Housing is a sore subject in MMO circles because too few games actually implement it despite so many people wanting it. I don’t know if it’s a feature that designers and developers consider to be not worth the effort, is too complicated to design well, or which clashes with the intent of any given game which doesn’t have it. I do know that many, many players would love to have housing in their MMOs, as it’s one way that a game can allow an individual to express their creativity in a genre not known for individualistic approaches.
Here’s my suggestions for Star Citizen’s eventual housing implementation. Yes, eventual, because player housing has been confirmed, and would require a massive back-peddle from CIG for it to not happen…not impossible, but very, very bad optics should they decide to.
Basic Planetary Living
The current spate of planetary outposts is temporary in nature and appearance.
These and variations thereof exist all over the Stanton system to allow for missions and services like refueling, repairs, and ground-vehicle summoning. Their appearance assumes that they themselves are modular, having been hand-placed in viable locations by designers but were admittedly never intended for long-term use; they look as if they could be retrieved and re-deployed elsewhere as needed.
There is no individual use for these buildings aside from what the game offers; players cannot own these or deploy their own, nor can they destroy, move, or remove them. As functional as they are, and as sci-fi as they appear, this is not what CIG is aiming for in the long run.
Points of Interest
Since CitizenCon 2951, we’ve been hearing a lot more about NPC outposts. We currently have four large cities, four orbital platforms (and one outlaw station), several stations at various Lagrange points, and a whole lot of these utilitarian outposts on various planets and moons. In order to expand opportunities for players to visit planetside locations, new types of outposts are being designed.
These locations are far more permanent than the current buildings in the persistent universe, have different varieties of appearance, and are planned to offer different reasons for players to seek them out. The above image is a concept of a scrap yard where players can go to trade legal or illegal components.
Right now, CIG has been working on derelict settlements. These locations are centered around crashed ships or the ruins of older settlements that have been abandoned. As with most every other bit of current development focus, these locations are being set up for PvE and PvP combat missions and may offer random loot boxes throughout the area in addition to what players can steal from the corpses they create. I would assume that this particular settlement push is taking precedence because it gives players “something to do”, whereas more interactive outposts require other systems — namely the Quant(a)(u)m system of NPC AI trading — to be useful.
The Wish: Player Settlements
Once the derelict outposts are able to be more easily deployed en masse, and the “living” NPC outposts have economic support, and once some Spongebob-style “Several Features Later” interstitial hand-waving occurs, CIG will get down to allowing players to place their own homes.
The Pioneer has been a concept ship for about as long as Star Citizen has been a thing and is described as a “self-contained mobile construction yard” which will create planetary structures. There used to be a “land-claim beacon” available for purchase, but it seems to have been pulled from the pledge store. This — I assume — would allow a player to claim a plot of land (either one-size-for-all or priced by plot size) upon which they could build.
Since player housing is a long, long way off, and without CIG-sourced info to talk about or opine against, here’s what I’d like to see in a player-housing scenario in Star Citizen.
This is pretty much already in the pipeline, as the buildings that are being created for NPC outposts have been confirmed to have been designed with player use in mind.
This is just one style that I’ve seen over the years (it’s been a real chore to backtrack in time through all resources to find examples presented by CIG, so this will have to represent). The style is reminiscent of buildings you’d find in any “Mos”-named location in any galaxy far, far away, and I’m OK with that because it’s a design language that I think folks are familiar with to represent that pioneering, homesteader feel. As with caves, stations, and cities, CIG’s assets have been designed to offer modularity when constructing these buildings; what you see above was created from individual parts that can be mixed in various ways.
I think it might be too much to ask for that these raw building blocks be offered to players to work with in-game, but I would hope that the modularity would allow CIG to offer dozens of pick-and-choose blueprints, or maybe even a way to “randomize” structures from a pool of parts.
