Star Citizen - four years on - the grand re-build

EDITORIAL: yeah, I do realise I've invested far too much of my own valuable time on planet Earth assessing a game I'm not being paid to improve yet...

If a game giant like Sega, Konami or Nintendo were making the Star Citizen demo, at this four-year point in its development with the first full-size planet Hurston about to attract thousands of interested backers, they would GUT THE WHOLE THING. Yes, this is how the Big Games are made. They muck about for half a decade then scrap most of it, building and refining upon ONLY THOSE THINGS THAT WORK properly or fulfil the desired spec of their intended product.

Design-wise, Star Citizen currently looks weird and fractured like it's been hammered together from different bits of scrap metal. This is not even a surprise considering the game was Kickstarter-pitched as a carrier-launched space-flight-sim-game like Star Wars X-wing (which was great) and a CryEngine'd version of something like that would have been lovely. Then planetary landing arrived. Then FOIP and VOIP are the new kids on the block.

What Star Citizen needs is a total re-build from the ground up to ready it for its first-tier mainstream release some time in 2020-21. I'm not talking about bug-fixing or cosmetic changes, I'm talking about making the game easier to play, making it more FUN. I'm going to add ZERO NEW TECH to achieve this, it's all already there, just used in the wrong (clumsy (non intuitive (geeky (pages of excruciatingly parenthetical keybindings)))) or archaic spreadsheet-gaming way.

I've also updated my Reddit page War World 66 with a whole slew of relevant Star Citizen-related posts over the course of a whole week of thinky, now let's get crackin'

* * * * * 

START SCREEN: a list of United Empire of Earth worlds in which you can...
  • Citizen Register
  • Org Register
  • Faction Register 
  • Practise
  • Settings
Citizen Register in an already logged in world will just log you in: you'll log into the body you left behind in that system, where you left your ship. 
Org Register means you join an org, or log into an already joined org.
Faction Register, you get the drift already. Right?

Citizen Register a new UEE world will a) make you a citizen of that world and b) melt all but your starter ship. Org Registering in new world, you can carry a medium ship with you, all others are melted. Faction Register, plus big ship if you have one.

Practise means Arena Commander and Star Marine are EXACTLY LIKE THE FULL GAME you're just practising in a safe offline environment.
Settings is where you alter your preferences.

LOCOMOTION: this happens when you log into the game...

  • Mouse move = change orientation.
  • Roll mouse wheel = move forward or backward at slow, medium or fast pace in the direction of intent.
  • Extra hotkeys for the 'sixth axis' and 'look around'.

This 'sixth axis' covers movements like Strafe or moving from screen-relative side to side or screen-relative up and down.

a scramble anim for now
a slow, medium, fast anim issue

for the future
Apply that simple same model to anything you're driving be that your body or your ship. Same set of controls, unified. It's probably something like this THRUST-based sphere-surface control-model I came up with in the Spring... You could even have a free look-around if you're standing still or sat in pilot seat in a parked ship for example. Moving look around is an extra hotkey where your body/ship continues what it's doing while you look around, a basic camera move mode (though this needs to (somehow) be tied into your progression in the game, or the flight/motion situation you find yourself in.

Improvements to the already-excellent IK-skeltal animation so that there's a centre of gravity shift between 'going up stairs' and 'going down stairs'. More of a placement of weight on the less-angled foot. More likelihood of tripping or ankle-roll if you're foot-aligning in a reversing direction as opposed to foot aligning in a standing still direction.

Everything is a locomotion animation, there are no canned animations that play like a cutscene e.g. entry of one-man ship up a ladder. In this case there should be slow, medium or fast way to move along that constrained animation path or spline, your mouse-roll should control which one plays. If you stop, that's okay. If you take your gun out to defend yourself while in the middle of the ladder, that's okay too. If you reverse your anim, no problemo. You can jump onto and jump off any entry canned anim with UP strafe.

When you are sat in the driving seat of your ship, you have access to ALL THE FACILITES THAT SHIP CAN OFFER: jump drive, navigation, weapons systems. No using MobiGlas when you're flying, it's the law!

