December 4th 2014
November has been a month of continued progress and growth. Our teams have expanded and our drive and focus is at an all time high! As we speak, CIG staff from offices around the world are meeting in Manchester to talk about Squadron 42. And next week, we kick off a major motion capture session in the UK! Meanwhile, engineers around the company are working hard to lock down Arena Commander 1.0, our next major AC release, and designers in Austin are putting together the broad skeleton that will someday become the live persistent universe. We haven’t forgotten the FPS module, either: the team at no-longer-redacted Illfonic is making great progress. Read on for more details about all of these projects and more!
November has been quite a large month for Star Citizen’s development. It kicked off with the reveal of the FPS module in Australia, continued with an Arena Commander patch, introduced all ships in the 300i series, showed off some great concept pieces for upcoming ships, and has been some intense internal development on Arena Commander 1.0. Without further ado let’s get down to the department updates for Cloud Imperium Games Santa Monica.
The missile and signature system overhaul is nearing completion and should be finalized by the end of this week. This is exciting as it will totally change how all items in the game interact with signatures. Your radar, missiles, targeting computers, etc. will all behave in a much more realistic data driven fashion when interfacing with other ships. Likewise all of the items on your ship are now properly emitting their electromagnetic, heat, and cross-section signatures. Having that signatures entirely data driven based on the items, and their current status meaning that a firing weapon emits more heat, power plant under heavy load produces more EM makes for a much more dynamic and responsive gameplay experience.
Ongoing flight model improvements have been underway as well. With our first introduction of ESP for finer aiming the community helped to identify a bug in which at low frame rates ESP was observed to behave differently and intervene more than intended. We corrected this in the subsequent patch and the community identified that while it was fixed at low frame rates, at very high frame rates the same issue could be observed. For 1.0 we will be implementing the “Goldilocks” fix that should make it so ESP behaves the same (as intended) at all frame rates. In addition to this, we are moving to a new method of predicting movement in multiplayer which should significantly reduce the network traffic and also reduce the resources consumed both on the client and the server. This helps to pave the way for larger matches with more ships on a single server. Lastly, we will be going through each of the ships for a focused analysis of their thrusters for improvements to their flight characteristics.
Another development on the engineering front has been the integration of analytics capturing tools into Star Citizen. You may have seen the fruits of this in our earlier post with the release of the latest Arena Commander patch. The integration of these tools allows us to extract valuable balance information about each ship, weapon, item, maps, etc. and is a great asset to help us gain perspective and insight on the community experience and behavior which will help us to improve the player experience moving forward.
Our designers have been very focused on items, weapons, and missiles to make sure that they will fully support the new signature work going in from Engineering and take advantage of the new features being introduced. This is of course at the same time as they are working through preparing each of the new ships that are being introduced with version 1.0. As part of this they’ve been taking a pass a reworking some of the more confusing aspects of our ship items and standardizing size formats with help from the talented team in the UK. While this isn’t quite ready for public consumption just yet (still a work in progress) we are happy with the direction it is heading and it will allow us to support much more customization while keeping it easier to understand.
As we have been preparing for V1.0’s release the Design team has also spent a fair amount of time bug fixing the already released ships. While there are some bugs that the community has found for us in the currently released version there are also bugs that have been introduced with other changes that have gone into 1.0 both from us internally but also because we’re creating 1.0 from our latest codebase which includes new integration of the CryEngine rather than the .9 release branch.
The Santa Monica Art team has been working full bore on the new ships for 1.0. Since we finalized the paint system last month we decided to move to using the paint system for all ships moving forward and are also updating the already released ships to use it as well. Not only does this look much better visually and fix a bevy of bugs but it will also pave the way for us to quickly create new custom paintjobs for all these ships as well as eventual user defined paintjobs.
On top of the large volume of ship modeling and UV work that has been taking place we’ve also been creating some new weapons, missiles, and items that are being introduced with version 1.0. We are excited about these as they’re different from anything currently in the game so they present a new look as well as new gameplay opportunities.
As you might have seen during the sale last week there were also some great new concept images produced by the Global Art team in the month of November. The Carrack was the contribution of our two internal concept artists Gurmukh and Omar and we are quite happy with how it’s turned out. Turbulent also did a commendable job on the presentation of the Carrack with the mini-game that really went above and beyond!
Last but not least the HUD has been undergoing continued bug fixing as well as new artwork to support the new ships and signature system that is being introduced into the game. The HUD has changed a great deal since it was originally introduced during our dogfighting livestream in December of last year and it continues to do so as we refine it with your feedback and continue to add new features and systems into the game. We sincerely hope you enjoy the changes coming in 1.0!
Our cinematics team has wrapped up work on their upcoming ship commercial during the month of November and have moved on to a new project that we are hoping to reveal this month along with their commercial. It may not be as polished as we’d like in time but we’re trying to get it together for you guys as quickly as possible. We’ve also spent some time this month mapping out the plan for our Santa Monica cinematics team for next year, it should be an action packed 2015.
