This post is a transcript of 10 for the Developers: Episode 12, material that is the intellectual property of Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) and it’s subsidiaries. INN is a Star Citizen fansite and is not officially affiliated with CIG, but we reprint their materials with permission as a service to the community. INN edits our transcripts for the purpose of making the various show participants easier to understand in writing. Enjoy!
10 for the Developers: Episode 12 – Full Transcript
Ben Lesnick (BL): You wanna?
Dave Haddock (DH): Oh, hi! Welcome to another edition of 10 for the Developers, I’m Dave Haddock, Lead Writer.
BL: I’m Ben Lesnick, Director of Community Engagement and ships.
DH: And so this is where we take 10 questions from subscribers who are our subset of our community who provide a little bit of extra every month to allow this sort of added amount of community engagement and we do our best to answer them.
BL: Now our subscribers allow us to do programs like this, ATV, RTV, BugSmashers, all the community engagement you see us doing every week so we really appreciate what you let us do.
And now for some questions.
[1:08] Thanatos asks: I just read through the entire writer’s guide, in one sitting, is all the information included therein still up to date, or will there be some more updates coming?
DH: For the most part it’s pretty up to date. I mean we are changing some aspects of it and its actually been sort of on a backburner lingering list of things that need to get done to basically keep it more… because we’ve been doing obviously, with all the script stuff and Squadron 42 stuff we’ve been developing the PU history and the aliens races and the civilizations and stuff like that. We’ll probably be updating it soon. Part of it also about how we parse out that information, but yes it there will probably be an update.
BL: I thought the Writers Guide was a great, especially earlier on where we didn’t have the game for people to play, but you could already imagine yourself in the universe and you could start creating your own fiction in it.
DH: Yeah it was fun too also having the aspects of it that we started doing with the Lore Builder where there the areas we haven’t quite figured and so we got to turn to the community and I remember particularly we generated a lot of bands that did music and beer and…
BL: Star Citizen, full of bands and beer.
BL: Now I always like looking back on a show and it’ll always be like 20 and 30 years later where we’re like “Oh there’s the Star Trek writers bible” and it’s cool that we just put it out for everybody early on
DH: Yeah, actually the Star Trek Next Generation bible is, I have it in my office actually if you haven’t read it, you should check it out.
BL: One of my favourite things in the world is the licensed tie in fiction that comes very, very early, like they kicked off some writer writing the first couple novels before they shot the first episode. So data has blue skin and emotions, it’s great.
[3:01] PhantomofTruth asks: When you wrote ‘Whisperer in the dark’, what were your influences/intentions and where do you see that story going into the future?
DH: With that one, that was actually our first jump point story? It was actually I think, I was writing it at the same time we were closing out, because that was still during the crowdfunding phase I believe.
BL: That was yep. We started that off in 2012, end of 2012. And I think…
BL: I think we realized we’d done it, we’d set up all these subscriptions, we promised people original fiction, and we need a story really darn fast.
DH: Yeah, that one. That one it was a weird one. At the time I was still writing the Cal Mason one, still writing the Kid Crimson one, and still writing the news update. I think part of it was just trying to set, you know, Cal Mason was a very high adventure type thing, Kid Crimson was this sort of more Noir-ish crime thing. This really enough like, needed to feel distinct from those two, so it kind of went for more horror, like Lovecraftian.
There’s a story he did called “The Nameless City” that has this very long segment of it, where this guy is just crawling in a tunnel. It’s really claustrophobic and uncomfortable and cool. It was that kind of feeling that, you know, having this woman going through this like abandoned, old, destroyed civilization and weird things start happening. “Is it real, is it not?” and stuff, and try to walk that line of like, you know, not supernatural stuff but, could it be? Who knows.
So yeah, that was sort of the idea behind it. As far as the… I mean story for the system is gonna be interesting because that’s Hades system. That’s one that you guys are all gonna get to poke around in. One day. So we’ll see where that story goes. Tanya is gonna, I think, probably make another appearance somewhere. We’ll have to see.
BL: It’s crazy thinking back to those early days, where you could be writing three serials at once and you were doing all the graphics for the website. I think back “How did I do all of the CS tickets, and run the forums, and plan the sales?” It was crazy!
