Star Citizen’s Squadron 42 new gameplay video is incredibly immersive

Single player oriented Squadron 42 is just one plank of the plan for for Chris Robert’s Star Citizen. Late last week, the team finally showed off a long video showcasing the gameplay for Squadron 42 and its impressive. Both from a gameplay and a technology standpoint it makes me think about what more earth-bound realistic simulations might be able to do with some of the technology being pioneered here.

They call it a ‘vertical slice’

The developers behind Star Citizen and Squadron 42 are drawing on the support of crowd funded backers to fund development on a universe spanning title. Though its universe building is more Star Wars and less the grounded reality of a historical warbird or modern jet fighter, it’s clear that all of the teams have gone to painful levels of detail to get things ‘right’ and make a fictional universe feel grounded in reality.

To make the hour long gameplay demo of Squadron 42 work, there are multiple layers of details from the motion capped actors (notably including Mark Hamil) to volumetric gas clouds to the detailed flight model physics and AI systems. Presenting all of that in a reasonably polished way means integration of a vast array of systems and content into something presentable – they call it a vertical slice. Go off just a little beyond the demo and things will be missing or just not ready.

What they did show us is incredible. The following video features movie like cinematics, an interactive player interface, carrier operations, flight, and first person shooter elements all rolled into one contiguous piece of gameplay.

How some of this makes its way to more conventional titles

While Chris Robert’s Star Citzen has the backing of a half dozen or more developer studios (each working on different parts of Star Citizen) and many thousands of dollars of development money – developers like 1C Game Studios and DCS are far smaller operations with more limited budgets. But I’m a firm believer that once a technology concept is perfected by a ground breaking studio like Robert’s, things begin to trickle down to other studios and other titles.

Star Citizen may be a bit of a aberration but it doesn’t mean that we aren’t already seeing some of the same concepts appear elsewhere.  I’ve already talked a bit about Star Citizens’ technologies filtering down before but with this new reveal I wanted to talk a bit more about it.

DCS has plans to release a high fidelity carrier experience – probably next year with the release of the USS Nimitz module. This will be a separate pay for module that won’t be part of DCS World on its own. I can assume that the module will have at least some of the detail that Squadron 42’s demo has. If they don’t have the ability to walk around and interact with officers (not something I expect DCS to do) they will still have realistic deck operations from fully functioning elevators and ships hangar deck to all of the crew on the deck that help keep a carrier flying and fighting.

HeatBlur intends to do something similar with the Forrestal-class. Concept art featuring final textures and 3D models of deck crew have already been released.

Crew_02
A deck crew work in progress image from HeatBlur’s upcoming DCS: F-14 Tomcat module.

Clearly we’re in for something special here and I suspect Eagle Dynamics effort for the Nimitz-class will be similar.

Flight sims are just that – flight oriented software that focus on what happens in the cockpit and around the aircraft. DCS and IL-2 don’t need to have the player wake up in their field tent and walk out to their aircraft. But they can hopefully incorporate more of these interactive gameplay elements as needed in the future. Crews working on aircraft or directing carrier deck operations on a modern or historic aircraft carrier would be outstanding accomplishments in realism and immersion.

Hammerhead-01-Landed-V014.jpg
Star Citizen and the universe that Robert’s team has created for both it and Squadron 42 is dripping with sci-fi that is grounded somehow in realism. It’s both fantastic and immersive. The same could be done for more “grounded” simulators too.

Technologies like VR are a big deal because they make you feel like you’re there in the cockpit. Doing other things to enhance the gameplay with these kinds of technologies will help that along even more. More interactive elements like deck and flight crew on airbases, fewer loading screens and more experiences where you seamlessly move into the cockpit are all ways to get you in the air and doing what we love to do while feeling like its all part of the same gameplay experience.

I have high hopes for the future! Even if it doesn’t all come true… I have to admit that Star Citizen and Squadron 42 are doing some incredible things. It’s been a long time coming but if Robert’s team ever finishes up on this (and there are those who still think that is a big IF)… I’d like to play it.

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