Giving credit where credit is due – Star Citizen and Chris Roberts were able to pull off an impressive looking demo playthrough of their game at Gamescom yesterday. In the presentation leading up to the demonstration there was a slideshow that talked about his road map for development going forward. Keeping mum about actual release dates as much as possible, but he admitted that he wanted the 3.0 version of the game’s Alpha up and ready by the end of the year. When it came down to it, Roberts was able to actually demonstrate some of his ideas and intentions for the project in action. We get an hour long demo going through an in-game quest and mission that takes down on the surface of planets.
The quest giver’s name is Miles Eckhart, and we have to meet him face to face in order to start the “Possible Security Job” mission. The player teams up with another person in order to demonstrate the co-op potential of this game, using the second guy’s ship to go and meet this Miles guy. On the trip there, Roberts shows off the Stanton system map as having a variety of destinations to explore. Clicking on Delamar, the ship goes into hyperspace and travels there. Their destination on the planet is the Mining town of Levski. When they land, the second player jumps out the back of the Freelancer and walks around a bit to show the planet’s surface. He has a problem jumping back in, causing the ship to need re-landing on a more flat surface so the second guy can get back on board. They request landing with Levski’s control tower, and manage to slide the Freelancer onto their docks.
In Levski, the player in the demonstration reaches an elevator, showing off the new game prompts when the option to “CALL” it flashes in. This system will replace their rudimentary “USE” system that the 2.4 Alpha has for their pretty much only action command. When we get to the floor where much of the city is at, the most interesting surprise is the step up in variety the environment has here. There’s ornate statues, off in the distance you can see a place where players respawn and get their ships repaired. A second elevator ride later, we get down to the Grand Barter market district of the station. At this particular location, there will be a variety of shops with things you can’t buy at any other place. In this case, it’s more geared toward unauthorized weapons and black market goods. After a tour through the bazaar, we meet Miles and get our task in person. Some hauler guy got his ship wrecked, and we need to retrieve and important black box from the wreckage, so the company can collect money on the insurance policy for the lost goods.
Backtracking to the ship bay, the co-op buddy the demonstrator has brings his ship back around. The player jumps into the turret seat of the Freelancer in order to provide cover fire if things get messy during the mission. The ship leaves the planet, and a quick hyperdrive jump later we manage to get straight to the blackbox location. Some pirates are hanging out at the wreck, and the Freelancer ship meets with a backup Starfarer the demonstration has hanging out there, ending up in a 2 vs 2 space dogfight between the two. The Freelancer turret quickly takes out the first pirate, but has problems get a solid lock on the second one. This leads the Starfarer to launch a missile at it instead. Boom. Dead. Clean kill. The Freelancer’s backdoors open and the demonstration player jumps out into space and starts jet-packing his way towards the wrecked vessel. He floats on in and……… BANG BANG BANG! Surprising the viewing audience, a pirate ambushes us inside. The player makes quick work of that, and starts making his way to the cockpit. Along the way, we see miscellaneous items and dead bodies floating around in zero-gravity. We get the black box data, and that completes the mission! That’s not the end of it though.
Miles Eckhart managed to track down the location of the cargo to a nearby moon and sends you the coordinates. Escaping in a different style, we head on down to the ship’s docking bay and grab a Dragonfly ship and making a quick exit. Roberts says the Dragonfly is like a “space motorbike” that doubles as a land-speeder on the surface of planets. When the Dragonfly docks inside the Freelancer, we see a graphical bug that causes the player and ship to disappear from visible view. Jumping to the Moon, the player gets on the Dragonfly again and touches down on the surface. Another player enters on in a Mass Effect-like Mako vehicle. They gang up on the pirates, and snag the cargo loot they had for themselves. That’s when the demo ends.
It’s promising to actually have Star Citizen content related to the actual game itself to talk about, rather than just analyzing the process of development.
But what about the rest of the week? If one were to look at the days leading up to this big reveal, Star Citizen’s time at Gamescom paints a different picture. The developers of the game decided the best approach was to host a livestream event every day of their booth on Twitch. But even then, they weren’t exactly around to talk to viewers the entire time. Instead they elected to allow several Twitch personalities that are fans of the game take control of the show. They ended up playing Star Citizen the whole time, which leads to dozens of encounters with the game’s bugs and glitches in that current build. This serves as a contrast to what we saw in the game demo, showing the project’s actual implementation of the systems and designs they promised rather than a pre-scripted sequence of events. Realistically, the factors of online networking beyond LAN need to be addressed. It speaks volumes that the streamers spent a lot of time looking at their ships, and in the game’s stores, idling around instead of actually getting into proper gameplay action.
The demo that Chris Roberts showed off was promising but there’s still plenty of reasons for skeptics to maintain the position they’ve had so far. This critical eye is heightened now especially given the community being let down by No Man’s Sky‘s failure to deliver on their promises.