Tomasius Space

Ex dubium scientia. From doubt [comes] knowledge.

Star Citizen

Port-lit, metallic, Star Citizen Logo comprising a single cruciform star encapsulated by a wreath and set betwwen the words STAR and CITIZEN on a backing rectangle

Star Systems
In-system view of a K-Type Main Sequence Star from within one astronomical unit

Space Trials
Shuttle Class space ship

Cutter Class space ship

ASW Frigate Class space ship

Endurance Cutter Class space ship

Heavy Ordinance Endurance Cutter Class space ship

Life in Overlap

Star Citizen
Port-lit, metallic, Star Citizen Logo comprising a single cruciform star encapsulated by a wreath and set betwwen the words STAR and CITIZEN on a backing rectangle

What is an RPG?
It all began with pen and paper

Gaming Concepts
USB Iconography

Gaming Psychology
Neural network node showing connective reinforcement

Star Citizen


It needs to be stated, from the outset, that Star Citizen is not yet a finished product and, in fact, is not yet a complete prototype. While involvement at this stage does have its share of fun, the focus of opening a Persistent Universe to backers is to identify as many bugs as possible on the fly. When it comes to bug hunting, Star Citizen does not disappoint and can even be quite frustrating at times. However, this is not the finished state of the game and bugs which are identified by the backers are, for the most part, hunted down and exterminated during the development of subsequent releases.

This said, there are always risks involved when investing in any project under development. Development is probably the most difficult and risk-prone phase of any enterprise - which has a lot to do with why we see so little large scale innovation. Investment is to pursue only one objective; return on investment. And, from the investor's point of view, the consumer does not constitute part of that return. This is what gives kickstarter projects, like Star Citizen, such a significant advantage for consumeres. In kickstarter projects, the investors are the customers and, as consumers, the customers are not interested in a financial dividend but in the innovations that a finished product will deliver to them. As a kickstarter project, the first big question that needs to be addressed is that of what new innovations will Star Citizen bring to the table?

What is Star Citizen intended to become?

Star Citizen is intended to be an MMO RPG in the Futurist style of the Fantasy genre. This is set in a first person world where the player can get out of the pilot's seat and walk the deck's of her/his own ship; where the player will be able to seamlessly land on planets and planetesimals, and explore on foot or in a vehicle; where the player can take a "spacewalk" in zero-G environments, which is very compelling in its current form.

What has been specified is deep and realistic physics-based gameplay on different scales and offering a diverse range of in-game activity set in a significant space-faring civilisation set to span roughly 100 star systems. It's not just dogfighting that's on the table. There's large ship manoeuvres, fleet coordination, mining+fuel refining, exploration+research, surveying and charting, salvage, scouting, investigation, bounty hunting, pirating, smuggling, freight, economic trade, information trade, etc. This game also has first person combat, both on platforms with gravity (such as operational space stations) and zero-G first person combat which is a totally different experience. First person combat will also extend to ship boarding and defense, as well as to planetary settings. Combat isn't the only broad gameplay system which needs to be considered in a game like this. There's also flight which, in Star Citizen takes place in six degrees of freedom (6DoF). Although longitudinally coupled flight is the simplified default, space flight is quite different from atmospheric flight due to the lack of gravity and fluid drag. This allows more approaches to flight and much deeper flight strategy because the ability to decouple from longitudinal flight offers many different approaches to flight strategy which, potentially, allows strategy to level the playing field between different ships in much the same way that flight technique allows ships with drastically different handling capabilities to navigate the same regions.

Taken together as a set of game mechanics and gameplay options accessible to players from all walks of life, this makes Star Citizen truly innovative. No other game even approaches this breadth of gameplay and the Persistent Universe, consistently, keeps getting better as new features and mechanics are added and gradually debugged with the help of the community. And for those considering spending more than just what is required for a starter package, this is what you are paying for. Not the ship you get - which you will be able to acquire through gameplay, irrespective, once the game is released. When you back beyond the fundamental license to play Star Citizen, you are paying for the priviledge of contributing to a project which future generations will look back on as a wonder of the computing world. To know you have a hand in something like this is a very special source of pride for me and, depending on what is important to you, it could also become a source of pride for you too.

Can Star Citizen be delivered as intended?

The success of a project is measured by its progress. While I've had an interest in Star Citizen since the day I heard of it, I needed to see something to indicate that it was more than just talk before I committed my own funds. This is really important because there are so many schemes out there which are designed to make money for nothing - usually revolving around promises that are not honoured. When I committed, the hangar system functioned and some of the ships were hangar ready. Some, even, could be flown in small test areas. From my experience, in project management (and I'm talking about a lot more than just the PFEU, here; including software development and some very fiddly heavy engineering), this was more than sufficient evidence of progress to justify a free hand in funding.

