The Genesis of Space Whales

If you’re relatively new to Star Citizen, you might be wondering, “what’s all this space whales nonsense?” Let’s take a look at a joke that became a thing, is now represented as a sculpture on Orison, and will one day live among the clouds of Crusader.

Space Whales, called Stormwal, are flying creatures native to the atmosphere of Crusader, a gas giant in the Stanton star system. The Stormwal haven’t been implemented in-game yet. However, you can find a sculpture of one on the Cloudview Center platform in Orison.  You can also hear a subtle but amazing haunting whale-like soundscape in the area.

FROM THE STAR CITIZEN TOOLS WIKI…

The Stormwal, called ‘Space Whale’ by the designers, is a flying creature that lives in the atmosphere ofCrusader. The animal currently only exists in concept. Its implementation was confirmed in 2020 by writerDave Haddock.

According to the concept art, the carcass of a space whale is approximately 100 meters long. They are hunted because their body produces a highly valuable resource.

There currently sits a large sculpture of a stormwal onOrison’sCloudview Center platform made by Bipasha Zhu. Cutting a stark contrast against the vibrant sky, the sweeping lines of Orison’s signature stormwal sculpture captures the grace and beauty of the gentle creatures it portrays. Formally titled “Until Again”, artist Bipasha Zhu says that she was inspired by the city’s harmony and weightless strength. To better understand her bashful subjects, Bipasha spent a week living in a cloud submersible studying the stormwals up close. 

The Star Citizen Galactapedia also mentions the Stormwal…

Orison is a city based on a series of interconnected floating platforms located in the upper atmosphere of Crusader (Stanton II). Originally constructed by the United Empire of Earth (UEE)Navy to provide repair facilities for their capital ships, Crusader Industries looked at the existing infrastructure as an ideal location for their commercial shipbuilding operations. Over time, as the city drifts from its position, it must be occasionally moved into safe orbit by the synchronized firing of large thrusters built into each platform. Due to the gas giant Crusader’s natural beauty and the presence of unique fauna such as the stormwal, Orison has become a popular tourist destination for visitors to the Stanton system. Cloudview Center serves as the main hub for habitation, tourism, and commerce. The Skyway Shuttle provides public transportation between platforms.

I distinctly remember watching the episode of Happy Hour Game Dev where the Space Whale made its first appearance in October 2017. That was back when I consumed every morsel of content. Eagerly anticipating a playable game within a few years. By the time an update surfaced on Star Citizen Week in Review in March of 2020, I’d forgotten all about them. Having burned out on hearing about content so far into the future after backing in 2014, I was no longer consuming the weekly shows. 

Now it’s 2021, and we have a sculptural manifestation of the space whale. As frustrated as I generally am now about the lack of progress toward implementing the many professions that are still AFK and the associated specialized ships we backed that are flyable but not fit for purpose years after they were introduced, it can’t be denied that the Stormwal fountain in the Cloudview Center is inspiring. And combined with the soundscape from Pedro Camacho, pure fantasy bliss – a feast for the eyes, imagination, and soul. 

So yes, I still get sucked into the dream. I can see myself in an exploration or luxury touring ship, floating around Crusader Stormwal watching. Taking pictures, capturing video, writing little stories, and entertaining guests. This is why we’re all still around, bumps, bruises and all, there’s nothing on the horizon that comes remotely close to the dream that is Star Citizen.


Loot - I See The Light

A long-time fan and subscriber to SaltEMike on Twitch, I’ve been ambivalent to his strong feelings on the importance of looting in Star Citizen. I plan to occasionally participate in organized PVP events and NPC combat only when absolutely needed. The majority of my time will be spent exploring the specialty professions such as Data Courier, Data Hacking, running a hospital, food production, base building, RP styled commercial transport, and a traveling bazaar. How will I make time to divide my attention across all of these professions? I’ll start with doing a “30 Days as” series that does a deep dive into each. After that, I’ll rotate between what I’ve enjoyed best. After all, I plan to play Star Citizen for years, giving me time to savor each.

Most of the time Mike mentioned looting was in relation to combat which isn’t why I backed Star Citizen. NPC combat and PVP are nothing new to the MMO genre. I’ve been doing that for years, even in a spaceship owed to EVE Online. What’s new and unique, beyond the planned scope of the universe are the specialty professions which is what I backed to do. Hence, whether or not NPCs or players drop loot wasn’t a concern. That is until I played the New World Closed Beta. And now, I’ve seen the light on looting.

It’s pretty standard fare for NPCs and players to drop loot when killed. I like New World’s compromise of generating a loot drop when a player is killed versus them losing one of their items. Still, it’s the standard expectation of killing equals one or more items dropped. What New World does extremely well, which has changed my mind about the importance of loot caches is that they’re populated all over the world in logical places.

If you’re in an area that is farmland, you should expect to see crops that can be collected. In villages, towns, encampments, there should be supplies. Where there are humanoids we should see the artifacts of life, and we do in New World. No matter how many times I’d already crossed through a zone, and this is on foot mind you, I took the time to steal crops and loot caches. Even as a higher-level player traversing a lower zone, the contents have value. More importantly, there’s very little trash loot other than white gear which is still necessary for salvaging repair parts. There are no, let me sell this crap out of my inventory items. There is a nice percentage of green items in the caches too. Ones that were of a high enough tier to be upgrades or nice starters to try out a new weapon.

As I was running around grabbing caches for the umpteenth time, never tiring of the activity, it dawned on me what Mike likely meant. There are opportunities to add reasons to explore, risk combat, and revisit areas due to loot caches alone IF the loot tables are done well. I would engage in combat to defeat a ship and see what loot I could collect like in EVE Online. I would risk engaging in FPS, something I suck at, in order to loot caches exactly like I did in New World. However, if it’s going to be common crap then I’ll pass. I don’t need crap to sell for credits. I can earn that mining which is at least something I find relaxing. I’d do it for cool-looking gear but it would have to be a step up from the subscriber models which I haven’t really enjoyed to date.

I remember going out of my way in World of Warcraft to loot caches and they usually had middling content but it was something fun to do while exploring. New World has made them a core mechanic and I could definitely get behind that in Star Citizen if done in a similar vein and value. 

