Monthly Studio Report: April 2017
Welcome to our April Monthly Report! Below you’ll find a compilation of the ATV studio updates. You can easily find out what the developers in Los Angeles, Frankfurt, Austin, and the UK have been up to for the past four weeks in both written and video form. And the studio update cycle starts all over again next with the LA offices. Check it out on ATV!
CIG Los Angeles
CLOUD IMPERIUM: LOS ANGELES
Soon, all new ships will have a Heat and Power component now that the team has finished designing pipes and begun implementing their basic structure. This will manage the flow of respective elements to allow individual component contribution to ship behavior. For example, coolers now contribute to how much heat the system can handle, rather than being statically defined by the heat sink. The old system in the new ships is being replaced with this new management system.
After this is done, the team must implement the minute details of each component influencing one another. For example, coolers not only affect the overheat temperature limit, they also offer IR signature masking. Heat sinks will no longer simply define the temperature at which components overheat and shutdown. The heat will ramp up to its desired temperature, rather than being generated instantaneously.
The Purchase Transaction system has been re-implemented with a new replicated function system called Remote Methods. This system will decrease the number of calls to the server, which should make purchasing things a bit more responsive. Next, the team will improve the Try-On mode and the clientside update to persistent data after purchases.
The team is also working on Object Container editing. When creating a gameplay level, the level is built with a combination of Assets and ObjectContainers. Originally, ObjectContainers had to be built in the dedicated ObjectContainer level, which, unfortunately, made the contents of the ObjectContainer only editable in the actual objectContainer level. In other words, when designers are building levels with ObjectContainers, but want to modify the contents of that ObjectContainer, the only way to do that is exit the current level, open the ObjectContainer level, do some tuning, save, export ,and leave. Then, the designer would have to move back to the level. What the team has done now is allowed the designer to edit the contents of a ObjectContainer, save and export all while inside the level. This creates a much better experience for our design team and saves time.
Since the previous update about the ultimate light switch, the Light Group entity also has several new features. Its light state can be changed by Track View, which is very useful for cinematics. It allows for individual directional lights to now rotate with a simple property. This was a process that previously required Flow Graph. Light Groups can now replace the antiquated prefabs that vehicle external lights have been using. Next, the team aims to get Light Groups on a vehicle to rely on the vehicle’s power in order to control all lights as well as interior devices such as doors.
Lastly, the team has focused on the control manager. This system will automatically give authority over items across the game and will allow players to dictate the control of an item and its subitems. In the past, there was a system prototype for vehicles that was hardcoded. This meant that item connections would have to be manually defined by the designer, for instance, a particular seat always controlled a specific set of items.
Now, the control manager will be able to connect to any entity. For example, a designer adds a control manager to a turret and then weapons are added, the turret can then be controlled by an AI module or by an Operator Seat. This can also be added to a vehicle with either an AI module or the operator seat. This framework is universal. It isn’t restricted to weapon systems. If a player wanted to control doors on a space station and there are terminals with an operator seat, it will link to the player and then the player can operate whatever it controls.The control manager will allow for multicrew play, depending on who is in each seat. The team also added this to dataforge so designers no longer have to manually state what each controller does. The system now knows what each control operates. With a set priority, it would manage itself. However, if the designer still wants to, they can give that extra level of control or just let the system function as it wants to.
SHIP ART AND DESIGN
The ship team has completed the whitebox phase on the Anvil Terrapin and moved into greybox phase, which includes final geo on the pilot seat, the cockpit, the main engines, landing gear, and housing as well as basic rigs and animation for some of the features. The team has brought the whitebox into the engine to get it up and flying for testing. The team is working on the RSI Aurora’s cockpit, controls, MFD screens, and sleeping quarters as well as general internal polish, such as poms, decals, and LODs. Meanwhile, the QA team has been testing new ships in the pipeline and starting on the new animation pipeline. Their biggest undertaking is testing the new planetary tech on moons, such as Daymar.
One of the biggest challenges when dealing with multiple asset pipelines is maintaining consistency across every asset. To ensure such consistency, the asset development teams need to create and maintain a shared, unified library. This means the tech art team is constantly evaluating and auditing materials to achieve the best and most efficient result.
