Comm-Link:Monthly Report - March 2014
April Fools! Of course we have the real monthly report for you… and the Star Citizen team isn’t going to a tropical island any time soon, we have a game to finish! Read on for monthly status updates from all of Star Citizen’s studio heads and outsource partners.
CLOUD IMPERIUM SANTA MONICA
Travis Day, Dogfight Producer
Santa Monica, California… Home to year round sunshine, excellent restaurants along the walking promenade, and a 3-mile stretch of beautiful beach. We’ve seen none of these things for many weeks now as we’ve been locked in our office working hard on Dogfighting!
In all seriousness though while it is tiring, it is also very invigorating, and this project drives everyone’s passion and the knowledge that the community is just as excited as we are pushes us to our best work. I have never been more awed by a team’s discipline and dedication. We work not because we’re forced to but instead because we love what we’re working on and want to really wow people with Chris’ reveal before PAX East.
Alright, well at this point I am sure you’re thinking, “We get it, the teams is working hard… But what have you DONE?” Well fair enough, here we go! The HUD has moved forward by leaps and bounds. This has been one of our most collaborative pieces of work with other studios and it is really shaping up! Over the course of the past couple of months, we have been working hard to conceptualize and define the base functionality that will drive the HUD and peripheral user interfaces in many of the ships that you will be piloting in the Star Citizen universe.
In any ship, you will be able to manage and interact with many different systems, such as weapons configuration management, power and energy management, shields management, radar configuration, navigation, comms, target tracking, preset configuration, and much more. All of these components need to be quickly accessible to you at any given point in time, especially during heated situations such as combat.
Our goal in designing the cockpit UI was to present such complex components in a manner that is functionally intuitive, yet aesthetically consistent with the fiction in that you’re piloting a ship from the future. One of the biggest challenges in designing any sci-fi interface is striking the right balance between what looks / feels visually interesting and what is functionally efficient, both of which are equally important in driving the immersion as you’re piloting ships in Star Citizen.
We feel that we have achieved a nice blending between the two in our design given some of the core concepts behind the UI. One of which for example, is the extensive use of actual 3D geometry within the UI to visually represent items and objects (such as targets, parts of your own ship, etc.), and the many various states they may have. We have also been doing extensive work developing a custom “holoshader” that gives these 3D objects a very “holographic” look, which will have them fit nicely into the overall design.
We’ve been developing some really cool features for the UI in Star Citizen. We are looking forward to sharing with you in detail our vision behind the HUD and all of its various components soon, but there is still much work to be done before it’s considered in any final state.
Multiplayer functionality has also been a large and bug filled undertaking this month. We’ve spent a great deal of time this month writing code to improve the systems we’d previously created and debugging issues with precision, latency, and bandwidth limitations. Now that we are testing with our newly crafted backend (CIGNet) we’re starting to work through the various systems to make sure that the experience remains playable with a variety of pings and available bandwidth.
Our design team has also been hard at work continuing to hook up and balance many newly created items and continuing to add nuance to the ships. We’ve finished implementing and doing an early balance pass on ship items. Furthermore, we’ve completed hooking up the Scythe for perfectly balanced flight with all of its thrusters working in concert to bring its weapons to bear on enemies. During this process our Physics programmer was able to tweak and debug his hand crafted thruster analysis tool which greatly aids in placing and balancing thrusters for all future ships.
We’ve also been upgrading the Hornet to PBR so it has a lot more realistic look and feel to it. During this process Chris Smith took it upon himself to make some interior upgrades to the cockpit with higher resolution pass adding a lot more intricate details to the interior of the cockpit. Intricate mechanical workings were done as well to make the canopy operate on a believable track system and modifying the seat for a believable ejection. Lastly with PBR came the integration of the weathering system that allows him to apply some very believable wear and tear looks to the models. He even took a pass of mocking up some different armor types for it. With all of these detailed changes plus the PBR conversion the Hornet is really looking quite stunning!
We’ve also grown our team here a bit over the last month with an additional three new employees bringing our total headcount in this studio to 27. Joining us this month were Kami Talebi (Production Coordinator), Joanna Whitmarsh (Marketing Associate), and James Pugh (Assistant Community Manger) who’ve all hit the ground running quite well! It has been amazing to watch the team here grow from three people almost a year ago to our current size today and we all look forward to continuing to grow the best possible team in the future with which to build the BDSSE!
