On this week’s Around the Verse, Star Citizen’s Chris Roberts and Sandi Gardiner bookend two key segments. The first is a studio update with Foundry 42 checking in from Frankfurt; Brian Chambers describes the team’s efforts on procedural planets, spawning, moons, performance capture, the conversation system, NPC AI, and missions headed into Squadron 42.
The moons “are getting cooler every week, and they’re actually a really great test example where we’re sort of pushing our tech for the planets, which will also pay off on the more involved planets like Hurston or ArcCorp or Microtech and beyond,” Roberts says. “So it’s a great test bed, and it’s kinda fun for me, and we share it with you guys, but I sort of see the progress weekly in it, and it gets cooler and better. So this universe is going to be awesome.”
As Star Citizen players are still grappling with the recently revealed development schedule, Chris Roberts has swooped in to provide some context and explanation for the roadmap. He said that the early summer jump to the alpha 3.0 build of the game will greatly expand on what Star Citizen can do and offer. The June update will contain a trio of moons to explore and the possibility of a large asteroid as well.
“When you see a planet or moon, you will be able to fly there, land and explore on foot, or from your ship or a ground vehicle you have brought with you. All seamlessly, all with the incredible first person detail that Star Citizen is known for,” Roberts said. “With this we are delivering something that goes way beyond the initial promises and conception of Star Citizen; we will be simulating a first-person universe with almost no limits.”
If Roberts’ letter isn’t enough to sate your need for information, there’s also the new monthly studio report to absorb. We’ve got it for you below, so watch now and thank us later!
Star Citizen’s Chris Roberts and Tony Zurovec teamed up to field backer questions on a new round of Ten for the Chairman this week. This episode is at least in part about stuff, literally: The early questions focus on cargo and salvage and how it all works. Star Citizen is all about the realism and the ecosystem of living and trading in space; you’ll be able to truly see the stuff you’re buying and hauling, there will be a combination of automatic and manual cargo unloading, salvaging will be a completely legitimate playstyle, “player-generated mayhem” will be possible across certain parts of the persistent universe, and you will indeed be able to “move fluidly between professions.”
Roberts also addresses the basic difficulty of just keeping your hunk of junk in the air. “There will definitely be a certain amount of maintenance keeping your ship running especially in the bigger ships,” he says. “If you’ve watched any science fiction movie and you’ve seen Chewie banging the Millennium Falcon or the crew of the Nostromo having to keep their ship running and stuff like that.”
It’s definitely worth a listen, especially if you’re my kind of geek — i.e., the kind who isn’t much into World of Evil Space Jerk Empire but thinks the idea of Tramp Freighters Online sounds damn fun.
Persistent universe fans, heads up: On this week’s Star Citizen Around the Verse, Chris Roberts is joined by Persistent Universe Game Director Tony Zurovec, who explains that his team is hard at work on mission scenario conversion and solar system services — like commodities and shopping.
“The first one of these out the door will be the shopping service, and it’s going to control inventory, prices, and demand levels for all the shops within a system. It’s also going to hook up to the mission service so that low inventory levels will automatically result in the creation of mission to reverse the trend. The mission service is also really interesting because along with a lot of work that’s occurred, it’s also going to allow us to start instantiating a lot of dynamic content for the game. This is all dramatically different than what we’ve had in the game today, which has always been much more static in nature.”
There’s also a studio check-in with the Frankfurt team; a lengthy segment on the Anvil Hurricane, the concept ship that rolled out to buyers last week; and a behind-the-scenes feature on character customization. Check it below!
When you’ve lived a life as wacky and full as Ultima creator Richard Garriott, it only stands to reason that you’d probably want to share your stories and lessons with those who aren’t multi-millionaire game designers.
Garriott’s new memoir, Explore/Create, hit the bookshelves this week. The book is co-written by David Fisher and talks about Garriott’s many real-world adventures and his experiences in the games industry. In the book he also talks about how he connected his various interests to game creation, such as his fascination with languages that fed into Tabula Rasa.
