April 3rd 2015
Between PAX East and South By Southwest, it seems like we were all over the country in March! But there was a lot more than presentations this month: we released Star Citizen 1.1 to the community, we made significant updates to the server side of Star Citizen thanks to thousands of new players joining us… and behind the scenes, we made amazing progress on the FPS module, Squadron 42, the persistent universe and more. Read on for a detailed accounting of what each team handled this past month.
Welcome back for another monthly report! As the month of March comes to a close and we usher in April, it’s a good time to look back and reflect upon what was accomplished! March saw the release of the 1.1.0 update for Arena Commander, as well as the public showcasing of our work on the FPS and Social modules at PAX East and SXSW respectively. Not only is it always a pleasure to demonstrate and showcase our work at these kinds of events, but it is also a great joy to be able to meet with all the backers who attend and share our enthusiasm for making the BDSSE! It’s always very inspiring and motivating for team members to be able to meet with Citizens and discuss the project. Our ability to make this dream a reality is all predicated on your support and shared vision and we deeply appreciate that support! Alright, well without further ado let’s go on to the Santa Monica studio discipline updates!
With the release of 1.1.0 we introduced the new landing mechanic which saw support from our Physics Wizard, John Pritchett. While it may seem trivial to fly over and land on a landing pad there are actually quite a few systems working under the hood that need to be properly networked with other players such as in multiplayer free flight. Many issues were encountered and dispatched during the bug fixing phase of this feature. It also highlights what is great about modular development. With the introduction of the landing feature to Arena Commander you are able to test the landing mechanics for all ships in a single-player and networked environment. This means that by the time we get to the release of SQ42 and the Persistent Universe we will have this battle hardened feature up so we can focus more on content creation and polish rather than feature development.
1.1.0 also saw the premiere of the new ship damage system on the Gladius. We are now in the process of improving that system and bringing it across to the other ships in the game. We are not stopping there however! Our engineering team is currently in the process of updating the actual system by which we apply damage and moving to a physically based system for the application of damage. What this means is that rather than each projectile (energy or ballistic) having a prescribed damage value against shields, hull plating, or components we are actually going to base the damage off the mass, velocity, and density of the projectile. Likewise on the ships we will be expanding the materials and the properties of their hull plating and shields to react in a proper way to the physical characteristics of the rounds impacting them. It is a very exciting change and one that we hope to be releasing in the near future, soon™.
In the Design department our team has been kept quite busy throughout March with the introduction of REC, the Retaliator, Gladius, Vanguard, and preparation for the release of another ship. The team has also been working on the introduction of “rear seat” functionality for our two-seater dogfighting ships which we plan to release as a stepping stone to full multi-crew ships. With the complexity of each of our ships, weapons, and items it cannot be stressed enough just how much detailed work our Design team applies to the release of each.
As some of you may already be aware, our Design team is also working on a new game mode, Pirate Swarm. This mode will allow players to engage against waves of enemy ships similar to Vanduul Swarm except that the opposing ships will be comprised of every flyable ship that we currently have in dogfighting. This will be a great way for folks to experiment and practice against human flyable ships that are piloted by AI. Like most everything we do, this mode is also a great development building block towards the Persistent Universe and Squadron 42. Not only does it let us improve our ship AI by having the AI control a variety of ships but it also allows us to begin implementing some of the dynamic mission parameters that will be featured in the Persistent Universe. The goal for Pirate Swarm is not to just have a preset number and type of ships per wave but instead to have the types of ships, AI skill, and number of ships scale dynamically based off the number of players, their equipment, and their skill/success. It should prove to be a very exciting and dynamic game mode that will serve as a great test bed in the future.
With the upcoming release of the FPS module we really wanted to update the character models that you’ve seen previously at the PAX presentations. To this end Forrest Stephan, our CG Supervisor, has been overseeing and participating in a rework of all 8 character models for the FPS module. Both he and one of our Concept Artists, Omar Aweidah, have spent much of March in Austin with the character artists there refining and updating the models, materials, textures, and helmets for each of the characters. With our burgeoning Character Pipeline we are starting to apply many of the process and techniques that have been mastered in our Ship Pipeline. We are moving away from using the classic character modeling techniques that have been used in the past and taking better advantage of some of the features of CryEngine and Star Citizen, especially PBR (Physically Based Rendering) and the use of polys over normals, and hard surface modeling techniques used on non-cloth parts of the characters. All in all there has been great progress, and we hope that you guys are happy with the look of our updated characters when they make their debut in the FPS module.
Meanwhile, development of new ships, weapons, and items continues unabated. We’re building a huge universe and we’re working to populate it as best we can! March saw the unveiling of the concept for the Aegis Vanguard which ended up turning out really well and we’re quite proud of it! We’ve also had ongoing concepts for some larger ships which we’ll be premiering in the near future as soon as they’re completed. At the same time our internal modeling team has been working diligently on building out ships like the Herald, P-52 Merlin, Xi’an Scout, and even starting in on the Vanguard. We’ve also been making great progress on the reworks to the Constellation and Freelancer as they get updated to using our latest modeling techniques and the modularity system. These ships will be ready to show off their new looks with the release of multi-crew ship functionality in Arena Commander.
