Star Citizen aims to be a First-Person Universe and that includes the Space Combat aspect of gameplay. Everything about the game will be first-person, from walking around a space station, to firefights on foot, and while flying or crewing a ship – it’ll all be viewed through your character’s eyes.
Being a space sim at heart, the majority of the game will be spent in a ship or in space.
Whether you choose to be a force for good or bad, or just a neutral component such as a trader or explorer, you’ll be involved in space combat at some point.
The ships of Star Citizen
Ships vary in size. There are ships as small as 10 meters such as the Khartu-Al. There are larger flagships that are over 1,000 meters in length, such as the Bengal Carrier (not currently available). To the right is a size comparison chart that shows a few ships for size comparison.
There are ships for every role imaginable. The Freelancer MAX is a mid-sized dedicated transport ship. The Endeavor is a research and medical ship that can crew 16; more on multi-crew in a bit. The F7C Hornet is a battle-tested multi-purpose fighter and has an amazing commercial (my favorite). I could go on but with over 70 ships, we would be here all day.
Ships are classed into 6 primary role classes: Personal Transport, Versatile, Fighter, Bomber, Cargo, and Capital. There are many more sub-classes of ship.
Ships are designed at a higher level of fidelity than seen in other games today. As you can see in the image above (click to enlarge) you can see that the designers have gone to the level of adding the appearance of tiny scratches and paint weathering effects to the ship’s components. Nuts and bolts are visible. Ships are pieced together in the way that a real ship might be instead of being a single piece model like is seen in a lot of other games. This level attention to detail is found all over Star Citizen and aids in the damage models. Even the characters are designed with great fidelity.
Check out this Constellation-class ship exploding! Pretty cool. But the damage system in Star Citizen is much more complicated than what you see in that video. The system is capable of modeling damage based the type of damage, what was damaged, how it was damaged. In fact, the development team hopes to implement a highly realistic damage model that isn’t just a bunch of bullet impact decals. They are working towards a system that actually modifies the ship’s model in a way that might be expected based on what happened to cause damage.
Damage can be applied in many ways: Collision with another impact that crushes a wing, lasers burning through a hull, kinetic penetrators (like bullets) punching through an armor plate, or maybe you get a little too close to the station’s superstructure while landing and scratch or dent your ship.
But Cloud Imperium Games isn’t stopping there. They are truly pushing the envelope. If enough heat is applied, paint on a ship can start to burn or even bubble. Components can become scorched and blackened or metal can be sheered off and leave a rugged edge where it was once attached.
Damage isn’t limited to the outside of the ship either. If a lucky shot from a 60mm cannon goes through the cooling system on your Hornet you may be faced with components overheating which goes into another rabbit hole… If you are interested in reading more on the damage system in greater depth, there is a great Comm-Link entry about the Star Citizen Damage system.
It was mentioned earlier, multi-crew ships do exist. Larger ships permit players to walk around onboard the ship and interface with various ship systems. Obviously you wouldn’t want to be a single crew member on a larger ship and have to run between all the engineering stations such as shields or turrets and then have to run back to the pilot’s chair in the middle of a firefight so that’s where the multiplayer aspect comes in. There are many possible stations. Which ones are available depends on the ship, its capabilities and its configuration. Some of the types of stations that might be seen are:
- Shield Management – Gives the operator more granular control of the shields of the ship. Some capabilities will be adjusting shield segment capacities (think “maximize forward shields!”), managing shield recharge, and tuning the shield generator in various aspects such as higher recharge at the cost of lower strength.
- Radar Ops – Essentially target management so the pilot or gunners can focus on their jobs. When playing as Radar Ops you’ll be the eyes of the ship. You’ll be the one that determine which pirate ship to engage first and you’ll also be the one that may scan another ship’s sub-components to find a weakness or configuration.
- Communications – There hasn’t been much on this, yet, but there is an intent to have a communications station for larger ships. The role will be to manage communication channels for potentially squadrons of other ships that may be under the command of your ship.
- Turret – Who doesn’t want to shoot pirates out of the sky from a dedicated ball turret on a larger ship? I know that’s on my bucket list.
There are a few more types of stations that are conceptual. Here is an early video of multi-crew gameplay.
Heat and EM Signatures
Every ship in the game gives off Infrared (heat) and Electromagnetic signatures. Some give off more, some less. It can be manipulated by the equipment onboard the ship and how it is being used. A fully functional Super Hornet is going to pump out huge IR and EM signatures. It’s going to show up quickly on radar systems and IR or EM guided missiles are going to have an easy time locking onto it and maintaining that lock.
If that same Super Hornet were to park on an asteroid and shut off the weapons, the shield generator, and even the propulsion system, its signature would drop tremendously and it may not show up on radar quickly or at all. This game feature allows for some very interesting ambush potential. In most other games, the radar system is absolute – something is going to show up on it if it is within range.
As was mentioned earlier, your ship can overheat. If a cooling system is damaged or components are pushed too hard or a combination thereof… your ship can overheat. This can render some components inoperable or just make your heat signature huge and uncontrollable. Since a lot of missiles in the game are heat-seeking, this can be troublesome.
Physics and Flight Model
Star Citizen features a realistic flight model with ship controls and physics that match. Ships are controlled by smaller thrusters, much like a real space craft has a Reaction Control System. Thrust to reposition a ship in Star Citizen, is applied by the individual thrusters at the point that the thruster is attached to the ship. Nothing is notional or “set in stone”. A thrust can get damaged and become unable to gimbal or fire at maximum intensity and that may affect your ship’s ability to maneuver at optimal rates. Things like changes to mass (added or lost – think losing a wing) can affect a spacecraft’s performance. Most other games in this genre don’t perform this level of fidelity in control – they simply say “this thruster is 50% damaged so it only performs at 50% of the norm now.
Chris Roberts explains it perfectly in this video: