Come, My Friends, We Need to Discuss Star Citizen

An Explosive Subject?
An Explosive Subject?

For as big a title as it is in the space gaming…eerrr…space, you might have noticed this site is a bit light on the Star Citizen coverage. We had Chris Roberts on one of our first podcasts back in the day, and I’ve done a video or two of it but that’s really it. You then might be wondering why I’ve not covered the game more. Well, truth be told that for all the ships being sold and content being produced by the folks at CIG, there really isn’t much THERE yet. Sure, there’s Arena Commander, but honestly that got boring real freaking fast, so I’ve basically been waiting for more meat on the bones before diving in, you know?

Well, one can only wait so long before one starts to worry. I mean I’ve been something of a fan of the game for a while (and have the funds sunk in it to prove it, as I have four ships in my hangar, though two of which are unflyable). However,  when you have big names leaving the studio on a regular basis (today it was confirmed that their Executive Producer has left for example), announce the indefinite delay of a much-touted portion of the game (that I never wanted anyway, I want a spaceship sim, not an FPS) on one hand while asking for money for a new ship on the other, I begin to get worried. When stretch goals begin to get ridiculous (a fish tank? really?), I begin to get worried. In 2012, the original vision for the game was promised to be delivered in 2014 if I recall correctly, yet it’s mid-2015 and all we have is Arena Commander, which again, not fun.

Now I try to be as positive as I can about space games because I want to be the genre’s biggest cheerleader, but at the same time, it’s getting harder and harder to stay positive about this game, and I honestly HATE that. I wanna be excited about the game, I wanna be able to look forward to it with anticipation and hope, but again, my will on that front is faltering. So I wanted to talk to y’all about this and see what you think. What do YOU think about Star Citizen right now, as well as going forward? Am I being too much of a negative nelly in how I feel about the game, or am I just being realistic, as I hope I am?

I look forward to the discussion, and thank you for visiting.

Author: Brian Rubin

42 thoughts on “Come, My Friends, We Need to Discuss Star Citizen

    1. Hey, welcome to the comments, and I hope you’re not disappointed, but the sad part is I have no evidence right now to the contrary.

  1. You’re being realistic. For all the hype and money surrounding this game, the results are pathetic. I haven’t put any money into it, so I’m just a spectator. We’ll see what the future brings for Star Citizen.

    1. Honestly I wish I felt like I was being too negative, rather than realistic. I’d be that much less sad about it right now, and I am sad. I want this and all space games to be awesome, but especially this one if for nothing else because it’s so high profile.

  2. I want it to succeed. I want to give them my money. I personally am shooting for Squadron 42 since that will give my old skool Wing Commander feelz. But for now my money is going to other items. I am happy to have backed Elite Dangerous and probably need to get back into that game as I have not played in a bit. But I am also finding that I am getting burned on backing Kickstarter games with release dates years in the future. I want games now not next year. My current backing of Bard’s Tale IV will likely be my last one for a bit.

    1. Well, this game was initially promised in 2014, so it was kinda supposed to be out…

  3. $40 down the drain. I could have spent it on 3 other kickstarters that barely didn’t make it or on Elite. Now, 3 years later I have exactly zero games to show for the decision.

    From the email updates they send, I can’t even tell if they are working on it.

    1. Man, I hope it’s not down the drain, but I understand why you feel that way. Totally.

  4. Pragmatism seems like a smart attitude when it comes to Star Citizen. I certainly wouldn’t want to spend any money on ships to ‘support the game’ (beyond my $35 Kickstarter buy-in) until we see more of the bones of that game in place.

    I’m reminded how Elite handle their Alpha and Beta. They started with some single missions. Then, navigation between systems. Then some trading mechanics. Then more systems, more stations, expanding the navigable area and options. It was super-cool to see the constant evolution. All pretty rapid fire, too, in the grand scheme of things.

    Star Citizen — not so much.

    More than that, I am worried about the foundational elements that are visible. I just don’t like the flight model in Arena Commander. It feels wonky. I know there’s all of this amazing stuff happening with calculating the angle of every thruster and how the fly-by-wire system translates player control into movement. But the end result? Wonky. Not fun. Heck, for a psuedo-newtonian flight model I much prefer what one guy managed to do in the Evochron series. If I don’t like flying around in Star Citizen, then the rest is worthless to me.

    The HUD’s are too busy. The little incidental animations (and potential super-long planetary landing animations) are irritating. The design of the ships are super-fiddly, with details that are impossible to appreciate unless you want to just stare at them in your hangar (there’s something to be said for clean, recognizable lines when you are pew-pewing at ships in space). The skyboxes are full of smoke and flame and nebula rather than evoking the cold, lonely beauty of space (something Elite does SO WELL). It all feels over-designed.

