I have been supporting Star Citizen for over 10 years now, which would make the amount I’ve spent on the Perpetual Development Machine saner when you realize it was not all at once, nor was it spent over a short time. The overwhelming amount was dedicated to acquiring ships, of course, which came in two varieties: outright purchase, and cross-chassis upgrades. The (current) end result is what you see above: my fleet as of April, 2023. This looks somewhat different from my fleet circa November 2018, and there’s a few reasons for that.
The first is the CCU/Melt/Buy-back Queue system that CIG has implemented. Pledging for a ship with real money gets you the “best” version of it in terms of packaging. This could be the “warbond” price, which is usually $5-$10 less than the “store credit” price, or if you pledge during one of the game’s special events, might include LTI (lifetime-insurance) or an extended amount of insurance (120 months, for example). If after acquiring a ship with Real Money(tm) you decide you don’t really like it, you can melt your pledge, trading it in for store credit equal to your original pledge amount (restrictions apply). As stated above, using store credit on a new pledge requires that you spend a little more, but it’s an easy way to generate a pool of cash to play with later on down the line. Ships melted go into your buy-back queue. Players have the opportunity to buy-back one melted pledge each quarter (subscribers and/or concierge, I believe, can get up to 2) so if you want to return to a ship which you had melted previously, you can either spend New Money(tm) on it, or use store credit. Again, restrictions apply. If you don’t want to melt a ship and put it into your buybacks, there’s the option for a the cross-chassis upgrade, or CCU, which allows players to pledge the difference between one ship and another in order to upgrade. This method brings along all benefits of the less-expensive ship (insurance, mainly) to a more expensive ship. If you’re the kind of person who understands Numbers(tm), there’s a practice called “CCU chaining” which somehow allows players CCUing from a very small starter ship up through to a very large and significantly more expensive ship at less of a cost than if one were to buy the larger ship outright. I am not that kind of person who understands this process, so I only upgrade one CCU step at a time.
This has contributed to the second reason for changing my fleet, which is “the new hotness”.
Star Citizen gets a lot of shit both internally and externally for their laser focus on releasing ships, both straight to flyable (i.e., get in the cockpit now) or in concept (space JPGs). Were players only allowed to pledge for these ships using Real, New Money(tm), then I’m sure CIG wouldn’t have pulled in the $563,967,483 USD that they have over the past decade. My latest acquisition is the Drake Vulture, a salvaging ship which released alongside the “Titanic Patch” 3.18 that introduced tier-0 salvaging mechanics to the game. I hadn’t planned on getting into salvaging, as I am dedicated to mining, but after having tried out the new mechanic, I found it relaxing, interesting, and relatively lucrative in the short term. I melted a few lower-priced items ($45 each) and then CCU’d an “LTI token” into the Vulture, using nothing but store credit.
The third and possibly most driving reason is that I have no idea what I want my fleet to look like.
The ships we pledge for ideally reflect our interests in the game. PvPers and combat pilots want the ships that make things explode, which runs the gamut from light fighters to bombers and anti-cap ship destroyers. Players like me who enjoy the more constructive and helpful side of the equation go for things like mining ships, refuelers, and refiners. Still others who like playing the markets will angle towards cargo ships and loaders. There are systems planned for the game which haven’t even gotten a mention on the public roadmap but for which we have ships that are just waiting for a purpose. The glue that binds these differences together is the Melt/CCU/Buy-back Queue system that allows us to shift our pledges around to try new things while the entire game is in flux, test-driving different ships to see if their gameplay suits us (if there’s targeted gameplay involved at this point), or to see if one ship is better at a certain task than another.
Over time, my fleet has been a mix of gap-filling and trends towards industry.
For delivery missions, infiltration, or just getting around, I have ships like the Avenger Titan, the Aurora ES, and the Origin 135c. These ships are generally single-seater and have limited cargo space, but have pretty good fuel economy which is important for getting from one side of Stanton to another. They aren’t very good combatants, but I won’t go out with one of these if I’m looking for a fight.
I am not much of a combat pilot, but I will occasionally do some PvE bounties for cash, or if I am bored, some Arena Commander (the dedicated dogfighting simulator that’s part of Star Citizen). I do not want to be without a combat ship, in case I decide or are tapped to fly as escort for a friend or larger group, making these ships the “gap filler” I mentioned earlier: not my primary focus, but I don’t want to have nothing suitable for this category.
