December 6th 2014
Its been a busy week for the Star Citizen team! A good portion of the project leads have gathered in Manchester, England where we have been focusing on all issues related to characters, animation, cinematics and Squadron 42. The goal of this summit has been to sync up the rest of studios with the incredibly talented team at Foundry 42 for the major push to release the first chapter of Squadron 42 towards the back half of next year. It has been a fantastic week, full of passionate debate and pure creativity that I’m proud to say drives this project… but while we’ve been heads down making sure Squadron 42 lives up to the larger vision for Star Citizen, it seems a stretch goal or two may have passed! :)
Between the final days of the anniversary sale and the roll-out of the Anvil Carrack explorer platform, we’ve managed to surpass $66 million in crowd funding! It’s an astonishing number that both old backers and new made possible: while many existing backers pledged for Carracks, we also had over 7,400 new backers who decided to find out what all the fuss was about. Thank you to all and welcome to our new players; we’re happy to have you onboard on this adventure!
At $64 million, pets are a ‘go!’
The last letter hinted at the $65 million stretch goal: a revamp of our modular ship design drawn directly from player feedback. As Star Citizen stands today, the ships are extremely customizable. You can switch engines, thrusters, guns, missiles, turrets, sensor suites, scanners, cargo pods and some interior ‘seats’ (and much more.) Starting with 1.0, we’ve added the first iteration of the technology for a paint system that will allow us to create promised skins and ultimately let you alter your ship’s exterior appearance. For 1.0 it is used to handle the various paintjobs for the variants. But longer term this will allow us to give everyone the skins they have backed for and ultimately this system will allow for some user generated paintjobs!
One huge piece of feedback from the Constellation and Cutlass sales has been that backers want more: they want to customize the roles and the internals of their ships to a higher degree than we initially envisioned. Based on this feedback we intend to make changes to the ships that make sense to better represent what you want. The team at Foundry 42 is already building a number of modular capital ships, like the Javelin, that can change their internal and external form factors through an array of optional user-configured modules. What we intend now to do is take the technology and design work done for these capital ships and apply it back to a number of Star Citizen’s smaller personal craft.
Of course, $65 million isn’t the only milestone we need to discuss in this letter. Starting with $66 million, I want to start focusing everyone on the level of detail and immersion that everyone’s support is enabling. So instead of always having a feature or a reward I want to share a deeper view into an element of the design that has been enabled by your continuing support.
This time around, we’re going to tell you about Star Citizen’s multi-crew ship seat actions. With the release of the Carrack, there has been a lot of discussion about how ships can be flown solo, whether or not they need a crew… and there have been a lot of questions as to how any of that will even work. You can read on below to find out the answers to those questions and more. (This letter’s design update was put together with the team here in the UK, who are also currently looking forward to the multi-crew ship features for Arena Commander 2.0)
This doesn’t mean we won’t still occasionally reward backers with in-game content (flair, UEC, ship upgrades and more types to come!) or propose new ship types to celebrate major milestones but I would like the focus to be more about the amazing game that you are all enabling rather than the amounts we have raised. The real story is that with a community and the team sharing such a passion for making something special, with all of your continued support we have an opportunity to make history.
As always, thank you for making all of this possible. It’s an honor to be at the head of development of a game that already means so much to such an excellent group of backers. You’ve earned your Citizenship! Finally: please sound off in the comments section: does this new system work for you? We WILL be listening!
— Chris Roberts
Can space be more fun with friends? We think so, and we aim to prove it. In gaming, the traditional space sim storyline pits the player against the galaxy. Sure, Colonel Blair had some wingmen … but when it came time to take on the Kilrathi, he was always in the driver’s seat. But now think back to your favourite film or television series: whether it’s the straight-laced crew of the Enterprise exploring strange new worlds or scruffy Browncoats struggling to keep Serenity in the black, great stories spring from Human interaction. Mowing down an alien armada by yourself is a lot of fun … but imagine taking Luke’s seat on the Millennium Falcon, fending off TIE Fighters with the turret while your buddy plays Chewie and tries to repair the hyperdrive.
