October 25th 2017
One of the exciting new features coming online with Star Citizen ALpha 3.0 and beyond is the ability for ships to ferry cargo. This presents a world of opportunity for players to pilot ships beyond combat as we hope to provide interesting alternatives and very real ways for players to earn an honest (or perhaps dishonest…) day’s pay. Buying and selling commodities from stations and transporting them across civilized space to the people who need it most (or willing to pay the most for it) we hope will encourage many players to take up a career as a Transporter.
The Transporter playstyle comes with an entirely new way for players to consider which ships they want to fly. Cargo capacity becomes one of the most important considerations when judging which ship to use. Highest SCU capacities may seem like no-brainers when looking to pick the best cargo ship, but many of the larger vessels eschew defensive capabilities like thicker armor, more weapon mounts, or faster engines for that greater cargo space and can be left exposed as a result. Your decisions at this stage may ultimately lead to the great rewards, or even greater catastrophes.
Cargo ships come in all shapes and sizes, but consider which trade routes are available to you before deciding. A Hull-C can carry an impressive amount of freight but its defensive options are extremely limited. Hull pilots will need to employ fighter escorts or travel in convoy in hopes to deter would-be pirates from accosting them. Ships like the Caterpillar and Starfarer offer more defense and maneuverability at the cost of cargo space. If your trade route takes you to frontier worlds where fringers play fast and loose with the law, you’re going to be thankful you have something up your sleeves to make a ship-jacker think twice. Smaller ships like the Cutlass have a decent amount of SCU capacity for short runs but more importantly, the combat acumen to go toe-to-toe with aggressors and protect its precious cargo.
Knowing not only the amount of cargo that needs to be taken but the route that cargo will take should help a discerning pilot make the right choice about which transporter is right for them. Of course, the more “entrepreneurial” trader may also want to consider whether they need to avoid any… imperial entanglements.
As more and more legitimate trade routes expand across the systems, so too will the number of pirates looking take what isn’t theirs. Similarly, as new colonies start to become established and will need deliveries of restricted weapons to defend themselves against marauders, so too will back-alley dealers need a steady supply of illegal stims and narcotics. Whatever the story, willing Transporters are going to needed for smuggling cargo under the nose of law enforcement from time to time. We want to make sure that gameplay is involving, fun, and more than a little bit nerve-wracking. Smugglers have a range of techniques available to them to sneak their cargo by authorities, from simply not declaring it, through making specific goods appear to be something else, and right up to masking them completely so they won’t appear on scans at all. Judging a ship for its smuggling capabilities is another consideration when it comes to picking the right ship for the right job which we’ll cover below.
When the player buys a commodity, they do so in amounts of ‘Units’. “Give me thirty units of beans” one might say. Likewise, when buying weapons, equipment and other things, they all have a numerical size attribute that governs how many ‘units’ they take up. These values are essential in figuring out how players store and transport their goods, which brings us to the Unit’s big brother: SCU.
A Standard Cargo Unit, or SCU, is the universal measure for cargo storage and transport measurements. 1 SCU will be our standard box, the size of which all other boxes are measured. We wanted a universal unit so that when we say a ship has space for 100 SCU, you’ll come to know just how many containers you’ll be able to fit. More than just using 1m3, we want to make sure we can group the commodity with the container. In terms of metrics, 1 SCU comes in at (1.25m)3 which is 1m3 of cargo space with 125mm protection on each side, base and lid. When we have our refrigerated containers, biohazard containers, potentially livestock containers in later releases, it allows us to use that 125mm edge for extra protection or bespoke construction without losing the internal cargo space. So, as the name suggests, our cargo is universally sized, regardless of what kind of container you come across.
1 SCU can hold 100 units before it’s full. Since 1 SCU is the smallest sized storage container, this mean buying 1 unit of beans or 100 units of beans, the same 1 SCU of Beans will be delivered into the cargo hold. As you can probably imagine, the 101st unit of Beans that is purchased means that beans are now occupying 2 SCU in the cargo hold. The more efficient traders will want to round off their cargo to the nearest 100 if they can. It’s also worth noting that players cannot mix commodities in the same SCU Crate, so half filling 1 SCU with Beans doesn’t mean they can fill the other half with Pork and save on space, Pork will be stored in its own SCU crate. Any additional units of Pork or Beans that are bought will be added into the existing SCUs, though. This will allow players to work at fixing their inefficient cargo holds and getting the most from their space.
Since weapons and equipment have a unit size attributed to them too, it allows players to buy SCU-sized Storage Crates allowing them to secure their equipment and weapons safely on the grid, rather than just leave them loosely around the ship.
When it comes to deciding on a ship’s cargo capacity, we have to think about what role we see that ship occupying within the Star Citizen universe.
We have entry level ships that have been given a limited amount of cargo space. The idea here is that players will be able to buy these ships cheap and once they’re making regular cargo runs with a full hold, should be able to afford going bigger. The Auroras and Reliants in these cases are designed to give players a taste of the Transporter career without breaking the bank to get involved, and should they like it they can go bigger.
Other ships have cargo capacity without them being considered a ‘cargo ship’-per se. These are vessels we simply think players would expect to be able to transport a bit of cargo through. These ships are usually not taking full advantage of the space but have an area put aside for storage, like the Hornet or Mustang.