    And, yet, I’ve got hope. The multi-crew stuff is potentially cool. There’s some really interesting expanded roles that go beyond what I’ve seen in other games (i.e. scavenging). I don’t think there’s any other spacesim that has as much potential for making your own way in the universe. I’m not one of those Elite vs Star Citizen guys. I really, really want every darn spacesim to succeed and deliver beyond our expectations.

    But … we’ll see. I’ll be waiting in the wings with fingers crossed.

  5. (sorry for the long post above. Apparently had some stuff to get off my chest)

    And, as an aside Brian … I would like to see occasional Star Citizen videos from you .. i.e. whenever there’s any major release. I can’t recall if you talked much about the Arena Commander flight model and shooty mechanics from your previous videos, but I’ll go back and give them a look. I’m curious if the dissatisfaction with the flight model is a ‘just me’ thing.

    1. It’s not just you, the flight model felt like the ship was spinning on top of a dreidel that was also spinning. Way too spinny and shit.

  6. I think the question is how long does it take to make a 80+ million dollar game. Answer – A long freeking time – How long has Falout 4 been worked on, some indications are since 08 thats 7 years and I would hazard a guess that the actual game creation budget is probably comparable. The marketing will probably be another 100 M.
    The problem I have with Star Citizen is all the freeking crazy fans that want it all and want it now. When it was a 20 M budget and a much smaller scope we might have expected to see it sooner but now I figure to see Squadren 42 in a year or 2 and the whole thing finished in 4 years from now.
    The thing is Roberts has made this a spectical for fans to watch how the sausage is made but I fear too many don’t really care they just want it all right FUCKING NOW!!!!!!
    How much resorces are being wasted adjusting and tweeking and dealing with the nut jobs who think they should have something to play and compete with each other now.
    I too am a backer from the very early days too and yes there was a lot of enthusiasm on my part at the start, I have started to see that making games at this level is a marathon not a sprint.

    1. To be fair, I think them setting an initial release date of 2014 is what helped set the expectations that folks want it now. We’ve never had this level of access into a space game’s development, and the fact that it’s not much farther now than it was a year or so ago worries folks. Now, I think if they set a release date of, say, 2017, that might’ve tempered expectations a bit. It also, sadly, might’ve slowed down the money train as well. It’s a tough line to walk.

  7. Based on the twice daily updates i seem to get which seems to tell me they spend most of their time writing fan fic fluff and contemplating new stretch goals. Really i only care about one update “open universe alpha”, ive been following SC since before it was a thing it was just this thing Chris Roberts was working on, and i have my literal “golden ticket” to prove it.

  8. I know that after a few years of apparently little result, no one wants to hear advice to be patient. I admit concern that there hasn’t been more visible progress on Star Citizen, especially in light of Elite’s release at a quite impressive level of quality. I’m not keeping score, but I was under the impression that Star Citizen raised rather more public funding than Frontier did for Elite (yet we don’t know how much private funding each shop also had). Perhaps they can afford to dither a bit with Star Citizen, taking time to test, rewrite, and refactor according to their design goals, when much smaller projects with smaller budgets would instead simply be cancelled by a visionless company that ultimately didn’t really have the fire to make the quality product their audience wanted. I’m not thinking of any specific project here (cough, JGE, cough).

    Online games are complex and difficult projects, and making a simulation rather than a game adds to the levels of complexity involved, because even if you are not required to be realistic, you absolutely must be consistent, or your prospective players will either laugh or insult you out of existence. Also, I am particularly intrigued by Star Citizen’s distributed development approach, which I think may be unique in the industry. I would like very much to see that succeed and be a model for other projects in the future, but I admit that if mismanaged, it represents a risk.

    I’m playing Elite right now, and I expect to continue to do so, but I want Star Citizen to also release and to do well. The MMO space sim market was both invisible and devoid of competition for far too long. Remember when the only two viable products out there were Jumpgate and Vendetta Online? Despite loyal communities, both nearly died due to lack of attention from the general market. I’d sure like to see space sims become more generally mainstream – without having to dumb them down. Perhaps these big blockbuster games can accomplish that, given all the money, hype, and visibility they have.

    Realistically, though, nothing in the game industry surprises me anymore. It’s cut-throat, and it’s hard work to get a large team all on the same page and pulling consistently in the same direction to make an MMO. You’ve got to have the right vision-holders, and the right workers in the trenches, too. You’ve also got to keep all of them together, for years. I will be deeply disappointed if the Star Citizen project collapses, but it won’t shock me. In the meantime, I’ll be patient and hopeful.

