Star Citizen: twenty short stories
|view from Crusader moon Cellin with Hurston and its moons passing by|
Not really happy with the way CIG are developing their multiplayer game Star Citizen. Now that the Squadron 42 schedule's been released a great revelation has happened. And I did spell this out for many on Reddit throughout 2018, "If it's not tech/gameplay intended for SQ42, it's not being done." Now, this is really bad. And it shows in the SC we're playing today.
Basically, they're making ONLY the single-player single-objective story mode i.e. SQ42i, and then net-code porting that content to the multiplayer sandbox. Imagine how much PATCHING through 2020-21 Squadron 42i's tier-zero story-game's gonna need. Plus, if SQ42 is at all successful, forget SC. It'll go major back-burner while they bring out SQ42ii and SQ42iii with the WHOLE DEV TEAM across six more bespoke gaming zones to the highest visual fidelity over the following six years.
So, fuck it. I've made games for a dozen years before. I can dream better loops than this half-ass implementation. I decided to write my own short stories, twenty of them, to illustrate how delicious a game like Star Citizen could be - if only they were making an interactive sandbox and not porting some shit story-thing into the Verse.
so, I've just resurrected at Levski, and I've left my skanky hab, and I'm running down the corridors... I'm never on time these days, don't know why. I just can't seem to get out of bed. I love my hab? Nah, just lazy.
I voice-actived my, "MobiGlas," as I ran down the steps to the life and the wrist-phone showed me my Fleet Manager App as an obvious first option. While still running I said "Gladiolus," 'cos everybody needs a pet-name for their ship, right? Then I voice-verified the Expedite Fee 'cos I'd hammered it last time I was out shooting pirates.
I took the lift right to the surface where a handy open area or quadrangle right in front of the entrance to Levski is where all the ships land. No-one uses the garages at Levski ffs, can't trust 'em.
After a few seconds, a sub-sonic registered and then a shuddering glowing portal opened as my ship arrived from HyperSpace where all ships are stored. It landed smoothly in one of the vacant parking spaces smelling of high-energy radicals and ozone after a lightning storm.
The NPC-pilot leapt out out of the cockpit of my Gladius, and saluted as I climbed the cockpit ladder to my ship. One final Free Look near the top of the ladder, a salute of my own and into the cockpit where the pilot's chair was obediently highlighting.
speaking of whiskey breakfast, as I was in my opening story of Life in the Verse, it was my first real experience of racism since I'd got my wings. Actually heard the term BAG-HEAD directed towards one of the prospective customers out in the far side of Lorville. Near Gate Six. That should say it all, I know, but...
I'd arranged to meet Miles, some young upstart in the drop-off and pick-up business, and he had a job for me. Who doesn't? It's what I do, day in, day out. Jobs. Money. Rent.
Miles invited me to his table and the barman actually delivered two whiskeys. Like hand-delivered them to our table. See, that showed respect. Or Miles just pays the barman to do this, to look important.
There was a commotion off to my right somewhere in this utter shithole of a bar and two workers were arguing about something, letting off the steam of a day at the mines or what-not. And the barman goes, "Hey, we don't serve no bag-heads in this bar, pal..."
Miles put a hand on mine, momentarily, and shook his head as if to say 'dont get involved' and I understood in that instant that things are different in the outskirts. People can get killed for just looking out of place... lesson learned.
I love the way my ship just knows if I'm trying to get into it or not.
I can be stood right next to the pilot-entry and as long as I'm Free Looking away from it, it won't try to kill me by lowering its ladder right through me.
Sure, if I'm where I should be to manually activate the thing or Free Looking at it or directly aligned with it, it drops its ladder for me. Even if I'm running up to the ship, under fire. The ladder's there, ready for me to climb it. Even if I'm jumping at it from way out... I just move towards the highlighted thing and progress up it.
An obedient ladder is for climbing up. Fast or slow. You're still in full control.
