A cursory glance of social media and various forums is all it takes to see the depth of passion and reverence people hold for Star Citizen, and the people making it. That doesn't mean there aren't concerns, and many of those have been raised over the last few weeks and months.
A lot of those concerns have hit Sandi Gardiner, the wife of Chris Roberts and Star Citizen's VP of marketing, directly. And some of those couldn't help but flow out, albeit inadvertently, during CitizenCon's opening moments.
Rather than a traditional intro, Gardiner read out a letter. Perhaps it was a follow-up, or addition, to Chris's earlier public response to what Cloud Imperium Games has since termed "specific, slanderous allegations". Some of those were targeted at Gardiner directly: you can read CIG's response in full.
In any case, Gardiner's had a bad couple of weeks — and in an emotional, tearful delivery, the impact of that became apparent. "From being the target of an anonymous hate campaign, to flowers and gifts and many compliments from a lot of our fans — so thank you to all of you who wrote me a nice customer service ticket," she read.
Crowdfunding records and scope aside, one of the most fascinating elements about Star Citizen is the sheer amount of communication. It's in vogue for developers to be open with their fans, honest about delays and clear when it comes to release dates, progress and features. Developers are more accessible these days anyway — it's how social media works, after all.
But that also means people are more exposed. The gaming industry is famous for being fickle, to put it politely. It's capable of showering the objects of its affection with incredible love, while those that earn its ire can be subject to intense savagery. YouTube some videos of Lord Gaben, or spend some time browsing StarCraft forums to see the kind of respect afforded to David Kim.
At CitizenCon, Gardiner inadvertently revealed — in front of the faithful — some of that struggle. This is, after all, the wife of a husband who works seven days a week. A man who has been around the industry for decades, but stayed awake during the Kickstarter campaign for so long that he had to be accompanied into a hotel bed.
The company, as she read out amongst a string of facts and figures, has published 1622 Commlinks, 1406 Citizen Spotlights, 232 livestreams and 222 Deep Space Radars since crowdfunding efforts began nearly three years ago to the day. Not all of that is official communication from CIG themselves — much is just the republication or linking of content produced by fans.
That level of emotion can be a double-edged sword, particularly when people on either side of the divide interact. And as the coffers for Star Citizen continue to grow, more questions will continue to be asked. Gardiner's emotion was a brief window into those questions, and the pressure they bring.
Deep down most people, even if they're not backers or fans of space sims in general, want Star Citizen to succeed. Any failure, or perceived failure, would be an astronomical slight against the careers of hundreds, Chris Roberts, but also for crowdfunding generally. After all, we're talking hundreds of thousands of individual backers. Some may have spent thousands. Some have spent significantly less. But anything that goes awry could result in them spending less later on.
It's almost difficult to remember a climate where space sims were so out of vogue, but a time existed when Egosoft and X: Rebirth was considered one of the great hopes for those who wanted to fly around space. Evochron Mercenary and total conversions of Freespace 2 were solid recommendations if you wanted an authentic space experience. It was a legacy genre banished to the past, like the General series of games or the wave of action-arcade flight games from Jane's, MicroProse and others.
That pressure is immense and it takes its toll. On a weekend where Chinese Room composer Jessica Curry posted about the toll game development can take on you, Gardiner helped illuminate a side of development that isn't often seen. It's not that we don't see or hear from those who are working on a game; only that, like so much of the video strewn across the internet, we so rarely see the humans behind them.