December 20th 2014
Arena Commander 1.0 is here! Today’s release marks the most significant update to Arena Commander yet, adding both the long-awaited lobby system and more than tripling the number of flyable ships. Every variant of the Aurora, Mustang, 300 and Hornet are now flyable, as are the base models of the Cutlass and the Avenger. If you’ve been waiting to fly one of Star Citizen’s single-seaters, there’s a good chance your ship has come in today!
Arena Commander 1.0 adds a host of new ship upgrades as well as significant enhancements to many of the game’s systems. Included for the first time are a ship signature system, a thruster power system, and a lateral g-force system. It contains the first iteration of the game’s lobby and we have launched a friends system in the game and on the RSI site to help you connect. Audio and visual effects have been updated throughout the game, with new animations, new textures, new cameras and more. You can find the complete list of changes, which range from the major updates below to dozens of game balancing changes and technical fixes, in the patch notes.
As you know, the team has been working very hard to release Arena Commander today and we’re especially excited to publish this patch before our Holiday break. We would have ideally liked another 4-5 days of internal stress testing and polish but with everyone looking forward to some well-earned time off I didn’t want to eat into people’s break. That said, being cognizant of the fact that the upcoming holidays are a time when everyone (myself included) looks forward to playing their favorite games we wanted to make sure that we released Arena Commander 1.0 for all our backers to enjoy over the holidays. With that in mind, I’ve opted to push today’s build of Arena Commander 1.0 to all of our backers today. So please, enjoy this significant update, give us your feedback, and we’ll come back in the New Year ready to continue polishing Arena Commander and developing the BDSSE!
I would like to stress that today’s release of Arena Commander 1.0 is a beginning, not an ending. This milestone does not denote the completion of Arena Commander, it kicks off an even more significant phase of its development. With this update, we’ve added a significant number of ships, items, missiles, and systems which means more interconnected systems, more servers to stress and more bugs to squash. These future changes won’t be limited to fixing technical glitches and balance issues.
Some elements, like the initial Avenger and Cutlass, will be converted to the new modular ship component system, but we wanted long-waiting owners to get an early look at their ships. So I encourage you to experience everything we’ve added to Arena Commander 1.0, but also to know that much, much more is in the works!
And that is where you come in! With this update, there’s a lot more for the community to help us test. So get on the forums and share your feedback and let us know your thoughts, criticisms, and ideas on everything that we’ve added. Every experience you report today, positive or negative, will help us make a better game tomorrow and come January 2nd, we will go back to work making Arena Commander even better.
Thank you for your continued support, and I sincerely hope you enjoy Arena Commander 1.0. I think that it’s a great indication of where we’re going with the Star Citizen experience. I’d like to close by saying Happy Holidays to backers everywhere. I wish you all the joy in the world and look forward to continuing our journey in the coming year.
— Chris Roberts
The Cloud Imperium publications team has produced an updated version of the Arena Commander manual in honor of 1.0! Check out the latest ships, learn about the new upgrades and how to use the game’s new systems.
Grab your PDF copy here:
Arena Commander 1.0 introduces fourteen ships to the dogfighting experience! From the jack-of-all-trades Aurora ES to the fearsome Avenger, Star Citizen’s combat balance is going through a major revision. In addition to ships sold as concepts, we’ve put a number of newly-available ships (including the Mustang lineup) for sale in the pledge store.
Update : If you wish to explore the entire Starter Ship line ups, but want to keep you alpha access, LTI or other precious package items, you can use the following Ship and Cross-Chassis Upgrades :
In addition to new ships, Arena Commander 1.0 adds an assortment of additional ship components to the game. Now backers will be able to further customize their ship’s loadout with a level of complexity unseen before. We are offering some of this additional equipment for UEC via the Voyager Direct store.
Arena Commander 1.0 isn’t the only big launch for the team today! As you may have noticed on your accounts, we are also kicking off something we’re calling the Public Test Universe. The Public Test Universe, or PTU, is a new server environment which will allow us to selectively push more experimental builds of Star Citizen to players who wish to assist with more hardcore testing of our game, balance and systems. With the PTU, we will be able to do more testing and get more feedback between patches, all while sharing more of Star Citizen’s development with backers! PTU releases will be launched in “phases,” with varying amounts of players given access as are needed for tests. If your account is eligible, you can start the process under account settings in the My RSI > Settings > Public Test Universe panel.