Since then, the "LIVE" PU introduced EVA and zero-gravity PvP (PU 2.0) and has become more accessible (PU 2.1) and the ships more diverse with physicalised EVA (PU 2.2). Missions were introduced in PU 2.3, persistence in PU 2.4 and, in PU 2.5, a new habitat. The seamless atmospheric entry and landing is slated for 3.0 to be released in December, 2016, or January, 2017. Meanwhile, the playerbase has successfully identified an lag exploit which seems to have been mysteriouly plaguing other CryEngine-based MMO games for many years without solution. This exemplifies one of the great benefits of publishing an alpha version universe; which offers the opportunity for participants to guide development though bug-hunting and design feedback. In this sense, participation in the Star Citizen project offers backers the unique opportunity to participate in and contribute to the maturation of the game as it evolves through its pre-release forms during the development process. With major milestones achieved and strong ongoing support, Star Citizen is on track for the delivery of the next batch of features and game systems in the pipeline. It's this kind of activity, with measureable progress towards a goal, which offers the best indication that Star Citizen can be delivered as intended.

Signing up and Purchasing a ship … or several

It is very important to understand two things before spending any money on Star Citizen:

  1. Star Citizen is still in development and you will not be playing with the finished product for some time. The point of participation, at this time, is to find, identify and report bugs or unintended game behaviour and, from one alpha version to the next, there is always something that impacts on the quality of gameplay. Such is the nature of alpha testing.
  2. Star Citizen is not P2W and there are no super-ships specified or intended for the game (in spite of the in-lore hype). When the game is released it will be possible to acquire most of the ships, through gameplay, and ships do not need to be purchased once you have a Star Citizen game package.

As it was pointed out, at the release of alpha PU version 2.0:

There’s no perfect ship – only the perfect ship for you.

So, bear in mind, you don't have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for the "best" ship when this depends heavily on how and where you fly and what you prefer to do. In fact, it is intended that when Star Citizen is released, ships will be available, in-game, through game-play and ships will only be available for purchase outside the game, up until the time the game is released; at which point all ship sales outside the game will be discontinued. This is because the purpose of selling ships outside the game is to allow and encourage participants to choose the level of backing they'd prefer to contribute towards the game's development. If you're looking for a super-ship, put your money back in your pocket. This is not the game for you. If you're looking for something rare or hard to get, be patient, save your Schillings, and watch the official ship sales.

At the time of writing (PU 2.5) Star Citizen is still quite demanding, although framerates have improved. Currently, the game pulls 25 FPS (frames per second), plus or minus five frames on an i7-4790 + GTX-960 + 16Gb 2400MHz RAM (compared with around 20 FPS in PU 2.3). While this would be unplayable in Fallout or the Elder Scrolls (due to Gamebryo frame-rates somehow getting exaggerated during benchmarking) this is the frame rate at which movies run. Something to be said in CryTek's favour is that in CryEngine-based games, the minimum smooth frame rate generally sits on around 20 FPS (this figure is closer to 60 FPS in Gamebryo-based games) with minimum playable framerate at around 15 FPS (closer to 45 FPS in Gamebryo-based games). Lower frame rates tend to be more prone to benchmark exaggeration. Closer to 12 FPS in CryEngine or 36 FPS in Gamebryo the actual framerate is slow enough to manually count, with a stopwatch, and comes up at around 3 FPS. This is something to be wary of when rendering is stuttering. So, I think that if your computer is pulling 60 FPS, most of the time (even in combat), in a game as demanding as Fallout 4, the odds are that it'll pull 20-25 FPS in Star Citizen. It's safe to say that, in both cases, we are talking about the same rendering speed and hardware demand.

Necessary Bandwidth

One of the great unanswered questions about MMOs concerns bandwidth. Based on mixed session results, logged ISO:2016-Oct-26 from 09:59-10:33 hours UTC in Star Citizen Live PU version 2.5.0;
Mean bandwidth corresponds to 200 mb/hour download and 50 mb/hour upload
Peak bandwidth approaches 100 kb/second download and 20 kb/second upload.
This is, actually, quite a small footprint which can be compared with the little Windows Defender updates for which Windows Update uploads system information at around 100 kb/s and downloads the update, itself, at between 450 kb/s and up to 2.35 mb/s.

