July’s roundup starts with AI, which extended the first reactions worked on last month to be triggered by friendly AI characters. As a reminder, first reactions are part of combat behavior that are triggered by AI characters sensing the presence of an enemy. The first reaction is a precursor to real combat and includes specific animations, communications, and can lead the AI to investigate the source of suspicious noises or events.
While Alpha 3.6 dominated most of the Ship Team’s month, progress was made on crucial upcoming features for the PU (and SQ42 in some cases): ‘Fire discipline’ influences the firing behavior of gunners and pilots, the idea being that surrounding events and actions alter the behavior between the extremes of ‘trigger happy’ and ‘parsimonious’. For target selection, the team added two new elements – ‘self-preservation’, which prioritizes attacking the most dangerous enemy combatant and ‘defend ally’, which monitors friendly ships and AI and attacks players causing the most damage. AI security behavior has also been refined for security and interdiction missions to cover everything that could happen during a mission (of which there are many!).
Last month, the team worked on the bartender animations and behaviors, a new mission giver, and the emotes captured at last year’s CitizenCon. Facial animation was also done for shopkeepers and bar patrons, and more.
After the release of the bigger and better Rest Stop exteriors in Alpha 3.6, the Modular Team moved on to the interiors. As with all procedural location workflows, time is spent setting up the rules of layout generation and various room libraries. Players can expect the new interiors to feel larger, more open, and more varied when they launch in Alpha 3.7.
Work also continued on Orison, Crusader’s main landing zone, which is currently in the greybox stage. The team finished the layout and are currently making sure the components and architecture complement each other and communicate the desired art style.
A portion of the UK-based team began work on the exterior buildings for New Babbage. The Environment Art Team began work on the wider microTech planet, with effort going into creating new terrains and materials to better represent snowy landscapes and frozen planes.
The Origin 890 Jump is well on its way to the PU, with the team finishing off the remaining tweak and polish tasks. Once the art elements are done, it’ll go to the Tech Art Team for its pre-flight setup.
The first half of the Aegis Vanguard update went live last month and the remaining two are now nearing completion. Look out for the Harbinger and Sentinel in the PU in Alpha 3.7.
In the US, the Art Team worked closely with System Design to build the Ballista and supported the final stages of the P-72 Archimedes, both of which launched in Alpha 3.6.
Progress on the Banu Defender continues, with the team getting close to solidifying the Banu ship identity with dramatic lighting and a unique construction style. The exterior was the focus last month and saw the team tackle the cockpit, body, wings, and landing gear.
Significant focus was also placed on creating a unique standard for the Tevarin, which led the team to reevaluate the interior of the Prowler. Progress on the exterior, however, continued into greybox, with time last month going into designing the unique landing gear and bulkheads. Tech Art solved some of the technical challenges presented by the unique features on the wings as they’re also the main thrusters and landing gear. They also polished landing gear systems across the board, with particular focus on tuning ‘settle height’. They also helped to improve the player’s cockpit experience by working on HOTAS strafe animations.
The Weapons Art Team completed their final pass on both the Hedeby Gunworks Salvo frag pistol and Behring GP33 ‘MOD’ grenade launcher mentioned last month. The OMC frag grenade was completed and the team began work on the new attachments for Alpha 3.7. Development kicked off for the greybox for the Kroneg FL-33 laser cannon.
Audio spent time in July supporting the recent and upcoming features and content including the Anvil Ballista, Origin 890 Jump, Kruger P-72 Archimedes, Hedeby Gunworks Salvo pistol, Apocalypse Arms missile launcher, and weapon attachments.
They also made Foley improvements and refined the remote turret experience. Alpha 3.7 should also see the return of music previously removed due to a rework of implementation along with new audio to support specific points of interest.
Last month, Backend Services worked on the resource service that tracks the state of natural resources found on planets and moons. Adjustments were made to the transaction service, persistent data manager, and rental services. The first phase of the diffusion router mesh was completed and allows DevOps to manage how network traffic and server-to-service communication travels through the back end. They also finished the new matchmaker API used by the platform teams for Spectrum.
The new career concepts mentioned last month were further developed throughout July. New armor was concepted and developed, while progress was made on making all existing clothing compatible with the female character model. The material library was further expanded too, which will help to improve the overall texture quality throughout the game when complete.
Shortly before the release of Alpha 3.6, the Imperator’s Day
festivities kicked off, celebrating independence throughout the ‘verse. To honor the unification of humanity, the team invited everyone to throw their very own Imperator’s Day parade
and share their best pictures.
With the unexpected introduction of the Ballista
, Anvil’s self-propelled air defense system, the Community Team jumped headfirst into the next contest. This time, they challenged players to design a bumper sticker
for the newly released vehicle. The contest offered one lucky designer the chance to leave their mark on CitizenCon 2949
, with the first-place design being physically printed and distributed to all attendees at the event in November!
Speaking of CitizenCon, the team is still accepting applications for community booths
. This time, it’s not exclusively for organizations – if you’re an event group, sub-community, or even fly solo, everyone is invited to submit an application.
