Stick and Rudder: Star Citizen is starting to come together

Last Tuesday I woke in the wee hours of the morning to install Star Citizen’s 1.2 patch. I wasn’t battling insomnia or anything like that; on the contrary, I set my alarm and made sure to start the mammoth download so that it would be finished when I rolled out of bed for real.

Why not Monday or even last week when the patch released? Because I fall under Comcast’s internet monopoly, and one of the many reasons Comcast sucks is the 300 GB limit on my “unlimited” plan. Since Star Citizen’s social module is a whopping 30 GB download, I had to wait until Tuesday and the start of September to avoid a fee!

After my epic overnight download was complete, I spent a couple of hours playing around in the newly released social module. Even though it’s clearly a pre-alpha rough cut, I feel that Star Citizen is starting to come together.

welcome

Too much information

I’ve burned out on alphas and betas in recent years, which makes my Star Citizen dabbling this week all the more encouraging. It’s not that I’m looking forward to the game any less than I was in 2013 or 2014 when I was cranking this column out on a weekly basis, but Cloud Imperium has helped me realize that seeing how the cake is baked isn’t as fun as eating it. Or as Patton Oswalt once explained, “I don’t care where the stuff I love comes from, I just love the stuff I love.” I may have paraphrased that a tiny bit to protect the innocent, but info overload is why I’ve basically checked out of hardcore Star Citizen fandom in recent months.

There’s just too much, you know? Following this title’s open development process and its dozens of weekly updates is literally a full-time job that leaves little room for playing released games, so I’ve adopted the same approach that I took during Star Wars: Galaxies‘ early beta all those years ago: I log in every couple of months to see if stuff in general is still to my liking, but I’m reserving serious play and research time for post-launch.

hornetgirlYour first step into a larger world

The social module, a planetary landing zone called ArcCorp Area 18 in the game’s fiction, is definitely to my liking. It’s Star Citizen’s first step into a larger world, and if this tease is any indication, what a world it’s going to be! Currently there’s not a lot to do in gameplay terms other than explore, but I spent a couple of hours wandering along the catwalks and back alleys of this initial zone doing just that.

dumperCloud Imperium’s artists and world-builders have outdone themselves; this particular slice of the game perfectly captures the ambiance I was expecting when I saw this piece of concept art way back in 2012. Area 18 boasts a grimy, lived-in visual palette that looks the way you’d expect a heavily industrialized and heavily traveled starport to look in the 30th century.

It’s not the dark, dank, sky-on-fire dreamscape of Blade Runner. It’s also not the plasticky pastel milieu of insert-stylized-MMO-here. Instead, it’s a plausible, working man’s aesthetic that’s the same sort of dirtysexy authentic as that full-size Millennium Falcon prop from the Empire Strikes Back’s Hoth hangar bay.

Crucially, Area 18 doesn’t look or feel like a crappy matte painting or a fake-ass digital composite; it looks and feels like an actual place where actual pilots, traders, mercenaries, and hustlers ply their wares and sneak around to rest, refit, and refuel.

gunsTrue to Chris Roberts‘ long-standing love of immersion, CIG has filled Area 18 with lore-centric advertisements for everything from spaceships to sports to guns and ammo. Similarly, there are lots of little touches like visible scratches on various signage, puddles of standing water and refuse-strewn alleyways with occasionally readable refuse, and a slick “augmented reality display system,” which projects critical gameplay info like player names through an immersive though currently incomplete UI element.

Oh, and try not to squee like I did when you wander into the Astro Armada showroom, a spit-shined monument to modern starship production complete with an M50 on a rotating pedestal and an in-character sales pitch looping over the PA system much like your local auto dealership.

But can I run it?

The NPC population is pretty sparse at the moment, and you can’t really interact with shopkeepers or security personnel as of today. That said, the level of visual detail already apparent on both the NPC faces and their gear is just short of mind-blowing.

Performance is impressive, too, even though my rig (4 Ghz i7 4790 with 8 GB of RAM and a couple of GTX970s) isn’t exactly cutting-edge anymore. According to Fraps, I never dropped below 30 frames per second even though I maxed all of the graphical settings.

Pressing F12 inside ArcCorp brings up a rudimentary chat box, and you’ll share the local channel with up to 24 other players during this first release phase. You can press F6 to cycle through a few different armor looks, and CIG has included several /emotes as well. Avatar customization is currently non-existent, though as persistent universe director Tony Zurovec explained in last week’s introduction post, the social module is really just a foundation for the rest of the game at this point.

upA solid foundation

CIG plans to roll out everything from shared hangars to simulated games to group space engagements as functionality upgrades to the current social module, not to mention avatar customization options through the module’s various merchant locations.