The recent CIG discussion on the topic didn’t go far enough to inspire me to really care about loot because it can be done poorly. I won’t care about loot for the sake of loot. The items need to be meaningful and valued for their use and utility, not their cash conversion or many of us will pass. We can make money in other ways. I really do hope it’s not the paradigm from most other MMOs where what you find amounts to vendor trash. If that was the plan, they’ve plenty of opportunities to shift gears and come up with a better implementation.

I enjoyed braving the PVP at Kareah to loot crates when they were there. Or take a missile to the face looting the abandoned wrecks. That poke around and find stuff while exploring is largely gone from the PU. I hope it comes back with a bang when it returns.


Casual Citizen Season 2 EP3

Season 2 Episod3 of my ongoing series on Star Citizen by Cloud Imperium Games is available on all support platforms. This episode’s topics include Looting, I’ve Seen the Light, The Genesis of Space Whales, Limited Fast Travel, and my NightBus Fan Fiction, Pod City The Fallen, Bird Cage.

YouTube: https://youtu.be/DDkSq7LDcek

Audio-Only

  • https://soundcloud.com/lauren-michele-12/casual-citizen-season-2-episode-3
  • https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/casual-star-citizen/id1583299515
  • https://music.amazon.com/podcasts/4b5e53b8-d75a-446b-b16f-d066566b0b1a/CASUAL-STAR-CITIZEN


Pyro, Size Matters

Pyro is unquestionably the beating heart of piracy. An otherwise desolate, lifeless star system crippled by a flare star, Pyro is most notably the home of the shared pirate outpost of Ruin Station. The system is a case of criminals filling the void in an abandoned star system. Unlike the more settled honor-among-thieves Cathcart, factions here are in constant conflict.

Link to Alysianah’s Custom Visualization Summary of Pyro

From CIG…

Pyro was first visited in 2493, twenty-four years after the first person suspected something was there. In 2469, the watch officer of the Roustabout, an Earth-flagged tanker ship moving through the Cano System, noted a gravitic anomaly thirty thousand kilometers off the transport’s port bow. A detailed report was sent to the ship’s corporate owners and eventual namesake, Pyrotechnic Amalgamated, but no action was taken. Twenty-four years later, when Pyrotechnic sought new mining territories, they began reviewing old scan records when it noted the original report from the Roustabout. They dispatched an explorer to the region only to formally discover Pyro.

End Quote…

RUIN STATION

Ruin Station is an outlaw station populated by the system’s only permanent population.  Pyrotechnic Amalgamated initially built the station as a hub for their industrial divisions. However, the station was abandoned after the outlook for a profitable return seemed dim. The name Ruin Station is a moniker earned from the location’s dilapidated condition. Despite the dangers of visitors being swallowed whole by the crumbling edifice, criminals and opportunists flock to the area seeking black-market trading.

Of importance to surrounding, more settled systems such as Stanton are recent Advocacy reports naming XenoThreat as the station’s current occupants. A mere one Jump Point away from the highly populated star system, the denizens of Pyro can pose a credible threat to the peace and stability of Stanton.

WHEN SIZE MATTERS

Personally, I’ve never been bothered by the travel times we encounter flying around Stanton. However, that may have always been colored by knowing that Stanton is among the smaller star systems we’ll be traversing in Star Citizen. Before we had any playable modules, combing through the lore contained in the star map was my mini-game. It’s how Alysianah’s World of Star Citizen was born. With a background in analytics, the numbers surrounding the planned universe fascinated me. How many planets are within the known universe? How many are habitable? How many asteroid belts? Which star systems have the most asteroid belts? Where are the gas giants and so on? You can find answers to those questions in an old post I’ll link in the show notes.

I figured the speeds and travel times we experience now would be tweaked as the larger star systems arrive. And when I say larger, they’re on an order of magnitude that is so much bigger than Stanton. I’m sure things will get tweaked, but if long rides in space aren’t for you, this might not be the right game. Space is big, and size matters.

Calculating size as the distance from the star at the center to its furthest planet, Stanton is only 2.9 astronomical units. Pyro is 9.8 AU. That’s right; it’s more than three times as large. That’s nothing. We’re still talking about tiny star systems. The largest in the known Star Citizen universe is Tamsa, at a whopping 305 AU.

If we consider the other distances you have to traverse, calculating the size by the furthest object such as the Jump Points we’ll use for interstellar travel, Stanton is 4.6 AU and Pyro is 13 AU. Things are about to get a whole lot bigger. We know we’ll have space stations around each of the planets, rest stops, and refineries, but to make the spaces seem less devoid of life, I’m curious about the other elements CIG will add. Or will they take the point of view that deep space, even once humanity populates it will, in fact, remain empty – desolate and devoid. Time will tell. Buckle up, ladies and gentlemen. When Pyro arrives space will be a whole lot bigger.


True MMO Style Persistence

Without a doubt, nothing even comes in at a close second; what I’ve disliked about the so-called Persistent Universe is its lack of persistence. I’ve detested the Super Mario save point behavior of getting to a station to persist where you are in the world or to retain the contents of your ship. I’ve always hated that the items placed in my ship are lost on a disconnect or server death. From the start of the PU, they knew they were building an MMO. So why on earth is item tracking this late in the scheme of things?

I’m waiting with bated breath for actual persistence in this MMO. Losing profits due to 30Ks aside, many sandbox gameplay opportunities will present themselves when ships and player locations persist reliably. The critical aspect here is consistency and reliability. One of the things I enjoy best is creating new roles for myself once I reach the end game. It almost always involves crafting and, where possible, offering a service.

In EverQuest 2, I built a decorating service that was so popular it ended up dominating all of my game time. I created new unique items by combining standard crafted pieces. I wrote guides on adding life to items with animations by layering and resizing other components.

My farm wagon in ArchAge offered rides to other players who would sit on top of my crates and pay me with fuel that increased the wagon’s movement speed. As a Warlock and Mage in World of Warcraft, we charged for portals and summons in addition to selling items on the auction house. It’s the different roles you can create for yourself in a mature game with good mechanics that adds extra flavor.

