AI (Character Combat)
We start with the Character Combat Team, who completed the first pass of the ‘surrender’ behavior mentioned last month. During their regular combat behavior, NPCs will try to find lootable ammo boxes (and in the future request help from friendlies and loot available weapons). If no options are available, they’ll try to stay out of dangerous environments and survive the best they can.
The team began implementing support for character traits. First, this functionality exposes the ability of selected traits in the Character Skills and Traits editor. Designers can then assign traits to templates that are assigned to characters. These traits can be used to either modify or enable specific behaviors available to certain characters. For example, a ‘coward’ NPC won’t try to put pressure on the player.
Several bugs were also fixed for visual perception, cover usage, and dodge reactions.
Last month, the AI Team found and fixed more issues related to characters standing on top of usables. This time, the problem was specific to characters streaming in before their usables. Code was added to handle this particular edge case. Some of the recent AI component updates were also amended with stricter dependency rules to avoid conflicting reading and writing inside the zone system. This prevents contention when reading entity positions.
Ship AI began October extending the quantum travel Subsumption task to be “non-blocking.” This will be used in specific scenarios where a behavior needs to queue quantum travel for a ship and then continue with regular duties, which is particularly useful in multi-crew ships.
The team continued to iterate on missile targeting, first of all ensuring turrets respond immediately to incoming hostile torpedoes when not in combat mode. They then adjusted targeting priorities to give a better balance when capital ships are fighting multiple targets. This will also improve how seat operators handle burst fire when controlling ship weapons.
Time was also spent improving how collision avoidance handles missiles, with the team filtering-out missiles in the code due to them not being part of collision avoidance. For the accuracy calculation, the team implemented different convergence speeds towards targets when an AI is hitting or missing the target. This simulates NPCs trying to hit a target faster when they’re missing but relaxing slightly when they’re on target.
The capital ship combat behavior was also improved to allow longer-range combat. NPCs will now react to an enemy starting to charge a weapon too.
Plus, several bugs were fixed and improvements made to the break-away movement request, the patrol-around-position assignment, and the hostility of specific targets.
Last month, the Social AI Team moved the first version of the mess hall scenario into a state that allows other teams to better iterate on animations, props, and the technical setup. At the moment, the scenario supports usables that provide cutlery, food, and drinks. NPCs can iterate on food lines, retrieve anything their sustenance behavior wants, and then take the food to tables where it can be consumed. This involves both systemic animations and mo-cap created for specific scenarios.
All of these usables are item providers, which means NPCs can search to obtain specific objects. These objects are physically used by the AI, so consuming food and drink impacts the NPC’s status system. This also expands the use of grip tags in the ‘take,’ ‘prepare,’ and ‘place’ use-channel.
The team are currently working on several behaviors that will benefit both the PU and Squadron 42, including arcade-machine use and dancing. Playing arcade machines will be one of the available leisure activities, while dancing will likely be a special activity for the patrons of discos and other appropriate areas.
Specifically for the PU, the team made progress with mission-giver posing and completed the facial animations for emotes, bounty hunters, general outlaws, and more. They also supported other team’s with mo-cap and continued to work through the backlog of animation tasks.
October saw the Modular Team wrap up work on the refinery decks, including finalizing the art and putting the finishing touches to the dressing and world-building. The decks have now been handed over to the Audio, Lighting, and VFX teams for final polish work.
Elsewhere, the Modular Team continued adding gas clouds to Lagrange points.
“These are really benefiting from the first lighting pass with some absolutely gorgeous final frames being produced. The team have been working hard with Graphics to ensure the clouds remain performant enough for use in the multiplayer environment of the PU.” -The Environment Art Team
The team also began final art on the ship-to-station docking lobby and exterior. Pre-production work also kicked off for the brand-new ‘Colonialism’ ground-base archetypes.