Perhaps the most gratifying part of my stroll through the social module is the knowledge that this is just a tiny part of Star Citizen’s vast universe. CIG has already teased another landing zone release with a layout and a visual environment that differs dramatically from Area 18. When I think of visiting dozens of dissimilar planets in hundreds of far flung star systems, all with this level of detail and wrapped around a flight sim core with ground-based FPS shenanigans and a sandbox economy, frankly it makes me think that Star Citizen is in fact under-hyped.

Even at this early stage, the social module was well worth waking up at an ungodly hour to start a 30 GB download!

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105 Comments on "Stick and Rudder: Star Citizen is starting to come together"

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Vikingr
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Vikingr

BrotherMaynard 
“Previously, SC performance was significantly boosted by automatically
switching from DX11 to Mantle. With the impending launch of DX12, AMD
stopped the development of Mantle and clearly said it would not be
supported any more and DX12 would be the API of choice for the future.”
That’s kind of sad since it’ll result in Microsoft resting on their laurels again. However, there’s a continuation of Mantle in the Open Source project Vulcan, I believe. I have only read the headlines about Vulcan though so I don’t know much about the details, other than they’re implementing it into OpenGL(?) Anyway, I think OpenGL – with or without Vulcan – is the future competitor to DirectX.

DugFromTheEarth
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DugFromTheEarth

Darkdrakke DugFromTheEarth No, i dont proof/grammar check it before its finished

I do however make a point to be as precise and grammatically correct as possible when im doing a serious piece of work. Seems a lot of devs these days would write a paper like this (staying with your analogy above)

“Hai gize, letz wright a paper, dont worrie bout grammer or NEthing cuz we kan jus proofreed it when we R dun.”

I also have to go back and reference Camelot Unchained again. They stripped down everything to the core engine, and are working first to make sure it runs smooth and fast, and then building on top of that. Rather than making a big, fancy looking game with all the latest visual bells and whistles, and then finding themselves rushing during the last 2 months before release to figure out how to get it to run faster than 25 FPS on a GTX 980.

Darkdrakke
Guest
Darkdrakke

DugFromTheEarth Its because if you try to optimize before your finished, your just making double or even tripple work as they make major changes all that Optimization goes out the window and is wasted effort. Do you proofread/grammar spell check a paper before you actually finish it?

Darkdrakke
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Darkdrakke

Thornz rioinsignia Microtech is a Mix of Apple and Microsoft, hence the super clean white and metal aesthetic, they make software and computing devices so very clean planet compared to the more “industrial” worlds.

KythasWraith
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KythasWraith

Estranged BrotherMaynard captainzor jefreahard

Also, as a nice added benefit, you can free up more GPU performance because AA is rendered moot at resolutions that high. Even with AA off in most titles I can’t see jaggies at 4k.

Smiggins
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Smiggins

seasontwo seek mental help.

rioinsignia
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rioinsignia

Iridium Thornz As Iridium says…it’s going to be a city on an Iceworld…..Stanton I

Iridium
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Iridium

Thornz rioinsignia Microtech is going to be on an Iceworld.

JakeDunnegan
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JakeDunnegan

Thanks for the article, Jef. ;) I don’t have the time to keep up as much as I’d like, and this was a refreshing update on the goings on. Still can’t wait to see it, but like many other backers, I’m happy to watch from the sidelines and continue to hope they produce the greatest game ever, to date. ;)

Thornz
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Thornz

rioinsignia 
It’s so modern and sterile it’s hurting my eyes…. LOL 

Seriously, that is real nice. That would look great as a moon or asteroid colony city I think.

Thornz
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Thornz

mmonerd 
An the band played on…….

rioinsignia
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rioinsignia

mmonerd Maybe he yearns to be a court jester?  He’s certainly made a few people laugh with his antics.

TheChiefTurtle
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TheChiefTurtle

hey sockpuppet No.436

TheChiefTurtle
Guest
TheChiefTurtle

he can’t even take them to a tennis court

BrotherMaynard
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BrotherMaynard

Vikingr BrotherMaynard Now you got me thinking about a possible AMD-specific cause for the drop in Windows 10. Previously, SC performance was significantly boosted by automatically switching from DX11 to Mantle. With the impending launch of DX12, AMD stopped the development of Mantle and clearly said it would not be supported any more and DX12 would be the API of choice for the future. 
So when now the drivers detect Windows 10, they switch off legacy features of Mantle in favour of DX12 and since the games (including SC) are not made for DX12 yet, the result is a net loss of the extra performance previously provided by Mantle.

