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Star Citizen and Revealing Games Too Early

Christopher Coke Posted:
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This week, the internet was swamped with drama as Derek Smart called out Could Imperium Gaming and Star Citizen, calling the game “vaporware” for having been announced four years ago with little to show for their efforts. Star Citizen is hardly the only game to announce years ahead of its release date, however. Is transparency just an excuse for early hype? Today we give our writers one simple question: are games being revealed before their time?

Our challengers:

Chris “Clear as Glass” Coke: Chris believes in open, honest development. If that means revealing projects in their infancy, gamers are better for it!

Ryan “The Anti-Hype” Getchell: Ryan believes that games shouldn’t be hyped, creating expectations and unavoidable let downs.

Let’s get it on!

Chris: How about the internet this week, eh? It was on fire with drama surrounding Star Citizen. But I have to tell you, even though I agree with many of the critics -- this isn’t the game backers originally put money down for and they should be offered refunds -- I don’t think there is any problem with how or when they went about funding the game. They announced the game one year into development, had achievable plans, and have tried to be transparent even as the game ballooned into something else.

It does touch on an issue plaguing gaming right now, however: games being announced “too early.” I don’t think there is such a thing, especially in the age of crowdfunding. Haven’t we always wanted developers to be transparent, not hiding behind marketing plan mumbo jumbo? Announcing early is part of that and, more importantly, it’s required if you need help funding it. 

Ryan: We want developers to be transparent AFTER the game has launched. Prior to that the game has so many changes that being transparent will only cause problems. I am completely in agreeance that games are being announced way to early. A lot of this is due to the fad that is crowd sourcing.

The issue with Star Citizen is it got so much money that the team behind the project began to at what the game could be instead of what it’s supposed to be. The original concept for the game was intriguing, which is why it got funded to begin with. But look at it now, you can’t even see the original plans they had. This game was launched on Kickstarter back in Oct 18th of 2012 and hit it’s goal of $500k within 5 days of launching. Clearing their concept was good, but it’s been 3 years now, and the game that’s in design now is no where near the simplicity it was when it was pitched to the public.

Chris: Sure, but announcing the game and their plans for it was in no way a bad thing. The same thing goes for any game, crowdsourced or not. I believe in transparency. You’re right that games change a lot and it throws people off. But why is that? Because game development is some big, over-managed secret and too few people really understand how it works. Some people get on developers for hyping games too early, but I would much rather be reading stories about a game’s honest progress than press release written just to mislead or deceive the public. Sorry, I mean “frame the game.”

Ryan: What would you rather do, read stories about a game’s honest progression or play the game? Looking at Star Citizen again, I don’t think that game will ever come to fruition. The team is so swamped with their over promises that if it ever gets released it’ll be a mere shadow of what it was “supposed” to be. You honestly think those “stories of honest progress” aren’t as precisely worded as a press released? Look at Camelot Unchained, they just had another delay in their schedule, one that was “unexpected”. You really think that Mark Jacobs didn’t know about this weeks before the announcement? Propaganda is propaganda, be it a press release or a update on kickstarter, they are all worded to make things sound better or worse than they are.

Chris: Well, if it means following a game from its early stages and watching it grow, sure; I’d like to read those reports, but from games writers, fans, and testers -- not just the dev team. That’s the benefit of these games getting out in front early and being open. Actual players get in there and aren’t bound by the same blackout NDA, which is better for everyone, even if the industry hasn’t realized it yet.You’re right, though. With the way press is handled now, it’s propaganda. But even Camelot Unchained shows its improving. Early announcements might lead to hype, but it also leads to more openness, something we desperately need.

Ryan: The reports you’d be reading aren’t accurate, and are typically speculation/opinion/expectation articles, which is what I consider kryptonite for the MMORPG genre. Hype kills games, look at The Repopulation, this is a game that, along with Star Citizen, was on Kickstarter back in 2012. This game looks awesome, sounds amazing, and I was hyped as heck for it. Now, it’s completely fallen off the radar for a lot of people. Why? Because it’s not ready for release yet; it’s not being hyped because they are making the game they promised. Unlike Star Citizen which is constantly adding “new” things and getting people stoked for a game that may never come out (cough, World of Darkness, cough). So I’d rather take my information from developers who are making it, know what they are speaking about, than some reporter who hasn’t even touched the game.

Chris: So long as publishers and developers are completely sold out to PR agencies, institutions who muzzle developers who would like to talk about their games, the current cycle won’t stop. Transparency and PR don’t mix. Being open undermines what they’re hired to do: sell a product rather than let that product sell itself with the help of the gaming community. It’s the next generation of games marketing and much more honest. YouTubers, bloggers, podcasters, developers who are actually free to talk about their games… not just journalists.

What I would like is for good, original ideas to get announced and followed because they are good and original. All the follow-up hype can just go away. Announcing early starts us in a place where PR is undermined. If we want to rebuild how the gaming industry works, that’s where it needs to start

Ryan: PR is never undermined. The company's PR department might be but the act of PR is still being done, just by the community. This is something I will always back, as long as it’s being done by people who’ve actually played the game. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a YouTuber critique a game even though they’ve never played it. Basing your opinion on other people’s opinions is bad; however, it’s difficult to judge who’s giving an honest review. So again it goes back to who would you rather hear from, the developers who are making the game and know what they’re talking about or take a risk and take your information from someone who’s never even touched it?

I think it’s a catch 22. We can’t always trust the developers because everything they say is in mind of the company, but you can’t always trust a random YouTuber who is out to get views. Remember, negativity will always outshine positivity. So who do we trust?

That’s all from us! Let us know what you think in the comments below!


Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight