Star Citizen is that online multiplayer living space game currently being developed by Cloud Imperium Games. More about the development here. As of this post, Star Citizen is in an alpha state of development which its been in since 2012. It has been operating on a pledge based system where a player must pledge or pay for a starter package to enter the world of Star Citizen and play the game. A starter game package consists of, at the very least, a basic spaceship, some in-game currency (currently aUEC) and the entire game to download and test. However, one glaring question many folks have been asking is, how long until the game is actually finished? And that remains to be seen. In fact, if time is any gauge for future events, a beta version of the game isn’t even on the horizon.
How many pledges make a game go?
Nevertheless, like many other players before me, we have been curious as to the degree of play-ability the current alpha version of Star Citizen is in. YouTube videos show great scenes from the game but how much editing, if any, went into removing game breaking bugs from those videos? And what about those reports that Star Citizen is some multi-million dollar scam. I decided to get some first hand facts based on personal experience of the game and research.
According to current pledge numbers, Star Citizen has raised over 280 million dollars. I won’t say this instantly makes Star Citizen a scam simply because of all the money it’s generated through millions of pledges. Businesses make money, that’s one purpose of having a business. And yet, it would also appear that the $280 million (which continues to grow) should be a good….no wait….. a great start for being able to pay developers and build a game and a very playable game at that.
Of course the developers do need to be paid so pledges are a great way to make that happen. One big concern I would have and is something that I have since learned more about from getting my hands on my own copy of the game itself, is a little something to do with priorities. More on that later.
So, just how playable is alpha Star Citizen?
Not knowing a lot about how to play Star Citizen, I first purchased a starter package which included the Mustang Alpha ship and so my first few hours spent in Star Citizen have been doing basic spacey things and learning the controls. So far in the game I’ve managed to learn how to walk round, run, jump, fly, use the mobiglass, land better, refuel my ship and not crash, land on a platform without crashing (joystick makes this much easier by the way), quantum jump to planets, take off and not crash, attempt basic deliveries all the while exploring the only star system currently available in game called Stanton. Now, I knew going into this experience that SC was only in a feeble alpha state so I didn’t expect much but then again it’s been in development for many years. So naturally I anticipated game bugs and I most definitely expected the game to crash. I wasn’t disappointed. (Although the crashes of late have been network disconnects.)
Look, what bugs you?
The bugs I’ve experienced have mostly not been the type of bugs I had anticipated when I started. I expected a nearly complete and broken mess of a game in terms of graphical mishaps such as missing doors, broken floors, ceilings, all wrapped in some ugly looking environments due to missing textures. Instead I have been treated, for the most part, to a beautifully rendered, and sometimes jaw dropping game world graphically speaking that is. And while the game indeed looks fantastic, some of the gameplay features such as missions remain broken or seemingly not complete.
Of course you won’t know which part is broken or incomplete until you get into the mission and drop your box and the game won’t let you pick up the box anymore. Oh well it’s only 1000 UEC you didn’t get. Try that mission again. And again. And yet again. Go ahead maybe this time? And yet performance wise, the game in it’s current state runs well on my computer which apparently not everyone can report.
You’re kind’ve stuck, now what?
Now as magnificent as the game world looks, with it’s detailed and carefully rendered ships, planets and spaceports (which you can even land on and walk on) includes those broken game features that do ruin the gameplay. In fact, as of this writing, I am currently unable to play the game with my own ship because the two ships I have are not retrievable at the Port Olisar spaceport. (I’ve read of the some workarounds which includes resetting my character or spawning at a different location of which both options I haven’t figured out how to do yet nor think I should have to.) And this brings me to my biggest question for the success of this game (from a players’ standpoint). What are the priorities for the future development of this game? And do these priorities benefit the players or mostly benefit the developers and game creators)? Are they going to help new players enjoy the game or has Star Citizen lost it’s way somewhere in the verse? (The “verse” is the term used in the game for the universe for which players are able to explore).
I do wonder what the 280 plus million dollars is doing, if anything, to help make basic gameplay, such as being able to retrieve a ship or complete a basic delivery mission, become a finished polished part of the game. Especially since I don’t find the game any fun without a ship and I really don’t want to hitch a ride on someone elses ship when I paid for my own. So a game bug that can cause you to lose in game credits and/or a flyable ship seems to me to be something that should be a fundamental priority for developers to fix. First, before they create more ships. And it may be that the developers are hard at work fixing this basic problem as I speak. I do hope this is the case.
