Interview: Star Citizen’s Sean Tracy on the gameplay features of alpha 3.7, live today

    
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Today marks another big installment for the alpha of Star Citizen. The 3.7 update should now be live for everyone as you read this, bringing along a variety of updates and features that we’ve been covering for the past few weeks including FPS mining, new caves to explore, the remarkable new RSI Mantis interdictor, and other features like ship rental, mission sharing, and a slightly more involved crimestat and reputation system. Heck, there’s even a new ship.

The alpha update’s official page also has additional details on what’s on tap for 3.7, including new flyable ships like the Banu Defender and the Sentinel and Harbinger variants of the Aegis Vanguard, two new weapons, and various quality-of-life improvements like new enemy AI on the ground and in space flight, additional character customization features, new weapon attachments, and various improvements to Arena Commander.

I had the opportunity to interview Sean Tracy, technical director for Star Citizen, about how 3.7 has changed the game for the players and the devs, and what players have been doing during PTU testing.

MassivelyOP: If the focus of 3.7 had to be described in a single word or sentence, what would it be? What was the driving focus for development of this update’s features?

CIG Technical Director Sean Tracy: “Into the Depths” – Alpha 3.7 surrounds the addition of caves & on-foot mining, with several supporting features that combine to create a new game loop for Star Citizen players. At a high level, this looks like “find cave, gather resources, place in inventory, and travel to safety so you can sell them.” However, the new RSI Mantis player interdiction ship (and the addition of mission sharing) throws a bit of a question at players: should you team up to guard against a-maybe-in-waiting interdiction fleet, and ensure your hard-earned cargo stays safe, or do you truck it alone and keep the profit all to yourself? Or are you the pirate in the Mantis?

What sort of things have PTU players been doing most in 3.7.0? What do you expect will happen in the live game once the update hits?

As with most patches, we see a ton of players diving right into the new features on PTU; so there are lots of players in caves, mining and selling. Finding weird stuff that we put in as easter eggs – some teddy bears, some dead bodies, etc. For this PTU cycle, we’ve also started bringing in developers equipped with the Mantis, who are lying in wait to interdict quantum travelers. We expect this to continue to play out throughout Alpha 3.7, but also expect to see more players sharing missions to take on some of the all-new and much more challenging PVE content in 3.7.

3.7 is adding FPS mining, which was described as a way to get some rare materials. Are these materials truly meant to help individual players earn some significant money on their own terms?

Absolutely! This is a whole new addition to the SC economy, and we’re excited to have players start gathering and selling these resources, as they save up their hard-earned in-game currency to apply them towards ship rentals and purchases. One thing to note: how well you mine, the mineral ore deposit you’re mining, and a small element of RNG to all our ore deposits, so some might be richer than others…

Much of the FPS mining features like personal inventory were already done by many other games. Why do you think creating a similar system took this much time to introduce into Star Citizen?

We need the inventory to work with our persistent back-end services that are still being built – so this is a big step towards the implementation of that system. We also didn’t want to have any “invisible bag of holding” that could be filled with anything, or to be a to be a “2D MMO UI,” but instead wanted all inventories to be 3D and physical so they feel real. That is a full system that took time to build out, and we’re happy to release the first step towards realizing that goal.

How have players taken to the new ship rental system? Has this alleviated the perception that Star Citizen only benefits those who open their wallets to buy purpose-built ships?

We can’t speak for perception, but we strongly believe that adding in ship rentals will massively affect ship availability for all Star Citizen players, as well as create more options for players that might want to change up their play-style as they tackle some of our newer and more challenging missions.

How frequently will ship rental costs change, if at all? Is there going to be a supply and demand metric?

We’re always evaluating balance issues like this in Star Citizen, and certainly expect that we’ll adjust ship rental costs over time as we get closer to the “sweet spot,” that provides proper rewards for proper gameplay.

What effect do you hope crimestat restrictions will have in the game in the short and long term?

We see Star Citizen as a living, breathing universe. One of the key aspects of the “real world,” is that as you move into new places, the laws change. What’s legal in California might not be in London, etc. We want to mirror that inside Star Citizen in ways that will challenge players to adapt their play style, goals and game planning for different locations.

Has the mission sharing system in 3.7 opened up more group and fleet/multicrew play?

Absolutely. But it’s not just implementing mission sharing, it’s what the ability to share missions allows us to do from a development perspective. Since we know players can more easily group up in Alpha 3.7 and beyond, we’re able to create more missions and gameplay scenarios that might require groups of people to be successful.

