Hurston, Take Flight

Introspective INFJ that I am, I cherish activities and spaces that help me melt into myself. Shed the outer coil of everyday stresses and anxieties. Recharge my batteries and regain an inner balance. EVE Online used to be my go-to Sensory Deprivation Chamber. Dark colors and muted lights, I could roam its vast landscape doing missions or freelance salvaging in a serene setting. Sure, there was potential death and mayhem lurking around every bend but that was a side dish, not the main course.

Captaining my spaceships in Star Citizen takes things to a whole new level. The combination of fidelity and a physicalized universe is immersion on steroids. The visuals, sound effects and utterly sublime soundtrack by Pedro Camacho is a soothing balm.

I don’t have to be happy about or agree with every step they take. The beauty, ambition, and achievements to date, can’t be denied.


A Day in the Life - Charles' Dilemma

A small crowd gathered around the makeshift food truck hovering just off landing pad A00.  Port Olisar, the aging starbase stationed in the trade lanes above Crusader, was coming to life. Local cargo haulers, miners and, small service crews, called the dilapidated two-story four-strut structure home. It’s drab green walls peppered with vending machines and spartan habicubes were a convenient distance between Hurston and the Aaron Halo asteroid belt. More importantly, it was demonstrably cheaper than the flea-ridden low rent apartments on Hurston.

Rusty Del Maco’s food truck, a steel gray Freelancer with pale blue racing stripes was pockmarked with dents and scratches. He’d parked the stern of the ship facing the long side of the landing pad.  The ramp was down and touching the landing pad just enough to allow customers to enter on foot. This was Rusty’s way of avoiding landing fees which helped him keep his merchandise as cheap as possible. If security came by, he closed up for a time, moved to a different pad and reopened when the coast was clear. Rinse and repeat, every day until he was sold out. Scratching out a living in the bottom tier of the Stanton populace often required skirting the rules and being inventive.

Charles was a soft-spoken loner with few acquaintances. He wore his age well. At forty-four, he was clean shaved with a thick mop of auburn hair. Most people mistook him for being in his early thirties. Recently, however, he started noticing frown lines at the corner of his eyes and creases on his forward. Shuffling forward at the back of the line to enter Rusty’s, he opened up his mobiGlas and flipped to the cashflow app.

The app showed a graph with two lines. A green line showing is revenue and a red one for expenses plotted across sixteen weeks. Twelve of the weeks were actual activity followed by a four-week projection. Charles let out a breathy groan that fogged up the faceplate of his helmet. The green line was in a gradual but steady decline. Seeing it right in front of his eyes, there was no denying the eventuality. Even though the red line of his expenses was flat, the projection showed the green line for his income, would fall below expensed in two weeks.

“Shit,” he exclaimed to himself and bumped into the person in front of him. Without looking up, he used a hand gesture to say, “Sorry.” Consumed by seeing his predicament, he continued to shuffle forward, his eyes focused on his dwindling cash flow. His head popped up when the person in front of him gave him a friendly punch on the arm. He saw the man mouth his name in an exaggerated fashion. Dropping out of his fog of concentration, he realized it was Kleaven.

Kleaven pointed to his mobi and tapped two fingers toward his mouth on his helmet. A common gesture indicating that he wanted to talk on a private channel. Charles nodded.

A second later, Kleven’s voice echoed in Charles’ helmet. “Charlie!” He said with warmth. “Haven’t seen you in a bit. How’s it hangin’, man?”

“It’s — hanging. Same old…,” Charles replied, his voice trailing off at the end.

“Yeah? Good to hear.” Making a gesture of a big belly Kleaven asked, “How’s the fam? Still on Hurston?

Charles nodded.

“Must be nice having ‘em close by.”

Remembering an all too recent conversation with his wife, Celeste, Charles hesitated. The way things were looking, they’d discussed giving up their one-room flat on Lorville and using those funds to upgrade Charles’ ship to a model with living accommodations. This would allow them to consolidate down to one lease payment a month and give Charles’ the opportunity to go after larger payloads.

Charles had been solidly against the idea of dragging his family around like hobos. While Celeste preferred it to the risk of losing the ship or having an eviction notice or their UEE record if they couldn’t keep up with the rent. Of course, they were just rumors, she hoped, but she’d heard of families being snatched up by Hurston Dynamics and forced into slave labor schemes until the debt was paid off. The mere idea chilled her blood she’d told him. She also didn’t want him pressured into going back to work for Hurston, to be permanently maimed at one of the factories or weapon testing ranges. Sure, times were hard and precarious freelancing in Stanton. This way, however, they at had a small amount of control over their lives. It also made the possibility of paying off the loan on his ship more attainable. In turn, that would end the restriction on them leaving the system, a condition of their loan agreement.

Returning from his reverie, Charles realized he hadn’t replied. He cleared his throat. “Uh — yeah, doing good. Yeah, thanks for asking.” The pair were walking up the ramp and into the food truck. He grunted. “Bills is all. Same shit. Different decade.” Smelling food, Charles’ stomach grumbled loudly.