I know the professions I’ve backed via ships in Star Citizen are a ways off. Hell, they’re not even on the roadmap yet. Data running in the MSR. Information hacking in the Herald. Food production on the Endeavor. Managing a hospital in the other Endeavor. Commerical transportation aboard the Genisis Starliner. Building outposts with the Pioneer. Manning a traveling bazaar with the Merchantman. There are things I enjoy that I could be doing in place of my professions, except we don’t have actual MMO style persistence yet.

While I don’t consider myself a roleplayer, I think of myself as my avatar when I’m in-game. And there are a few enterprises I’m looking forward to trying when actual persistence arrives.

The Floating Noodles Vendor from the Fifth Element is high on my list. Imagine a stylized ship floats into view. Onboard it has cold and hot storage containers full of what your body craves. Yes, a specific ship would be incredible but unnecessary. Any medium-sized vessel with a fast quantum drive and a convenient entrance will suffice. I want to load up with the various consumables from around the star system and deliver them on request. Out mining and forget water? Aly’s Food Truck to the rescue. Doing planet-side activities and need food or medpens? Call Aly.

I don’t know about you, but there are times when I want to exist in a game world without doing anything in particular. Take in the scenery. Converse in global chat. Help a noob or two. The players flying their amounts above Stormwind is what comes to mind. We can take that to a whole new dimension in Star Citizen.

A roving bar that tours the star system picking up passengers from the popular orbital stations, is another activity I want to try. Passengers can purchase alcohol and snacks while chatting locally, perhaps using FOIP or having their own private conversations taking in the view. Maybe throw in a little drunken Fight Club? But you didn’t hear that from me.

Treasure Hunts with prizes aboard the 890 Jump will happen! Stash physical items around the ship. Provide a list of what to find. Then, they have to tell me where they found it and provide the article to turn it in. No sneaking in your own shit. No, mam! And, some of the hunts will include murder mystery roleplay, something I’ve wanted to do for years.

Why can’t I do these things now, you wonder? Because a disconnect or 30K will throw away all the time spent setting up the event. It will whoosh the items I’ve placed on the ship into oblivion. If I DC, I’m just as likely to end up back at my last port of call versus back aboard my ship. No thanks! When I have time to play, I want the reasonable expectation of there being the appropriate mechanics to play. Spitting into the wind isn’t an activity I find enjoyable.

There are a host of emergent gameplay opportunities to be had with actual, traditional MMO persistence. Here’s hoping it arrives in Star Citizen sooner than later.


The More, The Merrier!

In the post Odyssey expansion world of Elite Dangerous, Star Citizen has seen an influx of players introducing themselves on Reddit to the Star Citizen community. Naturally, we’re more than happy to welcome them. I don’t see any reason for either fanbase to take a competitive stance. Fun is 100% subjective. You like what you like, and I enjoy what I like. Being in a disagreement doesn’t make either game bad. I’m not into hating games for the sake of it. It’s such a waste of time. Why do I care what another person enjoys? If it’s legal and consensual, it’s none of my business anyway.

I played EVE Online on and off for seven years. To have played that long, even in spurts, means I had fun. I spent much of that time salvaging, solo questing, and exploring. War declarations dominated my time in organizations which has a way of curtailing your freedom of movement, which wasn’t for me. I enjoyed group PVP events but not when my every session needs to account for it.

I tried Elite Dangerous, but it simply wasn’t a fit. After two days, I could discern it didn’t bring the most important things to me as an MMO player, so I refunded it. But, of course, that decision is entirely subjective and doesn’t mean the game is terrible. I didn’t post on Reddit about it. I didn’t go to ED forums to post about it. Honestly, who cares?

I’ve disliked many games over the years and have never felt the need to tell the population who does enjoy that game that I didn’t. I will blog about gaming, and that’s where you’ll find commentary on games I’ve liked and disliked, as people who follow my gaming come here to read about my activity and opinions.

I’m always pleased to see the Star Citizen community grow. MMO success depends on having an adequate size player base to support the cost of maintaining the game for an extended period. So far, Star Citizen hasn’t had that problem, but we’re still years away from Beta, much less an official release. The more, the merrier.

There’s no hate or shade toward the Elite community when we welcome new Star Citizens. We’re simply glad to see more fans, much like you would with anything else you happen to enjoy. It’s fun to share excitement and enthusiasm. It’s natural to want to belong to a community that shares your interest. Celebrating that doesn’t innately mean your shitting on another game. Unless of course, when you are.


Casual Citizen Season 2 Episode 1 - The Great Experiment

AND, I’M BACK.

No, for real, I’m actually back. It’s been a long time coming. Between real-life misadventures such as losing the first floor of my house in a hurricane. Relocating and accepting what would become the job from hell. To being diagnosed with two autoimmune disorders in November of 2020. Life has been, shall we say, hectic. And let’s not get started on Co-vid.

Since changing employers in June 2020 and establishing a healthier work-life balance, my desire and ability to return to creative pursuits have grown. I realize now that part of the issue was that I was actually sick. It wasn’t just the hellscape I was working in. Thanks to modern medicine and a boatload of prescriptions each day, I’m doing better. And although there’s no cure for autoimmune disorders, the daily prescriptions regime has returned my health to an even keel. Today, I feel more like myself than I have for a very long time. 

What excites me most about feeling back to normal, is the ever-present desire to write and be creative. It wasn’t until I felt better and I’d escaped the pressure-cooker job that I realized how much joy was being sapped from my life.

THE NEW SHOW FORMAT.

An inability to finish my stories on a more regular basis is the main reason I stopped doing content. I dislike starting stories that I don’t finish as much as I’m sure followers dislike reading them. Struggling to find the time to breathe, let alone write, was a huge challenge. 

A couple of months ago I hit on an idea for a cadence I believe will work. One that allows me to focus on my writing, which is how I arrived on this adventure. While continuing to share game commentary, how I started blogging. I’m moving into fixed seasons where I write all of the primary content in advance and add timely commentary for that week. With so much entertainment delivered in seasons, I figured people would understand that type of schedule.

All of the primary content for Casual Citizen Season Two is already in the can. I’ve written over thirty thousand words of fiction and ten thousand words of game commentary, that I’m excited to share. So, without further delay, welcome to Casual Citizen and Nightbus Season Two, Episode One.

BRING ON THE LIVE EVENTS.

