Comm-Link:Monthly Report - April 2014
It’s time for April’s Star Citizen development report! As we have done previously, we’ve asked the people in charge of each CIG studio and outsource group to report on what they have been up to in the previous month. (Please note that this also replaces the Arena Commander Weekly Report for May 2nd, since it includes everything done on AC this week.)
- 1 CLOUD IMPERIUM SANTA MONICA
- 2 CLOUD IMPERIUM AUSTIN
- 3 FOUNDRY 42
- 4 BHVR
- 5 CGBOT
- 6 FREELANCE CONTRACTORS
- 7 FPS TEAM
- 8 TURBULENT
- 9 MOON COLLIDER
CLOUD IMPERIUM SANTA MONICA
Travis Day, Dogfight Producer
As April comes to a close it is time again for us to reflect upon, and share, the major developments of the month! There is much to discuss so let’s get straight to it!
At the beginning of this month we revealed Arena Commander (AKA – DFM) to all the backers who were able to attend our pre-PAX East event in Boston and to the world via livestream. We also had the privilege of having Arena Commander playable on the show floor of PAX East for citizens and interested passerby alike in the Logitech booth. Of course we weren’t able to show everything we wanted to that night in Boston so we put together a video showing off some of the additional features we’ve been working on that didn’t make the demo level which you can see below if you missed it.
While showing off all our team’s hard work is very gratifying, the real treat is being able to interact with everyone in the community in person. Words cannot express how humbling and inspiring it is to be able to meet with so many people who are so passionate about the universe we are creating. It is incredibly motivating for all of us who were in attendance and while it isn’t truly possible to capture those indelible feelings we were able to share at least some of that with the team upon our return.
Speaking of the team, let’s move on to what they’ve been up to! Similar to many of the other studios, we here in Santa Monica are finishing up new feature implementation as we approach our branch date and code lock and move into final polish, tweaking, and bug fixing. To this end there has been a lot of planning and communication going on amongst all the studios to synchronize our finishing of feature development and finalizing our polish and rollout strategy. This will allow us to focus on finishing and stabilizing the planned features we’ve implemented and lower the risk of introducing new issues as we prepare for the launch of Arena Commander.
Whilst Production, Operations, and Network Engineering have been planning and executing the above strategy, our visual effects team has been finishing its final passes on effects and hooking them up to all the parts and states of the Aurora, 300i, Scythe, and Hornet and all of their possible item combinations. Our planning on this from Forrest and Casey has panned out quite well. In creating the effects for the Hornet and the Scythe along with all their weapons and items we’ve established a good starting point for an effects library for both UEE and Vanduul craft. Obviously these libraries will grow and change over time but it has us well positioned to rapidly iterate and hook up new ships and items in the future.
Speaking of ships breaking apart… This month has seen the completion of hooking up all of the damage pieces, LODs, particle effect nodes, etc. for the Scythe, 300i, Aurora, and Hornet. Not only do they all now explode, break, and LOD properly but we’ve also got them all flying properly this month. They’ve all been converted to PBR and as mentioned in a previous post the 300i has also undergone a major uprez and detail pass as it was being converted to PBR. All of the ships (which already looked great) are now looking absolutely fantastic. This is another case where our early work both in the way we approached it and focusing on the Hornet first has paid of dividends. By spending the time to R&D ship mechanics with the Hornet and locking down the process and documentation it has allowed us to blaze through the Scythe, Aurora, and 300i much more quickly and each ship has progressed more quickly than the last as we improve our technique, which is great to see.
On the engineering front the team has been focusing on finishing off some changes to the pipe system (framework which manages per ship and per part CPU, power, cooling, and fuel) to allow players to manipulate settings dynamically on a per item basis or on a global level for the ship which will affect all attached parts. This was a stretch goal for us going into the first release so we’re pleased that we’ve been able to fit this in as it will improve the dynamism of ships greatly and we think player’s will really enjoy it.
