The VFX Team worked on several moons for the PU, including various new biome types. This required them to expand the planet editor tools to allow for more unique and varied particle systems to be spawned procedurally using the object scattering systems. They also continued their work on the cinematic simulation assets, such as rigid and soft bodies for the Squadron 42 cinematics.
The AI Team determined the tasks remaining for Object Container Streaming and worked on them accordingly, adjusting AI logic if necessary to handle the current streaming requirements. Work was also completed for flight AI, creating new behaviors and changing existing ones, with a focus on making ship combat engaging and fun. Tasks were completed to improve performance, which is routinely done to ensure things are optimized as much as possible. Work has also been done on the flight pathfinder, taking it a few steps closer to having AI traverse the entire ‘verse on their own. FPS AI work focused on NPC tasks for the 3.3 release, including new behaviors, features, and optimizations.
The DE Dev Ops Team continued to work with the Austin teams on both extending and finalizing the toolsets that govern synchronicity between central game-dev and feature streams. The API for controlling the central auto-integration system has been rolled out to accommodate the client-side feature-stream merging tool currently in development. This gives feature-stream owners control over how current their stream should be in relation to main central development in game dev, based on their preference and workflow style. The current feature streams are battle-testing these tools as they prepare to scale up the number of feature streams needed for the project.
The Weapon Art Team primarily focused on Vanduul weaponry and finished the first pass of both modeling and texturing on the Plasma Lances, as well as a handful of scavenged knife variants.
The Engine Tools Team focused on stabilizing the game editor after the Alpha 3.2 release. Usability improvements were added to increase the overall workflow quality for the designers when setting up the game entities. The new layer and universe outliner plugins received improvements based on the designer’s feedback, along with a general stabilization and performance improvement pass. The Look Development Mode, which is meant to improve in-game material setups, received an additional light mode to show assets under split light conditions, called Eclipse Mode. This helps artists improve their material setups for all possible in-game scenarios and makes it easier for them to compare the material under bright and dark conditions, for example, how an asset will look on a bright planet versus in outer space.
The Environment Art Team made substantial progress on Hurston’s four moons, with each becoming a visually unique location for players to explore. While working on the moons, the team also spent time improving the wind simulation on vegetation objects, which will breathe more life into the locations as wind moves through the grass, bushes, and trees. Hurston will be quite a visual change compared to the other locations currently in the game. The Lorville team moved onto the outer districts, shifting focus on the view of the city while flying above and around it. Lorville has received many improvements since it was first shown at CitizenCon.
The Lighting Team worked side-by-side with the Environment Art Team on Lorville. Lots of progress was made on the environment art, which gives the Lighting Team plenty of locations to bring additional life, mood, and atmosphere into. The core landing zone received an initial lighting pass, with work still to come on the shops, spaceport, habitation, and security.
With the procedural layout generation tools receiving improvements, the team took the opportunity to further polish the upcoming Rest Stops. They improved the look and positioning of 2D and holographic advertisements, as well as fixed various issues with light leaking and other consistency issues between connected rooms.
Finally, crashed and derelict ships found in space and on planet surfaces were fixed due to previous setup issues which resulted in broken or missing lighting in most locations. The improved setups will provide a better foundation for the Lighting Team to create more interesting moods in these locations.
The System Design Team laid the foundation for combat ship AI improvements, specifically giving AI ships the awareness of an enemy tailing them. They will build on this with further maneuvers, like enabling the AI to abruptly decelerate to cause the tailing ship to overshoot or wildly change its break-away angle to shake pursuers. Progress was also made on advanced civilian/security guard interactions and patrol behaviors, which will be implemented in future landing zones. These behaviors will work in sync with one another and will allow NPCs to react accordingly to different types of stimuli from the world around them. The behaviors are scalable to allow for more stimuli to be added if and when needed. It will also determine how NPCs react to their surroundings, such as Security Guards reacting differently to certain crimes in one location than they would in another.