Animation is like any other asset. It has a certain memory footprint that needs to be streamed in and out. The DBA, or database of animations, is an optimized animation container comprised of hundreds of animations compressed down to a fraction of their typical size on disk, similar to our Object Container tech, but for animations. Splitting them up logically is important because the speed of streaming will be affected depending on the size of the DBA. For example, a locomotion set can be fairly heavy as it is comprised of hundreds of animations (walking, running, turning, idling, etc.), causing the streaming of a large file to take a few frames. If a character slides prior to the animation beginning, this is an indication that the DBA is too large. So, tech animation developed a tool to create, manage, and sort the animations within DBAs.
This month, engineering, tech art, and DevOps teamed up to automatically output and track errors and warnings associated with certain assets for easy assignment, better visibility, and quicker turnaround. This affects everything from needed fixes to undefined behaviors that could negatively impact the gameplay experience and performance speed. Implementing this tech should alleviate the performance hit from costly asset errors.
With the implementation of Item 2.0, the Tech Content team needed to create a specific loadout editor to handle the characters as they will become fundamentally different than the characters in the base engine. Now that it’s been used in production, there have been some major improvements like new icons, documentation, and general workflow improvements that allow for more developers to get up-to-speed quickly on the usage of this tool. It will also make creating loadouts easier and faster.
They also created a new Skinning Tool to reduce turnaround by taking the CGA format (which is a hierarchy of animated meshes, collisions, and constrained pistons) and turning it into a unified set of skins with LODs that are bound to an animated skeleton with physics. This tool will not only allow for more complex rigging setups and LODs, but also reduce turnaround for skinning complex setups and improve the overall process.
Since hands tend to be a third of the screen space in a typical first-person shooter, they must be at a higher quality level. An interesting byproduct of unifying the first and third person is that, without a separate asset to represent first-person hands, all character assets must be to the level of a typical first-person shooter arm asset. Meaning, the quality should be to the correct level of fidelity and the hand weights should allow for more accurate animations. The new hand updates done by the rigging team allows for better deformation and drives the eye forward to connect with the weapon, which also lends itself to the use of longer weapons.
A critical feature required for characters is that the weapons move to their designated positions accurately when players switch armor. Tech Art worked within the confines of the skeleton extension system to develop an override technique that utilizes the correct helper positions based on the asset. This means attachments will now inherit positions in real time as armor pieces are attached and detached.
Also, in terms of attachments, the most complex character to date is the Heavy Marine. A fully equipped Heavy Marine has the most physical attachments, or weapons, than any of our other characters. This presented some unique challenges in trying to fit four grenades, eight magazines, two medpens, two gadgets, one side arm, and two weapons onto a single character.
The character team is making solid progress across handfuls of different outfits, uniforms, and aliens. The OMC undersuit has completed its high poly pass, making it ready for in-game mesh and texturing. Our Heavy Outlaw has completed its in-game mesh and will move into texturing, rigging and implementation. In Squadron 42, the team is working on major characters to minor background roles. The Marine BDU has moved through texturing and onto its final stages. A medical rep character has finished up her high poly phase and will move to in-game modeling. Concepts for the Xi’an and Banu are near completion. Our newest quest givers, Ruto and Miles Eckhart, will be in-game soon.
The narrative team dipped their toes in a lot of different pools in the last month. On the alien front, they worked with the design and AI teams in Frankfurt to brainstorm Vanduul behaviors and delved even deeper into the Banu to flesh out more of the civilization to help with the Defender brochure. Dave and Will also appeared on a Subscriber’s Town Hall to field questions about aliens in general. Otherwise, although there were the usual weekly needs (News Updates, marketing blurbs and Jump Point), the bulk of the time was spent working on 3.0. They synced with the UK designers to talk out mission types and the art teams to help figure out ways to dress the various surface outposts that you’ll find around the moons.
