Star Citizen’s Big Influences: Demon’s Souls, Real Life

By Nathan Grayson on October 16th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

Look out the window, honey! It's an endless void of infinite darkness far beyond the reaches of human comprehension. And also some rocks!

Star Citizen – the newest and spacest thing from mighty commander of all wings, Chris Roberts – sounds impossibly good. And I do mean that, but with more emphasis on the “impossible” part than I’d like. No doubt, Roberts is completely brilliant, but he’s proposing a project of utterly mad ambition. Naturally, it’s made me a bit skeptical. That said, an hour-long chat during GDC Online (the full results of which you’ll see very soon) definitely put a few of my fears at ease. Roberts is dreaming bigger than just about any other designer out there, but his pie-in-the-stars ambitions are actually pretty well-grounded in reality. And also Demon’s Souls, surprisingly enough.

Star Citizen’s scope and scale may sound completely bonkers, but there are limits. Very specific limits, actually. In short, don’t go in expecting EVE-Online-style thousand-ship-battle shenanigans. This simply isn’t that sort of game.

“The largest amount of people that can be in one area in space is decided by the number of people we can have in combat at once,” Roberts told RPS. “It’s not 100 percent fully determined, but it’s going to be between 60 and 100-some-odd people. So if there were 10,000 people in orbit around Earth, that’d be 100 different instances of 100 different people, basically.”

“Essentially, the persistent universe is doing the matchmaking. It keeps track of where you are in the galaxy, how much money you’ve got, what ship you’ve got – and obviously, that’s not completely real-time. If we wanted to, the persistent universe could be handled by some sort of boring web interface. But that’s not the sort of stuff I like to do. So the persistent universe detects that you and another player are moving one way, and he’s a pirate and you’re a merchant, and you’re going to intersect. So it basically creates an instance that’s dynamic and puts you two into it until you resolve your conflict. It will allow other players to drop into it. There’ll be slots saved for your friends, so you’ll be able to message them and say, ‘Hey, I’m under attack! If anyone’s close by, come help me out.’”

“It’s a different level of scope [than EVE]. That’s why it’s called ‘Star Citizen’ and not ‘Earth and Empire’ or something. It’s more about that personal view than some big political campaign.”

He noted, then, that Squadron 42 – Star Citizen’s non-persistent spin-off – will be a lot like World of Tanks, but with an overarching narrative. Further, in response to one of Richard’s concerns, he explained that Squadron 42 is actually first on the list of priorities, as Star Citizen’s persistent world technology will eventually be layered on top of it to create a separate game. “Actually, if someone were to ask me, ‘Chris, can you really get this all done?’ it wouldn’t be about getting the Squadron 42 stuff done. It’d be whether or not I can get the full vision of the world going. That’s the biggest challenge,” he said.

Roberts assured me, however, that his ultimate goal is still to simulate a living, breathing galaxy as accurately as possible. And that goal manifests everywhere: in economics, upholding the law, and, er, insurance.

“I’m actually sort of bummed by the current design philosophy where there’s no penalty for not doing particularly well,” Roberts lamented. “In a lot of games I play – especially the console ones – I don’t play particularly smart, because when I respawn, I’m like a second away from where I died. So I go in guns blazing and basically bully my way through the story. I really like [console-only Dark Souls predecessor] Demon’s Souls, though. It was a combination of the most frustrating and rewarding game I’ve played in a long time.”

“So in this, I don’t think we’re gonna be quite as tough as Demon’s Souls, but there needs to be some penalty. You won’t be able to just blast away and then respawn again. So if you go out in space and your ship gets destroyed, you’ve lost it. But basically, we’re trying to do a lot of things like the real world, so we’re trying to simulate an economy and you can buy ship insurance and cargo insurance. So, if you’re smart, you’ll pay a little money for insurance. Normally, if you get blasted, you’ll lose your cargo, but you’ll end up on the same planet to get a replacement ship. If you don’t have ship insurance, you’ll lose it all. I mean, insurance is not going to be that expensive, but it certainly shouldn’t be easy.”

He added that insurance costs will be higher at the edge of the galaxy, because “it’s just like if you’re living in a really bad neighborhood.” So you’ll definitely want insurance in that sort of no-man’s-land, but you might be able to get by without it if you decide to cling to Earth like it’s a gigantic, eons-old safety blanket. That said, Earth will also impose higher tariffs and trade taxes, whereas the lawless frontier keeps things quick, loose, and sans paper trail. But, just putting it out there, you’ll probably die. Roberts’ hope, then, is that a system of trade princes, space crime lords, bounty hunters, and everything in between will arise from that. So yeah, there may be some smoke-and-mirrors involved, but it still all sounds totally mad. Not that you’ll hear Roberts complaining if you tell him as much.

