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All the answers from the Spectrum AMA with Chris, Todd & Tony

https://robertsspaceindustries.com/spectrum/community/SC/forum/3/thread/star-citizen-birthday-ama
Will update throughout the AMA
AMA started at 5pm UTC. It's now 6:15pm UTC and looks to have finished. I'll keep an eye on the thread and post more answers if any appear.
Q: What is preventing random FPS AI from appearing on planet/moon surfaces outside of missions or set locations? Is this planned to make the planetary surfaces feel less empty?
Todd: We need some Planetary Nav Mesh work done, we have a fair amount of it completed. Then once that is done we can start to implement it into missions or random encounters. When that is done AI will be able to transition from Ship to Surface smoothly. This will also open us for building creatures (space cow or larger animals) or boids (very small creatures..frogs, birds) to add extra life.
Q: So what's the deal with Theatres of War?
Todd: Currently being worked on and tested, ideally Sean and Rich will give an update to everyone once it is ready for everyone to play.
Q: Death of a Spaceman(https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/engineering/12879-Death-Of-A-Spaceman) was written way back in February 2013. Obviously, there have been some changes since then(e.g. landing zones were planned to have an in-engine cutscene v. now players pilot in manually which is way cooler in everyone's opinion). While this is probably currently undergoing a design rework, could you tell us what you know to be different now, and what some possible plans are? What's changed?
Chris: Later this month there is going to be a Calling All Devs episode on "Death of a Spaceman" with myself and Richard Tyer, Core Gameplay Director (which includes the Actor teams), where we'll go into the current plans, which you' start to see the results of mid next year as we begin to bring in Medical gameplay. So watch for that as we'll go into the current design which is ready for implementation.
Q: How do you envision NPC crew gameplay? From the small solo explorer in a MISC DUR with a couple of NPCs, to the Carrack or 890 Jump owner wanting to solo explore the universe with 5-6 NPCs, to the Javelin owner that may only have 20 reliable friends and need maybe 50 NPCs. We know it's still a few years away but it has shaped the thinking of us all as we build large fleets and think about how we'll structure our future org and solo gameplay. Todd Papy and Dan Trufin and Tony Zurovec have briefly touched on the subject over the past 3 years like it's pretty well thought out but we only get tiny snippets into something that is going to deeply shape the complexity and growth of the living universe. Like on a medium large ship like a Polaris, or Nautilus or 890J with a mid sized crew where we may only have one or two regular friends we play with daily (mostly reliably) but out on weeks long missions into the black without other friends being able to drop in and out. Would the owneemployer be the only one able to give them direction? Will we be able to assign players as team leaders to small groups of NPCs like engineering, bridge, turrets? Will other friends still be able to drop in and "take remote control" of some of the NPC crew to play with us? (sorry that could be interpreted as a separate question but ties into how we will play with friends and NPC crews)?
Todd: First steps are building out the player functionality to those roles (Captain, Engineer, etc) similar to pilots and turret gunners. We currently have some of those AI functions, like flying the ship, but we would still need to build the "glue" for AI, like what they do off duty. The capt/owner of the ship will need a way to set what roles he wants the NPCs to do. The Capt will also need a way to interface with the AI to tell them what they want them to do, like fly to a set location or attack a certain target. We are still planning to allow players to take remote control of the NPCs.
Q: What is the plan for computers and the blades? Currently we only know about using blades for turret automating and slaving, do you have any other ideas currently for what blades could be used for?
Todd: Here is some things that have been discussed that are being thought of for hardware (new blade) or software (loaded on computer or blade), these would be types of ideas that we would bring online over time:
  • Missile Defense System (Combat) - Automatically fires correct countermeasures to avoid being hit by missiles
  • Encryption/Decryption Blade (Data Runner) - Able to keep data encrypted to prevent theft and also provides the means to attempt to decrypt data.
  • Emissions Controller (Combat) - Allows the pilot to set strict limits on emission production, providing additional warnings and shutting down unnecessary systems automatically.
