Monthly Report: December 2014
We’re back! December was a hard push to release Arena Commander 1.0, followed by a restful holiday break for Star Citizen team members around the world. 2015 is going to be huge: multiple modules, events around the world and plenty of new ships and features to discuss. Expect to see several major design posts in honor of the recent stretch goals in the coming weeks, and then a steady stream of new information leading up to the FPS and Planetside launches. And in two weeks, join us in San Antonio for the first official Star Citizen Town Hall event! Details are available here. For now, though, let’s look back at the work that was accomplished in December…
Cloud Imperium Santa Monica
Happy holidays to all of you around the world! We sincerely hope that you each enjoyed them and welcome to 2015! Looking back on December the whole team is really happy with all that we accomplished before the break. It was an exceedingly busy few weeks before holiday that saw some of the most intense development on Arena Commander V1.0 and we’re quite proud that we were able to release it for all of you as promised! As we move forward into 2015 there are a lot of exciting development efforts and releases to look forward but for now let’s go to the December department updates for Cloud Imperium Games Santa Monica!
With the 1.0 release we were adding a lot of new systems into the game as well as exposing existing systems better to the player. Of course with new systems come new bugs! The signature system and missile behavior, being entirely new, needed a lot of focus and attention leading up to the release. Our engineering team worked hand in hand with QA, Art, and Design to make sure that the signature system and new missiles were functioning as well as possible prior to release. Those issues that remained and those that have been reported by the community are being fixed in next week’s Arena Commander 1.0.1 patch.
Another important focus on from the Engineering team was the flight model. With 1.0 we were introducing a bevy of new flyable ships each with their own unique flight characteristics. Among them were ships like the Cutlass which has thrusters that behave differently from any ship we’ve released before. John Pritchett worked with the Design, Art, and Animation folks to update the IFCS system to get the new thruster behavior that the ships design could support. We are still working on perfecting the flight characteristics of this ship based on your feedback and our own internal testing for future releases but the first pass implementation turned out well. During this process we also created a lot of new visual debugging tools for thrusters and flight mechanics to assist designers as they balance and tweak a ship.
During December our Engineering team also worked closely with Art and Illfonic to complete many of the visual and functional changes to the ships HUD. The big wins from this were the integration from Illfonic which enabled us to get the visor HUD rendering properly on the helmet glass which, if you haven’t seen it, looks amazing! In addition to the purely visual changes there was also a lot of new functionality added to support the new missile system, signature system, power management, shield management, and an overall pass at increasing the user-friendliness of interfacing with the HUD. The HUD is something that will continue to be worked on for the foreseeable future as new features are introduced but we’re very happy with the HUD released for 1.0 as it represents a large step forward.
For all of December our Designers were appropriately focused on three primary areas. New ships, new items, and balance! With all the new ships our two man design team had its hands full. As some of you may remember from the Ship Pipeline post, every ships last phase of development has very heavy
involvement from a Technical Designer to get the damage states working, flight mechanics setup, as well as the item and weapon balance. So with the fourteen new ships added to the game by the team in Santa Monica each of those had heavy involvement from our Design team.
On the new items front the Design team worked very collaboratively with the Art and Engineering team to get the new missiles added into the game and working with the new signature system. They also worked closely with Engineering on the new Joker Distortion Cannon which deals damage and behaves in a way that no other weapon does. The ability to sap energy and shields so directly is a new feature that required careful balance and implementation but in the end provides a very cool new weapon type for people to integrate into their loadouts.
As you might imagine the balance of so many new ships and their items is quite a large task. With the complicated interconnected systems on our ships even the slightest stat changes on an item can have cascading effects throughout a ships entire systems. The Design team with some assistance from Mark Abent had recently created a new Python enabled spreadsheet that greatly assists in rapidly adjusting item and weapon stats and exporting the modified items. This proved invaluable for rapid iteration and adjustment while working with QA and play testing. Balance is an ongoing task so while we implemented a solid first pass with all the new equipment and ships it will continue to change in upcoming patches based on the feedback from the community and internal testing.
Did we mention the fourteen new flyable ships? The Art team here in Santa Monica along with our two vehicle artists (Chris Smith and Josh Coons) in Austin were responsible for getting all fourteen of those ships into the game with their beautiful paintjobs, damage states, and visual effects. While we are always striving for perfection and there are lots of little things we will be changing and improving with the ships over the coming weeks and months we are incredibly proud to have been able to implement so many new ships for you guys so quickly! The team here did an incredible job!
The new visual effects for weapons, weapon impacts, and thrusters represent a huge step forward in visual fidelity. Our Lead Technical Artist, Forrest Stephan, worked tirelessly to handcraft each of those effects throughout the month of December. As our technology continues to improve thanks to our Graphics Engineering team led by Alistair Brown in the Foundry 42 office, so too does our ability to deliver the best looking visuals in gaming.
