This edition of Loremaker's features a round table discussion with the writers of Star Citizen lore.
As per usual, anything said during the show is subject to change by CIG and may not always be accurate at the time of posting. Also any mistakes you see that I may have missed, please let me know so I can correct them. Enjoy the show!
Jared Huckaby (JH): Hello everybody and welcome to a special edition of the Loremaker's Guide to the Galaxy: Making Lore. I’m your host Community Manager, Jared Huckaby and with me today are the member of the CIG Lore team out of our Los Angeles office. Immediately to my right is Lead Writer, Mr. Dave Haddock.
Dave Haddock (DH): Hello.
JH: Say hello Dave.
JH: To my left is Senior Writer, Will Weissbaum.
Will Weissbaum (WW): Hey, good to be here.
JH: To his left, Associate Writer, Mr. Adam Wieser.
Adam Wieser (AW): Hello.
JH: And to my right, last but certainly not least, Archivist Ms. Cherie Heiberg.
Cherie Heiberg (CH): Hi.
JH: And these are your normal hosts for the Loremaker's Guide to the Galaxy. Now in our… we’ve passed 20 episodes recently, I think we passed 20 episodes.
AW: Feels like it.
WW: John Schimmel couldn’t be here because he’s our designated survivor.
JH: So, if you’ve never seen the Loremaker's Guide to the Galaxy before…
DH: Or Designated Survivor.
JH: That’s where one of these fine people take you on a tour of some of the systems that are designed and will soon be available in the Star Citizen universe. Soon being a relative term…
WW: Relatively overused one.
JH: Yes. We wanted to take some time today and talk a little bit about the process, how lore is actually made for the video game. Since that’s not a part of the video game story that often gets told, not in my experience, I don’t see a lot about the origins of story and the folks that create it and how that comes about.
WW: Yeah, I mean we’ve touched a little bit on in the ‘Ask a Dev’ section of the forums and in previous 10 for the Writers but it’s always great to flesh out kind of what goes into that and how we fit in with the team here.
JH: So, let’s go right back to the beginning, what is it November 2012...October 2012, when did we start creating lore for Star Citizen.
DH: We actually started creating it that July, like 2012, July or August. It was probably a month before the teaser site went up, so basically Chris’s announcement on October 12 at GDC and in the build up to it basically we wanted to start kind of teasing that something was coming. So, the idea was that we did this sort of time capsule thing, where it was every day of September basically we did a different post written in fiction, kind of moving the timeline from present day to the day of the announcement that the game was going to take place in.
JH: Now this is the first lore that we released but was this the first lore that was created for Star Citizen?
DH: No, actually the early conversations were basically just sort of very broad stuff like, you know, Chris talked...in the livestream after we were talking about it that the Tevarin thing about, you know, looking at the fall of the Roman Empire as sort of an inspiration for this type of stuff but a lot of it was very large scale but sort of high level discussions about who were the good guys, who were the bad guys.
That was what lead to the sort of let’s make it more about shades of grey rather than black and white, that type of stuff and we actually ended up doing the time capsules were something that we did in our discussions for ourselves to figure out what was happening. Then we sort of modified them to turn them into the time capsules, so that was sort of how… cause you hit all the major points of what the major discoveries were in those 30 days. So you get jump points, you get Vanduul, you get Banu, Xi’An, Tevarin War, Messer, Synthworld, all that stuff gets kind of parsed out.
WW: It’s fun how those foundational elements are still something that I go back to in my writing like really frequently, like a lot of out stuff stemmed from those original ripples that came out of that original time line series.
JH: And not just for you guys, for out fan fiction writers, I’ll often get requests from our fans, they’ll go, ‘hey has there been a story about this or what not’ and I’ll go, ok I’ll take a couple minutes out of time and I’ll find some old post on the old website from 2012 and like this is kind of what you were talking about.