That brings our departmental updates to a close for this month. We have all reconciled our March goals against the progress made and are looking forward to continuing strong into April with our updated monthly objectives. As we wind down the Santa Monica studio report for March, we would all like to thank each of you reading for your support in making this game a reality. All of the people working on this project and all of the development that you’ve read about in our update as well as the updates from the other studios that you’re about to read would not be possible without you! So from all of us here in Santa Monica, thank you for your support and we hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the progress we’ve made during the month of March.
CIG Santa Monica
March has been a great month for the Austin team. We had a blast supporting PAX East and participating in SXSW with several different events, and we revealed some work from the Austin Persistent Universe team! Our Live Operations team has been hard at work with the release of Version 1.1.0 and then a ton of research and work on improving multiplayer support and capacity on the live servers. We’ve also fired up our nascent ‘Game Support’ team to bolster our Live Operations activities and you’ll see a new report from Will in the Live Ops section of the team reports below!
True to form, March has been a busy month for the PU Art team. We’ve had several different “hero” props in the works, with concepts being done by Ted Beargeon and Ken Fairclough on things like hulking radar dishes and solar panels for space stations, holo-object viewing kiosks for our shop locations, and the Medical Display Carousel prop which features prominently in the Medical Unit. We also have multiple outsourcers cranking away on minor props that will flesh out our planetside environments, at the moment specifically ArcCorp and Terra.
The first half of this month our character team was working long hours to support the video you guys saw at SXSW. We had several new faces appear in that video, including the bartender, nurse, and a few bar patrons and workers. Recently our character artists have switched from supporting the Social Module release to helping out full time on the FPS characters. They’re making tweaks to the armor, materials, and helmets to ensure that they are the best they can be for when the first drop of FPS hits (SOON!).
In other news we’ve been developing the look and feel of NPC’s in the PU with the help of Megan Cheever and another external vendor. We are setting it up so that, depending on a specific planetside location’s sphere of influence (Terra, Earth, Frontier, etc.), the NPC’s will have a slightly different aesthetic. We’ve been defining what those aesthetics are and how they all relate to one another, specifically this month working on the Terra-influenced White Collar aesthetic and the Frontier-influenced Counter Culture aesthetic.
Speaking of different spheres of influence, Mark Skelton has been defining the aesthetic of various architectural styles within the Persistent Universe. The styles we are developing are all deeply entrenched in the lore of Star Citizen and reflect the era in which they were built. We just recently wrapped up defining the “Colonialism” style, which represents a style you might find on a world very recently colonized. We are also actively working on the “Monumentalism” style, the “Hennowism” style, and the “Streamline” style. We look forward to showing these off to you as they come online.
Our Animation team has their hands dipped into several different areas of the project. We’ve got Daniel Craig and Jay Brushwood helping to get the Gladiator interactions running smoothly. Vanessa Landeros is working on drunk animations for booth, walking, and idle positions. David Peng has been standardizing cockpit templates so that our ship modelers going forward can be as consistent as possible. Lastly, Lead Animator Bryan Brewer has been working on an animation set we like to call “Grabby Hands”. More on that later!
Last but not least, Patrick Thomas has been hard at work bringing the mobiGlas object itself to life. Pretty soon we will have a beautiful, intricate prop to go with the amazing UI work being done up at BHVR.
Much of the designers’ time this month was spent setting up and capturing the footage for the video shown at SXSW here in Austin. Lots of great stuff went into that video and we have Nate Blaisdell, Rob Reininger, and Sean Tracy to thank for much of what was shown.
Pete “Weekly Weather Wizard” Mackay has been developing a tool called the “Thruster Calculator” that, you guessed it, calculates thrust for our ships. It’s a very robust tool that should help us greatly in the long run when trying to balance our ships.
New Design Director, Todd Papy, came over from Frankfurt and spent a week with Tony Zurovec discussing high level design for Star Citizen and delving into the nitty gritty of things like NPC AI. Some great discussions came out of Todd’s time here that you’ll get to see the fruits of hopefully in the not-too-distant future.
As the release for the Social Module inches closer, ironing out details and specifics becomes a top priority. Things like what will the shopping experience be like, what happens when a player tries to enter an area meant only for NPC’s, and how will players interact with objects all become important questions to figure out answers to as soon as possible. We’ll continue to nail things down as we progress into April.
March was a month of marvel and wonder for our ATX programming team. Their BIG ticket item was our contribution helping our SXSW demo come to life as well as their support for our recent 1.1.0 patch. Thank you to all of the great folks who came out to support Start Citizen at SXSW; our team had a great time mingling with the lot of you while consuming delicious Star Citizen themed alcoholic beverages!