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions about what you’ve seen in this report please do not hesitate to reach out to us on the ‘Ask a Developer’ threads in the forums.
See you in the ‘verse!
CLOUD IMPERIUM AUSTIN
Eric Peterson, Studio Director
CIG Texas has had an amazing month of March from getting the backend server up and running which allows all of us at CIG to join up and battle in daily Dogfighting sessions – which can get mighty heated these days. We are also busy working on patch 11.2 which will upgrade the patching system for the upcoming DFM reveal and subsequent release. Also, we are supporting the hard charging Santa Monica team with the DFM by having several folks embedded in the trenches lending a hand.
Our Engineers got the full universe cluster configured and deployed to our cloud servers autonomously through our build system, and while our initial tests would only allow 2 or 3 players to connect, we are now up to dozens of us battling every single day. Also, we have many new improvements and enhancements for the Oculus Rift coming in the next Hangar Patch, such as FOV fixes, and dual-screen rendering, which will greatly enhance the VR experience.
In addition, we’ve been working to support artists for enhancing visuals such as making PBR (or PBS) look as fantastic as possible and also greatly improved the shield effects, making them more configurable and now have a “from cockpit” view of the shields. We are also very busy integrating systems for the DFM, such as matchmaking, and leaderboards, which will be needed for our upcomming release.
Animation has been very busy cleaning up the data from our first full performance capture session. Now, we are busy integrating the animation curves generated into our in game body and faces. And of course, making sure that all the animations work for the ships coming up in the dogfighting module.
Audio has been busy getting the interactive music working correctly, as well as adding new sound effects for lasers, thrusters, cockpits, breakups and hits – in addition, recording all the dialogue for the “bitching betty” or warning system for the space ships we will be flying soon.
Design has managed to fill 5 of the its open positions – it was a great month for finding some talented & dedicated designers that will go that extra mile to make Star Citizen the best experience possible. We are moving full steam ahead with BHVR on the economy simulation which will be responsible for generating many of the player missions in the game. It goes without saying that we are knee deep in dogfighting testing, and we are busy assisting with PBR implementation in the hangars, as well as making the tools that will allow us to populate the systems that all of us are looking forward to visiting.
The art team has gotten the first female character modeled and approved by the man himself, we have also gotten the new facial rigs from 3Lateral and are busy attaching animations to them as we speak. We are working on ship parts and components that will be swappable on the various ships. We have completed the RSI helmet that you will be wearing as you fly in the DFM – or get ejected into space. We are also busy coordinating the performance capture sessions needed for both Star Citizen and Squadron 42. In addition we are busy sculpting the Xi’an race for look and feel. It is looking really sweet.
Overall, the team is hard at work, making sure that we deliver a great experience, and support Chris as we make the Best Damned Space Sim Ever!
Erin Roberts, Studio Director
Hi again from sunny England. :)
Well, the past month has flown by with a huge amount of work in a lot of directions…
The team has been focusing on two main areas… Support for the dog fighting module, as well as pushing forward on a bunch of systems and content for Squadron 42.
In terms of the dog fighting module the artists have been focusing on creating and polishing the maps that we will all be playing in. After getting the maps up and running, we have now been focusing on making space landmarks in the levels to make navigation intuitive, and will now be focusing in the last few weeks on lighting and effects to really make the maps sing. Design has been focusing on the different game modes for the dog fighting module, so on each map you will be able to play different types of games (Death match, team death match, horde mode etc.)
Also, a lot of work has been going into the Vanduul AI, balancing the new flight model with the new vehicle (Fighter) setup and AI. This is quite a process as we have to balance the physics system with the vehicle weight and thruster ratios, and then make sure it all acts the way it should with the new Kythera AI from Mooncollider. The coders have been working on a bunch of the game rules, effects, HUD elements, counter measures, control options and general stability for the module.