DH: I don’t know. I have no, I mean, It was nuts. I remember watching you guys do the last 24-hour live stream and I was at home when you guys were in Austin, and I was like “I don’t know how they’re standing.”
BL: I fell asleep.
[5:31] Bluegoggles asks: As mind racking writing can be, I’m sure it’s just as satisfying. What area of writing has been more fascinating: The large scale lore of whole races, events, etc. Or the personalities and conduct of individual characters?
DH: I kind of like the individual characters a bit, but the large scale stuff is actually fun because if you get stuck on character stuff you can actually just completely shift gears and be like, “I’m gonna write about, or I’m going to think about beer and bands for an hour” and work out stuff like that. Think about music or architecture and stuff. So the large scale stuff is a nice respite, but I always like characters and making people feel unique and getting hooked into that sort of more personal story line. I would kind of go the latter, but the large scale stuff is super fun.
BL: I like the small scale stuff. I certainly don’t write as much as you do, but when we do things like sales and just the tiny little details that build the universe that don’t matter at all. The first one I remember was the branded pillow in the Aurora.
BL: Of course!
DH: I love the space comforter that’s on the Starfarer like the captains are like the planets and the stars, it’s amazing.
[6:48] First Citizen asks: Will the Star Citizen Novella be a hard copy as well as digital at some point? Always nice to hold the book!
DH: That is an excellent question. I don’t know, I think we’re still trying to figure out, how that’s…
BL: The answer is we don’t know yet for that specific thing, but I saw there were a whole bunch of Novella questions that spawn off of this one.
DH: There were.
BL: So where is the Novella, what is the Novella?
DH: Well I have actually been working on it weirdly enough. I think the set up for it is awesome, I think people are really going to like that and I’m sort of at the outlining stage of it. Time has been a little tight as late so I haven’t had that much time to work on it, but it’s coming along. I think again, the setup is really awesome, it’s going to be a lot of fun to get into, but yeah hopefully I can start working on it again soon. I think I’ll start loosening up a little bit.
BL: Yeah I’ve heard that before for the past three years.
DH: This is true.
BL: But I should say I love the fact that you guys do all the fiction yourselves. Like back in the Wing Commander days they would say, “Okay here, contract this out to some generic Sci-fi writers” and here it’s all people who have a grasp on the universe.
BL: Yeah, I mean we’ve had some outsourced some really good fiction and the stories that we just finished in Jump Point have had some a lot of really good writers contribute to it and it’s great to see that people are able to… again part of the difficult thing with this is contracting a writer to come into sort of an established universe and cause, if you’re approaching them because they don’t necessarily know the world and you have to help them and a lot of people have been plugging in very quickly and hitting the ground running and making some really cool stuff, so it’s been great, but yeah it’s always fun to you know, we can be very into learn kind of geek out about the stuff that we write.
[8:53] Oberscht asks: For Ben Lesnick: How much do views, like/dislike ratio – as in, factors outside of direct community outrage – affect your decisions concerning Youtube shows, articles and so on?
BL: To be honest, specifically, the likes, dislikes does not especially matter to us. We’re still in a very much gut feeling in terms of reaction. After doing this for a couple years we kind of have our sources for how people, the sources we trust to actually represent the community so, I know when this person is outraged and they’re complaining that I should definitely listen to them and we should think about things different, but pure numbers for, “They didn’t retweet this enough” or “This ship sold 80% instead of 90% of what we expected” not especially valuable to me personally.
DH: So it’s not metric based, it’s more instinctual.
BL: Yeah we started to the do the metrics, the whole company has changed so much, we got out the metrics, we looked at them, but I would say at this point we still do a lot more with just the human feeling.
DH: Right, right.
For Dave Haddock: When millions of people play a game, inconsistencies, plot holes and so on are bound to be found. So when that happens to Squadron 42, how would you react? Ignore them? ‘Patch’ them? Retcon them in the next act?
DH: Well there definitely isn’t plotholes, [Smirks]
BL: Yeah this is like a pre-problem. You’re gonna screw this up!
DH I mean It’s one of those things… I mean we do the best we can to try and troubleshoot that sort of stuff? Like among the internal reviews and make sure that logic is tracking and people, you know, and again, it’s the tricky nature of storytelling in general. Like those connections between logic points can work for some people and they can’t work for other people, so to the people that it doesn’t work for it becomes a plot hole, but other people aren’t bothered by it. So it’s a bit of a mixed bag.
