Star Citizen will feature a dynamic local instancing system that will allow all players on the public server to share a single persistent universe while avoiding the technical problems of having too many players interacting in one place. As much as possible, this instancing will be invisible to players.
The Galaxy Server
The Galaxy Server tracks the location, assets, relationships, etc. of players in the Star Citizen persistent universe. It coordinates the placement of players into instances when they are in close enough proximity to interact.
|“||The way it works is that the persistent universe server, which we’re calling the Galaxy Server, keeps track of all players’ assets, group relationships and locations inside the Star Citizen universe. As the Galaxy server isn’t handling any realtime action it can handle our complete player base, which right now would be about 45,000 players, but is designed to be able to scale to millions if need be. The other key thing the Galaxy Server does is dynamically place players based on their location, skill level, alignment and player versus player (PvP) preference into battle instances. Think of a “battle” instance like a Battlefield 3 multiplayer session or a World of Tanks Battle with the key difference that the selection of players is done transparently and is “in fiction”.||”|
Orbit instances exist in the immediate vicinity of planets, jump points, or other significant locations in space. They are handled by instance servers, as opposed to the Galaxy Server.
When a player leaves a planet's surface and enters space, the Galaxy Server hands them off to an appropriate orbit instance. If no instance exists in that location or all existing instances are full, a new one is dynamically created. There are reserved instance slots for friends and for players or NPCs that have been tagged as persons of interest (POI), and the galaxy server will avoid splitting up friends or separating a player from someone they have tagged as POI.
|“||The game will try its best to put friends and other ships of interest in the same dynamic instance - every space area - say orbiting a planet, an asteroid field, an ambush point etc. has only so many slots for live players - it is dynamically dropping people in and out of these instances based on their allegiances, specified interest / factions and skill level||”|
Battle instances are dynamically created when encounters occur en-route while traveling between significant locations in space.
When the player plots a course to another location, engages autopilot, and leaves the current location/instance, they are then handed back to the Galaxy Server. The Galaxy Server then determines whether the player will have an encounter en-route based on the proximity of other relevant players, NPCs or events, including people that have tagged them as POI, an ongoing battle instance with members that are relevant, or an event such as encountering a derelict ship. There is also a PvP slider that will influence whether you are more likely to be matched up with hostile players or NPCs.
|“||You don't continually drop out of warp just because there is another player or hostile NPC near you in the persistent universe. The persistent universe server match creates battle instances based on several criteria - besides the usual skill and ship criteria it also takes into account whether you've already had an encounter during your journey. In more dangerous places you can drop out to fight more often than you would in safer ones.||”|
|“||Once the Galaxy Server has determined that you will have an encounter based on the above criteria it either dynamically creates a battle instance, or puts you in one if one already exists at the encounter point, and that instance has room for new players. To exit this instance you either have to resolve the hostilities by defeating who’s targeting you, negotiating an exit or just outrunning them.||”|
Players in instances can put out distress calls to friends. Friends in the same system will then be able to autopilot to the that instance if they are in the same system. If they are not, they will be able to once they arrive in the system. Even when you are alone and not at a significant location in space, you should be able to have friends join you through the same mechanic.
The normally single-player Squadron 42 campaign can also be played through the Galaxy Server and use the instancing system to add co-op or PvP elements if so desired:
|“||The same instance system underpins the single player Squadron 42. If you’re playing off-line, your computer will be acting as the server and client, there will be no opportunities for friends to join and everyone will be an NPC. But if you play Squadron 42 through the Galaxy Server, even though your missions and space areas are pre-determined (you don’t get to pick where in the galaxy you are flying if you’re in the military) we will allow your friends to drop in / drop out to take over NPC wingmen and if you want extra skill ranking you can allow other players to drop in and take over enemy ace characters. This system is pretty similar to the Demon’s Souls setup where people could drop in as a Blue Phantom to help you kill a boss monster or fight off another invading player, or you could drop in as a Black Phantom to someone else’s world and try and kill them for XP and other gamerewards.||”|