Monthly Studio Report: February 2018
Welcome to February’s Monthly Studio Report with updates from all of our studios to give some insight into what they’ve been working on this past month. As our first quarterly release date approaches, the team’s been collectively hard at work completing the features for 3.1 while pushing forward on the continued development of Squadron 42. With that said, let’s get to it.
CIG Los Angeles
CLOUD IMPERIUM: LOS ANGELES
On the PU front, the Narrative Team spent the month working with Design and Audio to polish up some scripts for a few new characters that might be coming down the pipe. The main tasks this month have been defining a new system for the Generic NPC line sets as well as outlining the narrative experience for some of the locations, trying to figure out how to sell the flavor and character of an area for the players walking around it. To do this in a way that’s scalable, the team started constructing a template that calls out the various characters, stores/locations and story moments that would be specific to this location. Once complete, this document could be distributed to the various departments building the area, so everyone’s working off a cohesive vision of the location.
On the Squadron 42 front, work has continued on a handful of other documents and breakdowns that address some of the upcoming text needs for the game. Unfortunately, as this is a Spoiler Free zone, details will have to be furnished at a later date.
The Character Team knocked out a tremendous amount of work since the last update on the Persistent Universe and Squadron 42. They’ve been pressing forward on all kinds of uniforms, armor, and clothes, such as the upcoming Port Olisar Collection. Several pieces from that collection have gone from high poly to in-game mesh and will soon be headed to texturing, rigging and implementation in-game around Port Olisar.
The Legacy Light Outlaw moved to the in-game mesh stage. Part of this work involves the creation of a low poly version to help with performance while maintaining maximum quality. Once complete, it will move into final texturing, rigging, and final implementation. The medium and heavy legacy outlaw sets just started their high poly phase, which allows for the heavy detail work, before getting it ready for final texturing. The legacy light marine armor has also entered high poly phase and will soon also go into in-game low poly modeling, texturing and rigging.
Several other PU characters are in various states of production. The team started working on some high-quality mission givers, as well as character concepts for future releases.
One of the newly formed feature teams is focusing on the new Character Customizer, which introduces player customization into the game and builds on the great work that was done last year. This first implementation will include the ability to choose a head, skin tone, eye color, hairstyle and hair color for your character. The team is also putting the finishing touches on the backend functionality so the player’s choices persist.
The team also implemented a facial rig designed to translate human performances onto the alien characters. This rig will allow more of the actor’s performances to translate into a very different morphology.
In the ongoing mission to simplify procedures within the development, the team created a unified tool installer, which allows for a single installer to automatically update each of the tools artists and designers use.
Another tool the team implemented was to integrate support for loadouts into the 3D modeling software, Maya. This new tool allows animators to polish and preview their character animation work with the characters wearing the particular loadout that they’re intended to wear in the final game. Since clothing and armor vary in size and material, it’s important for animators to know when an awkward character movement or interaction point is actually an error in the animation or simply because they’re wearing bulky armor. Since these poses change dramatically when polishing animations, the team can now see the final loadout ahead of time in Maya, rather than waiting to see it rendered in-game.
The team is always researching or prototyping work prior to committing final resources to complete it. One feature that they’re very passionate about is the director’s camera mode. After collecting feedback from the community, the team has started to revisit this mode to make it more robust and user-friendly by creating more intuitive and obvious controls.
The Ship Team spent the past month getting as many ships and vehicles through the pipeline as quickly as possible thanks to an updated production practice. The base model of the Tumbril Cyclone entered the prep stage which is one of the last steps in getting any ship (or vehicle in this case) ready for operation. In this phase, the team’s creating the vehicle’s damage states and generating the LOD versions that allow the best performance possible.
The Anvil Hurricane has also entered the final art stage, so work is being done to generate UVs, apply custom normals as well as final materials and decals, and finalizing the animations. The other departments are finishing their work before the Hurricane enters flight prep. Overall, the ship is on track to hit our Alpha 3.2 goal as seen on the public roadmap.
