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Erin Roberts Star Citizen Interview March 2018

On the 9th of March 2018 I toured the Foundry 42 UK Wilmslow offices (the largest of the Studios) that works on the games Star Citizen & Squadron 42.

A really good part of me having the tour and interview then was it was just after 3.1 had been published to the Evocati & I was able to see how things worked and ask questions with that in mind. Most of the Questions for the interview were sourced via my Livestreams, Patreons, Discord and Comments on my Videos, some awesome questions were deemed inappropriate at this stage as they will be revealing bits on them in the near future OR they don’t have an answer on them fully yet. I shall keep them for the future!

And with 3.1 Erin said they were a week behind what they wanted ETF release wise. It’s really important for them to get these out as soon as they can. So certain bug fixes might be pushed to later evocati or PTU builds because they are getting the 1st one out.
There is a lot more fixes that they have to do this year & edge cases to sort out.
These edge cases with server degradation and performance are one of the big focuses.
Their debugging tools allow for these types of issues to be identified and fixed MUCH more easily.
Object Container Streaming is where the experience is going to be really good.
End of March is the Hard Target date for a Live release of 3.1 “Hell or High Water” was the quote Erin used.
Stability of 3.1 is pretty good already & all the feature work is done, it does require a good bit of polish and big fixing tho.
There are lots of improvements to Persistence and the Economy too.
Service Beacons & Interdiction are the most troublesome areas of 3.1, and there is a possibility that the Early Service Beacons might not make a 3.1 release date, BUT if this happened Erin said that they could release a mini 3.1.1 patch with the Service Beacon Distress Call mechanics in & maybe a new ship. Alternatively they could hold anything not ready for 3.2 BUT that seems to not be the route they want to go. The rest of the features for 3.1 Erin was confident would make it in the Live Build.

Game Dev Branching
The Game Dev Branch is separated from the Release Candidate Branch of the latest patches so 3.1 is now in it’s own branch, this allows for it to be more efficiently focused on feature and bug fixing wise & it doesn’t get any of the bugs that the Game Dev Branch acrews from adding and updating features.
After 3.1 is fully released and they are happy with it, it’s updates get merged back into the Game Dev Branch.
But once they Branch to 3.2 they will have a lot of debugging to do again.
Erin pushed to not do a big 2018 presentation for GamesCom this year, they will still have a presence there and should have a CitizenCon and Holiday Presentation later in the year. GamesCom takes a lot of time away from development & is a “dev drain” and they want to focus on the game. It also allows them to focus on the CitizenCon FanFest, this year in Austin and bigger and better.

Object Containers & Server Meshing
Object Container Streaming in 3.3 is the biggest jump for them this year, this is when the scale of the game can start to be realized. What you can do in 1 system will be bigger than you can do in a AAA game now.
3.4 maybe renamed to 4.0 – at the end of the year with Decembers release Erin feels that the optimizations, mechanics and playscape will be at a point that players will be able to sit down and lose themselves in the game.
Next year they will be adding more and improving mechanics and well as potentially adding new star systems to jump to. The work they are doing now will allow for the very quick addition of new star systems, the procedurally assisted tools allowing for these to be built out very easily.
AI ground combat, defending ships, flora and fauna are all being looked at!
The plan is to have no armistice zones in the future, pull out your gun in a “safe zone” then security will come and deal with you.
Missions will be extremely interesting and varied especially with the addition of Combat NPCs on the ground.
This year they will be increasing how many players can be on one server (we are currently on 50) but they are pushing for 100. Then add Server Meshing for dynamically handling the population. A server could handle a whole system all the way down to a single room.
The current server setup is actually pretty good when they aren’t hitting these edge cases, that is to say the infrastructure is robust enough to handle what they want to do with it.
Erin is aiming for as many players in these Server Meshed Servers by the end of the year.
Short term the servers will be regional, they will be looking at having all players on a central server if possible BUT if it comes down to bad pings then they may split it up to regions, tho it is unlikely they will region LOCK.
Server meshing could potentially handle 1000s of players in a city, 300 in one build, 400 or so on the roads outside it, 300 in nearby locations.
There are likely going to be limits on just how many people can fit in a single room OR can join a giant battle, it will be as many as possible tho AND they would prioritize friends groups to be together where possible.
They are looking to do at least 60fps across gaming PCs, scalable to their hardware this year.

Organizations
There will be NPC owned Orgs that players can join, that may give them various advantages in the game, we will start seeing this in June.
They haven’t looked at balancing Orgs and their sizes yet. They will look at this once they have more features and can test org balance.

The Roadmap
With the Roadmap they roughly want to be projecting a year ahead.
So once 3.1 is live you should see an update to the roadmap soon after for Q1 2019.

Squadron 42
SQ42 Episode 1 doesn’t have any planned DLC or day 1 additions. The plan is for extra gameplay content with Episode 2.
Episode 2 and 3 can be much more quickly built out once Ep1 is out.

Piracy & Cargo
Piracy this year will have the ability to sell stolen goods and salvage at a fence.
There will be ways to disable detection arrays.
Smuggling will be in.
Theft, Stolen items and reputation systems will be much more evolved.
There will be ways to reduce your crime stat via paying or gameplay mechanics.
In the short term with cargo transfer, it’s going to be more sensible for pirates to just steal high value cargo, like gold.
There will in the future be tractor beams and assistance to move cargo in space between ships.

Customization
Decals on ships and armor will be a thing, this is actually being considered for custom org logos too, they are working out the vetting process. They have a lot of tech that works or ready to be used BUT only a certain amount of feature teams able to work on features at a time. The UI interface for this would be the main issue for getting the feature out.

Other Stuff
SATAball will happen in the future, the PU is the focus at the moment tho.
They still have an ongoing relationship with 3-Lateral (the facial rig guys), they are talking about doing more with them and still use their faces.
They are working on a huge amount of biomes at the moment, tropical, desert, alien desert, snow lots… towards the end of this year they shall start to be in our hands.
Massive ships like the Kingship & the Retribution sized ships will have player interaction with them BUT they may not be ownable and controllable in the same way.
They only massive ships they are making work for players at the moment in the Idris and Javelin. The larger ships may be controllable in the future BUT they are not working on making them player controlled right now.

Becoming a Larger Studio
They’ve grown by around 150 new staff in the last year.
They are now moving more into feature teams (as closer geographically or in the office as possible in some cases), where they can have the same people working on a task through to completion to help keep the pros of both a large studio and their smaller indie roots.
They are dynamic even moving where they sit in the office on different sprints.
With their Tools they want a lot of it to go to the wider community eventually, this will be for modding and other cool things.

The Foundry 42 UK Tour
The Tour was great, I got to see much about what they were working to polish in 3.1 and some features planned for the rest of the year.
I asked questions and found out about some concept ships that should be announced later this year.
The offices themselves have expanded & they have some great facilities for staff and very nice clean meeting rooms.
Some stuff is a lot further along than I expected, however some bits are awaiting tech OR have bugs that need to be solved.