I’m a profession guy. I think everyone approaches games from their own personal angle, but in my case, and in particular Star Citizen’s case, I like to think about what I will do in the ‘verse. So let’s look at the current, near term, and future of profession-based gameplay.
Where are we now?
You can currently do what I think of as the “basic trilogy” of MMO activities in Star Citizen…
Killing Stuff: The bounty hunter profession is the only profession at the moment that has a reputation-based gameplay progression. You progress through a series of “license” missions where you kill a target of a specific difficulty and that opens a new level of missions that pay out better than the last. You progress both in single target and group target missions and it is the profession with the highest credit per hour reward.
The ground-based missions are lackluster but functional. They don’t increase in difficulty but do give you some variety to just warping to a spot in space and shooting ships. They also don’t pay as well as space combat does. The upcoming 3.15 patch will be expanding on ground-based missions. Just note that only missions that are in the Bounty Hunter category actually contribute to bounty hunter reputation. You can do a number of combat-based missions in the Mercenary category that don’t contribute to your reputation, don’t have an escalating pay structure, but do allow for you to have a wider set of experiences in the killing stuff realm.
I’m not going to spend any real space here talking about ships for combat. Mostly because there are many that do the job, but also because the result can have a lot to do with who is flying and what their setup is. There are people that can use light fighters to take down large ships and others that use large and slow ships to take down fighters. Fly what you can afford using in-game or real money and enjoy. Personally I like using a Vanguard due to it being able to take some hits and has a full compliment of weapons.
Moving Stuff: There is no reputation for the trading profession, so I’ll basically include all things related to moving stuff from point A to B. Delivery missions are a good place to get started when you have a small ship that has at least some space in it to place three boxes. A 100i or Avenger Titan are good starter pack ships for this role. Anything bigger that isn’t a fighter will work as all you need is a bit of floor space to put up to three boxes you carry. Deliveries are decent way to learn the various locations and is pretty safe, but doesn’t earn a ton of money. You can also do deliveries that either have a time requirement or a limitation on not being able to use your quantum drive. The payout is a bit better on a per-mission basis, but considering you can’t quantum drive or run the risk of going too slow and having your goods go bad, there is some risk.
Trade is not in a great place at the moment, but it has received some recent attention. The biggest problems are:
- Current profit on traded goods is generally very low so smaller ships can’t carry enough to make it worthwhile unless you really just like space trucking.
- Server production quantities are low. Locations generally don’t produce enough of a given quantity to fill your hold and you are forced to grab things from multiple places (inefficient) or buy things that don’t have great profit (inefficient).
- Finally, while in my personal experience is rare (like maybe once in a week of gameplay) a server crash (Error 30000) means you run the likely risk of losing your goods.
Not all is lost though. They put in a feature where you are “emailed” a journal entry, showing locations that are overstocked (selling for cheap) or understocked (need an item). The payout and quantity issues though limit the value of this relatively new addition. Another thing is that in 3.15 we will see physicalized inventory driven by their icache tech – that may change how your ship cargo is impacted by “Error 30000” server crashes.
Gathering Stuff: Like trading, mining has no reputation related gameplay. There are three levels of mining, doing it by hand, a ground-based vehicle, and a ship. All three use the same mini-game where you have to increase the power of a mining laser to heat up a rock and keep it in a certain temperature range until it cracks. Currently, I’d say that mining by hand while functional and possibly entertaining for some, doesn’t really generate enough money to do it for that reason alone and has two technical issues. First, due to the fact that each time you pick up a rock by hand requires a database interaction which can be pretty slow at the moment. Second, the little “gems” that come out of the rock can be a pain to find and pick up on the ground and while you can use a tractor beam multi-tool attachment, all that does is move the rock if you can find it, you’ll still need to drop it and bend over to pick it up.
A more lucrative approach is to use a Greycat Roc, which allows you to drive around and use a mining laser on slightly larger rocks than you do by hand. It has neither of the issues of hand mining in that it has a tractor beam to suck up the little gems that pop out and you get HUD indicators for where they are on the ground. The downside is the purchase of a Roc for 176,500 aUEC in the game and a ship that can carry it. Sure you could drive around and find mineable rocks but it will be terribly slow compared to using ship scanners. So that means you need at least a Consolidated Outland Nomad, purchaseable for 192,000 aUEC to tote your Roc around. There are larger ships that can carry one or more Rocs but that’s the least you’ll have to spend in game. With real money you’re looking at $55 and $80 respectively for permanent purchase. The Roc-DS is a two-person affair by design, or you can hot-seat and bounce between the driver and miner seats. I haven’t found it to be a big deal to bounce between them and you benefit from the better mining laser/tractor beam and increased storage.
Finally, you can use a MISC Prospector to solo mine larger rocks on planets, moons, or in space. This is the first place you get access to Quantanium, a volatile resource that blows up your ship 15 minutes after you pick it up. Ship-based mining is the most profitable, but does require you to use a refining station and then wait for the resulting refined materials. After that, you then need a ship that can carry those refined materials. So, there is a progression in this profession, but it is clearly on the ships and vehicles needed to do it efficiently. It should also be noted that the Argo Mole is a four person (three miners and one pilot) ship in game that can mine the largest of rocks, but you’re dividing your income in four ways, so it isn’t as profitable but can be a different kind of fun.
What’s on the horizon?
Medical gameplay is coming in 3.15 in October. With changes to injury, death, and item loss there may be increased pressure for people to get healed versus just die and respawn. Players will be able to create a beacon that prospective medics can respond to. As to how much money one can get, how reliable responding to a beacon will be, or how consistent the income will be is hard to know. With the new medical items (a multi-tool attachment and a dedicated medical tool) and ships like the Cutlass Red, I’m thinking this profession will be functional but likely inconsistent.
And in the distance?
Salvage is looking to come early next year, both with a hand tool and the solo Drake Vulture salvage ship. We don’t know how one finds salvageable material, if there will be salvage missions, or what. Another possibly not too far off profession will be refueling, but it will likely be similar to the medical profession, relying on player beacons at first to get any real income. As the Starfarer is already in game, it is possible we can see refueling being brought in sooner rather than later. The big issue or question is that refueling doesn’t make a whole lot of sense until Pyro system is in the game, which requires server meshing, another tech that has evaded all deadlines.
Who knows when….
While salvage and refueling could be considered “who knows when,” we are at least seeing information about them both in the dev videos and roadmap. The professions we have no idea about, and in order of my opinion on time before we see them in game are: data running (Drake Herald, Crusader Mercury Star Runner), advanced trading (Banu Merchantman), racing (MISC Razor, Origin 350R, C.O. Mustang Gamma, etc.), exploration (RSI Constellation Aquila, Origin 600i, Anvil Carrack), and production (MISC Endeavor).