The Cult of Star Citizen and the Purchase of a Promise

Posted Wed, Nov 27, 2013 by Xerin

Star Citizen is a game that, so far, is more about hope then it is about actual mechanics. I want to preface this by saying a lot of writers here at Ten Ton hammer truly enjoy Star Citizen and some have even bought into it, however I hold a very strong and different opinion. Star Citizen is proving that crowdsourcing can be very dangerous whenever the community starts throwing good money after bad.

Of course, let’s start with some brief history. Star Citizen raised two million of the original $500,000 goal. It has gone on to break $31 million in funding with players putting as much money into Star Citizen as they would put into a brand new Louis Vuitton handbag, we’re seriously talking actually more than a top of the line 50” t.v. mounted on their wall. Yes, we’re talking $2,500+ dollars. Here is a screenshot from Something Awful:

Star Citizen Money

This is for a game that Chris Roberts is planning on releasing in 2015. Not even the “gold” version of the game, but the alpha or beta in 2015. That’s well over a year from now, but people are going insane trying to buy up as many different ships and upgrades as they can for a game that doesn’t exist and a list of promises miles long (please read this and tell me if it’s even possible). There is no playable demo of the actual game, there is no alpha, just a bunch of teasers and cutscenes and an idea, also “Chris Roberts.”

Here is where I draw the line, there is a spaceship you can purchase for $1,250. Can should be could because guess what, it sold out. 150 of them sold out, or $187,500 which is the total cost of a brand new Lamborghini… for spaceships in a game that does not exist yet and may not be in its finished form for years and years to come.

Now, I’m not saying that Chris Roberts is going to take the money and run, no, what I’m saying is that people are pouring gallons and gallons of money into a project that doesn’t exist and they haven’t even had a taste of it yet. No one knows if the game will be fun, if it will be interesting, if there is going to be a need to pour this much money into the game. There is some simple logic games you can play to: owning a $1,250 ship will either make you superior to other players (meaning the game is pay-to-win) or it’ll be available easily to other players (meaning you wasted a grand).

Okay, I know you’re waiting to say “the hanger module is awesome” but it’s really not. The clipping of the textures when you get inside the vessel sucks and anyone in game design school could load up Unity and make a spaceship hanger. It doesn’t prove anything and goes so far to just continue stringing people along into buying into something that might as well be a cult at this point.

Student Loans Star Citizen

For real, like, there are people cashing in their student loans and their food money to load into a space ship simulator that may or may not be out in a few years with or without most of the promised features. It may or may not be fun! Yet, people are investing crazy sickening amounts of money into it. I know people may do with their money as they please and what they invest in is fine, but the money spending is borderline infectious. Large groups of gamers are feeling more and more compelled to spend into the cult of Star Citizen because newer better bigger ships are released and they must have them to out do their friends.

All I’m saying friends is that crowdfunding to make an idea come true is a good thing. Crowdfunding to buy imaginary space ships for a current imaginary game is bad. If you’re wondering if Star Citizen is a fraud, probably not. If you’re wondering if Star Citizen is going to be a good game? That’s a completely different question. Throwing more money at it at this junction probably won't affect the basic core gameplay much.

Anyway, spend your money how you like, but please don't let peer pressure make you feel like you need to buy into a game that doesn't exist. That's all.

This article sums up my thoughts on the matter pretty much exactly, its quite scary how much money people are feeling compelled to throw at a game which hasn't exhibited any gameplay yet.

Yes the graphics look sweet but we all know the deal breaker is going to be how the game actually plays, which no-one has indication of yet.

baleeted

Some kind of stupid spam filter prevents me from posting this all in one go, so I'll divide it up into smaller segments.

I have seen allot of articles about SC, but this is one of the most misinformed and inaccurate I have seen.
This article is so full of misinformation and factual inaccuracies that I dont know where to begin.

1. SC is not a cult, and calling it such gives negative associations for may people, and makes it sound as if people are being coerced into giving money, something they are not.
While some fans might take to the pitchforks at any negative comment about the game, the majority of the community actually have no problem with skepticism and criticism, but blatant misinformation like this is something that gets them angry.

