July 9th 2019
What you are about to read is the latest information on the continuing development of Squadron 42 (SCI des: SQ42).
Through our thorough investigations, we’ve obtained intel on recent operations pertaining to Track View cinematics, AI enhancements, stun mechanics, 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
The Character Combat Team spent time refactoring human combat – new tactics have been added, NPCs understand open environments better, and a lot of bugs have been fixed. The first version of an ‘investigate’ behavior was also completed, which will enable NPCs to search for players if they manage to escape during combat.
Ship AI implemented a component that better balances the targeting selection of AI ships. One new element allows the designers to set up suggestions on how the AI should spread individual ships within a group, which in turn allows systemic behaviors to choose which target should be attacked first.
Combat wise, behaviors were added to make better use of the pilot skills and all initial ‘skill sheets’ were completed. Several flying maneuvers, such as the ‘fly by’ and ‘breakaway’ mentioned a couple of reports ago, were reworked to support strafing and the afterburner has been improved when flying over splines. They continued work on 3D pathfinding and are currently implementing a more efficient way to evaluate the environment and build flight paths using information from the distance field calculated by the physics code. This will also allow AI ships to better navigate highly complex environments, such as dense asteroid fields and intricate structures.
Finally for AI, the Social Team introduced several new functionalities to the vendor AI, such as enabling NPCs and players to interact with usables without the need to explicitly trigger interactions.
Tying into the AI Team’s work above, Animation started on the motion capture data for the updated bartender and bar patron behavior and began work on a new mission giver coming later in the year.
They also continued on usables, with the aim to have all requested animations complete within the next few months.
The team pushed further with Archon Station’s traversable sections, which are now essentially content complete. They’re now moving onto creating the detail, such as the masses of machinery and pipework that fill the station. As mentioned in previous updates, the team is keen to get away from the ‘room, corridor, room, corridor’ mentality and are instead working in traversable paths around important structural features. For example, an oil rig is predominantly designed for a single purpose – how people get around and live on it is worked in afterwards. The team are pushing this approach to really nail believable and natural gameplay spaces.
Work on an important comms array continued. The structure is huge and the team are currently working to ensure both the interior and exterior are fun to explore and play, which involves working on a visual language that makes it clear where and what the various gameplay options are. Players will be encouraged to play the way they want, so rather than holding their hands, they’ll be ‘channeled’ at certain points to ensure they witness crucial scenes relevant to the story.
VDB remains in focus and the team are currently in the process of merging it with their asteroid belt work. The goal is to create ‘sea beds’ of asteroid rings and belts that not only stretch as far as the eye can see but are a challenge to navigate.
New code allows sequences from the cinematic timeline tool to blend seamlessly with AI locomotion before and after the scene ends. This is still being tweaked, but the majority of the heavy lifting is done and is functioning as intended. Another new addition is what the team calls the ‘AI>Trackview>AI sandwich’. This code made positive changes to Track View functionality and made some other internal tools redundant. The update went through QA and was extensively tested by the Cinematics Team to make sure their workflow wasn’t compromised. Initial bugs such as slowdowns in performance while scrubbing the timeline were quickly fixed and the team is now benefiting from a smoother and faster workflow.
Another update gives the team a visual method of selecting a ship’s interior and items. Any ship they pull into the editor can now be opened and its entities visually selected and added to Track View (previously, items were only selectable via a dropdown menu, which was less intuitive).
Improvements were also made to the ‘Actor Action’ track in the sequencer tool. The team can now grab, handover, holster, unholster, and equip items not just from a character’s loadout but any item from the world put into the sequence. For example, this makes scenes possible where a character hands over a weapon to the player and they hand it back.
In addition to testing the new code, the team progressed on some major campaign scenes.
More progress has been made on melee attacks, with support added for different attack types, blocks, and directional dodges.
The team also looked at the player status system and began rebalancing the stamina system to improve gameplay. They’re currently implementing a ‘stun’ mechanic, where a player can become unsteady until they’re eventually knocked unconscious for a period.
Finally for Engineering, a new system is currently in development that ties together all the different things that trigger camera shakes into a unified system. It also applies camera shake differently depending on whether the player is in first-person, third-person, or cinematic camera mode.
Alongside this, they added new audio to a handful of scenes and fixed errors that could have blocked the exporting of object containers in the future. They’re currently working with the recently integrated Universe Outliner that allow them to animate many doors, cupboards, and flaps that were previously inaccessible.
The UK studio hosted a mini-summit for the graphics and engine teams to plan out the next stage of the major renderer rework. This rework involves fundamental changes to the structure of the renderer to allow pre-calculation of as much rendering data and entity creation as possible to minimize the work in each frame. When complete, it should result in significant CPU performance improvements, but will take several months to complete.
The Tech Team are still improving the wider team’s workflow for consistency and stability, with oversight from the various specialist engineers. The goal here is to have this section in a highly polished state in Q3 to enable them to move forward with the other chapters, all of which have design owners and are being worked on concurrently.
The Vanduul also made a comeback – the team are working with Facial Animation to refine the look and feel of the race to showcase to the game directors very soon.