The Landing Zone Team continued with Orison, with the greybox of the industrial platform making great progress. The commercial platform art greybox is almost complete, with some areas being brought up to final art to act as a benchmark for the rest of the location. The transit barge is nearing art complete and has been fully implemented into the level, with several currently moving between the platforms. The spaceport also moved into final art. Alongside Orison, the art prototype for the hacking feature had its first pass and is awaiting implementation and iteration. Work on the convention space for this year’s IAE was also completed. New informational screens were placed in landing zones to tie into upcoming events and existing screens were updated to be more dynamic.
In Frankfurt, the Organics Team finalized art for Pyro’s celestial bodies, though another round of polish will be undertaken before release. More work on Crusader was done alongside tech changes for gas giants, which will also benefit regular planets. Time was also spent prototyping touch bending for foliage and object buoyancy for floating assets on planetary water bodies.
In the UK, the Art Team continued with the Crusader Hercules. October’s work included further development of the engineering section and bridge, both of which are approaching the end of their final art phases. Exterior-wise, materials were polished and the landing gear is now final-art complete.
The iridescent shader created for the Esperia Talon is ready for implementation, as is Shrike’s internal missile system. The landing gear and damage setup were also finalized.
The US-based team progressed with the Crusader Mercury Star Runner, including finishing LODs, UI panels, the cargo area, and cockpit. In celebration of in-lore holiday Day of the Vara, the Ship Team also created the Ghoulish Green skin for the Drake Cutlass Black.
The Vehicle Tech Art Team focused on supported the Mercury with hardpoints, pivots, landing gear, viz areas, and damage states. Work was also done on the Origin 100 Series’ landing gear and small updates were made to the Cutlass models.
In October, Weapons Art completed the first pass on the medical gun, ‘LOD 0’ art for an upcoming Behring LMG, and a new Gemini sniper rifle. The latest Behring S10 turret was finalized too.
The team are nearing the end of their pass on weapon reticles, which will add zeroing and rangefinding along with various art tweaks.
Art for the Multi-Tool’s tractor beam attachment was completed, as was a new set of Klaus and Werner holographic sights.
Last month saw Audio focus on the Crusader Mercury.
“Such a large ship with so many moving parts requires all of our sound designers working on it at once!” -The Audio Team
Code-wise, they continued to improve the music system, and progress was made on the team’s proprietary internal tools.
Backend Services spent part of October identifying and addressing issues in the recent patch release, including correcting primary hub crashes. Some low-level backend networking code was also cleaned up, which improved stability and will contribute to having more concurrent players online. Bugs in the various loadouts, inventory, and mobiGlas were fixed too.
The Character Team began the month working with the AI Team on creatures. This involved creating quick blockouts to check scale, assess model issues, test rigs, and iterate on ideas.
The team’s modelers and tech artists worked on two new armor sets targeted for 2021 and Subscriber Flair items planned for release in Alpha 3.11.1 and 3.12. They also addressed issues with the recently released vintage navy uniforms – these fixes will be live in the upcoming Alpha 3.11.1 patch.
Concepts for three full sets of armor were further developed that will support mining and bounty hunting gameplay. They’re currently concepting paired backpacks for these sets in support of the external inventory.
Last month, the Community Team focused on preparations for the Star Citizen Birthday
celebrations. This year’s celebration was entirely digital, with the free 2950 Birthday Goodies Pack
gifted to all backers. They also supported the Birthday AMA
, where Chris Roberts, Todd Papy, and Tony Zurovec answered player questions on Spectrum. The 2020 AMA Recap
was also published for players that missed the live event.
The Community Team supported Narrative with the UEE
Imperator Election, creating the Imperator Election Comm-Link
and setting up the election ballot. They also announced the S-38 ‘One Empire’ pistol
that commemorates the $300m milestone reached earlier in the year.
The Physics Team spent part of October working on a volumetric soft-body prototype and volumetric deformation rendering. Various physics optimizations were made too. For example, they improved the threading of various subsystems, added faster spatial grid queries, removed contention when accessing local command queues, and removed contention for actor/living entity step functions. Vital improvements were also made to collision detection, solving a longstanding issue that could introduce additional ghost-contacts far away from where the actual contacts were processed. Lastly, the team began researching improvements to the setup of vegetation touch-bending.