2. The original funding goal for the game was $2 million, the $500.000 was the Kickstarter goal which was added after the fact at the request of many in the community.

3. The Alpha for the game is scheduled for release in December 2013-January 2014.
2015 is when the game is to be released.

4. Clipping in the Hangar module.
The hangar module is not the finished game, its a pre-alpha release where such things are to be expected.

5. While it may look that way to the outside observer, people are not buying ships, thats looking at it the completely wrong way.
Its actually quite the opposite, people are donating money to the development of that game, and get these ships in return depending on how much they have given as a thank you for their donations.

The whole "imaginary ship" argument actually irritated me. Since when have digital goods been considered less-than-real?

You buy a movie, buy an album, buy Microsoft Windows, all of these things are considered very real, and considering their popularity society as a whole considers them worth the price.

But apparently if its an in-game spaceship its 'imaginary'.

6. Singling out people and condemning them for spending money on something they believe in and then afterwards saying that people are free to spend they money as they want, can very easily be construed as hypocrisy.

And I take issue with the writer's use of the phrase "good money after bad." That gives the uninformed reader the impression that SC has failed in some way, and backers are just hurling more money at the game in a fit of denial. The game hasn't produced enough yet to be judged a failure yet.

It would be more accurate to say we're throwing money at our hopes and dreams. Which we are. And I like to think (most) all of us are aware of that, and the fact that the finished game won't (can't possibly) meet everyone's expectations, and haven't pledged more than we can afford on this project.

These are just some of the most obvious points, I could go into details on allot of other things as well, but this will have to suffice.

I wanted to finish this by providing a link to The BIG Star Citizen Admirer's Manual, a 120+ page fan made document which is a compilation of information about SC.
Unfortunately some stupid spam filter will not let me link directly to the document or even to the original post on the RSI forums that contains the link to the document.

I'll be happy to provide the links if the mods here want to look into them before they are posted.

1. literary privilege

A lot of people in the SC community keep getting others to buy into the idea of SC in order to justify their own obsession. Hence the titling.

2. I'm glad that they choose to lie on Kickstarter then and say 500k?? I mean, the money given on Kickstarter should be enough to complete the project.

3. There are already delays and the full alpha won't be for a long time, until then everyone gets the modules.

4. Yeah, but if you watch enough YouTubes you'll quickly see why you should buy some $1,250 spaceships because the hangar module is why the game is awesome.

5. Well, that may be how you see it, but if you read enough to forums you'll quickly see the discussion isn't "boy I wonder what CR will do with my $1,250" it is "what ship is going to be the absolute best oh this one is better boy I wish I didn't buy that other one better go and buy this one now!"

6. Yes, people may spend their money however they want, but I can disagree with it. I can't stop them, nor do I wish to.

You may take issue with my opinion, however, when people have 120 page manuals on why something is awesome and you totally should buy into it, it starts getting a bit too cultish for me :P

I'm sorry, but have you even visited the Kickstarter page?
Let me quote it for you.

"The great news is that we’ve already raised enough money to ensure this project will happen! But we don’t want to stop there. We have a lot more we want to add to Star Citizen and we need your help to do it!

The money raised on our site and here on Kicktstarter are combined to determine which of the main stretch goals we’ve met, but Kickstarter has its own unique set of stretch goals! These will be ADDITIONAL to the main ones."
This is followed by a picture showing stretch goals up to 6 million.

I find it very hard to take you seriously when you discuss something you haven't even bothered to research yourself. I'm not sure what delays you're talking about seeing as the games release date has yet to change and all the content prior to release is being put out for testing on a when-it's-ready basis. What we've been given are approximate dates for the various modules. The hangar module was delayed a whole whooping week while they fixed some bugs.

As I type this I'm checking youtube to see who exactly is trying to make me buy a $1,250 space ship. Lo and behold most of the videos I find are describing game features and the funding goals. Not a single video tells to me go out and buy the Idris-P (the $1,250 starship you mentioned). The closest thing to telling me to buy the Idris-P are videos telling me to visit the website, check it out and pledge if I am interested. Darn, they're really shoving that Idris-P down my throat!

