What is Star Citizen?

Crowdfunded Phenomenon

Star Citizen is many things, some of which are different to different people. The game itself is the brainchild of veteran game developer Chris Roberts, who is most widely known for his Wing Commander game series and the movie. Under the banner of Cloud Imperium Games, he’s now developing his dream space sim and first person universe, Star Citizen. The development costs are being covered using a crowdfunding model and to date, Star Citizen has raised a record breaking 115 million dollars and counting. What is so compelling about the planned content for Star Citizen that people are willing to crowdfund it to such an unprecedented amount?

Show Transcript

Star Citizen – Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game

Let’s begin with a quote from the official game site for star Citizen, RobertsSpaceIndustries.com…

From the mind of Chris Roberts, acclaimed creator of Wing Commander and Freelancer, comes STAR CITIZEN. 100% crowd funded, Star Citizen aims to create a living, breathing science fiction universe with unparalleled immersion… and you’re invited to follow every step of development!

More than a space combat sim, more than a first person shooter and more than an MMO: Star Citizen is the First Person Universe that will allow for unlimited game-play.

Based on that blurb you come away with an understanding that Star Citizen has a massively multiplayer persistent universe that contains space combat, first person shooter combat and open-ended game play mechanics, where the player decides what role to assume and how they will interact with others and world around them. The latter is often referred to as sandbox. However, in addition to the “make your own fun” of a sandbox game, there will also be a robust questing system, trade professions and a dynamic and responsive in-game economy. That alone is a whole lot of game! But there’s more.

Because that’s not enough to wrap your mind around, Star Citizen is also incorporating never before seen game mechanics such as multi-crew ships, a completely seamless universe from deep space down to planet side landing zones, high definition streaming tech of procedurally generated planets and space combat using Newtonian physics.  If I had to put Star Citizen into the narrow context of other games you may know it’s like combining bits of EVE Online + Destiny + basic MMO tropes. Okay, hold on to all that, cuz that’s Star Citizen and only one of the games being developed.

Squadron 42 – Single Player Role Playing Game

In parallel, Cloud Imperium games is also building Squadron 42 using the same funding and resource pool. At its core, Squadron 42 is a triple A RPG campaign that takes place in the same universe and lore as Star Citizen. It’s a hero’s journey look at the world where the storyline is all about YOU – your decisions and actions, and this version of YOU, has an impact on your character in the Star Citizen persistent universe. Think single player campaign of Halo with top casting talent such as Mark Hamill, Gary Oldman and Gillian Anderson, using next-gen animation technology. Squadron 42 is being designed as episodic journey, where the first set of episodes is scheduled to release in 2016.

Two Games – Three Ways to Buy

These two games combined – Star Citizen and Squadron 42 are what Could Imperium Games is working to develop and deliver, using their record-breaking crowd funding campaign that began in 2012. So when someone speaks of Star Citizen, oftentimes they are lumping both games into that conversation. However, for accuracy’s sake Star Citizen is just the MMO and you can purchase a game package for just those features here. Squadron 42 is the RPG and is also available for purchase separately here. Or you can purchase a combination package that include Star Citizen and Squadron 42 at a discounted price with the Aurora MR or the Mustang Alpha.

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How to Join the Star Citizen Alpha

This Game is in Development!

Let’s begin by reiterating that Star Citizen is FAR from a completed game!  Star Citizen is using an open development process that allows supporters to play test content as it becomes available.  Players who choose to participate in this process can provide CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK that contributes to improving the breadth of testing that’s possible and in some cases, refine how mechanics are implemented.  

We Are Not Stockholders. We Are Not Shareholders.

We have contributed funds to the development of Star Citizen.  However, we are not shareholders or part of the Cloud Imperium Games development staff.  Whether or not to utilize feedback being provided is ultimately up to them and their collective vision for the game as a whole.  The reasons behind some of their decisions may not initially be apparent to us, as we’re only seeing tiny slices of mechanics at a time.  

As of this article’s publication date, the only way to have permanent access to play-test Star Citizen content is by purchasing a GAME PACKAGE.  Game packages currently include a ship, alpha and beta PLAYTEST access to Star Citizen, a ship hangar and other digital assets depending on the package.

