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Star Citizen in 2021- A Year in Review by Space Tomato

Updated: Jan 8



Hey folks! This isn’t something I planned to do, I started writing this as a list of annoying bullet points but ended up expanding it out into a bit of a recap on the whole year. I’d like to make a video and blog for this yearly, but this year I’m pretty swamped with the rebranding and new Patreon launch (which I’d highly suggest checking out). So as I continue to make my videos into blogs, I figured there’d be no better way to wrap this year up than to review it in a new way and make my blog debut! Not actually, I’m already looking for others so you don’t only have to deal with my poor writing. But anyway, let’s get into it!


Quarter 1


Januaries (is that even a word? -note from the editor: No) are not the best month for Star Citizen. In fact, they are outright cold. This is fitting, but it’s just not been the best month for fun news. It’s CIG’s “planning month” in which the less important & delayable items are determined in addition to the most important & kinda delayable items. But it’s also a content drought, with no Inside Star Citizen or Star Citizen Live for over a month. And of course no roadmap information. We do get the Daymar Rally, though. Everybody loves the Daymar Rally.


When things did start back up, it was impressive. We were off with an awesome ISC episode about rivers and terrain deformation. Both have made progress since then, but aren’t yet in the game. Keep an eye out for Pyro introducing that tech. We also got treated to in-depth discussions with the character team and vehicle experience teams before dipping into our first taste of dynamic events with Xenothreat in February.


This was also the time for our first free fly event of the year. But first, the in-game holiday of Coramor was celebrated. Then players were able to try the game for free for 2 weeks to see if it’s ready for them. These free fly events proved to be a big focus for the game this year, with something like 4 events total to make up over a month of free playable time.


I believe this is a trend that matches their messaging and financial situation. Over the last year and a half, CIG has repeatedly made public statements regarding improving the quality of life experience for players. As more players see this improvement in daily activities, they are more likely to spend more time in-game, believe more in its success, and thus pledge more money. The massive increase in funding in both 2020 and 2021 as well as the increase in active players backs this up.


It’s a great thing, and something many has been calling for, but it does slow does development. This is the difficult balancing act that CIG has to figure out as they continue to build a game, on the fundamental level, that is also being played daily by thousands.


In March, just as we were finishing celebrating the in-game Lunar New Year, ship naming was introduced to the masses. But not those masses. Only the owners of the Hammerhead, Reclaimer, Carrack, Mercury Star Runner, 600i, or an 890 Jump were able to claim their unique name and number. But even then only in a certain order. As an alpha, it’s understandable that they are just making sure the functionality is good to go, and like with most features once that’s proven, it’s on to the next one.

March let us in on some of the features coming in the upcoming patch such as caves and reputation while squeezing in a celebration of St. Patrick’s day in space.


The new Tumbril Wharthog Cyclone MT was introduced to the game, new lore was delivered, merchandise got updated, and we got a bit more information about the Pyro system.


Oh, it was also this month we learned publicly of the partnership between UK-based (and now Sony-owned) game studio Firesprite and CIG for the Battlefield-style module Theaters of War which…. don’t ask. Let’s not get into it. We got an update on it, but it’s best to not think about it until it’s here.


Quarter 2


April opened up immediately with a calling all-devs episode about the repair & refuel gaming being developed that we’ve since seen more of. CitizenCon 2021 was announced, alpha 3.13 made its way through the various testing cycles, and a huge update was released about the recently incepted Montreal studio dedicated to location development. Their task for 2021 was to complete the new hospitals spread across all cities and space stations of Stanton. These clinics and centers set the stage for medical gameplay across the future of the game, and the Montreal team’s efforts will surely continue to impact our day-to-day lives in-game with their amazing designs.



3.13, towards the end of the month, introduced new cave entrances, new mining components, shield tech, and what felt like the real introduction to reputation, which was a pretty landmark addition, one of the biggest of the year.


