Star Citizen so far in 2021 has seen it’s share of updates, improvements, trihampts and some disappointments for the game. Cloud Imperium have released a Alpha 3.13, XenoThreat and Invictus Event Postmortem covering a huge amount of work in Q1 2021 and details a lot of what’s been added, the problems they need to solve for the future and what they are working towards now. This is a summary of that… and some of it’s quite juicy… why do we need these post mortems… well because it shows us what CI have learned… although obviously a lot of people and just focused on the coming 3.14 patch this is still massively important! Alpha 3.13 & Invictus Launch Week Postmortem.
Mission Features – XenoThreat and Fleet Week saw lots of work Q1 2021 with collaboration between departments stronger than ever.
XenoThreat hit some bars and failed in others, that’s one of the reasons we are getting the remastered version in Alpha 3.14.
The first launch of it went reasonably well tho and the new cargo types are used for other missions now too.
They added some content and missions to caves as it seemed a shame to add new entrances and no new content. They also added a lot more mission locations in the Yela asteroid ring.
They are trying to improve their ability to minimize unforeseen issues in the future.
Invictus Launch Week went very smoothly as it’s something they have done previously as an event, this time they added more to it. They can dynamically change the inventory of a shop for events. Enabling special stock OR consumption / replenishment of commodities, this adds trade and mission opportunities. Missions can also now trigger when a shop’s stock hit a certain level but was seen as stock alerts.
But they didn’t have much time to test these features in the PTU and there was a bit of buy sell confusion… they had to do some of the changes to these features quite hackily… something they want to have a more refined solution for.
The Nine Tails lockdown was supposed to be a 3.13 event BUT was delayed was competing for QA time… the priority was for Invictus tho.
They did have some issues with ship landing gear but in the future they want some way of more easily debugging this. And they want cleaner UI presentation for buying / selling in the future maybe with a economic info tab, addition to the starmap or App.
I liked what the team said here too :
“We would like to see some better coordination between QA and the dev teams that require larger-scale QA involvement, such as Invictus and Ninetails. We’ve certainly seen and acknowledged several of the pain points that this has caused, but this will continue to come up as we make more of these events, so we will need to tighten up this workflow moving forward. Ideally, we would try and get the delivery of all gameplay features and related services well in advance of any potential delivery date. For example, well before we branch the next release stream and certainly before going to the PTU. I would also like to see less feature development in the release stream as we move forward.”
Systemic Services & Tools – The SuperCache was deployed and work started on several longer-term initiatives to integrate Quantum into more services.
Quasar was deployed, which is the dynamic mission tool Tony Z showed in April.
However A new high-speed AI service was needed to map live positions of mission-spawned NPCs, which ended up being deceptively complex, which caused various delays.
I liked this little jab that whoever wrote this section made:
“Many of our team resources continue to be absorbed addressing bugs that don’t end up being in our sphere of responsibility. “
In the future they want to be able to show off the progress easily on the star map.
The groundwork is laid for quantum and high speed AI.
And they are now better able to identify issues that don’t fall under the responsibility of our team and plan to re-route these issues to the appropriate teams, saving our team members much-needed time to develop services work.
Mining Sub Components added deeper gameplay to mining and the first sub components to the game. This QATR (Quality Assurance Test Request) process running smoothly too, however the game-dev stability was poor causing some delays.
Also the QA was largely busy with other 3.13 cycle features… This is currently affecting the efficiency of the QATR process, leading to sprint integrations of non-upcoming releases being heavily delayed.
Sensitive Cargo Missions were implemented using the tech from the XenoThreat Event. However some of the boxes didn’t behave as expected, which ended up being an issue with the entity behavior. The timers were not showing the correct time and the box would explode with two mins left. Also Hurston isn’t the best location for long-flight missions because of the location distribution. They did increase the payout but will look at continued refinements. For the future they need to improve the handoff of the entity behaviors and clear up responsibility between the teams.
CI added parasite docking with the Merlin/Constellation, it had been delayed a bit but the feature they delivered had more meat to it because of that.
However it did come with various janky issues and in the future they understand more testing would be useful.
They added custom names and serial numbers to some ships. For the ships they added them to you could customize them via the RSI website, eventually this will be in game. But it was only a few ships and there were issues with the name being displayed and at the right size… poor lighting and the wrong color on some ships compounded this.
In the future players will be able to pick the color of their ships name and they are improving uis and displays for the name.
