Is immersion, and are haptics, still relevant?
Sony has recently revealed their new controller... and it looks like they've replaced the usual rumble pad with actual haptics and force feedback. In their blog post, Sony detailed the "variety of powerful sensations" haptic feedback can bring to gameplay, like "the slow grittiness of driving a car through mud." Haptic feedback is the same technology behind the Nintendo Switch's HD rumble and we know the Xbox Series X controller will make use of it as well.
Probably the most famous haptic controller in this community will be the Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2, which hasn't been available commercially since 2003. This controller is now much sought after by a relatively small group of people, and although haptic feedback is not widely supported, it is still incorporated into some of the more detailed flight sims even after 20 years.
So what were some of the features that this provided? It's been a long time since I let mine go, but I do remember the demos which were part of the joysticks toolkit. This allowed you to feel simulated experiences such as a something similar to dragging a pencil over corrugated cardboard (intermittent resistance), feeling a difficult spot within the joysticks range of motion, resistance in one direction, etc. It might be nostalgia, but I definitely recall being impressed by these demonstrations. I was even more impressed when I fired it up in my first flight simulation haptic experience. I had never had the experience of fighting the winds before and it was obviously something that Microsoft had spend time refining.
So why, if this controller was as legendary as its fans would tell you, did it die off? Patents. The company Immersion Technology had developed the technology and owned the patents to it, and Microsoft and Sony were not paying to license the patents. It would be easy to see this is a patent troll manoeuvre, however the truth is that without these licenses, innovations would probably be fewer and far between. There were a number of court cases, Microsoft settled early paying a dividend and purchasing a portion of the company. Sony were more resistant. The court cases went on for a number of years, during which they were appealing a court decision that would have ceased production of the PlayStation line until the patented technology was removed. Eventually it all closed down and while it never really made any big headlines, even those outlets following the situation lost interest. No console had haptic feedback, favouring the rumble technology instead, and immersion continued to produce technology aimed towards industrial production and military products.
Now we're caught up in the timeline, what is the latest development? The patents for a number of applications for haptic technology, including those used in the Sidewinder FF, have finally expired after being extended by the holding company. Those die hard fans have been theorising about a resurgence of this niche technology. However there has largely been radio silence on the subject. Theory-crafting was simply that. Until the consoles announced that they were going to be providing their own haptics.
This changes the lay of the land. As any good PC gamer knows (even if they may not like it) a large portion of the industry is motivated by console technologies above those on PC. There are always areas which are PC-centric, and the PC is always at the forefront of the technology curve, but frankly consoles and mobiles are where the big money is these days. And you can't argue with profits.
So with this possibly becoming something that will be developed for and supported again, the big question is; Is it still relevant? And how would we want it to be implemented?
This isn't an attempt at an opinion piece, although my opinion will bleed into it. I'm genuinely interested in whether or not this has piqued enough curiosity for people to vote with their wallets. How will people want it to apply to Star Citizen, if it is implemented? Feeling the buffeting of atmosphere and the kiss of the tarmac when flying on atmosphere and landing? Simulating faults in the system making controls sluggish and less responsive? Or perhaps something more in-depth?
Is this even relevant enough for people to notice?
I look forward to your comments, if any.
If there are, how do I get them?
When I hit F9 missions tend to be delivery, service beacon, mercenary. I've tried most of them but I haven't found any that need me to land somewhere and shoot npcs. There's great looking armor and weapons but I haven't been able to find a use for them against NPCs yet.
Also, if one hijacks another players ship and they have cargo, is there any way to commandeer and/or sell the cargo?
Let's post our ideas for Star Citizen. The galaxy's a huge place, full of curiosities and splendor! Please be polite and have fun, while we discuss in detail the additions we want to see in SC. Constructive criticism is always welcome, keep it friendly...
Here are a few ideas I will start us off with:
Planets should have highly varied biomes and environments. These should include ocean planets, desert worlds, jungle moons, cavernous lands, ice planets, swamps, (and a personal favorite) lava worlds! It would be cool to have various atmospheric conditions, such as excessive heat or cold or toxicity, even radioactivity, which could have specified suits designed for protection from those environments (without which players would perish!). Planets should also definitely have varying levels of gravity, some with no gravity at all, and some with intense gravitational pull and pressure, suit required. Gas giants would be really cool, where traversing the upper atmosphere would be OK. There could be floating outposts, etc. Then moving too close to the core could crush most ships... Also would be cool to see asteroid-based outposts, with subterranean areas.
Weather should factor in on at least some planets, but not all. Some planets should remain placid, while others could have weather cycles such as: sandstorms, blizzards, high winds, etc. It would also be interesting to have electrical/radiation storms where again, special shielding would be required to survive. Another interesting addition would be meteor showers, perhaps not damaging to the player in most cases... Of course, the most intense weather should be on planets with lesser city-populations. There should also be 'weather' cycles in space the likes of radiation/electrical storms, where ships' shields would be rendered ineffective. Perhaps here or there, a neutronic wave front (Star Trek, Ahem)! Deadly nebula!
The ships so far are absolutely bad-ass. Can hardly put it into words just how right they look and feel. I do have one minor issue to discuss regarding player immersion: Planetary entry/re-entry seems a bit off... It feels somewhat awkward orienting the ship into a nose-dive and then accelerating toward the planet. While that should still be an option for entry, it seems lacking, if it's the only way. Players should be allowed to let their ships drift slowly downward towards the surface (with a horizontal orientation relative to ground), all the while getting pulled to greater and greater speeds due to gravity. Currently it seems as though there is no gravity, requiring ships to nose-dive and hit the thrusters. The level of gravity should also have effects on how quickly ships take off, and how much fuel is consumed. Also some of the more lightweight craft should be capable of water-landing and flotation, some, not all.
