After the regular roadmap updates were missing for a few weeks, there is now a full update. Also, the judge has admitted parts of Crytek’s case to trial.
The german version of this article can be found behind the link.
In this article you can read
- how we view the Pay to Win discussion
- What changes have been made to the roadmap
- What the court decided regarding the motion to dismiss of CIG vs. Crytek
After the Alpha 3.2 update could be released on time and brought various new content, something seemed to be going on behind the scenes in the organization of the development. The first signs of a correction regarding the accustomed information structures of Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) could already be seen at the weekly information show Around the Verse.
Until the release of Update 3.2, these were relatively long videos that brought both updates on development progress and a closer look at features or special gameplay elements. However, CIG obviously noted that the weekly demonstration of progress poses a problem: What will the supporters be shown at CitizenCon 2018, when all the powder is shot with nice regularity?
Therefore CIG decided to shorten the AtV format considerably, to fill it with community content and to bring only short updates in news format. This did not go down well with every supporter, but so far nothing has changed. In addition, the official roadmap was only updated once in the weeks after 3.2 – and only accidentally. Some shifts became known, which again led to the usual discussions and speculations in various forums.
Please note: This article may contain wording errors. We apologize for any inconvenience. SPACE4GAMES will be completely available in English later this year following a relaunch.
- 1 Is Star Citizen Pay to Win?
- 2 Preview of Alpha Update 3.3
- 3 Asteroid Mining & General Mining Improvements
- 3.1 Scanning, transit systems, improved turrets & shopping kiosks
- 3.2 Groups System Improvements
- 3.3 No-fly zones
- 3.4 AI Improvements for Ships & FPS
- 3.5 Ships & Vehicles
- 3.6 Technical Improvements & Features
- 3.7 Object Container Streaming & Network Bind Culling
- 3.8 Face Over IP & Improvement of Weapon Systems
- 3.9 Performance and graphics improvements
- 4 Extensive changes as of update 3.4
- 5 Conclusion to the Roadmap
- 6 Crytek vs. CIG: First court decisions
- 7 Crytek applies for injunction against CIG
- 8 Disclaimer & Conclusion on the lawsuit
- 9 Your opinion & other interesting articles
Is Star Citizen Pay to Win?
In between there was an update by Chris Roberts personally about Pay to Win. We at SPACE4GAMES had also considered writing a larger article on this topic, but decided against it. Currently, far too many gameplay mechanisms are unclear, many features are not fully integrated and the future direction for the further monetization of Star Citizen is not yet foreseeable.
We do not think it would make sense at the moment to have a discussion about an already rather vague term. Only when things like the reputation and legal systems are implemented in an almost final version and the sale of spaceships, weapons and other non-cosmetic items is finally regulated, we see ourselves in a position to publish a well-founded and detailed opinion on the subject of Pay to Win. Until then, we will stay out of the sometimes hysterically conducted discussion.
Much more interesting and, above all, more tangible are the roadmap updates that have been made in recent weeks, the last one just yesterday. What has changed in the upcoming update 3.3?
Preview of Alpha Update 3.3
The update 3.3 should bring the first big planet, Hurston, into the game. However, in view of CitizenCon 2018, which takes place on October 10, CIG announced a postponement of the update. They want to avoid the need for the development team to work towards two large, closely consecutive deadlines. Therefore, the release of Update 3.3 on the PTU (the public test server) should roughly coincide with CitizenCon.
In fact, this means a postponement of about one month if we assume that the previous release was to be in September and updates 3.1 and 3.2 were released about two weeks before the end of the targeted quarter. But what is the state of affairs? Is CIG on track or can we see significant problems on the roadmap? Here are the details for Update 3.3.
Two new mission givers
Clovus Darneely is a new quest provider for the Lorville landing zone on Hurston. He is actually intended for salvage missions, but is expected to offer other missions for the time being, as the associated profession has not yet been implemented. Recco Battaglia, on the other hand, will provide mining missions at Levski.
All four Hurston moons ready
Perhaps the biggest surprise: All four Hurston moons are already in the polishing phase and finished. We didn’t expect that ourselves. We originally suspected that the moons might be moved again, so that the planet Hurston will be ready on time for update 3.3. With the moons Ariel, Magda, Ita and Aberdeen alone, the planetary playground of the Star Citizen-Alpha will be more than doubled.
The moons contain not only the pure surface, but also new outposts, which means further targets for trading and other missions. And how far is CIG with the associated planet Hurston?
