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

    
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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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Joe Blobers

Thanks for the recap.

I do agree with you.

A lot of talk about different key aspects of SC development that have to be translated in future patch.

As a backer and longtime gamer, this level of technical information is very welcome.

It is also an excellent reminder to all about a major aspect of game development: unless you can buy tools, pipelines and game engine that fit perfectly the job for an ambitious project… you have to either heavily modify or create them from scratch.

‘Triple-A development experts” around saying “they should have had this done by now” got the reasons why… if only they care about facts.

The second major point to me have been Pyro presentation.
The gap between current Stanton and Pyro is stunning.

Vistas, outposts, infiltration gameplay and so many new assets and NPC’s AI… we were looking at another game… This is the result of a heavily modified Lumberyard game engine, now in Q4 2021 not in 2 or 5 years.

That alone give a lot of positive vibes about future patch and whatever progress they can make from now and patch 4.0 (Pyro release together with Server Meshing).

Assuming it takes a good year to finalize Server Meshing, that mean +650 devs out of 700 do focus on contents, gameplay, features with the level of Pyro ‘fidelity’ on both SQ42 and SC… and I mean a lot of contents as we can decide to focus momentarily on Citizencon technical panels while forgetting the dedicated roadmap progress tracker showing + 50 teams and their scheduled tasks for the next few quarters.

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Boe_Jlobers

Hey Chris, you made a mistake and left out the Theaters of War summary. I missed that bit of the Con, can you add it to the article?

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

The looting people have been doing in 3.15 PTU is HUGE. I totally agree with your summary as well.

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Hikari Kenzaki

At this iteration there’s a lot of ‘how do I lose it’ and not a lot of ‘how do I get it back’ which is a problem.
This is going to be a problem they’ll need to fix as people aren’t going to want to buy cash shop goodies like cosmetic armor/knives/etc if they can lose them forever to a glitch or random passersby.
It’s a balancing act for sure. Letting people loot items vs Letting people dupe cash shop items endlessly with friends.

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Life_Isnt_Just_Dank_Memes

Absolutely. I think my biggest gripe is not being able to double click to loot as well. They need to let us set parameters in the options for looting and sorting items by type. For example: all knives to belt, all guns to pack, all grenades to vest etc. That way I double click it and it goes where I’ve specified.

The masses don’t want to play a fiddly, cumbersome game for 5 years, and this game NEEDS MASSES of people playing it to work like they’re designing it.

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Nosy Gamer

Even after the technical glitches are fixed the problem of “how do I lose it” will remain. EVE Online had a similar problem with ship skins and clothing and just wound up making them into items people can’t lose. They also made PLEX into something that didn’t need to be moved by ships, although players still occasionally make that mistake. In those cases, players lose the item.

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BladedDingo

Doing a character reset will restore bought items. It’s not perfect solution by any means. but bought still WILL stay with you, no matter how many times you lose them.

Zyloh did post somewhere (can’t recall where now, saw it on reddit) that we’ll have to wait until 3.16 to find out how to recover our lost store bought items. Hopefully that means they’ll have a vendor somewhere ingame where you can buy back paid items.

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Hikari Kenzaki

Watched most of it while also dealing with other things like packing and such. Some of the ideas are fascinating if they can pull it off. The server meshing was particularly interesting.
As Chris pointed out, moving around may seem like a relatively common thing in an MMO, but not when you’re moving ships with dozens of players on it and all the facilities of a large space station around.
The event was pre-recorded which far too many people didn’t seem to get, but Jared still had some good quips between panels.

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Hikari Kenzaki

We’ll post some shots I didn’t include in One Shots. They’re not as pretty as the ones there, but show some more detail.

Backpacks and the inventory system work, though it’s day 1 of PTU so ‘work’ means ‘I randomly lose some of my sh*t’ but that’s to be expected.

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Tobasco da Gama

By far the most interesting thing from a “game” perspective is the progress on adding new star systems. It’s taken them this long just to add a second one, and they’re not quite done yet. But, fine, usually the second of anything is the hardest and the ones after that get a bit easier. The proof in the pudding will be how quickly they finish the system after Pyro.

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Ken from Chicago

One could argue the first system was the hardest, but the second one is easier.

At least that’s what James Bond said. 🤔👍🤣

And subsequent ones easier still. Practice makes perfect. (I’m not sure if Bond said that though.)

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BladedDingo

hopefully the montreal studio they hired last year to build systems is pumping out assets for other systems. Once they can get Pyro in and working and have a basic server meshing system in (not holding my breath), then building new systems should in theory go faster.

we’ll see if any of that is true.

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Ken from Chicago

“For all intents and purposes” is over? Is there some part that’s still running? Wait, do you mean the follow-up AMA survey they posted?

Yeah, without the live audience, there was lower “energy” to the panels / interviews. They might’ve been better off having Jared and Tyler doing the questioning.

Ironically, there was more enthusiasm for the 400i when it was snuck into the 2-hour Life in the Verse panel. While talking about Pyro planets, they showed a ship flying over it when everyone in chat and one of the livestreamers realized it was a new ship. Although the front fin is an … acquired taste.

