Star Citizen Alpha 3.3 Coming in October; Chris Roberts Addresses Pay-to-Win Concerns
Chris Roberts himself recently shared a new ‘Letter from the Chairman’ to update the Star Citizen community on the game’s progress.
To begin with, he revealed that the release of the Star Citizen Alpha 3.3 patch will be aligned with CitizenCon (October 10th, Austin, Texas at the Long Center) in an effort to avoid having two deadlines near to each other.
Roberts then added that the patch release schedule has thus been modified: Q1 (end of March), Q2 (end of June), Q3 (October, alongside CitizenCon), Q4 (second half of December).
The biggest chapter of his letter was however meant to address the Pay-to-Win concerns that were raised after the decision to remove the UEC (United Earth Credits) wallet cap, introduced with Alpha 3.2. You can find out the whole explanation by Chris Roberts below; we’ve also embedded below this week’s episode of Reverse the Verse.
Recently a few people have voiced their concerns about the removal of the player UEC wallet cap that came with the release of Star Citizen Alpha 3.2. This was done to help smooth over the transition to an in-game economy and to give people that had purchased game items through the now-defunct Voyager Direct web store the ability to ‘melt’ them back for UEC, so they can repurchase new items in-game. As we are going to be rebalancing the pricing and economy as we expand the game, and as we currently reset everyone’s accounts when we release a new patch, we felt it would be unfair to force people to keep items they may have bought at a radically different price. This would have happened if we’d kept the overall hard cap on UEC as many players had amassed a lot more than 150,000 UEC worth of items. We still limit the maximum purchasing to 25,000 UEC a day, but we felt that removing the cap was the right call, especially as with every persistent database reset we need to refund players the UEC they have purchased with money and used to buy in-game items. It’s one thing to lose an item due to gameplay, but it’s a complete other thing to have your game account forcibly reset with each new patch, losing all the items you paid actual money for.
Putting aside the puzzle of why some people don’t have a problem with stockpiling ships or items but a player having more than 150,000 UEC is game breaking, I think it may be useful to revisit Star Citizen’s economic model.
Developing and operating a game of Star Citizen’s ambition is expensive. From day one of the campaign we’ve been quite clear on the economic model for Star Citizen, which is to not require a subscription like many MMOs, but instead rely on sales of initial game packages and in-game money to fund development and online running costs. To ensure money isn’t a deciding factor in progression, the core principle that the game follows is that everything you can obtain with real money, outside of your initial game package, can also be earned in game via normal and fun gameplay. There will also be plenty of things that can only be earned by playing.
There are two types of resource players have that they can contribute to Star Citizen to make it better: time and money. A player that has lots of time but only backed for the basic game helps out by playing the game, giving feedback, and assisting new players. On the flip side, if a player has a family and a demanding job and only has four hours to game a week but wants to spend some money to shortcut the time investment they would need to purchase a new ship, what’s wrong with that? They are helping fund the ongoing development and running costs of the game, which benefits everyone. The exact same ship can be earned through pure gameplay without having to spend any money and the backer that has plenty of time is likely to be better at dogfighting and FPS gameplay after playing more hours to earn the ship. I don’t want to penalize either type of backer; I want them both to have fun. People should not feel disadvantaged because they don’t have time, nor should they feel disadvantaged if they don’t have money. I want our tent to be large and encompass all types of players with varied skill sets, time, and money.
This was the economic approach I proposed out when I first pitched Star Citizen because it is the model as a player I prefer. I don’t like to have to pay a subscription just to play and I hate when things are deliberately locked behind a paywall, but as someone that doesn’t have twenty hours a week to dedicate to building up my character or possessions, I appreciate the option to get a head start if I’m willing to pay a little extra.
Some people are worried that they will be disadvantaged when the game starts for ‘real’ compared to players that have stockpiled ships or UEC. This has been a debate on the forums since the project started, but this is not a concern for me as I know what the game will be and I know how we’re designing it.
There will always be some players that have more than others, regardless of whether they’ve spent more or played more, because people start at different times and play at different paces. This is the nature of persistent MMOs. Star Citizen isn’t some race to the top; it’s not like Highlander where “There can only be one!” It is an open-ended Persistent Universe Sandbox that doesn’t have an end game or a specific win-state. We are building it to cater to players of all skill levels, that prefer PvE or PvP, that like to play solo or in a group or a large organization, that want to pursue various professions, some peaceful and some combat orientated. This is the core philosophy of Star Citizen; there isn’t one path, nor is there one way to have fun.
This may be a foreign concept to gamers as the majority of games are about winning and losing, but Star Citizen isn’t a normal game. It’s a First Person Universe that allows you to live a virtual life in a compelling futuristic setting. You win by having fun, and fun is different things to different people.