Hurston & Lorville
Based on the remaining tasks in the roadmap, the planet Hurston has made about 80 percent development progress. The Lorville landing zone (where we will also find the new quest provider Darneely), on the other hand, has been given some new tasks and is therefore decreasing in progress by a whopping 18 percent to 36 percent. Obviously there is still a lot to be done in the remaining two months. The business district will also not expand the landing zone until Update 3.4.
Extreme distances & small rest stops
The distance from the gas giant Crusader (in whose orbit the moons Yela, Daymar and Cellin are located) to the planet Hurston is gigantic. According to the Ark-Starmap, the distance is 1.95 AU (AU is the abbreviation for astronomical unit; 1 AU = 149,597,870.7 kilometers). That would be 291,715,847.9 kilometres. For comparison: From Port Olisar the distance to the planetoid Delamar (currently the longest distance in the alpha universe) is 854,070 kilometers. The flight time with an Aegis Sabre in Quantum Travel is about 40 seconds.
The route Crusader to Hurston would therefore be 175 times the route Port Olisar – Delamar and thus have an expected flight time of 116 minutes. This is only the distance between two planets within the same system! We are getting an idea of how huge Star Citizen is planned.
But before you start to panic because the estimated two hours for the trip will exceed your daily playing time quota, we can reassure you: The data of the Ark Starmap is not up to date and CIG knows of course that for all the love to gigantism it is not expedient to force players to travel for hours.
In the current Star Citizen-Alpha 3.2 we can select the star map in the mobiglas and if we scroll out far enough, we already see the positions of the planets Hurston and ArcCorp: Hurston is 31,950,795 kilometres away (37 times the route Port Olisar – Delamar and thus about 25 minutes pure flight time), ArcCorp is 41,941,992 kilometres away (49 times the route Port Olisar – Delamar and thus about 33 minutes Quantum Travel). Now we get an idea why the Genesis Starliner and passenger transport should one day be a big thing in Star Citizen.
But there’s another problem: The fuel won’t be enough for such routes – and that’s what the truck stops (or rest stops) are for. According to Todd Papy (Design Director at CIG) there will be about eight such smaller truckstop stations between Crusader and Hurston. However, this does not necessarily mean that we have to make eight stopovers each time. But we’ll have to refuel in between. In addition, there will be business and other interaction opportunities in these truckstops. The development status here is 75 percent.
Ship System Degradation
We can already replace ship components, such as engines or shield generators. With Update 3.3, these components should not only have a significant impact on the performance of a ship, but also wear and tear, which can lead to reduced performance or malfunctions. 50 percent of the work on this feature is done.
New & Improved Missions
Delivery missions are to be significantly improved (37% progress). Among other things, automated parcel receiving points are planned to keep the station administrator free for more specific tasks. FPS missions have received additional tasks and have thus dropped from 15 percent to 63 percent progress.
We hope that this feature will be ready in time, so we don’t need to rely on PVP for shootings. Scramble Race Missions (64% progress) should also be added. These are races in space or on the ground in which the opponents are allowed to use weapons on each other.
Asteroid Mining & General Mining Improvements
The mining profession is a very positively received feature from Update 3.2. We have written extensive guides for you about the mining ship MISC Prospector, as well as about the mining profession itself.
The profession is to be improved in October through adjustments to the user interface and general functionality and is now progressing from 22 to 59 percent. Mining will also be possible in space: Asteroids should be mineable. This should also include resource deposits on the surface of large asteroids. Asteroid mining enters the roadmap at 57 percent.
Scanning, transit systems, improved turrets & shopping kiosks
If you currently own a Prospector, you can switch to scanning mode with the TAB key and send a ping. This is currently intended to identify resource depots on planetary surfaces. However, we can use this ping to scan other ships and display rudimentary information. This system is supposed to be expanded (46%) and provide more information.
The change between different map sections via elevators and doors is also to be improved (59%) and the manned and unmanned turrets are to receive further updates (new entry at 12%). The operation of the shopping kiosks is also to be expanded, for example item comparisons and selling opportunities are planned. However, progress here is still sluggish at 18 percent.
Groups System Improvements
The Mobiglas user interface and the Visor displays are to be equipped with a new chat system and further UI improvements.
Interesting new feature: With the introduction of the new planet Hurston, no-fly zones will be introduced into Star Citizen. How this will finally be implemented (is there only an increased crime rating in case of violation or will spaceships even be shot down?), we have to wait and see. In any case, it makes ground vehicles more interesting and prevents huge ships from landing in unintended places (for example in the middle of Lorville). However, the no-fly zones are currently only at ten percent of development progress.