Revisions to the Mustang are still in progress and entering the final art stages before continuing through the pipeline. The updated starter ship from Consolidated Outland is planned for delivery in the Alpha 3.2 patch in Q2.
The last ship currently being worked on in Los Angeles is the Anvil Terrapin. The ship is currently having the final animations implemented, which includes the player getting in and out of the pilot seat, the door opening and closing, landing gear folding in and out, as well as the armored shell.
Finally, LA’s Vehicle Feature Team implemented a huge number of ship optimizations to help increase performance. As mentioned in the Studio Update, the goal with optimizations is to find improvements wherever you can, completing fixes that bring milliseconds down to microseconds rather than looking for a single ‘catch-all’ fix. The team also spent time converting items from Item 1.0 to Item 2.0 such as missiles, missile racks, object databank, EMP and various bugs and crashes to increase client performance.
CLOUD IMPERIUM: AUSTIN
This month, ATX designers worked on a few key things. One was the Service Beacon, which facilitates player generated content. The plan for 3.1 is to allow players to pay others for services such as “Personal Transport” or “Combat Assistance.” Once a contract is accepted, QT Markers will be created on the Contract Initiator so the Contract Provider can easily get to them. Both parties will be able to see where the other is person is while the contract is active. Either party involved in the contract can cancel at any time, but be warned, players will be able to rate the other person where contract completion is not easily determined. (For instance, when does combat assistance end?) The team is close to finishing the second sprint on this feature, and it is currently in the scope of the Alpha 3.1 release.
ATX designers are currently organizing the work involved for the next three mission givers. This entails prioritizing their animations, and figuring out how to evolve their functionality. These mission givers exist in locations already in game, as the Object Container Streaming tech to add new locations is slated for the 3.3 release. These mission givers are:
• Luca Brunt: Who organizes races at Grim Hex and collects bets on the races.
• Recco Battaglia: Who organizes much of the mining tasks that are coming and going out of Levski.
• Wallace Klim: Is a drug chemist that has set up shop in the tunnels of Levski.
The new mission givers have not been committed to a specific release, but since they populate locations already in the game, they will be released when ready.
Work on the Constellation Phoenix made steady progress this month. The ship is coming along nicely with the modeling of ‘fancy’ trims and interior ‘set pieces’ (chairs, tables, bottles for the bar, etc.) being a focus of late. Following a positive Whitebox-Design review, the ship is pretty much functional in-game right now. Next on the agenda for the Constellation Phoenix is finishing up the UVs, a material pass and a start on the fine detail.
This month, the team provided support for the new Service Beacon system by allowing the backend services to manage all aspects of Service Beacon contracts and states. They’ve also been marching forward on bringing the fully diffusionized services online. During the process, they’ve made a number of extensions to the Ooz Language and core framework. The end result may not be as visually attractive as a new ship or planetside content, but Diffusion is the system that connects the players to these beautiful things. In addition, the Backend Service Team provided general support for 3.1 on both the game side and with DevOps.
Over the last month, ATX Animation shifted from working on Usables to bringing Persistent Universe Mission Givers to life. Good progress was made and the first two mission givers should be completed soon, allowing the team to move onto others. The team is also putting some finishing touches on the Shopkeeper characters (both friendly and gruff, male and female) and the Admin Office Worker.
Ship Animation finished work on the upcoming ships for 3.1, including the Tumbril Cyclone, MISC Razor, Anvil Terrapin, and Aegis Reclaimer.
DevOps has been supporting the Engineering and QA Teams with their performance and testing work. Additional effort has been focused on optimizing all aspects of server communication and data storage and retrieval efficiency, including network and database optimizations. The BuildOps portion of the team has continued to work closely with the IT group, expanding the build system to accommodate more granular build types. This will allow feature teams to work on their features independently, with less reliance on other teams, allowing for more rapid iteration of key feature development.
