Manchester resident creates Starfarer floor plans that even CIG QA team uses, The Relay delves into how.
A fan of the Starfarer saw a need that wasn’t fulfilled. With leaks of models giving anyone access to early renditions of ships PaulC2K went to work making sense of it. “I was re-watching the video [by Teller] and trying to get my head around the layout [of the Starfarer]. So I just brought the video up and started sketching it out, and quickly realized my terrible drawing wasn’t helping. . .” Having realized that the only content available was difficult to follow, he began to create a layout in Photoshop. It only took him a few hours to work out the first draft, but that was only the beginning.
His floor plan is layer after layer of vector rectangles with each deck being a single vector layer. About half way through creating the initial rendition, he brought the layout to the Star Citizen Base for input. “There was a nice atmosphere in there to bring things up, and a few people joined in questioning what these screenshots were telling us. That pushed me towards adding more detail.” The input he received made him realize that it could be something used by others, and further urged him into creating something more accurate. That’s not to say that he didn’t have his own pitfalls while creating it.
PaulC2K came to the realization he had wasted time part way into the project. He began looking at it, as many would, with the eye of someone who sees the possibilities. For several hours he only been adding wild speculation. Realizing this he took a step back, removing his guess work and honing in on the assets that were proven. His attention to detail and corrections continued until he was satisfied that any further additions would be a detriment.
After scouring the internet for hours, watching videos of the unreleased assets, and finally walking around on the ship himself, the most difficult part for him was the scaling. “Trying to get the perception of room and corridor sizes correct and matching other floors was tricky.” His suggestion of grabby hands and a tape measure would help any aspiring person who wants to follow in his footsteps and his words are encouraging. “[G]ive it a go if you fancy it. It’s not something I’d say takes a great deal of skill or talent. Just a reasonable eye for scale and a nice selection of images or video . . .”
PaulC2K would enjoy making a whole series of floor plans. The only thing currently stopping him is the lack of released information to continue with his hobby. Having already finished the one, he’s inspired to continue onward with the comments made by CIG only pushing him forward. His forum thread alone received encouragement by both CB42 and MJohn.CIG from Cloud Imperium Games.
The QA team also turned to the map for help. Developers try to provide the QA team with as much detail as possible, but they found the internal map of the Starfarer hard to read. Community Manager Tyler Witkin at CIG said, “. . . PaulC2K’s map garnered positive attention from the community it eventually ended up finding its way into the hands of QA, who utilized it to make sure all areas of the ship had been checked.”
According to Tyler it isn’t uncommon, with respect to community involvement in open development, to have such a close, and rewarding, connections with their constituents. PaulC2K had no idea the maps were being used internally until the announcement of his MVP. “It actually meant a lot to me when Zyloh mentioned that the QA team had been using them . . . It was heartwarming . . .” In response to PaulC2K’s comment, Tyler Witkin said, “From everyone at CIG, and especially QA, thank you PaulC2K for being an awesome contributor to this community! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with next!”
PaulC2K’s recognition for his Starfarer floor plan extended beyond the MVP on Around the Verse, much as the use of his project extended beyond the community itself. His work helped even the team creating the Star Citizen game, and both sides are greater for it. He had no experience going into his designs, only a desire to make something for himself that turned into an end product for the community, and resulted in his award.
Below is the cleaned up The Relay Interview with PaulC2K (and a bonus section with Tyler’s comments).
Q: You mentioned you live in the UK. What part?
A: Yes, I’m actually fortunate enough to be in Manchester, so it’s quite exciting seeing that we have such a strong representation in the game, from Chris & Erin, to the folks at F42. It was quite the surprise when I first found out that not only was there a UK studio, but its only 30 minutes away. It obviously also played a significant part in last year’s CitizenCon being held in Manchester, minutes away from the studio itself, which was a really enjoyable evening. I also had the fortune of getting to visit the studio for a tour last month, getting to see the progress on the Starfarer, and had the pleasure of chatting with the guys who were working on it and many other aspects. That tour actually happened on the same day the Starfarer tour video went out.
Q: I’ve noticed that you have some knowledge in SQL. Are you a web designer, or just another passion?
A: Yeah, I like to dabble in web development. I’m in an unfortunate position where working is complicated by medical conditions, and yet they’re not judged to be glamorous enough to merit any assistance, and different departments pretty much pointing other directions as the solution to my problems. So I’m left in limbo, but lucky enough to have understanding parents willing to put up with me.
Web development just happened to be something I was curious about, decided I wanted to build a site for a ‘clan’ back in 2002 and just kept on going. It’s been something that keeps me occupied, I know enough in most areas to get by, and what I don’t know I’m determined enough to persist with trial & error and Google. Lately Reddit has been very helpful when I’ve reached out for help.
