Even Star Citizen Fans Are Getting Shitty About Squadron 42

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star citizen squadron 42
Image: Supplied

Star Citizen fans might possibly be the most patient group of humans in the universe. Not only have they tolerated one of the longest and loudest development cycles for a game in history, they’ve continually poured out their wallets to make the space epic’s feature creep a reality, making Star Citizen the most expensive game in history.

But even the diehard have their limits.

A thread on the official Star Citizen sub-reddit has been gaining a lot of steam over the last 72 hours. The main point of contention? A promise made by the Star Citizen developers earlier this year to include more Squadron 42 — that’s the single-player focused offshoot of Star Citizen, for those who haven’t kept track — content into their regular updates.

Here was the specific promise from Cloud Imperium Games back in March, days before the whole planet went into lockdown:

When we first embarked on this Roadmap journey two years ago, our goal was to make communication more transparent, specific, and insightful for all of you who help make Star Citizen and Squadron 42 possible. While this goal remains unchanged, we’ve found that the format in which we’ve attempted to visualize our progress linearly does not match the approach we’re taking in the development of Squadron 42.

We want to be clear: progress on Squadron 42 is happening and we’re broadly happy with that progress. But we know that our roadmap is not reflecting that progress. Over time, we’ve found that the roadmap as presented does not and cannot accurately represent development on a AAA chapter-based, story-driven game like SQ42. So, we’re going back to the proverbial drawing board to explore different approaches for Squadron 42.

With immediate effect, we will incorporate more Squadron 42 content into our regular Sprint Reports on ISC, Calling All Devs, AMAs (Ask Me Anything Q&As), and more. In addition to our scheduled content such as the SQ42 Monthly Report, we’re also looking forward to providing regular video check-ins with Brian Chambers and a variety of members of the Squadron 42 team.

The impact of the post meant that the public Squadron 42 updates were suddenly a lot less public. While regular communication on Star Citizen continued, and backers received monthly Squadron 42 news through email newsletters, the extra communications and visibility on Squadron 42‘s release has never emerged.

star citizen squadron 42
The most recent Squadron 42 update includes breakdowns of the work completed by each department, with the July update outlining optimisations from the graphics team and “ongoing efforts” from the Narrative department.

Given Star Citizen‘s history of oversharing — more than any developer before them — the sudden lack of clarification has gotten backers, unsurprisingly, a bit upset. Some aggrieved users went as far as to put together an Imgur album of quotes from Star Citizen executives, including Chris Roberts, outlining promises and timelines quoted over the last several years. The discord has been growing on the official Star Citizen forums too.

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Why shouldn’t SC/SQ42 Fans be mad about the Expectations? CIG [& CR] are the ones who set them from r/starcitizen

Concerns around Star Citizen‘s development have been rising within the Star Citizen community for a little while. A lengthy post last week from a “senior software developer”, and relitigated by Star Citizen update channel BoredGamer below, outlined some of the glaring issues the community has with the level of bugs in Star Citizen‘s persistent universe.

“On top of that, the game is (so) broken that it’s barely playable. If bugs were hotfixed and the overall gameplay experience were more polished and more stable during the current alpha, I could almost guarantee there would be more players pledging ships – which would mean more money to spend on development – which would mean the dream of the fully realized MMO (and S42) coming true a lot sooner,” the post reads.

Star Citizen‘s bug woes aren’t unique to the space MMO, but the level of communication Cloud Imperium Games have maintained over the last several years have left it in a unique quandary. The developer still communicates vastly more than, really, just about any other developer does. That’s the nature of the project. And when your company is still raising millions of dollars every month amidst a global recession and pandemic, fans are going to get even crankier.

Something that’s not mentioned in a lot of these complaints is what the impact of the coronavirus might have, or still be having, on development. But to be fair, it’s also something that hasn’t been addressed in the last four Squadron 42 email updates. There’s lots of granular detail on individual bits of tech, animations, reductions in DirectX function calls, fixes to performance regression, working on technical debt, and all the nitty gritty that goes into the development of a AAA title.

There’s just none of the detail that really matters to most: A release date. And given how the last few months have gone, it doesn’t seem like one will emerge any time soon. Squadron 42 entered the year with, if not a promise, then a hopeful target of launching by the end of the year. It’d be perfectly understandable for that target to be missed — coronavirus has thrown everyone’s plans into disarray.

All that’s left for Cloud Imperium Games to do, really, is tell people. But in a way, that’s also the problem.

