There’s a bit of a dust-up in the Star Citizen community right now surrounding a ship and a fairly well-known streamer who took the ship to task. I admit that I was not on the ground (literally or figuratively) when this whole thing started and have only learned about it through hearsay. I did manage to track down the original video on Twitch (starting at about 00:08:30) and watched a bit of it.
Originally, I did want to come in here with what little I knew on the situation and assume that I would agree with Morphologis: bombing a site using one of the largest ships currently in game, and then ramming the site with said ship, is stupid, and bad gameplay, and that something should change. After watching the video and listening to his in-the-moment comments, I have to say that in typical internet fashion his actual point has been obscured and overtaken by people who like to argue for the sake of arguing, especially with a high-profile community member.
The tl;tw (too long, didn’t watch, which is my philosophy on 98% of any streamer’s videos) version is that Morphologis was reviewing footage of a Jumptown scenario in which a Hercules A2 swoops in.
The camera for the scene is situated inside the gunner’s seat of the newly released Centurion, a ground defense vehicle armed with four size 4 laser repeaters, which are large-starship guns assigned to a rolling platform and can be a real PITA for small- and mid-sized ships.
The defender, however, doesn’t seem to be doing much damage to the A2, which gets close enough to drop a MOAB (“mother of all bombs”) on target. The next part of the video is key to the drama: it looks like the A2 pilot noses up in an attempt to leave, but then slams into the ground behind the buildings, adding more explosions to the conflagration. Morphologis brands this a “suicide attack”, but others have said that the pilot just couldn’t get the nose up fast enough to clear the hills behind the settlement.
As should be expected, there are people who support Morphologis’ take, and there are those who are opposed to his opinions. Everything I have seen regarding this dust-up has, of course, been about fringe issues that say more about the people lobbing their own opinions than it does about the core issue at stake.
Bombing gameplay is not fun
One claim raised is in the title of the original stream: Bombing isn’t fun gameplay. Intentional or not, this is probably part of the reason for the inflammation, but it’s not the point the video is attempting to make (sidebar: this is why I like blogging over video; I can edit so my point is clear but rambling on for an hour on stream means everything is open for interpretation). Bombing in Star Citizen is currently a “wacky” mechanic in that doesn’t have a lot of utility right now except for fucking shit up. In the same way that CIG has made all kinds of ships to support the act of space combat, bombing is an attempt to make ground combat more diverse. It’s why we have tanks, too. But there is no meaningful ground location that makes ground combat worthwhile — except Jumptown, the only sanctioned “activity hub” designed to attract a lot of people for the express purpose of shooting each other. As JT is only up on occasion, bombing isn’t super useful as a rule, and so I can agree that a listless mechanic can be “not fun”…unless it’s made fun, and to do that, one has to have a very specific and skewed sense of what is fun and what is not.
Defense is practically impossible
This sentiment is one that I believe set off the community more than any other. Morphologis spends a good amount of the stream’s intro analyzing how the A2 easily slips past the defenses around the outpost, and claims that it’s impossible to stop. The community quickly resorted to Ye Olden “Bring Friends” defense, saying that based on the video, the defenders were ill-equipped to handle the potential for the A2, and should have known better in order to defend better. PvPers love to “blame the victim” for not having put up a better fight, and I think that this chestnut has been unsurprisingly deployed here as well, but the video does appear show that a single Centurion was the only one defending the site at that moment, so I can’t entirely disagree with the PvPers in this case. The meta around JT is pretty set from my understanding: step one is to control the skies, so bring a Hammerhead or Eclipse with all turrets crewed. Bring two or more if you want. Add some fighters, too. Step two is to add ground-based support like the Centurion, but do not rely on it; it’s not designed to take out an A2 or similar ship with absolutely minimal or no other support.
Defense of the site is possible, but that doesn’t mean that a more robust defense would result in an instant win button. The A2 could have slipped through better defenses if they had been present, and I suspect we’d still be in this exact same shitpile, regardless.
Their objective is just to troll
Here’s the argument that’s really at the core of the video, but which gets buried as soon as Morphologis starts calling his detractors “dumb” and they start deploying their “should have brought more friends, bruh” defense.
Morophologis’ arguments are correct in this light. It’s not fun when someone’s only intent is to cause havoc outside the bounds of objectives, provided or contrived. JT’s purpose is to give players something to fight over, which should end either with players leaving with lucrative cargo or should give players a fun ground-based battle scenario. When a player opts to drop the MOAB in the middle of it, it’s an indiscriminate attempt to ruin everyone’s day and the perpetrator accepts that they won’t be leaving with merch or gratitude. If the intent here was to ram the ship into what remained, then it adds insult to injury. Regardless, it’s not playing into the provided narrative of what JT represents; it’s simply being a dick, as there’s no strategic value to either the bombing or the ramming.
I think that this is the point overlooked, possibly intentionally so opponents can get more “self-brand mileage” by crowing about lesser points on social media.
Now, I don’t 100% agree with Morphologis, and ultimately, I don’t care either way because this is a battle between Self Important People Over Inconsequential Ephemera Fought to Increase Their Brand with Their Followers. I do agree with the “bottom line” statement that when trolling enters the picture, it’s not fun for anyone. Players have always purposefully attempted to interfere with other player’s game time by finding the most extreme ways to circumvent and subvert whatever mechanical blocks the developers have put into place. The traditional solution in MMOs was to make safe mean safe, which is why you can swing a sword at another player all you want but it doesn’t hurt them. The traditional solution in sandbox PvP games is to let players make safe mean safe, but that never plays out the way that the designers promise it will because players will always do whatever they feel is necessary to get a rise out of other players. In this case, mission accomplished. And making matters worse, I fully expect this to go 100% Streisand, with more videos featuring more A2s dropping bombs and ramming JT, proving the point that trolling is absolutely the core reason why any of this happened.
In the end, though, there is nothing that CIG can do to “solve” this issue, and that a community solution will also never happen. This situation is a behavior issue, not a gameplay issue. Originally there were no-fire zones around population centers which prevented dogfighting, but that was removed in favor of automated turrets that would fire on violators. At planet side outposts, there’s not a lot of firepower should a sizable force decide to harass players parked there. At places like JT, or the derelict sites, or mission sites which are handed over the task at hand and aren’t looking to defend against griefers, there’s no security whatsoever; it’s the job of players to police themselves for their own purposes. The gameplay purposefully supports carpet bombing and suicide ramming because that’s a consequence of open PvP, and the designers have taken the traditional “hands off” approach and rely on players to create their own content.
The knock-on effect that has many people worried is that because of Morphologis’ high-profile in the Star Citizen community, CIG will give his arguments more weight than anyone else’s — a toxic side-effect of “influencer culture”. Because CIG cannot — and would not — backtrack on their position and implement systems that diminish the oPvP aspects of the game, the only avenue they could take would be to make A2s and other larger support ships more vulnerable in some way, or to tip the scales so defense could require fewer participants. I do not condone either of these, but I’m just spit balling the only options I can see from this side of the screen. Of course, any action taken in this vein would only result in bringing in two A2s when previously only one was needed, which would loop us right back to where we are now. Honestly, if there were a way to fix griefing from a mechanical standpoint and still allow oPvP, it would have been done by now.