CLOUD IMPERIUM: AUSTIN
The team has made progress implementing Commodity Trading in 3.0. Since several things need to come together on the tech side first, the programmers worked furiously on the Shopping Code Rewrite, the Commodity Kiosk, and Ship Persistence so Commodity Trading can be possible. Also for 3.0, the designers finished the first batch of usable requests for the first round of shops. These are created so the 4 required disciplines (Design, Animation, Tech Art and System Design) understand each usable’s intended purpose and functionality. Once all the required assets are created, they will come back for design to do the final hookup. Also, the first mission giver experience is being plotted for 3.0. Getting Miles Eckhart, who you met in last year’s Gamescom demo, into the game is the primary focus while work on Ruto, our criminal fixer, is also proceeding nicely. The team worked on giving Eckhart a constant stream of missions and enabling players to earn reputation and higher tier mission options. Lastly, the team did a breakdown of the Levski landing zone, which included how players will smuggle cargo into the city; the placement of the mission givers and their content; the factions within Levski; and the political aims of these factions.
On the Art side, the team is completing the damage model pass on the Cutlass Black rework. By far, the most time-consuming part during this phase is creating the intricate trellis work on the parts that get blown off, like the wings and the body. This requires working closely with Tech Art to make sure the ship breaks apart and receives surface hull damage in the correct areas. Once we complete the damage phase, all that’s left to make are the LODs.
The team also worked on the lighting for one of the Squadron 42 stations and are also in process of converting existing setups to use the new light group system. This system will allow a much greater degree of control for the look of a room under different gameplay circumstances – such as when the power is on or off, when emergency lighting has been activated, or when gravity has been disabled. All of these changes will not only add a dynamic quality to the lighting but also make the environments feel responsive to player input. Initial testing has begun on a new volumetric fog solution, which lets every light cast volumetric fog, with the hope that it will allow many more high-quality atmospheric effects.
The PU Animation Team updated all the existing usable animations to the new robust system. This will save on memory footprint and create a larger number of unique animations more quickly. The team also did a quick pick up shoot to capture lifting crates of different sizes from different heights, operating door controls, and various other transition animations. They also worked on picking up two handed objects as part of the Looting system. This allows more object interaction in-game and opens the possibility for more missions and activities. If a player sees a box on the ground and wants it, they will be able to pick it up, carry it back to their ship, and put it in their cargo hold for transport back to their hanger.
Ship Animation wrapped up the reworked version of the Drake Cutlass, as well as new Zero-G enter-exit animations for the Drake Dragonfly. They also improved the cockpit experience by adding hit reactions, button presses, and updated cockpit layouts.
The Backend Services Engineering team has been bringing Diffusion online. The more trivial services, such as Friends, Analytics, Authentication, and Presence, were converted from legacy architecture to fully Diffusionized services running with Ooz. Next, we will start to convert larger and more complex services like Persistence Cache, Game Server Management/Matchmaker (GIM), and Persistence Database. These services will be broken up into smaller micro-services to meet performance, scalability, and availability standards. The Game Server and Client are very close to being Diffusionized, which will close the communication gap between the backend and front-end. In addition, the system is being optimized using a technique called Router Biasing. This allows the team to apply advanced bandwidth and control bandwidth techniques between service types in the Diffusion network.
DEVOPS & IT
This month, the DevOps and IT teams completed a project to expand the build system by 50%. This project is an important part of the build and deployment pipeline and the goal of this upgrade was to fully isolate and expand the try-build system. This will lead to much faster check in times for the engineering team and improve overall stability and performance of the builds in general.
QA’s focus in early April was testing 2.6.3 to get it out to the players. They helped with multiple PTU pushes that led to 2.6.3 going Live. After the push, the team spent a lot of time supporting the Live build before shifting full-time to test the Game Dev branch. This has been both to stabilize the branch and to begin more rigorous testing and preparation toward 3.0. Some of the items being tested include a number of new ships, in-depth sweeps of some procedural planet environments for bugs, testing megamap improvements, new implementations for player interactions, item 2.0 conversions, movement system refactors, and new field of view controls. The development teams have been lining up new documentation and data for QA to polish up to ensure they are ready to jump on new content as it comes online. One of our testers worked directly with the Austin Animation team to clean up new mocap files for the development teams. Several other team members have been working with the Frankfurt QA team for in-depth testing of new and updated engine tools, ensuring that the new tools will function so designers can better implement and create content.
The Player Relations team was excited to spend a full week with the Turbulent team working on Spectrum improvements and focusing on how we can better improve the new player experience. We’ve begun work on revamping many areas of our service, and started the process of adding headcount to support our ever-growing community. Lastly, of particular relevance to 3.0, the Player Relations team has started adding new Evocati and updating our PTU waves.