“Well,” he grinned, “no one ever accused me of being unambitious.”

Check back later this week for the full, extremely lengthy interview. It will finally set to rest your overwhelming fears that Roberts might suddenly cease developing games to pursue a life of organized space crime. And also, it might answer a few more of your burning questions about Star Citizen. Maybe. If it feels like it.

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65 Comments »

  1. phelix says:

    ‘real life’ as a dominant influence factor basically makes ‘exciting’ space combat impossible. Good thing we have fiction for that.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      You don’t have a cool spaceship unless it’s designed in such a way that it still looks cool even under relativistic directional length enshortment.

  2. mentor07825 says:

    ““Well,” he grinned, “no one ever accused me of being unambitious.””

    I think it’s better to be as ambitious as you can be and fall slightly short of where you set the bar, rather then making something well within your comfort zone. I really hope this takes off and makes a lot of money.

    • OutrightErrant says:

      Aim high. You may still miss the target but at least you won’t shoot your foot off.

      • Premium User Badge Joshua says:

        Always aim for the moon, even if you miss, you will still land among the stars – W. Clement Stone.

        It seemed alittle bit more… aproperiate.

        • mentor07825 says:

          *claps*

        • Tacroy says:

          “I aim for the stars, but sometimes I hit London”

          -Wernher von Braun (apocryphal, he didn’t actually say it but it’s fun)

  3. Bladderfish says:

    A game like Demon Souls that actually imposes a real difficulty – and thus a real sense of progression – rather than numbs their mind with meaningless random loot and endless waves of easy enemies?

    I’m feckin there!

    • immerc says:

      Except that Demon Souls rewards you for memorizing patterns, which I don’t like. I like being forced to learn strategies, to be cautious, and generally to plan before acting, but I really hope they don’t go with the memorization part of demon souls.

  4. Sparkasaurusmex says:

    I never liked the idea of instances in MMO type games, but if he gets it to work well it will be okay. I dread that moment when your friend gets to Earth’s orbit, where you are waiting, only to realize you are in different instances and can’t see each other.

    • frightlever says:

      That happens to me all the time, at train stations.

    • HothMonster says:

      Hopefully it will be easy to party up and parties will be guaranteed the same instance. Hopefully.

    • Highstorm says:

      Several games I’ve played with that style of setup have given you the ability to transfer to specific instances, which made meeting up with friends simple enough. Its omission in other games (like GW2′s overflow servers) has always baffled me, and can be rather infuriating. So here’s hoping he provides some feature like that (the reserved slots for friends hints at this direction).

  5. Nabobalis says:

    I’m really confused on what this game is. Is it an instanced MMO or some sort of single player with a multiplayer component?

    • HothMonster says:

      Yes. There will be SP campaign that can be played offline or co-op. There will be a set of servers run by the devs with a persistent universe and the server code will also be available so people can host private servers.

      Follow the link that is the first two words of the article and watch the video, then throw money at your monitor.

    • Zelius says:

      Ever played Freelancer? It will be similar to that.

      • The Tupper says:

        Freelancer was the one with mouse control yeah? I hated that.

        • Slinkyboy says:

          Me too :D

        • MelbourneFL says:

          Star Citizen will support all kinds of input devices. Mouse, Keyboard, Gamepad, Joystick, HOTAS…you name it.

          • The Tupper says:

            No, I don’t doubt that the new game will support all peripherals. I’m not stuck on joysticks either – I love flying FSX with an XBox 360 controller, for example.

            My memory’s a bit vague now, considering the years, but Freelancer’s mouse control – I hated it so much: it was like some kinda hit-the-dots aptitude test. The story stuff, in my opinion, wasn’t nearly strong enough to make up for it.

            But I concede that, since so many people like it so much I’m probably wrong.

          • MelbourneFL says:

            In my book all Wing Commander games were better than Freelancer. I was ok with the mouse control…although I would have preferred joystick and in cockpit view. But to me the biggest problem with Freelancer was that the story ended way to early and abruptly and that it was kind of silly that you could shoot up several battleships with one fighter. Also there were many hints at additional content which obviously was cut. Therefore after the storyline was completed there was little motivation to play further.