The Anvil Liberator is the fabled “pocket carrier”, a starship that carriers other starships, that players have clamored for. It’s like a starship version of the game, Will It Fit?

The Banu MerchantMan is an old ship. The last time work was done on it, it was before CIG had switched to SCU (Standard Cargo Units) to measure cargo capacity years ago. The ship has been embiggened as often happens with SC ships. The lack of new kinds of gameplay for ships dampens interest because they are still working last two “pillars” needed, Persistence and Server Meshing.

Speaking of Server Meshing and The State of Persistence, as good of an explanation as it was of what they are, how it works and how CIG has been working on them, that was more of a recap leading to present day. Most players were looking for a more forward looking discussion or an ideal of what percentage they’ve done so far.

The detailed display of the (oh so pretty) space clouds and Pyro planets is the strongest hint they have made big strides in those two pillars since Persistence is needed to keep track of all the new gear on planets and Server Meshing to scale up the game to even allow another star system at all.

Then again, at least it’s better than nothing in light of the pandemic still being a thing we have to deal with.

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Godnaz

I watched the whole thing and most of the panels spoke about timelines as, “several quarters in the future” or “down the road”. Which immediately tells me that we’re still looking at years before a functional and polished game is apparent. They want people to consider the game ‘released and playable’ at this point. Squadron 42 was never mentioned and even with the traditional holiday updates we get on the single player title, I’m expecting no such estimate for that either.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s all really awesome technology, Gen12 rendering, subsumption and be to honest listening to how systemic game play, demand for occupations including criminal activity will work is, nothing like we’ve seen before and should set a benchmark for living world MMO’s.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t still 5 to 10 years away. Anyone saying that all of these features and abilities will be available already by the time the game comes out, is delusional. No publisher and developer is putting this much research and development into a sustainable game title. You don’t make investors happy with that kind of philosophy and they would have never needed funding if it was the normal mode of operations you see from the current or near future release of MMO’s.

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Greaterdivinity

Squadron 42 was never mentioned and even with the traditional holiday updates we get on the single player title, I’m expecting no such estimate for that either.

Man, I remember when this was all greyboxed and almost ready. When they had made big progress but were just waiting on a few pieces of tech to finish…I’m glad they talked about progress with server meshing and shit, because the fact that SQ42 is still MIA is wild to me.

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Joe Blobers

It was MIA because most Citizencon events are dedicated to SC or tech to be used by all RSI teams, inclusive of SQ42. End of November is more than often the time for some SQ42 information.
Also we do receive monthly report dedicated to SQ42.

The good news is that SC and SQ42 are intrinsically linked as they both benefit of each others development. The fact CR did moved recently to UK to focus on SQ42 is great, still it does not mean we can get it next year fully polished… because with all scrutiny around plus backers expectations, better not provide a first experience ala CB2077 :)

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Night Train123

Has CR actually moved back to the UK yet? Do you have confirmation of this? Last I read there was an intention to move sometime in 2022.

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Joe Blobers

A more accurate information: “they (Roberts family) are moving to UK either end of 2021 or start of 2022”

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CMDR_Cotic

Sounds like they are already there

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Night Train123

That was just a visit looking at the timing.

StuartGT
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StuartGT

Hi Joe, what happened to Sq42 by end of 2020?

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Boe_Jlobers

Wowzers!

The bit about how comparisons to EA are not accurate because EA spent “hundreds M$ over years to create their company, hire thousands of devs and create pipelines” also didn’t age well….. CIG is just shy of half a billion dollars between pledges and private funding now.

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Joe Blobers

Math do prove my point, thanks! You don’t create ambitious triple-A’s without initial heavy investment in both human resources, tools… and time.
Still one single Publisher made roughly +40 Billions$ over the same period of time… but can’t articulate a single game title name packing all current 3.15 features not even talking about next 3 patch to be added not in years but quarters…

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Nosy Gamer

There’s a difference between initial heavy investment and what CIG is doing. Following the latest influx of cash due to ship sales during CitizenCon, CIG has raised $511 million according to published information on CIG websites. Given that 2025 is probably the earliest Star Citizen will enter beta, CIG needs to raise an additional $350-$400 million to complete the project. Not a problem if Squadron 42 is a hit, but otherwise a daunting task to raise that much money.

As for cost. The two released video games that cost the most to develop were Red Dead Redemption 2 ($379 – $550 million) and Cyberpunk 2077 ($316 million). We are looking at the possibility of Star Citizen being the most expensive video game ever made with Squadron 42 coming in second place.

As for development time, Star Citizen & Squadron 42 are tied for 6th place all time in video game history. The top 5 games are:

1. Duke Nukem Forever (15 years)
2. Mother 3 (12 years)
T3. Diablo III (11 years)
T3. Prey (11 years)
5. Final Fantasy XV (10 years)

All I can say is, Star Citizen better be damn good. Although, quite frankly, by the time Star Citizen finally releases, I’ll be in my 60s and too old to play a twitch-based FFA full-loot PvP game like SC.