Or not even climbing up it at all. Maybe just standing there, halfway up, halfway through the next phase of the ladder climb, Free Look'ing around, maybe shooting from it with one hand, maybe even landing on it from a jump and clinging on as a co-pilot pulls away... checking out a Spectrum post in my (voice activated) "MobiGlas".
If I walk past my cockpit ladder entry, it kinda knows that I'm not interested in it. Keeps schtum until I'm ready to use it, you know. The right way round for this kind of 'machine/human relationship'.
he has no idea I'm following him, through Lorville.
And that's a good thing, my client says this geezer's a bit of a nutter and if he knew you were scanning him for any latent data he might have about his person.... he'd not take it well. He's turned around a couple of times; I tripped on a micro-step, I kicked a concrete lump, I coughed -- who doesn't cough in Lorville? But as long as I hang back just far enough the scan can still continue. Patience is a virtue.
There's no weapons allowed for freelancers like us in this town, but he'd kick seven colours out of... oh, got it. I have the data I need. My client will be so happy. As will my bank balance. Ch-ching.
I've been all round this place just now, and I can't believe my eyes. It's like someone from MicroTech, or whoever builds these ship-ordering panels, has had some kind of a Road To Damascas moment. A console spring clean has happened all round the base. I'm gonna list the changes here, because it's been so long that I've used 'the old ways' I can't believe I'm now being treated to some kind of console-use luxury.
The panels have all been lowered to the right height - I no longer suffer neck-ache.
Before, no matter how hard I concentrated, I could not get my arm to come up when the view zoomed in - now it just works.
My neck seems to know what to do again, in front of these things - I can look down in a naturalistic manner.
And then I had a real brain-wave, I took my MobiPad out of my hip pocket, I use this all the time and it's weird to not have the thing right in my face. Again the geniuses at MicroTech (do they make these flight suits then, too?) have somehow standardised the MobiPad to follow the same sensible template. MobiPad at solar plexus height, head down to frame-zoom the screen, my arm raised ready to insta-finger buttons and drag sliders.
Feels great, feels actually useful.
I tremble to think that they've actually standardised my MobiGlas using the same template. I'm so sick of chronic neck ache and shoulder pain from a long day at the head-height wrist-phone. And we use it all the time in our job. I don't even know whether I can stand the shock, and horror, if they haven't done that too.
I can wait no longer, I'm gonna F2 that shit and see if it's... oh, my, god.
Truth be told I'd never been in one before, but now I've saved up enough money and I'm ready to tool up. I'd heard the strange stories of all the competing choices of screen or model or shopkeep in these places and how it was all so confusing but that's not how it went at all.
I wandering into this shop, it's a new one in our district that's just opened. And I thought the shop was empty. It wasn't, it's just that all the weapons and armours I could see were cardboard cutouts. I could go up to them. They actually were cardboard. I couldn't handle them or see how they worked.
A shopkeep stood there patiently behind his counter. I'd heard him say, "Watcha!" when I walked in but didn't register him that much. Now I needed his help. I went up to him and said, "What's all this about?"
"Oh, you mean these?" and he pressed something under his counter.
I swung around and, no word of a lie, all the weapons flipped over horizontally, cycling through light medium heavy. Same thing happened with the armours, they spun round on their base through light medium heavy.
"Come on," he said, coming from behind his counter with his little accountant pad thingy, "I'll show you what we can offer."
As I tried on all sorts of boots kit helmet combinations he'd scowl or smile depending on what he saw, sometimes he'd suck his teeth. I man-handled all the guns, spun the gizmo around so I could try light medium heavy variants. He told me about the ammo for each, too. Pros, and cons. Totted it all up on his little pad-thingy.
The console sat in the corner, unused, and you know he only mentioned it that once, in passing. I think I spent everything I had that day.
some think Galactic Military Service is the only secure way to earn your Citizen-Ship but that's not the route I took.
