Star Citizen is about to hit a new development milestone with the release of alpha 3.5, which will finally bring female characters, more customization, a whole new planet and its moons, and a brand new flight model into the persistent universe.
In order to learn more about the new features that backers are soon going to be able to enjoy in the game, Twinfinite had a chat with Cloud Imperium Games Los Angeles studio director Eric Kieron Davis about all things alpha 3.5.
Giuseppe: You have quite a few patches under your belt since you moved to a quarterly delivery schedule for updates. How is it working for you so far?
Eric Kieron Davis: It’s been great! We love giving regular updates to our players, and the cadence has increased our ability to gather focused feedback from our community as well. Overall, the quarterly release philosophy helps drive us – we always want to give players new and exciting experiences in Star Citizen, and now we have a regularly updated schedule to do so.
G: Alpha 3.5 finally brings into the game the ability to play as female characters. Could you describe your approach to designing the playable ladies of Star Citizen?
EKD: Our aim was to make it as true to reality as possible while keeping in-line with our stylistic choices that match with Star Citizen. This means that it’s based on real life, non-immersion breaking, not overtly sexualized or cartoonish, etc. This is important to us, we want Star Citizen to be an entire universe where everyone is represented and feels welcomed.
G: What kind of variety can we expect in the outfits for the ladies in 3.5, and possibly beyond?
EKD: In Alpha 3.5, we’ve unified the wearables to work for both male and female characters, which currently offers hundreds of aesthetic combinations. That said, we have plans to expand the variety even further and even deliver distinct options for all to be worn in any fashion.
G: The DNA-based facial customization is a very interesting approach to character creation. How much freedom will players have to finely tweak the result?
EKD: Star Citizen is all about being who you want to be and doing what you want to do, so we’re always looking for ways to ensure that happens. Thanks to advanced controls embedded in this new tool, players will very likely be able to go as far as to recreate themselves in the game (or the complete opposite if they’d prefer!).
G: The new flight model appears to be an extremely extensive change compared to what we had before 3.5. What is the vision behind such a massive overhaul of the controls and behavior of our ships?
EKD: The New Flight Model is a major overhaul that pushes us into the intended direction of gameplay, allowing ships to handle/fly more intuitively and provide each ship with a unique and special feel. We also wanted ships to fly differently depending on their environment – ships should feel differently when affected by planetary gravity vs. out in the ‘verse, free-floating, etc.
G: The roadmap mentions that the combat behavior of AI ships has been improved to make them more challenging. Could you provide some details on what we can expect on this front?
EKD: Well, it’s not always to make them more challenging. We want AI pilots in Star Citizen to feel “real,” meaning there should be good pilots, average pilots, poor pilots and “Red Baron” level pilots. This work was done to start differentiating between multiple AI rule sets and behaviors to better match real life (and to make sure they’re using the new flight model!).
Our aim is to provide a variety of challenges when traversing through the ‘verse and as we add more AI behavior types it should do just that, create variety in your gaming experience.
G: Previous versions of the alpha have turned Jumptown on Yela into a focal point for PvP in the game. Maybe that’s even a bit excessive due to the fact that it’s so unique. With the addition of a new planet and new moons, are there any more locations that can serve as an alternate hub for traders looking for shady deals, and pirates seeking to prey on them?
EKD: Jumptown and all its emergent gameplay have clearly been awesome to our community, and so much fun for us to watch! We’re definitely keeping it in mind as we make future locations and content, particularly any locales that should invite PVP gameplay. But we don’t want to spoil anything – you’re going to have to find these new locations for yourself!
G: With Alpha 3.5, has any progress been made in saving the location of the player when offline? I’m talking about the ability to reliably log off in a ship’s bed and respawn in the same location, or even just returning to the cockpit after a client crash or connection loss without finding yourself back at the station with the ship needing to be reclaimed.
EKD: Being early access, we’re always working to improve the reliability of all of our current features and systems. The reliability of this specific issue is a matter of a variety of systems that are always being improved patch after patch. It’s always a delicate balance of adding new features which may disrupt the code base while at the same time maintaining current and past systems.
G: Could you provide a rough estimate of how long it might take for the game to reach a level of completeness that will let players retain permanent progression that won’t be reset with every major update? If you can’t share a likely timeframe, could you explain the major development milestones the team still needs to achieve to get to that point?
EKD: I’m not going to get into dates but this is a major goal of our development team. As Chris said back at CitizenCon 2948, we see Persistence and Server Meshing as our last two remaining technical obstacles and we’re shepherding our resources to achieve both.
G: While the team has done a lot to optimize the client so that now a monster PC isn’t required anymore to play the game, it certainly remains rather demanding in terms of hardware. With streaming technologies like Google Stadia or Project xCloud being all the rage nowadays, are you looking into the possibility of supporting something like that in order to mitigate the hardware requirements and open the game to a wider audience?
EKD: We obviously can’t make any definitive statements at this time, but do of course make an effort to stay up to date with the latest technological trends, and take any developments that may bolster our universe into consideration.
G: Is there anything else you think our readers should really know about 3.5?
EKD: 3.5 is another step towards the Star Citizen universe giving you the opportunity to brand who YOU are. From DNA to playable female characters, we’re giving players more options to be who they want to be in Star Citizen. This wouldn’t be possible without the support of our community and we’re excited for them to get their hands on it. We hope to see you on ArcCorp and around the ‘verse.
If you want to see more of Star Citizen (which is coming exclusively to PC) you can also take a look at the upcoming landing zone Area 18 on the new planet ArcCorp and a new mission giver who will appear in alpha 3.5. Cloud Imperium Games also recently released a batch of tutorials which are a perfect way to see what the game is all about.
For the sake of full disclosure, the author of this interview is a backer of Star Citizen since the time of the original Kickstarter campaign.