Tales from Star Citizen
Vol 3.18 - Chapter 1
The End is the Beginning
A ship floats lifelessly in space–its pilot slumped over the controls–a few hundred meters above a sprawling space station.
Yep, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got here…
Humble Beginnings - The Birth of Space Man
After fighting through login errors and creating a generic middle-aged white male avatar that captures the depth (or lack thereof) of my character, I select Crusader as my home location because it sounds neat: "A floating cloud city" -- Bespin eat your heart out!
I wake up in a bed I can only surmise belongs to me, and my view immediately clips through the wall giving me a momentary glimpse of the warm peach-tones of the corporate-owned gassy planet below.
The view bug fixes itself and I fumble around, finally remembering the "Y" key allows me to get out of bed. As I do so I'm assaulted by a glacial framerate that I estimate is hovering in the high 20s. Nvidia's Performance overlay tells me I'm pulling around 30-40fps on a fairly decent system sporting a 5600x CPU, 32gb of RAM, and an RTX3080. So be it.
Taking my first newborn steps towards the door I recall that holding "F" gives a cursor to interact with the world around me which allows me to open the door. I stop and admire the design of the door with its detailed clean textures and moving parts. Like someone probably spent months modeling, animating, and texturing this thing.
Heading down the hallway I find an elevator which I operate with my newfound interaction superpower. As I arrive in the apartment lobby I'm greeted by a dead-eyed non-player character standing behind a desk. My intrusion in their view-cone triggers a sudden burst of life as their face splits into a somewhat creepy grin and over enthusiastic greeting. Then they snap back to their lifeless fugue state, broken only by the occasional eye movement.
I step outside into the common area and I'm struck again by the care that has gone into the presentation. The gasses below the concourse undulate in a lazy dance and pink petals glide gracefully as they fall off a nearby tree. A few NPCs mill around looking at their mobiGlas (the holographic display smart device thing that I suppose is not too far off here in the real world). I can only assume they are reading this article, enraptured. I quickly survey the HUD and notice there’s some kind of satellite icon, and additionally a hunger and thirst tracker. That’s neat, but those systems probably aren’t implemented anyway (narrator: they were).
Spotting an interesting looking information board in front of me, I sauntered over and hit play causing it to regale me with a tale of how the Crusader corporation was built. A bunch of names, terms, and titles are thrown about which I'm sure are suitably impressive to the game's inhabitants.
I figure my next course of action should be finding my ship but as I'm meandering around the concourse looking for a way to the spaceport, I notice there's a Crusader corporate HQ and showroom. Neat, we've now brought the crushing inhumanity of corporate cheerleading into the game. Let's take a look.
Join Crusader Corp Today!
I make my way through the lobby and down to the showroom floor. I pass by another information desk where one of the NPCs is stuck in a t-pose (or perhaps they are doing some kind of arm workout–you go, you!). There's a couple of stark white ships on display here: a fighter of some sort flanked by information boards with epic action shots (most likely captured by players who will surely blow me to bits later on in my SC career), a behemoth C130-looking one, and a medium-ish one that can I can only describe as “star ship shaped”.
Despite my inner-voice telling me the notion of a showroom within a videogame is a bit weird and gross, there’s a feeling I can’t shake: all of it tugs powerfully at that portion of my being that admires the engineering prowess of machines. It’s like staring into something unfathomably complex that shouldn’t exist but does. Oh neat, this C130 ship (the Starlifter?) has its cargo ramp down and not an usher in sight to prevent me from taking a look. I spend far too long exploring the innards of it and its partner (the Starrunner – sensing a theme in the names).
You see, walking around the insides of these larger ships–with their seemingly pointless “recreation” bays and other half-implemented features–the whole fantasy of this game starts to coalesce. This is a place you can “exist”; you have to walk or run from the bridge to the cargo hold (or take an elevator for some of the ships it seems), racing perhaps against some imaginary deadline to get a contract completed. It pokes that part of your brain that tells you “this is a real thing”. Immersion is king.
Thus inspired by my experience, I rush out of the showroom and make my way via a hover-tram to the space port. I pass through a security checkpoint, but the NPCs on guard seem unperturbed by the grenade launcher strapped to my backpack. I’m sure some grandma with a box-cutter gets pulled aside though.
