We kick off as usual with AI Combat, whose main focus was realistic firing for the PU. For AI firing, the ultimate aim is for NPC characters to feel real and for players to understand how they’re managing their ammunition.
To this end, they began using the “item provider approach” to create usables around ammo boxes. This will enable NPCs to find elements in the world that can provide them with magazines or other types of required ammunition. They will also be able to run tactics that involve moving closer to sources of ammunition as they need to. The team also want to properly trigger reloads at the correct times in different conditions. For example, while advancing, NPCs will be allowed to shoot and automatically reload. However, the internal components will also notify the necessary behaviors when magazines are expended so that proper subactivities can be executed to handle the situation properly.
Last month, Ship AI worked on the Javelin and its escorts, ensuring they arrived and departed correctly at designated space stations across Stanton. This involved several steps:
The capital ships (a Javelin and two Idrises) spawned in via quantum travel and started following a path leading to their respective docking hubs. The escort fighters flew alongside the Javelin in a fluid formation, periodically changing position. If a hostile ship was present, the escorts engaged them while the capital ships continued undisturbed to their docking paths. Once the escorts entered the green zone surrounding the station, they stop engaging and regrouped with the Javelin. As soon as the convoy was within close proximity of the station, the escort ships contacted the ATC to ask for landing permission and had their pads assigned. Once landed, the escort ships entered a dormant state in wait of the Javelin and Idrises undocking and preparing to jump.
This was used as an opportunity to test how single assignments (formation, defend target, land, etc.) could be organized together to implement a desired flow and wider experience.
The Social AI Team wrapped up the first iteration of the bartender. Alongside cleaning up animations and behaviors, they tweaked different portions of the overall system. For example, they fixed issues when moving between multiple usables using the shortest path between enter and exit locations.
They’re currently enabling patrons to order and consume various drinks and use the booths and different seats around the bar. Work on the bartender and wider vendor behaviors has helped the team bring more stability to slotting and routing functionalities, as these scenarios heavily stress the usable system on every functionality it offers.
For patrol tech, the team introduced an improved debug draw functionality to allow designers to investigate behaviors in-launcher or in-editor when paths are placed inside object containers. They also fixed several animation issues, including one causing ‘idles’ or ‘idle2move’ animations to be pushed between exit animations and locomotion states due to the wrong evaluation of the actor speed.
The refactored Tactical Point System (TPS) and new Tactical Target System (TTS) are now in the common development branch and on track for release in Alpha 3.10. During upcoming sprints, the team will start replacing the legacy nodes for target selection with the new TTS system to give them finer control over NPC target choices, whether they’re on-foot or airborne.
Last month, the Animation Team assisted in the development of body dragging, throwing, and knockdowns. They also animated weapon reloads and malfunctions for spec-ops NPCs, completed Vanduul look-dev and locomotion, and animated actions to enable AI to undertake generic inspections, move crates, and complete hangar actions. Work continued on capital ship operator seats, bar patrons, bartender animations, and holo-globe actions too.
Foundational improvements were made to the mo-cap process, such as the development of the motion-builder skeleton and the new Take Selection tool.
Facial-animation-wise, the team provided assets for the Invictus Launch Week trailers, male and female player, outlaw pilots, Lorville ATC, shopkeepers, Big Benny’s, Brunt, general security, and security pilots.
Finally, they began looking into how to shoot mo-cap during the ongoing pandemic.
The Environment Art Team wrapped up their work on Pyro 1 and 2! While the planets are not complete yet, they have all the required ingredients and are currently awaiting shader features and several polish passes. The team are currently scheduling and breaking down their tasks for Pyro 3 and 4, applying the data gathered during the production of the first two planets and shaping assets to hit the visual targets for the various new biomes.
In the UK, the team continued building the Crusader Hercules, which now has landing gear, bedrooms, and an elevator. Progress is currently being made on the large cargo bay door and the corridor leading to the bridge.
Two as-yet-announced ships transitioned from internal concept to development and are getting close to reaching the whitebox-review phase.
An all-new ship series reached the greybox-complete milestone, with the exterior heading into final art where it will receive its definite material set.
Over in the US, Ships prepared the Drake Cutlass Blue and Anvil F7A Mk I, F7A Mk II, and F8 Lightning for Invictus Launch Week. They also created new skins for several military ships and reworked the dashboard of the F7A Mk II.
Progress was made on the Crusader Mercury, with greybox work done for the thrusters, ramp, sub-level, server room, and neck.
May saw the Art Team finalize the latest Behring ballistic Gatling gun, while final art for the Behring S12 torpedo was completed and handed to Audio and VFX for their passes.
For FPS weapons, work was completed on the Gemini C54 SMG. “The C54 is looking great after some initial tweaks to the block-out to make it feel more balanced and fit with the character’s range of motion better.” – The Art Team
The final art pass on the Lightning Bolt Co. Atztkav sniper rifle was concluded, while the Behring BR-2 shotgun is nearing completion too.
A new UI/graphic artist joined the team and began reworking the Gemini branding style guide, which lead to a new Building Blocks UI for the F55 and R97 ammo counters. This is the start of a pass to revamp several existing reticles and ammo-counters.