One question I do have is how the act of building will be accomplished. If a Pioneer craft is necessary, it’s going to allow owners of that ship to basically rake in the UEC by offering their services to anyone who wants a building. Orgs will undoubtedly field at least one. I would assume that raw materials would be necessary, so this is about as close to a “crafting” system as we might get. Those materials would get dropped off to the Pioneer, which would then use them to create a building. The design of the building would no doubt dictate the quantity and type of material. Although this is a very targeted crafting pipeline, having it at all would be a godsend for miners who might otherwise be only able to mine, refine, and sell their rocks “into the void”.
I would not be surprised if, closer to the release of more details regarding player housing, that CIG releases a ground vehicle with similar abilities to the Pioneer, but which can churn out only smaller buildings, hopefully for individual dwellings at the very least.
2. Interior Design
This is one of the Big Reasons players want housing. Although we might not be able to truly customize the architecture of our buildings (although we should be able to paint or apply decals to the outside), being able to add furniture and decor to the inside is absolutely the best way to let players express themselves.
CIG already has a lot of concept art for their NPC settlements, so we might assume that these parts would also be made available as furnishings for our own houses.
When we say “housing”, we’re not just talking about a kitchen, living room, bedroom, and bathroom. We’re also talking about functional spaces which I hope Star Citizen will offer. One of the big failings of player-owned housing in MMOs is that there’s just not a good reason to go there except to design it or maybe to show it off to other players.
If there was a suite of furniture that players could place in their houses to allow them to “do stuff” — maybe personal storage lockers, natch, but also communication terminals, or personal equipment repair facilities — then “going home” would be not just nice to do but would make individual housing more valuable.
I’d expect that we’ll be able to place all kinds of decorations, though, as we can already do this in many cases. Fill your house with Picos, or all kinds of strange plants that you find in your travels. This is where a legit crafting system would basically make Star Citizen unstoppable: if I could turn a Hurston cactus into fibers, and use those fibers with dyes sourced from other plants, and could then churn out a rug or tapestry for use — or, more importantly, for sale — then I cannot imagine a crafting-minded gamer who wouldn’t risk the universe of Star Citizen for such a robust opportunity.
One house and its outbuildings are cool, but one of the best features of Star Wars Galaxies was always the player-run towns, and I would love to see something along those lines replicated in Star Citizen. Whether it’s planned by an in-game organization, or just a bunch of like-minded players who want to create something together, allowing for the official incorporation of a settlement is something that Star Citizen must have. I say must because I feel that if done correctly, it would help to offset the frothy PvP vibe the game is already giving out and would allow PvE-minded players not just something to do, but something to do that most games don’t even offer that people really seem to want.
There have already been examples of industrial buildings being created that will allow for players to run their own mineral refineries, which are currently limited to certain stations, and more immediately, a few very large starships that are being worked on.
Refining is just one example of why players might organize around a common function. Part of this would be the sharing of resources like power sources, warehouses, or even star ports and services. Depending on how much immersion the game chooses to offer, repairing a ship might be a more interactive experience which allows players to use hand-tools or larger equipment to fix up their ships.
Of course, where there are players, there’s going to be the desire to shop. The Banu Merchantman is currently the only known platform that players have for being able to offer items for sale to other players (and how they get those items is still a massive question mark, as there’s been no word on crafting, leaving salvage as the only known viable option). If players could open their own settlement markets to buy goods from other players and to sell their own goods, crafted or obtained through other means, it would make settlements not just a place for players to work, but would also offer a reason for players to visit one another’s settlements — something that most player housing fails to provide.
What I would advise against, at least in part, is creating an incorporation system just to charge residents a tax. An org that incorporates would probably already have a tax going, so adding a town tax would just be double-dipping. In either case, a tax would have to provide something in return. Maybe it would be to hire NPCs to maintain equipment, or to protect the settlement when no players are available.
As I often think of homesteading in Star Citizen, I also worry about what it would mean for people who just want a house on some planet or moon, and what this being a PvP centric game would mean for such people. If a solo gamer saves up their cash to claim some land, and hires a Pioneer crew to build them a single house, a power station, and a storage shed, what kind of life could that player expect? Would they log in only to find their life’s savings turned into a smoking crater by a passing griefer? Would their house be secure against those who would simply enter and steal all of their possessions? What does “player owned housing” mean in a community of “you should always bring backup” hard-liners?
