It’s been a little while since we last wrote about Cloud Imperium Games much anticipated titles, Star Citizen, and Squadron 42, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been busy, releasing more information on their titles, new patches and making some changes to their underlying engine.
The last time we checked in on the project was just after their 2016 Anniversary Live Stream, an annual ‘community event’ where Cloud Imperium Games often show off snippets of work they have done, information from forthcoming patches and of course, kick off a large-scale ship sale – where ships that are normally unavailable for purchase are made available to all comers. Last year’s event focussed on their forth coming 2.6 Alpha patch to Star Citizen, which promised to finally bring backers Star Marine, the ‘game within a game’ First Person Shooter sim, allowing players to practice and hone their FPS abilities within the Star Citizen universe in a more arcade like setting than CIG are planning to provide in the large ‘Persistent Universe’, the name CIG are giving their MMO game mode. This patch also promised new ships, new Persistent Universe content and more.
Indeed, the patch released to the public late December with all that fans had been expecting and something of a surprise to many, a single change to the loading splash screen, removing the credits for Crytek’s CryEngine and replacing it with the logo for Lumberyard, Amazons fork of CryEngine, customised to provide improved AWS, Twitch and multiplayer support. When you consider it, this is a logical move for CIG since they have stated they are using Amazons AWS platform for hosting their game servers, so anything that helps make using this platform easier and provides support for the kind of large scale universe housing thousands of players that is the end goal of Star Citizen. Of course, it wouldn’t be the internet if this news wasn’t used to generate clickbait headlines and certainly plenty were published because of it, making it seem like the change of engine was more than it was. In some cases, a game changing its underlying engine mid-development stream is kind of a big deal, since it will generally mean a lot of code work must be thrown out of the window. Not so much with the shift to Lumberyard, a forum post on the Star Citizen websites forums by Chris Roberts himself cleared up some of the concern among backers that the various misreports had caused.
Lumberyard and StarEngine are both forks from exactly the SAME build of CryEngine.
We stopped taking new builds from Crytek towards the end of 2015. So did Amazon. Because of this the core of the engine that we use is the same one that Amazon use and the switch was painless (I think it took us a day or so of two engineers on the engine team). What runs Star Citizen and Squadron 42 is our heavily modified version of the engine which we have dubbed StarEngine, just now our foundation is Lumberyard not CryEngine. None of our work was thrown away or modified. We switched the like for like parts of the engine from CryEngine to Lumberyard. All of our bespoke work from 64 bit precision, new rendering and planet tech, Item / Entity 2.0, Local Physics Grids, Zone System, Object Containers and so on were unaffected and remain unique to Star Citizen.
Going forward we will utilize the features of Lumberyard that make sense for Star Citizen. We made this choice as Amazon’s and our focus is aligned in building massively online games that utilize the power of cloud computing to deliver a richer online experience than would be possible with an old fashioned single server architecture (which is what CryNetwork is).
Looking at Crytek’s roadmap and Amazon’s we determined that Amazon was investing in the areas we were most interested in. They are a massive company that is making serious investments into Lumberyard and AWS to support next generation online gaming. Crytek doesn’t have the resources to compete with this level of investment and have never been focused on the network or online aspects of the engine in the way we or Amazon are. Because of this combined with the fact we weren’t taking new builds of CryEngine we decided that Amazon would be the best partner going forward for the future of Star Citizen.
Finally there was no ulterior motive in the timing of the announcement. The deal wasn’t fully finalized until after the release of 2.5 and we agreed with Amazon to announce the switch and partnership upon the release of 2.6, which would be the first release on Lumberyard and AWS. If you have been checking out our schedule updates you would know that we originally had hoped to release 2.6 at the beginning of December, not Friday the 23rd!
I hope this clears up some of the speculation I have seen. We are very excited to be partnered with Amazon and feel this move is a big win for Star Citizen and by extension everyone that has backed the project.
p.s. I wont be replying to this as it is Christmas and I am meant to be enjoying a bit of time off with my family (and playing some games – you may see me pop into a Star Marine or AC match or two!)
p.p.s Happy Holidays All!
So, as you can see, the switch from CryEngine to Lumberyard was almost trivial in comparison to what its being made out to be regarding time scales and indeed, should help CIG going forwards since Lumberyard does have features that MMO creators can benefit from, thanks to AWS integration.
As for the patch, itself? Overall, it’s a hell of a jump, overall performance seems more stable throughout the various game modes, it seems CIG have put even more polish into the visuals, if this were even possible, since this is already a stunning game visibly. As well as a few new things to see and do in the Persistent Universe, new menu systems which are starting to make this feel more like the game it will become, rather than a string of test levels thrown together and much more… As for Star Marine? Well, while currently basic in terms of features has a certain level of promise and should, overtime shape up to be a hell of a shooter there are a wide variety of missing features and issues currently, but as with Arena Commander back in December 2014 this is very much just the first iteration and will get progressively better with time – certainly one of the major complaints will be addressed in the coming weeks, with the release of 2.6.1 and later 2.6.2 – latency. One of the early stretch goals for the crowdfunding campaign was an ‘Enhanced Alpha’ essentially additional player servers in Europe and Australia, something which is now being addressed in 2.6.1 per an emailed newsletter, which should go some way to significantly improving the playing experience in Star Marine and indeed all other areas of the game for none US backers going forwards. 2.6.1 and 2.6.2 are also expected to include features that didn’t quite meet the cut off for 2.6 as well the most interesting of which is what CIG are referring to as ‘the megamap’ which essentially allows faster loading between various game states via loading in all game levels once and only once.
A long-promised video in the ‘Around the Verse’ series, a short weekly catch up put out by CIG for fans of the series was released featuring an interview with Britton Watkins, the ConLang (Constructed language) specialist hired by CIG to create the Alien languages that will feature in the game, which was one of the stretch goals of the original crowdfunding campaign. Effectively, what this means is that the alien races in game the Vanduul and Xi’an will both have languages, which while made up, will make sense for the species and, for those so inclined, be something that players can learn – much like Klingon in Star Trek – co-incidentally, Watkins other work includes Star Trek: Into Darkness, so the comparison is apt. While nothing has been said about the other Alien species that will feature in the game it’s likely safe to say they will also receive the same attention going forwards when it is needed.
Slowly but surely the pieces are starting to fall into place for what could be one of the most ambitious gaming projects to date. It’s been a long road to get here with no end of controversy along the way and there is certainly plenty more to come, but the regular updates and content releases are a sure sign that things are happening and moving in the right direction.