Quote of the Day – But Can You Do It Like This?

No one is attempting to do what we are doing, in the manner we are doing it, nor being as open about as we are.

Chris Roberts, October Letter from the Chairman

As reported over at Massively OP, Star Citizen having crossed the $200 million mark for crowd funding go a message from Chris Roberts about reaching that milestone.

In his post he warns people not to reduce his project down to just that $200 million number, though that is the attention getting headline for most news sites.

He spends some time going on about the current state of alpha and the upcoming sixth anniversary event of the end of the original Kickstarter campaign (and the fourth anniversary of failing to meet the project deadline set by that Kickstarter I suppose) before getting into thanking everybody for believing in him and his project.

But the paragraph that stands out the most for me is the one that ends with the quote above.  Something about it does not ring true to me.

Is how you build a video game so important that you want to call it out?

I mean, I suppose there are extremes to compare it against.  Mark Pincus has told the tale of all he did to promote FarmVille, a game idea which, among other things, he pretty much stole from another developer.  So I guess saying you’re not as shitty as that is good, though if you’re selling inaccessible real estate and pictures of ship models people might be able to fly at some future date for a game that is in alpha, you are not exactly going to come of as a paragon of virtue, no matter how pure your intentions.

But I don’t think that is what he meant.

I think he was more about how they’re doing this whole project in front of a live audience, sharing details, promised, setbacks, and the reality of software development.  I guess that is something to brag about, though so is writing a novel while on a unicycle or while sitting at a desk while it is on fire.  That you can complete the task is interesting, but you have to ask if it was a method that yielded the best possible output.

People are impatient, the world is changing around you, and most of the audience has no idea how programming remains much more art than science these days.  Sometimes it is better to go off and work on something for a long stretch, then come back when you have some sort of solid foundation.

As for nobody being as open, I think Mark Jacobs and the Camelot Unchained team might have some words on that.

14 thoughts on “Quote of the Day – But Can You Do It Like This?

  1. zaphod6502

    “Is how you build a video game so important that you want to call it out?”

    It is important for many of the people that financed it especially as a crowdfunded project. It’s one of the reasons I and many others greatly enjoyed the tech panels at this years CitizenCon. For someone like me who has invested a somewhat substantial amount of funds in the project I want to see every nitty gritty little detail and I have not been disappointed.

    Congrats to CGI for hitting the $200 million mark. It is good to see the community enthusiastically continuing to endorse Chris Roberts dream.

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  2. Bhagpuss

    John Smedley might want his share of the credit (or, I would say, blame) too. Open Access was the buzzword for Landmarl/EQNext and we saw how well that turned out.

    While it’s interesting, from an acedemic point of view, to see the gears turning, as a consumer I’d far rather have a very short, intense marketing campaign that makes me first aware of and then interested in a product that I will then actually be able to buy, in its finsihed form. For a given value of “finished” when it comes to MMORPGs, obviously.

    Whether this is a cycle and we’ll see a return to projects being completed under wraps then promoted and sold or whether its a functional change that will come to represent the way some products and services are produced and sold for the medium-long term is yet to be determined. At the moment it does seem as though the idea of paying money in advance for unfinished goods and services is becoming relatively acceptable even to mainstream consumers but I can’t help feeling that there might be a backlash eventually. Like so many things, though, that might be a generational change, in which case I am probably not going to live long enough to see it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. SynCaine

    From what is currently playable, are people having fun with the game? The news always covers the latest ship for sale, or a tech milestone, but I’ve yet to see any feedback, positive or negative, about the actual gameplay.

    Bring this up because in contrast, there has been a decent amount said about Crowfall in that area, and sadly most of it is pretty negative (including my own experience, the actual fun is still missing).

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  4. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @SynCaine – I’ve patched up a few times this year and there isn’t really much there to talk about. There was a EuroGamer review back in January that summed things up pretty well. There isn’t a lot of “there” there yet. But I am sure somebody will say that things are much different today (they are incrementally different, but not in any grand way) or bring up the ever-present “it is in alpha” deflection.

    And that’s fine, if it is alpha it is alpha. But don’t claim it is hot shit and then fall back on that.

    The problem with this slow drip, developing in front of a live audience, alpha-after-alpha cycle is that it will eventually wear people down. The surprise and joy of the game will be missing because every aspect of the game will have been dissected in minute detail and played through already by the time any aspect is done. But Chris Roberts has to do that to keep selling things to keep the project going. At some point though he has to shit or get off the pot because even the staunchest supporter will tire eventually. And then the question becomes who is going to buy Star Citizen when it is done? It has already tapped the bulk of its core audience, so there won’t be any huge amount of box sales. We’ll see if it ends up being something people will be willing to subscribe to in order to play.

