About this time in the Twitch replay I was falling asleep not because I was bored with the presentations per se — though I think they front-loaded most of the best info early on — but because each presentation over two days was about 6 hours long and I was plowing through them.
One of my 10,000 ft. gripes about Star Citizen regards exactly my worst fear for the game: that the opportunities we are given will only be present for the purpose of the experience itself, which can be limiting if a player doesn’t have the materials to experience those experiences, and that the “goal” of the game is just to earn money to buy bigger and better ships, which allow us to earn more money to buy bigger and better ships which allows…you get the picture. This is one of those sandbox shortcomings; sandboxes don’t generally provide a narrative, no thread for players to invest in or follow. Those moments are “made by the players” which, as stated, is fine if you have the ships and gear, or friends or org mates you can rely on. Lacking any of those, the only narrative I think players might find in Star Citizen will be the same that anyone finds in oPvP games.
But this segment actually brightened up the room somewhat. We start off with a presentation by John Griffiths, Lead Environmental Artist, talking about some new locations in the game.
Location Location Location
What’s so special about locations? Isn’t everywhere in any game a location? Yes of course, but there’s generally two types of locations players need concern themselves with: resource hubs, and activity locations. Resource hubs are where players can gather to do their busy-work like banking, commerce, and crafting. Activity locations are were players go to “play the game”. These can be regions of the map, or more targeted locations such as buildings or small towns.
Right now, Star Citizen has what players call “bunkers”. Missions are offered that send players into these underground facilities (UGF is their official designation) for a few reasons such as retrieving boxes, destroying (or collecting) drugs, or to help defend the facilities from invaders. While these missions are a great source or armor and weapon loot, they all take place in one of two UGF layouts; run a few and a pattern of investigation emerges real quick, turning this activity into a complete paint-by-numbers affair.
CIG is looking to expand activity locations by introducing “distribution hubs” to the game.
Based on initial videos and whitebox fly-thoughs as well as previous presentations on the subject, these distribution hubs are shaping up to very large. To compare it to a more widely known example, I’m guessing that we’re talking about centers that are larger than any city setting from World of Warcraft. And there will be several of them throughout the game.
These facilities are going to be large enough to accommodate actual in-game roads that players can use to get from place to place quickly. I don’t think there’s any MMO which has actual roads that are designed for this kind of traversal. While not mentioned in this presentation, we have also seen how these locations will extend underground.
The reason to have these in-game isn’t just to have them because they make lore-sense. CIG is planning to use these facilities in multiple ways. For example, hubs owned by the United Earth Empire (UEE) would be heavily militarized, and players would not be welcome there without an explicit invitation (or faction rep). Sometimes that invitation might be at the behest of a third party who wants the players to accomplish something that the UEE might not want them to accomplish.
Meanwhile, other facilities such as those owned by hardware manufacturer Greycat, are less fussy, allowing players to land and walk about, and could even serve as destinations for delivery missions, or offer facilities for refining and production.
What the above screenshots represent is only the outside of the facility. Next, we had Rainer Ricq, Lead Environmental Artist, talk about the “corporate” level of the facilities.
There wasn’t a lot of meat on this section, as it focused mainly on the “lobby” of an example building: some tasteful decor, offices, a reception desk…those kinds of things. These aspects give the facilities character, but one of my biggest gripes about MMOs with large spaces is that while these spaces are awe-inspiring and amazing to look at, they are often empty, un-utilized, and end up being time-sinks that we’re forced to pass through on our way to a destination. Basically, they end up as wasted space.
This segment gave some concrete examples of why we might be going to these distro hubs: raids.
Unlike normal raids in other MMOs, the raid opportunities in Star Citizen will adhere to the sandbox nature of the game, allowing for players to choose how to approach the objective. The facility itself might be hostile, with automated security, and there will certainly be NPCs who are there to stop players from progressing, but the operation isn’t as simple as “don’t stand in the fire” as players can opt to kick down the front door, find alternate, less patrolled pathways, or even stealth their way though.
In the video, players land under cover of AA fire, disembark, and make their way through the facility. This works a lot like the bunker missions we have now, but on a much larger scale.
The purpose of the raid can change as well. Some might require players to enter the facility to kill all NPCs, to kill specific NPCs, or to steal goods or data.