I mean I don’t know if there’s something that’s conceivably fixable, just as a hypothetical. I don’t know, I think we would have to gauge it based off how glaring the plot hole is. If it’s kind of inconsequential, maybe we would just probably ignore it or and then try to address it maybe in the next section or game or whatever.
BL: Yeah I’m kind of curious about that. So let’s ignore like giant plot holes, but something really really minor like say you say Tanyia has a hair colour or different hair color in two different places, do you go back and fix something that’s already published or do you explain it later? What’s your preference there.
DH: I mean I try to… Personally I dislike retconning especially with what we’re doing because we’re building it in sort of public view that everyone is getting really involved in this stuff and the last thing we want to do is to basically say like, “Oh yeah that? Yeah, forget all that” you know kind of start over and this, they’re not made of marshmallows, they’re made of sponge cake and people go “Oh, but I like marshmallows”.
BL: Stop spoiling the Kertack.
DH: Sorry, sorry!
But yeah. I mean if I think it’s easy enough, I mean we’ve found inconsistency within you know Jump Point articles and you know between Jump Point and old news dispatches. So when possible we just go back and we’ll just fix them to consolidate and at least be consistent with them. So far we haven’t had anything really egregious that’s really come back to haunt us. It also in the early days as you remember, we would aim broad.
DH: So it was all just sort of like “It’s kind of this, feeling” rather than it’s specifically blah, blah, blah, A,B,C, and D. So we gave ourselves wiggle room to hone it down later because we knew we would come back to it.
BL: We kind of run into a side problem with ships where we want to continue developing new ships that are also old ships and “Oh wait now we have three years of fiction where we don’t mention the Anvil” or whatever.
BL: We just had that in a meeting earlier this week, we were talking about a ship we can’t name yet and we’re like “Okay this feels like one the military has been using for years”
DH: For a while, but I think to a certain extent I mean because we’re, again we’re developing it. No one has done that, that’s kind of the crazy thing that I keep circling back to. Star Wars came out and now it was Star Wars, there was not you know, the book on the universe of Star Wars and the different races and the different factions and stuff before the movie came out. So this is the first time that we’re doing it backwards. I feel like to a certain extent we have to go “Oh yeah, that ship has been in service for 80 years and we just haven’t imagined it because, we didn’t know about it”.
BL: this is only barely in a side, but just this last weekend I was asking myself, “What was the Star Wars universe in 1978”?
DH: Oh wow I would be fascinated to know.
BL: Well I looked it up, there were three children books, a novelization and it’s crazy looking back. One of them is after the movie, Luke Skywalker is a planetary settler and he’s at the space academy and it’s so different from anything anyone would have thought of.
DH: Wow, so there was no plan of or it didn’t seem like there were alluding to any kind of set up for Empire Strikes Back, it was just like done!
BL: There’s even a part where he thinks back to Obi-Wan Kenobi and he’s like “Oh yeah, the force he mentioned something about that”.
DH: That’s crazy.
[15:02] Jacknife asks: One of the charms of the original Wing Commander was that there was this one ship, the Scimitar, that almost nobody wanted to fly because it was widely regarded as slow and underpowered and obsolete. Granted, the team doesn’t have the resources to deliberately design a flyable 30th century Edsel for Star Citizen, but have you thought about including stuff like that as, say, NPC background ships, or maybe having the lore categorize as ‘marketing failures’ ships that got rendered obsolete in their original function by evolving game mechanics?
BL: Short, short answer. Yes, absolutely. In fact Dave here has done some of the early ship stuff down back to the Zeus early on.
DH: Oh right. Right, right, right.
BL: It’s more a time of… a point of, how can we work these into the schedule. We also kind of have this idea that our existing ships are going to age. You’ll have the 2943 Aurora that is the model that is 5 years old, someday 10 years old. We, as we mentioned in another question, we are going back and saying, “Okay, here’s another ship that would’ve existed back then.” So de-aging, or re-aging existing ships is an option.
