The Intergalactic Aerospace Expo (IAE) is an end-of-year event that CIG puts on to sell more pledges. It also allows Star Citizen backers and folks who have decided to put hearsay aside to check out pretty much all of the ships that are currently flyable or driveable in the game for free (free as in beer, meaning if you haven’t bought into Star Citizen, all you need to do is make an account and you get access to the game for free for the duration of the event). The event is presented as an “expo” put on by the in-game ship manufacturers, with each day focusing on one or a few manufacturing companies who get to occupy the event arena with their latest ships.
IAE is an exciting time for Star Citizens for a few reasons. First, CIG usually has one or two new ships available in the pledge store. Last year, the Big Deal was the Anvil Carrack (exploration) — which ultimately got pushed to February of this year, but was made available to pledge for during the event. The second notable point about the IAE is that many limited edition ships return to the pledge store, either for the first time in a while, or in exclusive, limited amounts. Ships like the Drake Caterpillar (medium freight) aren’t normally available in the store throughout the year, but those interested can pick one up during this time. Larger ships like the Kraken (carrier) and the Idris (frigate) aren’t available in-game yet, and are only available in limited quantities during the IAE.
I’ve written about the pledge scheme that CIG has enacted, and it’s insanely useful during IAE. Basically a pledge can be “melted” or “CCU’d”. Melting a pledge is basically returning the pledge for store credit. CCU (cross-chassis upgrade) allows a person to upgrade a pledge to a more expensive pledge and only pay the difference between the two. Many savvy Citizens have made low-priced pledges for, say, $45USD or $80USD and have, over time, upgraded them via CCU in increments — another $40USD here, another $100USD there — until they amass a hanger worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. Although some ships are flyable and others are not, this kind of fleet represents a potential bank of credit that backers can melt for credit to buy even larger ships. The good news is that in certain cases, melting a ship for store credit allows for that original ship to be “bought back” later on, often times even if the original ship is no longer available in the pledge store.
This year, I played around with some melting and some CCUing of ships. I melted an Aegis Gladius (fighter) and a MISC Freelancer Max (cargo) and picked up a Consolidated Outland Nomad (very light cargo). This was a fun ship with a few new concepts: no physical landing gear (it has hover-pads) and an open-top cargo hold. I carried the Greycat ROC (mining) around for a few days, but the ship was a bit small and the ROC sometimes fell out.
I melted the Nomad and, with the money left over in the credit bin, picked up the Crusader Industries Star Runner (light freight/data runner/smuggler/blockade runner). This is this year’s “hero ship” that a lot of folks were waiting for. It’s about as close as Star Citizen gets to the Millennium Falcon, although it’s currently plagued with crappy fuel consumption. Still, it’s a very fun ship.
Finally, I melted the Aegis Saber (fighter) and the Drake Cutlass Red (medical) and had just enough to finally pick up a Drake Caterpillar (medium freight). This massive ship handles like a cinderblock, but it’s great for moving a whole lot of commodities — but bring backup, because it’s got a big “shoot me” sign on it’s back.
As an added bonus the 3.11.1 patch which loaded the IAE into our clients brought a few QOL updates, most importantly (to me) was the improved stability and performance of the Greycat ROC while mining.