Character AI worked towards completing the first pass on the new iteration of combat behaviors. This implementation includes better structural organization of the different tactics characters can evaluate during combat and helps the programmers to implement and test all possible options. It’s also great for the player as it makes the overall combat experience more stable and interesting. For example, enemies now have proper tactics for handling open spaces and have a better selection of cover options when fighting in locations with multiple floors. They also started implementing different weapon fire modes so that NPCs can decide which one best suits their current situation. The choice is also affected by the AI’s ‘experience’ – so a scared, inexperienced soldier might shoot as much as possible with reduced accuracy and bullet conservation. Several fixes were made to ensure aiming and shooting syncs correctly between the client and server too.
Ship AI worked on behavior and technical improvements. So of these allow the designers to access more behavior parameters, such as the option to look at a target while flying to a specific offset or to the beginning of a Track View scene. They implemented the first version of the Defend Target behavior that makes great use of the new target selection functionalities – the designers can now customize weights and threat scores to enable the AI to select the most appropriate target. This selection is influenced by several factors, such as the enemy ship’s threat score, the number of enemies targeting a specific entity, or damage inflicted. This provides a more realistic fight experience and allows players to witness more meaningful decisions during firefights.
Further progress was made towards the new ship 3D pathfinding implementation. This new approach has two basic control modes: position and velocity. Positional control means that a spaceship wants to reach a specific location, so a path will be generated incrementally as it moves in space. Velocity control means that a spaceship is going to maneuver related to a specific target or location. Both approaches make use of the physical data stored in the signed distance fields (SDF).
Social AI improved the usable system by simplifying the way ‘use channel routing’ is set up and evaluated by the runtime code. For those not familiar with use channel routing, it’s a functionality to set up an override of the available interactions when a character is attached to another usable. For example, when a patron orders a drink, the bartender needs to understand what to do if the patron is standing or sitting. They also unified the way NPCs interact with usables and seats so that operator seats don’t require specific nodes and that functionality is abstracted under the usable system.
The team also started tackling the problem of NPCs navigating across multiple meshes. The ‘offmesh link manager’ has been improved to accept the connection of different navigation meshes and the movement system can now handle different paths and follow multiple path types. This functionality is fundamental to the procedural generation of stations made by multiple navigation meshes (or ships composed of different customization elements) and to allow, for example, reinforcements to drop from a ship to a station.
The Animation Team spent time in August improving in-game animations. They also progressed with the bartender NPC and are currently planning to shoot more mocap to add to the experience.
August saw the Art Team finalize asset work for caves. Players can expect to find new mineable and harvestable items when they eventually explore these new locations in the future.
Planet-side, progress was made on microTech and technical updates were made to the planet tech to improve all existing locations. Players will see improved visuals, better consistency between ground and orbit, and direct correlation with the VFX on the surface when it goes live. The team will share more and break down the full scope of the updates towards the end of the year.
The Art Team added their finishing touches to the Banu Defender and worked with System Design to ensure everything was working correctly. Most elements of the ship are nearing completion, with the team now finalizing the material sets and preparing for a damage pass. Significant progress was also made on the Prowler following the finalization of the art direction for Tevarin ship interiors. The exterior is approaching the greybox-complete stage and the interior is developing its own identity, particularly when compared to the other alien races’ ships. They also squashed bugs on already-released vehicles like the Ballista.
Lots of small issues along with a few bigger ones have been fixed this month to get the Origin 890 Jump complete.
The Weapons Art Team started the month closing out tasks for the Greycat Industrial Multitool mining attachment. The Kroneg FL-33 laser canon is having the finishing touches applied to the main geometry and materials and will move to the final art complete stage in the coming weeks. A few feedback points were addressed for the Hedeby Gunworks Salvo frag pistol before focus shifted to weapon attachments. Scopes, holo sights, red dots, and a full selection of barrel and under-barrel attachments were completed and are being tested before their upcoming release.
Audio supported various Alpha 3.7 features and content, including implementing SFX for the Kroneg FL-33 laser canon and Hedeby Gunworks Salvo frag pistol. Alongside this, weapon attachments received new audio assets across the board. The team supported the ongoing work on FPS mining by designing and implementing sound for the Multitool attachment and the related mineable/harvestable objects.
The main ships workload for the team was on the Origin 890 Jump, specifically the thrusters, ambiance, and moving parts. They also supported the Aegis Vanguard variants to ensure a high level of polish ahead of their release. Improvements were made to the automatic Foley system, with added ambiance and bespoke effects for jumping, landing, and vaulting. They also added mark-up and effects to the various cave locations that will be released soon, with the solid ambiance and spot SFX pass complete.
Music system fixes, rebalancing, and new content for the ship flight and combat experience were added. New music was also implemented for the approach to the new Rest Stop locations. The team are also in the process of reworking various UI systems – one notable being the ship star map system and power triangle.