I don't even know how you came to your conclusion about what people discuss in the forums. Just about every reply to a thread comparing ships goes along the lines of "depends on how you plan to play the game" and that no single ship is going to be the absolute best ship in the game.

After reading your article and your reply all that I can see is that you're upset that people are excited about a game and that you have a serious disdain for crowdfunding. I find it hilarious that you wrote another article about the dangers of crowdfunding while we have publishers milking consumers for every last penny and ruining franchises left and right without a single drop of accountability.

The Star Citizen dev team is actually listening to the community and trying very hard to stay away from game mechanics that the community will hate. Compare that to Diablo 3. A year following the release of D3 the developers are still changing content that the community told them was broken from the onset of development. They forced the auction house into the game despite strong protests and have now had to struggle with removing it from the game. I'd mention something about Simcity but simply hearing me say Simcity should bring to mind all the points I could make.

I guess rather than pledge $25 for Star Citizen you'd have us buy an Ipad so we can use the armory while playing WoW (something I can do on my phone or second display). Tablet's - the future of gaming. Crowdfunding - the bane of our dearly beloved publishers.

I kinda feel like you're cherry picking what I'm saying here to make some kind of argument to discredit me. I never say that paying money to Star Citizen is bad. I make a clear point that getting hyper crazy about it and throwing tons of money at it on the premise that you're going to fly around in space in your armada of cool ships you buy is kind of ehhh and there are people on the Internet discussing ship specs and trying their hardest to buy the best ship and it's not at all about making the game come true. They haven't even played the game yet, but they're buying ships. This has nothing to do to the people throwing a few bucks at it to play it or normal kickstarter activities.

As for the $500,000 you stated they needed 1 million to make the game. They set the funding goal to $500,000. The funding goal should have been $1,000,000 or whatever.

"I never say that paying money to Star Citizen is bad."

Actually, you did say this

"Star Citizen is proving that crowdsourcing can be very dangerous whenever the community starts throwing good money after bad."

The unambiguous implication in this one sentence is that you believe the gaming community is throwing money at a bad product - in this instance, Star Citizen. That, or you are just a very poor writer and your communication skills could use some brushing up.

And people are not buying ships, they are actually pledging monetary support for the SC project. The ships are a gift, just like when you "throw" money at a public television funding drive and you get a t0shirt or DVD set - it's a "Thank you for your support"

"As for the $500,000 you stated they needed 1 million to make the game. They set the funding goal to $500,000. The funding goal should have been $1,000,000 or whatever."

They needed $1,000,000 just to prove interest to get a publisher to sign on, you can't make a AAA game on $1,000,000. They needed $23,000,000 to make the game without publisher backing and thus maintain creative control, everything beyond that will simply make the game better and sooner. That's a research and common sense fail.

Misinformation, ad hominem, backtracking...

I think it's fair to say that this article really stems from some personal envy more than some 'benign concern' for others. People are willing to back star citizen, because people know chris roberts has vision and integrity and will make the game space-sim fans have always wanted, this is not some 'unknown' coming out of left-field with no track record to go by. Not to mention what it represents for the industry, the removal of the creativity killing, over-charging, out-of-touch 'publishers' which contribute nothing to the industry but a barrier between artist(s) and content.

"Somebody did something great which goes against the existing paradigm, and I can't STAND that!"

First let me say if you do not have the expendable income you should not be throwing around money you do not have or be irresponsible with the money you do have.

As for the purchasing of the ships. It is a digital good, it has no tangible asset true but it is no different than buying a game on steam and letting it sit for a year or so. And the reason people are throwing this much money around is not about the ships, it can be summed up in 2 words. Chris Roberts.

