Since the idea was introduced as a stretch goal, the inclusion of a first person shooter component in Star Citizen has been a somewhat debated topic. There have been legitimate questions about how feasible it would be to add that sort of thing in an already ambitious project, and many have concerns that the attempt might come off feeling cheap or slapped in. We’ve all seen those games where something was just forced in for the extra bullet on the box. For the sake of expanding the potential audience of a game, things can sometimes be added that end up detracting from the quality of the overall game.
Like many, I was deeply concerned about Star Citizen’s FPS module. I knew it was added because it seemed like a really cool idea, but the technology to do it was so divergent from the game’s space sim roots that I couldn’t help but have a knot in my stomach over the idea. Then, I saw something that gave me hope. As they’ve done with several other parts of the project, CIG outsourced the FPS module to folks who have more experience working with that genre.
Even with that, I wasn’t completely sold on the idea, but my recent conversation with Kedhrin Gonzales, IllFonic's co-founder and creative director, gives me a great deal more hope for the future of the module. Kedhrin took time out of his busy schedule to Skype for a bit about what we can expect to see out of the FPS module and how it should fit into the persistent game. IllFonic is a company with some experience with producing shooters, which lends a certain weight to what Kedhrin says of their plans with respect to Star Citizen.
When I initially ask him about what we can expect of the first-person shooter module in Star Citizen, Kedhrin says,“The FPS module will essentially have every mechanic that is in the whole picture of what is FPS.” It goes beyond that though, because “the overall design theory of making this FPS system has been very sandbox-driven,” he notes in explaining some of the big differences due to the scenario-based nature of the new module. Due to the module being developed to function as a part of the larger game, you’re not likely to have any one situation that allows you to experience everything there is to offer in the module. “Players can do so many different things,” as Kedhrin explains.
To address that, Kedhrin tells me that they’re developing a series of scenarios to showcase some of the different highlights of the new module. He says, “Some of the levels may be the standard team deathmatch style call to elimination that will highlight all the core mechanics like movement, weapons, armor-types, and that sort of thing. Also, [it will] highlight all the good stuff, like zero-gee fighting.”
“[The initial release of the module] may not showcase the really cool stuff you’ll see in the persistent-based universe where you fly your ship and jump out the airlock to land on another guy’s ship. You blow out the wall, suck everybody outside, and then you go in… Those are the mechanics that we have some other modules planned for highlighting,” he continues. So like the space sim portion of the game, I think we can expect both run-and-gun type scenarios in the FPS module, as well as additional team-based objective-driven matches to select from.
All the standard movement will be coded in, to include prone, crouch, and leaning. Though when asked about jumping, Kedhrin suggests there’ll be a little less emphasis placed on it. Jumping is certainly in, but may not what you expect it to be. “Because it’s more hardcore, jumping isn’t really a mechanic players would be using as much.” Instead, there’ll be context-sensitive movement like jumping over railings or climbing ladders, and a typically over-emphasized jump mechanic would sort of break the immersion of the overall experience.
The seriously cool aspect of this FPS element is the zero-gee fighting, though. Getting around in zero-gee probably isn’t that bad if you have thrusters, but what if you don’t? “If you don’t have thrusters, then we’re introducing a push-pull mechanic,” Kedhrin explains eagerly. “If you move away from a surface, you’re essentially just floating at whatever velocity you left that surface. You could be floating dangerously in the middle of an open hanger, and you’re just a sitting duck until you come to the next wall.”
The Damage Modeling
I also asked Mr. Gonzales to tell me a bit about how damage is handled in the game. He began with, “we have lower arm, upper arm, lower leg, upper leg, torso, and head. The health system is pretty complex on the back end, but what’s introduced to the player is fairly straight-forward.” That’s not to say it’s just a standard percent of health, though. Kedhrin goes on to say, “We didn’t want to introduce too much of a gamey element like, ‘oh, I have 100% health.’ On a ship it makes sense, but on you as a human being, it doesn’t really make much sense at all. So instead, what we have a status monitor that gives you an overall status of your body.”
That monitor gives the status of your extremities in various states like normal, lightly wounded, heavily wounded, or ruined. Kedhrin says that “ruined would be where a limb got blown off or a grenade went off right beside you.” Once a limb is ruined, you’re put into a state of bleeding out. Also, there’s some crossover to the persistent world because if it’s ruined, that’ll be a limb that may need to be replaced with a mechanical one. That’s assuming you live at all, of course.
Damage can be healed in combat, though. Well, it’s probably more accurate to say that you can be patched up in combat. Kedhrin tells me that battlefield triage can only take a limb to the next state, so a heavily wounded limb can only be taken to being lightly wounded with your typical field dressing. “We don’t want a game where you can have a medkit, just press use, and be back to normal,” Kedhrin says when I ask about the limitation.
According to Kedhrin a good example would be if “your leg gets ruined and you use a personal medkit to stop the bleeding. Your limb is still ruined, but now you’re not bleeding out. The rest of your limbs are kind of messed up. You can heal those limbs up to their last status, but not to fully healed.” Though there are other larger medkits that can be carried to do more, but at the expense of being able to carry heavy weapons.
The larger medkits can potentially heal damaged limbs up to full health, but not ruined. If a limb is ruined, you’ll have to wait until after the battle to get to a medical facility to have it healed or replaced. This all ties into a larger health system where damage degree and location have actual impact on your character. Specifics aren’t being released publically yet, but expect to see some pretty cool effects dependent on the various types of damage.