'Star Citizen' Devs & Fans Talk Carrack's Release & The Ship's Legendary Status

Star Citizen has raised more than $250 million in crowdfunded pledges on the promise of fulfilling the space-sim dreams of millions of sci-fi fanatics around the world. Despite being in the alpha stages of development, the game currently features a full-scale solar system, built on bleeding-edge technology, that players can access. It features dozens of ships, including floating super-yachts and crafts that can pull others out of hyperspace. Of these ships, there is perhaps none more famous, and infamous, than the Anvil Carrack. Announced without a name back in 2013, this massive ship made by a fictional military manufacturer is hailed as a Jack-of-all-trades exploration powerhouse. To its owners and admirers alike, it's been compared to iconic ships like the Enterprise, Millenium Falcon and the Normandy.

star citizen carrack hangar
'Star Citizen fans are psyched about the release of the Carrack. We spoke with developers and fans to discuss what makes this ship so special. 'Star Citizen' is in alpha now on PC. Cloud Imperium Games

While other exploration ships exist in Star Citizen, this one is designed for the longest of long journeys, which is all the more appropriate considering just how long backers have waited to fly it. As of today, however, the Carrack will soon make its way into testing. With that occasion in mind Newsweek spoke with its creators at Cloud Imperium Games, as well as a few eager fans who have purchased one for themselves. Whether the Carrack is being used for bounty hunting or as a huge party bus, the fervor around the arrival of this behemoth is more than a little palpable.

Gauging Fan Demand

The Carrack's story begins nearly seven years from the present day, when the development team CIG was still in the early stages of its crowdfunding campaign. Working from a basic list of about 10 professions, backers were asked to vote for the end-game ship they most wanted to see after reaching the $33 million threshold. Narrative Director Dave Haddock told us fans' desire for an exploration ship was immediate. "We just kind of stepped back and were like, 'alright, let's see where this goes.' And I think the Explorer shot up pretty quickly because that's consistently one of our most asked-about, sought-after features," Haddock recalled.

Shortly thereafter, backers were given the Carrack name and a description of its planned functions. Named after an American exploration seafaring ship used between the 14th and 17th centuries, the word Carrack has a much different definition to the Star Citizen faithful. "Today it just means the most wanted ship, get it in the game, give it to me please, give it to me now," CIG Associate Creative Producer Jared Huckaby said with a laugh.

star citizen carrack flight 2
As the flagship craft of a fictional military manufacturer, the Carrack can hold its own in combat scenarios. Cloud Imperium Games

That level of intrigue would continue to mount over the next year, while folks like Vehicle Pipeline Director John Crewe attempted to hammer down the specifics of a very complicated beast. "It was promised with so many things, and there was so little concept art to validate all those things," said Crew of the Carrack's early days. "We had a fair few struggles, and then we sort of parked it for a while because it's an end-game ship and we had a lot more early-game ships to do...We parked for probably the best part of the year, year and a half, and then at the start of 2019, end of 2018, is when we sort of picked back up on it again."

To Huckaby and his colleagues, the decision to essentially bench the Carrack was a development-first choice. "As a matter of priority, there are many other things that needed to come before this. So it hasn't taken particularly long to build this ship. It's just this ship came later in the schedule," Huckaby explained. As CIG continued to flesh out the rest of the features necessary to fully realize the ship's vision, this overtly transparent development team was forced to go quiet for quite some time, at least as far as the Carrack was concerned.

A Vacuum of Hype

In that vacuum of time between the Carrack's re-reveal and release announcement, hype for this massive craft only continued to grow. With the lack of concrete details, backers' imaginations were allowed to run wild. CIG Director of Community Tyler Witkin saw firsthand how the open-ended nature of the situation proved to be both a blessing and a curse. When asked about how often the Carrack is discussed by the Star Citizen community, his answer was more than a little definitive.