Foundry 42 UK
FOUNDRY 42: UK
One of the big advances this past month has been with the player interaction system. Further improvement of the personal inner thoughts system will allow players to select functionality which is not directly tied to a particular object, like selecting an emote or exiting your seat. There will still be a quick select function to access default actions for experienced players. Also, item ports now allow objects to be physically attached to other objects, such as, how a sight is attached to a weapon.
The air traffic controller sprint was set up to figure out how to manage the flow of traffic to a location, in particular, it is responsible for assigning out and reserving a landing pad when a player wants to land, as well as freeing up that landing pad once they’ve landed and cleared the area. Conversely, this system will deal with reserving a landing pad and spawning a ship when the player wants to take off. The initial stages of the implementation are now underway and the team worked on the underlying structure of how the system works.
The functionality on the Character Status system is almost finished, which included bringing the procedural breathing and suit punctures to final implementation. Once this is done, the focus will be getting the system switched on by default in the game.
The team is also working on Pickup and Carry, which is a bit of a mashup between the player interaction system and the usables sprint. The usables were more concerned with getting the AI to interact with objects in the environment, whereas the player interaction system is more for the player UI to interact with the environment. These two systems are now being brought together so the player can pick up, carry, and then place objects in our universe.
Finally, they completed the initial development of the conversation tech for the subsumption tool, which streamlines the creation of NPC conversations. It has been handed over to the designers to test by setting up different conversations. They’ll provide feedback on any necessary improvements.
The audio team has been working on procedural planet audio processes, including R&D and planning, for systems to map and modify audio automatically. Work continues on the Audio Propagation System, the breathing system, audio for the character status system and also a dialogue tool called Word Up.
For weapons sound effects, the ship weapon ‘tool kit’ is in progress, which includes reload SFX for the Gallant, the weapon tail refactor and multi-positional code support for weapons, which will handle summing up the audio for many of the same weapons mounted to a single ship. For ships, the Prospector audio is done, with work on the Greycat and Cutlass Black still in progress.
The music department worked on the ‘Dynamically looping cinematic ambient music system’ and the ‘addition of tension system.’ They also cleaned up dogfighting music logic, prototyped planetside procedural music, and added more music to the launcher.
The graphics team worked on many separate pieces of tech this month. The first is the integration of real-time, lit volumetric fog from Lumberyard, which is going to be a huge boost for the lighting and environment art teams. The render-to-texture feature is progressing quickly, and the initial version is in the UI team’s hands. They will use it to upgrade our 2D UI’s, and create 3D holographic projections to power various holographic displays. The real-time environment probe tech is nearing completion and allows fully dynamic bounced light and reflections on a planet where traditional light-baking techniques are not possible.
The visual effects team have completed a pass at planetary entry VFX. The effect is controlled by speed and atmosphere density values. With this core functionality in place along with advances in the engine trail tech, these two sprints are now being merged. Design and art feedback were being implemented alongside optimization and bug-fixing. In addition, there have been some lightning entity effect improvements, where realistic lightning and other electrical type effects are created. The first pass of vfx for the MISC Prospector, including thruster improvements and damage, has been completed. For weapons, initial work on the Apocalypse Arms Scourge Railgun continues, including the charging and charged effects. Additionally, the weapons team completed the Preacher Distortion Scattergun and the Apocalypse Arms Scattershot. They also made good headway on the Klaus and Werner LMG.
This month the Reclaimer received a lot of attention. On the exterior, work on the hull was completed and the huge claw came together. The team is now splitting the mesh up and getting it ready to use the damage tech. On the interior, the habitation, tech decks, and an enormous salvage processing room have been fully fleshed out. Next on the list is finishing the drone room, engineering deck and cockpit.
Work also began on derelict ships, so that design can lay the groundwork for mission specific scenarios encompassing ships and wreckage.
An initial batch of ships that include the Connie, Caterpillar, Starfarer and Freelancer are being broken down to their structural elements and made to look destroyed. Material work is being done in tandem to give the ships a more deteriorated and aged look. A wreckage component was also worked on. This is a library of nondescript ship parts that will be used to help embed and integrate derelict scenarios into the environments. The Razor artwork is now complete, and the ship has gone through a full damage pass. Some cool work has been done on breaking it into pieces. Currently, LODs are being finalised on the hull, and art is working closely with tech design to get it flight ready.
