Thursday, July 2, 2015

Finally Something Interesting About Star Citizen

I don't really understand the excitement about Star Citizen. Then again, I am not the target audience. I don't like flight simulations. Before the Star Citizen Kickstarter project launched in October 2012, I'd never even heard of Chris Roberts or Wing Commander. In fact, the only reason Star Citizen even showed up on my radar screen was the grey market activity that seemed to fuel the game's extraordinary fund raising. I don't use the word "black market" because I believe the game company officially frowns on the RMT activity but won't crack down on anyone participating.

The original target date to launch Star Citizen
Unlike many, I don't think Star Citizen is vaporware that will never see the light of day. Sure, if the delivery dates on the Kickstarter page are any indication, Roberts told backers that the game would see a full release in November 2014. In a BAFTA Masterclass presentation in January, Roberts gave a timeline for the release of Star Citizen with a release of the FPS and Planetside/Social betas in the spring of 2015, the release of Arena Commander 2.0 multi-crew ships this summer, backers receiving alpha access to the persistent universe by the end of 2015, and the commercial launch occurring sometime in 2016.

Personally, I think that timeline is still too aggressive. I expect the full commercial release to occur in Q4 2017 or Q1 2018. A new company needing 5 years and $150 million to develop a game as ambitious as Star Citizen seems realistic. If I were a cynic, I would suggest that Roberts gave out overly optimistic target dates in an effort to keep the money rolling in.

What really caught my attention about Star Citizen yesterday was Roberts' plan to sell in-game currency for real world cash. The game's business model is buy-to-play like Guild Wars 2, but with the option to buy United Earth Credits, in-game currency, in the cash shop. The exchange rate currently is $1 for 1000 UEC. Interestingly enough, the design team plans to combat inflation by instituting currency controls. Players can only acquire 25,000 UEC in a 24-hour period, with a player only having the ability to hold 150,000 UEC at any one time.

I wonder what a 25,000 UEC daily limit will mean for players into manufacturing and playing the market. Will this limit the amount players can sell and how much they can charge? Or is earning UEC in-game such a grind that industrialists can sell multiple items without worrying about the game's artificial caps?

Given the studio's history of chasing after the money with ship sales, I wonder if the selling of in-game currency will lead to a situation like the hyperinflation that occurred in Gaia Online. New management of Gaia Interactive came in and demonstrated it preferred chasing short term profits over the health of the virtual economy. I don't have a lot of faith that Roberts would not make the same decision.

But hey, if the makers of Star Citizen want to allow more real money transactions that the typical game, that's their choice. As I said at the top of the post, I don't play flight simulators, so I don't really care what happens to the game. But if I'm still blogging when the game launches, I will take some time to watch the economy. I find RMT fascinating and I wonder how these rookies will handle the issue.


  1. I know that the UEC limit will not stop inflation because I saw ANET implement a limit to how much in game currency players could hold in Guild Wars 1. It did nothing to stop inflation as players agreed to use ecto as a second currency for trading items more valuable than the gold limit.

    As for the income limit, that's 1/6th of the maximum you can hold. If hitting the income limit is something players can do, I'd expect players to find an alternative currency pretty quickly because UEC will have major inflation problems.

    Maybe even on day 1 from all the people spending real money to buy UEC before launch. One major difference I see between Eve/GW2s way to buy in-game currency with real money and Star Citizens is that SC sounds like UEC is created in the store as people buy it, while Eve and GW2 just move the in-game currency from one player to another. So buying UEC is a significant gold fountain, while GW2/Eves systems are gold sinks due to transaction fees.

    So you should understand why I laugh at this statement from the top of the UEC FAQ.

    >the modern UEC remains one of the shining beacons of human economic stability.

    Though I might be reading this wrong and UEC is more like gems in GW2 or PLEX in Eve than it is with GW2 gold/Eve ISK. In which case everything I've said is wrong, but the limits still don't make sense as Gems/Plex maintain their value by having fixed prices for everything you can do with them except the exchange for in-game currency.

  2. I don't think you are reading this wrong. The sale of UEC is directly between the game company and the player.

  3. Everything I read about SC yells "trainwreck!" If this thing ever sees a commercial release, it will never live up to the absurd expectations created by the pre-release hype machine. Even so, the most obvious warning signs of crashing, even before it officially begins, come from the way the developer is constructing the economics of the game. This latest move to allow a legal form of RMT, but with limits to control inflation? Yeah, that'll work - about as well as it does in real-life economies. As in, not at all. Seriously, isn't it obvious? Why do people continue to plow money into this clear loser? People see the pretty pictures and remember their days in Wing Commander fondly and their brain turns to much. I don't get it.

  4. The worst part is that there is a way to run an official RMT scheme without causing mass inflation. Sell a second currency for cash. Let that currency be used to buy things players would buy cash for. Let the market decide the exchange rate between the secondary currency and the in-game currency.

    Since this method isn't leading to the creation of much of the in-game currency, it's not causing anywhere near as much inflation as SCs method. With the right tax on the exchange it might even work as a gold sink.

    Eve does it with PLEX. Guild Wars 2 does it with gems*, and ANET did say that they were copying Eves PLEX with the gems. I've never played WoW, but what I've heard about WoW tokens is that they do the same thing*.

    Copying an idea that works is a good thing. Star Citizen prefers to reinvent the wheel.

    *If the algorithm that sets the exchange rate produces a fair market price. Which I am not in a position to evaluate.

  5. That is surprising. Rift, WS, WoW and many other just copy PLEX; why would you go with a new/inferior system?

    My first worry was when they were doing all the stretch goals. 80% of software comes in late and repeatedly expanding the scope never helps that.

    There is a crowdfunding widget on the home page so you can see the money in the last hour/day/... It is truly a marketing and PR success. ( I cynically wonder why would you ever launch.)

    The wing commander digital combo is $10,000 and the completionist is $15,000.00 I.e. the financial inequality in this game won't just be from an extra PLEX or two. I do understanding buying powerful ships. I am no expert or even close, but the latest $400 luxury ship seemed to be about "no features just immersive gratuitous conspicuous consumption"

    I think it bears mentioning: regarding the FPS mode you mentioned, a couple of days ago all the sites had articles like "Star Citizen's FPS module delayed indefinitely"

    Anyway, a bit troubling, all in all.

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