Comm-Link:Letter from the Chairman - 2018-08-03
I hope you are all enjoying Star Citizen Alpha 3.2.1. We’re having a great time checking out the community streams, videos, and screenshots that you’re creating. Events like the Spanish Community getting together for a 50-person Quantum Jump to Daymar and a huge coordinated mixed-arms battle give us all an exciting glimpse at the possibilities of the universe that we’re building. CitizenCon and Star Citizen Alpha 3.3.
We were very happy with the format of last year’s CitizenCon and felt it was the most successful CitizenCon yet – the community could spend a solid amount of time with the developers and had the opportunity to learn about the game in a way impossible from a single presentation. This year we are doubling down on this approach to make it even more like a convention, and we have some pretty cool things in store for you that we’ll be sharing in the coming month.
As part of our planning for CitizenCon, we need to make sure that it works with our new quarterly release schedule so that we don’t overload our development teams. In terms of focus and split deadlines, it doesn’t make much sense to deliver Star Citizen Alpha 3.3 at the end of September and then a few days later have CitizenCon, as it creates two big deadlines back to back and leaves us with less opportunity to surprise the community at the event.
Because of this, we’ve made the decision to align the Alpha 3.3 release (and subsequent 3rd quarter releases in the future) with CitizenCon, which this year will be on Oct 10th in Austin, Texas.
Going forward the release will be: Q1 end of March, Q2 the end of June, Q3 in October with CitizenCon, and the Q4 in mid-to-late December. We feel this makes the most sense for both the development teams and you, the community. We’re looking forward to Star Citizen Alpha 3.3 becoming part of the CitizenCon celebration.
While on Reverse the Verse last month to discuss the release of 3.2, I mentioned that we were looking to revamp our video content to be more targeted to what we see as the three distinct groups that we would like to engage: 1. Hardcore backers that consume everything, from the shows, to Jump Point, to enthusiastic forum discussions. 2. Casual backers. They believe in and support Star Citizen but only check in occasionally and don’t have time to follow every little bit of information. 3. Potential or new backers who don’t know much about Star Citizen but would like to learn more. You may have noticed the start of this format change with Around the Verse. We’ve been working to create a shorter, faster-moving show that feels more like a TV news show – one that strikes a good balance between quick updates and visuals; less talk, more show.
It’s still a work in progress and we’re in the process of beefing up our Video Production team with some new hires, as up to now we have relied on only a few people who have been putting in far too many hours than we felt healthy in order to satisfy in the insatiable demand for new Star Citizen content.
Part of this initiative has caused us to sit down and look at the long-term plan for how we deliver interesting content each week without distracting or breaking the flow of the development teams.
It’s a difficult tightrope to walk. If we hold too much back, we’re accused of not being ‘open’ enough. Show everything, and people shrug their shoulders when we demo new content at a live event or are underwhelmed by a new release because they’ve already seen it on ATV. Because of this, we have decided to hold a few things back to have some features and content to surprise you at CitizenCon and on future releases. Don’t worry, there’s still plenty to show and discuss but we want a healthy balance between ongoing engagement and updates and genuine excitement and discovery.
However, ATV is only one piece of the puzzle as we plan to improve the quality of our behind-the-scenes featurettes. To do this, we’ve decided to not share deep dives on features that are in the middle of development, as we feel we can’t do them justice while they’re still being refined. Plus, it’s a pretty big strain on the development team when we make additional demands for interview time and b-roll creation while they are knee deep trying to deliver the feature.
Our new plan is to do fewer featurettes, but make them longer and of a higher quality, with better b-roll and graphics than past videos. We will only deep-dive into a feature or addition once it has been completed, to make sure we can tell the full story; from concept to in game. These featurettes are aimed at the first group I mentioned earlier: hardcore backers that want to know all the details and will make the time to do so.
The final part of the new Community video plan is to create video content aimed at the new or potential backers that want an easy digestible ‘in’ to the universe of Star Citizen, as well as giving existing backers a show to share with their friends to give them a taste of what Star Citizen is about. Casual backers should have content that they’ll enjoy when they want to catch up with the development of the game and universe.