The month of December also saw the joining of Lance Powell our new Supervising Art Director for the whole company. Lance joins us here in Santa Monica and spent December working to improve our Art pipelines as well as working with the Concept Artists here in Santa Monica to lockdown solid manufacturer style guides, standardize weapon construction, and improve the documentation on our techniques and processes both for internal consumption as well as for outsourcing. It cannot be said enough how important standardization of practices is in a large development especially one with multiple studios that are geographically separated.
Our two in-house Cinematic Artists worked tirelessly to polish and perfect the Cinematic pieces that we shared with everyone during the December livestream. The Mustang commercial and the Imagine trailer were both created by our team here and are great pieces. The Imagine trailer in particular which was a reimagining (pun intended) of a fan trailer created by Simon Penna. Simon’s original trailer did such a great job of communicating the vision and the dream of Star Citizen that we wanted to update it with new footage and share it with the whole community.
That concludes the December update from Cloud Imperium Games Santa Monica. While December may be over, development surely is not! We’ve added quite a few employees in December and the first week of the New Year bringing the total size of the studio here to 43 people. The team here is well rested and back into high gear working on our 2015 delivery goals. This should prove to be a very exciting year of content delivery for us and our community and everyone on the team is very excited to continue to expand on the universe that we’re creating together.
Cloud Imperium Austin
Happy holidays from all of us here at CIG Austin! As the year 2014 comes to a close, we look back on all we have accomplished this year and stand astounded. This past month has been no different, as we have made more progress on fleshing out our ever-expanding universe, we’ve launched a MAJOR game update, and we’ve launched a number of new publishing operations including a Public Test Universe.
Persistent Universe Team:
Our artists have had two major things on their minds this month: Characters and Props. Our awesome concept team consisting of Ted Beargeon, Megan Cheever, and new addition Ken Fairclough has been developing concept art for NPC’s you might find on ArcCorp or Terra, props you might find on space stations, as well as some initial look/feel for our next location after Terra: the Levski landing zone in the Nyx system.
Our Character Team has been hard at work developing the character models based off the concepts our concept team has been providing. Right now we are wrapping up work on NPC’s for ArcCorp and a Medic NPC you will find in the medical unit. Our Animation Team has been helping our character team out by testing out the new skeleton that was developed to help make our characters as anatomically correct as possible. They have also been fixing countless bugs to help improve the character animations for Arena Commander v1.0 release.
We have been preparing for production on our first chunk of props by gathering reference, standardizing metrics, and developing concepts so that our outsourcing partners have as much information as possible when helping us out. We are hoping to have around one hundred and fifty new props in place fairly soon for all of our environments we have been working on recently with BHVR.
Speaking of environments, work is progressing nicely on standardizing environment construction across the project. Our Lead Technical Artist, Cort Soest, has been instrumental in defining the process for how we build our environments and policing that process once it is established. We have also been doing some R&D on some cool new modular fountain VFX for our environments.
Our Ship Team were slaving away all month on helping to get the Aurora variants, Mustang variants, and Hornet variants in your hands for Arena Commander v1.0. We hope you enjoy flying around in them!
At the beginning of this month our designers, Pete Mackay and Evan Manning, began concocting some awesome high-level designs for new landing zones. The Odyssa and Mariana landing zones are now in Whitebox phase in which our designers have been blocking out the specific layouts for where the shops, major points of interest, and landing pads will be located. They are now working with our concept team to develop the aesthetic for each location. It is exciting seeing the designs for new landing zones come online, as it is a reminder of the vast number of worlds we eventually will have in our universe.
Our Star Map is undergoing extreme renovation! Rob Irving has been working with Dave
Haddock to completely revamp the layout of our universe. As our project has grown and priorities have shifted the need for a new layout became apparent. It has been tricky switching everything around while still maintaining what has already been established in our fiction, but it won’t be too much longer until Star Map 2.0 will be complete. Our conference room table is covered in sticky notes with the various systems on them; indicative of the work we’ve been doing to make the Star Map bigger and better than before.
Other things our design team has been doing this month include investigation on landing sequences from orbit to planetside, updating our Persistent Universe Crimes List, and identifying bugs in our Orbit>Hangar>Planetside game loop.
The PU Engineering Team hit some major milestones this month. Their biggest milestone was helping to support the roll-out of Arena Commander 1.0, where they rolled out both Friends v1.0 (aka “Contacts”) and the Lobby System in the same patch. Several new server configurations were a part of this launch, and our server team spent much of their weekend post-launch to support this. Special thanks to server engineers Tom Sawyer and Brian Mazza for their outstanding dedication and burning the midnight oil to support our launch, as well as the strong support from our DevOps, IT and QA departments.
