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Stick and Rudder: What if Star Citizen fails?

Jef Reahard
Jef Reahard|November 3, 2013 2:00 PM
Stick and Rudder What if Star Citizen fails
As Star Citizen's crowdfunding totals spiral ever higher, so too do the cries of the naysayers, negative nancies, and the ne'er-do-wells who seemingly exist to rain on the space sim sandbox's parade.

Some of this hand-wringing is probably justified since with each new stretch goal, fan expectations for SC increase exponentially. Regardless, what the game has already accomplished is worth celebrating, and two of the most common reasons I've seen cited for remaining skeptical simply don't make sense.

Star Citizen - Anvil's Hornet on reentry
Because of reasons
The first reason is the possibility of backers losing their money. And while I as a backer appreciate the concern of random internet folk regarding my financial health, I'd like to assure said folk that I can afford to lose the money I gave to Cloud Imperium. I'm reasonably certain that the other 300,000 pledgers feel the same since no one was forced to fork it over.

I've touched on this before, at length in fact, but I guess it bears repeating as SC attracts more muggle attention. Star Citizen backers are not investors worried about a return. In fact, they're not investors at all, they're donors. And they're not clueless newbs being bilked out of their money by some sort of ponzi pyramid scheme. They're hardcore gamers who have disposable income to gamble on what could be a fantastic title instead of yet another pointless progression-fueled exercise in skinner box refinement.

Star Citizen - Hornet vs. Aurora
Comprehension fail
The second most popular reason for worrying over Star Citizen has to do with fan expectations and the possibility of the game "failing." And it is certainly possible that Star Citizen could "fail" despite its war chest and despite its talented dev team. That is assuming, of course, that we can all agree on the definition of "fail."

Fail and failure are terms that many gamers, ahem, fail to understand. A quick look through our comments section or really any industry-related forum will tell you as much. There you'll find innumerable instances of the word being slung around and used to describe all manner of games and situations where it doesn't logically apply. MMO players in particular are prone to attaching the "fail" label to long-lived and financially stout games that they themselves have either gotten over or never liked in the first place.

Star Wars: The Old Republic is probably the biggest example, but there are plenty of others. Hell, if I had a nickel for every time a commenter called "fail" on my old Age of Conan column and the game that it highlighted, I'd be a very rich man. The reality is that AoC continues to make money for its parent company over five years after its "failed" launch, its "failed" PvP-to-PvE conversion, and dozens of other "failed" development initiatives.

As for Star Citizen, it's made over $25 million prior to its alpha phase! That is the opposite of failure in the games business.

Star Citizen - Hornet driver
Already successful
And look, even if Star Citizen does actually fail -- either financially or in terms of meeting expectations -- the game has already been extremely successful in blazing a trail for others to follow. Gamers and developers now have definitive proof that no matter how niche or hardcore their tastes may be (it's hard to get more casual-unfriendly than a twitch-based space sim sandbox), it is very possible to fund and develop a triple-A project that doesn't water itself down with mass market appeal.

Similarly, publishers and other hangers-on with questionable value-add credentials have awoken to a reality where their "services" are no longer needed. A wise man once said that 50 percent of the human race is middlemen, and they don't take kindly to being eliminated. But unfortunately for big content middlemen, Star Citizen has served notice that they bloody well will be eliminated whether they like it or not, given the right combination of developer talent and fan interest.

In terms of gameplay "failure" and expectation "failure," it's simply too early to comment intelligently one way or the other. And that's part of what makes this project so fascinating to follow over the long term. Given the transparency with which Star Citizen is being developed, and given the staggered module rollout that will allow for continuous testing, polishing, and refinement, defining personal- or expectation-related "failure" isn't an exact science as it is with other MMOs or other multiplayer games.

I'm obviously betting that my expectations will be met. I'm optimistic because Star Citizen is a passion project as opposed to a quarterly report booster, and as of today, there is no reason to believe that the dev team can't recapture and expand on what I loved about its earlier games. In fact, the only publicly viewable evidence of Star Citizen's quality -- the hangar module and various in-engine videos -- is undeniably impressive. So while I respect the naysayers' right to be negative, I also have to point out how silly it currently sounds.

If for whatever reason my post-launch gameplay expectations aren't met, I'll still consider Star Citizen a huge success because it has already stretched the industry's boundaries and shown publishers, gamers, and everyone else what is possible.

Whether it's interviews with Chris Roberts and the Cloud Imperium team or tips and guides for pushing your ship's performance envelope, Stick and Rudder is your inside source for news and commentary on the world of Star Citizen. Join Jef Reahard every other week during the run-up to alpha, beta, and beyond.
Stick and Rudder: What if Star Citizen fails?