Star Citizen latest feature is "Grabby Hands"

Star Citizen manifest

"Cargo interaction" is probably not the first thing that leaps to mind when you think about exciting new features in space sims. Even the developers of Star Citizen acknowledge that "make cargo sexy might seem like a difficult challenge." But hauling stuff is a big part of the game—potentially a very big part—and they're putting a lot of effort into creating a system that "allows for maximum interaction directly with in-game objects," ranging in size from handheld weapons to massive spacecraft components.

Instead of creating unique animations for every object in the game, Cloud Imperium has developed a system it calls "Grabby Hands" that enables (reasonably) realistic interactions with items of various sizes. It's precise enough to allow for simulated coin-flips, and also allows for the manipulation of usable objects, like firearms. The goal, aside from avoiding the need to create a ton of visually similar animations, is to "create new ways for players to express themselves through their interactions in the ‘verse!"

The studio also described the operation of containers and pallets, which will be used to load bulk cargo, as well as cargo holds themselves, which will use "locking plates" to keep everything secure. "The technology that drives these locking plates only require power to change state, and will secure even unboxed cargo as long as it is fully within the locking area," it explained. "This means that only cargo containers can stack while disallowing infinite bridges, and that turning off the power plant won’t shred the ship with instant cargo shrapnel."

Shipboard interactions with cargo will be managed through an onboard manifest used to activate and deactivate locking plates, arrange cargo order, and track how your cargo's mass and volume is impacting the ship's performance. (And yes, what you're carrying will influence how your ship flies.)

I still don't think that loading crates onto your intergalactic Mack truck qualifies as "sexy," at least not compared to, say, gunfire and explosions and vast alien panoramas, but this system points to an impressive level of fidelity. More details and videos of the various systems in action are up at the Roberts Space Industries website.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.