March 4th 2014
At the start of this year there was some heated debate on the community forums about whether the team at Cloud Imperium was doing enough to keep the community informed. As with most of the debates on our forums there were some widely differing views; there wasn’t enough information on the game’s progress, there was too much, there was just enough. With a community as large as Star Citizen’s, you can’t please everyone all the time. :)
I’m proud of our track record of keeping the community informed. We have eight to ten posts a week on the RSI website, we are currently delivering 3 videos a week (Ten for the Chairman, Wingman’s Hangar and the Next Great Starship). We have a whole forum subsection where the community can ask and get answers directly from the ever expanding development team. I don’t believe there is any other game, even one that is out of development and “live” that involves and informs the community to the extent we do.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t improve!
As I hope people have noticed, we’ve shifted the focus of our video content to have more behind the scenes material, and to answer harder questions than perhaps we did last year. Even though we’re proud of the amount of updates we share that doesn’t mean that we don’t listen to what is said and if it resonates, respond. One of the valid criticisms about our information flow is that its sheer quantity can be overwhelming and there isn’t any kind of high level summary for the people that don’t have the time to watch every video, read every post and monitor the forums for any data point they have missed.
So in response to that I am introducing the very first CIG Star Citizen monthly report. The concept is simple – a high level monthly production progress report from the various teams from around the world working on Star Citizen.
You may find it interesting to know that as of this moment there are 212 people working on Star Citizen between the internal and external studios and contractors! More people are working on this project than most AAA console titles, and it’s definitely the largest team to work on a Space Sim. These are jobs you have created! It’s an amazing accomplishment and it’s all down to your passion for space sims, PCs and doing something different!
Not only that but these are 212 developers that want what you want – to make the best game possible – they don’t have to worry about a publisher pushing them to release early to plug a hole in a quarterly revenue plan or to incorporate a feature just because it’s the flavor of the month.
It is because of this, and the new backers that continually join the community every month – you may be interested to know that 71% if the $6M or so we raised since December came from new backers – that I feel confident that we are making something that will be special. It won’t always be perfect, or on time, but given the talent of the team and the enthusiasm, feedback and support of the community I know we will reach the promised land of a living breathing universe that we can all adventure in together for many years to come.
As I write this, the Star Citizen team is all around me hard at work on the Dogfighting Module. We plan to premiere dogfighting at a special Citizens-only event just prior to PAX East. If all goes as planned, the Dogfighting Module itself will launch shortly after PAX and you will finally get your hands on your flight sticks! The team is scurrying to take care of thousands upon thousands of necessary details: variable damage states, HUD detailing, weapons cameras, engine sounds and countless other things that go into creating an immersive space combat experience. At this point, we can now regularly dogfight here in the office.
The biggest danger, or “blocker” in game development parlance, continues to be the server backend. You may recall that we pushed the release because we did not want to use the standard CryEngine server and net-code. Instead, we decided it would be more efficient to use the system which will form the nucleus of Star Citizen’s persistent servers in the future. We have high hopes that the solution will be ready in time for launch… and that that solution will stand up to the hundreds of thousands of Citizens waiting to battle it out. The very success that Star Citizen has had in building such a large community so early in its development is also one of its most challenging – launching the DFM will be akin to launching a major online game. Except we aren’t even close to being finished. It’s a high wire act of the most difficult proportions!
— Chris Roberts
Our Santa Monica office has accomplished a lot over the past month and we’re all very excited to share with the community about what we have been up to! We’re hitting the stage with the Dogfighting Module where everything is starting to come together into a product that we are proud of and we sincerely hope our fans will enjoy.
Our team here is led by Chris Roberts and historically the Santa Monica office has been responsible for virtually all design and engineering for the Dogfighting Module. Over the past month we have brought on a lot of support from our brothers and sisters in arms across the company and all our of development partners. At this point there is not a single studio whether internal or external who is not involved in some critical piece of the Dogfighting Module and it is great working together with everyone towards a unified objective.
To this end on the Production team we have spent a great deal of effort over the past month scheduling out all of the teams tasks, identifying which studios are best suited to contribute on certain features, and dividing up all the work according to our schedules and skillsets. We’ve also coordinated having many different team members (at one point 14 at once!) visiting here in LA to get training on some of the systems we’ve developed, get direction from Chris, and train us on systems they’ve created that we could use on Dogfighting. At the same time Production is continuing to work with several external partners (not counted on the game development headcount) on having them create some upcoming ship commercials which we look forward to sharing with you guys!
On the Design side we’ve had Pete Mackay out visiting from Austin and working diligently on refining and balancing all of our ship systems and their interactions with the HUD/UI. There are really a lot of cool interactive systems on in these ships! It has been really important to make sure our HUD/UI for Dogfighting captures all these systems and displays them in an understandable fashion that allows players to have insight and control over what’s going on “under the hood”. To this end we’ve actually had visitors from the UK, Montreal, and Austin all working with the folks here to make sure we provide a HUD/UI that will really blow people away and showcase the fidelity level of our ships and their simulated systems.