The pipe system wasn’t the only one to get a bit of an upgrade. Radar/detection system too has undergone an overhaul to expand its functionality both to improve its current features and to create the foundation for future features that designers can play with. It has also undergone an optimization both in parallel to this which has greatly increased its performance per frame. To expand upon the improvements to the radar system, it has been moved into a centralized system hosted by the vehicle that can be shared by multiple items and only get called once. That doesn’t sound very sexy but what it allows is for much more realistic simulation of missiles for example. Where you can feed your ships primary radar data to the missile for acquiring lock and then later switch to the missiles radar only once it has left the ship. It also paves the way for slaving radar from one ship to another or things like centralized command and control which is a feature we know a lot of our community is looking forward to. Lastly, we’ve adjusted the way the signal to noise ratio system works and expanded its functionality quite a bit to allow designers to play with different types of chaff, armor, nebulas, flares, etc. and have them impact the radar/detection system in entirely new ways.
On the graphics engineering side Okka Kyaw has been very busy working on many improvements to the HUD’s look and feel to make sure that the curvature shader works perfectly in a multitude of resolutions and has a projected holographic feel. He’s also created the redout effect to match his stellar g-force induced blackout effect and is now working on the interstitial effects such as blackout recovery to provide a more realistic and filmic return to consciousness. Overall we believe that folks will be really happy with the graphics effects and immersive feel that his work accomplishes. Our headcount has increased by 1, with the addition of our new Human Resources specialist. We do have some exciting new hires coming up and we look forward to updating you about them next month!
We would like to close this month by taking a moment to thank you, each and every backer, for all of their support on this project. From backing the game, to fan fiction, to late night chatroll, ‘Ask a Dev’ threads, to fan gifts, to meeting everyone at events like the Arena Commander reveal. We are all truly humbled by all that you do for us and genuinely appreciate you making it possible for us to create this universe for us to share in together.
As always, feel free to post any comments or questions in our “Ask a Dev” threads and until next time… See you in the ‘verse!
CLOUD IMPERIUM AUSTIN
Eric Peterson, Studio Director
Here in Austin, we’ve been working on the integration of all the various studios’ code drops, in order to get the Dogfighting M… I mean Arena Commander… ready for launch. What that means is taking all the work done in places like Santa Monica, Manchester, Montreal and [Redacted], putting it together and making sure it all works the way it’s supposed to. We’re also knee deep in planning for the delivery of AC through the client side launcher/patcher; you know, that thing you log in to every time you visit your Hangar! Our other big dogfighting job is getting the backend server code stable for the release.
Outside of dogfighting, we’re working on the long-term planning and scheduling for both the planetside module and the eventual persistent universe. Launching Arena Commander is going to teach us a lot that we’ll need to know for both these future releases! We also hosted a cinematics and motion capture summit where teams from around the company plotted out the cinematic for both Squadron 42 and Star Citizen. Essentially, we sat down and blocked out the entire script so we’ll know what needs to be shot for our game!
The engineering team has been focusing on Dog Fighting v1 tasks including hangar, ship and other bugs that need to be fixed prior to launching. This also includes zSupervisor work for starting up game server processes, working to get the matchmaking services integrated and monitoring server issues during play tests. We are continuing integration of CryEngine 3.6 and should be complete by the end of next week 5/2/2014 barring any unforeseen issues.
Engineering has also been working on fixing build system issues as they come up and working with IT to migrate the old build system to the newly configured build system cluster. Phase I of this should be completed next week and we will continue to upgrade the system as needs arise.
In addition to the big cinematics summit, we concluded the facilities search for a mocap location (more on that soon!) and have made good progress on crew, vendor and process planning. That is the who and how of the massive motion capture shoot needed for Squadron 42. We’re working to finish tests and evaluations on several software options for facial and body mocap solutions. We’ve also generated the first budget for the shoot and we’re working with Foundry 42 on what assets are going to be needed in terms of ships and virtual sets before we start putting actors in their rigs.
Our biggest priority this month was supporting the dogfighting launch with animations. You’d be surprised how much goes into Arena Commander, beyond just flipping your helmet around as you board your ship! We’re also cleaning up the existing Hangar animations and supporting some needs for the upcoming ship commercials.
Animation is on the grow: we’ve hired a new senior animator who starts soon, and we’re getting ready to do some mocapping for the First Person Shooter module launch. Another major priority going forward is to complete the male and weapon locomotion sets as we move into supporting Foundry 42’s needs for Squadron 42 cinematics… and then, eventually, the persistent universe! Finally, we’ve received new rigged heads, which we are now integrating into the game.
