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Star Citizen: How Has The Addition Of Master Modes Affected Gameplay? - Problems & Solutions

Posted: Jun 21, 2024

Master Modes arrived in Star Citizen in Alpha 3.23, and they represent a tremendous change to the way flying and fighting in the game is done. After a few weeks of getting used to it, now seems like a good time to start reflecting on those experiences.

Here we’ll explore how the gameplay has been affected by the addition of Master Modes, and what that might look like in the future. We’ve specifically looked at what it means for non-combat ships, and how that might be improved.

I must caution you that this analysis is from the perspective of someone who does some PvE combat and many other things in the game. As such, it will certainly influence the thinking that follows. Also, as this is an early release for Master Modes, it will probably continue to evolve, benefit from tweaks, and mature over time.

Star Citizen: How Has The Addition Of Master Modes Affected Gameplay? - Problems & Solutions

Core Mechanics

In summary, the core of Master Modes’ design seems to revolve around two elements: Squadron 42 single-player experience and Dogfighting combat experience. It makes combat closer, slows it down, and wants to provide combat that’s more akin to what you’d see in some of the great sci-fi epics.

In the context of Squadron 42, this makes sense. But given that the entire system seems designed to address the combat experience, it feels like the combat experience takes precedence over the non-combat experience, which is an inherent problem with the rest of Star Citizen’s gameplay loops.

This results in Miners, Salvagers, Haulers, even Space Yachts, being poor candidates for Master Modes. At the very least, having Master Modes is an inconvenience for these ships. They tend to be slower than their combat counterparts, so the changes to Flight Models will hit them harder.

Disengagement Will Be Punishing

But it doesn’t stop there. One of the design choices for Master Modes was to force fights in close, and the system was designed in part to achieve this by severely punishing ships that try to disengage. Ships that don’t want to continue the fight are punished more harshly by the system, which completely defeats the offensive and defensive capabilities of ships that try to get away quickly.

This is an inherent problem for ships like Prospector or Vulture, which are really no match for a dogfight with a fighter, and whose only plan when engaged is to flee. Master Modes severely limit this choice, which only increases the vulnerability of these ships in the process of getting away.

Some players will argue that these industrial ships exist only to be preyed upon by fighters and to satisfy the needs of PvP players. But I personally think that the extensive Mining, Salvage, and Hauling gameplay loops are content in themselves.

Some may argue that this issue will be solved in other ways, such as through a future reputation system that punishes those who prey on the helpless. Ultimately, that is an unknown until it is in front of us.

No Guarantee That Everyone Has A Combat Escort

Similarly, there will also be arguments that non-combat ships have a duty to employ Combat Escorts. However, in my opinion, this is a question of proportion. In dangerous space, perhaps like Pyro, an Escort may be necessary, but not everywhere.

For a large multi-Crew Reclaimer, it may be more reasonable to expect Turret Gunners on board to help keep the ship safe. But for a single-player Prospector or Vulture in the safe space around Stanton, it seems unreasonable to expect them to always have an Escort.

Partly because Star Citizen aUEC gains from these events are so low, but also because expecting a ship designed to be operated solo to only be operated as part of a team kills solo Mining or Salvage. Doing so prioritizes combat over all other gameplay loops, and feels like a poor design choice for anyone who prefers non-combat games.

Star Citizen Combat Escort

Potential Solutions

Even within the context of Master Modes, there are a number of possible solutions. For example, a ship’s defensive capabilities take a hit when switching to Escape or Travel mode. 

Without shields and countermeasures, this is clearly not suitable for a peaceful little Prospector. But if the ship’s offensive capabilities were further hit, such as by shutting down weapons and missiles for a long time after switching modes, but retaining shields and countermeasures, the mode would become less punishing for a ship that is clearly designed to escape.

It’s still possible for a well-organized or skilled attacker to destroy the ship, and it’s also possible for a well-organized or skilled defender to evade the attacker. But that’s just one possible option.

If the impact on dogfights is a concern, perhaps different rules could be made for fighters versus other ships. But this is just one potential solution, and there are undoubtedly a lot of holes in it.

Ultimately, the major concern for the peaceful industrial player is adding extra burden to an already fragile ship. Perhaps this is a conscious choice, but if not carefully balanced, it could ultimately result in fewer players doing these gameplay loops.

In conclusion, what do you think of this Master Modes? Do you have any better ideas for solving these problems? Let’s discuss. See you next time!


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