We’re proud to introduce in Arena Commander 1.0 our initial implementation of the in-cockpit user-interface. We have designated the Aurora to be the “prototype” ship to host much of the HUD information and interaction you’ve been seeing in the visor on the cockpit’s display panels. This represents our first step towards diversifying the HUD / UI so that each ship can have a unique and immersive piloting experience. The technology that allows us to achieve this diegetic projection of interface elements is called Scaleform 3Di. 3Di allows us the ability to project any number of UI components anywhere we want within the game world with minimal effort in terms of setup. This technology, in conjunction with our robust UI framework provides us with a highly flexible system to create truly unique interfaces with their own visual languages and interaction rules. It also allows us to iterate very efficiently with regards to the positioning, scale, and rotation of these elements within the game-world.
But the Aurora isn’t the only ship to receive an upgrade to the UI. We have also made some updates to the Combat Visor Interface (CVI) to have a more immersive feel when you’re wearing your helmet. Now, when looking at your character in 3rd person, the HUD can be seen actually projected inside the helmet and conforming to the helmet’s geometry.
To help address some of the complaints about visibility of certain UI elements on brighter backgrounds, we have introduced an additive blending mode for the HUD which essentially “brightens” UI elements when displayed against bright backgrounds such as the planet on Broken Moon. This means that elements such as the reticle and hit predictors will be much more visible because they will always appear brighter than the backgrounds that they are projected against. This also has the benefit of making the HUD look much better visually and less “flat”, because its brightness and color is more reactive to the environment. Going forward, we will continue to improve on this blending to provide pilots with the best readability for a given environment while still retaining the nice visual look we want for the HUD.
We’ve had missiles in the game before, but for 1.0 we went back to the basics of what missile gameplay could mean and created a unique mechanic that creates a variety of other potential uses outside of simply blowing a target up, such as the ability to lock multiple missiles onto a target (or multiple targets, if your ship can handle it).
Adding these sorts of changes into missiles meant touching a whole host of other systems. The radar needed revamping to read all the signatures properly, the HUD had to be revisited to communicate any number of missiles, the controller/keybound input had to be modified to accommodate missile management while also keeping the system available and useful in the heat of battle, and the targeting computer needed to be linked to each missile individually (rather than just the rack that fires them) to accommodate the wide range of missile types and behaviors that became available.
Then we built the Rattler missile, the first example of many of our new missile behaviors to come, which carries its own salvo of Venom rockets to hunt down your enemies. It’s a very satisfying weapon to use, try not to get so distracted watching it that you forget to stay in the fight! There’s also the new rocket pods strapped to the Mustang Delta, presenting the first opportunity to use dumbfire ordnance. I look forward to seeing the videos of skillshots that come out of those things.
The final piece of the puzzle was a new look at countermeasures. In most games, the use of countermeasures would be effectively the same as using an accuracy debuff – thing enters the field, thing has trouble hitting the target, simple as that. Here, we actually have the countermeasures affecting the signal system directly, which means that you aren’t playing against arbitrary data – you can just as easily escape an enemy radar as a missile as they are all part of a single data-driven system.
One major update to Arena Commander 1.0 is the launch of the Signature System, which we kick off with three measured signatures in today’s build. The Signature System is an important new combat mechanic, which introduces a huge variable to how Arena Commander’s ships face off.
Most objects generate a detectable signature of some sort. These signals take on any number of forms: radio signals, electromagnetic signals, audio signals. Even visual reflectivity is a form of signal. It’s through these signals that we detect objects, and an ability to track them is key in all forms of weapons targeting. Whether it’s a heat-seeking missile homing in on the hottest jet exhaust or an image recognition warhead knocking something out of the sky based on its shape, signals are key to modern warfare.
Under this approach, it stands to reason that most objects in the Star Citizen environment must also generate detectable signals. Our challenge becomes: what signals do we simulate, how do we simulate them and, for the purposes of a variety of gameplay elements, how do we simulate their detection? (That is: how does a missile know that it sees you and how does that differ from how an NPC does the same?)