In an interview, the Shroud of the Avatar creator said that he and other ex-Origin employees such as Chris Roberts and Warren Spector, still stay in touch and have shared elements between their projects to connect their game worlds. “We all support each other and love each other. Maybe us old Originites might find a way to get back together,” he said.
Just before the holiday weekend, Cloud Imperium announced that both Star Citizen and Squadron 42 are using Lumberyard, Amazon’s robust game engine, and in fact have done so for “more than a year.” Lumberyard’s only been public knowledge for about 10 months and change, and Star Citizen’s devs haven’t mentioned it at all, which got players buzzing about transparency along the way, to say nothing of the folks puzzling over the CryEngine base Star Citizen was originally said to be using.
Yesterday, Chris Roberts addressed both issues. First, he says, “Lumberyard and StarEngine are both forks from exactly the SAME build of CryEngine.”
“We stopped taking new builds from Crytek towards the end of 2015. So did Amazon. Because of this the core of the engine that we use is the same one that Amazon use and the switch was painless (I think it took us a day or so of two engineers on the engine team). What runs Star Citizen and Squadron 42 is our heavily modified version of the engine which we have dubbed StarEngine, just now our foundation is Lumberyard not CryEngine. None of our work was thrown away or modified. We switched the like for like parts of the engine from CryEngine to Lumberyard. All of our bespoke work from 64 bit precision, new rendering and planet tech, Item / Entity 2.0, Local Physics Grids, Zone System, Object Containers and so on were unaffected and remain unique to Star Citizen.”
In late 2012, former Wing Commander developer-slash-movie director Chris Roberts emerged from a decade of obscurity to ask for help to fund his vision of a massive, engaging space sim for a modern audience. Fans opened up their wallets and started pouring unprecedented amounts of money into the project, which Roberts called Star Citizen.
I don’t have to explain to you the subsequent rise of this $138M+ budget title, the vast expansion of its scope, the debate over its viability, and the fanatical following that fans have for this “under construction” sim. Even if it can’t be Wing Commander in name, gamers reasoned as they plunked down their money, it could be the Wing Commander MMO in spirit.
Interestingly enough, there was another, older effort made to bring the well-known franchise to the MMO table back in the late ’90s. A pair of projects, Wing Commander Online and Privateer Online, promised the thrills of the hit space saga with the expanse of the online gaming world. What happened and why aren’t we playing one of these games today? Find out on this exciting episode of The Game Archaeologist!
It’s always nice to be able to report good news about Star Citizen, as one of our readers noted when sending us this tip, and we agree, so here goes, just in time for Christmas: Cloud Imperium has tonight announced both that alpha 2.6 is live for all backers and that it’s utilizing Amazon’s Lumberyard engine.
First, 2.6 and Star Marine, only a wee bit off the original December 16th target date, is fully playable:
“Alpha 2.6 includes the first iteration of Star Marine, our dedicated FPS module, as well as significant updates to the rest of the Star Citizen experience. Star Marine offers two game modes that will give you a taste of first person combat in the ’verse while a new Pirate Swarm game mode has been added to Arena Commander and a grand total of eight new ships are available in the PU. The patch also includes a major spaceflight balance pass, a brand new menu system, as well as dozens of bug fixes, quality of life improvements and other changes.”
Here’s the bad news: Crytek, the company behind the CryEngine, has been forced to shutter five separate studios as part of a major restructuring. Here’s the good news: Star Citizen, which runs on a heavily modified version of the aforementioned CryEngine, should be unaffected by the state of Crytek. According to Chris Roberts, the game isn’t reliant upon anything from Crytek, so their change in status shouldn’t have any impact upon the game’s further development.
Here’s the even better news: Star Citizen’s Star Marine is still just around the corner, if you missed it yesterday. So it’s especially good to know that Crytek’s struggles won’t lead to any delays with that particular release. Not that any of that helps the people affected by Crytek’s sell-off and downsizing, of course.
Star Citizen’s latest newsletter does three things: celebrates the fourth anniversary of the game’s Kickstarter, explains why you still don’t know when the game is going to launch, and announces that more transparent production timelines are on the table.
