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Star Citizen - Fishing for Space Whales


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It's a bit like the Star Wars thread, they've done a really good job encouraging scifi escapism (and general space game nostalgia) through marketing into an echo chamber where it's super acceptable to buy $150 BB-8s or $400 Starliners as a sign of your fanboy commitment.

Average spend is $100 so far, some of the whales have spent $25,000 (one guy named Accelerwraith while unemployed for 7 months, which yikes).

With Star Wars, I can sort of understand it. I'm just genuinely a bit taken aback that there is $90m worth of space game nostalgia out there, and it's almost all been directed at Star Citizen. Even Elite: Dangerous - always the Iain M Banks to Wing Commander's Jerry Pournelle - only raised £1.7m.

Someone should do a high-profile crowdfunding campaign for other dead genres of the 1990s, like flight simulators. If you managed to tap into that keyboard overlay / 100,000 word manual vein of nostalgia, you could probably retire off the back of it.

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Someone should do a high-profile crowdfunding campaign for other dead genres of the 1990s, like flight simulators. If you managed to tap into that keyboard overlay / 100,000 word manual vein of nostalgia, you could probably retire off the back of it.

They've never really gone away, just disappeared from the mainstream.

In the military still works, Eagle Dynamics with DCS are producing fighter sims with doorstep sized PDF manuals.

For FSX, companies like PMDG are making 777 and 747 sims with 4 or 5 manuals reproduced from the original Boeing documents.

Not that the mainstream games media are at all interested in any of these!

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It's a bit like the Star Wars thread, they've done a really good job encouraging scifi escapism (and general space game nostalgia) through marketing into an echo chamber where it's super acceptable to buy $150 BB-8s or $400 Starliners as a sign of your fanboy commitment.

Average spend is $100 so far, some of the whales have spent $25,000 (one guy named Accelerwraith while unemployed for 7 months, which yikes).

The difference is that the BB-8 toy is a real thing that you can get and use right now. Buying a £1,000 spaceship allows you to walk around it in a hanger and not much else, for now at least.

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Apparently you can save money by getting the digital version (of the ships manual) for $12. You have to pay for a Readme file.

As a developer you surely have to appreciate the evil brilliance on some level: while other games are often criticised for having bad tutorials or cumbersome controls, Chris Roberts is instead turning it around by selling readme file manuals for each individual ship directly to the players. Instead of complaints you get cash!

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The Organics Module allows for various forms of plant life to be grown in a tightly controlled environment and harvested for profit. The basic requirements for farming are soil, fertilizer, seeds, and water, all of which can be purchased at garden supply stores that will be located in most major landing zones or, in some cases, mined or otherwise extracted from the environment.

Farming is a labor intensive process that requires a fairly meticulous attention to detail. There are two parts to the basic puzzle: ascertaining exactly what a particular plant species requires in order to thrive, and giving that to them at the appropriate time. The variables include the quality of the soil, the type of fertilizer, the temperature, the amount of water, and the type and quantity of radiation.

An Organics Module consists of two Biodomes, each of which consists of multiple discrete sections – gardening beds – where different species can be planted. Each section has growth lights above it, and a command console that allows the type and quantity of radiation to be specified and the application therefore automated. The temperature of a Biodome – but not the individual sections – can be specified, so if multiple species are grown alongside one another it’s best to ensure that they have similar tolerances with regard to temperature. The application of water, fertilizer, and the harvesting of the plants is done manually.

Many of the sturdier plant species will grow and prosper in standard, run-of-the-mill soil with a basic nitrogen/phosphorus/potassium fertilizer, a temperate climate, a moderate amount of water, and 8-10 hours per day of standard radiation from the growth lights. In order to reach their full potential, more exotic – and lucrative – species may require a higher quality soil, a specialized type of fertilizer, warmer or cooler temperatures, more or less water, and a particular type and quantity of radiation.