Our networking team has been rocking it hard! They’ve made some strong progress on a variety of systems, including: Multiplayer Hangars, Ship and Missile Movement Prediction, Player Persistence, Universe Simulator, Chat, Emotes and more! They’ve also been building out the base foundation of the game’s network architecture.
We also have some engineers dedicated to building out our services to accommodate our growing numbers of players, and investigating ways to optimize our networking performance and to increase server scalability.
We held a successful Network Summit here in Austin. We flew in many core members from across the globe to begin our next phase of planning for new features on our horizon and for the many boundaries that we plan to push. We were also able to share a bit of Austin culture during SXSW with our engineers from abroad—and they loved every second of the experience!
Our ninja-commando strike team of programmers also continue to develop and iterate on a variety of tools for use across all CIG studios. These…oft unsung heroes…have tirelessly and enthusiastically been developing AI Editors, Asset Tools, and other tools to support our team and enable us to make our game.
To top it all off, our engineers got to enjoy some green beer on St. Patrick’s Day with the entire studio…which allowed them time to reflect on their past accomplishments with their co-workers and dream of the great things we have planned. Everyone is looking forward to April and excited to continue progress on the Persistent Universe!
The month of March was business as usual for QA. For most of the month, the team focused on testing 1.1.0 and was very excited for its successful release. In addition to testing 1.1.0, QA was also continually testing the FPS module release. Tyler Witkin and his UK counterpart Glenn Kneale have done an exceptional job ensuring the FPS module has had the proper attention it needs.
QA has also been working very closely with production this month to help sync our testing standards and streamline the bug creation process across our studios. In an effort headed up by Gerard Manzanares, QA has implemented regular comprehensive performance testing to help developers investigate optimization improvements for the game.
The entire QA team had a really great time showing off the game at the SXSW gaming expo this month. We were so happy to meet so many backers and supporters! Many Citizens even stayed to help explain to people who have never seen Star Citizen what the game is all about. We have the best community!
In addition to our QA responsibilities, select members of the team were able to assist in multiple special projects this month. The team helped to gather video which was used in the new trailer shown at the SXSW closing party. Also some members of the team were able to assist our animation team. Andrew Hesse, Tyler Witkin, Melissa Estrada, and Glenn Kneale all helped to gather ship metrics in 3D Studio Max which will be essential for our Imaginarium mocap shoot.
This month we are happy to announce the newest addition to the QA team. Please welcome Miles Lee! Miles comes to us from Daybreak Game Company (Formerly SOE) where he was responsible for internal server deploys, live server deploys and build system maintenance. Miles will be our QA liaison to DevOps and will be helping in our efforts to expand our automated testing.
For the month of April, QA is looking towards more bug fix releases and testing the Arena Commander FPS module release.
The month of March saw the creation of Star Citizen’s Game Support team, headed up by Will Leverett, and ultimately will grow to span multiple locations to best serve the worldwide SC community as we continue to grow.
So… what is Game Support?
Our primary mission is to serve players of the live service. Whether it’s through public communication on the forums and Reddit, individually assisting players with troubleshooting the launcher and client, coordinating with Dev Ops to monitor the live service, or working with Customer Support to identify and triage issues with new updates, everything we do is to make sure you have the absolute best gaming experience possible. Our first Game Support task was to establish a quick turnaround for players with technical support issues with 1.0.3. Once accomplished, we found that there was a need with our 1.1.0 patch to publicly communicate with players about the state of the service.
Closely coordinating with DevOps and Community, we created the Live Service Notifications forum category to better relay the health of the live service to you. We’ve worked this week to better understand the nature of our multiplayer issues, working closely with many individual players to understand more about what’s occurring so that we can create a stable live environment. The discourse that Game Support has established with our players has been incredibly crucial. What we’ve learned from players providing their reports on the Live Service Notification forum has helped us better understand where we have bottlenecks on our service.
This is a bit of what you can expect from us in the future, too. We’re excited to be a part of the great adventure of bringing you the BDSSE!
March has been one of the busiest and most exciting months in history for the CIG IT/Operations team. The entire IT department helped prepare dozens of demo computers for multiple events including PAX East and SXSW. Systems were deployed at each event location then repacked and shipped to their next location in time for their next performance. Chris and Paul from the Austin office coordinated these efforts ensuring that everything arrived safely and performed as expected. As usual challenges surface any time we go on the road but our expert team travels with a full contingency kit allowing them to defeat any problem which could arise. We had a great time at these events and enjoyed meeting and speaking with many backers and their families.
Hassan from our UK studio has kept extremely busy this month as well by single-handedly setting up for our latest mocap shoot in London. All networking and connectivity back to the home office plus security, storage, and cameras were delivered safely and configured on time to meet our aggressive schedule. In L.A. Dennis continued his evaluation of new hardware solutions while working directly with the Dev Team to ensure compatibility and correct functionality.
