Funded! This project was successfully funded on November 19, 2012.

Update #21

Multiplayer, Single Player and Instancing

Hi everyone!

I get a lot of questions about how the whole persistent universe works and what I mean when I talk about battle instances.

I’ve given some answers but as it keeps coming up, I thought it would be good to give all of you a longer description in how this all works and fits together.

One of my goals with Star Citizen was to create a huge open world that you could adventure in solo, with your friends, mingling with NPCs and other real people.

Freelancer was built to have up to 128 players in multiplayer, but as a few of you know that was more a theoretical maximum than something that was really practical, especially back in 2003. When I started building Freelancer, partly inspired by the work done on Ultima Online (which was in development when I was still at Origin), the fun I was having playing multiplayer games like Command & Conquer and Diablo I had wanted to bring the Privateer experience into the bold new world of multiplayer. My original vision for Freelancer was to first release a single player game and then follow it up with massively multiplayer version with a dynamic economy and a world that reacted and adapted to the players actions.

I didn’t get a chance to deliver this vision and ultimately while Freelancer was a good game, it fell short of what I was aiming for.

With Star Citizen I was determined to combine what I wanted to achieve with Freelancer, with the personal experience that I think both Wing Commander and Privateer were so strong with.

But me being me, I wanted to combine things I like about the promise of a MMO, but avoid the aspects that I’m not so keen on like splintered player groups, griefing and grinding. I also was really impressed with how Demon’s Souls merged the single player experience with the multiplayer side.

All of this helped form my thinking on how Star Citizen is going to balance the difficult balancing act between multiplayer and single player.

All multiplayer games – whether they are a persistent world massively multiplayer game (MMO) like World of Warcraft or just an online multiplayer game like Battlefield 3 – have a limit to the number of players that can be active in anyone area or level. This number is usually inversely proportional to the amount of data that needs to go between the client and the server. For a game with complex physics and a fully destructible terrain, like Battlefield 3 the number of players that can active in an instance is less than a game with less real time fidelity like WoW, or Eve on Line. But in all cases there are always more players than any one server instance can handle. For a persistent multiplayer world like WoW the solution is to split up the player base into more manageable groups called “shards”, which are a permanent instance of the universe that look after a certain amount of players.

One thing I don’t like about most MMO structures is the fragmentation of the player base between these “shards”. If you had joined much later than a friend of yours, there may not be room on his world instance anymore and you have to join another parallel one and so cannot play together. This is one of the nice things about the Eve Online design – everyone plays in the same universe.

In Star Citizen there is going to be one persistent universe server that everyone exists on. So you will never be separated from your friends, and if you want you’ll be able to join up and adventure together, you can. Due to the fidelity of the dogfighting and physics simulation we can’t however handle thousands of players in the same area of space. Even if you had enough internet bandwidth to handle the data going back and forth and a super computer for the server there’s no PC, even with quad SLI that could render that many spaceships with Star Citizen’s fidelity.

So the “magic” of Star Citizen’s multiplayer design is how we combine a persistent universe with a more traditional (and easier to implement) temporary multiplayer “battle” instance.

The way it works is that the persistent universe server, which we’re calling the Galaxy Server, keeps track of all players’ assets, group relationships and locations inside the Star Citizen universe. As the Galaxy server isn’t handling any realtime action it can handle our complete player base, which right now would be about 45,000 players, but is designed to be able to scale to millions if need be. The other key thing the Galaxy Server does is dynamically place players based on their location, skill level, alignment and player versus player (PvP) preference into battle instances. Think of a “battle” instance like a Battlefield 3 multiplayer session or a World of Tanks Battle with the key difference that the selection of players is done transparently and is “in fiction”.

