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Roberts Space Industries ®






October 9th 2019

Squadron 42 Monthly Report: September 2019

Squadron 42 Monthly Report: September 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).
Operatives around the world collected the intel needed to provide you with this progress report. Intelligence suggests we’ve uncovered intel on combat takedowns, an updated MobiGlas for Squadron 42, and fixes to the gas cloud VFX tech.

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


We start with AI, who focused on improving the initial experience when players encounter NPCs. This involved tuning first reactions to something viewable in the players’ peripheral vision and making the first pass on ‘low reaction’ behavior, which represents NPC reaction to something not particularly dangerous. For example, if they see or hear a cup being thrown. In these cases, the team wants to allow the player to draw the attention of an enemy to take them by surprise or drive them away from their location so they can sneak by.

They also improved reactions to things NPCs only briefly see, particularly if the detected entity is in their peripheral vision. They achieved this by implementing a more complex first reaction, so being detected is slightly more forgiving to allow the player to better control the situation.

Alongside behaviors, they made the first pass on accuracy and targeting controls for characters. This includes making the chest the preferred targeting location, with the following adjustments based on designer-defined accuracy values. Eventually, this will be connected to the skill system.

Ship AI worked improved and balanced ship behaviors, with a focus on the ‘DefendTarget’ logic. They also cleaned up the landing and takeoff code and slightly refactored how quantum travel (QT) logic works. This included simplifying the 3D pathfinding code by moving all additional steps into the behavior logic and TPS.

Parallel to this, progress continued on new 3D pathfinding code, which involves moving a lot of the processing logic into jobs that execute small calculations while the ship flies around the universe. This allowed them to extend the movement system to support patchable plans that can resume the pathfinding calculation when needed.

Social AI looked at identifying and clarifying the possible scenarios required to implement a large number of social behaviors. They’re currently investigating the details so they can predefine the structural setup of the usables needed to allow the designers to create the infrastructure alongside the behaviors. These scenarios help identify edge cases to tackle on the second pass for the usable slotting code implementation.

A prototype was developed for the ‘item provider’ – a usable that provides an NPC with all the necessary elements to prepare a specific item. This enables the team to create a data-driven process for the designers to quickly implement the required content.

Aside from fixing bugs and making systems more robust and stable, optimization work was done to general character navigation, including a way for navigation links to connect multiple meshes. This allows the modular creation of spaceships and stations to correctly define navigation volumes that can be connected to each other. It also opens up a lot of possibilities to NPCs, who can now systemically path through different sections of spaceships.


Last month, the team focused on creating useables for the environments. They finalized takedowns (both unarmed and with knives) and reactions to staggers and punches. They’re currently exploring how to show effect types on the player’s body. They also completed animations for two new human enemy types, worked on new weapons for an existing enemy type, and supported the Cinematics and Story teams.

Art (Characters)

The team kicked art production into full gear, including kicking off a new polish process for characters. This included creating a new hairstyle, face, body, and outfit. An existing character was revamped as a template the team moved onto the next character on the list.


The Audio Team completed several chapters, paying particular attention to improving the ambiance and spot SFX on the Idris, where much of chapter 4 takes place.


The Cinematics Team’s September involved in-mission spaceflight cutaways and on-foot sequences with lots of characters. They also upgraded and adjusted a few sequences to accommodate slight changes to room layouts and locations.

The on-going female player tests resulted in a couple of tech requests to the Feature Team – a quick way to switch between female and male characters in-editor, and a way to render sequences with both male and female characters. These additions will make it possible to review sequences without too much manual capture.

The request for a female-character-specific additive positional/rotational adjustment track mentioned last month made progress. This will enable quick adjustments of the (virtual) camera to properly frame the female character model, as it is slightly smaller than the male equivalent.

A complex sequence featuring a navigation ship spline from a space station to a Bengal carrier was completed too.


Alongside supporting Track View and comms calls, the Feature Team helped with locker functionality. The feature dynamically populates a locker with an NPC’s outfit and enables the team to swap it out as required.