The variance in package prices reflect the ship or ships being included in the pledge you’re contributing toward development.  Remember that ships being purchased now can be acquired in-game without using real life cash once the game releases.  The primary reason to pledge/purchase now is to fund the development of the game.  If you’re not into play-testing alpha quality content or early access games, this scenario isn’t for you.  Stop now – beyond here be dragons. It’s better for you to wait for the beta or released game than becoming disgruntled, upset and foaming at the mouth over alpha quality content.

Conquering RobertsSpaceIndustries .com

Choosing the Fly Now option is the easiest and lowest costing method of obtaining a game package that is regularly available. Fly Now presents you with two $45 USD options for backing Star Citizen. This option is available here.

  1. The Aurora MR which is actually one of three ships in the Aurora line.  The MR is the middle of the road choice between a combat focused ship and low price point ship with cargo capacity.
  2. The other option is the Mustang Alpha. A fast ship often used for racing.  The Mustang can also stand up to combat.  But it wouldn’t be my first choice as a dedicated combat ship.

Other Game Packages

Don’t blackout from sticker shock when you see the price tag on some of the other Game Packages.  These are for people who want to contribute that much to the game’s development in exchange for the contents of those packages. Here’s a link to the packages page on the RSI website.

 I suggest that until you know more about what you want to do in Star Citizen, you stick to the ships in the $45 to $100 USD range.  If you want to contribute more at a later date, by way of acquiring a large ship, you can upgrade your existing ship using the Cross Chassis Upgrade system located here.  

All you need to know now is that you will get 100% purchase price CREDIT on any ship you buy.  You can in turn use the credit to upgrade to different ship in the future.  This means you have nothing to lose by starting small until you know more about the game and whether or not it’s really going to float your boat.

Hangar Ready vs. Flight Ready vs. Concept Ship

In case you couldn’t help surfing beyond the Fly Now options, let’s discuss things you might consider  even as a casual citizen.  Unfortunately is rather easy to become confusing about what you’re purchasing if you free roam  the “All Game Packages” section of RSI.  Let’s discuss what’s there at a high level but don’t you dare take a gander at “All Ships” yet!  You must learn to walk first little duck. You are not prepared for what lurks under “All Ships”.

The “All Game Packages” section contains all packages that are purchasable as pledges to fund Star Citizen.  However, not all the ships are ready for play testing. And this is what trips some people up when trying to pledge.

Flight Ready

Ships are view-able in your hangar AND are available for play-testing.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re 100% in their final release state.  Remember THIS IS ALPHA.  Things can and will continue to change.  However, enough of the design and technical implementation have been defined and developed, that these ships are ready to be used on a regular basis. Say this with me…Flight ready ship means I can use it now.

Hangar Ready

A second category of ship are those that are only “hangar ready”.  “Hangar ready” ships are can be placed in your hangar but ARE NOT ready for play-testing. The development pipeline classification allows you to see your new toy inside your hangar.  You can go inside the ship’s cockpit and/or interior to see a preview of the design intent.  Note that these ships often contain placeholder elements so don’t become concerned if an interior element doesn’t look as high fidelity as something else you’ve seen.  This isn’t a finished ship.

When you own a ship that is only “Hangar Ready” you will have a loaner ship available to fly but that loaner won’t be sitting in your hanger.  However, when you go to join any module that contains flight options the name of a ship you don’t actually own will be in the list for you.  That’s your loaner and you’ll have access to it until your ship is “Flight Ready”. In summary, Hangar Ready means you can see it in your hangar and walk around inside of it but it’s not flyable and even its visual aspects may contain placeholder elements.

Concept Ship

Another classification of ship that is frequently discussed, so you should  be aware of is a  “Concept Ship”. For all intents and purposes, these ships are still at the “on paper” stage.  The ship’s intent is known but it’s VERY early in the design process.  A good amount of players do pledge for concept ships because of their special roles, which are usually tied to specific professions. If you know for sure that you’re interested in something like mining for example, and want to start out with a mining ship, you could have purchased the Orion concept ship, which is the first dedicated mining ship introduced.  At concept means, there’s nothing to show you but pictures and possibly a design document discussing its planned implementation and in-game mechanics. Generally speaking, these ships are a long way from being made “Flight Ready”.

