This past week has been a very busy one, with everyone across the company heads down with the push to get Star Citizen Alpha 2.6 released to you. The help of the Evocati has been invaluable, identifying bugs for us to smash and giving us critical game balance feedback. We had hoped to able to go to Live today but there are still some final UI elements that need to be finished and we still have a few serious bugs being tracked down and fixed.
We're circling a PTU candidate which will go to the Evocati later today, and, if this is successful, we will be pushing it out to a wider PTU test over the weekend so we aren’t too far off!
If you’re interested in the remaining tasks and how we tracked from last week please visit the project schedule page for a more detailed breakdown.
Today is our Holiday Livestream, where we will dive a bit deeper in what’s in 2.6, including showing the bigger Star Marine map in an epic faceoff between our US and EU studios!
There’s a huge amount of new functionality and content in 2.6. It represents a good portion of the last 4 months of the work that the entire company has been doing in our main development branch and moves us significantly closer towards 3.0.
Star Marine, the dedicated FPS game mode, is the big headline, but we also revamped the whole flight model in Star Citizen. This makes it more accessible for new players, but maintains nuance and complexity for veteran pilots. Eight new ships are flyable in 2.6, including the massive Caterpillar, which is a sight to behold! Arena Commander has been given some love too, with tweaks to the scoring, new pickups and VFX. There is a completely new front-end and UI that improves lobby flow for Arena Commander and Star Marine and introduces the ability to customize loadouts for your character and ships, as well as check out where you stand on the Community leaderboards. Finally, there are quite a few new missions in the mini PU, a ship graveyard to explore and a bar in Grim HEX to hang out in!
In anticipation of today's Live Stream, I did want to address one thing that I have been seeing speculation on in the forums: whether or not today's Live Stream will feature the Squadron 42 Vertical Slice.
After we made the decision before CitizenCon that the Squadron 42 vertical slice wasn’t ready to be shown publically, we spent some time on reviewing how far off we were and what we wanted to achieve in order to be comfortable showing a full chapter of S42 gameplay. After all the effort we expended for CitizenCon, we didn’t want to spend additional developer time polishing intermediate solutions if it wasn’t going towards the final product. A slick demo isn’t that helpful if it pushes back the finished game, so we decided that the priority should be completing full systems over getting the vertical slice into a showable state.
Item 2.0, Subsumption AI, Subsumption Mission System and asynchronous Object Container Streaming are all core systems that will power Squadron 42. In addition, there is some significant low level animation and lighting tech that we need to finish up to realize the goal of real time player interactions and conversations at a level that would previously only be possible with pre-rendered cinematics. We want moving around and talking to the crew to be as fluid and look as good as pre-rendered cut scenes from other games.
Finally, we wanted to be able to focus the team on getting 2.6 out the door and knew we didn’t have much time left in the year to do this (as hard as it is to believe CitizenCon was only 9 weeks ago, which isn’t very long in development terms). One of the lessons we learned from the last CitizenCon was that by attempting to show both the VS and Homestead, we overloaded our pipeline. Even with a team of our size, working on two big deliverables for the same release window becomes problematic because things can take longer or turn out more complicated than expected, and when there are tricky-to-solve bugs or performance issues, we need to assign our top developers, which usually ends up being longer than we like and takes them away from core tech development, pushing back the schedule on later releases. Last year’s release of 2.0 and the 3.0 preview at Gamescom worked so well, because there was a clear priority and everyone came together with a singular focus to deliver them on the ascribed dates.
Since CitizenCon we’ve been working towards 2.6 as our priority, with Squadron 42 core tech being second priority, followed by 3.0 development. Almost all Squadron 42 core tech is also needed for 3.0 and the aspects that aren’t, like Networking, have their own team who don’t get distracted by Squadron as it’s a single player game.
So while it may be disappointing not to see something this year on Squadron 42, I believe it’s the best choice for the long term good of both Squadron 42 and Star Citizen. It’s critical that we focus on finishing up the core systems we’ve designed to handle the needs of both games, as without them, other parts of the development team are blocked from finalizing key gameplay.
It is all of your support and patience that allows us to make difficult decisions like this and we greatly appreciate it as it is allowing us to create what we believe will be a very special set of games in Squadron 42 and Star Citizen.
One thing that I think helps to understand the challenges of working on such a big complex project in the open is the visibility into our internal schedules. Sharing the 2.6 schedule was an experiment that a lot of people internally were very worried about but now everyone agrees it was the right move as transparency helps build trust.
As such we will be applying the same visibility to 3.0 and ultimately Squadron 42, although it will take a little time to get them ready for public consumption. We are still in the process of finalizing sub tasks and getting updated bids on the tasks from the appropriate team members, and this in turn has been slowed down by their focus on getting 2.6 finished.
For now, please join us for the live stream to have some fun with the devs and let’s celebrate all the great stuff we have now in Star Citizen 2.6, as there’s a lot of it!