February has been a big ramp-up for ATX QA. The team has been cleaning up its remaining backlog from 3.0 and working with the designers in Austin on 3.1 preparations. They’ve been testing several shopping and commodity changes in anticipation of an economy playtest with Evocati. They have also been doing extensive test passes on probability volume, interdiction, Subsumption, insurance and NPC animations in collaboration with various departments.
On the operational side, the ATX QA Leads Team completed annual reviews and is now focused on collaborating with overseas counterparts on quality-of-life updates for the department. On the 3.1 front, the branch is up and running, which means that QA is in the thick of checking inclusions and completing a smoke to locate any bugs beyond those already found on Game-Dev. A large amount of playtest time has been spent on performance – with all the optimizations, refactoring and cleanup of old code going on, regular captures must be provided to the engineers for progress. New missions have begun to hit QA, along with new debugging tools to diagnose and log problems for developers. The team also started testing the MISC Razor, several ship weapon reworks and updates to the player chase cam. Last but far from least, QA has been very excited to get their hands on the Character Customizer and really start breaking it.
The Player Relations Team coordinated with several other teams to get 3.0.1 out to players, which helped alleviate the golf ball bug and other persistence related issues. As teams continue to work on resolving one-off issues, they’ve also shifted efforts to some overdue project work, such as creating a proper knowledge base and starting the process of adding new Evocati for upcoming 3.1 testing.
Foundry 42 UK
FOUNDRY 42: UK
The Origin 600i is nearing art completion. The exterior is at final art polish with the turret and access doors now complete. Final polish on the interior focused on the captain’s quarters, cargo room, hub area and dorms to get the ship ready for handover to tech design.
The team has also been working hard on the Hammerhead interior. The corridors, turrets and cargo bay are complete. Meanwhile, work has begun on the bridge, captain’s quarters and lift sections. Also, the Reclaimer is now art complete, and will be featured during March’s episode of Ship Shape.
The team has also been tirelessly working on concept ships. Not much can be said about them without ruining the reveal, but they are progressing really well. The Aegis Vulcan promo images were finished for the sale, and a new contract concept artist was brought on board to keep up with demands for future work.
In February, CIG Audio focused on optimizing and stabilizing code to improve performance for the 3.1 release. Both CPU and memory usage have been reduced, and one of the main initiatives in this area has been Dynamic Media Loading. This is still undergoing some testing internally with Audio QA to ensure nothing falls between the cracks, but if all goes well, it should reduce the memory footprint of audio by more than fifty percent. This is in addition to existing tech, such as streaming, which is already employed.
On the content side, sound design creation and implementation has progressed for rest stops and derelicts, and more sound effects were added to the new ships/vehicles that will be available in the 3.1 release. The Grim HEX and Levski locations’ sound design have undergone additional polish, with music logic and additional content on the way for those areas. Also, human-scale weapons (i.e. guns) received an overhaul, especially where the NPC perspectives are concerned, improving and iterating sonically upon the gameplay experience.
Where Squadron 42 is concerned the team has been in ‘pre-post production’, planning how coverage of cinematic sequences will work when the CIG Audio Team switches ‘modes’ and becomes akin to a sound post house after all the cinematic sequences land. Audio has also been lining up more raw source requirements to provide fresh material; building out the Squadron 42 internal Sound FX library was a big initiative this month. To that end, the team will soon be sourcing props and recording all kinds of ‘wild track’ material, as it’s technically known.
Also noteworthy were some big improvements to dialogue spatialisation and more advanced debugging tools to assist dialogue implementation across the PU and Squadron 42. Debug display is never thought of as particularly glamorous but it is invaluable in helping our teams deliver the best experience possible.
This month, the Graphics Team has been focusing on three main areas: the UI, performance, and gas clouds. The UI Team has been fixing various quality issues with anti-aliasing and render-to-texture resolution to ensure displays are as crisp as possible. They’ve also been making several improvements to the ship targeting displays, adding back older features into the RTT system such as edge-highlighting and electrical interference. On the performance front, some major improvements have been made to the multi-threading within the editor, which in many cases have doubled the frame-rate on complex environments such as the Squadron 42 Idris. For the gas cloud system, the team has been extending it to support multiple gas clouds at once, with the aim of allowing them to be embedded within one another. There has also been work done on debugging tools for gas clouds to help analyze the complex volumetric data sets and understand how the artists are using the system and where memory and performance can be saved.