"Are you serious? I can't get away from it," Witkin exclaimed enthusiastically. "It doesn't matter if I'm doing a Q&A about the next moon, or a new character or audio, it doesn't matter. They're always going to ask about the Carrack. It doesn't matter who the guest is or what the topic is, there are always going to be Carrack questions. And it's the only ship that really happens like that. It's unavoidable."

star citizen carrack flight
For fans and developers alike the Carrack is seen as a home amongst the stars. Cloud Imperium Games

And, as common as those inquiries may be, Witkin sees them as a net positive even if he can't answer them. "It really gets me excited, because it's something that's bringing all these people together, getting them excited about one specific thing. Seeing that through the Carrack, something we're building, is very awesome to see," he said.

Enter Star Citizen backers like ArieNeo, a Spanish-speaking community member who spends lots of time translating CIG's various news updates for others around the world. He purchased his Carrack in 2017 and runs an in-game organization called Scire Imperium, one of the most active Star Citizen orgs in the world. Among his followers, the Carrack has earned a unique title.

"We have a little story within the the Spanish community that we call the Carrack the ship of the community," he said. And the ship has certainly earned that namesake globally. Of the community members we spoke to, several mentioned elaborate drawings, 3D prints, custom-made bottles of wine and even entire songs dedicated to the unreleased ship.

As 2016 Carrack purchaser Mitauchi told us, sometimes fan passion for the Carrack gets out of hand in hilarious ways. "There have been some interesting Carrack tattoos I've seen, let me just put it that way," he recalled with a grin. "There are some Carracks out there that I hope are temporary and probably shouldn't be shown on any internet platform."

Even CIG studio members can't escape the bizarrely beautiful Carrack meme train. In the case of Crewe, there's one fan interaction he will always remember. "At CitizenCon 2019 there was a bunch of us on the floor talking to backers, and one of them came forward and said 'I'm really passionate about the Carrack. It's my favorite ship. I live behind the office. If you don't do it justice, something's going to happen.'" The encounter wasn't a serious threat, but it's captured Crewe's attention all the same "That's the one thing that sticks out in my mind anytime anyone talks about the Carrack is that guy. With a long telescope waiting, watching. "

Carrack mania has had an especially strong impact on Huckaby, who fairly recently let his community decide what his "favorite ship" would be. "They predictively overwhelmingly voted for the Carrack. What I didn't anticipate was that it would become this tremendous trolling opportunity from them to me over the next 18 months," he explained with an ironic sense of lament. " I get Carrack memes, I got a Valentine's Day card with a picture of me riding the Carrack like Slim Pickens from Dr. Strangelove..."

Witkin told us he sees Carrack memes in his dreams. "There are two words, and I swear I hear them in my sleep, and that is gib Carrack," a phrase the Community Manager hopes will soon be retired.

Continued Development

But, as Huckaby points out, much of this Carrack feedback proved far more valuable than memes. All the while, fans were also providing insight into what they hoped the ship might become. "Because we're so in tune with the community and this is truly a joint effort, we could see those things that they were attaching to, see the things that interested them and then ask ourselves, is there a way that we can incorporate that where we could," he explained.

This was especially helpful for Crewe and his team, who were asked to resume work on the Carrack in early 2019 in preparation for a showcase at CitizenCon this past October. They just had one superyacht-sized obstacle standing in their way. "We made a fairly big mistake in trying to do the 890 Jump [ship] at the same time," Crewe admitted. And, while fan feedback helped Crewe and CIG emphasize the Carrack's most important features, the exploration vehicle was still lacking key concept art.

star citizen carrack pool table
There's even a pool table for all that downtime in between far-reaching destinations. Cloud Imperium Games

"They're used to being put on ships with everything provided for them. And for this it was like, we're going to give you these things guys, but you need to start it up now with what we have. And it was a complete switch to the frame of mind on how they had to develop it," he said. With all these snags, Crewe and others grew keenly aware that the Carrack "just wasn't ready. It was all knock ons from the 890. We had envisioned to do it sooner. We had all the tools, the tech, the knowledge to do it. We just had delays that knocked on."

But, after a few months of hard work and some improvisation, CIG managed to show off the Carrack in all its glory at CitizenCon last fall, alongside its ability to warp between solar systems. It was a reveal community members like ArieNeo won't soon forget. "I cried a genuine tear when I saw that jump point opening. I'm not making this up. Literally, I was sitting there with my friends, all of them. Our mouths were open, and I literally dropped a tear when I saw that," Arie said with conviction.