That’s exactly what the team at Foundry 42 has been charged with replicating in Star Citizen! For Squadron 42, Chris Roberts asked us to develop a system that naturally encourages cooperative play and promotes teamwork rather than forcing anything specific on the player. Like every aspect of Star Citizen, it needs to be immersive, it needs to be engaging … and it needs to function beyond our particular piece of the puzzle. The multi-crew systems we premiere in Squadron 42 will go on to appear throughout the Star Citizen world!
Coming up with this system has been a major task for our designers. We are aiming for a very particular ‘sweet spot’: multi-crew ship positions that are both fun AND that make sense in the Star Citizen world. Some positions are easy: flying a ship will always be fun, manning a turret is great … but how do we find something real and important and fun that will encourage players to want to serve as navigators or engineers?
After a lot of research and a lot of thinking (and credit where credit is due: a lot of Star Trek viewings and team games of Artemis Bridge Simulator) we’re excited to share with you our plan. As with every design post, this information represents our current thinking, not necessarily the final details. We’re beginning to implement these systems as we look forward to Squadron 42 Chapter 1 and Arena Commander 2.0 … and like everything else in the game, they will be tweaked and improved as we see them in action and get real player feedback.
We’ve put this post together largely in response to backer questions about the Carrack. The specific answer to the ongoing question is that yes, you can operate a Carrack by yourself using the control system outlined below… but that we believe that it will be significantly more fun for users of such larger ships to take on the galaxy with friends.
When we first envisioned the concept of crew stations for capital ships, we thought they could easily be adapted for multi-crew ships. However it soon became apparent that the crew station actions available to a capital ship might be too involving for one of the smaller multi-crew ships, so we split the ships into three categories.
Ships such as the Hornet or 300i, would retain the single-pilot HUD similar to what you see in Arena Commander now (note that different manufacturers will have different style HUDs). This system is geared towards helping the pilot to make quick adjustments on the fly which is perfect for when you’re dogfighting or weaving through an asteroid field! However on larger ships you may have additional crewmembers who will be able to make adjustments and tweak to your ships systems with greater fidelity.
Capital ships such as the Javelin will require multiple players (or NPCs) to run all the various ships systems, man turrets and even perform tasks such as reloading torpedo bays or repairing power relays. As there are far more weapons and ship components to manage, the station interfaces need to be more complex and therefore require each crew station to be dedicated to a single action, at least for the first iteration.
However, with multi-crew ships such as the Retaliator, Freelancer or Constellation, we needed to approach the concept of stations a little differently. You, the fans, expressed an interest in being able to fly your multi-crew ships solo as well as having the option to invite friends to man the various support stations and turrets. Therefore we decided that you should be able to fly a multi-crew ship solo, having access to the same management system seen on the HUD of any single-pilot ship. However, should you want to invite your friends along to help manage your ship, you could access additional crew support stations, giving you a little more control over the ships’ various systems. In brief, multi-crew ships needed to be entirely more flexible than either single-seat or capital ships.
Crew stations are the physical object that you interact with – a console that you either sit down or stand up at to perform your duties. These stations will have a single, fixed-ratio screen where the management UI, or “action,” is displayed. Keeping the screen a fixed size is important as it allows us to use the same UI across all ships and stations without having to reinvent the layout every time.
The screen itself will be similar to the holo-table in the hangar, in that information is displayed and updated in real-time in the game world allowing others to view your performance. This is good for the captain or commander, who make sure you’re not playing Galaga, and for you as you’re logged on to the station, as they you will be able to view any action on the bridge without necessarily having to exit your station.
In Star Citizen the various systems you install on your ship drive the functionality of your crew stations and other consoles. Each station has access to a number of pre-configured actions – the interfaces that you use to manage the ships various systems. Not every station will contain every action interface.