  • Offensive E-War Blade (Combat) - Enhances existing offensive e-war capability, could speed up or strengthen offensive programs/viruses or offer new ones to run.
  • Defensive E-War Blade (Combat) - Enhances existing defensive e-war capability, grants further protection and reduces potency of offensive programs.
  • Mining Blade (Mining) - Speeds up mining scans and provides additional information (pinpointing pockets of ore, mineral density etc.)
  • Salvage Database (Salvaging) - Speeds up scanning wrecks and provides additional information (pinpoints valuable ship items, shows materials contained within wrecks etc.)
  • Criminal Database (Bounty Hunter) - Provides a list of known criminals or unlawful activity and the ability to accept bounties to track them down and bring them to justice.
  • "Hit List" (Pirate) - Similar to the criminal database but to be used by criminals. Bad people can view and accept contracts to take care of people.
  • Enhanced Route Navigation (Trade / Exploration) - Essentially enhanced starmap/navigation options. Lets the pilot know how dangerous the route is that they are taking, enables them to pick routes based on speed, safety or avoiding certain areas.
  • Trade Database (Trade) - Allows traders to view buy/sell prices in different places in the universe while on the move, rather than having to be at a trade station.
  • Shield Management Blade (Combat) - Provides advanced shield control options to allow finer control.
  • Stellar Charting System (Exploration / General) - Makes it easier to discover jump points if/when they move elsewhere, possibly also makes jump travel easier.
  • Item Lock Blade (Combat) - Further enhances the targeting system to allow the pilot to lock onto specific parts of the ship, so they are able to take out individual systems.
  • Cargo Manifest Masker (Smuggling) - Disguises the items in your cargo manifest to allow you to hide contraband from initial ship scans.
  • Internal Security System (Larger ships) - Provides internal ship info, positions of lifeforms aboard the ship and the ability to lock/unlock individual doors.
  • Drone Management Blade (Larger ships) - Allows ships to control on-board drones
Q: what milestones is left to create dynamic missions?
Tony: One of the larger remaining issues relates to the fact that the current mission UI and associated logic aren’t able to deal with real-time parameters and need to be converted from Flash to Building Blocks. This is also related to why more Service Beacons haven’t been introduced, as UI development with the old system is far slower than with the new tech. Quantum is starting to inject some of its simulation data into the back-end services, which the Dynamic Mission Service requires to make these customized missions available, but the first stages involve only a few distinct types of scenarios. Dynamic Events, on the other hand, are routed through the same system and are a bit more mature, and the first demonstration of that tech was last Spring’s Fleet Week, which was activated for only a brief period of time and which existed across all servers. We’re already in the process of constructing more of these dynamic scenarios, some of which are far more sophisticated.
Q: Can we have an update on Quantum and Quantas?
Tony: We’ve spent a lot of time and effort optimizing the simulation and are now doing tests with as many as two million quanta, but it looks like we won’t need more than 100K per system to get the desired effects. We’ve started to connect some select bits of the simulated data to the backend services that feed the game servers, with things like fuel and repair prices, encounter types and frequencies, and Service Beacons first in line. This will have some dramatic effects on the gameplay experience as it’ll mean that previously disparate things like pirate activity, calls for help, and the price of repairs in an area will finally start to feel like they’re all connected.
Q: There are currently 95 systems, 324 planets, 74 moons, 50 space stations, and 76 asteroid formations in lore. In game and interact with one, we know another is pretty far along, and there should be 2-3 systems that have at least some progress based on progress we can see from Squadron trailers.
We have heard that tools can be developed to speed up the process, and you can look at the lore and see some systems are sigificantly easier to develop than others: Gurzil is just an asteroid field, Tanga is 3 hot planets and no landing zone, etc.
That all said it's still hundreds of planets, moons, asteroid belts, and hero zones that you have to go. Even working at pumping out 10 systems a year it'd take you 9 years from tomorrow to get that all out. So without commenting on tools, what realistically is your plan here?
