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  • Writer's pictureSpace Tomato

The History of Star Citizen Event, CitizenCon

CitizenCon 2021 is upon us, and it's the biggest event of the year for Star Citizen.

CitizenCon is surrounded by hype, cheese, and a little bit of controversy. It is an exciting event, while also being a slightly annoying one. And it represents a great time for the community, as well as for funding. But after taking a year off it's time we look at the history of Star Citizen's biggest event of the year, and why it’s both a gift and a curse.

Ever since 2013, CitizenCon has been a staple of Star Citizen in terms of both development updates, and marketing. It’s a gift and a curse, and I’m going to explain what it is, and what you can expect in 2021. Thank you for coming to my tomato talk

As we go through this video, at any point keep in mind you can head down to the video description and hit the link there to get a reminder for my big viewing party at this event where we’ll be chatting with guests and hosting some game giveaways. But before we get there, let’s talk about where this event came from.

While the event was always a place to share information regarding the past present and future of Star Citizen’s development, it has also gone through its phases. From being almost entirely team updates about basic pre-production elements, concepts, and relatively low budget in 2013, to pouring tons of effort into promoting a huge ambitious expensive game that was set to blow far past the advertised date anyways in 2015. And then there was trying to charge people to watch the additional panels live, yeesh!

CitizenCon has earned its fair share of cheers and disappointing head shakes, it’s been a bit hit or miss on how much it really wants to push the advertising, and as I said before it has changed a lot in scale. And to be honest, while it has improved in showing the plans for gameplay, it has done terribly at giving proper context to the gameplay they show. The keynote has at times erred more towards being impressive than being unrealistic, leading to the concept of the big first. Something you see at each keynote. These big firsts are generally the features that take longer to come to the game and are indicative of what people sometimes dislike about the event. That being said, let’s take a look at the turbulent past of Citizencon.

So in 2013, we saw the hangar module, a first of firsts, with the ability to run around and look at the exterior of ships in a closed environment. Safe to say there wasn’t much to show. In 2014 we got the first live demo of what one might call the PU, it wasn’t actually the PU, but what you could expect in a basic form. The studio had grown a lot and expanded, bringing on new teams, contracting out work, and even getting a proper stage for the show. It was also as far as I remember the first particularly bad roadmap, with many goals missed.

In 2015 we got some drama in the greater gaming community so things were a bit spicy. Nonetheless, the show went on with the first true multicrew demo. There was also plenty of talk about Squadron 42, including presentations, new trailers, big-name actors, and a release date which was just so off the mark it hurts.

In 2016 the first planet tech demo was shown off. It was beautiful. While many of the additions such as armors, weapons, weather systems, the vehicles, and the interactive mission bits are in the game, we’ll still have to wait for the Lier star system, where the demo took place, for that space worm, or maybe just the new Dune movie, that’s much faster. This showed off the planet tech in a big way, which brought a bit of a shift in focus from that point on, as you’ll notice in the difference each presentation has going forward, compared to the previous shows. This was also, in my opinion, the most embarrassing demo mainly due to the roadmap that was shown. Incredibly unrealistic especially with the increased scope.

In 2017 things had really begun to pick up, the first city was finally shown in a live demo, as the shift continued towards cities and planets. Fauna and hovercrafts were introduced as well, though fauna is still not in the game. Much of the rest of the demo is, with the space stations, cities, and vehicles all being present, even one of the features Chris mentioned off-hand is on the horizon now. This year was a crucial second step in the 2-year process of setting the stage for what CitizenCon presentations should be. These years set up the planets, cities, stations, vehicles, and mission format for future shows to follow in greater and greater scales. They even introduced landing claims, which was not a great execution from a PR standpoint. A key detail here was that this was also the point where Star Citizen shifted from content-driven updates to quarterly updates. A great change.

Naturally, 2018 was the first real test at a full narrative-driven demo, fully building on the previous years. Of course, no good recap is without mentioning that time CIG almost charged players to watch the extra panels at the show. That did not go over well.

New technologies, ships, locations, missions, characters, and weapons were introduced in this demo. While all are in the game, mostly within a year, the mission is still one of a kind of a few important reasons.

That being said, this year set up a lot of what could be expected between then and the point at which Star Citizen wasn’t necessarily ready for release, but had all the defining aspects of the game in place.

We are still a ways away from that, some of the details of the organization system have been pushed back to allow the features to be published in some way, full persistence maybe is coming with 3.16 but is more likely to be here in 2022, and the server meshing will only be getting the first major public update at citizen 2021. So while the path was set, and a bit more reigned in from the bluster of 2016, it’s still just a path.

In 2019 the demo was not dominated by but introduced the first jump gate. And while I’m sure it was meant to be an amazing reveal, it was the first that wasn’t a first. And what I mean by that is that each year the big headline feature was the star of the show. Planets, missions, multi-crew, literally some textures, but in 2019, it was the “one more thing”. This isn’t a big deal, but it has resulted in that “big first” still not being in the game 2 years later. And it’s not the only part. The mission itself never made it, the AI behaviors haven’t made it (including atmospheric flight, general city ambiance, wildlines, ship flight, and planetary navigation), and the new points of interest haven’t made it. Many of the components and features used in this demo have been implemented in different ways or are on the roadmap and in the weekly updates. And there’s technically no promise of the time it’ll take for players to get their hands on these things, but we all see how it looks.

So while I know CitizenCon should have a big first to put on display that players know they can look forward to, it should still be something that players can expect to play with before the same event happens a year later.

This has been an informative event, from the beginning, as much as it has been a marketing one, at least from my perspective. But as a proud veteran of the verse who has seen the history of the event, I do hope the informative side wins out.

Star Citizen as a whole game seems like it is showing some signs of life, but if CIG sets expectations as far ahead as they did in 2019, players might not end up sticking around long enough to see it out. And I think it’s important to acknowledge that many of the things coming next year were likely delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. But I still think CIG should be focused on giving players a look at what can be expected in the next year. The 2019 show was a pretty good look at the future of Star Citizen from many perspectives, and the keynote itself was a good look at the game as we can play it now. But some of the more iffy details should perhaps be saved for later.

If you haven’t already seen it, make sure to check out my video detailing what we might see at Citizencon 2021, linked below. And if you enjoy this content and want to get deeper into the discussion with more blog posts and early videos, consider supporting me on Patreon.

Thank you for reading!

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