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Star Citizen’s Universe Sim, NPCs & Bounty Hunting

Welcome to some more Star Citizen with a CitizenCon Summary of the By Design Presentation with Tony Zurovec going over Game Design systems for the Universe & Economy Systems, NPCs, Dynamic Missions, Law and Order, Prisons, Bounty Hunting, Salvage, Discovery and Information Gathering.

Supply & Demand Economy

They want a full systemic world.

A dynamic logical environment with consistent rules.

Giving players the freedom to do what they want and that affects the dynamic world.

Players attacking miners or cargo transports the  system will then generate missions to go and attack the pirates or defend cargo ships. The prices of escorts should rise and the value of commodities that are being intercepted should rise.

They want to have a bit more of a custom layered technique when it comes to how they react to changes in the world, as they don’t want it to feel formulaic to the player, so expect the world to react a little differently to similar circumstances BUT also there is a lot of handcrafted content and detailed areas.

Commodities, Items & ships are valued based on type & quantity of materials, labor, production technology, factory capacity & time as well as supply & demand.

This will see dynamic pricing and reactions to economic changes.

This also means that if a stock item in a ship is massively overpriced due to the lack of materials to produce that item or something then that in turn would raise the cost of the ship.

 

The Economic system will be intuitive, it will reward clever gameplay from players.

It should help mirror real world economics with boom and bust cycles and players wanting to benefit the most may look to change occupations, look to focus on an area that is most profitable in their current one, like mining a particular mineral, trying to increase efficiency or speculate on the market.

If you do decide to continue to mine something that is currently low value it might be worth not hiring so many escorts, or hoarding the material in a hope that goes up in value, maybe the price of a large copper field location would be very cheap at certain times and worth buying for future exploitation.

 

Types of NPCs

The simulated NPCs are at the heart of the background economy they may have 10-20 million of these at once.

They are never directly seen but help simulate how the population of areas is reacting to the supply of resources, what other non-player miners & cargo carrier are doing.

They help determine the generation of mission & what is available where and at what price.

They are also the labor of factories & may move jobs.

They will help determine what NPCs you see at particular landing zones and what jobs/roles they have, it will take a cross-section of what the population is, then physicallize it so what you see in an area is representative of what is going on in the area, in population terms.

They also have NPCs & areas that represent probabilities allowing them some more control on the economy, mission generate, spawning or encounters. These are literally zones of, this is the chance of this happening, or there are 100 NPCs here that might respond to a service beacon.

There are also “real” NPCs that walk around in the world, they will have schedules and have more effect on the physical world and may be hard to distinguish from players.

Virtual OR Spoof NPCs, will generate missions and exist as data in areas BUT not actually be physicalized until certain conditions are met.

 

Dynamic Mission System

This is debuting properly in 2019.

Currently mission content in game is static, they are not affected by the state of the economy, they are tied directly to certain locations & rewards are fixed.

The dynamic mission system is directly linked to the economy in the new version, meaning missions will be generated and affected by this.

Probability volumes, which will change based on where you are & what is happening in the rest of the system

(It may even take into account what ship you are in, how many ships you are with, what cargo you have, your signature, your crimestat)

Will help determine what you see and encounter, literally creating NPCs and ships in the server rather than just having them being simulated.

You could have various levels of chance when QT from one area to another of encountering a pirate, or cargo freighter or distress signal and this could be vastly different based on where you are.

The benefits of the system is that it means they don’t waste resources fully simulating NPCs that you are not interacting with BUT also you are more likely to have some interesting happening during an encounter.

 

Dynamic Mission Service

Serves as an intermediary between the game severs and the Universe/Economy Services.

It queries the current state of the Verse and the customizes mission content as appropriate.

Missions are only offered at locations where there is an actual need for it or where the economy has determined there is a reason to generate one.

Rewards for those missions can be dictated via the economy & will change based on the demand.

The system and environment can pass information to the mission for much more intelligent customization of missions, giving us a huge amount more variety.

They can have different cargos for ships, different escorts, previous battle damage and more for each ship and for it to be justified by what is going on in that area.

The system and probobilties can be explain via this example.

If you have a refinery and an asteroid field nearby you could expect lots of miners to travel from one to the other, creating a desire path for the probability system to say, you may encounter more pirates or other cargo and miners on this route. If a miner was heading to the field, it’s cargo bay would be empty, heading back from the field, full & pirates would typically target the full ones.

 

Mission Spoofing – Players need to be able to interact with “reality” not in the immediate area. So the system Queries Probability Volume to ascertain type and frequency of communications. This will see Service Beacons generated and taken by NPCs. But the NPCs won’t exist in reality until the Mission is taken by a player.

There is focused NPC generation as well, so players with large bounties on their heads will attract NPC bounty hunters, they will start tracking the player.

They are “ghost” NPCs that will follow traces of you in a system and will try to find you, once they arrive nearby they will spawn into reality (I am assuming literally QT in within a few 100km of you).

Also NPCs answering your Service Beacon Requests would work similarly, they would take your request if no players responded within a certain amount of time BUT the system would work out how many NPCs would be near you or within range, then the ones that are likely to respond based on your payment.

An NPC would become “real” once it had accepted your mission.

NPCs would be aware of a Banu MM landing on a planet and come there to shop, that is if any simulated NPCs are in range & if they needed anything.

 

Law and Order – In the currently (and old system) they have Global criminal reputation (which affects missions available), wanted levels, instant rewards for killing high ranked criminals, crimes are detected within monitored zones (comm arrays) and you can hack down your crime level at an appropriate terminal.