From a technical perspective our Engineers and Tech Design staff have been working on finishing off and bug fixing the vehicle damage system for our current ships. We’ve got it to the point where you can quite surgically pick a ship apart piece by piece and watch its various systems fail out before it ultimately explodes. The distinct visual pleasure of watching a ship blown to pieces has gone up a great deal recently too with Forrest Stephan and our new hire Casey Robinson working on generating some beautiful visual effects for the weapons, ship damage, and shields. You’ll get to see and hear a lot more about the vehicle damage systems soon!
Last but certainly not least our Physics Programmer, John Pritchett, has been hard at work finalizing the ships new flight models and g-force system. The new flight model allows the IFCS (Intelligent Flight Control System) to handle the orientation and thrust of all the thrusters independently in order to achieve the desired vector and velocity changes provided by player input while staying within a safe g-force envelope to prevent unconsciousness. It also has several modes which will allow you six degrees of freedom control, automatic turn banking where the ship rolls to orientations which are most conducive to the pilot surviving the g-force load, and disabled where you can rapidly maneuver but will quickly cause yourself to blackout.
As we move into the month of March we will be continuing to fine tune these systems while finishing a few more like the LOD (level of detail) system, continued work on the HUD/UI, additional spectacular visual effects, and continuing bug fixing.
CIG Santa Monica currently includes 24 developers: Chris Roberts, 1 production specialist, 3 designers, 3 artists, 6 programmers and ten others (marketing, legal, community, customer support.) We all hope you’ve enjoyed reading about what we’ve been up to and if you have any questions please feel free to throw your questions into our “Ask a Developer” threads on the forums.
CIG Texas is hard at work on the server backend and providing support for other areas of the DFM. As it is all hands on deck for the big Dogfighting push, we have some of the team embedded in LA with the dogfighting team. However, work on the PU and Hangar has not stopped! Patch 11 added functionality to the Cutlass and the 11.1 patch added the promised Oculus Rift support. This isn’t just a cool feature: it’s also meeting one of our early stretch goal promises.
The art team is going full bore with character modeling, block outs for helmets, fleshing out character rigs, doing the damage states and LODs for the Hornet and Scythe, finishing up the maneuvering thruster models, and keeping the style guides up to date for all the manufactures and outsource partners.
Programming is primarily working on the backend server infrastructure for the DFM, as well as build system improvements, tools creation, PBR integration, and hangar bug fixes.
Animation has been busy teaching all the new hires inside CIG how to properly animate for Star Citizen, as well as running the first full performance capture test shoot for SQ42, and doing animations and fixes for the ships for the DFM and in the hangar.
Design this month has been working on material preparation for PBR, Data migration to Articy for Glactapedia, looking for design candidates, updates to the hangar like improving the firing range, as well as systems design for the PU.
Audio is working on finalizing the interactive music design, working on various sound effects on ships in dogfighting from thrusters to weaponry etc, ramping up to record voice/facial mocap actors for NPC pilots and in cockpit computers, and continuing to work on SFX for planetside environments.
In addition I am happy to report that we have begun the integration of PBR or Physically Based Rendering (PBR). We still need to update many of our materials, but thanks to CryTek and their latest code drop, we can make this happen in a much smoother fashion. Upcoming Hangar patches will start to enable PBR, and we will convert ships and other content to the PBR system as they are needed for Dogfighting. For a great look at the state of PBR, check out our recent video on the Scythe transition.
Our team currently consists of 45 people: 5 designers, 14 artists, 11 programmers, 3 audio experts, 4 QA/IT specialists and 8 production team members!
Here in Manchester, we’ve hit the ground running: at the end of last year we were tasked with the responsibility of building Squadron 42’s first missions, a sort of test to get our designers and programmers up to speed with the CryEngine. I’m pleased to report that the team is really taking to the system, as evidenced by the asteroid base and mining system we recently revealed as the backdrop for the game’s first series! In fact, the overall Star Citizen design team thought so much of the spider-shaped industrial mining tools, shown recently on Wingman’s Hangar,that we’re now working to integrate them into the persistent universe’s mining system.
Elsewhere, Foundry 42 continues to staff up; meanwhile designers are building missions, programmers are expanding the CryEngine and artists are building ships… with an obvious special attention towards military craft. These include the Gladiator and Retaliator, which we have just taken responsibility for. But don’t be surprised if the next massive capital ship you see was also built in Manchester. Be sure and watch our recent Foundry 42 update video to check out some of our work in action!
We are also helping with the drive on getting the dogfighting module out to everyone. Design is pushing hard on finalizing the gameplay rules and experience in our playable maps. The artists are really pushing on the visual quality working on in our playable maps. The artists are really pushing on the visual quality really trying to show case Cryengine at its best, and the coders are working on supporting the implementation of a few remaining systems we are trying to cram into dog fighting.
The Squadron 42 team at Foundry 42 currently includes 34 members: 11 artists, 11 designers, 7 programmers, a creative director, 3 managers and myself.
