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Stick and Rudder: Star Citizen's backlash effect

Stick and Rudder: Star Citizen's backlash effect
Jef Reahard
Jef Reahard|February 23, 2014 2:00 PM

Stick and Rudder - Star Citizen's backlash effect

Can someone help me understand the Star Citizen backlash effect? I mean, seriously. If Chris Roberts and his Cloud Imperium developers announced that the game's next stretch goal was a cure for cancer, the first comment on the resulting news article would be some variation on "bullsh#@!"

Followed closely by "that's not possible" and "feature creep!"

My question, though, is why?

Star Citizen Mustang
Part of me understands profoundly disliking certain games. I'm one of the few pro bloggers honest enough to publicly admit a loathing for World of Warcraft. But that dislike stems from what the game willfully lacks, not from what it says it's aiming for in the future. If Blizzard were to turn around and state that it was making WoW into more of a virtual world and less of a skinner box time-sink, I'd be first in line to hand over my money and my undying fanboy support.

And that's where my disconnect with the Star Citizen hate parade starts. OK, you don't think the game has a realistic set of goals. First-person combat and a robust economy and procedurally generated planetary environments are simply too much to ask for in concert with a triple-A space sim, right? Setting aside the vast amount of game development experience that enables you to arrive at such a conclusion, why do you fault a creative company for dreaming big -- or at least, bigger than the MMO themepark norm -- and in fact being creative? Isn't that what creatives are supposed to do? Isn't that why we play MMOs in the first place? Because they theoretically offer more than we can get in single-player offline titles?

Star Citizen Mustang
So why bust the chops of developers who are laboring to make a real live virtual world instead of another feature-deficient DIKU retread? Why punish them for saying, yes, MMOs are supposed to be more than gear score and level grinds and alt-tabbing to whatever website tells you exactly what you need to get exactly where you want to go in the shortest possible time?

If we're having this same conversation five years from now, after Star Citizen has crashed and burned or after it's rolled out a barely functioning shell of the feature set promised thus far, then fine. At that point I'll understand and probably even agree.

But until that happens, shouldn't you hedge your bets and refrain from making yourself look completely ignorant in case CIG manages to pull this off? Or failing that, shouldn't you root for such an ambitious game to succeed? Why wouldn't you? Unless you're a fan of the status quo and you somehow feel threatened.

Frankly stranger things than Star Citizen's future feature-completeness have happened. Decades ago mankind walked on the moon. Decades prior to that, man flew in a machine of his own fabrication. I'm not fully comparing Star Citizen to two of the most incredible achievements in the history of, well, history, but the same pioneering spirit is there. If the internet and/or Kickstarter had been around in the early or mid-20th century, would NASA and the Wright brothers have been similarly shouted down by the anonymous armchair collective who feels the need to crap on everything with amazing potential?

And again, why?

Star Citizen Mustang

Is it the money involved? I mean, yeah, $40 million is a chunk of change. But it's also a chunk of change that was given willingly by hopeful fans who can afford it and who don't have a game of their own. It wasn't fleeced out of an employment-challenged playerbase via lockboxes or callously extracted from a handful of free-to-play whales with more money than sense. It was donated in service of seeing a dream made real, and yet somehow that's worthy of scorn, derision, and I guess, jealousy?

I just don't get it.

For fans, or even mildly interested industry observers, the prudent thing to do is reserve judgment until we've actually played the launch product. That's easier said than done, both for bloggers whose natural instinct is to be critical and for fans who've been burned by sub-par MMOs more times than they can count. But the truth is that we have no compelling reason to doubt CIG at this stage. None. Actually the logical thing is to expect complete fulfillment because we have a proven developer with a significant warchest at his disposal.

That fact aside, no one knows whether a game like Star Citizen can or cannot be done because no one has ever tried it. One thing I do know is that it's cheap and easy to say that it won't meet all its goals, and that goes double for the anonymous developers who chirp at CIG in comment sections or via social media, all the while professing their incredulity at the company's means and methods.

I mean, OK, you're building pro games on a daily basis, so your opinion theoretically carries more weight than that of Joe Blow the Commenting Schmo. But unless you're going to share your real name and your resume and detail your experience with a project of Star Citizen's scale/budget, I'm going to lump your opinion in there with the rest of the armchair experts.

At the end of this particular rant, I guess what it boils down to is frustration on my part that so many so-called MMO fans seem so down on a project that should be inspiring them. A lot of it is probably good ol' fashioned internet asshattery, too, and here I am falling for it and feeding the trolls. But I'd like to see more people sitting back and enjoying the ride that is Star Citizen's development process rather than seeking to tear it down at every opportunity.


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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Stick and Rudder: Star Citizen's backlash effect