We do want to build more and more ships into the background of the lore. As we get to the point where ships kind of go directly into the game, rather than going through this whole concept sale, proposal idea we can do some more ‘less popular’ ships that won’t sell.
DH: Right, right.
BL: I will also note that for the example of Wing Commander though, and this is the power of lore, the Scimitar… everyone hates the Scimitar, everyone who played the game remembers hating the Scimitar. The Scimitar is bad. It’s only bad because one of the characters, several of the characters, repeatedly tell you it’s bad in the game. It’s actually the second best ship in the game.
DH: I kind of liked flying the Scimitar.
BL: Yeah. It’s the guns, you have a constant recharge…
DH: That was the big mass driver one, right?
BL: Yes, it’s the one with the mass drivers. It’s so much more pleasant than the Hornet, and I have an even easier time with it than the Rapier.
DH: Right, right. Yeah, I mean it’s also important to note that I mean like, you know, an old ship and a new ship are basically equal in difficulty to create. You have to go through as many steps. Whether the ship is 50 years old, or is supposed to be the new cutting edge thing, sort of from a production standpoint they’re basically the same, it requires the same amount of work. So it’s, you know, I think right now we’re being a bit more, like Ben said, we’re being a bit more surgical about what type of ships we’re coming out with.
BL: But that is part of why we give ships a lineage. It’s never just… sometimes it is, “Here’s the totally new ship,” but a lot of times, “Oh here’s the Retaliator, and it has a hundred year history with the UEE.”
DH: Right, right.
BL: We’re kind of planning that in.
[17:33] Hawx asks: Why does the Endeavor have such weak armaments for a deep space science vessel that’s the length of an Idris? Could it get some point defense systems along the centre hull to protect against torpedo attacks and ships attempting to directly board?
BL: Well the first answer is that the Endeavor is not a combat ship, it’s a science ship! We intentionally kept the weapons very limited. It’s not an explorer either. It’s a ship that goes to safer areas and does science. In fact, it has the armoured cab specifically so you can detach the valuable, complex, part and explore at your own risk. The other half of that question is, it’s entirely possible that we get additional point defense turrets. It’s going to wait until we go into the white boxing/grey boxing stage, and we start playing around with it and go, “Oh, okay, here’s an obvious vector where enemy fighters take it down every single time.” So we will build a solution to that. Until we get to that stage, it’s hard to say.
DH: Alright. Yeah, because, I mean a lot of it is sort of… on paper it can be one thing but, like you said, once you see it in there.
BL: Yeah. A lot of… I shouldn’t say a lot of, but every single ship goes into the game with the “Oh here’s the flaw we didn’t see. Here’s how we needed to play differently.” There will be changes, that’s a potential one. We’ll see!
[18:57] Steve Hunter asks: Could you comment on the intended difference we will see between a ‘Citizen’ and a ‘Civilian’ in the game?
BL: Well the Citizen makes the choice to defend the body of politics with his life. That’s from Starship Troopers. What is the difference?
DH: Well, yeah, I mean they get to vote for the Senate. I mean that was sort of one thing, but… I mean we sort of outlined, I mean from the early days you remember, the very basic differences of “Only Citizens can have multi-system corporations.” You know. “Civilians can only vote in local governments, not in Imperial Politics” and stuff like that. If I remember correctly, you know, while Chris wanted there to be a difference between the two I seem to recall him saying that there was… it wasn’t as divisive as a caste system in like medieval Europe, or feudal Japan, or something.
BL: I’ve always seen it as much more of a, our equivalent of Yelp almost. “Hey this guy, I can trust this guy, he’s a Citizen!” Rather than, “Citizens look down on Civilians!”
DH: Yeah, they’re not underfoot of the regime of the Citizens and stuff like that. It was a bit more of a, you know, a choice. Like, do you want to commit to the empire or do you not really care about the empire but you still want to live in it?
BL: As you attach it to game play, you need that lower spectrum too. People who decide to be civilians, or criminals, need to have a viable game play experience too. It has to be a choice, rather than a ladder you climb.
DH: Right. Right. Also, you know, not so obviously better quality of life or something like that where it’s like, “Only Citizens can have a job” or something like that. Yeah, as far as the specific game play stuff, I think we’re still sort of trying to hone in on that.