The new transit system received attention as well. The team focused on the debugging capabilities of the system, laying an important piece of groundwork for complex elevator and train networks. On the FPS side, they began populating Security Outpost Kareah with combat NPCs. They also worked with the Mission and Level Design Teams to create additional facilities fit for combat encounters.
This month the Level Design Team focused on the PU. They completed work on Lorville and explored how the Restricted Areas tech will be implemented into the full world. They also looked into the general areas around Lorville to ensure they have the correct content and points of interest.
Development advances with the procedural tool allowed them to return to the Rest Stops. They used the tool to generate a series of stations and verify their layouts, as well as to look into transferring old functionality of CryAstro into Tier 0 of the refuel/repair/rearm system. They also investigated early Tier 0 versions of Habitation, Refineries, sub-surface content, and more.
The Cinematic Team updated the animation production pipeline to better communicate with the Design Team and make the overall structure more efficient. They also worked on chapters for Squadron 42, which consisted of numerous tasks depending on the current state of the cinematic, from animation and camera blocking, to animation polish, lighting setups, and TrackView work.
The team also completed some technical tasks: They implemented ‘Player Entity’ into Trackview and can now trigger ‘Mannequin Fragments’ which will allow the team to accurately use the Player and the new ‘look control’ while building their scenes. They’re also working on a technical solution for Subsumption to takeover player control in cutscenes when needed.
The Engine Team generally works across multiple areas and is called in to address potential code issues at any time – this month was no exception. They progressed on moving skinning computations to GPU compute shaders (dual quaternion skinning, blend shape, as well as tangent reconstruction submitted), and continued work on improving hair shading. They made significant progress on new solutions for cloth and volumetrics simulation, which they hope to show off soon. They added support for OC Streaming (entity aggregates) and exposed GPU load and memory stats directly from the Windows Graphics system. They also made advancements in the physics system refactor (queue refactoring, batch jobs, etc.) and revamped the exception handling code to improve the consistency of reported crashes.
The Tech Art Team worked on the ‘Maya to Sandbox Editor’ live link for synchronizing animations between the two applications, giving real-time, in-engine rendered graphical feedback to the animators. They consolidated the head to head attachment asset pipeline for the next gen character customizer – a crucial requirement to achieve 100% consistent topology on the head meshes once they are converted from the Maya-internal format to the engine’s format. Once consolidated, they stress tested it to find any bugs in the resource compiler tool (RC) and addressed them accordingly. One large bug remains, but once it’s resolved they can switch to the newly revised system.
Tech Animation focused on restructuring the weapons pipeline, modifying elements to make it easier to work on files and find them in the future. They added an additional meta system to the weapon rigs to enable animators to batch export weapon animations and moved nearly all files into a new folder structure to separate multiple weapons of the same type by the same manufacturer. They also addressed a variety of bugs across multiple departments.
Besides assisting the in-house development team with Editor and client reported issues, the QA Team focused on performance and system refactor testing. Client and server performance took a significant hit with the introduction of Mining, so they worked with the UK QA Team to gather performance RAD captures during a Mining specific playtest. Captures were obtained from a build containing changes that would improve performance centered around Mining. Captures were also done on an existing build that did not have anything extra included. Engineering then compared the captures done on each build, identified where there were improvements between the two, and noted what other areas would benefit from further optimizations.
They also worked on a QA test request for the AI Cover System to be refactored to support the incoming Object Container Streaming changes. The main goal was to ensure that not only existing cover systems within an Object Container level still worked, but that the newly set up Cover Systems did as well. They re-exported levels and then tested in-client to ensure that cover was generated and the AI used it the same way they did in previously. There should be no visible difference between the two, and they needed to confirm that no new issues were introduced. The same principle applied to an IKSystem refactor QATR that they did for Animation Engineering. Multiple lines of code were removed to improve overall performance, and testing was done to ensure that this did not break any other new and/or existing systems or features. QA also started regular performance testing on the PU test map, which contains the new Rest Stops, Hurston, and Lorville in order to get a head start on identifying issues that these new locations may introduce.