Needing to raise millions to make his plan space video game a reality, veteran Austin game designer Chris Roberts didn't bother going the usual industry route.
Instead, he took his funding drive to the people.
Roberts -- the man behind the famed "Wing Commander" series -- said that as of Monday afternoon he had raised more than $6.2 million from fans to make a new game, "Star Citizen." The money was raised using Roberts' fundraising website RobertsSpaceIndustries.com, and through the Kickstarter.com crowdfunding site.
In the end, a combined 89,667 backers financially supported the project, which is expected to be in development for the next two years. The campaign started on Oct. 10 after Roberts introduced the game at the GDC Online conference
The $6,238,563 is believed to be the largest amount ever raised through crowdfunding for a single video game. In October, a game called "Project Eternity" raised nearly $4 million on Kickstarter. Seven other games have crossed $1 million on that site, fueled by players who want early access and extras in addition to helping support independent game designers.
Getting the game funded this way was ""It's an incredible message," Roberts said. "They're backing a game that won't be finished for two years. That's how much they believe in this genre, that's how much they want to support this type of game."
"It's incredibly invigorating. I'm looking forward to building something really great for them," Roberts said.The game developer took a detour from the industry, producing a series of movies on the West Coast after he directed the film version of "Wing Commander," before announcing recently that video game technology had caught up to enable the kind of space game he wanted to build.
Roberts -- who flew in from Los Angeles -- and a small group of team members and backers were set up Monday in the downtown offices of Austin game studio LightBox Interactive, where they completed a 24-hour web-streamed celebratory countdown to the funding announcement, which they toasted with champagne in plastic cups, broadcast live to the gaming world.
"We're going to make the best damn game ever for you guys!" Roberts told the Internet audience as the clock struck 1 p.m.
The plan now is for a new game studio to open at Rio Grande and 17th Street, where Roberts said a team of about 20-30 people will begin work in December. Eventually, he expects the company will expand to about 70 employees, with a total of about 150 working on the project, including some local contractors and a few employees in Los Angeles for marketing and publishing.
Roberts said that after a slow start, the crowdfunding accelerated rapidly in the last week, doubling from $3 million raised to more than $6 million. He said that the funding for the online game will allow "Star Citizen" to be self-published, bypassing large game publishers and venture capitalists.
Traditional publishers have all but abandoned the genre of video game space combat that "Wing Commander" pioneered in the 1990s, Roberts said.
Former co-workers of Roberts, including game developer Richard Garriott who worked with him at "Wing Commander" home Origin Systems, and Marten Davies from his days at the Digital Anvil game studio, dropped by in the 24 hours leading up to the countdown.