For Squadron 42, we have been pushing ahead with the block outs for all the UEE Capital Ships so we can get those into full production, the Idris and Retaliator are now in full production, along with a host of smaller craft, soon to be followed by the Panther and Javelin. This has entailed a bunch of concept / product design work from our internal concept artists Andrew Ley and Stuart Jennet who are making sure that every part of a ship, whether it be weapons, living quarters etc. all work as you would expect. We have to make sure each ship is a living and interactive space. (We want everything to have a function / use that looks like it should, and don’t want to have to re-work things later and waste time) We are also looking at starting the block outs for the Vanduul cap ship fleet next month as well as more work on the full block out of the Shubin Mining base. We have designed the ships systems for cap ships, which we will be sharing with the community in the coming weeks. Hopefully this will make manning capital ships with your friends a lot of fun, as different people need to work together to manage engineering, weapons control, shields, communications, navigation, radar and our favourite so far electronic warfare…
Meetings have taken place over the motion capture process (both body and facial), which we will be taking the lead for at Foundry 42, as it is a huge part of pushing the fidelity and storytelling for the game.
And finally David Haddock has been with us in the UK for the last two weeks, breaking down the story with Phil Meller, to continue with the script for S42 which is already moving towards the size of War and Peace. Phil will then be travelling over to LA to join David next month to finish their work off and get final sign off from Chris on the full story breakdown for S42.
That’s about it for now! As always, thanks for all your support, without you guys we wouldn’t be able to have so much fun making this great game.
Mathieu Beaulieu, Producer
March was a very productive month at Behaviour Interactive.
We are deep into the design and backend development of the economy within the persistent universe, bringing together complex systems to create the most realistic economic system ever found in a space sim.
Concepts such as labor, salary, and employee happiness will be tracked and have an independent effect on the economic output of every location within the PU. Some worlds will favor the rich upper class, while others will favor the working class etc… We have also examined several vital issues such as inflation, monetary policy, central banks and player loans.
We have started to use the Physical Based Rendering technology developed by Crytek and have begun to apply it to all the hangars. The results are great and will bring all the in-game textures to a high level of realism.
Last month we completed a first pass on the UI framework. Now, we are making good use of this framework for the integration of the Dog Fighting Module menus, as well as the Visor HUD.
We are still ramping up and always looking for the best talent to join our team. Seven new employees joined us this month: 2 new artists, 2 intern artists, 1 UI designer, 1 game designer and 1 programmer. We are now 39 developers working hard to bring some amazing art and gameplay features to you in the ‘verse.
Tara Decker, Producer
The CGBot team has spent March (with the windows open;) working on various aspects of Star Citizen including ships, characters, and weapons.
After an intense knowledge-transfer visit from Forrest Stephan and Chris Smith in late February, work began on putting the Aurora through the damage and PBR pipelines. We had great results and look forward to seeing some really beautiful destruction during Dogfighting.
We are also working closely with Foundry 42 to get the Idris ready for single-player action. Several areas of the ship are being reworked as F42 goes through it with an eye towards making gameplay fun and interesting -we started the ship awhile back and are really happy to work with that incredible crew on making the Idris a great ship to own.
On the character front, we were happy to work with the new character lead, David Jennison, on starting female characters. We get the pleasure of working on the completely bad-freaking-*rse Female Punk Pirate outfit. Getting that to work with the female base model & seeing her awesomeness come to life is well, awesome.
Lastly, we jumped in to create some of the FPS weapons with [Redacted]. Weapons that are realistic of course, as Chris requires; so letting artists zone out on the details is always fun.
It’s been an intense March working with the teams to get ships ready for Dogfighting fun while also feeding the overall SC needs. We’re proud to contribute to the effort.
Btw, Canada, does a Gold in London count? ;)
Sean Murphy, Outsource Manager
Our stellar contract artists keep pumping out great work; Ryan Church is continuing to refine the Panther Escort Carrier and Emmanuel Shiu, Jan Urschel, and John Dickenson (among others!) continue on Vanduul, Banu, and Xi’an ships. Stephan Martiniere has created some fantastic environment paintings for the Tal system, Rob McKinnon has given us some awesome helmet, weapon, and armor designs, and Eddie del Rio has done some really interesting exploration of the Xi’an scout ship. Ed Lee has created a very cool crossbow for our Shroud of the Avatar crossover, and we’ve gotten some great Vanduul characters from Brett Briley and Justin Sweet.