This month, the UI Team has been working with two teams to bring new features and polish to both ship combat and the PMA/VMA. The UI Visuals Team has focused on polishing up the look of the OwnShip/Target status displays, including adding these to the ship MFD screens and improving the overall visual look of the holoshader and surrounding UI. The team is working closely with the Graphics Team to dial-in shader requirements, which aim to improve the legibility of the holograms themselves, as well as the UI in general when projected upon bright backgrounds. The team has also been working on updating the Combat Markers on Item2.0 ships from the brackets that were present within 3.0 with some new geometry and fresh animations.
Alongside the UI Visual Team, the EU-1 Gameplay Team has had UI involvement with the team focusing on polishing up the VMA and PMA mobiGlas apps. For these two apps, a strong focus has been put on improving the overall user-experience by fixing bugs present in the current iteration, as well as overhauling the mobiGlas layout in general to make more use of screen real estate and breaking the menu layout into a more intuitive structure. On the engineering side, the Star Marine Loadout Customization screen in the Front End has been converted to use the PMA code. This will make fixing issues on this screen much easier, as the PMA replaces the custom code that was previously released.
The Art Team, while primarily supporting these two features, has also spent time fixing issues raised in 3.0 and continued work on Chemline screens for Squadron 42.
Animation has continued to work on the bespoke assets for a wide variety of the supporting cast for Squadron 42, including crewmembers that serve alongside you. Animation work for the firing and reloading has continued on:
• Gemini R97 ballistic shotgun
• Gemini F55 ballistic light machine gun
• Klaus & Werner Demeco laser light machine gun
• Kastak Arms Scalpel ballistic sniper rifle
Female background exercise sets have been brought up to final quality pass, pending sign off review. Usable animation sets continue to be refined, eliminating bugs and tidying up popping issues on things like cup, plate and tray attachments.
Chakma continues to have his animation assets finalized, and the team has identified the remaining issues that need to be resolved before closing him out for good.
Player mechanics have been worked on for the newly implemented leaning system, allowing lean right and lean left actions in all stances.
Steady progress is being made on object container streaming. The team has been ploughing through the conversion of all the component’s creation routines, so that they can be run on a background thread. To give an indication of how much work is involved there are around 400 of them in total, of which 218 have now been converted, so still some way to go. The streaming can now be turned on, creating everything that is marked as thread safe in the background and everything else on the main thread, so the team can test whether everything is still working as they progress. At this stage it does slow down loading considerably, as it has to wait and switch between the two threads, but that will improve as more components are converted.
One FPS Feature Team is prototyping a new lean mechanic for the player, particularly designed for when a player is in cover. Because of the way a lot of the environments are built, the contextual cover system doesn’t always work that well, especially when trying to look around a corner with walls that aren’t straight-edged. Rather than locking players into a cover mechanic, the team is trying out more of a player-driven cover system, where the player is given the ability to manually lean around left and right, giving them more control and response.
A new feature team sprint has been kicked off on the first version of mining. The team is deciding how to setup different types of rocks with their mineral composition, how they will absorb energy, how players can extract the minerals, and break into them.
The team continued to work on animations for a range of scenes and enjoyed working more closely with design. As a result, animations are beginning to appear in-game and the scenes are developing overall. A new technical animator has also been brought on board to help implement more scenes in-game, and will be joining CIG in April.
Testing and refinement of the interior layout tool has continued. The team now has a locked down library of rooms, corridors and hero spaces to use for an initial version of rest stop interiors and art has now begun refinement of these assets to bring them up to a high visual standard. There is now a large range of different layouts artists can pick and choose from to decide which are the best to go into a first iteration of the complete rest stop. While none of said assets are final yet, the tool has proven itself in its ability to produce a great deal of variety, producing close to 200 different layouts from only one layout graph during testing.