October also saw the ongoing Gen12 renderer transition and refactoring work continue. This time, a parameterizable feature set was added to the deferred pipeline and per-object resource set updates were made for scene rendering (including a render to texture update for brushes). For the shader system, all reloading code was cleaned up to improve shader editing and response when changing system spec settings. For example, graphics settings that use different shader combinations.
Progress on atmospheres, clouds, and the unified ray-marcher was merged into the main development stream. This means the improvements mentioned in last month’s report should be available in the PU in a coming release.
Core engine work involved implementing a dynamic zone culling path in the zone system. A handful of view-distance-related culling bugs with pixel-sized objects were also fixed for Alpha 3.11. The entity system received several improvements and optimizations to prevent unnecessary updates and searches. Similarly, the entity aggregate manager received low-level optimizations to improve work balancing and reduce memory usage and contention when working with entity bubbles. A few smaller changes were also made to the entity component update scheduler. Radix tree culling logic was tweaked too, with the threading logic adjusted to reduce contention.
Crash handling has been refined. A hex stack of the render thread is now captured and embedded in minidumps that players can (optionally) send to the team if the game crashes. This enables the team to recover the full render thread call-stack during postmortem debugging without the need for third-party binaries. This saves time as they don’t have to download all the various drivers that players use.
The US Gameplay Feature Team began the month fixing critical bugs and polishing features for Alpha 3.11. After it went live, they turned their attention back to working on upcoming features and future initiatives, including the new reputation system. The system will receive continuous polish as it gets closer to release; this way it can be rolled out in a limited capacity as current gameplay is converted to take advantage of the new functionality.
The team also continued the designs for two new core mobiGlas apps. Firstly, the Asset Manager carries on from the trading app and will be critical to the localized inventory planned for release next year. Secondly, the Mission Manager will tie into the new dynamic mission system currently being worked on.
The team also began working on a new feature that will change the way players restock their ships at rest stops. All missiles, flares, and chaffs will be replaced via a proper shopping flow, which will allow the team to separate the pricing for each item. This will result in higher prices for restocking, though insurance prices and timers will be adjusted accordingly.
Vehicle Features dedicated some of the month to developing tech that will help share IFCS code with other movement-heavy systems. One example of this is zero-gravity EVA movement, which will eventually use similar code to IFCS as the two are heavily related. This also allows the team to utilize the wealth of AI logic and navigation code first written for ships. This code sharing will also be used for missiles, further unifying and simplifying the various types of code that deal with movement in space.
October also featured a lot of work on the transit system, as upcoming landing locations require special behaviors for transit carriages.
Work also went towards displaying ship names and serial numbers on the sides of ships.
“Most of the underlying tech has been completed; we’re now connecting things up and making the whole thing work. We also found a way to assign serial numbers to ships that weren’t given them at purchase.” -The Vehicle Features Team
Continuing with last month’s Merlin/Constellation work, UI to aid docking was completed. Various issues relating to persistence were also resolved, enabling the Merlin and Constellation to spawn as a pair. The team are now working through the more minor tasks in a push to call the feature “finished.”
The Graphics Team delivered the iridescent shader mentioned in last month’s report. This effect simulates color shifts based on the camera angle relative to the surface, allowing anisotropic effects similar to those seen in exotic car paints. Shader optimizations and look-up textures were used to reduce the cost of this feature to the point it can be widely used without performance concerns.
The light-beam shader was also worked on, which underwent significant quality improvements and bug fixes. This feature helps the team simulate distant beams of light when they are beyond the range that can be simulated by the volumetric fog system.
Work also continued on the Gen12 renderer and the automated testing system.
October saw the Lighting Team focus a bit on the new IAE location.