The growth we’ve seen in recent months around C.I.G.’s ability to deliver timed events is encouraging. They haven’t been without issues. It’s alpha. Baby steps and all that. But I enjoyed them regardless. The standout for me is the Xenothreat. It’s the first time in a long time I’ve been excited to log into the game. Knowing without a doubt that there was content I could participate in without an excessive amount of sandbox-style planning. 

I’m no longer excited by the various ship expos. I have more than enough ships. Especially ones that are flight-ready but lack their intended mechanics. Seeing more ships no longer holds any appeal. I want updates on the ships I’ve already backed. See progress toward what’s needed to deliver their mechanics. Beyond that, the shine of new ships has worn off. 

I’ve mined for long enough. A profession I don’t plan to do in the released game. Even though I feel the mechanics have been done extremely well. I have no interest in bounty or cargo hauling. And box deliveries were broken for so long that I wrote that off as more frustrating than fun. Plus there’s little to gain from doing them.

Live Events, no matter the duration is motivation. Even when it includes mechanics I wouldn’t normally do. Like combat or grabbing boxes and hauling them to a location. It’s the context and server-wide participation that make it exciting to do. It’s the story that surrounds the doing. The scope and scale of being bigger than just me or a small group of others. It’s the largess that reminds me of open-world bosses in Guild Wars 2. Alterac Valley from World of Warcraft. Scenarios from Warhammer Online. 

Guaranteed active content is why I’m looking forward to Theaters of War. Opportunities for quick-hit action. Versus the random roaming around getting a whole lot of nothing done. I like where Star Citizen is heading with the capabilities to host these events. I look forward to when there are more varied mechanics involved. But for now, I’ll take it.

I don’t always need events to be multi-layered or contain specialized mechanics. I didn’t bother to visit the showroom during the most recent ship expo. I skipped visiting the Javelin. Instead, I pulled out the 890 for a cruise with friends to watch the fireworks. Lacking swimwear, we stripped to our skivvies. And enjoyed a trip over to Microtech. We lined up the ship for a great view of the fireworks. Of course, shenanigans were involved. ChewedToy, the streamer I was with at the time, was tracked to our location by one of his viewers. 

They arrived in a Mercury Starrunner and a tonk. Why wouldn’t we try to airdrop the tonk onto the 890’s hangar? I mean, what else would we do under the circumstances? Many deaths later, which were saved by the bell due to the available medbay. Eventually, 890 ran out of fuel. And we all fell down. Lots of laughs all the way around brought on by a spectator event. 

I need more of these from simple spectator activities. To those with explicit mechanics that require group participation. Here’s hoping Xenothreat and Ninetails arrive with 3.14. 

What are your thoughts on Live Events? Have you enjoyed them? Is it game-play you’d like to see more or less of?

FINDING YOUR PLACE IN THE VERSE.

I’ve been playing MMO games for over twenty years. I’ve played every triple-A title targeted for North American gamers. My long-time blog, Mystic Worlds, has a list of titles I’ve played and written about across the period of time. Among my habitual behaviors, is that I will eventually stumble into a place that feels like home for me in that game. It either strikes my fancy of where my character would live if they lived in the world for real or it speaks to a character from one of my stories and where their adventure would take place.

It will become a place that I visit frequently when I simply want to exist in the game. Gaze out upon that view and imagine or write a story. Sit back and chat with friends in-game or a guild voice chat server. Other times I’ll head there while working and that view becomes my window scape. And in every MMO to date, I’ve found that place.

In World of Warcraft, it’s the Herbalist’s hut in Red Ridge Mountains. Floating over Stormwind when flying mounts arrived. In Guild Wars 2, it’s the Cornicpian farm in Gendarren Fields. Marianople in Arc Age. Qeynos Harbor in Everquest 2.

I always knew it would be Crusader in Stanton. The Ghost in the Shell of Arc Corp is cool and makes me feel like watching that or the Blade Runner 2040. In the same way that I’m fascinated with deep space, I enjoy techno and steampunk. But nothing is home to me like rolling fields or whimsy. The palette, open spaces, flowering trees, and sweeping lines of the platforms, are nearly fantasy in space. 

I haven’t found my specific spot yet but I will. It’s my new port of call. I used to float above Area 18 in a Caterpillar with all of the cargo doors open. Better view than any cockpit or vantage point on the 890 Jump. But with it being Crusader and all, I’ll rest peacefully in the Captain’s quarters aboard the 600 I when I’m alone. I’ll save the fuel-guzzling 890 for special occasions.

What’s your port of call in Stanton? What do you think of Orison?

THE EXPERIMENT.

What I feel compelled to do is write. Whether it’s retelling the tales of my gaming misadventures, creating guides and sharing tips, writing in-game fiction, or spinning my own worlds, writing is what’s dearest to my heart. I’ve been blogging about my gaming adventures for over fifteen years on my Mystic Worlds blog. And I still harbor the dream of being a published fiction author.

What’s new for me is audio and video. Recording and editing audio takes time. As does combing the audio narration with music and visuals to create a nicely produced show. All the while, I’m usually thinking, I could be writing or relaxing. 

I’ve recorded two shows recently that never made their way into episodes. Writing is writing – so it’s always good practice but a shame they never made their way into production. So where’s the middle ground? You just listened to it. I’m using text-to-speech voice cloning. I’ve scribed to software that over time, learns my speech pattern and turns my narration into a digital asset I can use to automatically narrate text. It’s not perfect and is a bit uncanny valley at the moment. It sounds like me. Some of the cadences are correct. But it bears the hallmarks of a robotic voice. This is an experiment to see if audiences can tolerate this compromise for those who prefer audio to reading the episode transcript and fiction posted directly on my website.

What are your thoughts? Is this something you’d continue to listen to versus there only being a text version?

Welcome to Alysianah’s Star Citizen Night Bus.

Night Bus is the part of the show where I feature in-game fiction I’ve written inspired by the universe and mechanics being built by the talented Cloud Imperium Games. As a long-time backer, I’m awed and inspired by the vision.

The short story collection featured this season is Pod City, The Fallen. It contains a cast of characters and settings that will eventually be interjected into my own IP. A universe that I’ve been developing simultaneously. Without further ado, here’s Shifting Sands Part One of Two.