In addition to supporting the Dev Team’s efforts toward our major demos this month, IT in Austin has been continuing our work to improve the internal build/development cycle. This is being accomplished by reducing the time it takes to move data from our build system to all development locations. Sometimes it’s hard to fathom the amount of data we’re moving on a daily basis as our build system constantly cranks out builds around the clock. Each of these builds must be delivered rapidly to each studio for testing and continued development. We’re all extremely proud of Mike “Sniper” Pickett’s work in this area but every improvement made is followed quickly by a new challenge. We have now surpassed 5 PB /mo in internal data for build delivery. This doesn’t include public data delivery of published patches from our live services. Encountering these behind the scenes challenges and designing solutions is one of the many reasons we love working on Star Citizen.
The Dev Ops team has been working on several projects over the month of March, many of these will continue into the next couple months as well.
Jeffrey Parker and Francesco Di Mizio have been continuing to build and roll out a new Build Server using the BuildBot frame work. Joe Holley worked with the Tech Art team and built a tool we call Copy Build that all the studios now use to get dev builds internally. Keegan Standifer has been hard at work building a new prototype launcher and patching system. Alex Peruyera has been continuing to using Chef to build out our PTU and Live environments. And Joe and Alex have been working on creating a dynamic provisioner which will supply new VMs and services to the infrastructure to scale up and down based on player and service load.
As a team we have also been working improving our visualization of metrics from the live service, from Splunk, to Google Monitoring, to crash handlers, and logging cleanup and verbosity. We are slowly building a unified solution for the company to view the detailed health and status of PTU and the Live Service. We have also begun setting up several different type of databases for implementation and performance testing.
In March we also participated in the CIG Networking Summit, where engineers from across the company flew in and discussed how to build a dynamic and scalable MMO.
On top of all this Dev Ops supported the release of 1.1.0 to PTU and Live. Unfortunately, since 1.1.0 went live we have been experiencing extreme instability in our Matchmaking code. The Dev Ops team, along with the Server Engineering team, have been working every day to track down problems, hotfix them, or check larger fixes into an upcoming release.
The Dev Ops team keeps working towards the future while also working to improve our current service. March was another crazy month at CIG, it is looking like April will be much the same!
March and the team has been beavering away on all things Squadron 42 and Arena Commander. You’ll now be able to see some of the fruits of our labor in the latest AC, with the new multiplayer free flight mode, and the initial preview of the pad version of take-off and landing. As always this isn’t the finished polished version but it gives you a look at the work in progress. A lot of continued work has also been going into the tutorial which is going to be coming one of the AC releases in April. Again this system touches on many areas and helps their development. For example, although our conversation system has been designed mainly around ground based NPC interaction, we’re using it in a simpler form for all the dialogue between the teacher and pupil. This helped highlight a number of issues which required fixing. All these mechanics, although being developed in AC, are destined for Squadron 42 and a good example of using AC as part of the production process.
In other news we’ve started helping out on the AI development, which means we’ve now got a dedicated engineering resource here in the UK. Having the extra body not only helps speed along the AI work, but also gives the designers somebody they can work closely with for all their AI problems or requests. Having this sort of very quick feedback loop is so important for rapid turnaround and makes the process much more efficient.
Other than that it’s just the usual concentrating on the continued implementation of all the new mechanics required for the game, of which there are many, and getting them into the hands of the designers. It’s all coming along very nicely!
We have had another busy month in preparation for the motion capture shoot at Imaginarium Studios coming in April. The script writing team have been working round the clock to make sure that the performance capture scenes are ready for Chris to direct. On top of that casting for the game has almost completed with some very exciting actors now becoming part of Star Citizen. Squadron 42 has seen a number of good level reviews this month as things have got more tied down, and we have been hiring like crazy here in the UK. The Art Ship team has really started to grow to accommodate the massive amount of work needed to get all the ships we need for Squadron 42 in the game looking cool and in their most optimal state. As well as the Ships team, the Environments team have continued to provide more of the massive amount of modular building sets we need to make the environments look awesome and believable. The designers are loving being able iterate so quickly on the level layouts as these modular pieces continue to stream into the build. As you will already know, almost all the designers here at Foundry 42 are working flat out on their respective Squadron 42 levels day-in day-out so it becomes very hard to fill you in on those details without spoiling anything, but it’s safe to say we feel that we made very good progress on the game this month.
As for Arena Commander, the tutorial is almost there now, bar a few annoying bugs. The cored-out asteroid we are using got a much needed lighting pass and now looks great, and the AI is actually starting to path correctly out of the super confided space.
Also, now that you will be able to have additional crew members in a single ship, we have taken a pass at the “Multi-crew” lobby design and “Scoring system” to make that account for each player in the ship.
That’s all for now, it’s been a tiring but very exiting month on Star Citizen here in the UK. Thanks for all the marvelous support as usual.
On the CIG Audio front, we’ve been extremely busy, both with supporting upcoming releases and with the WWISE integration. The latter is reaching its final stage and we will soon be able to make the permanent switch. This is of course very exciting for us, but we hope it will also be very exciting for the players! Switching to WWISE will not only improve our workflow, allowing us to deliver and implement awesome sounds much faster in game, but it will also allow us to create “Sonic Events” which were so far impossible. And to be able to concentrate our efforts within one audio framework, you should hear some appreciable quality jumps.
