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Gameverse | November 30, 2020

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How Cloud Imperium Games Can Build Confidence Within the Star Citizen Community

Robert Endyo

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Cloud Imperium Games has recently come under fire due to a lack of communication on the status and progress of Squadron 42. Squadron 42, for the uninitiated, is the single-player game being crafted alongside Star Citizen going back to 2012. While the Star Citizen side continues to receive regular quarterly updates, progress on the single-player portion is mostly relegated to monthly e-mails with several paragraphs loosely describing what each part of the team has been working on. These sometimes include a screenshot or two, but do little compared to the weekly development videos and live streams on the rest of Star Citizen.

Now I’m sure plenty of people will continue to repeatedly shout into the void how Star Citizen is a scam and the game doesn’t exist, so this article will have no value to you. Star Citizen’s progress is slow and frustrating at times, but the game is out there and accessible. Squadron 42, on the other hand, has had little in terms of discussion about its progress or eventual completion for more than a year now. Let’s look at some ways CIG can improve upon this.

 

Forget About Spoilers

Star Citizen is a player base primarily of adults. Adults that can make their own decisions about what they want spoiled or not. It was reasonable years ago when the game seemed just beyond the horizon to tread lightly. Now, eight years in and yet another potential release date come and gone, it just seems patronizing. The community should be able to decide if it is willing to accept spoilers if it means knowing more about what to expect.

 

Production Transparency

There’s no shortage of transparency in the development process. The weekly videos and live streams cover all sorts of interesting progress on individual elements of the game. Knowing how all of these things come together is informative and entertaining.

However, the production process is still very muddy to most. The original introduction of the roadmap was a start, but it still feels like things come and go in the production without much explanation. If the community had a better idea of why the development was getting delayed and reformatted, they would be more understanding when it was.

 

Real Release Date

This year has been one with many delays. Virtually every major game has been pushed back at least some amount of time. Fans of these games can accept this since it usually means they will get a better product in the end. I’m entirely unsure why CIG would assume one of the most committed fanbases in history wouldn’t be able to do the same.

Squadron 42 has had at least a few release dates over the years, including the one that has recently passed for alpha testing. Previously, they’ve cruised right by those dates saying little to nothing about what is happening or why. Speculation explodes and people start airing their frustrations with limited communication. What could solve this? Well, look at every other developer this year for the answer.

Before the release date, say it won’t be happening and give a new release date. Squadron 42, based entirely on assumptions, won’t be happening in any public form this year. If the community had a new release date, they might be temporarily fired up, but would at the very least have a new point to look forward to.

Having that, more than anything gives everyone a lot less to complain about. Just like the roadmap has worked well to assuage issues with how long content takes once announced. Things only start to boil over when the community is flying blind and getting no guidance.

What this all comes down to is communication. This is an issue going back many years in the development of Star Citizen. It seems like Cloud Imperium Games, or perhaps Chris Roberts himself, is firmly against making the bad news public. At least not without padding it in a huge cushion of good news.

When negative announcements finally occur, usually months after they’re relevant, it’s during a Citizencon speech or some other collection of mostly positive news. Even the announcement last week that we’re getting a “roadmap for a roadmap” was as 3.10 was lining up for release. All after months of silence and growing concerns about Squadron 42. 

It’s frustrating that the root cause of so much drama in the Star Citizen community is still present after all this time. It makes me believe that the issue is in the culture of the company rather than just a repeated mistake. It seems like a fear that somehow things will be worse if the community is informed that bad things happened in this ambitious project.

However, I contend that it’s worse for the overall image to be on the front page of gaming news with “$300 million game angers community.” Especially when it could just simply be “Squadron 42 beta delayed until Q3 2021.” An announcement that most likely would receive a resounding “ok” from the majority of backers.

If you’re interested in the Star Citizen Alpha 3.10 patch, here’s a silly video covering many of the new additions.