Comm-Link:Monthly Report - February 2015
February is a short month, but it was a full one for Star Citizen’s development! As you read this, Arena Commander 1.1 is hitting the PTU, and we expect to make it available on the live server in the very near future. Once we pass that milestone, it’ll be time for the first public release of FPS… so stay tuned, exciting things are coming! But for everything you can play today, there’s a hundred other aspects of the game in other stages of development. Read on to find out how everything from the imminent FPS module to the Persistent Universe is shaping up!
- 1 CLOUD IMPERIUM SANTA MONICA
- 2 CLOUD IMPERIUM AUSTIN
- 3 FOUNDRY 42
- 4 BHVR
- 5 ILLFONIC
- 6 TURBULENT
- 7 MOON COLLIDER
- 8 COMMUNITY
CLOUD IMPERIUM SANTA MONICA
As always, we are glad to have you with us as we welcome in the month of March by first reporting on the successes of February. In fact, it may interest some of you to know that not only do we write these reports each month for the community, but we also have internal monthly reports for our teams as well. At the end of each month we review our success against the previous month’s goals for the team and recommit to the next month’s goals. Anyhow, the reason we mention it is because February had a very high completion rate indicative of the focused nature of the team with upcoming large releases.
This month saw our team working heavily on stabilizing the build for the 1.1.0 release. Generally in software development there is what’s referred to as “Main.” This is the primary repository for all the game’s code and data/assets within the content management system, which in our case is Perforce. Inside Main is generally where all developers are working. This also means that it is getting the most changes (commits) every day. While it is great for everyone to be working quickly and committing regularly, it also greatly increases the chances of introducing a new bug into the system. So, as we approach release we create what is called a “branch.” Using the metaphor of a tree, Main would be the trunk and a branch would be, a branch. It is a copy of Main where developers reside – working on changes specifically intended for that release. This greatly reduces the risk of unintended bugs being introduced that could threaten the release; it is also the time at which we generally switch focus from feature development to stabilization and bug fixing. This allows development for things like Squadron 42, new ships, FPS, and persistent universe to continue unabated in Main while Arena Commander gets stabilized in preparation for release in a branch.
So, without further ado let’s review the areas of focus for each department.
Throughout February our engineers have been primarily focused on bug fixing and refining their systems for the upcoming releases. Last month we talked a bit about the new item port system. That system was completed this month, including bug fixing, and is going to be included with the soon to be released 1.1.0. As it is a fairly large extension of the system and interacts with several other systems in significant ways, it takes some time not only to finish the implementation of the system but then to also find and fix any bugs and edge cases that are exposed over time. Some of these bugs are memorable. For example, our light marine has a tactical shoulder lamp. After the implementation of the new item port system QA began reporting that the pilot would sometimes randomly die for no reason. After some investigation it was discovered that under certain conditions the tactical light (which is now attached with the new item port system) was colliding suddenly getting a velocity of 0 while the pilot was flying, and would then collide with the pilot at 200+ M/S and kill them. This is just one example of the strange but critical, and sometimes funny, issues that arise while implementing a new system.
On the Graphics Engineering side, our sole graphics engineer in the Santa Monica studio was working with his counterparts in the UK office to finish the first phase implementation of the new ship damage system which debuts on the Gladius. Among the many bug fixes and development work that went into the system this month, one of the interesting improvements to the system was the dynamic modification of normals. When the ship is shot and damaged, the system is now able to modify the normal around the impact area to curve the edges of a hole caused by a physical projectile, creating a realistic looking impact and penetration effect.
The design team has had several areas of focus this month. They’ve been working closely with QA, forum feedback, and internal playtests on the balance of ship health, weapons, and items. This is an important ongoing process and occupies an ongoing focus. Similar to our engineering team, our Tech Designers have been working on resolving issues with the technical setup of ships, weapons, and items by fixing bugs and improving on functionality. Our design team has also been very involved with setting up new ships that are being released soon. Getting a ship set up to appear and work properly in the hangar, especially getting it flight ready, is very involved and requires a lot of time and attention.
The team has also been very busy with the ship pipeline operating at full capacity. Not just with setting up the ships that have been created, but also defining the specifications for new ships that they want to see created and introduced into the game. The design team has created briefs for numerous new spacecraft this month that are being slotted into the pipeline and some have already entered concept.