    Some of that is, of course, just me. I don’t like to play in betas any more because it takes some of the joy out of playing the finished product. But as Bhagpuss pointed out, Daybreak did this with Landmark, wore out the player base by the time the product released, so there was less than a year between coming out of Early Access and shutting down. I fear Star Citizen may be headed down a similar path, and all the more so because the path will be so much longer. (Obligatory link to Star Citizen feature tracker.)

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  5. Pendan

    Want to echo what SynCaine said. Crowfall I feel is more open than Star Citizen about what they are doing. Weekly updates about a new feature being added but non of it adds up to a fun playable game for me.

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  6. Bhagpuss

    @SynCaine I have no personal interest at all in Star Citizen. If the envisaged space life simulation ever comes to pass it sounds to me as though it would be more tedious and boring than going to work. Other people clearly feel differently, though, and I’ve read enough lengthy accounts of people who are already happilly playing as if the game was already finished to believe that it might well have an audience. Try this from Scopique, for example :

    http://www.levelcapped.com/2018/11/19/all-others-pay-cash-free-trading/

    What I’m starting to wonder is whether there isn’t some significant level of fundemental change taking place. The degree to which large numbers of people are prepared to pay for unfinshed products and services is much more marked than it was even five years ago. I’m less and less certain that this isn’t a change that’s going mainstream. People are much more accepting of getting some enjoyment immediately based on what they can have right now rather than getting more enjoyment later and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. After all, we may all be dead before Star Citizen is “finished” so if you want to play it, why wait?

    Following on from this I’m by no means sure Chris Roberts needs to launch the game at all. A tsome point he will be able to charge people to access it, in the same way everyone sells Early Access packages, but he doesn’t necessarily have to hit a launch date ever. I suspect that we may be looking at a market split between Finished Things and Unfinished Things (by no means just video games) that will separate out along generational lines as well as by psychology. Whether it’s a long-term change or just a cycle that will reverse in a matter of years will be interesting to see.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @Bhagpuss – Heh, and we get back into the problem of there being nothing in video games so dull or tedious that it isn’t somebody’s declared favorite thing. You have to acknowledge different tastes with every statement.

    My gut says that eternal alpha will come back to bite the game at some point. There is, presumably, some demographic of gamers out there, more sane than all of us, that won’t pay for a game before it is done, and that has to be a target audience for somebody out there. Then again, we have seen time and again, that when you pre-sell to your core audience, there is no big payoff to finally exiting alpha or beta or early access or whatever euphemism for “not done yet” a company cares to use, so maybe eternal alpha will work. Maybe you can run a business mostly on promises of what might come rather than what you have today. It seems to be working out for Elon Musk and Tesla. Tesla has sold 300K cars over the life of the company while Ford sells nearly 2 million every year, but Tesla has a higher market cap. Reality loses.

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  8. Kobeathris

    I play Star Citizen currently and enjoy it, but I do take breaks for a while and come back to it. I am definitely it’s target audience though. One thing you need to remember about it is that there are 2 tracks to it being developed right now, the “Star Citizen” track (MMO, persistent universe), which will probably never be 100% finished, but which will for all intents be “Released” whenever they decide to stop doing resets, and Squadron 42 (Single Player, likely with future chapters, no idea if co-op is planned), which likely will be released either next year or the following year. Those of us who play Star Citizen have been testing things that will be part of Squadron 42, but no one has actually played that, and I doubt it will actually have a full test release to all backers prior to launching. Following development, there is a sizable contingent of backers who could care less about Star Citizen, and are actively annoyed by it because they were interested in Squadron 42 from the beginning. That eventual release gives them a hook to bring people in who may have been otherwise burned out by the long alpha.

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  9. Kryss

    @Kobeathris
    >I play Star Citizen currently and enjoy it
    Can you elaborate a bit? What exactly did you enjoy? Is it flight model, shooting mechanic, economy, crafting or something else? What exactly you doing in SC, beside “testing things”?

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  10. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    Derek Smart and Mark Jacobs both showed up in the comment thread of that Massively post I linked and that one guy who won’t let any comment about Star Citizen pass unchallenged just won’t let go.

