Role Call, Ensign
So, want to start playing Star Citizen, huh?
Welcome ensign. Whether it was watching your friend’s gameplay, diving down the rabbit hole of your favorite streamer’s latest session, or you’ve just been itching for an MMORPG that takes place in the far reaches of space–you’re in the right place. Star Citizen is one of the largest games you will ever play because it is one of the largest game universes in existence.
Much talk has been made about Starfield, the upcoming monstrosity by Bethesda. But Starfield isn’t released yet, and they clearly draw heavy inspiration from the progress of Star Citizen. And even if Starfield is as big as they say it is, Star Citizen is still bigger.
With a game that has a universe built to resemble our universe in both size and complexity, you have a lot of gameplay at your fingertips. The learning curve that you’ll have to conquer is daunting. No small percentage of players are intimidated about joining Star Citizen. Many give up quickly simply because there is so much to learn, and it all feels insurmountable.
I am here to tell you it is surmountable. And if you have time and money to invest, Star Citizen can be a source of never-ending entertainment, joy, and social interaction.
If you want to get started in the ever-expanding universe of Star Citizen, I am here to help. No more stupid puzzles like in Deliver Us The Moon; we’re here for some adult games.
I have been in your shoes not just once but twice. I briefly played Star Citizen years ago and dropped it because of several factors: none of my friends played it, I didn’t have money to spend on ship packages, and I knew that once I started playing seriously, I would have no life outside of the game. Years later, I picked the game back up but remembered nothing of my last time, and even the bit I did remember had been changed drastically.
I learned that the easiest way to get started in Star Citizen is to break off by yourself and pursue a few starter missions that put you in areas where you can loot to your heart’s desire. People can make things complicated. They can try to steal from you, report on you, attack you, and–worst of all–make fun of you. Ugh.
Screw people. Go solo. At least for the first few missions to get yourself an excellent advantage. Then you can be social and make some friends.
A few hours of easy missions where you gather as many items as possible sets you up for a promising career in Star Citizen.
I’m not just going to show you how to get started in Star Citizen; in this Star Citizen Getting Started guide I’m going to help reduce the learning curve and give you all the lessons I learned the hard way as quickly as possible.
Buckle up, ensign. Here we go.
Before You Can Play: Your First Game Package
Alright, so how exactly do you start playing Star Citizen? It’s not like you can just buy the game and start playing. Well, not really.
You need to purchase a game package to start playing and leveling up your character in the Star Citizen ‘verse. Each game package will come with the following:
- Hangar Bay access at the starting station of your choice
- Insurance for either 3-6 months
- Starting budget of 1,000-5,000 UEC
- Star Citizen Digital Download
- The ship included in the package
There are currently 13 different game packages to purchase that will start you off on your Star Citizen journey. If you want to get started for the lowest cost possible, the first two game packages are $45 each. They come with a good starter ship and enough money to get your career rolling.
If you can spare a few extra dollars, the next tier of ships at $60 and $70 are some of the best starships you can get in Star Citizen. I’m talking about the 100I, Avenger, or Arrow. You can eventually get those ships in the game, but if you have the money to dump in, you might as well start with a bit of an advantage.
If you have a lot of money burning a hole in your pocket and want to show off your flex in Star Citizen, you can purchase packages for $275 or $1100, respectively. These luxurious game packages come with multiple ships, lots of UEC, multiple hangar bays, additional digital downloads like a game soundtrack and the making of Star Citizen, and in-game cosmetics for your ship.
Don’t worry too much about this step. While getting started on the right foot with the best ship is wise, you can purchase one of the larger tier ships with credits you get in-game reasonably quickly.
Your First Hour in Star Citizen
If you bought Squadron 42 with your initial game package, you should do the single-player module before jumping into the persistent universe. But I’m going to assume that you didn’t do that. Instead, I’ll shepherd you through what you need to know not to be mercilessly ridiculed by other players when you first log in.