Our designers also put a big emphasis this month on the metrics for items, weapons, and their manufacturers. One of the most challenging things about creating our ships is the level of realistic engineering principals that go into them. So, our design team spent time this month working out a system of metrics for all the items and all the per item type size ranges that fit onto our spacecraft. Be on the look out for a revised hardpoint classification, weapon size classification, and thruster size classification schema. We will be sharing with the community as soon as it is completed.
Our Art team in Santa Monica is currently focused on new ship development. From our concept artists, to modelers, to our tech artists, everyone is working on their aspect of a new ship. Similar to the other teams, there has been some bug fixing and preparation occurring for the upcoming release of 1.1.0, but a majority of the work has been going toward creating ships that we’ve previously announced.
We’ve also begun concept work on new variations of body armor for UEE forces as well as civilian and outlaw/pirate individuals. The character pipeline led out of the UK office has been moving forward and gathering steam, so much so we’ve expanded our capacity for high quality concept out of the Santa Monica office! Under Star Citizen’s supervising art director Lance Powell, we aim to deliver the best characters possible with current technology.
The art team has been working closely with design this month to collaborate on the metrics and item guidelines that we’ve mentioned above. It was important with the refactor to the system to meet designs needs while also maintaining the ability for artistic creativity and uniqueness. In the end we’ve landed on a system that satisfies the needs of both groups and should provide the best pairing of visual quality and gameplay.
That rounds out the department updates for this month. The team has been working diligently to stabilize and prepare for the 1.1.X series of releases that will be starting soon. We cannot wait to share with the community all that we have in store. It is very exciting for the team to release more content quickly and to start showing off some of the entirely new gameplay that has been in development. As these modules that comprise Star Citizen are starting to come together, we hope that you too enjoy the process of watching our shared dream get built. Thank you as always for your support. None of this would be possible without this awesome community backing us up in the quest to make the BDSSE!
CLOUD IMPERIUM AUSTIN
February has absolutely flown by as the Austin team has been hard at work preparing multiple launches to Live and burning the midnight oil in preparation for March and April. We are looking forward to a variety of SXSW events here in Austin this month and spending time with the community who will be attending. Stay tuned for lots of exciting content coming your way in upcoming weeks and months. There are too many things to report in a summary, so here’s some real detail from the team!
Persistent Universe Team:
The month of February saw the art team in Austin get a lot of love. Our character team was featured on Around the Verse AND Meet the Devs, so everyone got to see just how awesome those guys are. Not only are they awesome people, but they are awesome artists as well! David and Billy have been polishing our characters for the upcoming FPS and Social Module releases while Megan has been working on defining the look and feel of what our NPC’s will look like on Terra Prime. We’ve also got a few new faces you’ll get to meet in the game come March. Look forward to seeing some pretty swanky styles when you land on this truly awesome landing zone.
Speaking of Terra, the legend himself Mark Skelton has been working with Behaviour to provide art direction for the ArcCorp, Terra, and Nyx landing zones. All three of these locations are extremely different from one another and it’s exciting to see the variety of locations taking shape. Mark has also been defining new architectural styles that will add even more diversity and flavor to the Persistent Universe in the future.
We’re all about props this month. With hundreds of props being created by RedHotCG, Virtuos, and our own internal artists, it is amazing to see the difference filling an environment with props makes. With the help of our artists, pretty soon our NPCs will be able to sit in chairs, drink from mugs, move crates, admire sculptures, play shuffleboard, and even mop a floor.
For every prop an NPC requires an animation to go along with it, and our animators have been working hard on implementing animations received from Imaginarium. We’ve got NPCs dancing, chilling against the wall, and chatting it up at the bar, among other things. Our animation team has also been fixing up the ship cockpits, as our recent skeleton improvements have required adjustments to the cockpits to allow for our character to fit properly. We’ve made progress in standardizing our cockpit layouts, bringing the total cockpit types down from 17 to 7! This will help us build ship cockpits more efficiently in the future.
This month our artists and designers have been working on a major part of the Persistent Universe which many of you are chomping at the bit to try out: MINING! We’ve made major strides in solidifying the design for how mining will work in the PU and Tony Zurovec wrote up an awesome doc on the minutia of the occupation. If you missed the post on the website a while ago, you can find it HERE. Thanks to artwork from Ken Fairclough and Chris Olivia, as well as the concepts for the Orion created by George Hull; we are now able to visualize our first occupation to be developed by the PU team here in Austin.