We are also very excited to announce that our ranks will grow yet again in April, with not one but two (!) new Sound Designers and a Dialogue Specialist. With Squadron 42 well under way, as well as the First Person module, Social Module, etc, we are beyond excited to get cracking and let them loose on those.
Talking of the FPS Module – we have a Foley session at Pinewood coming up that should provide a great sound asset base for this; it’s such an important part of what makes the best FPS games sound that bit more polished. We’ll try to grab photos where possible from this, we’re currently prepping a lot of resources to make sure we have everything we need for it.
We’re putting together plans to publish ‘Dev Diaries’ from CIG Audio. If you could let us know what sort of things you would like to see as part of this, that’d be great. We’re thinking videos are the easiest way to go with these but we can sprinkle some blog-style posts in there, some interview style stuff – but yes, let us know what YOU would like to see and hear and we’ll try to cater for that as best we can.
Also in line with our last update, our Audio Programmers have been hard at work ensuring we make a move towards a far more systemic approach to the way we implement sounds, starting with weapons. Coupled with our new design approach for firearms, Star Citizen’s weapons are on their way to become some of the best heard in any game, ever, throughout the galaxy (and probably beyond). At least, this is where we’re aiming, and we’ll look to post some examples of these (without giving the game away, obviously!). If you have any references in this area, not just from games but other forms of media, always open to ideas.
Finally, make sure you check out our Beyond The Verse interview of Phil, Sound Designer in Manchester, as well as his use of the fabled “Buttkicker” for source recording!
When at Sq42 do we not have a whole ton of stuff going on! So this month, for concepts we have been solving a few areas on the ARGO ruv, Behring rifles, attachments, grenades, Starfarer modular wall interiors, shubin lighting passes, Vanduul fleet surface treatment and paint overs for two of the ships, Bengal interior improvements, modular sections – the list goes on! Our outsource partners have also made good headway with the Vanduul fleet and are starting to get them in game, testing out polygon counts, materials etc. We have also started to tackle some of the style inconsistencies in the Idris and bring this ship up to the quality bar we now expect.
The team is constantly growing and we have added a few more to the environment team and ship team, Bjorn and Ian have taken on more responsibility within the CIG group and will help solidify the pipelines used within the group.
This month the Foundry 42 ship team is laying a lot of fundamentals down for the creation of capships. We are in the process of producing a couple of the biggest ships in game, which as you can imagine are pretty complicated to set up.
We started on creating modular sets for manufacturer specific archetypes, so we can easily form complete capship interiors that are within the same manufacturer in the future. Nathan Dearsley, Phil Howlett and Jay Malhotra, the strike team that tackled the Retaliator, are attacking this mega project and are making amazing progress on this. We are also taking the Gladiator to flight ready, teaming up with our Tech-Design colleagues in the L.A office. This is on schedule,and coming along really nice.
Furthermore, we started production on the Starfarer. Matthew Johns and Colin Baynard are going to tackle this ship. Currently setting up all modular systems and blocking out the complete interior for this beauty.
This month, the UK has started to reorganize all FPS weapon and FPS item/gadget productions for Cloud Imperium Games. Together with our colleagues in Frankfurt, Bjorn Seinstra and Alex Marshall are taking point on the production of all FPS weapons in the game! Starting off with a fully revised weapon pipeline, and production schedule for 2015, we are currently producing a lot of new stuff for FPS weapons, grenades and gadgets, aswell as revisiting a lot of weapons that are in game already to adhere to the high standard we are aiming for. Rifles/Launchers, lots of different gadgets and grenades, you name it ,we are going to produce it!
We started the month working on the Gladiator flight-ready effects – thrusters, weapons, power plants etc! There was also a big push to work on the style guides. In particular, we updated the VFX style guide and fleshed out in greater detail and tying in to manufacturer-specific style guides. We have pretty much nailed down the human manufacturers now, with the Vanduul next in the firing line so to speak! We’ve continued effects support for Arena Commander tutorial mode and made the first pass at Squadron 42 environmental effects. Finally, we worked on various R&D for some of the more complicated effects – such as huge-scale electrical storms. Epic!
This month it’s all about the heads and we have been gearing towards preparing the facial scanning rig for the Imaginarium Shoot in London. We have transported the setup to a premises in London, just over the road from Ealing Studios, and the camera rig is now taking centre stage in the basement. During the move we took the opportunity to add 2 more cameras, improved the spacing between the cameras and experiment a little with the setup generally. Overall we are seeing some great improvements on what was already one of the best rigs in the country. The only hardship has been the manual labelling and renaming of the 50 cameras and over 250 cables and hopefully we will never have to do that again!
We also welcomed Jon Jones to the team as a very experience facial animator. Jon came down to London to help setup the camera rig so he can familiarize himself with the setup and FACs scanning process. We have also approved the in-game facial rig setup we received from 3Lateral and we are on track to produce fantastic quality heads with great and realistic facial animation.