Wake Up, Neo
Upon logging into Star Citizen for the first time, you will wake up in bed in your room in your chosen starting city. The first time you load in, the game will take about 15 to 20 minutes to load background shaders and files, which will cause the game to be extremely choppy. Persevere; the choppiness will subside soon enough.
Roll out of bed, gander at your austere apartment, then get the hell out of there. You won’t be making any money sitting around in your isolated habitation unit; open the door, explore your starting city, and look for its spaceport. You may be distracted by several shops and stores you see along the way, especially cool armament stores selling nifty rifles and shotguns.
Do not get distracted. Make your way to the spaceport.
Trust me: on our first mission, we will collect more guns and armor and things we can sell for credits then you will know what to do with. Do not waste your time or money. Yet.
Spaceports–Anxiety in Space
Spaceports are made for more than just you. So it’s not like your ship will just be sitting front and center waiting for you upon arrival. First of all, the starting city that you’re in is unnecessarily large. I have no idea why the developers made these cities as massive as they did; they didn’t even fill them with useful content. You have to run through so much nonsense to get to important areas.
Either hop on the nearest tram and head to the spaceport or run–your choice. Once you get to the spaceport, you should be looking for the nearest terminal. Walk up, locate what hanger your ship is in, and head there.
Your First Mission in Star Citizen
At this point, you should be sitting in the security of your ship’s cockpit. You should also have received numerous quests on your MoBiglass. If you don’t have several quests to choose from, wait a few minutes, and you will notice that every 15 to 30 seconds, another quest will appear at the top of your screen that you can choose to accept or ignore.
You are looking for a mission with a low reward–because a low reward means little danger–offered by the Red Wind Linehaul Company. The mission requires you to pick up a package and drop it off somewhere, in my case, from Ita to Hurston. We’ll get to the other tasks like Bounty Hunter and Mercenary, but you must walk before you can space run.
These pickup missions are good because they will help you get familiar with the controls of your ship, you will learn the ins and outs of your inventory management system, and have an opportunity to pick up tons of sweet loot.
Upon arriving at the pickup location, you’ll find several buildings scattered around a central area. Inside one of these buildings is the package you’re looking for. However, inside each other building are lockers containing all sorts of valuable items. Food, medicine, armor, and crafting components await your pillaging fingers.
You most likely won’t find weapons as guns don’t spawn inside armistice zones, and your beginning quests will usually keep you inside the safety of those zones. But armor is just as valuable to the right seller.
But be careful: some of these starting missions will send you to a place where NPCs are keeping watch of the other buildings. If they see you steal anything, they may alert authorities. And starting your career with a bounty on your head is not how you get ahead of the competition.
The beauty of these pickup missions is that you can do several of them and loot dozens and dozens of containers. Afterward, you will have more crap than you could ever use in your space career.
Alas, none of that inventory is safe until you return it to your habitation center and drop it off in your secure storage.
So don’t take on more than one mission at a time. Once you’ve gathered as much inventory as you and your ship can hold, head back to your habitation unit as quickly as possible.
After doing this several times, sell whatever you don’t need so you can use the credits to purchase a better ship or anything else you want to further your Star Citizen career.
Your First Week in Star Citizen
Your first week in Star Citizen should be used to figure out what kind of player you want to be. What type of career are you looking to lead? Take on several different kinds of missions to see which you like most. Dive into space combat and learn the intricacies of your ship. Take on a few bounties and see how you enjoy “apprehending” criminals.
Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you did the first few missions correctly, you should have a nice cushion of items and money to keep you safe if you bite off more than you can chew. Some things you can look forward to are:
- Buying a better ship
- Buying your first ground vehicle
- Going on your first multiplayer mission
- Hosting your first multiplayer mission
- Finding somewhere you call home
- Customizing your character
- Putting in a hard day’s work
Your alternate life inside a digital universe awaits.
Star Citizen at Its Core
What are the core gameplay mechanics of Star Citizen? What do you do in the game?