And then there are some SCbSC additions. It was mentioned that a player’s rep could alter the shape of the raid, such as by adding addition resistance or determining the objectives. It was, of course, mentioned that some raids may have counter-raids, meaning that while one party is attempting to achieve an objective, another party is called in to attempt to stop them…turning this into a PvP raid.
Then there’s the ol’ standby: physical puzzles. The handheld tractor beam is a great excuse for tired mechanics like jumping puzzles.
While I commend CIG for adding content that doesn’t involve shooting, blowing things up, or forcing other players upon us, jumping puzzles are the refuge of the uninspired. I really hate them.
Cargo and Freight
I have decided that I would follow the path of “industrialist” in Star Citizen, which to me encompasses activities such as mining and refining, salvaging, and cargo transport, so Nic Etheridge, Asst. Environmental Art Director, helmed a segment on cargo and freight that spoke to me. Judging by the reaction he got when he introduced himself and the segment, it spoke to many other people as well.
Right now, we have “delivery” missions which involves collecting a box or several from a location, and delivering them to other locations. In the future, though, we’ll be getting larger-scale hauling missions — the crowd loved this too, by the way.
As with other systems in the game, there will be reputation associated with our hauling activities which will lead to more lucrative — and more specialized — hauling contracts.
Hauling cargo is a first-class profession in Star Citizen which will require more than just automated loading and unloading. Several factors will contribute to the situation such as the size and weight of the cargo, the volatility of the contents, temperature control, and security.
Hauling isn’t just a “throw and go” activity, as the player will need to ensure the right conditions within the ship for the cargo being moved, and will need to be aware of the minute-by-minute situations in-transit in order to ensure that the cargo remains safe. Of course, this includes “safe from hostile forces”. As each cargo container will have a form which alludes to its contents, so with ships like the Hull series haulers which attach containers to external supports, hijacking a cargo ship means understanding what boxes you’re looking at, and not shooting indiscriminately.
Aside from increasing the difficulty and payout of missions, players will gain access to some branded perks for being a successful and loyal hauler. As these are mainly cosmetic, they are probably going to be very attractive to role-players who might opt to take on the persona of an employee of an NPC corporation by applying corporate livery to their personal ship and wearing the company’s official uniform when on the job. As the slide states, these items will only be available through rep gain. Again, players in the audience really liked this idea.
This is a biggie. Right now, our station-and-city-bound inventory lives in “the cloud” meaning we can get it from anywhere we are in that station or city. In the future, this will still be the case, but we won’t be able to simply withdraw items from anywhere; we’ll need to visit our own hangar and request items to be delivered via a freight elevator.
One use for the freight elevators is with cargo. As the game moves away from the automated loading and unloading of cargo, I suspect that taking on a freight mission will put the cargo into your elevator, which you will then need to load into your ship by hand (or by ship-mounted tractor beam). This is the point at which players will need to concern themselves with the conditions under which they are transporting their goods, ensuring that crates are secure, powered (if applicable) and are satisfied so they don’t blow up or expire while in transit. The freight elevator in the video listed a capacity of 960 SCU which is good for providing boxes to smaller cargo ships, but not for the larger ships. Larger ships will need to load and unload by docking with an orbital station’s cargo port, but no word on how those boxes will get attached to the ships, whether it will be by player intervention or NPC automation.
We won’t be limited to loading one box at a time, though. Hover trolleys are coming, which will allow players to stack boxes and move several of them at once. Although not specifically featured, I also assume that the Mule, a small forklift-style vehicle, will be able to physically move larger boxes as well.
And while they are called “freight elevators” the crowd went wild when this segment appeared:
“Parasite craft” as they’re called have been in the game for years, but getting to them has been a real PITA, requiring players to leave a station or planet to fly to a city or outpost that had vehicle spawning facilities, spawn the vehicle, and load it into a ship. Now, it seems we’ll be able to call forth any vehicles we have on-site and have them delivered to the hangar via the freight elevator. This is a massive and welcome update.
Part of the alternate use presentation, we saw that outfitting our ships would also use the elevator. Keeping additional weapons or ammo (missiles, bombs, torpedoes) in our inventory, we’ll be able to have them delivered to the hangar via the elevator. This also goes for ship components like shield generators, Qdrives, and power-plants.
