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Star Citizen Alpha 3.5 LIVE State of the Game

Welcome to a Star Citizen State of the Game for the Alpha 3.5.0 LIVE build.

3.5 was in it’s PTU phase for a couple of week’s longer delaying the LIVE release and that LIVE release had some issues that have since been hotfixed, this is a State of the Game for the latest 3.5 Live Build, as of the 24th of April 2019 it’s based on my experiences in the Star Citizen PU.

The New Flight Model for some is a drastic change BUT The Flight Model is Unfinished, it needs a lot of work. The core of it is solid though, it’s a lightweight model so it’s less resource intensive on clients and the server. It is simple with Velocity Control & Decoupling being where the skill ceiling opens up for good pilots.

Basically you now have thrust in forward, back, left, right, up & down and your ship will come to a halt if you don’t give it any inputs. Velocity control allows you to specify how much you want your maximum velocity to be, you can turn on cruise control try and stay at that speed you have set, you can also toggle Decoupled to keep the velocity you have in a direction and turn without losing velocity allowing you to do some impressive combat maneuvers.

Atmospheric Flight has some more weight to it now, the Heat mechanics mixed with the additions of factors like lift and requiring more thrust to keep you afloat make Atmospheric Flight & Combat more dangerous and feel better HOWEVER Some ships are pretty unfun to fly in atmosphere at the moment the Terrapin for example (yes it’s a brick, but should be better than it is) BUT this is more due to the VTOL system not being in properly yet (it’s planned for 3.6), this should give the feel of atmospheric flight and the use of ships with VTOL working much better.

More over to that a load of ships need balancing for space and atmospheric flight.

The New Flight Model has a lot of promise & it does need to deliver on that, it’s just unfinished, it needs the rest of the mechanics for VTOL/Hover (that is coming in 3.6) physicalized components that is currently being worked on, all those components driving a ship, then it needs balancing for each of the ships.

The Heat mechanic has your thrusters, items and weapons overheating mainly if they are being strained, if you are using afterburner, are in atmosphere OR firing certain weapons for long periods are the only real times I have felt it since LIVE, in the PTU it was evil and everything was constantly overheating.

Ship Combat has changed a lot, it’s much slower in general. Shields have more health, ships turning is slower/has a bigger turning circle.

Ship AI is much better than it was in 3.4… that being broken BUT it still has a way to go, they need it more dialed in for the new flight model, lots more behaviors and tactics and they need to get it stable for the PU. The PTU phase of 3.5 was plagued with rubberbanding or non-responsive AI in fact this was one of the main reasons it’s LIVE build was delayed. However AI will fight you, spawn appropriately for mission, though they don’t provide much of a challenge unless they ram you OR there is a lot of them. That said I fly mostly Combat Fighters or the Cutlass.

Auto-Gimbals are an interesting addition to the game. You can now cycle with [R] to manual, fixed or assisted gimbal models. Assisted Gimbals have a soft autoaim that locks onto a target if you are aiming close enough to the pip. It doesn’t instantly enable you to hit with every shot and it has a limited angular range compared to manual gimbals. In the PTU these were mega overpowered but it’s been toned down somewhat. However just like the Flight Model it require more Balance.

Weapons also now converge & normalize to your slowest weapon when fired so you’ll firing at a single pip in whatever mode, so you can kind pick any weapons and not have to worry about where to fire them if you have lots of different ones.

The combination of the New Flight Model, Converging Weapons and Auto-Gimbals seems (to at least me) to be one of skill floors and ceilings. Auto-Gimbals and the basics of the flight model allow even new players that might not want to get good at combat be at least competent to a reasonable level. Fixed Weapons, Manual Gimbals, Loadout Choice & Getting good with the Flight Model allow for a high skill ceiling and room to grow in certain areas.

