Surviving the Information Drought: How to Get by When Star Citizen is Running Silent
Star Citizen players see an amazing phenomenon occur about four times a year, where all information from Cloud Imperium Games regarding their ambitious MMORPG trickles to a complete halt. It feels like an information drought, and everywhere you look, from casual players to full-time content creators like our own Space Tomato, people are looking pretty thirsty.
When this article sees print we’ll be coming out of our latest information drought and careening headlong into another bountiful season of updates, Road Map Roundups, and regular visits from Jared with Inside Star Citizen and Star Citizen Live. (See? He didn’t go out for cigarettes, never to return. He’s right here, teasing us with more hints and ships than we can shake a battered wallet at.)
All will be well in the ‘Verse.. at least for another few months. And then we’ll be hurled right into another information drought, clutching our dreams of persistent hangars and Drake salvage ships, waiting long, parched days for more content and a (hopefully) bug-resistant 3.17 patch. We’ll get through it, though. We always do.
This latest round of the drought seemed just a little harder to navigate, with close to a month passing with very little spilling forth from the mighty CIG spillway of information. Sure, we got some Luminalia trinkets to pass the time, and 3.16 graced us with a pretty stable build and a couple of dynamic events that turned out better than expected– but it’s been really quiet. Maybe too quiet.
There is a lot to be said for a company’s culture that the majority of the staff is given such a lengthy period of time off, especially after raising the kind of money that CIG pulled in during another record-breaking IAE. This team is working hard, and it’s good to see that they’re being well treated.
That break is well earned, too. A game with the scope and breadth of Star Citizen has never been attempted before, at least not to the degree that this beast of code, sweat, and ambition has. Just look at this last year– we’ve seen a massive reduction in 30k errors. Cargo is more persistent, so while you may not be able to fill up with all the juicy Laranite you want, you’ll most likely get it to your destination intact. The new inventory system, while not perfect, has fundamentally changed how we play the game. And medical gameplay has brought an entire profession sputtering to life… and somehow, we got a new landing zone, updated surface textures on planets and moons, incredible looking clouds, bombing mechanics, hell, even the lady working the armor shop counter stopped floating a meter above the ground.
And that’s not even mentioning all of the new ships.
That’s a lot accomplished for one year. A good cause to celebrate. But maybe, just maybe, that last round of the information drought might have been too long. When the stalwart crew at CIG took their well-deserved break, the platform may have been running pretty smoothly, but the State of Star Citizen’s union was showing some strain.
Several ships had been released towards the end of the year that didn’t have their fully intended gameplay available. A few years ago, this was almost expected, since, as Space Tomato put it, “the ships were all we had. The reclaimer was an amazing achievement that proved large ships with moving interactive interiors were a thing, the Starfarer was a test of FPS mechanics on a ship, the caterpillar was our first true freight hauler, and all the while the game was pretty boring.”
Now, we have a lot more of the game to play, and with that, we should be seeing ships that fulfill a range of new gameplay mechanics. We had a word at the beginning of 2021 that CIG would no longer release ships that didn’t have their gameplay established in-game, yet the 400i and the Argo RAFT were released with entirely absent functions that would make them unique to the game.
That’s a strong concern for Space Tomato: “In my opinion, they needed to delay the ship (the RAFT) in order to stick to their word. We are at a point with Star Citizen where things are getting serious in the public eye. The reputation is already hurt, and the company is clearly trying to make as much money as possible. If they want to convert fans into players, and players into ship buyers, they NEED to start making a point of sticking to their word.”
Absent ship roles were just the tip of the gaffe iceberg:
The Aries Ion was nerfed to a degree that left a lot of Ion owners angry
The long-awaited Redeemer saw a change to its turrets that caused a bit of drama as well
A picture of a hoverbike was released as a gift but looked an awful lot like an actual hoverbike had been given out
The Odyssey, clearly a competitor to the Carrack, was branded a “Carrack Killer” by an over-enthusiastic developer
The Cutlass Steel debuted at a price that most people considered way too high
Luminalia gifts that could be collected and turned in for a tidy sum were reduced in value, suddenly and without warning
Conga lines randomly broke out at drug labs.