With that we’ve rounded out the update from here in Santa Monica. It’s been a full month with a lot of work going towards 1.0 coming online. As always we thank you in the community for your continued support in enabling us to work on creating this universe and appreciate your continued involvement in its development. We’re looking forward to having 1.0 ready to share with you and can’t wait to show off all the new additions. Thanks again and see you next month!
(Please see below for a corrected version of the Carrack piece shown on last week’s Around the ‘Verse!)
It’s been a very busy and productive month in the Austin studio. While progress continues on many of our fundamental long-term goals, there’s also been a lot of discussion and planning relating to the near-term implementation schedule – and precisely how some of those features will function – that will dictate which features can be shown off to the public in the first half of 2015. We’re also currently engaged in growing the live operations team that we expect to become even more important given our release schedule for the upcoming year, and towards that end there have been several recent hires and promotions.
Here are some specific team reports for your enjoyment!
ArcCorp is effectively complete, with just a few minor tweaks remaining. The next city in the development pipeline is Terra Prime, for which the art team has been doing a lot of concept and layout work, including figuring out the flight paths players will take into the city. Terra Prime is expected to be one of the most visually ambitious cities in the game, and as such we expect it to have one of the longer implementation and optimization schedules. We think you’re going to be very excited by what you see. There’s also been a considerable progress on the shops, with the TDD largely complete, Cubby Blast and the G-Loc Bar moving forward very quickly, and concept art being done for the Hospital.
A lot of concept work has also been done for the various NPCs you’ll encounter on the first few planets, and the character team has begun work on several of them, including the bartender and several different patrons.
We’re currently looking to add more art bandwidth to handle the vast number of props – bunk beds, computers, chairs, plates, lamps, and a thousand other things – that we’ll need to really make the universe feel alive, and have already created the design guidelines and concept art for some of those pieces.
Further improvements have been made to the environmental art set pipeline to help increase consistency and efficiency across the various studios, and the next group of environmental art sets – beyond Terra Prime’s “Super-modernism” – are now in the planning stages.
The design team has completed the basic layout phase for the Delamar landing zone in the Nyx system, which will be the first “Lawless” system to come online. The most challenging aspect of its design is proving to be finding just the right balance between providing players with a chaotic, lawless environment, yet still allowing them to – for the most part – buy things and acquire missions when they so choose. Nate Blaisdell and Pete Mackay have been brainstorming how exactly the FPS mechanics IllFonic has been designing will work in tandem with the other Planetside design mechanics like shopping, acquiring missions, and peaceful NPC AI. The next set of landing zones have also been identified, and work has begun on two of them.
Rob Reininger, one of our senior technical designers, has been hard at work fleshing out a comprehensive list of animations that will be needed for the initial batch of AI Subactivities being developed for Subsumption, our objective-oriented NPC AI system. That list will be utilized extensively during an upcoming motion capture shoot. Reininger has also been looking into additional features we’re going to need in SOL, our System Layout Tool that allows designers to lay out the basic architecture of an entire solar system.
Significant progress has been made on the engineering front. The first AI editor – for Static Action Zones – was completed by Tom Davies, and Jeff Uriarte has made considerable progress on a second that will allow NPC Subactivities to be constructed from component Tasks, the essential building blocks of the Subsumption AI. Moon Collider has delivered the first few pieces of the low-level AI, and Davies has been working with them to create the first few Tasks.
The low-level database functionality to allow basic persistence has been completed, and work has now shifted to setting up the database and testing.
A lot of the action has been occurring on the network front, where the chat and friends systems have moved forward dramatically. The initial functionality for those systems should come online around the middle to late December.
The hangar construction process is being modified to support multiple hangars in a single map, which is an optimization that will be required in order to effectively support the ability for players to invite other players to their hangar. To that end, the ability to extend an invitation to another player to allow them to join your hangar is also underway.
The 64-bit “large world” conversion continues, and is currently on track to finish sometime around early February 2015.
Overall, it’s been a very productive month full of many different accomplishments for our Persistent Universe team here in Austin!
Star Citizen QA kicked it into high gear this month testing Arena Commander 1.0. There is still a lot of work to be done but we are really happy with the direction the game is heading and are looking forward to sharing the progress with everyone.
Congratulations to Keegan Standifer! He has officially transitioned from QA to become Star Citizen’s newest Associate DevOps Engineer. This month we added a new member to the QA team. Please welcome Tyler Witkin! Tyler has a passion for working in the industry and has experience using multiple engine editors including Cryengine3. He will be a huge help with testing the Sandbox Editor to ensure development continues smoothly. Melissa Estrada and Andrew Hesse have been doing a great job testing the art tools to ensure the Artists are not hindered when creating ships, characters and environments. Jeffrey Pease has done an amazing job writing up QA documentation as well as being a liaison to Customer Service. He will let them know before each patch known issues, common fixes and other issues that may cause a spike in Customer Service inquiries. Jeffrey is also working very closely with Gerard Manzanares our QA Lead in Austin creating a comprehensive feature test that includes every system.
