Star Citizen (the game) is still a long way off. But Star Citizen (the meta-game) is easily the hottest augmented reality experience of 2017. There are many exciting game modes, and millions of players. You can play as a Doubter, and scrounge through forums for nuggets of evidence that the project is in trouble. You can play as a Loyalist, and question the motivations of those who would dare to undermine Chris Roberts’s vision.
You can play as a Whale, and donate towards the care and feeding of the large salaried workforce at Roberts Space Industries. The limited-time offers make this game mode particularly exciting, just like ALDI Special Buys. Except instead of paying AU$4.99 for a hammer, you pay US$850 for a .jpg of a spaceship.
Yet the most exciting character class of all is the Leaker – those who dare to show glimpses of the Star Citizen experience that haven’t been polished for public consumption. For testing purposes, the Star Citizen community is divided into a distinct hierarchy, and test builds output elaborate water-marks over the gameplay video so that Leakers can be swiftly identified and excommunicated. So when a Leaker’s video makes it on to YouTube the knowledge that this forbidden content could be DMCA’d at any moment makes every view positively electrifying.
Even simply playing as a Lurker can be a fun diversion. You can follow Derek Smart and Major Tom on Twitter, and dip your toe into a piping hot digital bathtub of internet drama.
It’s been a wild ride these past six years, but alas, all good things must come to an end. Just as the servers for Hawken will be turned off forever early in 2018, the amazing Star Citizen Meta-Game could be winding up sooner than we thought.
An increasing number of Whales have decided that six years is long enough to wait for a video game, and they want to cash out. Lucky for them, not only is there is a Sub-Reddit for Star Citizen itself, there is a Sub-Reddit for Star Citizen Refunds. This friendly community has a handy guide on the small claims court procedure for getting your monies returned.
Yet there are reports coming through on this Sub-Reddit that RSI is now refusing refunds, and sending out form letters asserting that customers are ‘outside of the statutory refund timeframe’. Perhaps more distressing was a dour screed from a SomethingAwful.com forum Leaker known as ‘TheAgent’, stating that refunds are now effectively impossible, because there are no monies left to refund.
“Stop trying to get refunds. Your money, that you gave us, is gone. It went to developing dreams; not yours, but the people in charge here. You paid for them to live out their dreams: Ben, who finally got to work with his idol; Sandi, who got back into acting; Chris who got to direct an absolutely stellar A-list cast. For everyone else, you’ve given them hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to pursue whatever they want to do. I’m sure they thank you for helping them do what they’ve only dared dreamed.
“The rest of us politely say ‘Stop emailing us asking for your money back.’ I know the official line is that everything is great and we are making money like crazy, but it’s not. Things here are dire. They’ve been dire for awhile but you can feel the shame and terror every time you walk into the building. I know this is coming off harsh. I don’t care. I’m sick of working here and I’m especially sick of the whiny emails I continue to get.”
‘TheAgent’ goes on to strongly recommend Citizens flog off their virtual ships to any buyer they can find, no matter how big a haircut they take. The implication being that part of something is better than all of nothing. Is the leak real? ‘TheAgent’ has a fairly good track record, but there’s no way to know for certain. He could be a genuine Leaker – or simply a LARPer.
It’ll be a sad day when the Star Citizen Meta-Game finally winds down. Fortunately, there are other space quests to look forward to. Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III recently announced a direct sequel to Star Control II, dubbed Ghosts of the Precursors. Note that this is a completely separate project to Stardock’s Star Control: Origins, due to enter Early Access any day now. Yes, there are not one, but TWO new Star Control projects in the pipeline.
And I’d wager that both will be completed long before Star Citizen gets out of beta.