The Star Citizen Night Bus is exiting the station. Please stow all personal items. The transport is departing in three. Two. One.

SHIFTING SANDS PART 1 OF 2

JOHN.

At a glance, it was hard to distinguish the pilot from the cockpit. His retro-reflective optical camouflage flight suit was the best money could buy. 

The accompanying Kevlar XI undersuit fits like a second skin. Viper, from CosmoGen, was the closest legal approximation of the Titan Master set produced exclusively for the United Empire of Earth military.

John sagged back into the pilot’s seat when he reached his assigned hangar. The ship’s vertical take-off and landing thrusters roared to life as they rotated downward to support his descent. The spacecraft vibrated violently beneath him as he gradually lowered it into the hangar. Overhead, he watched as the bay doors closed, eclipsing the red glow of the hangar’s external location markers. John arched his back and rotated his shoulders. His eyelids felt like sandpaper scraping across his eyeballs. “Need to give up these twenty-hour shifts,” he thought to himself. It wasn’t like he needed the money.

John powered down the ship and popped open the canopy. He swung his body out of the cockpit and onto the side ladder in a single fluid motion. His muscles screamed at being made to expand after being in one position for so long. A few rungs from the bottom, he hopped down. “Much better,” he moaned as he bent over at the waist and shook out his legs. John used the mini datapad on his wrist to close the canopy and lock the ship.

The hangar John was assigned was 500 by 300 meters. It was designed to house four Hawk Mark V ships, side by side. John removed his helmet and pulled back the skull cap. Without it, his ears were instantly assaulted by the thunderous hum of the floor-to-ceiling life support system and localized gravity unit. The hangar, bored into the side of the asteroid known as Grim Hex, was self-contained in case of emergency. The smell of heated steel, lubricants, and neglected lavatories permeated every breath.

Owned by the failing Green Imperial Housing Exchange, the station was a defunct mining and refining facility drilled into a small S-type asteroid orbiting Yela. A decade passed its prime; Grim Hex now served as a civilian utility station. The hangar was empty, except for John’s ship, assorted crates, and random piles of tools on the floor. John took a slow walk around the spacecraft, examining the exterior. He knew from the ship’s status report it hadn’t sustained any substantial damage. Still, he wanted to see it with his own eyes.

The Hawk Mark V was a lightweight interdiction ship favored equally by bounty hunters and smugglers. Small and agile, it possessed an impressive arsenal of lethal weaponry and stealth tech. Shaped like a hawk, it boasted a retractable holding cell that fell from its belly. When the pod was extended, it looked like a hawk carrying its prey.

John walked over to the holding cell perched below the belly of his ship. He tapped on the exterior stasis panel to check the occupant’s vitals. The prisoner was stable, but the perp looked a little worse for the wear. It was unfortunate he’d insisted on being captured instead of surrendering. The abrasions on the right side of his face had stopped bleeding. Contrasted against pale white skin, the bruise on his cheekbone had darkened to a sickening blue-black with a purple halo. “Unnecessary shame,” John said out loud as he shrugged away concern. Fully sedated, the would-be smuggler was prepped for a smooth transfer.

John changed into civilian clothing. He secured his flight suit and accompanying accessories in one of the ship’s external storage compartments. Afterward, he sat on a nearby crate waiting for prisoner transport to arrive. Relaxed, he hummed to himself while browsing the local entertainment feeds on his datapad. He looked up when he heard footsteps echoing across the stone floor.

“My man, JJ,” a boisterous voice offered. He was tall and reedy, with olive-colored skin. The knit cap he wore off to the side of his bald head matched his dark gray jumpsuit.

“What’s up, kid?” John replied in kind as they bumped fists in greeting.

“How are the skies treating you?” Larry asked as he looked beyond John to the Hawk.

“Same as ever. Another day is another day,” John replied with a shrug.

Larry patted the underbelly of the Hawk. “I hear ya. One day, something like this will be mine.” He walked over to the holding cell and waited for John to join him there. “Sure you don’t want to transport this yourself?” Larry asked, gesturing to the prisoner.

“Pass. I prefer to fetch, not carry, especially if any sort of investigation is needed. Too many strings and paperwork for my blood.”

Larry laughed. “Can’t blame you and not going to complain. I appreciate getting a chit on the board today. Another paycheck and a few things on the side, and I can afford the Bounty Hunters license fee and few ship upgrades. ” He pointed to the external stasis pad. “May I?”

“Sure, he’s all yours now.”

Larry looked the prisoner over through the observation pane. The edges of the vertical head-to-chest window were frosted with condensation. “A few dents and scratches, but vitals look good.”

“He’ll tag out as a clean extraction. No worries there.”

“You still doing the seventy-thirty split for your transports?”

“That’s the deal. Pod hatch can be unlocked from the outside.” Pointing his thumb to the station entrance, John said, “I’ve got a couple of errands inside, then I need to leave the sector for a while to handle some personal business. Think you can be done in the next thirty minutes or so?”

“Easy. I have a hover cart, and my Argo transport is only one hangar over. I’ll have this one out of your hair in no time.”

“Great.” John extended his hand. Larry shook it. “Good doing business with ya, kid.”

“Same. Keep me in mind. Trying to get enough tosses for a step up the old ladder.”

“Sure, kid,” John said as he headed toward the station entrance.

 

MAGGIE.

John walked up to the bar and introduced himself. “John James, plain name, simple life.” Followed by “or you can call me JJ. I’ve no preference.” He reached across the bar toward Maggie and gave her hand a friendly shake.

Maggie immediately warmed to his disarming smile. Was it a trick of the light, or were his eyes sparkling? “On drugs more like,” she thought to herself. Shit! She might have to find someone else. But he’d come so highly recommended. She stepped from behind the bar to join him on the other side.

Maggie was in her late fifties with spiky gray hair that she kept long on the top and cut close on the sides and at the back. The lines on her face aged her beyond her years. But the fact that she’d been a beauty in her youth was evident.

Maggie and John were standing at the bar of Maggie’s Red Dragon pub, a popular hangout on the station. The public space was a large rectangular room divided into distinct sections. The decor was a cheap, gaudy attempt at the Asian Revival design that had been popular two or more decades ago. Circular black and white rice paper chandeliers with missing panels hung from the ceiling. Scarred wooden dragons acted as vertical beams; the blood-red paint chipped and faded. A rumpled threadbare gold and purple lotus patterned carpet was stretched across the floor.