Cautionary notices dispensed, you can sign up for a Mustang or Aurora package for around us$45.oo and, by using the referral code supplied below, you can score yourself an additional 5000 UEC ... for whatever that is worth. At the time of writing, 5000 credits is enough to buy you a sidearm, either a pistol or a rifle or such little things that don't ship with a ship. Moreover, the credits won't become available to you in-game until the game has been released. So, it's not a big deal, there's no urgency and, if you're not sure, find out more about Star Citizen before you commit. This said, here's that referral code, if only for good measure!

       Referral Code:                If you wish to sign up, follow the link, below:
       STAR-LBCY-C93V                Enlist today!

Ship Purchases

There are not only a wide variety of ships, but "the flight model", such as it is, varies significantly from ship to ship (which is one of the most interesting and immersive aspects of the game, in my opinion). This is because Star Citizen is specified for serious depth in all activities and mechanics, not just combat. Even mining is slated to take on a significant depth of gameplay via the introduction of remote sensing and engineering challenges related to finding and extracting ore from asteroids. Ultimately, there is no best ship, only the best ship for what you prefer to do. So, it is very likely that the most prudent thing to do, when looking to acquire the ship best suited to you, is to pay attention to the sort of things you really like doing, in-game, and focus your atttention on finding the ship with handling and speciality best suited to what you prefer to do, when you login to Star Citizen.

Currently, there is a contingent of spreadsheet warriors trying to mathematically deduce which ship is "best", usually on the assumption that the only activity which matters is combat. This whole outlook gets shot to pieces by the fact that each major ship type or class has its own flight model. So, in combat, some ships might be "aim-centric" while other ships might be "manoeuvre-centric" and the "aim-centric" ship will always be a sitting duck in the hands of a "manoeuvre-centric" pilot but, in the hands of a pilot who flies a ship for what it is, there are some surprises in store for "manoeuvre-centric" pilots who assume that only their preferred flight model is in play. You have been warned!

There is also a contingent of spreadsheet worriers, like myself, who document actual ship performance so that imblanaces can be attributed to the correct flight parameter instead of arm-waving about handling characteristics. A lot of this boils down to ship size, mass and function-based class. In the real world, a cutter is a 40-100m long ship which sacrifices considerable cargo capacity for speed and is typically employed in adverse logistics (supply and transport under fire) as well as for border patrols because its speed is effective for rescues and getting away from any really serious trouble if a large naval force is encountered at sea. Again, in the real world, a corvette is a 60-160m ship built for speed, rather than firepower, and used for patrolling contested waters, escorts and interdictions at sea. A destroyer, on the other hand, is also a 60-160m ship but it is built more for firepower with a focus on anti-aircraft batteries. Frigates are the slowest of the 60-160m ships and are special purpose ships, usually employed in anti-submarine operations, mine sweeping and mine deployment. As far as rated ships go, in the real world, ship classes have evolved according to what best suits the task typical of the ship's class. The same can be said of any ship in Star Citizen because players will find themselves filling the kinds of roles that are best suited to their choice of ship (irrespective of the developer's intentions) because the product of game balance and ship design will always be the deciding factor when it comes to the question of what type of missions the ship's operator will ultimately find less difficult to execute, more successful success, less costly and, ultimately, allow the operator to come away with less sour taste in the mouth.

Loss being what it is, ships are insured; not magically respawned when destroyed. As part of the in-game economics of Star Citizen, players pay in-game insurance premiums on their ships so that, in the event of the ship's loss, it can be replaced without having to be repurchased. How good a deal this is, is another question. Certainly, some players run enough ships to start their own in-game insurance company and if in-game insurance margins are anything like they are in the real world, running your own fleet insurance would be cheaper than outsourcing it to another company. If, on the other hand, the rates are incredibly good, then that will make many of us happy too. Of course, if you get a ship or package that is bundled with lifetime insurance, the lifetime premium is bundled with the cost of purchase; which translates to one less thing to worry about in-game. This is either a good thing or a bad thing depending on the sty;e of gameplay you prefer. Suffice to say, lifetime insurance is one of those things which some players consider important. It is also one of the benefits originally restricted to early backers and concept sales. If lifetime insurance is important to you, you can always purchase a small package when one comes up as a concept sale, then upgrade the package to the ship you want when that ship becomes available. All items in the original package, except the ship, will remain present in the upgrade; including your lifetime insurance.

Observed Star Citizen Ship Specifications:

This is to be a reference to the deeper, less clearly documented details of the different ships which have been acquired through testing, observation, measurement and calculation from measured parameters.

Observed Star Citizen Ship Specifications
Free Fly Week Performance Report for Live Alpha 2.3.1

Saturday, ISO: 2019-February-23, 22:12 hours, UTC.