Geoffrey Coffin and Andrew Nicholson, our senior QA members in Manchester, UK have been providing very detailed and comprehensive feedback concerning ship balance and flight. Chris Hill and the rest of the QA team in our UK office have been working very closely with physics programmer John Pritchett testing ESP improvements. Having a full QA team in Manchester really helps to keep our QA coverage extended over a nearly 24 hour period. This is integral in maintaining our quick iterative development cycle.
The Star Citizen QA team is firing on all cylinders. Next month we will be continuing our focus on Arena Commander 1.0, the rollout of the public test environment as well as any other potential public releases.
The Star Citizen Dev Ops team has been busy this month improving the launcher, adding analytics to the client and server, and shipping a game patch.
Shortly after releasing Launcher Update 1.3.4, we found an issue where players were not able to connect to Arena Commander and reverted the patch almost immediately. We fixed the problem and re-released a new update two days later. We currently have Launcher Updates 1.3.5 and 1.3.6 in development, with 1.3.5 being rolled out to the company in a limited capacity this week. Launcher Update 1.3.5 has improvements to the patching code and work for a Public Test Universe, and Launcher Update 1.3.6 has been localized in French and has the work for players to select in what language they would like to play Star Citizen (note: languages other than English will come online as we localize the game; first up is French).
With the above, we know that the community has experienced problems and slowdowns when patching, so the Dev Ops team is currently evaluating several different options on how to fix as many of these issues as possible. We have also been continuing our work to improve our Build Server speeds, upload to CDN speeds, and deployment of game server speeds. Some of our focus is on automating deployment scripts and creating dynamic scaling for our Universe Cluster. Making the overall publishing pipeline faster and more dynamic will mean improved gameplay and less down time for players as more content comes online. The Dev Ops team has also been helping our server engineers run performance tests on the game as part of our quest to optimize code and continue to increase the number of players we can add to each game.
On the analytics side, the Dev Ops team has been hard at work adding metrics to be reported in the client and server code, collecting those metrics, creating reports to send out to the company, and trying to find relational statistics that we can supply to our designers and engineers. The goal is use this data to identify key information like what ships need to be balanced, what guns need to be tuned, how many players are dying crashing into asteroids, and what game modes are most or least popular.
This month, we also shipped patch 0.9.2.1, which included the Arena Commander flyable version of the 315p, a Liquor Cabinet flare item for player hangers, and game and balance tweaks. We are currently working on the next patch (0.9.2.2), which will deliver another ship to Hangar and more flare items for your hangar, all in the lead up to Star Citizen patch 1.0.0.
The Dev Ops team continues to cross train with each other so we can back up one another and create a rotating on-call schedule to provide Star Citizen with 24-hour/7-days-a-week coverage. Finally, we are looking forward to having two more team members joining us over the next two months.
This month the IT team has been quietly enhancing security around the perimeters. With improvements in performance and efficiency deployed at all locations this month we’ve turned our eyes from network transfer rates toward the never ending arms race of secure communications between servers. Obviously, the details of this project will remain classified, but we are raising our network security and data integrity standards higher than ever before.
Our build and distribution pipeline scaling project has continued to turn out dramatic results as well as dynamic challenges. Mike “Sniper” Picket has been designing new data de-duplication and distribution methods that if /WHEN successful will be some of the most promising tech we’ve seen in a long time.
We’ve already worked out our holiday schedules for everyone on the team and we were quite proud of the fact that we’re all able to accommodate our holiday plans while providing complete coverage to the company.
It’s been another busy month again for us in the UK. Always helps when the temperature is plummeting outside and it’s raining, as there is no reason to be anywhere else but in the office. We’ve made great strides with S42, from everything from getting all our Vanduul and UEE capital ships into the production pipeline, using the new modular system to really start building out the levels in the game, as well as charging forward with the Character pipeline. Not to mention taking all of Illfonics cool FPS work (along with Moon Collider’s AI) and incorporating it into our working branch so we can have combat in the levels. Arena Commander 1.0 work is going well in collaboration with the rest of the studios, and we’re just about to kick off the first tests and actual final animation with our first UK motion capture shoot which is taking place in London over the next couple of weeks.
Loads of info below for you below from the guys. Everybody have a fantastic holiday break, enjoy yourselves, and I look forward to updating you guys (and showing all the cool stuff) next month!
