Roberts Space Industries

Transmission

General

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17341

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46

Date:

November 6th 2019

Star Citizen Monthly Report: October 2019

This time next month, CitizenCon 2949 will be but a fond memory. As you can imagine, most teams touched on the event one way or another in October, be it preparing presentations or putting the final touches to tech being demonstrated. To avoid spoilers and undermining the hard work put into the event, this month’s report is a little light on juicy details. However, we’ll get back to normal next month!

Star Citizen Monthly Report: October 2019

AI


We kick off October’s report with the AI Character Combat Team, who spent time iterating on NPC aiming. They simplified the ability to control if and when they want the lower body turning while aiming at a target and improved the way aim-tracking works. This makes it easier to determine when the movement should blend slowly or snap quickly. They also fixed a look-target synchronization bug that was causing general issues.

On the behaviors side, they improved cover selection during combat by introducing new ways to weight cover locations based on target direction. NPCs can now choose between using a weapon’s predefined fire mode or actively selecting auto, burst, or single shot. They added more wild lines and flavor to the behaviors too, such as NPCs taunting a target before they start investigating.

Ship AI moved the first pass of their new 3D pathfinding functionality into the main game-development branch. This approach is based on a non-canonical A* implementation that uses the signed distance field (SDF) to incrementally compute a path in a 3D environment. Progress is currently being made on the first version of 3D ORCA implementation and is getting close to a first working version.

A new way for the designers to request that a ship follow a ‘spline’ (a tunnel that guides a ship’s movement rather than a prescriptive track) was exposed. At runtime, the calculation automatically adjusts the tunnel size based on the environment and the information reported by the SDF. They also added new nodes to monitor target distance and the vehicle’s relative state and make decisions according to the reported values.

Social AI optimized the ‘usable search’ function and are now able to cache the location of usables on the navmesh. This means they don’t have to constantly recalculate the time an object is static in one location. They also continued the unification of operator and generic seats so that behaviors can utilize them regardless of height.

Implementation of generic vendors continued, which employs usables that can ‘provide’ or ‘accept’ specific object types. This allows designers to create many different object types. For example, drinks bartenders can offer to patrons. They’re currently progressing on the patrol functionality that defines paths for AI to follow. This path will carry information on which types of logic to activate while hitting the different path nodes.

Regarding core services, the team now have navmesh support on planetary locations and are moving towards a more dynamic creation of navigation data on planet surfaces. They’re also working on different bug fixes and optimizations, including multithreading the AI audio component to enable them to process audio events quicker on the servers.



Animation


In October, the team developed melee and stealth takedown animations, effort movement sets, and reaction animations for NPCs that aren’t holding stocked weapons. They also worked on animations for a new mission type and “stuff” for CitizenCon.

Art (Environment)


Last month, the Frankfurt-based team focused on microTech, with multiple biomes and assets finalized and distributed across the surface. TESTING

“Progress is going really well and we look forward to sharing microTech’s full visual range in the near future.”
Environment Art Team

Time was also spent on quality support and bug fixing for Alpha 3.7.



Art (Ships)


Ship Art spent the month finalizing a few important ships for upcoming patch releases. Tune in to the CitizenCon stream on November the 23rd for a firsthand look and what they’ve been up to.

Art (Weapons)


Weapon Art’s main focus last month was the Behring P6-LR ballistic sniper rifle. The weapon went through iteration early on in the month to ensure the visuals match the desired gameplay. It is currently heading into the final art stage. They also fixed a few issues with the combat knife and Animus missile launcher.

For ship weapons, Esperia’s latest ballistic and laser cannons are well into production. These two new weapons will be closed out over the next couple of weeks.


Audio


Audio worked closely with their upstream departments on something very cool for CitizenCon. They also supported various upcoming actor features, including close combat and the player character responding to temperature.

A big push was made on the in-progress procedural Rest Stops, with Audio providing ambiance and spot SFX. Two major upcoming ships received thruster, ambiance, spot SFX, and weapon audio. Quantum travel was revamped across all ships to better support shorter jumps too.

