Meet Star Citizen's big-spending evangelists - inside CitizenCon 2015

CitizenCon 2015

Sandi Gardiner, overseer of Star Citizen’s marketing from its initial crowdfunding ask of $500,000 to a total 185 times that, steps between the engines of a retired concorde and onto the stage of CitizenCon 2015. The hangar is cold but the welcome is warm, and she smiles with the white teeth of an actress, which is what she is. Yet her voice cracks as she describes the extremes of her experience with the project, from complimentary customer service tickets to a bombardment of anonymous hate.

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“It really makes my heart and soul and spirit very happy to know that I’m doing something that means so much to so many people,” she says. “Star Citizen is and always will be more than a triple-A game; so much more. Star Citizen speaks to the pure essence of humanity and the purpose of human beings, and I firmly believe that this is why there are so many passionate people on both sides of the fence.”

Voice heavy with emotion, Gardiner thanks Cloud Imperium’s team and the fans for making their “shared dreams come true”.

“Speaking for myself, I have pride on many occasions hearing fans recount to me how much I have helped change their lives for the better,” she tells the crowd. “That makes me really happy, and makes the countless hours and sacrifice to the work worthwhile.”

She asks the devoted in the audience to raise a hand if they’ve made at least one heartfelt connection with another human being while involved with Star Citizen in some shape or form, and the response is like that of the United Empire of Earth Senate faced with a call to arms from a performance-captured Gary Oldman: unanimous.

One of those upraised arms belongs to Dawn. An artist and disciple of Chris Roberts since Wing Commander II, she and her partner have together spent over $4,000 on Star Citizen: “So I’d say we're definitely backers”.

“I didn't look back, especially with Chris Roberts as the helm,” she’d told me earlier in the queue that snaked around the outside of Manchester Airport’s Runway Visitor Park. “We’ve really, really taken to heart what Chris does as a person. I think he’s invested into a very big idea, and I think that idea is coming to fruition. I love to see someone from the start get their dream off the ground and become so famous. It’s such a success.”

I ask if Dawn and her partner consider themselves fans of Star Citizen, or advocates.

“That's tricky,” she says. “I would have to say a little of both.”

The answer comes more easily to Jerome, political science student, and Michael, graphics artist, who go by Sawyer and Vestom respectively in their roles as C.R.A.S.H. Corp commandants. Their 300-strong German group are one of 31,218 community organisations with private chat rooms already set up on the Roberts Space Industries site. They plan to establish a sophisticated rescue network in Star Citizen’s galaxy - a sort of interstellar AA. Once the game’s out, they’ll patrol pirate-threatened areas, conduct retrieval operations and escort convoys. For now, they’re spreading the good news about Star Citizen - or rather, translating it.

“We want to support the game,” explains Michael. “Not just with money, but translating the news to our mother tongue so we get more Citizens to back and to look into the game.”

Jerome is more than happy to join Star Citizen’s unofficial street team. After all, he says, the $92 million raised to date isn’t enough. He thinks that Cloud Imperium are reliant on their backers to bring new supporters into the fold so that the game can be finished.

“Star Citizen will need more money for the final release, this is obvious,” he expands. “With the scope they’ve set for themselves, what they can and want to achieve, I think it’s worth it to tell people, ‘Come on, if you’re interested in space games go ahead, even if you could make a small donation’.”

The pair’s efforts are rewarded, they believe, since Cloud Imperium invest their gains in development and not commercials or new promotional campaigns.

“So we try to do that for them,” says Michael. “It’s not our job to criticise the development process, it’s more our job to translate things that come from CIG to the German, Austrian and Swiss people.”

C.R.A.S.H. Corp are not alone in collating and disseminating information on Star Citizen. There is, I quickly gather, an international amateur press outfit present - the Imperial News Network.

“For me it’s the start of a new PC golden age again,” explains one INN member of his motivations. “We need a proper PC game and this is going to be it. It’s the game where we’re finally going to be able to see an entire universe through our eyes, look out into space and go, ‘See that big ship? I want to go in it’. And can.”

This backer has spent over 150 hours in the modules Cloud Imperium have released to date - mostly dogfighting and teaching others to fly (“It’s flipping brilliant, I’m back to being 10 years old again playing Wing Commander”). He isn’t at all bothered that the remaining modules have been tardier.