This month we’ve created the interior Tier building set for Shubin Interstellar. It’s really basic whitebox geometric split up into individual building blocks which can be used to create an almost infinite variety of layouts. Design department can now run free and create environments using this building set without needing art support, leaving the art team to get started on the Greybox phase
We’re also starting to get an understanding of what being Inside the facility is like and drive the types of artistic experience you get as you engage in various missions – not only will it be functional but also mechanically beautiful in its own way!
The Vehicle team has been hard at work this month! We’re preparing the Gladiator for Hangar release along with further development and refinement of the Retaliator interior, we have 3 guys on this so its shifting along at a good pace. As you know the Gladius was released into the hangars a couple of weeks ago and so now it’s time to get the ship Flight ready which also means we are going to test the new damage system in-engine very soon! Our tech department has been working hard along with our artists to bring a more resource light but visually heavy damage system up and running (watch this space)The Argo Utility vehicle is getting some further attention and will make a great addition to the fleet. The Idris and Javelin capships are still ongoing for their interiors, both of them will feature heavily in SQ42 and we really want to make these ships shine! And last but not least for ships, we are creating the final versions for the Gladius and Gladiator weapons and missile racks.
The Retaliator, oh the beautiful Retaliator – it’s being rigged and animated and its continuing its journey to deliver a visual treat! Previz animations are being pumped out for testing out our conversation system as well as making sure the sleeping pods/ rescue pods system works as we hoped.
Gladiator is being finalized for hangar ready, not long now and you’ll be looking around and taking movies of its loveliness! (you can tell we are fans :D)
Finally, prep for the mocap shoot is underway! Teams from around the company are visiting next week and we’ll be tackling all the issues that remain in the cinematic pipeline to deliver the experience the fans expect.
Damage effects, damage effects and more damage effects! :) Specifically, better quality smoke, fire, sparks and explosions, both interior and exterior along with a smattering of Arena Commander map VFX improvements and bug fixes
This month we’ve successfully built and tested our facial scanning rig; it’s a thing of beauty – well, we think so :D We have 48 SLR cameras perfectly timed to capture the likeness of a model within 1/100’s of a second as well as capture the 70+ facial expressions we will use to drive the facial animation.
3Lateral and Infinite Realities gave the studio a visit too, ensuring our rig and processes are world class and the results we are seeing are fantastic. We’re also exploring the possibility of using the camera rig for other purposes, such as creating light probes, PBR and material surface calibration as well as scanning other items and objects like a hand (but we can do whatever – a rock, a hat, a gun etc)
We’ve assembling a shortlist of some of the most impressive and beautiful body models that we can scan, process and model to create the foundations for all of the new characters and character customisation system within the Star Citizen universe, with these and the new pipeline, it will take the very best of what star citizen has to offer and look ahead to pushing the quality of the all of the characters within the star citizen universe – we are shooting for the moon, nay, the stars on this one!
Hello again everyone!
In November, we’ve been getting the ship computer voice stuff updated – pick-up sessions with those ship computers that we already have are coming. And getting a whole new ship computer voice recorded too, Drake. Aegis we need to cover so that’ll be coming next month. The UI sound scheme is something we’ve been working hard on for the different manufacturers; trying to get that meaningful and consistent but stylistically different across them all is a challenge. In fact, here are some words from Stefan about this very subject:
Recently the audio team has been putting some thought into the ship computer UI sounds. Some of the messages are so important that it is imperative that the player understands them. Because of this we have devised rules for some of the most critical of sounds.
The idea is to impart meaning through the sounds rather than just inherit it over time (through repetition of the event in-game). Therefore Morse code has been loosely used to help describe the sonic response. Each manufacturer will follow these rules but the tonality of the sounds will be different. If you’d spent your whole time in the ‘verse driving an Aegis ship and then decided to become a space pirate and jump in a Drake ship you should still be able to understand the UI sound for the critical sounds but also hear the different character of the sounds for each manufacturer.Sounds will be layered on top that do not fit within the suggested rhythm’s to add interesting design ideas/character and possibly add more meaning (dissonant honks might indicate a more serious warning for example). Just to add in a bit of a twist we’d likely change these rules for alien races to help it feel like a more alien environment.