Our design team has also been setting up NPC activities for the Social Module, fleshing out the shopping experience for Cubby Blast and Astro Armada, and making major updates to the Thruster Calculator, which will make it much easier to – you guessed it – calculate the thrust of our ships going forward. David Ladyman has received some major progress back from our linguists developing the alien languages for Star Citizen and is planning on running the first draft of the Vanduul language by Chris Roberts fairly soon.
It was another great month for the PU programming team. The team braved a few days of freezing weather to ensure they did not miss a beat in working to bring you all one step closer to visiting your friends in our upcoming Social Module. And although they spent Valentine’s Days with their sweeties, many of them have reported that their hearts were elsewhere… infatuated with the awesome Star Citizen Community!
Working with our friends at Wyrmbyte we got an early iteration of our Universe Simulator up and running. Chris Roberts was “wowed” when we shared an early demo with him. The programming team also worked very closely with our DevOps team on our process manager. Never before have team members come together in such a well-oiled manner, and as a result an exciting revamp of our process manager spec is now in hand.
Progress towards the first iteration of multiplayer hangars is also looking swell. Our programmers have been working closely with our pals at Behaviour to get the first iteration of this feature up and running. While this will continue being improved upon and polished, we have reached the point where players can now visit their friends’ hangars! And if that’s not enough, we also have chat and emotes incoming. The boys here in ATX have co-mingled their efforts with Behaviour to get the base chat service in place, which they will continue to work on until we have a solid first iteration to provide to you.
Let’s make sure not forget our amazing programmers working on our AI tool sets. They have been working feverishly to create some of the most stunning AI tools out there, all in order to bring the Persistent Universe to life!
Finally, as an added bonus, the team has been able to get the ball really rolling in putting our plan together for real Player Persistence! The final week of this month we had an engineering “Meeting of the Minds” between our Austin and Santa Monica studios. March will be the month where the explosion of ideas that came out of this historic sync will begin to come to fruition.
Stay tuned for more updates next month, and until then be sure to enjoy the Star Citizen presentations at PAX East and SXSW—brought to you by the one and only Chris Roberts!
Star Citizen QA has been keeping very busy this month testing releases 1.0.2 and 1.0.3. We are excited that we we’re able to include so many fixes and updates in these releases. We have also been busy testing the upcoming FPS Module. Glenn Kneale in our Manchester studio and Tyler Witkin in our Austin studio have done a great job ensuring the FPS Module is continually tested by the QA team. At the end of each day, they provide a full report on the state of the FPS Module, report any new issues found and provide relevant feedback. With help from DevOps, a new process was created to ensure that builds available to development are stable and able to be worked on. This process will help maintain developments’ ability to continue working without being hindered by an unstable build. QA has also been testing new features such as Matthew Delanty who has been working very closely with designer Luke Pressley on a new tutorial mode. Jeffrey Pease, Andrew Hesse and Melissa Estrada continued their tests with the lobby, ships, and the Sandbox Editor respectively while Steven Brennon has continued to gather very valuable feedback from all of you guys. This feedback is incredibly helpful to the team.
We have made an important change in the Austin team: Gerard Manzanares has officially been promoted to QA Lead in the Austin studio. Gerard will be responsible for leading QA operations in Austin as well as maintaining Austin QA coordination with our counterpart QA teams around the globe.
For the month of March, QA is looking forward to PAX East, SXSW, and releasing Arena Commander 1.1.0. Some of us from our Austin studio will be present at the SXSW Gaming Expo. If you happen to see us feel free to stop by and say hi.
February marks another awesome month for the IT/Operations team. IT was able to complete a major internet upgrade for our office in Germany. This project was headed up by our UK IT Manager, Hassan with support from members of the Austin, TX IT staff. Upgrades included bringing in a much needed fiber upgrade providing them with increased bandwidth and a major improvement to their firewall and VPN capabilities. Additional work was done to improve the studio’s internal network and server infrastructure.