Chris Roberts is a man with a known track record for very good space sims, he came out of retirement to make this game because the technology has finally caught up to his vision and when he told us of his vision we collectively said hell yes to it. Myself I have spent around $500 on Star Citizen I own a retaliator and a constellation and a 315p but the key factor here is that all these ships I bought have lifetime insurance on them so I will never need to replace them also it is a donation to Chris to make his vision a reality that is how I see it. Do I have a game to play? Not yet. Do I care? No. Because I know Chris Roberts will follow through it will just take time. I guess from my perspective you could say I am buying into the idea of Star Citizen and that is fine by me.

Hiya,

The difference here is that the game on Steam is playable. You know if it's good or not because other people have played it. Star Citizen on the other hand isn't released yet, but people are pouring money into it and talking about it like it does exist, without any context on what their purchase means or if they will even like the game.

That's what we're talking about here. Saying "Chris Roberts will make the game that I want" is called hope, because he has yet to make it and you don't know if it's the game you want yet. Does this make sense?

TLDR; There is not one thing in my response that has not been said over and over by others. I would not call my self a cult member (well maybe Blue Oyster Cult). I can see the dangers of crowd source funding and am careful in my understanding that all I am doing is voting with my money and saying I like what your doing and would like to contribute to what I think is a good thing.
--------------------------
You are correct it's called HOPE. It's more than all the other mainstream companies are giving us. They had written off the space sim genre. I remember when i first purchased Wing Commander got home and played. I was awed by the gameplay, the storyline. The fact that my actions actually affected how the game played out and I could go back and replay the game and see the different outcomes. I have high HOPE that Chris Roberts can pull off the same thing as his Wing Commander/Privateer, Strike Commander and Freelancer Series' with Star Citizen. Based upon the HISTORY of Chris Roberts games I think he will create a game i like. Will I like all parts of it? Probably not, As there have been parts of the previous games he made that i have not liked but over all i am Extremely Satisfied with his previous games.

Regarding the difference that a game on Steam is playable and SC is not yet is that we have access to the pre pre alpha state of the game, we get to see the designs, give our opinions on them and the SC Team actually is taking that information into account and implementing the changes that they feel will make the game more enjoyable when it is released. The game on Steam is the "final product" we had no input into it and any complaints we have with it will probably take forever to get corrected if they do at all. The game is announced to be out in 2015 so far they are still on target for that date any slips on dates for individual components between now and then for a game in Pre Alpha (Which is where SC is right now), Alpha or even upto a certain point Beta are not a big problem.

I would hope that the other people are only pledging as much as they can afford to lose if for some reason the game should be vaporware. For myself I have spent more money on other items that turned out to be a waste of time and money after I bought them.

I wrote a much longer reply detailing why I think the author is misinformed, but the spam filter ate it. Here is the much abbreviated version.
This site sucks.
The author should stick to the generic crap that major publishers put out if he thinks risking money on SC is a bad bet.

Yes, this site sucks for having an opinion that is well founded and echoed throughout the media. Technically, questioning Star Citizen at this point is generic crap because of the fact that the $33 million raised is all in virtual assets given to people for a game they've yet to play. Like going in and buying a ton of stuff in a cash shop a few years before a game launches.

Let me start with I have donated some money to SC, and several other kickstarters too. Why do I do it, I see it as a small way for me to steer the direction of game development. The games I've donated to are games that I want to play. To be honest haven't had a decent space sim for a long time now, and I'd love to see one.

I'm amazed that SC has raised so much money and I'm always surprised how much people are will to spend on virtual goods (even for game they love to play), but I agree completely with revan67, If can't afford it you shouldn't be spending it, and if your spending more than you can afford that's not really SC's problem, I assume they'd just spend it else where in a similar fashion.

I do enjoy the fact that they're taking it step by step with Star Citizen and listening to feedback, however, your purchase doesn't so much steer development as enable it. The point of the article isn't to lambaste people who can't spend their money right, it's to note that people are so desperate to buy into a game that doesn't exist that maybe they should take a second and think about it.

You mean like MW:O?

I think some criticism and realism that the author express is very healthy and nothing to scoff at.
I'm a Star Citizen supporter, but I too shiver when I see people that have spent thousands of dollars on this game, but as noticed above, it is their money and so be it.