Well, that last part’s on us. But the rest, sadly, could have been contained with just a little damage control. Without that vital messaging from CIG, there was a spirit of dejected abandonment permeating parts of the Star Citizen community. Some players melted their ships, not knowing that the Ion will be balanced and re-balanced a dozen or more times before Star Citizen sees release. Some folks quit participating in Luminalia because they felt a rug had been pulled out from under them. Quite a few players were convinced that the hoverbike picture was part of an elaborate bait and switch scheme.
You could also make the argument that backers should avoid trying to read between the lines because there is an awful lot of that going on and being presented as gospel truth– but a little more clarity from CIG could go a long way towards putting an end to that.
Cloud Imperium Games is too far along in the development of Star Citizen at this point to let mistakes like this pile up without ramping up their efforts on damage control, especially during a period of time that people may have a few extra hours (like the holidays) to spend on the game– even more so if some of those people happen to be press.
Over its nearly ten-year development period, Star Citizen has picked up its share of detractors. There are plenty of people who are eager for this game to fail and will leap at any chance to try and prove that Star Citizen’s long, arduous development has been nothing more than an elaborate scam hatched to bilk hapless rubes too clueless to catch on to the grift. A prolonged series of minor gaffs, such as the ones that piled up over the holidays, add far too much ammunition to these detractors’ stockpiles.
There were some attempts from CIG developers at explaining things, but those attempts were sporadic, and only seemed to pop up on Spectrum– It is completely possible that by the time these mix-ups had come to light, far too many people were on holiday to be able to do much about it. It’s also possible that CIG management assumed that the outrage would die down with time, or that people would be too distracted with the Nine-Tails Lockdown and Jumptown 2.0 events to stay irritated– and to some degree, that’s been true. Outrage has largely died down, and aside from a select number of Aries owners who appear to be ready to sail their burning ships straight to Valhalla, the ‘verse is feeling a little calmer towards the end of this period of drought.
But some folks might feel like CIG doesn’t care about backers anymore, or that they’re more interested in making money than doing right by fans. That’s a hard stance to steer someone away from once they get it in their head, and a lack of communication from CIG does a lot more damage in this case than not. It’s far too easy to make the argument that all the company cares about is bringing in the ship sales when little is done to calm backers’ fears.
There’s also a lot we can do as backers, though. We could try being more rational about changes– we all know the game is in alpha, and we are testing it. We could spend a little more time reaching out to new players to help ease up the learning curve or invite folks who are struggling to come to learn the game in our Orgs, which is exactly what The Garden Interstellar Initiative was created to do.
We could also step up a bit more to combat the negative impact of click-bait articles and hit-piece journalism, which exists purely to get eyeballs on advertising, truth be damned. During a recent online interview with CIG’s COO Carl Jones, the words “five years” were mentioned, which lead to countless click-bait articles being generated claiming that Star Citizen was five years away from release when not one mention regarding a release date was made.
Most of all, we can be good stewards of Star Citizen’s development– there is no need to hand-wave the blunders that occur along the way, nor is there any need to scream like maniacs at the devs when we find them. I have found that the devs really react positively to constructive interaction with the community, and that helps the work gets done in a better environment for all of us.
We can ALL do better. Backers and CIG alike.
And now, here we are, approaching the end of another long information drought. It feels a lot like we’ve been wandering for ages, and just now we’re spotting the signs of life ahead. This next year could be unlike anything we’ve seen before from Star Citizen– and potentially, a lot more of the same old grind. Hopefully, CIG can adapt their messaging along the way to help us steer clear of the potholes, and maybe, just maybe, that next drought won’t feel quite so ominous, and we can usher in the bright future that so many of us dream in the ‘verse.