Having backed Star Citizen and its single player campaign game Squadron 42 since 2013 I have closely followed its progress of development. technology expansions and evolutions into new areas and even listen to the doom mongers it will fail, never be released.
Well, being a developer and having IT career of over 30 years in numerous other roles including testing I appreciate the scale of what is trying to be achieved. For most gamers this is just a space game, but this is no ordinary space game. Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) are trying to simulate everything from the fuel lines in the ships, the ship infrastructure, ship systems including a realistic AFC (automated flight control) similar to the computer systems in a Typhoon fighter. Even the planets in a solar system are being procedurally drawn in real time (mathematical algorithm to draw planets) with topography, atmosphere and cityscapes like bladerunners cities with interactive space ports for trade and illegal trade like bounty hunting. The procedural generation of gas giants, nebulas of gas clouds and all lighting.
Star Citizen is not a game yet, its a first iteration of 70% the subgame systems being integrated into a first true persistent universe release. Also bare in mind the parallel development by the the same devs (appx 300) on Squadron 42 single player campaign story driven game using the same tech. Quality takes time and I rather the quality over 7-10 years than the facade in 3 years we’ve seen recently from larger developers.
Star Citizen 3.0 Alpha has been released to all backers on 24th Dec 2017 to the Live servers under 3.0 patch 695052. Yes, with known remaining bugs from PTU (public test universe) testers discovered and not yet fixed in order to honour the new strategic direction of a release every quarter, the next due in March 2018. Even with the remaining bugs, releasing now opens up all backers to test the alpha in a live state over the christmas/holiday period and provide further data and statistics back to CIG for review and further investigation. My expectations was for a fluctuating performance due to the first release merging a lot of the promised systems and with the expanded live players base but a chance to enjoy the best Star Citizen experience to date. I wasn’t wrong and it’s been fun, frustrating and incredibly addictive as hell.
(UPD 27/12 – Chris Roberts explains the performance issues they have discovered thanks to PTU and working on to improve 3.0 in early 2018.)
I installed the new live launcher which provides the new delta patching (just new changes) and waited for it to install SC 3.0 Live Alpha (appx. 11.6gb). After around 20 minutes I launched and waited for the main menu to appear (below).
After selecting Universe and Best region (US, EU or AUS auto detected) I let the game load up while the background atmospheric music begins to play. At one point I felt the game had hung as your left at a black screen which varies in time, this can be anything from 1-2 minutes. You are then presented with yourself laying in a bed in my stay over cubicle at Port Orislar in the Crusader system. A press of the space key and a wonderful animation of me rolling up and out of the bed into standing in my small cubicle room. As I walk forward with the usual WSAD key configuration the door panel highlights for my interaction, pressing F to interact the door slides open to reveal the main corridor out and onward to a stairway down a level to the post main area with a cargo trading desk (seen below), armoury, defense clothing, casual clothing shop and ship components at Dumpers Depo.
The cargo trading desk NPC and others now have the first implementation of subsumpsion as described in Chris Roberts, April 2017 Chairmans Road Ahead Letter, “…the debut of Subsumption’s Mission System which provides a scalable and flexible system that is tightly integrated with our new AI systems, allowing us to generate challenging encounters and scenarios on the fly as well as creating a structure for multipart and narrative missions longer term”. The interactable conversations animations some of the most real I have seen in a game. Think all those little noisence we human make when we move or interact which makes us human, The view out of the ports window grabs me as ships are landing and taking off from the port in my first real excitement to see other players going about their business at the space port.
I head into the Defense armour store and proceed to try on a various flight suits with the the deep burgundy one catching my eye. Now I need to add some armour and decided to select different pieces of armour from each of the available armoured suits to see if I can mix and match, I smile seeing that I can. I open the mobiglass (f1) and equip my chosen flight and armour pieces. Leaving the store and heading directly over to the Weapons store for a gun or two, spare munitions and medpacs before traversing out into the verse. The clever technology implementation for layering of clothing fitting over your character as a real person would allows for clothing to have connection points. When wearing armour its really attached to the undersuit, then when adding your weapons and support gear it’s really attached to the hooks on the armour. The benefit is when you walk and move in the game the clothing, armour and weapons all move with the realtime physics – impressive!
Next I head over to the main Ship Retrieval Console terminals to select and retrieve one of my ships. The console can only retrieve ships currently docked and stored at the port the consoles exist. In my case the RSI A325 is still docked and stored at Grim Hex so I can’t retrieve it here at Port Olisar. I see other ships listed I don’t own due to me renting them from the Electronic Store with REC earned in Arena Commander or Star Marine. In 3.0, I have the rentals of a Gladius, Hornet, P52-Merlin in addition to the ships I own as part of my pledges. I select a Gladius which I am then informed on the landing pad which it is being delivered. I head off into the verse and try to set my destination for Grim Hex space port which is where I at first struggle a little to set a direct jump to Grim Hex. I need to first travel to the main celestial body planet, in this case Yela. So, I set Yela as my destination and proceeded to head out through the airlock to landing pad where the Gladius sat in is incredible detail and wonderful lighting from the star. The new interaction system provide the option to enter and be seat, or just enter the ship or just open the cockpit giving more freedom and options when out in space near derelicts. I enter my new ship, powered up flight ready status and made a clean vertical take off. I proceeded to raise my landing gear (N) as else it creates drag in flight (found out by not doing this due to forgot and wondered why sluggish flight) as you would expect and then lined up my HUD for my Yela destination way marker and hit (B) to start quantum travel. Damn the QT visual effect always makes me smile as you begin and enter, which is best observed in free camera mode (F4) and while pressing Z and moving your mouse to pan around during travel.
Once I arrived at Yela, I set my next destination for Grim Hex space port in the middle of an asteroid belt which is held in place my giant metal infrastructure rods going out to other giant asteroids. As I came within 500m I opened my mobiglass communications and requested a landing pad from the simulated ATC (air traffic control) sub-system. However, the ATC didn’t allocate me a pad (known bug) and after a few tries it resolves and there it is, landing pad 03 lights up and a vertical beam to let me know which pad I have been allocated to land at. I slowly manuevure my ship and jump to external camera to a near perfect VTOL landing.
After a wander around Grim Hex I decided to head off to Dalamar and try a planetary landing. So I decided to spawn my RSI A325 fighter which I left here last time I played and leave the Gladius here at Grim Hex.
I headed out to the landing pad to meet my RSI A325 ship and decide to go try a visit to Levski on Dalamar, the furthest Quantum Travel distance from Port Olisar and 50% to go from Grim Hex, but more on that in the next part of this post…