Then we have the dedicated cargo ships whose cargo holds are as squared off as we can get them to be able to utilize as much space as possible while still maintaining structural integrity. We’re talking Freelancers, Starfarers, Caterpillars, and the Hull Series to name only a few. These ships have their cargo space determined a balance of cost and performance.
When it comes to determining where a cargo ship sits in relation to another, we look at its speed and combat proficiency, and make a judgement about what kind of capacity fits with that kind of ship. A classic pairing would be the Freelancer opposed to the Cutlass. The Freelancer has sacrificed some combat and maneuvering ability to be able to haul more goods. Looking at the new Cutlass it can hold its own in a fight and even go on the offensive if needed, but at a cost of cargo space. We want players to make a judgement what kind of cargo ship is right for the specific job. Where will they be taking goods? How fast do they need to get there? How much is needed to fulfill the order? We’re endeavoring to make certain no two cargo ships are providing the exact same role. Even in the specialized field of cargo transportation, there can be even more specialization depending on the routes, danger and even commodities themselves that the player wishes to transport.
We’re doing what we can to ensure that cargo space is also logistically sensible. Cargo squeezed into every nook and cranny of the ship might seem like a win for the player on a numerical side, but the act of loading and unloading will become a pain or even impossible with high ceilings and small doorways. The advantage of the Caterpillar with its huge doors will not always be structurally sound for other cargo ships. There may be instances where some ships have potentially ‘useable’ space left over.
Overloading a ship with more cargo is certainly something a lot of pilots have asked for, and it’s something we’re going to support. Because cargo will be able to be lifted and placed by hand, the player won’t need a cargo grid underneath them in order to place it, meaning they can release those commodities anywhere. We encourage players to want to store their cargo securely though, otherwise a myriad of additional challenges may await you.
The more you carry, the more mass you’re trying to move around, the more adverse your ship’s efficiency is going to be. If you’re exceeding mass recommendations with loose cargo just placed wherever you’re going to throw out a ship’s interior balance and place more strain on thrusters of one side than the other. The flight system will do its best to compensate, but expect to burn through fuel a lot faster and risk additional component wear-and-tear than at an optimized weight.
Additionally, as we develop our physics for internal behavior we are looking at room temperature, atmospherics and other forces to act upon the player and when cargo isn’t secure, these systems will act upon that, as well. Future updates will see inertial forces act upon a ship so that every bump or a bang from combat, re-entry, quantum jumps etc. will knock around anything unsecureed in the cargo hold, potentially causing it to suffer damage. While the extent of damage remains to be seen, expect some loss of integrity of the goods you’re shipping if not being stored appropriately. Also: keep an eye on any loose cargo if someone opens an airlock, too. With nothing keeping it in place, your goods will find themselves at the mercy of any decompression suffered.
Smuggling is one of the next big features we will be adding to the Cargo System and is something we’re excited for players to take advantage of. Goods that will be secured in place on the cargo grid will also be considered ‘declared’ on the ship’s cargo manifest. What this means is that when players go through customs checkpoints in the future, or are encountered by law enforcement out in the space lanes, their manifest will be broadcast like a trucker handing over a clipboard, declaring what’s inside their hold that everything is above board.
This will allow a player to be able to make a conscious effort not to declare an item as well, by deliberately leaving it off the grid. As highlighted beforehand, a box left in a passageway risks unbalancing a ship, over-weighing it and rattling around in the back, but once the smuggling system comes online, players have a plus side in that it’s not broadcast to others as part of the manifest. A player who wants to slip a crate full of contraband through customs will be able to do so simply by leaving it off the grid and avoiding transmitting its details to a passing police officer.
Of course, the police wouldn’t be doing their job properly if they just believed what every trucker told them, so they will be scanning ships on occasion to confirm what the transporter is ferrying, whether it is on the grid or not. To combat this, we’ll be allowing smugglers to add additional technology to their SCU crates such as ‘scramblers’ that will make it harder to detect, or something we’re calling ‘spoofers’ to make a container appear as something else altogether.
It’s unlikely any smuggler trickery will be able to stand up to sustained scanning forever though, so if the player finds themselves under continued scrutiny from the law, or maybe even a pirate looking to relieve them of their precious cargo, unless they have the best gear on the black market to respond with, it may be worth thinking about finding a new line of work. This won’t be a life for the meek.
A: As part of our update to the listings, we now refer to a ship’s ‘Cargo Capacity’ as its ‘usable’ cargo space for storing and transporting commodities and other items. For the Reclaimer, the majority of its internal space is dedicated exclusively to storing the salvage it has gathered. Since we don’t want to misrepresent the ship to potential buyers, we list the Reclaimer as having ‘only’ 360 SCU of Cargo Capacity. Our hope is that players looking for their next cargo ship have a much clearer understanding of the actual ‘usable’ cargo space.
Players should expect the same for listings on mining ships like the Orion and Prospector too. These ships dedicate most of their previously listed SCU space to storing and processing the metals, crystals, and minerals they gather through mining operations, so players will see their ‘Cargo Capacity’ number go down compared to what it may have previously been listed at.
Rest assured, the space has gone nowhere, it’s just better labelled now so players know exactly what they’re getting.