Art is assisting animation in getting the scanned heads fitted onto our in-game bodies. It’s more difficult than it sounds! The process involves adjusting base model sculpts to work better with heads. We’re also working on the bodies and costumes needed for Squadron 42 and several upcoming ship videos, while fleshing out a more exact list of what’s going to be needed in the long run for the persistent universe.
Meanwhile, art in Austin is exploring head customization and NPC generation options; we’re confident that we’re going to have something very cool in the end. We are finishing up LODs and damage states for all the ships in the Arena Commander V1 release (Hornet, Aurora, 300i and Scythe) and we’re continuing development of Star Citizen’s alien races.
The production team is primarily focused on the release of Dog Fighting v1. In addition, the production team is working on a Persistent Universe schedule and updating our ship schedule. Up next, we will be fleshing out the character schedules as well as the weapons and items schedule. All of this in tandem with keeping the teams on task, generating the rollout plan for the DFMV1 release, and generally keeping up with all the other production groups at each studio to keep the machine humming along.
Shot various video b-roll and interviews for PAX East DFM reveal. Also, produced, wrote, directed, shot and edited episodes 62-66 of “Wingman’s Hangar”. Shot and edited a sequence of humorous reviews of HP Envy laptop for AMD partnership. Shot video of fan visits and edited them into a video package. Designed and specified power, lighting, sound control of sound stage for Wingman’s hangar and future mocap sessions. Continued to expand upon our video production standards and procedures for commonly used assets for video production. Assisted with technical planning for PAX East as well as future live events.
In addition to supporting the dogfighting release, we have been forging ahead with persistent universe work. With a staff that has doubled in the past month, we’re drilling into topics like jump point running, bounty hunting, salvaging, and our massive reputation system. Design continues to put a heavy focus on bringing our economy system into a testable state, so we’re neck-deep in spreadsheets about how things are put together, where they’re found, and what they’re worth.
We also continue to push forward with the future of the hangar, with an improved shooting range and an early look at overclocking on the near horizon.
Good news for the web junkies: an update to the ship stats page is coming soon!
In April, the entire audio department has been focusing on the needs of the Dogfight Module, beginning with the PAX East reveal and continuing on to the first release. Martin Galway has been hard at work wrangling the many facets of audio production – here is a look at what is going on with his team.
Pedro has been delivering interactive music clips that have been implemented so far by Jens Lind. Mason Fisher has been generating WAVs for [REDACTED] EVA work; Bill Munyon has spent most of his time on spacecraft sound design & implementation; Jason Cobb has concentrated on fixing existing audio, creating new implementation hooks and playtesting; Stefan was hired in mid-April and is still ramping up, starting with dialogue work for the Dogfighting module. Ian Chuprun has been working on environmental audio for the two multiplayer maps (in addition to asteroid hangar and general hangar upkeep).
April has been one of the busiest months of this year for the IT team. Between new user support and the PAX East event every member has been busy in their respective studios. With all dev teams working nearly around the clock on DFM Hassan, Dennis, and Chris have been working hard to keep up with upgrades and repairs resulting in virtually zero down time. Our Austin team spent some additional time preparing equipment for the PAX East event as well as wrapping up work on a new build server cluster which will help all dev teams speed up development and testing. The IT team feels really good about our showing at PAX East and proud of our role in that event.
That is it from Texas – where the weather is getting warmer… and the dogfights getting more heated. And here’s a tip: if you see Rob Irving in the ‘verse, you might want to run… he is getting deadly accurate with his flight stick!
Thanks for your continued support!