Finally, all of our personal items — weapons, ammo, armor, utilities, and consumables — will be made available directly and physically through the elevator. I really love the small med-kit shown above; I’d rather just grab the whole box and bring it to the ship. One situation the presentation did not address was mass-consumables. As players will be expected to eat and drink, pilots of larger ships like Constellation, Carrack, 890 Jump, or similar will want to keep an on-ship inventory of food and drink for those long-haul journeys. With the removal of cloud inventory and the move to physical inventory via elevator, its still unclear how stocking a ship will work. At this point I assume that we’ll be able to buy quantities of food or water from a vendor for delivery to our location inventory, which we can then summon via the elevator. These items will be presented in boxes which we can carry, tractor, or trolley to the ship and unload to the ship’s physical inventory spaces.
Hangars have always been a pledge perk, with each ship package containing a “hangar” item. Right now, though, we can only “visit” our hangars outside of the PU; in the game we have to share hangars with all other players which means that a ship in hangar 2 will be present for all players, resulting in limited space at a landing zone.
In the future, our hangars will be persistent…somehow. Instead of calling a ship from an ASOP terminal in the lobby and taking an elevator to the hangar, we’ll be traveling to our hangar to call our ship. Through the persistent entity streaming, anything we leave in our hangar, even outside of the freight elevator, will persist whether we’re online or not, present or not. I have absolutely no idea how this is going to work considering that there are only so many landing ports in any given location, and not every hangar is fit for every single ship: my Carrack wouldn’t fit in a hangar designed for my Titan, so does that mean each ship has its own hangar? If a player has multiple ships, do they get multiple hangars? And will we need to find a location that has “free space” for us to claim a hangar? Will Lorville run out of room, forcing players to go far afield to even summon a single ship?
This is a massively welcome, if unformed, update. As tedious as it might end up being for moving large amounts of cargo, as an industrial player this is one simulation that I welcome. Having access to ground vehicles is huge as well. Using hangars as “maintenance bays” is also huge. In a way, I would be willing to bet that having persistent hangars will allow us to summon our ships and, if they have beds, to basically live in the hangar if we choose (though we’ll still get a HAB of our own at our chosen starting location, and the option to buy/rent at additional locations).
Bombshell – Homesteads
Todd Papy is awesome. He got the best (IMO) announcement of the entire convention, and that’s saying a lot because there was a lot of good info dropped this year. Without any exposition, Todd launched into a presentation that I don’t think anyone saw coming — but which so many people have been anticipating for years: homesteads.
We knew that being able to build our own homes and outposts was always a thing, because early on we could pledge for a settlement marker (since vanished from the store), and because the massive building-constructor ship, the Pioneer, was available to pledge for early on (but because it had no use, was never made available in the game). Player-owned structures where mentioned many times throughout the year, but we never had any specifics.
While we still don’t have as many specifics as I’d like, we did get an exciting fly-through presentation of several building types that we can expect to be able to build.
So what did we see there?
- Medical facilities.
- Storage depot.
- Garage (in blueprint form).
“Everything in the game is fabricated from a blueprint”.
This statement is super important. I vaguely remember somewhere back in time Chris Roberts saying that there wouldn’t be crafting in the game, which eventually turned into that there would be some crafting, but now it seems that when Todd says “everything”, he means everything.
Once we obtain a blueprint, we’ll be able to research it and use it to create variations. We’ll also need to be conscious of the quality of the materials, and not just the type, which immediately brings to mind the harvesting and crafting in one of my all-time favorite MMOs, Star Wars Galaxies. Although the slide says “rep rewards, mission rewards, and rare shopkeepers” as sources for blueprints, I would expect that common BPs will be available for purchase, and, of course, tradable and sellable by players. It would be a grave mistake to not follow EVE on this and make BPs a one-and-done by not offering the option to duplicate them for distribution. Grave. Mistake.
Naturally, buildings and accessories will be built from blueprints. I am assuming that the style of building will be one of those research outcomes, but nothing was officially said on that score.
Here’s the let-down on homesteads, though it’s really not surprising so I can’t complain much. .