Not much, and yet very much. You accept missions and complete those missions. The end. Now, there are eight mission categories to choose from, so you won’t get bored of them anytime soon, but that’s essentially all you have to look forward to in Star Citizen. Missions. The different mission types are:
- Bounty Hunter
You can always explore and do your own thing while out in space, but you’ll most likely get lost in no time flat, so best to stick with the missions for now. When you complete missions, you earn credits and can use those credits to buy things. When out on missions, you’ll come across loot–armor, equipment, weapons–and resources–gems, ores, gases, minerals. You should sell them all for more credits. Yes, you can build up a nice collection of gems and rare minerals, but how does that help you?
Your goal should be to save as many credits as possible to start buying a larger fleet. The more ships of various backgrounds you own, the more varied missions you can undertake. You can’t adequately take on supply missions if you only own a small fighter craft; likewise, you can’t take on escort missions if you run a freighter.
It would be best if you aimed to have several ships in your bay before you consider moving past beginner missions in Star Citizen. Once you have enough ships to hold your own in combat, last through a solar storm, and carry more than a few pounds of supplies, you’re ready to move on in Star Citizen.
Once you’re in later areas and have a hefty fleet at your command, you can start making your own missions, take on harder difficulty missions, or just head off on your own and mine an entire planet. Join a faction and undertake quests as a team, or hop onboard a large ship and go raid a rival faction’s base.
Once you’re no longer a noob, Star Citizen has plenty of gameplay outside of missions. In the beginning, however, you should rely on missions–easy missions. You should loot as much as possible while out on a mission, and you should save up as much as possible to purchase more ships.
More ships mean you can go on more missions.
More missions mean you find more loot.
More loot means you can buy more ships.
And the cycle continues.
Much like with your first game package, there are several options for you to choose from. We’ll start in the Stanton System, a solar system located centrally in the Star Citizen universe. The starting area dictates where you wake up and your initial respawn location.
But considering you just bought a ship, it’s not as if you’re tethered there. So while picking your first area will impact the first hour or so of your gameplay, it’s not something that you should stress over. We’ll just hop in our ship and look for a better place anyway.
The following locations are scattered around the Stanton System:
- Lorville – Planet Hurston
- Area18 – Planet ARCCorp
- New Babbage – Planet MicroTech
- Orison – Planet Crusader
First of all: yes, there are planets named after corporations. Get with the program. This is the future; incorporate or die, bitch. Do you think Planet Crusader isn’t named after a corporation as well? Think again!
This is another reason you don’t want to stay in your starting city for too long. Get on your ship, get out of there, and plant your spawn location somewhere that isn’t so closely tied to the corporate cosmos.
Things to Keep in Mind
Alright, I’m going to rapid fire a whole bunch of things at you. These are essential aspects of Star Citizen to keep in mind. I learned them the hard way so that you don’t have to.
I didn’t realize how much I was struggling in the beginning. I thought everyone had as hard a time as I did when they first learned to fly. It turns out I was wrong. After talking to some friends I had made in-game, I was called an idiot for not adjusting several necessary key bindings. I called those friends assholes, and we are now no longer friends.
- Under Flight, Spacebrake Engages Boost. Turn to yes.
- Under Vehicles, Exiting Combat Seats Requires Hold. Turn to no. It’s easier, trust me.
- Under Flight Movement, Request Landing. Set a common key so you’re not diving into your menus whenever you take off and land.
- Under Vehicles, the Power Triangle Assignment: Weapon increase to 1, Engines to 2, shields to 3, reset to 4. Again, this eliminates the need to jump into your menus to adjust things on the fly.
Don’t be an idiot like me. Change these key bindings as soon as possible to make your time and Star Citizen as frictionless as possible.
Find a Group of Friends
Also, don’t call people assholes as I did. Try to make as many friends as possible within Star Citizen. It might sound Machiavellian to a degree, but every connection you make in the game is a possible opportunity. You never know who might show up with a Constellation Andromeda looking for a crew one day. And you never know who might volunteer to be your most dedicated gunner for your next mission. Build bridges.
