Star Citizen

O ‘Star Citizen,’ ‘Star Citizen,’ Wherefore Art Thou, ‘Star Citizen’?

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Star Citizen

We here at GeekDad love a good Kickstarter. We’ve backed hundreds and probably written about even more to alert our readers to projects of interest. We get our share of Kickstarter alerts, and we’ve even got a set of policies in place for contacting us concerning how best to alert us to your Kickstarter. We’ve all backed some incredibly successful projects… and probably each of us can point at one or two that failed miserably, either by late delivery on a backer reward or just pulling out the rug beneath backers’ feet and saying “So long!” Suffice to say, every GeekDad writer probably has an interesting story to tell about Kickstarter. Here’s mine.

Note: What prompted this post was an interesting discussion on Slack between a few GeekDad contributors about the higher number of boardgame Kickstarters that successfully fund versus videogame projects. One comment raised the question about how a videogame that turned into vaporware could hurt other videogame developers. That little discussion (where I lurked but didn’t participate in) reminded me that it was time for me to go check in on a Kickstarter project that I hadn’t looked in on for a few months.

Back in 2012, Star Citizen launched on Kickstarter and raised over $2.1M for a space simulator game. (The game raised an overall $100M from non-Kickstarter funding!) I originally backed the game but pulled my funding when the developer began selling special ships that I felt would give players an immediate head start in the game… and possibly even an unfair advantage. You can read that original post here. I will admit that the piece was more editorial in nature, allowing me to gripe a bit about what I saw as a potential way to break the game. I even got an email from Star Citizen complaining (fairly, I must admit) that I should have let the developers respond to my concerns about their “No Pay to Win” which I called BS on. And still do.

If you read my original post, you’ll note that the game was supposed to be delivered to backers in late 2014. I even stated that I might be convinced to buy the game in 2014 if it turned out that my issues with the Pay-to-Win backer levels were unfounded. Well, it’s now July 2016 and even if I wanted to play Star Citizen… I can’t. You see, the game is almost four years out in development since the project successfully funded, and those 20,000+ backers are still waiting for their game. (There is an alpha release that can be downloaded.)

Star Citizen is one of those games that I check in on every 3–4 months. I read the comments and the updates and shake my head and say “Phew… dodged that one.” I don’t mean to make light of the fact that 20,000+ backers gave over two million dollars for what sounded like an amazing concept. Some of these backers funded at levels of $250, $1,000, and even $10k! I’m completely sympathetic to their complaints. Oh… and, man, are many of them complaining!

Click here to head over to Star Citizen‘s Kickstarter page and start browsing the comments. You’ll discover that the backers have fragmented into two different factions–those who have pretty much had it with Star Citizen and those who you can call True Believers. Those who are upset are speaking their minds loud and clear on a variety of issues such as warning other backers about accepting changes to the Terms of Service that supposedly make it harder to ask for refunds. The True Believers are hanging tough; they will defend Star Citizen and its developers because, well, “the game is coming, dude. It’s coming.”

Maybe.

And maybe not. You see, much of what was promised to backers back in 2012 has changed in regards to game features and elements. Some backers believe that if Star Citizen is released, it won’t be the game that was promised in the Kickstarter. Now, that’s not completely out of the rules. Kickstarter and Star Citizen made no promises (that I know of) that the game might not change here and there. Anyone familiar with technology knows that software is a fickle thing. These changes to the game, however, prompted a recent successful request to Star Citizen for a refund of $2,550.

Here’s the thing–I really want Star Citizen to finish. Not just for the 20,000+ backers, but because I’m still–despite all the feature changes and my gut feeling that gameplay will be unbalanced with some players starting off in mega warships while I’m scooting around in my unshielded single-seater Viper knockoff–anxious to see how this game looks and plays. I want to actually see what one-hundred-million dollars–$100,000,000 with 9 zeroes—looks like on a computer screen. I want to post a follow-up one day and say “I was WRONG! I was SO WRONG!”

But for now… all I can do is lurk in the comments, get an occasional update from various news sources, and cross my fingers that one-tenth of a billion dollars delivers something soon that gamers will love beyond words.

Stay tuned…

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15 thoughts on “O ‘Star Citizen,’ ‘Star Citizen,’ Wherefore Art Thou, ‘Star Citizen’?

  1. Really straightforward piece, totally understandable opinion. Of course, the True Believers will be here in force over the next few hours to call you names, insult you for not “doing research,” etc etc.

    All to serve a mushmouthed hasbeen who hasn’t shipped a game in 20 years.

  2. It doesn’t sound like you really do follow the game. I didn’t read the whole article because I stopped when you said the game cannot be played. There is an alpha release of 2.4.1 where you can play all released features to date. There is a current “Free Fly” week that just started this weekend so even folks that haven’t paid a cent can even play it.

  3. This “Star Citizen” certainly sounds like a shady enterprise. I can understand this fellow wanting to make sure he got his money out, and fast.

    1. I don’t understand then why they continue to take funding. If people giving them more money resulted in them increasing the scope. Then surely they should stop taking on funds to stop the scope from getting increasingly out of hand. The argument that they had so much money that deadlines no longer applied and they needed all the time and money in the world to make it more and more awesome gets really old. What we are left with is something not unlikely goat simulator when after this many years one would expect the pillars of a true space sim starting to emerge. Where is the trading? Exploration? Bounty hunting/pirating? When are these core features going to be on our hard drives in alpha form? If they can’t emerge after four to five years then I would suggest that they should stop taking funds and sort out priority because lots of backers have been left waiting for so long an entire hardware generation has been and gone. Where does it stop? Why the continued ship sales if they had more money than “expected”? It’s like they are stuck in a cycle of: too much money, increase scope, need more money, increase scope, need more money…

    2. There actually is bounty hunting. Sec rating goes below -5 the system puts a price on your head. You would have to read to know that though

  4. Geekdad must be a Troll.. it’s fair to call anyone saying anything bad about Star Citizen a Troll isn’t it? I mean if you are a supporter you’re called a True Believer like you’re a brainwashed cultist like some haters claim.

