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Stick and Rudder: On Star Citizen's E3 absence

Jef Reahard

So E3 happened this past week. If you're a Massively regular, you're no doubt aware of that since we spammed up our front page and your RSS feed with gobs of hands-on coverage including everything from racing games to The Elder Scrolls Online.

One thing we didn't cover was Star Citizen, because thankfully, Cloud Imperium's upcoming space sim sandbox didn't bother with an official E3 presence.

Star Citizen - Hornet front view
When I say "thankfully," you might infer that I dislike E3, but that's not entirely true. I covered the event in person for the first time last year, and to be frank I feel like it's something that every gaming fan -- and certainly every gaming blogger -- needs to experience once or twice.

Star Citizen, though, with its bleeding edge PC pedigree and mod-friendly sim-style gameplay, likely wouldn't get so much as a "meh" from the masses of twentysomething game journos with heads bowed to their DS Lites in between mad scrambles from one swag opportunity to the next.

Star Citizen - Enemy fighterThere's a certain shallow, frenetic intensity to E3, and while Chris Roberts and company were reportedly in town for a little investor wheeling and dealing, I'm ecstatic that Cloud Imperium didn't blow a wad of cash on a show floor booth or the usual hotel interview suite setup. In this, as in most everything else the firm has done since announcing Star Citizen last fall, it's clear that the game is all that matters.

Not the crowdfunding records. Not the contentious complaints from some of the armchair devs in the early-adopter community. And certainly not the typical AAA hype and marketing cycle, the budget for which sometimes outstrips the budgets for the actual games being made.

What hype Star Citizen has garnered to this point is due almost entirely to Roberts' ballsy "this-is-a-PC-game-and-this-is-a-space-sim" crowdfunding kickoff video, which was circulated by various gaming press outlets as well as dedicated internet gaming communities full of underserved genre vets.

Star Citizen - Hornet top viewE3 doesn't offer a whole lot to this particular audience, since PC gaming is a convention afterthought and the lion's share of the focus is always on Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo, and their biggest and brightest third-party partners. Now, there's probably a little bit of crossover interest in the Star Citizen community if I can use myself as an anecdotal case. I buy all the consoles and I watched all the reveals and associated glitz, but I'm betting that I'm in the minority in terms of Cloud Imperium's pre-alpha backers.

Going back to consoles for a minute, though, it is possible that we might play a version of Star Citizen on our couches at some point. Don't believe me? Well, Roberts had nice things to say about the PlayStation 4 earlier this year.
The good news is that it's essentially a PC, so that means PC owners will get much better ports of console games. I'm not a PC elitist by any means; if I could be on the PS4, and they were open, and I could do the updating and all the sort of stuff we're trying to do on Star Citizen, then I would definitely consider putting it on PS4, because it's essentially a PC with a friendlier operating system.
If, and I realize it's a big if, but if that comes to pass, then I could see Cloud Imperium rubbing elbows with the likes of Assassin's Creed XVVVIXXIXIV and Call of Duty 72 on the E3 2015 show floor. Star Citizen certainly has the graphical chops to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with any game you'd care to name, but I'm confident that Roberts and company are keen on servicing their niche PC base first and offering the title to a more general audience after it's well and truly kicking ass on its original platform.

Star Citizen - Carrier side view
Roberts didn't mention anything about Microsoft's next-gen machine, of course, probably because the firm hadn't specified much about it at the time of the interview quoted above. I'd imagine it's a long-shot, though, given Microsoft's hefty patching fees and its insistence on some sort of pre-existing publisher relationship. And hey, the lack of Star Citizen would be another in a long line of great reasons to pile on the point-and-laugh PR disaster that is the XBox One, at least from my perspective!

I don't want to spend too much time talking about a consolized Star Citizen in this column because hardware and input limitations are precisely what a game like this seeks to avoid. Regardless of how awesome and functional a PS4 version might end up being, particularly if it offers cross-platform servers and therefore a greatly expanded potential playerbase, SC will remain first and foremost a PC game. I doubt you'll ever be able to mod the game client, design your own ships and modules, or host and pimp out your own private server on a console. And you'll never be able to map dozens of flight simulator-style functions to even the most advanced console controller.

Because of all that, I'm more than OK with Star Citizen's absence at E3 2013 and really any other gaming convention, though it is worth noting that Cloud Imperium will be attending Gamescom this August in some sort of official capacity.

Given that the bigger cons are almost exclusively geared toward consoles and the new gaming mainstream, and given Star Citizen's pre-alpha state, Cloud Imperium's resources are probably best left building the game at this point rather than trying to sell it to anyone other than the folks who have already bought in.

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.

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