The influence of Star Wars is felt across the world of sci-fi. Each of us has grown to admire at least one character in the universe that George Lucas or Disney had brought to life on our big and small screens. But among those of us who grew up watching A New Hope, the original Star Wars film, most boys wanted to be Luke Skywalker or Han Solo. Luke was the young hero who would become a fantastic pilot and destroy the evil Death Star. Han Solo was free to live his life as a rogue with a ship to match his lifestyle who did it for the girl.
These two men inspired young boys to dream of such wonders that helped to shape the world today. I truly believe that one of those young(er) boys was Chris Roberts, who would go on to make video games that were beloved by many, decades after their initial release. However, at the end of the day the heroes we “worship” shape our visions and dreams. Perhaps it is possible that ship designs in Star Citizen have been molded the way they are because of which hero archetype Chris wants to be?
ON MILLENNIUM FALCONS AND X-WINGS
On the whole, most of the available ships in Star Citizen can be put into one of two rough categories: “ Millennium Falcons” and “X-wings”. The X-wings make their name fighting the good fight, or whatever your cause is, and delivering death one torpedo or laser bolt at a time. Examples of these ships include staples like the Hornet series, a Buccaneer, Vanguards, and so on.
The Millennium Falcon is a personalized platform to make a home and a living. Mainstay examples in the Star Citizen universe include the Freelancers, Constellations, and Starfarers. Personally, I always favored the Falcon. At a very young age, I came to realize it was much more badass than the X-Wing. The scenes in a New Hope where the heroes fight off the four TIE fighters were just so cool. And yet, just 15 minutes later in the film, we see X-wing after X-wing dying to just one TIE fighter multiple times. And then it hit me, we have the same problem in the ‘Verse…
As of v2.6, the Falcons are much more diverse in their Persistent Universe (PU) potential than X-wings but they have combat utility that matches or even exceeds the X-wings a bit too often. I have three specific examples where the Falcon is as good as the X-wing at the same cost.
#1 Freelancer (Vanilla) vs F7C Hornet
The Freelancer is a well balanced and well-armed transport ship for relatively light loads of cargo (or a Dragonfly) and the Hornet is pure combat with a strong emphasis on direct fire weapons. The faster and more agile hornet may seem to be a clear winner on paper, but the freelancer having 4 gimbaled size 3 weapons and a fair number of size 2 and 3 missiles makes it have a decisive advantage in firepower. If the turret on the back of the freelancer is brought into the argument, the gap becomes even more prominent between them. We can insert the standard debate between speed vs power here so there is little point in diving too deep here. What is not up for debate is that the Freelancer had a clear and easy option to be able to move men and material in a number of ways but the Hornet has almost none aside from these cargo pods that we have only heard of from Chris; which would sacrifice more firepower.
#2 Constellation Andromeda vs Vanguard Hoplite
Both of these vessels are well armed long-range transports but the Andromeda is able to transport men, cargo, vehicles, and even a parasite ship, while the Vanguard is limited to transporting men. That said the Hoplite is a very tough ship that earns its place in the combat role. The Hoplite has a very large boost tank, 2 size 4 missiles hardpoints, a good direct fire compliment that includes a gimbaled size 4 and 6 size 2 weapons (if including turret). The Andromeda has about 60 missiles, 4 size 4 gimbaled weapons, 2 turrets with 2 size 2s, and its parasite ship. As with the freelancer and hornet we have a case of speed vs power as the Andromeda clearly has the hardpoints advantages. And as mentioned before, the Andromeda has more “packages” it can deliver.
#3 Freelancer MIS vs Gladiator
Very similar to the first example, but this time we have a missile debate. The gladiator is clearly a winner in terms of dealing death against a big target quickly with its size 5 missiles (4 of ‘em!). However, the gladiator has no endurance on a battle-field as it is actually slower than the MIS and has only 2 size 1s and 2 size 2s for direct fire. The MIS having those 4 gimbaled size 3 weapons plus a very big compliment of size 2 and 3 missiles makes it able to stay on a battlefield for a while and deal out more total damage overall as long as it isn’t blown up. And yet again, that smaller cargo bay compared to no cargo bay keeps coming up.
