I don’t usually like to require someone read a previous post of mine in order to understand a current post, but I feel that this time it’s warranted. So please take a few moments and cast your eyes towards the “Death of a Spaceman Addresses the Wrong Issues” post that I penned last year.
Done? Good, because we got an update during this week’s Inside Star Citizen.
In A3.15, we’re going to get the first pass at healing. A lot of folks have been waiting for this because it’s promising more than just a “shot in the arm” (get it?!) feature: it’s going to be a core gameplay loop.
For those who didn’t re-read my previous post (you know who you are), here’s the tl;dr: Chris Roberts believes that with a more in-depth damage and death mechanic, players will center their entire in-game decision making process around how likely they are to die. This, in turn, will make players more attached to their characters, which will somehow bring a new level of self-policing to the online multiplayer game genre as consequences will make players think twice before undertaking dangerous tasks. I call bullshit on this, because players have never needed mechanics to make them not want to die in an online game. Death has been an inconvenience at best when we do die to legitimate game mechanics, and rage inducing at worst, when our deaths are the result of intentional player griefing. So there’s my short-form feelings on the subject.
This week’s ISC talks about how injury will work. There are still different levels of injury which can be applied to different parts of the body (head, chest, arms, and legs), and our playability will be affected by the level of injury and the location of the injury. Head injuries will affect vision and motor control. Chest injuries affect our stamina. Injuries to the arms will prevent us from carrying large loads or even aiming our weapons, and an injured leg will cause us to limp, or even fall down to the point where we have to crawl. This is way beyond what we usually see in an online game, and to be honest, it’s kind of cool.
Going further, this implies that getting shot or clubbed or blown up isn’t a case of “being fine up until we’re downed” like we see in most games. We’ll be able to limp around in a woozy haze in the hopes we’ll get to a medical facility. Meanwhile, medipens (with several new, targeted varieties being introduced in A3.15) will allow us to stave off some of the more deleterious effects until we can get some trained help.
To that end, there will be three tiers of medical assistance. The first, tier 3, can be offered by “field medics” utilizing medbays found in the Cutlass Red. Tier 2 include the Anvil Carrack, an exploration-focused vessel (so jumping the Red in benefit makes sense from a longer mission standpoint). Tier 1 facilities are those found on planets. Each tier will probably be able to take care of wounds up to a certain point, effectively keeping us conscious long enough to make a further journey back to civilization to get the best care possible.
A3.15 is also finally making our “home spawn points” more codified. Right now, we spawn at the point closest to where we logged off last, meaning we could start by waking up at Port Olisar, and by logging out at Tressler Station. Next time, we wake at Tressler. In the next patch, we’ll be asked where we want to set our home point to be, and we’ll continue to wake there on subsequent logins. This means that when we die, we’ll have two options on where to spawn. If we had bound ourselves to a field bed (the Cutty Red, Carrack, or eventually, the Apollo), we will wake there. If not, we’ll spawn at the Tier 1 facility closest to our original home spawn point. This is a good thing, as eventually we’ll be able to pick an actual home, like a rented hab or even a player homestead, but it’s also going to be a bit of a bummer, as it’s been pretty convenient for in-game events to “pre-bind” ourselves to a spawn point in anticipation of needing to be somewhere the next time we log in.
The only downside to the healing info is the one that’s always been on my mind, and that’s the causes and effects of dying. It goes without saying that in a sandbox game like Star Citizen, there’ll be plenty of players who are legitimately — and under-cover-of-legitimacy — playing pirates and criminals and whose gameplay loops will consist mainly of hijacking other people’s ships. Some pirates want to watch the world burn: they’ll take the cargo, kill the crew, and burn the ship. Others will be more honest, taking only the cargo and leaving the crew and ship intact. Me being me, I fully expect more of the latter than I do the former. So although CIG mentions a pretty generous “downed state” of around 2 real world hours which allows us to be picked up by friends, it also means that griefers can totally put a bullet in our heads and finish the job, sending us straight back to the T1 facility near home. When we die this way (or opt to suicide in the field and respawn quickly), our dead bodies and all of our on-bod inventory become the property of whomever finds it first. Questions abound regarding the pledged items, which was not addressed by this video.
So there you have it. Most games allow you to take an insane amount of damage, but it’s almost always inconsequential until it’s not. It sounds like A3.15 is going to allow us to still take the damage, but to incrementally make us aware of it by affecting our ability to do stuff, and by making things worse over time if we don’t address our wounds for the long haul. In a simulation game, this is simulation par excellence. However, I’m still not a fan of the idea that this system is somehow going to make us care more about our characters, or care more about avoiding death. I suspect a lot of death is going to happen while inside some very expensive ships which people are going to naturally be working very hard not to lose in the first place. While the adage “don’t fly what you can’t afford to lose” is always going to be etched in stone, the avoidance of losing anything even if it’s replicable is more an exercise in time management than it is an act of “being a better player”.
 When I say “expensive” I’m sure a lot of folks will assume I meant in terms of real-money, but those of us who have paid real money are guaranteed to never lose access to our ships. It’s the people who buy the starter packages and who work in-game to earn money to upgrade their loadouts first, and buy better ships second, that are going to feel the sting of ship losses more keenly.