Each interface is linked directly to the installed component therefore if you fit a cheap power plant the interface will be rudimentary however a better quality component will come equipped with a superior interface allowing you to manage power to your sub-systems more efficiently. However should you decide not to install a particular component you would not have access to the associated action interface. For example if you install a shield generator you will have access to the shield configuration interface but if you’re feeling brave you might leave your hangar without installing a shield generator and the shield configuration interface would not be available to any of the ship’s crew stations.
Shield Management: The shield management action gives the user more granular control of the ship’s shields and generators:
Radar Ops: On a basic level the radar ops action allows you to identify targets, easing the workload of the pilot. This action will be expanded to include the ability to send commands to other fleet members:
EWAR: The electronic warfare station gives you the ability to hinder an opponent’s systems, bringing a new tactical edge to dogfighting. Use of the EWAR suite requires the installation of a specialised electronic warfare module which generates the effect in a radius. You can also fit an emitter to target specific enemies. Electronic warfare breaks down into the following areas:
Communications: The most basic form of communication will allow you to open a channel to another vessel, set up a conference call or deliver information data such as cargo manifests or ship complement. However, when additional components are slotted, automated messages become available for you to use. For example if your ship has a docking ring, you may request to dock with another ship with a docking ring.
Fuel: On a basic level this action will enable you to decide which tank is being refuelled via the ship’s hydrogen scoops. Players with a refuelling arm gain additional functions for managing, refining and refuelling.
Scanning: The information that appears on this action depends on what scanner array you have installed.
Avionics and CPU: This action allows you more granular control of the ship’s avionics package specifically relating to CPU power. For example, you may prioritize certain systems, such as ITTS or missile lock, to gain a marginal deduction in lock-on time.
Power Management: Every component and weapon fitted to your vessel will appear in the power management screen. At multi-crew level you gain more control over the individual power level each component is receiving.
Navigation: This is where you might plan a route to another star system or plot a series of waypoints. Additional information will be made available to you such as fuel usage, time to destination and speed-through-point. These tools will allow you to generate routes based on fuel efficiency or time taken.
When designing the overall interface we focused primarily on functionality and layout. Firstly each element on the interface must have a function – either being an object that you can interact with or a readout with relevant information. We didn’t want any fluff animations which would clutter up the screen and distract you from the task at hand. We also wanted each action to share information globally, such as the 3D schematic view pane.
(Of course the layout shown here is still WIP and subject to change!)
The action shelf functions in a similar fashion to the management screen seen on the single-pilot HUD. You can flick between all available actions and choose one or more to log on to. Once logged on, you can access specific ship systems.
For multi-crew ships all available actions are shown on the action shelf. These will change from seat to seat; some command seats may offer multiple roles from a single point, others may be incredibly specific. This allows you to view important information from other ship systems without having to exit your own station.
This section shows valuable information regarding the ship’s emissions and resource usage and is available to all actions.
The schematic view shows a 3D hologram of the ship and is designed to allow a crewmember to instantly appraise any issues with a glance. You can rotate, pan and zoom the hologram.
Presets allow you to save a number of configurations per action. This can be particularly helpful if you wish to create individual builds or loadouts tailored to specific situations. The preset boxes can easily be renamed.
This panel shows a list of messages from a number of sources including player chat, player requests, system critical information and server information. You can also enter chat text into the box below.
This panel shows a list of notifications from other players — in other words a list of objectives from players who require you to perform a task for them. This panel is always contextual to the currently active action. For example, if the power management action is active, notifications will be related to increasing/decreasing power to the ship’s systems or turning those systems on or off.
Multi-crew stations are just beginning, and the list of actions above will be expanded as new mechanics come online. Additionally the multi-crew stations will feed naturally into the capital ship crew stations, expanding on the amount of control you have and the complexity of the systems.
We firmly believe that multi-crew ships and the ability to come together to form a crew and manage your ship is something that’s never before been seen. Although the system may seem initially quite complex, we’re hoping that you’ll gain the tools to create personalized builds and loadouts specifically tuned to the many situations you will face in the ’verse.
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