Work continued on the utilitarian hangars and refinements made to the rest stop exterior. These elements were brought together in a final location to create the bones of a finished rest stop with design, audio and visual refinement continuing forward.
This month, the VFX Team made a “flight-ready” pass on three new ships: the Anvil Terrapin, MISC Razor and Aegis Reclaimer. Also, the Tumbril Cyclone received its VFX first Pass.
Two new weapons also went through the VFX pipeline: the Gemini R97 and Preacher Armament Distortion Scattergun. The Apocalypse Arms Scourge Railgun’s impact effects were revisited following a Design requested to more correctly portray the type of damage dealt out by this weapon.
The team also began some initial investigations into VFX-specific material improvements. They will be working closely with the Graphics and Tech Art departments to create a versatile material template that will provide many cool options for the team. Plans were further fleshed out for the core features the team hopes to move forward with this year, including the previously mentioned signed-distance-field integration, an improved lightning/electricity editor, and location-specific camera-bound VFX.
The Facial Team was busy with the remaining face animations for Squadron 42. The next phase will be polishing and improving the animations, once they’re seen in-game. On the PU front, most of the Mission Giver faces have been completed up to an implementation pass and are ready to go in-game for further work.
The first Derby Studio tour occurred at the end of January. Two backers were scanned and should eventually make their way into the game. There were some serious and some NOT so serious scans! Prep work has started for the next tour, which is planned for March 8th and is exclusive to community subscribers. Improvements to the face scanner are being planned too, which should make it quicker and easier to get through a higher number of scans. Also, the scanner will be moved to another area in the studio. This will enable the team to shoot Motion Capture and Head Scan simultaneously.
Foundry 42 DE
FOUNDRY 42: DE
This DE Environment Art Team continued to update the look of procedural planets. With recent tech improvements in place, they updated some of the existing content to make the best use of the advancements, which includes more intelligent color and material breakup, overall improved terrain, and better orbit to ground transitioning. They applied a large amount of these changes to Yela, and will use what they learned in the process on other locations moving forward. A small Environment Art strike team focused on the landing zones in Lorville. They worked closely with Designers and Concept Artists to dial in the look and feel of the locations. The whiteboxing and layout phases are almost complete, and the team is preparing to push these areas towards final art.
Engineering helped DE QA track down the potential causes of performance issues occurring on Live. Each week DE QA participated in a 50-player cross-studio play test with their UK and ATX counterparts, plus some development team members to get the headcount to 50. A new automatic RAD capture system was implemented to perform a RAD capture when the client framerate drops below 15fps for at least 20 frames. This automatic capture process is enabled via CVar, and was whitelisted for use on Shipping builds. The threshold for the capturing system can also be tweaked by Engineering to capture even lower fps drops. Ultimately, this provides further details in an effort to more quickly address performance issues by defining more of the variables.
The team also started the initial testing of the Perforce Integration for Subsumption. This support for merging and integration via Perforce is necessary to allow sustainable workflows when new streams are created and worked in for various releases. Testing is in its early stages, but regular updates to the process are being made as new versions become available. DE QA also provided support for the Engine Tools Team by ensuring Editor issues were tagged with the appropriate Epic links, components, and sent to the correct Assignees. The Editor dashboard and Editor bug writing guides also received a revamp to ensure they have the most relevant and up-to-date information accessible by the Engine Tools Team and QA support.
The DE VFX Team continued R&D on VDB gas cloud tech. They’ve been experimenting with new ways to create VDBs by using particles that are being pushed around by velocity forces instead of hollowing out geometry. Using several hundred million particles can create very organic looking volumes that can be converted into a VDB and imported into the engine. They will likely use a combination of both particles and geometry to create the final assets. They’ve also been working with the Cinematics Team on effects for Squadron 42. This includes destruction R&D in Houdini, bringing it into the engine and dressing it with particles to give it the desired final look.
