Welcome to some more Star Citizen, CIG have said they want to have the Mercury Star Runner in the Q3 2020 Patch Alpha 4.1 for Star Citizen, this potentially would also be released at the end of September OR 10 days later at CitizenCon.
That ship has Data Running & Smuggling as some of it’s major focuses. Also with that in mind CIG do seem to be expanding out the Law System, Smuggling and Illegal Commodities at the moment. I wanted to talk about what we know about the mechanics that are coming and also discuss possibilities to them as well.
Data Running wise – There was some Data Mined info that implied that Data-Running Missions of some sort were being tested by CIG potentially for 3.9. I wouldn’t expect anything particularly in depth, more placeholders for later mechanics BUT it’s very possible that much deeper Smuggling and Data Running Gameplay will be a focus through 2020.
So what is Data Running as a Gameplay Loop – Tho all ships have computers NOT all are setup with the vast amount of storage and protection from that storage necessary to carry data as cargo OR sensitive data.
The only Data Ship we have in game flyable at the moment is the Drake Herald BUT as the mechanics are in there yet it’s pretty much a bit of a meh ship atm.
We have the Mercury Star Runner for 4.1 or at least that’s the current plan.
Will we get a Larger Data Ship – Well Yes we already have one IMO with the Endeavor, at least some of it’s science modules are focused for this:
“The General Research Pod (GRP) is intended as a multi-use facility that can support a variety of active scientific pursuits: microscopy, zero gravity experiments, biological studies and the like. With internal slots for precision scanners, sample and specimen collections, spectrometers and chemical analyzer, the GRP is capable of cataloging new experimental data as well as producing cutting edge compounds. Note: The GRP is intended for legal experimentation as authorized by the UEE only.
The General Science Pod (GSP) is the Endeavor’s ‘analytic’ module, with installation points for a variety of scientific computers and databanks. The GSP is oriented towards inward-facing processing of data gathered elsewhere, featuring extensive systems for turning the raw information gathered by the GRP and Telescope Array into valuable data for sale or trade.”
I would expect ships like the Caterpillar to have modules that allow it to replace it’s cargo bays for data storage, maybe even the Carrack’s Cargo Modules, they could be swappable with data pods for expanded mapping data.
Beyond this there is the possibility that other ships may get modules too for this purpose.
Also we could see other focused data ships and even alien ones in the future.
So What Kinds of Data could this be… it’s expected some data will be tangible and useful others more as a commodity or mission item.
Science Data this could be info from scanning plants or animals OR even the collection of samples or rare matter, scans of black holes or anomalies things like that.
As talked about in the Endeavors Science Pods, this might be able to be used to make something else OR be turned into a type of data cargo that has value.
In fact for a lot of the Data as Cargo Gameplay, turning data the you scan just into something that is basically a commodity seems the most sensible way for CIG to approach the mechanic imo.
With that in mind Data Could be purchased as a commodity and move around the Verse and traded as well.
Locational Data – Asteroid Fields, Jump Points, POI
Survey Data – Deeper scans of Asteroids, Mineables & Land
Mission Data – could literally cover anything that CIG want it too… all it has to have is a amount of storage it takes up on your ship.
I would expect a lot of data to be “Encrypted” so mission data… meh it’s not supposed to actually have all the positions of an enemy fleet in it because it’s just for lore.
You could also use this as a way so that Data has more of a single use with only a particular recipient or someone that you’ve done a trade with being able to access that information.
Volatile Data is another potential as well… this could be you have to get it from 1 place to another before someone else does, before the information is no longer valid, or is deleted by some form of virus… you get the idea, this could also translate into timed missions.
The CitizenCon 2019 Demo Mission had players infiltrate a research facility on microTech and then copy data from a secure server then deliver it to Ruin Station in the Pyro System.
So even door codes, security id, schematics… things like that could be on the cards for Data that might be tradeable.
Data Interception should be part of these mechanics in the future.
I would expect that this would start with having missions that task you to get to certain areas undetected and record data as it’s being transmitted… how and if this will be a mechanic that players can do against each other remains to be seen. It’s likely that some of these missions will include hacking type elements & gameplay too.
Beyond that information and time is money… I expect people to be trading much more in-depth info on fleet compositions, org movements, trade routes and more outside of the game. Some data and information is much too complex for game systems to handle… unless it had a very robust contract system… which is not beyond the realms of possibility for Star Citizen I Suppose.
Smuggling – is in Star Citizen’s PU currently in a very early state anyway. You can purchase Narcotics or get items for missions that are illegal in certain jurisdiction areas in the game. Security can pull you out of Quantum Travel and scan your ship.
If you are carrying something illegal based on what it is when you are scanned it will be confiscated and you may get a fine or criminal rating. Even with this relatively simple system Smuggling has a spectrum, as goods become illegal or prohibited as you move between zones and to different levels.
There are more expansive missions like the Twitch Pacheco Mission to recover a specific package in a Drug Storehouse BUT you can also grab all the drugs.
In the future there will be areas of ships that can be shielded from Scanning and cargo containers that will disguise contents.
CIG have said sometimes they want NPCs to come and inspect your ships contents BUT ships like the Constellation Taurus & Mercury Star Runner are supposed to have hidey holes for smuggled goods. The Kraken Privateer as well has 2 rooms for more private trades away from the peeking eyes of scanners.
The Law System should expand to cater for this expanded Smuggling gameplay.
They have previously talked about having the Customs areas in Major Landing Zones scan your character, so you’d be able to smuggle small packages on yourself… to potentially mixed success, OR you might choose to find a way into the Landing Zone that doesn’t involved being scanned.
Other Players & Do Gooders may also scan your ship and if they find you with something illegal they might be able to engage you, there are plans for Bounty Hunter Guilds for example for this type of gameplay. This brings in a huge amount more potential gameplay.
Expect missions and opportunities to make money from smuggling commodities, even more normal ones like food into areas, potentially cryopods of people, weapons and more…
There is certainly the possibility of Smuggling and Data Running overlapping as well, there is likely that there is data that is prohibited in certain areas or UEE Space.
Trade Routes and Pre-Set Waypoints are something else I think will be very important to data & smuggling gameplay as well as economy and trade gameplay as a whole.
CIG have previously talked about placing beacons that would enable you to QT to an area and that these beacons would need to be maintained BUT also could be discovered, used by others and destroyed.
There was previously talks of having ship blackboxes be part of the law/insurance system where retrieve / destruction of these could be important… a ship that attacked another might get away without a criminal rating BUT if the black box is recovered then that could give a reward to the retrieving player and criminal rating to the original aggressor.
All of these Mechanics and Gameplay Loops will have parts implemented piece by piece until they are something a bit more meaty that you would consider to be a full on Gameplay Loop. Prisons for example add more risk to these less legal opportunities BUT remember Star Citizen is constantly evolving and the voice of it’s players help evolve it so I would really like to hear your thoughts on Data Running, Data as Cargo & Smuggling Gameplay.