By Shaan Khan
It’s been nearly ten years since Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) announced Star Citizen on Kickstarter. The game successfully crowdsourced all its funding and has been in development ever since—currently playable in an unfinished alpha state.
What has led Star Citizen to stay in development longer than any other video game? Furthermore, why is this game the second-largest crowd-funded project in history?!
Well, Star Citizen is set to be the most ambitious game ever made. It’s a game that comes with many flavours of gaming genres mixed into one. Appealing to your MMORPG fans with a resume in playing EVE Online or the lovers of space combat sims such as Elite Dangerous—there’s an element of inspiration from all corners of gaming including the nuanced & complex survival genre.
CIG has emphasised they want Star Citizen to be an immersive experience characterised by realism. But is it realistic for CIG to include survival gameplay elements in a game of this magnitude?
A high level of detail will need to be injected into every action. You won’t simply fly from planet to planet; there must be thorough planning, auditing supplies, tracking stats—making sure there is no margin of error because space exploration will now represent authentic risk factors.
If CIG manages to implement survival elements, what level of challenge will they provide to players? Will they be watered-down to appease non-survival gamers or too hardcore and bothersome for them?
To uncover these answers, let’s look into the present alpha version of Star Citizen and the announcements for future development to see the state of survival gameplay elements in the game.
Screenshot Courtesy of Phaseone on YouTube
Back in the Alpha 3.8.2 build of Star Citizen, players were first introduced to the basic survival elements of the game. The build included a physical wellbeing system known as ‘The Players Health & Limb/Body Condition’.
The crux of the system was to emulate realistic injuries and physical damage to the body where each limb has a health gage and can be a unique target for damage.
The system creates scenarios where certain activities can do more harm to a body part than others. For instance, a mission that requires jumping off platforms can do long-term damage to your legs resulting in weakened performance and a higher risk of injury. This system makes players think about alternative ideas to complete missions to not realistically injure themselves such as purchasing specialised equipment.
If a limb manages to reach total damage, they will become incapacitated with a timer counting down their death with only medical assistance to save them.
Screenshot Courtesy of Phaseone on YouTube
In Alpha 3.15, CIG included Medical Gameplay to accommodate The Players Health & Limb/Body Condition system.
Since realistic injuries & damage were introduced to Star Citizen, it opened up the opportunity to include realistic medical treatments. Therefore, CIG created the tools and facilities where players could get treated for their unique injuries. These include:
- Spaceships – Every player has a spaceship, making it a convenient place to heal injuries. However, spaceships can only heal Tier 2 / Tier 3 related injuries since each limb injury is placed into Tiers that only certain facilities can treat. In the future, some spaceships will include mobile hospitals to heal Tier 1 injuries.
- Space Clinics & Hospitals – Space Clinics are located at Space Stations and are more affordable than Hospitals. However, you can only treat Tier 2 injuries. Hospitals can treat Tier 1 injuries and are found in urban landscapes with only five currently available in the whole game.
These facilities are necessary to fully treat an injury. If your player does become incapacitated, they have the option to use the rescue beacon that alerts players for medical assistance. A player that accepts the mission will be rewarded money from the injured player. Drugs can be used to heal some of the damage and can be acquired from pharmacies. Still, a trip to a medical facility is recommended for a full recovery and fatal injuries.
Environmental Dangers & Advanced Physical Wellbeing Features
Screenshot Courtesy of whisperjohnic on YouTube
Now delving into the more advanced survival mechanics of Star Citizen, CIG implemented a Stamina & Oxygen system. Stamina is straightforward; your physical exertion is limited by your lung capacity. Still, fitness gameplay has not been introduced yet where you can improve stats such as strength, speed or stamina in this instance.
The oxygen feature is essential for space survival, where you require being hooked up to an oxygen tank in environments with little-to-no oxygen. Therefore, oxygen becomes a commodity in Star Citizen, playing into the MMORPG aspect of the game, where players can trade/sell oxygen or go on quests to secure oxygen.
In Alpha 3.9, CIG added more survival elements that included the following:
- Temperature & Weather – Since Star Citizen aims for realism, they need to capture the extremities in temperature & weather on alien planets and how that can impact a human’s survival.
CIG decided to capture this reality in their game, where your HUD allows you to track the temperature & weather conditions of your surroundings then calculates your life expectancy in that environment based on the current equipment you have.
Once again, specialised equipment & clothing will aid you in better adapting to certain planets. If you struggle with extreme temperature & weather, your character’s vision and movement will be impacted, including animations of your character trying to protect their face—playing into the immersion.
- Hunger & Thirst – Both elements will impact your survival, so acquiring food & drink in the game is essential to living. Now, you don’t need to consume the same number of calories as in real life; you only need to eat & drink once per day to avoid starvation or dehydration.
Sadly, the game isn’t realistic to the point where the amount you eat or drink impacts your physical shape; there’s no getting buff with a high protein diet or obese with excess carbs and no fitness.
However, food & drinks do have nutritional & hydrational ratings that will impact your hunger & thirst meter differently. Also, certain foods & beverages come with buffs & debuffs. For instance, one item of food can increase stamina regeneration while increasing thirst in the process.
CIG plan to continue adding to environmental dangers & physical wellbeing system by eventually including survival elements such as poisoning, radiation and transmittable illnesses/viruses that add to the space survival experience and advance the medical gameplay.
For the physical wellbeing system, CIG will make hygiene, tiredness and fatigue aspects of the game that will impact behaviour and must be maintained by using the toilet, sleeping or bathing.
Land Claiming & Base Building
Screenshot Courtesy of PIN on YouTube
A planned feature for Star Citizen will be Land Claiming, taking inspiration from 1800s Frontier America, where players can claim a patch of land as their own and build upon it for their means of living.
Some planetary systems in Star Citizen are lawless frontiers. If you decide to place an outpost there, you have no legal protection of your land. Hence, other players and NPCs have the freedom to invade—creating the ideal parameters for PVP survival gameplayer similar to RUST.
However, if you want to claim land in planetary systems controlled by factions, you must meet certain requirements to obtain a claim license to own land there. In return, the overseers of that area your land is covered by will be under their protection.
Owning land can be a great investment if you discover valuable resources in the land you bought, that you can then mine or resell the land at a greater value.
You set up an outpost on the land you own, then use a mobile factory known as ‘Pioneer’ to fabricate you components to build your settlement. It’s not certain how extensive the customisation for base building is yet. However, there are plans to include storage facilities, workshops for crafting items and farms to harvest food & drink, similar to what settlements offer in Fallout 76.
Current NPC settlements in the game display greenhouses with plants for oxygen production which could be another feature included in settlements. I highly doubt oxygen production would go towards terraforming planets though—the game would be beyond ambitious at that point.