Wed. Aug 10th, 2022

One of the things I hoped I could do before I left this job was to play a finished or at least fully released version of Star Citizen. It’s not close to happening, according to all information from the latest CitizenCon 2951, but there is some good news: the clouds are looking really on a.

CitizenCon is the ongoing annual party for all things Star Citizen, or for everyone else, the annual event where everyone hopes to finally get a release date for Squadron 42 or the larger, persistent multiplayer game. Unfortunately, this year’s CitizenCon did not provide such an update. And judging by the quality of the new outposts and the amount of work in the clouds, I guess I will need it another PC upgrade and a PCIe 4.0 NVMe drive to enjoy the game that the developers intended, especially if they keep adding things like this:

Photo: Star Citizen (YouTube)

The image above is from a section in the middle of the largest Star Citizen the weekend’s panel, which was a total tour of the universe in the game. As part of that, the developers talked about the “cloud authoring process” and how clouds are rendered in different environments.

Part of the reason for all this work is to help create alien cloud formations, things that would not appear on Earth, but which could theoretically occur on certain planets or certain atmospheric formations.

starburst clouds
Photo: Star Citizen (YouTube)

Of course, this also means that developers can fuck around with the clouds in more memorable ways. Like shitty cat drawings.

Photo: YouTube (Star Citizen)

There was an entire section on the rest of the planetary assets and creation, where a developer presented himself as part of the art team that just focuses on the organic. Another explained the biomegeneration process in more detail and outlined how something like this:

starburst clouds
Photo: Star Citizen (YouTube)

Will eventually be transformed into something like this:

starburst clouds
Photo: Star Citizen (YouTube)

The amount of detail is actually insanely impressive if you can put the whole part aside where Star Citizen and its developers are still talking about the project as if it is five years from completion. Feature creep does not even seem appropriate for the absurd amount of work and details Star Citizen team has apparently gone into adding, optimizing or just basically rewriting every part of CryEngine to get it to do … well, this.

Nice transitions, however, do not make a game. And I’m not trying to downplay the many real concerns many supporters have still have about whether Squadron 42 or its persistent multiplayer universe will start to look like a more cohesive experience in 2023 or 2024. But as was the case last year, there is a lot of really cool, interesting technology going in Star Citizen Along the road.

It has not stopped moments where I step out of a building and mine the ship has disappeared for unknown reasons. And I still have a lot of reservations about whether other projects can ever benefit from all this progress, because they are basically built into an engine that Star Citizen developers probably wished they had given up six years ago.

For those hoping for more of a concrete update though Squadron 42, the single-player experience with Gary Oldman, Mark Hamill and Gillian Anderson, due out sometime later this year. CitizenCon is more about upcoming ships (of which there are plenty), multicore rendering and how server masking takes place. Which, judging by the panel, sounds like an absolute nightmare.

Next year marks the 10th anniversary of Star Citizen. It would be nice if Squadron 42 at the time could be played in some form, but so many systems sound as if they are still in the early stages of development. There was nothing significantly new announced in the Gen12 + Volcano update, other than an understanding of the deep complexity involved. Server masking is not expected to start until Star Citizen hits alpha 4.0, which is at least a year away given where Star Citizen is right now. And the amount of time spent expanding planetary tools should at least help with the expansion of Star Citizen universe further down the road: being more feature-complete should help developers create deeper and more vibrant planetary environments faster, so it’s always a huge gain.

For what it’s worth, the current roadmap functionality has followed up until July 2022, with two chapters – Chapter 5 and Chapter 26 – due to be completed by May 2022. The rest of Star Citizen roadmap always provides interesting reading, if only you can get a little look at what the production management of a project of 700 people, half a billion dollars looks like.

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