May 16th 2014
Let me begin with the information you most want to hear: we intend to launch Arena Commander in two weeks, on May 29th.The goal is that every backer will have access to the single player “Free Flight” and “Vanduul Swarm” games modes on this day, and the very first batch of multiplayer testers will get access to the game’s multiplayer game modes. We will scale up the multiplayer as quickly as possible starting on that date, increasing the number of players as it is stable and stopping to fix bugs where needed.
This date is based on our best possible projections using the latest information put together by Star Citizen’s production team as of this afternoon. This is a big part of what the often-unseen production side of game development does: schedule out every task they believe is required for a game to ship. Sometimes (in fact, more often than not) things go wrong and these forecasts change: bugs we don’t foresee appear, features we didn’t realize we needed become necessary and so on. This is why we haven’t had a solid release date yet; it’s not to better schedule marketing or because we want to keep you out of the cockpit… it’s because game development is a complex beast, and there are few games more complex than Star Citizen! At this point, we’re close enough that we feel fairly confident in this date… but the next two weeks will be a march!
Before I leave you to the individual studio weekly reports, I’d like to walk you through exactly what the next two weeks—if all goes well—mean for Arena Commander’s development:
After this we will continue to work hard finishing off game modes, making balancing calls and hotfixes as we spin up more and more servers, allowing for more and more concurrent multiplayer games.
As you can see, there’s a lot to do over the next two weeks and as you have seen there can be many unforeseen issues. I believe this is the best development team in the industry and we are certainly backed by the most invested, supportive community in gaming. We will keep you updated as this process continues; if there are any unexpected changes, the community will know what they are AND how they impact the schedule as soon as I do.
This is what is unique about Star Citizen – you are getting a very close and personal look at what development is like from the inside. Enjoy the ride!
— Chris Roberts
Glad to be back with you all to share our studios progress on creating the BDSSE! I want to start this week’s update a little bit differently by giving a shout out and much deserved credit to ‘our team’ which is far larger than just the folks in the studio here in Santa Monica. While we here (in Santa Monica) have been leading the development of Arena Commander, we could not have accomplished what we have without the support of our team. Our team is currently comprised of individuals working at seven different studios both internal and external working together as a single team towards creating the BDSSE. Truly, we in the Santa Monica studio are lucky to have such an amazingly talented group supporting Arena Commander’s development worldwide to make sure we deliver something that all our backers can be proud of. We in Santa Monica wanted to take the beginning of this post to acknowledge that fact and thank everyone globally for their amazing work for this amazing community!
Ok, enough globetrotting and introspection. Back to the details of what we’ve been up to here in Santa Monica! We’ve told you in the past about our amazing damage modeling on the ships so that you can blow them into literally hundreds of little pieces. Well, after you blow a ship (or two or three) into hundreds of pieces you are left with a lot of debris! I’m happy to announce we’ve finalized a system that we’re calling the “debris manager” which has been written by our Gameplay Programmer Mark Abent. While on the surface it doesn’t sound like the most exciting it actually enables a lot of the most exciting gameplay moments!
As ships fly around all of their parts, pieces, and items are controlled by the vehicle itself. As soon as damage occurs and things start popping off those entities are passed from the vehicle in the debris manager which handles everything that has detached from any ship in the game. It manages their physics, particle effects, entity IDs, LODs, distance culling, etc. Still not sounding exciting? Okay, well let us state this differently: when you are chasing and shooting at the Vanduul ahead of you and blow off his thruster which, still flaming, flies backwards at your cockpit and glances off your shield which flares up on contact, you can thank the debris manager. Later in the persistent universe when you blow off an enemy’s wing which has a powerful weapon attached to it, then fly alongside and tractor in that weapon to sell at the nearest planet, you can thank the debris manager.
Next we have some exciting updates to the HUD. As we’ve mentioned previously, the HUD is probably one of the most collaboratively worked-on pieces. It started with the initial pre-vis concept work from Johnny Likens to generate multiple look and movement ideas. Then moved to Zane Bien to concept out the actual HUD that you see in game. Once that concept was created by Zane he moved on to creating all the artwork for virtually every single piece of the HUD and cockpit displays. At the same time the Foundry 42 team worked on the programming behind the radar and targeting system. BHVR worked on the holorenderer framework which is the underlying system for hosting all the 3D holographic objects in the HUD and projected by ship displays. REDACTED even got in on the action helping with the attachment of the HUD to the glass visor of the helmet.
This week has seen us all finishing off the core features of the HUD and we’ve started to go back through for a second pass polishing the different displays, adding information/feedback while cleaning up some clutter, and optimizing the performance of the HUD and UI. It has been a long journey but as we’re seeing it come into its final form the hard work is really paying off and seeing the in-game HUD get closer and closer to Zane’s initial, beautiful, concept mockups.
On the Physics side, we’ve closed out the work remaining to implement a redout effect that was created by our graphics programmer so watch those negative G’s! On the visuals front we’ve made large progress this week on adding all kinds of cool particle effects for the various damage states and impacts inside the cockpit so you feel the incoming hits appreciate the punishment that your ship is enduring. Visual effects is another good example of where our global team has been amazingly helpful and supportive as effects are being done by artists at all the different studios and it has been a great collaborative process which has continued to push the visuals to the high level that we expect from Star Citizen.
This week we added a new member to the development team, Alex Mayberry, who has taken on the role of being the Executive Producer for Star Citizen. He and his experience is already proving valuable to the global team and improving our processes so we’re all excited to have him aboard!
Thank you as always for reading our Santa Monica Studio update as we’re always excited to share our efforts with you. Please remember, if you have any questions please feel free to post in our ‘Ask a Dev’ threads. Until next time!