Are you going to develop a large number of systems in tandem by blocking out the simple ones in mass? Are we going to have more dedicated teams working on systems to try and make them faster? Is there a Rate of systems/year at which you are aiming to add these systems or are you planning 1 large drop with many systems at some point? And, how do you make hero LZs faster, because that seems to be the Biggest spoiler here on the progress.
Todd: We are not ready to go full bore on all of the systems. We are building up the tools, knowledge, and people power to be able to deliver the systems quicker.
Can't talk about tools? That is what allows us to build faster and faster as they get refined! That is how we have adjusted building a moon in year to building one in 2 weeks. We have the same goals for Space stations.
A lot of time and work goes into building up the asset packs. Once we have the assets built we can put locations and planets together fairly quick. Putting gameplay hooks into the locations will take time to place and make locations feel special. Obviously the quality and detail level of the solar systems that were initially planned in the very beginning of crowd funding has drastically changed over production of SC. Once we realized the detail level that we could go into with the planets and the landing zones, we wanted to push the limit of fidelity. Comparing SC to the PrivateeFreelancer systems, you are getting exponential amount of gameplay and detail on each planet and moon.
We are trying to build up the team to deliver solar systems in one drop vs the iterative approach that we are currently doing in Stanton.
Q: Out of many gameplay loops such as mining, exploration, cargo hauling and bounty hunting. Which one of these is your favorite, and which one of these do you see to be most fleshed out in the upcoming future? As I've talked to some people, bounty hunting seems to be a joke around the Verse. As currently there isn't a way to utilize the cryopods for example. And catching individual bounties dead/alive is not a thing yet. Are these some of the things that are going to get ironed out once the core gameplay mechanics are finished, and then polish each individual "profession" as it's needed? And congratulations on Star Citizen birthday! This game could not be made possible without you!
Tony: I’m particularly interested in Bounty Hunting. Right now the missions in this area are predominantly geared towards going somewhere and fighting someone, whereas the major enhancements we’ve got planned will make the hunting aspect a much larger part of the challenge. This will be the first usage of the Virtual NPC tech that allows characters to go about their lives regardless of whether any players are in the vicinity, and a new UI will allow bounty hunters to register to receive select bits of information to help with pursuing their prey, like feedback from Comm Arrays, ATC controllers, and NPC informants.
Q: ...pyro?
Todd: Yes!
Q: SQ42 is currently 6 years behind its original delivery target. Over recent years there has been little communication on updated delivery targets for SQ42. The last information available was the estimated SQ42 beta in Q3 2020 on the now abandoned roadmap. That date has now passed and there has been no communication on whether SQ42 has entered beta. As it stands the community has completely divided opinions on the expected release date of SQ42 with opinions varying from that SQ42 is in beta currently to it being 5+ years away.*
You stated in the pledge (https://robertsspaceindustries.com/the-pledge): "We, the Developer, intend to treat you with the same respect we would give a publisher. You will receive regular updates about the progress of the game."
Given the massive uncertainty on the progress of SQ42 within the community, do you feel as though you have been meeting this objective?
Chris: Tomorrow we’ll be launching the inaugural episode of the “The Briefing Room” a show focused just on Squadron 42, which we are planning to do every quarter (3 months) until Squadron 42 releases, where we will address some of this.
We haven’t been happy with how effectively we’ve been showing progress on Squadron 42, as we felt the previous format didn’t do a good job of all in communicating just how much work is going on. The new roadmap format which we’ve been working towards and on since we announced we would be changing it up will do a much better job in show what people are working on at any given time as opposed to just focusing on deliverable features. I briefly discussed our thinking in https://robertsspaceindustries.com/spectrum/community/SC/forum/3/thread/atmospheric-room-system-4-years-late3366441
Squadron 42 is a tricky project to communicate on as we really don’t want to give the experience and story away which can make updating on certain content or features challenging.