“We have taken a lot of flak over the last couple of years for the extending timeline of Star Citizen, but the simple fact is that game development, especially game development on the scale of Star Citizen, is complicated,” Chris Roberts explains. While most studios develop their games in relative secrecy, allowing them to flex to meet unpredictability of design, Star Citizen hasn’t had that “luxury.” In fact, he says, “The only thing we currently don’t share is internal estimates on completion and dates.”
That’s because it’s Kobayashi Maru, he explains — a no-win scenario for Cloud Imperium. “Because of this we have been reticent to share our internal timelines, even with caveats, as it always seems to cause trouble; one section of the community gets annoyed because things are perceived as late while another gets annoyed wondering why we shared dates at all if they aren’t solid. Of course even when we don’t give dates we have yet another part of the community getting annoyed because they feel left in the dark and have no idea when the next build will drop.”
Star Citizen’s rolled out its massive CitizenCon finale last night in LA, with multiple Cloud Imperium reps hitting the stage during the presentation to talk up everything from the Spectrum community tools to the Star Citizen progress report and roadmap, finishing out with a long, in-engine video on procedural planet tech.
Probably the big news was that Chris Roberts admitted that the star-studded, standalone, story-driven Squadron 42 wasn’t ready to be shown as planned and indeed has been delayed beyond this year as rumored — we just don’t know when. One journalist told Reddit, “Talked w/ Erin Roberts at the Con, he said it was animations for different things, such as repairing and the like. It would not have looked as fluid as it was needed to be. Literally EVERYTHING else was finished. They want to have that one shot to show off SQ42 in its top condition. Hope I am paraphrasing everything correctly. I’ll be glad to wait for the finished product.”
That doesn’t mean the event was without any detractors; there’s a massive thread complaining about the show on Reddit. While the planetary tech is indeed gorgeous, backer concerns center on SQ42, delays, and a lack of desired gameplay previews for specific types of content, like capital ships.
We’ve tucked the whole presentation below, but if you’re strapped for time, jump to about 1:25:30 — that’s when it starts feeling like an IMAX show.
This week in MMO crowdfunding news, Star Citizen has begun its pre-CitizenCon festivities with multi-hour streaming yesterday and today, culminating in a grand presentation by CIG’s Chris Roberts tomorrow. The sale of the Polaris concept ship during the hoopla raised a million and a half bucks in less than a day, marking the second biggest crowdfunding day in the game’s history.
We also have two big crowdfunding campaigns winding down this weekend. Hero’s Song, the John Smedley-backed pixel sandbox, failed to make its $200,000 Indiegogo goal, but it did pull in $94,000, which the studio gets to keep. “While it’s short of what we were looking for, it’s helping us immensely,” Smed wrote. In happier news, it does appear that sci-fi sandbox Dual Universe is going to fund; as I write this, the game’s campaign has pushed past its $560,000 goal with just a few days to go.
Meanwhile, The Exiled (Das Tal) got a new community director, Crowfall flipped its pledge packages, Grim Dawn teased a large update, Valiance Online showed off gear designs ahead of its alpha, Shroud of the Avatar kicked off a housing deco contest, and Antraxx joined our Kickstarter list.
Read on for more on what’s up with MMO crowdfunding this week and the roundup of all the crowdfunded MMOs we’ve got our eye on!
Star Citizens are focused on exactly one thing this weekend. (Well, two if you’re in Florida, in which case you’re probably fleeing for your life, and godspeed.) I’m talking about CitizenCon, which kicks off today at 3 p.m. EDT. Everyone can watch the whole shebang streamed live on Twitch from 3 p.m. EDT to 9 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday. Sunday’s presentation is the big finale the Avalon Hollywood in LA:
“Hosted by Chris Roberts, watch as we showcase what we’ve been working on since last year’s event, and take a look ahead at continuing work on both Squadron 42 and the Procedural Planets system slated to come online in Star Citizen Alpha 3.0.”
In other Star Citizen news, Chris Roberts recently gave an interview to Gear Patrol about the game’s development. There’s not much new in there for anyone following the game closely, but there are some great quotes — for instance, he’s asked what he’d say to skeptics who “believe Star Citizen is simply too ambitious to be realized.”