This month the environment team have been heads down building quality layouts using our build sets. The set we are using is being stress tested to the max by our world building artists, they are solving all the problems which come up turning this from a pretty modular building set into a production quality game environment. We are also going through the process of applying textures to the building set pieces which is a time consuming process but instantly rewarding when you see the results. Additional time and resource have been spent to Arena Commander, polishing up a new extra section.
BHVR has been hard at work with multiple CIG’s team. A lot has been done during the month of March for the PU team, the FPS team and for the AC team. At the same time, we were able to progress on our longer term goals. Montréal is currently unfreezing and we are ready to achieve even more in April. Here’s the BHVR team update
Our designers are busy putting together various components needed for you to experience the PU as it was presented in the SXSW video and more. Here’s a quick breakdown of what we worked on during the month of March:
Otherwise, as you may already be aware, we spend a good deal of time each month fixing and polishing what is already in game. The reality is that a feature is never completely done until the game is done…and even then. As we added new components to the game this month, we needed to refine and adapt what was considered done last month.
We also have a special note about flairs this month. As always, we’ve designed more subscriber goodies to plan ahead for the next few months, and since the multiplayer hangars are soon coming, you’ll be able to brag and show them off to your non-subscribing friends. We’ve also started concepts (design and art) on the various items awarded for past stretch goals. If you backed SC early enough, you should start hearing/seeing more about the Hadesian Artefact, Xi’An plant and the other cool stuff that have been promised!
With the arrival of spring in what used to be ice cold Montreal, the month of march has also brought with it a lot of variety as far as the Behaviour programming team is concerned. A good deal of time was spent polishing the experience and adding new features to the first Persistent Universe module that will eventually be released. We’ve made a lot of changes and iterations to the mobiGlas Shopping & Augmented Reality applications, both of which hadn’t really been worked on for quite a bit of time. In relation to that, we’ve also reworked the mobiGlas Notifications framework to allow better scaling with the ever increasing number of notifications.
A couple of programmers have also kept working on the multiplayer experience for the Persistent Universe for both Planetside and Hangars, that is, conjointly with the Austin studio. Finally, we’re still working on the chat implementation and making sure we’re covering all potential issues arising from localization and foreign language eventualities.
As usual, we’re also taking some time away from long term development to focus on closer to the end-user features such as minor tweaks to the Holotable, more thorough handling of Rental Equipment in the game and some UI support for the Arena Commander Tutorial. We have also continued to provide support to Illfonic as far as the FPS in concerned, mostly in relation to the Arena Commander UI flow which is getting a revamp with the addition of FPS, as well as some FPS Loadout manipulation. In order to eventually get our game servers to support more players, we’re currently re-working the framework that allows displaying 3D Objects inside UI Elements, which we call Holo Objects, to be more efficient and to reduce the number of entities it requires.
Good progress was done on NYX with the WhiteBox phase finished and moving on to the GreyBox phase. We brought new visual improvements to ArcCorp and some of its shops, and work started on a new section of Terra. The 2D layout was validated and the WhiteBox was finished. The April flair was finished and we are now moving on to the next flair, which is going to look really cool in your hangars!
Meetings and Mockups! We’ve been busy refining the redesign of the holotable as well as the menu flow, working to establish an efficient and user friendly layout. We’ve also continued to improve the mobiGlas shopping app, which now has a different look for each shop you go in for a customized shopping experience.
We’ve also been spending a lot of time working on multicrew lobby design, refining the entire Arena Commander menu flow, working on the FPS loadout screen, as well as some logo design and animations, some work for the SXSW presentation, and an interview in the latest issue of Jumpoint! … It’s been a pretty busy month! Still loving it! :D
Hello esteemed citizens! For those of you who came out to se us at PAX East… Thanks! It was great meeting all of you. We hope you enjoyed another little glimpse of FPS gameplay, and hopefully you got some hands on time with it. We know it was still pretty rough, but we’ve spent the last few weeks fixing lots of the issues and addressing the feedback we heard at the event.
Engineering work is continuing on the push & pull system. In the last few weeks we started implementing a new partial ragdoll system that blends in and out of animations and physics when you collide with an object. This is something Chris believes will really drive home the look feel of being in zero gravity, and should make for some awesome moments while playing SATA Ball. SATA Ball? What’s that you say? I’ll tell you! SATA Ball is a new game mode we are implementing that is a futuristic sport of sorts. Gliding around in zero gravity, the goal is to get a ball into a goal by passing it to your team mates, all while shooting and getting shot at. It’s still all very early, but we are making good progress and look forward to playtesting it as it comes together. Two new weapons were also hooked up in game.
The art team is basically finished with one of the FPS levels, and is only doing small tweaks and bug-fixing on it from here on out. The other level is going through some minor reworks to give it some more depth and additional elements to increase readability for the players. Two of our artists have also started working on additional grenades and weapons that probably won’t make it into the first release of FPS, but will be available shortly thereafter. Lastly, some of the team is going to start helping out with the Squadron 42 levels.