The team also continues to be busy working on tools to support our Peaceful NPC AI system. We will be wrapping up some heavy lifting on that early next year. Additionally, they have finished their backend implementation for a new Chat System, which they have begun testing themselves. Work will begin next year on the user interface for this system so that our QA team can get their hands on it. On top of all this, our server team has also been busy working on being able to invite other players to your hangars, working on our Process Manager, and investigating ways that we can increase player counts on our maps.
The PU Programming team has also recently added a new Senior Network Engineer to the fold: Jason Ely. Some of you may be familiar with his fantasy 2D MMO “Elderlands.” Jason also helped develop such titles as Ultima and the Crusader series. Jason has already proven to be a valuable asset to CIG, as he is the engineer that has been developing our incoming Chat System. The CIG Austin studio and PU Engineering Team is lucky and ecstatic to have Jason on board.
The PU Engineering Team would like to thank everyone for all of the outstanding support, and to wish everyone a great 2015! We’re looking forward to delivering some more great content to you all next year. See you then!
During December the Star Citizen QA team focused on testing the Arena Commander v1.0 while also testing and deploying a new launcher update as well as Arena Commander patch 0.9.2.2. The entire QA team did a great job.
Andrew Hesse took the time to travel to our LA studio to sit with our technical designers for two weeks while they set up the new ships. He also was able to help with design by setting up the ship item tag system. Jeffrey Pease and his UK QA counterpart Geoffrey Coffin became our Lobby feature experts. They ensured that the lobby was continually tested over the course of the month and provided daily lobby hand-off emails detailing the feature’s progress. This was a very important task as the lobby system was the most at risk feature for Arena Commander v1.0. Jeffrey Pease also took on the task of generating the patch notes for the big v1.0 release.
Christopher Hill, Simon Ormiston, Liam Guest, Steven Brennon and Geoffrey Coffin provided detailed balance feedback concerning ship flight, systems and weapons. Melissa Estrada worked with her UK QA counterpart Andrew Nicholson to ensure v1.0 smoke tests were completed daily and the results were distributed to the team. Tyler Witkin continued working late and over the weekend assisting our server programmers while they addressed the issues encountered post launch.
This month, we were also able to roll out the first phase of the Public Test Universe. The community was incredibly helpful in our test of the PTU and we are very much looking forward to utilizing the PTU for future releases.
It has been a lot of work to ensure v1.0 could be released by our target date prior to the holidays. We are incredibly happy to finally share all the new v1.0 features with the community. QA is now setting their sights on testing the new features and releases for the new year including additional Arena Commander updates, an improved community bug reporting experience, FPS module and much, much more.
One thing about the IT team at Cloud Imperium Games is that they do not stop. No amount of challenge is too great when it comes to Star Citizen and this month’s 1.0 release is no exception.
This month, IT has been involved in every aspect of back end support required by the teams around the world. IT provided additional development systems and various upgrades for the developers who were burning the midnight oil. For QA, the IT team helped to provide a myriad of hardware to support compatibility and performance testing for 1.0 release testing.
Dennis, in Santa Monica, is one cool operator. He took charge of the multi studio live stream event and helped to coordinate our best live stream event so far. His hands were full too with a network outage right in the middle of the live stream which he fixed in less than 3 minutes moving right back to coordinating and supporting the live show without missing a beat. Hassan and Chris worked closely with Dennis to help setup cameras and demo machines at each studio which included lots of testing ahead of time to make sure everything would run smoothly between the multiple studio locations involved.
Austin IT pulled out the stops this month supporting many aspects of the live operation enhancements necessary to support the 1.0 launch. “Sniper” Picket expanded and enhanced our live server monitoring systems while at the same time developed a new suite of system performance reporting tools as well as the back end systems to collect and report all that data. These tools are already helping networking and server engineers to further analyze and tune our game servers faster than ever before. Austin IT also made major improvements to the build system and source control performance in support of the increasingly rapid pace of development. New servers were put in place along with some improvements to the publishing pipeline which further improve the rate by which we can deliver versions to the public. Our goal is to continually reduce the time it takes to publish and download patches and this month we made good gains in this area.
Looking back, this year has been an amazing ride of constant improvements and exciting challenges but none of this would be possible without the amazing developers and more importantly, the support of the Star Citizen community. 2014 has been awesome and 2015 is going to be even more exciting.
The Star Citizen Dev Ops team has been busy this month improving the launcher, adding analytics to the client and server, and of course shipping a major game patch.