WW: Yeah, we do get a lot of questions about like, ‘oh I’m thinking about doing a story about this, is this ok, does this fit in the lore’ and what’s kind of nice about Star Citizen usual answer is as long as it’s a small contained story, the answer is yes. You could probably write that story in Star Citizen, it’s a huge universe, it’s multiple space systems. Everything can happen there as long as you’re not saying like a whole planet is made out of cheese, like it’s ok but it’s a small group of people they can have a weird, strange, awesome adventure.
DH: It’s like if the ramifications of it, you know, if you’re writing a character who’s like going to be the guy who shot Ivar Messer, that would obviously conflict with sort of our established lore. You could write someone who struggling against Ivar Messer who died or went over the dark side, you know, whatever as long as it’s sort of within the framework it doesn’t really mess with the established stuff, there’s a lot of potential to do.
JH: While we’re talking about the fan fiction stuff, there are writer’s guides. We’ve released several posts.
DH: Yeah, ultimately I think it was thirteen… a thirteen installment thing. We actually need to probably update it soon.
DH: Yeah, basically it was because at the time we were getting a lot of… I mean, from the day we launched we had a huge fan fiction section. So this was sort of an attempt to kind of put together a cohesive guide that was written outside of lore so we could say like, ‘hey if you’re writing for the government this is the type of character that they are and you should write them like this. You know, this is how the military kind of acts’.
DH: That type of stuff rather than having to frame it within this kind of fictional context but that way people could kind of go like, ‘oh ok, the Banu are like, the Xi’An are like this, the Vanduul are like this’. You know, but yeah we do need to update that.
WW: I think a lot of that heavy lifting will hopefully be taken on by the Galactipedia when that goes live. A lot of that kind of bite sized information chunks were putting effort into developing that more.
CH: Yeah, I’ve been spending a lot of time referring to some of the older material like the Time Capsule series and the Writer’s Guides, trying to do the first pass on all the Galactipedia articles. It’s been really helpful and I got to say I really like the Time Capsule series, that’s one of my favourites.
JH: So, the Time…
WW: They’re ok.
JH: So, the Time Capsule series was one of the first things that we published...
JH: Along with the, what was it, the Kid Crimson and the Cassandra’s Tears...
DH: Yeah, that was after the announcement…
DH: So basically Chris ended up really liking the Time Capsule thing as a way to dispense kind of little bite sized bits of knowledge and so that after we did the announcement, there was sort of an, ok how are we going to keep... we started to get this massive interest, how do we kind of keep it going. So yeah, he wanted to kind of keep that thread alive so that turned into our sort of our weekly news dispatch that we still do today, like we do a week of now it’s Tuesday. Every Tuesday it’s a single news article that kind of gives a sense of what’s happening in the universe and stuff like that but yeah, I was doing the Cassandra’s Tears which is Cal Mason’s story and Kid Crimson. It was like Monday was Cal Mason, Wednesday was News Dispatch, Friday was Kid Crimson til December.
JH: And those stories are still available on the website.
DH: Yeah, yeah if you go into the Spectrum Dispatch section you can find all of them.
JH: So, before we get to the process once we’ve started making the game, this is all before we’ve started building the game. When Chris comes to you and says, we’re going to make this game, this massive sprawling universe, where do you start? Like, do you remember the very first thing, the very first piece if it’s not too spoiler related, like where do you start when you have create a massive universe for two video games.
DH: Yeah, I mean the thing with the fall of the Roman empire thing was a helpful thing cause that sort of thematically binds you into sort of, ok so you have an empire under strain, financial military strain and it’s reaching a breaking point as a kick off point that you have a lot to go with in that. I mean to me it always seems like, you know, it’s like sketching, if you start... part of the approach for drawing is you start with the broad shapes...
DH: Yeah, ovals and kind of flow and you know, and pose and then you refine the shape and you fill in the details. Kind of the same thing, I mean it’s very easy… or I would say it's probably very, very hard to start really, really micro and be like I’m going to write out religion from now until the 30th century and completely develop that on its… in a vacuum and then go, all right I’ve done that now I’m going to do food, you know. So like it’s…
CH: Every food.