We DO give regular updates on Squadron 42, even though we haven’t updated the Squadron 42 Roadmap since the beginning of this year with the monthly reports. The most recent one was earlier this week https://mailchi.mp/cloudimperiumgames/squadron-42-update-143128. We also occasionally have content or feature updates on things that will be in Squadron, as we did with the new Vanduul ships in the Inside Star Citizen Episode: Enemy Mine
We also communicate way more than any other developer or publisher than I am aware of in terms of work and progress on Star Citizen, which is the game “The Pledge” was referring to; We have multiple video shows per week, lore updates, developers regularly engage in the forums, have a weekly newsletter and well as regular monthly reports.
I don’t think the issue is whether we treat our community with respect, as that is core tenet of the entire company, or lack of communication; it’s different people want communication in different forms; some want in depth long talky videos, some want just the sizzle videos with pretty graphics. Some people want huge technical treatises on server meshing and others just want the ELI5 version and finally a lot of people just want to know when a feature or the game will be done.
And I think that’s the crux of the issue; it’s impossible to please all the people all the time, and with a project as complicated as Star Citizen or even Squadron 42 it’s impossible to have iron clad dates due to the huge amount of ongoing R&D.
So yes, I do feel like we have been meeting “The Pledge”.
Does that mean we can’t improve?
No, we can always improve, and if you follow CIG and Star Citizen close enough you will notice that we are always trying new things and tweaking existing processes both in our development approach and structure in how we communicate and share information with all of you. The new Roadmap will be part of this, as will the Briefing Room.
Q: Has there been any progress on the plans for data running and hacking? With the Mercury coming out and the Herald being all but forgotten it seems like at least a baseline commodity transport version of data running would be relatively easy and would add some new options.
Todd: It hasn't been forgotten, personally it is one of the professions I'm looking forward to the most, we just have some higher priority work that needs to be completed first. We are focused on delivering big physical cargo first.
Q: Last year at Citizen Con we saw NPC moving between physics grids and walking out of the Valkyrie. What is the current status of this? NPCs moving in and out of trains (which I guess is the same as the Valkyrie) would make cities feel much more alive in my opinion.
Todd: We currently have a few bugs that we need to work out, that will allow AI to path between ships, planetary surfaces, and man made locations.
Q: Are rivers planned? Thanks!
Todd: Yes
Q: What are the plans to make those systemic missions less repetitive and more engaging?
Todd: Doing what we call mission modifiers and leveraging our unique locations. Take a basic mission of delivering a cargo crate from an outpost to a space station. Add in one or multiple of these basic modifiers:
  • FPS AI that want that crate
  • Ship AI that want that crate
  • A cargo crate that is volatile
  • Pick up is in a hostile location
  • Drop off is in a hostile location
  • List can go on and on.
Q: Hello Chris, Todd, and Tony, I hope everyone is doing well and Happy Birthday Star Citizen! Are there plans to introduce regularandomized "world/universe" events? I understand we have festival related events in game such as Invictus and the IAE, however my question leans more on the action/adventure side of things. Some Examples of what I have in mind:
  1. A Vanduul incursion in Stanton that will spawn a UEE Navy fleet to engage them, and/or that players can join in to form local militia to counter.
  2. For less combat oriented example: Some unknown energy source is disrupting the Pyro Jump Point which is making travel dangerous or impossible, requiring explorers/scientists to find and contain the source.
  3. How about natural disasters? Volcanos, massive hurricanes, sever drought, disease, ect. which require shuttling refugees from the planet to safety using the Starliners or other transports or even medical gameplay.
These are just a few ideas that popped into my head to try to cater to multiple types of gameplay. I am curious if random events like this are planned and if so, if you don't mind sharing an example? Thanks for your time, and stay safe! P.S. I really appreciate the effort put in to make the "developepledger" relationship more transparent. Also for the next citizen con, any chance that it could be hosted in the US?
Tony: Yes, this is a major area of focus. We call these Dynamic Events and there are multiple ones already in progress, and the plan is to ramp up these efforts even more next year. Fleet Week was triggered via this system – a temporary event that was activated across all of the servers. Going forward, though, you’ll see a lot more sophistication in the events. Some of these will be triggered systemically and others will be activated by us manually. Most will allow for customization so the amount of variety with even a modest library of such scenarios will be pretty significant. The ultimate plan is to periodically break up the routine with distinct events that serve to draw a lot of players to a common cause, although they might not always be on the same side.
