What is the Freelancer: Unity Project?

Freelancer: Unity is a total conversion mod for the space simulation game Star Citizen. It is based around the game Freelancer by Microsoft and endeavours to recreate the Freelancer universe in detail, improving the lesser aspects of the original and also drawing on a few of the best aspects of Star Citizen style game play.

How much will FL: Unity draw from Star Citizen?

The systems, ships and lore of Star Citizen won’t play any part in Unity but many of the excellent game mechanics slated for Star Citizen will be used in FL: Unity, like ship boarding and FPS combat, as well as the high level of detail and realistic scale in all the 3D models and systems. Due to obvious limitations of time Unity ships won't be quite as realistically fleshed out as those in Star Citizen, but the aim is to achieve as close to the same level of aesthetic detail for both exteriors and interiors. Ultimately the Unity mod aims to be what Star Citizen and Squadron 42 would be if they continued Freelancer’s legacy instead of Wing Commander’s.

What do you plan to do?

Specifically, the goal of the Freelancer: Unity project is to produce a mod that totally converts Star Citizen into the Freelancer universe containing all the systems, ships, weapons, commodities, lore, and everything else, with a little tweaking, for use on private servers. In addition a new campaign, very much like that of Freelancer, is in the planning but the details of the campaign will require more knowledge of how Squadron 42 (the campaign at the core of Star Citizen) functions before being settled on.

How true to Freelancer will FL: Unity be?

The guiding principles of the Unity mod are quality, polish and atmosphere. We plan to fully reproduce the atmosphere of freedom that infused the Freelancer universe and to do it with the highest level of quality in visuals, balance and game mechanics possible. The unique feel of Freelancer’s lore and aesthetic and the interconnectedness of every part of the Sirius sector will be the starting point for everything we do in FL: Unity.

Does that mean Unity will play like Wing Commander or like Freelancer?

As much like Freelancer as possible, keeping in mind that we will be taking all the mechanics of Star Citizen and moulding them to Freelancer’s style of game play and how much that process allows a Freelancer-like result can’t be known before Star Citizen’s release. The manner in which ships fly will be made as close to that in Freelancer as is possible within Star Citizen’s fly-by-wire mechanic. The way weapons work and are classed in Star Citizen will be changed to suit Freelancer’s weapon articulation and basic weapon level system. However the specifics will be up in the air until Star Citizen is released and full scale game modification begins.

How will ship classes change?

In Freelancer the ships got better as you went through the various regions of the campaign, which meant that in the free roaming universe after the campaign there was only a tiny selection of ships that were useful for multi-player use and the rest were uselessly underpowered. The Freelancer: Unity mod is aimed at persistent universe play on a private server as much as it is at supporting a campaign and so the way in which the ship classes worked in Freelancer isn’t a good option for FL: Unity. Instead the power and weapon mounting options for the ships will be made far more uniform across each class of ship in order to cater to persistent universe play, and not ramp up to match the campaign like Freelancer did. The stats of each class will likely change somewhat due to both the underlying Star Citizen engine and the altered balance between classes.

Freelancer’s scale with planets, ships and stations was vastly different to that of Star Citizen, which will we see in FL: Unity?

We will be taking the Star Citizen approach to the scale of the FL: Unity universe. Using fighters at the size of those in Star Citizen as a rough reference point for scale all the capital class ships, stations, planets and environments will be scaled up or down accordingly. Expect huge stations and battleships roughly the same size as a Bengal carrier.

Trade Lanes won’t be a feature of Star Citizen, how will you deal with that?

In large part how we deal with the lack of a trade lane mechanic will depend on how Star Citizen deals with crossing large distances in a short time. The general idea in Star Citizen is believed to be ‘auto-pilot sequence’ which moves you from one location to another via a short cut scene of sorts (almost like going through a jump gate or docking with a station in Freelancer). If that does turn out to be the case then perhaps we’ll be able to find a way to make such a sequence look very much like trade lane travel. What we have heard about Star Citizen is that these sequences will be interrupted from time to time by hostile players or NPCs so ‘trade lane disruption’ will hopefully still feature, although whether or not a pirate (or similar player) will be able to consistently trigger a trade lane disruption is yet to be seen.

Can you tell us more about the story campaign you want to make?

There are a number of story writers on the Shattered Worlds Development team who’ve brainstormed some ideas but we won’t know what is and isn’t possible until the Squadron 42 campaign is released. What the SWDev team would like to see is a campaign set during the same series of events portrayed in Freelancer but following different characters through different regions and events which perhaps intertwine at a few moments with the familiar adventures of Edison Trent from Freelancer. However that is regrettably all speculation for now.

What’s your stance on adding new ships that weren’t in Freelancer?

Ships not featured in Freelancer will be kept to a minimum in the Freelancer: Unity mod, particularly in any eventual campaign, simply because they would detract from the specific Freelancer atmosphere and feel that the Unity mod is aiming for as a top priority. If and how many new ships will be included is yet to be seen. One thing that is certain is that some other assets, such as the weapon models, are not as integral a part of the Freelancer feel and much more leeway is available in dealing with those assets.

Freelancer has a big modding legacy and a lot of great stories that go beyond the original Freelancer universe, would we be able to use the Unity mod as a jumping-off point for our own mod with our own story and universe?

The potential for more modding projects growing out of Freelancer: Unity and a continuation of some of the long-standing Freelancer modding community is one of the driving forces behind the goals and principals of the whole project. Of course no mod can use FL: Unity as a basis for another mod unless Unity actually gets completed so until then the possibility of other mods based on FL: Unity will be addressed after the Unity mod is completed.

What experience does your team have with projects like FL: Unity?

The Shattered Worlds: War Torn mod for freelancer was first released in 2008 and was under development until 2012 and was known for its high quality and polish as well as its exhaustively honed and tested combat balance. The Shattered Worlds Development team itself grew out of several other Freelancer total conversion mods such as Asgard and Excelsia going back to the early days of Freelancer modding which is reflected in the knowledge and experience of some of our longest serving members. All the members of the Shattered Worlds Development team bring their own unique skills to the FL: Unity project.

Why start the modding project so early?

Simply put, because a large portion of the work doesn’t require direct access to Star Citizen to go forward, in particular the 3D asset creation (ships, weapon models, stations, etc.), because we have the CryEngine 3 free SDK to use as a guide. With the level of detail that comes with Star Citizen the extra time to model and texture the 3D assets will hopefully speed up the rest of the modding once the game is actually released.

What happens if the project doesn’t go to plan?

Freelancer and Star Citizen, both being space sims, are likely to be quite compatible concepts. At worst any assets we have, like ship models, can be packaged as a top notch Freelancer ships/misc mod for regular Star Citizen private servers.

Can I join the Freelancer: Unity project and help out?

Of course, many hands make light work! Be you a 3D or texture artist, a ‘code monkey’ or story writer, or you just want to support the dev work and help us achieve the right feel of Freelancer by giving us feedback on our work we’d love to have everyone that’s interested in contributing join us.