We got the first iteration of ship names in-game, and believe it or not, we didn’t need NFTs. But it did cause quite a bit of drama, as things do. Mounted turrets were introduced, which I think was one of the clearest signs that Star Citizen is not the development focus (that would be Squadron 42). And then there was the ROC DS mining vehicle, which is very much not a fan favorite. This was a vehicle that had a lot of people scratching their heads. As a two-person mining vehicle, only the pilot is protected, making it a no-go for hazardous environments if you don’t have a safe suit. Not a deal-breaker, but certainly not a point in the vehicle’s favor. CIG continued to tweak the vehicle to make it sit better, though.


May got us our first preview of the new scanning & radar system. This was something I was very excited about, and while it ended up making a big difference in the game, it wasn’t quite the game-changer I’d hoped. I do think it laid a good foundation for exploration gameplay, though.


@Eul_keke on Twitter

We got an armor info update looking at new models coming to the game in 2021 like the new Hurston security armor. And some nice early looks at the upcoming gas giant, Crusader, were shown off. Right after the introduction of the new Scorpius concept, Invictus week kicked off with new player's guides, huge space parades, the massive kilometer-long Bengal carrier, and a free fly event. I made a sort of past and future look at Star Citizen video around this time which I’m still proud of, but CIG was also releasing a ton of information around this time. Videos about how NPCs and ships work in-game were great but the real highlight information released during the whole summer was the long-anticipated video about Quantum, the in-game dynamic economy that unfortunately still fails to drive our dynamic events forward 6 months later.


As Invictus week ended we got to enjoy the alien week with events, lore, and some development background. There was also a new concept released, the Gatac Railen. While each of these events and celebrations is a chance for CIG to sell more ships, I have to give them credit for consistently tying in the lore to make it all feel like it belongs in the game. It adds a lot to the community’s morale and engagement.


As June came to a close we also got an amazing hourlong show with one of the more important gameplay dev teams, the EU PU team, this had some great info in it people should check out.

But as June came to a close and 3.14 became later as was the trend with updates this year.


Quarter 3


In July we just barely missed the full launch of alpha 3.14, it was over a month behind the beginning of the quarter at that point. But CIG was hard at work to make it a thing, showing off details that would be coming to the patch, and discussing the difficulties they faced in bringing it to the public.

In August, Star Citizen alpha 3.14 was launched. The patch suffered from a lot of stability issues, particularly desync. It was not a great time for bounty hunters, miners, or cargo haulers…so basically anybody. Despite that, Crusader was added to the game, new combat changes were made, an overhaul to the missile and countermeasure system, the ability to surrender your ship, and the new power management system were also added. The biggest visible addition to this patch was Crusader and cloud tech, but with the beginning of combat tuning, the initial implementation of the Gen 12 renderer, and continued work on the backend economy, 3.14 was the strongest indication that Phase 4 was in full swing. While the stability of the game struggled, this was something the team has been working on. But 3.14 was a strong indicator of an ongoing trend, that the development was turning from more tech and backend focused additions to the upfront player-effecting changes that would bring more interest to the game.


But it wasn’t all about the patch. August also gave us an hour-long show with the US PU feature team, another video to watch for more details on features in development. Another free fly week allowed anybody to hop in and try the game for several days for free. The ever-exciting ship showdown began, and dynamic events were everywhere with both Xenothreat and Nine Tails lockdown giving players things to do… when they worked.


In September the ship showdown continued, players flocked to dynamic events, but the month was mostly quiet. In October the biggest event of the year takes place which requires a lot of coordination and preparation from CIG. This leads to a relatively wild September. In the meantime, debate flared up about the impending major changes to the game in the upcoming 3.15 patch. The medical system, introducing the first steps towards the death of a spaceman, and the inventory system, years in the making. Both of these features would change the way Star Citizen was played forever, but players had barely any information to make sense of what the features might mean for them at this point. Regardless, the machine moves forward.


