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Star Citizen director Chris Roberts addresses in-game economy concerns

A recent change in alpha 3.2 has forced Roberts to revisit the plans for the game's economy.

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In an email blast today, Star Citizen director Chris Roberts addressed one of the biggest topics concerning the ambitious space simulator. The in-game economy is murky due to the plethora of ships that have been purchased pre-launch to support the development of the game and many in the community feel it will damage the experience when/if the game launches into Star Citizen 1.0. Further, the in-game credits contribute to additional potential for imbalances in the economy. The team is attempting to balance this with a recent update to the game and the move has lead to game director Chris Roberts addressing it in a newsletter.

First, a bit of context. United Earth Credits (UEC) is the in-game currency for Star Citizen. Alpha update 3.2 removed a cap on UEC, which Roberts says is a move 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' [the purchases] back for UEC." This balances the playing field for players that may have purchased items at different prices, since the development team is rebalancing the pricing and economy with each update.

"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," he says. "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."

Here's the lengthy section speaking on plans for Star Citizen's economy at launch:

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.

The attempt to "encompass all types of players with varied skill sets, time, and money" is the most controversial aspect of the statement, simply because it's difficult to imagine an experience where those that have purchased expensive ships won't have a distinct advantage over players that haven't. With a player-run economy, that discussion of a balance of power further spirals when considering this and it's going to take a lot of work for Cloud Imperium to show how this will work out. Share your thoughts on Star Citizen's economy in Chatty and stay tuned to Shacknews form for more updates.

From The Chatty

    • reply
      August 3, 2018 12:46 PM

      I wonder how this thread will turn out.

      • reply
        August 3, 2018 12:51 PM

        Doom 2016 sucked.

        • reply
          August 3, 2018 1:02 PM

          It was good but overhyped even if it managed the almost impossible and made id software (not since quake3) and doom (ll was in 94) relevant again, still the best fps in years which says a hell fucking lot about the genre.

          Could have done without the combat arena style of gunplay and would have preferred an actual layout/progression and balancing per item/monster over the glorykill system.

          Also the game/movement speed was slow on pc, all the fov 140 only hid it in videos.
          Game needed a haste rune or some shit for non console players.

          • reply
            August 3, 2018 5:01 PM

            Could have done without the combat arena style of gunplay and would have preferred an actual layout/progression and balancing per item/monster over the glorykill system.

            Then it would just be like every other fps? Doom did its own thing and did it very well. One of the few +8 hour FPS games where I did not tire of the basic encounters. I agree the movement was a bit slow on PC but there is a haste rune called Blood Fueled which gives you a big speed boost after a glory kill. Upgraded version lasts quite a while.

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              August 3, 2018 5:17 PM

              Well it would have been doom, and I found the pacing rather exhausting, those closed of boxes felt more like serious Sam than doom and it's clear why they implemented the glory kill system (because of the pacing, tying the speed up to that wasn't great either ). That stuff would have been OK for a trap or two but designing the whole game around it wasn't for me.

        • reply
          August 3, 2018 1:03 PM

          Shoo

      • reply
        August 3, 2018 12:53 PM

        Haters gotta hate.

      • reply
        August 3, 2018 12:54 PM

        The usual.

    • reply
      August 3, 2018 1:01 PM

      "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."

      • reply
        August 3, 2018 5:50 PM

        Chris Roberts is the light and way. Whoever believeth in him shall have ever-lasting game balance.

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          August 3, 2018 5:55 PM

          "For two hundred years, Citizenology has sought the truth. When Chris Roberts spread his word, few people believed him. The Internet tried to discredit him! And when that didn't work, they ignored him and said it was an accident! But we also know he was telling the truth! For two centuries it seems like, we and our forefathers kept the faith and our belief in his words. Now finally we have proof - that we have been right all along. You've all seen the vidlogs by now, you all know what they found out there. Here on this very planet, we found - Another Cruiser!"

    • reply
      August 3, 2018 3:39 PM

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrbgnFxJ5dE - Star Citizen as narrated by "Stephen Mocking". Make sure to turn subtitles on.

      also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk8iU7b3yX4 - Pay To Live

    • reply
      August 3, 2018 4:42 PM

      Games going to be literally unplayable. The balance issues alone with people buying thousands of dollars in ships. It's a nightmare game. And will never be "done"

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      August 3, 2018 5:04 PM

      I do not understand how a normal, regular $60 player will be able to remotely compete with someone who has spent tens of thousands of dollars in the game. This is completely pay2win and the winners have already been decided before the game launches.

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        August 3, 2018 5:05 PM

        I hope I'm wrong about this and Roberts does address it in the statement but how the fuck can you possibly balance that? A regular ol' $60 customer versus a fleet of $10,000 customers?

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          August 3, 2018 5:07 PM

          RNG + poorskill

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            August 3, 2018 5:08 PM

            I got that AMD Catalyst $1 package from Newegg so I'm expecting to get my shit pushed in by everyone else with better ships once the game launches.

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          August 3, 2018 5:20 PM

          Every single $40 + $60 customer gangs up on the whales.

          Fuck.it would be glorious.

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          August 3, 2018 5:41 PM

          What, exactly, do you perceive the problem to actually be here?

          These "$10,000" customers are not going to be flying all their ships at the same time. The only thing a lot of the early purchases have a leg up on is that they get Life Time Insurance for those ships. It's not going to be instant turn-around on the insurance, either, from what I remember reading a couple of years ago. It will take progressively longer and longer to get a return on lost LTI ships.

          IIRC, they don't even offer LTI at all anymore, so a lost ship is a lost ship, so even the perceived boost from hitting the ground running with a spendy ship will be lost soon enough. I have the AMD Mustang already, no LTI. You know what I'm going to do with that ship? Jack + Shit. It's going to be eye candy in a hanger.

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            August 3, 2018 5:59 PM

            The amount of ships a person receives and the advantage they have over someone who purchases the game at launch for the usual $60.

            These people have access to probably dozens of ships which they can loan out or start fleets with. I'm concerned about a power struggle between those who have, and those who have not.

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        August 3, 2018 5:34 PM

        Could you imagine though if a regular $60 customer managed to fly his fighter through the surface laser defense cannons of a $10,000 dreadnaught-class starship by getting on the VoIP and pranking the guy pretending not to be able to hear him?

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        August 3, 2018 5:38 PM

        Encounterimg a 10k person woupd be pretty rare though wouldnt it?

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          August 3, 2018 5:58 PM

          From what I understand those huge spenders have multiple ships which they can loan out or start a fleet with. So I imagine all it's gonna take is the rich boys club getting together and ruling the universe until all the filthy $60 poors band up against them and try to take them down.

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        August 3, 2018 5:51 PM

        Is the winner Chris Roberts?

      • reply
        August 3, 2018 5:55 PM

        I do not understand how a normal, regular working dad will be able to remotely compete with some kid who has spent tens of thousands of hours in the game.

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          August 3, 2018 5:57 PM

          That's why matchmaking exists for some games. I'm not entirely sure Chris is going to put people in different tiers in space depending on their ships.

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            August 3, 2018 6:05 PM

            Not that type of game. Persistent universe.

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        August 3, 2018 6:03 PM

        I'd imagine they'd rarely intersect in the game.

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          August 3, 2018 6:20 PM

          Yup, pretty much this. The NPC to player ship ratio is like 10:1, chances are you will rarely encounter those people, and even when you do, there's not a lot of situations where you somehow need to "beat them" Much of the game is going to be PvE stuff anyways so it's not like your going to have to fight your way through throngs of well equipped players just to do anything. I am 0% concerned about all this.