In February, the System Design Team worked mostly on AI related features. For FPS combat, they polished low cover mechanics and timings, and added high cover functionality, which enables the AI to make better use of the environment by using both as they see fit. They also considered how the Vanduul work and feel in-game, and how they use their weapons and gear in Human environments, which are not their natural habitat.
For ship AI, the team focused on integrating the first layer of skills and traits. They worked closely with Engineers to figure out how it affected an AI’s behavior and how readable it was to the player. Since the list of parameters is extensive, they focused on the ones that provide the best effect that the player can understand. Once those are working, they’ll move on to skills and traits that are a bit subtler but add a nice flavor to the fights.
On the non-combat side of FPS AI, they worked with all the existing and upcoming locations to figure out what special actions and behaviors the population needs to feel like it belongs to that specific place. The goal is to tell a story, give the player the feeling that these AI actually live and work on there, and that their actions are affected by the location and vice versa. Ideally, once this work is done, all our locations should get a big boost in the level of immersion and believability. Additionally, they worked on the mining system, focusing on mining material deposits on the surface of planets and moons with a Prospector. The designs are still in the early phase, but they are looking into developing them in a way that easily expands to other forms, like space rocks, gas/liquid mining, comets etc. Mining is just one part of the economy, but once it’s in and functional, they can build the adjacent systems that will make Star Citizen’s economy feel alive.
This month, the Tech Art Team supported other teams, fixed bugs, improved existing pipelines, and prototyped new tools. For weapons support, they created a final preVis rig for the Klaus & Werner Demeco LMG and Kastak Arms Scalpel sniper rifle. Now that the rig is completed and implemented in engine it enables other departments to provide feedback at a very early stage in development. They also updated the Torral Aggregate Kahix Missile Launcher with a final art and animation rig.
They supported the Usables Team to make AI interaction more believable and the Cinematics Team with various implementation tasks. They also improved existing tools to make the animation pipeline faster and more stable. On sandbox and other R&D work, they worked on the Sandbox Editor-to-Maya live link implementation. They also started prototyping next-gen character customization tech. It will feature a runtime ‘wrap deformer’ that makes skin attachments such as beards, eyebrows, haircuts, caps, hats, helmets and similar objects deform realistically on customized/morphed heads even during animations. While this technique is commonly used in VFX and animated feature films, it is not usually (if ever) used in games. This implementation combines the unique strengths and features of this deformation method with the speed of traditional deformers like skinning and blendshapes. This tech, in combination with ‘gene splicing’, will allow Artists and Designers to populate both Squadron 42 and the PU using a quasi-infinite number of unique-looking NPCs.
The Engine Team focused on game code optimization, which is an ongoing process that will continue past the 3.1 release. As an important pillar, they started developing a telemetry system that allows them to gather, analyze, and present performance data continuously and across the company (eventually even in the PTU and PU). This way they should automatically get valuable hints on performance aspects to help optimize all aspects of the game.
They also worked on signed distance field for vehicle physics, made significant improvements to skin rendering, and continued work on object container streaming. They also created a roadmap for work on the procedural systems throughout 2018.
This month, the DE Weapon Art Team finished the rework of the UltiFlex FSK-8 Combat Knife, and continued work on the Kastak Arms Scalpel sniper rifle and Klaus & Werner Demeco LMG. Quite a few weapon concepts from the Klaus and Werner and Behring were signed off on and added to the weapon production pipeline. Work was also completed on the Gemini SMG and the reimagining of Joker Engineering continued.
The DE Build Team worked with the Engineering Team to get incremental build compilations closer to purely incremental, where the build system adds cache functionality to allow switching compilation configs without compromising the pre-existing build cache. This allowed Engineers to focus on streamlining how the code files link between one another to avoid any unnecessary linkages and re-compilations. They also isolated compilation stats, which are now being pushed to ElasticSearch for viewing through Kibana. The isolated compilation stats are built on a specific machine that is not participating in any distributed computation, so as each code change is pushed to the code-base they can verify if the change introduced a timing bubble for compilation. They also worked on various things such as troubleshooting our Dev-ops/build tools, moving the DataCoreBinaryExporter process back into WAF-data, and assisting Tech Animators to resolve a problem with how DBAs get compiled by WAF.