The last 6wks I’ve been building our new Org/Clans website – http://www.mercury-rising.org/ it’s a replica of our existing site on a popular gaming CMS site, but built from scratch, and I stupidly made the decision to do so when we only had 7 weeks till that plan ends. Fortunately, things have moved along at a nice pace and even with a 2-week setback there’s enough functionality in to keep us happy, and I can add the rest without the same urgency.
When I can find a project I’m interested in, I’m happy to spend the whole day on it, for weeks or months on end. Unfortunately, I’ve never really been able to turn it into a meaningful income though. I’m too slow to believe I can do it as a job, so working on silly little projects (like a site for our org) is an opportunity to improve, keep myself occupied, and feel useful.
Q: What are the specifications on the computer you’re playing Star Citizen on?
A: I’m running on an i7 5820K, X99-Gaming 5P, 16GB DDR4 3000, with a SM951 512GB SSD. I managed to pick those up in a Black Friday bundle, and I have an 290X with it. I’ve spent the last 2yrs putting bits of money to one side to help fund the upgrade I’d need to really enjoy Star Citizen and Squadron 42. That bundle was too good to ignore and more than capable of what I’d imagine SC will require, but it also left me with less money to find when buying a GPU in the future.
I also have an Obutto R3v gaming cockpit, which has made extended periods of time at a computer much more comfortable, with the added bonus of hopefully being a lot of fun for Star Citizen, and ive always love racing sims. It also pushed me to add a 3rd monitor and go triple screen, it also means my GPU needs are higher than I’d like. Im also planning on playing using a HOTAS for flight, and keyboard & mouse for FPS/on foot, which is something the R3v lets me swap between easily. Im just a high-end 2017 GPU away from a pretty amazing setup.
Q: How long have you been following Star Citizen?
A: I first heard about Star Citizen around Feb 2014, following the news it hit $37m on a computer tech site. I thought it was bonkers. Early access had few real success stories and the thought that people had somehow contributed $37m to a space game of all things.
Around a week later, an online friend I’ve known since 2002 brought it up. I remembered the name, and made it very clear ‘I don’t do space games’. With a little more chatting I actually took the effort to read a little about the game, its intentions, and bought an Aurora package. I love cooperative games, and I’ll live with it being in space. Within a week, I’d watched all the episodes of Wingman’s Hangar and 10FTC (I think they were only on ep7 at the time), bought a Starfarer, and I was completely sold.
Q: What about the game drew you to it?
A: It’s become a lot of things over time. Initially, the idea of multi-crew ships, being able to work together as a team, that’s what I love. That said, I think reading ‘Death of a Spaceman’ was where it won me over. That one article told me a lot about the mindset of the developer. I think when you have someone that analyses something so commonplace and simple as being killed. Someone who tries to bring meaning to it, to give the player reason to hesitate and put more thought into their actions, as if this means something more than a momentary frustration and then heading straight back in. We’ve grown accustomed to 60/40 being pretty good odds. Coming up with a solution where consequence matters and has a lasting impact, but doesn’t say ‘game over.’ Something makes you want to walk away, but question how to approach things in the future… I love that level of interest. It makes me believe they care about the decisions they’ll make in the future.
Over time, it’s become many things though. Disillusion with the game industry and pumping out generic titles for a casual audience. The direct connection CIG have with their community and being largely open about their intent and progress. Not hiding behind highlight real footage to show us something new. Their desire to push the boundaries and not settle for only what’s possible, and already happening, but to want to actively develop new methods and create something special and memorable. I think what CIG’s aiming for is important for the industry that it succeeds, not just for us wanting to play Star Citizen. I want to see more developers who care and respect their audience.
Q: What do you think you’ll be doing when Star Citizen finally goes live?
A: The trade & industry side of the game is what I’m most excited about. I’ve never had much interest in combat as I’m rather hopeless at it, but I’d expect we’ll start by doing a bit of everything and work as a team. We’re only a small org of 8 people, so we’ll be doing stuff because someone else likes that side, and vice versa. It’s also hard to tell what is realistic to expect even if we’re all online, but I can’t wait to dive in head first on all the different aspects of the game.
Q: What was the force behind you wanting to create the floor plan?
A: I actually started working on it at around 3 A.M. one night using a video created by Teller which used a very early Starfarer model from the leaked assets, and did a tour which showed a basic room layout. Without that video, and without that leak, I can comfortably say I wouldn’t have started the floor plan. I have a moment of embarrassment for CIG to thank, really.
In the time that had passed from that video being released we’d had a couple of new images. It had been suggested the ship would be in our hangars soon, and out of curiosity I was re-watching the video and trying to get my head around the layout. So I just brought the video up and started sketching it out, and quickly realized my terrible drawing wasn’t helping, and out came Photoshop. After a couple of hours, I had a very basic floor plan and a clearer picture in my head of where things were placed.