The Audio Team supported various features this month, including music and ambiances for the Factory Line shop and general audio support for Invictus Launch Week. They also worked on the Javelin, Idris, Lightning, Hornet, and Cutlass Blue. Support was also given to the new restricted areas and upcoming Grim HEX update.
May saw Backend Services address issues with lifetime persistence and the player wallet, and provide ongoing support for Theaters of War and Invictus Launch Week. Work on the iCache and GIM micro-services continued, as did development towards a meshed loadout, the new refining mechanic, and LTP services.
The Community Team started the month welcoming new players with the Alpha 3.9 referral bonus. When new players signed up using an existing player’s referral code, both received a Greycat Buggy. Many new recruits were welcomed and supported as part of the Invictus Free Fly event too.
They also supported Invictus with two community contests. For the Recruitment Poster contest, the community was asked to design a poster to inspire cadets to join the UEE Navy. The video contest asked players to show off their skills in flight demonstrations that were all about precision and risky tricks. Stay tuned to Spectrum, as the winners to both will be announced soon.
Engineering spent time in May on documentation and code guidelines and assisted with Alpha 3.9 bug fixing and support. They also investigated GPU performance issues (caused when running low on video memory), supported the build team with RC use for better-optimized build generations, and worked on a 12-month, high-level schedule.
Regarding the zone system, the team fixed an issue relating to deep hierarchies, zone changes, and area-defining objects. For the entity component update scheduler, they submitted the first change that will add support for optional view ratios to the component aggregate streaming bounds update policy.
Physics-wise, optimizations to the inverse trigonometric function in C++ and HLSL were made, and the physics profiler was modified to use thread IDs instead of ‘MAX_PHYS_THREADS’ to fight contention from external threads.
They fixed performance regression in game-dev and continued to make improvements to body-dragging. For physical damage, they started looking into deformation and how to decouple the renderer and sim-mesh and iterated on the damage TDD. They added a new physics runtime profiler in game-dev, enabled tri-mesh splitting, and optimized ‘remove isolated vertices’ in RC, and removed timestep adjustment in physics.
Engineering submitted the first version of Gen12 brush rendering, continued work on the render graph to schedule passes and bound resources, and unified handling and control over texture anisotropy. Shader items were moved to the resource container too. Shader parsing bug fixes were made and the vertex format reflection and setup were simplified.
They also fixed a jitter offset computation error with unified raymarching so that it works in harmony with the guided filter denoiser, and added transmittance-weighted depth-computation, which controls the width of the denoise kernel tin guided filtering and raymarching up-sampling results.
A majority of the Gameplay Feature Team’s May was spent supporting updates to Arena Commander, Star Marine, Theaters of War, and Invictus Launch Week. They also completed the initial implementation of the new Player Trading app that will be available in-game via mobiGlas soon. The initial release will give players the ability to send different currencies to each other. Later revisions will extend to trading physical inventory items.
The Vehicle Feature Team continued closing out their work on the upcoming Alpha 3.10 patch. This includes new in-atmosphere aerodynamics that enables more depth and varying behaviors between vehicles. This change is closely related to the long-awaited thruster efficiency curves feature. When both launch, ships will behave completely differently in-atmosphere compared to space.
There was a significant UI push too, with several new targeting features being developed. They’re also preparing new restricted area splines for Alpha 3.10, which will help guide players to landing zones and specific planetary areas. Looking further ahead, improvements to ship radar began.
The Graphics Team focused on bug fixes across a wide range of rendering and related systems, which is typical around a major release.
Another key focus towards the end of the month was performance, with several major issues resolved and several more in the process of being completed. Most performance fixes related to excess CPU use on specific frames that resulted in a “spikey” and inconsistent framerate. One important performance change was to adjust the texture resolutions on machines without enough video memory to run the game at full quality, especially at higher resolutions. Previously, more memory than would fit on the GPU would be allocated, which would produce serious performance issues due to memory paging.
Development of the Gen12 renderer continues, as do improvements to the automated testing framework and organic shader mentioned last month. The render-to-texture system was also integrated into the texture streaming system.
“This allows us to treat dynamically-created textures like any other texture in the game, such that we can calculate the required resolution for the current camera position, stream/create their content on demand, and cache previously created textures when we have spare memory to avoid redundant rendering. This feature is fundamental to the Canvas Manager, which is a feature that will be used by the art and game teams to create dynamic texture content such as signs, name badges, ship names, serial numbers, etc.”- The Graphics Team
Level Design worked on the security addition to the stations visited during Invictus Launch Week and continued with the second iteration of the wider rest stop layouts. Improvements were made to restricted areas and work continued on Orison too.
Lighting spent part of the month supporting Invictus Launch Week, including the new security collar on the space stations and the theme for Area18’s Bevic Convention Center. Earlier in the month, they worked on lighting updates to several legacy locations: Lorville’s L19 landing zone was updated with some of the new render features, including runtime probes and day/night lightgroup setups to ground the ambient lighting. Kareah was also updated using current prefab lighting workflows, which will allow the team to rapidly iterate on any future lighting passes and keep lighting consistent across the location. For new content, the team started lighting the newly expanded sections of Grim HEX, including the exterior and hangars. They’re currently working on the upcoming set of Hi-Tech hangars coming to New Babbage.
