Chris Roberts wants to be Han Solo. But since he can’t be an intergalactic smuggler in real life, he’s spent his career building video games that turn you into a space scoundrel.

That includes the 1990 space-combat sim Wing Commander and its galaxy-hopping spin-off Privateer. He got the closest to his dream with Freelancer, released in 2003, a game where you could be a pirate, a bounty hunter, or just an intergalactic trader. It provided a tease of the wide-open universe he really wanted to build, but it wasn’t quite there.

Roberts took a brief detour to Hollywood to produce movies, but he never stopped imagining his dream game: a big, seemingly endless universe, filled with planets to explore and spaceships to fly. In his mind, it would be a game where you could hop into a bar to get some work — and maybe get into a blaster fight — and make your way through the galaxy taking on whatever job you could. It would be incredibly expensive to build, and impossibly ambitious in scope. And now he’s building it. "If I was a little saner I wouldn't be biting off as much as we're doing here,” he says, “but it's the game that I've wanted to play and dreamed about playing forever.”

It turns out he's far from the only one who wants to play that game. Roberts' studio, Cloud Imperium Games, is approaching $50 million in crowdfunded cash, which is being used to build Star Citizen, the game that's been in his head for the past few decades.