Bespoke support for remote turrets was added, with changes to the audio mix made to represent the remote camera view and create a notable difference between manned and unmanned turrets. The Dialogue Team also made improvements to Ship AI and 3D bussing.
August saw the Backend Services Team focus on fixing various bugs with new and existing systems. The iCache underwent significant testing, including checking its overall robustness and recovery. Work began on the new resource service, which is responsible for placing and tracking natural resources on planetary bodies throughout the solar system. The new Star Engine Services received enhancements to its core technology and is now ready to be used for gameplay and other supporting roles.
An issue with ship damage carrying over from the PU to Arena Commander has been resolved, while loadout customization was moved from game service to the backend.
Lastly, the game servers are now using the generalized transaction service to handle shop purchases, insurance, and other related exchanges
Last month, the Character Team continued work on armor, tested something important for CitizenCon, and finished the initial rollout of the material library. The team recently moved onto retexturing PU assets using the new library. Finally, the bounty hunter NPC progressed to the high-poly stage.
The Community Team visited Cologne for Gamescom and met countless citizens throughout the event and the evening’s Bar Citizens. They distributed special pins amongst the crowd that provided a hint at the ship to be revealed at the Aegis presentation in Frankfurt – the Nautilus. If you have questions about this newly introduced strategic minelayer, check out the official Q&A
While the third and final wave of CitizenCon tickets sold out, the digital goodies packs
given to all CitizenCon attendees is still available. If you want to secure your exclusive in-game spacesuit, plushie, decorative telescope, and trophy, head over to the CitizenCon website.
Talking about CitizenCon: After receiving a long list of applications, the Community Booth signup is now closed. The team has wrapped up reviewing all applicants and has replied to everyone who submitted an application. More details on this will be shared publicly closer to the event!
Preparation for CitizenCon made up a portion of the Austin-based team’s work. On the economy side of things, they spent time helping the FPS Mining Team integrate and distribute new materials into various shops throughout the universe. They also continued work on improving the economic makeup of ships and are looking to make a holistic pass updating mission payouts and trade routes.
A mission giver audit was started, which is the first step in an overall update of all mission-giving NPCs. Preliminary work was also started on new mission content and is currently in the R&D and prototype stage. Finally, a large number of new items are currently being added to shops in the backend, so keep an eye out for new stuff when Alpha 3.7 hits the PTU.
Last month, DevOps received a request to dramatically increase build output. In the past, they measured build output by the quantity of unique builds per day. With the addition of feature stream development, they’re measuring pace by how many builds they can run at the same time. Current capacity allows four different builds to run concurrently, with the current target set at ten.
On any other large project, this request might be a bridge too far, but for us this request only demonstrates the increased pace of the project and how we’ve got just the team to meet these goals.
The Gameplay Team had a busy summer working towards goals they’re aiming to unveil at the end of Q3 2019 and beyond. They also made several improvements to the Comm-Link UI for Alpha 3.7, improving its general readability and user experience. Work also continued on multi-channel comms support for VoIP/FoIP, as did work on the second iteration of the character customizer. The new version brings a straightforward look to the UI that will improve the overall user experience when creating custom characters in Alpha 3.7.
The US teams spent August focusing on a physics proxy refactor which, when complete, will result in improved performance throughout the PU. Additionally, they supported the Alpha 3.6.1 patch by fixing several bugs, including game crashes and vehicle-related issues.
The EU teams worked on annunciator panels for ships, getting the individual lights to work correctly in the right situations. They’re now focusing on finishing the feature and adding it to more vehicles. They also made various improvements to Hover Mode and fixed various feature bugs.
August saw the Graphics Team focus on three major features for the PU: The first is the continuation of the planet shading improvements mentioned in previous reports, which is nearing completion and showing extremely promising results. Much of the planet code has now been hand-optimized with SIMD/SSE instructions to make it run even faster than before despite the addition of new features, such as the run-time decompression of climate data maps.
The tint palette system is also approaching completion, after which it will be handed over to the art and code teams to begin integrating into their various systems and workflows. Environment Art and Props will be first to take advantage of this. Over time, this feature will allow a much wider variety of colors, decals, and logos across the game.
The final feature is a bounced light simulation (GI) for the FPS flashlight. This uses a screen-space technique that takes advantage of the fact that the flashlight is always aimed forwards, so avoids the usual pitfalls of screen-space techniques. This will allow for much more interesting lighting in caves and other dark environments.
Level Design worked on several new locations during August – New Babbage is making great progress and is well into the Greybox phase. They’re also busy generating the new modular station interiors to ensure everything is working as intended for their upcoming release.