Q: How did you create the floor plan?
A: Its layer upon layer of vector rectangles. The corridors for each level/deck are done in a single vector layer and then over time, with the Starfarer being delayed bit by bit, I decided I’d just add a little detail to it. Just enough to feel like if you had one of the screenshots inside the ship, you’d be able to identify where that was.
Q: About how long do you think it took you to make the floor plan?
A: I’d be surprised if it was less than 30 hours. It was spread over about 6 weeks, and there’s a few things which I added, removed, and then added back in again. Then adding minor details like the cockpit seats, captains desk, just silly bits of fun detail that helped bring it to life a little more.
I also wasted a good few hours at one point. I realized that, rather than presenting information which had a verifiable source such as images CIG released or the leaked asset, I’d started seeing possibilities and adding them with a question mark next to them. I soon realized that wasn’t particularly helpful, could unintentionally be misleading, and ultimately it was nothing more than wild speculation.
Q: Did your approach to the floor plan change as you were originally creating it?
A: Yes, initially it was just something for myself. It’s been common for people to mention getting lost inside the Starfarer, which was how I felt when trying to watch Tellers video, and trying to understand where each screenshot probably comes from. So my intent was only to make it clear for myself. Midway through, when it was little more than a basic floor plan, I’d looked for thoughts and if anyone could pick holes in the layout from the guys over at Star Citizen Base. There was a nice atmosphere in there to bring things up, and a few people joined in questioning what these screenshots were telling us. That pushed me towards adding more detail. I thought maybe it’d be appreciated by others excited to see the Starfarer, and if they can help make it more accurate, even better.
Q: Do you think you’ll update the floor plan?
A: I haven’t really decided on that at the moment. Part of me thinks it’s served its purpose. To really add more would take a lot of time for very little effect. Another part of me knows I’d enjoy it. I did eventually get around to adding a few details the layout was lacking, mainly the external lifts up to the EVA suite, and there was a completely inaccurate assumption of where the steps on the 2nd floor connecting to the 3rd floor began.
Q: Do you think you’ll make additional floor plans for other ships?
A: It would be cool to make a whole series of them, especially with some of the bigger ships we still have to come.
In order for them to have the most beneficial impact, to help people explore their new ship and not get lost as easy, it’s very much dependent upon having enough information beforehand. I have to have that to be able to build something accurate enough to be of use.
It’s all in your hands, Disco ;)
Once they’re available in-game, then yeah I think there’s a good chance I’d do floor plans based on footage uploaded to YouTube, or perhaps if we have similar weekends with access to them in the hangar, I’d be up for that.
Q: Did your perception of the Starfarer change as you were making the floor plan?
A: It certainly made it easier to understand just how big the ship was. As quite a few people picked up on, its bordering on being a small FPS level of its own.
However, I also think it took a way a little bit of that OMG factor when we did get to see it. I suppose I had that spread over a few weeks, while trying to extract more info from every image available. So when we finally saw it, I already felt like I knew what was coming. In some ways I’d perhaps spoiled some of the surprise. I never got that feeling of being lost in something so huge.
Q: What was the most difficult part to creating the floor plan?
A: Trying to get the perception of room and corridor sizes correct and matching other floors was tricky. Even with it in the hangar, it’s hard to line things up. We need grabby hands and a tape measure!
Q: What advice would you give someone who wanted to create floor plans?
A: Definitely give it a go if you fancy it. It’s not something I’d say takes a great deal of skill or talent. Just a reasonable eye for scale and a nice selection of images or video if you don’t have the ship in hangar already.
Q: What is your favorite ship?
A: Predictably, it has to be the Starfarer. The industrial look and shape fits my vision of civilian space in the future, and its ugliness is beautiful to me. I’m not sure I’ll get much use out of its refueling capability, but harvesting that gas and delivering it to a depot for free money, I couldn’t say no to that. Throw in a little fear of being ambushed, “Am I being watched?” “Should I have brought escorts?” “Should I have gone to a safer area a little further away?”
The guys at F42 have done an amazing job transforming it from a ship I think a lot of people saw little interest in, into something that’s brought excitement to the community. If not for owning that ship, but for the implications of what this means for some of the larger ships.
Q: What is it that drew you to the ship?
A: Ignoring Star Wars, for a long time Red Dwarf has been the only space related series I’ve loved and related to. There’s a disconnect with shows like Star Trek for me. As daft as Red Dwarf is, that loneliness, stuck inside a rust bucket of a ship, where the process of going between blue alert and red alert, involves swapping a bulb, fits perfectly with how I feel life in space would be. I can’t relate to the pristine visions. Give me the rust-buckets any day. So that’s been an influence. I know a lot of people make the connection between the Starfarer and Serenity (at least in terms of it being the closest we have in SC), and I see that same thing with Starbug.
