Squadron 42 with Erin Roberts
The early and mid-90s were packed with awesome space sims. There were the X-Wing and Tie-Fighter series from LucasArts, and of course Chris Roberts gave us the immortal Wing Commander franchise. I enjoyed them all, but my favorites were Privateer and Privateer 2, which while set in the Wing Commander universe still managed to create a completely new feel. The first game was produced by Chris with the help of his brother Erin Roberts, with Erin taking the lead on the second, but both were cutting edge for the time. Privateer 2 didn’t run well on my own top of the line system until the next generation of video card came out, a testament to how hard they pushed the envelope with those games.
By the time Erin leaned into Privateer 2 as producer, he and his brother were also experimenting with cut scenes and professional actors. We’re not talking about low-budget actors either, when you see names like Clive Owen or Mark Hamill taking the lead role and supported by names like Christopher Walken, and John Hurt (the War Doctor for all you Whovians). While I loved the whole franchise, I have to admit that the second Privateer was my favorite, and that’s why I’m so glad to see Erin and his team in the UK heading up Squadron 42.
Erin graciously agreed to give me his first serious interview with a US-based audience last week and I learned a lot about Star Citizen’s optional introductory military campaign. While SC is an MMO, the S42 mission pack will be sort of a tutorial for new players. While it can be skipped, completing the campaign is intended to have a number of benefits later in the more open and persistent part of the game. Today we’re going to take a look at what sorts of missions you should expect to see, what options players will have going into those missions, and what the success or failure of those missions will do to impact the rest of the campaign.
I asked Erin about how linear we should expect the Squadron 42 storyline to be. He replied, “Because we want strong story, we’ll keep the storyline pretty linear. Within the mission, there’ll be a lot of things you can do that will be different. There’ll be certain missions where you have to finish it, like say you have to defeat boarders or something.” But he goes on to point out that not all missions have to be won in order to progress the campaign.
Just like in previous games worked on by Erin and his brother Chris, story matters a lot in Squadron 42. It forms the backdrop that the persistent universe is set against, and I think there’s something else intelligent behind it as well. There are layers to the story that may not be noticed by players just paying the campaign lip service. Squadron 42 will be more than just a series of missions, Erin says. “There is a bigger thing going on behind the scenes as you play the game and the player will discover some of that. But depending on how player plays, they could discover more about what’s going on.”
Another bit of good news for some players, the perma-death of the persistent universe will be suspended for S42. After all, a lot of people would be very unhappy if they died on the second to last mission, only to have to do it all again. But Erin has good news for you more hardcore folks as well, “We will have the ability to reload [during S42] if you die, but there have been some guys on the forum talking about having the ability to disable that. That’s probably something we can do very easily once we have the game finished.”
Preparing for Combat
Fans of the Wing Commander series will likely be expecting to choose from a small stable of ships. I asked Erin about that as well and he said, “There will be certain ships that the military has that will be somewhat controlled. Players will have some choice with respect to those ships, but during the campaign there will be the option to fly captured ships as well.”
Another staple of great sims is the ability to configure weapon loadouts. Erin points out that it doesn’t stop there, “The big thing about Squadron 42 is that we’re making it in a way that we can be sure it works in the persistent universe. So when we build ships for the campaign, we have to make sure they can work out in the persistent universe as well. All the same configurations in systems and weapons that you’d expect there, you’ll have here.” For those who have been following the Wingman’s Hanger episodes, that says a whole lot. We know ships will be incredibly customizable with respect to electronics, power, weapons, and loads of other options.
Will those load outs make any difference you ask? Erin answers by saying, “It will make a big difference in missions. We’re really trying to make it so that depending on your load out, you have options on how to complete the mission. You might decide to try your long-range scanner first for example or perhaps go into low-energy mode and sneak past patrols.” All the same techniques a player might use in the persistent universe for things like bounty hunting, smuggling, and things like that.
So much like Chris Roberts has promised in the persistent universe of Star Citizen, the Squadron 42 component will offer players a number of solutions for every problem. With a selection of ships to choose from and each ship with an array of arming load-outs, playing through the optional Squadron 42 campaign multiple times might not be as boring as one might expect. Add to that the mid-mission opportunities that players can take advantage of or pass on and sounds like the impact of each choice could really change the feel of the campaign dramatically.