Wow, so, where to start with this week’s Stick and Rudder? I guess I picked the wrong time for a vacation, and shame on me for forgetting the CitizenCon date! In any case, Star Citizen acquitted itself pretty well last weekend by most accounts, and whether we’re talking about Squadron 42’s A-list cast reveal, our first real look inside its single-player campaign, or the kick ass starmap, there was a lot to like at this year’s Con.
Let’s start with the star map, both because it’s awesome and because you can actually play around with it courtesy of the RSI website. As per usual, Cloud Imperium went to a lot of trouble to design the thing with immersion in mind, and alongside the current browser functionality there’s a good bit of lore that explains how the ARK project is a multi-species cooperative created by the brightest human, Xi’An, Banu, and Tevarian minds in order to curate the ever-evolving galactipedia and starmap.
The latter is a public resource that allows for a god’s-eye look at Star Citizen’s universe, including planetary snapshots, travel routes, economic and crime data, etc. The web tool itself is pretty slick, even though CIG says that it’s currently in an alpha state. It features galaxy view, system view, and celestial object view options that tickle my cartography nerd fancy. You can navigate the three-dimensional star field via your mouse wheel and clicking and dragging, and there’s plenty of contextual object info via right-click. There’s even a routing tool that allows you to enter your departure point and destination, along with a search feature and some fun visuals related to jump points.
Though the web utility is currently limited in terms of gameplay, it’s both fun to mess around with and more importantly it shows just how big Star Citizen’s universe has become. When viewed in context with the recent social module deployment, it makes me think that I may actually be tooling around SC’s persistent universe sooner rather than later.
Cloud Imperium isn’t resting on its laurels with the starmap’s alpha version, either. The firm says that real-time data from the game will be a thing, as will additional models for objects in space and possibly even support for orbital mechanics and virtual reality device integration.
Aside from the starmap, I was pretty keen on the Squadron 42 footage from this weekend’s CitizenCon. If you’re new to Star Citizen fandom, S42 is basically the (optional) single-player campaign that introduces your player character to the Star Citizen universe via a series of story-driven missions from the perspective of a UEE Navy pilot. S42 was in fact the very first bit of Star Citizen that we glimpsed way back in October of 2012, and I still spool up that original pitch trailer from time to time because everything about it — from the music to the camera angles to the aircraft-carrier-in-space motif — is basically my own personal gaming wet dream.
At the conclusion of S42’s single-player game, which Chris Roberts has described as a modern take on his classic Wing Commander, your character will join Star Citizen’s MMO-like persistent universe. Alternatively, you can skip the single-player story altogether and jump right into the PU.
I’d recommend against that, though, since CIG is putting a ton of effort into Squadron 42. At the very least, it’ll offer you an opportunity to digest Star Citizen’s dense lore in an interactive manner instead of trying to assimilate all of the stuff that’s been written (and re-written) on the title’s website since 2012. In gameplay terms, Squadron 42 should also serve as a primer for those of you who aren’t too familiar with space sims, or a refresher course for people like me who played the crap out of them in the 1990s but have since become a little rusty.
Either way, CitizenCon gifted us with our first extended look at the cutscenes, the motion-captured NPCs and voiceovers, and the mind-boggling levels of environmental detail on display inside Star Citizen’s spaceships. The recap video below, which clocks in at just under 12 minutes, also shows off the newly redesigned Idris interior, which your character can explore in S42 and later fly in the persistent universe.
Finally, I’ve got to say a word about Squadron 42’s newly announced cast. Actually, let me say two words: holy shit. Normally I couldn’t care less about voice acting or A-list motion capture, particularly as it relates to virtual worlds which exist to facilitate player-driven stories. Since S42 is basically a single-player preview of the main event, though, I’m inclined to let my inner fanboy run wild and just appreciate the fact that CIG has lined up a who’s-who of geek icons.
I thought about just thanking them for realizing teenage Jef’s Agent-Scully-in-space fantasy and ending this article before it gets too awkward, but they didn’t stop with Gillian Anderson! Oh no, they also managed to land one of the greatest actors of this or any other generation (Gary Oldman), as well as peerless character players like John Rhys-Davies (Gimli son of Gloin, Indiana Jones’ best bud) and Andy Serkis (Smeagol). Did I mention that Wing Commander alum, once-and-future Luke Skywalker, and the world’s best Joker is on board, too?
All in all, CitizenCon 2015 was a smashing success from my vantage point. I’ve written before about my on-again-off-again Star Citizen obsession, which is mainly due to the information overload that often results from Cloud Imperium’s commitment to transparent development. These particular reveals struck all the right notes, though, even the story- and cast-related stuff that normally elicits an eyeroll when it comes to online games.
Star Citizen has certainly taken its lumps in the court of public opinion this year, but despite the silly rhetoric put forth by low-information and instant-gratification types, it remains the most ambitious project in gaming history. And it remains quite far along at three years, especially when compared to various megabudget virtual worlds that delivered fewer features after twice the development time. I didn’t really need anything to reaffirm my fandom, but this year’s CitizenCon gave it to me anyway.
Whether it’s interviews with Chris Roberts and the Cloud Imperium team or tips and guides for pushing your ship’s performance envelope, Stick and Rudder is your inside source for news and commentary on the world of Star Citizen. Join Jef Reahard every Friday during the run-up to alpha, beta, and beyond.