AI Improvements for Ships & FPS
The existing point “Ship behaviours” has been deleted. Whether this point is covered in the feature “(Flight) Improved AI behaviour”, which is only one third completed at 29 percent, is not clear – no additional tasks were added. The behavior of the FPS AI, which is divided into four areas, is making only slow progress; with 40 percent, the different fighting behaviors of the AI are gaining the most ground. Overall, the FPS area is only at about 50 percent development progress.
Ships & Vehicles
The rework of the Mustang series is making slow progress: Mustang Alpha and Beta are at 34 and 18 percent respectively, the other variants have only recently entered the roadmap (Delta, Gamma, Omega – 18%). The Hammerhead gun platform rises by four to 40 percent, the Constellation Phoenix stands at 37 percent. The variants of the Tumbril Cyclone vehicle range between three and 18 percent.
Technical Improvements & Features
This is probably the most important part of the update 3.3: Should the Object Container Streaming (OBS) not be ready in time or cause problems, Update 3.3 will probably not be able to go online in the scheduled form. In order to implement new moons, stations and planets, as well as other NPCs, OBS must come into play.
As you know, the performance is one of the biggest challenges of the game. Even though Update 3.2 has improved a lot and the FPS is usually in a playable range between 20 and 30 FPS, much improvement is still needed. This should also be achieved through OBS.
Object Container Streaming is – roughly simplified – an invisible loading process that only loads objects into memory when we get close to them. An object container can contain a planet, a moon, an outpost or a spaceship. In this way, the player’s client only needs to have the currently relevant data in memory – everything else is hidden or happens in server-side background processes. Depending on the position of the player character, OBS should ensure that only about a tenth of the data has to be loaded. More detailed information can be found in our article “Consistent according to plan” (at the moment only available in german language), for which we spoke with the developers themselves.
Object Container Streaming & Network Bind Culling
The actual feature currently stands at 27 percent. For the fact that this feature is so important and has been worked on for a long time, this figure does not make us very confident. However, a lot of preparatory work is necessary, for example rewriting old code. The preparatory work is in the specified areas (code conversion, GameObjectExtensions conversion, asynchronous background spawning, background spawning) all well over 80 percent.
It is possible that with the completion of these areas, the actual feature will make a significant leap forward and will be ready on time. After all, Network Entity Streaming (ensures that updates of entities required by the client are delivered when needed) as part of asynchronous background spawning is already in the polishing phase and thus almost done.
At the same time, Network Bind Culling (NBS, updates of information on the network are only made if they take place near the player or are relevant to him – the network version of OBS, so to speak) continues to make no progress. However, CIG explained earlier that NBS is basically ready, but without OBS it doesn’t make sense. The remaining steps could therefore refer to the final implementation in the game code, which is to be carried out parallel to the introduction of OBS.
Face Over IP & Improvement of Weapon Systems
The underlying mechanisms for the use and customization of firearms have been revised. Fine-tuning is finished here and the improved system is in the polishing phase. In addition, players should be able to use a webcam to project their facial expressions onto the character’s face with Face Over IP (FoIP). This also includes Voice Over IP. Currently, this feature is at 24 percent progress.
Performance and graphics improvements
With Environmental Blending Shader (new, 78%), objects should merge believably with their surroundings and allow good-looking transitions, for example by sand or ice. For the general performance optimizations, 40 tasks are scheduled, but only 13 of them have already been completed.
Extensive changes as of update 3.4
CIG’s roadmap gives us a good understanding of the direction and speed of development. However, it is also subject to constant change: We must not forget that this is the development of highly complex software. Software development is always plagued by changes, trial & error and shifts, which makes it only conditionally predictable. These uncertainties are clearly evident in the plans for updates 3.4 to 3.6, in which we find many shifts.
For example, the improvement of the Service Beacons slips to 3.6, the Escort Beacon, the Reliant variants, and the Constellation Taurus are not expected until 3.5. Cloud Tech has been moved up to 3.4: Are we getting the gas giant Crusader and the Orison landing zone sooner than we thought? Let’s place a bet: At CitizenCon 2018, CIG will show Orison in the upper atmosphere of Crusader. Who’s holding out?
