches as well.
CIG have stated that this change will result in a higher quality with fewer bugs each patch BUT this has caused a big reshuffling in the Roadmap.
They acknowledge it’s still an Alpha and bugs are expected BUT having teams focus on features in a 6 month block means they are able to add and polish a lot more.
This could also lead to features being closer to their final intention and have a bit more meat on their bones. Conversely this approach, gets backers testing it when it’s a bit further along… that has both positives and negatives BUT features will certainly see more thorough testing before hitting LIVE servers.
According to CIG this change should reduce the risk of delivering patches late because it gives them more time to prepare for PTU and Live Releases, and to make Star Citizen a polished, working, and fun game for everyone to enjoy.
In the Short Term and for 3.7 this does mean that it is going to be a lighter patch because of the changes. However they say as they ramp up and enter into a rhythm with Staggered Development, the goal is to have every patch as robust as previous patches prior to Staggered Development, but in a more polished and timely state.
They have also said they are going to be more active with communicating Roadmaps, Patches and Updates too.
The Ship Pipeline will suffer less in the short term from these changes as they had already stated using Staggered Development for these tasks.
On the Roadmap there has been major changes & the addition of Alpha 4.0 added there. Some features have moved off the visable Roadmap but those features are still planned and being developed, the Roadmap we currently have shown is a mid-planning one and expect to see some updates and changes on it BUT these will be as and when they decide these changes internally. Therefore, some features’ release dates are actively being discussed/prioritized and will land in their proper place once those discussions are completed.
Both Squadron 42 and Star Citizen are now moving to this approach.
Squadron 42 Ep 1 has seen it’s Beta move by a quarter / 12 weeks now being planned for feature complete Q3 2020.
CIG see this change as a good thing for SQ too both Star Citizen and Squadron 42 share a codebase and as features come online for both games, they will be in a more stable/playable state, reducing potential blockers that can hinder and slow down development.
Squadron 42 Features are much more readily able to be made ready for the PU in the staggered development timeframe.
CIG are answering a ship ton of questions about staggered development and SC going forward in a Star Citizen LIVE on the 6th of September. Here is the question gathering thread.
Alpha 4.0 is on the Roadmap now BUT it is very light content wise currently and they plan to add more to this once they have clarity on time frames for content and tech.
So What we can expect
We are still getting 4 Major Star Citizen Patches a Year
Better More Stable Gameplay & Patches
More Complete Features in each patch
Less time wasted on Planning
Star Citizen Alpha 3.7 & 3.8 may suffer
This could lead potentially to a Longer Development Time but with the benefits listed above CONVERSELY it could also have a bit a delay with features for 3.7 & 3.8 ot at least lighter patches and then be more efficient development wise as CIG will be spending less time on interim patches, hotfixes and subsuming branches.
Delays are still possible with releases but less likely
The Roadmap & Development Cycle could see other major Roadmap Updates in future.
Infact as I understand it CIG will be working on the next major branch say 3.7 but working on 3.8 features without branching them off until 3.7 is released. Then they will branch 3.8 off and work on both that and 3.9 features.