Maggie pointed to the areas as she described them. “I’ve got just one room here. Pool tables there.” She pointed to the back left corner. “Holo gaming tables there.” Back right corner. Looking toward the front half of the room where they were standing, “Up here is all dining.”

John absentmindedly scratched at the three days of stubble on his chin as he listened. He didn’t say anything, so Maggie shrugged and continued. Then, pointing to a door centered on the wall behind the bar, she added, “Back there’s the kitchen, my office, and restroom.”

“Just the staff?” He asked.

“Yeah. Public restrooms too much trouble. I kept finding empty syringes and vials. That Black Widow crap smells like rotting flesh. Vagrants sleeping, couples fucking — you name it.”

John laughed. He could imagine that and worse. “Hex customers aren’t known for their manners.”

“Drug busts in the men’s room. Last of it for me. I walled it off from this side and renting it out as a commercial stall on the other. Young kid doing tats out of the space. Name’s Ronnie. Seems like a good sort. Pays on time. Customers welcome to eat, drink, ‘n party here. Take care of their other needs elsewhere.”

“I’ve walked through some of those elsewheres,” he joked. “No entrance on this side to the tat place?”

“Nah. This work is only for here.”

“Okay – sounds good. It’s really just the one room, then. The kitchen looks secure,” John said, pointing to the hand scanner on the door. “The glass opening bulletproof?”

“Yep, I had that installed last year. Is this the kind of job you take? I know you’re contract bounty, but I was told you take freelance stuff too. You came highly recommended; I just wasn’t sure if this is your thing.”

As was his custom, John diligently using one finger to tap notes into his datapad. Noticing that Maggie had stopped talking, he looked up. John’s smile was genuine and raised his cherub-like cheeks high on his face. Dark curly hair rested on his forehead just above a bushy unibrow that arched gently over gray eyes. “I do most any security work on contract if I can fit it in comfortably. If I can’t, I’ll refer you to someone.” He continued tapping in notes. “No point in stressing to squeeze it.” Looking up, he said, “Or stressing you if I can’t be here when needed.” His face back on his pad, “I like to keep it simple. Works best that way.”

Maggie nodded her head, still uncertain if that meant he was taking the job or not. “Okay…”

“John James, plain name, simple life, is my motto.”

“Uh, sure,” was all Maggie could think to say again.

He stopped taking notes and gave Maggie his full attention. “Looks like I can fit you in. Friday and Saturday from 22:00 Standard Earth Time until close. Which is?

“02:00.”

“Right!” He walked away from Maggie to survey the space himself. “I’d like to install security cameras in each section.”

Maggie walked toward the holo tables where John had wandered over to. “How much does that cost?”

He chuckled. “My expense if we can agree, I can handle emergency calls when the place is quiet.” He saw her eyebrows arch up and smiled. “Only local emergencies. I discount for the time I’m out.” He sauntered back toward the front and leaned on the bar. “Cameras are my eyes and ears. Also, solid evidence if you insist on pressing charges. I prefer to work things out in other ways, but here, you’re the boss.”

With concern in her voice, Maggie asked, “You expect that to happen often? Being away during my shift?”

“Never know. Just a precaution. This is side work for me. Filler. Chasing smugglers and routing vagrants are my main meal ticket. I’m a senior security and bounty contractor for Crusader, Hurston, and a couple of others’ round here. I get first dibs, so that’s my priority. If I don’t take a gig, I lose it and eventually get bumped down the ladder for future work.” His tone was light. His voice even.

Maggie came to stand beside him. “I don’t know. I had trouble a few days back. It’s why I started asking around.” She wrung her hands. “It got pretty bad. I need those hours covered. The place is rowdiest then. The station’s been seeing more traffic lately. Some looking for work or to shop. Others for trouble.”

He reached out and took one of Maggie’s hands. He patted it like they were old friends. “I hear ya. Totally understand. I can shoot you a couple of names. Either one of these would do just as well.” He started humming as he reached for his datapad. His head bobbed slightly to the tune that only he could hear.

Maggie interrupted him. “Oh, I hadn’t realized. I just asked around about who’s best…”

“That’d be me,” he said absentmindedly. “Here we go. Try…”

Maggie cut him off. “Several said you’re the best and actually a good guy. Everyone said that — good guy.”

“I try, Maggie, dear, I do try. I keep it simple. Live right. It’ll be alright.”

“Well, if you think it will work…” She hesitated. “I’m up for giving it a try.”

He looked up and graced her with the full force of his penetrating gaze and smiled. “Trust me; it’ll be fine. I wouldn’t steer you wrong. Do no harm is my motto.”

Maggie caught her breath. “Well damn,” she thought to herself, “His eyes actually do sparkle. Even if they’re a bit red.” To him, she said, “Send the contract, and I’ll authorize it.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

“Can you start this week?”

John extended his hand, and Maggie accepted it. “Sure can. Will install the cameras on my first shift.”

Maggie hoped she wasn’t blushing. John was too young for her, and he wasn’t even particularly handsome.” But there’s something about him,” she decided inwardly.

“Pleasure doing business with you with Mags. Off to my next stop.” John slid his hands into his jacket pockets and sauntered toward the exit. Then, over his shoulder, he added, “Don’t hesitate if something comes up before then. You’re one of John’s now. I’ll come as fast as I can.”

Maggie patted the sides of her hair and wiped gently at the edges of her eyes as if that could erase the heavy crow’s feet nesting there. “Okay. Sure. Thanks.” Her voice cracked on the last, and John gave her a knowing look. She turned away, her cheeks flaming.

 

JOHN.

“Now for the main event,” John said to himself. He checked the work queue on his pad to verify the habicube eviction request he’d received earlier was still active. It was. Maggie’s pub was at the back of Quad-D, one of the cleaner sections on the space station. The work request was in Quad-A, the worst area. The quickest way there would be through the tunnels.

The tunnels, as locals called them, are a network of secured maintenance routes burrowed into the giant asteroid turned industrial facility and housing exchange, now a self-governing powder keg. A few dozen legit merchants had stayed after the mining operation shut down. Having invested all their life savings in establishing businesses here, they couldn’t afford to pack up and run when Green Imperial had abandoned their industrial division. Without local administration onsite, the criminal element began infiltrating the station, trying to secure a foothold in Stanton.

