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What Do We Need to Make Multi-Crew Gameplay Fun?

Welcome to some more Star Citizen, one of the original major things that attracted me to Star Citizen was the multiplayer multicrew planned for the game.

The idea of running around a ship repairing it, manning the systems, repelling boarders and taking out waves of fighters in turrets. 

We have the pilot & turret or remote gunners in game and working to some extent BUT what is there in the way of supporting gameplay coming? What others roles will there be on ships & what is needed to make Multicrew Gameplay FUN?

I want to talk about that today and I think it’s an important conversation to have as CIG have stated that with a lot of their development they iterate and evolve based on community feedback and with these mechanics at least the deeper gameplay of them I suspect will be heavily community driven.

Alpha 3.7 brings in Mission Sharing, the ability for party members to share their mission with the rest of their group and share in the rewards when completed. It also has missions more focused on this group level difficulty gameplay.

The Personal Commodity allows players to gather and loot items… you can as of 3.7 fill up the cargo hold of a ship with crates of lootables you have found and effectively give them to other players or work together to fill a ship together.

Service Beacons allow for players to create their own missions and request support, though I am hoping that we will get a much more robust Contract System. Service Beacons can work quite well for Distress Beacons, though this really needs more players on a server.

Quantum Enforcement make having escorts much more essential.

For Alpha 3.7 there are more and more reasons for players to group up and work together.

But multicrew needs to be much more viable and have systems in place to make it fun.

Feedback & Instruction are incredibly important and we know that there are some major improvements to basic multicrew systems planned for Alpha 4.0 with Multicrew – Expanded Roles:

Adding the ability for pilots & Turret Gunners to receive and follow orders 

Pilots will be able to receive instructions and view information in order to follow specific instructions. For example, moving to a designated area or Quantum Travelling to a specific point. Turret Gunners will be able to receive specific target designations from other players and track them independently of their own targets.

This is integral for crews to be able to work together and is a prerequisite for NPC Crew & AI Modules as players need to be able to communicate what action they want done to the crew NPC or otherwise.

It’s important as well that as much information is shared (or at least available) as possible at a glance, coordinating the crew as much as possible with HuDs and the like.

There are General HuD, Cockpit & Station Improvements are coming patch to patch with a couple of important parts planned for 3.8.

Improvements to the player cockpit experience, adding more visual and audio effects to reflect the state of the ship along with more immersive interactions in the cockpit, as well as. 

Continued improvements to the HUD system to support advanced scanning and ping features, including the storing of results and an interface to adjust the strength of the scan.

These core ship features and improvements to them allow for an improved experience for gunners, pilots and anyone using a station.

However what is there actually to do for multi-crew ships crew beyond the pilot chair and gunnery. Well not much at the moment BUT a lot is planned.

The things that multi crew needs to hit is that it needs to be as at least as effective (preferably more) than bringing another ship along, so you’d rather have that co-pilot or additional gunner or engineer rather than another Sabre. Obviously this is going to be dependant on other factors too, suitability of any ship for a mission, range & cost of operating a ship…

But if having 4 sabres be able to beat a hammerhead that’s fully crewed… I want multi crew ships to be rewarded for crewing those ships and crewing them well.

This means there has to be some form of skill & importance to tasks

Things to do (I can’t be bored and they have to be fun things to do)

Working together has to mean something and should allow for great adventures

Multicrew needs to be a better option typically than bringing your own ship

Missions need to allow for fully crewed ships to make bank if they run a mission or encounter well.

Multicrew ships need to have a high Time To Kill, it’s something that CIG have previously talked about, at the moment ships have artificial heath pools BUT they are moving to a physical damage system and Physicalized Components, we will see ships taking damage and losing some efficiency, functionality then having some systems disabled BUT then for players to be able to repair, reroute & react to that damage. You can’t expect players to repair parts of a ship if combat only lasts a few seconds nor can you expect players to be able to get to escape pods. Combat needs to last longer and be at least to some extent about attrition and strategic encounters, targeting particular subsystems. 

More generally there needs to be some specific gameplay that CIG has previously talked about as well as making Supporting Stations important.

Shield, Systems, Weapons & Power Management should allow for the need of a co-pilot in larger ships there needs to be enough going on there that a pilot can’t do it as well as fly the ship. Other Gameplay aspects like signature management & “Stealth” I supposed would be linked to that.

Repair Gameplay needs to be there, that requires Physicalized components, sub components as well to potentially allow players to do quick fixes to get systems working again.

I’d like to see much deeper gameplay for Scanning & Targeting, CIG have been working on scanning systems for sure BUT the more in depth that the mechanic becomes the more need there is of someone having to focus on it as part of their crewing. Keeping enemies targeted, relaying what targets crew should be focusing on, performing scans on ships, like cargo or lifesign scans to get more info.

There are a lot of ships that are going to have Ship Specific Systems like E-War Suites, some will have more in the way of Cargo Management, Mining, Salvage, Drone, Outpost Building, Refueling & Repair Ships will all have the need for their mechanics to be filled.

I think the most interesting one for me is to see how the Endeavor Science and Farming comes together and what multicrew opportunities are there BUT this is closely follow by my love of the idea of Running a Banu Merchantman with shops on board an Orion stipe mining efficiently out in an asteroid field and defending my Javelin from a boarding action.

Boarding is something I think we will see much more of in Alpha 3.7 potentially with the Mantis, though really we need physicalized components so that we can disable ships.

Crews trying to defend from boarders, get to escape pods or repair the ship while still underfire is very exciting BUT requires a lot of balance to get right.

One of the other major balances and counter points to the complexity that mechanics can be, is a lot of the basics of at least some of these mechanics need to be fully accessible for a single seater ship and pilot to be able to do to some extent as well, so bare that in mind too when considering how complex any given mechanic is appropriate.

CIG have also talked about Security Stations on ships allowing you to have access potentially to internal turrets, cameras, door control, airlock control and more… they have also talked about a Permissions system that they are planning that allows for your crew to have permissions to use certain systems, MFDs, rooms and doors. This means you can effectively assign someone as a gunner, or an officer, if you are partying someone that you haven’t worked with before you can give them appropriate permissions but not full run of the ship.

We need a lot of core systems to come together and be appropriately fleshed out to have a truly great multi-crew experience. Questions like if I log off in a ship and it’s destroyed for when I log back on what happens (I assume there is a log and you wake up in the hospital or an escape pod), what if I log back on to a Javelin when you are a crewman and your not the owner and your the only one online?

It’s clear to me that multicrewing and that coop gameplay is a core pillar of Star Citizen and the community are going to be deeply involved in chistling it into hopefully something great.

I would expect a lot of this to start coming together in 2020 into something a lot more fleshed out.