Cloud Imperium Games Santa Monica
It has been a very busy week here in Austin on both the persistent universe side as well as working on Arena Commander. I’d like to write that my hands are a little tired from trying to duck and dodge missiles in testing… but the fact is we’ve been spending most of our time dealing with back-end bugs that are limiting the amount of cross studio testing. We have confidence in today’s build, though, and are really looking forward to getting back out there.
Our engineers have been working very hard on getting the bugs fixed in the multiplayer server code base, as well as finishing up the new build system hardware so we can deploy patches to all citizens in a much more efficient and timely manner. On Arena commander we feel like a big can of bug spray as we continue to hash through the code cleaning up bugs everywhere we find them, bugs on the multiplayer, client, vehicles, animations, sounds, and particles – yes sir, we have been very busy making Arena Commander a much more stable and fun place to be.
Our Designers are mostly working on the persistent universe – but every time we get into a big dogfighting, you need to be aware that they are in there, Rob Irving and his missiles are a formidable foe.
Audio has been supporting the completion of Arena Commander this week by plugging in the first versions of the final pieces of music from Pedro Camacho. We are also installing sound-effects for the many maneuvering thrusters across all ships, and sound-effects for the 300i and Aurora. We’re also making tweaks to the sound mix, as now we are able to hear what it’s like to have several other ships around you in a dogfight. Finally, we’re hard at work finishing off the player’s breathing sounds.
On the art side, our partners at CGBot made some revisions to damage meshes on the 300i and Aurora; as we were testing the ships in-game we discovered that we had been overly enthusiastic about how many bits of debris we could have on a ship, and how small they should be. CGBot took the damage for those ships and consolidated a lot of the pieces, and removed a lot of the smaller bits that ended up looking like pixie dust in the game. Meanwhile our internal team has been busy working on the helmet which gets you into Arena Commander. We also have our team creating lots of ship components, as well as continuing to adjust the ships needed in the first drop of Arena Commander.
In our animation department we were thrilled as a new animator joined us this week. Also, we have facial animation now working in engine using a combination of joints and blend shapes. We have a new camera in head system that allows for better first person experience and we continue to implement ship animations and hook them up in game. We have new updated animations for getting into and out of the 300i, and have also started on animations for the cockpit that shows the character interacting with the controls and worked on Ejection animations.
CIG Austin QA continues testing builds as they become available. We are working very closely with our new QA partners in Foundry 42. They have been a huge help with testing and providing feedback on how we can improve overall QA process. We are incredibly excited for this opportunity to extend our testing coverage farther across the globe in a nearly 24 hour cycle. Cross studio play tests continue. We are very impressed with the entire teams’ willingness to participate with the preliminary testing effort. Receiving reports and feedback from each of the disciplines is useful beyond measure. Development is moving at lightning speed. The game is already really fun and we can’t wait to share it with everyone!
Non Dogfighting tasks this week include continuing to solve mocap data for the First Person Shooter. We have a new set of no weapon animations for running around the hanger ready to be hooked up by code. We are also working on animations for upcoming commercials of our ships.
Production has been busy tracking the bug fixing tasks, and making sure that Jira is up to the minute in accuracy for the upcoming launch of Arena Commander. Our production game performance team continues to track our improvements in Arena Commander every single day, and is also working on the global ship schedule which will allow Citizens to fly all types of ships in our universe.
That’s it from Austin! We’re looking forward to a playtest tonight; until then, I have a full schedule of meetings to discuss the upcoming rollout.
See you all in the verse.
Hello from Manchester!
This week, Star Citizen’s UK contingent has been tasked with a number of polish-related tasks, to make sure the Arena Commander release you see in the near future really shines. As they say, you only have one chance to make a first impression… so we want to be sure that Arena Commander really gives players a glimpse of what’s going to be possible in Star Citizen proper.
In terms of game modes, the single player Vanduul Swarm (which we hope to have everyone playing very soon) has really been coming along this week and I’m happy to report we’re all having fun! Most of the work has been focused on getting the AI to be fun to fight against so we’ve been working on their behaviour to make their flight nice and smooth to give you that satisfying dogfighting feeling! Now that the AI are flying well we’ve also been able to work on the structure of the mode. Questions like ‘how many fighters in a wave?’ ‘how many waves?’ and ‘how tough do we make the fighters?’ are getting answered and the mode is starting to take on some structure. We’re also working on getting the unique HUD elements for the mode working as well as making the VFX as bold and satisfying as possible. We’ll have all that locked down soon but for now it’s just fun to slide in behind a Vanduul, open fire on their engines and watch the fuel tanks detonate with a satisfying boom.
Art has been focusing on Capture the Core visual effects. We have been experimenting with the lightning entities; it’s early in the process, but it shows signs of being a pretty cool visual effect that we can use in future AC drops! With the integration of CryEngine code 3.6, there has been some loss of quality on existing effects and we’ve been working through them to bring it back to the expected quality. Work has also continued on creating Conquest game type assets ready for testing with in the DFM. The Animation department has been experimenting with in-game pilot reactions and getting the Vanduul pilot ready for his Scythe!
Our programmers and designers have been helping with a million smaller tasks to help get V1 feature complete. These include polishing the HUD colour customization, updating the ITTS reticle, setting the rules for player ejection and respawn, editing the FoV and general bug fixing. We’ve tackled missile reloading for the Vanduul swarm mode, hit feedback, controller integration and done work on SFX implementation.
That’s all from Manchester; be sure to catch the monthly report in two weeks to find out about all the work we’re doing on Squadron 42 and pledge ships like the Gladiator and Retaliator!