I find the ASOP (no I don’t know what it stands for) terminal which allows one to magic a ship out of the ether–assuming it works, which it didn’t for the first few tries. Eventually I get assigned a hangar and I pop into one of the nearby elevators to get there. Hmm, hangar 07 isn’t listed, just a bunch of docking bays. Ah, lightbulb moment as I realise you can scroll through the list of destinations on the elevator’s display. My chariot awaits!
The elevator deposits me on the bottom floor of a hangar and the scale hits again. This room is multiple levels high and NPCs dotted about give an almost lived-in feeling. I believe you can get a golfcart to drive around in here if you so desire. Meanwhile, my ship–a humble RSI Aurora–takes only a small portion of the space. I sprint over to the port-side door like a giddy astronaut on the first day of training.
I’d forgotten how small this thing was. Two doors, bed, cockpit. Even so, how does that saying go: “there’s many like it, but this one’s mine” (slaps hull). I “F” my way into the pilot’s chair and prepare for takeoff. Any minute now the ship will burst into life at my arrival, heralding me like a loving dog with a pair of slippers for its owner. Still nothing. Hmm, the beginner guide says I hit the Flight Ready button to start. “R”. And here we go. Lights flicker on, I’m warned that my shields are gone, which hopefully isn’t a problem inside the hangar, but you never can be too sure. Next I read that I need to call for approval to depart. “F11”, find the spaceport Traffic Control and hail them. OK we’re good to go; I guess that old unpaid parking ticket doesn’t apply here.
While I’m still safely situated on the ground I bring up my mobiGlas and navigate to the Contracts tab. I know contracts are one way to earn credits in-game so I have a quick look: someone needs me to retrieve their departed husband’s belongings from an exploded station. That sounds achievable. I’m a rugged space-man. I can do this. Contract accepted. I plot the course on the star map, oh, it’s nice and close!
To Boldly Go… Somewhere
I close the mobiGlas, crack my knuckles, and gingerly hit spacebar bringing the ship off the hangar floor–Houston, we have liftoff! I sidle my way between the hangar doors, pondering for a moment what it would be like getting a larger ship out. Next step: escape the treacherous grasp of gravity. I point my ship’s nose skyward using the mouse and punch it (“W”). I begin imagining all the things I’m going to achieve out there among the stars. My altimeter reports that I’m now 15km above the surface. It’s going up very slowly. Guide says scroll-wheel up to increase thrust but it can overheat your engine or something; I’m a free bird–you can’t cage me–push it to the max!
Supposedly I can QUANTUM LEAP (I mean jump) out of the atmosphere to a nearby orbital marker (OM). “B” for the Quantum Drive, find the OM and hold “B” to jump. Hyperspacing, jumping, lightspeed–always a good time. It’s like a feeling of unfettered freedom traveling vast distances in a short time. OK, next stop: the abandoned station. Repeat QD process. I’m pleased to note that I’m pulling 50ish FPS now that I’m free of the planet and all its baggage.
My jump drops me a little ways from the station so I thrust my way over. I arrive at a scene of carnage: the station is mostly dark, a huge hole blown out of one side. A ship–missing its cockpit–and its player pilot float lifelessly nearby. I “N”-gage my landing gear and approach the damaged landing pads. I gracefully descend to what I assume is landing distance and watch with disdain as my ship bounces impotently off. Undeterred I down thrust til I’m touching the pad. Engines off, time to get paid.
What’s in the Box?!
Opening my ship’s door to the vacuum of space invokes a momentary panic: did I forget to buy a space-worthy helmet, is my oxygen tank full? Thankfully my suit holds and I have almost 2 hours of oxygen. I navigate through the empty expanse like a drunk baby as I float towards the gaping hole in the station. Inside it appears mostly intact save for a few chairs that have taken flight.
My objective says to retrieve a box numbered 946. No indication of exactly where, so I begin exploring. There’s a terminal nearby blinking an “unread message” message at me. I click play. Some kind of exchange between the station owners and an employee. Bo-ring… I’m a fancy space-faring-man, no time for voicemails! I make my way into the cargo hold and begin looking for a box. Despite four or five likely candidates, none appear to be my quarry so I continue on.