For those who merely want a home to return to and to decorate, a high-sec option is available. This requires the purchase of land and incurs taxes. If the taxes aren’t paid then the location becomes “derelict” and, I assume, eventually available for someone else to claim. We do get complete protection, though, meaning other players cannot bomb or invade our land. NPC security response will be swift and overwhelming (although I doubt it’ll be enough to ward off an insanely dedicated player attempt). Any harvesters placed here will only yield the basic, most common materials in keeping with the ass-backwards tradition of “MMOs forcing people into dangerous areas by putting the most valuable materials in the hands of criminals”.
For those who want to walk the line, low-sec is an option that will provide some protection, but none of it will be guaranteed. Land purchases will be done through a corporation or gang, not a government entity. NPCs will defend your site for you, but you can also add personal protection like turrets and shield generators to help out. Any harvesting done here will yield moderately important results.
Finally, for the edgy players among us, there’s the null-sec locations. Here, there’s no NPC response, but also no one to buy land from or to pay taxes to. Any player who wants land can just claim it — and must personally or automatically defend it 24/7. Any harvesters placed here will result in the best materials the universe has to offer.
The land claim tool will allow players to put down a marker and launch a drone. This drone will (apparently) provide info on the land surveyed including the coordinates, the law status, and the potential for resources found there. Players can adjust the size and position of the proposed claim and will get info on the cost and taxes (if any) based on those measurements.
Once claimed, we can enter building mode. The first step is to plan the layout. I assume this works very much like other city-builders in that we will be able to set down wire-frame buildings we intend to build. This mode will show us the resources required to build each part as well as the resource network required to connect power providers to power consumers (remember the resource network from the ship segment? It pertains to base building as well). During this time we can add, remove, or move buildings to get the optimal and desired layout and construction.
In the case of buildings, we’ll need to have the tools that will accommodate our plans (the vehicles or otherwise). Once constructed, buildings are basically empty; we’ll need to build a “workbench” fabricator to create the things that we want, from weapons and ammo to decoration and furniture…and even ships, which is, I believe, a complete 180 from the day-one claim that there would be no crafting in the game. Of course, in order to fabricate anything we’ll need the appropriate materials which we can harvest, buy, or steal.
Fear not, though: If you only want a house and some furnishings, you will be able to buy furnishings from various places in the game.
I like this slide. We can build utility buildings like storage depots and garages, but we will also be able to build storefronts. I envision that not only will we be able to build outposts, fabricate items, and sell them here — requiring players to physically visit the location, again, like SWG — but storefronts will benefit from organization cities where many players contribute materials and blueprints to sell to off-world visitors as a way for the org to earn credits.
There are also extractors. The mining laser is a given, considering we can mine via hand laser and ship, but drills and pumps will, I assume, allow us to harvest gasses. Water extractors are cool, but I would have also liked to be able to just add a pump to a nearby lake to do the same, assuming that this is not what is intended. Todd mentioned that the items extracted will appear directly as containers and will be subject to the same care requirements mentioned in the cargo section above: materials might be volatile, radioactive, or might spoil so we’ll need to attend to the resources as required. Finally, we’ll be able to upgrade these harvesters to make them more efficient and more resilient.
Although mentioned in the context of the harvesters, it should be assumed that all buildings will need to be maintained. This of course includes damage over time through wear and tear, but I might also assume we’ll need to slap on fresh coats of paint every once in a while because SCbSC.
We’ll have several power generators at our disposal, each of which will be better suited for some environments than others. Expect to have to continuously power some of them, or to obtain diminished returns from others.
After collecting resources (or obtaining them otherwise), we’ll be able to put those resources through processing to produce other items. Fabricators were already mentioned, but we will also be able to grow plants and medicine/drugs, but also refine raw materials. I am interested in this option as a mining player. Not having to queue my refinement or pay a fee to refine my materials sounds like a really good deal to me.
Finally, depending on the location and the need, there’s defenses which include shield generators, AA weapons, and anti-personnel turrets to cover both air and ground assaults. It was mentioned that in the null-sec settlements, players will be able to disable shield generators and, of course, the power grid, so don’t expect any deterrent to actually deter anyone; at best these measures will only delay invested parties.
