June 20th 2014
We are excited to announce that the first concept model of the Xi’an Khartu-al scout is now available !
As part of the development process, our artists first create a ‘concept model’ to show how a ship will work before beginning work on the finished game-ready mesh. That’s what you’re seeing today: the concept model for the scout that lets us see how its unusual thruster configurations, cockpit, landing gear and more will function!
Here’s the original description of the Scout from the Stretch Goal that added it. The goal is to build alien ships that fly totally differently than those you already know; something that Star Citizen’s robust physics simulation allows us to do!
The Khartu is the light attack craft of the Xi’an military. Contrary to Human ship design, the Khartu doesn’t have a traditional main thruster, instead featuring an array of maneuvering thrusters on articulated rigs. This design allows for incredible agility, making them the bane of UEE pilots, who bestowed the nickname ‘Quark’ because when all of the thrusters are firing, the ship looks like a spark flying through space. The Xi’an Aopoa corporation also manufactures an export model, the Khartu-al, for sale to human civilians as a dedicated scout/explorer. The export model features the same Xi’an maneuvering rig, but control surfaces modified for human use and a more limited armament.
We’ve also found some rough footage from a UEE reconnaissance drone, available below; this is a pre-viz of how the Khartu should function in-game!
Want your own scout? The Aopoa Corporation has made another allotment available for the export market! They’re not ready for the Hangar or Arena Commander yet, but we’re adding them to the pledge store for this week (through Friday, June 27.) Get yours now and you can be the first to fly when it’s ready!
The web team at Turbulent is working to build an all-new Star Citizen pledge store complete with interactive ship models… and we’re demoing a prototype of this holographic viewer for you with this announcement! This prototype is loaded up with the actual concept model of the Xi’an Khartu Scout.
The viewer is using WebGL to display the ship meshes in your browser. This technology allows us to use the GPU to display a high number of polygons on screen and also provides us with a rendering pipeline to create view options and effects with the shader API. The viewer at the moment is powered by the outstanding open source three.js library , we thank them for providing such convenience!
Star Citizen ship meshes are very large and thus required some work to get them loaded in the browser in an acceptable time frame. Most graphics card can render very high poly counts even in the browser and so transferring the model data from the web servers to your browser becomes the bottleneck. We start from a 3DS / CryEngine output of the model in pieces (which can weight over 100 megs and up!) and construct and a highly optimized and compressed binary triangle stream using the OpenCTM format. For example, the full-resolution Hornet weights about 85 megabytes in OBJ format and compresses down to 1.5 megs with this method. We can then easily unwrap and load in GL buffers without too much additional processing on the browser side. Using this method, in our test lab, we were able to load and render a 6 million polygon ship! (I will let you guess which one) Obviously, we still plan on using LOD versions for the higher end ships in order to support a broader range of hardware profiles.
As WebGL sees more adoption and support, we think harnessing it’s power to bring some of the game elements on the web though utility viewers and browsers is a great way to enhance the immersion in the game universe.
Keep in mind this is a prototype of the viewer. It has been mostly developed using Google Chrome and so should be best viewed with that browser (though it should work properly on Firefox as well, fingers crossed). As the team iterates on it many more features will be added like additional view modes, ship components and compatibility , loadout options. The goal is to bring every ship and variants available in that viewer for you to browse!
Note: If you are unable to access the viewer with Chrome, make sure that WebGL is active by typing “about:flags” in the URL bar and checking that the option “Disable Webgl” is not set.