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Star Citizen Alpha 3.9 – What Did We Learn?

Welcome to some more Star Citizen, Cloud Imperium have released an Invictus Launch Week & Alpha 3.9 Postmortem that looks at lessons learned from that Fleet Week Event and the 3.9 branch… it’s failures & successes. It’s got some good info mixed in there as well and this is a summary of that.

The first Fleet Week started on 22nd of May and ran thru to June 2nd. 

It was a massive sale, ingame event & Freefly.

It was a test and glimpse of future events that they plan to run in the Verse as well.

The Star Citizen universe is meant to be alive and dynamic, more so than any other MMO before it. And while they’re still in alpha and have a fair way to go, i’ts already a live service game. As such, they wanted to both demonstrate a sliver of what a live event could be in game and test out a number of firsts, including the introduction of massive capital ships, event triggers, and much tighter integration between out-of-game and in-game events.

This saw CI raise over $15 million that month of May where most of fleet week resided.

Player engagement and peak player concurrency was also at a record high pushing the previous numbers of concurrent players by 50%. In fact Unique Players during those 12 days of FleetWeek were greater than every single month up to that point in the entire history of Star Citizen’s Operation.

However the Servers, Backend Services and Login Servers were under a lot of pressure & often overloaded due to this and there were major accessibility problems, crashes and disconnects. The start of fleet week was extremely bad for this. They simply under-estimated the sheer amount of players logging in to play.

Pushed partly due to Fleet Week Issues there are some major updates arriving in Q4 2020 to help with the future of the scalability, bottleneck & Server issues. Things they are working on like the iCache along with Backend Service and Network improvements will really help as well as some players have a massive amount of items that they need to deal with.  CI said:

 “our vision is to ultimately have not hundreds of thousands but millions of players in the ‘verse. So while the technical issues during Invictus were indeed painful, we emerged from it with renewed effort and immediate actions to prepare us to scale for bigger and better things later in the year and beyond. And that means millions more will be able to enjoy a better Star Citizen experience because of the learnings from Invictus Launch Week.”

Star Citizen 3.9.0 / 3.9.1 Branch

The Updated New Babbage Landing Zone was one of the largest and most complex Landing Zones they’ve done to date. They tried to give more freedom to players to explore the location and improve the accessibility the player has to the planet through the introduction of surface entrances, moving towards making everything more seamless. It was the first landing zone built with all of these features used together.

They expanded the Hi-Tech architectural assets. The team had a great time developing the architectural language and how it fit the narrative of the location and climate. There are new plants, NPCs, Items, Shops and lots more.

New lighting features were also used to create different moods at different times of day.

They are currently implementing day and night light designs into some existing locations across the Stanton System.

microTech’s Moons – Calliope, Clio, and Euterpe were an exercise in seeing how flexible the new Planetary v4 tech was. The idea was to see how quickly they could define a unique visual identity for these moons utilizing the existing biome asset packs they had already created. They were able to define some extremely cold and hostile climates to complement the barren landscapes with the additions of the additional player status features.

Prisons & laws to support them were introduced in 3.9 which was the first time they introduced 2 major ground locations at the same time.

The initial iteration of the Law & Prison System is pretty barebones versus where they eventually intend to go with it. 

The ultimate objective of prisons within Star Citizen is actually a bit ironic in that, while they are intended to serve as punishment and something most players will try their best to avoid, they want to ensure that they’re so fun and interesting that players will view them as simply a different set of opportunities to exploit and challenges to solve.

With Prisons they were aware being locked up wasn’t going to be particularly fun; other than some FPS mining, there wasn’t yet enough variety to keep most players entertained for an extended duration. 

It was important to get it in game in some state to add risk & deal with certain types of undesirable gameplay. This also lets them start collecting info and evolving the mechanics.

They wanted to maximize on the use of caves for Klesher Prison, so designed the central hub to feed off into a sprawling cave network for mining, escape routes and the prison to be housed.