If Chris is Han Solo…
There isn’t a problem with that, unless you want to be Luke Skywalker. It has to be immensely frustrating to the pilot who loves that personality or gameplay to put time, effort, money, or hardware accessories into developing their talents to being a good fighter pilot in the spirit of Luke Skywalker, only for them to be unable to best a Han Solo in a cargo mover who puts in the same amount of effort. That’s not to say that Luke will not have his victories or won’t be just plain fun, but an integral part of being Luke is that you don’t lose easily or have a reasonable expectation of being threatening to those “non-combatants”. In one writer’s opinion we are not there yet.
The second issue to be aware of is that it is completely immersion breaking that civilian transport ships are even comparable at all to military spec starships. Even though the equipment on those transports are certainly not top quality, the sheer number and quality of hardpoints covers many sins. Take that Andromeda and Hoplite comparison. Unlike the Freelancer comparisons, the Hoplite is a military spec starship with civilian weaponry out the door ready to go and the Andromeda is entirely civilian. Yet the Andromeda had clear supremacy in firepower and diversity. So why do we need pure combat ships if engineers bring us Falcons of such quality? Operation Pitchfork may well be more successful than whole fleets of UEE Fleets just because we outgun their fighters and support craft. To put it bluntly: That’s insane.
If Chris is Luke Skywalker…
Then it’s done completely wrong. Dogfighters, interceptors, and combat ships as a rule, should be significantly faster than non-combat or generalist vessels at all modes, but as of 2.6 they are not. Yes they have clear superiority over those “Millennium Falcons” in after-burner speeds, but in SCM they are often slower than ships like the Freelancer or Andromeda. Go back to the three examples above and use Mallogos’ fantastic database to find that in ALL of those cases the cargo mover had at least a 5m/s advantage in SCM over a pure combat vessel.
Further complicating matters is that most ships are of the same relative performance level (in SCM velocities). In doing some research you will find that of all the ships in the game, only a few of them break the mold. Using the F7C Hornet as a baseline with its 150m/s max velocity at SCM, only a few ships managed to break away from plus or minus 10% of that baseline; or in other words be 15m/s slower or faster max potential. The ships that did break out from that stick out like a sore thumb, here is the list:
- Mustang series
- Aurora series
- Starfarer Gemini
Of that list, only the Herald, Mustangs, and Racers were faster and everything else slower. It takes a courier or racer to go faster than practically every other ship?
But not all is lost in this possible pursuit, the foundation is certainly there for us. The after-burner speeds are certainly diverse enough to allow us to feel like Luke and there is more depth to the tactical gameplay than the stats suggest. And perhaps most importantly, is that the maneuverability advantage of the combat vessels over generalists is pronounced enough to keep them dominant in most situations. We just need to make the ships we have different enough to give each of them their own flavor.
Will cargo mass be the answer?
Anyone with a physics 101 book will know that something with more mass will take more force get moving and/or will not move as fast as a lighter object. So if the Millennium Falcons are going to be hauling stuff, they need to have very serious penalties for entering a battle with that cargo. I mean serious enough that the power shift should go decisively towards Luke in his X-Wing. If the Millennium Falcons are going to be supreme generalists, we need to make sure that they can’t do everything at the same time. Cargo penalties seem to be the easiest solution.
Looking towards the Future
No one knows how the final product will come out, but we have a rare opportunity here. Unlike most other games, CIG’s approach to open development affords us the time and opportunity to share what we like and don’t like about this and all other aspects of the game. Don’t sit back and wait for Chris and CIG to figure this stuff out on their own. Pick up a control and try it out for yourself and then share what you’ve learned! There is room for Luke, Han, Leia, and everyone else in Star Citizen so take part in its creation so all of us coming out with something we can enjoy.