In Santa Monica, IT Manager, Dennis has been hard at work deploying new hardware and software upgrades to his team while at the same time evaluating and documenting numerous hardware solutions ensuring that all aspects of Star Citizen function correctly on the new technology. Throughout his testing Dennis enjoys going in game and shooting it out with anyone who’s playing in Arena Commander at the time. Keep an eye out for him.
The Austin team continued its relentless pursuit for better performance in the build/development cycle. Storage was expanded again to keep up with the furious pace of the rock star development team and this allowed IT to implement new methods of optimizing storage utilization by the build servers for performance. By poring through stacks of analytics we’re already able to see marked improvements, but, we’re still not finished. Testing of new data layouts and storage formats are showing some very interesting results. Working in concert with the DevOps team, IT also deployed a completely revamped game delivery system which allows us to get test builds out to all the connected studios in North America and Europe in a fraction of the time it took before. What used to take hours to transfer now takes minutes.
February has been exciting but we can’t wait to get out and meet some of the citizens at PAX East and SXSW in March.
This month the Dev Ops team has been setting up the foundations of our operational infrastructure. We are working with the server engineering team to build a provisioning layer that will supply the servers centralized “brain”, a steady stream of information about the health of the services running, and a place for that “brain” (named Process Manager) to request new processes, services, or vms to be created in case some crash or population load grows. In future phases we will start making more logic based decisions on this data and also spin down services, move them around, and gather more information on them. We are also now building out our configuration management tools after spending January evaluating several options.
Dev Ops is also building out all the logging for internal, PTU and production servers so that we can react quickly to issues, and also supply other engineers with details about problems.
Work on the new launcher is progressing, and evaluation of new SSN code for an improved version of patching is also underway. Some of the team is over in our German office working with engineers there to finish rebuilding the build server. They are making excellent progress on that, and it should be ready for development use in March.
On top of all that, we have deployed 1.0.2 and 1.0.3 to PTU and Live. Finally, we have been working with Google to learn all we can about different technologies we can use to make sure that the Star Citizen architecture is as scalable and dynamic as we possibly can make it. Our goal is to minimize player impact and maximize uptime. The team is looking forward to the extremely busy month of March with PAX and SXSW!
Another very busy month on Star Citizen and Squadron 42. We are starting to see the S42 campaign coming together well, with lots of focus on the motion capture shoot that is about to happen at Imaginarium Studios. A lot of the work has been focused on the correct prop sizes so the actors can interact with our digital assets in a believable way. You would be amazed at the amount of planning that has to go into make sure everything is set up correctly for the shoot. Chris will be over in the UK to direct the performance capture for our cut-scenes, so we are making every effort to give them all the relevant information needed to make the scenes work well.
As you will all probably know, you begin the S42 campaign flying off the Idris Frigate; we got our grey-box version populated with AI this month to see how it was working as an interstitial HUB and once we added a few extra crew we came up with something that felt really satisfying and believable. Once the conversation system can be implemented we feel it will really be something special. Obviously we made good progress on the rest of the chapters and with involvement from the Frankfurt team, who are now coming online, we are starting craft some of the scenarios into immersive and fun gameplay sections. It’s been really helpful to get a fresh perspective from Todd and his design team.
As for Arena Commander, we are making good progress on the tutorial element, which we hope to release very soon. The leaderboards now have the addition of ‘Rating’, and multiplayer ‘Free-Flight’ is working well. We have focused on improving the ‘holo-table’ usability and functionality, with lots of good suggestions from the community being worked on. Lastly, we created a simple spawning map as a ‘stress-test’ for the Devs to work with.
All in all, another good month in design with good progress being made in all areas. Thanks again for making all this possible!
February in the North West of the UK and, not to pander to stereotypes, it’s wet, cold, grey and miserable. So no excuse for not cracking on with Arena Commander and Squadron 42 development then!
With the 1.1.0 release of Arena Commander just around the corner that has been a big focus for us. There are a couple of new modes which we’ve been developing here in the UK. The first is the new tutorial system to help ease the new recruits into playing what can be quite a complicated flight system. This required getting the AI “teacher” pilot to be able to perform the different maneuvers they’re teaching the player very precisely, being able to make sure the player is following correctly, and being able to time events very accurately. It’s can be surprisingly fiddly. The second is the multiplayer free flight, which will allow multiple people to hang out without having to engage in a game. Although in some ways it was quite straightforward to set up – after all we’ve got the other multiplayer modes already – there are some things you can do in freeplay that you can’t in the other modes which gives it some different challenges. It’s also going to be the first time we show off the new take-off and landing system.