Make your own carton of noodles stations lined the side walls of the cargo bay. On the left, the noodles were accompanied by a variety of vegetables, tofu, and toppings. On the right, cheap cuts of fatty meat strips were available for an additional cost. The back wall had racks of pre-mixed cartons that were mostly broth with a sprinkling of noodles, vegetable scraps, and stale biscuit.

Charles broke off from the conversation and headed for the back wall. He grabbed a carton, biscuit and walked to the coffee station. Kleaven followed behind him.

“Really man?” Kleaven asked gesturing at Charles’ food choice. “That bad, uh?” He continued when Charles made no reply. As if it were necessary, which it wasn’t, he leaned in and whispered, “Wait here a sec. Sorry but I gotta get something real to eat. Have a tip for ya.”

“What kind of tip?”

“Just hang for a sec. Let me get something and we’ll talk.”

Charles furrowed his eyebrows and checked the time on his mobi. “I gotta get going to make my quota for the day.”

“It’ll be worth the wait,” Kleaven promised. Over his shoulder, he said, “Meet ya outside in a few.”

Charles shrugged his shoulders as he walked toward the cashier who swiped his card, then he shuffled down the ramp and waited off to the side of the growing crowd.

Back on the landing pad, Charles scanned the area around the pad, wondering when station security would show up. The crowd was twice as large now. They’d get wind of it shortly and he’s just as soon not be around for it. Besides, he had a list of possible hauling jobs to follow up on. He didn’t really have time for Kleaven and his schemes.

Kleaven was a nice guy. Chatty and sometimes, overly helpful. He made a living, with his fingers in as many pies as he could, in and around Stanton. Not all of his ventures were legal. Or as Kleaven liked to say, they could be interpreted as illegal in a certain light. This was followed by a Cheshire cat grin and a wink.

Charles chased down the last bite of his rock hard biscuit with the final swig of soup and decided he’d be on his way. He turned and headed back toward the station to have his ship retrieved from storage.

Charles was at the airlock when Kleaven caught up to him. Panting he said, “Hang on. I wanna help ya out a little.” Leaning over wheezing, he continued. “I know you’re the straight-up kind. Admire that ‘n all. This is legit. Just a free,” he did free in air quotes, “tip. K? Nothing more.”

Charles considered him and felt a bit bad about bolting but time was money in his world. “Sorry, in a hurry to get rolling. Need to grind hard to come out on top next couple weeks.”

“Trust me, man, I hear you. Nothing more than a tip. It’s solid but gotta move on it fast.” Kleaven pulled Charles aside as others approached the airlock. “There’s going to be an overstock of medical supplies here after 13:00 hours. Should be enough that the stock will last for a bit but not long.” He did a thumbs up move. “Coincidentally, the planned delivery of medical supplies for that death trap Green Imperial is…” Kleaven smiled and gave Charles an exaggerated wink, “… going to be a few days late. Not like anyone’s dying over there. If the supplies get turned into other stuff.” He made a motion of jabbing himself in the arm and sniffing something off of his hand.

Charles interrupted Kleaven’s growing performance. “How the hell do you…” Waving his hands he added, “Forget it. Don’t wanna know. Don’t want anything kinda trouble.”

“What trouble? You ain’t cooking the stuff or converting it. You’re just hauling supplies. What folks turn it into after that isn’t your problem.”

“I dunno, man.”

“What’s to know?  Just buy medical crates from Olisar, ferry them to Grim. Profit. But ya gotta move quick. The favorable pricing won’t last.”

Charles wrung his hands, tilted his head and stared at Kleaven without speaking. An uncomfortable silence developed.

“This IS legit on your end,” he insisted. “One freebie piece of information.” Throwing up his hands, two cartons of noodles dangling in the left. “Use it or not.”

Charles inhaled and at the moment made his decision. “Okay. Thanks, man, ‘ppreciate it. “I’ll refuel in advance.” He checked the time again. “Maybe see if I can find a quick side run since there’s time.”

“Sounds good. Just make sure you’re at a purchase kiosk by 13:00. This won’t fail.” He reached out his fist for a bump and Charles obliged.

“Thanks, man, for real,” Charles said.