2.0 ASSET HELPERS: these are things that can 'do stuff' for you...
a door or ladder (see image), as you approach it, it senses your presence, and your approach speed, and offers its services as a door (or ladder). Airlock or automatic door, doesn't matter, it highlights from way out if you're running towards it. Animation only takes place when you can PHYSICALLY ACTIVATE THE BUTTON or means of operation. Insta-finger always shows when you're in range of a highlighted object, so you can click as the first thing i.e. not play a character animation AFTER you've clicked on the thing.

If you're in the cockpit, flying your ship, and you use the look around key each MFD will highlight when you look at it, insta-finger will point at what you're looking at. Click = window opens up into full-screen interface mode. The same mode that's already used for other Consoles or Panels in the game. See, no new tech.

curved QT-path
around planetary bodies
QUANTUM JUMPING: time-penalise the hell out of it...
you've played a lot of game missions to enjoy the luxuries your ship offers you, one of these luxuries is the bizarre and exotic Quantum Jump Drive. Every ship has them: small, medium or large.
  • Short journeys: blue fizzling fx at the front of the ship, 0-10 seconds. It takes 10 seconds to reach 0.2 c.
  • Medium journeys: blue fizzling fx + blue tunnel effect, 10 seconds to 1 minute. Speed of 0.2 c.
  • Long journeys: secondary BOOST to the blue fizzling tunnel effect, some camera shake, after one minute. No more than five minutes of quantum travel within any star system. It's a game, ffs. It's not supposed to take WEEKS or MONTHS to get anywhere... 
Return control to the player as soon as he exits Quantum Drive; speed will be the initial or pre-QT impulse speed of the shp.

A circumnavigation or curved-path jump should align the ship's up vector with the up-vector of the 2D curve between big A and little A in the illustration to the right, this way the planetary body will always be at the foot of the shot from where you can sensibly begin your descent.

When you use your Quantum Jump Engine, it should be a) door-to-door with (connected) curved (2D or planar) paths from A to B etc. but b) once you've jumped you'll have to wait for a time equivalent to the time taken to get there until you can re-use the QJE. See 'insurance' note below.

STAR MAP on MobiGlas:
while this might seem to make sense, it doesn't. Why? A) you're not in your ship B) star map is just a way for dev to know which planet owns which moon/station/rest stop, city...

much prettier, don't you think
These QT-key Destinations can be anything btw: Planets, Moons, Landing Zones, Rest Stops, Mission Markers, Beacons... in the image above, they're planets.

  • You'll see that Panel #1 (in the above mock-up) shows four distant specs of light.
  • Hold QT-key means those four NEAR-distance jump targets visually scale up on screen and the already-existing TARGET pane on the pilot interface (where enemy ships normally sit) fills with relevant Lore or Information.
  • You can look around in the cockpit, it's not pixel-specific so that soft-lock will offer nearby jump-options easily.
  • The numbers under each highlighted destination is the TIME TO HIGHLIGHTED DESTINATION based on your current jump drive, in minutes/seconds.
  • Panel #four in the above mock-up should show OUT OF RANGE for your fuel tank or engine capability.
  • Mouse roll while holding QT-key takes you to MEDIUM-distance QT-jump targets.
  • Mouse roll again means FAR targets like jump gates etc. other planets not nearby.
  • Mouse click in this mode means GO THERE, now.
  • Release the QT-key means NOTHING HAPPENS.

now the effect has purpose...
JJ ABRAMS LENS FLARE: seemingly one of the most important features...
the JJ Abrams-style horizontal lens flare that permeates every shot in Star Citizen. It's currently nothing more than a direct stylistic lift (or borrow) from JJ's cinematic style. But this is a 3D game, so let's ust the JJ Abrams style lens flare to show THE ORIENTATION OF THE SOLAR DISC or the plane of activity around a star where the Star Citizen game takes place. By locking this lens flare not to the screen (cinema) but to the plane of activity in Star Citizen (a game) we make it more relevant whilst still retaining its stylistic essence. It can also help orient oneself in the confusing 3D world, especially as we start to multi-system transit.