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  11. Kobeathris

    @Kryss
    I enjoy flying the ships, and the combat in arena commander, but I would like to see improvements in the flight model. I also like exploring in the game, as the, I dunno, realness of the ships and moons is really immersive. For example, I landed on a moon, and was exploring around for a bit a few months ago, and my ship bugged out and wouldn’t take back off. Now, I could just press a button to suicide and respawn, but instead, I picked a direction and started walking. Here’s 2 things that are true. 1 – A moon with several million square kilometers of surface area and only 6 outposts doesn’t have a lot of gameplay content. 2 – Being on a moon with several million square kilometers of surface area, and just the sound of wind and dust blowing by does a really good job of selling your brain on the idea that you are really stranded on another planet. I was in a hilly area with some deep canyons, I crested a hill and saw a flat plain that stretched off to the horizon, and it was amazing.

    For actual gameplay features, the main things you can do for rewards right now are mining, trading, and missions. Missions are pretty buggy and inconsistent for me most of the time, some work better than others, but in general, I avoid them.

    Mining is really 2 parts, Scanning, followed by Mining, and is probably the most interactive take on mining that I have seen in a game. First, you scan, which sends out a ping, and if there are rocks nearby that you can mine, you get a result which shows their general location. This part needs work as it is a bit tedious right now. Then when you find a rock and approach, you get a readout of what minerals it contains and at what concentrations. Should you choose to mine it, you then activate your mining laser and need to control the power level to keep it in a range where you will fracture, but not explode the rock. If you just turn it on, then walk away either it will never fracture, or it will blow-up in your face. The smaller pieces that result can either be collected directly, or will need to be fractured again. In either case, you always get a report of the mineral concentration for each piece. This is important because when you extract ore, you get minerals of varying values, as well as, essentially, slag, which is basically worthless but still fills up your hold. So if you start with a big rock that is say 10% valuable minerals, it might break into 5 rocks, one with 50% minerals, and one with 2% minerals, so you can then decide if the mineral is worth enough to grab everything, or just focus on the choice pieces and move to another rock. This works out being surprisingly fun, and if they work out the tedium with the scanning, I’ll likely focus more on it.

    Trading is basically trading, except, once again, there are more complicating factors. The fact that I have to get into my ship, and fly it where I want to go is a bonus for me personally. Also, knowing when to hit the gas and when to hit the brakes when going from orbit to the surface of a planet can be the difference between a 15 minute trip, a 5 minute trip, and splattering yourself on the ground. There is no “autopilot me down to this outpost and land for me” button. Finally, most of the places you can trade are open to pvp, so caution is warranted as you can find yourself under attack either in your ship, or when leaving your ship to go in to make the trades.

    One last thing, where the realism of the game has value. Last night, I was coming back from a trade run to a space port. I had basically all of my funds tied up in the cargo in my hold. I landed, but something glitched and another ship spawned and pushed my ship back to the edge of the landing platform. I went in to try to sell my stuff anyway, but apparently, it wasn’t detecting me landed there. I went back out, and the other ship was pressed up against the main door of my ship, so I couldn’t get in, and the back end with the cargo ramp was hanging about 15 feet off the ground, so I couldn’t get to to it. So, I walked off the edge of the space station, flew up (space suits have maneuvering jets) about 40 feet so I was above the artificial gravity of the landing pad, and then angled myself to fly into the hold of my ship, which was successful. I was then able to take back off, land again at a clear pad, and finish my trade. Now this was started by a bug, but the rest of it was made possible because Chris Roberts is a loon who is obsessed with “fidelity”.

    I hope that answered your question.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Kryss

    @Kobeathris

    Yes, thank you. It is suprisingly difficult to find out that you can do in game now. Although it seems most interesting situations happens due some bug :) The parts about endless moons and flying into space sounds realy cool.

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  13. Kobeathris

    @Kryss, yeah unless you are really into the flying in space bit, anyone who says you should buy now is smoking something. That said, if you don’t mind dealing with the nonsense, there is more there than the Derek Smarts of the world would have you believe, but it is obviously far from finished. If you want to try it, I think Friday starts a free fly event, you sign up for an account (no charge), and can fly any ship in the game. I’m not sure if it’s just for the weekend or for all next week too.

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  14. zaphod6502

    @Kryss: The scale of the game is really well done. Playing SC gives you the feeling space is really big. Also you can do missions in the persistent universe now and earn credits, etc. Plus if I log out at another location like Lorville it seems to remember where I was. A friend and I took the new Arrow fighters for a spin last night on the new planet and everything went really smoothly. No crashes and a nice 40-90fps. The new planet also has vegetation and forests now so it makes a nice change from the barren wastelands we were flying over previously.

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