To ensure that the system’s initial shortcomings weren’t too pronounced,  they temporarily limited the sentence durations and made sure to include a way to prematurely escape your confinement, albeit at the risk of a higher wanted level and – if recaptured – an even longer sentence. One of the major upgrades planned for next year is going to focus on injecting a lot of stealth, timing, and diversionary gameplay into the escape process so that it’s much more fun and challenging.

In the future the escape routes, they want to expand on this experience and introduce more complexity to challenge the escapee.

They for 3.10 have found and fixed several important bugs, including most notoriously one where upon being released after having served your time, the screen would fade down and never fade up. Kiosk machines will now occasionally break and generate a repair mission, which should draw a fair amount of interest given the number of merits it awards versus what you can achieve mining. They’ll be adding a number of other prison missions in the future.

Alpha 3.11 will feature several small but notable enhancements, including the ability to surrender to law enforcement at any time during a battle, additional exploitation of the ship impounding mechanic, and working commissary kiosks that allow prisoners to buy things with the merits that they’ve earned. Locked doors, access cards, and codes will start playing an increasingly important role. The prison escape route will be tweaked so that gaining access to the tunnels requires first finding a security code, and they’ll complement that in a future release by making the extraction process considerably more difficult. A couple of locked rovers outside the prison will reward those players who had the foresight to pilfer the access codes with a fast getaway.

Departing from prison will eventually be more tightly integrated into the game so that, after serving your time, you’ll be ferried by ship to a landing zone to be released rather than relying upon a fade down and teleport. There’s also a lot of work to do on the AI side so that guards and inmates better contribute to making the area look and feel like a prison facility.

They are going to be providing opportunities for melee combat within prisons next year – including the concept of gangs – and introducing some key mission-giving characters. These will include a shady guard and a powerful criminal boss with whom you can start to forge a relationship, which could prove very valuable on the outside.


The New Price of Freedom Mission that had less lawful players assaulting a Caterpillar to free some prisoners was built fairly quickly and was influenced by the 890 Jump Liberation Mission being it’s evil counterpart.

It involves Ship Combat, EVA, Ground Combat and a bit of interactive detective work with some choices on how you complete it.

There were some issues with setting up the mission tho – The designers were dealing with learning the new UI Building Blocks Tech. The initial collision pass on the Caterpillar wasn’t setup for FPS gunplay. Originally the laptop was supposed to be a datapad that the player would have to scroll through to find the right contacts. Because of time constraints, they had to use the laptop. There were tech hurdles that the team faced with the Vis Areas in the Caterpillar

Actor Status

The Actor Status System (originally called Player Status) is now living and breathing in Alpha 3.9, with the system and a majority of features in place linking many aspects from characters, animation, environments, items, and more with hunger, thirst, heat, cold, wind, vision, or movement. It replaces what was a very simple system of the player suffocating (and being killed) when exposed to space and has players affected by the environment both visually and mechanically. 

For example, a planet can be cold, which you can only survive in certain clothing for a given amount of time, but may have geysers to create pockets of warmth. 

The system for this is now all complete BUT they need to connect more aspects to it including weight, drug effects, and more exotic hazards that depend on other features being completed, such as the physical inventory.

The system was complex and challenging to design, future-proofing the system for yet-to-be-added features also created challenges. It represented a huge amount of disciplines working together on dozens of different tasks. 

PIT / Interaction

The Personal Inner Thought system is a step towards giving players a lot more easily accessible interactivity in game with their characters and actions they can perform. Allowing you to access contextually to appropriate item actions in the game quickly.

It even introduced some developers to actions they weren’t aware were possible or aren’t obviously shared on the default key mappings.

This was a huge challenge, not only to update and replace the bare bones implementation of old systems but also to implement UI and real-time key mapping onto the hundreds of actions, but it was very much worth the effort. It is very much not finished yet.


The unified the Friends lists and chat servers across the game modes and website. They still need a bit more love.

The SM/AC modes now round cycle rather than kicking you out and updates to the join-in-progress for matches.

And that’s it for the 3.9 Branch and Event Post Mortem Summary and I think it had some very useful informations.