The design team has been prototyping the SATA Ball mode and continues to play-test and make tweaks on weapon feel. Whitebox work is also progressing on future FPS levels.
We recently had a VFX review with Chris and the art directors revisiting all of the FPS weapons, gadgets and grenade visual effects. The feedback from that review is now being implemented. Most of it is focused around making sure that the visual effects are consistent across ships and FPS weapons. For example, we want to make sure that the technology for using a laser repeater with ship weapons is being represented with hand-help weapons as well, just on a smaller scale.
The animation team is still hard at work getting the new mocap animations hooked up, while tweaking and polishing the ones that have already gone in. Another big task they have is getting all of the zero g animations in. We recently did a pre-viz of what zero g movement should look like, and now that everyone has agreed upon the general look and feel we can start working towards that goal.
Turbulent’s RSI team has been slowly growing over the past few months, and now there’s 10 of us working full-time on all aspects of the platform.
This past month saw the introduction of Electronic Access and the REC system. Anyone who plays the game now has the ability to earn credits through ranked matches that will let them try out new ships and/or equipment. There has been data exchanges between the game client and our website data for a while now: the game knows what is in a user’s account, what they can and cannot actually use, the game then feeds back data which gets integrated into our global Leaderboards. The game now impacts users’ accounts by updating their REC ledger, which in turn affects gameplay through the use of ROMs. This loop is also allowing us to test out future persistent aspects of the game, and will be extended to cover the FPS module as well. Of course this feature required a lot of coordination with the other CIG teams for connection, data integration and balancing. This common effort allowed us to launch this new store with its own style, purpose and sizeable catalog jointly with release 1.1.
The granularity of how a ROM is activated will soon also take into account the actual items used in the game’s ship loadout and not active all ROMs.
We’ve been teasing it for a bit, but the new Homepage design is coming up, as it has now entered its QA phase. This new layout will feature denser but shows a lot more content and is cleaner with a tiling and layout approach. In order to achieve this we are also going through every post (>1800 posts!) that was ever added to the site to recatalog their channel, series and tags so we can better categorizing and prioritize the content flow in hub pages like the home.
The UX team has been also taking a huge inventory of all UI components we use on the platform so we can start a process of reducing the amount of different styles. The site is 2 years old already and a level of unification is needed. All views and UI components are being cataloged so we can reduce the amount we use as well as design new ones that will take over. Huge job!
Much work was done on the Starmap. Our Unity-based functionality prototype keeps expanding to include prototype ideas on how to show jump routes and celestial entities.
The team is currently focused on producing the actual UI and artwork for the map. This includes the UI for the map’s HUD and the various buttons that will make the universe come alive. Much research was done to get the UI concepts nailed for how we want to display information as you browse the space. A concept of “Helpers” that show around a body and displays different levels of information based on how closely you are looking at it was developed and will influence how all elements in our “Astrometrics room” will function.
Major design considerations were given to how the map will be revealed as well since not 100% of the universe will be ready when we drop the starmap. Building a UI and processes to reveal entire star cluster or specific subroutes is being worked on , another piece that we incorporate in how we will display the map’s helpers.
Don’t worry! We know how convoluted upgrading pledges is now that AC has that many flyable ships! We spent many hours in March to devise how the new CCU system will function. We are hoping to be tackling the development of this feature soon to replace the current very complicated flow.
Our current thinking is to allow you to upgrade by either starting with a ship you own or by choosing the ship you want to ugprade to. Both ways should be possible. In the case of the former you could see all potential upgrades and their pricing very easily from your hangar. For the latter, the store pages would allow you to see from which of your ships you can reach the designated destination ship.
Obviously, we want to get rid of the multi-step upgrade and allow you to go straight from an Aurora to a Freelancer if you so choose.
March has also come with its own batch of website content : 1.1 introduced many new game design aspects, the Retaliator has a lot more to show for itself, the Aegis Vanguard is now one of the most successful ships ever, and you may have noticed that we started the month of April underwater. We’ve also redone the subscription pages to better show what subscribers actually get out of supporting the project.
Except a major update of the ship stats to fit the new mount system as well as possibly a refresh of all ship flyable ship stats based on their actual game state.
We have designed a simple way to bring our platform changelog on the site in a permanent area. Some of you will recall we used to have an area on the forums to post our build updates (and we do ship a site build every week!) but that was lost in the forums transition. Well we want to bring it back!
We started March off with three of our team members attending the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco. While this was a bit of a hit to the available manpower for the month, it was definitely time well spent. GDC is always a great opportunity to get new ideas and gain inspiration from what other developers are working on, and I think we all came away with heads full of great ideas that we can’t wait to put in motion!
Other than this, we continued on from last month working with the Frankfurt team on developing the AI features roadmap and working out the best ways to divide up all the AI work between us and them. With the Frankfurt team now taking on a lot of the day-to-day support requests from the rest of the CIG team, we’ve been able to focus more on core AI tech, and we’re quite excited about the features that are currently being designed and implemented.
