If you would have pitched a space sim at game producers a year ago, you
would have been fighting a seriously up-hill battle. There was a feeling
in the industry that the simulators of old had passed their time and that
there would be no current market for them. In walked Chris Roberts and his
team over at Cloud Imperium Games, a group of folks who aren’t asking
permission to make a game; they’re doing it, and they’ve asked us, the
gamers, to help. They set a goal of $2 million, and told the community
that if they’d like to see what kind of game Star Citizen could
be, then that was the number they needed to get started. Eager gamers
didn’t just give them what they thought they needed, we exploded past it
with furious intent. Star Citizen has managed to raise $8.5 million at
this point, completely obliterating even the stretch goals no one ever
expected to reach. It was like dropping an atom bomb on the industry’s
perception of the standard production route, and the shock wave is still

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Lord British taught us to weaponize Virtues, and now
he’s back to continue the fight.

Immediately following the fantastic success of the new Chris Roberts
title, we started to see other major names in the industry step forward.
Chris Taylor announced an idea for a new RTS and took it to Kickstarter.
Richard Garriott announced with 3rd person flair that Lord British would
be taking the field with a new playground for the old Avatar. Most
recently, the studio inXile Entertainment funded their attempt at creating
Torment: Tides of Numenera, the spiritual successor to the classic
Planescape: Torment. Like Star Citizen, Torment managed to collect
quadruple their stated Kickstarter goal and while they were at it, set the
record for fastest project to have a million dollars pledged. Getting to a
million only took them seven hours after starting the campaign. So yes, I
think you can pretty well say at this point that Star Citizen has managed
to terraform the face of the industry. They haven’t just opened a second
trail as an alternative for funding games, they’ve basted through the
canyon wall and laid down a four-lane highway. They’ve completely reshaped
the standard for development as well, but more on that in another article.
The question before us is whether this reshaping is a good thing or a bad
one. Has CR led us to the land of milk and honey, or have we found the
undiscovered country of which Hamlet spoke so sadly?

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Who wouldn’t play another Torment game? No RPG has ever
managed to capture the raw emotion of that game… until now, perhaps?

The Golden Age Before Us

There’s a lot of win to be had in the crowd funding phenomenon and
finding reasons to cheer it on are hardly uncommon. The immediately
obvious reason to cheer is that it allows indie developers to go all out
on efforts that before they would have only been able to develop nights
and weekends. In the age of large publishing companies playing it safe to
avoid flops, games like movies get their most insanely innovative ideas
from the independent developers.

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The Devil Dogs of the UEE in Star Citizen stand tall
knowing that they’ll be serving an adoring fan-base.

Indie developers are poor, hungry, and most importantly, not afraid of
risk. It’s a fundamental point of the human existence that we’re at our
best when we should be closest to giving up. Crowd funding allows those
hungry young developers to pitch their ideas to the masses, and those who
do it best get a supercharged shot of funding to make their dreams into
reality. This means the concept is proven more quickly, larger developers
take notice more quickly, and we the gamers see those fascinating ideas

In the traditional game funding model, a publisher would dictate several
aspects of the game to the developer based on economic models. Publishers
can value making money at the expense of making an awesome game. With the
crowd funding model, where a large chunk of development costs are funded
by fans,  developers are free to build the game they think their
potential users want. Roberts and his team believe that if you make an
awesome game, it will make money. Crowd funding has allowed them to
attempt to prove that.

If nothing else, taking this route allows the developer to tune the
title to the niche market they’re attempting to hit more directly, without
having to bow to the need to make it accessible to other demographics. If
you’ve ever flown the IL-2 flight simulators, you know what I’m talking
about. There’s a segment of games out there that are great primarily
because they’re complex and hard to approach. The reward is in the
complexity, and that’s why people are still playing the game 12 years
after release.

Winter of Discontent

But it’s not all roses on the crowd funding front. I do have some pretty
serious concerns. Chief among those concerns is that the massive success
of crowd sourced campaigns recently has got to be attracting the attention
of the larger publishers, and that means they’re starting to wonder how
they can take advantage of all this free money. What happens when Blizzard
announces that they’re looking at making their new World of Starcraft, but
they need to know people are behind it before they can begin development?
"Here, come fund our development and we’ll make you an okay game, charge
you $60 to buy it and another $15 a month to play!" Don’t snicker, because
if I were a large publisher, that’s exactly what I’d want to do. You get a
market test, starting capital, and publicity all in one easy step. They’re
not far from it now, because crowd funding is just a few steps from the
"pre-order to get into beta" concept that’s already here. In fact, it’s
the current pre-ordering process that has primed us all to be okay with
the concept of crowd funding in the first place.

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One way to separate legitimate games from potential
rip-offs is to look at the detail and how far the game has come before
going to Kickstarter.

The next big concern I have is, what happens when we contribute to
something that doesn’t meet our expectations? We know that’s bound to
happen at some point, and as developers become more educated on crowd
funding, and begin to develop marketing strategies for it, eventually,
we’re going to fall prey to an awesome trailer and FAQ that completely
misrepresents the game. There’s the threat that the concept could destroy
itself from within by rolling out junk games for a quick buck.

Worse than destroying itself from within would be the cry out for some
sort of enforcement, though. We’ve gotten into a bad habit of expecting
someone else to take care of us these days, and that bleeds over into
gaming. We have a good record of self-regulation with ratings and we need
to apply some of that to the representation of games, especially with
crowd funding. The last thing we need is a government agency that doesn’t
understand the industry trying to regulate it, but as soon as people lose
money on a bad game, it’s something we’re going to be faced with. Having
that conversation now could mean the difference between a crowd funding
system that’s only slightly dangerous and one that’s so regulated that
it’s useless.

Into the Breach Dear Friends

Star Citizen has led the charge into completely new territory. Others
have been using crowd funding for some time, but none have captured the
eye of the media quite like Star Citizen. Nor have any captured the hearts
of their fans. The guys in Austin are bombarded by packages with goods,
gifts, and letters of encouragement from their fans constantly. I’ve never
heard of anything remotely like this in the gaming industry, and I have to
admit, I like it.

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Oh, brave new world that has such people in it!

Getting the gamers closer to the developers looks to be an incredibly
rewarding experience for both, and I’m truly hopeful that the crowd
funding phenomenon continues to grow. It’s an opportunity for more people
to succeed who would have never had a chance before. It’s a chance to see
games that would have never made it to market before. Perhaps even more
importantly, it’s an opportunity for developers to start work on a game
knowing that there are people who care and who are cheering for them.

There is some danger in treading on this new ground, but with a frank
conversation about it and by educating ourselves on what those dangers
are, I think we can avoid most of them. There are pitfalls any time you
take a risk, but that’s what makes them worth taking. The movie industry
has a strong indie tradition and is all the better for it. Maybe we’ve
chosen a different way of doing it than they have, but hey… we’re gamers.
We’ve been building our own roads for decades and there’s no reason to
stop now.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Star Citizen Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016