In fact, I took several routes before finally choosing my Citizen System. You know, it doesn't matter where you're born, in the 'verse. It's like this massive sprawling galaxy of opportunities and why swear allegiance to a birth place when you can claim or expedite allegiance to a preferred system once you have an idea of where you're best suited.
But you have to job around for a bit. Sometimes menial tasks, or what they used to call Agent Smithing; barman, shopkeep, landing control officer, security guard. But then there are all kinds of space-loaner jobs where you get to fly the bosses around in fancy air-taxis. Artists in the Renaissance, back on Earth, used to have wealthy Patrons who'd buy their art no matter what it was because they believed in their vision, their spunk.
A local loan shark can finance your Starter Ship but I don't recommend this route. You can receive a Starter Ship as a company run-around perk that contractually becomes yours after a good-service period. You can trade with local business men (or women) to earn your flying stripes.
You can System Hop if you want, but that's just like starting over. You hack a new ID for each system you try. Upside is you'll actually get to know a little bit more about the physical and political aspect of a number of star systems before you think about applying for Citizenship of any System.
Change is always scary, but it can be fun... same thing can happen to you, dear pre-Citizen.
Don't despair, there are many ways off the rock you feel abandoned on, you don't need to give your life to the MCI or Military Corporate Interest and have them assign you Citizenship. Work your way up in your chosen world, and maybe someone will notice your piloting skills for use in theirs.
the Verse is perplexing in ways we can never really appreciate, until it happens.
And it happened, to me, this morning. Usual gig, resurrect'd at Olisar (yeah, that thing's still going after multiple attempts to close its ass), voice-chat with MobiApp and then meet my ship up on pad B03, thanks kind ship-delivery NPC. I salute thee, too. He never says anything. What does he do in Hyperspace all day waiting for Citizens to hail his ship-delivery service?
In the cockpit, something's not right. I can sense this even before I Move Towards the highlighted Pilot's Chair.
I Free Look the MFDs, insta-finger my regular selection of Flight Ready switches, power to shields 60/20/20, thrust-vector vertical. As I'm backing out of Free Look , something catches my eye. Did I really see that?
I drop back into Free Look, and there's no mistaking it... THE PLANETS HAVE MOVED.
Only a little, in fact, a nearby moon has moved quite a lot. This is gonna (excuse my french) screw up my day, I now don't have enough fuel for today's drop-off... nobody told me about this.
Looking at it deeper, I notice that the planets and moons and such which used to be on the same plane as Stanton now move on their own orbital planes, like all kinds of angles... and that's just made me wish I hadn't skipped my Whiskey breakfast, this morning.
I'll have to find another way round this...
Flush with the winnings from our various missions, a group of us decided to rip up the stony surface of our nearest moon. As you can see, it didn't end well. I blame the co-pilot who clearly didn't have his eye on the terrain.
And then I thought about that historical footage we'd all been perusing just before we set off. It showed a rally from more than a millenium ago where the professional driver did the same thing, flipped his pride and joy. This one was worse, it was into what they used to call a ditch. A shallow drainage trough alongside the road. And all the by-standers who were watching this race dove into that soggy ditch and helped push that overturned car out of the ditch and back on its way. Not to victory but to inspire me...
So, we all pitched in as a Team and got that thing back on its wheels without having to resort to crashing into it with one of our own Cyclones or writing it off as an insurance claim. We worked well as a team, taking positions on one side of the Cyclone and slowly rocking it as a group until we got it onto its side. Moments later, and a bit more collective shoving and the two-tonne thing was back on its wheels.
Nothing beats Team Work.
The Verse can be an amorphous place, and I kinda like the challenge that every new day can bring. Rarely does it remain the same for very long, change is its middle name. And so it was today, just as I was getting used to Free Look'ing in the pilot's chair which used the power of the quantum engine to bring the planets of the universe a little closer, it reverted to the way it used to be.
Star Map was back, but with one subtle change.