Now the levels for Squadron 42 are starting to come together we’re in a position where we’ve started getting the game flow into our single player campaign and make it feel more like a game rather than just a collection of levels. At the basic level you go from one part of the game to the next, like what happens when you select “New Game”, or if you die in a mission, saving your progress, or loading back in again and so forth. The main challenge is the saving and loading systems, especially with a game as complicated as the one we’re creating, and will no doubt create lots and lots of bugs as QA try and break the system! Obviously the CryEngine has a lot of the game saving and loading already implemented on the FPS side, but with all the new functionality (and small things like space combat!) there are a lot of new systems that will need fixing up.
Other than that it’s continued work on all the other mechanics. The conversation system is coming along nicely, along with our StoryForge script writing tool. It’s very much in the iteration stage where we’re coming up with lots of different things to try and make it feel as natural as possible, which is important for the immersion. For example, getting the player to realize somebody wants to talk to you, not with a speech bubble over their head, but by their body language. Getting that right is a challenge. Too subtle and you won’t notice, too much and it’ll just look weird. And starting a conversation maybe by how you then interact with that character, rather than having to press a key, without it feeling clumsy. The hard work is not so much getting the initial system working, but the time and effort it takes to refine it with the combined efforts of the animators, script writers, designers, and engineers to get it to feel just right.
Its been on all fronts again. Characters, ship interiors, ship exteriors, props, you name it – we seem to have touched it all this month! Hiring? Yes – always, we are staffing up our FPS weapons team :D
Environment Team – Ian
This month has seen the Shubin Interstellar interior building set hit Greybox complete, which means all the building components have a good amount of mesh detail and are looking lovely. We’ve also been building the PBR master shader library for this set – plastics, metals, glass etc, and applying them to an established beautification corner. This is where we take a corner of a level up to final art so that the Art Director can see a good representation of how the finished set will look. A modular pass has also been done on the exterior of Shubin to enable the design team to create other space station facilities.
Ship Team – Bjorn
This month, the Foundry 42 ship is hard at work finalizing 3 Ships, making them ready for either Hangar or Arena Commander!!
On top of that, we are very excited to release our first pass of our new damage prototype which will hopefully impress you guys. It’s a completely new approach on how we handle damage for ships, mainly to future proof ourselves, improve memory usage, and give you guys more eye candy to look at when you shoot our ships to smithereens.
This is the first iteration, and is still a work in progress, but the results are already very satisfying!
The Gladius is being prepared for flight ready state. Neil is finalizing the art work, as well as implementing all the needed changes to have it working with the new damage prototype.
Matt has been working hard on the Gladiator, which will also feature the new damage model! Then we also have the long awaited hangar release of the Retaliator!
I know you guys have been waiting for this one for a while, and you won’t be disappointed! Nathan, Jay and Phil have been working hard to get this ship ready for you guys, pulling long nights to make sure everything is top notch!
Once we finalized these ships, there is no rest for the ship team at F42. We are jumping straight into cap ship production and the final production of the Starfarer, Idris, and Javelin. This will be a very complex production , so please bear with us on these massive ships!
After that we are going to focus on a full Vanduul Fleet in addition to a revamp of the Bengal Carrier to give you guys what you want.. the best D*mn space sim ever!
Character pipeline – it’s a long and complicated road! Sculpting, crafting, chiseling, ripping, photographing, scanning, reworking – and that’s just one for one benchmark character.
The VFX team had a great summit. All the team members met here in Manchester to further define the way forward for SC effects, Besides that there have been massive improvements in the damage system, coupled with some tricky techniques developed by the ship guys. The damaged ships are really starting to look cool and be efficient. Arena Commander has also received additional VFX as well as polishing the ones already in place.
Since we’ve already posted more than enough words on this site this month, such as our mobiGlas Deep Dive, here’s a condensed report for BHVR design team to balance it out.
The design team was implicated in the UI summit. Some answers were found and the attack plan was refined.
Lots of effort was put towards the social module. Shops were populated, maps were refined, elevators were fixed, bar glasses were cleaned.
Even more effort was put towards planetside. Designers were busy with working on paper design, whiteboxing, and general support for more and more locations.