An illustration of how this would work is like this –

I start out planet side on New Pittsburg. I decide to buy a few tonnes of steel to fly to the shipyards of Terra. I’m currently in the hands of the galaxy server that communicates with my client and handles my purchases and interactions on the planet as these are not real time in the manner that the space action is. We render these in the manner of Freelancer, as detailed 3D environments where we see a third person view of our character in a location and we can click on Non Player Characters (NPCs) or terminals to buy / sell, upgrade your ship, get gossip, hear about a mission and so on. You’ll also be able to interact with other players via a chat interface. We haven’t fully worked out the player avatar handling planet side but the bar or private clubs will be where you can meet / chat to other players. Besides populating the bar with NPCs, the game will also populate the bar with other players. If there are more players planet side than there are slots of avatars in the bar the ones visible to you will be based off your friends list and then it will be based on relevance to you – a player looking for a wingman, one from a similar group, or maybe someone that you’ve been given a mission to find or hunt down. You will also be able to see the full list of players in the room if there are more players than there are slots. Default would be a drop down list for this, but as I hate anything that breaks the immersion, we’ll probably come up with a better in fiction way of seeing the list of players – maybe you tell the bartender who you’re looking for, maybe you can look at the door list for the bar.

Having bought my cargo I launch into space. If there are players already in orbit there will be an orbit instance already created. If it’s not full then I will be placed into that. If it is full then a new one will be dynamically created. All orbit (and battle) instances reserve slots for friends and persons of interest (POI), which can be NPCs or other players, so if you’ve launched and there are multiple orbit instances and you have friends already in orbit you should be placed into that instance. This is also the dynamic that will be applied if you want to follow another player – you can “tag” them as a POI and then the game will do its best to place you in the same instance as your POI. For instance if you tagged someone planet side and they launch your PDA with its future version of Siri will notify you that your POI is leaving, giving you a window to launch into space too.

Once in orbit I can pull up my Navigation computer and set a course for my destination. If its several systems away like Terra, the nav computer will chart a course through the relevant jump points. You will be able to adjust this like on Google maps, so if you click a different jump point on the system map it will then re-route you on the shortest path to your destination with that jump point as the first “jump”

Once I’ve plotted my nav course I would then engage auto-pilot and head towards my first “way” point on the path to my destination (a jump point, an interim space feature, like an asteroid belt and so on). At this point I’ve been handed back to the Galaxy Server, which is determining whether I will encounter a hostile, someone that has tagged me as a POI, or a predetermined encounter on the way, or if I’m going to run across ongoing battle instance that is relevant to me (some members of the instance are aligned against or with me). These encounters could be with an NPC or a live player(s) and are sorted on skill level and also – which is important to all of you that like a more single player experience and don’t want to deal with griefers – based on your player versus player (PvP) preference. So if you’ve set your game settings to be low PvP and you’re in a relatively safe area, you’ll likely have an NPC (PvE) encounter as opposed to a PvP one. Of course your ranking and any reputation you earn won’t be the same with a PvE encounter versus a PvP. My hope for this dynamic is that it will allow people to first play Star Citizen in a safer more single player open world style, but as they grow in confidence and want to test their mettle against other real players they can take the training wheels off and get into battles with real players. There will also be areas of the universe that no matter what your PvP setting is, will be PvP. These will be systems that are on the fringes of the policed galaxy and will be notorious for pirate and other illegal activity. They will also be the most lucrative areas – if you can survive.

Now if you’re flying with your friends, who you can link to via the game POI “tagging” system, they will be with you when you’re pulled into a battle instance, whether it is against NPCs, real players or a combination of both.

Once the Galaxy Server has determined that you will have an encounter based on the above criteria it either dynamically creates a battle instance, or puts you in one if one already exists at the encounter point, and that instance has room for new players. To exit this instance you either have to resolve the hostilities by defeating who’s targeting you, negotiating an exit or just outrunning them. Once in an instance you can put out a distress call to your friends. There are two ways people on your friends list (or squadron as we’re going to call it) can help. We save slots in all instances for friends to warp in to fight. To do this they need to be in the same system. If they are they can autopilot in to your rescue and will be dropped into the instance. If they’re not in the star system, if they can get to your system before the battle is over then they can join (but will only be able to join once they’ve reached your system). The second way for your friends to help out is by “dropping in” on your ship. This only works if it’s a multi person vehicle like the RSI Constellation. In this scenario they don’t need to be in your system, they just will drop in inside your ship and will be able to move around in first person, climbing into a turret to man it, or jumping in you P52 to fly it in combat while you fly the main ship (or they could fly your main ship and you pilot the fighter)

Once the hostilities or the event (sometimes you could be pulled into an instance because you came across a derelict ship or space station and we want to give the player a chance to explore) that triggered the drop out of auto-pilot has been resolved, you can hit auto-pilot again, get handed back to the Galaxy Server and go about your way on the nav course you’ve plotted.