Erin Roberts, Studio Director
Hi from Manchester again,
Another month has passed and it’s time to update you all on what we’ve been up to at Foundry 42. In short, there’s been a lot of work on both Arena Commander and Squadron 42. It’s a real pleasure to see both of these projects start to come together. I’d also like to add that I was personally revved up by getting to see our backers get their hands on the game for the first time at PAX East. It’s truly thrilling to see how quickly everyone ‘gets it’ and understands that Star Citizen is the real deal. Here are details on this month’s work from Foundry 42’s internal teams:
Design: (Nick Elms – Design Director)
What have we been doing? Building ships, of course! One of our most important tasks at the moment is designing the interiors of capital ships and space stations, because we’re going to need those as set pieces for some of Squadron 42’s earliest missions. Work on the Idris is continuing well, working alongside CGBot to deal with the few remaining uncertainties. The Javelin Destroyer has made a lot of progress since the concept art you saw; we have its internals mostly “grey boxed” now, with the exception of the bridge (coming soon!) The Panther-class Escort Carrier is almost “white-box” complete: an artist is tracing the pre-fab pieces, of which there are 146! Expect this stage to be complete by the end of the week. The venerable Bengal carrier is also in our shipyards, with white-boxing work being done on the hangar and the briefing room, as well as prototype work being done for methods of transport through the ship (trust me, you don’t want to walk a kilometre to get to your fighter before every mission.) The Shubin Mining Platform is making good progress in the same stage, with significant detailing on the monorail and landing pad sections. We’ve also detailed the refinery rooms, which have some serious machinery! We’re filling void areas with engineering ducts and hidden crannies, and are starting to populate rooms with placeholder props. Finally, some initial block-out has been done on the Xi’An Transport… but you’ll be hearing more about that later!
Seat actions may not be as exciting as fleet actions, but they’re also a necessary part of starship design: figuring out what station controls what in a capital ship, and how to make all of this fun for players. Our seat action plan is almost ready for signoff! On the specs side of things, we’re working on detailing the Vanduul fleet, with the Kingship, medium fighter, heavy fighter and destroyer on the bench at the moment. Next up is the “Void” bomber. The good guys are getting more hardware, too: the UEE dropship is in the works. Lastly, AI and profile work are being done on the Scythe to make sure it fights properly in Arena Commander.
Development of the conversation system is ongoing, with regular meetings to pin down the finer detail required to make the system work the way Chris Roberts imagines. There’s also been more work on the “Bitching Betty” and “Sim Announcer” conversation paths that will be relevant for Arena Commander’s evolution. We’ve also spent quite a bit of time on the multiplayer and Arena Commander V1 game modes. We’ve developed the “Capture the Core” mode from the ground up and it will be getting some final polish in the next few days. “Conquest,” which may not be in V1 but should be ready soon, is getting more development, especially in terms of code hook up. The hoard mode in “Vanduul Swarm” has made a great deal of progress, especially now that the Scythe is flying realistically!
Programming: (Derek Senior – Programming Director)
The main focus this month has been on Arena Commander. We’ve implemented 3D targeting reticules, the 3D HUD radar, scoring, the ITTS, HUD messaging (scoring feedback, join/leave notifications, boundary warnings, etc.), updated the missile launch sequence and refactored the targeting code. We’ve implemented new game rules for three modes, Squadron Battle, Capture the Core and Conquest. A lot of the work we’re doing boils down to bug squashing, especially for the multiplayer modes; now that we’re playing across studios, we can really identify and fix issues! A fair amount of this has been related to player re-spawning, which is now much more reliable. We’ve also done some work implementing HUD sound effects and the dynamic music system, and have polished the targeting panel’s functionality. One thing that I know is hotly debated among Star Citizen fans is controller functionality: we’ve been working on input maps for all types of controllers, from the keyboard to specific HOTAS setups. We’ve had feedback from players and designers across the company on this, and we’re dedicated to making sure Star Citizen is fun no matter what type of control mechanism you choose.
Art and Animation: (Paul Jones – Art Director)
The dogfighting module has been a true cross-company effort… but we’ll proudly take credit for the environment assets and map creation for Dying Star and Broken Moon! Our team went into the CryEngine running and the results speak for themselves. We have also been doing some assorted VFX work for the module and we’ve been helping with future game mode effect types. In April we’ve been perfecting everything from the terraforming stations to the landing platforms to the destructible platforms. We’ve also been working with design on the white-boxing and tiering of the Javelin, Panther and Bengal class warships. The exterior of the Retaliator is also looking great!
On the User Interface side of things, we’ve been nailing down the look and feel of the engineering seat action. Design has figured out what you need to do at a seat… now it’s up to us to figure out how the player should control things like power distribution, cooling, CPU load and the like!