The mobiGlas deep dive article was written and posted. Hope you liked it! If you haven’t seen it I assure you it’s worth your while.
And last but not least, some of us got the chance to participate in our first Star Citizen panel for IGDA Montreal! It was a great experience and we got to meet some of the fans, which is always an honor for us! You can find out more info here!
This is what art was up to this month:
We did a quick optimization pass on Terra to make sure that our work stays clean during the whole creation process. We began working on the paper layout for the additional Terra sectors and polished some of the old shops while optimizing the performance for each.
ArcCorp was revisited to merge new shops, polish some of the visuals, and to make sure that the frame rate is stable.
Nyx’s paper layout and WhiteBox was finished.
Finally, we spent some time dressing a tutorial map.
Concept-wise, we’ve been refining certain key areas of Levsky, the former mining colony based in the Nyx system, such as the Grand Barter, which is the equivalent of the TDD for this location and visually represented as a flea market.
We also worked on a prefab system that QV Planet Services used to use when they were trying to mine the asteroid. It’s composed of platforms that hook up into the rocky tunnels with hydraulic columns to support the heavy ceilings, beams, clamps, etc…
This month Behaviour hosted a UI summit with invitees travelling from Austin, LA, Denver, and UK . What an experience! It was great to finally get everyone in the same room to talk about UI across the entire game. Exciting stuff!
We also continued to work on chat UI, contact list, multiplayer hangar UI, various logo design tasks, decals, and the pause screen also got some love.
Additionally we worked on mock-ups for a new and improved holotable experience, and started work on branding the mobiGlas depending on which shop you are visiting.
This month we’ve put a lot of effort into solidifying the multiplayer experience. Specifically, we’ve added UI Elements to provide more guidance and feedback to the players regarding the whole “Invite a friend to my Hangar” process. We’ve also greatly improved the stability of the actual multiplayer hangar as well as looking into the multiplayer planetside experience. A good deal of time was also spent on the chat implementation which is starting to look pretty good, and soon will be ready for an eventual release. We’ve also gotten back to working, ever so slightly, on the mobiGlas in order to fine tune the shopping experience that we hope to demo fairly soon.
You should soon be able to get your hands on a few changes to the holotable including control customization. Your favorite interactive gadget should be a bit easier to use with the addition of automatic filtering and sorting. As far as control customization is concerned, you should have more control than ever on controlling continuous inputs with the addition of a new curve editing tool. This tool will allow you to easily remap how the input should affect specific control options.
How’s it going Citizens? Here at IllFonic we’ve been working feverishly to get the FPS module in a good state for showing at PAX East. This has been quite the challenge as a few new things came online recently which introduced quite a few new bugs that required a slew of items and animations to be reworked. Luckily, we had Mr. Bender from CIG Santa Monica on site to help out on the animation side of things. He has been instrumental in getting all of the new animations squared away with our local team. Beyond that, he came during the worst snow we’ve had in over a year, so… Who knows? He might even become a local!
Squashing bugs, bugs, and more bugs. The engineers have also been polishing the zero-g push & pull system, which has been a challenge, but is coming along nicely. A large amount of work has been done on the HUD and UI, including elements to support the FPS game modes. Lastly, programmers have also been supporting the animation team, which has been quite a bit since most of the mechanics are driven by the animation system.
Squashing bugs, bugs, and more bugs. The art team has also been putting the final touches in terms of lighting and performance tweaking on the levels that will be shown at PAX East and release with the module. Final models were done on our new weapons and gadgets, and material work for these models is now under way.
Boy oh boy have these guys been busy. Over the last month they have been hooking up all of the new animations with the new rig. This literally means that every animation needs to be re-targeted and exported so it’s quite a bit of work. Steve Bender has been here to help out and make sure that everything looks great in both 1st person and 3rd person perspectives. They have also been busy squashing bugs, bugs, and more bugs.
Squashing bugs, bugs, and more bugs. The designers have also been focused on tweaking weapon balance, the aiming model, and play-testing the levels. In addition to the work being done for PAX, progress continues on the new game modes and maps that will be coming after the initial release of the FPS module.
On the VFX side, new visual effects were created for the grappling device while all other weapon FX were revisited and polished up. Everybody is happy with how they are looking now and we hope all of you Citizens will enjoy them too.