“A set of completely redesigned halls in the existing Hi-Tech art style means a whole new way of lighting the annual expo. We’re very excited for the community to explore and experience the IAE this year!” -The Lighting Team
They also continued with R&D work for the upcoming implementation of gas clouds around Lagrange point rest stops. Lighting plays a major part in the mood portrayed by these gas clouds and the current goal is to achieve a visual style that conveys whether the clouds are dangerous or safe while still fitting in with the overall style of the Stanton system.
Looking ahead, the Lighting Team started tasks for the upcoming refinery decks, which need to look highly utilitarian and functional.
Once a decade, the UEE holds a special election to determine the next Imperator of the UEE. This time, players were given the opportunity to cast their votes and help shape the future of the Empire. To help everyone get to know the candidates, the Narrative Team joined Jared on Star Citizen Live to discuss the details and candidates.
The team continued to work on content for upcoming releases, including refinery decks, Orison, and more. Several scripts for new mission content were written and iterated on with Design, and new in-game items were named and given descriptions (including the new Day of the Vara helmets).
October also saw the culmination of a significant behind-the-scenes project to organize information on the various fictional items created over the years. A similar project was done for the ‘verse’s brands, but now all the details on things like plants, alien drinks, and precious minerals can be looked up and referenced easily.
As always, several new Galactapedia entries were added, including a look at Tamsa’s namesake artist
, and the team wrote articles for October’s Jump Point, including a Portfolio on armor manufacturer Caldera.
Last month, Player Relations added new team members in Austin and Wilmslow.
“As the backer community grows, so do the needs of the service. We’re excited to get these greenhorns in here so that they’re ready to support you going into the holiday season!” -The Player Relations Team
They also spent time triaging service issues during the Alpha 3.11 launch and supported the Star Citizen Birthday
celebrations. They also helped backers working to earn the Vanduul helmet and began preparing for the IAE
October saw the Props Team continue support for the trolley push/pull feature and the bartender alongside Social AI. They also completed a few props for Orison and the modular refinery locations. Work was also completed on the new freestanding elevator panel assets.
QA’s general work throughout October involved supporting the feature teams and testing various locations.
For the Combat and Ship AI team, QA continued their normal level of support, working through various checklists and assisting with issues encountered. They also helped the Engine Team investigate some hard-to-reproduce crashes and set workstations up to specifically test for memory leaks. Alongside this, they used the editor to test the intricacies of level setups and elevators. The testing of DataForge, StarWords, ExcelCore, and the sandbox editor continued for the Tools Team too.
Throughout October, Tech Animation focused heavily on upgrading the head assets in the character pipeline. A huge amount of technical detail goes into every head asset that will be accounted for and restructured throughout the overhaul.
The team also began overhauling combat animations to remove technical glitches in AI weapon holding, ships were rigged for the Animation Team, and support was given to Social AI.
Turbulent’s Services Team spent the month making several additions to the internal Hex tool. The tool now provides more information about org event history, reputation, and inventory to facilitate better troubleshooting and investigation for game support teams. The org and inventory services are already live, while the reputation system is still being finalized. They also supported work on the Odin tool, which is currently being tested in the various development environments. Inventory service migrations were also tested for the upcoming Alpha 3.11.1 patch, and minor bugfixes were made.
The Turbulent Web Platform Team supported the front and backend release of the Origin 100 Series and helped shape the Star Citizen Birthday Hub.
User Interface (UI)
Some of the UI Team’s programming time was dedicated to bug fixing and supporting various game teams with upcoming releases. The Tech Team worked on lighting for Building Blocks, which will enable better-looking ship models. The artists developed concepts for the new docking UI and created visual target concept images for a new helmet visor and lens interface. Supporting artwork and screens for the upcoming refinery decks were also completed.
The VFX Team working on several ships last month, including the Crusader Mercury. They also continued to iterate on ship weapon effects, with particular attention paid to readability at distance. They did the same for missiles, allowing the trails to appear for longer. They also continued with SDF shield impact effects.