CREATING AN ACCOUNT (NO PURCHASE NECESSARY)
If you don't already have a Roberts Space Industries (RSI) account, you'll want to take advantage of the Star Citizen referral code program. Doing so benefits the code provider and grants you a bonus 5,000 United Earth Credits (UEC), the in-game currency for Star Citizen. A referral code must be applied at account creation and cannot be retroactively added to an existing account. It costs nothing to sign up, and you'll be eligible to participate in the periodic free fly events held throughout the year.
You'll need to complete the registration process by following the instructions in the confirmation email and sign in to your account before we can proceed.
Now that you have an account, encourage your friends to use your referral code when they create their account. Share this guide by building a custom URL which personalizes the above box with your referral code and other information. A form to create your URL is provided at the end of the guide.
STAR CITIZEN & SQUADRON 42 EXPLAINED
Though I'm sure you're eager to dive straight into the pledge store and buy a Star Citizen game package, let's take a moment to clarify just what the developer, Cloud Imperium Games (CIG), is working on.
There are two components to the project. Star Citizen is the MMO component, a first-person experience in a simulated universe. Squadron 42 is the single-player component, a story-driven campaign where you enlist as a UEE Navy combat pilot. Our current understanding is you will be given the option of having your Squadron 42 character, who musters out of the Navy at the conclusion of the campaign, carry over into the Star Citizen persistent universe, taking with them the reputation and relationships they've built with NPC entities.
[Customers interested the Squadron 42 standalone only] If you only want the single-player campaign, you can buy the Squadron 42 standalone here. You need only wait for the game to be released and become available for download. But take note that when you buy Squadron 42 you also get immediate access to Arena Commander, the online dogfighting module, and Star Marine, the online first-person shooter.
UNDERSTANDING THE PLEDGE STORE
There are a couple of points I want to make about recognizing what comes with a package. First, game packages may include only Star Citizen, only Squadron 42, or both games. Look at the package's contents for "Star Citizen Digital Download" and/or "Squadron 42 Digital Download." I will show you an easy way to add Squadron 42 to a Star Citizen-only package during the checkout process.
The second point of interest concerns ship insurance (also found in the package's contents). Ship insurance covers the ship's hull and factory stock equipment in the event of complete loss. As a part of promotional offers, ships are sometimes sold with lifetime insurance (commonly referred to as LTI), but there are tricks to get LTI on almost any ship and many people will advise you to take advantage of them (often at a cost of $20-$35 USD). To properly assess of the "value" of lifetime insurance, you should know a few things:
- Ship insurance premiums will be, by design (ship insurance FAQ), an incidental cost. They are paid using in-game currency at the beginning of each coverage period.
- Ship insurance, and therefore LTI, will not cover upgraded components you've swapped for the stock components, nor will it cover cargo. These require separate policies.
- Ships are built by in-game corporations and, like automobile manufacturers, they will come out with new models of existing vehicles. The model year 2943 Origin Jumpworks 300i with lifetime insurance I have with my pledge package may be superseded by a 2945 model, and a 2947 model after that.
- In-game items will be subject to wear and tear. Wear and tear can be mitigated, but not eliminated, through maintenance. In the distant future my 300i will have become a rust bucket prone to breaking down. Because insurance replaces the lost ship with a ship in equivalent condition, my lifetime insurance will do nothing for me but replace one rust bucket with another.
MINIMUM SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS (ALPHA 3.5)
Most backers pledge to help fund development then wait for final release. But if participating in the Alpha is important to you, we should discuss the changing minimum system requirements.
Chris Roberts intends for Star Citizen to run on an average gaming PC at the time of release, but that's some years away. During development, the rule of thumb is system requirements trend upward as features are added and then dip at the end when final optimizations are made. Alpha 2.6 ran on a modest system by today's standards. Alpha 3.0 brought a meaningful jump in RAM requirements and now recommends an SSD:
- Windows 7 (64bit) with Service Pack 1, Windows 8 (64bit), Windows 10 - Anniversary Update (64bit)
- DirectX 11 Graphics Card with 2GB RAM (4GB strongly recommended)
- Quad Core CPU
- 16GB+ RAM
- SSD strongly recommended
Now that we know what to look for, it's time to dive into the pledge package store. To get the full game experience, there's no need to pay any more than the minimum for the game(s) you want. But, since development is 100% crowd funded, the store offers options to support at a higher level for additional rewards.