The team in Texas worked on ship balancing and pricing last month, specifically developing the capability to systemically set prices. In doing so, they analyzed the stats from current ships and identified balance issues arising from early development artifacts. They’re now coordinating with the Ship Team to target these issues and bring all vehicles in-line with the expected guidelines.
The team watched players discover Alpha 3.6’s new black-market locations and looked at profitability, how much ‘fences’ take, and common player behavior (particularly regarding the new law system). They’ll use the information gathered to help further improve gameplay in the future.
Progress on the NPC bartender continues, with several new usables (mostly mix stations) being created. They’re also coordinating with various other teams to improve how NPCs look when moving between usables. New vendors and NPCs are being iterated on too.
Balancing and implementation of the upcoming ship rental feature was done, while the selling of items from the upcoming ‘harvestables’ feature was discussed. Finally, work was also started on the Anvil Ballista to access CryAstro services.
DevOps was busy keeping up with the build and publishing schedules which become increasingly demanding toward the end of a quarterly publishing cycle. In July alone they deployed 16 times to the PTU and once to Live. They also performed several publishes each day for internal testing.
While service monitoring will continue for the Publishing Team, the Build Team moved onto further enhancing build optimization and storing the massive amount of daily-generated data. July also saw the start of a new project to explore the viability of scaling certain aspects of the build system using cloud services.
In Germany, the Engine Team worked on support for tri-mesh splitting to optimize collisions and intersection tests, continued work on geometry instancing, and optimized the application of networked states as part of the wider physics update. They also added raycaster support for collisions on overlapping zones. Recent optimizations include making vehicles ‘go to sleep’ when landed, not updating ship physical entity if parts move slightly, not looping through all rigid entities during the ‘apply state from network’ part of the physics step, and introducing the first elements of box pruning.
They also continued removing the global render state along with graphic and fidelity planning and prep and added support for ‘libunwind’ on Linux for more readable callstacks when DGS crashes. They also continued support for SOCS (with entity stability improvements), remove/respawn single aggregates to memory, and general game code.
For Rendering, they improved the anti-flicker heuristic for TSAA, which now uses the cumulative moving average for the first four frames to obtain faster convergence after history resets. They researched atmosphere artifacts at the horizon and made several major improvements. Some issues remain and will be fixed by a slightly different approach to atmosphere rendering. This new approach will unify the atmosphere, ground fog, and eventually clouds. Part of the research involved implementing a ground truth solution for atmosphere light inscattering (single-scatter precise + multi-scatter approximation). For the procedural planet tool, they implemented a layout generation recorder for designers that allows the visualization of collision issues in the layout of space stations and other locations.
Previously, the Gameplay Features was split into two teams, US1 and US2, who worked on different features and tasks. July saw them merge into the US Persistent Universe Gameplay Team, whose first united task was to plan new and improved features for the next major release.
Alongside the merge, work continued on the next iteration of the Character Customizer. When complete, it’ll bring a whole new look and feel to the feature. They also worked on improvements to FoIP & VoIP (adding multi-channel comms support) and polished the ship rental kiosks alongside the UI Team.
The team’s focus in July was split between bug fixing for Alpha 3.6 and starting feature development for upcoming future patches. Crash and build stability issues were rectified and bugs affecting turrets, scanning, mining, and various vehicles were fixed. Feature-wise, the team supported the ongoing physics system refactor and began adding additional functionality to vehicle scanning.
The Graphics Team resumed their work on Planet Shading v4, with focus on adding a new artist tool that simultaneously paints a desired location along with every other location on the planet with matching environmental conditions. This provides a great compromise between hand-crafted and fully-procedural content creation. Work also started on the tint palette system, which will eventually allow the game code to assign shared palettes to any object in the game and recolor the materials and assign matching decals and logos. This will vastly cut down the work required to create material variants of ships, weapons, armor, props, and environments and give the designers much greater flexibility in the array of colors and branding available across the game.
Level Design are currently iterating on the Rest Stop interiors to make them that feel more in-line with the new larger exteriors. They’re also working on New Babbage and Orison, both of which are making great progress. The team also developed a modular set to increase the speed that they can build flagship landing zones in the future.
The Lighting Team kept busy last month, with many upcoming locations reaching the stage when lighting begins to form a critical role in artistic composition, mood, and player readability. New Babbage and Orison received attention, with lighting added to help portray the desired initial mood. This involves laying down the technical foundation (cubemap placement and navigational lighting) to give a base level of quality so that playtests can be run without distracting visual issues.
Narrative began the month with quarterly planning, which involved assessing the work required to get new missions, gameplay content, New Babbage, and Orison ready for release.
They worked with the Props Team in the UK on the text that will feature on some as-yet-unannounced items and names and descriptions were created for Alpha 3.6’s new weapons and attachments. They also worked on branding and signage for the Rest Stop interior variants.
The Xi’an language continued to be refined, with a whole swath of food terms added to the lexicon. This was used as the basis for the Xi’an Cuisine article featured in July’s issue of Jump Point. Foundational work for on Banu language made excellent progress too, as more details of the race’s everyday lives were fleshed out.