Pay 2 Win?
Another questionable situation I see in Star Citizen is something called pay 2 win. And I don’t mean the developers win and the players lose (although maybe that’s the case for some). I must first clarify that since Star Citizen is a living space style sandbox for which you the player get the freedom to explore however you choose there really isn’t any endgame or “winning” in Star Citizen. And winning I mean in terms in winning or losing a race and game over. Rather in Star Citizen, you the humble citizen player, are continually working/playing/grinding to gain in-game credits (aUEC) in the hope of someday being able to either purchase a better ship or you are free to simply have fun exploring in the ship you currently have.
However, a potential problem I see that could occur in Star Citizen is that a player may purchase with real money a powerful luxury ship complete with great combat abilities, or better storage capabilities. The starter package of $45 doesn’t do a lot for competing with a grand luxury spacecraft worth $1000 of real money. So if you are wealthy in real life you might have a better starting advantage in Star Citizen. Sure you can earn in game credits to buy that luxury starship or combat ship of your dreams but if you have a lot of real money that you think you should waste (I mean, spend), why wait? But should you be someone like me who doesn’t believe it’s wise to waste hundreds and thousands of dollars on a virtual spaceship than I guess you won’t have the better ships for a very long time. And yet if you think of it as a simply a pledge to help the game along (as I’m pretty sure the Star Citizen game studio hopes you do)……I still say those expensive ships are better than the starter ships.
Broken Ship in Basic Starter Package?
In my experience there is another not-so insignificant game bug that makes Star Citizen a game you might want to reconsider before getting your hands on it (at least with one of the two $45 starter packages). The starter package which includes the Mustang Alpha as of this post, is broken because the ship is unable to hold any cargo even though the game website shows the Mustang alpha is fully capable of hauling cargo and is game ready. Without cargo space however, personal delivery missions are impossible to do unless you rent a ship (but you need lots of aUEC to do that). So this brings me to my final question about Star Citizen. What are the priorities for this game? Clearly making money has become a priority if it wasn’t from the start back in 2012. But why isn’t the starter package on the website pledge store (which includes this particular broken cargo bay on the Mustang ship) either fixed, removed from the store or at the very least showing a note mentioning this problem? Apparently this particular bug report/complaint isn’t old but has been around for at least 3 years! And yet, there are numerous new and impressive looking ships continually being developed and added to the game every quarter. Some ships cost hundreds and even thousands of real dollars.
I would think that with a $250 million dollar plus income that a mandatory starter package (which costs real money) would include a fully functioning starter ship by now. It should be noted that so far in my experience, I have yet to see any problems with the other basic starter ship package which includes the Aurora MR aside from the game locking me out of using the ship! (Note of caution and warning: if you are still considering getting into the game with a basic starter package, I would as of now only recommend the Aurora MR because of the cargo problem on the Mustang. But a cargo bay failure might be the least of the problems you experience especially if it happens where you are unable to retrieve your ship at all and need to reset your character. )
Should you get Star Citizen?
So as I have mentioned already, a basic Star Citizen game package (pledge) costs $45 of real money. You need a starter package to play the game. Currently this $45 gets you a ship, some in-game insurance (not sure it’s implemented yet), in-game starting cash of 5000 UEC (also called aUEC alpha United Earth Currency while the game is in alpha state), a couple of hangers (to walk around your ship) and the entire 60gb game in it’s current state. And if you use my referral code STAR-BSRL-ZLK7 you will get an additional 5000 UEC to use in-game. See more details here.
A love hate relationship
So should you get into Star Citizen? The answer is entirely up to you because if you’ve read this far, you will know I think the game is fantastic, disappointing, better than expected, beautiful and includes game breaking and mission breaking situations, game server wipes (when an update is released) but then again sometimes missions work fine.
Disclaimer and general warning of the risk you take downloading and playing this game: Star Citizen is in alpha stage of game development which means it’s broken and many problems either exist, haven’t been fixed and/or may never be fixed. I will not be responsible for anything that might go wrong (and things do go wrong, as of this post) should you decide to purchase any starter game package for Star Citizen. Doing so is done completely at your own risk.
Images are in-game screenshots