Weapons are also looking pretty nice, and I can't wait to hunt some bounties and pirates with the Scourge Cannon! Turrets on ships are awesome and so are the weapons additions to the ships main systems. Weapons turrets on ships should not be automated. Automation would detract from the challenge of the game, and we never want that! Instead the player should be able to either hire NPCs or other players to man different positions aboard their ship. Also it seems some of the infantry firearms are being slightly 'overdone', so to speak. For example the Devastator shotgun seemingly has way too much level of detail and unnecessary bulk added to it. My suggestion is to lean more on the side of realism. I know it's Sci-Fi. Still I hope devs don't get hung up on making things like fancy-diamond-encrusted-platinum-laser cannons with under-barrel flame throwers..! It would be amazing to see (in rare cases), Orbital Weapons Platforms that could, if accessed, rain supreme firepower down on the planet's surface, destroying small outposts, structures or towns... Of course it would be necessary to make accessing it an extreme challenge.
Accessories are nice. But keep away from over-extravagant weapon design.
Exploration should be the fundamental, key point of the game. While some may argue that it is space battles, I tend to disagree. With so many space craft, vehicles and weapons, the gameplay will quickly become boring and the equipment redundant if there is not a vast amount of exploration. Here are a few thoughts on aspects of exploration: Artifacts, Flora and Fauna. Scattered throughout the verse there could be a plethora of different types of Artifacts to be found, only through rigorous exploring. There should be ancient ruins with old alien technology, perhaps rare weapons. There should be Obelisks and Pyramids and rare trinkets that could be sold or held as trophies. There could be mysterious devices, like the Orbs in Mass Effect (the first game) with strange properties. There could be alien tech that could be found and then saved for use at a far later date. Regarding Flora and Fauna, there could be a huge variety of harvesting options for certain crafting items. There really ought to be many creatures, perhaps mostly neutral/friendly. However some animals, in rare cases could turn out to be hostile, and highly challenging to face. Perhaps giant worms, or insectoids! Another thing could be infected worlds, or derelict ships (think Dead Space, or The Thing) where your only choice is to fight for survival or run for your life. There should also be intact derelicts. We've seen plenty of demolished ones. Some should be intact, abandoned in space, or even on land. Exploration should not, and I can't stress this enough, should not stem solely or mostly from missions! Let the missions be vast and varying in type by all means, a multitude of missions is always welcome. But please don't conflate missions and side quests, with exploration.
-Armor & Apparel-
The armor should of course have good variety. Weight should factor in, which I believe it currently does. Also there should definitely be highly specialized suits for specific tasks. Of course there'll be a space suit for EVA in outer space, but adding other specializations for other armor sets/suits would be great too. There should be a set more suited for enduring intense heat, or cold or radiation. There should also mostly be non-EVA capable sets IMO. Body armor should not be conflated with EVA suits, and they should for the most part be separate, with a few exceptions. It would be cool to see a lot of options other than simple armor for combat and space suits for EVA. One thought would be a stealth-suit with either quiet movement or even invisibility. Mostly I'm hoping it will prove an actual challenge to obtain armors, so that everyone isn't immediately buffed just after they begin playing. Let there be lots of varying, quirky outfits to be found.
NPCs for hire or available as crew members should use a rating system the likes of the one used in Metal Gear Solid V. They could have a certain class of career like 'linguist' or 'gunner' or 'medic', and within that specialty a certain set of ratings. Players should be able to activate distress beacons (false or genuine). If a player's ship is captured, they should be given the option to fight aboard the enemy ship in order to escape (think Han Solo and co, the capture of Millennium Falcon!).
Where are all the AIs? This is the future after all... There should be robots of some kind or another, even perhaps a sentient machine race!
There should also be a minimal amount of spawn/respawn actions. I realize this is counter-intuitive, given there's a massive universe to traverse. But it will add to the replay and return-to-game value; if people can easily spawn their ships and/or fast travel around it will make things overly-easy. It's nice that there's a wait-timer for summoning ships (at least destroyed ones). However, if a ship is not at the station at which you are staying, it should take time to arrive near you, and there should be a fuel cost and fee. Having all your ships easily at your fingertips will take away from the immersion and challenge of the game. It should also be more challenging IMO, to acquire cash. Gaining millions of credits should take a very long time. The quicker people progress in the game, the quicker the MMO will die.
I don't believe there should be a 'difficulty setting' option. The universe in general should prove pretty damn challenging, with areas of extreme and lesser challenges. Some mini-games would also be cool, so long as they remain within the Persistent Universe. Game modes are a bad idea. It's understandable at this point, given there are players currently in the game who want something working. But later on, when development is (mostly) "complete", having different game-modes will detract from the main MMO.
All hoverbikes should remain as hoverbikes, and not be turned into flying-space-hoverbikes! Please remove the flight-function for hoverbikes. Having flight for them is ridiculous and totally misses the point of a hoverbike. While I do agree that they should have some (slight) altitude control and perhaps a jump/boost, they should not be able to simply fly away, especially up into space. A hoverbike is like a speeder from Star Wars, it's not for flight; only for elevated, fast, ground travel! This goes for all ships and vehicles; if they have a specialty let them stick to that specialty, no blurring lines, except perhaps in rare cases.
We all have been waiting for 3.0 to hit, and I know it's been hard. I put the game down, like many others, to take a break and watch the development progress. I purchased my Cutlass Black way back. The new ship rework is very exiting, and a welcomed addition to such a enormous update. However, it is bitter sweet; I will miss the ol bird when she's gone. I wanted to make a video worthy of the memory of the first generation of the Cutlass. It's not perfect, but neither was the ship. Enjoy!