Welcome to some more Star Citizen with the Road to Alpha 4.0… potentially the most important patch for the Persistent Universe, it’s tech and gameplay.
We could see a very early Evocati test of 4.0 at the end of the year… though even CI said that early next year was more likely. However anyway you look at it Alpha 4.0 is on the horizon.
CI have given us an indication of various features that will be in that patch BUT please bear in mind that things change and bits get moved around and reprioritized BUT we will highlight what major tech and updates CI are currently working on, on the Road to Alpha 4.0 and what we can expect.
There are 2 major features that define Star Citizen Alpha 4.0 and that is the New Star System Pyro and Server Meshing both of these are monumental steps towards the game becoming an actual MMO.
Pyro is one of at least 2 Star Systems CI are currently working on for implementation in the PU (Nyx being the other one, though you could argue the Odin System, the one that SQ42 is primarily set in, is also being worked on too) … I digress… Pyro is the Star System that we are getting next.
It’s much bigger than the Stanton System with 6 planets and 6 moons.
The System is not under UEE control and 3 factions fight over it.
The FireRats (who are mad fire star cultists), The Overlords who are a vigilante anti criminal organisation, and XenoThreat an anti-Alien Terrorist group that regularly attack the Stanton System.
These factions set the tone and theme for the area, you’ll be able to ally with one or more of them against the others, fight against all of them or entirely go it alone and stay out of it… if they don’t jump you. Cloud Imperium is building up their reputation system that will tie into how these factions will treat you when they see you, what missions you’ll get, will they come to aid you, can you dock with their stations. There isn’t much in the way of infrastructure in Pyro, there are space stations that have been taken over by those gangs scattered around and Ruin Station which is supposed to be the more premier landing zone choice though… it’s probably going to be similar to GrimHex.
Pyro has a dangerous Flare Star, so just the travelling around in the System can be dangerous, you may need to take cover behind something or take damage. But the general look of Pyro is going to have this powerful star with cool effects and lots of oppressive gas clouds.
Something you’ll eventually see in the Pyro system… the Pyro Crab which is a massive Lovecraftian Beast and have very big crab offspring but it’s unlikely going to be in the first release of Pyro, that said CI have been working on the Planetary Nav mesh and animals that will make this creature possible in the future.
Due to the size and limited safe stations around Pyro, you’ll likely be refuelling with the help from player’s Starfarers, at some point we should be able to refuel parasite and docked ships from their parent ships to some degree.
And the start of the hand repair mechanics in 3.18 will also surely help players not entirely trapped in deep space.
How are we going to get to Pyro … well that’s going to be with a Jump Point which will connect the Stanton to the Pyro System. CI showed a demo of one in 2019 at CitizenCon. We are not sure of the planned gameplay behind them yet, CI have talked about some being potentially dangerous, or some minigame to traverse them or you might take damage. But they are an essential part of connecting Star Systems. I do wonder though… would it be possible to travel to another star system in Quantum & conventional engines if fuel and time wasn’t a factor?
The Pyro System will have a lot to explore, currently in 3.17.2 you can find relics and artefacts which are tied to the Pyro System and the CitizenCon 2021 Demo showed off a retrieve the Hadesian Artefact Mission on a planet in Pyro at a Colonial Outpost there. You can expect to see more of these around the system both inhabited and derelict (small derelict ones are in fact also currently explorable in 3.17.2).
You can expect a whole host of new missions spanning across both Star Systems once Pyro launches. Pick up delivery missions with more distance and bite to them. More Mining opportunities and a lot more dangers.
Server Meshing is heralded by some as Star Citizen’s Silver Bullet to all of its problems… It is certainly very important.
It allows for Servers to seamlessly share data between them and give authority of assets and entities to other servers. So, you’ll move between them none-the-wiser.
This then enables potentially 100s / 1000s of players to be in the same Star System.
With Alpha 4.0 we are supposed to get Static Server Meshing which has predefined planets and areas of space that have servers, so the planet of microTech, Hurston, ArcCorp and Crusader might all have their own server with in that server-ed system.
The next stage of that tech that will be coming later, dynamic server meshing will allow for individual areas, rooms or ships to become nested servers based on the local population of the area. You could then potentially have many 1000s of players in the same system and have massive space ship battles.