Q: Would you say that your plans for what you will do in game influenced your choice of favorite ship?
A: I’m not sure. I’ve always been drawn to ships that are the cogs of an economy, rather than the side that helps make sure its allowed to run smoothly or causes the chaos. I was instantly drawn to that ship. There wasn’t quite the same variety we have now, and I probably built an attachment to the idea of that ship before I’d seen the list of others in the stretch goals. I think it’s more likely the ship drew me into the role. It wasn’t much of a struggle because we could make money with it and cram a few people in there together, so it was ideal for us at the time. I also didn’t really anticipate just how many ships were still to come either. In fact, I bought the Starfarer fully believing that it may well be the last ship that gets built. That CIG could easily fake fuel levels to make the game playable, fill the universe with these exciting ships that most people are excited for, and bring the fuel ship in towards the end.
Q: How did you feel when you were announced as MVP?
A: The circumstances were pretty much perfect. I wasn’t feeling so great at the time and, rather than go get something to eat with a mate, he came round. He’d made a sarcastic comment about not having something SC related on my screens for once and I let that slide. He’d been showing me a channel on YouTube and I noticed the time. I looked to see if AtV was up and sure enough it was there 7 minutes earlier. I quickly fired it up and jumped straight to the end for the sneak peek section, thinking I’ll get to see something interesting and hopefully it’s something he’ll take an interest in; but fortune was with me and I happened to get it seconds before the MVP segment started. I just sat there with a confused grin on my face, like I’d pranked myself.
After being questioned on whether it was a process of lucky dip, it gave me the perfect opportunity to show him the floor plans and fire up the hangar. So I jumped in and showed him round – which I otherwise wouldn’t have thought to do.
A couple of people had mentioned it should be up for an MVP, but I just took it as a kind compliment. With the amount of stuff done in the community, a couple of images were nothing. Just weeks earlier we’d had people who’d created regular content for the community for many months who were only just being recognized. I thought there must be tons more. So it honestly wasn’t something I thought was realistic. The week earlier Disco mentioned them in the tour video, but couldn’t remember my name, and there had been a couple of little comments about them liking the floor plans. It actually meant a lot to me when Zyloh mentioned that the QA team had been using them, like I helped, even in an admittedly minor way. It was heartwarming to know something I’d done, just to feed my own curiosity, actually ended up being useful.
Q: If you had the chance to say something to the community as a whole, what would it be?
A: I think the community is damn fantastic. Whether it’s the content creators spreading the word, or folks being there and being easy to have a reasonable conversation; the people who have a better knowledge of space, game development, or a good memory for stuff that’s been said about the game; all of them being willing to help and make the community a typically nice place to be part of. I also have a huge amount of appreciation for those folks who backed the game long before I knew it even existed. The people who had the faith and/or financial ability to get the project off the ground and keep it entirely crowd funded and independent.
If the majority had been skeptical and decided to wait and see, okay maybe we’d have a game out by now, but not to this level of ambition and importance. I have high hopes that Star Citizen will be a game that defines this generation, hopefully for all the right reasons. So I’ll always be thankful for those people. For those people who gave me a new genre of game to be excited about, as FTL was as close as it got previously in over 25 years of PC gaming.
Q: Is there anything you would like to add?
A: It wouldn’t be right to say something to the community, and then leave out an important part of that community – The Relay.
I think it’s just further proof of how wonderful the community is. For years there’s been a really dedicated core, which for a game so early in development is amazing, and whatever the subject The Relay is there breaking it down and making it easier for people to access the information they want. As a source for older information, and even immediate information in the form of the live transcripts, it’s such a helpful and easily digestible source of information. Those people who set aside time in their day, every week, to provide a regular and reliable source of information for everyone else’s convenience. I think it’s fantastic that so many people care about the game and want to contribute in such a way.
Bonus Content: Responses by Tyler Witkin
When QA begins testing a new feature, it is a very similar experience to what the backers experience when they get their hands on the feature. Generally the developers working on said-feature will provide QA with as much detail as possible so QA knows exactly what to test/look out for. With the starfarer, we did not have an easy to read map at that stage of testing. Then PaulC2K’s map garnered positive attention from the community it eventually ended up finding its way into the hands of QA, who utilized it to make sure all areas of the ship had been checked. This type of thing happens a lot – where the community gets so involved in the development process that it feels like we are building this game together. It is extremely rewarding building those types of connections and is one of the perks of open development. PaulC2K definitely saved me from taking a few wrong turns aboard the Starfarer!
From everyone at CIG, and especially QA, thank you PaulC2K for being an awesome contributor to this community! Looking forward to seeing what you come up with next!