BL: I’m just imagining it’s literally the same as a Senior Citizens discount. Citizens get a 1.50 USD off their egg plate!
DH: You get an awesome pen. You get to use a shorter line when transferring customs.
[21:16] AragornBH asks: How do you think working with Chris Roberts to make Star Citizen would be different and/or the same if you had worked with Chris on a Wing Commander game?
BL: That’s an interesting question. So I’ve worked a little bit on lore for old Wing Commander games. I did all the lore for the XBox live arcade game, I helped edit some of the novels and stuff. I find going back, that I don’t take myself seriously. I look back and go “Okay. Wing Commander is amazing, I love Wing Commander, I love everything about the universe. This is the part Ben came up with… I don’t know about that! What was I thinking?” It’s actually kind of been good to be doing Star Citizen, where it’s this new thing that I get to see developed, and I have a part in that I, don’t know, I find that it gives me more buy in.
If I were working on a Wing Commander game, I would be an obsessive crazy person about continuity and just very argumentative probably. It’s a good thing we’re doing Star Citizen. I’m actually more curious about you, because you have so much more… so much more of the lore is yours, and you look at that and see, “Hey, there’s Dave Haddock in writing form.” How do you feel about that?
DH: I mean it’s awesome and, you know, people seem to really like it, but again it’s not just me. There’s so many aspects of the universe that, when we were doing early conversations in the Kickstarter thing that we were talking about, that have… like you guys, I haven’t touched ships. You guys came up with all the ships and all the awesome… I mean I still, like the Retaliator to me is just a work of art.
BL: Which is interesting because, you know, I look at the ships and like, “Oh my God! I can’t believe I got to do this”. I got to work with these incredibly talented people that come up with this, there’s a little bit of me in there. But I look at a ship that I did on Wing Commander Arena. I did a similar thing, I named all the ships, I did all the specs, I came up with their backstories, and I’m like, “Oh those are embarrassing”. They’re not as good as the other Wing Commander ships.
DH: But no, I mean yeah, it’s been awesome. But yeah, there so many… I mean everybody contributes, and that’s kind of, one of the fun things about the company is that there’s a lot of… everybody banding together and coming up with cool stuff. You know, going for what’s fun.
[23:26] Ethnine asks: Why are new ships coming out of concept sale and going into production (Ex: the Reliant, Prowler, Herald, and maybe the Buccaneer) instead of moving onto ships that already had concept sales years ago? (Ex: Merchantman, Redeemer, Reclaimer)
BL: Well there’s a whole bunch of reasons for that. A major one is that we kind of now have this pipeline down where the concept artists are in sync with the tech designers and everyone else and a ship can very seamless can go from one to the other, to the other and come out the other end. Which you’re seeing a lot with some of the smaller ships: The Sabre was finished very quickly, the Buccaneer is going to go right into active development I believe, that’s the schedule as of today, that may change tomorrow.
Another big aspect is the kits and the style sheets they built for the different manufacturers. You probably noticed that when we did 2.0, you saw a lot of Aegis and MISC ships because those are the ships that have their pipelines pretty much completed and now you’re seeing a whole bunch of Drake ships. We’re finishing up the Herald, we’re doing the Buccaneer, working on the Caterpillar. There’s rhyme behind it, I know people are like “We want to see the Banu Merchantman now, we want to see the Banu Merchantman now”, I want to see the Banu Merchantman now, but we need to take time to build the Banu aesthetic, we need to do it right rather than right now.
So the other ships time will come, they’re all scheduled out on the production pipeline now. I will also mention now that Prowler was one of the ones mentioned as going into production. We’re still in concept on that one, it’ll be a bit longer for exactly the same reason until you see it. We need to build the Tevarin race first and we want to do that right.
DH: And that is it, that is 10 for the Developers.
BL: Didn’t feel like 10.
DH: Did not, actually went rather quickly.
BL: But I would like to thank everyone for tuning in, thanks to the subscribers for making this possible, for asking the questions themselves. If we didn’t get your question, we will not answer it.
DH: Or you could bounce it over to Ask a Dev threads.
BL: Yup, we are on the forums and…
DH: Also thank you, a big thank you, to our community at large… in general for helping us do this at all.
BL: Thank you to all human beings… no, thanks guys.