PLEASE make sure you know the at least the difference between Flight Ready, Hangar Ready and Concept Ship, if you’re going to move beyond the “Fly Now” page to make your first pledge.

Beyond the Fly Now Starter Package Ships

Here are the ships I recommend for casual followers just starting out. From the Fly Now page you have the Aurora MR or Mustang Alpha for $45 USD.  Go for the Aurora MR is you want more variety in capabilities in the Persistent Universe, as it has cargo space. If you’re a bit bolder step beyond Fly Now and have a look at ….

  • Different ship from the Aurora series that better suits your intentions
  • MISC Reliant series are classified as starter ships that have specialized capabilities for player professions. They also support two crew stations which is rare for that  price point. For more information on the Reliant check out the article I wrote here. Note as of this article they are concept ships and not always available for purchase.
  • Aegis Avenger is also an excellent starting ship.  It’s equipped for combat and contains holding cells if you want to do Bounty Hunting.  However, if you have a strong inkling that you may want to try hauling cargo, note that this variant has no cargo space available.  However, there will be modules available at a future date that allow you to customize this ship’s focus.  For now, if you want cargo space purchase the Titan variant, which swaps the holding cells for a cargo bay.


Star Citizen Alien Races: Banu

BANU STAR SYSTEMS

Caveat: This is the Beginning
Star Citizen’s feature set and lore are evolving. This article is based on what we know now. The information in the Star Systems section is based on the current ARK Starmap. I think it’s safe to say that the high level configuration of the known Star Citizen universe is locked for release. Cloud Imperium Games has already started shipping the physical star maps to players who purchased them. That said, we know that economy, population and locations of conflict will change as the universe progresses and players begin impacting it. Therefore, this discussion is the likely starting point for the Banu species.

Banu aligned star systems account for 7% of the known Star Citizen Universe. Which means that they govern 6 of the 90 known systems. That’s small compared to the UEE’s 42%. All of the Banu controlled systems contain high populations. As traders, they take action to accommodate and cultivate customers traveling through their spacelanes. It’s not uncommon for them to build flotillas to support pockets of consumer traffic to encourage the development of trade hubs. From an economic perspective, they’re holding their own with only 30% of their systems falling into the low economy range. This compared to 100% of Vanduul systems and 70+% for the UEE.

Banu Star System Economy and Population
ARK Starmap classifies Economy, Population and Danger on a Scale of 0 to 10

Eco and Pop Combo

Banu Governed Systems

  • Bacchus homeworld. Houses a large permanent flotilla that is a popular destination for haulers and traders.
  • Geddon atmosphere is hostile to Humans. Banu established subterranean biomes to harvest valuable resources.
  • Gliese is rich in resources and acts as large shipping hub. Permanent flotilla near Gliese IV
  • Kins houses the main indentured servitude market. Area considered most dangerous in Banu space
  • Trise is the religious center for the Banu and is home to The Council
  • Youlin is a popular vacation spot for Banu and Humans

Banu Systems Account for 11% of Available Asteroid Belts and 11% of Gas Giants.

Percentage of Asteroid Locations and Gas Giants per Government/Faction

Composition of the Banu Star Systems

Celestial Bodies

Click here to see a one-page view of the charts looking at some of the ARK Starmap data for Banu Star Systems. The left side represents all known star systems.  The right side only includes Banu star systems.  This data was extracted from the live ARK Starmap hosted on Roberts Space Industries.com and imported Tableau, which is an analytics tool.

BANU AS A SPECIES

Our first encounter with the Banu occurred in the Davien system. In 2438 an independent nav-jumper named Vernon Tar, opened fire on what he thought was another privateer trying steal his meager claim in the system. The pilot of the other ship turned out to be Banu. Luckily, the incident didn’t lead to any deaths and became humanity’s first introduction to the Banu Protectorate.