The Hull C also progressed nicely. The hull mesh is now largely complete, manoeuvring thrusters were incorporated and polish work done to match the interior and exterior. A detail pass adding all the finer details expected is ongoing. The interior went through the block out phase, and is now well into art production. By utilising assets from other MISC ships, spaces can be created quickly and efficiently, with the intention to use these across the Hull series.
The environment team alongside the graphics team continues to explore ways to create volumetric forms in space through simulations and initial renders.The surface outposts are finishing their interior visual benchmarks for engineering, habitation and hydroponics. These will then be distributed to the various outpost layouts and configurations. The team continues to set dress, light and polish these interior spaces to build character while also exploring options for navigation and branding based on the lore. The Truck stop space stations have moved into the final art phase, so the team is busy building the shader library and working on example pieces to final quality. As it’s a modular system, the building set is being refined to explore potential build configurations, which will ensure the set is as flexible as possible.
The animation team worked on cover AI, with the aim to improve all animation assets beyond ‘functional.’ Breathing state improvements are now in line with backend code improvements. This involves getting curve data out of Maya and into Dataforge, which allows for more refined procedural breathing curves. The team started implementing multi-directional takedowns for killing enemies within close proximity of the player. Also, there were further improvements to weapon setup & reloads across the board, including the Devastator shotgun, Arrowhead sniper rifle, Gallant laser rifle, and P8-SC ballistic SMG As well as melee improvements for pistol and stocked weapons.
Finally, the Derby Foundry team were busy with face and body animations for our 3.0 Mission Givers and handed over 500 facial animation files that are now ready to be implemented in Squadron 42. The Motion Capture team has tracked and solved almost 1000 new body animations for various characters within the Persistent Universe.The team also worked on new facial animations for shooting guns. Animation Director Steve Bender has been a great source of inspiration, so expect new and improved faces soon.
Foundry 42 DE
FOUNDRY 42: DE
The Environment Art team fleshed out the different procedural terrain elements of Delamar, which is mostly covered with mountainous shapes.When placing the Levski landing zone onto the planet, there were a few challenges such as: What’s the best workflow to create the large borehole in front of the landing zone and the roads leading up to it, and what specific elements are needed to make the station blend smoothly with the terrain? The exterior of Levski had a few changes made to it, such as integrating garages on the lower levels so players can make an approach with ground vehicles. The team also made progress on the mining structures in and around the borehole to give them a more functional feeling and a polish pass. There were also some final touches done to the moons to differentiate them from each other.
Work moved forward as the team collaborated with the engineers to flesh out the tools and tech required for the procedural planets. Progress was made on the manual setups required to spawn the effects in engine, and moons are slowly taking on their own subtle personalities.
The team’s primary focus continued to be performance capture scenes across numerous Squadron 42 chapters. The current priority are story scenes on board the giant Shubin Archon facility, so the level designers and artists can finalize the Shubin environments. In addition, the team edited a big sequence for the middle of the story and progressed with setting the vista for a major story event during the opening of the game.
The Tech Art team performed R&D regarding foot constrain locomotion. The end goal is to get the feet to properly plant on the ground with each step, to the give the character a true sense of weight, at all speeds and angles. There was work on some skinning tasks to widen the range of character customization. Collaboration with the weapons team continued, both on Tools to help programmatically spot errors in the pipeline, as well as rigging for new and updated weapons.
The System Design team progressed on the Actor Status system. It now incorporates player breathing, suffocating, stamina, g-forces, drinking, injuries, etc. Other work included: subsystems for suits getting punctured in combat, the ability to patch damaged suits, and recharge oxygen tanks.
The usable systems reached full production status and is now being mass produced for both S42 and PU. Once implemented into the levels, these will make the world feel so much more alive as the AI will be able to interact with almost any item in the world. The system is incredibly flexible from simple actions such as an AI leaning on a wall to complex ones like the opening of a service locker, accessing the power supply item inside, inspecting an item inside the power supply, removing a broken item and replacing it with a new one, and restarting the power supply. The system allows either the player or AI perform those actions, or have both players and AI working on the same usable together.