|Ui/Warning Name||Rhythm||Sound Rules||Rationale for Rule Creation||Example|
|System Down||.- …||the ‘-’ should bend upwards in pitch.||Manufacturers might standardize such a sound to avoid loss of life (and ships!).|
|Shields Down||…||Each ‘.’ should descend in pitch (sort of like the UI is reflecting a power down).||Manufacturers might standardize such a sound to avoid loss of life (and ships!).|
|Objective received||—-||Three longer beeps. Should be pretty neutral sounding in tone.||Objectives are very important to the player. Ensuring that these are communicated without confusion is very important.|
|Missile Locking Me||— .-||Same as Missile locked me but without the ‘-’ rising pitch.||Manufacturers might standardize such a sound to avoid loss of life (and ships!).|
|Missile Locked Target||—||The last ‘-’ should be a fifth (or octave) above.||It seems reasonable to think that manufacturers would standardize such a sound to make such a drastic action (locking missiles!) obvious.|
|Missile Locked Me||— .-||Each ‘-’ should rise in pitch.||Manufacturers might standardize such a sound to avoid loss of life (and ships!).|
|Missile Lock Lost||—||The last ‘-’ should be a fifth (or octave) below.||Manufacturers might standardize such a sound to avoid loss of life (and ships!).|
|Missile Evaded||— .||Each note should rise in pitch in order to sound ‘positive’.||Manufacturers might standardize such a sound to avoid loss of life (and ships!).|
|Life Support Offline||.- .-..||Timed in the same way as the example.||Manufacturers might standardize such a sound to avoid loss of life (and ships!).|
|Ejection Warning||.- .||The ‘-’ should rise in pitch. The sound should repeat as long as the warning is displayed.||Manufacturers might standardize such a sound to avoid accidental ejection.|
|Critical Hit Alarm (taken hit)||.-
||Each of the -‘s should bend upwards in pitch.||Important to understand damage taken.|
|Collision||Should repeat as the warning repeats.||Manufacturers might standardize such a sound to avoid unnecessary damage to ships.|
Ships: Gladiator – we’ve has been working on that, getting to Hangar Ready for you all so that all moving parts make required sound where possible. Everything Is quite ship-focused for us right now as you can tell. We’ve been looking at thrusters, we really want to up our game with those and it’s quite a complex system so bear with us on that; a lot of work’s being done in this area. It’s related to the missile system too which we’re looking at currently for a future release.
Generally, in audio we’ve been ramping up on getting resources in, making sure we have the tools we need. This has involved talking to all sorts of talented people as well as getting in software and hardware for evaluation. We have a new sound designer starting here in January which is excellent news! And we’re still searching in that area… get in touch if you’re a great sound designer reading this, we’re always on the look-out currently.
As far as the back-end of audio goes – Wwise integration steadily continues on the programming side, we’re almost at a stage where we can start the process of taking our assets across from FMOD to Wwise. It’s a pretty big job, however! And there’s just no automatic way to go about it, really is quite a lot of authoring work.
Also this month we’ve been talking to companies about 3D Audio. That includes binaural, high resolution HRTF, room modelling (delay, or echo, and reverberation models) and spatialisation. It’s a pretty competitive space but it’s an interesting field to look into. This will benefit most those of you that immerse yourself with headphones, and longer term for any VR systems such as Oculus Rift obviously. However it is still relevant to those listening on speakers; all those delays/reverbs provide spatial cues for everyone!
Stefan did some rather cool stuff involving some old speakers, taking them apart, balancing various objects on the drivers and playing UI sounds out of them in order to ‘dirty them up’ for one of the ship manufacturers. We’d love to show you this but the videos just don’t seem to want to get off the camera/phone that we used! But we’ll work on it and try to get that to you next time.
Okay, that’s all for now! Thanks for listening.
A lot of work this month going on underneath the bonnet of Star Citizen, work which is never immediately apparent but necessary to make sure we can deliver on all the features for the future. Moving over to Wwise for our audio is a good case in point. Initially the audio in the Wwise Perforce stream has taken a large step back with most of it no longer working, and over the next few months there will be a lot of work just getting it back to where we are at the moment, but going forwards it will allow us to do so much more with all the tools and tech it affords to make Star Citizen not only the best looking, but also the best sounding, game out there!
Similarly we are refactoring the vehicle seat code, which will involve some pain to begin with, but is required to make our multi-crewed capital ships work in the way we want them to work. We’re helping out with the other studios with server optimizations to increase the number of players that can connect to a game, moving over to a global entity id which will allow players to move between servers in the PU, and the new StoryForge tool, built upon DataForge, to help the designers/scriptwriters set up dialogue and conversations. We’ve also done a localisation pass as well, transferring all of the hardcoded strings from the code/xml files into our database now that our localisation system is up and running.
Finally on the Squadron 42 side we’re continuing to do work on the various game mechanics we require, including zero-g traversal, a new looting mechanic, takeoff/landing and the conversation/reputation system. And we’re continuing to polish and refine the Arena Commander module for its 1.0.0 release.
We’ve been continuing our work on the volumetric gas shader and we’re at a point where the artists and level designers can start to ‘white box’ their level with the shapes of these gas clouds. They can do this by creating a simple mesh defining the overall shape and the code then turns this into a fluffy gas cloud by adding all the complexity to the broad shape, and this frees the artists from modelling minute details on the gas clouds. The next stage will be to start work on the lighting and shadows which is the most complex part of volumetric rendering.
We’ve also been making progress on the new ship damage shader, and aim to have a visual prototype working in December. This will include precise location specific dents, burn marks & embers, and even holes in the weaker areas of the hull, and the aim is to give players more dynamic and impressive effects that really tell the story of what impacts your ship has taken.