Comments

  • When I first received my invitation from… somewhere I forget, nearly a decade ago, to sign up for an exclusive mailing list about a secret project from Chris Roberts, I was intrigued and even on the verge of a little excited.

    The more I saw of the project, and the more I saw of how other crowdfunded games were turning out, excitement turned to wariness and eventually, skepticism.

    After seeing how everything has turned out so far, and what initial investments (forget additional investments) would have yielded by now, I am… SO glad I didn’t buy in.

    Star Citizen has been a potential clusterfuck that is only just managing to keep half its wheels on the rails by some awkward dark magics, and it’s been doing this for YEARS. Regardless of how it all eventually turns out, the lessons from the autospy will be fascinating (and ultimately, like every other lesson for the industry, will go utterly ignored by the industry itself).

    • Yeah, I came really close to pulling the trigger on buying in early. Nothing extravagant, just a starter ship. So glad I didn’t even drop the $50 on that. What a sad delusion the developers and fans have bought into. I don’t see this ending well. ☹

      • I backed early at a mid tier level (like $120? I had money to spare) during the original crowd funding pitch, but about a year or two later I started to see the writing on the wall I managed to sell my original ship (with lifetime insurance woohoo!) for the same amount so I’m $0 out of pocket.

        All I really wanted was a space flight sim, I had backed Elite dangerous as well, and in the same time frame I have played Elite on three different platforms (PC, Xbox, PS4) to triple elite levels, explored countless star systems and enjoyed my time. SQ42 still isn’t out, and will probably never come out. Biggest scam in gaming history

  • “we’ve found that the format in which we’ve attempted to visualize our progress linearly does not match the approach we’re taking”

    Eject!

  • I would find this drip fed gaming experience so unsatisfying. So many games, so little time – i don’t really understand why people are still wasting their time on this utter shit?

    • In the meantime, ya’all could have been playing Elite:Dangerous for the past 5 years!
      Sure, it doesn’t fulfill or scratch even half the promises of the SC hype. But hey, at least the 30% of boxes it does tick are real & playable right now.
      They really should make a law about these out-of-control, accelerating, inflationary, unsustainable, dark energy-ware kickstarter projects and stop them well before they become a runaway money supernova! 😉

      • Yeah, but ED at least lets you play… that’s not hype, that’s *real*.

        We’re seeing that and EVE ONLINE now give players things SC keeps theoretically promise after all. What SC promises with hype, others deliver. Shit, No Mans Sky is already delivering half of what SC does lol

      • Elite Dangerous has been quietly delivering on everything Star Citizen has been promising.

        The next major update will add the ability to get out of your ship and explore planets, as well as (finally!) land on planets with atmospheres.

        ED certainly isn’t as deep as it could be, but it also never promised the sun, moon and stars, rather simply releasing the things that were done now, and tempting players with future promises that have, mostly, been delivered on.

        • “that have, mostly, been delivered on.”

          And that, is in all honesty, the most important part isn’t it.

  • Sounds like the disgruntled fans simply don’t understand game development…lol

    I remember when you could get banned from the SC forums for spreading fear, uncertainty or doubt (FUD) or for ‘concern trolling’.

    • Are you kidding? 8 years mate. Games don’t normally take this long then go ‘back to the drawing board’. At some point the people who blindly follow this production have to admit there’s something wrong.

      Or maybe they will when the cash dries up and the finally declare it a broken project…

      • Oh, don’t get me wrong – I’m one of the biggest Star Citizen sceptics out there. I just find it fascinating how people continually pump money into what is essentially a sunk-cost fallacy. There is no possibility that the game will fulfil the dreams and desires of its hardcore backers. We are talking (based on the Corona stimulus surge in funding) about 10,000-20,000 people who are sinking hundreds or thousands of dollars each on a regular basis. These are the people who are starting to become disillusioned, but will it be enough to make the project implode? My guess is that it won’t. The project will likely die with a whimper, not a bang. That is, if the Calders don’t lose patience and go for the throat in the meantime.

        • Ah my bad if I misunderstood 🙂 And yeah I agree. I know someone who’s actually ‘invested’ around 2,000 in this. He’s currently seeking a way to get his money back finally. Another I know, sunk around 1,000. Not as bad as the stories of those who sunk 10,20 or 30k into this vaporware but still.