    Perhaps if you don’t call supporters derogatory names they won’t flame you for name calling and obvious bias.

    And Rupert as a backer who has been following this game very closely, I can assure you it’s not shady at all. The money received is going into the game. Where some people get upset is when the scope grew massively. This happened because backers gave Chris way more money than he expected, and he could either pocket the money, or expand the scope of the game and give us what we paid for. I for one am happy he chose the latter path despite the hate from those with less patience than I.

    I find it ironic when big backers ask for refunds because of delays.. they themselves caused. As to releasing the small game and patching it into a big one.. considering what they’re aiming for I think that would have resulted in a poorly hacked together mess, so again I’m glad they didn’t go down that path.

    1. So because they have too much money they needed to make the game bigger and needed more money and deadlines no longer apply? This argument suggests they weren’t appropriate for crowd funding. If they have had to make the scope wider to encompass a larger amount of funding then really they ought to stop funding because this is silly.

      1. I don’t agree. I WANT the bigger game. Don’t think because there’s a very vocal group complaining about it that they’re in the majority. Most people I know are happy to wait for the bigger game. And seriously, considering you’re getting TWO AAA games, the build time hasn’t been that long. Especially if SQ42 launches end of this year or 1st quarter of next.

        Sure CR gave a delivery date that was missed.. and again.. as far as I can tell most backers understand that, and want it done properly the first time, even if we have to wait. The only reason this gets so much press is because it’s a tall poppy. Hardly any game delayed twice as long gets so much hate. That’s why most devs keep stuff secret until it’s nearly release.. children are impatient. I suppose we’re lucky there haven’t been death threats.. that I know of.

  5. I will defend Star Citizen and believe that this article is not a particularly good one. Yes I have backed SC (not in the kickstarter period but later and I am now running close to the US$5k mark). Change always occurs in any game. We find this when a game releases on PC and people delve into the files and find all sorts of left in material hinting at stuff that got cut or was never added etc. To expect that SC would be any different is ludicrous. Yet some of the more aggrieved kickstarter backers complaining about the game expected that what should be delivered is EXACTLY what was mentioned in the Kickstarter – no more, no less. Yet SC was always subject to change even at that point and what would be produced would depend on the level of funding….if it met basic funding goals then there would be a basic set of features. If it got more then more would be added. Yet this ‘change’ to what the game would include is totally forgotten by those complaining.

    As to delays….well delays on what grounds? The root issue for SC is that it has been very successful not only in terms of money (which has garnered it 2 Guiness World Records) but in the sheer number of people who want to play it. This fact alone (the game has now gone over the 1 million mark in people who have contributed to it and 1.4 million people who have created an account) changed everything. The original design for the game allowed only for a small number of backers (enough to raise the initial basic level of funding) which would be grown over years (much like Minecraft which is something Chris Roberts has mentioned in past interviews). Not quite overnight (though is was definetly very quick since the initial announcement prompted enough people to try to log in they crashed the RSI servers) the game now had to be able to accomodate (potentially) thousands perhaps hundreds of thousands of players. If you recall Mech Warrior Online, one of the main complaints at the time (2012-2013) was that the netcode was poor and that it was not really handling the numbers of players who were trying to play. MWO was using the basic CryEngine netcode which is the game engine Star Citizen is using. Having done their research CIG knew that at some time they would need to address this issue but their plans did not see that need until so much later. Now they quite literally had to come up with a new and accelerated plan to build new netcode. So employees who could do that had to be found and hired and brought up to speed. All of that takes time and so we had the makings of the first ‘delay’. What would those ‘backers’ have said if, like MWO, SC multiplayer – a main goal of the original plan – was unplayable because people could not connect or stay connected?

    In short the failure (if it can be called that) was that Chris Roberts did not have a crystal ball which he could use to show him that what was needed right from the start was to plan for a game that hundreds of thousands of people wanted to play. He prudently planned for a game that would attract enough people who would meet the level of basic funding and the remainder of the needed funds would come from investors he had already lined up. He had a reasonable business plan that was shot out of the water because of US backers. The pent up demand, which was never that obvious, was greater than anyone in game development ever thought possible. And so new plans had to be made by everyone (including other game developers) to be able to meet that demand. As a result we are where we are today. A game that is not like the initial crowdfunded basic goals (and remember that the game initially started funding on its OWN server and Kickstarter was only ever added because a vocal few wanted it) because it now has to cater to hundreds of thousands. The game is ‘delayed’? No the game is not delayed because what was going to be available when the game (if it was successful had it launched with only basic features) had hundreds of thousands of users is what is being put into now and years ahead of any potential timeline Chris had at the initial start. It is both an enviable position to be in and also a very tough one. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

    The detractors only see the negative and since its not ready NOW its a failure. The rest of us who are playing (well to more exact right now bug testing) can see the potential and are prepared to wait. After all we can see other games taking 5+ years to develop and not from scratch either. We can look at EvE which is now over 10 years old and STILL has not put in promised features from its alpha/beta phase. We can wait for Star Citizen.

  6. “But for now… all I can do is lurk in the comments, get an occasional update from various news sources…..”

    If you are going to write on it logic would dictate that blah blah blah, snarky comment.

  7. eh its ok The SC verse has plenty of people and supporters willing to wait for a truly great game.. feel free to forget the thing even exists and go back to playing no mans sky. seems more your speed. rock collecting and planet naming HOW GROUND BREAKING…

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