Q: Chris mentioned the Room System in another post. How in-depth are you looking to go with the management of pipes are resources throughout ships? And will that also apply to Stations and Outposts?
Todd: Pretty in-depth, where you would have to reroute power and/or physically replace an item to keep the ship up and running.
Yes, we are planning on doing the same for Stations and Outposts. Depending on the setup certain functionality might be accessible to the players and some might not be. For example, on a NPC ran major space station, the player probably wouldn't have access to turn off gravity or life support in the common play area.
Q: Would you implement Pyro without server meshing?
Tony: Our current plan is to release both Pyro and the server mesh tech at the same time.
Q: Can you elaborate on the current thinking on how base building is supposed to work? I have a couple of specific concerns and would appreciate it if you could address them:
  1. The Pioneer requires a 6-acre (presumably flat and free of major obstructions) landing area to set down to do her job. With the planets we've seen, while they're vast, the spots that meet this requirement are few and far between.
  2. She also needs to sit on the location where she is to build a base, and with her size, this severely limits the density and arrangements of habs that you can put in a single area. This will make it difficult for an org to build together on a land claim, or an individual to have multiple habs on the same land claim.
If you don't mind a suggestion, a Parasite Craft that hangers in the assembly area of the Pioneer designed to transport modules from the Pioneer to the Building Site and install them would solve these. The Pioneer could land in proximity to the building site without needing to be On the building site. And... Every Pioneer needs a Mule! I bought the Pioneer within 10 minutes of its release. I'm a builder, that's what I enjoy in games, so I was hooked immediately. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
Chris: We have some pretty exciting plans on the base building / player settlement front. One of the fall outs of iCache, which we’ve been working on for full persistence of state and location of all dynamic objects in the universe of Star Citizen, is that recording and restoring a building you’ve just constructed is really no different to remembering where you dropped your coffee cup on some distant planet, or which shelf you placed it on in your hab.
Basically, iCache will enable us to allow all of you to settle the stars!
When we first came up with the concept of player built outposts and land claims iCache hadn’t been technically designed, but now we have a system that will have a much higher degree of fidelity in remembering where each building or component is and what state it is in. So rather than just dropping down a singular Outpost, you’ll be able to place down various structures and connect them to things like power generators, turrets, resource collectors, hydroponic domes and so on.
In parallel with this we’ve been working on tools to build settlements or homestead both for our artists / designers (more of a RTS god like view) and players (a first person view).
With this we’ve been rethinking how the Pioneer will work to make her more flexible rather than just spitting out a pre-fabricated outpost we want her to me more of a mobile fabrication facility that would be near your building site. With a Pioneer you’ll be able build these structures without having to ship in the component parts as long as you have a supply of raw materials. You don’t need a Pioneer to build a homestead but if you want to build a decent settlement, or you want to build something relatively quickly as opposed to having to fly in prefabricated components from major landing zones you will want to have a Pioneer, or have a friend or someone that is willing to lend their services to you.
We’re very excited about the gameplay that all of this will provide and can’t wait to see what kind of player settlements sprout up over the huge amount of land area the game has. We will need iCache in and working well before we will see this in the game, so expect to see some updates on this later next year.
Q: I am apart of a very active and authentic piracy org, and we've been making piracy work in the game for a very long time, going back years. We have a very large library of videos that support this statement. That being said, we do not subscribe to the notion that 'piracy does not exist' in the current build(s) of Star Citizen. This has been the general consensus for many years, while we've been in the shadows proving them wrong.
Our main targets are cargo haulers, and now (with 3.11 and onward) ROC miners. We already have the tools and the means to seize someone's ship by force. I will provide a link below to one of our most recent videos doing that exact thing. We were able to take control of the ship, and hold it for ransom. We demanded a sum of money from the owner of the caterpillar, and once he paid, we delivered his ship to the nearest convenient port with his cargo intact. He was able to collect his ship, sell his cargo, and be on his way.
