Q&A: Ark Starmap
You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers! At CitizenCon we kicked off the first iteration of the Ark Starmap, a joint effort between our writing team in Santa Monica, our web developers Turbulent, and our strategic partner Gamerizon. We’re very happy with this first release, and wanted to give these teams a chance to answer some of the questions you posted in our forums.
Ken Hwang from Turbulent
David Haddock, Cherie Heiberg, Adam Wieser, and Will Weissbaum from CIG Santa Monica.
So without further ado, the questions… and the answers…
Questions & Answers
Hey! Why does the map say Pluto is a planet?
Currently, Pluto is listed correctly as a Dwarf Planet if you click on the planet and open up the information disk. However, the way the Starmap database works right now, in order to have an object look like a planet it needs to be labeled as planet type. This is not ideal.
We are in the process of looking at revamping the classification system, so that a celestial object’s actual type will be displayed first (such as Terrestrial Planet, Gas Giant, Dwarf Planet, etc), and its subtype will be displayed second (such as Rocky, Ice, Smog, etc). Under this new system, Pluto would be a Dwarf Planet type with a subtype of Ice. We are also working on an updated classification system for stars by further separating out the stellar and spectral types. Once the classification system is revamped, it will be more precise in its ability to describe what kind of celestial body that you’re seeing (like Pluto being a Dwarf Planet).
We are also still populating the Starmap. If you check it today, you will see that Pluto is now in the company of its moon, Charon. We’ve also added an Observation Base to the Kellog system and two more planets to the Kallis system. Populating the map will continue because we have so much to share with you. Stay tuned for more additions!
Which ships can fit in which size jump points?
This is something the designers are still looking at the specifics of, and we hope to release more information when it’s available.
Can you explain how the Ark Starmap relates to the Game Universe Map and the Digital Starmap package items?
The Game Universe Map that some backers pledged for is a physical poster that will feature a 2D representation of the Ark Starmap. The Digital Starmap is a digital copy of this poster.
The ‘Map Room’ is also still in the works and will be an additional area added on to hangars that will allow players to interact with the information in the Starmap in unique ways.
Can the map have an easter egg that glitches the Earth info tab to read “Mostly Harmless” every 25th May (Towel Day)?
The web Starmap is integrated with the RSI website platform, so technically it is possible to “glitch” the Earth info tab. But we categorically deny the existence of any Easter egg in the current Starmap.
The information on the map is great, but what about more information? Wouldn’t more information be even greater? What about Galactic Guides and the Galactapedia?
More information would be great, and we are eager to provide it as you explore the systems and worlds of Star Citizen. To put things a little more into context, the short blurbs we have in currently might not look like much, but with the number of systems, worlds and celestial objects we have there is around 60 pages worth of text in the map already. Just like the large game, we hope to release more information in steady waves. Our next step will be to begin to connect the Starmap to more detailed Galactapedia articles as they become ready to post. The information will be more high level to start, but as the game gets closer we will continue to add more and more details and continue to flesh out the world.
As far as linking to the existing Galactic Guides and Observist articles, we debated it, but decided in the end to keep them separate. Lore-wise, the Ark is a scholarly institute whereas the Galactic Guides and Observist articles are more akin to tourist and traveler resources. It’s the difference between reading an encyclopedia and a guidebook or studying a map in an atlas or a map printed in a brochure you find in a hotel lobby. The Galactapedia will be connected to the Starmap while the other posts will link into other various resources.
On a more meta level, because we have a better understanding today of how we want systems to be designed then we did when we first started writing the Galactic Guides, a lot of them have little details here and there that are out of date. We didn’t want to link the Starmap directly to incorrect information. Our hope is to eventually update them, but that is a large task and will take some time. As a first step, we have already updated the Stanton Galactic Guide to match the most current design.
How do undiscovered systems factor into the Starmap? Does the Starmap automatically update even if a system isn’t reported?
The Starmap only shows known systems and jump points. There’s a lot out there to discover, and it wouldn’t be fun for anyone if we added that to the Starmap. To answer the second question, the system would need to be reported in order to be added to the Starmap. This way, if a pirate faction discovers a jump point, or if an enterprising merchant discovers a new, resource-rich system, they can keep their discoveries to themselves.
Is there any chance we will get access to the Starmap code and API? We’d love to peek behind the curtain to see how this all came together and maybe even make a few tweaks or create our own apps.
We love the enthusiasm over the Starmap and everyone’s interest in how it came together. Currently there are no plans to release the API or code, though it may be something we look at again farther down the road.
With that in mind, if you have any future suggestion on how to make the Starmap better and more user friendly, please let us know! While we probably won’t be able to get around to every suggested tweak, we want this map to be fun, informative, and essential to the game. Your continued feedback will be vital to this process.
How are the distances of routes calculated? It seems odd that a route with more jump points would be less AU than a route with fewer jumps.
The AU distance that you see when planning a route is a calculation of the distance between jumps that you will have to fly at regular or quantum speeds. Jump travel is not included in this as it cuts through space and does not add much distance to your journey. However, it does take considerable fuel to jump. Players will have to balance the fuel cost of jumping with the extra time and risk of flying through normal space.
Will we be using the Starmap to track missions and trade information in the game?
Our current thinking in-lore is that the Ark Starmap will not have live data. The Ark will release regular updates, but information needs to be vetted, confirmed and double checked by researchers before making it on to the official map. To keep track of more up to the minute information, that is where the mobiGlas’ skyLine and other apps will come into to play. SkyLine is where players would store their personal information on top of the map. This could be stuff like secret data, information from NPC sources, and mission locations. They would also be able to switch on additional layers with the latest data from the TDD about trade or the Advocacy about crimes that are happening, etc.
Will we see further adjustments to the interface controls in the Starmap?
We hope to keep refining in future iterations both the interface and the visuals. While there are no definite plans to share yet, we are looking into the possibility of adding things like WASD movement, separate sound effect and music toggles, and manual zoom controls.
To get the interface to where it is now, we had to consider a wide range of users and even the possibility that the Starmap might be someone’s first experience with Star Citizen. For example, when it came to the L/R button we decided that the left mouse button should perform the most natural action in each view. In 3D view, the natural inclination is to rotate the camera. Meanwhile, in 2D view, panning becomes the first instinct.
Are there any plans to integrate tablet and mobile support with the Starmap?
Yes, this is something we’re considering for a future release of the Starmap. We all agree that being able to explore the ’verse from the bathroom would be pretty great.
What is this sorcery?