You will always drop out at jump points and planets, where you will need to either make a jump to another system or land.

This process is continued until you reach your final destination, which in my example would be Terra, where I would use my comm system to negotiate a landing slot, which would take me down to the planet’s surface via an in-engine cinematic. Once planet side I’ll be able to sell my cargo, replenish my supplies and look for new opportunities via the third person planet side interface.

The advantage of this system is that is allows you to tailor your experience towards your preference – solo, co-op or full PvP. It also doesn’t partition you into different, parallel versions of the Star Citizen universe as everyone is kept on the persistent server. Because our battle or orbit / space instances are temporary, you’re never stuck

with one group over the long term and due to our heavy emphasis on friends and co-op, there will always be room for your friends to join you on your adventure; whether it’s against other players or NPCs.

The same instance system underpins the single player Squadron 42. If you’re playing off-line, your computer will be acting as the server and client, there will be no opportunities for friends to join and everyone will be an NPC. But if you play Squadron 42 through the Galaxy Server, even though your missions and space areas are pre-determined (you don’t get to pick where in the galaxy you are flying if you’re in the military) we will allow your friends to drop in / drop out to take over NPC wingmen and if you want extra skill ranking you can allow other players to drop in and take over enemy ace characters. This system is pretty similar to the Demon’s Souls setup where people could drop in as a Blue Phantom to help you kill a boss monster or fight off another invading player, or you could drop in as a Black Phantom to someone else’s world and try and kill them for XP and other gamerewards.

The key to all this is to allow player choice – you want to play alone you can, want your friends to join you in co-op we allow that and if you want to be challenged by other real players you can do that. The special part is that it can all happen in the same holistic universe.

I hope this helps in terms of understanding how we’re balancing the aspects of multiplayer as well as making the game fun.


Update #20

Unlocked: Tyrol System

Unbelievable - two systems unlocked in two days! Here's your first look at the Tyrol System... plus some other good news: two new ships will unlock, at $3.25 million and $3.75 million at the RSI site and you'll get descriptions of those as well! Plus, more details about the FPS mode at $3.5 million and an update to it at $4 million! So please keep those pledges coming.

Tyrol System

Ownership: None

Planets: 7

Planetary Rotation: Tyrol V 393 SED (Standard Earth Day)

Import: None

Export: Mineral, Elements

Black Market: Sentient Trafficking, Narcotics, Mercenaries, You name it.

UEE Strategic Value: Grey

Description: Located near the Banu Protectorate, Tyrol is a powder keg. The star has entered the red giant phase of its evolution and scientists are predicting that it will go supernova soon. Therefore, the UEE has designated the system as a scientific/research zone, allowing the scientific community to set up to record the effects of a supernova up close.

This also means that there is no real law presence in the system. If you can avoid the scientific research stations, you can find all sorts of disposable settlements on the planets. Most of them are used for smuggling operations while some are simply squatter camps, looking for free real estate before the system explodes.

Tyrol V currently hosts the most organized settlement, known as Haven. The planet surface is burned out from the star's initial evolution to the red giant phase and most humanoids require some kind of thermal shielding in their clothes in order to avoid blindness and sunburn.

Haven is built into the rock of a vast canyon in an effort to keep the temperature down. What started as a small network of tunnels expanded as more fugitives, criminals, expatriates, and outlaws decided to roll the dice and hide in a dying system.

Jump-point connections to Charon System (UEE) and Xi’An Territory.

Next up, at $3.3 million: "Home of the infamous QuarterDeck PrisonWorld. Don't mess with the Cops around here."