Quarter 4


Arguably the biggest month of the year for Star Citizen, October was a treasure trove of information. We received a huge update on the understandings of Server Meshing in Star Citizen, finally learned more about Star Citizen optimization through the Gen 12 renderer, got completely up-to-date on the future of planet tech & base building in Star Citizen, and we were formally introduced to the next star system coming to Star Citizen. It didn’t stop there, though. There are more videos on my channel that go over the information received at CitizenCon.


In the meantime, alpha 3.15 also went to evocative closed testing, as well as limited testing in the PTU. In one of the most effective PTU feature timelines I’ve ever seen, the inventory system went from a barely usable and unreliable tool with a solid foundation to a mostly usable still kinda unreliable tool with a solid foundation in 3 weeks. This was an amazing example of the call-and-response open development cycle that CIG opts for. It doesn’t always work like this, but in this instance, players were able to provide direct feedback to devs almost in real-time to help improve this new feature. While most of the additions were already planned by the devs themselves, this offered a great chance to hear some second thoughts from the players.


October also saw the launch of the 400i, the reveal of the Liberator, and updates on the Banu Merchantman. A good deal of updates for the ship lovers out there in addition to the chance to vote for a few of the next ships, most of which we would see revealed in one way or another by December.


Finally, the Argo Cargo was also titled the winner of the 2021 ship showdown. This was met with praise and ridicule from various corners of the community. While many felt the decision was not deserving, others thought this was more representative of the situation at large regarding these ships. The Astro Pub does a great job of explaining the situation.


November was a blur. 3.15 had been in the PTU that many players had already decided whether or not they would play, but it didn’t dull the arrival of the biggest patch this year and arguably the biggest patch since alpha 3.0. On top of that, we got a solid update from the ship combat team about their current work, and how they’d like to further develop combat, the kind of update we should be getting on an annual basis from each of the main feature teams.


There was also a server meshing Q&A which offered up some incredibly insightful information about one of the most important aspects of this game. It was also around this time we learned of CIG’s huge plans to open a new primary studio in Manchester in May with the plan of introducing over 1000 additional jobs to the area in the next 5 years, showing ambition for plans clearly beyond what most people are thinking right now.


The new update only dominated the first half of the month, though, as CIG’s largest crowdfunding event of the year was set to occur during the last 2 weeks of November, as it does every year. The Intergalactic Aerospace this year remained at New Babbage and offered all players (yes this was a free flight period again) to try out just about any ship in-game while enjoying the full game with friends and strangers. While the servers struggled, as they normally do, it was a great chance for people to try out the newest additions to the game.

But this was where the marketing blunders picked up for 2021, and up until year’s end, things haven’t improved much. While the Anvil Spartan and the ARGO Raft proved to be well-received- if not under-equipped- additions to the game. The MISC Odyssey, on the other hand, caused a flurry of drama. Some of this was due to the addition of a ship that felt like it had no purpose, some believed concept ship sales need to die, others saw this as power creep encroaching on the Carrack, and many like myself felt there was not enough information given to understand this offering. Regardless of the reasoning, this began a bit of a troubled period of optics for CIG that continued into December, all following the newest milestone of $400 million funded.


December started the year by finishing the ship sale and subsequently delaying a few features scheduled for December. This is that optics thing I mentioned. While CIG has delivered poor news at the worst of times for their bottom line, the timing of this delay only added to the unfortunate fact that not much information had been shared about previous year-end goals such as the entity graph or further integration of the quantum system.


Despite the rest of the month being relatively quiet, there was still Luminalia. Luminalia is an in-game holiday that comes from the alien species the Banu. To celebrate the day, players actually get 12 days of gifts. Now, let me be the first to say this is an incredible thing to do for the community. It’s perfectly timed for a period of slightly decreased interest right after a huge high, it offers players a reason to learn more lore and get involved, it rewards those who are active, and it’s just awesome. Among the gifts are things like skins, wallpapers, and forum badges. These aren’t huge gifts, just tokens of appreciation. But sometimes CIG misses the mark, and this year they did on the final day. Besides that, common criticisms are that the days feel more website-focused and less game-focused. So lookout for some more in-game-driven gifts next year!