I still retain the Gladius from the patch period when it was the light-fighter bad-ass, but I’m not sure how it stacks up in 3.18. I also own the Glaive, which I am loathe to part with only because to even have the chance of acquiring it, one needs to complete the “Vanduul Swarm” mode in Arena Commander; it’s a kind of badge of achievement to own this, or at least it is to me, a not-a-combat-pilot.
This is, of course, my bread-and-butter. The Prospector is a single-operrator mining ship, and the Vulture, as stated, is a salvager. The Mule is a ground-based small-box hauler, and the ROC is a single-seat, small-lode ground mining cart. The MPUV isn’t really effective at the moment, but once we are able to move cargo boxes around regardless of size, then it will come into its own, shuffling crates from ship to shore or ship to ship.
I own the two ships currently in game dedicated to keeping players alive, and don’t know why but I don’t want to get rid of them. The Cutlass Red is a workhorse ambulance with two medical beds that can fix up a wounded player in the field. The C8R Pisces is a one-bed stabilizing shuttle. The Red can accommodate cargo and small ground vehicles like a Cyclone, STV, or a ROC, so it can lend its medical prowess to any scenario, should a player get hurt in the field. The Pisces is a replacement for the standard C8/C8X that is often associated with the Carrack; I melted my C8X Pisces to CCU to the Vulture but kept the C8R figuring that it would be infinitely more useful in any situation that didn’t require moving cargo.
These two gems can help me get around outside of a ship. The Ursa can transport several other players and comes with a top-mounted cannon, while the STV is a two-seater off-road Prius. I would like a Cyclone, maybe a Dragonfly, but the in-game cost of those vehicles is so low that I don’t feel the need to spend Real World Money(tm) on them to have.
The two largest ships I own are the Mercury Star Runner, and the Carrack.
I use the MSR quite frequently. Although it’s technically a data-runner and smuggling ship (neither mechanic is in the game right now), I use it primarily to move inventory and cargo from place to place as it has the largest capacity of all of my ships save the Carrack. I also think the MSR has the most bad-ass design short of the Glaive.
The Carrack is a wildcard in my fleet, and the impetus for writing this post. I had CCU’d my way to this beast a few years ago when it was still in concept and was overjoyed when it finally released, as I was able to walk through its hallways. It has everything a player (ideally, a group of players) needs in an exploration class ship:
- The best medical facilities short of a full-fledged hospital.
- A small hanger that can accommodate a Pisces (or several other vehicles if you’re brave enough).
- Cargo bays for moving a lot of stuff.
- Drone bays for…whatever drones are going to be used for.
- Promised modularity so we can swap out sections of the ship to change its overall role.
The issue is that I don’t really know what to do with the Carrack. A ship this size requires a crew, and while I am sure it’ll be fun for me and my friends to take a long-range trip in or alongside this vessel, tethering other players to my ship long-term is not something that should happen as it subverts other people’s goals and enjoyment in order to justify my ownership. NPC crews are promised, but with obvious caveats that they won’t be up to snuff compared to Real Humans(tm).
In thinking about it, though, I came up with a Plan(tm).
Not-So-Itty-Bitty Living Space
Eventually, CIG will allow players to claim land and — I hope — build a home either alone or as part of an organization. I fully support this, and while I plan on someday acquiring land when the feature becomes available, I had an epiphany the other day.
Before and even after placing a building on my land, I think I will use the Carrack as a living space, parking it on my property. This serves a multitude of purposes including having medical facilities and storage space. Its large enough that other people can use the crew beds, and I can keep it stocked with food and water for players to have. The small shuttle can be used to come and go, and to move limited cargo from stations, other planets, and outposts to the Carrack. Should I ever need to go anywhere, I can literally take my house with me. Basically, I am demoting (or promoting, depending on your perspective) the exploration ship to a Star Citizen RV.
The only issue is how to tether it to the ground so no one fly’s away with it. I could remove the engine and quantum drive components or have it unfueled (assuming I could somehow drain the tanks). I’d want to keep the shields, because I don’t want it to get blown up. Keeping the doors open is also an issue, because I wouldn’t want randoms to come in and ransack my decorations. I’m hoping that we’ll eventually be able to lock down a whole ship and give permissions to specific people or groups in order to share duties like repair and even decorating but considering CIG’s ongoing lean into allowing players to interfere with other player’s ships, I don’t think this is going to be a reality.