The act of construction offers many different tools for many different play-styles, supposedly. There’s the usual requirements such as materials and machines to move and use those materials. With a surveyor tool — assumed to be a hand-held fabrication device — we can only build small sized buildings (no idea what “small” looks like). For small-to-medium buildings we’ll need an as-yet-unannounced-but-shown-here wheeled constructor vehicle (which is possibly a modular attachment to an existing vehicle). Small-to-large buildings are the purview of the RSI Galaxy construction ship, and finally the Pioneer will be able to make all sizes, from small to extra large. The pioneer will also have other perks which Todd said will be discussed “later on” as in “an unscheduled time in the future”.
Bonus: Todd mentioned that they are also exploring what can be done in space, not just on the planet, meaning that yes, it seems that space-station ownership is on the table.
We’ve heard a lot about how CIG has been working on modular buildings and facilities in order to replace existing outposts and to create the NPC settlements we’ll be seeing in the game, and it’s always been assumed (or even stated, I don’t recall) that these buildings and resources would be used for players to create the own homes when the time comes. That means that as far as assets go, development has already been underway for some time. When Todd says that development begins in Q1 2024, I assume this to mean the systems such as land claims and management, building placement, blueprints, construction, and, of course, resource management. In effect, it’s not starting from scratch, and I would like to believe that in previous promises that everything we saw during this years convention will be available by the end of 2024, this includes personal land ownership and housing.
If you got there, whew! Thank you! I know this was an exceptionally long post and I hope it took less time to read it than it did to watch the video.
As I mentioned, I am very much interested in playing the logistics and industry game, whether it’s mining, salvaging, extracting, refining, or hauling goods in some capacity. This segment was aimed at me, but it also addresses many pain-points that all Star Citizens face in the current alpha, specifically inventory management.
I do have concerns that having to deal with our own cargo is going to become very tedious, very quickly. If I am hauling a full load of 1SCU boxes in my C1 Spirit or MSR, that’s a lot of boxes to tractor between the freight elevator and the ship. And if I buy commodities from an outpost, how will that work? Are there going to be elevators at outposts, which are open-air facilities on the surface of planets and moons? Being able to move items in bulk is good, so the Mule should become useful, and the hover-trolleys will be welcome. I still wonder how we’ll be able to stock our ships of consumables, but I assume my above assessment will be close to the mark.
I’m relatively cool on the distribution hub reveals, mostly because I cannot fathom any reason I’d be there. I might some day decide to choose a mission that requires me to visit, starting with lawful missions to collect or deliver goods, but maybe some day I might find myself teaming up with others for more questionable reasons to attend. While I love that these facilities are going to be super-massive to offer all kinds of opportunities, I will mostly be ignoring them until I cannot.
The banger for me was, of course, housing. Housing was known but unspoken of for a long time, until CIG started featuring how they were building assets for NPC outposts and settlements. At that point, player housing was brought into the mix at the periphery. I’m extremely happy to see that it now has momentum, although I am not without concern. Of course, logic would dictate that the best, most valuable materials would be obtained and guarded by the most powerful actors — i.e. governments and corporations — but video game logic ignores this and insists that pirates and criminals get to control them, so using the best materials as the carrot for the PvP stick is monumentally moronic. I also don’t necessarily trust CIG, with their “risk versus reward” tattoo echoing throughout everything they announce, won’t make even the most simple building require some of the more advanced materials in a bid to force players to go out and risk for that reward. Personally, I don’t consider wanting a video game home “a risk” that warrants having to fight other players, though I do not doubt that any materials required will be available for purchase…but then again, I trust players even less than I trust CIG to price materials within a reasonable range. Although Todd said that solo players could build, that’s really “allowed” to build, not actually “able” to build, but we’ll see.
Finally, as a footnote, the relatively off-handed remark that we’ll be able to build ships is far larger a surprise than I think the reaction offered by the crowd. I don’t expect ship building to be a trivial affair even for the most mundane vehicle. It also makes me question how the manufacturer angle plays in. If I, a Star Citizen of no repute, can some day create a Drake Dragonfly or a MISC Prospector, isn’t that trademark infringement? Will NPC corps dispatch a team of players from their new distribution center to invade my production facility and teach me not to mess with their bottom line? This is Star Citizen, so I wouldn’t put it past them.