May 9th 2014
I know you’re all impatient to get your hands on the DFM, and believe me we’re all very eager to have it in the state that we can start to roll out it to all of you but as in any ambitious undertaking there’s still some details that we’re busy wrapping up in terms of the backend end, build deployment, matchmaking and network stability over the internet – All the while trying to balance and tune the core gameplay of the DFM.
We’ll have more exact dates to share by the end of next week, which we’ll update you with in next week’s report, but the goal is to start rolling out the DFM towards the end of this month – this will be staged as scaling to 250,000+ players is much more like launching a finished game as opposed to an early pre-alpha for gameplay feedback – our plan is to have Vanduul Swarm (single player against AI) available to everyone from the start, and then give people access to the multiplayer servers in increasing numbers as long as the system holds up. (To answer your next question, the rollout will be based on Citizen number; the earlier you backed, the earlier you will gain access to multiplayer dogfighting.)
We don’t know the maximum number of concurrent players or some of the backend server issues (as we’ll literally be dynamically spinning up hundreds of servers on demand depending on demand) we’re planning to go slow and cautious at first, while we make sure everything works. So please be patient and bear with us. Remember that with Arena Commander we are launching something much more akin to a full game (its feature set is more in line to an action arena combat game like World of Tanks) and to do that for the sheer number of backers that Star Citizen has is a challenge in itself!
— Chris Roberts
Thank you all for tuning in for another Friday Arena Commander update! As always the team here in Santa Monica has been hard at work wrapping up all the gameplay features and systems work for our first release of Arena Commander to everyone. We’re putting the last few major components to bed and should have something we’re confident in sharing soon™.
Speaking of systems work, Paul Reindell our Lead Engineer has been putting the finishing touches on the power system for our spaceships which just wrapped up this week. Paul has put together a properly balanced power generation and drawing system with configurable priorities for different systems. Meaning that if you are drawing large amounts of power on your weapons (pew pew), depending on the settings/priorities that you have put in place, it will either maximize your firepower while drawing down the power being deployed to the shields and thrusters or reduce your fire rate and power to maintain the maximum efficiency for thrusters and shields.
It sounds fairly standard but as with everything that we do the detail is what makes the system really shine. Not only can you apply broad stroke allocations like thrusters over weapons or vice versa but you can also assign priority with that. So if for example you experience a power shortage to your weapons you can have set priorities for power to the different individual weapons that you value most to keep them firing until the last drop of energy is consumed. This approach allows more casual players to make sweeping adjustments quite quickly while allowing for players to get as detailed as they want to on micromanaging every last aspect.
As everyone knows though… With great power, comes great… Improvements to the shield system! So not only did Paul finish off the power allocation and flow system, he’s also adjusted the shield system. Part of this was necessitated to insure the shield maintained its full functionality with the finalized power system but it has also improved the granularity of control that players will have over their shields via the HUD both in the shield management tab as well as the knock on effects of decisions they make in power management. It also helps to lay the ground work for having ships with multiple shield generators drawing from multiple or single power plants and battery systems.
Power and Shields are not the only systems that got closed off this week however. The IFCS has become much more configurable for the player so they can determine how “hands on” they want it to be. One of the major additions in this week alone was introducing the ability to configure how the ship’s IFCS handles turns.
Generally in the Arena Commander (and later SC/SQ42) as you “turn” the IFCS is not only firing thrusters to orient your ship rotationally to its new desired orientation. The IFCS is also using the thrusters to arrest your velocity on your old vector align your angular velocity to your new goal orientation and keep those in sync to maintain symmetry between orientation and velocity. As you can imagine, if your main engine is at full throttle your maneuvering thrusters have to expend a lot of energy adjusting angular velocity and this can cause you to turn slower the higher your primary engine is thrusting. We decided to adjust this mode so that the IFCS would no longer limit the rate of your rotation but instead reduce your throttle so that you could maintain maximum rotation performance. This has created a much more responsive and fun experience with the IFCS fully enabled. We’ve felt like this is driving in a car with traction control enabled as the IFCS will always prevent your ship from rotating faster than your angular velocity can change, basically keeping the backend from sliding out, to further the car analogy.
Well we’ve now introduced an intermediate step where you can fly with “traction control” turned off. This allows you to change the orientation of your ship without the IFCS dampening rotation to stay in lock step with your ships velocity vector. At higher rates of speed it means you can really get these two out of alignment if you’re not careful but it also makes for some really awesome slaloming through asteroid belts and, for lack of a better term, drifting through turns.