Each species of plant is effectively a puzzle, and the job of a farmer is to figure out the optimal solution in order to produce the highest quality plants at the lowest price. Most plants are valued for their end result – the fruit or vegetables that they produce, their use as an herb or spice, their fragrance, or a medical compound that can be extracted. Some, however, are valued simply for their appearance. While some of these outputs can be preserved for extended durations, others have a very short shelf life, and must be delivered to their destination soon after having been extracted or else their value will diminish appreciably.

A productive farmer that focuses on the basics will often be able to earn a solid living, but the most profitable opportunities in this field will revolve around figuring out how to grow more exotic species that are notoriously difficult to reproduce, but for which there is high demand and very limited supply. Attaining such mastery will not come easily or cheaply, as short of procuring the elusive and expensive seeds oneself the repeated trial-and-error sessions that will be necessary will cost a small fortune.

Features inevitably evolve over the course of development, and one of the more interesting ones currently under consideration is whether or not some sources of radiation – critical for the development of some of the more valuable types of plant life – might be cost prohibitive to artificially generate, and thus players might have to seek out natural sources within a given solar system. Some species might respond favorably to being bathed in a star’s corona, which would tax the shielding of a ship to its limit, and others to the soft glow of a nebula, which would likely attract others that would seek to control such a valuable piece of real estate.

So the latest ship has space farming, to go with the space drink mixing from the last ship:

NjZQpqy.png

They're not actually developing any of these gameplay systems, or any of the previously mentioned ones like Cargo Commander and Space Court System, they just seem to be an excuse for random members of staff like the community manager to pretend to be game designers by writing something out, so I don't know why they bother.

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As a developer you surely have to appreciate the evil brilliance on some level: while other games are often criticised for having bad tutorials or cumbersome controls, Chris Roberts is instead turning it around by selling readme file manuals for each individual ship directly to the players. Instead of complaints you get cash!

I think they're seriously into L. Ron Hubbard territory now. They just need to stop any actual development and turn the game into a sort of eternal myth. They shouldn't actually build or even design the ships- just announce prices.

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:lol: it's true though, why do you want to grow plants in a space sim?

The game design is literally just "wouldn't it be cool if?" with no thought to practicality.

They have a "10 questions for the chairmen" where they get questions like "can I discover a new sentient alien species and teach them language and concepts" and the answer to them is never no.

Like Chris Roberts was really enamoured with his idea of having you sit in the cockpit drinking a beer while modules are swapped out of your ship in canned animations by mechanical arms outside. Although thinking about what that you take you realise that would involve complete canned animations for dozens of modules multiplied by dozens of ships, representing multiple thousands of animations taking numerous man-years of work to build for no gameplay benefit.

After a year of having no-one working on it, they finally told someone to work on it and realised it was impossible and scrapped it.

The cargo system was written by the community manager and involves playing inventory cargo tetris, including physically simulated boxes that you need to web together and can break out when the ship comes under fire. Anyone thinking practically would realise dealing with dozens of physically simulated bodies all colliding with each other and the ship while in battle with someone else would have huge performance issues, not to mention netcode issues syncing the position of every body across every other client in the instance for no gameplay benefit.

It was designed a year ago, no one is working on it, and when they do they'll realise it is impossible and scrap it.

And then Space Court, where you can go and present evidence and protest your defence against prosecution by the space cops...

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It's fair to note Star Citizen aren't the only ones selling fantasy dream games to lonely middle-aged nerds, there's also Revival, for those who find medieval fantasy more their thing.

Just like Star Citizen, it is growing by doing modules at a time, starting the same way as their Private Hangars with a "housing module", made up of houses that cost hundreds of dollars that you can walk around in, with the rest of the game off in the nebulous future. They're also doing the "impossible descriptions of future gameplay experiences", just look at this:

Rhys likes to think of himself as a stargazer. Every night, he uses his telescope and scans the stars. He notes the passage of those that take their own paths across the sky, and do not keep concert with the rest of the firmament. These are the harbingers of the powers known to astrology as the Wanderers. They appear, move across the firmament, and vanish on their own schedule.