The DE Level Design Team worked on common elements, procedural rest stops, and flagship landing zones for the PU. Work on the common elements progressed nicely, and they finished a whitebox pass on the modular train platforms. Next up are admin offices, customs and ATC. They also worked on integrating the rest stops with the procedural tech. The rest stop will be the test bed to create multiple “base” pieces that the procedural tool will use to create the final layouts. On the planetary side, they worked on Lorville to make sure it has the required functionality. This meant whiteboxing train stations, terminals and space ports, all of these being common elements as well. Finally, they pushed to get the transit system tech functioning properly. This tech is essential for the Level Designers to be able to fully build the locations. The transit system is a background system handling everything from elevators to trains, and will be an integral part of most locations.
This past month, the Cinematics Team had the Gameplay Narrative Animation Lead from the UK come over for a knowledge exchange about scene setup involving AI characters. They were also busy with interior scenes from the first chapter of Squadron 42 that involve an Aegis Javelin. The Javelin underwent mesh improvements, including a viewing corridor to watch the stars, and that meant slight tweaks to the performance capture animation for a scene at that location. They also made progress on other scenes. With the pipeline still maturing, there is a need to revisit sequences from time to time. Cinematic environment art also progressed on several smaller sets needed for Squadron 42’s spectrum shows, as well as Vanduul interior environments.
The Lighting Team continued to work on legacy tasks and volumetric fog conversion. The focus was on finalizing Grim HEX and converting the Star Marine maps of Demien and Echo11. In addition, they’ve been polishing and improving the look of the admin office so that they read better. Finally, they supported the Character Creation tool by providing a high-quality lighting rig that shows off all the detail in the models and textures when players create their character.
The AI Team continued to work on Subsumption implementation which resulted in more challenging ship AI. The team will be adding tweakable parameters for designers so players don’t face impossible challenges. While creating this basic ship AI, they also improved other AI aspects, like Quantum Travel, so AI ships can move freely around the universe in the future.
For ship combat, they’ve been busy developing a baseline Subsumption activity for dogfighting and expanding the existing dogfighting behavior already seen during the December holiday special. Now, AI pilots have a better awareness of the state of the available weapons, and will fire those that have a better chance to hit the target based on the hit prediction computed by the weapon controller. The player goes through a similar process when locking on a target based on the state of the reticles displayed in the cockpit UI. AI pilots now have access to the heating state of the weapons. This enables AI to stop firing a weapon as soon as there’s a risk of overheating, thus avoiding waiting for a longer cooldown period when the weapon isn’t available.
They also did numerous tasks related to AI FPS combat. They added support for using high cover. Now AI can smoothly transition into low cover or high cover, peek, and shoot at the enemy or riposte using blind fire. They made improvements on cover surface generation to reduce computation time and increase robustness for the system. Other small improvements where done on exiting cover behavior, such as when the cover gets compromised and the AI needs to leave quickly. Finally, they also spent time addressing and fixing bugs and optimizing existing code.
February was an opportunity to catch up on some backend bugs and errors, as well as introduce a new, more regimented structure for code review, QA and deployment process. This much needed reflection of the team’s internal process will only make it more efficient throughout 2018.
Turbulent has been working on the block/ignore feature with backend work starting to match the design and front-end work already complete.
The Custom Roles & Custom Emojis features are having small code reworks after an intensive code review. Diligence in keeping the code in order will only benefit the project as features are added. Expect releases to PTU with these features.
The team has also been working on the Spectrum overlay in-game, and is in close communication with CIG’s game-dev team. This work is laying the foundation for additional features, such as Spectrum Voice chat, planned for later this year.
The team is currently working on version 1.0.1-alpha. This version will add consistency checks, specific to hunting down the p4k bug that has so far been impossible to reproduce. The aim is to have the new release in PTU hands before the 3.1 launch to Evocati.
