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Development As a Service – My “Problems” With Star Citizen as a Project

Welcome to some more Star Citizen, I wanted to talk about The Perils of Star Citizen’s Funding Model & Development. It’s not my job to defend Star Citizen I do feel it gets a mix of both fair and unfair criticism tho. However the project is unique and I have some items that to me are a focus when it comes to following the project. With that in mind I want to talk about what I think the problems of it’s development model are & …. things that are worthy of concern or at least the community remaining vigilant to keep CIG honest.

Also because of it’s Development Style and Funding Model Currently I deem Star Citizen to be “Development as a Service” where the game is monetized towards funding it’s development with ship sales, quarterly releases, roadmap updates and video updates so let’s talk about that as well.

Star Citizen is raising more each year now, it currently sits at $228.5m according to it’s  funding chart BUT the total could be as high as $315m when including all it’s revenue streams, it is estimated to of made around $47m in 2018 as well as receiving a $46m investment, though probably spent around $53m that same year, it does have $10-20m as a buffer so cash wise it’s pretty healthy some years spending a few million more than it makes.

This is obviously a large amount of money each year, in fact one of it’s original pledges is to spend the crowdfunding pledge money it receives on development BUT once Squadron 42 Episode 1 is out there is a high probability that CIG will have more than enough money to finish Star Citizen with or without any additional concept sales however…Squadron 42 Episode 1 needs to be a good game… and actually sell copies. Squadron 42 will be the proof either way of whether Chris Roberts and CIG are able to make good games and are worthy of the funds they have generated… even if the game is great it still has to sell well. Titanfall 2 for example is an amazing game but sold poorly.

Core to this and the PU is the Flight Model & Combat which is still being dialled in. Their have historically been issues with the flight models that CIG have implemented. Hopefully the new flight model will be evolved and balance to be a genuinely great system BUT it’s just a bit of a worry of what if it’s not & how long is it going to take?

It’s EXTREMELY unlikely that CIG will overhaul the Flight Model again, the new one is in the process of having VTOL & Hover mode added to it but will continue to evolve.

Combat needs to be really well balanced and fun otherwise SQ42 and SC is going to be a bit sucky. It’s the part of the game that makes me happy that I am part of the project at the moment as everyone’s feedback is at the moment helping shape those core mechanics for bot the games.

A more up in the air thing with Star Citizen is the Continued Support & Funding After it’s Release. Picture the scene, 10 years from now, what form of support does the game have and how are they financially justifying & monetizing the game.

Will we be seeing more and more still when it comes to content?

When I talked to Erin Roberts last they said they hoped that selling a somehow limited amount of in game currency along with game packages could be enough for continued support for the game BUT they would consider other monetization options as necessary and that are sensible.

Star Citizen has Pay2Win elements, you can buy spaceships that you get immediately in game, it’s part of it’s funding model & wouldn’t of been possible without this style imo.

Almost everything will be available in game BUT there is certainly a time advantage for those that have bought ships if you compare them 1v1 against another player.

That might not be a fair comparison tho, you can also always join an Org to borrow or crew ships. The real concern is in the future will P2W elements get out of control at all, if we start to see items that are just better than you can get in game for real money only OR is it not viable to play with a starter ship or early tier ship… it’s just something we should be vigilant and make sure we keep CIG honest & that monetization in the future doesn’t go out of control. Star Citizen will certainly get criticized for it’s current funding model selling concept ships and people spending $10k’s on ships is certainly odd, some would certainly argue that because a $27k package is available that it’s out of control already.

I am very much of the opinion that Star Citizen wouldn’t of been a successful continued development without it though and as I said earlier as long as almost everything is available in game (limited edition skins skins I don’t care about) & it’s viable & fun to have a starter or lower tier ship then I am ok with that.

Looking more directly at Star Citizen PU Gameplay will each individual Gameplay Loop be fun? The answer here is probably some of them will be good others not so much and some of this is going to depend on your personal tastes, giving feedback on the mechanics and they are implemented and evolve is key to helping the game be better BUT it’s worth keeping in mind not everyone has the same vision of each of the gameplay loops & there are likely to be some that just aren’t for everyone!

There are Tech Restrictions for the game BUT we have no idea to what extent.

They are building out SSOCS, Full Persistence & Server Meshing which largely constitutes to the success of the game as an MMO. There is going to be a maximum amount of players that can be in an object container this will be the bottleneck or cap for the tech.

Will they have seperate regions due to lag or numbers restrictions OR can we have everyone in the same shard? We just don’t know yet, the goal is to have as many players as possible in an area and in servers and a lot of the game is now waiting on that tech to be completed.