Be Paranoid about Your Ship
You did get insurance with your game package, so your ship is covered for a while under the insurance policy. So if your ship is destroyed or stolen, your insurance policy will replace your ship. However, you most likely only got a package with three months of insurance. Keep an eye on the expiration date of that insurance. When you open the bay to your ship, anyone can enter, and if they’re quicker than you, they can run to the bridge, activate the controls and fly your ship out of wherever it was parked.
Again yes, this is what insurance is for, but insurance is the definition of a pain in the ass in the real world. It’s not much better in a video game.
Helmet on at All Times
You’re in space. Why the hell would you ever take your helmet off? Even if you’re on a space station with breathable air, that’s not natural air. That’s recycled synthetic manufactured air. Keep your helmet on at all times because you might forget to wear it when walking outside a habitation zone. And you will find that humans do not last long in the harsh environment of space.
Eat and Drink
Yes, your character needs to eat and drink. Do not forget to feed and water your character. But more importantly, do not forget to put your helmet back on after eating and drinking!
Death is weird in Star Citizen. It’s hard for the Grim Reaper to keep up when he has entire solar systems to patrol, so death is like permadeath. Sort of like in The Outer Wilds, you shouldn’t dwell on death too much. When you create your character, you can choose to create a legally binding will that will leave your worldly possessions to a player you select before your death.
When you die–let’s say you got blown up by a couple of hungry pirates in a remote asteroid belt–all of the items on your character and in your ship will disappear. You will wake up in the last habitation ICU spawn point you created for your character. If you never made one for your character, you will wake up in the starting city you chose when you first started the game.
It’s a good idea to find a space station close to where you will be operating where you can make your spawn location. The quicker you transfer your inventory from your character and ship to your chosen habitation station, the better. Your inventory is not safe until you do so.
Each time you spawn back in after a death, you will notice your character has more scars on them. Eventually, your character will have nothing to spawn back from and will die permanently. This is where the legal will you created earlier comes in, as your ships and items transferred to your habitation station will be bequeathed to the player of your choice.
This is why it’s essential to make friends early on in the game who can accept your items and transfer them back to you once you’ve created a new character.
Star citizen is far from perfect, and some servers encounter more problems than others. Here are a few general tips to keep you from giving up on Star Citizen out of frustration.
Trust No One
Especially when first starting your Star Citizen career, trust no one. Some professionals have been playing this game for years and know how to prey upon new players like you. They will take advantage of you, manipulate you or just downright steal from you. It will be hard to strike a balance at the beginning where you can make friends yet keep them at arm’s length until they prove they are not nefarious.
You’re Not Safe in Armistice Zones
When you are on a planet’s starting city or in several space stations, your weapons will be automatically disabled. You cannot attack anyone, and no one can attack you. That isn’t the case in armistice zones. Armistice zones are like ceasefire areas where everyone has agreed they will not fire their weapons. But those weapons aren’t deactivated; they are still very much active.
Players can still attack and kill others in armistice zones if they choose. They will face consequences and legal penalties, and the cops will search for them like any other wanted criminal. But if they have enough money and have played Star Citizen long enough, they probably know how to escape the law.
Do not fool yourself into thinking that you will never be attacked and are 100% safe in armistice zones. You’re not. And you might not live long enough to get revenge or even report the crime to the authorities. Back to the wall, keep your mouth shut, and don’t make eye contact with anyone.
Bugs, Glorious Bugs
Star Citizen is infested with bugs. It is a beefy game that requires at least 80 gigs of free space to download and far more than that if you want to run it optimally. Even with the best rig money can buy, you will still run into glitches, crashes, and dropped frames. The community is nothing if not resilient, however, and they are quick to adapt to these problems and highlight ways to fix them. The player forums and subreddit of Star Citizen should be a place you check out frequently.
What to Look Forward to
One of the long-term goals most players aim for is the ability to be benevolent.