The answer to this final question is that we create a signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) value for every objection. In science and engineering, signal-to-noise ratio is a value that compares the level of a given signal to the amount of background noise. More specifically, it is the ratio of a signal’s power to the background noise’s power. A ratio higher than 1:1 means that there is more signal than noise and that for our purposes an object is more readily detected. In simplest terms, SNR is a value that distinguishes an object from the background.
How do we calculate SNR for an individual situation, defined as targeting between two objects? The magic formula is SNR = 10 * log10( (S * (1-N/100) * (A^Z) * O) / R ). In this equation, S is the target’s signal emission, N is the overall level noise given as a percentage, A is your ship’s radar amplitude, Z is your ship’s radar amplitude power, R is your distance from the target and O is the occlusion influence percent (0 to 1.)
What, then, is noise in Star Citizen? It’s not an arbitrary value and most importantly it is not a constant! At present, every Star Citizen map contains a default level of noise intended to mimic background cosmic radiation. That’s the general noise present throughout the universe, the general static of the universe that is generated by countless of stars, black holes, quasars and the like. But in addition to a default level of cosmic radiation, Star Citizen is capable of altering the noise on a case by case basis. Imagine flying through an electromagnetic storm, or a gaseous nebula, or into a gravity well. The background noise will increase, often significantly. The SNR ratio will be impacted and the game will make it easier (or, occasionally, harder) for players to keep their ships undetected.
The noise value is determined by measuring the maximum amount of noise between two targets. If there’s a disturbance somewhere between you and your opponent, that increases the measured noise as the two attempt to target one another. This gives rise to one more opportunity for gameplay: the ability to deploy chaff, which generates a temporary artificial field of noise. Upend the ratio yourself to avoid detection or missile locks! (This is essentially the basis upon which actual chaff functions. Instead of telling the computer ‘if chaff is fired, decrease missile’s chance’ we’ve created an overall logical system that autonomously creates the same functionality.)
Now that we have noise, including ways to both increase and decrease it, what constitutes a signal? At present, combat in Star Citizen measures three distinct types of signals: infrared, electromagnetic and cross section. Each of these signals, which factor into the overall ’S’ value of your situation’s SNR number, has a distinct set of rules and characteristics intended to emulate how they would function in actual combat.
Infrared – With a ship’s infrared signal, individual items have a heat pool which builds up based on certain actions. An item such as a weapon will generate heat in the pool briefly while firing, whereas an engine might output a steady stream of heat that constantly impacts your infrared signal. Items such as coolers will pull heat away from a given item’s pool, reducing the infrared signature. The cooler impacts the infrared signature based on the amount of heat a ship was cooled (think of it like water cooling your PC!) Thrusters generate heat based on the amount of thrust generated at any given point, dumping this into the heat pool. Thus, thrusters will take time to cool off after use and the resulting infrared signature will take time to dissipate (like a hot car engine on a cold day.) Occlusion lowers the overall detected infrared signature.
Electromagnetic – Electromagnetic energy is generated by a number of items on a standard ship, especially the shield systems and power plants. Shields require power to stay active and additional power during any regeneration. This power requirement generates the electromagnetic signature, meaning that a ship holding with shields active will generate a significant holding signature but that this signature will increase should the shields be damaged and begin recharging. A ship’s power plant generates its electromagnetic signature based on the overall amount of power needed by the ship at a given time. Occlusion also lowers the detected electromagnetic signature.
Cross Section – The cross section signature is based on the actual volume of a given ship using offline calculations which determine the measurements based on each axis. It is our first ship signature to be in 3D. It is based on the view direction of a ship’s cross-section, so the value will change constantly based on the angle from which you can view a target. A Scythe viewed directly head-on will have a significantly lower cross section signature than one viewed from above or below. Unlike electromagnetic and infrared signatures, a ship’s cross section signature value cannot be detected through geometry (other objects that physically block a target.)
With the signature system, we hope to kick off a more complex sort of balance for Arena Commander. Hopefully you can see that, in addition to being the basis for how all objects lock on to one another, Star Citizen’s stealth mechanics will spring directly from the development of this system. Pilots who wish to fly stealthy ships will arrange their upgrades and enhancements in such a way as to reduce power consumption, signal output and even visual size if they wish to score a low SNR. Some ships, such as the Hornet Tracker, will include enhanced functionality to detect and alter signals.
We’re dedicated to making Arena Commander more than just shooting, and we’re excited to expand and balance signals going forward!