Star Citizen's Buggy Nature: Understanding the Development Process and Future Improvements
Star Citizen, the highly ambitious space simulation game, has garnered a reputation for its occasional janky behavior and numerous bugs. However, understanding the underlying development process sheds light on why these issues persist. As the game is still in alpha, the focus has been on building critical systems to support future gameplay. This article explores the reasons behind Star Citizen's buggy nature and provides insights into the game's future improvements.
Early Development Challenges
Star Citizen has encountered several challenges throughout its development journey. In 2015, the game underwent a significant expansion, adding explorable planetary bodies, which set back the development by a few years. Around 2017 and version 3.0, the project needed a clearer direction and appeared more like a tech demo than a cohesive game. However, since then, the focus has been on solidifying foundational systems essential for the game's long-term success.
Critical Systems Development
A considerable portion of development efforts has been dedicated to building essential in-house systems, such as the UI system, planetary creation tools, outpost and space station building system (RASTAR), ship creation pipeline, rendering engine, audio engine, and more. These systems were not novel to the gaming industry, but building them in-house allowed for scalability, growth, and development in tandem with the game's evolution, without reliance on external parties.
Two crucial systems are Persistent Entity Streaming (PES) and server meshing. PES enables players to find their friends' crashed ships days after they landed, while server meshing aims to create a seamless environment across vast spaces with a reasonable server load. Despite the significance of these systems, their implementation has taken years, with PES only being added in version 3.18, and server meshing still in progress.
Impact on Bug Fixing
The dedication to building critical systems leaves less time for resolving technical debt and addressing challenging bugs. The focus has shifted towards defining fundamental gameplay mechanics, modular mission systems, resource management gameplay, and other core aspects. Consequently, issues, like glitched mission givers or balance problems, might persist, frustrating players.
Constant Changes and Bugs
Star Citizen is undergoing frequent and substantial changes, leading to the persistence of bugs. The iterative nature of development means that bug fixes could inadvertently break again due to subsequent changes. For example, a bug causing ship weapons to misfire might be resolved, only to reappear six months later due to changes in the inventory tracking system.
The Game's Current State
The current state of Star Citizen features incomplete major game loops like refining, engineering, and crafting, as well as an underdeveloped dynamic economy and a lack of a player trading system. However, the focus remains on building these missing aspects and striking a balance between testing and refining existing elements and adding new features to progress toward the game's ultimate goal.
Prioritizing Squadron 42
Bug-fixing efforts also prioritize Squadron 42, a standalone single-player campaign set in the same universe as Star Citizen. With Squadron 42 due for an earlier release and being less expansive, bug fixes for it may eventually find their way into Star Citizen, but the majority of the effort will initially go to the former.
Looking Towards the Future
Star Citizen's constant development efforts and focus on adding new features will eventually lead to the replacement of old, buggy systems. As the game evolves and matures, the prevalence of glitches is expected to decrease. Players can expect improvements shortly as the development team continues to strive to meet player expectations.
Understanding the early development challenges and the ongoing efforts to build critical systems provides insight into why Star Citizen occasionally suffers from bugs and janky behavior. The game's constant evolution and focus on adding new features contribute to the persistence of certain issues. However, players can look forward to an improved experience as the game continues to mature and approaches its intended gameplay vision.
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What’s The Fix?
Before delving into potential fixes for Star Citizen's bugs and stability issues, it is essential to set realistic expectations. As the game is still in its pre-beta phase, complete bug eradication might not be achievable for some time. However, recent updates have shown significant progress in enhancing the game's stability and quality of life for players.
Over the last couple of years, players have noticed notable quality-of-life improvements. These range from basic inventory management features like "move all" and "shift-click" functionality to more substantial changes, including boosting server capacity to accommodate 100 players, addressing crime stat issues, attempting to mitigate the 30k server crashes, introducing in-game stopwatches, providing a tutorial for new players, and optimizing the game renderer to improve framerates. While these improvements do not address all the bugs related to elevators, trains, space stations, and ships, there is a clear effort to move the game closer to a more stable and playable state.
This trend of improving the game's stability and user experience is likely to continue with each subsequent update. Alongside major feature additions and small bug fixes, the developers are making incremental changes that have a significant impact on players. As persistent entity streaming (PES) becomes more established, developers can focus more on refining existing systems, addressing major bugs, and enhancing the overall gameplay experience.
Despite these efforts, there remain persistent and more severe bugs that significantly impact the player base. Issues such as duplicating elevators, unstowed players, login problems, and collisions with invisible objects can disrupt gameplay sessions and even prevent players from participating. Additionally, there are occasional game design changes that may seem incongruent with the game's current state, which might be better suited for a more complete version of the game.
One promising solution lies in the implementation of big systems and tools that can replace outdated features and mechanics. For instance, introducing a new star map rather than fixing the issues with the old one allows for a complete revamp of the user experience. Similarly, major updates, like the Gen 12 renderer, can overhaul the game's graphics and performance in one fell swoop. Iterating on systems and tools when the supporting features are in place can lead to eliminating old bugs while introducing new ones, but overall, this iterative approach aims to create a more robust and polished final product.
However, the challenge lies in finding the right balance between iterations and progress. How many times should the flight model be tuned? How long should players wait for new features? These questions and concerns are not unique to Star Citizen but apply to any live development game. Striking the right balance between development and bug fixing is crucial for the game's ultimate success.
In conclusion, while Star Citizen continues to face challenges in bug fixing and stability, the development team's dedication to quality-of-life improvements and introducing essential systems brings hope for a more stable and enjoyable gameplay experience. Players interested in following the game's progress should be aware that polishing and the player experience may not be the primary focus during this early development phase. However, as the game evolves and more features are introduced, the community can expect a more refined and immersive gaming experience in the future.
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