Looking at his cartons of food and wiggling his eyebrows, Kleaven said, “Cool. Am starved. Gotta run to appointments. Stay safe out there, bro.”

~~~

At precisely 12:45, Charles was standing at a Trade and Commodities console at Port Olisar. Two other customers were waiting nearby. He pretended to be checking prices and fiddled around on the machine to prevent losing his spot. Noticing that he was still on the console, the Admin asked if he needed any help. To which Charles lied that he was setting up a large variety load. The Admin said something under his breath but turned away.

While biding his time, Charles had already decided to approach this cautiously. He couldn’t afford to take a loss of any kind. He’d scoured newsfeeds and commodity tickers checking the buy and sell prices for medical supplies over the past ninety days. This gave him a fair idea of whether or not he’d buy at the time that the supposed surplus.

He started perspiring a bit in his suit. It wasn’t a common practice to be helmeted up while inside the station. Today, however, he wanted to be ready to race his ship over to the pickup landing pad if things worked out. At thirteen hundred hours, he refreshed to the terminal data and checked commodities for sale.

His jaw dropped open. It was there – crates of medical supplies 25% lower than the recent historical pricing. He inhaled and cautioned himself that he still had to get a favorable buy price which he couldn’t ascertain with 100% percent certainty without traveling to Grim Hex. With this in mind, he put in a modest purchase order of 15 standard cargo units. After confirming payment, he ran at full speed to his ship.

His Cutty was already sitting on landing pad B02. He’d tipped a flight training student to sit in the cockpit keeping the ship flight ready. He’d also left instructions that if the ATC sent a message that he had to move off the pad, to strafe the ship sideways off the pad and wait there. As luck would have it, traffic around Port Olisar was slow today and his ship was right where he’d left her.

He lowered the back ramp and jogged to the cockpit, his boots pounding out his arrival. Dispensing with politeness, he spoke quickly into the comms channel he had the kid turned to. “Thanks, kid. Time to go, immediate lift off.”

A muffled voice replied, “ Got it.” as they squeezed passed each other in the mid cabin. One racing in and the other running out. Charles zipped the ship over to cargo loading dock and was the first in line. He gave the foreman his purchase order code and six drones began loading his ship. Getting the cargo on board and dust-off had happened in record time. Within ten minutes, the crates were on board and he was setting his quantum drive to Grim Hex.

This ship’s computer having identified a clear path to his destination, the ship rocketed deftly

through the asteroids surrounding partially abandoned station. Charles tried to relax a bit but he couldn’t. His stomach churned at the possible outcome if the buy price wasn’t at least at its historical norm. He couldn’t let his mind drift there. For now, he had to stay focused on the task at hand. The first of which was to arrive at his destination unscathed.

The ship exited quantum with a sonic boom. A burst of crackling white light rippled the space around it. The Cutlass black hovered is space, its repose an in-flight bird of prey. His finger already poised over the control, Charles pinged the area for nearby ships and activated his defensive warp stabilizer to reduce the chance of being interdicted before he reached the station’s air defense turrets poised to instantly nuke any ship that came near the station armed. Sure, they were pirates but the station needed a modicum of decorum in order to conduct business.

The only ship the radar returned, was the vector image of the junk in the trunk bumble bee shaped Herald approaching a landing pad.

“Excellent,” Charles whispered to himself as he activated boost and shot toward the landing pads like an arrow. No time for landing permission or being placed in a hangar. He landed directly on a pad for cargo delivery. He’d pay the small fine or tip someone to forget the incident. It was Grim Hex after all.

After setting her down fast and sloppy, Charles bolted toward the airlock. After entering the burrowed out asteroid turned space station, he never broke speed, as he wound his way through the dark and dank interior.

Charles burst through the doors of that Admin’s office like a lunatic, drawing a condemning star from the young female behind the counter. Her opinion counted for nothing as he raced to the closest console. He held his breath while initiating a buy request. He entered in the SCU he was carrying and his eyes bulged when the buy price was displayed. It was up by 10% and he’d bought at a 25% discount. His heart racing, he pressed confirm but didn’t exhale until the final confirmation screen displayed. He clicked okay and logged off the system.

Holy shit. It was a legit tip. He had to make another run. This kind of profit could give him enough breathing room to keep his family on Lorville while continuing his search for a consistently profitable trade route or a long-term contract. “Okay, one more,” he told himself as he ran at a breakneck speed to repeat the delivery.

~~~

When he returned to Port Olisar and the buy price was still the same, he doubled his purchase order. Loading him up the second time had been slower, much to his alarm. The station was hitting full throttle with ships coming and going on all sides. His gut unknotted when he was back in the air with the second load. And he breathed a sigh of relief when he arrived safely again at Grim Hex to find the buy price was still favorable. It was only 5% above normal but still a great deal. He’d also noticed on the second trip that more ships were now lining up to make deliveries. This would consume valuable time during each run. Combined with the price dropping, he couldn’t and wouldn’t, risk more than one more trip.

Back at the Trade and Commodities Office on Port Olisar, Charles was greeted with a line of other haulers using the consoles and conducting business. It was a half-passed sixteen hundred hours at this point, each trip taking roughly an hour there and back. The Admin Office was now in full swing. He fidgeted in line, constantly peaking out to the left and right of the people ahead of him, screaming inside his head for everyone to hurry the hell up!

By the time he reached the console, crates of medical supplies were only 10% discounted from their normal price. Shit, he’d already decided this was his last trip and this confirmed it. He squared his shoulders as he purchased a full cargo hold’s worth. Final trip. He inhaled deeply, filling his lungs to capacity and ran back to his ship.

Sitting in the cockpit, waiting for his turn to pull into the loading dock at Port Olisar was pure torture. He constantly refreshed the price ticker app on his mobiGlas but there was always at least an hour lag in pricing updates. He was still okay if the current price held at 3% above normal payout. When the crates were loaded he bolted like a bat out of hell, dinging a drone that was drifting passed him. A flying infraction popped on his HUD. Fuck it, he’d pay the fine later.

