July 24th 2015
As you can tell, we’ve had a very busy day at Cloud Imperium! But the Merlin and Alpha 1.1.5 aren’t our only focus: work continues on the Star Marine FPS mode. This week, we spent a lot of time focused on general gameplay and the animation system. As Chris discussed on 10 for the Chairman, getting the animation matching the vision is one of our biggest challenges… and it’s important because the technology we premiere here is going to be used throughout Squadron 42 and the persistent universe. It may seem like a lot of extra work right now, but it will all be worthwhile down the road when we’re seeing smoothly animated NPCs and players living in the ‘verse.
We’ve broken this week’s updates down into Gameplay, Animation and Art sections, with information on both our progress and the blockers we’re seeing. We’re attaching two videos to the post to show you how it’s really going: an animation and weapons test above (check out those jukes!) and a Gold Horizon walkthrough below. Enjoy!
On the gameplay side, it was a week of fixes and adjustments! Fixes include a bug with the cover idle animation not playing, issues with cover look-poses, a crash when connecting a second client to a local dedicated server, an issue where the game was swapping to the default weapon on client connect, a problem with weapon offsets affecting ADS and ADS movement lag that we had been seeing! We addressed a bug that was causing the HUD to report a suicide upon connection, an issue with the weapon reticule not fading correctly and a pair of grenade-related bugs: one where swapping grenade types after a throw wasn’t depleting your inventory and another where your fixed weapon would not be selected after running out of grenades. We also finished work from the previous week on the sniper rifle recharge issues. Whew.
On the adjustment side, we greatly improved fidelity and positioning in multiplayer by adjusting movement transitions on the dedicated server. We reduced feedback loops created during cover stance changes by adjusting cover rays to follow the eyes, and we adjusted spawn points for the new Free Play practice mode. This alone improved the playtest significantly; greatly reduced spawn camping! We improved the process for our designers, as well. By updating math to handle procedural offsets for ADS Y axis camera positioning and by working on procedural offsets for weapons, it will be much easier for designers to adjust relative camera positions using ADS without needing to update or redo animations. There was work done on the recharge station, which does not always activate over the network. And it wouldn’t be game development if we weren’t causing more problems for ourselves once in a while: we managed to break (AND FIX) weapon hand placement while firing.
Any week where we get to play with machine guns is a good one! Animation finished updates to the Behring P4AR firing animation this week and kicked off work on the Behring ATT-4 AND the prone-firing for the Devastator Shotgun.
But it wasn’t all rifles and SMGs: we also tweaked jump timing, fixed blending issues with the walk slow and assisted engineers with their cover fixes. We made some great progress polishing walk starts/stops/jukes, some of which you can see in the attached video. We locked down our work on crouch turns and starts, and wie will continue working on crouch stops and the prone mode.
As we mentioned last week, Ragdoll death animations weren’t quite up to snuff (whoa, unintentional pun there.) That video got a lot of comments in the forums. It wasn’t merely a distraction, though: the research done while making that video helped point out an issue with our skeleton. What we found was an issue with the way our character’s skeleton joint orientations were set up. So we spent the last two days working on an updated rig with correct joint orientations to satisfy the requirements of CryEngine. Ivo, our animation specialist in Frankfurt, has a new rig in test now to check against the SDK. Then, he’ll check it against the animation code changes we’ve made specifically for Star Citizen and the end result will be a much improved ragdoll!
The art team conducted a lighting pass to improve client performance. This included the re-addition of breakable lights (visible in the screenshots and video.) The re-work of Gold Horizon assets continued, with updates to stair heights and panel textures. (In the case of panel textures, we create two of each: clean and dirty. That will let us build more interesting levels more quickly in the future!) We worked with Cort Soest and Sean Tracy from Austin to reduce LODs and improve framerate issues. That work is ongoing, but it’s already showing positive results.
Art and design have continued to work together to improve the flow of the level. This week we added additional signage to Gold Horizon to ease navigation, and we have also updated floor decaling to this same end. Our weapons team certainly wasn’t idle, either: they finished a revision of the P4AR (including updated decals!) and then exported that work for use in other weapons by the same manufacturer.