Welcome to some more Star Citizen, today I wanted to talk about what’s planned for Star Citizen Alpha 3.6 in a bit more detail, what’s on the Roadmap, what are we getting with each of it’s features & what it means for the game.
Let’s Start with When
Alpha 3.6 is planned to be released at the end of Q2 2019 which would be the end of June, we did see 3.5 go to a LIVE build just over 2 weeks later than it was supposed to BUT it was available to all on the test servers by the end of March. With that in mind expect similar with future updates, they will try to get them to LIVE but if not then they should have the latest PTU build available to all backers.
What’s in the Update?
There is ongoing balance, tweaks and improvements going onto the New Flight Model, this is also true of Atmospheric flight and with 3.6 there is the Implementation of a hover mode for ships in gravity that makes special use of VTOL thrusters.
Hover mode will vastly improve the behavior of ships flying at low speeds in gravity and atmosphere. Players will be able to manually control the state of VTOL thrusters as ships enter a special mode in which players must focus on balancing the ship as it hovers. This will make hovering more realistic and add depth to atmospheric flight gameplay.
General Combat, Weapon Balance, tweaks to items, shields, weapons, Auto-Gimbals should all be there too. They said a while ago that ESP should be in a better state for 3.6 as well.
Ship Combat & Flight Model will require plenty of balance and iterations beyond 3.5 & 3.6 though.
We should see smarter Ship AI with 3d Pathfinding improvements – this is tech that allows the AI to navigate in 3D space by utilizing the physics grid. The system will search and work out the appropriate routes to use and take into account QT. The system will scale to the size of the universe and accommodate all content, including asteroid fields, planets, and space stations.
There is a deeper Law System allowing areas to be associated with specific laws that security will enforce in the form of a hierarchical jurisdictional system suitable to each area & may specify a variety of penalties. Detection and dispatch mechanics will allow players and NPCs to appropriately hunt & make money from hunting outlaws.
This should also incorporate more risk/reward into outlaw & piracy gameplay.
At the moment in 3.5 outlaw gameplay has expanded out a little BUT this should have it with more depth.
This is combined with the Black Market Economy – Security forces will search for stolen and illicit items and respond appropriately, while NPCs and shops will be able to distinguish between legitimate and stolen merchandise. Again this should allow for more reasons and money to be made by outlaws selling stolen goods in certain areas and stations.
These 2 mechanics together should see very different styles of gameplay in the Verse and areas like GrimHex/Levski becoming much more like Outlaw Havens. I am hoping that we see different types of cargo being potentially prohibited in certain areas & give you a criminal rating if you are scanned while you have it aboard, that would then be a reason to mark widow and the other narcotics up in price again, added risk/reward.
A massively important update Ship Rentals, the Ability for players to rent ships in-game from certain stores. We have various ship stores New Deal at Lorville, Teach’s at Levski, Astro Armada at Area 18 there was also a rental services kiosk at Lorville SpacePort, any of these could potentially also have Ship Rentals, though we don’t know the range of ships nor exactly how rentals will work in the PU.
There is ongoing conversion & optimization of getting all items / ship systems working with 3.6 we have:
The Addition of momentary Misfire Events which can cause items to cease working or perform unexpectedly & improvements to the Ship Systems Degradation gameplay tying misfire rates to the amount of wear on an item.. Overheated and degraded items have a higher chance of misfire. The types of misfire will be different per item, engines might not provide thrust briefly for example. We will see visual signs of wear on items.
Something I am particularly excited about is the New Shield Systems Tech, this is the Replacement of the legacy shield setup system with the new Signed Distance Field tech to allow for the future implementation of more dynamic, form-fitting visuals and effects, as well as improved performance for collision. We should see shields warping appropriately around a ship hugging the hull much more appropriately, though for 3.6 it might just be a partial implementation OR the groundwork for that.
Rest Stop Space Stations Improvements & Variations – The studios have been working on the modular Space Station and Rest Stop system for a while now, adding more pieces, types of station, brands, different shops and facilities. We should start to see more obvious variations to the Rest Stops in 3.6.
There is planned improvements to the Transit Systems that allow players to transfer between various map sections such as doors, elevators, and airlocks. Expect tweaks to the trains & bus systems as well.
There are Social NPC Improvements including the Bartender & Civilian AI archetype, including additional interactions for the player as well as other NPCs. This will have NPCs being a bit more immersive and appropriate to landing zones.