          The closest that I ever got, was Ark I guess. Where now and then I’d sling server owners 10 bucks a month if I was playing on their servers. But to me, that felt ‘ok’, as I was helping support a game that was actually released? But when I see this game, and the supposed alpha built, that I even *tried* to play so many times, but it’s still such an unplayable buggy mess it’s ridiculous, I cannot fathom how anyone could defend it as anything but a massive conjob anymore.

  • I just don’t care anymore. I don’t even remember my login. I backed it when it was first announced. Wing Commander 2 was the first game I ever bought with my own money. I have all of them on GOG.

    Every communication from them is just total PR BS. I bought a joystick to play the game, at least 5 years ago. I have upgraded my PC 2 or 3 times since it was announced.

    I’m not even waiting anymore. I’ve just moved on. They got my $50, i guess that’s what they wanted. I might dig up my login’s and try to sell them. I don’t think this game will ever come out, they’re making too much money from the current status quo to feel any need to actually ship a finished product. Shame. I was pretty hyped when it was announced. I really liked Starlancer too. But this just seems like a some kind of ponzi scheme with extra steps.

    I think it’s when they announced the ability to buy virtual land that the penny dropped.

  • I feel like quoting Nate Diaz, but to be honest there’s at least some positive here: now people can see, and maybe even understand through their own negative experience, why publishers exert such levels of control over budgets and release dates. Game (and music, film etc) production is expensive and inherently risky. If you feel pissed off about losing your 30 plus dollars, imagine how you might feel if it were hundreds of millions.

    • This became super clear in the Duke Nukem Forever post-mortem. The lead designer wanted it to be the best of the best available on launch… but technology for engines was moving so fast that there was no time to take their assets and refit them to the new engines they kept upgrading to. At some point you have to shit or get off the pot.

      I know that with my own developers, there’s so many things they would love to do to improve how they can work within the system, how easy it is to build new things without continually butting up against tech debt. Problem is, each one of those things takes weeks to potentially months to build, and meantime we’re not doing business area deliverables.

      At some point, someone has to take a firm hand and say, “No. No more overhauls. No more ‘improvements’. You do the best you can with what you have, because we have a release window and it’s closing.”

      The thing we saw the early crowdfunding dev studios celebrating was freedom from that. And as a BA and occasional project manager, that’s fucking nuts.

      • The worst thing is that Roberts gave ‘The Pledge’ to treat backers as he would a publisher. Turns out that ‘The Pledge’ was worth less than the pixels Roberts used to give it.

  • When it comes to SC I’m the eternal optimist that hopes that one day we’ll get a cool space game. Then maybe I’ll buy it!

  • Going back to the drawing board? Now?
    No matter how much leeway you give the company, that is total crap.
    This has become a Ponzi scheme, no matter how good the intentions were at the beginning.

  • It’s clear to me that the developers need to fire quite a few people. Millions of dollars, over many years, and they have little to show for it. I understand that they have great ambitions, but clearly this game has a very bad case of “Mission-Creep”, in that they started trying to make something small, then got enough money to make something VERY big, and decided to go for it, without a clear road-map, without clear goals, without thinking to through. They’re making it up as they go along.

    I have no doubt that the original staff who signed on to make the original project have no idea how to handle a big project. It is clear that they should hire someone to do a spring-cleaning at Cloud Imperium, identify who is the culprit behind the back-log, the over-extended promises and the multiple revisions – and FIRE them. This may end up being the head-honcho himself. It may not. But there are clearly multiple issues and there are clearly staff members, most likely those in management, that have to go before anything gets better.

    Someone at that company is making a mess of things, and usually it’s one of the higher-ups. Actually, given the incredibly poor progress this game is making, it’s likely multiple people. They need to slash their management, get outside help and SCALE BACK on the promises – and for god’s sake, don’t make any more promises and please do not expand the game’s goals yet again.

    • Common theme among catastrophes is shit management. Bioware’s were squarely responsible for Andromeda and DA:I’s troubled development and Anthem’s outright failure. Shit management who face decision paralysis, no final arbiters of disputes between teams on direction or details, meetings with no defined agendas, no defined expected outcomes, ending without a schedule of actions. MADNESS.

      Hell, we face that even in our teams – chaotic, unregulated meetings. People just know they have a problem, they can’t solve it, they draw knowledge experts into it, and hope that mashing all that together will ensure in an outcome. It doesn’t. It sometimes might, but that’s a fluke. There’s a science and a discipline to running a successful meeting, and while it’s not rocket science, too many people just don’t bother.

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