      1. Distributed development is not all that unique but it is INCREDIBLY hard to pull off without massive pains along the way.

        Ubisoft has been doing it for over a decade now (how do you think they’re able to release Assassin’s Creed every year?) so it can be done successfully.

        But keep this mind too: Ubisoft has a lead studio that focuses on core mechanics and leverages the satellite studios to do encapsulated content.

        For example, the core studio would handle all the basic movement, traversal, core mechanics while the satellite studios would handle ship stuff (referencing Black Flag here).

        But having a completely isolated team create such a core feature to the game (Illfonic and FPS) is completely bonkers, IMO.

        Furthermore, they can’t cancel the FPS or delay it indefinitely as they’ve stated many, many times that FPS is tightly integrated in Squadron 42– cut FPS and you cut SQ42 (or scrap it and start all over). No, FPS will ship (it pretty much has too) but it will more than likely be janky and broken like Arena Commander was.

  9. Not sure there is any point doing anything related to Star Citizen until there is really something to more relevant to discuss. Let’s be honest the only reason this topic even came up today is due to the hornets nest that got tipped over with Derek Smarts recent blog entry. From my opinion this was just a random polarizing event, those already with doubt saw truth in some of the points while the fans doubled down and repeated the same rhetoric about it takes as much time as it takes… look at Blizzard… yada yada. Comments like that have always amazed me since in reality this is a business, NOT a labor of love. To be clear Chris was able to re-enter the gaming industry, rebuild two studios in TX and the UK, and then most likely due to pressure for other sources transferred his TX resources to CA (since we all know that CA is way cheaper than TX ;) ). The problem comes when you hear statements about features and staffing being reallocated due to an unsustainable fund burn rates, thus more time does not guarantee a better end result. Regardless if it is a crowd funded or publisher funded game, nobody tries to make a bad game that costs a lot of money, that is just the eventuality that sometimes occurs due to unforeseen issues post the initial project pitch.

    To be clear however, I am in the doubters camp and have been since what I saw was the initial cash grab via virtual ships shortly after both funding campaigns ended and it was clear more resources were going to PR / advertising than my expectation (i.e. remember the high production quality “auto commercial” for the origin 300i years back with more to follow). I backed the first day at the Colonel level (think that was ~$125) through their site before they even had their site working correctly, but RSI was kind enough downgrade my contribution to the lowest tier and refund the difference back in late 2013 when their money train was just starting.

    Much like many others, my kickstarter / indiegogo / early-access contributions have dropped to almost nothing, since there have been few instances of brilliance, plenty of mediocrity, and a higher share of outright failure than I care to gamble on these days.

    1. Derek’s post did get me thinking on it, but I’ve also been hit with a lot of folks asking me either what I think of it or why I don’t cover it more.

  10. I backed it, I even upgraded once, I even pledged for a gift to a friend. I wanted to believe. But as scope just kept expanding with new cool features, I found I lost interest. Arena commander has shown no real progress in sometime. I’m patient as I have a too many titles to wade through anyway but I’m not even sure I’ll care when it gets done. I’m with Brian on the FPS side of things, I didn’t want it anyway, just let me fly in, trade and fly out. It seems like it will be too much of a distraction from what I originally thought the project to be. It seems like SC went down the path of jack of all trades, but master of nothing.

    1. Yeah, I’m worried about it becoming that too, a master of nothing. I so want it to succeed, but fear that it won’t get the time to do so.

  11. I agree with many of the posts above. I was an early backer. Actually a pretty big backer and enthusiast. I really wanted this to succeed so I put my $ down like everyone else, then left them alone while I fell in love with Elite. I stopped paying attention to all the SC updates, blogs, verse updates, etc. etc. long ago, as there wasn’t much actual content, just more spotlights on so-and-so and his boring coding tasks. Making something like this takes time, and executives are a fickle lot. They sometimes leave for greener pastures, or egos clash, or whatever. No biggie. We should EXPECT to see dramatic cock-ups. Anyone recall Interstellar Marines? It looked like it was ready to die, but lo, its still around and actually looking pretty cool. It takes time to make this stuff. Let’s let them do their thing.

    1. Not disagreeing with you, I just kinda wish they’d set a more realistic “release” date and maybe have stopped with the silly stretch goals ages ago.

      1. True ‘nuf. I never needed it to be an all-singing, all-dancing space sim.

    2. I also wish they would stop with all the verse, blogs, etc. Its time and money spent on filler and fluff that could be used else where…. I’m willing to give it time to develop into something, but when all the noise being made is about nothing….