Update #19

Unlocked: Odin System

We announced the star system stretch goals only a few hours ago and it’s already time to show you the first one! Congratulations on $3.1 million, pilots! Here’s what you’ve added to the map:

Odin System
Ownership
: United Earth Empire
Planets: 4
Planetary Rotation: Osiris II 487 SED (Standard Earth Day)
Imports: Food, Medical Supplies
Exports: None
Black Market: Weapons, Gemstones
UEE Strategic Value Rank: Grey

Description: Odin is one of the oldest star systems visited by man. Fifty thousand years ago, it was a vibrant solar system remarkably similar to Earth or Terra. Since that time, Odin’s star has degenerated into a white dwarf, rendering its planets icy nightmare worlds.

Odin II is within the system’s minuscule green band and is home to a variety of temporary UEE “deep freeze” expeditions, with the lack of surviving vegetation making it an ideal site for a weapons laboratory. Smugglers occasionally choose to call the system home, but their stays are infrequent… Odin is too cold even for pirates and trained killers.

Odin II’s moon, Vili, is frequently used as a corporate weapons testing range. As a result, something of a black market for weapons technology has grown up in the region: much of it is junk, but pilots have reported finding occasional deals on discarded top-of-the-line military-grade surplus.

There is a thick asteroid belt close in, likely the remnants of a planet which did not survive the star’s failure. The UEE formally bans mining in the system, although little effort is paid to enforcing this edict. The field is largely uninteresting, but intrepid miners have been known to hit on substantive caches of gemstones, making their trips worthwhile.

Odin IV is a gas giant and home to a UEE-sponsored hydrogen rendering station and fuel depot. Fuel is remarkably cheap here for this part of the galaxy, although accommodations are notoriously spartan.

Known jumps to Baker, Helios and Osiris.

Next up, at $3.2 million: “Seven planets exist in this system. Unfortunately, the star is about to go supernova so no one has claimed it. A great place to have clandestine meetings.”


Update #18

Friday Status Updates

Hello everyone! We wanted to provide you with status updates about several of our ongoing projects and things you’ve been asking about.

Stretch Goals

We’re well on our way to $3.5 million combined between the two campaigns, where you’ll unlock… cockpit decorations?! It’s true, and we’re actually getting more excited the more we think about the possibilities. Instead of just having a stock cockpit for your ship, deck it out with bobble heads, dinosaurs, hula girls, photographs and the like… and then show your friends when they visit your ship. And we’d like to know what YOU want to put on your dashboard or around your cabin, so let us know in the comments!

Additionally, we’re going to unlock another star system at every $100,000 between here and $4 million. And as we get there we’ll post telling you the name of the system and giving you the first idea of what you’re going to find there. It looks like we’re already well on our way to system #41!

Citizen Card

Today we’re showing off the “green” Bounty Hunter card. These come with the $60 “Make Mine a Double” tiers and we think they’re a worthy upgrade! Remember that your card will be personalized with your name (or whichever name you choose.) They make a great gift and a nice, subtle way to show people you’re a Star Citizen backer.

RSI Physical Add Ons

We promised these earlier in the week and are very sorry to report that there’s been an unexpected delay getting them into our system. We will have them up before the pledge period ends and you WILL be able to add them, at the current prices, after November 19th (as long as you’ve pledged at least $30 at that point.)

Pledge Linking

After a week of manually linking the initial RSI pledges, we’re confident that we have most of them finished. If your pledge is still not showing on your My Account page, please contact us we’ll take care of it immediately. Kickstarter pledges will be linked after the Kickstarter period ends on November 19!

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Update #17

$3 Million - An Update from Chris Roberts

Hi everyone!

Three million dollars! It’s hard to believe we’re already here, far above our initial objective and well into some of the stretch goals, with still 10 days left in the campaign. It’s all thanks to you, our incredible fans. I am impressed every single day when I see the dedication you have already given this project, spreading the word and building a great and supporting community. It’s going to be a daunting—and rewarding—task for the team to continue to build the game knowing how much this community believes in us. And it’s a task I’m proud to say we’re up to.

