Stick and Rudder: Recapping everything Star Citizen showed at the latest CitizenCon


The digital CitizenCon event has, for all intents and purposes, come and gone, lining up a series of seven different video panels that were full of plenty of reveals, details, plans, and future features for Star Citizen. What I’m here to do with this edition of Stick and Rudder is to try to break them all down as best as I can, highlighting some of the pieces that stood out the most to me. Of course, regular followers of the game are certainly welcome to agree with me. Or argue with me. Or point out things I missed with a wagged finger. I’ll live with it either way.

Life in the ‘Verse

This panel was the longest of the lot, clocking in at just over two hours’ runtime. The vast majority of this one was all about the upcoming Pyro system, which is looking like it’s coming along quite well. We got some dramatic flybys of space clouds, we got looks at outlaw space stations from the outside and inside, and there were some details about the planets and moons that will make up Pyro, all peppered in with deep-dives on how things were created, drafted, and designed. Creation of the Pyro system was evidently important in planetary generation tech as well, as the devs now have tools to put things like larger rock formations and cliffs into planets now.

The presentation then went into talk about colonial outposts, with a lot of talk about shifting the way CIG makes outposts and designs them to be improved through player activity. Once again, a lot of close looks were shared about exterior and interior design, with different themes shown off. It all seems to be hinting towards player housing features down the line, though when that will come is hard to say. It all appears to still be very conceptual.

At the end of the presentation, we got a hefty chunk of Pyro mission gameplay, showing off different methods of taking on a mission, as well as several portions like outposts, personal inventory, and AI behaviors all working in tandem.

Ship Talk

It just ain’t Star Citizen without spaceships, and there were a number of shiny new toys shown off here. Here, there was a close look at the swanky Origin 400i exploration ship that will be arriving in alpha 3.15; the Anvil Liberator, which is a ship that can transport ships; and some closer looks at the Banu Merchantman’s development.

The vast majority of this panel was about the Merchantman, which is to be expected considering how anticipated this particular vessel is. Personally speaking, I’m not sure I’d ever want to pilot something so massive, but there’s something compelling about the alien designed spaceships. Overall, the toys shown off here don’t immediately interest me, and I’m not really sure who the Liberator is really meant for, but then I tend to like the more blue-collar spacecraft in my space games anyway.

Gen 12 and the Multicore of Vulkan

Haha renderer and engine go brrr. But seriously, this presentation is pretty high on promises of improved performance and timelines. It all sounds good, certainly, but at this point I’ll believe it when I see it.

Crafting Worlds

More tool talk! This one is pretty much an extension of the previous panel, once again talking up the benefits of the Gen 12 renderer, paired with more technical looks at how the devs are using the tech to render planets. For those who are truly invested in seeing CIG play with their new tools, this is a fine enough panel to watch, but I can’t help feel like we’d heard about the devs making tools to make things faster at least a couple of times before. For the Star Citizen fan that’s way more into that part of the sandbox’s creation, there’s a lot here.

Server Meshing

Even more tool talk! This one, however, was a bit more interesting because it deals with the way the devs are working on persistence in the Persistent Universe. It illustrated how player streaming bubbles work, how the current architecture works versus the server meshing tech being worked on, and how new tech layers like a cached entity graph (that will be the key to universe persistence), a replicator layer (which copies entity locations to both individual clients and server nodes), and meshed game servers work together.

It all seems a bit like a Rube Goldberg-style solution to the problem of making Star Citizen a true MMO in terms of scale and persistence, but then the problems being tackled – making spaceships with complex interiors move around, for example – are gnarly ones to solve. Again, time will tell here. Kudos to CIG for explaining some spectacularly technical systems in a generally easy to follow way.

The Sounds of Space

The folks behind putting together planets and meshing servers aren’t the only ones getting new tools. In this panel there was a great deal made about CIGAudio and Claudius, two new tools that will help the devs get spectacularly granular with how sounds work and what sounds play when, taking into consideration things like what a reloading gun will sound like based on the amount of shots left in a magazine, moving ambient sounds move around players, or having a water-filled container make distinctive sloshing sounds when carried.

Alrighty then.

Systemic Gameplay – Stream of Thought

Ah, Tony Z. If ever there was an “ideas guy” who seems like he’s actually capable of making those ideas happen, he’s it. Here we see a whole lot of discussion about gameplay systems currently available or coming soon, like cargo that will require more logistical forethought when moving items, how shops will be selling different items (like a manufacturer-specific dealer or an item-specific dealer), how missions and reputation will work hand in hand to help players start to really pick a side, and how dynamic events will be ticked off in the future.

And, of course, we get an update on Tony Z’s baby, the Quantum background simulation tech, with some of the system’s first introduction at alpha 3.16 at the end of the year and will be layered on over time.

Final Thoughts

Overall, this year’s CitizenCon was intriguing enough and definitely informational, but it also kind of was low on some of the real “wow factor” things for me personally. None of the new ships immediately grabbed me, the tools being created sound fine but their application will be the real proof of their worth, and some of the systems being made for missions, cargo, and the background simulation feel a little too distant for me. But hey, we are going to be seeing Pyro pretty soon. That could be spicy.

It’s a big wide universe out there, and the MMO industry is busy filling up the space between the stars – with sci-fi MMORPGs! Join the MOP team here in Stick and Rudder for intermittent voyages into all the big space-trucking, dog-fighting, star-flighting MMOs of the moment.
Longtime MMORPG gamers will know that Star Citizen was originally Kickstarted for over $2M back in 2012 with a planned launch for 2014. As of 2021, it still lingers in an incomplete but playable alpha, having raised around $350M from gamers over years of continuing crowdfunding and sales of in-game ships and other assets. It is currently the highest-crowdfunded video game ever and has endured both indefatigable loyalty from advocates and immense skepticism from critics. A co-developed single-player title, Squadron 42, has also been repeatedly delayed.
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