The arrival of the 3.15 patch on the persistent universe servers has been a very good thing for the Star Citizenry (more or less). While I don’t have benchmarks to prove it, the game feels like it’s running a bit better, and since I’ve been playing I haven’t had a single 30k (the code for a server crash). It’s added bombs and, of course, medical gameplay which is the headlining addition for this round of updates. It also came with a database wipe, meaning that everyone had their bank account reset to their default amounts. I only have 54,000 aUEC to my name which isn’t enough to really cushion any serious tragedies, so I’m on a mission to find a way to earn some real money, real fast.

I haven’t gone down the road of medical gameplay except that I have spawned back in a medical center not once, not twice, but three times because A) I ran into space debris, B) I ran into an asteroid, and C) I self destructed because an AI bounty’s missile clipped my engines and left me adrift. Each time I spawned at my nearest medical center in a paper gown.

It’s drafty in here…

So while I have been more of a danger to myself than the bounties I have been hunting, I decided to switch gears to another gameplay loop: mining and refining.

My current harvester of choice is the MISC Prospector AKA “The Deadliest Ship In The Universe”.

The Prospector is a single-operator mining ship that works well on medium sized rocks and asteroids. Rocks can be found on pretty much any planet, so I’ve been sticking around Hurston to pick up as much valuable ore as I can find (and actually extract).

There’s a difference between ore and raw material. Raw materials can be sold as-is for about as much as they’ll fetch, but ore can be refined. For this, the payload needs to be brought to a refinery station such as HUR-L1 Green Glade Station.

Sweet payday (in about 7 minutes)

Ore is offloaded from the ship (automatically, for now) and we get to choose a refining process. The choice of process determines how long the refinement will take, and how much it will cost. It probably also plays a part in how much final product we get from the base raw ore. The above payload actually took about 21 real world hours to process, and netted me about 32,000 aUEC. Now, this is a pittance compared to the time-to-profit ratio of something like high-level-target bounty hunting, but my track record with shooting things hasn’t been as stellar with this patch as it has been in 3.14. Quietly mine rocks until my hold is full and then heading to the refinery to start the process is more my speed right now (assuming I don’t get jumped and blown up).

The thing is, once the ore has been refined, it needs to be loaded into another ship; it can’t be put back into the mining vessel. For my first round of refining, I brought in the Carrack which is actually a deep-space exploration ship and not a common hauler.

The double-decker exploration king.

Although it worked for transporting the goods, I felt that I needed to commit to the whole “mining and refining” gig, so I melted my brand new Origin 400i luxury ship and bought back the Drake Caterpillar that I had melted to pay for the 400i.

What’s long and full of cargo? Wait, that’s not how it goes…

My next refined material pickup will be riding in style (ironic, as it’s a Drake ship). I just hope I can park the thing effectively.

3.15 has been both a blessing and a curse so far, the latter typified with the new “home” location and how it ties into the new physicalized, localized inventory. I believe I had written about this before, but as a refresher, up until 3.15 inventory had been universal and bottomless. We could store and access anything and everything from everywhere. Now, inventory exists primarily at our chosen home location. Here, we have access to items that exist kind of “in the cloud” so long as we’re at home. Once we leave, we loose access to that cloud. That means we have to suit up and transfer what we want to take with us to either our armor storage slots, or to a ship that we’ve spawned. This also means that inventory will exist inside ships, and only inside the ships we move items into; if we want a cold-environment suit in an exploration vessel and a mining vessel, we’ll need to buy two sets and store one in each ship. As ships are also limited to being called from our home locations, this presents a kind of “new to us” conundrum that’s going to take a while to get used to.