The New Planet ArcCorp & Area 18 are pretty amazing, ArcCorp does not look as good from a distance like in did in the 2017 CitizenCon, that appears to have been a texture or semi-faked LOD. We should be getting a better looking planet as they better define districts and LOD at range for the planet. Closer to the surface though the assets, buildings and districts/areas come more to life. You are able to get close to the surface of the planet, land on some of the buildings, thought there isn’t much to do here beyond Area 18. The spaceport by Area 18 has you take a Bus to the main area of the City, darting in and out of the building, it really feels alive, the traffic on the roads is very low LOD assets and textures though at the moment. Around Area 18 there is a lot to see, shops, NPCs walking around, social areas and lots of room for mission and social content in the future. ArcCorp and Area 18 represents a massive technical achievement and the Altered Carbon CyberPunk Blade Runner vibes and styling are fantastic.

There are 2 new moons Lyria and Wala, they have some new color palettes and assets, cool smokey cryogyesers that also help bulk out the gameplay area further. These are more to allow for players to get a lot of gameplay without travelling beyond the orbit of ArcCorp.

Quantum Travel Times are very long for small ships around 15-20 mins from one side of the system to another, this is reduced to around 5 mins or so with large ships. You are able to stay near a single planet and it’s moons through and do a huge amount of missions / content without moving around. The travel times make sense for the game once we have carriers and more content, dynamic events BUT is a little boring at the moment if you only have a small ship and want to travel around. That said you can buy ships, they are still super expensive BUT obtainable. Ship Rentals in the PU is coming in 3.6.

Atmospheric Travel times from surface to space and vicea versa are much quciker though, you can use QT to get much closer and from much closer of a surface so you don’t have to be moving up for 10 plus mins in a large ship to get out of planets area.

Habs in each of the major landing Zones have persistence, so you are able to more and store items in your room and then when you log back in those changes are save, though your Hab can move around it’s contents are always saved.

There have been lots of improvements to lighting, planets/moons, tweaks & optimization that have many areas looking & performing a good bit better than previous… Though I am unable to test a range of Hardware Star Citizen.. You can checkout the update telemetry page with 3.5 and new info to see how systems are performing in game.

New Missions

There is a lot of fun you can have with doing a wide variety of missions, doing bounties, investigation, delivery, SB-Escort & Rescues, Taking out bunkers, competing with players to get items, most of the missions work pretty well now, save the occasional cargo box falling through the floor.

The Twitch Pacheco Mission & it’s counter mission being a fantastic example of what we might get more dynamically in the future. It has you (from the Twitch Side) get given a cutlass, go to a stash house, clear out the  Turrets/NPCs there, search for a specific package in a complex full of similar packages, then bring that back to ArcCorp. The Counter Mission has after a certain amount of time a Player go to the same stash house and get paid based on the amount of boxes destroyed, this can have you go against the NPCs there & players based on how far they got with the mission.

There are updates to other missions too, a lot of them ramp up in reward and difficulty the more you do. This can have you fighting a much larger range of ships including Hammerheads.

This extends to a more in depth CrimeStat System, now where players with a CrimeStat of 2 or more will be hunted by Security from Hurston, Crusader, ArcCorp, Advocacy/Navy. The higher their CrimeStat the more dangerous the ships. Player Bounty Missions will also be generated for CrimeStat 2 and higher, though players need to do an NPC Bounty and an Intro Bounty Mission to get access to appropriate player Bounties.

In fact there are a lot of mission geared towards outlaws now too, so there are more reasons to be a outlaw in 3.5 than previously… there still is a huge amount missing though with risk and reward in all areas of the game. Once we have commodity cargo that we can move out of ships by hand that might help giving pirates more gameplay too.

There is still no multiplayer mission sharing. You can bodge paying crew with the Service Beacon System BUT the lack of missions focused on multicrew/groups and reasons to party with gameplay system to support them is a real shame.

