Condition Red

Derek Smart chronicles the growing industry awareness that not all is right in the Star Citizen universe:

For Star Citizen, the elephant in the room in terms of tech, is this notion that somehow a twitch-based game designed to be instanced, and which can’t even get more than 10 clients in a session without very bad things happening, is going to turn into an MMO. But back in Nov 2012 (when he was seeking funding for the project) when Chris Roberts wrote this missive about multiplayer and instancing, I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that this guy – who hadn’t made a game in almost 15 years at the time –  really believed that what he was writing and dreaming about, was in fact possible. Hint: it’s not. Like over 90% (at last count) of everything he has said/promised about this project in order to get funding, it’s pure and utter horse shit. And back in July 2015, one of the devs actually added his own thoughts which then made it painfully clear that not only were they winging it – which is the basis for R&D btw – but that they also had absolutely no clue how they were going to actually do it.

As of this writing, not much has changed since then; neither in the underlying network architecture, nor the instancing part of it.

As an experienced software engineer, I tell you – flat out – that inter-instance communication described in this manner – and for the game pitched – is not only improbable, but it’s also the sort of thing that fairy dust is made of. And we’re not talking about the ability for a database in one server instance to talk to another database (e.g. user) in another instance. That’s pretty trivial (we’ve done just that in Line Of Defense btw) and rudimentary.  No, we’re talking about the ability for one game instance (A) with players, to communicate with another game instance (B) that also has players. As that is the only way that you’re ever going to get Tom on A to see/communicate with Harry on B. Before you even go that far, know this, in order for that to even work, you need to have a unified and persistent universe that acts as the “play” area for Tom and Harry.

Before you say Eve Online has done it; don’t – they haven’t. If you’re a programmer, go ahead and read up on the EO architecture (1, 2) – which btw has been drastically improved upon over the years. That EO bespoke architecture was built from the ground up as part of the engine and for a specific game. A game that’s not twitch-based or anywhere near the fidelity of the seamless architecture that Star Citizen is shooting for.

Simply put, without a seamless inter-instance communication backend, there is no Star Citizen MMO. Like ever. And while Chris was flat out of his depths and just making shit up, Alex on the other hand outlined how it could be done. Theoretically. See the difference between those two accounts of the same thing? While you’re at it, this is the list of games made with CryEngine. Count the number of standard MMO games which have actually been completed and released.

As I write this blog in the middle of May 2016, not only do they not have a persistent universe to speak of, but they still have serious issues with instances hosting more than 10 clients. Not only that, as an instanced game, the chances of you and your buddies to be in the same instance are next to impossible. This is not a game whereby you fire up a server browser, join a server, then tell you friends to come to that server before it fills up. Nor is it a game whereby you can spin up your own private server – which they also promised btw.

The sad part of all this? They were never supposed to be building an MMO to begin with. Somewhere along the line, despite saying it wasn’t an MMO, Chris decided they were going to build one after all. Just like that.

There is more being discussed at Guard Frequency, including what could be a very important date of 31 May 2016.