[REDACTED] out, see you at PAX East!
It’s been a busy and exciting month for us here in Montreal. It turns out that coding does indeed keep you warm… So here’s a quick look at what we’ve been doing this February.
The end of last year was marked with a rework of the website’s homepage. Like we announced then, this was only the first step of the global rework we’ve undertaken : this month saw the arrival of step “1.5” with the new Fly Now flow, a quick and easy way to start with the project and get going fast. Its success and the recent increase in new backers show just how much newcomers were in need of some guidance, and we’d like to welcome the (over) 10,000 new backers who joined the community this February.
We’ve taken quite some time to rework the homepage itself. RSI is quite unique in the amount of content produced by Cloud Imperium as a whole, and this new version will aim at giving comm-links a better and clearer layout. At the same time we’re working on a better hub for comm-links themselves, with a focus on series and the search engine for comm-links as a whole.
The Community Hub
These steps will be completed by the new Community Hub that went through its design phase in February. As we announced previously, this new Hub’s mission is to give, at a glance, a broad sense of how the Star Citizen Community lives and breathes. It comes with a set of new tools and functionality that will put your involvement to the test: all fans will get a chance to show their own vision of the project through what will essentially be your hub.
Soon, you’ll be able to use credits earned in Arena Commander to try out any ships or ship components you don’t yet have. This is the third storefront we’re giving you (after the Pledge Store and Voyager Direct), and of course many aspects of the website are impacted : you’ll be able to manage your gear and the credits you earn directly in the website from the My Account section, and this is now the second interface we’ve set up that is being fed directly from the game servers (the first being the Leaderboards a few months back).
The Orion Minigame
Most of you have seen the amazing design that is the RSI Orion mining platform. We took this chance to bring you another minigame (the Carrack had seen the first one) which explored space mining in the Star Citizen universe. We plan to have a minigames section in the site very soon if you’d like to replay it.
February was heavy on the design side of Turbulent, and now’s the time to implement all that and let you experience it. All while we’re still working on the highly anticipated Starmap. Our current task is to set up a thorough user interface that will do justice to the density and complexity of data we’re plugging into. More on that soon… plus a few surprises along the way.
February has been quite a heavy planning month for Moon Collider. With the Cloud Imperium Frankfurt studio taking on some new members focused on FPS and AI, we spent quite a bit of time helping them get up to speed with the current state of things, figuring out new processes, and reworking our roadmap for features that we will be delivering for the various modules this year.
A lot of our time gets spent in planning and communication, and as you can imagine, with quite a small team here in Edinburgh that can have quite an impact on the amount of time we have to work on cool features. So the addition of Todd Papy and Francesco Roccucci means more dedicated resources at Cloud Imperium to help with the very difficult job of planning and prioritizing all of the AI features needed by the different Star Citizen modules.
We’re also expecting Francesco and Chris Nolan, both veteran AI behavior designers, to help get our FPS character behaviors up to an awesome level of polish over the coming months. Getting character combat behaviors right can be really time consuming, so we’re thrilled to have such talented people added to the Cloud Imperium team.
So, while we got a bit less engineering work done this month than we normally do, we think these additional AI resources for Star Citizen are going to make a huge difference in the coming months, allowing us to deliver higher quality AI faster, and that’s good news for all of us!
We had a brief AI summit in Manchester this month to get Todd, Francesco and Chris up to speed on the current state of the AI. During that time we also took the opportunity to have discussions with designers for Squadron 42 and Arena Commander to figure out which AI features they’re needing most. It’s always really rewarding to sit down in the same room with designers and play through a level to see what is and isn’t working from their point of view.
Following the summit we had Francesco visit our Edinburgh office for several days for a lot of discussions about our feature roadmap and how best to prioritize across the different modules. This was also an important opportunity to help him get an in-depth understanding of our Kythera AI framework so that he will be able to help providing support to the rest of the Cloud Imperium team.
A lot of specific design discussions happened to look at ways to improve some areas of our AI framework, such as our behavior tree and higher level tasks systems; improvements to our cover system and how to streamline the workflow for level designers when setting up new areas; how to link different parts of a level together to allow AI to navigate with things like ladders or climbing up and jumping down; and a lot more. Expect to hear more about these features as we move from design to implementation over the next few months.
