While we’re well on our way to the Moon, metamorphically speaking, we’re not there just yet. We still have some key technologies to complete to round out the seamless universe;
iCache, which will allows us to record state on any dynamic arbitrary item in the universe, so you could touch down on a planet, drop a coffee cup in a forest on some remote planet, leave, and come back a month later to still see the coffee mug where you left it. iCache opens up true universe persistence for Star Citizen and enables what we are calling “Physical Inventory” where you no longer will have a magic bag of holding; you will be limited to the items you can physically carry or equip, or that you can store on your ship or hab. With Physical Inventory, item and resource management become much more important. What you take with you on your ship is important. Traveling to a hostile environment? Better have room to store an environment suit. Ship choice and availability of equipment / resources becomes much more meaningful. We have made great progress on iCache and are hoping to have it in a live build by Q2 of next year (“hoping” not “promising”).
Server Meshing is another big technical milestone ahead of us. It’s dependent on iCache, as that allows the various servers in the mesh to utilize a unified snapshot of the state of the universe, but we have been working on this over the past few years and hope to have the first iteration in players’ hands by next year. This will allow us to greatly expand the number of the players beyond 50 to thousands concurrently in the same “instance” as the tech will spin up additional servers to handle the simulation load in an area as the player count increases. This is when Star Citizen becomes a true Massively Multiplayer Game.
The last big technical initiative is the background universe simulation, what Tony Zurovec has dubbed “Quantum” at last years CitizenCon
. Tony and his team have been working hard on the backend services to communicate between the individual game servers and the overall universe simulation that takes state from the game servers and uses it to affect the global universe simulation. This creates cause and effect in prices of commodities, missions created and AI objectives based on the player population’s actions.
These three key technologies will round out the major technical pillars that will enable us to deliver a dynamic and seamless universe with incredible detail and scale. All are well into development and the question is no longer “if” but “when”.
When this happens we can start to open the floodgates in terms of locations and content, something we have been gearing up for by focusing on improving the planet tech and its procedural creation tools while we wait for server meshing to come online. We’ve taken the creation of a planet from months to a couple of weeks, when we have the appropriate biomes and assets. We’ve been focusing on tools that will allow us to build landing zones and settlements at scale when we have the modular pieces.
Along with these last few major tech hurdles, we’ve been making a point to improve the quality of life and stability of the game. We created the Vehicle Experience Team, to focus on the feel of space flight and combat, and we have similar upcoming initiatives on the Actor (player) side, focused on the Player Interaction Experience. Some of this you’ll have already begun to appreciate with the release of 3.10, which brought the first round of flight and turret experience improvements. 3.11 is continuing this with improvements to missile and countermeasure gameplay. We believe that this focus on stability and QoL has helped and can be seen in our increased user engagement this year.
We’re not stopping there. We already have the professions of other space games right now in 3.11: exploration, hauling, trading, mercenary, outlaw, bounty hunting and mining. We have big plans for salvage, repair, medical, data running, farming, and manufacturing / crafting but if we just took the time to finish the existing professions and polish them, Star Citizen would have no rival. Part of the “there are no gameplay loops” comments I see occasionally stem from the fact the base professions often are incomplete in their functionality, like effectively being able to collect cargo from a ship you just waylaid as a pirate. This along with an occasional game-breaking bug and lack of polish gives an impression of much less than there actually is. Rectifying this, along with improving the initial user experience, are core to our upcoming “experience” initiatives, with Cargo, Piracy and Bounty Hunting being high on the list to receive the extra love and attention to make the professions fully rounded and fun.
And it’s not just about our destination, it’s about the journey, and along the way we are aiming to make it fun to play and support Star Citizen while it is being finished around you. The Fleet Week event back in May was just the first of many dynamic events we are planning. This year’s Intergalactic Aerospace Expo moves to an all-new location built from the ground up at New Babbage on microTech, and there’s been some disturbing transmissions coming from Pyro…
Like our tech hurdles, it’s not a matter of if Star Citizen will ever reach critical mass but when. The future gets brighter quarter by quarter, as every release is an incremental and tangible step to the fully dynamic first-person universe sandbox that we have all dreamed of. You better bring shades!