Bacchus is believed to be the Banu’s home world. We say “believe” because the they haven’t been forthcoming on the subject. As with most Banu systems, their trade lanes are always packed with travellers from across the universe. Permanent flotillas are built anywhere they find a confluence of potential customers. The Banu are the traders and lore hounds of the Star Citizen Universe. As such, it makes sense that they would be the manufacturers of the prize among deep space merchants, the Banu Merchantman. A vessel that is more of a lifestyle than a ship.

Early Concept Art of the Banu Merchantman

Banu Merchantman Concept Art

 

Banu societal beliefs and principles are dictated by The Council, their religious leaders located in the Trise system. Members of The Council intentionally remain isolated from the rest of Banu society. It should be noted that their belief system supports and participates in indentured servitude. The Kins system is their primary slave trade market. This is a dangerous systems. As much from the slave trade, as it is from illegal activities undertaken by those visiting the area.

The Banu Political System is a Republic of Planet-States, each run under its own set of governing laws. The representatives of each planet gather for a quorum to debate legal and trade issues that affect the entire species. Otherwise, each planet is left to their own devices. The lack of a central government, formal or required communication between the planets and loose historical recordkeeping, means that Banu planets are rife with crime. Criminals can migrate from one Banu planet to the next when things get too hot. And since the UEE is forbidden from crossing borders to pursue wanted felons, Banu worlds are also a haven for human criminals and syndicates.

The Banu do not maintain a standing army. Local militia keep the peace within their systems and they’re not especially selective. Even criminals can and do serve. However, don’t be fooled into thinking this makes the Banu worlds an easy target. On the contrary, they have the means to muster a formidable fighting force if necessary.

Lastly, if you want to vacation Banu style, head to Yulin. It’s a popular destination for Banu and humans. Yulin’s mix of unique planets have been turned into an entertainment mecca with legal and illegal diversions. After seeing Earth and Terra, exploring the Banu systems will be high on my list of things to do.

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Star Citizen Alien Races: Vanduul

The Vanduul are one of humanity’s most dangerous foes in the Star Citizen universe. They’ve attacked us unprovoked for centuries. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and star systems abandoned to their constant marauding.  Check out my article on REDACTED to learn more about the history of our relationship with the Vanduul and the systems they’ve conquered.


Drake Interplanetary

Where it All Began

For many citizens, the name Drake Interplanetary conjures up images of ships whose silhouettes don’t look aerodynamically balanced.  And the ne’er-do-wells and criminals flying them.  Pirates. Drake hasn’t helped change this perception by naming its ships things like Cutlass and Buccaneer. And their the cheesy billboards featuring overly endowed woman, dripping sex appeal all over the newest starfighter they’re showcasing, doesn’t help much either.  When you’re not seeing Drake’s in-your-face adverts, it’s yet another newsvid about investigations into their criminal ties.

Drake’s keystone design is the Drake Interplanetary AS-1 Cutlass. Incredibly inexpensive, Drake Cutlasses are used across the galaxy for thousands of different roles. From search and rescue ambulances, to mining prospector conversions, to short hop food transports.  The modular nature of the Cutlass means it can be anything to anyone. Including those skirting the law.

Beyond its modularity, the Cutlass’ claim to fame is that it’s built from common parts.  This makes it an affordable ship to replace for those who are living a lifestyle that no longer offers the benefit of purchasable insurance. Drake Interplanetary incorporated soon after the success of the Cutlass. Lead designer Jan Dredge became CEO, with a seven member board, consisting largely of aerospace engineers who had worked on the project.

Drake is not the surname of anyone involved in the project; it was selected as an acceptably “smooth-sounding” name, chosen specifically in the hopes that it would make their spacecraft more appealing. This was the first of a series of money-over-all decisions that would quickly come to define the company.

Drake Sets Up Shop in Magnus

Another factor that swaying the UEE’s belief that Drake is in some fashion associated with criminal activity, was their decision to locate their corporate headquarters and key factories on Borea in the Magnus system.  At the time, Magnus was a desolate and lawless system, peppered with ghost towns and people living on the fringe of the space frontier.  Locating on Borea, was yet another seed planted in the garden of their outlaw image.  Regardless of the UEE’s assumptions or those of more polite society, within five years Drake was the fifth largest spacecraft manufacturing concern.  