A month after release, community feedback is still being reviewed on the additions to RSI. The design (contrast & colors) inside the platform bar has been revisited, and the team has been working on changes to increase readability for all users. The feedback has also provided UX with direction regarding navigation, and small steps have been made to help users find the items they are looking for on the site. Expect to see these changes soon.
In the meantime, the team has taken the opportunity to solve some existing account/billing & subscription errors that PR has been dealing with. The hope is to reduce issues over time, which will reduce the queues and wait times.
Work has been ongoing on a new version of the weekly newsletter. It will feature all the expected weekly content, an update on the roadmap, and a sleek new design allowing for better readability on different devices. Coming soon to your inbox!
Platform is introducing a necessary tie in to RSI backend services Diffusion. This long-awaited backend work will give platform and the game the bridge needed for future features. The first of these features will be a UEC to AUEC ledger, connecting your UEC credit purchases on platform to allow for in-game purchases
The Player Relations Team has been curating and writing the many articles to appear in the new Knowledge Base. This library of articles is intended to help backers when they run into an issue. This will replace the current support page, and provide additional information to the ‘How to Play’ section that debuted last month.
From this Knowledge Base page, users will be able to search for relevant articles, access and submit tickets. This massive increase to accessible information will be a boon to both players and the Player Relations Team.
Turbulent will be leveraging the Zendesk backend, however they are currently working on a redesign of the knowledge base interface, creating a flat and simple UI. Designs are only in a preliminary stage, and hope to be complete in the near future.
VULCAN CONCEPT REVEAL
The Turbulent Team supported the concept reveal of the Aegis Dynamics Vulcan. They had fun putting together the concept ship page and have been happy to hear the feedback it’s been receiving. The Vulcan concept ship event will continue until April 2nd.
You can visit the pledge page here.
February was a great month for the Star Citizen community. By this point, you have likely come to know the new show schedule, which includes Calling All Devs, an updated Reverse the Verse, and a refreshing new take on Ship Shape. Along with Around the Verse, also enjoying a slight revamp in format, these shows continue to bring you the latest and greatest information about Star Citizen and Squadron 42. The team has also been taking the time to monitor feedback closely, so they can iterate on how to communicate directly with you, the Star Citizen backer.
There’s no better way to get an answer about the game than straight from the mouth of the developers themselves, and Calling All Devs provides loads of great information while minimally impacting the development of Star Citizen and Squadron 42. In February alone our devs discussed a wide variety of topics on the show, including Org tools, mag boots, persistence, scanning, weather, the Evocati, and even the illustrious Tessa Bannister. Curious which questions will be answered next? Make sure to tune in!
February also brought another installment of Loremaker’s Guide to the Galaxy. From the natural beauty of Xis and its protected species to the harsh brutality of QuarterDeck and the hardened prisoners who call it home, the episode provided a guided tour of the Kellog System.
Last month also brought two new episodes of Bugsmashers! This show pulls back the curtain on the nitty-gritty details of game development, and even included a sneak peek of the Origin 600i. The Aegis Vulcan was introduced, and is now available through April 2nd. You can learn all about the Vulcan and its trifecta of support functions in the latest installment of Ship Shape here, or from a previous live broadcast of Reverse the Verse here. Distinctly based on your feedback, the Vulcan is also available in three liveries symbolizing its core functions: the base model bears military green for rearming, hazard yellow represents repairing, and CTR’s distinct blue signifies refueling. Intrigued? Find out more about this limited promotion here. More questions? Post them in the Q&A thread on Spectrum, and the top voted ones will be addressed in an upcoming Q&A Comm-Link scheduled for release on March 14th.
Throughout February, the team has seen a tremendous amount of awe-inspiring content submitted to our Community Hub. If you haven’t stopped by and explored the hub recently, the team encourages you to check it out. However, they are not responsible for getting Yela Yell stuck in your head.
Lastly, the Community Team is putting finishing touches on an official Request-a-Developer form that will make it easier to submit requests for developers to appear on streams/podcasts/videos. The team is excited to share how this process will work in the very near future.