Anyway, that’s just my guess, but it would explain the significant drop in performance after the upgrade to Windows 10…

BrotherMaynard
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BrotherMaynard

Vikingr BrotherMaynard DX12 is on by default in Windows 10, I don’t think there is even an option to select the previous version(s). In the game itself I didn’t find any DX mode switch, either. But I’m not really worried – it’s still early, the OS has only been out for little over a month, I suspect as Win10 open beta advances, we’ll see improvements.

The engine will get DX12 support in the coming months (Frankfurt is already working on it, it seems) and things will also improve once CIG gets the two separate branches merged (the social module and the star marine). So yeah, I can be patient – lots of improvements are on the way over the next few months!

Cleannternet
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Cleannternet

Damonvile Either you want to support game here and now or wait for SQ42 release if you are more a solo pilot a la Wing Commander.  I expect 1st episode of SQ42 (out of 3) to be released S1 2016.
So you can always jump in the train at this time as SQ42 itself will be worth 45$.  On top you will be able to participate to Beta PU.

But more information to come from Citizen Con this month.

Cleannternet
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Cleannternet

Koolthulu Not necessarely bad but definitively not for eveyrone.  At a time everyting is almost immediate, that is hard to wait and see just tiny/unbalanced stuff during 5 years :)

Vikingr
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Vikingr

BrotherMaynard 
Are you running hte game with DirectX 12 or DX11? I believe you have a choice somewhere. Not in the game but in Windows 10 (or perhaps in the driver configuration).

Cleannternet
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Cleannternet

TronSheridan It looks like you shoot numbers like you breath.  Calm down man…
– 3TB?  nop current estimate is around 100gig
– crazy computer? nop unless you want to play it with a 4K resolution.  With a 3 yerars old I5K + 16 gb + GTX 680 evrything is maxed out in both AC and Social.
– 3 years development does not mean they can release AAA in 3 years starting from scratch and a team of 12…. What you see in the tip of the iceberg.  All merge modules and codes will be done by end of 2015.

rioinsignia
Guest
rioinsignia

This months End of Month Report and this weeks FPS Update are very good to read….some nice updates, especially regarding the future of the Social Module.
The Microtech concept art looks pretty awesome….reminds me of Manaan from the Knights Of The Old Republic game. I think there was something similar in Mass Effect too.

rioinsignia
Guest
rioinsignia

Holy Crap!!! They’ve nearly done the merge already!
https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/transmission/14939-Star-Marine-Status-Update
“As we wrap up the staging merge this week, we go into final
integrations of the Global Instance Manager that was recently deployed
with the Social Module update. Some folks are going to work on this
final merge step this coming weekend in order to make ready a code
review based on the merge. If all goes as planned, we’ll be on a single
dev stream early next week! Great news for the overall project.

To date, the CryEngine 3.7 SDK has been integrated, and the dev stream we used for both the Social Module release and FPS
development have been merged into the game development stream. One of
the things this has done is point out some conflicts to us, which we are
finding and addressing. Many of them require a manual review, as newer
is not always better when streams diverge, but we’re getting it done,
and pushing every day towards putting Star Marine in your hands.”
Of course…there’s testing to be done on it after this.  But still…I gotta give them credit where it’s due….I honestly didn’t think they’d get through that so fast.   This means that the additional stuff they’ve been working on for the social module will be coming “online” pretty soon.  Woohoo!

rioinsignia
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rioinsignia

BobDobalina Thanks for this, I was intending on find them to read :)

Estranged
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Estranged

BrotherMaynard Estranged captainzor jefreahard Ah ok, that makes sense, I didn’t think about larger screens.  I know my TV is OK at 1080p, but I prefer 32.

BrotherMaynard
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BrotherMaynard

Estranged captainzor jefreahard You see the difference easily on anything 20-24″ and more, I would say. And the larger screen you have, the more noticeable it becomes, obviously. I have a 31.5″ screen and with that size the standard HD does not look good at all.

BrotherMaynard
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BrotherMaynard

Vikingr BrotherMaynard captainzor Thanks, I didn’t know about the new beta driver. After testing, my SC performance remains the same though, 10-15 fps in the hangar and a stable 15 in the city.

Ceder
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Ceder

jefreahard paragonlostinspace  That’s because Comcast has been doing everything in their power to thwart the new net neutrality mandates by getting congressmen and senators to write in amendments to unrelated bills that will have language to weaken or remove the net neutrality adherences.

Ceder
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Ceder

blackcatcrosses TronSheridan  He’s not manzes. Manzes can’t write sentences at that level of fluency. :P

Estranged
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Estranged

captainzor jefreahard Question.  Why go higher than than standard HD resolution?  The human eye doesn’t process higher resolutions that well.

Estranged
Guest
Estranged

agemyth captainzor jefreahard I’m not knocking anyone’s choice here, but I have come to the same conclusion.  Hope this changes with DX12.