In August, the Lighting Team began finalizing the mood and atmosphere of the upcoming planetary cave locations. The challenge has been finding a balance between believable darkness, cinematic atmosphere, and readability to prevent players from becoming too lost. To support this, they’ve been looking into making improvements to the player flashlight and adding ‘flavor areas’ that can help players identify where they.
The team also provided on-going support for the updated Rest Stop interiors with interesting and dynamic lighting. At the same time, they supported the New Babbage landing zone with LookDev and exploration work, which allows them to spend more time iterating on and polishing the lighting later on.
The Narrative Team spent time auditing existing systems like mission givers and dogfighting wild lines, providing the Environment Team with details for some of the upcoming landing zones, and syncing with Design on new mission content and NPC
archetypes. They started fleshing out Banu cuisine and some of the potential fighting styles that could have developed and worked through their usual tasks, such as writing the latest installment of Tracker
and providing content for Jump Point
. Progress was made on a few tasks for CitizenCon too…
Player Relations worked daily to publish and support Alpha 3.6 and its incremental patches along with supporting the Anvil Ballista and upcoming launch of the Origin 890 Jump.
They also supported the Chairman’s Club event in Frankfurt. Over 150 backers attended the post-Gamescom event, where the Aegis Nautilus was revealed.
In the UK, Props spent the month closing out requirements for upcoming Alpha releases, including the Origin 890 Jump. Once all props were complete, the team took the opportunity to create a model of the ship for the captain’s quarters. Some team members helped finish the ship itself by finalizing a couple of rooms and creating LODs and physics proxies.
New props were created for the caves coming in Alpha 3.7, including a prototype for a personal flare that will likely reach ‘art complete’ next month. As always, they continued to support the Usables Team by setting up new templates and supporting functionality set up.
The US Tech Art Team developed a new template tool to speed up the asset creation process, so time was taken to determine how best to take advantage of the new feature. Finally, some of the team started looking into the new Hi-Tech assets by exploring the art style and starting their whitebox pass on New Babbage.
QA were tasked with a test request for a major visual update to the editor last month. Functionality was not affected, so they primarily focused on new visual issues and usability.
On the client-side, several physics memory improvements were tested and implemented into Alpha 3.6. They also undertook preliminary testing of the newly implemented 890 Jump and received an internal request to test Quantum Travel Linking from the Design Team. Combat AI target selection is being tested in the PU, with difficulty currently being tweaked.
Design worked alongside Locations to provide feedback on the AI density required to make Orison feel lively and habited, which included testing to make sure there were enough usables and none were overlapping. Locations also tasked QA with getting better acquainted with the procedural layout tool so that they’re able to quickly investigate level design issues in the future.
Tech Animation supported the Social AI Team with in-engine animation setups and animation rigs for a wide variety of props. They supported the Weapons Team with the Multitool mining attachment and completed technical setups for the new weapon attachment types. Bugs were also fixed for Animation, Design, and Art.
Tech Art revisited the facial expression scanning pipeline and evaluated various new photogrammetry-based scan solutions. Since highly detailed scans of facial expressions are the core of the new in-house rigging pipeline, efficient creation, processing, and manual touch-ups of the scan meshes are crucial for quick turnaround times. While the Squadron 42 cast already has high-quality face rigs, the PU is in constant need of new mission givers. The new solutions will ultimately help the team expand the character creator’s ‘DNA’ gene pool, which will give both the designers and players more options to create unique and interesting faces.
Over in Montreal, Turbulent began development of a new framework to build event-sourced microservices. This will support the development of an entirely new set of game services and will provide inventory and progress persistence, cut the development times of upcoming services, and increase reliability across the game’s social services. The framework updates how microservices communicate on the game’s service bus and provides new anchor points for retrieving the real-time data used by game support and designers to inspect the state of the game universe.
Turbulent (Web platform)
Turbulent’s Platform Team supported the release of the Aegis Nautilus by building the webpages and ‘Mission to Hadrian’ minigame. They also supported the release of new merchandise and the Concierge event in Frankfurt.
August saw VFX continue their work on readying the 890 Jump for release. They also completed a pass of all ship engine trails to make sure they’re visible at range.
On the weapons front, the Hedeby Gunworks Salvo frag pistol was completed (including new functionality that allows the team to change the projectile type when the weapon is fully charged) and work also began on a new rocket launcher. The team also worked on VFX for FPS mining, including the mining attachment’s laser beam, impact, and rock destruction.
Further progress was made on Planet Effects V4, with further improvements to the LOD system mentioned last month and the new ability to spawn effects directly from surface types.
A system was also added to enable special particles that have custom LODs embedded into the effect. This will allow the team to drastically change the look of an effect based on the range. For example, a dust storm may be thick enough to see some directional sunlight shading when viewed from afar, but up close it will just look like thick fog with no shading.
The VFX tech artists worked on several Houdini-based prototypes, including a building asset generator that allows them to quickly generate multiple buildings defined by a rule-set.