The rest of our focus has been on fixing issue for upcoming v1.0.0 release, improving the distant star rendering to give show much more detail and greater artist flexibility, and looking into various performance improvements.
Another productive month for design over here in the UK.
Arena Commander has been progressing well towards V1 . The rear view camera first implementation is in and the chase cam has been improving greatly. Single player “Vanduul Swarm” now has 18 waves, and balancing is going well. Also, first implementation of self-destruct is now in and working, this will be getting more love post V1 . More work has been put into the scoring balancing and that is something we will continue tweaking when we get all the backer feedback. All the new art assets have all gone into the race maps and the end game camera now works. We have designed the AC tutorial but it won’t make it in for V1, hopefully V1.1 now.
The Tech guys have got the Gladiator hanger ready now and it’s looking nice. The Avenger and Cutlass should be flight ready by V1 as they are progressing well. We are still looking at the cockpit layouts for all of the ships and standardizing screen ratio’s across all of them so that the HUD information can be configured to suit the player. We made an Idris test-bed to run some AI scenarios to see how it’s turrets operated. It’s very early days on this but it did prompt a few suggestions for additional coverage in a couple of areas.
S42 is progressing well with new “White-Box” reviews being done on the various locations. The modular Shubin base components are staring to roll in from art and they look great! I can’t really give much away on the S42 side because of spoilers which is a blow considering we have about 80% of our design resources here working on that title. Thanks again for all the super useful input from the community. I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas and I’m really looking forward to us getting some awesome content out next year.
We finished the month of November by visiting our colleagues in Austin. This 3-day meeting was meant to finalize all the remaining details regarding the next iteration of the Persistent Universe. We now have a clear plan and we’ll be doubling our effort to show you our latest development early next year. Throughout the meetings, you, the fan, were always at the center of our discussions in order that we deliver to you the best PU experience possible.
Here is what the different departments worked on during November.
First off, the Level Design team has been hard at work on preparing and supporting tons of planetside locations that are still unannounced. We’re tackling the first two planets that you’ll be able to visit.
The TAG system, room system and mobiGlas easyShop app have been put together to prototype the first shop and test development processes that were to date mere theories. We’re glad to say that our tests have proven to be very promising. We were able to spawn procedurally generated shop layouts and their dynamic content based on various factors such as the shop economic data and specific tag requests. This means that you, the explorer, will visit dynamic shops that are able to update their content on the fly, and we developers are able to create shop variations much quicker.
Lots of energy has been put into the mobiGlas device, focusing on making global features polished and visually stunning. We want to make sure that once you get your hands on it, it feels closer to a real product than a traditional game interface. The first iteration will not even be close to what we’re envisioning for the final product but we think you’ll appreciate it. One example of this effort is the augmented reality mode which we want to integrate into the environments.
We’ve also been hard at work on developing the first iteration of skyLine, the nav map that’ll allow you to plan routes and find destinations. skyLine will soon grow into a full atlas, which will provide lots of useful information about the celestial bodies found in the Star Citizen universe.
Now I need to take a moment and be serious, because booze is a serious matter. A nefarious bug got through to the release build which caused the spirits in the liquor cabinet hangar flair object to lose their alcoholic content! But no worries! Booze and partying will prevail. We’ve fix the bug and refined our pipeline and QA model to prevent this happening ever again. We were the first to be disappointed by the missing feature. The next patch should fix the liquor cabinet and you’ll be able to get virtually drunk :D. Don’t drink and fly!
As a last note, working closely with our partners in crime Turbulent, we’ve prepared a couple of surprises for you for the Holidays. To discover what they are, visit your hangar during the Holidays or consider becoming a subscriber if that isn’t already the case, that would make a nice Christmas gift don’t you think? ;)
This month we’ve been working on refining the Terra playable area and its backdrop terrain. We’ve been focusing on a big atrium where vegetation blends with slick manmade structures and takes place in a large, iconic building. We also explored what a medical unit will look like on planetside locations.
Three new shops were successfully finished. We helped develop the dynamic spawning system. This will eventually allow us to display items to purchase on shelves. A good amount of time was spent on optimising ArcCorp, to ensure a good fps. In preparation for December, we began two new shops. Finally, we finished the December flairs along with something special.
On the programming side, we started working on the Multiplayer functionality of a Hangar. Players will be able to invite their friends into their Hangars so they can show off their awesome Ship and Flair Collection. We’ve added the necessary support so that Hangars are now generated using the Room System. We’ve also been hard at work on implementing the gameflow needed in order for a Player to join a Lobby after receiving a Lobby Invite. Last but not least, we’ve continuously provided support to make new Ships either Hangar-Ready or Dogfighting-Ready.