Last month saw Invictus Launch Week introduced into the lore of Star Citizen. Narrative worked closely with many other teams to bring this event celebrating the UEE Navy to life at the Bevic Convention Center in Area18.
After Alpha 3.9 work concluded, the team shifted to tasks for Alpha 3.10, providing support for the upcoming New Babbage and Grim HEX additions. They also contributed to the recent announcement of the Origin Jumpworks G12, establishing the new rover’s backstory, branding, and place in the universe.
Galactapedia continued to expand, with a whole host of new articles added, including one detailing Invictus Launch Week
. On the Imperator election front, the final five candidates
were discussed. Expect to hear more about them in the coming weeks as the UEE
prepares for the final in October.
“We would like to thank everyone who has been contributing to the Issue Council using the recently added Text & Lore category. A ton of great bugs have already been found and the team is formulating a plan for how best to tackle them and any additional issues you continue to report.”
– The Narrative Team
The Props Team supported PU locations, the bartender AI, and teamed up with Animation to re-factor the carryable grip system. They also supported Invictus Launch Week with holo-projectors, 3D logos, banners (which gave an opportunity to experiment with soft-body cloth physics), and other in-game media seen throughout the event.
Props for the upcoming Factory Line shop in New Babbage entered production, including the new Mirage Holo-Projector, Muse Simpod, and Hi-Tech Hacking Chip.
QA’s May focus was on the release of Invictus Launch Week and playtesting Theaters of War. The main role of each was stress and destructive testing to highlight any issues.
The locations-side of the team focused on the additions to low orbiting rest stops, paying close attention to the restricted areas where the Javelin and Idris docked. They also continued with standard testing for each location and supported the LZ-1 Locations Team as they implemented and updated features. Combat-wise, the team were assigned a QATR that included changes to the animations as AI enter into and exit cover. This also included updates to many of the cover surfaces throughout the PU.
Focus was also given to a TPS query feature-test related to how ship AI choose targets and move through more densely populated areas. This was put into a QATR for further testing on a wider scale to ensure the feature didn’t break other parts of the game. The ongoing support of the Tools Team continued, with checks being performed on DataForge, StarWords, ExcelCore, and the editor.
Tech Animation revisited existing assets to support recent code changes, retouching thousands of assets to ensure their quality and suitability. They also created bespoke assets to help celebrate company milestones.
Alongside work on an upcoming feature for Alpha 3.10, the team completed and implemented several new ship skins. Work also continued on updates to the vehicle state machine to enable states to trigger, and be triggered by, both automatic and player-instantiated interactions.
Development of the Life Support system continued, which will result in a functioning item that can depressurize and repressurize vehicle interiors. Final integration of the animated dashboard button is being completed to allow for fully animated, interactable buttons in the Gladius cockpit. They also kicked off server meshing support for VTTs.
Turbulent’s Game Services delivered the Team Service, an important feature that enables players to form squads, teams, and enter matchmaking. They also worked on the scenario feature and its interface in Hex’s Network Operation Center (NOC). This allows Live Ops to activate dynamic missions on PU servers, such as the Invictus Launch Week event.
Long-term item persistence was improved and plugged in the NOC interface to make it more accessible to non-development team members. They’re now also able to run several instances of services at the same time to provide players with a better experience during events with peaking load.
Turbulent (Web Platform)
The Turbulent Web Team worked on the Invictus Launch Week website, the unveiling of the Origin G12, and the sale of the recently flyable Drake Cutlass Blue.
User Interface (UI)
Last month, the UI Team added a marker to the Starmap to point players to the Invictus fleet. UI Tech continued to develop the 3D UI system that will replace the old flash and engine-based system. Embedded work included progress on ship targeting, an update to the inventory, and various screens for new environments.
Last month, the team focused on deliverables for Invictus Launch Week, Alpha 3.9.1, and the upcoming Alpha 3.10. This included S12 torpedoes, an S7 laser cannon, S4 and C54 ballistic weapon effects, and the QED effect for the Cutlass Blue. Preliminary work on an undisclosed upcoming vehicle began. Further improvements were made to the signed-distance-field-based procedural atmospheric entry for small ships too.
Progress was made on the upcoming electron energy weapon effects. “This type is much more “exotic” than existing weapons and, as well as looking great, will lead to some very cool FPS encounters.” – The VFX Team
Visual-prototyping for fire hazards continued and voxel-based code prototyping began. The code-side of VFX implemented several new particle system improvements, including GPU ribbons and alpha erosion.
VFX Tech Art finalized the review of the fragment tool. Some issues will need to be resolved before submission, but it’s currently in great shape. Work started on the Houdini PFX texture sheet generator. This is a tool that will take a smoke sim and render the diffuse, normal, alpha, and optical flow pass. They finished the diffuse, normal, and alpha pass and implemented motion tracking into the final render. This stabilizes the image within the frame to maximize texture space. Investigation into destruction, including some destruction tech, continued.