In December we released the 0.9.2.2 patch, then 1.3.6 launcher update, our first version of the PTU (Public Test Universe), and of course the 1.0.0 Star Citizen patch. On top of all this we also worked on stripping out certain unnecessary client assets to reduce our overall patch and game client size, continued implementing analytics in the client to give our devs better visibility on player behavior and balance, and improving our ability to deploy our Universe Cluster.
Patch 1.0.0 not only introduced new game features and content, but it also completely changed the backend of our Universe Cluster. We added a Friends, Presence, Persistence, and Party server to the already complex back end in support of the Lobby feature for Arena Commander. This complexity is part of the reason for the problems we saw directly after launching patch 1.0.0. After spending the weekend fixing issues our Network and Dev Ops teams have just about fixed all the communication and connection issues we saw. We will continue to improve the backend stability with hotfixes and future patches.
The Dev Ops team had a new member join at the beginning of December. Joseph Holley joins us with years of experience working at Blizzard on World of Warcraft and other Blizzard titles.
We have been training him up on the Star Citizen code base and server architecture; already he has made several very beneficial contributions. January 5th we have another new employee joining our team which will make 2015 a very productive year!
2014 has been quite a year, with many, many patches, features, improvements, bug fixes, and success. The Dev Ops team is looking forward to 2015 with optimism and excitement with the number of massive releases that are coming that will shape Star Citizen into the game we all want to play. Thank you so much for all your support during the rough deployments and server issues, we really appreciate your patience.
Hope everyone had a good holiday! Last month was incredibly busy, but it was fantastic to get V1 out for everyone before the break. We worked on a bunch of Arena Commander tasks and issues and made great progress on Squadron 42, as well as all the ships, environments and character pipelines we are responsible for. I also personally managed a few days in the USA at the Austin office over the holidays, with Chris and Tony Zurovec, where we worked together on a plan for the year, and also agreed on and organised the tech, environment and Ship summits that are taking place now in the UK and then LA and Austin nest week.
Outside of that we closed the offices for a few days between Christmas and New Year’s so everyone could have a needed break. Now we’re back, refreshed and ready to continue hitting it hard… Watch this space.
On the Foundry 42 Engineering front December saw a big bug-smashing push towards the Arena Commander v1.0 release. As well as bug squashing in several areas such as the new lobby system and HUD we squeezed in work on many new features including adding g-force pass out and recovery animations, ship self-destruction and new scoring additions. There was also more work done to the dogfighting cameras which largely focussed on the new cinematic spectator mode and rear-view camera. New localisation features were added and as usual ongoing improvements were also made to the controls and their customisation options.
In the world of Squadron 42 we continued development on the landing mechanic, and work began on AI landing and take-offs. Enhancements to the looting system have been made and work on the PAW started (that’s the Personal Arc Welder, not your canine space companion!). Furthermore, the conversation system has undergone an effects pass to add dynamic field of view and depth of field effects to give us a more cinematic feel.
On the tools and tech front more progress has been made on the switch to the Wwise sound engine and we have rolled out v1.0.0 of our DataForge data-editing tool. DataForge includes many cool features such as allowing the live editing of data in script files to multiple machines across the network, and more data validation which will stop bugs before they creep in. It also encompasses StoryForge, the tool we will be using to add dialogue into game, which is now ready for some alien languages! In addition to this a brief break in the release schedule post v1.0 allowed us to look at some performance optimisations, spring-cleaning of the code-base and error log, and gave us the chance to take down some mince pies and mulled wine!
“Over December the graphics team were kept very busy, and our time was split between support for the v1.0 release of Arena Commander and on-going feature development. We’re now starting to refine the new ship damage shader so that we can get different visual feedback from each weapon. For example a ballistic weapon will dent the metalwork and often puncture holes, lasers will scorch the surface and leave a burning edge that will continue to eat through some of the metal work over the following seconds, and explosions will create a visible ripple that travels across the hull as the metalwork is bent and scorched.
We’ve also close to completing a new distant star shader that will allow our artists to quickly populate the galaxy with stars of any colour, intensity and distribution they choose. The shader supports over 1 million individually visible stars at once, each of which can be zoomed into without losing any detail which is crucial for our Squadron 42 cinematics where extreme close-ups would otherwise expose any lack of detail in the stars.
We’ve also been spending a lot of time researching and planning some of the new engine features we’ll be implementing in the coming months. Some of the most important are these relate to performance and how we plan to vastly reduce the number of ‘draw calls’ which tends to be the limiting factor for our frame-rate. Draw-calls are the number of individual meshes that need to be rendered each frame, and we need to find ways to combine meshes while maintaining the flexibility and simple workflow for the artists, keeping the same visual quality, but also not costing far more memory (which is the tricky part!).”