Sorry to have been quiet for the past few days. I just got back from Montreal, Canada, which is likely to be one of the locations where we will build Star Citizen, along with Austin, Texas and Los Angeles, California. It may seem inefficient to have the team spread out but I’m actually a big fan of distributed development. The tech prototype was built by a small team spread out between Austin, Frankfurt (Germany), Los Angeles, Montreal, Monterey (Mexico) and San Francisco

The concept is to focus on where the talent is and not try to fit the talent to the location. So a lot of my old Origin and Digital Anvil compatriots will be based in Austin, in LA the focus will be some of the high end conceptual design (leaning heavily on the deep pool of talent from film like Ryan Church and Jim Martin) and some engineering. In Montreal we’re likely to be building some of the backend persistent server infrastructure and web front end. I’ll be spending time in each location and heavily using Skype! The idea is to break the various components of Star Citizen into discrete parts that are the responsibility of focused “tiger” teams – dogfighting, shipboard FPS, planet side buying / selling / chatting / mission acquisition, persistent server backend and so on. This way it keeps the various elements of the project manageable and the responsibility of small, tight teams. It’s always been my experience that small teams tend to be the most effective, so the idea is to utilize the small team concept in such a way that it can scale for a project with the ambition of Star Citizen. Think of it as taking the multi-core / threading approach to development as opposed to the old way of just increasing the speed and size of one big processor.

Enlist your Friends Update

There have been a few updates while I’ve been off working on the development and hiring plan. And a couple of them have caused some discontent amongst you, so I wanted to set the record straight.

The pledge referral program was actually something that was part of the spec of the custom crowd funding plug in we built and was meant to launch day 1. Unfortunately, due to our launch issues it was never deployed and it has taken this long to get up and running.

Before we started the campaign we had talked to Alienware, NVIDIA and Logitech, who were all very excited by what Star Citizen represented for PC gaming and were eager to help out with some free swag to give away with some of the pledge tiers. We thought it would be much more fun, and allow a wider range of the community to participate if everyone had the chance of winning the bad ass Alienware gaming rig, rather than bundling it with some custom $15,000 pledge level. So we thought that tying it to rounding up as many friends to play with you would be a great way, especially as we want to encourage co-op play and building up your squadron (which is another feature we will roll out once vBulletin is active)

We know that a lot of you are concerned that you won’t be credited for everyone you encouraged to join the fight for high end PC gaming and space sims. Don’t worry! We’re building a referral input to the My Account screen on the RSI site that will give you the ability to retroactively specify if someone has referred you, so everyone can get credit even from the very beginning of the campaign.

We hope you like it. It was designed for fun, and to give everyone a chance to win some cool swag (who doesn’t want an Alienware desktop, Oculus Rift or a GTX680?).

I’ve also had a few questions about the contests we’ve run previously. For legal reasons we’re not allowed to identify the winners unless they give us permission… but if you won a signed Wing Commander or an Anvil Gladiator bomber, you have been contacted by our staff, so make sure to check your spam filters in case there’s a surprise stuck out of view!

Ship Concept Art

We know this high on everyone’s list. Both Ryan Church and Jim Martin are working away on this and have been for many weeks. I hope to have the first set, which will be Ryan’s RSI Constellation work, be in a state to share by the start of next week. When you see the work you will understand why it is not something that can be done in a day. All Star Citizen ships are designed to a level of detail, ergonomics and functionality that no one has ever attempted before in a space game. It’s not just about a pretty drawing – if it was I could have shared something weeks ago. It’s about fully designing the interior and exterior, how weapons and missiles are deployed, where the engines and various thrusters are located, how they articulate, where you would sleep, how the P52 fighter launches and re-docks, where you eat your meal and where you shower. The plan is to share a full RSI brochure on each ship, with exterior and interior renderings, not unlike you would see from Boeing or Lockheed Martin in today’s world. I can tell you the work in progress is very cool and I think you will all be excited once you see the first set. But please bear with us all five ships can’t be done in the next two weeks – it is a multi-month process. But that’s part of the fun of backing Star Citizen; you’re going to take the journey with the development team, see work as it happens and be constantly engaged. It’s not just about the initial campaign – we will be updating and sharing during the whole development process.

