There is much still unknown about Star Citizen [official site], the space game that’s been crowd-funded to the tune of almost $100 million (I summarised the strange situation to date here), but one of the things that is known is how its essential dogfighting works. The Arena Combat module has been around for a little while now, and while some backers are delighted at the chance to take their purchased spaceships out for a ride in it, there has been some grumbling about the flight model. Even devs Cloud Imperium Games seem to agree that it wasn’t quite hitting the high notes, as they’ve just announced detailed plans for a major overhaul.
OK, I’m going to avoid O.P.I.N.I.ON. here, as A) I only have a limited amount of hands-on experience with the Arena Combat thus far, and only own one starting ship and B) I’ve had enough emails from the SC community for one week already, thanks. So, just the facts, ma’am.
The upcoming ‘Star Citizen Alpha 2.0’ brings with it a feature called IFCS 2.0, which adds three new types of flight model: Precision, Space Combat Maneuvers (SCM) and Cruise. In addition to that is ‘a 3rd order motion control system’, the explanation for which involves several graphs and… No, I’m not going to try and summarise how it works, but instead just go with CIG’s claim that the old 2nd order system, though simpler to control, “provides a very stiff, mechanical ship movement.” The new one “will allow us to tune ships to be as stiff or as smooth as we need.”
As a consequence of this, it’s received “a nearly complete from-the-ground-up re-balance of the ship handling characteristics”, and all ships are going to feel “quite different” right out of the gates once 2.0 arrives. If I’m understanding this correctly, this both means that flight as a whole should feel better, and that there’ll be more striking variety in handling between different ships.
The three new flight models, meanwhile, change things up in different ways depending on exactly what you’re up to. Precision is used primarily for take-off and landing, and turns down max velocity while increasing control, in order that you don’t collide with asteroids and silly things like that.
Space Combat Maneuvers, which kicks in once you’ve cleared nearby objects, is touted as being “one of the biggest changes to the flight control system”, but is superficially similar to the model currently used by Arena Commander. It’s far more reactive to exactly what your ship is carrying and equipped with though, and requires your learning the various turning axis of your ship(s) in order to work out what’s fastest and/or most precise. SCM also brings with it a new Afterburner for a spot of added speed but without necessarily sacrificing control.
Then Cruise is for “longer distance travel in the same local area”, and essentially means more speed but less control – it cuts your commute times, in other words.
Further down the line is Quantum Leap, which is what you need for covering extreme distances. Oh boy.
General balance changes swirl around all of this, and there’s also an end-philosophy of it all rejiggering combat so that it’s more about “juggling different levels of risk, reward, and commitment.” It all sounds very sciencey, but it remains to be seen if this just them showing their working – historically they are very open about exactly what and how they’re developing – or that certain doors are closing on more casual players.
Sadly no release date for 2.0 is given, but there’s a wealth of info both on this page and in the below video:
Whaddaya think, then?