On the social side of things, the design for the Spectrum game integration is being finalized. This will allow players to access core Spectrum functions inside the game, like party creation and management, chat, friend’s list, organizations, etc. The goal is to keep the majority of the stuff available in the Spectrum app, while the core functionality needed for minute to minute gameplay remains available directly in game.
The Level Design team finished their design pass on the Surface Outpost, as the Art Team worked on its modular system. Levski is now being integrated into the procedural version of Delmar. An Upper Lobby was created, which will connect the Levski interior to the planetary surface via airlocks and serve as a place for a future possible air rail to outlying landing areas. Garages were implemented on the surface so people can spawn or park their vehicles. We also added new approaches to the Levski site itself, with roads and parking zones. Additional custom work that included planning out the elevator network and worker’s areas, and adding administration offices, was also done.
The QA team began testing the new Stanton System persistent universe level this month with a focus on finding any major gameplay blockers. The entire process of connecting to this new PU level has changed, which led to additional tweaks and testing done to the in-house server launcher tool called Catapult. With Port Olisar now in the Stanton System level, traveling between the different moons, landing on them, getting out, etc, is being tested. In the Subsumption Editor, the new Conversation system was recently added and was available for an initial round of testing. All issues encountered were entered in JIRA and sent over to our Austin studio to be investigated.
The QA team also worked with the internal system designers to fix up the AI Basic Feature Test level and add behaviors for all AI NPCs, so that their designated tests could be run. The Feature Tester is kicked off whenever new code changes are submitted to the Game-Dev stream. The AI Basic FeatureTest level catches any AI related issues that could potentially be caused by a code submission. The team also further expanded QA’s depth of testing with the Particle Editor. New VFX test cases were created and added to the Editor checklist. These tests will continue to be maintained as additional feedback is gathered from other technical testers and the team.
The lighting team supported the upcoming 3.0 release of the moons Celin, Yela, and Daymar. There’s been a particular focus on the visual quality of the surface outposts for 3.0 and all subsequent surface outpost variations. The first stage of our new Light Group system is being implemented, which will alter the lighting and mood of a surface outpost based on various states like low power, emergency, or hazardous conditions.
The ship AI team refactored the Movement system to unify the movement pipeline between NPC’s and Ships. This enables the NPC’s to truly control ships while piloting them, amongst other things. This will ultimately give the AI a finer level of control and a way to contextualize their actions. There were some general improvements to NPC’s AI pathfinding and navigation. At times, AI NPC’s were getting blocked on certain configurations of corners, and this work will resolve that. There were also some fixes for the mesh regeneration to correctly exclude areas that AI should not be able to get to.
Regarding the mission system, the team focused on two different chapters of S42 mission: expanding existing functionalities and adding new ones for the designers. Through dataforge, designers can now define and initialize which default missions play when entering specific game modes. Through the subsumption visualizer, designers are now allowed to overwrite the starting mission for a specific level. This ultimately makes the setup and review of missions much more efficient for the team. Designers can now create a platform, which is a list of items that live within an object container with their known world coordinates at runtime. A platform can be accessed by the mission logic and customized in numerous configurations. For example, an Idris would be a basic platform and, in the game, multiple Idris’s can be setup in different ways: occupied by pirates, another by UEE, etc. All those unique setups would reference the same base platform of the Idris and have their own unique customization layers on top.
The weapons team has been blocking out new FPS weapons: two Vanduul weapons, four from Kastak Arms, three from Gemini, and one from a new manufacturer. For ship weapons, a first pass on the Knightbridge Arms Ballistic Cannon Size 2 and 3 was completed. This is the first ship weapon through the new pipeline to prep for the modular upgradeable system.
The engine team worked on Object Container streaming to help with the PU and SolEd, which is an internal tool that helps easily build full Solar Systems. Star Citizen and Squadron 42 are developed with C++, a programming language known for high performance. But due to the languages design, large projects can suffer from long compile times if not careful (the time spent translating program code into machine instructions).
Even with careful code design, compile times for a large project tends to increase over time, so the team recently spent time doing house cleaning on existing code. For this, the team had to touch each GameCode file (nearly 2000 files). In the end, it improved the compile time by several minutes, which will have a positive impact company wide.The engine team also spent time further improving the procedural planet tech, including terrain blending, blending of terrain and scattered objects, and improved transition-dissolve-blending.
