Roberts Space Industries

Transmission

General

ID:

17116

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13

Date:

June 13th 2019

Squadron 42 Monthly Report: May 2019

Squadron 42 Monthly Report: May 2019

This is a cross-post of the report that was recently sent out via the monthly Squadron 42 newsletter. We’re publishing this a second time as a Comm-Link to make it easier for the community to reference back to.

Attention Recruits,

What you are about to read is the latest information on the continuing development of Squadron 42 (SCI des: SQ42).

Agents devoted countless hours to bringing us this intelligence. Through their hard work, we’ve learned key intel on recent operations concerning Archon Station, AI transitions, inspired use of fog cloud technology, and more.

The information contained in this communication is extremely sensitive and it is of paramount importance that it does not fall into the wrong hands. Purge all records after reading.

UEE Naval High Command


AI


May saw the AI Team begin a project to add areas where players and NPCs can interact with a usable (item) without being in an exact position. These areas will allow for higher-fidelity when players and AI interact with numerous usables in a single space.

Optimization continues all round, including the continued developing and fine-tuning of FPS combat tactics. This includes fighting from cover, fighting in open space, simple search behavior, and improvements to first reactions. Improvements were also made to the Posture Manage – the system used during combat to understand if an AI enemy has visibility of the player and a viable shooting direction when taking cover.



Animation


Animation focused on the new player jumping system throughout May. The animations are now much more fluid and incorporate jumping forwards, backwards, sideways, and running and jumping.

They also finished setting up usables (beds, seats, consoles, etc.) and are starting to create a pre-visual system for different human AI enemy types and weapon sets. Immediate exits from cover when under duress were also worked on and the team is working on a plan to outsource data sets for animation variants to better prioritize development time.

More female animation sets are currently in development and will now always be worked on alongside the male version. Currently, they’re starting with base re-targets from the male source and then replacing them with female-specific assets.

Finally for Animation, the team worked on a few new weapons and assisted the Feature Development Team on attachments, melee, and takedowns. They also working hard on incorporating all of the story scenes, cinematics, and through lines for [REDACTED].

“Hopefully they don’t censor it this time, because that scene where [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] go to [REDACTED] is really cool!” – SQ42 Animation Director



Art (Characters)


Last month, the Character Art Team continued polishing characters, with focus on chapter four. The team continues to explore the aliens of Squadron 42 and work on the material library, which will affect all armor and outfits in the game and enable the team to further drive visual quality. Similarly, tools for the hair pipeline are being built and tested to help the artists author higher-quality hair.




Art (Environment)


The Environment Team were busy throughout May developing the Javelin’s skybox, which involves working through the entire ship exterior and dissecting parts they can effectively use for the “push & pull” mechanic.

With work on the “organic shader” nearing completing, the team can start iterating on the asteroid set; initially focusing on the standard “space potatoes” before progressing to the more technically-challenging shard-like shapes needed for the latter half of the campaign.

Significant effort was put into the traversable areas found around Archon Station, with the team keen to avoid the standard ‘room, corridor, room’ approach and fully open out the station to highlight its sheer scale. Once these areas are further developed, a dynamics pass will take place to give each corner life and movement using the lessons learned from their investigations earlier in the year.

The team are currently well into the development of a key “comms array” seen in the campaign. The undisclosed array manufacturer has its own unique style that mixes retro design approaches and plenty of real-world references that grounds the entire station in reality.

Volumetric skybox work continues around the Coil, with one mission in particular receiving a lot of attention. It merges the new wind mechanics with the New Flight Model and, though still early days, is giving the team a thorough understanding of how best to create space locations with the speed and scale of the campaign ships.




Art (Weapons)


The Weapons Art Team finished modelling and texturing the Behring S38 pistol, Klaus & Werner Lumin V SMG, and Apocalypse Arms Animus missile launcher. They also started production on the Hedeby Gunworks Salvo frag pistol and Behring GP33 “MOD” grenade launcher.



Cinematics


Last month, Cinematics worked with Level Design to prioritize implementation passes for all remaining scenes and chapters. An implementation pass refers to the process of making a scene function as it will do in the final release and includes AI characters moving in/out of locations.

The team also received a major code revision for the Track View tool that enables AI characters to blend in/out of cinematic scenes or Track View sequences in general. The new code is still in early testing, but when complete, will enable the team to add locomotion-based intros and outros. This means characters will smoothly enter scenes from whatever they were doing and transition back when it ends, removing the sudden jar as NPCs rush into position still seen in many modern games.



Engineering


May was a busy month for all engineering teams. Starting with Actor Features, the team continued with the reworked jumping mechanic, making animations when running and jumping (forwards, sideways, or backwards) much more fluid and glitch-free.

Progress was all made on “head look”. Previously, when looking down or sideways, there were situations where players could see into their own body or shoulder. They also restricted look movement depending on whether the player character is carrying a weapon and what their pose is, again to stop clipping through the geometry.

Melee takedowns now use the inverse kinematics (IK) system to ensure they appear correctly if the victim is on a different level from the player, such as on a slope or a step. They also started the first pass of punching and knife attacks for melee combat, again using IK to hit specific areas of the target.