In addition, we’ve got a couple of new names working with us – Stefano Tsai in the UK has started building the M50 and Gavin Rothery, production designer on the movie “Moon”, has started work on the UEE Gladius. We’re excited to have them on board!
What used to be merely an FPS team is growing! The team has been busily chasing our dogfighting goals, and steadily kicking along towards the debut of FPS as well.
The animation team has applied loads of elbow grease and polish to player animation and movement in 0G, player movement in space after ejection is enabled by thrusters on the pilot suit to really sell the experience of floating weightless in the black.
Our artists have leveraged their ample skills to produce tons of weapon FX, from lasers to grenades to the formidable electric shotgun. They’ve also turned their hands toward the environments, building up locations both on and off-planet, including that Outlaw space station we mentioned last month, perhaps you’ll be getting a peek at that soon? Our engineers have spent the month deep in the weeds of movement and eye-look positions, fixing physics errors and debugging elevators. While not too glamorous from the player side, these things all add up to make your alternate life that much more real.
The networking guys have been slaving over hot matchmaking services, while working with our HUD artists to enable menuing systems and scoreboards. Dogfighting Servers have been deployed, and are even now being hammered by our testers to ensure the smoothest play experience possible for our backers when the dogfighting module goes live. This means that, In addition to letting you fly your ships and shoot your foes, we’ve added support for scoring and statistics keeping over all our multiplayer game modes!
Can’t wait to see you in space! (Sizzling like stellar bacon at the hot end of our lasers!)
Mark Day, Studio Director
voidALPHA in Emeryville, CA is focused on Planetside locations! Specifically, The Blocks and Landing Zone on Terra:Prime. Despite being a lower-income section of Prime, The Blocks is starting to look really good and contrasts nicely with the upscale environment that is Landing Zone. Speaking of upscale, Centermass, located on Landing Zone is as fancy as weapon shops come! It is the focus of great effort on our part and we are branding this location as our “beautiful corner”. It is a section of Landing Zone that will set the visual high bar for our team here at voidALPHA. We are determined to make it melt your eyes!
We are also in the early stages of conceptualization on another Planetside location that has lots of promise but we can’t quite share yet. Trust us, it’s going to look amazing! We’ve been doing a tiny bit of traveling as well, with representatives going to BHVR in Canada for lighting training and to San Francisco for GDC 2014 to assist with recruitment efforts.
voidALPHA is building all this cool stuff with 5 people: a level designer, concept artist, production manager and 2 environment artists.
Benoit Beauséjour, Founder
Web team here! We’ve spent the whole dreadfully cold month of March neck-deep in new features, and we switched a few priorities here and there to make sure that everything comes out as cool as it can be, but in the right order.
Much design work has been going on to flesh out the mechanics and interfaces for Orgs Drop Two. We want you to have fun roleplaying in your Orgs (yes, plural) and we know you can’t wait to do a bit of espionage of your own. As we move to implementation in the month of April and May expect to see more releases on the specifics of what we are preparing soon!
We’re still revamping the way ship data is handled in the site and more specifically in the store. You’ll be able to browse all the ship data and statistics right from the store pages. Some exciting new visualization features are also in the works!
Our team has been busy keeping up with the heavy Dogfighting Module development across all studios and focusing on producing new info, download and leaderboard views for the release of the DFM to the public. This includes how to get actual match and pilot data across to the site and in your accounts.
In preparation for this launch the crew has performed several server upgrades, maintenance and migrations to make sure the infrastructure is ready for the live release. This means switching to newer, more powerful server instances and preparation for the huge live operations that will follow launch day!
To help with spreading the good news, the Press section has been revamped to include more articles and more stuff for journalists across the globe. March also saw the release of the RSVP system with a first event for PAX East.
Major progress was made in making a new transient room system for the XMPP chat system that should be ready to release soon. So many Orgs were created in such short time we had to change the way the channels were handled. The net result is you will be able to use your Community Monicker in XMPP once this is out and live.
Team stands at solid 8 souls.
Platform team out!