Star Citizen’s Development Style in general is a double edged sword for many reasons. It’s evolved to have a large amount of transparency and is deemed Opened Development BUT this still then garners criticism for items they hide for “surprizes” or marketing or whatever reasons. That criticism is sometimes warranted and other times it’s never enough.

The Roadmap is at the centre of some of this, CIG maintain a Roadmap of the next 9 – 12 months of development for SQ42 and Star Citizen BUT the features on here move, get delayed, even just before a patch is released there can be features that are pushed back to a mini-patch later in the branch or even to the next quarter. For me getting the most upto date info and intentions for the project and it’s features is the most important, even if it keeps changing. However it’s important that CIG makes these as realistic as possible AND updates them at the earliest possible stage. Whatever they do though it’s going to create a bit of confusion of what is actually going to be in a patch.

With that in mind Communication is something that CIG could always be better, it’s certainly got much better of the last couple of years and although I don’t feel currently that the Video Content is worth the $3 million of so a year CIG make with voluntary subscriptions to support them, I do think Inside Star Citizen & Star Citizen Live are fantastic Shows as is the new Quarterly Pillar Talk.

The Style of Star Citizen’s Development releasing a major update each quarter and the feature creep the project heavily suffered from up till 2016 combined with development problems, changing engine, rescoping the games has caused Star Citizen & Squadron 42s development to drag on, the project is taking a long time to complete and it’s going to take a lot longer. Originally both Squadron 42 Episode 1 & Star Citizen (to some degree) were supposed to be “released”, a lot more scaled down and less feature-full than currently planned admittedly.

Squadron 42 Episode 1 should be released in the not too distant future, with a Feature Complete Beta currently scheduled for completion Q2 2020.

Star Citizen’s PU on the other hand is going to be in development for years more, they will potentially go to Full LIVE persistence well before a proper commercial release, they’ve talked about when they have SSOCS & Full Persistence around that time they could no longer have Server Resets meaning progression would be permanent.

What to be cautious of here is, how long is it going to be before we have a playable non-alpha Star Citizen? What if Squadron 42 Episode 1 isn’t on the horizon or gets massively delayed again?

We don’t want to be stuck in perpetual Alpha, I don’t think much more feature creep will occur personally, there will certainly be some additions to gameplay that aren’t currently planned that will come from iteration.

Plans are not Promises – Because of Star Citizen’s ever evolving nature and the sharing of their plans a lot of players will get disappointed when a feature changes or isn’t included. These plans are not promises at least for the most part, some parts are obviously like we will have a salvage mechanic, we just don’t know what that will become once iterated on & “completed”. There are a lot of moving parts in Star Citizen and a lot of those parts just haven’t been figured out yet.

Community Interaction – Star Citizen’s community is the best and most friendly community I have ever been part of. It is incredibly helpful & there is a lot of love there. However just like any other community it has fringe and polarized elements on both sides and it seems some feel it a duty to attack or defend Star Citizen. Giving feedback is core to Star Citizen’s Development, it’s no-ones duty to defend star citizen and detractors that may just have other views & that’s fine, typically I am happy to join in a conversation BUT am much more likely to ignore people that aren’t being civil. Different forums and communities have different etiquettes so it’s worth reading the FAQ & rules on the SC reddit before posting or interacting IMO & this is going to be different from a Discord or Spectrum. Just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean they are a troll, just because your opinion is unpopular doesn’t mean a community is toxic.

Inefficiency, Mismanagement whatever you want to call it. All companies are not perfectly well run. Historically pre-2016 CIG has not been the most efficient company in the world. In the now infamous Forbes Article it largely focused on CIGs & Chris’s inefficiency pre 2016 rather than the actual games development.

There was a massive Rescoping and Reworking most of Star Citizen and Squadron 42 which in itself certainly wasn’t efficient BUT maybe was needed. To CIGs credit they have been significantly better over the last couple of years.

They have now built multiple studios, brought most of the work in house which is cheaper and has more oversight & seem to be delivering much more, more accurately.

Something that I think is a possibility is the Downsizing of Staff at CIG’s Studios and the non-renewal of contracts after Squadron 42 Episode 1 has been completed.

There are elements of the game that don’t require the same level of development once they have been built out CIG have over 550 employees with a large portion of these being devs working on SC & SQ42… I can’t imagine that once these games are more built out that they will still need that level of employees.

Currently there are over 100 jobs listed on the CIG website and they want to fill them, there is a need for Engineers & AI Programmers as well as Art, VFX and Animator guys!

Anyway that’s more thoughts on some areas that I keenly watch about the Star Citizen Project and you certainly don’t have to agree with my conclusions, you might have some areas that you are concerned about OR you might think that some of this isn’t even worthy of concern, whatever your thoughts I’d love to hear from you.