December was a busy month in the Design department. Although not entirely V1 focused, as I’m sure you can imagine that we spent a lot of hours fixing bugs and working on the tech setup for the new ships. All of the maps were worked on and got varying amounts of extra polish. The new scoring system was implemented, we spent a lot of time with the Engineers working on the camera system, particularly the “Cinematic Spectator” mode which is looking better and better every day.
The Arena Commander tutorial is underway and will hopefully be ready soon. Also, we are urgently looking at countermeasure and scoring balancing.
As far as Squadron 42 is concerned, we actually managed to keep some designers from V1 and we progressed well with Episode 1. We have had various mechanics, now getting more code support, that are becoming more final and useable in our play-throughs, which really helps the flow of the levels . The script work came on really well, with us actually doing our first motion-capture shoot for the intro sequence and the vertical slice.
All-in-all we had a great month and it was fantastic to see V1 go out before Christmas. We will keep listening to you and keep pushing to make this the game we all want it to be. Thanks again for your amazing support!
Art Team Report.
A lot of time and effort has gone into wrapping up the characters needed for Sq42 and next year we’ll be showcasing some cool models in 2015. Additional work completed for the Vanduul Kingship bridge along with the Vanduul boarding ship and Starfarer.
We have a strike team working on the Retaliator, which is looking more and more beautiful by the day. It’s getting closer to Hangar ready every day.
Once the Retaliator is Hangar ready, we are going to focus on the Idris and Javelin.
We had the live-stream event, and now you are probably aware we are going to produce these 2 Capships in tandem more or less, since they are made by the same manufacturer.
We are planning to give these ships the attention they deserve, so you guys can enjoy them as fully immersive and convincing environments for you to roam in – they are floating multiplayer levels after all!
We also are producing the full Vanduul fleet here in Manchester, as well as the Starfarer, the new Cutlass , the new Avenger and the Argo Utility vehicle.
Last month we began to work with 3Lateral to add facial animation to our new scanned base male head and refining the updated base male body to work well with rigging and animation. We have also been exploring the female characters and we are working towards a full body and face scan of two females next week.
We have a new member of the character team, Seth Nash, who will be creating our base quality asset. This character will define our pipeline and quality expectations for the rest of the project. It’s an exciting time for the character art team and we are making great strides towards a final production pipeline that can deliver the quality characters star citizen deserves.
December was a mix of vertical slice planning and meeting up with Steve Bender our new animation director, he and a few others captured some motion sets at Imaginarium which will be implemented once the new character skeleton is ready. We also provided additional support for Arena Commander V1 (button presses, passing out animations across all ships – rough but being improved on for 1.0.1)
We have been continuing to Greybox the Shubin Interstellar interior building set, all the major components have been fleshed out and now we are really starting to dial into the details – everything from wall panels to handles. The shape language for Shubin Interstellar has been defined so the player will be able distinguish its architectural style from other corporations within the Star Citizen Universe; the upshot of this is that the Shubin universe is now taking on its own personality and life – watch this space
Damage, damage and more damage!
Specifically, major update of all ship damage effects, including improved fire and smoke, sparks and power plant explosions, missile effects overhaul, including jets, trails and impact explosions. Finally, we’ve started plans for a major overhaul of the VFX pipeline and data structure, to allow for the vast quantity and (and high quality!) of effects that will be worked on in 2015.
That’s all for now folks, 2015 will be a hugely busy year with some massive challenges! Oh, and if you are looking for a job as an Environment, weapon, character or lighting artist, then please apply to the UK!!!!
“December was almost entirely dedicated to the v1.0 release of Arena Commander for us in audio; for us it represented the last hurrah for working in FMOD, as we now look to transition to Wwise which will be taking up our time solidly over the next couple of months. This should free us up to make the core assets sound much better, and tie them into the game more effectively. It’s kind of the sound equivalent of rewiring the entire house however, so it’s a bit of a challenge.
For AC v.1.0 we had new ships to cater for, UI, weapons systems, ship computers. Some elements of the thrusters etc. were re-worked. To be truthful we’re not totally satisfied with what we managed to do in the time we had – some weapons we know need revised for instance. We’re going to use the move to Wwise as a convenient point for us to revise and review, well, everything! It’s the first step to looking to make our toolset far more robust, which should then improve our implementation methods and ensure we’re not spending too much time simply getting sounds working at all, which has been an issue up to now. Interactive score is another element that we’ll look to take up several notches with the Wwise move.