Hull Visual Degradation has been tied into the production pipeline for future ships and gives a much better read on how a ship is doing, damage it’s taken ect…
There were various bugs that were missed with things like canopies entirely ‘scratching’ over which would block your view. Also older shipshad to manually adjust the older ships for the new system which was time consuming.
In the future, with physical damage, this will move from being a purely visual feature to it having structural and gameplay consequences.
The Cyclone MT was a “surprise” vehicle variant release, it’s going to feature a lot in ToW.
I am interested to see how vehicles get missile operator modes in the future… as this is a missile cannon hybrid turret…
The ROC-DS was and still is the ugly duckling… the vehicle struggled both through its development and public release, having originally been designed to be the primary vehicle in the family. However, due to production timelines, they had to release the ROC well in advance of the ROC-DS. The original aim was to have them both release together to provide clearer options for players but having the significant time gap between them just increased the perception issues surrounding its role and usefulness.
While it did get some hefty upgrades during the Evocati and PTU phases increasing both its capacity and range, these goals were not communicated well enough at the start of the release cycle, leaving it to suffer. The ROC-DS was never supposed to be a clear upgrade from the ROC but instead a 2 player alternative for more demanding locations.
It currently sits in a poor position, however future changes to inventory behavior, the cargo system, and cave setups will perhaps let it regain the position we had intended for it. It will get some love until it’s in a good spot.
The environments added during the cycle are extremely useful for the future of the game, the high tech tobin convention centre, space-station docking modules & military docks. Tho the docking feature caused some headaches.
They decided to hold back ship to station docking for 3.13.1 to improve the quality of it’s release.
The trolley push/pull feature created a lot of bugs for the teams that were very time consuming to work around.
In the future, to reduce the inefficiency they will look to have more of a buffer between a feature being made and the location being made that utilizes it.
New Mounted Guns were added, eventually you’ll see AI, NPCs and Players using these to defend locations like the new outposts and homesteads that are planned… and threaten ships and vehicles. These provide a Size 1 ship weapon for a player to fire from a mounted position… the new control scheme and movement provided challenges to their integration AND they had to tweak various bits of the weapons to have them mounting appropriately (new weapons will require tweaks to support being mounted). In the future they are going to add additional control options.
However CIG conceded the current implementation in the PU doesn’t really serve a purpose. In hindsight, they think it would have been better to implement it, ask for specific PTU/Evocati feedback, and then release it in a later patch once the content teams had had enough chance to build something around it.
Trolley Push / Pull this allows players to interact with a trolley or block and push or pull it. This needed to work with different scales of objects in different gravities. Heavier loads are harder to control and there is a systemic… well… system tying it all together…
During testing the trolleys small wheels caused problems getting up slopes and ramps. This meant we haven’t got the full trolley experience yet.
We will see it used for cargo loading and puzzle mechanics in the future. Pushing things to barricade and area, get to a higher vantage point or unblock something.
There are going to be hover trolleys too… and these solve some of the problems they small wheels were causing, tho wheeled trolleys will still be used at LZs and for certain missions.
Reputation UI gave players updates to and a visual representation of the Reputation System and how their actions affect factions and mission givers… bounty hunting saw the most major hook up with this features. Players got rewards for having high reps within mission groups and can see their progress.
There were a load of bugs that needed fixing tho and only some of the mission system has been converted over to the new Rep system.
Nor have they had time to refactor the mission giver behaviors to be as reactive to the Affinity and Reliability meters. While this is an ongoing effort, and players should look for continued progress, this will unfortunately take time to churn through the entirety of our missions and refactor the mission-giver behaviors.
Improvements in communication and general pipeline updates will help with this and similar features in the future. They are also planning to create more echnical design documents (TDD) prior to starting these larger initiatives which inform the goal and plans of a feature much more fully.
Also, with the system now in place and our second star system on the horizon once server meshing comes online, we are having ongoing design discussions about how we will structure organizations within the universe for the first five systems. These talks include everything from the new-player experience and their starting location, how players progress within a single system, and how major organizations will influence content across multiple systems. This also allows us to define what gameplay will be involved for each of the major mission types, with the current plan to associate each mission type with the reputation tracks within organizations. Throughout this process, we have made significant strides towards (what we feel) will be the initial version/vision of how this major progression mechanic will affect the overall player experience. While we still need to get final signoff, we feel this falls in line with how reputation has been previously pitched to the public and look forward to driving this forward.
Boom that’s it for that Postmortem… I am very much looking forward to the Nine Tails Lockdown and XenoThreat Remastered coming with 3.14…