With the FPS AI there is Cover Usage Improvements – Expanding the cover system to correctly evaluate dynamic cover in the environmental queries used by the AI behaviors. Dynamic cover options include destructible objects and environmental elements that can be manipulated to be used as cover. Players will also be able to destroy objects in the world while NPCs are using them as cover, and engage in specific behavior to detect these situations and react accordingly. This should see the cleaning up of NPC animation and movement associated with Cover too.
New Ships & Weapons wise we have the Aegis Vanguard Warden Rework – this has seen a lot more work than was originally planned to the ship apparently, with most of the internals from the pilot seat back getting updates. The rear ramp on all of the Vanguards is being unified to the one the Hoplite has. We should see the Vanguard be more suitable for it’s intention going forward.
The P-72 Snub Luxury version of the P-52 is planned to be flyable, this should fit in any ship that could carry a P-52, the P-52 is also getting some updates and improvements bringing it up to the appropriate standard.
One of the ships I have been waiting for a long time too, the Origin 890 Jump is a massive (reportedly now) 195m long luxury superyacht, it will be the largest ship that we have officially had in the PU for players to use.
There is also another mega important ship the Banu Defender – This ship is going to be the Gold Standard for the Banu. It was pushed back from 3.5. We know it’s going for a brassy, greeny, bronzey organic tech look and the Banu Merchantman will use this ship to develop further.
They are adding the MaxOx NN Series Neutron Repeater Series of Ship Weapons to the game too.
In regard to FPS Weapons we have the:
Apocalypse Arms Animus Missile Launcher – a Personal Missile Launcher, it looks like it’s a similar size to the Rail Gun. This should help bridge the gap between infantry, vehicle and ships weapons.
There is also a Behring S38 Pistol, nothing too special there though.
We are getting Weapon Attachments this will see the customization of FPS weapons in real time, adding different attachments to guns, such as scopes and grips most recently they have suggest Under Barrel, Barrel, Sights, Mags will all be changeable.
They are developing the look, feel, and depth of player item handling & carriables. We will see dynamic grips based on the item we are picking up and several new types of item to pick up & place, helmets being potentially one of them. This is a prerequisite of physicalized inventories. It’s likely this will allow for more customization of player habs.
They are Improving the look and feel of the current player jump mechanic (including falling and landing) with new animation time-warping tech that reduces the number of individual animations.
There is First Person Helmet Visor & HUD Improvements to provide a more intuitive and immersive experience. We do know they are going through and updating, improving and reworking a lot of the HUDs throughout the game atm in preparation for Squadron 42 Episode 1 being complete.
Player Free Look – Introducing the ability for the player to look away from where their weapon is aiming, giving them more situational awareness while keeping their weapon trained on a known threat.
Improving Ragdoll & body properties such as joint limits, collision, and other physical parameters to make the simulation react appropriately and accurately in all situations, including zero-g.
There are 2 major planned server/client importments, that should be seen as working towards ServerSideObjectContainerStreaming as well:
The Client to Server Actor Networking Rework with Improvements to the upstream part of the actor networking responsible for communicating player actions from the local client to the server. This will pave the way for downstream improvements and solve a variety of validation issues.
Asynchronous Disconnection Refactor is the other, this refactor aims to improve efficiency and usability of the asynchronous disconnection code. Refactoring this will clean-up a lot of bugs such as infinite loading screens, server crashes, and client crashes, while also helping to assure that more of these issues don’t occur in the future.
There are a variety of improvements planned for planetary tech:
Planetary Ground Fog Tech – Addition of varying layers of fog on planetary terrain, Planetary ground fog will create varying layers of fog on top of planetary terrain to further intensify local ambiance and create a sense of visual depth.
Distribution & Ecosystem Improvements – Unification of terrain and distribution maps, ecosystem modeling at a global planetary level and several improvements to terrain blending.
Harvestable Entity Spawning – allowing for an automated system to spawn harvestable entities on planets, moons, and asteroid fields.
There are some other bits that we haven’t discussed that have been talked about in the recent monthly report.
There are plans for updates to the Character Customizer for 3.6 focusing on layout and functionality tweaks, what exactly will be added/improved remains to be seen though.
We know there are various backend update for 3.6 with the content management system, upgraded voice servers and lot of general game/service optimization should make it in.
There is typically some movement of features closer to a release, so we could certainly see that with 3.6, however with the concerted focused approach on features that are both SQ42 and SC related at the moment and less aggressive Roadmaps we could potentially see more and not less or a bit of both, nothing specific there looks obvious to me that it could be in peril though at the moment.