He was giddy with relief to find a free console available when he dashed into the Admin Office at Grim Hex. He could breathe now and began to feel excited about calling Celeste with the news. But wait — something must be wrong with the terminal. Medical supplies were missing from the sell screen. He hopped on to the next one and the same thing happened. He called out to the clerk. “Hey, these consoles are glitching out. Commodities missing from the selling page.”

“Let me take a look,” the clerk said, as she came from around the counter to stand beside him. She was a petite redhead dressed in midnight blue jumpsuit. “Oh, that. Yeah, it’s a glitch. Should to be fixed in the next software update.”

Charles let out a sigh of relief.

“When we’re no longer buying an item, it should be listed in gray text and have a ‘stocked’ indicator beside it instead of disappearing altogether.”

Charles’ ears rang like a gong was being pounded at the base of his skull. “Ww-what?”

The clerk turned to him and smiled patiently. “Whatcha lookin’?” She asked.

“Med supplies.”

“Those are definitely stocked. Won’t buy again for a few. Even then on the lower side of pricing.” Walking back around the counter she added, “We had a crazy run on those today for some reason. Really odd. Definitely, all stocked up,” she said, accentuating the word ‘all’.

Charles stood with his mouth hanging open, helmet cupped in the crook of his arm. He couldn’t speak. Couldn’t think.

The clerk tilted her head. “You okay? Can I get you water?” Without waiting for a reply, she walked to the small fridge on the far wall behind the counter. Her head poking side she said, “What about juice?” Returning to the counter, paper cup in hand, “I know how you guys forget to eat ‘n hit low blood sugar.” When Charles didn’t reach for the cup himself, she placed it in his hand. “My dad was a hauler. Happened to him lots.” She smiled, as though thinking about her father was a fond memory. “You should sit for a bit.”

Charles backed into one of the chairs lining the back wall and fell into it one without looking. He had no words. He wasn’t sure he could keep the cup of whatever he was holding down. He drank it, all the same, thinking she might go away if he did. He needed silence. Silence. Breath in. Breath out. Yes, you’re okay. Keep breathing. Flex your eyes and focus on the floor. Yeah. Okay, the room’s not spinning anymore.

Through his haze of panic, Charles heard the echoing of new footsteps. A new voice speaking. Followed by the clerk’s voice. More footsteps. Another voice. People moving about the small room. Coming. Going. Life moving on.

THE END


Alpha 3.3.5 - Stanton Star System

With all the new backers arriving and trying to acclimate themselves to the persistent universe, I thought it would be a good time to do a brief overview of Stanton. I read and hear confused and misinformed answers about where we are within the Star Citizen universe at this time.  For a longer overview, you can take a look at an early more detailed I did last year on YouTube.

Why Stanton?

When we consider the crowdfunded scope for the Star Citizen universe, there are 100+ star systems planned. The persistent universe we’re currently enjoying as part of alpha is the Stanton star system. It contains four Super Earths – Hurston, Crusader, ArcCorp, and Microtech, all of whom have tidally locked moons of their own. Stanton’s biome diversity is one of the reasons it was selected as the starting point for persistent universe development.

Official Lore

Stanton was originally discovered by independent explorers. Although the details are fuzzy, most agree that the star system was discovered by a free agent trader. Word of mouth, spread the tale, of a system that contained four Super-Earths. Privateers moved in to capitalize on this extremely rare find. Planets of this size, all within a wide green zone is unusual in its own right.  Combined with the large variances in planet ecologies, even more so. When the existence of Stanton came to the attention of the UEE, they moved in quickly to claim eminent domain. The official reason was to protect and extend nearby jump lanes.

Unfortunately, the original settlers of Stanton hadn’t formalized their colonization by filing the necessary paperwork.  Largely made up of homesteaders, prospectors and survivalists, the local populace had no legal rights to Stanton and certainly weren’t in a position to dissuade military forces when they arrived.

The uniqueness of the system and the potential resources notwithstanding, the UEE was in the midst of huge economic struggles. A down economy from a hundred-year colonization drought, the UEE could only afford to do the bare minimum to claim its new prize. Naval engineers performed the small amount of terraforming required and underfunded military outposts were established. Lacking funds to do more, Stanton wasn’t developed further.

Eventually, the decision was made to sell the system piecemeal to the highest bidders. Large corporations were discreetly contacted and asked to bid on whole planets. It’s believed that the winners must have bid trillions to acquire rights. The winners did the obvious, naming the planets after their corporations – Hurston Dynamics, Crusader Industries, ArcCorp, and MicroTech

Stanton as of Alpha 3.3.x

As of Alpha 3.3.5, the persistent universe was expanded to include the first of Stanton’s planets, Hurston, its moons and capital city, Lorville. Unlike the locations we’ve seen thus far, Hurston contains multiple biomes. There are also bodies of water and underground bunkers. While Lorville is still incomplete, it’s a must-see location that introduces a working railway system and habicubes with interactive objects. More locations are being added over time.