      1. Yeah, right? I’m glad they’re trying to flesh out the universe, but right now it might as well be a book…

  12. I too am a Golden Ticket holder and have made significant pledges to Star Citizen. While I still believe that this game is going to be something very special, I must admit that I am growing impatient. The staff turnover is not what concerns me however, it’s more the amount of ‘do-over’ that has occurred.

    The initial ships took a long time to be made and then they were re-done for PBR. Now they are being done over again due to F42 setting a new bar with the Retaliator model. And the damage state modeling that was introduced not that long ago is now being abandoned in favour of a new system. All of these changes are supposed to be ‘better’ and ‘faster’ but the sunk costs in these abandoned systems must be considerable, thus re-doing assets is not re-assuring to me that the project is being managed well.
    If they keep shifting the fidelity bar upwards, then we are never going to get all of the ships (let alone the game) finished.

    I do think that Erin Roberts and the ex-Warthog gang (big chunk of F42) have a good track record (Starlancer, Privateer 2 (I know Brian, I know)) and I think that group can manage a project to a budget. Erin is taking over most of Alex Newberry’s duties – who left apparently for personal reasons related to family & health, so I feel better about that transition.
    Travis Day leaving is a big bummer, but the obvious emotion and reluctance on display during his farewell on RtV conveyed the fact that it was not an easy decision and that he really enjoyed being part of SC.
    Wingman – nice guy – but never had the management chops for such a big project and to be fair to him, that was not what he signed up for.
    Disco Lando made a great post yesterday that gave me some re-assurance that the project is rolling forward:

    The updates, AtV, RtV, JumpPoint are all funded by subscribers, so the ledge funds are not being used for fluff. Altough, I suspect the new Santa Monica offices may have taken a chunk of pledge money…

    I still want to see some content soon to stay positive however. James stated today that he is working on a live ship status page – which I think will help.

    TL;DR – mixed feelings

  13. I have dropped 60 $ there and now i’m effectively has written them off. I do not believe Chris will deliver, he just spends way to much to raise the hype and work on features when there is a major issue of the core elements missing. I do not care for Star citizen, I wanted only Squadron 42 and seems like i will not get even that.
    I’d like to speak from different point of view. At the moment the SC was kickstarted, there was not much of a space games out there. My pledge there was more of making my vote for them come into being. And man it has succeeded! Now we are knee-deep in, like Brian says, “spacey goodness”. So i do not regret my spend money at all in this aspect.

  14. Fugazi, I’m kind of with you: Without Erin and the Ex-Warthog guys at Foundry 42, this project would be in a much worse shape than it is right now.

    The UK guys seem to be focused on creating an actual game, knowing what is viable and how far they can raise the bar before it becomes ridiculous. Maybe Erin is also the only person on this planet that can keep Chris’ visions “in check”:

    “Perfect is the enemy of good” an old saying goes and that’s what my executive producer always told me when my team and I dreamed up some awesome design solutions that we would not have been able to deliver before the money ran out. In the end our final solution was much smarter exactly _because_ we had those financial and time constraints.

    The whole (sad) tale of Star Citizen so far is one about a guy that wanted to show how awesome a game free of the shackles of a publisher could be, yet is becoming the prime example for a project that desperately needs somebody that focuses on “getting things done” and not chasing dreams that don’t do the actual game any tangible good.

    I’m afraid that not only a lot of (very vocal and apologetic to a fault) fans, but also parts of CIG themselves have subscribed to the fairy tale of game development unconstrained by time or money. Afraid that this turns into a Freelancer 2.0 (which had to be salvaged by Microsoft after Chris ran out of money and the game that existed at that point was a mess).

    I felt that way after the original crowdfunding campaign ended and already had my misgivings about the scope creep introduced through the stretch goals because the game evolved into something I wouldn’t have had backed in the first place especially because of the preposterous scope and financial requirements.

    Blizzard can get away with “it’s done when it’s done” because they have the courage to say “this doesn’t work, so we cut it” (aka “finding the fun” as Metzen called it – those rabid Star Citizen fans would call it “dumbing it down”). I don’t feel like CIG has this courage yet and they get lost in superfluous features.

    1. Well put, my sentiments exactly.

      Let’s also not forget that Blizzard’s business model for on-going projects benefits from constant income streams like WoW/HotS/Hearthstone and even they have to cancel features/projects that just aren’t working. I know the CIG has subscribers for some of the side “info-tainment” aspects, but those are far too limited to fund on-going development with the current scope / team sizes.