Beyond solo homesteader concerns, once orgs start claiming land, either as abutting individuals or through org-specific and controlled claims, what kind of defense would they have to mount against griefers? Ballistas, Centurions, and Novas could be deployed around the periphery to ward off any detected threats. I could also see the possibility for constructed emplacements, as they are already deployed around bunkers, so it makes sense for settlements to have them too. How would they detect FoF? Whitelist? Blacklist? How could this work to allow legitimate traffic while fighting off those who would just like to bomb the hell out of the place because they’re bored?
One option I imagined would be to apply town taxes to hire NPCs to run defenses, as mentioned above. Another would be to allow a settlement to apply for a UEE armistice zone permit. This could be a UEC “subscription” item that an org (or even a wealthy individual) would have to pay upkeep on but would prevent players from firing weapons inside the bounds of the settlement. It could also be a device that players could build inside their neighborhood. It would be impossible for even the largest org to have players online 24/7, and to ask them to sit in manual defenses during that time just to protect their town, and if automated sentries are only effective as window-dressing, then none of the “player policed” options are going to be worth a damn, making settlements a system that’s far more trouble to maintain than it could possibly be worth. Another option could be a constructable or purchasable shield generator, although it would have to be a pretty large shield…larger than any shield currently in the game.
One aspect that leads to a massive rabbit-hole is asking just how far CIG goes in simulating life in a homestead. They’ve already put a lot of simulation into the current game, with seating (for chrissakes), medical gameplay, and plans for ship maintenance through systems routing, repairs, and components, just to name a few.
If — it’s a big if, and one I hope CIG considers — as much care goes into player-owned housing as has gone into ships and other systems, then Star Citizen could offer the most in-depth and interactive housing system ever. Let’s go over a possible scenario.
After logging in, I find myself in my bed, as I do now whenever I log in. Getting up, I head to the terminal to check my messages. A few folks have inquired about some military grade coolers I had advertised on the galactic web, so I tell them that they’re still available — for now — and they can stop by at any time to inspect them.
Business done; I now have to head outside to fix a faulty power conduit. Taking my multi-tool with the repair attachment, I find that I need a piece that I don’t have at home. I head over to the org’s warehouse and search the terminal for the part I need; thankfully someone had salvaged a few from a recent trip to a known derelict. With the part in hand, I’m able to get that solar panel up and working, providing more power to the settlement batteries.
The MOBIGlass alerts me that the potential buyer for the cooler is on her way, so I make my way to the marketplace. Entering my code, I unlock my storage unit and find the cooler in question. The potential buyer lands on one of the pads outside of the settlement and makes her way through the streets to my beacon. We haggle a bit over the price, but I want return business, so I give them a very fair price.
It’s getting late in the morning, and I haven’t eaten so a trip to the settlement gardens is in order. I pick some fruit from the hydroponics bays and pour myself some reclaimed water. Technically the cooler was the last big-ticket item I had to offer, so I need to figure out how to restock. I find a tip on a downed Constellation two systems over, so I rustle up some interested parties and we gear up to go help ourselves.
This is the kind of immersive gameplay that I believe Star Citizen wants to offer, but it needs to really get past the current laser-focus on PvP so they can allocate resources, relay their plans, and get community feedback. I did hear it stated somewhere (might have been a recent Inside Star Citizen) that there were a lot more non-combat features waiting to be discussed in the future, so I am very hopeful. My biggest wish is that CIG spends as much time and as many resources on gameplay opportunities that non-combat, non-PvP solutions like housing can offer the game. Housing is a constantly beaten drum for many MMOers, and since CIG spends a lot of cycles on simulation, a top-tier housing solution offered with the same intensity would make the game stand out, not just among MMOs, but among MMOs of all time.
In case you would like to see the in-depth settlement portion of the last CitizenCon keynote discussion, it’s embedded below at the proper time-stamp.