As you may have seen on the forums, we’re starting to co-ordinate source material gathering sessions, starting with a trip up the road to the Runway Museum in Manchester. Check out the photo of an interior of Concorde – life ambition fulfilled! Our ships have a lot of switches which we’ll be gathering source material for, and also we hope to capture the characteristics of aeroplane interiors via recording impulse responses. These, we hope to map to our ship interiors to increase the sense of being in a proper enclosed space; our tech will reverberate your own voice to match the reverb characteristics of the sounds in the ships. It’s an approach we’ll look to extend to other in game locations too.
Finally, we’re currently demoing some monitors (speakers, rather than visual screens!) that we have on loan from http://pmc-speakers.com/ – which we’ve all been very impressed with so far. We’ve also got in some great SFX library material from http://www.prosoundeffects.com/ which we’ll be bringing online any day now. Great tools only improve things and we’re always looking at new tech and techniques to ensure the audio experience is maximised.”
In December, a lot of efforts were spent on V1.0. The team worked hard on the lobby system, the controller customisation system and to make sure that all the new ships load in your hangar. At the same time, much effort was spent on the upcoming milestone for the Persistent Universe. We all hope you enjoyed flying the new ships over the Holydays.
We have been hard at work on designing and building planetside locations as well as supporting the art team in making them extra pretty and engineering team in making it functional. Keep in mind that the long development process for those locations will speed up next year. Making the primary assets, prototyping and putting together systems that allow for procedural generation and dynamic changes takes time and a great deal of effort. Nevertheless, once it’s done and proven solid, the next planetsides will be developed much faster.
Some shops are now partly functional. Through the mobiGlas, you’ll be able to access the shop’s inventory two ways: A catalog view allows you to browse the entire shop inventory, and in augmented reality mode you can browse the products directly in the shop. Both modes have their perks. Shopping questions also brought us to think more seriously about the player’s Inventory System, which we have started to tackle with the help of the other studios.
As always, some work has been done on the Flairs. At his point in time you may have received your happy new year gift! As you might have noticed, subscribers got a random gift out of a collection, not everyone has the same one. This mechanic was put in place with our partner in crime Turbulent and will allow us to do cool stuff in the future, like Takuetsu Mystery boxes for example
Another challenge this month was….elevators! Yes, we’re putting together an elevator system to rule them all. Basically, finding the metrics and mechanics to support all the various types of gameplay and locations in Star Citizen (which is a lot!). The first iteration is to allow going from your hangar to a planetside location, and vice versa. You’ll also use the same lifts to access your friend’s hangar…if they invited you of course.
Artists have been hard at work on the Nyx concept, refining the interior of the station and large mining facility in the backdrop. We have also been working on a new Mustang mousepad! Keep an eye out for in the the shop!
Our art team has been hard at work finishing up two new shops: Astro Armada and the Medical Unit. The biggest challenge this month was to find the right balance between reusing assets and creating new ones.
Also, more work was done on Terra to setup the space for the future shops and just bring the whole map to the next level.
We optimized and fixed lighting bugs in the Hangars. Finally, we finished our January Flairs.
This month, we’ve worked on adding more options to Control Customization. We’ve added the possibility for a player to have control of the sensitivity and deadzone of certain control inputs as well being able to import and export control settings. We’ve done a very big push on the Lobby and Contacts functionality that players will be able to enjoy in the Arena Commander V1.0 Release. Players will now be able to seamlessly organize matches and play with their friends.
We’ve also started to build Tools for the Game Designers so they can start designing Artificial Intelligence “Archetypes”. These Archetypes will then be used to give activity schedule to some of our AI NPC you’ll see in different planeside locations. Also, we’ve done a lot of work in regards to preparing the Hangars to become Multiplayer Hangars. This functionality will allow players to invite other players into their Hangars to show off all their cool ships and Flairs.
Speaking of Flairs, this month we’ve worked on the Mustang Alpha and Delta Miniature Ships which were released last week. We’ve also put in some work on a cool new January Subscriber Flair which will be revealed …. In January
Last but not surely not least, we’ve been hard at work on polishing the mobiGlas shopping experience as well given support to the Visor Development.
December was an intense month! A lot of focus was spent on getting the first iteration of the contacts list and the Arena Commander Lobby up and ready for public release. Last minute bugs and unforeseen issues kept things exciting for the last few days leading up to the holiday break.
We’ve also been making steady progress on mobiGlas easyShop app, which has become our visual benchmark for future mobiApps… it’s looking pretty sweet! We are looking forward to getting it into your hands and getting your feedback once it goes live in the not-quite-so-distant-future.
Happy New Year Citizens!
We hope you all had a great holiday season… and played lots of Arena Commander while you were at it. While most of the team here took some time off to visit with their families in December, they still got lots of good work done over the last month.