Stretch Goals

We’ve just hit $1,000,000 and the Corvette on Kickstarter and $3,000,000 on the main site. I can’t begin to tell you how excited this makes me… but I really want to get to at least $4,000,000 overall as this will allow us to do more sooner, especially on things like the modding tools. It may seem like a stretch but if you look at other Kickstarter’s they all had a huge surge in the last few days. When it comes to game projects, we’re definitely the leader in amount of dollars pledged per backer, thanks to you. Some of the stretch goals can be covered by upgrading, but we need to also get new backers in. I know you’ve all been spreading the word. Keep it up and we can get there!

Future Updates

We’ve already given you a preview of the base Citizen Card and will be sharing the other over the coming days. I also plan to do a few write ups for you – I always get a lot of questions about instancing, so I’m going to try and describe the process in one concise update. There will be some more video from the prototype in the near future… And of course a ship brochure!


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    HIGH ADMIRAL: Finished game for your PC with your top-of-the-line RSI Constellation spaceship ready to fly + Exclusive access to the Alpha and Beta + 20,000 Galactic Credits + Spaceship shaped USB stick with the game and all digital elements + CD of game soundtrack + Fold-up glossy full color map of the game universe + Set of 5 Ship blueprints + 6-inch physical model of your in-game ship + Hardcover copy of 'The Making of Star Citizen' including loads of behind the scenes images and info, prelim concept art, development stories + 30min video conference with Chris Roberts to ask him all the questions you like + Platinum Citizens Card

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $2,500 or more
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    3 backers

    GRAND ADMIRAL: Finished game for your PC with all five pledge ships ready to fly + Exclusive access to the Alpha and Beta + 20,000 Galactic Credits + Spaceship shaped USB stick with the game and all digital elements + CD of game soundtrack + Fold-up glossy full color map of the game universe + Set of 5 Ship blueprints + 6-inch physical model of your in-game ship + Hardcover copy of 'The Making of Star Citizen' including loads of behind the scenes images and info, prelim concept art, development stories + Hardback bound 42-page Engineering Manual for Modders+ Hardback bound 42-page Squadron 42 Manual + 60min video conference with Chris Roberts to ask him all the questions you like + Platinum Citizens Card

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $5,000 or more
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    1 backer Limited (19 left of 20)

    SPACE MARSHALL: The finished game for your PC with your top of the line RSI Constellation spaceship ready to fly + 20,000 Galactic Credits + Exclusive access to the Alpha and Beta + Spaceship shaped USB stick of game and all digital elements + CD of game soundtrack + Fold up glossy full color map of the game universe + Set of 5 Ship Blueprints + 8-inch painted model of your in-game ship + Hardcover copy of 'The Making of Star Citizen' including loads of behind the scenes images and info, prelim concept art, development stories + Spend half a day with Chris Roberts and get into the details of the development + Black Citizens Card

    Estimated delivery:
  • Pledge $10,000 or more
    You selected

    1 backer Limited (9 left of 10)

    Title: WING COMMANDER: The finished game for your PC with your top of the line RSI Constellation spaceship ready to fly + 20,000 Galactic Credits + Custom skin for your RSI Constellation Spaceship + Name your spaceship (after you if you want!) + Exclusive access to the Alpha and Beta + 1 Million Mile High Club Ownership - Invite your guests to your private club in the game + Spaceship shaped USB stick of game and all digital elements + CD of game soundtrack + Fold up glossy full color map of the game universe + Set of 5 Ship Blueprints + 10-inch painted model of your in-game ship + Hardcover copy of 'The Making of Star Citizen' including loads of behind the scenes images and info, prelim concept art, development stories + Hang for a day with Chris Roberts and key peeps on the dev team + Titanium Citizens Card

    Estimated delivery:
Funding period

- (32 days)