The luxury ship Origin 890 Jump will not come into the game until the second quarter of 2019. The list of features completely removed from the roadmap (that means content outsourced to later updates), on the other hand, is extensive. Initially, all content relating to land ownership, repair bots, data running, long-range scanning, extended freight, liquid/gas exploration and service beacons for repairs and refuelling were removed. Also the server meshing, which should ensure a significant increase in the number of players on a server at the end of 2018, has been postponed indefinitely.
Conclusion to the Roadmap
We see clearly how much movement in software development is at this level. Performance technologies, OBS in particular, continue to be decisive for CIG’s plans. If OBS doesn’t work as expected, alternatives will have to be found – but the developers always sounded very confident in their discussions with us: it would only be a matter of time before everything will work as desired. If we look at the technical success of the development so far, there is little reason to believe they will have to completely change their plans.
However, it could take longer than we would like. Patience remains a virtue.
Crytek vs. CIG: First court decisions
By the way, this also applies to the legal dispute that engine developer Crytek started last year against CIG. Much is subject to different interpretations and therefore the court has now decided on CIG’s motion to dismiss (Motion to Dismiss) as follows:
Roberts Space Industries is considered part of the lawsuit, even though the actual contract was concluded between Crytek and Cloud Imperium Games. Crytek, however, has been denied the prospect of fines by CIG: The so-called “punitive damages” have not been permitted as a subject of the lawsuit. That means Crytek has no chance to sue CIG for massive compensation.
Crytek’s attempt to commit CIG to the use of the CryEngine was also categorically rejected. Purchasing a license can only ever be an option, not an obligation.
However, the question of whether Squadron 42 is part of the agreement or a license violation will be open for trial. The Court found the definition in the preamble of the Game License Agreement (GLA) not to be a binding part of the actual contract and refers to a later and rather vague paragraph of the GLA. In it both Squadron 42 and strangely enough Star Citizen itself, are described as features of Star Citizen.
In the preamble, Star Citizen and Squadron 42 are clearly mentioned as two games, but in the course of the GLA they are summarized as “the Game”. Since this point is not clearly separated later on, the court apparently sees a need for clarification here. The fact that this can happen at all may well be blamed on those responsible when formulating the contract. The GLA is not clear enough in many respects to prevent such attacks from the outset.
Crytek applies for injunction against CIG
The issue of the actual game code will also be discussed in court. This concerns alleged non-compliance by CIG with agreements to share changes to CryEngine with Crytek. Crytek therefore wants to have access to the current game code of Star Citizen & Squadron 42.
Crytek replied to the court’s decision with an additional amended complaint, which again claims damages and payment of all running costs by CIG. In addition, the plaintiffs also demand an injunction prohibiting CIG and all third parties involved from continuing to use Crytek’s copyrighted work (i.e. CryEngine). While this point could significantly affect the development of Star Citizen & Squadron 42, it is not clear how such a decision could be made, since the two games have been developed under Lumberyard, an engine that is also based on the CryEngine, for more than one and a half years now. In addition, Crytek requires accelerated disclosure of the code used by CIG to prove copyright infringement.
CIG responds directly to this statement by asking the court to follow the actual decision and not to be manipulated by Crytek. CIG’s lawyers see Crytek’s statement as disrespect to the court, as the plaintiffs would try to challenge the court decision already made through the back door. In addition, CIG reserves the right to file a further motion to dismiss against the new statements of the Court.
Disclaimer & Conclusion on the lawsuit
The facts presented may contain errors and inaccuracies, as we are not lawyers and are not familiar with the depths of (American) law. A final decision has not yet been made; it is rather the usual petition battle before a court hearing.
While there are different assessments of these requests and comments, one thing is clear: the GLA was not formulated sufficiently back then. This now gives Crytek the opportunity to go to court on the basis of the vague wording alone. Crytek wants a jury to decide what – even we here in Germany know – is a rather risky matter, especially on such complex and opaque issues.
From a layman’s point of view we cannot see how Crytek wants to prove his accusations, since the Lumberyard engine used by Star Citizen is in fact the CryEngine. We therefore believe that this is the substance of the action: Crytek wants to get hold of the results of the work of her former specialists, who are now employed at CIG.
Your opinion & other interesting articles
Despite the indications, this is all a broad field of speculation. There will be no fully reliable information until a final judgment or out-of-court settlement is reached. We will keep you informed about further events.
How do you think about the developments regarding both the roadmap and the Crytek case? Join us in the comments.
Otherwise we recommend our article about the life and work of Mark Hamill and his role in Squadron 42 (only german language, at this time). If you are interested in cyberpunk, we also have an interesting report about the fascination of dystopia for you (also only german language, at this time).