Star Citizen Weekly Roundup: 23rd – 29th May
Main Headlines This Week:
- Arena Commander delayed due to late breaking bugs
- FPS gameplay potentially to be shown at Gamescom – some more details revealed about gameplay
- Voting begins for the third place in The Next Great Starship
- E3 Plans (or lack thereof) confirmed by Community Manager Ben Lesnick
Arena Commander Delay
Well, that was interesting week.
It was on Friday 23rd’s Arena Commander update that the community received the tentatively warming news that:
“…we’re still on schedule and things are looking good. There’s still a lot to do over the next seven days and there are still unknowns… but we have a great team that is dedicated to making Arena Commander a reality!”
I’ve highlighted the most pertinent part of that quote, as just one day before the release of the long awaited Arena Commander dog fighting module, Cloud Imperium Games issued the following announcement.
” we are not able to release Arena Commander tomorrow as there are too many blocking and critical issues outstanding.”
The decision was made after the appearance of two “blocker” bugs (bugs so bad that they make the game completely unplayable). One of which was attributed to a new issue with DirectX which broke the single player Vanduul Swarm mode. This was particularly grave as Vanduul Swarm would be only one of two modes that the community will be able to play while the multiplayer is rolled out across all backers. The locked down version of Arena Commander also suffered from a number of critical issues that would result in the game crashing, or would eventually brick the gameplay.
CIG were quick to note on the forums that the delay was going to be “days and not weeks”. As of the time of this article, the team made further updates announcing that they believe that all of the critical and blocker bugs have been resolved. The weekend of the 31st May would be spent on QA and a go/no-go meeting is scheduled for Monday to decide whether the latest build is fit for release.
Those are the facts, now here’s a few personal anecdotes from myself: This delay has happened during the week that I managed to download my PC copy of Watch Dogs from Ubisoft. It’s the week where I (and many others) realised that the game was almost completely unplayable on AMD powered GPUs. It was a week where Ubisoft’s brick wall social media presence spouted inane marketing talk while repeatedly being asked by its consumers exactly when they were planning to patch the performance issues for the AMD cards, or when they were going to resolve the (unnecessary for a mainly single player game) connection issues to the UPlay servers.
I had to wait three days until some form of rescue came in the shape of beta drivers released by AMD. It made a game that was completely unplayable on low settings finally playable on low settings (but still with a poor frame rate compared to most other modern releases).
In light of the above, it makes the absence of Arena Commander, despite being sad news, completely understandable, and sheds an interesting perspective on things.
For me this week has been, from a gaming point of view, massively and crushingly disappointing. But only one of these developers/publishers has actually acted in a professional manner that shows courtesy to their paying customers.
This is worth bearing in mind as the forums were set alight(ish) by rage threads. People threatening legal action, people saying CIG don’t know how to develop a game, people saying we’ve been lied to. You can pretty much set your watch to these sorts of threads on any given day across many game forums. But on Thursday and Friday it was like every cuckoo clock in the shop was going off. It’s stuff I’ve discussed in previous articles, but it’s fair to say that a lot of the traffic generated across the last couple of days has predominantly been in support of the developers. Both for the decision they made and the pressure they’ve been under over the last few weeks, and in particular the last few days, to try and put Arena Commander back in a shippable state.
In response to this event, CIG ramped up their communications regarding the delay by publishing daily bug tracking updates to the community, and have even released a “sizzle” trailer and a few new screenshots to try and keep people ticking over.
I’m still not sure what Ubisoft are doing to patch up their mess of a game.
If there is one interesting epilogue I can make from all this before we hit the video and developer updates, it’s that Star Citizen is starting to reveal to the industry a new baseline of gamer. Those who are ready for early access gaming, and those that aren’t.
Early Access is an interesting conundrum for CIG as they’re using it in the complete opposite way to most other developers to date. For many aspiring indie studio, early access is a way to generate interest in your game and keep the heating on in the winter and food on the table. At the first sign of a playable build, developers will throw that version out to the world in the hope that their hard work pays off and they can generate enough interest to warrant finishing the game. To prove that they’ve got a market for their product. To all intents and purposes, early access games are the modern day demos… on steroids.
CIG’s position is slightly different however. They don’t really have a need to push something out of the door in order to drum up interest in the game. Since the alpha access was promised at the $2 million stretch goal, CIG now has over $44 million in funding and over 458k registered members to the website. The dog fighting module became a bit more than a pre-alpha during the PAX East reveal earlier this year. It had morphed into an in-universe arcade game, complete with its own logo and fictional developer.
CIG aren’t releasing the module just to hook more people into the game, they’re releasing it as the first tentative steps for their backers to enter the universe proper. This goes some way to explaining some of the more negative (but not hysterically negative) threads that have been generated on the forums in recent days regarding the delay. But it also shows why Chris Roberts is not keen to release a significantly bugged product out to the community. Arena Commander is to set the tone for the next two and a half years of releases. It needs to be more than a simple room with ships in (as the hangar module is). It needs to be something that people will play throughout the rest of the game’s development.