New lore articles were written, including a news update on a Synthworld accident
and a portfolio on Talon Weapons Systems
. The team also assisted with the launch of Alpha 3.6, addressing any remaining narrative issues with the law system, space station exteriors, black market economy, and ship purchasing kiosks.
The Player Relations team spent July supporting Alpha 3.6, 3.6.1, and the Ballista sale.
“We’d like to take a different route this month and highlight the efforts of two people who are well known to Evocati and deserve a special menion: Michael ‘Baior’ Smith and Nathan ‘Wakapedia’ Coy. Both Baior and Waka have been absolute troopers for Player Relations, spearheading our publishing and feedback efforts. On top of that, they create a special Quality of Life report that goes to all stakeholders so we capture all of the feedback from players. They’ve been quite busy this summer on Alpha 3.6, so give them a thanks if you see them in Spectrum!”
July saw continued work on the dressing props for the Origin 890 Jump, which included adding hints of luxury and life to the ship. Additional cargo assets were created for the Mission Team to aid with storytelling and the last few bug fixes were made for Alpha 3.6. As release work came to a close, the team took the opportunity to do some much-needed auditing, clean up the Layer Blend material library, and optimize texture reuse.
Work continued on the bar experience, with the templates defined last month used to create final art for the cocktail station and a more generic bar dressing set, and improvements were made to the glass and drink materials.
Focus was also put onto unifying the seat setup and the team worked closely with Design on a full consistency pass across all seat assets. A couple of asset requests were made for the Ballista and 890 Jump trailers too, which the team considers a great opportunity to push quality and go to town on the visuals.
QA worked extensively on the release of Alpha 3.6, testing Evocati, PTU, and Live builds for deployment. Once live, a few of the team moved onto preliminary testing for next quarter’s Alpha 3.7. Four new testers were also added to the ranks.
Over in Germany, the team worked on test requests for the law jurisdiction from the Ship AI Team. This involved testing the various functionalities of the jurisdiction system along with looking at edge cases that could occur when apprehended by security AIs. Combat AI and social AI are currently tested daily to help the team stay on top of any new issues that arise from related system updates.
As part of Planet Tech v4, the ‘PlanEd’ planet editor tool used by Environment Art received a new paint tool. So, a revamp of the PlanEd section of the full editor checklist was done to ensure they’re testing the most recent relevant functionality. Old test cases that will soon be deprecated were removed and a new section was created to focus more on using the paint tool on planetary surfaces.
Tech Animation saw several new additions to their pipeline that, in the long run, will make for improved character deformation. Head rigging and the related pipeline were developed too, which will allow new mission givers and more interesting characters throughout the PU.
The bartender NPC received new prop iterations that allow him to better interact with players when serving drinks. Alpha 3.6’s new weapons and attachments were finished off for the patch release and animations were developed for upcoming trailers, including the recently unveiled Anvil Ballista. Tools received attention too, which were further developed for ease-of-use.
Improvements were made to the remote exporting tool to make it easier for animators to export large or numerous scenes in a batch process. The new version includes support for feature streams to make it easier to directly export to them. The team also supported the Usable Content Team with bug fixes for existing usables and implementation setups for new usables. The Weapons Team received support with setups and general tech support for the new attachment system and addressed multiple bugs related to Alpha 3.6’s new weapons.
In Montreal, July was dedicated to the development of the new voice session manager that reached its second milestone. It can now handle two sessions at the same time, such as ‘group’ and ‘proximity’. The next step is to tie it to the game UI, which will be done with the Gameplay Team.
The team also helped release Alpha 3.6 as several UI additions were supported by VOIP or linked to microservices created and maintained by Turbulent. This includes the auto-join proximity VOIP channel, ability to invite all members of a channel into a party, and the comms visor VOIP display.
Turbulent (Web platform)
Turbulent created the page to announce the elements of the Alpha 3.6 patch, linking to the patch notes and flyable promotion pages. The Alpha 3.6 flyable promotion showcased ships from Aegis, Kruger, and the new Anvil vehicle.
Turbulent released the unified Launcher 1.2.0. This release consolidates the PTU and Live environments into a single launcher which, for those in the Evocati, makes switching between Live and the PTU much easier. Work continues on quality-of-life improvements, but the first release was welcomed by the community.
User Interface (UI)
As well as bug-fixing for the Alpha 3.6 release, the UI Team began implementing the new rental kiosk, which will allow players to rent vehicles from certain shops. The Graphic Art Team worked on UI concepts, signage, and posters for the interiors of an upcoming location.
Like most teams, July saw the VFX polishing and bug fixing for Alpha 3.6. Alongside bugs, work was completed on the Anvil Ballista, including adding effects for the recently released trailer. Work also began on effects for the Origin 890 Jump, the Hedeby Gunworks Salvo frag pistol, and the Kroneg FL-33 laser cannon.
Planet Tech Tools v4 was worked on too, which now can now spawn unique particles on the terrain using various parameters. It can also lock particles to the terrain and have them move around on the surface as needed. For example, when particles are affected by gravity or wind, they now flow around the contours of the terrain in a natural way. The team also added a particle LOD system to allow them to draw ‘cheaper’ versions of the effect much further away and swap them out for a higher-quality version up close.