How to Join the Star Citizen Alpha

This Game is in Development!

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

We Are Not Stockholders. We Are Not Shareholders.

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

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

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

Conquering RobertsSpaceIndustries .com

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

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

Other Game Packages

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

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

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

Hangar Ready vs. Flight Ready vs. Concept Ship

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

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

Flight Ready

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

Hangar Ready

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

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

Concept Ship

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

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

Beyond the Fly Now Starter Package Ships

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

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


What's All This Voice Attack Stuff?

WHAT’S ALL THIS VOICE ATTACK STUFF?

With the interest in Voice Packs seemingly on the rise, while Cloud Imperium Games is continuing to refine Star Citizen’s control schemes, I thought it would be a good time to discuss Voice Attack in general and why some players have elected to use it.

If you’re like me, a HOTAS user, I simply don’t have enough buttons on my device to support even the minimum set of commands I want at the ready. My current setup also doesn’t support having the keyboard within a reach that’s effective to be used during combat. So I was elated to come across the idea of using a program to carry out a few basic commands.  This article will help you differentiate between VoiceAttack, Profiles and Voice Packs, and where to find additional information if interested.

WHAT IS VOICE ATTACK

As an ability, voice attack is a method of using your voice to initiate keystrokes.  The name is a bit of a misnomer. The capabilities are not tied to attacking / damage. It’s any set of keystrokes. You can launch a game. Establish your starting setup in an application. I use it to start and stop Fraps recordings so I can stay in the thick of combat and capture video using my voice.

VoiceAttack (VA) the program,  is a popular software application used to execute by voice, commands that would normally be a series of keystrokes and/or mouse interactions. Therefore, if you’re interested in playing around with using voice initiated commands, your first step is to acquire the software.  You can purchase VA from here. The object that VA uses to know what to DO when you SAY certain words or phrases is a Profile.

WHAT IS A VOICE ATTACK PROFILE

The Profile is a separate file with a .VAP extension.  The profile itself contains a series of commands you want executed, mapped to what you’ll say, when you want those commands to be carried out. Oftentimes, people want the successful execution of command followed to be up by an auditory confirmation.  This is achieved by using your computer’s operating system to turn text into speech. This allows your PC to say, “Done.” when a task is completed.  

Using the Text-to-Speech engine is achieved by using the Say command in a profile, followed by the word or phrase to be spoken. Your operating system’s Text-to-Speech engine interprets the text into an auditory response using its default voice. If you don’t like your computer’s default voice, you can purchase additional ones from companies such as Ivona. However, auditory responses are not required for a Profile to work. And you shouldn’t invest in one until you’ve determined you like using voice attack commands in the first place.

Simply having a profile of commands that match the keybinds in the target game, is all you need, after installing voice attack software. You can download Profiles for free! There are members of the community who have shared their profiles.  Of course, mileage will vary on how well they work or suit your tastes.  Search the official RSI Forums, Star Citizen section on Reddit and the internet in general.

WHAT IS A VOICE PACK

A Voice Pack is a Profile that enhances the execution of commands by adding a significant amount of voice over / audio work. This is often done using professional voice actors or celebrities and may include additional narration that is not directly tied to executing commands, such as role-play conversations. HCS offers multiple Voice Packs for Star Citizen, as well as other games.  Many players enjoy having this more elaborate version of a Profile.  It’s fun and can be more immersive. However, it’s not a required component. You don’t have to own or purchase a Voice Pack in order to use voice attack commands.

CREATING AND EDITING A VOICE ATTACK PROFILE IS EASY

To be perfectly honest, Star Citizen has more keyboard commands and uses modifier keys more than any other game I’ve played. I can barely fly in Star Citizen without using VoiceAttack.  My HOTAS doesn’t have nearly enough buttons to accommodate the bare minimum of what’s needed. Trying to reach over to a keyboard in the middle of combat isn’t something I want to juggle.  Therefore, it’s essential for me to keep my profile updated with changes CIG makes to control schemes, as they’ve done in patch 2.4.  This type of large scale change is another reason why I’ve opted for a small profile during alpha.

The steps for creating and/or editing a Profile is very straight forward. You must have Voice Attack and you must know your current keybind settings in the game, in order to tie them to a voice command.  With those two in hand, you can create a basic profile from scratch or edit one you download for free or may have purchased. I wrote an article last year detailing the steps and they  haven’t changed since that time.