LINK TO PDF VERSION

The addition of Hurston brings the landing sights to:

  • 1 planet
  • 7 moons
  • 2 asteroid based locations
  • 1 starbase
  • 2 space stations

This doesn’t include CryAstro fueling and repair of the various Truckstops located around Crusader and Hurston. It’s also worth noting that Delamar’s presence in Stanton is temporary. Delamar belongs in the Nyx star system, a dangerous unclaimed star system. However, it was placed in Stanton for testing purposes when its tier 1 development completed. You can find a more in-depth overview of Nyx on my YouTube channel as well.


New Faces

Free Fly Success

I didn’t partake in this year’s Anniversary Sale. With the fleet I’ve amassed over the years, it’s going to take a specialized ship to pique my interest enough to swap in something new. Note, swap-in. I’ve hit my ceiling on ship purchases. I know, I’ve said that before but this time I mean it! What I have engaged in as a result of the sale and freefly, is the amazing influx of new players and streamers. It’s easy to spot new and returning players by the questions they ask. I enjoying helping out where I can – sharing information or giving a tour of a ship. It’s great seeing game chat alive with new names.

I’ve watched more SC streams since 3.3.5 than I have in a very long time. I enjoy bopping between my long-time favorites, brand new low view streamers, and the mega Twitch names checking in. I haven’t laughed so hard or screamed at the screen as if watching a spine-tingling movie, as I have the past couple of weeks. Lirik and crew simply had me in stitches. GiantWaffle was definitely entertaining. And the night they played together — my stomach hurt from laughing. At one point I was doubled over on the bed, crying at the hilarity. Seeing streams with 25K viewers that aren’t CIG events — very exciting.

Zyloh made appearances. He was a mole on one stream. Rode with them to Kareah and then turned on his team. Another night he was trying to give Lirik a look at the 600i. Unfortunately, Lirik’s ADD fidget all over the place like he’s tiptoeing on hot coals manner, had him glitching into anything and everything an unlucky player could. At one point, I guess Zyloh was over it and not going back for his dead ass, so he used a dev command to drag him from where he’d resurrected at Lorville over to Port Olisar where the 600i had landed. Comedy gold!

New Faces

If combat is your thing – PVP and FPS, Rexzilla is a good watch. Like all MMOs I’ve played, while I don’t consider myself a PVP player, I will engage if attacked and enjoy watching others do their thing. Whew, they had some hot fights happen at Kareah and over at Jumptown. Very cool stuff to check out if you want to see what kind of impromptu combat can happen even in these early days.

Visiting new streamers is equally entertaining. Seeing their enthusiasm is infectious. Watching their jaws drop approaching Lorville. Their heads explode the first time the EVA. Always grateful to be given help or offered to try a ship they don’t own. Sure, we go in hard on trolls but this is definitely one of the most helpful gaming communities I’ve been a part of. I enjoyed the time I spent with BruceCooper and Harry0. For the first time in a long time, I actually joined a streamer live. We were talking about vehicle types and Bruce hadn’t seen a Dragonfly, so I joined live to spawn one for him. Coasting on a hoverbike on a high fidelity alien planet – that right there can only happen in Star Citizen.

The RP is Real

If you’re interested in watching roleplay in the Star Citizen universe, strong contenders have entered the atmosphere. They’re all new to actually playing but are learning quickly with the help of the community. I’m happily surprised by the enthusiasm and number of RP streamers that have landed. Among my favorites so far are Timmac, PMSProxy, and Koil.

If you’re a long time backer, you know this game isn’t the easiest thing to pick up on your own. Hop in a few new channels to share your knowledge and love for the game. To all the new players and streamers, welcome aboard. Welcome to the community. See ya in the verse.


Alpha 3.3.5 - Hurston is Magic

As most will realize, Star Citizen is still in its alpha phase of development. Many of us had hoped, things would be moving along a bit faster. There is no shortage of complaints about the plodding and sometimes painfully mundane pace at which content was being released in 2017. And for all the waiting and need for polish eschewed, as to why a feature isn’t being released for testing, there are still significant bugs on Live. Yep, there’s no shortage of complaints about CIG and Star Citizen, even among loyal backers, myself included.

I spent two days and several hours trying to get out of the new city, Lorville, after 3.3.5 went Live. It didn’t make me angry. It was so absurd that it became a comical challenge to Escape Lorville. I mean come on, players were trapped in the first city, unable to get out and explore. I laughed a lot on Twitter but there are some who didn’t find it as amusing.

Yes, development is taking longer than most would like. Bugs hang around for a long time, even ones that break gameplay for some. Personally, I refuse to do missions at this point. I’m not a fan of game generated checklists, to begin with, let alone subject my gaming time to ones that are broken. All of that melts away, in the face of what was delivered in Alpha patch 3.3.5.

  • Waking up in a habicube that looks considerably more realistic as a place someone lives in.  
  • The rudimentary interactions available inside the rooms give us a glimpse of where things are headed.
  • Riding the train from one part of Lorville to the next.
  • Seeing the imperfect but improved NPCs co-populating the city.
  • Having a drink at a bar and taking it with you as you continue on your journey.

