Star Citizen and “Realism”

I have not really been following the development of Star Citizen beyond knowing that it had a pretty successful Kickstarter campaign. I mean, I know the premise and everything, but the name Chris Roberts holds about as much cachet with me as Raph Koster – both supposedly important dudes who made games I never played. Have they done anything lately? No? Okay then.

One thing that did catch my eye the other day though, was a short Massively article talking about Star Citizen’s “realistic” health and wound system. Feel free to read the source material itself. The basic idea is that the designers wanted to further the immersion by making a “fun” limb-based damage system. Take a lot of damage to an arm, and your arm gets blown off and/or ruined. There are a total of 10 specific areas to damage, with eight of them being arms or legs. The “Damaged” state is between 50% and 1% health, and… let me just quote it:

Damaged – Damaged limbs are useless and the player cannot use them unless they get them patched up in the field or taken to a mobile trauma system (see: Healing). This is the state right after the hurt phase, where the pain is so severe to the player, that no matter what limb is damaged, they will have a hard time being mobile. If one of their legs are damaged, they fall to the ground and crawl.

Now, there is something to be said about how the CoD/Battlefield-style run-and-gun regenerating health paradigm removes a lot of the weight of battle.¹ Take some damage, hide behind a wall, and ~15 seconds later you are good to go. Or perhaps rush into that occupied room with a shotgun and hope you get lucky, knowing you’ll get back to the fight faster than any of the other guys.

On the hand… Jesus Christ, can you imagine the grief potential? Enormous. I don’t care under what circumstances we have come to blows, I’m telling you now: I’m shooting your legs. I’m shooting your legs and then, whether or not I survive, you are spending the remaining time crawling pathetically across the floor to get anywhere. I am doing that because it is the most annoying thing I can possibly imagine. Screw headshots, if you want to invade my ship, you will spend the next 15 minutes crawling your way to the command chair over my dead body.

If you want to find me, I’ll be flying the most handicap inaccessible ship I can find. One with stairs!

That post about limb damage mentioned permadeath, which was the first I heard about it in Star Citizen, so I read that article too. The short version is that permadeath exists for lore reasons, but doesn’t actually matter. Taking a cue from Rogue Legacy, any time your character permanently dies, you simply start playing as whomever you marked as your next-of-kin. Since there are no RPG elements apparently (i.e. Skill Points), the most you lose is some reputation standing and whatever emotional attachment you’ve developed for a character in a permadeath-enabled game. Considering that the limb-damage system specifically talks about how difficult it will be to instantly die – a Ruined head might be jaw or eye damage instead of missing skull – it sounds like this might not be entirely relevant anyway.

I do not want to give the impression that I am not looking forward to Star Citizen, at least as much as anyone can about a game that could radically change at any moment. Space sims are not a genre I spend a lot of time thinking about, but I absolutely loved them in the past. I played Colony Wars for the PS1 way back in the day for an inordinate amount of time. The Zone of Enders series might not technically count as a space sim, but it is the first thing I think about whenever I see videos of Star Citizen dogfighting. I would seriously consider buying EVE: Valkyrie on Day 1, even though I’m not particularly impressed with CCP’s other spinoffs.

But if/when I do pick up Star Citizen, it will be in spite of mechanics such as limb-based damage and permadeath. I do not actually see such things adding anything of value to the game that would not have otherwise already been there. Instead, I foresee a future in which there will be a lot of people crawling around on the floor, hoping that Chris Roberts included a method to commit suicide and still wake up back at their spawn point.

¹ I don’t actually believe that much, if any, weight is removed in these games (or at least in Battlefield). Dying is already a miserable experience even with instant respawns, let alone in the context of not being able to capture an objective or prevent the capturing of your own. Attempts to penalize them further just makes the game harder, but not in a particularly fun way. Otherwise death penalties would all be “invalidate your CD key and force you to repurchase the game.”

Posted on November 26, 2014, in Commentary, MMO and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I know next to nothing about Star Citizen, but this fits fine with how their boarding combat seems to work. Unless I am mistaken, there are no respawn points as a convenient alternative to crawling. As mentioned in the post, one actually dies and reincarnates far away from the action as the vengeful nephew or something.

    So, given the alternative of permadeath and the hassle of attempting to capture a ship in the first place (cripple engine, engage tractor beam, lasso with docking collar, etc. all apparently with a hand-eye component against a resisting enemy) having one’s legs blown off for spite is a minor aggravation.

    Plus, I don’t know. A long, hellacious firefight with the enemy finally dead and myself flopping about at 20%, knowing I’ll always carry cyber-prosthetic reminders of the time I took on Azuriel the Knee-Capper, might feel kind of epic.


    • You’ll find that I come from a long lineage of Knee-Cappers. :)

      The aggravation may end up more than minor in any case. This is a section from the permadeath article:

      If you don’t manage to eject in time, or someone blasts your ejected character (which carries a harsh penalty if you do this in “civilized” space), your badly charred and almost dead avatar is recovered and you wake up in a med bay.

      This is also true if you are killed in a boarding action and your teammates can’t or don’t recover you. If this happens it is assumed that your dead body was evacuated into space and then recovered.

      So it makes sense that “dying” in a boarding party is one thing; you still respawn as the same character somewhere else, at least a few times. But what about being rendered helpless and then, you know, me just leaving you there on the floor while I walk into another room? Or just damaging all four limbs? Maybe someone could just log out and then disappear automatically, or perhaps there will be a timer they need to beat or something. Or perhaps the “instance” just ends once all hostiles are rendered helpless, at which point they are kicked off the ship after a fade-to-black or something.


      • Well, you better hope that AoE grenades are “affect self” and you can give your character a quick and dignified death. Assuming you have not forgotten the mentioned grenade in your bank, of course…..


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