When you first start Star Citizen, you’re mostly an island. You are a single soul adrift in the cosmos, attempting to make a life for yourself. You won’t have any equipment, you won’t know how to use the equipment even if you had it, and you’ll probably crash your ship into the closest asteroid given a chance.
Newbies are rough around the edges. But more than likely, while trying to figure out the buttons as a newbie, a veteran player came around and gave you a few pointers. They dropped some knowledge, invited you aboard their big ass ship for a quick mission, and even let you keep all the loot from the mission. We all owe a large chunk of our early gameplay to a nameless veteran out there somewhere.
And what I find most players have as their first goal is to act helpful to new players, acting as kind veterans themselves. You get to a place where you can let a new ensign keep all the loot from the most recent mission because you’ve done the mission a thousand times and have more booty than you know what to do with.
Or you get to a place in your career where you can invite newbies on your ship, let them man the turrets, and show them the ropes, because you remember someone doing that for you. Being a contributing community member might seem like a strange long-term goal, but it’s one most Star Citizen players strive for.
Aside from being helpful, you can start your own faction in Star Citizen. Like guilds in World of Warcraft, factions are groups of like-minded people looking to play a certain way in-game. They share resources, ships, and knowledge. Joining a faction is fun and helps you learn how Star Citizen works. But if you want to be really helpful, you can start your own faction and use it to teach and onboard as many new players as possible.
Upgrading your ships to tier A military grade is a longer-term goal but one you should have in the back of your mind. Every ship in Star Citizen can be upgraded and altered. It’s going to cost as much as the ship, but upgrading each part to its highest quality will ensure people show you the respect you deserve.
Aside from continuing the game’s progressions, there really isn’t much difference in the later stages of the game compared to the early stages. You’re still flying around in space after dumping 100 hours into Star Citizen; you’re just in a bigger ship. You still shoot bad guys and steal their stuff; the bad guys are just bigger and have more stuff.
It’s not as if there’s endgame material or secret bosses or enemy zones reserved for those at the current level cap. None of that exists in Star Citizen. You’ll still be a pilot after 500 hours of gameplay. You’re still shipping minerals, hunting criminals, and mining ore. So if you’re bored with the early levels of Star Citizen, sorry to disappoint, but that’s essentially all there is.
Question: Do I have to purchase a game package to get started?
Answer: If you want to level up your character and create a home inside the persistent universe of Star Citizen, then yes, you need to purchase a game package. However, if you want to dip your toe into the ‘verse and see what Star Citizen is all about, you can wait for a Free Fly weekend and experience all the game has to offer without purchasing a game package.
Question: Do I have to purchase ships through Robertsspaceindustries.com?
Answer: It’s certainly best if you do, as it is the only official marketplace for Star Citizen. But it is far from the only marketplace. Secondary online marketplaces allow players to trade in-game assets for various currencies. Use them at your own risk.
Question: So how do I, like, fly?
Answer: Ah. Fair question. I glossed right over that part, huh?
You could take on a few starter missions that run you through the ropes of space flight. Racing, escort, and bounty missions will teach you a thing or two. Or, you could jump into the separate mode, Arena Commander. It takes place entirely inside your ship and will allow you to practice as long as you like.
Time to Explore the Stars
That’s everything you need to know to get started in the massive, expansive, painfully realistic Star Citizen. Did I mention it has thousands of hours of gameplay? Because it does. So while it may be beautiful and immersive, it’s also going to suck the life right out of you.
Remember the MMO triangle:
- Being good at the game
- Having fun with the game
- Leading a life outside the game
You can only successfully have two of the three. You can only perfectly achieve one of the three. Or you can have a poor version of all three.
Star Citizen is huge and doesn’t seem like it will stop growing any time soon. Developers constantly put out updates and patches, and the next one is due in a month or so. Star Citizen is a community of gamers, a sci-fi adventure, and a universe not unlike our own for you to explore.
Good luck, ensign.
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