But it’s the building of the game itself that’s causing the biggest issue for CIG, because simply too many people don’t actually understand how massively complicated and complex software/game development actually is. This is the curse of opening up your process. Much in the same way that every football fan think he knows better than the coach what tactics to use, there are more than a few “armchair developers” (a phrase coined elsewhere so I take no credit for that) on the site who simply don’t understand the complexities of developing a game and coding. They don’t understand why bugs can be generated by other bugs, or how a simple update here can break the game over there.
This is the double edged sword of opening up a process as complicated as game making and publishing for the world to see. If I had over 400k people watching me drive a car, I’m absolutely certain there would be plenty of comments from people who have never driven before in their life telling me what I’m doing wrong.
In the age we’re in now where shipping heavily bugged and nearly unplayable triple A titles (such as Watch Dogs (for some) and Battlefield 4 for most people), it’s nice to know that what the backers will eventually get should at least be playable to some degree.
Star Citizen Not To Appear at E3.
As a result of the Arena Commander delay, some began to speculate that this might have been engineered in order to make the release coincide with the upcoming E3. These suggestions were swiftly countered by Ben Lesnick (CIG Community Manager):
So is the conspiracy that we’ve delayed the release, generated bad press and intentionally impacted the relationship with the people who are actually backing our game so we can show it at E3 (where it would be drowned out by the multimillion dollar PR pushes from Sony/Microsoft/Nintendo)? I guess if it’s needed I can offer an official: no, that would be nuts.
Ben also went on to confirm that from CIG’s perspective, attempting media coverage during E3 would be “incredibly difficult for an independent outlet”, and that any attempt at generating news would be “drowned out” by the big name developers and console manufacturer announcements and trailers.
FPS Reveal Planned for Gamescom and Gameplay Details
During the 10 For The Chairman video (see below), Chris Roberts confirmed that they hope to reveal FPS combat footage during Gamescom, which is scheduled to take place between the 13th – 17th August in Cologne, Germany. Chris mentioned in the video some of the gameplay aspects that are being implemented, such as the ability to grab onto surfaces and push off from them. Hits from enemy projectiles could potentially knock you off the surface which you are connected to via your magnetic boots.
Elsewhere on the site was this encouraging response from Associate Producer Travis Day regarding the FPS gameplay in the Star Citizen Ask A Developer Forum. This shows that Star Citizen is aiming for FPS combat mechanics that are often eschewed in favour of regenerative health and twitch action:
Q: When you shoot someone in the FPS mechanics will they die with one body shot, or will it be like other FPS standards where it may take 3-5 shots to kill someone even though they have no armour?
A: It will be more along the lines of Rainbow Six. Rouge Spear or the original, not Vegas. So death will be quick, brutal, and realistic.
Never mind Arena Commander, roll on August in Cologne (hopefully).
10 For The Chairman
This is Chris Roberts’ weekly show in which he answers ten questions from subscribers; monthly backers whose contributions help fund CIG’s weekly video updates and Jump Point magazine.
Covered this week:
- FPS gameplay potentially to be shown at Gamescom.
- Chris discussed the relationship with Crytek which is mainly focused on technology sharing but not necessarily the double precision that CIG will implement to make the game space vast as it wouldn’t really be needed for the usual FPS games (distances would be off putting).
- Info smuggling gameplay could potentially be countered by other missions to block that information from being delivered.
- In-game UEC currency can be bought using real world money but it will be limited by daily or monthly caps. This is designed for players who may not be able to spend as much time in the universe but want to short-cut their way to buying a ship. Absolutely everything in the game can be bought through completing in-game missions. The idea behind these are that this is actually game play that people should enjoy and shouldn’t be a grind. Going down this route will help to keep content ongoing and servers running.
- Player base is planned to be only around 10% of the overall economy and AI/NPCs that exist within the universe.
- Talk discussing how large battles will work, discussed the use of re-fuel/re-arm platforms which were teased during the Dog Fighting Module reveals. This will be added into Arena Commander at a later date so people can begin to practice that mid-way through larger conflagrations.
- eSports – Chris mentions that this has a lot of potential, particularly with Arena Commander (where people can compete and show off dogfighting without losing ships) and Murray Cup (the in-game racing programme). Some timed racing courses are to be released with Arena Commander. eSports would be integrated in-fiction to foster greater level of competitiveness amongst the players.
- Ship names and whether they need to be unique was also commented upon. Chris’ answer speculated that (as with ships in the real world) names aren’t unique so CIG may follow that model with a ship name and then a unique registration ident. He said that he didn’t want people to have to resort to calling their ship MilleniumFalcon12781 or something like that.
The Next Great Starship
The second finalist was chosen this week and the poll has been opened to vote for the 3rd place winner.
The final episode takes place next week where both teams will be present in LA to find out which Starship will be entered into the Star Citizen universe.
This was the penultimate episode as the team wrap up this long running series before Around The Verse takes over as part of the weekly video content from CIG. It was a very light episode due to the current crunch on Arena Commander.
The newest build of the M50 (a very fast and light runner) was revealed to subscribers in the latest Jump Point magazine (and then the rest of the world via Reddit). As someone who owns this ship, I’m extremely pleased with how this ship looks, and it has potentially put to rest my plans to refund my purchase and opt for an Aurora/Mustang combo instead.
Join us next weekend for what we hope will be a video review of Star Citizen’s Arena Commander dog fighting module.