Rhys knows that the Wanderers are tied to the events occurring on the surface of Theleston, and that by keeping careful track he may cultivate an understanding of what powers are ascendant at any given time. To many, this would be trivial knowledge. The celestial body known as “Iceflower” is always in the sky for the winter season, the yellow star “Sunchild” always climbs the sky in the spring, to fall in the summer and stay hidden for the rest of the year. To an average yam farmer, the positions of these stars means little more than to plant or reap, but to those with an eye on the occult, the positions of the Wanderers can speak volumes.

Not only do the appearance and movement of the Wanderers suggest to the initiated what powers are active in the world, the Wanderers can indicate which powers can be called upon, when they can be cast out, or what, if any, limits there are on those that seek to wield the most powerful magics on Theleston. Ritual magics are tied to the stars’ position inextricably, and most rituals must be performed when certain celestial bodies are in the sky, and in the right place - lest they fail, or worse.

Nearly a month past, while Nodens’ cold blue Chariot was making a slow traversal of the heavens, the guardian statues in Nightgaunt’s Reach were seen to animate and perambulate the square, and when that cult of Beth-Khalor terrorized Skypass, bolstered by blood magic and killing in the streets, it was by the light of red Ghora, the star called “The Fox” by the Brauggines of Greyshore. Rhys has even read a tale of a great comet called only Nemesis, that legend says will call out to all Great Old Ones, eliciting strife upon Theleston as it passes.

Tonight there is a new star in the sky, one Rhys has not seen before. This is interesting to be sure, but is not necessarily negative. It could simply be that this new body is on a long cycle, and Rhys has never seen it in his time learning to read the stars, or it could be that this star hasn’t before shone in the skies. It’s likely that the thing bears some portent, at any rate. It’s rarity alone suggests as much, but what does it mean? Rhys is curious, perhaps his colleagues in his astrologer’s Charter Organization will know.

Rhys leaves his manse on Ciryth’s Walk and travels to the shared house on Grousewalk Way that his Charter Organization calls home. He is lucky, as today there are two of his associates online, and they are both at the Charter House. After some conversation, the other two take a look at the skies. Indeed one of them, Sten, does know which Wanderer this new star is, having picked the knowledge out of a treatise on the Great Old Ones housed in the Brauggine Abbey. He identifies it as Kyb, or the “Deep Egg” and goes on to relate that Kyb only shows itself when Mother Haedra is awake. Sten goes on to say that Deep Egg sits rolling in a part of the sky that indicates that Haedra has only just awoken, and admonishes the others to watch for her growing influence over the coming days. Rhys leaves, determined to gain access to the Brauggine library and the tags that will allow him to identify Kyb in the future, while Sten and his colleague stay behind to decide what actions, if any, the Charter Organization will take.

Meanwhile, elsewhere on Crowns Rock, a coven of Haedra worshipping ritual magicians have also been watching the sky. The appearance of this new star is one that they’ve been waiting for since Freyda discovered it’s existence in a paen to Headra, translated from a scroll written in a lost city long before the New Reckoning. Freyda paid dearly for the scroll, but now recognizes Kyb when she surfaces from the deep aether. Freyda alerts her own colleagues, a Secret Society dedicated to Mother Haedra.

In twos and threes they make their way to a small beach on the north-eastern shore of the island. Once the nine of them have assembled, their ritual mistress Aloura confirms that all are ready, initiates the ritual circle, and together the coven begins the six-minute ritual that will draw Haedra’s attention and blessings to them. When they have finished Kyb will have slid across the sky and into a position much less salubrious to those that favor the Elder Gods, but Sten is no longer watching, and Rhys won't notice until tomorrow night, when it will be too late.

Until then, Haedra rises.

The media just aren't playing along and breathlessly hyping this one, so it's not getting much traction.

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Collapse an interstellar cloud, and then you, your children, your children's children and beyond for millions of generations can watch the real-time creation, life and death of an entire stellar system spanning literally billions of years.

Yours for just $20 a month, over 120 billion monthly installments.*

*Minimum subscription, 2 billion years.