          • MelbourneFL says:

            I guess that many people that love Freelancer never played a Wing Commander and therefore don’t know the difference. Also there probably are people that like the freedom to travel in the universe freely which you couldn’t do in Wing Commander.

  6. Premium User Badge RaveTurned says:

    I accuse Roberts of being unambitious! :P Multi-player instancing is bullshit. I mean it’s great that my friends can drop into a battle I’m in if I’m having a spot of bother, but the really great moments in MMOs come from completely unexpected events – like some random guy warping in and blowing up my opponent while I get the hell out of there. In the system Roberts described, it seems that such serendipity simply cannot happen.

    Of course there are flip sides to that (your ship being the one that gets blown up, etc), but these unexpected moments are the ones that leave a lasting impression, and also help keep the game from becoming stale and unrewarding.

    Personally the idea of a single coherent (i.e. EVE-like) universe with Wing Commander combat and ship controls sounds like the best game ever. With instancing, it becomes… well still impressive, but not as good as it has potential to be. Obviously getting there would be a massive technical challenge, but wouldn’t it be worth it?

    • Premium User Badge Joshua says:

      Actually, the way that he described is that he put a lot of random people in a space, but still left room open for your friends to join in. So you can still have that random dude showing up — hopefully anyway :P./

    • alightgoesout says:

      It will allow other players to drop into it.

      I understand it like: the fight is instanced, random players can join too, there are also reserved slots for your friends to join.
      Sure it is still an instance.

  7. Premium User Badge Cinek says:

    so… we loose the ships bought for real money after random lag spike?

    BRILLIANT!

    • Didero says:

      He’s already said you can’t lose the ship you get through his pledge drive.
      I can’t remember where, but I’m absolutely sure he did.

    • zeroskill says:

      Random assumptions!

      BRILLIANT!

    • Mad Hamish says:

      Yes. Tough shit and about time too. Any time a dev mentions consequences people always seem to shout “what if my internet fucks up?” Well it should be tough shit man. Rather than spoil a system of consequences on the off chance that someone’s internet goes down. Call your ISP with complaints of this nature, you can bitch to them about losing your computer game spaceship which you inexplicably paid money for.

    • MelbourneFL says:

      Does nobody read anymore these days before ranting?

      1. You can play the game offline. No lag.
      2. You can buy insurance for the ship.
      3. Ships acquired through a pledge can not be lost.

      • The Tupper says:

        I’m so utterly tired of comments such as Cinek’s that I now believe the internet is beyond fixing and must be switched off and on again.

  8. djbriandamage says:

    As a fan of both Wing Commander and Tie Fighter, Chris Roberts only commands one of my wings. I, uh, go clockwise a lot.

    • Didero says:

      Are you calling Roberts left-wing?

      • frightlever says:

        With his decision to avoid hand-holding and emphasise working hard to achieve any significant results, I’d say he was more right wing.

  9. InternetBatman says:

    I am extremely uncomfortable with people hosting their own kickstarters. Yes it means that if successful Star citizen gets an extra $100k. But this model offers far less protection for consumers than Kickstarter’s already flimsy efforts.

    Couple that with the fact that this is more than half the price of a new, full, completely finished game and this project is a no-go for me.

    • frightlever says:

      Pfft. People like you aren’t welcome in his hard as nails libertarian universe anyway. Go play Peggle, hippy. :p

    • kraken says:

      Couple that with the fact that this is more than half the price of a new, full, completely finished game and this project is a no-go for me.
      Entry level pledge is only 30$ though.

    • kaffis says:

      That’s just the thing, though — Kickstarter’s ability to offer security is already quite flimsy as it is. The buyer should always beware, even on Kickstarter. The only difference here is that you’re thinking about it. Which is a net positive, IMO.

      Paypal and Amazon payment options are both insulating your payment information from the site itself, in this case (though there’s also a direct credit card payment option that doesn’t), if that’s your concern.

      I’m fine with letting people attempt to launch their own crowdfunding away from Kickstarter’s playground. We’ve already seen that an experienced guy with substantial resources at his hands like Chris Roberts has already had some technical issues with his launch day site crash and running on a counter-less backup site for 3 days. Let that be a warning to others that they can either heed or ignore depending on their confidence in their hosting and backend.