We think this plan walks the appropriate line between too much and too little and addresses the three major audience groups that we’re trying to cater to.
Recently a few people have voiced their concerns about the removal of the player UEC wallet cap that came with the release of Star Citizen Alpha 3.2. This was done to help smooth over the transition to an in-game economy and to give people that had purchased game items through the now-defunct Voyager Direct web store the ability to ‘melt’ them back for UEC, so they can repurchase new items in-game. As we are going to be rebalancing the pricing and economy as we expand the game, and as we currently reset everyone’s accounts when we release a new patch, we felt it would be unfair to force people to keep items they may have bought at a radically different price. This would have happened if we’d kept the overall hard cap on UEC as many players had amassed a lot more than 150,000 UEC worth of items. We still limit the maximum purchasing to 25,000 UEC a day, but we felt that removing the cap was the right call, especially as with every persistent database reset we need to refund players the UEC they have purchased with money and used to buy in-game items. It’s one thing to lose an item due to gameplay, but it’s a complete other thing to have your game account forcibly reset with each new patch, losing all the items you paid actual money for.
Putting aside the puzzle of why some people don’t have a problem with stockpiling ships or items but a player having more than 150,000 UEC is game breaking, I think it may be useful to revisit Star Citizen’s economic model.
Developing and operating a game of Star Citizen’s ambition is expensive. From day one of the campaign we’ve been quite clear on the economic model for Star Citizen, which is to not require a subscription like many MMOs, but instead rely on sales of initial game packages and in-game money to fund development and online running costs. To ensure money isn’t a deciding factor in progression, the core principle that the game follows is that everything you can obtain with real money, outside of your initial game package, can also be earned in game via normal and fun gameplay. There will also be plenty of things that can only be earned by playing.
There are two types of resource players have that they can contribute to Star Citizen to make it better: time and money. A player that has lots of time but only backed for the basic game helps out by playing the game, giving feedback, and assisting new players. On the flip side, if a player has a family and a demanding job and only has four hours to game a week but wants to spend some money to shortcut the time investment they would need to purchase a new ship, what’s wrong with that? They are helping fund the ongoing development and running costs of the game, which benefits everyone. The exact same ship can be earned through pure gameplay without having to spend any money and the backer that has plenty of time is likely to be better at dogfighting and FPS gameplay after playing more hours to earn the ship. I don’t want to penalize either type of backer; I want them both to have fun. People should not feel disadvantaged because they don’t have time, nor should they feel disadvantaged if they don’t have money. I want our tent to be large and encompass all types of players with varied skill sets, time, and money.
This was the economic approach I proposed out when I first pitched Star Citizen because it is the model as a player I prefer. I don’t like to have to pay a subscription just to play and I hate when things are deliberately locked behind a paywall, but as someone that doesn’t have twenty hours a week to dedicate to building up my character or possessions, I appreciate the option to get a head start if I’m willing to pay a little extra.
Some people are worried that they will be disadvantaged when the game starts for ‘real’ compared to players that have stockpiled ships or UEC. This has been a debate on the forums since the project started, but this is not a concern for me as I know what the game will be and I know how we’re designing it.
There will always be some players that have more than others, regardless of whether they’ve spent more or played more, because people start at different times and play at different paces. This is the nature of persistent MMOs. Star Citizen isn’t some race to the top; it’s not like Highlander where “There can only be one!” It is an open-ended Persistent Universe Sandbox that doesn’t have an end game or a specific win-state. We are building it to cater to players of all skill levels, that prefer PvE or PvP, that like to play solo or in a group or a large organization, that want to pursue various professions, some peaceful and some combat orientated. This is the core philosophy of Star Citizen; there isn’t one path, nor is there one way to have fun.
This may be a foreign concept to gamers as the majority of games are about winning and losing, but Star Citizen isn’t a normal game. It’s a First Person Universe that allows you to live a virtual life in a compelling futuristic setting. You win by having fun, and fun is different things to different people.
See you in the ‘Verse!
— Chris Roberts