Now, Star Map is a really old holographic map-app that used to live on my MobiGlas. You couldn't read it very well in bright light but it was what everyone used. And you just got used to it. This new Star Map goes beyond Free Look'ing universe-targets and... I don't know, it does something to the actual senses. I really think Microtech have embedded the Verse into my skull somehow.
I was looking down at Jumptown from high above Yela, as a mere tourist you understand... And I F2'd. Don't ask me why I did this, it's something I'd not done since the old days, back when I first claimed my Citizenship.
Yela pulled away from me, the ship unfolded from around me and the whole Verse opened up for the first time. Totally solid like I'd never seen it before. A full galactic picture filled my mind. I saw which stars Jump-connected to Stanton. I saw the border territories or contested worlds. I saw the vibrant threat of the Vanduul Worlds. I could move it around and everything.
I F2'd out of there... and suddenly I was where I'd always been, safe in my ship above Yela. I don't think this secret technology is LIVE yet.
And I didn't even think. You know how the shopkeeper in the clothing outlet and the guy at the food stand and the barman in your favourite local pub all have access to favourite shoes or dog or tipple? They use it to advise you on upgrades to shit you've bought before or whether yours is obsolete or worth changing for something more relevant, even the salesman in the ShipShop if you've got that much to spend.
I walked up to the Quartermaster in Lorville's high security business district...
I'd just dropped off some high-end tech for Lord Hurston III and it was just there. Like a bright and shiny to a moth. I stepped in, and the guy, the ex-army quartermaster. looks up. And he stares a little. Doesn't say anything. I should have turned tail right then, I'm so damned slow some times.
What I shouldn't have done is gone up to the counter and said, "Nice toys..." placing both my hands flat on the metal counter top. He accessed my faves right on the spot, as is the norm.
"Phase plasma rifle in a forty watt range?" he read it straight off the list. His hand barely moved. Under the counter. I knew then and there that my cover was blown. My fave wasn't really what he'd read, nobody has those. But it was inserted as a cover story while I was on covert assignment in a nearby sector, recently. Yeah, who would have guessed it from me, I look like butter wouldn't melt. Not at all the heavy-thug type. But I'm a crack marksman; quiet, lethal.
Now, I'm wanted all over Lorville and I didn't have my... that's why I dropped into the gunshop in the first place. Damn. Idiot.
I'd spent all morning getting totally worked up about this circular red infestation all over my view screen interface. There were too many of them for the travellers in my system. I mean there was barely another vessel within a thousand clicks. I just couldn't relate them to their sources. And this is a light day, sometimes there are more than 50 of these things, 100, 150... at that point it's a thick jiggling red line of useless garbage all over my screen.
And that makes me an unhappy chauffeur.
I parked up, on this lovely planet I'd never seen before, and that's all I needed. Just an hour or so gazing out of the window of someone else's 600i. It's amazing the perspective nature gives one. There are so few places of natural unspoiled beauty left in the Verse. Far too often you'll pass a missile test moon or a nuclear winter planet or a habitable world that's lost its breathable atmosphere to Industry. I know it's all so sad, and one shouldn't get angry at the pettiness of the Human Curse...
Beauty is its own disinfectant.
"Get down from there..." barked the all-too-familiar voice of authority.
I was about to hiss 'fuck off, I'm on a job' when I looked down and saw a UEE Science Engineer (in his white lab coat and holding a MobiClipboard) flanked by two fercious-looking Advocacy Officers in basilisk medium armour; weapons out, no messing about.
"...stow that weapon and get down here immediately," Science Officer pointed at the ground directly in front of him.
I stowed my rifle and dropped down between the two rocks, I couldn't believe it, this was a live mission.
"You are being fined and may be arrested for the use of a flight suit with a faulty Free Look." he read from his MobiClipboard so he got the details of the accusation just right.
'What?' I didn't say it, the Advocacy hooligans were still primed, ready to shoot.
"Face the front." he said as I watched him stalk around me, his Multi-tool out. Every now and then I could hear him doing something.