This method of piracy has proven to work time and time again, however unfortunately it requires the cooperation of the other party, which should not be the case in the long run. With the introduction of 3.11, we have turned our attention to ROC miners, as we have tested and concluded that we can remove gems from the cargo bay of the ROC, put it into a box, and sell it at an illegal trade port. In essence, we can sell stolen items from the ROC.
Now onto my question.... In 3.12, your plan is to introduce the push/pull mechanic for large objects, you have also mentioned introducing the tractor beam in the future. That being said, can these future mechanics be used to remove units of cargo off a ships? If so, that will significantly change the world of piracy in SC for the better. The ONE thing that we're missing is the ability to sell stolen cargo. Thank you for your attention.
Tony: Allowing cargo to be manually extracted from ships is high on our list of priorities and will be possible via the tractor beam, but will also require some revisions to the cargo grid system to make it compatible with local storage and iCache.
Q: I think it was phrased in this way because "when" questions aren't allowed but the root concern is very clear as it is also laid out in the sentences leading up to the question at the very end of the comment. This question has been echoed throughout the community for months. He should have - in my opinion - finally addressed the question that stands behind those concerns. That would have been an easy way to finally get rid of those rumours. They stopped updating the chapter roadmap in Q3 2019. The feature roadmap at the end of Q1 2020. Over a year later the roadmap is nowhere to be seen. The regular updates they promised are nowhere to be seen. And the first episode of a quarterly show has taken over 5 months to produce. So no, nothing that he wrote did anything to address any of the concerns. It just feels like they keep on stalling and that does not inspire any confidence in the current management team at CIG.
Chris: "...finally a lot of people just want to know when a feature or the game will be done. And I think that’s the crux of the issue; it’s impossible to please all the people all the time, and with a project as complicated as Star Citizen or even Squadron 42 it’s impossible to have iron clad dates due to the huge amount of ongoing R&D." Emphasis mine.
I answered the question asked, just not the question YOU wanted answered You're not really asking about what is being worked on Squadron 42, you really just want to know when it will be done. The best answer for your question is Squadron 42 will be done when it is done, and will not be released just to make a date but instead once all the tech and content is finished, polished and it plays great. I am not willing to compromise making a game I believe in with all my heart and soul, and even though everyone (including me) wants Squadron 42 sooner than later, it would be doing a huge disservice to everyone working really hard on the project and all of you that are looking forward to it to deliver something that isn't great.
The new roadmap will show how we are doing towards that goal and as we get closer to the end it will be more accurate but it will never be a perfect crystal ball of the future as there is always a certain amount of unpredictability in game development, especially when the game is hugely ambitious and has a very high quality bar; Red Dead Redemption 2, Last of US 2 and now Cyberpunk have all taken a lot longer than originally communicated and those projects didn't even announce a release date until very deep into their production, when most of their tech had been resolved.
We still have a ways to go before we are in Beta, but everyone on Squadron 42 is working very hard to deliver something great.
submitted by StuartGT to starcitizen

I was almost on HGTV. It fell through in the worst possible way.

I think I can understand why so many people enjoy watching those house flipping shows on HGTV. It's another way of living vicariously through a bunch of telegenic rich people doing stuff we could never do ourselves. They buy up older dilapidated houses, and turn them into lavish dream homes before selling them at a hefty profit.
What you don't see is the backbreaking work that goes into transforming those houses. Sure, you get a before and an after, and maybe some in-progress shots as well as the enthusiastic planning stage, but scenes depicting the actual work being done are spread out few and far between.
The show that my crew and I appeared in was going to be different. Instead of focusing on a pair of attractive young hosts financing the flip, this show was going to be focused more on the grunts doing all the demolition and construction work. That's where the home restoration firm I worked for came in.
The network approached my boss about filming our work. While the company would get the lion's share of the pay, there was a bonus offered for the members of the work crew too. Being on TV for a few minutes sounded cool and all, but I was primarily interested in the bonus. I'd gone pretty badly into debt for a graduate degree I ultimately couldn't get work with, and this job was all I could find. The extra money would be a big help.