There is a big change with what was 3.4s JumpTown Gameplay Loop in 3.5

There are Drug Labs like JumpTown across various moons in the game now where you can purchase different drugs, from Widow, Slam, Neon, Stims, Altrutoxin… Once you have worked out where to sell them you realise. The markup on them is poor though compared to 3.4, there’s still money to be made but missions or just general cargo hauling can be quicker and more profitable now. A major problem I still have with commodities is the fact I have to deal with them in tiny batches IF I have a caterpillar I want to be able to deal with all my cargo in one go OR at least quicker than 800 units at a time… This should be dealt with when we have cargo loading/unloading timers in 3.9

There was something great about the JumpTown Dynamic, dividing that up to multiple locations with little reward seems a bit of a shame to me. I want that conflict and big risk reward to be there. Hopefully with the Law System & Black Market Updates in 3.6 we can get big rewards for smuggling BUT also a lot of risk.

There are Mining Improvements, though they still need more refinement, it’s still only performed with the Prospector but there have been many tweaks to the system but it is essentially still the same. These mechanics suffer mostly from other parts of the game not being ready yet, a more dynamic economy, storage, cargo v2, full persistence. It’s an example of one of the working more full non-combat gameplay loops (that said there are players that have said mining causes them to have constant crashes)

Being able to customize your character to a much larger degree and have female characters allows a lot more players to express themselves, it’s a pretty barebones system at the moment but you can blend predefined heads and features together to make unique characters then adjust their skin/hair/eye type/color to make a unique character for yourself, it’s getting a load of work & additions for the future, more heads, functionality and a better UI.

Items and components now wear at a very slow rate which a lot of players just won’t notice before they reclaim their ship. Repairing and refueling on pads can take a little while to complete as well and doesn’t really inform you when it’s done.

Other Problems

Some of the issues I’ve faced Boxes can still fall through some ships, planets & floors. Though this is much less likely to happen than it used to & placing boxes and items down seems to be pretty reliable in cargo areas and habs however the 300i and reliant seem to take issue with boxes. The problem is much more apparent when dropping something rather than placing.

Some Area18 habs lack air, causing you to suffocate without a helmet.

Weapon projectiles/tracers occasionally diverge significantly from the player’s point of aim.

There is a major issue with spawning ships at ArcCorp & Lorville at the moment, that can leave you trapped at the landing zones unless you are lucky… this is a known issue and should be fixed ASAP.

FPS AI need work, they will shoot you BUT provide no real threat and are terrible at pathfinding. There are updates to them planned, 3.6 should see them in a much better state.

There are lots of of minor or outlying issues too.

Ladders are still hell, bed logging in ships only works inconsistently

Armistice Zones still have players ramming each other, this requires a system to prevent repeat offenders from doing this.

I personally hate control changes to the default controls… which 3.6 has done enmass, that said setting your controls up and getting the game how you want it is something that I now do with every major patch.

Conclusion & Thoughts

There is a lot coming together with Star Citizen 3.5, big new changes BUT it’s PU suffers from what some will see as grindy repetitive tasks, Missions need varianiance and to make use of all of these modular pieces they’ve been working on and shown.

The New Additions, Flight Model etc… need more work, we need larger servers we are currently capped to 50 per instance at least until SSOCS is done.

Mission sharing and more reasons to group would be most welcome.

If you are in an org or with a group you can have endless fun in 3.5, so if you want to play Star Citizen more than just to see what’s new and as a quick tourist destination looking at how pretty stuff is then get into an Org! Some org run events and make use of the giant Sandbox that Star Citizen’s PU is right now with interesting self made missions / RP / socials.

Even though missions are much better in 3.5, the Game does still lacks much needed gameplay loops & deeper persistence, although the core of the game continue to move forward, this is the price for CI focusing on getting Squadron 42 Episode 1 complete, though that focus on the core of the game might be the most sensible thing for the PU in the long run too, the Lack of Gameplay Loops and some bugs snap you back into remembering the game is still VERY MUCH IN ALPHA.

If you are looking for a game to play that’s fleshed out or has 100s of hours of content or you’ve heard what Star Citizen’s PU will be in the future then Star Citizen is not yet for you. There is no long term progression yet, core mechanics are still be implemented, most of the gameplay loops aren’t there yet.