"Right, you're done." he said. He made the tiniest movement with his MobiCliipboard in some general direction and the three of them must have cloaked because they were no longer there...
I Free Look'd around for them.
And it's like I'd been questing with a spinal restraint all this time. The movement was smooth as silk; eyes to a rotation limit, head to a rotation limit, shoulders to a rotation limit, waist to a rotation limit, hips... and I realised I was stood on the spot looking all the way over my left shoulder in the opposite direction. I took out my pistol and I could still get a target behind me. I took out my rifle, same thing.
Admittedly, when I tried it on my right side with the rifle, I had to go one handed after my two o'clock... and some of these rifles be a bit heavy. But my feet never moved the whole time. You can't understand how much of an improvement this is...
I'm sure the UEE are using me as some sort of guinea pig...
I'm running across the surface of Delamar today, and my HUD glitches out, when it comes back on I've got these glowing green footprints in front of me. They're matching my current speed, I can tell that because of spacing. There's this boot-jumping thing at the far end of the footsteps. There's this hand-climbing thing above that.
I can even Free Look-target these things, so I can prep the jump and then prep the climb even before I get there. I know this, because I tried it. Very smooth, scarily accurate. Can't wait to try it out on the entry ladder of my Gladius parked just on the far side of the next rock cluster.
I crashed my ship. And it looks nothing like this, let me tell you. You escape with your life, if you're lucky. When you look at the crumbling burning remnants of your ship you see the pieces dematerialise, one by one, until there's nothing there and you're dropping a pick-me-up-soon beacon that costs way too much because who wants to die of oxygen starvation?
But I've found these, these I can only call them, Fake Crash Sites in various locations around the Verse. I've mostly ignored them, having only seen them in passing, on missions elsewhere. Tonight I crash-landed right beside one, and this is the crux of my revelation.
"How do you know they're fake?" you ask ...well, tonight I've seen them.
I've seen the Crash Site Construction Crews hard at work. And let me tell you NONE OF THEM ARE HUMAN and to be frank none of them know how to make a real crash site. Look at it, lumps of gelatinous scrap, no scraped crater of crash-landing-ness, fires that burn forever. It's like they took the crew through a set-creation crash-course (no pun intended) and then set them loose in the Verse with Excel and a time-frame.
They must ferry these slave workers in from way outside UEE territory and subject them to back-breaking lives faking crash landing sites to prop up the Economy via Metal Salvage or Cable Stripping or other Menial Retrieval Bounties. I'd never believe it, had I not seen it with my own eyes. A whole alien race subjugated to the faux-buoyancy of the UEC or Space Dollar. Shame on Humanity.
this is weird, and I'm not sure if I like it, they've gone too far maybe with this update.
As you can see, I was in my Anvil Gladiator, lovely ship. And usually, I'll look down to my weapons MFD and it'll zoom in a little to show that I'm concentrating on the screen. But this time it went crazy. Zoomed right into the screen and stabilized it so that it faced directly at me.
And my insta-finger still worked like it was at the end of my arm. But this weird framing, it was like I'd been beheaded and my severed head was being held in front of the MFD. I guess they're trying to emulate how the brain works, or something. Maybe this is better, I can't tell yet, it's all too disorienting.
Made everything readable, though, in its defence. Gave more onscreen resolution to what can sometimes be an awkward viewing angle. What do you guys reckon, should I hate this or learn to love it?
And yes, I've tried all the other MFDs in my cockpit and other consoles around the base. It's not just an isolated instance. They've standardised this across the board; ship-ordering consoles, buy-sell consoles, various button panels, MobiPad, MobiGlas... everything.
In the old days, I'd have nearly-died at Jumptown, let's say...
And while the drug-war would have continued unabated all around me, several Med-Evac ships would have tried to land to take what remained of my ruined body back into orbit where an ARU or Avatar Regeneration Unit would work on my body, surgically patching me up or cybernetically enhancing me if it had to, and then sending me back into the fray. Many of these Med-Evac ships wouldn't make it, during ingress or egress. Their pilots and crew would be added to the growing list of nearly-deads needing medical assistance, adding to the terminal wait time.