For example, when I slammed my loaner 325a into an asteroid, I woke up at the medical facility. My ship had been destroyed, and my body along with it. That meant my armor, undersuit, and all of the items I may have transferred from my home cloud to my armor storage we gone as well. While I did have a few backup armor sets, I eventually ran out on account of air-quote repeated accidental deaths air-quote. This meant that I had to spend what money I had on buying new gear every time I died. Yes, this is still alpha so I will die many, many times, most of which will be due to janky bugs or common stupidity on my part, but it got me thinking about new players.

I start with 54,000 aUEC because I’ve pledged a lot of money over the past decade, and many of those pledges came with some additional in-game cash. Every time I signed up a referral, I got some cash. Those who participated in last patch’s Xenothreat event got to claim a 100,000 aUEC bounty in this patch, so I’m kicking myself that I had brushed it off.

New players later on down the line aren’t going to get these kinds of perks (I expect my starting cash will be reduced if/when the game goes live), and so accidental deaths — or even intentional deaths — are going to still require that the player replace their personal gear (we can’t go outside in just a hospital gown!) and pay the insurance to replace their ship. Although the mantra is “don’t fly what you can’t afford to replace”, I’m starting to wonder what the death and replacement cycle is going to look like down the road. The “Death of a Spaceman” is theoretically designed to make people be more careful about how they treat their situations so that they die less and therefor have to replace their stuff less often, but it’s also na├»ve to think that players aren’t going to die over and over despite having done everything in their power to avoid it. I am worried that Star Citizen is going to be too punishing for both new players and more casual players alike. As it stands now, I’ve been thinking about how unrealistic it is to expect everyone to move about in paranoid packs of players in an attempt to avoid pirate attacks, as not everyone has such a support network, and not every action or trip should require a coordinated planning session ahead of time. Death will happen, like it or not, prepared or not, and it’s going to be costly in both cash and gear. The final form is still a long way off, so hopefully there can be a happy medium.

The other issue that home locations has raised concerns “parasite craft”. Right now there’s no way for a large craft to spawn a smaller craft inside of it. The Carrack comes packaged with a Pisces transport shuttle and an Ursa rover, but those need to be spawned elsewhere and docked with the Carrack. More recently, the question of the ROC came up in our org’s Discord. The ROC is a small four wheeled mining cart that was usually spawned at a planetary outpost and driven into a larger ship for transport.

Two ROCs in a Carrack

If ships need to be spawned at a home location, then how can a single player get both their ship and their parasite craft? It would require multiple people with multiple craft, several trips between ground and space, and take up a good chunk of time, so much so that the effort would be pointless as it would take longer to set up than it would to actually execute the purpose of such an event.

Thankfully, the “claim” system still works. Previous to 3.15, any ship could be “claimed” if it had been destroyed or lost as a result of a server crash. This would trigger the insurance system (all ships are insured in the alpha by default) so all we had to do was wait out the refresh timer and we’d get the ship back. In 3.15 claiming a ship is the same for destroyed or missing ships, but we can also claim a ship at any other ASOP terminal for the same fee and time spent waiting. This means that smaller craft like the ROC can be claimed at a planetary outpost for pennies and about 14 seconds, and loaded into the desired transport. At some point, though, I would expect this behavior to go away as the claim system is really designed for destroyed or lost craft, and not to instantly teleport ships and vehicles around the universe.

The name of the 3.15 game is to earn money, and I need to get enough to trick out my Hornet for bounty hunting, and to be able to replace items I lose when I die. Before death was inconsequential, costing nothing more than time, really, but with the new system in this patch, we’re starting to see this “Death of a Spacemen” take shape, and it’s kind of terrifying from both a time and from a monetary perspective. I am glad that I have enough craft that cannot be taken away from me, and that those craft are varied enough in purpose that I can use each of them to earn some money, but I am concerned about how this punishing death cycle is going to play with folks who aren’t in the same privileged position that I am in. As much as I like a lot about Star Citizen’s slavish adherence to simulation, I also worry that it’s turning into a “not seeing the forest (that it’s a game and should be fun for everyone) for the trees (Chris Robert’s obsession with simulation).”

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