Finally, 3.16 launched with a trailer that was more representative of 3.16.1 coming in January. Another marketing mistake, but hopefully the last of its kind. This launch introduced Jumptown 2.0, the player-inspired dynamic event pitting players against players in a battle for drugs. Yeah, the black market has actually been a huge catalyst of gameplay in the past. Another great piece from The Astro Pub details the giant, player-driven battles that took place to hold down the most valuable trade post in the game. CIG has now brought it back with changes to test its dynamic event system while allowing players the chance to make tons of money. It was so far led to some amazing moments and will be running for about 3 weeks.


That wraps up the 2021 review of Star Citizen! In my opinion, it’s been a good year with some pretty big blunders. Much better than 2020 in terms of progress and also community health, but there are some very real issues that continue to exist and seem to be forming around the game that will definitely need to be tackled in a substantial way in the coming years. I’m talking about the horrible predictions of 3.16, the low-info release of the Odyssey, the marketing quality increase outpacing much of the company, and so on. As good as things are, there need to be some key changes at CIG moving forward, in my opinion.


That being said, the conversation in the community has expanded past singular topics and has branched out much more to look at various game mechanics and features. While the conversation is still heavily focused on stability, subjective opinions on how the game should work have begun popping up more, pointing to more forward-facing development.


In addition, the “exodus” from Elite Dangerous has led to many new sci-fi enthusiasts with an itch for space games joining the development. This includes quite a few new content creators, we’ve spoken with a few of them already on the podcast including Citizen Kate & Sxy Biscuit, Black Maze, and Nicou. In addition, the general quality of the game has risen quite a bit in 2020 and 2021, leading to a general increase in joins. While many still decide to sit back and watch, for the most part, more members are logging in monthly, waiting for fo the game to reach a playable state.


At the end of 2021, I feel the health of the project and community are strong. I think some concerning problems are showing themselves in the marketing of the game that we’ll need to discuss further, and the ship release situation is beginning to show some cracks. I would also keep a very close eye on that Manchester development with the new office. There is clearly a lot planned for the next few years, and if marketing efforts are any indication, they are looking to start working on those plans right now. This could be good or bad for potential players, as the expansion in the company may reflect an expansion in fundraising. Only time will tell.


That wraps up the 2021 review of Star Citizen! In my opinion, it’s been a good year. Much better than 2020 in terms of progress, and also community health. The conversation has expanded past singular topics and has branched out much more to look at various game mechanics and features. While the conversation is still heavily focused on stability, subjective opinions on how the game should work have begun popping up more, pointing to more forward-facing development.



In addition, the “exodus” from Elite Dangerous has led to many new sci-fi enthusiasts with an itch for space games joining the development. This includes quite a few new content creators, we’ve spoken with a few of them already on the podcast including Citizen Kate & Sxy Biscuit, Black Maze, and Nicou. In addition, the general quality of the game has risen quite a bit in 2020 and 2021, leading to a general increase in joins. While many still decide to sit back and watch, for the most part, more members are logging in monthly, waiting for fo the game to reach a playable state.


At the end of 2021, I feel the health of the project and community are strong. I think some concerning problems are showing themselves in the marketing of the game that we’ll need to discuss further, but things are looking good overall. I would also keep a very close eye on that Manchester development. There is clearly a lot planned for the next few years, and if marketing efforts are any indication, they are looking to start working on those plans right now.


I’ll speak further on my thoughts in the podcast episode set to be released with this post, and will also be talking about how 2021 went for my brand, and the big changes I’m bringing in 2022, particularly to Patreon.


If you’d like to get in on those changes, we appreciate every little bit of support. My Patreon supporters get exclusive videos, private streams, behind-the-scenes videos, and other perks! It’s as low as $3 and it will help me and my wife get an apartment, so a huge thanks!


I hope you had a great year in 2021, despite the difficulties, and I look forward to an even better 2022. Thanks for reading.





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