The boffins at UEE appear to have come up with a cunning plan.
ProgressManagerLTI is a multi-tab voice-activated MobiGlasAPP where any near-deather can just run a claim on his Fleet or Spawn or Loadout or Avatar, in fact any aspect of your progress through The Verse. It covers all your interaction with the Verse, from the mundane to the spectacular. You can roll-back to any point before your unfortunate near-death. In fact, you can roll-back at any time you want. You might lose some progress or even some assets but you gain immeasurably, certain in the knowledge that 'most of what you became' can be retrieved from storage.
The VERSE will kill you a lot more than you thought and ProgressManagerLTI is your chance to breathe once more.
Even if all you earned up to that point was burned to a crisp or left on some planetary surface because it fell out of your hands or tumbled from your ship when you near-died, you can still Claim it. And that means your name is attached to Your Current Holdings, in case the vultures are already hovering over the carnage. You can't always claim everything as multi-claim limbo-states can apply to things we don't really own yet.
You usually have to pay an Expedite fee if you don't wanna hang around in Processing for too long while surrogates are laboriously created from their base components based on economic factors like manpower and production and raw metarial availability etc. but it's always worth it.
You wouldn't believe how useful ProgressManagerLTI has become. How did we live (or near-die) without it?
...it was my first handshake in the Verse, and a pivotal moment of achievement.
I'll never forget it.
A chance meeting in plain sight, between two well-to-do entrepreneurs, on Lorville BD's obsidian-rich platform one. Two busines colleagues chance-meeting for the first time in years. No one would suspect that a galaxy of secrets had just been exchanged between them.
Vive la vrai Commerce.
I wasn't even a Citizen at the time, hadn't earned my Wings...
I was just a haulage pilot's mate. Grav-lev'd the cargo on and off for him, mostly on my own. And they were real heavy, these crates. The gravi-lev mechanism would moan and complain. Or maybe it was just worn and torn like most of this guy's stuff.
Bison, elephants, rhinocerous, tigers (variants of) and strange other taller shorter fatter platier heavier more-archaic or dinosaur-like creatures... you could see them through the slats in the crates. You could certainly hear them, and smell them. Oh, haven't I said, it was a shoddy one-man (and me) operation with not much in the way of 'latest technology' to show for itself. Barely had an air-lock in the cargo hold. I'm surprised most of those species survived the outbound journey.
An old-style haulier who got the job done, quick and dirty. In and out. I didn't even know what star system we were delivering to but it was 'out there', like quite a number of jumps out there. Wasn't even a bright star, one of those glowing brown dwarfs where you're actually inside the star's plasma sheath but there are planets and what-not, plenty of life-giving light and liquid. Apart from a diffuse darkening and brightening of the plasma sheath as the one or two planets orbited within, you wouldn't know they were there inside. Scans didn't. Knowledge wasn't.
We landed on Free Planet, and it was gorgeous and lush and tropical, misty with rain all the time. Paradise was the exact word. What I didn't know at the time (and only found out recently) was these were People, people who'd Opted Out. Wealthy land owners, moon owners, planetary system owners like Hurston and his mob who could no longer stand the frantic rat-race of inter-galactic commerce. People who'd chosen to live out their remaining years as natural animals of the wild via the magic of genetic manipulation.
They're known all over the Verse now as the re-Wilded and still nobody knows it was us who got them there.
I've been in this verse for nineteen episodes now, and one day, I heard about the legendary home of where everybody in the Verse originated from. And Earth appeared. I was making my way in quantum travel to Hurston. And there Earth was there right beside it, with nothing more than a thousand miles between the two atmospheres. It must have been some kind of glitch in the render of star systems, and that sometimes happens. And it looked so small beside its Super Earth partner. A tear came into my eye. And I was so upset by what I saw.