This month, as mentioned by design, we’ve made some big advances in various mobiGlas apps as we get ready for a big internal milestone coming up soon. We now have a working shop flow, a shop splash page with a featured item that utilizes the Tag system, a catalog list view for more efficient browsing, and the mobiGlas Home screen is looking pretty slick.
Arena Commander Lobby work is progressing well. We are also working on integrating a contacts list inside and outside of the Arena Commander interface.
Work continues as we strive to bring more features, bug fixes, and new improvements to the pause screen and keybindings interface.
We also spent some time at the CIG office in beautiful Austin Texas right before the Thanksgiving holiday, to talk about all things PU and to sync up on what we are planning for the eventual release of the social module.
November was a busy month here at IllFonic. While we did collectively let out a sigh of relief after PAX, there is still much work to be done before the FPS module is ready for prime time. This month was spent planning out the features for the module release, and blocking out all the levels, weapons and gadgets that will be included.
We have been doing lot’s of R&D work on zero-g movement and a programmatic push/pull system to navigate in zero-g when you are without a jetpack or gravity boots.
The cover system was also reworked to feel more intuitive and natural. This basically entailed shifting from a manual snap in cover system to procedural system that triggers automatically when you are near something that would work as cover. It plays and feels much better than the old system and we’re pretty happy with it.
The other large bit of work that has been happening is with prone and crawl spaces. With the new system, players will be able to get into vents and crawl spaces to sneak stealthily around environments.
The design team has been concepting and white boxing the new levels that will be coming out with the FPS module. One of these levels is focused on the zero-g push/pull system and is a pretty unique experience. We really think you citizens are going to enjoy it.
The artists have been working on more weapon and gadget assets. This includes touching up the current items along with creating some new ones as well. One of those is a grappling hook of sorts which should come in pretty handy during zero-g…
The animation team has been supporting engineering with block-out animations for the new systems that are coming online. We also had a visit from some CiG folks to discuss the new animations that will be captured next week and improving the animations quality overall.
Lastly, we had a visit from some local redditors who are also Star Citizens. They brought us some BBQ (which was excellent) and got to meet with the FPS team here. Thanks for the grub guys!
Another month down, the end of the year is near, and still so much to do. November was one of our most exciting so far, with so many new ships to show, the Anniversary sale, and the community’s amazing feedback at every turn.
Throughout November we’ve been building the foundations of what the whole website will be going through in 2015. A lot of it has already been announced, and we have a few surprises up our sleeves, but it’s safe to say that next year will be a defining step in the whole platform’s evolution.
Big things are in the works for the website’s front page and main hubs. It’s a known issue that even though experienced users get around the site easily, and a lot of helpful citizens regularly show the new recruits around, it can be difficult for fresh newcomers to understand what makes Star Citizen unique. It’s a record-smashing crowdfunded project, that features groundbreaking mechanics and the richest universe ever explored, and it needs to show just that from the first page. That’s why we’ve been working relentlessly on a new design that will convey the game’s spirit and possibilities to newcomers, while keeping you, the veterans, at ease with the platform you know so well. Part of this “guide” will be asking a crucial question : what can you actually be in the finished game? We’ll take advantage of the rich game mechanics announced and the variety of ships to propose careers that can fit your play style. Scarce at first, these careers will be fuelled by your ideas and suggestions as time goes by.
We won’t focus solely on new users though : get ready for a whole new level of involvement with the rest of the community. We’ve been brainstorming with Ben Lesnick’s team in LA to come up with new and exciting ways for anyone to show their support directly on the site. We’re planning for a new Community Hub for next year, where regulars can keep up with everything happening not only at CIG, but in the whole community as well. Featuring all types of contents, videos, streaming, fan art… the Community Hub is bound to become any true fan’s new homepage.
Speaking of the Community, we’ve also been preparing new tools for everyone with an account: as announced, the first release of the RSI Contact List is almost here, where you will be able to Follow users you notice on the Chat, Forums, Comments or Leaderboards. This contact list is destined to be shared with the Star Citizen game client to be part of the Lobby System. And that’s just step 1, as future releases will introduce Friends as 2-way accepted contacts and will even be able to show the detailed status of players. This account-to-account relationship system is an enormous project in itself, and it brings fabulous new possibilities to the game.
We’ve seen the Arena Commander Leaderboards being used as a recruiting tool for Orgs, and for that we can’t wait for you all to see the next release, that will include detailed player stats as well as Org stats. We’ve been building the ranking algorithms that will allow us to make a fair assessment of Orgs’ levels and skills, working close with the Manchester Office to make it into a powerful tool, not just a table.