I hope this helps clarify voice attack as an ability vs. VoiceAttack the software vs. Voice Packs. I use VA religiously and own a Voice Pack from HCS. During the SC Alpha however, I’m sticking to a small one I created myself that’s easy to manage and only contains the dozen or so commands I can’t live without during combat.

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Ballistic versus Laser Weapons

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BALLISTIC AND LASER WEAPONS

Star Citizen Alpha 2.4’s Item Port System simplifies customizing your ship’s configuration, making it very intuitive to experiment with varying ship loadouts. As mentioned in a previous article, one of the first things I did was change the weapons on my Sabre. That said, how did I decide on the type of weapons I wanted to use? To begin, you need to understand the difference between ballistic and laser weapons.

BALLISTIC WEAPONS

Ballistic weapons fire physical ammunition at a target. As this is a physical object with mass, it’s slowed down by the targeted ship’s shield but is able to penetrate it to do damage to the ship’s hull. The amount of damage that passes through the shield to hit the hull is based on the class of shield being penetrated. For example, an inexpensive civilian class shield may have a 40/60 split. This means 40% of the incoming damage is absorbed by the shield. The other 60% of the damage hits the hull.

Additionally, as a mechanized device, ballistic weapons do not utilize your ship’s energy to fire and generate a minimal amount of heat. If enough energy exists for the weapon itself to be brought online, that’s all that’s required. This allows you to sustain other ship components that require energy better. And ballistic don’t contribute greatly to your ship’s overall heat signature. Here’s a summary of the advantages and disadvantages for ballistic weapons.

Advantages

  • Hitting the target always delivers some damage to the targeted ship
  • Doesn’t consume energy
  • Emits minimal heat signature
  • Supports longer targeting distance

Disadvantages

  • Requires ammunition – which is a finite amount in the chamber
  • Ammunition costs credits and must be continually replenished
  • Slower rate of fire and velocity, causing increased difficulty in hitting highly agile targets

LASER WEAPONS

Let’s get the part where Star Citizen’s laser weapons are more akin to plasma weapons out of the way up front. I agree with the portion of the player base that prefers calling them energy weapons. A true laser beam travels at the speed of light and is therefore invisible to the naked eye. This is an energy based weapon and as such, it utilizes energy from your ship’s available pool to function. They also generate heat. How much heat tends to be directly proportional to the quality of the laser weapon, speed and damage output.

Unlike ballistic weapons, 100% of a laser weapon’s damage is absorbed by a ship’s shield. This means that before you can start damaging the targeted ship, you must do enough damage to deplete its shield first. Yes, there’s a reason why you can see where your shields are depleted and adjust, as well as see the same information for the targeted ship. Good news is that once the shield is depleted, direct laser weapon damage tends to be higher damage than a ballistic weapon of the same calibre. This is part of the design balancing act between ballistic and laser weapons. Here’s a summary of the advantages and disadvantages for laser weapons.

Advantages

  • Doesn’t require ammunition
  • Faster weapon speed compared to same calibre ballistic weapon
  • Hits harder against exposed target (depleted shield) than same class ballistic weapon

Disadvantages

  • Must deplete the shield before you can damage targeted ship
  • Consumes ship energy from your ship’s available pool
  • Easier to overheat and can’t overheat be used until they cool down
  • Generating heat increases your ship’s overall heat signature

IN SUMMARY

Now that we’ve discussed the basic differences, you can make a more informed decision about which type or combination you want to configure on your ships. Overall time to kill is relatively fast at this stage of the Star Citizen alpha, such that you can go all ballistic or all laser and be fine – for now.

However, as larger ships are introduced and the component system enables upgrading shields, you’ll want to balance your weapons selection against things like:

  • Most likely or planned targets – agility, likely shield strength, etc.
  • Your ship’s role in an engagement – hit fast and fluid vs. less mobile brawler
  • Your ship’s component configuration – ability to regenerate energy, effectiveness of cooling components
  • Your playstyle – how you prefer to size up and dismantle targets

In everyday situations, it may be wise to have a mixture of ballistic and energy weapons. However, if you’re a scout or doing infiltration work, using weapons that increase your overall heat signature is probably counterproductive. These are the types of circumstances we’ll have to consider as larger ships are made flight ready and the game’s mechanics mature.