      In summary, I’m fine with people trying to get crowdfunding projects off the ground without Kickstarter. Roberts’ experience here may inspire others. Some will succeed, others will fail, and the delta between that success/failure divide with and without Kickstarter will, most likely, be directly correlated to the reputations of the people involved and making the pitch. People with a solid history of legitimate business and successful projects in the public eye will be the ones more likely to be trusted outside of Kickstarter regardless of the quality of their pitches. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

  10. StranaMente says:

    He noted, then, that Squadron 42 – Star Citizen’s non-persistent spin-off – will be a lot like World of Tanks, but with an overarching narrative
    Correct me if I’m wrong, but did he just said that he wants to make the single player component similar to a mmo game, but with more narrative?
    I don’t know the WoT, but from what I see it looks like it’s just skirmishes in various game modes, is it so?
    I dislike mmos in general, and this project doesn’t inspire me much confidence about the single player part.

    • DK says:

      Basically he’s saying that the singleplayer missions won’t be extremely scripted – they’ll just be straight up fights without gimmicks, but you still get cutscenes and little story bits between the fights. So I guess don’t expect Starlancer style sneaking missions or boss fights against giant space stations.

      • MrUnimport says:

        This concerns me rather deeply. I don’t want to be That Guy who walks into threads about interesting-looking games, says “No SP, not for me”, and walks out, but it really seems like the campaign is something of an afterthought. You need missions to be heavily differentiated and integrated with the story, not just a bridge between cutscenes.

        • LintMan says:

          That’s been my concern from the beginning with this: it’s a lot easier to make the MP content solo-able, tag on some cutscenes, and call it “single player” (ie: “Brink”) than it is to separately craft a satisfying SP-focused campaign (ie: “Half-Life 2″).

        • kaffis says:

          There’s nothing to say that you can’t create unscripted missions that support a story. The story support just comes in the composition of the mission’s parameters, rather than scripted events taking place. You can tell a lot of story with the disposition and deployment of forces at the start of the battle. Think back to Wing Commander, even, and you’ll see that you can add character without in-mission scripting, too. Your wingmen in Wing Commander games had a lot of character and supported the story without needing to have scripted events that happened in-mission. (Which isn’t to say that none did… but Maniac was Maniac and Paladin was Paladin even in missions that didn’t feature them)

      • Truga says:

        Wait, why can’t we have fights against big ships/stations. They were there in the X-Wing games. They just used big ship/station AI and kept launching fighters at you. What else would there be?

        I made a lot of missions for X vs Tie games I played with my friends, and “scripting” was defining objectives for the player and the AI, and telling the large ships how many fighter squadrons they had. For “stealth” missions, you had the AI set to not engage you until you opened fire, and have the mission log say you are cloaked or something. It really is that simple/dumb. There isn’t really any scripting involved, just setting the correct AI for the correct ships depending on the mission objectives. Bombers bomb, capitals crawl around spewing turbolaser fire and launching more squadrons, interceptors intercept, etc.

        And really, there isn’t anything more to a “scripted” space battle other than a bunch of objectives, triggers these objectives trigger, and some branching in the objective list, depending on how well your side performs, along with specific AI behaviours. This is all achieved by a very simple mission editor.

  11. Flank Sinatra says:

    Has Roberts given any time frame on releasing this thing? It sounds like the game I’ve been dreaming of since I finished X-wing alliance… like the Holy Grail of PC games… but I don’t want to drop 30 bucks on a game that I have to wait years to play. Will I still be playing PC games by then? I mean, by the time this game goes gold we’ll probably be flying around in hovercars and playing Halo vs. CoD 15 on our contact lens cyber VR screen thingys. And making out with sexy robots. (I hope!)

    Maybe I’m just a sucker for instant gratification, but this whole crowd funding thing kinda bugs me. I thought the idea of pre-ordering games was bad enough (Duke Nukem anyone?). Now they want us to pay up front for games that are just a twinkle in their developer’s eye? No thanks. Wake me up from cryo-sleep when it’s done!

    • HothMonster says:

      Projected timeline is 12 months to alpha, ~20 months to beta and release November of 2014.

      • Flank Sinatra says:

        (shaking Saitek X-52 flight stick violently, like a petulant child) But…but… I want it NOW!!!

        • kaffis says:

          If it makes you feel better, by the time this comes out, we WILL be playing games on our VR Oculous Rift headsets… and this one will support it!

    • MelbourneFL says:

      The problem is that this game doesn’t get made if there is no crowdfunding. What do you think why there are no space sims anymore? So if you are really interested in the game you should support it now…otherwise there might be no game at the end.