Who here is already a Cartographer? This month was particularly cool for us as it saw the release of our first ever minigame for Star Citizen. As for the 890 JUMP luxury brochure and the Herald’s intercepted communication, we feel that Concept ships are so individually special that they each deserve their own unique treatment. So we’ve requested the help of Star Citizen’s concept artists Gurmukh, Omar and Chris, the amazing writers Dave and William and even the game’s own composer Pedro to bring you this first look at Exploration could be in Star Citizen. We’re extremely grateful of CIG’s help, and very proud of this side-project that’s dear to us. Of course, don’t expect a minigame for each new concept ship coming, but you can count on us to stay committed and try and bring you a new experience every time.
That’s all for this month, see you all out there!
At Moon Collider we’ve had a solid month of adding new features to all major AI areas: dogfighting in the upcoming Arena Commander 1.0 release; character and ship combat behaviors for Squadron 42; and NPC behaviors for the persistent universe. After a fairly heavy month of design work in October, this month was a lot lighter on design and most of our time was spent implementing some of the cool features we were designing last month.
On the design front, we were mostly focused on working with the PU team in Austin to flesh out the interfaces between different systems that are involved in controlling NPCs in the PU and giving them interesting things to do. We’re now starting to implement basic tasks that the NPCs can perform and so some time was spent designing out some of these tasks and helping the Austin team design and implement their initial tasks so that they can start building up a library of things for NPCs to do.
We’re continuously working to improve our debugging tools, and one that we’ve mentioned a few times in the past is the AI Recorder, which allows designers and coders to record a game session and then play it back or inspect individual frames to see what the AI was doing, in order to make improvements or find bugs. One thing that we’re still lacking is a neat and simple way for people to take a specific recording (or section of a recording) and share it with others. So we spent some time this month looking into this and designing how this should work, and we plan to get this working soon so we can really start taking full advantage of this tool.
We did quite a lot of work on Arena Commander this month in the lead up to the 1.0 release. One very interesting bit of work was a fix for a bug that was reported to us by the community, where people noticed that AI would sometimes crash into asteroids without trying to avoid them. It turned out that with some recent changes to increase map size and add lots of new obstacles onto them, we had actually gone over our maximum budget for the number of obstacles an AI could detect and handle! We fixed the problem but increasing the limits came with some performance costs, so we then spent some extra time optimizing our spatial database code to offset this. Suffice to say, this little exploit will not be possible in 1.0!
Another feature we added for Arena Commander was to allow AI to properly handle radar occlusion. This is a new feature that makes ships disappear from radar when they go behind obstacles, which was making the AI get confused when their target would suddenly disappear. So we had to do some upgrading of their behaviors to add awareness of the occlusion feature and behave sensibly when it happens.
A small feature we added that we expect to be used a lot more in the future is the concept of ‘attractor points’. These are points that can be added by designers into levels to influence the behavior of ships under certain conditions. For now, you’ll see these in the form of ‘idle attractors’, which are points that ships will tend to head towards when they don’t have any targets. This allows us to keep ships heading back towards the central areas of maps, which helps to reduce gameplay drifting towards map boundaries.
On the Squadron 42 front, we’ve been doing work on both ships and characters. For ships, we’ve added in stunt and attack splines, features that we mentioned we were designing in last month’s report. As a quick reminder, stunt splines are paths that designers can place in levels to allow AI to do funky maneuvers that their obstacle avoidance would normally stop them from doing, such as flying through tight spaces or a cluster of obstacles. Attack splines are also designer placed paths, but these are used to tell AI how to do things like bombing and strafing runs on big targets.
Another cool feature we added for ships is a simple target management system. We have plans for making this more sophisticated in the future, but it’s very useful even in its current form. This system is a way for designers to balance how many AI will target the player or enemy AI, to stop them from ganging up on one target while ignoring others (unless we want that, of course!). Designers can now rank different AI ships based on how big a threat they represent, and then specify how much threat the player or another AI should be allowed to have on it at any time. But because this can be changed in game at any time, it’s also possible that if you go and do something really reckless on a mission, the designer may just set it up so that the AI makes you very aware of your recklessness!
For character AI, we’ve been adding several new flowgraph nodes for designers to use to control AI and set up level logic to help make the AI respond to what the player does. We’ve also been adding in improvements to how the AI uses cover when in combat. Up to now they’ve been going to cover but unable to shoot at the player without stepping out. So we’ve now given them the ability to shoot from cover, which makes them much more effective. Unfortunately, they were already crack shots and now they’re even harder to hit, so we need to do some work on making their combat proficiency tunable so we can differentiate between different classes of enemy and actually give the player a fighting chance against them! Expect to hear more about that next month.
Finally, for the PU, we did a lot of work on the task framework that NPCs will use to decide what they should be doing and then execute those decisions. We’re now at the point that NPCs can find an appropriate activity and execute it, which we prototyped via the extremely glamorous task of making a shopkeeper NPC notice some garbage on the ground and a broom nearby, and go ahead and sweep up the garbage! Now we’re in the position to start expanding the library of tasks that NPCs can perform, which is work being done by us and the other PU teams.