What good would all this power and maneuverability be without some beautiful weapon effects to back it all up though? This week has seen a lot of final polish and finishing touches going into each of the weapon and damage effects. Both Casey and Forrest have been revisiting all the effects and meeting with Chris to review and revise the particulars of each effect to meet his standards. The results have been quite stunning as we’re using some very complicated layered visual effects like you would see in a major motion picture at runtime. The effects are starting to take on more of the look of a summer blockbuster than a video game. The lighting for each of the ships and effects have also gotten their final passes following the finishing of the PBR integration and conversion work that has been ongoing.
We’re all really excited as we watch this game coming together and cannot wait to share it with as soon as humanly possible. There are still a great many breaking issues left to resolve but we are getting closer to having it each and every week. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading what we’ve been up to this week in Santa Monica. As always, if you have any questions please post them to our ‘Ask a Dev’ threads!
Thank you for your continued support!
Cloud Imperium Games Santa Monica
Citizens! Hello from sunny and getting hotter Austin.
It has been a very busy week here as we get closer and closer to sharing Arena Commander with all of you. We have had many a heated exchange with offices from all around the globe as we test our servers and flight mechanics to get them just right. In addition to working on Arena Commander we got a couple of patches out yesterday, one was to upgrade the patcher itself to prepare it for bigger and better things, and the other was a Hangar patch to fix up the Oculus rift in our game, and add some cool hangar flare – like the towel for everyone that joined us before 42m, and as you know 42 is significant to our community. We also added in a calendar for subscribers – this is so they always know the correct date in 2944. :)
So, without further ado here is what the Austin team was up to this week with the dogfighting module.
In animation this week, we were skinning, rigging and animating thrusters, fixing the hangar versions and the landing gear for the 300i. We also are fixing the IK locators in the Hornet, fixing the offset in the freelancer cockpit. Fixed the canard turret, and are fixing materials for the power plant. The thruster placement on the 300i needed some work, and we exported all the 300i hangar ships and fixing the canard mannequin. In addition we dealt with the Freelancer (redacted but something really cool was here), worked out mannequin issues for the 300i and the Aurora, and are fixing cockpit animations for the button pushes and reactions.
Art has been busy this week working on the player helmet and getting it up to Star Citizen standards, we are also working on the skin materials for the new scanned heads for the game, and we are finishing up tons of components for the various ships for V1 of Arena Commander. In addition the 300i.
Our Engineers have been heads down fixing issues for the DFM, the hangar and have finalized the first version of the Match-Making service which will allow you to choose and be placed in a DFM match! We have also been working with IT to finalize the deployment of our new Build System for quicker patches – Hooray for quicker patches! Along those lines, the team has also fixed the last issues for patch 11.2 which should now be out to the public.
We have also finished up CryEngine 3.6 integration and are prepping it for the next patch for when we release Arena Commander to the Citizens.
Design has been running down/documenting matchmaking changes, fixing stuff for the hangar patch (yeah I know not Arena commander), testing Arena Commander and giving feedback as we improve it’s playability. We also did a Missile update & submitted updated ships stats for review.
We are also very busy testing the multiplayer matchmaking, and getting tons of audio into the game for your aural pleasure. As we get closer and closer to the day in which we will be blowing each other to bits in the verse the excitement continues to build in each studio. A day does not go by in which we don’t realize how lucky we are, and we can never thank you Citizens enough. Thanks for your continued support.
The best news I can report is that Arena Commander is at a point where our team in the UK is focusing less on dogfighting and more on Squadron 42 and developing capital ships. You’ll read more about that in the next monthly report, but in terms of the dogfighting module this week we have only been focusing on minor changes, balancing, bug fixes and playtesting the build. So the update from the UK is getting shorter, which is a good thing! :)
Running down the different areas:
The design team has been working to balance the shield and weapon stats for the Scythe and the Hornet (especially important for the single player ‘Vanduul Swarm’ mode.) We have also been working on balancing game modes, including fixes for the aforementioned Swarm and the Capture the Core mode.
We’ve been finishing the rigging and weighting for the Vanduul pilot, as well as creating and cleaning up finer detail cockpit animations for the player pilot. That’s things like pushing buttons, firing weapons and the like. We’ve also been cleaning up some of the effects for the Capture the Core mode.
In the graphics department, we have spent a lot of time updating the assets to work with the new 3.6 CryTek engine that we just moved over to as well as fixing some visual bugs associated with that. (It supports a lot of features we need, but also means we have to fix up any issues that come with the new build!)
We’ve also been doing some tweaks and changes to the controls for different joysticks. THere has been some work on player ejection from the Hornet in order to make it look and work better. We are also working on the HUD so that it provides even more feedback to the player so they know when they’re getting hit, how far they are from a target and so on. On the debugging front, we’ve been working an issue with ships not registering hits properly and another where VFX don’t show up correctly.
That’s all from us this week in the UK. Thanks, as always, for your support!