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Boe_Jlobers

Here are the AAAA games EA has released…. in the last year alone!

Apex Legends
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Mass Effect Legendary Edition (Literally 3 games in one)
F1 2021
Madden NFL 22
FIFA 22

Meanwhile ten years and half a billion and CIG has released

*this space intentionally left blank*

Checkmate, got you with quick Maths 8)

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Joe Blobers

You are really desperate to provide a list of games which are

– individually a fraction of SQ42/SC scope and complexity,
– done by companies with Billion $ revenues, thousands of devs and all pipelines + game engine at day one,
– Games made out of a franchise with previous iteration of some sort over past years.

It is your choice to buy every year or two years the same re-skinned games with few improvement.

Why do you think CIG do receive such support right during the worst time for any company to propose a product in heavy Alpha development… because they think quantity matter versus what they pledge for?

You should improve your education about game development and finance in general before pretending playing chess… :)

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Joe Blobers

Thanks for posting this. That prove my comment is totally accurate by 2021 standard including the last important of it: date

Backers do join not because a date but ambition. What we saw of Pyro in game/engine is stunning. This is another step above current 3.14 alpha, now in CIG internal build not in 10 or 5 years.

The best answer was given by CR in 2020: delivered when done.

You can copy that one and may be, give us some news about “beyond Good and Evil 2” :)

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Night Train123

Joe, you’ve been consistently wrong about SQ42 progress so why should we now believe anything you say about it now?

Almost 10 years of waiting and nothing but “it’s done when it’s done” to show for it.

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laelgon

You should believe him because something about some other game taking time and big bad publishers that actually deliver games, but SQ42 and SC are somehow 2 AAA games either though one has been a complete no-show and the other is still just a janky as hell alpha after 9 years.

I’m actually making 6 AAA games right now, so he should be praising my ambition. And no, you can’t see them, just believe me.

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Joe Blobers

… @Laelgon , make it more simpler: give us a game you already released, approved by community as such, that would make your crowdfunding campaign successful :)

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Joe Blobers

Almost ten years of waiting for Publishers to deliver what SC is in Alpha, not even SC will full gameplay and features.

The good is that a near decades of ambitious do show in today internal CIG build with Pyro in game demo… while Publishers are hard at work delivering poorly done remasters.
At the end, the winner is the gamer community… and not because of Publishers.

Rejoice, Starfield do have a date because that’s all what matter apparently: 11-11-2022.

As per Bethesda, it will be Skyrim in space, a game 25 years in the making… with no functional ladder, because spending few M$ in features is stupid when you can keep them for shareholders.

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Boe_Jlobers

Ben played all the levels of Sq42!

Heck, CaptainZyloh played through every mission back in 2016 too!

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Joe Blobers

So what? QA job is to test all different build available.

It says nothing about SQ42 number of missions back in 2016 versus 2021 or the fact they do integrate new features like dynamic weather on planet scale and overall 5 last years of development made to make both SQ42 or SC better than it was planned during Kickstarter… for the same 45/35$ pledge amount.

Anyone comparing SC back in 2016 versus current 3.14 will acknowledge the difference… not even talking about Pyro vistas and mission seen in this year Citizencon which make look current 3.14 ‘outdated’.

They keep being better for the benefit of gamer not quick profit.

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Boe_Jlobers

Joe I don’t know why you bring up SC here

Anyone comparing SC back in 2016 versus current 3.14 will acknowledge the difference

I am talking about SQ42….. Sometimes I think you just like stirring up misinformation when people point out the very underhanded tactics CIG uses to string people along.

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Joe Blobers

SQ42 and SC are intrinsically linked because of their very common development nature by the same company sharing all tech and pipelines progress.

Still SQ42 do require different development in some are: being a campaign following a story, CIG do have to integrate many gameplay scenario that are not mandatory for SC or does not require the same level of depth for some gameplay.

By the way I did replied specifically to the content of the QA answer guy… so yes I did answered about SQ42 as well.

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BladedDingo

They learned their lesson. They are not going to show anything SQ42 related until they have something they can actually show. Plus we all know SC is their cash cow.

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Hikari Kenzaki

On the S42 front, that isn’t traditionally covered at Citizen Con.

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Night Train123

We await groundbreaking news in November then :D

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Hikari Kenzaki

Eh. I work in games, I’m here mostly for the tech with some space nerd fun thrown in occasionally, so I don’t really pay much attention to that sort of thing. If I did, I’d probably be playing New World.

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DoomSayer

Out of curiosity what do you think of the tech they showed off? Like the cloud tech, server meshing, etc. Would love to hear what someone in the industry thinks about the challenges they have to deal with. What impressed you most and what was the most blah?

EmberStar
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EmberStar

I’m expecting Wildcard will have released Ark 2, all the DLC for it and moved onto their *next* project before anything happens with Star Citizen. And a realistic estimate is that Ark 2 is going to be at the far end of 2022 to even release. And that’s probably a bit ambitious, given how Wildcard seems to function. (Or doesn’t)

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Ken from Chicago

Yeah, all the Sq42 updates are the written ones released monthly.