CitizenCon, the now established annual convention for fans of Cloud Imperium Games’ currently in development space sim Squadron 42 and it’s MMO counterpart Star Citizen, was held in Manchester UK over the weekend. It was one of the longest recent presentations by the Cloud Imperium team, at just over two hours.
It didn’t take long for Chris Roberts, CEO of Cloud Imperium, to get into details about upcoming releases. The current Star Citizen alpha is getting an update in the next week or so adding new ship weapons, a character loadout selector and the ability to drive around the only currently accessible multiplayer ground based location, ArcCorp. The update is mostly background work, but it was revealed that buggies will be able to take damage for the first time, and a respawn mechanic is being added thanks to the possibility of dying in the otherwise safe ArcCorp map.
Bigger news came in the form of a detailed rundown of the Star Citizen alpha 2.0 release. Alpha 2.0, otherwise known as the mini PU (Persistent Universe), will bring long awaited features including an accessible large world (64-bit space) map, local physics grids for ships, EVA mechanics, missions and multi-crew ships.
A live demonstration, in a new playable area, finished off the segment. All of the new systems were demonstrated, including an example of the missions. A battle with AI pirates led to a look at the new repair and rearm platform, then on to a demonstration of FPS combat inside a space station. While it was obvious everything is in an early state, it was all quite seamless and slick. After the demonstration, Roberts almost let slip a date for release of alpha 2.0, but settled for saying “very soon”, hinting at the release being very close to ready for the public.
A surprise announcement at the show was the new Star Map. A short video introduced the web-based app which allows users to navigate the Star Citizen galaxy in in a 3D interface. Starting in the Stanton system, where the previous demonstration had been set, various sensor settings were shown off that will later be used to aid players in navigating the galaxy. After zooming out to the galaxy-wide map, features to let players plot routes were shown off. It looks like the Star Map will be something of a futuristic satnav for players, with options to plot routes for speed or safety, and the ability to exclude systems from travel routes completely. The Star Map went live during the presentation, and on first look it’s clear that it’s not only quite pretty to look at, it’s also full of in-universe information for fans to find.
Chief Operating Officer and Head of Business Development Carl Jones was next up, with an update on the Saitek controllers being built for the game. Since the initial reveal of the controllers at Gamescom in Germany, work has continued on refining the new hardware. A mockup HOTAS (hands on throttle and stick) device was shown, showing off the changes. A custom Star Citizen controller setup was also shown, demonstrating the user configurable nature of the Saitek suite.
Other announcements included a new stealth fighter ship known as the Sabre and a 48 hour military ship sale. A referral program designed to reward community members for bringing more fans into the community, along with a simpler system for upgrading ships on the website, rounded out the web based features on show.
By far the most impressive demonstration was saved for last. A trailer for Squadron 42, composed of a scene from the game’s introduction, gave fans a look at Gary Oldman in the role of Admiral Bishop. The trailer showcases advanced facial and performance capture technology being used in Squadron 42, and ends in a cast list fitting of a Hollywood blockbuster. The full trailer can be found below, it’s worth a watch for Oldman’s performance alone.
Squadron 42 itself was described as a next generation triple-A game. Robert’s presentation went on to describe sandbox missions, allowing players to choose their own path through missions. A dynamic conversation system in the vein of Mass Effect is said to allow for unique interactions with NPC crew. Over ten hours of performance capture has made it’s way into the final story, making it longer than than the script for all of Robert’s Wing Commander games combined. Early alpha footage showed off all that technology in action with a tour through the Idris, one of the larger ships in the game.
As far as presentations go, this was a very impressive display from Cloud Imperium Games. The progress and technology demonstrated were phenomenal, with a very positive online reaction from fans. 2016 looks to be a big year for Chris Roberts and his team, with a rapidly developing MMO and a single player release on the horizon.
Images and Video © 2015 Cloud Imperium Games Corporation