Now, the NDA I signed means I can't share the names of the show or its cast and crew, nor can I give the location where the episode was filmed. What I can tell you is that the show was cancelled after filming the first and only episode, which will never see the light of day.
The showrunners had already taken the liberty of purchasing a house for us. It was a fairly modest ranch house in a suburban neighborhood sorely in need of sprucing up. They then gave us the instructions for the renovations they wanted so the house could be resold for a profit, and then filmed us while we worked. Aside from the occasional reality TV interviews and scripting, it wasn't too different from one of our regular projects.
Three days in, we were approaching the end of the teardown phase of renovation. Me and a couple of my crewmates were pulling some tacky 70's mock wood paneling off of a finished room in the basement. As the section came down, we were greeted by an empty doorframe. Beyond that frame was a small bathroom, lit only by the natural light filtering in through a dirty window.
I've seen and smelled some gross things in my time doing renovation work, but this took the cake. The four of us were almost knocked over by an awful smell, somewhere between raw sewage and death. Being the bolder one of the bunch, I pulled the collar of my shirt over my face and stuck my head in.
The bathroom was extremely cramped. It only had just enough room for a chipped pedestal sink, a stained clawfoot tub, and a positively disgusting pullchain toilet, none of which appeared to have ever been cleaned. The walls and floor were covered in cracked tiles colored a sickly greenish-yellow.
The filth and the horrible taste in decorating were not the worst things about this bathroom. The worst part was the overwhelming sensation of dread that settled in the pit of my stomach. It was kind of like when you were standing someplace you knew you weren't supposed to be, or like something really bad had happened in the room. I don't know if I believe in auras, but if this room had one, it was definitely bursting at the seams with negativity. Looking back at the other guys, I could tell they felt it too.
We all just about jumped out of our skin when our foreman burst in, camera crew in tow. "Guys, I'm not paying you to take a tea break. Get back to work!"
"We have a problem here," I said, nodding towards the bathroom we'd uncovered.
My boss pushed past me to inspect the room. Whether he felt the bad vibes we were getting or not wasn't clear. "So what's the problem? We're supposed to put a downstairs bathroom in. We've got one right here. We'll clean it up and throw new fixtures in without having to spend time and money on a new hookup. Easy!"
I didn't have much to say to that, but I still couldn't shake the feeling that there was something really off about this room. It took me another moment, but then I realized what it was. The room we had been working on was located in a corner of the basement. The mock wood walls were directly attached to the foundation. This bathroom created an alcove in the house's footprint, when all the house plans and a survey of the outside indicated it was perfectly rectangular.
While the cameraman captured a shot of the bathroom, I got the attention of the crewmate closest to me. "Go upstairs and see if you can find that window from the outside," I told him. Before he could leave, our boss stopped him.
"Quit wasting time and see if the water lines still work," he barked, "I gotta talk to the producer. If this room isn't ready for teardown by the time I get back, there'll be Hell to pay."
Despite the fear sitting heavy as lead in our stomachs, we did as we were told. We needed this job, after all, and there was going to be a hefty bonus in it for us.
Once again I took the initiative. I tried the sink first. There was a gurgling and a rumble from within the bathroom walls, then a sad trickle of rusty brown water began to dribble out. The pipes would likely need to be replaced, but it was clear this room was still hooked up to the water grid. Turning off the sink, I tried the tub next. It creaked and groaned as water forced its way out of the tarnished faucet.
That only left the toilet. I held my breath as I peered into the bowl. A dark, almost opaque liquid that I could only hope was water greeted me. It was definitely the source of the foul odor, and this close it was making my eyes water.
"Think it'll flush?" another one of my crew asked behind me.
"I have no fricking idea," I replied.
"Ten bucks says it does," he said.
After mulling the challenge over for a bit, I nodded. "Get me a plunger. I think you're nuts if you think this'll flush, but we'll see if you're right."