Industrious opportunists stayed too. They squatted in available spaces, installed personal generators, and opened for business. Green Imperial retained control of the functioning self-service habicubes and continued to collect the revenue. But everything else on the station was an “as is” situation—no maintenance or repairs. When things stopped working on their now nearly defunct stations, they stopped working forever.

John whistled as he made his way to the closest maintenance tunnel. He unlocked the massive vault-like door with his access code. As the door retracted, he ducked his six-foot-four stocky frame through the opening. It was pitch black inside. He pulled out the flashlight he kept clipped on his belt.

With no maintenance crews on the station, lighting in the tunnels was spotty. A good distance ahead, John could see a pinprick of yellow light flickering. He panned his flashlight around him and forward to get his bearings. The jagged walls of the tunnel glistened with sweat. Rusted pipes overhead led the way forward. They hissed angry pockets of steam from cracked wounds. John started walking. His boots reverberated on the uneven craggy path.

Although it would be a reduced payout, John hoped the occupants had voluntarily vacated by now. The request was two hours old. He’d get his twenty-five percent fee for signing in at the location as evidence he’d checked it out. It would be easier for everyone if they were already gone.

Persuading vagrants to depart on their own was his preferred solution. Convincing would-be perps to vacate the area with words or by force was better than disabling, capturing, and hauling them to a Law Enforcement Station, or worse, planet-side for processing. “Everyday flying free above terraforma is a good day,” in his book.

Seasonal supplies and the mandatory annual physical required by his contract were the only times John went planetside. He was impatient, waiting at the medical facility, and fidgeted standing in line at the surplus warehouse where he bought non-perishable food supplies. John grunted, trying to maneuver around the other customers picking through clothing haphazardly tossed into “Final Sale” bins. If it wasn’t about his spacewear, he didn’t care overly much. Convenience was his priority.

John was almost at the other end now. He could see the door clearly from here. He pulled his Gemini L86 from the back waistband of his pants and checked the magazine. It was full. He reached down and grabbed a fresh magazine from the bottom right pocket of his cargo pants. He put away the flashlight. Just before stepping through the exit, he slid the pistol into his right jacket pocket and the fresh mag into his left.

He emerged from the tunnel and waited until the door locked behind him. Quad A was quiet. Fewer people than usual around. He wondered why but kept moving. He nodded to a group of guys decked out in grunge gear, hunched around a fist-sized glass vial full of red smoke. “Red Alice,” he mused to himself. A popular psychotropic drug that caused temporary paralysis when overdosed. 

Just beyond the group of men was the grated metal staircase to the next level. John took the steps two at a time then turned left into Quad A’s shantytown. A dead-end of the lowest rate habicubes, fronted by illegal mylar tents. The smell of urine was overwhelming. 

John coughed and covered his nose.

“Damn,” he muttered to himself. He hadn’t been on this side of the station for a while. With no merchants in the area, no one complained or paid for security to keep the place civil.

The cube he was looking for was second to last on the left. As he approached, he saw a bloody trail leading to the door. Drops of blood on the gray slab floor were like bread crumbs. A bloody palm smeared on a door frame. He eased his pistol out of his pocket and moved into the shadows along the opposite wall.

 To Be Continued.

Related Topics


Character Progression

SaltyMike’s weekly show, Answer the Call, discussed a topic near and dear to me. What do you consider progression in an MMO? As a new generation of gamers joins the market, where jumping from game to game has become the norm, many have lost sight of the varying play styles that exist. In what I consider the Golden Age of MMOs, when Everquest I, Asherson’s Call, Ultima, and the alike reigned, there were frequent discussions about the different player motivations, aka play styles. We hadn’t entered the cookie-cutter theme park phenom burgeoned in by the juggernaut, World of Warcraft. 

I have a love/hate relationship with Blizzard as being the best and worst thing to have graced the genre.

World of Warcraft introduced many thoughtful standards that now define MMOs, while simultaneously bludgeoning individuality with a spike studded meat clever. On Richard Bartle’s taxonomy, I’m an Explorer with self-defined achievement conditions who is occasionally social.

I can thrive in sandbox games because I prefer to define my existence to whatever extent the game allows. I enjoy creating my own adventures while acheiving goals. My class, profession, knowledge of the game, its meta, analytical thinking, ability to identify opportunities that I can mostly achieve alone, is what excites me. Playing with others as a defined group is when I wear my semi socializer hat, which represents only 25% of my gaming time. All I need are the core mechanics, interesting lore, compelling environments, some freedom of choice, the ability to interact with other players to earn a living, and I’m good. I don’t need game generated checklists or a player-controlled economy to thrive.

Based on Marczewski’s user types, I’m a Free-Spirited Achiever, where autonomy and mastery motivate me.

I’ve been flitting solo through your MMOs since the very start. It’s often challenging, especially in the old days. And still, it’s a preference. I like defining progression on my terms. Sure, I’ll group up when the need arises, such as dungeons, but leveling is something I’ve enjoyed doing alone. 

Silent me, roaming through a fictional world, with an inner dialogue going of who I am, what I’m trying to achieve, and why. I have short and long term goals, with a method to my madness. I start the session with the musts. What should I do right now that will help me further my goals? Followed by, is there something outright fun that I’d like to do? And ending with farming, a task I find quite soothing, as it lets me wander the game harvesting in favorite zones while chatting with org mates. It’s an ideal session for me. Take care of business, have fun doing whatever, clear my head to decompress. Gaming session over.

Nothing about the way I will play Star Citizen is about grinding for ships. They’re a tool, like picking a class or player profession. They’re not the end goal or the objective. Fostering exciting player interactions that are efficient, fun, and profitable is the objective. Grinding to buy things? Nah, that’s what I do in the real world. There is no right, wrong, best, or worst. There’s no definitive only this is progression or only this fun. Others have their play style, and I have mine. What’s character progression to you?