After touring the accessible areas of the station (twice) I come to the realisation that the box must not be here or didn’t spawn correctly. I consult a YouTube video, which confirms my suspicions of the box’s location. Crestfallen I head back to my ship.
It’s getting late so I figure I’ll just fly to another spaceport and call it a day. I open my mobiGlas contracts tab with the intention to break this poor person’s heart by abandoning the contract when suddenly I realise there’s a bunch of other ones for this location. Maybe, I think to myself, accepting the contract will spawn a box. I take on all the contracts and EVA back into the station. Jackpot. The boxes are floating in the crew common area like ripe apples begging to be plucked. I grab one and float my way back to my ship.
This presents a new problem: I don’t know how to store cargo on my ship. I know it supposedly has space for it, but I see no way to make box go in ship. A quick search online indicates that for the Aurora, you just kind of shove it in the cramped quarters and hope for the best. Fair enough.I float triumphantly through the open doorway with the box and suddenly I’m tossed around like an unwanted doll as my ship’s gravity kicks in and tries to make me and the crate exist in the same space. I get ejected back out and watch in horror as my ship begins slowly floating away from the landing pad. Curse you Newton.
I launch myself into the open door once more, this time saying a prayer to anyone that will listen and manage to get myself and the box inside in one piece. I attempt to drop the box by hitting “F” which subsequently sends me into the excruciatingly slow animation of laying down in my bunk, which also causes me to take damage from the now-loose box along the way. Starting to sweat a bit, I get back up and step around my ill-gotten gains and jump into the cockpit. I grab the controls and reign my erstwhile craft back onto the pad.
Rinse and repeat this process as I bring back the remaining boxes and slowly fill up my ship. I’m now overdue for bed but feel like I just need to turn in these contracts to be able to call the night a success. However a new issue is urgently barking for my attention: that whole thirst and hunger thing I dismissed earlier? Totally a thing. I’m now “critically dehydrated” with about 10 or 15% hydration left. I delude myself into believing that it will just impose some kind of debuff and continue on my way, albeit with a smidge more urgency.
The Longest Journey
My first stop to turn-in these contracts is Port Olisar, a hop-skip-and-QUANTUM JUMP away. I do so, and arrive about 300 clicks out from the station. Less than 10% hydration. My screen is all kinds of messed up due to the dehydration mechanics and I have a new problem: I have 5 minutes to quench my thirst or I will die. My stress level begins to rise (IRL. I don’t think the game has stress level mechanics yet). Suddenly I’m the crew of the Expanse’s Rocinante pressed back into my crash-couch as I full-burn towards the station. 200 clicks. 100. 50. I cut my thrusters to 25% and madly begin hailing the station for landing authorisation. Landing approval granted.
Despite the flickering, blurred screen brought on by imminent death I’m able to ascertain that I have a landing pad. I can even see the marker on the screen in front of me. I’m floating there, so close. Why are there so many markers on my screen?! Oh gods, I overshot it. Turn back. Where did it go?! 2 mins to live. Hail the station again. Sorry chump, we already assigned you a pad, have a Olisarsome day! I’m flying back and forth over the station looking for the landing pad. 30 seconds. It’s all over. I think of my space-wife and space-children. I hope they remember me fondly and not as the bumbling idiot I am.
I die. Or more accurately: I am incapacitated. I can supposedly summon help and possibly be revived, but the stink of my failure is too great. I hold down the button to respawn (backspace I think?) and the cold harsh hospital lights of Crusader General greet me as I come to. I imagine TV’s Dr House standing over me and making some quip about how my issue was that I had a not-drinking problem. Or something.
And so now you know my story, my corpse still floating in space wearing some kind of unique-ish armour I earned from an event in the past which is maybe recoverable or maybe gone for good. So I close this chapter, but with its ending, the beginning of something much more. Today I login to RSI’s website and buy a bigger, better, ship. $15 USD more to get virtually and emotionally punched in the privates again. But damn, if it doesn’t scratch an itch I’d forgotten about,in the same way as games like Minecraft, World of Warcraft. A deeply flawed yet intricately woven tapestry–Star Citizen in a nutshell.
This was a mostly true retelling of my first full session in Star Citizen v3.18.0 based on my memory. Shit could be wrong. Don’t quote me. Note: I did play briefly on release day but didn't make it further than the spaceport.
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