It's another day and another time Star Citizen does something where I think I'm the only living Human being alive that raises an eyebrow in fear of backlash from the community. Chris Roberts, or well the behemoth he founded, has plans to rent out equipment and ships in Star Citizen, more specifically (and critical to understand specifically) Arena Commander. This is a very, very weird can of worms because the feedback has been very mixed, because the only way to get any of these ships permanently is to... donate money, right now that is.
So here is the issue - let's be very clear and clean on what the issue is - you cannot earn REC and then purchase any items or equipment in Arena Commander right now or in this upcoming update permanently. You can, instead, earn REC to rent equipment and ships to try before you buy or, if you are committed enough, to keep playing with as long as you can continue to earn enough REC to pay the rental fee every 7 non-consecutive days of playing.
If, at any point, grinding the REC to keep whatever ship and/or equipment going becomes too much, you will revert back to what you had paid for with real life money. The issue is very simple, instead of letting players in this early module of a game far beyond its funding goals try ships out in a demo mode and / or let them purchase these ships through an Arena Commander specific currently earned only in Arena Commander, they are instead opting to let players farm this Arena Commander only currency for temporary items. The same similar process that runs in games like All Points Bulletin in fact.
Is it a bad thing? Well, to me it is, but looking at a broad perspective, it's very hard to define what is and isn't bad in Star Citizen. The community obviously would want to defend their purchases and not allow someone to play Arena Commander all day every day to obtain a ship they might have paid over $100 for, especially if they paid the money specifically to obtain that ship. In the future, when the system is integrated into the persistent world, they wouldn't want permanent ships to help foster a community of players for that specific gamemode.
On the flipside, however, is the idea that all backers are not purchasing ships, but are instead supporting the game. It's a community wide acknowledgement that no ship is "purchased" in Star Citizen, but instead to make sure that Star Citizen can reach its goals and be completed. Within the Arena Module, right now, as the only existing version of the game, this can be seen as somewhat of an issue because you can't earn UEC (Star Citizen's currency) right now and REC was supposed to be for when Arena Commander is sort of a fun arcade mode and not the basis of what anyone has to play Star Citizen.
In the fully fleshed out vision that Star Citizen is to become (hopefully), REC isn't an issue, because it'll allow players to play some arcade style space dogfighting and in exchange be able to test out / try specific ships eligible for Sim-Pod / Arena Commander modes. The exchange here is that, Arena Commander is a virtual space simulation inside of a virtual space game for players to have something interesting to do and practice dogfighting.
The issue here and, again, it's only an issue to specific segments of the community, is that REC doesn't really work out that well in a situation where the only avenue of playing the game is through Arena Commander. When the persistent universe goes live, things will be a bit different, but for now the only way to obtain any ships is either through money or REC. Star Citizen isn't supposed to be a pay-to-win game, so you should (when the game goes live) never have to feel like you need to spend any real life money to achieve anything within the game world. The starter packs and pledge ships are only headstarts for when pesistant universe goes live.
So you can say that some of the upset is due to patience, since the idea is for backers to test the REC system, in addition to Arena Commander and the available ships. In contrast, testing would include a much more lenient system to allow ship variance in an ecosystem currently only populated by ships purchased with real cash. Players shouldn't have to spend an unreasonable amount of real life money to "test" specific ships, which REC is supposed to rectify, but requires players to grind games in order to test various ships.
I firmly believe that enabling the REC seems like a very odd move and can be seen by the outside population as CIG attempting to let players try before they buy with real money, especially considering odd statements like these:
Spend time playing the game, which will earn REC to be spent on ships and weapons for use in Arena Commander or pledge for these items, supporting the ongoing development and running costs of the game. It’s the classic time vs money proposition and either way you’ll be helping making Arena Commander and Star Citizen better! This is always how the final game was intended to work and we’ve decided that we need to bring this dynamic into play sooner than later!
However, after the persistent universe goes live, REC will live as an interesting mechanic in a much smaller portion of the game. As time passes, so will Arena Commander's popularity for anything other than a quick "riskless" form of adventure and practice with the smaller non-capital ships. In addition, I absolutely lothe at this point any call-to-arms to back the game, a game in which the community is already passionate about supporting and has achieved more than enough funds to cover enough of the development to get them to live, where they can begin selling the game proper. That's another discussion for probably not another day, though.
If I was CIG, considering that UEC shouldn't arrive until the persistent universe goes live, I would simply just offer "free ship rotations" for backers to try different ships each week, letting them preview and try the ship and getting feedback on them, without having players have to grind points or spend real life money for the opportunity to test combat with a variety of ships and equipment.
Then, obviously, when it's attached to the sim-pod, the REC can be enabled and everyone can go on with their happy way. Until a system is in place that satisfies the players who have invested a lot of real capital into the game and those who just want to play the real game already, you're going to have a lot of mixed opinions about updates.
To bring another point to the table, issues with various patches nerfing / buffing specific ships puts players in very odd scenarios where they have a ship that can't deal with the current meta in Arena Commander. This thread highlights some of the issues with the Super Hornet ($165/$180) and showcases the need for the community to be able to adjust which ships they fly with fluidity to combat different meta games. However, with only REC, grinding to rent the meta-killer can be annoying and frustrating, almost as annoying and frustrating as having to stare at the store and decide if spending additional money on the game is worth it to have fun with the current offerings. Which, again, are only there for testing purposes and aren't supposed to represent the game.
TL;DR Too soon IMO and a lot of misunderstanding.
Disclaimer: I am not a member of a corp, nor have I backed Star Citizen and do not intend to do so until the game has released. I have demo'd the game, but currently do not have the desire to purchase a Javelin, nor do I have enough friends to man the ship. While a critic of Star Citizen, I only worry about the feature creep and scope of the game, and wish / hope that the game is a major success and I fully believe specific kinds of criticism are needed.
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