It took me a few days to write this. There are a couple of reasons... initially I just wanted to let things settle in my mind. Then I got sick, so here we are on Monday.
Prior to Friday, the Holiday Livestream was looked upon with great anticipation by many in the Star Citizen community, while a significant contingent of other fans were taking a wait-and-see approach.
The fans excited for the stream were looking forward to seeing the vertical slice of Squadron 42 and/or expanded 3.0 gameplay. Originally both Squadron 42 and Star Citizen Alpha 3.0 were expected and announced for 2016 so it was not ludicrous to expect to at least see the progress on these portions of the game.
Unfortunately what we actually saw on Friday was not only very little new content, mostly restricted to the MISC Razor and expanded details of the Vanduul race, but also a very poorly done livestream.
Throughout the 160 minute runtime of the livestream, there were a plethora of audio issues, missed cues, flubbed transitions, and general disorganization. Adding on to this was a myriad of reality TV style cringe-worthy skits, and equally bizarre and stilted voiceover of the "Emergent Gameplay" video.
Even worse was that most of the skits were introductions to pieces of content that very few in the community wanted to see. Just 4 weeks ago we got to see a live competition in 2.6 - there was no reason to repeat that content.
Well, perhaps there was. What became quite obvious throughout the livestream was that they obviously didn't have anything else to show right now. So why didn't we know that going in?
CIG has been very open in terms of development in some ways, however, in other ways they are frustratingly closed-off.
After the Squadron 42 vertical slice narrowly missed being shown at CitizenCon, according to CIG, we were assured it would be shown soon. With two events left in 2016 and nothing planned for 2017, the natural conclusion was it would be shown during the Anniversary or Holiday livestream. What we learned 10 minutes before the livestream on Friday was that not only would it not be shown in 2016, it sounds like it was actually scrapped quite some time ago. Why didn't we know that beforehand?
After we made the decision before CitizenCon that the Squadron 42 vertical slice wasn’t ready to be shown publically, we spent some time on reviewing how far off we were and what we wanted to achieve in order to be comfortable showing a full chapter of S42 gameplay. After all the effort we expended for CitizenCon, we didn’t want to spend additional developer time polishing intermediate solutions if it wasn’t going towards the final product. A slick demo isn’t that helpful if it pushes back the finished game, so we decided that the priority should be completing full systems over getting the vertical slice into a showable state.
Additionally, 3.0 gameplay was shown off at Gamescom and CitizenCon. Surely it has made some progress from October to December - so why didn't we see it? I heard from a fair number of fans who would have been much more content with the Livestream if it had been spent exploring procedural worlds.
This seems to be partly answered in the newsletter as well, with indications that 3.0 became a #3 priority internally behind 2.6 and Squadron 42:
Since CitizenCon we’ve been working towards 2.6 as our priority, with Squadron 42 core tech being second priority, followed by 3.0 development. Almost all Squadron 42 core tech is also needed for 3.0 and the aspects that aren’t, like Networking, have their own team who don’t get distracted by Squadron as it’s a single player game.
While this makes sense, it would have been nice to actually know this earlier.
CIG has two weekly shows where they could easily share this kind of news. Something like this would have worked nicely:
"We also wanted to mention that we are examining whether to continue work on the Squadron 42 vertical slice. We have discovered we may need to create some interim solutions that wouldn't contribute to the final game. We'll have our decision for you next week."
"Last week we mentioned that we were internally examining whether it was worthwhile to move forward with the vertical slice for Squadron 42 and we have determined at this time that we would prefer to rededicate our efforts to finishing the final game. We can't wait to show you all we've been working on but unfortunately it will need to wait. Thank you for all of your support."
Note: These are both hypothetical statements but I believe they would have defused the expectation that we would in fact see Squadron 42 soon.
The last part of Friday's newsletter I would like to address is this:
One thing that I think helps to understand the challenges of working on such a big complex project in the open is the visibility into our internal schedules. Sharing the 2.6 schedule was an experiment that a lot of people internally were very worried about but now everyone agrees it was the right move as transparency helps build trust.
He's right. Transparency does build trust. So why half-ass it?
The community has been incredibly supportive of the increased transparency CIG has shown in some areas (showing more of the game in ATV, production schedule for 2.6, etc). So why keep it under wraps, until 10 minutes prior to your highly anticipated Holiday Livestream, that you are working very hard on 2.6 and therefore can't deliver demos of SC Alpha 3.0 and Squadron 42?
It's pretty frustrating, from a fan's point of view.
The combination of poor content, disappointments, and a very poorly executed livestream led to a torrent of discontent throughout the community.
This was, however, stemmed somewhat by a Friday-night release of 2.6 to the PTU, for the 1st wave of PTU testers. To be frank, 2.6 is good. It's a significant improvement to the playable Star Citizen product. Star Marine plays well and is fun. Arena Commander, in my opinion, plays better and I enjoy the new flight model. There's even some new goodies in the Crusader map. Better graphics, better animations, better UI, better FPS combat, better space combat, and vastly improved load times.
That said, I am rather concerned about an upcoming vacuum of content and news simultaneously. It seems unlikely we will see 3.0 any time soon and there are no scheduled events for at least 8 months. I would highly encourage CIG to schedule some sort of event between now and Gamescom 2017 once they have notable content to show. The PU Townhall event in 2015 was fantastic - do that again.
In closing, congratulations to CIG for what they've accomplished in 2.6. We still have a lot of faith in the developers working on Star Citizen. They are doing an incredible job in creating a pair of games that push the envelope, and we would like to take a moment this holiday to thank them.
However, the great work by the developers doesn't excuse the mess on Friday. Communication and event quality must be improved. Clean it up CIG.