The Actor Feature Team stared adding temperature to the actor status system. This will affect a character’s performance and health depending on how hot and cold they are and takes the environment, humidity, and windchill into account. They also continued developing the personal inventory system using a new personal inner-thought menu. Melee combat improved and now features combos and melee weapons, while staggers and knockdowns based on force were added. For example, a pistol will have less effect than a shotgun.

Physics work included finalizing and submitting the signed distance field (SDF) system, which is used to accelerate collision checks and intersection tests of rays against complex geometry, such as ships. Several optimizations were also made to soft bodies. These included enabled attached vertices to not create n^2 LRA constraints, allowing the sub-step mode to only perform collision detection once instead of multiple times per sub-step, and increasing collision shape counts to account for more complicated geometry.

Gameplay Story

The Gameplay Story Team had a productive September, getting nearly 50 scenes to a good standard during Q3. They’re currently planning for Q4, where they’re aiming to complete a further 50. They also began working with Design to prototype what happens if players interrupt scenes or approach from unexpected directions.


Last month, Graphics focused on optimization and adding additional functionality to the art material shaders, including the glass and organic variants.

Significant attention went to visual testing, which is the process used to find bugs in the engine as quickly as possible. The automated version was reworked to run on any programmer’s machine before they submit code changes to check that they won’t detrimentally affect the engine. This is important because the sheer size of the engine and its feature set make it extremely difficult to manually test all potential knock-ons from a change.

Level Design

The Social Team continued building social spaces and both high and low priority narrative scenes. Level Design detailed the FPS spaces with support from Art and AI. Workflow tweaks to the scripting tools are now starting to come in to make their lives easier. The team responsible for aerial combat continued to work on space encounters, with focus on layering the AI and pilot profiles to make the scenarios feel more realistic. The team also gained two new members, who are quickly getting up to speed with the more complex features and mechanics. Progress is currently being made on systemic behaviors, which require complex scripting to make use of the numerous intractables.


Some of the Narrative Team visited the UK office to review the latest progress and continue to hone the narrative flow of the game, adjusting how certain moments are discovered by the player to ensure they have optimal impact. To this end, they also continued work on game text and collaborated with Design to focus on when they’re triggered and completed. Additionally, they met with Character Art to discuss adjustments to add a deeper sense of backstory to some of the cast’s looks.


Last month, QA worked on the full Squadron 42 flow to better equip themselves to test the different NPC wild lines during the campaign. They also maintained the various cinematic test levels they use to investigate issues the Cinematics Team encounters during their workflow.

Tech Animation

Tech Animation in the UK kept busy building, maintaining, and implementing campaign scenes. Alongside scenes, they worked on the creative and technical processes behind combat AI, social AI, and weapons. They also created new characters and worked closely with Character Art on the alien species featured in SQ42.

The team in Frankfurt worked with Cinematics and Character Art to finalize character loadouts, rigged props for cinematic animations, and implemented a large number of comms calls..

Tech 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. This new solution will ultimately help the team expand the character creator’s ‘DNA’ gene pool and give both the designers and players more options to create unique and interesting faces.

User Interface (UI)

The UI Team created designs and concepts for a new military helmet visor and MobiGlas which will eventually make its way into SQ42. They’re currently creating signage and posters to add a “retro-futuristic” feel to one of the new environments.


VFX continued to work closely with Art and Design on key space locations, moving onto the polish phase in some cases and exploratory R&D in others. This included significant improvements to the gas cloud setup. They continued to develop the VFX transparency shader based on artist feedback and made raindrop shader improvements. LOD workflow improvements were also made to improve the quality of life for the vehicle artists.

In Frankfurt, the team are currently providing tool support and fixing current issues with the gas cloud entity. They recently fixed a noticeable seam between voxel grids, despite them lining up perfectly. They accomplished this by adding an extra layer of voxels around the volume to create an overlap. This not only allows them to blend between different voxel grids but also blend between grids with different resolutions



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