  12. Arglebargle says:

    This unalloyed enthusiasm for a prodigal sun feels weird to me. Roberts, according to my Origin sources, was always more interested in the cinematic, and wanted to make movies rather than games, from the get-go. His contributions to the games he’s lauded for seem a bit uneven to me. Roberts left the gaming world for Hollywood, and made a really bad game movie, followed by a string of not particularly good movie releases. Were any of them possessing even a kernal of a decent idea or implementation?

    Is he doing anything other than retreating from a string of flops to his old stomping grounds to try to recapture the magic? (ie funding) No telling, but to me the response sure resembles that of a cult of personality. This is not even as grounded as the pitches of some of the studios that produce uneven, but occasionally brilliant games.

    The whole thing leaves me profoundly suspicious. But hey, hope it turns out to be a stellar success!

  13. Dys Does Dakka says:

    Though I did play Heart of the Tiger and found it splendid indeed, I was always more of a First Encounters (the best of the Elite series; silence your squeaking, haters!) fan.
    In the more narrow genre of “pure” mission-based space combat, Tie Fighter and Freespace have a bigger place in my heart. This does have potential, though.

    Oh, and since space games are all the rage now, would you RPS chaps mind terribly trying to squeeze words out of Egosoft on what’s going on with X Rebirth?

  14. Screamer says:

    I’m gonna be the guy on the outer edge of the galaxy in a Firefly class cargo ship!

  15. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Oh god please dont make it as hard as Dark Souls. There’s only so much hair left on my head

  16. wodin says:

    You should have asked him about the worrying stretch goals where only at 5 million do you get a full game be it SP or MMO..less than that you get an alpha MMO and a cut back SP game….odd but check the Stretch goals on the website.

    • Askeladd says:

      Yeah, 2m for a game of this dimensions is unrealistic imo compared to other productions.

      • MelbourneFL says:

        Actually the 2Mio just a small part of the budget. If the funding goal is reached investors will provide additional 12-14Mio.

  17. 4th Dimension says:

    I don’t know about you, but this smells to me of “Kingdoms of Amalur” kind of FAIL/SUCCESS

  18. Slinkyboy says:

    I watched that Squadron 44 video. I was hoping for enemy ships to land inside and invade the carrier. Didn’t happen though.

  19. gallitin says:

    Almost half way there now! It will probably hit the 1 Million pledges mark by tomorrow night.

    Already a big fan site for it here as well http://forums.starcitizenbase.com/

  20. derbefrier says:

    So with all this talk about a new badass space flight sim I have been really wanting to try some of the classics I missed when I was hopelessly addicted to TFC and counterstrike. Then my brother called me and said he found a flight stick in a thrift store for 6 bucks.I thought it was fate. I told him to buy it for me and spent a good part of my work day trying to figure out what game to buy. I decided to go with Freespace 2. bought if off GoG for 6 bucks installed the open source mod thing and my god this game is spectacular and the flight stick worked perfectly no issues at all! I had some games like Descent when I was younger and even a wing commander game(cant remember which one) but never had a flight stick to use with them. while I was skeptical before now I am immensely excited to see this come to fruition. I will be pledging on payday!

  21. lexoneir says:

    Lost interest when you said it would be another heavily instanced MMO.

    • MelbourneFL says:

      It isn’t a MMO. Its got a big story driven part where you are part of the military…just like in Wing Commander. After that you are free to explore the universe and trade/bounty hunt/pirate. In this regard it is rather similar to Freelancer. Both parts of the game can be played offline or online. So you can view playing online exploring the universe as kind of a MMO…but then multiplayer in Freelancer is basically the same thing.

    • MelbourneFL says:

      Further here is what Chris Roberts himselves said about this issue:

      Hi, Chris Roberts here.

      I’ve seen a few concerned posts on the Facebook stream about whether there’s going to be a single player game, and whether if the budget gets tight will that be the first feature that gets cut.

      I just want to be clear with everyone, Squadron 42 is an integral part of the Star Citizen experience and it will be the classic Wing Commander experience that everyone loved (with… out the FMV though!)

      In fact the order of the development means that there’s no way that Squadron 42 will be cut, as the features for this, and multi-player dogfights are the first steps in building Star Citizen. The prototype that I showed already includes most of the functionality that I need for Squadron 42. There’s still a lot of polish to do on the dogfighting and assets to be created but Squadron 42 is not the difficult part of Star Citizen.

      The difficult part is building the open world that Squadron 42 fits inside. I’m confident of that too as I’ve built this open world twice, and have done a lot upfront technical design work to avoid some of the problems that I dealt with on Freelancer

      So ambitious yes. Achievable? Most definitely!