Cloud Imperium Games is announcing today the Alpha 3.5 update for Star Citizen, the sci-fi universe that is has been in the works for the past five years.

Fresh from raising $46 million in venture capital and $211 million in crowdfunding, Star Citizen is launching updates on a quarterly basis as it marches toward a launch in the summer of 2020 for its Squadron 42 story-based game.

The new patch adds the sprawling city-planet ArcCorp, playable female characters, a new gravitational flight system, CIG Character Customization technology, and more. The update is available to all backers, who number about 2.2 million now.

Above: New flight control system in Star Citizen

Image Credit: Cloud Imperium Games

Led by Chris Roberts, the CEO of Cloud Imperium Games and Roberts Space Industries, Star Citizen is a massively multiplayer online experience that empowers players to build a life in the stars while engaging in first-person shooter and vehicle battles, exploring massive celestial bodies, and discovering adventure in an ever-expanding sandbox galaxy.

Players can join and play Star Citizen with a $45 starter ship, and numerous vessels are available for purchase in-game with in-game currency.

Alpha 3.5 continues the company’s promise to release new content on a quarterly release schedule for Star Citizen. Cloud Imperium also released a trove of financial information about how it has used its crowdfunded money so far.

Above: They have hot dogs on this planet.

Image Credit: Cloud Imperium Games

“3.5 is one of our biggest updates so far,” said Roberts in a statement. “Aside from releasing a completely overhauled space and atmospheric flight model, we’re adding the dense urban planet ArcCorp, which we showed a prototype of at CitizenCon 2017, as well as delivering the revolutionary Gene Splicing system we developed with 3Lateral that allows you to blend features from various characters to create a unique character, not unlike how a person inherits and combines features of their parents.”

He added, “The advantage of this approach is you always get realistic looking players, not immersion breaking ‘monsters’ that sometimes can be created using more traditional techniques. But for me, the headline feature we’re adding is playable female characters.”

He said the tech has been a long time coming, and it involved creating a new rig for female characters to make them physiologically distinct from the male characters. That is something most games don’t try to attempt for player characters.

“Once we finalized the female character, we had to retrofit our entire universe: ships, animations, clothing, armor, and weapons to make sure they all worked with the female character rig as well as the male rig,” Roberts said.

Above: A city planet in Star Citizen

Image Credit: Cloud Imperium Games

Aside from the female characters, the update includes:

  • ArcCorp – a sprawling urban planet covered by city space, ArcCorp features the new Area 18 Landing Zone, where players will find a neon-lit cityscape teeming with life.
  • New flight model – an in-game flight control system that applies to all ships in Star Citizen, incorporating a total overhaul to the entire flight experience and adds gravity to in-atmosphere planetary bodies. This New Flight Model is also applied to all AI controlled pilots in Star Citizen.
  • CIG Character Customization Technology – An updated system for customizing your player character in the persistent universe. It includes new customization technology to select from up to three source heads and blend each of their various facial features into a fully customized character. This replaces Star Citizen’s previous 100-plus character permutations with a near-infinite pool of character customizations that is used for both player and NPC characters. All customizations are available for both male and the all-new female player character selections.
  • Communications improvements – New video streaming technology which allows players to participate in video calls no matter how far away they are. Previously, as other players were “streamed out” from server clients, they would no longer be eligible as targets for a call. This update enables players to call anyone in the Star Citizen Persistent Universe through tech that evaluates your client and streams to the other party’s client as video data.
  • New environmental AI bounty hunting – AI bounty hunters will now attack players with bounties placed on their heads, and AI security forces will attack players with high crime stats.
  • New ships – The MISC Reliant Series, with three new variants, including the Tana, a combat model; the Sen, designed for scientific research; and the Mako, a “news van,” styled ship with multiple mounted cameras.