The engineering team has been super busy implementing new features, and also helped squash a few bugs in Arena Commander. The HUD code was unified for ships and FPS, you may have noticed this while looking at your character in 3rd person. Work continued on the zero gravity push & pull system, which allows you to move around by grabbing and pushing off of surfaces. Game rules were implemented for FPS elimination matches. The burst cannon weapon has been hooked up in game. The system for going prone and entering vents was also finished, although we do still have some bugs to address. Lastly, the laser pistol was implemented in Arena Commander… which you all seem to be having a good bit of fun with.
The biggest piece of news concerning animation is the mocap shoot that took place in mid-December. During this shoot, all new animations were captured including everything FPS. Once the mocap data has been solved, the animators will begin implementing all of the new animations which should be a huge improvement over what was seen at PAX Australia. Until that happens, the animation team continues to work on block out temporary animations for the new features that have been coming online.
The artists have been busy finishing all of the remaining props for the Gold Horizon station. This mostly included some gym equipment, wall decorations such as clocks, and some smaller mess hall items. Concept work was completed for a zero gravity specific level a sniper rifle and a grappling attachment for a pistol. Modeling work has now started on those assets as well. Our Lead Artist also worked out a way of placing vents and crawlspaces into environments that fits the tier system which is already being used to create levels. The HUD and UI artwork is also an ongoing task that will continue into next month.
The design team has been working on blocking out the first few levels for the FPS module release. Two levels will be completed by early January and then it will up to the artists to make them look amazing. Our Lead Designer put together documentation for weapon attachments, a grappling hook and also created a tool for easily balancing weapon metrics. This should help us to tweak weapons quickly in the future for fast iteration and play-testing.
On the VFX side, all of the current weapon FX are being revisited and polished to a sheen. A first pass on all of the new weapon FX is also in progress, along with FX for the grappling device as well.
That’s all for now Citizens. We hope you had a happy New Year and we can’t wait to show you more of what’s currently coming online in the near future!
Happy 2945, Citizens!
Platform Team here reporting from colder-by-the-minute Montreal.
Man what a month! Throughout December, our whole team has been fully dedicated to one simple goal : give Arena Commander V1 a proper welcome to the Project. A new home, the Contact List, new ships, weapons, supercharged leaderboards, easier introduction to new players… we’ve been working around the clock to make sure that this release would be as much packed with new features and improvements on the website as it is in the game.
The new home layout is here, now featuring our prime content right from the beginning. It also serves as an introduction to newcomers who can get a glimpse of the project and explore it further through the Game Pillars page (“about the game”). And it all comes with a brand new top-menu that brings together the old site map with brand new functionalities like the Contact List. Implementing this new design was (and still is, we’re not done!) pretty crafty from our team here : RSI is a big platform by common web standards, and has grown so much in just two years that any small change often has countless impacts, so you can imagine what a partial redesign like this one implies. We’ve also taken this occasion to make the site a bit more mobile-friendly. This will of course be an ongoing project as we keep revamping the rest of the site, but we’re really happy to see the fans response that you are much happier with our new mobile rendering.
The website also presents a new interaction with Arena Commander V1 : the Contact list that carries over into Arena Commander to allow match requests in the new Lobby System. And this new system is off to a pretty good start, with over 60,000 contacts created in the first week. With one user (a Super Hornet pilot who will remain unnamed) pushing the limit with 248 contacts! We’re really happy that we were able to work conjointly with CIG to bring this level of interaction between Platform and Game. As the most crowdfunded project in history, Star Citizen deserves an unprecedented level of immersion on all fronts, and that includes the website.
We didn’t really make any announcement about it, but the Leaderboards got upgraded as well for V1! We’ll let you explore them on your own, but they’re now chock-full of data : about players, their style, their Orgs… We’re positive that they should become yet another recruiting tool for Orgs in the very near future. Just remember! Any game you play only contributes to your Main Org at the time of the game! Switching over to a new one won’t transfer your past glory to them.
Paving the way
We said it last month, we’re saying it again. All of this is just a first step towards what this coming year will be. The Home will lead to the Community Hub, Game Pillars will lead to the Career pages. Contact List will evolve into a full-blown Friendship system in- and out-of-game, and Leaderboards are bound to settle in everyone’s Citizen Dossier for detailed personal stats. And if you tuned into the Livestream, you know we’re also preparing something big for the web-side Starmap. So stay tuned, and we shall deliver!
See you all in the ‘verse!
The release of Arena Commander 1.0 was the major focus of December, so we were expecting to spend a lot of time on it. But in the end, we were quite pleased that there were relatively few AI issues to deal with, which allowed us to get a lot of work done for Squadron 42 and the persistent universe. With the Christmas break looming at the end of the month, we knew we had less time than normal to get things done, but that didn’t stop us getting quite a few cool features implemented.