Beyond just missions, the ability to share and play together is a core tenet of Star Citizen. Mission sharing and group options means that players can more easily group up – to say, make a pirate fleet that interdicts using the Mantis, or teams up to get a fighter escort for their heavily laden cargo ship, ensuring their safety from pirates, but likely having to split the rewards.

Has adding mission sharing made creating missions more challenging now that the design team has to consider how missions operate with multiple people at once?

As previously mentioned, this is less of a challenge and more of an opportunity! We can now create missions with the idea that multiple players will likely have to share them in order to complete them, or to create rewards that are appropriate for solo-ing a mission designed to be completed by groups, etc.

Let’s bring it back around to the opening question to close things out: What sort of word or sentence would you say describes the focus of patch 3.8?

See you at CitizenCon :)

I’d like to thank Sean Tracy for taking a moment to answer my questions. Now if you’ll all excuse me, I have a Caterpillar to rent. Seriously, I am in love with that ugly thing.

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Solaris

Great interview. Really excited about mining in SC.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

and in completely surprising fashion (and i’m not being remotely facetious here, the HYPE IS REAL FAM) 3.7 really did go live not too many minuterinos after this article was published.

i mean the servers are in such a way that the game is inaccessible (as well as of last attempt to look into that tasty $0 ccu pirate skin variant for the gladius (see post below kids!) unlock for beating the new pirate swarm; the website is down wew what a run on sentence lads!).

anyways arena commander pirate swarm date with one of the legit top pvpers in the game,sort of one of the godhand types that are absolutely rediculously good at the game but aren’t well known outside of limited circles that don’t self promote even if they’re embedded nicely in so many (semi) active orgs as they are. the skin is probably the most legit pirate shit in the game cosmetics wise aside from some of the grimhex outer wear options :D

Godnaz
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Godnaz

Nice to see MOP post a SC interview. Glad we’re inching closer to more expanded group play mechanics, mining on foot and persistence. The cave systems look absolutely immense. A list list of new features goes on a little further…

I don’t understand why they would offer (okay, it funds the project) or who has asked for a ship that already costs $435, to be reskinned in gold plated trim for $25,000. Not that it’s unfair because it’s already been shown in video demonstrations and promised that users would be able to customize their ships paint to their liking.

I’m still holding out for alpha 4.0+, a bit more than a year from now before diving back in. By then we should be into jump points and the next solar system. I’m still hard pressed to think they will get another 8 systems (the promised 10 systems) done before 2023, the 10 year development anniversary, even if we’ve seen hints of some of those solar systems.

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Matthew Guggemos

Regarding the “$25,000” ship, they’re not selling it. They’re giving to existing backers.

It’s “this one ship also has a default skin that’s partially gold and you get that if you’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money.” That probably also means that gold will be a somewhat restricted or more expensive (in-game or IRL) paint color, but that’s about it.

IIRC, datamining indicates that they’re going to show off jump points and another system in about a month too. So at least there’s that.

Godnaz
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Godnaz

Regarding the “$25,000” ship, they’re not selling it. They’re giving to existing backers.

Thanks for that clarification.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

it’s like the legatus concierge teir. they did idk what with the rewards a bit.

i think this is a higher teir obviously than the one that comes with teh OP dogfighting ship that is otherwise only available from finishing sq42 when it releases (and is then i believe a token to buy in game rewards wise).

tbh this particular change is not too bad and pretty cost effective way to loyalty rewards program the mega whales that help drive that revenue flow that keeps the project alive and ongoing. the f8 lightning exec edition is alot more problematic for a variety of reasons perhaps but perhaps arguable from a wanting to test pov but i feel that position is a weak one really given other sq42 flyables will unlikely to be available in pu prior to sq42 *(also the idris is held back from player testing until sq42)>

but again, yeah just a cost effective way to cater to guys that are spending bajilllionz of dollarinos on the game which in the run of things isn’t all too bad as the gameplay balance and progression metas evolve. which i feel things are a little too RPG/mmoish ship components wise as of the previous patch i played (which i believe is still teh ongoing iterative paradigm) but that paradigm certainly to a degree calms the pay2win qq perhaps (not that anyone aside from me calling it pay2win knows the truth of that, but it’s also not really what i considered pay2win about the game before 99% of the time).

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Matthew Guggemos

Yep. It’s for their largest tier. I think if you spent $25k already, then they have you this thing.

There was other rewards previously at this level and I think they’ve been pushed downwards to smaller ‘reward’ levels. It’s basically just continuing the Kickstarter Reward system – higher total backing gets you a few small extra perks.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

everyone loves the cat chris. as aegis favouring scurvy dog i’m not a fan. drake is poser pirate, not the authentic murder hobo pirate. 😂 (they got some nice pirate skinz tho legit)

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

anyways awesome interview and some great questions! ty!