As you may have heard, Star Citizen’s ship development pipeline has recently undergone some updating as it has moved from our Austin studio to our Santa Monica studio to be closer to Chris Roberts. For the last month, we in Santa Monica have been “in the ship” so to speak. We’ve been laying out the plan for the coming year of global ship development. And when we say global, we mean it! Chris Smith and Josh Coons are still building ships in Austin, while the team at Foundry 42 in Manchester will be using this same process to create ships needed for Squadron 42. We thought that this month represents a great opportunity to update the community on the status of all ships currently in various stage of the pipeline and use that as a touch stone to help explain the various stage of ship development, what they mean, and why they are important.
Before we go too deep into the ship development process and explanation of the pipeline we would like to take a moment to explain some changes that you may have noticed in the recent patches to some of the older Aurora, 300, and Hornet series ships already in your Hangar. If you purchased any of the variants for these ships you may have noticed that in the latest patch they look a bit different. For the last month or so the ship team has been working in close concert with members of the Santa Monica Engineering team to introduce a code driven variant system.
We are now able to build only the parts of the ship that are different for a variant which not only saves time in making the variants but also saves a tremendous amount of time maintaining the ships and fixing bugs. For example the 300, Aurora, and Hornet series all share the same cockpit with all variants in their series but, under the old system, these were all different models. This means that if we wanted to upgrade the cockpit interior in the Aurora we would have to go make the same geo changes to the Aurora LN, LX, MR, ES, CL so a single change would need to be done 5 times to have it be reflected across all the ships. Under the new system the code manages the ships more like Lego pieces attaching all the bits together. What this allows is for us to change one piece once and have that change be used across all the variants in the lineup as long as they are share that same piece. Not only is this an immense time saver in making the ships, setting up the ships, and upgrading the ships but it also allows us to dramatically decrease the amount of bugs that are created and the time it takes to fix any that crop up.
To start of this pseudo “State of the Union” on ships it is probably best to talk a bit about the pipeline itself as laid out in the above image, which is our latest process. The process itself breaks down into three primary stages which we’ve also aligned to public facing releases to you, the community. These three primary stages are as follows:
This is where we share a finalized and approved concept to the community. At this stage we’ve internally reviewed and approved the final renders after thorough exploration of functional design. A recent example of this is the Reclaimer.
This is where we have ships ready to go into the hangar of everyone who has purchased a ship. At this stage the model is mostly finalized and associated character animations are complete. If a ship has any variants our goal is to have any variants in of the ship Hangar Ready at the same time as each other. A recent example of this are the Constellations.
At this stage we’ve prepared the ships to be used in Arena Commander and later the Persistent Universe. The important differences is that we’ve refined their LOD’s, setup all of their damage states, visual effects, audio effects, final lighting, etc. A recent example of this is the M50.
Now we are going to take you on a sojourn through the intricacies of each step in the process to reaching each milestone stage. Hold onto your hats, here we go!