Lastly, Audio added their final touches to the Apocalypse Arms Animus missile launcher and Behring P6-LR sniper rifle, supporting all fire modes, reloads, and animations.

Backend Services


Last month, the team spent much of their time working towards Alpha 3.7 and 3.7.1, including isolating and resolving various backend issues. Several optimizations to backend persistence were also deployed to ensure all players can get into and enjoy the game.

Characters


October saw the Character Art Team successfully release the RSI Mantis suit. They also helped a beloved spectrum star prepare for a return to the limelight and worked on various things for CitizenCon and beyond.



Community


The month began with the unveiling of the RSI Mantis, which the team supported by publishing a Q&A to answer the community’s most-voted-on questions about the new ship and quantum enforcement gameplay. They also ran a Mantis-themed commercial contest, this time asking the community to carry on from the tense cliffhanger of the official ad. Head to Spectrum to find out what they came up with.

October saw the finale of the Ship Showdown, an event that tasked players with voting for their favorite ships. In an unexpected finish, the Drake Caterpillar was crowned the overall champion. Is a winner’s title everything the ship will receive? Find out later this month…

The team also kicked off two spooky contests for Halloween. The citizens that carved the best Star Citizen-themed pumpkin and captured the spookiest subterranean terrors took home shipshape prizes. To support the caves contest, October’s subscriber flair pays homage to one of the ‘verses most infamous horror franchises, Parasite.

To celebrate the release of the Alpha 3.7, a free-fly let everyone try out five of the most versatile ships in the ‘verse. And as a token of appreciation, a Kruger P-52 Merlin was handed out to everyone who referred a new backer during the event.

Last but not least, the CitizenCon 2949 schedule was released. With it came the first annual Star Citizen cosplay contest that will reward the hard work that goes into your incredible cosplays with in-game goodies and prizes!

“Less than a month away, we’re sure this is going to be an epic event and we can’t wait to see you at CitizenCon 2949!”
Community Team


Design


Alongside some incredibly exciting but equally secret “things”, Design are prototyping features for next year’s releases.

“We’re looking forward to finally showing everyone what we’ve been working on over the past few months and look forward to talking with you later this month at CitizenCon.”
Design Team

Engineering


Engineering spent time in October supporting the physics proxy refactor stream integration, working on soft-body physics simulation for both character and cloth, and adding physics-level support to planetary wind.

For the renderer, they continued to work on the new graphics pipeline and render interface (Gen12). This included adding: an improved render pass handling and pipeline state setup, support for compute, a pipeline teardown, improved DXC compatibility for shaders, a simplified resource layout setup, improved support for pooled render targets and resolution changes, support for reflected shader constant arrays, and porting DOF to the render pass system. The global render state removal also began.

Planet-side, they refactored and extended multi-cascade support for terrain height maps so dependent effects can better incorporate it for their own purposes (such as terrain shadows), and worked on cascade debug visualization to allow artists to efficiently tweak important height map properties. Regarding planet terrain shadows, they added a simple code interface and shared shader code for the application on the client side, provided support for temporal anti-aliasing, and completed the initial code and logic support for multi cascades. Work on planetary ground fog continued too. This involved the initial release of SOCS, adjusting code to cope with very large objects, making exception handler improvements, and adding API to asynchronously create a core dump without affecting the calling process. This will be mainly used to take snapshots of the DGS process state in case of non-fatal errors for efficient debugging without interrupting its service and affecting clients (previously, it was forced to crash).

For Animation, the team created a new dual quaternion skinning/elastic blend wrap deformer for CPU+GPU skinning. They also completed tangent reconstruction – a pixel perfect version for software and compute skinning (both protos and original skins).

Features (Gameplay)


The US-based Gameplay Team had a busy October delivering tasks for Alpha 3.8. One important task received an expected completion date of early 2020 and is sure to make for an engaging experience when it goes live.

