November 14th 2012
$3.5 million – now that’s an accomplishment! We’re now firmly the second most successful video game crowd funding project… can we reach the $4.2 million needed to take the top spot? I think so! The $3.5 million level scores three major unlocks: the 45th star system (Orion), cockpit customization (bobble heads, dinosaurs and more!) and the ship-to-ship boarding mechanic!
What’s next? The additional star system every $100k has been such a success that we’re continuing it to $4 million… so you have a chance to unlock five more systems (and the final system is, we promise, a big deal!) There will be an additional ship (plus description) unlocked at $3.75 million. Then the $4 million goal is a big one! Hitting it will add free professional mod tools for players, monthly development team webcasts. Squadron 42 will get a richer storyline and more branching missions and Star Citizen will add another ship (to be revealed!) and ten additional systems (for a total of 50.) We’ll also expand the boarding mechanic, outlined below. So let’s get there before this campaign ends: the team wants to add these elements as much as you want to see them!
And be sure to check back in the very near future for the first pieces of pledge ship art; we’re making the final preparations now!
Planetary Rotation (Orion III): 466 days
UEE Strategic Value Rank: Red
Description: The colony on Orion III (Armitage) began life in a celebrated fashion; it was the end goal of Project Farstar, a UEE initiative aimed at expanding mankind’s reach by establishing increasingly distant colonies. To this day it remains the single farthest human world ever colonized. Earth’s most distant colony evolved peacefully for six years… until the first attack.
Armitage was, it would later be established, an occasional Vanduul feeding world. Passing clans had marked the planet as a source of fresh livestock and would occasionally return for slaughter. The violent first contact incident occured in the system and it was followed almost immediately by raids against the colony. It isn’t clear whether the Vanduul were angered by the human presence in “their” system or if they were simply eager for new victims… but raids began immediately and only increased in frequency and ferocity. Within six months, Orion had been raided fifteen times; casualties among the colonists were atrocious.
The UEE was faced with a difficult decision: deploying the Navy to such a distant star would have been difficult and expensive without an established supply chain. Ultimately, Orion was abandoned as a formal human colony, with refugees abandoning their homes and possessions for a long transport ride back to the Empire.
Today, Orion III is a destroyed world. Shattered human settlements and the remains of occasional Vanduul encampments remain on the surface, but it has been largely depopulated and defoliated. The planet’s surface, once largely inhabitable plains, is now pockmarked with impact craters and antimatter bombardment scorching.
There are few reasons to visit Orion today; the system is still in the distant reaches of space and offers no export… thrill seekers and anyone hoping to test their mettle against the Vanduul only.
Next, at $3.6 million: “Gas giant, used as a refueling planet. Floating settlements. Home of the Murray Cup, a high-speed racing competition.”
The goal is to develop a system where player-to-player boarding is an occasional reward rather than something that becomes the focus of the game; we’re not building Grand Theft Starship. As such, we need a high cost of entry: players must dedicate both significant resources and skill to be able to put themselves in a position to board in the first place.
There are two major limitations on docking: 1) the target ship must be COMPLETELY disabled before it can be boarder and 2) docking requires the attacking player to dedicate credits and slots to several gate technologies, including a docking collar and a tractor beam.
Disabling a target ship is a much more difficult task than it was in Wing Commander, where leech weapons would simply wear down the target. In Star Citizen, the player needs to knock down the enemy ships’ shields and then (without causing a hull breach) pick off the individual thrusters. This is the skill barrier: if you can’t shoot well enough to take apart a ship piece by piece then you can’t board an enemy ship.
Tractor Beams are a dangerous technology. They take up a standard gun slot and are designed for collecting material significantly less massive than their host ship (escaped pilots, cargo pallets, bobbleheads, etc.) As such, there’s a constant danger of overloading when using them to dock, especially with cheaper models. Additionally, they require that the target ship be ABSOLUTELY DISABLED – firing a tractor beam at a ship that still has functional thrusters will overload it and severely damage the attacker.
A docking collar is needed to attach ships together. As with tractor beams, different levels are available which will allow connections to different sizes of ships; boarding something large like a carrier is much easier than something your own size, like a Constellation (disabling another Constellation’s thrusters will require a crack shot, to say the least, and a much more accurate collar.) If the game hits the $4 million mark, collarless external ship combat will be added with pilots in pressure suits wearing EMUs able to battle it out in space; explosive charges would be used to open the targeted ship’s airlock.
The standard VDU will not identify whether or not a ship is completely disabled; it will have a gut feel/skill element to it. Higher software upgrades will provide more in-depth scans of a target that will give you a better assurance that no maneuvering remains in place… for a price.
Also note that docking mechanics do NOT apply to ships with a single crewman or certain smaller bombers; the general rule is that if there’s not room to walk around then only the salvage mechanic can apply to it. You need a crewed ship to board in the first place and you can only board crewed ships which are larger than your own (in crew size.)
Once a ship has successfully tractored in a target vessel, it will dock at a pre-determined location on the hull (ie, you will always dock at one of the same doors on the Constellation.) There will be a 30-second period where the attacking player cuts open the target’s door. The defender can use that time to set up to fire back. Think an interactive recreation of the opening scene of Star Wars, with the Rebels nervously waiting to defend the corvette from Stormtroopers.
Players will have access to a variety of upgrades to help/hinder boarding operations. Armored space suits, hand scanners, explosives, more powerful (or functionally different) weapons and so on will be available to players on both sides of the equations.
Defending players will have upgrade options that can help put the battle in their favor: a self destruct process, a dead man’s switch, automated miniguns they can position in the cockpit and so on. It’s going to be a challenge to get onboard a targeted ship successfully, one that you’ll need to work with your friends to accomplish.
Finally, the cost to recover a boarded ship will ultimately be high. Since you’ve disabled and otherwise crippled it in battle (and cut into the hull to board) you must conduct repairs in deep space if you wish to keep the hull rather than simply looting it… during which the ship is in danger of being boarded by a third party. Boarding parties should plan to carry an advance repair bot with them or to suffer the difficulty of flying in a depressurized cockpit (limited life support time, less responsive controls.) Finally, only one ship can be flown at once: you will need to work with a partner if you wish to keep a boarded ship and your own craft.
$4.0 million Level Additions