I took my first work vacation in 4 years. I went to CitizenCon 2948.
CitizenCon is the gaming convention for the Star Citizen (multiplayer) and Squadron 42 (solo) games. They held it in Austin Texas USA, the site of their first development studio. The game is set 930 years in our future, hence the current game date of 2948 (2018 + 930), which always changes with our calendar. And that's a lot of changing calendars, since this game first started crowdfunding back in 2012
, which was game year 2942 as pictured in the quote to the right.
The registration process was slow. I stood in the registration line for more than an hour. Some kind staffer came out once to warn people against standing in the fire ant mounds. Luckily, the weather was good that day, unlike the storm on the previous day.
The outdoor plaza was very nice. There was a huge banner for the event, plenty of food vendors (one of them even game-themed as Big Benny's Noodles
). They had some great Venezuelan food bowls, both spicy and gluten-free. They took photos of people on a Drake Dragonfly
, complete with sound effects.
Indoors, they had many in-game vendors giving out free swag. They had an area for in-game organizations. They also had a demonstration of their motion-capture studio. Many people were in costume. I don't ever harass people by trying to capture photos of them, but I had to take this photo of one person who was in full combat gear, since he was already being stopped for a photo. The suit was so large, he could barely sit in the auditorium seats.
The session videos haven't been posted online to their YouTube channel
yet, but you can see the official trailers for new gameplay and ships. This new clip
shows a lot of celebrity actors that people will recognize from movies:
- Mark Hamill (Star Wars)
- Gillian Anderson (X-Files)
- Gary Oldman (The Fifth Element)
- John Rhys Davies (Lord of the Rings)
- Henry Cavill (Superman)
- Mark Strong (Green Lantern)
- Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones)
- Ben Mendelsohn (Rogue One)
What received the most cheers, though (and even a 2nd play of the video clip) was this announcement
of the new capital ship from Drake Interplanetary, the Kraken.
I spent most of my time outside of the main stage, at the much smaller "second stage" room. It's a shame that none of those videos are uploaded yet, because a lot of amazing technology was showed there. The $195 million dollars
that they have already crowdfunded has been put to very good use. It's not all in the test build for players to see yet, but it will be soon.
- Environment physics. They've got wind vectors that will affect plant life in the environment. They can point-source wind too, for things like jet exhaust. I'm looking forward to having a very realistic plant environment in my biodomes on the Endeavor.
- Cloth physics. This demo was just incredible. They've taken physics modeling farther than any other game I've seen. They can throw a tarp on any object in game and have it blow around very realistically, with no clipping. He repeatedly dropped a tarp on a ship, and it deformed realistically over any section of ship or box. He even threw it down over the engines, let it come to rest, then started the ship engines to blow it off. All amazingly real to view.
- Particle physics. They've also made huge improvements to performance since 2012 for other graphics effects. They can make frequent use of sparks and even small lightning bolts with little performance impact. The audience was appropriately wowed by the sight of a malfunction in an engine room. Impressive stuff. Again, not in the available test build yet, but it will be soon.
- Character physics. At the main stage, they spent an hour on the character face modeling. They've done it. They've really, truly done it. Star Citizen will offer character customization like no other game has ever offered. They can reshape the entire head in real-time without causing clipping of hats, eyewear, or facial hair, which all conform to the new head shape. It's just amazing. Again, it's development time (and money) very well spent.
- Economy. I was most looking forward to this talk by Tony Zurovek. He had to cut down on detail because of time limitations, which made it a bit of a disappointment. I didn't get any of the detail that I really wanted.
The economy in Star Citizen will be far more detailed than any other computer game. Each ship is measured in about 20 details to determine the "cost" of each ship system. They can determine the value that can be quickly salvaged (/stolen) from other ships, what resources are needed to rebuild a ship, and how ships compare against each other for resources needed to produce them.
All of this detail is necessary to know how to trigger the automated NPCs that will "fill in" the economic gaps when players are unavailable to meet those needs. When lots of ships are destroyed in battles, then resources will be needed to repair and resupply those ships. Pirating will likely increase as miners come under attack from opportunistic thieves (players and NPCs alike). As raw supplies become overstocked, then intermediate parts will become more valuable, so the crafters who build the subsystems will come under more intense scrutiny. It all looks like player actions will determine the in-game economic system more realistically than any other game out there, even EVE Online, which is famous for its economy.
- Discovery. I crowdfunded this game for the exploration. It appears that they're planning lots of stuff to keep the explorers like me happy. Derelict ships, comets, asteroid fields, commodity/flora analysis on land, intra-system wormholes, hidden pirate bases (of interest to security), geysers (of interest to scientists and tourists), nebulae (of interest to miners), and more.
So, the game still looks promising. Very promising. I'm impressed by their technical accomplishments. It still remains to be seen, though, if it all "comes together" to create a fun game. I was encouraged that Chris Roberts himself said that the user interface is also recognized as a problem system at the moment, so it will get reworked. I've complained about it for years. This news is very good.
For the convention overall, though, I was a bit underwhelmed. I kept thinking throughout these presentations, "You know, this is the kind of stuff that we used to see on Wingman's Hangar
." I once specifically asked the question about whether or not they were holding back information so it could be released just for special events, and Chris Robertson himself answered "No, we're absolutely not doing that." Yes, they absolutely are doing that.
Oh, well. Their game development work is still new game technology that is better than anything else out there. I'm happy to continue waiting for the final game.