However, I do not see much of a difference between this and many others kickstarter/crowd funded games.. oh actually I DO see a difference. This one has the devs answering questions on the forums all the time and a weekly show where the lead Designer and, from the last one, Chris Roberts himself, answers the questions of the fan on video. The site is updated almost daily and the level of fidelity already shown in the commercials, the brochures and the ships themselves is incredible.

I've given money to several Crowd funding projects, some already released to my satisfaction (Larry, Shadowrun returns), others are a looooong way away, but Star Citizen is by far the one that gives me the most hope.

As for the ships, it is option 2, according to the creator. Each ship is available to be purchasable in game (beside the Scythe that is obtainable, yes, but not with just money), so the only things the backers are getting is a leg up when the game launches. Considering you can get the whole package, including the whole single player thing and the possibility of making private servers with your own rules, for 30 or 40 bucks... it does not seem excessive at all. If people choose to throw thousands of dollars after a dream, well supporting an unique, historical, possibly market-changing venue would not be the worst use of their money, IMO

Yeah, I mean, if you want to throw down $50 or $100, then whatever right. However, it's when it gets excessive and people are campaigning for all of their friends to throw buckets of money at the game because they believe that it will be XYZ then that's when it gets iffy to me.

Okay I have to admit I am guilty of this. After I registered I told several of my friends about SC. They, like me, are fans of the space sim genre and miss having a good one with current generation graphics. As a result of my campaigning two other friends pledged for SC well before the 101010 deadline. Between the three of us we have contributed a measly $600.00 or so to the HOPE of getting a good space sim after all these years.

If your going to write an article based on averages that are rather pointless, you should probably add that the average of SC crowd funding is a whopping 104$ per backer overall. As with anything there are extremes and people who can't manage there money. Then again the US as a whole can't manage its money, so why should individuals be any different.

SC is about gamers buying into a dream, not about buying ships. While i agree that excessive spending is bad, and that crowd funding has its pitfalls, when the only other options are regurgitated MMO's like ESO or the latest bland remake of a PC franchise by a publisher who takes no risks, i would rather spend more to crowd fund a game that actually is entertaining. I spent far more then the average, but my spending basically equates to me cutting back going to the bar one extra time per month, aka 40$ per month for 24 months.

moved comment to recent article thread

xerin, your lack of knowledge about this subject is somehow disturbing.

ks campain originally was intended to show the investors that people still want a spaceship game. 1 million from ks, 11 millions from investors. (dont remember to well, but hey, you are a gaming journalist, you should know this).

the campaign was so well received that they ditch the investors, and decided to go full crowfunded.

but ofcourse, you will find some irrelevant remarks to post.
best of luck.

First off, I think it's really cool the author is engaging with responders. Here are my thoughts on the subject...

My 12 year old brother in law did some work for us, I paid him $15. He immediately logged on to Team Fortress 2 and picked out a slim face for the Pyro he wanted to buy. It was FIVE F*CKING DOLLARS!!!! I couldn't believe it, THAT's what he wanted buy?? It didn't even give him an edge, just some stupid slime mask.

Now I played Privateer for the first time when I was 9, back in 1993, and it was the best game I have ever played. I'm excited to see Chris Roberts doing this game, he's always got this genre right in a way no one else has. I'm glad he's funded above and beyond so he doesn't have a group of profit driven investors lording over him. I even plan on giving some money to help him out.

But there's something else going on here that's not healthy, something akin to a twelve year of on TF2. I see too many people laying out detailed plans for how their going to get a team together and go raiding merchants, or some such. People are taking advantage of themselves, letting their dreams get the best of them.

Christ Roberts is going to have an interesting time managing the expectations, much like a movie director adapting a book to film. There are going to be a lot of folks disappointed that this simply cannot match their far flung and often unrealistic expectations for this game.

As for the stretch goals, the list reads like a feature list they were already planning on having anyways. Most of the goals are not really that substantial, or things that ARE solved with just money, like a orchestral score, celebrity actors, etc. But adding another star system, or throwing in another ship, doesn't really seem like that big of a deal.

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