“Everyone goes on about the delays,” he says. “They’re very quick to say, ‘We were promised it this [many] months ago’. But then when it comes out they look at it and suddenly delays are forgotten.”

The sentiment is echoed all around CitizenCon, where delays are seen as less annoyance, more confirmation that Roberts is committed to an uncompromised vision.

“I want a game that's actually like the original promise,” says Michael. “I’m not annoyed or sad if Star Citizen is delayed in the future because I know if it's coming out it's going to be a great game.”

Jerome agrees: “You have the feeling that a lot of games right now are kind of prematurely released. Most of the new games are full of [bugs] and you just have the idea that if you take a little more time it'll probably work.”

There’s a sense that Cloud Imperium’s decision to open up about development - to pick over their failures at length and in public - has gone a long way.

“If you're going to do something right there have to be checks and balances,” says Dawn. “They do have dates that they're trying to shoot for, they fall through from time to time, but if you want a game to be a success it's got to go through its hiccups, and I have no problems with that. At the end of the day it's going to happen.”

It’s easy to snort as Cloud Imperium briefly halt the show to take a nostalgic look back at development so far. To raise an eyebrow as Gardiner testifies to “the power of being part of something truly special, and creating something great from nothing as part of a growing community with common interests”. A large chunk of CitizenCon is right there with her.

And not all are evangelists. Clothed in a custom admiral’s outfit, coat-maker Jimbo speaks with genuine fondness of some of the expensive ships he’s invested in. Yet he’s not here to network or campaign. He’s here because he’s looking forward to a Wing Commander-ish space game that’s “hopefully not a cash grab”.

“I’m just playing the updates,” he says. “It’s one of those things where I think I’ve played my part. I know it’s coming and I’m just gonna sort of sit back and do whatever until it arrives.”

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Shriven avatarunwanted avatarVampyrerotica avatarzel avatarTim Edwards avatarmidimaker avatar+6
Shriven Avatar
1 Year ago

Didnt see you Jeremy. Or, your "Beautiful hair."

I spoke to a guy from Utah at the pub before the doors opened. He flew in just for the Con. Then, casually brought up that he has spent over $25,000 buying one of every ship....

I nearly spat out my delicious Campari and Soda.

GOI Avatar
1 Year ago

This could be me - I've spent nearby the same amount and got as well all ships (except the Vanduul ship, for reasons). Indeed - I really support the game.

unwanted Avatar
1 Year ago

I didn't think I would ever care about this game but everything surrounding it is just...fascinating.

Tim Edwards Avatar
1 Year ago

Please note: we won't be publishing any comments that include referral links.

Vampyrerotica Avatar
1 Year ago

Thank you for quoting me in the article. I hope you enjoyed CitizenCon

zel Avatar
1 Year ago

Quick note: The original crowd-funding goal was 2M, and that goal was only to convince traditional investors that there was a market for this game out there and they'd kick in another 20M or so into the game, this fact was presented up-front in the original campaign. Originally launched on a custom website, that site was overwhelmed by the traffic and people couldn't pledge for a day or two or three (I forget how long it was down, but it was quite unstable from the traffic) and people started asking for a kickstarter both because of the site's problems and they just felt better going through kickstarter. By the time the kickstarter campaign was up, the original site had 1M in pledges so the kickstarter was launched with a goal of only 500k, half of the remaining goal because it ran in tandem with the custom fund raising site.

So really, you should change that 500k to 2M. :)

midimaker Avatar
1 Year ago

All sounds a bit bizarre to me, almost a cult vibe from it all. /shiver

I can understand spending loads on a game collection but donating large amounts of money to one guy, no way.

primal Avatar
1 Year ago

If that guy wants to spend 25k on a game let him. He's obviously not exactly struggling for cash, before you say he could by a car or something... Something tells me he's got everything he wants already

Pants Avatar
1 Year ago

As someone who has donated 2 grand to charity, I can tell you that people do things they can't afford.

Tafatt Avatar
1 Year ago

At this point and for well over a year you would be donating to a game company that spans over 4 countries and has close to 300 employee's.

BadIronTree Avatar
1 Year ago

Yea now that are in full production things are coming faster and faster :D

Brokinarrow Avatar
1 Year ago

It's not one guy, it's a team of over 260 developers. And you don't HAVE to spend any more than $40 or so to get the full single player campaign AND access to the online game.