However, with the galaxy in a relative level of peace, or as close to peace as it had ever been –  Vanduul raids at the time were disorganized and the UEE military was in the middle of a several year stand down. Who was buying thousands upon thousands of Cutlasses? The answer, of course – pirate organizations.  The affordability of Drake ships created readily replaceable spacecraft that fit a pirate’s budget, and thanks to its larger-than-average cargo hold , they could also transport pirate booty.

It eventually became clear, though not publically acknowledged, that Drake had made a deal with the devil … but the money was too good to turn back. It’s rumored that in looking toward future, CEO Dredge is authoring a plan to streamline their spacecraft lineup and clean up the company’s image.  A daunting task for the modular, boxy Cutlass, Caterpillar and Buccaneer! And then there’s those ship names. Only time will tell.

For a time, Borea – Magnus II, was a barren desert world — the effects of terraforming had not yet completely transformed the planet, and a ten-year period of extreme solar flares hampered its transition to a temperate world.  This increased the decay of the UEE facilities and generally reduced overall interest in resettling Magnus. The result was an eerie, depopulated ghost world with declining structures full of refining and shipbuilding equipment considered too expensive to move elsewhere. During this period, the system’s population declined to less than 3,000, most of whom had no legal right to their encampments.  

Drake’s decision to locate the headquarters and primary factories on Borea, eventually helped to  revitalized the landscape. Vast tracts of empty warehouses and rusting construction yards have been modernized and returned to life from building Cutlasses and Caterpillars.  All’s well that ends well and good on Drake.  But personally, I’d have started job hunting when the news came around about where the offices were going.


Musashi Industrial & Starflight Concern

MISC was formed in 2805. It was a merger  between the failing Hato Electronics Corporation and the Musashi Lifestyle Design Unit. The merger capitalized on Hato’s network of large-scale production facilities and Musashi’s design genius.

MISC is based on Saisei in Centauri and maintains its corporate offices there. As a manufacturer, they’re known for the ergonomics of their factories, where spacecraft are robotically assembled with precision.  Their central dealership facility resides there and is open to the public.  It’s a location worth visiting if you’re in the area.

Centauri was one of the first systems settled during Humanity’s expansion among the stars.  It was discovered in 2365 by a dedicated survey ship.  Centauri III was quickly offered up at a premium to colonial outfitting groups. The result was Saisei, one of the most beautiful and well-constructed Human worlds in the UEE.   Saisei is known for its  natural beauty, organic construction and limited population.  Fujin City is the landing point for most visitors and boasts a fully automated high volume landing zone.  And of course there’s the  MISC factory, which is considered a must see.

The majority of MISC’s business comes from the production of their heavy industrial division. MISC-HI is responsible for a range of configurable bulk transport spacecraft that are ubiquitous in UEE space. Their sturdy and modular designs are an industry standard for shipping among human corporations. Four standard hulls are mass produced.  They range in size from  the efficient Hull A the enormous Hull D.

An unexpected popularity among the Xi’An spawned an unlikely business relationship.  It led to MISC becoming the only Human spacecraft corporation to sign a lend lease agreement with the Xi’An.  Although the specifics of the arrangement are a tightly guarded secret, it’s rumored that Xi’An technology is used in Freelancer development. And there are claims suggesting MISC’s next line of spacecraft, will adapt Xi’An thruster technology for use in Human ships.

In recent years, MISC has turned its attention to advancing its two ship lines marked for personal use – the Freelancer and Starfarer.  They’ve funneled profit from their corporate revenue to break into this crowded segment, battling against giants such as Roberts Space Industries and Drake Interplanetary.

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RSI Constellation Series

Roberts Space Industries (RSI)

Founded in 2075, Roberts Space Industries have pioneered space travel since the early 2100s when they invented the Zeus, humanities first ship capable of short-distance flight. These first attempts were limited to only the super wealthy, but it wasn’t long before they found a way to deliver space travel to the masses with their range of Aurora and Constellation spaceships.

The RSI Constellation

The Constellation series comes in (4) flavors and is designed to cater to a broad range of needs. The original base model is a multi-person freighter, the bestselling ship in the RSI line up.