Does this make it pay-to-win? Chris Roberts' definition of pay-to-win is the ability to purchase something with real money that can't be purchased with in-game currency. When the game launches, all player-ownable ships found in these packages will be purchasable with in-game currency from their NPC builders or otherwise acquired in-game (e.g., capturing an alien fighter). And once development is complete, the majority of pledge options will disappear from the store and only starter-level packages will be available.
But for now, even these pledge packages represent only a small number of the possible permutations of games and ships you can start with. See what the premade packages have to offer, but I will later address how to access a wider variety of ship options as well as the promised solution to add Squadron 42 to a Star Citizen-only package.
[A note on server wipes] Until final release, CIG will perform periodic server wipes as a part of the game's development and testing. Any progress made in-game will be reset and you will again start over with only the assets from your pledge. These server wipes will end with the game's final release.
A final word of caution: as the disclaimers all over the shop tell you, Star Citizen is currently in development and everything is subject to change, including ship specifications. So when opening your wallet, viewing the act as helping fund game development and not as pre-ordering the ship of your dreams may save you some heartache.
"So which is the best ship?" I always answer this question with, "What do you want to do?" Your goal should be to buy the ship within your budget that best facilitates what you want to do in the universe. At the time I write this, which ship that would be involves a good deal of speculation. A quick search of the web will find you the speculations (often presented as fact) of countless backers.
[Click here to reveal my thoughts on the Aurora MR and Mustang Alpha starter package ships]For those pledging only the minimum to buy Star Citizen, you currently have a choice between two starter ships: the Aurora MR and the Mustang Alpha. The Mustang is faster and more nimble while the Aurora is more durable and includes a bed (allowing safe logout while in space). Neither carries impressive weaponry. Both can be upgraded with external cargo carriers. (Though these carriers are not yet in the game, it's reasonable to expect the Aurora's will carry a bit more.) So, which of these starter ships is "better" will depend on how you intend to earn a living. But don't worry, your choice of starter ship will not make or break your experience - you can always buy a different ship with in-game currency.
[Click here to reveal my advice on starting with a large multi-crew ship]It would be remiss of me not to pass along a few words of caution about upgrading to a large multi-crew ship. Though you will be able to hire NPC crewmembers, there will no doubt be specialty roles for which AI is not particularly well suited. If you're doing something fancy, it's best to recruit your friends to serve in critical roles. (Don't forget to sign them up with your referral code!)
Even if an NPC crew will be sufficient, will you start with enough credits to hire them? If you start with a huge cargo ship, can you afford the trade goods to make your inaugural run? It's possible players who carry over a character from Squadron 42 may muster out of the Navy with a wad of cash to spend in Star Citizen, but we simply don't know yet. You can bolster your starting credits from the store, but we won't know how far X number of credits will get you till later in development. But if you're committed to pledging for a very large ship, it may be wise to add a smaller standalone ship (a pledge that doesn't include a game package) which won't require as many startup credits to operate.
So on to the ships... As seen on the ship specs comparison (again, specs are subject to change) there are far more ships in development than are represented in the premade pledge packages. You can upgrade your package's ship to a different ship of equal or greater price by paying the difference to purchase a cross-chassis upgrade (CCU). (Not all ships are available at all times. These "limited" ships and their corresponding CCUs may become available during sales commonly associated with events or milestones in Star Citizen's development.)
Still confused or have questions? You can get answers in CIG's official Becoming a Citizen chat channel, and there are many fine Star Citizen streamers and their communities who will be happy to answer questions.
CHECKOUT (AND ADDING SQUADRON 42)
So now you've added a game package (and possibly a CCU) to your cart and you're ready to check out. To add Squadron 42 to a Star Citizen-only game package, simply begin the purchase process and, when you reach the "Place Order" step, you'll see the Squadron 42 Add-on as a "Recommended for you" option at the top. Simply add it to your order.
Payment options do vary globally and are beyond the scope of this guide.
With your transaction complete, if you purchased a CCU you must apply it to a ship from the My Hangar section of the website. While viewing your account, you may notice your balance does not reflect the UEC included with your package. Package UEC will be credited on game release.
If your pledge ship is still in development and not yet ready for flight, you will be given a flight-ready loaner for use in Arena Commander and the persistent universe.
Finally, let me be the first to welcome you to the 'verse!
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Published: Nov 19, 2017
Updated: Dec 21, 2018