It was at that moment the story of the Carrack transitioned from concept to reality. Its February 2020 release date was revealed and feature set finalized. While jump points won't be available for some time, most of the Carrack's key concepts will be part of the imminent test. "There's nothing that the Carrack will eventually be able to do that wasn't promised at the start," Crewe assured.

A Home Amongst the Stars

One of the biggest universal draws of the Carrack is its self-sustainability features that allow the ship to spend lots of time in the solar system without having to refuel. For content creators like ArieNeo and Mitauchi, that defining characteristic is crucial.

"It reminds me of these big sci-fi ships like the Enterprise," Arie said. "That they'll be traveling for decades and they'll be in space without having to refuel or, or do anything, to maintain themselves because they can actually have some sort of self self-sustainability, And that excites me the most about the Carrack...I'm going to take it off from the landing pad and never land it again." Mitauchi, who loves to push Star Citizen to its limits, questioned "I wonder how long it can spend out, like, how many days of gameplay, without ever coming back to the station?"

The ability to persist through expeditions is key, but the Carrack faithful also love what its size means for multicrew, multiplayer gameplay. Chief among those multicrew enthusiasts is DeeJayKnight, a 2018 Carrack buyer, content creator and leader of the in-game Knight Corps organization. In his org, the Carrack will primarily be a bounty-hunting base.

"We're talking about a fairly sizable group of people we could take out and do whatever we want. And if I'm with a crew of people who are ready to go bounty hunting, we can 'bring em in warm, or bring em in cold.' We're going to be Mandos, like, it's going to be great," he said with an air of wonder. "The fact that we can have a Go Team, I can command everybody from the pilot seat of the Carrack and have a Go Team go do things, that's where the play is going to change."

Mitauchi agreed, saying multicrew was "the whole reason I backed this game. I didn't want to be alone in my spaceship. I wanted to have friends in there. And I think you're going to see a ton of people doing that now in a productive way," he mused. For Arie, taking flight in the Carrack is all about "the multicrew gameplay and being able to actually explore in the way that it's supposed to be."

Of course, given how long fans have waited for the Carrack, DeeJay also made it abundantly clear that celebration is in order once all the serious flight business has finished. "I'm going to explore, figure it out, see what I like about it, have a conversation about it. And then we're going to have a party. The party's happening, that's not a question," he said with a grin.

Self-Sustaining Passion

While it's been stalled in development for nearly an entire console generation, those visions described by Carrack fans around the world will soon be playable. For its developers, the completion of the Carrack's initial implementation marks a new chapter in Star Citizen's ongoing creative process.

star citizen carrack crew
Carrack owners can send sizable crews on extensive exploration missions. Cloud Imperium Games

"They're ready to start writing their story amongst the stars. Wanting the Carrack and begging for the Carrack is the prologue, and then their story starts when it's in their hands," Witkin teased. Always looking forward, Crewe ranked finishing the Carrack as one of his top accomplishments thus far, but hinted that more projects are on the way. "We have something in literally every size and scale coming in the next year. Things people know about, things people don't know about," he said.

As for Huckaby, he's just glad to finally get a new "favorite ship. "The thing I'm most looking forward to is it being out, so I can have my agency back and I can choose a different favorite ship and maybe not get asked when the Carrack will be out," the man said with a sly smile.

For the hardest of hardcore fans, the Carrack coming to Star Citizen is far more than the sum of its data. It's a pivotal moment in the slow realization of a dream that some skeptic industry watchers refuse to believe in. As DeeJay put it, "every time we get a major ship like this, it's a slap in the face to the people who've been like 'this game is never going to happen." The Carrack is happening in Star Citizen very soon.

Star Citizen alpha 3.8 is live now on PC.

Are you glad that the Carrack is finally here? Why do you love the Carrack? Tell us in the comments section!

'Star Citizen' Devs & Fans Talk Carrack's Release & The Ship's Legendary Status | Newsgeek