 

 

Until now, I haven’t given a damn about clothing since there’s still no female model. Seeing other players walking – not running, walking around in civilian clothing changed my mind. Now I strut around in my Concerige outfits and made my way to Tammany & Sons to buy a few more things to wear. No, I’m not happy that we lose chat if not wearing a helmet since that’s an unnecessary negative side effect of wearing civilian clothing. One that I hope, they will change in short order. It’s fun seeing other players starting to roleplay now that we have our first planet with an atmosphere.

As the first city on the first planet implemented in Star Citizen, only a relatively small part of Lorville is accessible. Regardless, there’s no shortage of spectacular views.

  • Watching the everyday activities of those living in outer space.
  • Seeing the underbelly of how Hurston Dynamics runs the planet like a slumlord, doling out slave wages and workers living in filth and pollution. You know this type of scenario would and will exist if humans become an interstellar species.
  • Walking into an active hangar – NPCs and services around you.
  • Departing during the day to see the cityscape.
  • While leaving at night is like seeing Paris lights.
  • Alone, surfing sand dunes in the dark.

It’s coming together now. We can see it. Feel it. It’s just around the bend.

One trip in particular really gave them feels. I’m standing there in my semi-steampunk looking gear on an alien planet. Tallgrass is swaying while the wind blows around. It’s fading from dusk into darkness and I’m staring up at the night sky. I mean come on, I haven’t and can’t have this experience in any other MMO. None. You simply can’t name one with this scope and breadth.

This is magic…  It’s extraordinary…  Why we keep the believing…  This is Star Citizen.


Helios, 2nd Largest Star System

When a Door Closes

It’s been two weeks since I started working for a new company and in a new role. One that returns me to a past life in data visualization and analysis. I’m still nested in the Business Intelligence space. However, instead of being a product manager for internal BI solutions, I’m managing a team of analysts and data viz professionals. This aspect of metrics and performance management is what brought me to BI in the first place. Luckily for me, careers in Data Viz and Data Science have grown tremendously over the years. Based on my former experience with the tools that are industry standards, I was able to quickly find a rewarding opportunity within weeks of being notified of my pending layoff. Before the door officially closed, the window on a new job offer was already in hand. I definitely consider myself blessed!

Time to Catch Up!

I was at my previous employer for 8 years doing product management. Five years prior to that, I was entrenched in running a Program Management Office, even though I continued to provide analysis support. That’s a long time to be out of the loop in data viz. I have a bevy of books arriving on the tools of the trade and principles so I can catch up with my peers. As someone who learns by doing, I started fishing around for a practice project and landed on combining it with my favorite pastime, gaming. So it should come as no surprise that I went looking for something Star Citizen related.

Viola! Star Systems Meet Data Visualization

I’m fairly obsessed with the lore behind Star Citizen and the physical universe being built by Cloud Imperium Games. AlysianahsWorld.com features several pages dedicated to disseminating the information contained in the official ARK Starmap into an easier to consume and searchable format. Using formal data visualization tools would allow me to evolve an aspect of the site I continue to use on a regular basis while learning the newest versions of the tools.

An aspect of analysis and reporting, data visualization, is a more graphical representation of information that endeavors tells a story while providing insight. All though we’re likely years away from having all of the planned star systems, I still find the lore and planned physical layouts entertaining to consider. Those of us following the game closely and participating in the alpha will be fully versed in them as they come online. However, those joining after or following more casually, won’t be quite as fluent.

The end goal for this version is to provide PDFs that players can easily download and reference offline at their leisure.

Technical considers were to:

  • Present interesting aspects of the universe for discussion.
  • Construct a hands-free data-driven solution that feeds from my existing site database.
  • Integrate tidbits from my hand-populated lore database.
  • Assist causal and new players in navigating the persistent universe via this bird’s-eye view.

Consequently, the order in which I produce them will be impacted by when star systems are placed on the roadmap for introduction into the persistent universe, contain an interesting lore aspect or contribute to a broader topic of conversation. For me, it was essential that this new design be fully automated, with the exception of minor adjustments like moving around annotations if they overlapped or adjusting the scale of the planets being displayed if a system has a lot of items. But that’s it! Everything else is done programmatically and uses data from Aly’s World that already exists.

All things considered, developing this first mock-up/prototype went very well. I was able to achieve all of my objectives while refreshing my skills using the latest version of Tableau, one of the standard tools used in my new position. Now let’s roll into the real topic at hand, Helios.

Helios, 2nd Largest Known Star System

Once I decided that I wanted to evolve how I was presenting the official ARK Starmap data, the question became, where to start? Stanton, while necessary to do, is old hat at this point. The idea of starting there didn’t excite me. Then a question popped into my head that did. What is the largest known star system and what does it contain? Is it somewhere I’ll be spending time? Does it have activity related to any of the player professions I’ve decided to focus on?

The metric I used to quantify a star system’s size was the farthest celestial body from the star in astronomical units (AU). The underlying ARK data has several pieces of information that are not readily visible on RSI, one being the AU. However, I have all of the data already stored in the database that runs AlysianahsWorld.com and I’ve used AU previously to render horizontal star maps for each system.

LINK: Stanton Star System Dossier on Aly’s World

 

I landed on using the AU of orbiting bodies or areas identified as belonging to a star, as those objects represent the star’s sphere of influence. The size of its influence, if you will. After choosing that as a reasonable representation, all I had to do was find the maximum AU and the star system it belonged to which lead me to Helios.

