I haven’t watched the Star Citizen fan-fest CitizenCon videos in their entirety, but I did catch the bulk of Chris Robert’s post-event keynote (is it a keynote if it happens at the end of the event? Postscript? I don’t know). This was really the “meat and potatoes” portion of the whole thing, I suspect, because it focused mainly on two elements: the roadmap for 3.6 – 4.0 of the alpha, and a brand new video showcasing actual gameplay from space to ground.
Star Citizen’s 2.5 release was a Big Deal since it introduced a more comprehensive experience for the “shared universe”. Arena Commander and Star Marine — the starship and FPS dueling simulators, respectively — had been running for a while, but path 2.5 brought in an expanded Port Olisar, more ships to fly, more places to fly them to, and more reasons to fly. Although the rewards don’t remain in perpetuity, you can take missions in 2.5 and get yourself some cash from repairing downed communication satellites, blowing up wanted criminals, and collecting information from a derelict station. 2.5 was the first time I actually, really gave the game a shot, and it’s the update that finally hooked me. Although the game still has a ways to go (especially in terms of optimization), this little active slice showed me that the long wait was worthwhile, and any further delay isn’t a delay, but honest to goodness work being done to make good on as many promises a possible.
2.6 is going to bring more improvements to Star Marine, including two new maps featuring two squad sets. I’ve never looked into Star Marine, although I probably should at this point. Star Citizen isn’t just a space-sim; it’s an end-to-end universal experience that will allow you — and probably in some cases require you — to get in a ship, fly and land on some remote planet or station, and explore on foot. You’re going to need to shoot NPCs and other players as a matter of course, so any head-start will certainly be worthwhile.
3.0 was showcased in the Gamescom presentation, but the specifics were laid out at CitizenCon: trading, cargo transport, piracy and smuggling, mercenary activities, and bounty hunting. Admittedly, I’m not super keen on the last few, but trading and cargo transport are massive. RSI’s “Around the Verse” 3.5 video talks about the cargo system in development, and it’s more than just an inventory screen, as you might hope from a game featuring ships with massive cargo holds. Check out this segment on cargo:
3.1 is going to bring mining and refining to the game, allowing players to go out to retrieve raw materials, and turn them into usable resources. It also will include refueling (in space, I assume, since you can refuel and re-arm in the game already) and escort missions. It will also include quantum interdiction, which is basically the act of pulling someone out of warp travel, mostly for the purposes of blowing them up or stealing from them.
3.2 is an interesting update: repair and salvage. Salvaging is something that always sounds great on paper, but ends up being rather lame in practice. In order to have a real salvaging system, a game needs to either allow players to salvage from other players, or to have an almost impossible amount of NPC wreckage lying about in orbit or on planets in high enough quantities that makes it worthwhile for players to believe they have a chance at finding something. In the end “salvaging” might just mean “collect stuff from ships you blow up”, but I’m hoping that it’s much, much more than that, but since we’ll have the cargo system in place, I’m hoping that the idea is that you’ll need to essentially move goods from the point of salvage to your own ship, a time consuming and potentially dangerous process.
3.3 threw me for a loop, because it mentioned farming. Star Citizen is a game of interstellar flight and fight, and I had never heard of farming in the SC context. I guess that it makes sense, in some ways, as a kind of crafting system to make resources for sale, but it seems like a pretty stark contrast to the rest of the game. Also in this update is a rescue system, which sounds like it’ll allow players to “jump start” other ships (refueling was already mentioned, so I assume this is for situations far more dire than just running out of gas).
And in the far distance, 4.0 which will allow for travel outside of the Stanton system. It will also bring with it exploration and discovery, as well as science and research to give you something to do with the refined materials and crops we’ve been no doubt collecting all this time. There was no mention of anything beyond 4.0, although I doubt 4.0 signals the “end” of development. And, of course, no timelines were mentioned. I suspect that based on the progress they seem to be making these days, 4.0 might be aiming for the end of 2017 or the first quarter of 2018, but that’s nothing more than my uneducated speculation.
Each update also brings with it new ships and vehicles, whether they’re variants on existing ships, or concept ships making their debut. Most of the ships that seem to be in the pipeline are the larger or more specialized ships, so it’ll be quite exciting to see these “exotic” vehicles making their way into the game.
From Space to Wreckage
Thankfully, RSI didn’t let us down and leave without a new video. I’ll embed it here, and I urge you to watch it before you continue reading, and hopefully you’ll better understand my enthusiasm.
I was simulcasting this with a friend, who rightfully noticed that the into looked suspiciously pre-rendered, and I agree. There’s a nice orchestral bit, not a hell of a lot going on, and then some sudden transition to a Constellation-class Aquila that makes the whole thing look like it was made before the presentation. However, the segment right before this one (if you scrub back) talks all about their artist-driven procedurally generated worlds and how they used their tools to build worlds like the one in the video above, so while the planet was no doubt prepared ahead of time, we shouldn’t argue about the semantics of the word “procedurally”, since most people get it wrong anyway.
For those who can’t spare the bandwidth to watch the video — although you should at some point, to get the Full Impact — the video starts off in the Connie, tracking down a distress beacon. The player at the controls finds a place to land and then brings out the Ursa, a six-wheeled ATV that’s the hallmark of the Aquila. On the way to the beacon, the player is attacked by — let’s be honest — sandpeople who have set an ambush point that destroys the Ursa. The player takes out the nomads and finds that the beacon was meant to draw in unsuspecting victims, but it’s still a real beacon that leads to additional beacons. The player steals one of the nomad’s Dragonflies which are — let’s be honest — speederbikes that can be obtained in the game, and heads off to the next beacon. This one leads the player to the crash of a Javelin-class destroyer which is crawling with more nomads. This scenario is particularly noteworthy for three main reasons: first, the skeleton of the ship is a real ship and not just a specially constructed placeable. If you strip a Javelin model of its armor plating, what you’d get is what’s lying in the sand (this was covered in another “Around the Verse” videos). Second, we get to see the scale of the Javelin compared to the nomads who are patrolling it. Third and most spectacularly, the sandstorm in back (seen in the YouTube still) is real.
The player takes out a few nomads using a sniper rifle, a stealth takedown with a knife, and a sidearm. After weathering the storm that passes overhead, he tries to find a way out of the wreckage, but notices several more nomads approaching on their Dragonflies…but that’s not the worst of it, so I encourage you to watch the video if you haven’t already.