The Constellation is often favored by merchants and smugglers, due to its cargo capacity, high-power output, and modularity. Options such as:

  • Enhanced cargo hold
  • Electromagnetic barriers to hide contraband
  • Internal bulkheads to allow for higher damage endurance
  • Avionic upgrades for better targeting, ship identification, and sensor range
  • Comes with snub nose fighter that is launched directly from the parent ship

Each Constellation model includes a manned turret, a sizable cargo area, and a flight deck. Recently four additional models were revealed which provide additional features.

The Andromeda – Gun Ship

The Andromeda base model holds a crew of 5 and comes with a P-52 Merlin in the hangar – a dedicated parasite fighter, designed for one crew member to hop in and join a dogfight with speed. This maneuverable little ship measures in at 12 meters in length making it ideal for racing, fast-paced combat and a bit of discretely localized reconnaissance. If destroyed in battle, the P-52 Merlin comes with a lifetime replacement insurance making it a reliable tool for any fleet concerned about risking resources.

The Andromeda can hold 134.4 Cargo Units, is 61.1 meters in length and holds a maximum of 6 power plants and shields, 4 engines, and 8   thrusters.

Aquila – Expedition

The Aquila is designed for exploration and comes with a redesigned cockpit allowing for extra visibility but only 4 crew members. This variant comes with the P-52 above, plus an Ursa Rover for planetside investigations.

Holding 4 passengers, the Ursa Rover allows teams to head out and explore, featuring two CF-117 Bulldog Laser Repeaters for protection, it also offers military-grade all-terrain capabilities making it perfect for scouting, mapping and discovering new features across the universe.

The Aquila can hold 134 cargo units, is 60.1 meters in length and holds a maximum of 6 power plants and shields, 4 engines and 8 maneuvering thrusters.

The Phoenix – Luxury Touring

The Phoenix is the luxury variant of the Constellation series, designed for 4 crew members. Featuring discrete cargo storage, an enhanced ‘Lynx’ Rover and a Kruger P-72 Archimedes fighter. This ship is designed for style, with a mini-bar, hot tub, meeting room and other high-end finishing touches. The cargo area features a hidden sensor-dampened area for fragile cargo.

For the major party animals, there is an advance Phoenix Emerald model that also includes a ‘Lucky’ paint finish and an upgraded ‘swank’ interior cabin intended for pure revelry.

The Taurus – Medium Freight

The heavy lifter of the Constellation family is the Taurus. A 4 crewmember, freight freight-focused that strips out the unnecessary aspects, and focuses purely on expanded cargo.

Perfect for soon to be wealthy merchants. This ship is for those looking to build and expand long-term, however, it sacrifices the snub racers, and ground buggies in favor for nearly 100 extra cargo units compared to the other Constellation ships.

The Taurus is slightly shorter in length than its counterparts but comes with an additional 5th shield slot, a maximum of 6 power plants, 4 engines, and 8 maneuvering thrusters.

With upgrades and amendments, the constellation series can be stretched to hold a maximum crew of up to ten people, with higher cargo capacities and many other features on hand to truly personalize your investment. All variations come with an RSI Jump Engine to allow Jump Point travel between star systems.

P-72 Archimedes – Snub Nose Fighter

The P-72 Archimedes is a perfect sidekick to the Constellation Phoenix. Although it is the same size, this is the flashy upmarket sister to the P-52 Merlin. The Archimedes is a luxury racer, boasting two ‘size three’ thrusters and 12 ‘size two’maneuvering thrusters to allow the Archimedes to push the laws of physics to their limit.

My Impressions

I owned the Constellation Aquila as part of my gaming package for quite some time during its original design. And while think the redesign was AMAZING and well worth the wait, in the end, it felt like a duplication of other ships in my fleet.

  • Price vs. size vs. features, the Connies are very competitive ships.
  • As an exploration ship, it didn’t provide the atmosphere I wanted.
  • The struts all over the cockpit view annoy me.
  • The HUD – well, I shed a tear for current owners everytime I see it. I’m sure it will get fixed but for now, it’s simply horrendous.
  • If you want that Star Trek feel then I can see wanting and enjoying the Connie.

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