Our concept artists have been doing plenty of 3D work, too! Functional models have been created for the Gladius light fighter (seen in a recent post), the Idris’ recovery ship and belly dock, the Javelin destroyer’s turret (interior and exterior) and the Panther escort carrier. Animation has been hard at work too, working on the dogfighting ejection and g-loc sequences, plus preparing the initial cinematic mocap tests for Squadron 42, the Vanduul pilot rigging and coutless ship weapon animations.
We’ve had another good month of getting through a bunch of needed concept, production and polish work in all departments. Next month (as we have pretty much finished all our Dog Fight Module tasks in the UK) we will be almost totally focussing on bringing capital ship systems online, as well as breaking down our mo-cap shoot needs for S42, as well as continuing to block out the first missions for S42 and everything that entails.
As always, thanks for all your support in allowing us to make this the best damn space sim ever… Without your commitment, support and belief we would not be where we are. I look forward to everyone checking out all the hard work that has gone into the game as we go live with Arena Commander, and maybe taking you guys on in the verse… :)
Mathieu Beaulieu, Producer
April went by so fast, yet a lot was accomplished. As far as programming goes, a good portion of the team has been working on Dogfighting related features. Our highest priority has been to complete the implementation and polish various user interface functionalities. We’ve made some great progress towards the completion of the framework that works towards building the Visor HUD, the Shield and Power Management UI, in-game Scoreboards as well as the Matchmaking UI.
We are also continuously working on creating the core of the economic simulation, working actively on both the backend simulation services as well as the frontend tools that will allow us to drive the economy.
Spring has finally arrived in Montreal and the Discount, Business and Deluxe Hangars are getting ready for some spring cleaning. Once they have been revamped, we will be able to add expansions and specialty rooms (like the shooting range) to all hangars, including the Asteroid Hangar.
And that’s not all! Work is well underway for the UI/UX design of the mobiGlas OS. Step by step, we are developing a solid global view of what the entire system will look like and how it will work, which will allow us to develop future functionalities faster and keep a consistent look throughout all its applications. We are also working on the avatar customization system which is now better defined, and we are working closely with CIG to make sure we keep the PU characters at the highest level of detail while allowing for maximum customization.
Tara Decker, Producer
April in Monterrey has been all.about.ships. And dogfighting. Cool ships & dogfighting….that’s been our spring. Pretty cool.
Our crew has spent the last month getting the Hornet, Aurora and the 300i (with Mr. Chris Smith) looking beautiful and ready to go into space. Getting the damage, LOD and PBR conversion done for each ship was often challenging as the approach on how to do each is newly defined. But, the ships are looking great & break up really well when hit, so dogfighting is going to be really, really fun.
Artists were also continuing work on the Idris with Erin’s studio. Great group of guys to work with…and incredibly high standards! The ship layout is basically finalized and work on the various rooms and areas (bridge, brig, reactor room, etc…) is in progress. This is a massive ship and work will continue for quite a bit.
The Freelancer and all of it’s variants are almost complete. As is the Avenger. Additional work for damage states and LOD’s will be needed, but the modeling phases are wrapping up nicely.
Next up for us: the ship Chris Roberts says he’s most excited to own: the Constellation. No pressure. ;)
So, I said April was all ships, but we also tackled character work as well. Updating the Male Explorer character. And doing helmet work. It’s crazy to note that as much time is going into modeling & texturing the interior of the helmet as the exterior. Nice.
Sean Murphy, Outsource Manager
Our external contractors have been focusing heavily on ship art this cycle – Eddie del Rio has created some great concepts for the Xi’an Scout ship, Stephan Martiniere is working on bridge interiors, Jan Urschel is designing the Xi’an bomber, and Emmanuel Shiu is exploring the Banu Merchantman. Ryan Church is continuing to develop the Panther Escort Carrier and Jim Martin is creating concepts for variants of the Cutlass, while Gavin Rothery is solidifying the design of the Gladius Light Fighter. And Stefano Tsai is blazing on the M50!
In addition we have Rob McKinnon working on Marine Armor concepts and various other military outfits; Clint Schultz and Dave Scott are working on corporation logos, David Brochard and Justin Sweet are doing some alien character explorations, and Atey Ghailan and Ed Lee are helping refine environments.
Finally, we’re in discussions with another exciting concept artist who has approached us about working with us – but we can’t say anything yet!