Efforts were also focused on Server-Side Object Container Streaming, which is a major engineering overhaul that will eventually result in the dramatic improvement of in-game performance. The team is currently addressing several quality-of-life fixes that players have been requesting for a while.

Features (Vehicles)


In the US, the team’s primary focus was wrapping up quantum enforcement for the RSI Mantis. They also completed their work on the ongoing physics proxy refactor. Various bugs for Alpha 3.7 and 3.7.1 were squashed too, including game crashes and vehicle-related issues.

The EU-based Vehicle Team helped the content teams set up annunciator panels for ships, which included adapting the process for different models and brands. They also finished the latest restricted area implementation. Players can expect new UI messaging and guide tunnels to help them approach spaceports when it goes live. They’re currently experimenting with improvements to atmospheric flight.

Graphics


Last month saw the graphics and engine teams further developed the new planetary terrain shadow system. This will eventually allow shadows over greater distances with large scale softness (penumbra) at less cost than the current system. Development of planet surface shading continued and is nearing completion, with improvements to the accuracy of surface normals at every scale and the addition of a separate layer of textures for cliffs.

The last major task of October was designing the ‘biome accumulation’ system, which is the basis for a variety of effects such as snow, frost, dirt, mud, and dust. The system itself will require a combined effort from the art, graphics, and code teams over the coming weeks and months.

Level Design


October saw Level Design finalize the caves of Alpha 3.7, which are the first natural design environments built using the procedural tool. The team consider them a great proof of concept and welcome addition to the tool itself. With more content being tied into procedural generation, the speed in which they create new content will increase going forward .

They also continued to work on microTech and New Babbage. The frozen planet type provided challenges but also opened up many exciting opportunities and possibilities. They also spent time planning out locations they’re working on in 2020.

Lighting


Last month, the Lighting Team moved off Caves and Alpha 3.7 to the new Rest Stop interiors. With so many new rooms and multiple versions of each, the challenge is to ensure visual consistency between each location, that lighting blends nicely between rooms, and that pathways are clear to the player. The lighting of New Babbage is also underway, with the team currently making a pass on the main city and spaceport exteriors.



Narrative


This past month the Narrative team wrote several scripts and recorded VO for upcoming game releases, including some tannoy announcements for New Babbage. They met with Live Design to coordinate and create text for new missions being worked on for 3.8. and beyond. They named and wrote descriptions for several items ranging from mining gear, terrifying helmets, to new armor and more. The team also generated ideas for possible additional harvestables to be added in the future with a focus on microTech’s cold climate.

Additionally, the Narrative team spent some time working on a couple of upcoming events. The specifics of CitizenCon can’t be discussed yet, but since so much of the event takes place in-lore, Narrative provided vital backstory, scripts and more to help support the events and the content that will be shown. The team will also have several members attending CitizenCon and they look forward to sharing their presentations with everyone.

Finally, October saw the release of another Jump Point subscriber magazine that featured an interview with a G-Loc bartender. Spectrum featured a special Empire Report highlighting a recent crime spree in Terra and brand new episode of Far From Home where Old Jegger spends some time out of his comfort zone.



Props


At the start of the month, the Props teams continued with the ‘hi-tech’ props for New Babbage. This involved focusing on the landing zone’s infrastructure, consoles, information signs, counter sets, and wall dressing. Work on interactive props for the same environment began too.

Props worked alongside several other teams to create physicalized cloth assets. The development of large-size ship items continued and will be completed shortly, giving the PU its first proper large quantum and jump drives.




QA


Planet Tech v4 was enabled in game-dev and with it came a lot of QA testing. QA regularly test each star system, with individual planets being tested daily to stay on top of any new issues that may crop up as a result of changes. They’re also working closely with Environment Art to debug issues and determine which ones need to be investigated by Engineering. The latter half of the month saw them testing and verifying new changes to moons and planets using locally exported object containers. The next step is to perform a QA test request for each location once Design have completed their re-drop of all surface-side locations.

