Tried to explain my thoughts via Twitter..but that stinkin character limitation doesn’t allow for longer thoughts, and..complete sentences with proper punctuation. So, here it is.
One of the big Star Citizen reveals out of Gamescom, were the Constellation variants, along with their “sales” brochure, and commercial. See this post over on the RSI site for all the relevant info. At the same time, the Turbulent team updated the Ship Stats page, to include the new variants.
Here’s where the “drama” begins..
The data on the Ship Stats page, was incorrect.. not in the ‘oh, it’s been 8 months since it’s been updated, things have changed’ way of incorrect that people are used to that page being.. but in the ‘hey, we just put brand new data up, and it’s drastically different than what it should be’ way. In particular, the stats for the limited quantity Phoenix variant were very wrong (incorrect thruster information, missing a class 9 hard point, incorrect hard point information for the missiles it carries)..
Now, the brochure that came out was accurate (mostly… there are inconsistencies in the data in the brochure itself too), and Ben Lesnick confirmed (via twitter) that people should look at the Brochure. The problem with that, is that if someone is a new Star Citizen backer… they’re not going to know that the ship stats page is incorrect. They’re going to visit the store, see the ‘more info’ link.. view the stats.. and go ‘wow, that Phoenix variant has all kind of speed, and power!’ click buy (hopefully), and then find out that the stats are wrong. Again, not in a ‘the ship has been updated since release, stats page hasn’t’ type of way.. but in what could be characterized as a ‘grossly mis-represented’ type of way.
CIG (via Ben Lesnick) made a statement about it this afternoon, you can read the full thing here. Short version, is they acknowledge the error, and are agreeing to undo any applications of the upgrade ‘token’, and provide store credit (no actual refund is mentioned). In his statement, Ben mentions again that the brochure is the correct version of the stats (ignore for a moment, the discrepancies in that data…I’ll get to that)…
Here’s the main issue I have with referring people, especially potential new backers, to an “in universe fiction” sales brochure as ‘the right version’ of the stats… They won’t know it’s not just a ‘lore’ bit, to go with the commercial.. there is no indication that it’s “real” data, and not just “fluff” (I love lore, but, you get the point).. If you have a “ship stats” page, which allows your customers to compare ships (that they’re spending real money on – sometimes a lot of it).. that stats page should be 100% accurate – especially for the introduction of a new ship. The other main problem with referring people to the brochure? I’ve yet to see the stats in the brochures get updated when changes are made to ships. So, at what point does the brochure stop being the ‘official source of the correct data’, and from then, what does become that official source?
I just pulled up the 300i’s brochure (the “official” source of stats according to CIG). The PDF has a create date of August 4th, leading me to assume it’s been updated at some point since the brochure was released. According to the 300i’s brochure.. there is 8 tons of cargo capacity. The stats page says 16 freight units (a more generic version of storage, based on volume taken up by the cargo versus actual weight of the cargo). Clearly, this is one measurement that has had the design changed (as is prone to happening in an alpha).. If the brochures are the “official source” of data, why does the 300i brochure not contain the updated information? The 300i’s brochure states it’s main thruster is a TR3, the stats page? it says TR4.
I get it’s still “being funded”, I do.. and I get that the purpose of buying a ship now, is to fund the game.. but, if people are spending money to buy something… you need to provide a reliable way for them to compare Product A, and Product B… even while both products are in development and not finalized. Whatever the ‘official’ source of data is for ship stats (Brochure, stats page, tea leaves, whatever).. it CAN NOT be different depending on the ship in question, it just can’t. There’s no way that’s workable for CIG (to keep updated), or their backers/customers to use to compare ships.
The changes to ships are not being made in a vacuum (HA! see what I did there? Space ship, vacuum, get it?).. Design person A has to look at it and go, we need to change stat Y.. then work to get that change implemented. There is a workflow that is followed to make that change (presumably, CIG is using AGILE or some variant thereof).. what CIG needs to do, is insert a step into that workflow, that provides the updated information to Turbulent, along with the estimated ‘go live’ date for that change. That way, when the change is live the website can be updated to reflect that change. That way your customers can make informed decisions on what they want to spend their money on.
Now, about the discrepancies in the Constellation brochure. For the Phoenix variant, one page states it has X number of missile launchers, one page states it has Y number of missile launchers. This boils down to nothing more than an overlooked edit/missed item in QA. The issue with it? The brochure is still what people are being referred to as the ‘source’ for data… but, which data in the source is correct?
CIG is at $51 million raised, at this point in development I think it’d be safe to spend some of that money on expanding QA to cover documentation, and website updates to ensure that all the data for ship stats is consistent, regardless of where on the RSI site it is obtained from. They also need someone to point out those “uh, guys” moments like the $5 charge to lose $75 worth of your purchase.
Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m not hating on CIG/Star Citizen, I’m invested in the game, and I want it to succeed, and I think overall they’re doing a good job. It just kills me to see them repeating the same issues around poor communication every single time there is a major update. The Constellation variants are the most recent (and, in my opinion worst) example of this. Even ignoring the data mismatches.. if you owned a Constellation pre-variant announcement, and wanted to upgrade to the Taurus variant it’s $5.00… for a ship that is $75.00 cheaper than the one you paid for…think about that for a minute.
That kind of scenario is what CIG needs to get better communication around, and avoid in the future.
Now, on a positive note about these variants… if someone wants to toss an Aquila my way, I certainly wouldn’t complain.. it looks quite hawt.. but I’m not melting my Freelancer with LTI to get it :P