DH: Yeah, like it gets very, you know, you’re going to snow yourself under and you’re never actually going to build the big picture. So, it’s easier to start kinda…
WW: Yeah, we have… there’s so many needs coming from a lot of the different areas, departments like guns and engines and main storylines and planetary write ups that we operate very much on a need basis like we don’t have time unfortunately to sit there and flesh out a full like every Murray Cup race or since the history of it. We only know the years that we had to write about for particular stories and they’ll keep growing in and filling in as we needed. If we need to like, if there are requests at the Murray Cup headquarters for a plaque that lists every winner then we’ll have to sit down and do it. Which that’s a pretty good idea but still so it’s kinda fun, like sometimes we get questions about like when did this happen? Or what is this? Til we kind of focus in on that it doesn’t exist.
JH: How cool would it be to have a Murray Cup plaque in the lobby of the office with all the winners.
CH: Be pretty cool.
JH: All right…
WW: If you could put in a Jira task for that.
JH: Put in a Jira task. All right so that’s before the campaign, the campaign is up and running, we’ve funded Star Citizen, now we have to start making the game. So, you’ve got requests that come from story, things that you want to see in the game but now you’re getting requests from designers. Requests from game designers like we need something for this, we want to build this, how does that process work.
DH: Yeah, I mean… yeah, it was well said. It kind of comes from all over, I mean we’ll get requests from, you know, item designers who are like, ‘hey, I need...who manufacturers light bulbs’ you know and then in the same day get another request like. ‘hey, we’re building a space station, what is it?’. You know, here’s some concept art or rough things or here’s… if it’s from a game design standpoint like here’s what gameplay mechanic we’re trying to satisfy, you know, or need or moment. So yeah, it can kind of come from anywhere is the thing and you know, we just sort of have to roll with punches and change scope.
WW: It’s been kind of interesting seeing the change as the game comes farther along our interaction with the designers, cause… I know you might be able to speak to this with the dispatches, like the dispatches a year ago we would be pulling a lot more from the ether like this is what interests us now. Now the gameplay that’s going on, the actual design is feeding in a lot more into what we’re writing as these releases and the content builds up.
AW: Yeah, makes it sometimes easier to actually tell a story because we know how that experience is going to be in game, so I have a question for writing something about a data runner, I can go and I can sit and I can talk to Matt Sherman. How’s the Herald work, like how fast, like what’s it good at, what’s it bad at, how do you foresee this happening. So it makes it...makes it a lot of fun to be able to provide those specifics or kind of even layer some of those in. So as people read the dispatches, they’re getting this broader story but there’s one or two hints as to the game play we’re foreseeing and we’re actually implementing and building into the game
JH: One of… you mentioned corporations, one of the things that is unique to Star Citizen amongst other products I’ve seen is the sheer number of corporations that we have. Before we move on, talk to me real quick about why there are so many corporations and what that brings to Star Citizen.
DH: I mean, basically it's kind of a testament to the level of fidelity and thinking because it’s not, you know, hey this is a ship, it’s a shape that has these attachments on it and go. I mean these things are really meticulously designed and they have a lot of, I mean all the components you can look and stuff like that. They’re built as actually kind of engineering things so based on sort of the internal coding system as far as the assets go, you know, the different cooler...everything has this sort of like a tag, a code tag. So it’s become sort of corporation totes and will help dictate, I mean art style all kinds of stuff. So basically like everything gets assigned to a company, so somebody... if it exists and you can sort of manipulate we have to decide who makes that.
WW: And like in a lot of ways it helps the artists in that once we come up with one item of that company they have that style guide and they can go to it but all that history and lore does make it difficult sometimes cause if there’s like a space station and it’s supposed to be abandoned under 50 years ago and they’re using this prop to populate it then we have to be like, ‘Well actually that company didn’t exist til 50 years ago according to lore. So, those items wouldn’t be there and they’re like, ‘We don’t have another version of this item and that’s it.
JH: Who’s job is it to track all these corporations.
AW: I think it’s kind of a team effort.