Replacing our prototype smart object system with the more fully featured Usables system has been a big focus since the start of the year, and this month we got the first version of the new system into the hands of designers. The feedback so far has been good and you will be seeing the first results of this in the upcoming Social Module. Whenever you see NPCs interacting with objects in the world, that’s the Usables system in action, so keep an eye out for it!
Speaking of the Social Module, we’ve also been doing some work on improving the performance of our AI code to allow huge numbers of characters to be active at once while still retaining a good framerate. We did a bunch of profiling to see where the slowest parts of the code were, and luckily we’ve had a few easy wins so far that gave some pretty nice performance gains. It’s still early days for the persistent universe so we expect to be doing a lot more of this in the future as features progress, but for programmers, it’s always a joy to make a change to the code and see those milliseconds go down rather than up!
We’ve been making various improvements and doing fixes for Arena Commander 1.1, with a particular focus on the upcoming tutorial. Because of the semi-scripted nature of a tutorial, we’ve found designers needing to do things with ships that they haven’t had to do previously, and so we did some work to allow the designers to get the results they were after. For example, you’d think that if you’ve got well tuned AI flight behavior for ship to ship combat, then just making a ship fly slowly inside a hangar would be a piece of cake, right? Well, it turns out that AI tuned for high speed evasive maneuvers doesn’t do so well trying to fly really slow in a confined space, at least not without a bit of persuading.
For the tutorial, we also found that we needed to implement some special attack modes for ships that need to do something very specific in order to teach the player how to perform certain actions. So for example, we created a behavior that makes a ship just sit on the spot and aim at the player’s ship, and another that makes the AI fire a single missile. It’s not something you’d want to see in a frantic session of Vanduul Swarm, but in a tutorial context it’s just what you need.
We’re quite happy with what the ships are now able to do in the AC 1.1 tutorial, and we think the community are really going to enjoy this release.
Hello everybody! Assistant Community Manager Will here to bring you this month’s Community Report! February has been quite busy for the Communiteam. Based on your feedback we have continued to tweak all of our weekly shows, and have even created an entirely new one! We’ve also introduced new initiatives such as our #HelpTheHerald campaign. We are always listening to your feedback and appreciate it as we continue to try new things.
Each episode of Around the Verse we aim to try new things to improve the show. This month we changed our News from Around the Verse segment to include each studio discussing their weekly contributions. In addition, we’ve added two new segments titled Sandi Goes to Flight School and Empire Report. We are happy that these have been received well and we plan on making both Empire Report and Sandi Goes to Flight School re-occurring segments.
In our weekly stream, Reverse the Verse, we realized that our discussions focused on the Santa Monica team which wasn’t fair to our other offices. So we’ve now integrated the Austin and UK offices to take turns appearing on the show. This has led to a more diverse set of questions and we are happy to bring a new element to the stream.
Don’t worry, we didn’t forget 10 for the Chairman! We realized that you enjoyed seeing the images during our news segment in Around the Verse, so we’ve integrated that format into Chris’ answers. Additionally, the Sneak Peek segment in Around the Verse is a fan favorite so we’ve doubled our effort and we are proud to say that 10FTC now features a sneak peek as well.
This month we also debuted Wonderful World of Star Citizen. Hosted by the community’s own Disco Lando, this monthly show highlights videos, podcasts, and other amazing creations from the community. Feedback for the first episode has exceeded our expectations and we are certain that you will all enjoy the next episode.
February has been an amazing month for fan videos. FiendishFeather has begun a new series titled Bulkheads. Inspired from the popular Red vs. Blue series, Bulkheads will feature two hapless citizens as the traverse the verse. While a bit sillier than his popular pirate video Pieces of Eight, we can’t wait to watch this series unfold.
Yearsonehundred, the creator of the original Imagine trailer, has returned and once again blown us away with his new video, The Fighter Pilot. The first entry in his new Star Citizen Career video series, The Fighter Pilot is a collaboration between multiple community members, including our favorite voice actor Trendane and musical guru Pedro Camacho. At less than one and a half minutes, this video is a must see for any Star Citizen out there.
February was quite a busy month for us, but we have much more planned for you all in March. We value your feedback and we continue use it to get better each and every week. Thanks and we’ll see you next month!
-Assistant Community Manager Will!
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