Here in cold Montreal, Canada, we are keeping warm by working hard on the Mobiglas, the Avatar Customisation, the Economy System and Planetside,
We have just finished the first pass on implementing a basic framework for all UI related functionality. This framework will help all studios for any UI development. At the moment we are using this framework to integrate the Augmented Reality functionality on the Mobiglas 1 and to build the Avatar Customisation System.
For Planetside, both the exterior and interior of Arc Corp are taking shape. We have also started laying out the other planets from the Stanton system 2, as well as concepts for new solar systems. Arc Corp is really important to us and is taking some time to develop since we want it to set the visual quality for all other planets.
On the economy system 3, all the technology is in place. We have a server that talks with the game client and we are now starting to build the control room where we’ll be able to play with the variables of the economy.
Finally, we are also working closely with Austin on the Asteroid Hangar4. For all hangars, we are developing a room system. This will allow you to add rooms to your hangar, such as the firing range.
All this great work is being made by a team of 32 developers: 9 engineers, 10 3D artists, 5 concept artists, 6 designers and 2 project manager.
See you soon on Arc Corp.
CGBot has been hard at work down here in sunny Monterrey, Mexico.
We are currently working on space suits for the explorer class, getting the Idris ready for Squadron 42, getting materials updated for the big PBR push, and damage states for the Aurora.
CGBot currently employs 18 artists on Star Citizen.
Sorry Canada – we are not sure what you mean by winter.
Some of the most in demand sci-fi artists from film and television are doing work for us on Star Citizen, people like Ryan Church (Avatar, Star Trek, Star Wars), Jim Martin (Star Trek, AI, The Matrix Reloaded), Geoffrey Mandel (Serenity/Firefly), and Justin Sweet (Avengers).
Overall, we have 15 freelance artists working around the world on alien race look and feel, designs for both human and alien space ships, as well as graphical logos for corporations in the game both human and alien.
The FPS team are hard at work building the first person experience. This month our focus has been on extending and overhauling the movement system to accommodate zero gravity and Star Citizen’s intensely immersive animation driven movement. From the way bodies move in weightlessness to the way eyes track the things we’re looking at, everything is getting a hyper-technical going over and rebuild to ensure the vision of the game gets the support it deserves. Of course, while our designers and engineers work out the best ways to fight on foot and in space, the art team has been hard at work building one of the many locations players will be able to visit in the game, in this case an abandoned space station that has since been taken over by pirates!
The build out uses the “tier system” we’ve created to make rapid production of the game’s massive locations possible, all without sacrificing visual quality. The tier system is a modular building and design system where structures and locations are broken down into elements that can snap together in myriad different configurations, each possibility designed to be just as visually appealing as the others. This way, we can produce numerous locations that use common assets and architecture to ensure the same visual and emotional feel of common locations (such as stations built by the same company) and seamless transitions from one set of modules to another, all while maximizing variety without sacrificing quality. We can’t wait to show it off to the world!
This work is being made possible by 21 staff: eight artists, five programmers, four animators, a level designer, a creative director, a producer and one sound effects contractor.
Here are some highlights from our task list for February:
While the above tasks reflect the activities for the month… they don’t reflect the effort. We are not just making your average “next-gen“space game. We are constantly reminded that providing work that would easily meet expectations on titles like Star Wars The Old Republic or Mass Effect doesn’t reach the high-quality demands of Chris Roberts, Mark Skelton and Chris Olivia. The feedback and art direction we receive is both challenging and extremely satisfying when we see the end results. Pushing to achieve Chris’ vision for planet-side locations like Terra has us putting in lots of extra hours… but doing some of the best work of our careers.
Terra is being made real by a team of six: four artists, a level designer and a production manager. We’re actively looking for additional environmental artists in the San Francisco Bay area!
On the web platform side, February was the launch of the new revamped comments thread system as well the re-introduction of a poll module to the forums. Poll away! Many mobile optimizations have been put in place to ease browsing the site on mobile phones and tablets, this is an effort we have to continue. We have done great progress on the design and development of Multi-Factor authentication which we hope to bring to production soon! Obviously and as always, many bugs were fixed and deployed in more than 6 code update.
A considerable amount of time has been spent in connecting website ship data to the game in order to deliver up to date statistics on the site for all know ship models and variants. This work is factored into a major overhaul of the Ship Specs page where we will present a new way to browse ships, specs and other relevant stats (and more!) directly on the site and store pages.
The Organizations system saw a great deal of design decisions and progress made on the features Drop Two. The development of the Chart viewer and the division/jobs manager taking the bulk of the design & development time. We have taken the decision to split the Drop Two into a smaller Drop (1.5?) in order to get multiple organizations membership deployed faster. The Chat system is also undergoing some under-the-hood changes to support the expanding (fast!) list of Organizations.
Turbulent’s Star Citizen team consists of eight people: a producer, manager, artist, UE expert and two each front and back-end developers. As the community continues to grow, the team has to spend time in expanding the infrastructure to properly host the different services that the RSI platform is using. A major server upgrade has begun in February (and is still underway) to update the current server infrastructure to use more powerful and cheaper systems.
Sorry Mexico, No Olympic medals for you!
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