LINK: Helios Star System Dossier on Aly’s World

Perspective

Helios is the second largest known system. The moniker of largest belongs to Tamsa. However, instead of having a star at its center Tamsa contains a black hole. It’s also a fairly empty system which wouldn’t provide much meat for developing this prototype. I will, however, produce a data viz for Tamsa in the near future. 

LINK: Tamsa System Dossier on Aly’s World

As the second largest system, how does Helios compare to other star systems we’re more or less familiar with? When I visualized the distribution of all the star system sizes based on the maximum (farthest celestial body in AU), I was surprised by what I saw. I suppose the locations we hear about loom large in our imagination without realizing that frequency has no relevance to how big those areas will be based on the current ARK Starmap metrics. Star systems such as Stanton, Pyro, Nyx, Tera, and Sol are very small in the overall scheme of things.

Here’s a subset, calling out the systems we know and hear about. Stanton, representing the persistent universe today. Pyro, the Jump Point we can see in Stanton now, and likely the next star system that will be introduced to the alpha. And Sol, the birthplace of humanity and a location many of us are interested in seeing CIG’s vision for how it has evolved. As you can see, they’re on the small end of things. Stanton, in particular, is very small!! It’s a bit mind-blowing knowing that the area of Stanton we’re in today is 25% of what it will be since we’re just around Crusader. Even so, it’s going to be nothing in terms of size compared to the other known star systems that have been planned.

How Many Years to Orbit? 

Other than the disparity in star system sizes, which I suppose shouldn’t be surprising given that space is a big empty place, is how many years it takes planets to orbit their sun. Talk about thinking that humans and Sol are the centers of the universe. I never contemplated that in Standard Earth Years (SEY) there are planets that take many years to make a full orbit of their star. Tangora, the only planet in Helios that’s openly populated and accessible to civilians takes 210.5 SEY to complete its orbit. My eyes bugged out of my head. It’s a metric I hadn’t bothered to calculate before.

When I see numbers in the thousands, it’s simply mindboggling and makes me wonder how we will communicate the passing of time when humans become an interstellar species. How will calendars work? It’s bad enough dealing with global time zones and keeping those straight at work. I can’t imagine what we’ll devise when a year no longer has the same meaning. Perhaps we will standardize on SEY. I hope to be alive to see how it turns out for myself. Until then, the Star Citizen will have to do.

Helios’ Discovery

Back to Helios, it’s a combination of natural beauty in the face of nature’s ferocity, abandoned junkyards, and military skunkworks. Helios is a Helium Strong type B star that creates powerful solar winds capable of causing havoc with ship sensors. This rarity attracts researchers, tourists and criminals looking for a place to hide, in equal measure.

Helios was discovered in 2509 and in a very unusual manner. An outlawed group called the Daybreak Marauders had discovered a jump point to Helios via Taranis. After robbing convoys in Ellis, they’d race to Taranis and disappear without a trace. After driving the Uros Shipping Concern into bankruptcy due to the activity surrounding these thefts, The Advocacy finally stepped in to bring order to the system. After several months of playing cat-n-mouse, agents eventually discovered Daybreak’s secret.

As is often the case, after it’s official discovery was claimed by the UEE, the region was stripped bare of any important resources and languished in obscurity for several years, beyond being used as a military staging ground.

LINK TO PDF: Helios Visual Star Sys Guide – Legal

The Rest of the Story

My intent is for the Visual Star System Guide to provide the casual overview of the system all on its own. Therefore, I’m not going to regurgitate the information here in text form. Hopefully, the elements I’ve elected to portray, provide a sense of the system’s composition, fun or important things to know, opportunities for activities related to player careers and a high-level assessment for the economy, population, and safety. You can find the official Galactic Guide for Helios on RSI and its associated Loremaker’s Guide on YouTube.

Your thoughts and feedback are welcomed. This being the first iteration of the format, I’d welcome feedback and suggestions. Do remember, that changes must be data-driven as I’m only looking to make minor manual adjustments each time I render the visual for another star system.  At regular intervals, I will assemble the visual guides I’ve published in ebook formats for those interested in collecting them as a set. For me, it’s more experimentation with skills that I’ve picked up recently, while was I doing freelance ghostwriting and interior book design this past year or so. No more time or desire to continue doing freelance work with my new position and fun challenges that lay ahead. However, I don’t want what I’ve learned along the way and enjoyed doing, to hit the dustbin so I’ll use those skills in conjunction with this project.

Ta-ta for now,

Aly out.


Star Citizen Alpha 3.2

Excitement abounds for Star Citizen Alpha 3.2. In addition to new ships, such as the first luxury yacht to roll out of the showroom, the Origin 600i, we have the first iteration of the mining mechanics. Quality of life improvements is also addressed with updates to the party system and quantum travel. Things are really heating up in the development now, with many new game mechanics and professions slated to be introduced in 2018.

