Roberts Space Industries

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17187

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Date:

August 14th 2019

Squadron 42 Monthly Report: July 2019

Squadron 42 Monthly Report: July 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).
After extensive investigation, we’ve obtained information regarding AI fire discipline, physical combat, asteroid cluster progress, 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


July’s roundup starts with AI, who extended the first reactions worked on last month to be triggered by the actions of friendly AI characters. As a reminder, first reactions are part of combat behavior and 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.

Progress was made on crucial upcoming features (that will also affect the PU): ‘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 every event that could happen during a mission (of which there are many!).



Animation


Animation spent the month on melee and female-specific motion animations, ‘Spec Ops’ first reactions, and general useable animation. They also continued their ongoing work on story scenes and cinematic moments.



Art (Characters)


July saw great in-engine results on the hair pipeline and further work on tools to control hair grooming. Rigging for important characters was developed, as was texturing for costumes and uniforms. Going forward, the team will continue their texturing pass on heads and other outfits.



Art (Environment)


The first of the asteroid sets mentioned in last month’s update was completed and will serve approximately 30% of the game’s needs. Asteroids (and other assets) evolve as the campaign progresses, so the next step is to create the variations.

Archon Station’s central hub received significant attention too, including early explorations of lighting and atmosphere. The aim is to have this social space feel as alive as possible and to accurately portray the fact thousands of people live and visit every day.

Development of the comma array exterior is coming to a close, with particular attention being given to how the player freely traverses the area while being “funneled” to locations that show of the scale and grandeur.

Gas cloud work continued too, with Design working out their modular set requirements for the basic traversal areas. On the art front, the team are merging this tech with some of the asteroid belts players come across in the campaign. The reason being that some of them have solar winds and need to have movement, affect ship flight characteristics, and so on.

Finally, some of the team began early work on one of the main planetary locations – a brutalist building with impressive scale.



Audio


Audio worked with SQ42’s creative leadership to develop and refine the audio approach to many of the chapters and gameplay elements. They also supported Narrative and Design by editing, polishing, and implementing all required dialogue assets.



Cinematics


The Cinematics Team’s July focus was mainly on ‘playable’ cinematics, such as conversations, briefings, or walk-and-talk scenes. This is due to new code and tech arriving last month that unblocks the team’s ability to fully implement these types of scenes (mainly the intro and outros).

Continuing from last month, the team worked with new code and tools that enable blending in and out of mo-cap from locomotion. They’re already putting it to good use and bringing more scenes to the ‘implementation complete’ stage, which means a scene’s state machine is done, approved, and the animation editing for each fragment reflects that. Even small scenes often require pre-scene idles, intros, dialogue options, waiting idles, resolves, post-scene idles, and more, so reaching ‘implementation complete’ is an important milestone. However, the scene is not fully complete in this state, but is ‘functionally’ finished and can be played through as designed. The next stage is for Level Design to implement the scene into the mission flow and review, feedback, and polish.

Two large changes were also done in-code: the hero cast and ships received ‘Hero Global Unique IDs’, which enables the team to move away from a proxy placeholder entity workflow. They can now also create ‘child object container layers’ in the editor that can easily fly with a ship or zone without having to wait for client mode to verify it works. These changes allow, for example, a fistfight scene play out on top of a Gladius wing while the player is flying the ship. They also received new editor code that brings them closer to a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) workflow.



Engineering


July began with work on the inventory system. Alongside the physical inventory (items attached to your suit), players will get a container to stow resources and other smaller items. The animation engineers are also in very early development of the motion matching system, which is a technique that creates much more fluid transitions between animations and will add an extra layer of fidelity to characters.

The Actor Feature Team continued iterating on unarmed melee combat, including looking into a heavy attack and creating windows of opportunity for punching, dodging, and blocking. To refine timing, they created a test level where they can have multiplayer melee fights (set in a bar of course).

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 ongoing physics update. They also added raycaster support for collisions on overlapping zones. Recent optimizations to physics 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 step 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 support.

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 that will unify the atmosphere, ground fog, and eventually clouds. Part of the research for this new approach involved implementing a ground truth solution for atmosphere light ‘in-scattering’ (single-scatter precise + multi-scatter approximation). For the procedural planet tool, they implemented a layout generation recorder for the designers that allows the visualization of collision issues in the layout of space stations and other locations.



Gameplay Story


The Gameplay Story Team got started on a large number of new scenes prioritized for the 3rd quarter of the year. Kick-offs, planning, and early animation work is currently on-going for many of these new scenes. They also continued to improve the setup for many existing scenes from chapter four with the Design Team to deliver additional idles and animations as required. The team are currently working through all quarter three scenes, checking that the track views are up to date, and creating idles that they anticipate will be required.



Graphics


Following last month’s summit on the new renderer design, the Graphics Team started drilling into the finer details of the design and created example code to help nail down the API. Once complete, the graphics programmers will start converting the rendering code, with the eventual goal of a vastly reduced CPU cost. This will also eventually pave the way for modern graphics APIs. Alongside this, the final gas cloud work continued, which mainly consists of implementing a faster GPU sun-shadow calculation and integrating it into the rest of the renderer.



Level Design


The Social Team continued with the implementation of narrative scenes, crew behaviors, and some of the persistent entities such as the weapons vendor, firing range, and air traffic controller.

Level Design are still polishing the chapters that include traversal and exploration along with focusing on the combat experience. The Spaceflight Team are currently developing combat spaces with Art and the points of interest where quantum travel will be seen, with focus soon shifting from level layout to the player cockpit experience as more AI behaviors make it into the game.



Narrative


In addition to working with Production to plan out the team’s goals for the new quarter, Narrative continued generating content for the text needs of various missions, including first passes on mission objective markers. They also submitted the first pass of a new mission summary system (formatted as an after-action report) to help figure out what kind of stats and metrics the missions will keep track of. This will also factor in the reputation system, as these factors will help establish a player’s performance during the game. Finally, the team continued to review levels with Design to provide feedback about the narrative experience.



QA


Usables used primarily by Social AI (particularly for civilian setups) went through a rework and were tested by the embedded AI feature tester. This involved going into test levels and making sure the AI could navigate to the usables and use them according to their respective functionalities.

They’re also anticipating that testing will be required for the new ship AI formations feature. This system is already being used to a degree in the PU, but will need further functionality and destructive testing for SQ42.



Tech Animation


Tech Animation saw several new additions to their pipeline that, in the long run, will make for improved character deformation. Planning was done for the quarter ahead and beyond to ensure they have an idea what requests will be coming in from dependent teams.

Alongside preparation and planning, head rigging was further developed, new tools were delivered to make internal processes easier, and comm calls were improved. The team in Germany also supported Cinematics with bug fixes and provided several loadouts and prop rigs to help them finalize animations.



UI


The UI Team began concepting the UI for the ‘datapads’ various characters carry. They also finished the logos for the main UEE squadrons seen on military ships and uniforms.



VFX


VFX continued to work closely with the Art and Design teams on key locations, polished a large ship interior, and added effects to asteroids of varying scales.

The VFX Tech Art Team (again with Art and Design) continued work on the gas cloud tools needed for The Coil. There are still a few minor issues being addressed, though everything is working in-engine as intended.



Conclusion

WE’LL SEE YOU NEXT MONTH



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