The new law system has every area having it’s own jurisdiction and laws, which can vary between system, planet and landing zone. So you might have certain items as narcotics in areas BUT not in others, something might be a crime in one city but not another.

Each of these areas will have their own criminal database, accessible by law enforcement and bounty hunters (within the appropriate jurisdictions)

So with this you can have UEE coming after a player BUT outlaw or private security ignoring them.

They have thought about various crimes – Theft, manslaughter, murder, smuggling, illegal mining, illicit cargo, false ID, Quantum Interdicting/Dampening

With various consequences such as fines, which may turn into bounties if not paid in time, Bounties of varying levels, dead or alive, prison duration, banishment from certain areas.

Law Enforcement will use various means to detect criminals and crimes.

Scanning a ship or scanning a player in close proximity, this will then query the crime database. Scans would return the ID of the ship owner or player scanned and a list of any active bounties, if an active bounty is found the NPC or bounty hunter is cleared to engage based on the terms of that bounty.

Cargo can be scanned but it’s time consuming, it reveals whether goods are illegal in the current jurisdiction, upon verification that the cargo is illict a bounty is issued and the scanner cleared to engage.

Hidden and smuggled cargo will require an even more time consuming scan and it may require some skill to do.

All scans are detectable by the target, tho some scans will be harder to detect that others based on items and skill.

Encountering NPC Law Enforcement is based on the probability volumes in the area you are in OR because you are at a station or Landing Zone that has a standing security force. They aren’t immediately hostile UNTIL they are aware you are a criminal by witnessing a crime OR by scanning you when you a criminal.

Once they do detect you, you will have a GTA 5 style wanted rating where they will chase you, if you escape long enough this wanted rating will drop BUT that fact you are a criminal won’t and if you get scanned again you may get chased again.

 

Prisons will be a thing for committing crimes in lawful areas, captured or killed players with a bounty may be deposited in a prison. Sentences will depend based on number & severity of offenses. You can pay fines for expedited release. But they also talked about missions in prison, doing manual labour to reduce your sentence. The system like all of the other will evolve, they may explore escapes, but prisions are only really a thing in lawful zones & a way to incentive players to not commit crimes in the “safer” areas.

They are going to have security pads, physical keys & locks for ships & doors.

They want a Black Market of Stolen goods – Players with stolen ships will find life difficult in lawful zones, if they get scanned they will get chased. They won’t be able to land at lawful zones for rearming, though they could get people to that via Service Beacon.

The lawless areas will allow for this BUT might be more expensive.

Eventually NPC Bounty Hunters won’t be based on probability volumes & they will track player across the system

 

There will be bounty hunter guilds that players can join, they may have requirements with reputation or keeping up with a certain amount of bounties BUT it will give you access to the mobiGlas Bounty Hunting App with names of criminals, crimes & bounties, rewards, last known positions, what ship they were seen in & it will be updated in real time via each jurisdictions security network.

You’ll be able to engage any bounty on the list without scanning, you can travel to their last known location.

Also anyone is going to be able to track quantum trails, basically spending time to scan down breadcrumbs of where a ship was going, this is super useful to bounty hunters, but the trails do decay.

Again their will be virtual/spoofed NPCs that have bounties out on them & will exist in “reality” when appropriate. So they would be simulated tripping alarms or security, but once you are with range the NPC would be physicalized.

Rewards for Bounties will require proof of death at a security office or transportation of a captured bounty to a prison. They will replace captured players with proxy NPCs, players will immediately be teleported to prison.

False ID kits are illegal in many areas to buy, use or own but trick facial scanners into giving bogus personal info. The chance of detection is based on quality of the kit as well of the skill and persistence of the scanner.

 

Salvage

The mechanic is the polar opposite of repair, with 3 distinct methods of salvage.

Component Extraction with shield generators, weapons and other components, you may have to cut these components out or bypass a lock.

Data Extraction, which may require decryption, some might be tamper proof and only give you a certain amount or attempts at getting data.

Hull Scraping – using a salvage beam like with mining, stripping material off the hull.

You may be able to repair some of the components you salvage.

You may decide to try and repair a ship and make it flyable rather than salvage it.

 

Discovery & Location information take a few forms:

Long Range Scanning or Orbital Scanning – Looking for POI

Incidental discovery – literally just finding something, maybe it pulled you out of QT or you are on a mission and see something in the distance.

Analysis & inspection – checking out something in detail, prospecting for resources on land or verifying them.

Discovery ties into most other gameplay loops and mechanics, salvages and miners need to find the things to salvage and mine.

There are lots of different types of location info, that will affect the value of land or that info or an area / find, doing more work on validating info could make the location info much more valuable OR worthless depending on what you find:

Wrecks & dereltics, are they available, operational, what ship.

Asteroid fields or comets that are undiscovered might not be worth much until you see what materials and resources are present.

Resource and flora analysis of a given parcel of land

Intra-System wormholes – saving time for travel

Hidden bases – pirates / criminals

Geysers & POI – sciences and tourists

Nebulae and gas clouds for gas miners

Information gathered is stored within a Dedicated mobiGlas App and then can be shared with other players and orgs, sold to information brokers or players, The value of info collected will degrade over time. You can still revist a location to update the info on that area tho. Players can buy info from NPC brokers.

POI, asteroids and these areas to discover are created dynamically and can come into existence & as long as someone has retained knowledge of where the areas or POI is, they won’t despawn, so you may have to verify it every few days or so.

Not eating or drinking for long periods of time will start to affect you character.

NPC Crews may be partially simulated, so NPCs in areas you can’t see or where there are no players may be simulated so have exactly the same function BUT lighter weight resource wise as they don’t need to have that NPC path-find, or be animated or talk with other NPCs.