This month, Turbulent released Spectrum version 0.3.3. This version contains a new type of discussion called nested threads. A nested thread works by stacking replies to an earlier comment directly below it, so users can see a discussion evolve from a specific comment or reply. The first level is sorted by votes, so the most upvoted sub trees are on to top. Nested threads are akin to Reddit discussions.
When a new discussion is started on Spectrum 0.3.3, the user can choose between a nested thread and a chronological thread. This new type of discussion allow for faster and more dynamic threads. The upvote feature is also useful for the community teams to gather questions, among other things. Turbulent is looking into how the nested thread option can be transformed into a view option, so users can decide how to view threads. The team is also improving the unread status as well as adding staff tracking, so users can know from the top of the thread list which ones have a had a staff response. This will be particularly useful for the Ask The Dev forums.
Also included in 0.3.3 is the ability to flag posts for moderation. This works within orgs and the public community. Users can flag a reply, a thread, or message for moderation, so public moderators know to intervene. In your private orgs, anyone who has the moderation permission will receive a notification to investigate. There has been massive progress on mobile support for the keyboard system in 0.3.3 and it should be fixed in the next release.
Currently the team is working on the 0.3.4 release. The main feature of this release will be more refinement on tags in sub forums. These tags will be surfaced at the top level of the community index in the channel list, so that users can jump directly from a global community index to a specific tag within a channel. The second part of this release is that users will be able to bookmark a tag just like it was a channel in itself. This will give the functionality of a sub forum, while keeping the tagging system in place.
The team is also adding more filters and working on the search subsystem, which will power all the “view my own posts,” “view somebody else’s posts,” and let users search by author, role, or dev posts. This feature will also power a new mini profile, so users will be able to just jump directly to a list of posts from a specific player directly from the mini profile.
Virtual lists are also being developed on the back end. Currently, there is an issue rendering long presence lists in the chat lobbies, which causes the backers group to collapse by default in the general forum. Virtual lists will allow for rendering what is visible plus a buffer. This will save on performance and allow everybody to be present in the lobby lists. One of the most reported issues is that users can’t jump directly to a message and then go back in time. Virtual lists will allow this.
In the meantime, the research team from Spectrum is working on the overlay for Spectrum desktop, which is an integration between the game and Spectrum. This means taking the redux application store and moving it to an area where two processes can benefit from it. Then, there can be an overlay that will keep the game and the desktop client synchronized without having to double the resources for it.
There has been some research on PM groups, specifically the ability to refactor the currently 1 on 1 PM system to have more than one person in a group, so users can have a party system for specific a lobby.
Turbulent also visited the Austin studio to presented the new art design for the site revamp. There were also some major infrastructure changes as the platform was moved to a new set of hardware. There was a brief downtime while it was shifted, but everything was quickly back up and running better than before.
The Banu Defender was launched via a concept presentation. As part of the process, the ship rollout system was upgraded with an improved Q&A, a live Town Hall to discuss the ship, and a focus on the development process in Jump Point and the Vault. Simultaneously, the updated Banu race was revealed in a futuristic ‘National Geographic’ style magazine.
The Star Citizen store added new merchandise, including Star Citizen and Squadron shirts and hats, plus a beautiful new Terra mousepad. Subscribers can purchase exclusive Polaris shirts. Shipping and handling was revamped as a part of these new additions. Now, merchandise ships immediately instead of as a pre-order.
Internally, the team is in the process of supporting a major website update, which includes a long-awaited overhaul to the ship stats page. New player content is also in production thanks to community feedback, which has highlighted how daunting Star Citizen can be to new players.
Tickets for Gamescom went on sale this month and event planning continues. Our community team and staff from Austin attended DREAMHACK, where they met with backers and talked Star Citizen. The con concluded with an appropriately Texas-themed BBQ Bar Citizen. Devs also attended the backer-organized BritizenCon and took part in not one, but two panels! It was an honor to participate and connect with the community.
The team ran four Happy Hour livestreams this month, including a live look at how production schedules are made. Happy Hour will be going on a ‘half hiatus’ for a bit as the team works on the New Player Experience videos, but it will return to its usual schedule in the near future.