As this year comes to a close, I think we’re all quite pleased with what we’ve achieved in 2014, and with just how far the AI has progressed over the last year. We’ve now got a pretty good foundation for authoring interesting AI and we’re excited about all of the features we have lined up to work on in 2015.
But before we put on our 2015 hats, let’s have a quick recap of what Moon Collider did in December.
We look forward to visiting the other teams and having the opportunity to share ideas with them, and the UK summit this month was perfect for that. Unfortunately, with so much to get done this month, we were only able to send one person. As always, it was a really productive visit, and in particular gave us the chance to refine priorities on various features that we’ll be working on in the next few months. With the different modules being developed in parallel, it’s a challenge to make sure each one has the AI features they need for each of their milestones, so getting everyone together in the same room to work this out is really useful.
One of the most important features still missing from Kythera is a proper ability to define and work with groups. Up to now we’ve been able to get by dealing with AI entities on an individual basis, but the opportunities have been steadily increasing where we can do more interesting things if the AI can share information with each other and coordinate their actions. While this may sound simple, there are a lot of details that need to be taken into account, and so we spent some time designing our group system this month. We focused on working out the different types of groups we want to support, how they can be defined, and how AI in groups can safely and efficiently share information. It was also important to make sure designers can easily define groups and then reference them later when they want to make a group do something or find out some information about that group.
We also did some more work this month refining how level designers for Squadron 42 can assign different tasks to AI, and how to make the AI nicely switch between doing interesting things when they haven’t yet spotted the player, and entering combat tasks once the player has been detected. We’re working towards a system where designers can be specific about what they want the AI to do under certain circumstances, but can depend on them to act sensibly the rest of the time without having to explicitly cater for every possibility.
We spent some time this month in preparation for the Arena Commander 1.0 release, mostly playtesting Vanduul Swarm and doing minor tweaks to AI behavior. We also did some general bug fixes and support, in particular some improvements to AI avoidance, so they are now less likely to collide with the player.
There was a lot of work done on character combat AI for Squadron 42. As a follow up to last months improvements to their use of cover, we did various tweaks and refinements to this to make them behave more sensibly. One funny issue we started seeing was that the AI would be leaning out of cover to shoot at the player, then they would go back behind their cover to reload their weapon, and promptly forget about the player! It turned out that our implementation of how AI remember targets wasn’t coping very well when they lost sight of the player for a few seconds. We dealt with a similar issue last month with ships losing their targets when they go behind an obstacle like an asteroid. So now the AI can tell the difference between losing sight of their target for a short time, and losing sight long enough that they should either start searching for the lost enemy or find a different target.
We also did some work on allowing AI to defend areas better. Up to now, our character AI has been very aggressive, always working their way towards the player via cover fairly quickly. But quite often we want some of them to hang back and find some good defensible positions to protect some area of interest. We’ve now added that capability in, and so designers can start assigning roles to characters in Squadron 42 which will make the combat there more interesting and challenge the player to think through their attack strategy a bit more.
For the persistent universe we continued building up the core framework that allows NPCs to perform tasks in the world, with a lot of work done in particular on how those tasks are selected. Part of what makes this really interesting is that our AI ultimately perform actions by running behavior trees, and to allow NPCs to perform different tasks in the PU we have added the ability to dynamically add and remove chunks of behavior tree from the tree they are currently running. The end result of this is that it becomes much easier for designers to add new activities into the world for NPCs to perform since they only need to specify the behavior differences that make the new activity unique, with the knowledge that the NPC will continue to handle all the other interactions it might need to do.
We mentioned last month that we wanted to improve our super handy AI Recorder tool to allow people to share recordings of AI around. That work was done this month and now designers and testers can manage their recordings in various ways through our Kythera Inspector web interface, such as renaming and deleting, but most importantly they can export them to a file that can be shared around. So now when a strange AI behavior is seen, they can send us a recording of it for us to debug, rather than having to try and document an exact use case for us to try and reproduce. This should really help solve those tricky intermittent bugs that sometimes show up and are a real pain to solve.
Having mentioned the groups design work we did above, we also did some of the implementation of these designs. We still have more to do on this next month, but we got some of the core features in place.
Finally, we made some important improvements deep inside or navigation system, relaxing some restrictions on the maximum dimensions our navigation meshes can have. These we put in place for performance reasons, but now that we need to support larger levels we needed to change the system to allow for larger navigation meshes, while minimizing the impact on performance that this requires.
We would like to take a moment to recognize the QA and engineering staff who worked tirelessly to fix a series of major bugs that appeared the night of the 1.0 launch. Staff volunteered to go above and beyond for the project, sacrificing their time off to make sure everyone could enjoy Arena Commander over the holidays. The entire Star Citizen team salutes you!