Casual Citizen EP 31 – Alpha 3.2 PTU


Squadron 42 All-Star Cast

When you think of the biggest names in Sci-Fi, Mark Hamill would be high on any list. So for him to be only one of the major cast members of Squadron 42 says a lot about how amazing the cast of this game is.

Hamill’s relationship with Chris Roberts spans back to the days of Wing Commander. When he was approached to play ‘Lt. Cdr. Steve ‘Old Man’ Colton’  in Robert’s new single player game, he claims he didn’t even have to read the script to know it would be good. He was there from the moment the game was announced.

This must have helped to some extent. Whilst Hamill alone in any game would be a coup, the casting for Squadron 42 just gets better and better!

  • Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour, Dark Knight, The Fifth Element, Bram Stroker’s Dracula) plays Admiral Ernst Bishop.  
  • Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, The Fall, American Gods) has been cast as Captain MacLaren
  • Mark Strong (Kingsman: The Secret Service, Sherlock Holmes) voices Captain Thomas Wade
  • John Rhys-Davies (Lord of the Rings) plays Randall Graves.
  • Andy Serkis (The Lord of the Rings, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and probably the biggest name in motion capture technology has been cast as Thul’Óqquray, an alien character who speaks in a fictional language created for Star Citizen.
  • Liam Cunningham (Game of Thrones) plays Captain Noah White

We haven’t yet been told how big each role will be, but one can assume that casting such huge household names to take part in a game of this size would mean that their parts are substantial.

There are numerous other well-known names cast. At the time of writing,  the IMDB ‘main cast’ list sits at twenty-five people, with ‘Other Cast’  sitting at sixty-one people and rumored to be over one hundred!

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Origin 600i Series

ORIGIN Jumpworks GmbH

Origin’s notoriety comes from merging class and sophistication. They are the unchallenged leaders is providing luxury. Their designs are sleek with sophisticated lines. Their customers among the cultivated elite. When you purchase an Origin ship, you’re not just buying a vessel, you’re indulging a lifestyle.

While Origin was founded in Cologne, Germany, the headquarters was moved to New Austin on Terra in 2913. New Austin is now considered “ORIGIN town”, as they are a key employer in the region. In the Star Citizen universe, Origin is best known for its moderately priced 300 series of ships and the ostentatious 890 Jump luxury yacht.

600i Ship Series

Directly from CIG…

Let the voyage begin with the 2947 600i from Origin Jumpworks. This multi-role luxury vessel from Origin Jumpworks features an exquisitely detailed hull design that balances performance and versatility in a sleek and timeless form. The 600i is designed with a cutting-edge modular technology, allowing you to customize your ship for your needs.

End quote

The 600i concept sale was released with the flourish you’d expect for ships in this price range. A slick brochure which is still available online and a stunning in-lore ship commercial were included as marketing promotion materials. The 600i is intended to provide owners with an alternative to the Constellation Aquila for exploration and the Constellation Phoenix as a luxe party boat.

 

Highlights

  • The 600i comes in two variants – Touring and Explorer.
  • In its final state, an additional module that will allow you to swap between the Touring and Explorer variants.
  • Features two remote turrets which can be automated using an AI module.
  • Supports from 2 to 5 crew members.
  • Although intended as a multi-crew ship, for the size, it’s one of the most solo-friendly ships to date.
  • Touring module lets your guests relax in ease, with stunning furniture from some of the Empire’s top designers. The bridge has 3 seats for the pilot and crew members.
  • Explorer variant bridge has 3 seats for pilot and crew, in addition to two manned scanning stations, a deployable ramp for an exploratory ground vehicle (Origin-created Rover) and additional storage for artifacts you may discover.
  • Cargo capacity: Touring 16 SCU and Explorer 40 SCU.

My Impressions

The first iteration of the 600i ships arrived in Alpha 3.2, June 2018. I own the 600i Explorer variant. My original intention was to have a luxury version for exploration and RP-themed romps across the galaxy for groups smaller than the 890 Jump. However, as has been the case with many of the concept ships, they increase in size once concept meets the demands of physical reality. As such, it’s no longer the size I was hoping to acquire. We’ll have to see if it lives up to the claim that it’s very solo friendly in which case playing as a duo should still work well.

  • Every corner of the interior drips luxury.
  • Has the best cockpit and all ‘round ship views to date.
  • Best Captains Quarters by a mile… Until the 890 Jump arrives.
  • Handles well and floats like a cloud.
  • It’s a slow burn to top speed, so be careful and maintain situational awareness.
  • Landing gear doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the ship.
  • Some of the spaces are empty but I think that’s great IF we’ll be able to decorate our ships with flair items.

I’m decidedly happy with the 600i Explorer. However, this is all without being able to compare it to the Carrack. For me at least, I don’t care if the Connie Aquila beats the 600i in a size and feature comparison, I don’t like the Connie. Therefore comparisons between those two ships are moot.

My decision to keep the 600i Explorer will rest with how it compares to the Carrack. If the size and features are close, it won’t make sense to own both ships. I’ve melted a few very large ships to pick up the medium-sized profession ships coming into the game. This is intentional which leaves me a bit sad when medium ships become large during the implementation process. Here’s hoping there’s enough distinction between them.

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