      The prevailing opinion these days seems to be that most bad game are just caused by greedy publishers who contribute nothing but limited budgets and hard deadlines to a project, but the reality is far less black/white and the importance of a strict/focused project manager is almost as important as the creative director in terms of actually creating something enjoyable while remaining feasible given the money / technology / time.

  15. When I see a single guy making a smaller but better project like Rogue System, that become more and more advanced than anything they did in SC with millions of dollars more…
    In the start of SC there were so much hype and marketing with pre-rendering false adverts, that my investor side put red flags all the way.
    I hope for the backer this game will see the real light… but…

  16. I have a sneaking feeling that they are holding back soooo much stuff. I’ve seen snippets beyond amazing.. but nothing released to test for such a long time.
    I am truly sick of towels, trophies and flying around inside a 1 mile wide golf ball.
    I think after chewing and digesting everything in their arsenal CIG do have something special – what comes out the other end will not be brown and tapered but astonishing.
    But this digestive tract is rather long and the metabolism is tortoise slow.

    1. I liked the post. I think Ben is very committed to the project and I am encouraged that his enthusiasm remains higher than ever. However, I want to get my hands on some additional content in the very near future (his comment that the Star Marine delay is in order of weeks rather than months is a good sign) to restore my own confidence.

  17. Having been personally involved in the flight model discussions in the forums with Calex, I can say that they are listening, but maybe not communicating to the larger community as well as they could. Calex’s involvement in the thread which IMO is one of the most important ongoing discussions as it directly engages one of the most influential devs in the area of the flight model.

    Not only that, but he is directly taking feedback and implementing it based on this very discussion. We should see a host of flight model improvements in the next patch. The flight model is the heart of the game, and making flight meaningful is going to go a long way to get people flying AC more, better controller balance and many other things as a positive side effect.

    I think Ben is too much a CR fan, though, and it was why I liked Travis, and why I like Calex as they are not there because they are CR fans.

    Hopefully, though, the space sim gets infused through everyone’s work in the forums to make sure that we get a space sim first, fps second.

    And Star Marines delays really mean nothing to me personally, and the better they integrate it, the better off the entire game will be IMO in the long run.

  18. First really bad sign was when crytek was about to go bankrupt. I can imagine that th support for that engine is far beyond a financially healthy ones. It is also the least documented. Yet they try to develop a game that is an mmo/fps/spacesim sandbox, that noone ever tried before in that engine. I would say at this point SC has a good chance not getting releassed.

    On the other hand, if they have enough time they might pull it off. But since the company has no other pruducts their funding is very fragile. If CIG was a publicly traded company, I would assume their shares would’ve dropped 90% by now.

    The best approach to SC right now is to forget it. Maybe one day it comes out and that will be a fun surprise. Not a big chance for that though. I would also strongly recommend to avoid any ship sale, and other fundraising methods. At this point it has to be considered lost money.

    – missed deadlines
    – company has only 1 product
    – management has a bad reputation
    – no major milestones achived
    – top dogs leaving the company
    – increasing negative sentiment might kill off further funding

    – luck

  19. I’m worried they don’t have the experience or money to finish the game. 85 million sounds like a lot until you start counting how much everything costs plus the salaries of devs. At 500 devs making at least 50k each. That is 50 million spent already. If not more.

    I was excited, now I’m not. I think CR may be known as the biggest scam artist this decade. I hope not.

  20. You know something’s wrong when Elite: Dangerous started with building essential game mechanics, and Star Citizen started with building eye-candy.

    1. Well they have exactly opposite strategies. Some would critize ED just as much as SC for pushing out a game with very simplistic mission design, no persistent hanger etc. The question you have to ask is can you put up with CR’s style of presentation and delivery? Second question is can you live with missing deadlines? I am fine with both, I take CR with a grain of salt, and production deadlines should be pushed back if necessary. Getting it right is more important than getting it out quickly.

      The simple truth is ED was pushed out into the wild with simplified systems. It’s hard after being officially released to gain players back, and SC fortunately has only released test modules.

      The demo from Gamescom shows the progress on 64 bit map space, quantam drive, EVA, zero g movement, multiple physics grids, ship systems access, actual mfd huds etc. It is, as a concept, finally functioning. The details can all be worked out moving forward, and while rough around the edges, it proves the game production is moving at a good pace.

      This is much, much more complicated than most games are. I am personally more worried about netcode issues while PVPing long term than the game not getting finished.

      IF funding had not kept at the pace, we would have a game much more like ED in production, and probably already close to out.

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