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I made a list of all the mechanics that aren't anything more than a design document 3.5 years into development:


  • trade
  • exploration
  • industry
  • economy
  • science
  • law and order
  • shield management
  • radar ops/scanning
  • EWAR
  • communications
  • module overclocking
  • salvage
  • power management
  • avionics
  • cpu management
  • refinery management
  • navigation
  • cargo management
  • cargo loading
  • ship repair
  • character interaction
  • astronomy
  • first aid and surgery
  • space tribunal system (!?)
  • beverage mixing (!?)
  • space dvr repair (!?)
  • farm citizen (!?)

I might have missed a few.

The separate singleplayer game might actually reach the light of day though, that's in the UK, largely insulated from Chris Roberts micromanagement and is just based on combat, so apart from the odd event like the departure of the entire character team, I get the feeling it's progressing.

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So I take it from the disparity between the thread title and today's discussion that Derek Smart would actually win in a court of law over this?

If Wing Commander had $90m worth of fans out there, then the franchise would still be going, surely?

It's still chump change by modern AAA gaming standards and you forget that EA own the rights to the name, and they wouldn't get out of bed for such a piddling amount. EA spend over $1 Billion per annum on development alone.

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Chump change? What are you on about? That's Rockstar money. It's more than the reported budget for MGS5. According to Wikipedia Star Citizen is the fifteenth most expensive game ever.

You stated, If there is $90 Million worth of value to this type of game, why isn't it still being commercially exploited? correct? That is chump change in terms of revenue, especially if you expect them to spend that amount on developing it.

To make it worth EA's while, they'd be wanting to see several times that amount back for that level of investment, it's barely 1.5 Million units sold at $60, in several years. It's the same problem with the whole common disbelief about the Tomb Raider reboot and why it was a disappointment financially to Square Enix.

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You stated, If there is $90 Million worth of value to this type of game, why isn't it still being commercially exploited? correct? That is chump change in terms of revenue, especially if you expect them to spend that amount on developing it.

To make it worth EA's while, they'd be wanting to see several times that amount back for that level of investment, it's barely 1.5 Million units sold at $60, in several years. It's the same problem with the whole common disbelief about the Tomb Raider reboot and why it was a disappointment financially to Square Enix.

Yeah, and you said that EA wouldn't get out of bed for $90m, which is clearly nonsense. If EA thought a new Wing Commander game would have people buying virtual spaceships for $400 and would bring in that kind of money pre-release, they'd be commissioning the development of the game with one hand, while ladling the sperm out of their trousers with the other.

You don't think $90m in revenue from one game on one format would pique their interest? How much money do you think EA brings in on PC games per year?

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You stated, If there is $90 Million worth of value to this type of game, why isn't it still being commercially exploited? correct? That is chump change in terms of revenue, especially if you expect them to spend that amount on developing it.

To make it worth EA's while, they'd be wanting to see several times that amount back for that level of investment, it's barely 1.5 Million units sold at $60, in several years. It's the same problem with the whole common disbelief about the Tomb Raider reboot and why it was a disappointment financially to Square Enix.

That's a bit of oversimplification, as that $60 game wouldn't be making its developer or publisher $60 a pop - more like $20 to the publisher, after the cut going to the console maker*, the retailer and physical production - none of which have been a factor in this case,. So this is probably closer to 4.5 million sales' worth of revenue - which, for a PC only release is very high indeed.

*because if it's a $60 game, it's almost certainly a console game

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If anyone wants a case study on how to make a profitable relaunch of an old space flight franchise for far less than $90 million there's Elite Dangerous.

I'm sure a decent mid budget revamp of Wing Commander would do well, but I think Chris Roberts has always been a developer fixated on shock and awe and cutting edge production values.

Star Citizen sounds like a complete disaster and there's something unsettling to me about taking $200 a pop for notional ownership of pretend space ships. But that's what makes it one of the most interesting stories in video games right now, and I'm fascinated to see how it all pans out.

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