CH: I mean we do have a corporation matrix and in Confluence that just lists all of the corporations along with various aspects of them like when they were founded, what they make, what their visual feel is, a little bit of history.
JH: And for those who may not know what Confluence is, Confluence is our…
CH: Confluence is our internal wiki that we keep to keep track of game development, it’s our game design document more or less.
JH: And that’s sort of your realm, I notice when everybody… anybody’s got a problem or question about Confluence, it’s go ask Cherie.
CH: Go ask Cherie, that’s me.
JH: So, in addition to Confluence let’s move to the Starmap. So the Starmap is one of the craziest things that we’ve put out, it’s one of the most… if I can say so myself I had nothing to do with it but it’s one of the most impressive that’s part of the Star Citizen experience in my perspective. Where did the idea for the Starmap come from?
DH: I think it was an early… so it was an early stretch goal, I don’t know. I actually don’t know where… there was an early stretch goal that was like the printed one that we ended up releasing but…
WW: It was the.. cartographer room, right?
JH: Yeah, there was an ingame stellar cartography room.
DH: Yeah, yeah but it was also the thing too is there was this sort of inherent like we have the Starmap is the known universe and so part of the aspect of the game was going to be discovering jump points like you have to make it scale.. make the map scaleable cause if.. someone discovers a new jump point to a new system then the Starmap is going to change. Like it’s not a fixed thing, so having an interactive version of it, you know, had a sort of practical need but I think also just like, you know. Benoit like just totally sold the concept of it, it was incredible.
CH: Oh yeah.
AW: It made it… it’s a fun thing to look at but it’s also especially considering the history and number of systems we have, it’s so vitally important we understand the connections between all these different worlds because it does inform the history of, oh so if this system was discovered at this time because of this big event happened here we need to make sure that this was the path that people got to go there.
DH: Oh, that was a nightmare.
AW: Yeah, we came up with all the specific…
DH: Cause the map changed too like the map has changed about 8 times like.. I mean even from the first few days where it was like 20 systems and then the stretch goal, the 4 million dollar stretch goal was 50 systems and then I can’t remember 7 million was 100 systems. You know, something like that and so that’s where it sort of stayed but like even the placement of these things as tech was coming online, they were like actually we can do this system first and you know. They started rearranging it to mimic, that sort of thing.
JH: And the Starmap is just the known systems, the known UE... known systems to humans.
JH: It’s not all the systems that’ll be in Star Citizen?
DH: Yeah, the Xi’An keep…play their cards close to their chests so they don’t…
JH: So, the idea to do the Starmap, there’s obviously a lot of use for it, how do you go about creating it? It seems like it’s a massive data entry thing, not just the design our friends at Turbulent handled the heavy lifting and the graphic design and stuff but you guys had to do the data entry, right?
CH: We did, we also worked with someone at Turbulent, Scott… who helped us out with data entry. He was a big help but yeah right up to the last day before we launched the Starmap we were still inputting data and making sure everything was double checked, everything looked good, it was visually consistent with what our description of the systems actually was.
WW: I mean that was another thing that really helped because the need was there, it helped us focus in on fleshing out a lot… like some of the systems we would have like, we would know the feature planet and that there were three other worlds there but maybe those worlds were just like, one’s kind of a gas giant. So, we had to go in and really think, all right what is this and answering that question because we’re not just a procedurally generated universe, we want there to be reasons to go travel around so really trying to give distinct flavour to all the worlds and all X number of systems, mysterious number.
JH: And in the Star Citizen galaxy it’s not just science fiction, there’s science to it. You guys work with anybody, astronomers or anything like that to make sure things are as scientifically possible or scientifically accurate as…
CH: Yes, we worked with two student… master students of astrophysics, Steven and Michael, great people.
JH: Hi Steven, hi Michael.
CH: Hi guys!
JH: And hi Scott!
CH: Scott! Thanks Scott. So we actually have very, very fleshed out data of all the star systems that we have released to the public so far with things like the positions of the planets in AU, orbital speed, length of the day, the type of planet it is and so on and so forth. So we can put the data into the game if possible.