It didn't take him too long to run out to the van to get one. We didn't have the fancy stuff on hand, since our plumber wasn't coming until tomorrow. I accepted the proffered tool and set to work pumping out the decrepit S-bend with all my upper body strength.
"Alright, I think that'll do it," I huffed. Setting aside the plunger, I reached out and pulled the rusted chain. It just managed to flush before it broke off in my hand.
The entire basement was filled by a long, low groan. While we knew it was coming from the house, it didn't sound like the typical straining of old plumbing. This almost sounded like the pained keening of a living being. We could hear the wooden beams overhead creaking from the vibrations now running through the house.
"What's happening?" asked the cameraman, who was now panning over the ceiling.
"We're taking a few big steps back, that's what's happening!" I exclaimed as I shouldered past him and out of the bathroom. The sound guy dropped his boom mic in his scramble to get back, followed close behind by the cameraman.
We all got out of there just in time. Just as I looked over my shoulder, I saw a massive gout of a black, tar-like substance explode out of the toilet bowl and spray over the ceiling and opposite wall. Gallons upon gallons burbled forth behind the first wave, quickly covering the tiled floor and spilling out onto the concrete floor in the rest of the basement. A similar explosion of the foul goop leapt from the sink's drain and oozed out of the faucet. Though I couldn't see it, I knew the bathtub was likely filling up as well.
The smell in the bathroom had already been bad, but the stench that greeted us from this new mess almost knocked us to the floor. Through blurred vision, I saw the cameraman drop his rig and double over vomiting.
"Everybody out!" I yelled, barely keeping my own lunch down. The four other guys in my crew along with the sound guy leapt up the basement stairs two at a time, with me bringing up the rear. I was halfway up before I realized the cameraman was still down there. Knowing I couldn't leave him behind, I turned and started back down.
The fetid gunk had now spread into much of the basement, and the HGTV crewman was ankle deep in the stuff. I stopped at the bottom step and called to him to get his ass upstairs. Instead, the idiot stopped and bent down to pick his camera up.
It all happened in an instant, but I will never forget the look on his face or the shout of surprise and fear as something lashed itself around his wrists and ankles. Nor will I forget how he was sucked straight down under the surface of what couldn't have been more than five or six inches of muck.
I started to step off the bottom stair to go after him, but it occurred to me that doing so would be suicidal. I'd need backup for this. Racing up the stairs, I called out to the rest of the crew, who were in a heated argument with our foreman about what had just happened. It took at least a few minutes to convince him to let us go down and try to help the cameraman.
All of us made the trek back down, including the show's producer. The horrible smell hung in the air like an oppressive fog, and there were dark stains all over the concrete floor. But the black "water" that had been filling it was nowhere to be seen. The cameraman was gone as well. His camera rig, however, still lay on its side on the floor.
We all gingerly filed into the basement and peeked around the corner leading into the room we had been working on. Where there had once been a door to a disgusting old bathroom, there was now only smooth foundation wall.
Our boss and the producer stayed in the basement for a while longer. The rest of us went back upstairs with no intention of going back down there again. After waiting outside for over an hour, the producer emerged from the house talking on her cellphone.
Upon wrapping up the conversation, she came over to us with our boss. She was visibly shaken. "We're suspending work on the house until further notice," she said, "We're going to see if anything can be recovered from the camera and file a missing person report."
"Take the rest of the day off," our equally shaken boss added, "You'll still get your full pay."
A few days later, we were informed that the show had been cancelled. HGTV did not offer any further details or explanation. We still received the promised bonus, but only after signing that NDA I mentioned.
I started looking for a different job shortly after that. While I'd enjoyed my time doing home improvement work, I just couldn't run the risk of getting assigned to a house like that ever again. Most of the other guys with me that day must have felt the same way, as many quit around the same time I did.
I don't know what the story behind that bathroom was. I don't want to know, either. But ever since then, whenever the channel is tuned to HGTV, I can't help but wonder if those fresh-faced yuppies taking up the screen ever saw the shit I did in that basement.
submitted by Blitz-the-Dragon to nosleep