The AI Team implemented channel routing for the usable feature, which allows functionality to be routed from one usable to another. For example, a bartender can deliver a drink to a patron whether they’re standing, sitting in a chair, or sitting in a chair at a table. They also implemented area slotting, which allows a usable interaction to be triggered when players enter an area, rather than having to move to a very specific point.

Improvements were also made to the third-person camera, giving options to link motion to the cadence of footsteps to give a more dynamic view. They also created the ability to change video rendered to a texture that simulates changing TV channels.

The Engine Team provided support for the procedural tools, which involved making improvements to automated object layouts and generating ground layers for the lookup texture (LUT) table. In rendering, they made major quality improvements to Screen Space Directional Occlusion (SSDO) shadowing, enabled temporal dithering for dissolving objects and terrain blending, and enhanced the temporal dither pattern for reduced noise on hair cards.



Gameplay Story


The Gameplay Story Team maintained momentum throughout May and implemented a record 18 scenes to a high standard, including one on the bridge of the Idris. They’re also excited to finally get their hands on the Cinematic Team’s tech for blending in and out of track view sequences and to begin testing it out.



Graphics


Continuing last month’s work on the organic shader, the Graphics Team can now re-use assets thanks to better control of the texture tiling for differently-scaled instances of a mesh. This also provides precise control over the height-based blending of the various detail texture layers. These features are being used to great effect in the Art Team’s asteroid field asset library.

They also completed the final touches on gas clouds, various optimizations, and integrated the volumetric shadows into the fog system to fix a handful of bugs.



Level Design


The SQ42 Design Teams made a solid start on the bridge crew behaviors now that the usables pipeline is operating at full capacity. This will enable the crew to realistically interact with various props, items, and other NPCs in a fully systemic way.

The “landing/take-off module” needed for many of the chapters received more focus, with contribution from the UI, Animation, and Engineering teams.

Finally, the “Outer Odin” levels were put in their correct object containers and can now be traveled to in-game.



Narrative


The Narrative Team went through an assortment of editorial selects for key SQ42 characters. They also wrote several set-dressing documents to guide the Environment Art and Prop teams with environmental storytelling. Plus, they had multiple reviews with Design on several chapter’s narrative moments and made further progress on their ongoing task to complete all in-game text.



QA


QA continued to provide direct support to the Cinematics Team whenever issues affecting their cutscene workflow were encountered. More additions were made to the cinematics “zoo” map mentioned last month, including all remaining “small” ships.

They’re now working on creating reliable test levels with specific Track View functionality. Eventually, these levels will be implemented into the TestRunner feature tests made specifically for Track View cinematics. Changes made within the feature stream for combat AI were also tested to ensure that existing cutscenes wouldn’t be affected once they were ported into the game build. A few issues were also tested that could’ve broken the Track View tool itself and crashes were investigated that were introduced as a result of the change.



Tech Art


The Tech Art Team implemented version two of the internal face customizer. The underlying facial rig blending technology was enhanced to not only allow blending globally between four different source heads, but to allow a different choice of four heads for each of the twelve blend regions. While the new tool and its user interface need to expose all this additional functionality to the artists, it’s also critical that users don’t get overwhelmed by the complexity and sheer amount of parameters in use. Therefore, a number of convenience functions were added to allow for the quick randomization of head IDs and their corresponding weights (either per head region or globally). During each stage of the facial customization, symmetry constraints can be turned off to introduce slight asymmetry in distinct regions, which helps to make a face look more natural and realistic. The tool now makes it much easier for the team to create unique-looking NPCs while being more efficient than ever before.



Tech Animation


Tech Animation continued their work on the animation pipeline to provide a massive overhaul to Maya’s core referencing system. This will ultimately provide a pipeline that doesn’t rely on hard path referencing and can support infinite workspaces and streams across the userbase. They’re also currently upgrading the animation pipeline codebase and plugins to support Maya 2019 for a possible future upgrade. Technical Animation have been working closely with Technical Art to co-develop a new facial animation and rigging pipeline to bring a new level of flexibility and fidelity to an already cutting-edge solution.

Additionally, animators were spread across many teams to help in the development of combat, weapons, usables, and cinematics.



UI


Last month, the SQ42 UI Team focused on Archon. Logos and signs were created to help make the level feel like an industrial facility, while background screens for machinery and the bridge area also bear the team’s handiwork.

SQ42 will also benefit from the ongoing developments to the central flight HUD. This includes indicators for velocity, g-force, afterburner, ESP, and some new mechanics such as the thruster strength limiter and radar altimeter. Players can get a sneak peek when Alpha 3.6 launches in the Persistent Universe, as the HUD is being tested publicly on the Aegis Gladius.



VFX


Last month, the team continued investigating new shaders, including tests for water and raindrops accumulating on ship canopies. They also made improvements to the ‘particle imposter’ shader that has simple-but-effective UV scrolling, tiling and distortion options, and can be assigned to a mesh as a replacement for a particle system. For example, as scrolling smoke or dust effects in the distance.

They also continued work on the new gas cloud tech mentioned last month, this time looking at ways the toolset can be used in non-gas cloud locations, such as asteroid fields. Finally, they fixed an issue with the current version of the tool that was causing bounding boxes to export incorrectly. This was rectified by manually forcing the bounding boxes and voxels to a specific size so that everything matched up across the various assets.



Conclusion

WE’LL SEE YOU NEXT MONTH



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