A HORSE IS A MAN'S BEST FRIEND: no, seriously, it's gonna be just like The Lone Ranger...
just like the hero's famous white horse, you too will have a trusty wild-frontier friend in the guise of your personality-laden ship who will try to be as helpful as possible. All ships are spawned one-at-a-time from HyperSpace, where all such vehicles are stored. You can see these ships de-spawning from HyperSpace when you call them down using your MobiGlas garage. As one arrives, your other one leaves...

LANDING THRUSTERS: only those ships whose thrusters can rotate can VTOL...
all other ships have to take off using their main engines, and wheels... like a normal jet plane or carrier-launched star ship. Orientation thrusters, while powerful, shouldn't be strong enough to allow your ship to VTOL (vertical take-off and landing).

lookin' good
THIRD PERSON: and this is only because everyone plays it like this...
...and I think this is the most important shift in perspective the game really needs. From this point on, Star Citizen is a THIRD PERSON ONLY game, what were CIG thinking making this a first person game? Can they really claim that Star Citizen is a worthy competitor to the visual fidelity of something like Cyberpunk 2077?

Any clothing/weapons changes, any ship loadout changes, therefore will take place on the third person asset in the real world. When you enter pilot seat or gunner seat you are shown a third person view of the ship from the relevant viewpoint. All interface will be embed'd in the 3D world: gun sights, navigation helpers, etc...they will scale up in the view when highlighted like 2.0 asset helpers. And I think this makes sense because, when you link in with the pilot's seat, you effectively BECOME the ship and benefit from all its systems and devices.

Also, the rear of the third-person character is now available for any HUD or situational interface like weapons timers and health status...

insta-finger IK-pointer
FIRST PERSON: we're not making Elite Dangerous here, so...
first person doesn't necessarily equate with immersion when a) many people suffer from motion sickness from badly implemented first-person solutions and b) there's no point this being a first person game (with a skeleton underneath it) if the first person view is some kind of floaty DOOM-like camera that has no momentum in real terms. I don't see how being in first person benefits this game, since your inventory is in a secondary window when it could just be the avatar or ship you're already seeing. Therefore, only first person mode to be used when...

  • click on any console or activate MobiGlas and (once the third person animation plays) you're in first person mode with your body visible below you.
  • click on the ship you're flying and enter a pilot's first-person repair/adjust mode with your body visible, hands for activation of switches and thruster managing etc. you can fly in this mode but default is third person because that's how everyone's flying this game, that's how the sensors work.

PERSISTENCE: it's all in the profit/loss table, mate...
hopefully you've hidden your body and/or parked your ship safely before logging off. You log off wherever you want, and it's like your in-game persona 'goes to sleep'. Your body can't be woken up until you log back in, this can be days, weeks or months later. Same for your ship, however the authorities can move either if it's blocking some part of town or some door. Recommend logging off after you've safely parked your ship in a garage where the NPCs will take care of it for you, until later.

INSURANCE: where time-penalties can be expedited...
if you're a dick and keep trashing your ship, your re-spawn premium (currently called Expedite Fee) will rise like any Normal Insurance Racket. Hit the payer where he'l feel it the most.
  • After any quantum jump, you can pay an expedite fee to rush the recharge timer.
  • After you select a ship, you can pay an expedite fee to rush the delivery from HyperSpace.
  • After selecting a new weapon for a fixed weapon slot, you can pay an expedite fee to hurry the timer.

MILS vs CIVS: I want 'fashion' to f***ing mean something again, people...
institute FINANCIAL PENALTIES for wearing armed military kit in Civilian Areas like Lorville. Player should have a secondary-civilian uniform always in his MobiGlas that is picked up by the airlock/citygates and swaps it for you. If you get around Customs somehow, cops on the street should be alert to Transgressors! You should be arrested to one side, and charged on the spot. Call it a Helmet Tax.Then you should be forced into your secondary-civvies.


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