Estranged
Guest
Estranged

Vikingr BrotherMaynard captainzor I gave up on AMD.  Finally had enough.  I’m all for the underdog, but the support is just 10x better with Nvidia. Just tired of all the insane fixes.  

Going to give this thing a spin the next time Chris has a free weekend.  I just want to see if it will run decently on my worst machine.

Vikingr
Guest
Vikingr

BobDobalina 
Those gunshots in the video sounds very good! :)

Vikingr
Guest
Vikingr

Damonvile 
if you’re not going to play it before the official public release, then the only reason to buy a package now is the lower price. But you won’t pay much more if you wait either. it’ll only be a difference of ca. $15.

Vikingr
Guest
Vikingr

Koolthulu 
With traditional development you miss out on two important things:

a) user feedback – what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t work
b) testing in a live environment with many concurrent users, catch bugs and quirks

With a shelf game you have to cross your fingers and hope the users like what you’ve made, and that there isn’t too many bugs. With Star Citizen’s open developmet you constantly get feedback so your can adjust in time, long before release.

Vikingr
Guest
Vikingr

BrotherMaynard captainzor 
There’s a new driver from AMD that dramatically enhances frame rates if you run DX12 under Windows 10. Some users on RSI have tested it and it looks very good. I have no personal experience with that combination though.

mmonerd
Guest
mmonerd

Now i see why DS took them to the court. All coming together without his approval.

BobDobalina
Guest
BobDobalina
Lethality
Guest
Lethality

Estranged No, you aren’t… not the scope of Star Citizen because there is nothing comparable.

Estranged
Guest
Estranged

Could have sworn I’m playing an alpha right now that has twitch streams that is around the same age.

Lethality
Guest
Lethality

TronSheridan Sure, you have the right… but no other game has even been SHOWN to you in less than three years of development, either.

Lethality
Guest
Lethality

Good overview Jef!  It really does show how all of this stuff is fitting together, and will be like nothing else out there. 
Hell, no one else that we know of has even *started* to work on anything even remotely similar. We as virtual world aficionados should be pretty happy someone is at least trying.

seasontwo
Guest
seasontwo

Armsman TronSheridan “But I wouldn’t really consider that part of the development of SC as again, it was done FOR the crowdfunding campaign ”

So, how many months you have to take out of this development for things that they “made for Gamescon” or “made for Citizecon” which were just tech demo as the initial prototype was?

Armsman
Guest
Armsman

TronSheridan 5 years? I think you’re a bit off there. The initial crowdfunding campaign started in Oct. 2012 and ended in Nov. 2012. Yes, CT had a tech demo proof of concept in Cryengine to show for the campaign to drum up support – which was made by CR and about 10 others in their off time over a year <— But I wouldn’t really consider that part of the development of SC as again, it was done FOR the crowdfunding campaign (because CR new that most people will want a proof of concept before parting with any cold, hard cash.
Plus, once the initial crowdfunding was successful, CR had to create and staff an actual company, but even if you want to consider SC development started in November 2012 (after the initial crowfunding met and started to exceed the initial goals) – November 2012 to Sept. 2015 = 2 years 10 months SC dev time to date.
Given the scope of the current project, it’s not lagging at all. If this were being done like a ‘normal’ game project the public wouldn’t even get a hint the game was in development until perhaps 6 months to 1 year from actual release; and by that time, the game in question (if we’re talking MMO – which SC honestly is to a large degree) has already been in development 3 – 4 years.
You have every right to your opinion; but SC has not been in development anywhere close to 5 years as yet.

seasontwo
Guest
seasontwo

Coming together to the court of law.

Damonvile
Guest
Damonvile

blackcatcrosses TronSheridan It’s not really fare to call  anyone that doesn’t love the game manze. There’s crazy hater DOOOMMMM!!! posters and there are people who are generally getting frustrated with the project. They’re not even remotely the same type of people.

The Batman
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The Batman

MorpayneRADIO Sure, if you’re grandfathered into an old account. Verizon’s cap is one of the worst now.

rioinsignia
Guest
rioinsignia

blackcatcrosses TronSheridan Nah, that’s not Manzes.  Manzes doesn’t post on anything else but ED and SC articles. Plus a typical Manzes sock puppet account doesn’t last for THAT many posts / likes.

blackcatcrosses
Guest
blackcatcrosses

TronSheridan Bye Manzies.

Snky
Guest
Snky

Kurt Maverick Quite extinct if they ever did exist. Is a two-headed unicorn still a unicorn?

Kurt Maverick
Guest
Kurt Maverick

Snky TronSheridan Aren’t those creatures of legend themselves? xD

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