CI are and have been working Server Meshing for a long time and there are steps that they have achieved or are about to drop that make it possible.
CI have been testing Server Cap Increases on Alpha 3.17.2 taking player counts to 100 per server and it’s been going very well. Tho they did say it wasn’t the plan to take the live server to 100 for this yet. CI have been Improving the general NetCode and the way servers handle player and NPC characters, which plans to improve desync, movement and jitter.
A big update is coming before Server Meshing and that’s in 3.18 with Persistent Entity Streaming (PES), this tracks locational data of objects and enables them to be picked up and found later. This combined with the Cargo Overhaul should make for a lot of interesting gameplay. You can expect times and costs to load and unload ships with that making the gameplay loop more immersive and in-depth.
The hope is that once we have Server Meshing and some NetCode Updates CI will be able to have consistent 30 Tick Servers (meaning 30 updates a second) for Star Citizen. Why is that important?
Well, a massive portion of the bugs, derpy AI, desync, jitter, random death and server degradation is all due to Star Citizen having an inconsistent and low tick rate due to being overburdened and under optimised.
Star Citizen needs an optimised engine & graphics and that is where Vulkan & Gen 12 Renderer Improvements come in. We have been getting little tweaks and optimizations from CI as they start implementing their Gen12 Renderer, basically optimising the game code to be much more efficient and use multiple CPU cores and system resources. This will lead to less bottlenecks, a more robust and better scaling game. Vulkan is the Graphics API they are also moving to and building on. Whereas Gen 12 improvements are already being implemented… Vulkan is being worked on BUT isn’t properly supported in game yet.
Once this comes online though you can expect a few things, various scalable graphics options in Star Citizen’s Menu BUT ALSO Better frame rates and better-looking graphics.
Maybe Beyond 4.0
Tony Zurovec is working with a studio Game Horizon on Quantum, basically the Dynamic Universe Simulation that we have seen demoed a few times and is in game now in a very basic state. Eventually this tech will control NPC encounters, loadouts, missions and have that all tied into the economy so that if there are more unprotected miners in an area, there will be more pirates. Ore and minerals found will directly impact what is being produced and its price. If there is a war going on in an area then you can expect more Salvage Opportunities but also the price of munitions and repair is likely to sky rocket. The system also tracks NPCs and can go down to an individual physicalized level when needed, so you could see a pirate that did particularly well get a bounty on his head and have players go after him… if they don’t take him out, his bounty may increase as it tracks his kills and achievements against both players and simulated NPCs.
We know CI are making progress with this and it ties into a lot of the planned core systems for the game. I am expecting some updates from CI during CitizenCon this year but I’d expect this to be something we also see more in 4.0 and beyond in much more built out way.
Ships need Physicalized Components; this allows these to then be damaged to affect a ships functionality rather than having artificial health pools like we do now. Ships are very likely going to be disabled during a fight and start to show signs of attrition damage well before that… this damage can also potentially be repaired. On larger ships you’ll have engineers running around repairing relays, replacing components but also putting out fires… Damage Control and Fires (and extinguishers) is something that CI are very much working on now too.
But CI are currently going through all of the older ships in game and making sure they have the correct setup, cupboards and space to house their physical components and bring them up closer to gold standard, then they will be able to start putting in the actual physicalized parts and changing the system over… though it’s unlikely going to be an Alpha 4.0 feature it is incredibly important to the core of the game and likely going to be what CI have a big focus on once 4.0 is out the door.
There is a huge amount of gameplay, exploration, missions, new mechanics and more that you can expect to be going into star citizen between now and Alpha 4.0s launch and even more when it launches. Star Citizen are planning on Starting to share a Road to Alpha 4.0 info series starting September. That will start to promote and share the development of all of that. That’s only like 6 weeks aways.
There is a load of stuff I have missed out but that is the most important bits and pieces on the way to Alpha 4.0… we know that CI are also working on things like a new star map & minimap, new gameplay with hacking, new ships and vehicles, gravity, orbiting planets… there is loads and we don’t know exactly what they will decide they can put in 4.0 as it’s probably a bad idea to put a load of other new tech when you are putting in a Server Meshing and a whole star system… you can expect it to have a very long patch testing cycle, at least 3 months.