If you like the idea of providing feedback on mechanics, being part of the bug hunting and testing process, or making something yourself in Star Citizen with what it has to provide at the moment then Star Citizen is appropriate.

If you are the Former Alpha 3.9 Q1 of 2020 looks to me where the game may start to be a bit more mainstream with it’s core components in a much better state, dynamic missions, salvage a bit refined, potentially SSOCS and Full Persistence. This might change BUT it’s worth checking out then

Whatever your thoughts Star Citizen Alpha 3.5 is a big step in the right direction, CI continues to aim for a Major release once every 3 months with 3.6 aimed for the end of June.

UPDATE – There was a PTU 3.5.0y patch that then became the 1479378 hotfix & was applied to the LIVE environment, really it should of been listed as 3.5.1 but it is not.

The patch has some Feature Updates

  • Various polish to NPCs and usables around Area18.
  • Lighting polish for Lorville, Area18, and UGFs.
  • Added more variation to NPC service beacons.
  • Adjusted the HUD element on several ships to avoid offset, overlap, or scaling issues.
  • Radar ping results should now appear on the 3d radar.

Bug Fixes

  • The Skybus at Area18 should no longer occasionally hitch in its motion.
  • Missile lock and launch should no longer be unbound by default.
  • Darneely’s dialogue and animation should no longer become mangled if the player exits and returns to the interaction area.
  • The no fly zone at Area18 should now properly take control of the ship and not fly the player into the ground.
  • “Restricted Area” warnings should no longer display in 3rd person.
  • Players should no longer occasionally become stuck in a powered off, unexploded ship upon taking critical damage.
  • Fixed weapons should no longer occasionally aim at the predicted location.
  • Players should no longer quantum travel to a point just outside of the radius where further travel destinations are visible.
  • Fixed missing weapons at various displays for Cubby Blast.
  • There should no longer be objects preventing interaction with store items at Cubby Blast.
  • Landing dust should no longer persist even with ship power and engines off.
  • Players should no longer be occasionally blocked by the no-fly zone when attempting to land or take-off from side hangars at Area18.
  • Corrected the “destroy stash” mission to reward the correct amount.
  • The “destroy stash” count should no longer fluctuate occasionally.
  • The Freelancers should no longer have cockpit geometry blinking in and out when entering or exiting hangars.
  • Fix for missing ambient audio at Area18 and some UGFs.
  • The snoopy cap should no longer remain attached to the player after removing the helmet.
  • The player should now be able to move on respawn after dying with chat activated.
  • Fixed 9 client crashes & 7 server crashes.

This was really a little polish and bug fix patch, there had been a problem with the Twitch Counter Mission to destroy packages in the storehouse which has now been fixed that allowed you to make a ton of money for little effort.

A really important one was being able to leave Major Landing Zones consistently with Ships, which you are now able to again.

The branch should be more stable and playable now & you shouldn’t be trapped in a Major Landing Zone.

There are still some Major Known Issues that they are working through:

  • When exiting the options menu on the character customizer screen, the options will remain up disabling the players’ control. W/A: Press “ESC” to go back to the customizer.
  • If the player exits the game with the mobiGlas still open they will return to the universe with a blurry screen. W/A: Close mobiGlas before exiting.
  • Delivery boxes can fall through the flooring of some ships.
  • Ships do not leave behind cargo when destroyed.
  • Ruto’s hologram is missing.
  • Ruto’s entry mission will sometimes fail to complete.
  • Some Area18 habs lack atmospheric pressure.
  • Ships can exceed their speed limits by turning slightly while accelerating.
  • Trying on clothing at Casaba can sometimes result in the loss of armor pieces.
  • Ship bed logout may be unreliable or inconsistent.
  • Stowed items can sometimes appear attached to the players’ legs.
  • Switching to external camera from the pilot seat and back when reset the HUD and chat.

Also the 300 series variants are planned to be flyable for what is assumedly for 3.5.1.

There is certainly more bug fixes and updates that 3.5’s branch could benefit from in the short term as well.