Frankfurt gained an embedded QA tester to support the Tools Team. Their focus will be on all new and current tools coming down the pipeline and will include some Lumberyard Editor testing.

Support for the Level Design Team ramped up, with further requests to test AI placement and bug fixes across various landing zones. They also worked to ensure new issues aren’t introduced from the dev teams’ fixes and to provide feedback on usable placements in existing and upcoming landing zones.

System Design


Last month, the Frankfurt designers spent time training the UK designers on how to build ship behaviors, as they will be taking over the bulk of the work in the future.

Regarding combat AI, they built and adjusted behaviors for shotgun and pistol AI. This involved setting up timings and distances, making sure they reflect what a soldier equipped with these weapons would do in real life.

The team are also working on a large, overarching feature that deals with quantum fuel mining and refining. As part of this, they’ve had to tackle several smaller features, such as introducing new mining lasers with different properties and consumables that can alter the mining process. A related but as-yet-undetermined feature is how to deal with dangerous and volatile cargo. To kick it off, the team are building a management interface to allow players to monitor the status of their cargo in situ. They also began designing the station refining UI which will allow players to take refining jobs, choose which elements they want to refine from their mixed materials, and how they want to refine it.

Tech Animation


The Tech Animation Team refined the Visio-to-Mannequin pipeline to make it easier to import state machines straight to Mannequin, which will save a lot of time. They also worked with the props and usable teams on several new and old usables, implementing new animations and providing animation-ready templates in Maya for quicker authoring. A socket addition to the pipeline was also created to give animators the possibility of swapping props around between different attach points on the character rig. They also investigated and fixed several small bugs in weapons content, usables, cinematics, gameplay animations, props, and design.

Tech Art


Tech Art started a refactor of the engine code base for the DNA system pipeline (DNA v2) and the facial runtime rig logic system. Both systems have gone through phases of heavy R&D and subsequent tech-hardening, so a refactor that will lead to greater modularity and versatility is the next logical step. The methodology and code behind the existing facial runtime rig logic for human heads will be generalized so that it can be applied not only to the face rigs of other alien species, but also to their bodies. It will even work with the arbitrary rigs that drive creatures and other animated entities that will eventually populate planets and the wider universe in general. This will allow the team to dynamically and procedurally create unique-looking variants from a limited-size pool of manually authored assets.

Turbulent



The unified deployment of all services developed and maintained by Turbulent was also completed. This project suppressed the intermediary steps (both human and technical) needed to deploy services and will enable smoother future deployments. Streamlining service deployment also improves overall reliability and enables the easier creation of multiple independent and isolated QA environments, benefitting both DevOps and QA.

The Feature Team focused on polishing VoIP/FoIP and started a new project aiming to review and evaluate architectural setup to optimize scalability.

For the RSI website, Turbulent supported the release of the RSI Mantis, Alpha 3.7, the Ship Showdown, and the CitizenCon microsite update. Regarding merchandise, they also integrated two warehouses – one for US orders and a second for international orders.





User Interface (UI)


One of the team’s tasks last month was creating the interior screens of New Babbage, which involved defining a UI style that fits the microTech brand. They also kicked off animated adverts for microTech products. Another area of focus was the new ‘actor status’ display. This is a new way to display a player character’s health and will eventually form part of the updated visor. As usual, they worked on new features for the custom UI system, including an animation system that’ll make it easier to move away from the legacy flash UI, and one to add text decals to ships.

VFX


Aside from bug fixing and polishing for the Alpha 3.7 patches, VFX worked heavily on planet effect improvements, specifically on the engineering side. This included particle scattering queries, height-based wind calculations, a new half-resolution option for particles, and the ability to spawn volumetric fog as part of near-effect LODs.

The VFX artists started on mining improvements, including VFX for different beam types and modifiers to the existing beams. They also refined the upcoming Rest Stop interior effects, weapons, and ships. The VFX tech artists continued to improve the workflow for gas clouds and the low-poly building generator tool.

Conclusion

WE’LL SEE YOU NEXT MONTH



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