One of the big features that we’ve been wanting to get in place for a while now is what we call navigation objects (or sometimes navlinks, but let’s not get confusing!), and this month was heavily focused on the design and implementation of these. Navigation objects are what allow AI characters to move around an environment between points that can’t be reached by just walking along the floor. Think ladders, closed doors, vaulting over tables, jumping down off ledges or climbing up onto them, and so on. These are typically things that require the character to play a special animation or do something more than just walk or run, and so we need a way to mark up a level with these things. When done right, we can tell an AI character to move to a distant spot and it will figure out what navigation objects it can use along the way to create the shortest path there, and then automatically use those objects as it moves to the destination.
We completed enough of the design to begin implementing navigation objects with basic functionality this month. You will no doubt be hearing more about this topic in the coming months as we continue to flesh out the details of surprisingly complicated topics like proper handling of doors, stopping multiple characters from using a navigation object at the same time, supporting different species/aliens in the Star Citizen universe that have different movement capabilities, and how to say that a character in light armor can climb up onto a platform but a character in heavy armor needs to use the stairs (and cut back on the cheeseburgers!)
Another design area this month was fleshing out the Kythera job system and how it integrates with the CryEngine job system. A job system is basically a way of breaking down computation work into small independent chunks called jobs, and then scheduling them for execution. This is very important for taking advantage of parallel processors and thus maximizing performance on modern PCs.
As mentioned above, we did a lot of design work on navigation objects and the Kythera job system this month, and we’ve also done a lot of work on implementing those designs. Navigation objects have been quite intensive so far, since they require work to be done on multiple levels, from the creation of UI in the CryEngine editor for designers to work with, all the way down to low level changes to AI pathfinding to make use of them.
We also did some work on local navigation grids. This is a major feature being worked on by multiple teams and basically allows us to put characters and objects into environments like ships and space stations that may be rotating in world space, but control them as though the ground they’re standing on is not moving. So you can have a character walking around inside a ship like the Constellation while it’s doing a barrel roll, but the AI pathfinding and behavior code can be written as though everything is stopped and up and down aren’t constantly changing. Most of the complexity of being within a moving local coordinate system is now hidden by the system we’ve implemented and dealt with transparently, which greatly simplifies code and reduces bugs.
Another interesting bit of work we did this month was adding more control for AI ships during scripted sequences. Normally when we give an AI ship a spline path to follow, we make the AI manipulate the ship thrusters to control it in a physically accurate way, so that the AI can’t cheat with its maneuvers. This is generally the right thing to do, but it does mean that in certain situations such as the Arena Commander tutorial, if for some reason the AI is unable to keep to the path, such as low framerate when running on a lower spec PC, it might leave it far enough to crash into something and potentially break the tutorial.
So we added in the ability for designers to set up nav splines during these sequences that specify the maximum amount that they want to allow the ship to deviate from the path, and we will then force the ship to stick to the path if necessary. This doesn’t affect AI during gameplay, but has been great for improving the robustness of the tutorial and will prove useful in story sequences in Squadron 42.
Greetings, Citizens! Subscription Manager Alexis here, reporting from perpetually sunny Santa Monica where we’re wrapping up another busy month at the studio. The Community team has been hard at work making sure you stay connected with the game you’re making possible (with a break every now and then to indulge in our new favorite hobby, the Star Wars card trading app!)
March was quite the EVENTful month, which we kicked off at the PAX East CIG Party in Boston and SXSW Bonus Round Party in Austin. You can check out some photos from SXSW, including the award that we took home for Most Anticipated Crowdfunded Game! Our devs had a great time hanging out with everyone who attended both events and visited our booths. We’re currently putting the finishing touches on our next two events, Gamescom in August and Citizen Con in October. Look for more event details and information about tickets in the near future.
Production continues to roll along on Around the Verse, with our 38th episode airing this week. We had a lot of fun with putting together a very special April Fool’s Day edition of ATV. We also debuted the second installment of the Wonderful World of Star Citizen, which puts the focus on you, the fans. If you see (or create) something that you think should be featured on the show, you can post your submissions here.
Of course, none of these shows would be possible without the support of our subscribers. Part of the subscription program includes perks in addition to access to our monthly digital magazine, Jump Point! This week we launched our Year 3 subscriber perks, which includes a number of cool additions and some old favorites. The team at Turbulent also gave our subscription page a fresh new look! You can check out our updated perks and info on how to become a subscriber here.
Our community has been growing in leaps and bounds; thanks largely in part to our PAX East and SXSW ‘fly free’ promotions we can now boast over 800,000 Citizens! To help keep everyone engaged, we’re doubling up on our social outreach. We’ve started a new Instagram channel to try and get across the great spirit of working here on Star Citizen… and it even features a web comic from our resident marketing artist Ryan Archer!
That wraps it up for this month’s Communiteam update, see you all next time!