Gone Mining

The thing I refused to do in EVE Online because it bored me to tears, is what I’m doing the most in Star Citizen. Mining, one of the few player professions currently in-game, is the one I find the most enjoyable. It’s not on my long term list, but it fits the bill for an activity I can perform without game directives. AKA I don’t need missions to have content.  If I’m not in the mood to mine I’ll occasionally do bounty missions for a bit of combat. Sometimes I play the market with commodities trading, what currently passes for cargo hauling. Otherwise, I’m peacefully drifting in space aboard my favorite ship, the Origin 890 Jump.

What I enjoy about mining is similar to the professions I backed with ships and am waiting to arrive. It’s content that’s undirected. I can go wherever I choose in pursuit of the activity. Or it’s an activity where other players are the primary source of the game-play. 

  • Mobile field medic on an RSI Apollo.
  • Running a floating hospital on the Hope. 
  • Farming aboard the Endeavor.
  • Exploration flying the Carrack.
  • Luxury RP tours on the 890.
  • A mobile service station on the Venture.
  • Roving specialty goods trader on the Merchantman.

No missions. No artificial grind. I don’t have the time or patience for traditional game generated checklists anymore. What I enjoy most about MMOs is logging into a well conceived world and making my own fun. This has been possible even in theme park games like WOW due to player professions. Like EVE Online and ArcheAge, there are enough sandbox elements to suit my brand of gaming – lots of solo entertainment for the quiet time I need and group content for on the weekends. The introduction of the Argo Mole allows mining to fit the bill for both types of activities.

Drifting Alone in Space

With my backpack and handing mining tool equipped, I climb aboard my Misc Prospector. I pick the planet, moon, or asteroid belt I’m in the mood to explore, set the route, and let the adventure begin. At least half the time it’s just me the game and my thoughts. Other times I have a favorite streamer, vidcast, or podcast playing beside me on a tablet. Fully relaxed, decompressing, peacefully drifting along. 

I choose which nodes to mine. When to hop out of the ship to hand mine gems. Stop to watch a sunrise or sunset. Wait out a snow or sand storm. Fly back out of the atmosphere to chase daylight for better visibility. Remain unphased by the encroaching darkness, continuing on my way undisturbed. 100% my choices and pacing. All taking place in a meticulously rendered sci-fi world. 

Yes, some days it feels like development is taking forever. We live with bugs, workarounds, and delays. I completely disconnect from it if I start feeling annoyed. I don’t want to ruin this journey before its really even begun. This is likely the only MMO of this scope we’ll see for a very long time. There isn’t anything close to what’s planned that I could play today. So we wait because a good session in SC is like magic. That feeling of wonder and awe of materializing in my first MMO with the kids. Those games are far and few, so I take the simple pleasures as they come in SC, and for now, it’s mostly drifting alone mining.

You can take a look at my earlier posts to see more about Star Citizen’s take on a mining mechanic.


That 890 Jump Life

I haven’t had and still don’t have much time for gaming. The amount of work and stress in my new role, at my new employer, is a bit staggering. On the bright side is that I enjoy the work, the people, and my role. There’s a lot of satisfaction gained from achieving the level of work that we’re producing. However, lots of process improvements need to take place to reduce the chaos, on top of every team being over-committed and understaffed. That classic corporate tale playing out yet again.

When I have had time to play, the Q3 3.7.x patch has breathed new life into the game with hand mining, in-game ship rentals, ship purchases, caves, the 890 Jump. For me, the Mack Daddy improvement is consistent ship logout and re-spawn. 

One of the things I’ve despised since the PU arrived was the Super Mario re-spawn at a static point mechanic. It’s anathema to being in a so-called persistent universe and forces players to restart their adventure each time they log into the game. This is the opposite of a persistent world and how MMOs work.

Logging out via the bed in your ship has been in Star Citizen for a while but never worked consistently. 3.7 corrected that issue. Once I verified it was working reliably, I wanted to use the mechanic to become acquainted with the first capital sized ship in the game, my Origin 890 Jump. I’m happy to report that I’m still faring the skies of Stanton aboard the same instance of my 890 since the 3.7.x patch.

Learning My Way Around

The 890 is a superyacht that sails in at a whopping 210 meters of pure luxury with 64 rooms at your disposal. You can hear a small overview of the 890 Jump when it was merely a concept, on my YouTube channel. Amenities include sumptuous captain’s quarters, (4) guest suites, bar, dining, executive conference, sauna, swimming pool, fully decked out kitchen, medbay, crew quarters with entertainment areas, cargo bay and a hangar. That’s a whole lot of ship. My only complaint is the overly sterile style and lighting. I wish the entire ship had the ambiance from the sauna and pool area. I’m looking forward to when we can customize the interiors a bit. My plan for the 890 is to do luxury RP style tours, run Murder Mysteries parties, and dinner theater. My goal, for now, is to simply enjoy the ship, become intimately familiar with the layout and how she flies.

Living Among the Stars

I backed Star Citizen to live among the stars with only passing sojourns to exotic planetside locations. I would have been happy with the initial plan of just having the capital cities and hero landing zone locations. I don’t want an apartment or permanent housing situation on a planet – zero interest. Outposts? I’ll be thrilled to build them for others using my Pioneer. For me, I’d only consider it if I can farm produce to supplement the food production I plan to do on the Endeavor.

Having consistent bed logout has been amazing. I’ve done a whole lot of nothing but enjoyed it nevertheless. I loaded my Dragonfly hover-bike and the Prospector mining ship on the 890. With those two on board, I’ve been roaming the skies and moons of Stanton. I hadn’t bothered with the ArcCorp moons. There was nothing of interest for me to do there until now. With the 890, I set her down where I choose and disembark with the Prospector to scan for hand-mined gems. I use the Dragonfly to drift above the planet or moon surface, looking for the new harvestable items.

What I’ve enjoyed the most, however, is merely parking my ship wherever I want when I need to log out. The next time I have a few moments to play, I have, without fail, been returned aboard my ship every time. The amount of time in between sessions doesn’t seem, or the logout doesn’t seem to matter. I’ve logged out parked next to Port Olisar, floating next to an R&R station, in the middle of space or engines off parked on a planet, and it’s been flawless. I even crashed twice and have been successfully recovered aboard the ship – back in the medbay, which seems so apropos. It’s a small but meaningful step forward that the persistent universe is finally starting to actually feel like a universe.