Face off: Is Star Citizen's client size going to be a problem?

Star Citizen


Tom_Marks-17362 copy

Chris Livingston, staff writer
Chris Livingston thinks Star Citizen is going to be a big pill to swallow for some.

Tom Marks, assistant editor
Tom Marks thinks an audience that will give a game $70 million before it launches won’t care about the size it is.

In Face Off, PC Gamer writers go head to head over an issue affecting PC gaming. Today, Tom and Chris argue about whether or not Star Citizen’s client size is a bad thing for the people who want to play the game.

Chris Livingston: YES. It's a big honkin' download that's going to cause problems.

Not for everybody, obviously, but for many, especially in the United States, where data plans are often capped and the internet often sucks in general. It's going to take some people literal days to download it, maybe longer, and when they're done they'll probably have to start downloading the patches that have been issued in the meantime. I sense trouble ahead. Star trouble.

Tom Marks: NO. It’s a huge download, but it won’t stop people from playing it.

Let’s be real here, the people interested in Star Citizen are not going to be scared away by a large file size. Everything about the game exudes go big or go home, and a large download becomes a necessary part of that. Of course this may limit some people from playing, but the vast majority of the audience won’t be deterred, and Chris Roberts has made it clear he isn't going to compromise on any part of the game.

Chris: That's true, and from what I've seen, most people really aren't worried about it. Thing is, a lot of those people have already paid for the game and contributed to Star Citizen's extremely successful crowdfunding campaign. As an online game, though, it's not enough to simply make a pile of money at the start, you have to continue making money, well, forever. That means continuing to attract new customers so you can keep your bills paid and your staff employed for years to come. Yes, they've already got an audience, and an excited one at that, but they need to think about the audience they don't have yet. A 100 GB download could be an obstacle to attracting more players.

Tom: They haven’t alienated the people who already bought the game, and the people who haven’t bought it yet aren't going to get a chance to play it for who knows how long. By the time Star Citizen actually comes out, we’ll all be in our hover cars anyway and the game will just seem like the newest installment of The Sims. Hover cars aside, hard and solid state drives are improving by leaps and bounds every year and Star Citizen is being designed for when it comes out, not for right now. I wouldn't be surprised to see more games nearing 100GB in the coming years. This one is just a little ahead of its time.

Chris: I know games are getting bigger all the time, and that's great. I don't see this as a storage problem, though, it's a problem with getting the files in the first place. You make up a good point about Star Citizen not being designed for today but for the future, but that brings up another point: do we really think it will only be 100GB when it's finally finished? It feels like every aspect doubles in scope on a monthly basis. It could be twice that size, for all we know. Plus, the patches, Tom. Won't someone think of the patches?

Tom: I really have no idea how big Star Citizen will actually end up being. I’m honestly not even sure it will ever be released, instead being improved and built upon till the heat death of the universe, always held at arm’s length as more and more features are added to the game. But I think that it’s probably just as likely to get smaller in size as it is to get bigger. They’ll keep adding things, but eventually they’ll reach a point in the development for polish, and I’d imagine reducing file sizes would make their to-do list.

Chris: It's an interesting challenge, to say the least. Even on physical media, I think it'd be hard to distribute. How big would that stack of DVDs be? If it was sold on some sort of drive, how much extra would that cost? These are questions I'm not willing to do even the slightest amount of research on. On the other hand, when people want a game badly enough, they'll put up with just about anything. You could probably deliver Star Citizen on paper and people would transcribe all the code manually, that's how excited they are to play. I think I've started arguing against myself now.

Tom: I hadn’t even considered that they’d try to sell physical copies. A game of that size and scope makes it solely on a digital market. I guess that would cut them off from a whole community of buyers, but I get the feeling that anybody who could handle a 100GB file wouldn't be wandering the aisles of a Best Buy window shopping. Wait, I think I might saying the wrong thing too...

Chris: Ultimately, we all know Star Citizen's success or lack thereof is gonna come down to the quality of the game itself, not its size nor manner of distribution, be it downloads or punch cards or beaming it into our brains from the satellites of the future. This is just what we do when while we're waiting for a game: feed on and argue over tiny scraps of whatever information is available. Obviously, the game should be as big as it needs to be, and the real culprits here are the crappy data caps and crummy internet service some people are unfortunately stuck with.

Tom: Agreed. I mainly just hope that the size won’t stifle excitement about the quality of the game. If it’s good, people will play it. If they don’t, this won’t be the reason why. But any argument that can end in hating Comcast/AT&T/they’re-all-the-same is a mutual success in my book.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.