WW: With the goal of realistic feeling.
CH: With the goal of realistic feeling, so we have this realistic physics but we want to make sure the system feels as real as possible and so that’s we have these numbers.
WW: With sometimes responses from the physicists being, ‘Well…’
JH: You can kind of, I guess you can do that.
CH: Yeah, there were a couple of times we wanted to do something cool and they had to say, that’s not really a thing.
WW: Shoved him…
DH: That was the death of Will’s cheese planet.
CH: That’s why we don’t have a cheese planet.
JH: You seemed very sullen when we said no cheese planet.
WW: Well, they said it was that close to the sun it would melt.
DH: Then he thought it was a nacho planet.
AW: Then a queso planet.
CH: On the other hand they also helped us come up with really cool ideas like if we had kind of a general idea about a cool thing we wanted in a system say… if we wanted to have a really dense asteroid cluster, they helped us figure out ways we could make those scientifically possible.
WW: Since I’ve started this project the one truism I have learned is if someone says that can’t happen in space, wait a week and someone will discover it because every time like the discoveries that have happened since I’ve started this job really focusing on learning about space science has been insane. Like all the weird planets people have found with their telescopes and picking up radio waves and stuff, it’s been great.
CH: Like a planet made entirely of diamond, that’s real.
JH: All right, so before we run out of time, quick lightning round here. Coming up we’ve got Star Citizen Alpha 2.6 but then we’ve got Star Citizen Alpha 3.0 on the horizon.
WW: Oh yeah.
JH: Which seems like it’s going to be a much broader expansion of story possibilities. What’s it like working on that right now? What’s that process like?
DH: It’s… I mean it’s an interesting change of pace because Squadron 42 while being a lot of fun was… because it’s very narrative military drama or action space opera. This was nice to be able to have more different, weirder characters so you could... because we’re doing all these…
JH: So, Will’s in it?
DH: But yeah, there’s like… just all the different, the planets that we’re going to and stuff like that is definitely much wilder characters.
WW: Cause in V0, you know, we’re starting off small and we’re going to keep adding and adding to it... V0, in 3.0 is out V0 of kind of fleshing out a world so we tried for diversity and its some interesting people just to start getting a smattering of the kind of characters that we want to have there and slowly building out and trying to figure out… it’s really complicated and exciting.
JH: And then there’s Squadron 42, Squadron 42 the single player component to Star Citizen, how long is that script now? How many pages? We’ve mentioned the page count a couple times and every time we’ve mentioned it seems the number’s gotten larger.
DH: I mean yeah, it was 1255, I think it’s gone up a little bit because we added some generic engineer stuff.
JH: Well, that’s a good release for folks, we added some generic engineer stuff in Squadron 42.
DH: Pretty sweet.
WW: As the game gets built out more as Chris mentioned we have that full kind of stuff fleshed in, it’s kind of going back in now and taking a look at the in between spaces is kind of where we’re filling in. Like we have the two big moments, we have a couple smaller moments, but then there;s like a dead hole right there in the middle so we’re filling in that stuff now, fleshing it all out.
JH: All right, so guys I think that’s wraps up our special edition of Loremaker's Guide to the Galaxy: Making Lore. Anything you want to say to the Star Citizen community before we let you go?
DH: No, thank you everybody.
WW: Thank you! Thank you so much.
CH: Thank you for all your support, we really appreciate it.
WW: For all the suggestions and comments and fan fiction and everything, thank you.
JH: So, you can watch Loremaker's Guide to the Galaxy every other Wednesday here on our YouTube channel and on robertsspaceindustries.com and for some people who may not know, every Tuesday there is a lore post that goes out on our website as well, following a variety of storylines.
DH: And Jump Point.
JH: And Jump Point magazine, the monthly subscriber edition that also has original fiction in it.
WW: A lot of it is nowhere else to be found, all the short stories in there are currently only in Jump Point, so.
JH: All right, that’s Cherie, that’s Adam, that’s Dave, that’s Will, I’m Jared… see you in the ‘Verse guys.