Here at [Redacted] in the land of [Redacted] we have been enjoying the [Redacted] weather while hard at work on the FPS module!
The artists have been cranking away creating some amazing looking environments for you Citizens to kill each other in. As more props, detail and polish get implemented, it’s becoming apparent that Star Citizen will not only be one of the best looking games in the depths of space, but also planet-side… or within the corridors of a massive space station.
Our engineers and animators continued tweaking and polishing EVA and Zero-G movement, while the visual FX team came up with some awesome looking thruster jet effects. And while floating around and zooming through levels using thrusters is a blast, the big hit around the office has been Magnetic Boots! These marvels of modern technology let you stomp around on any metal surface in Zero-G… floors, walls, ceilings, ship exteriors, you name it! Coupled with Zero-G, we think it is going to add a very unique twist to the combat.
Speaking of combat, we have also been implementing a cover system. Soon, Citizens will be able to hunker down behind objects or lean in from behind a wall to take shots at the enemy. All of these actions combined with the variety of weapons means that there is an absolutely huge amount of animation that needs to be motion captured… and it just so happens that we are doing motion capture this week.
Moving forward with the FPS module, the team is about to begin a heavy amount play-testing to ensure everything is coming together in a way that is fun, engaging and hopefully nothing quite like anything you’ve ever seen or played before. We can’t wait to show it off and we hope that you Citizens are just as excited as we are!
Currently [Redacted] has a total of 24 talented people working on Star Citizen. Nine artists, six programmers, 4 animators, a creative director, a level designer, a contractor for sound effects, a senior producer and a gameplay producer.
Mark Day, Studio Director
Sherman was the new planet-side location announced in the latest edition of the Observist, and voidALPHA is focused on making it as spectacular as can be! Concept artist Emmanuel Shiu has painted the first 2 establishing shots and is now crafting the look and feel of the shop interiors. Design is building the rough level layout based on those concept shots, ensuring that the white box version accurately represents the architectural style and mood established for this demilitarized UEE base. Environment art has finished a majority of the geometry for The Blocks (Terra: Prime) and has now focused efforts on a basic material pass, getting us that much closer to completing one of the most foul and disreputable planet-side locations you will ever step foot on. Finally, our Centermass “Beautiful Corner” is…well…beautiful! We are in the final stretch of this shop interior, pending a few final lighting and material adjustments that are needed to make this shop a sight to behold!
Benoit Beauséjour, Founder
The platform team at Turbulent has been focused this month on finalizing Multi-Orgs membership. This is a feature we wanted to release while diving deeper into the second drop of Orgs in which we add significant structure and command upgrades to Orgs. This process is going well as we are now developing the artwork for the viewers and control interface for your Org structure.
A serious amount of time was spent building the Arena Commander leaderboard system which will carry pilot and org stats for the module. The presence of game stats on the site also brings about a revamp of the Citizen Dossier to allow you to show off your simulator pilot skills! (And also maybe review a pilot skill before you recruit him?)
Work has continued on revamping the store experience and bringing about more details on the ship variants and equipment. We now have a full control model on the platform to allow us to update and display ship related stats. Expect more in the upcoming weeks!
The team has made great headway on the multi-factor authentication , another big platform improvement we want to get to the community to improve the security of your accounts and the platform across the board. Many under-the-hood features are also developed to help dealing with account security and other tools for your amazing CS team!
Matthew Jack, Founder
April began with intensity for the three developers of the core Kythera team, as we were in the thick of things iterating on gameplay for the PAX East demo. This was especially exciting for us because it represented the first public playtest of Kythera, in Star Citizen’s Vanduul Swarm mode. There’s footage from that build on our website.
Since PAX we’ve been working towards the Dogfighting v1 release itself. The biggest change for us is the move to the Scythe. Kythera has been flying Hornets thus far but the Scythe is needed for Vanduul Swarm mode and those ships handle very differently and use different maneuvers.
A key feature this month is the improvement of avoidance to better handle some large and complex pieces of geometry in the Vanduul Swarm levels, in particular the Terraformer in Broken Moon. We’re also extending our Inspector debugging tool to give much more powerful feedback to programmers and designers as they craft Vanduul Swarm mode’s gameplay.
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