Comm-Link:Monthly Report - January 2015
New year, same job: make the Best Damn Space Sim Ever! In January, Star Citizen’s teams worked on all aspects of the game, with a focus on improving Arena Commander and preparing to launch First Person Shooter and the first ‘social module’ piece of the persistent universe (oh, wait: and Squadron 42! It’s the first month of a BIG year.)
We also held our first ever backer ‘town hall’ in San Antonio, and couldn’t be happier with how it went. You can see all five of the panels below, and the feedback we collected is already impacting Star Citizen’s long term plans.
Please read on for the latest from Cloud Imperium’s studios and outsource partners around the world.
- 1 CIG SANTA MONICA
- 2 CLOUD IMPERIUM GAMES AUSTIN
- 3 FOUNDRY 42
- 4 BHVR
- 5 ILLFONIC
- 6 TURBULENT
- 7 MOON COLLIDER
- 8 COMMUNITY
CIG SANTA MONICA
Welcome back for another monthly report! The team came back from the holiday break refreshed and excited to continue the momentum from last year. January was an extremely productive month both on the development front and the planning front laying a solid foundation for 2015. Let’s continue to the discipline updates so we can let you know what all transpired and what we’re working on!
With Engineering in January there was a fair amount of long term planning that was covered during a Technology Summit in the UK involving several members of the LA team. During the month of January our LA Engineering team has been working on quite a few things you will see being released over the next couple of months.
We’ve finalized our implementation of the paint system for all vehicles including the buggy. As many of you saw we released swappable buggy paint jobs during January. This was an important step because it finished off our implementation of the first pass of the vehicle paint system. Now that this technology has been finished, tested, and proven on the buggy the Art team can proceed with implementing swappable custom paint jobs for all of our ships which you’ll be seeing very soon. This was very important to us as it allows us to begin delivering on many of the custom skins sold or included with various packages during the original campaign.
Development has also continued on the missiles, countermeasures, and signals system. With the first introduction of this system in December there were some features that we weren’t able to quite finish such as emissive sources that can obscure sensors in a generalized area or direction. Things like nebulas or a star having impact in a broader way. For example you may in the future see that it is much harder to get an Heat lock on an enemy who is flying directly at the molten core on Dying Star because the of the heat from the core blinding the heat sensors on your ship and missiles relative to the lower output of the enemy ship you are attempting to target.
In addition to the features that weren’t quite ready for primetime there are also a fair number of gameplay balance issues and bugs that we’ve been working to resolve within these systems that were highlighted by players in 1.0.0 and 1.0.1. We’re continuing to improve and refine the system in Arena Commander so that by the time the PU comes about its polished and well balanced.
Another important focus for the Engineering team has been a refactor of the item port system. Sounds exciting right? Well it is! As you may or may not know we wrote a custom item way back towards the beginning of Star Citizens development. It is a system for handling networked, animating, and data driven items that are attached to other items or ship parts through what are called item ports. Stated differently, this is the system that makes it possible for your weapons, items, and ships to all attach to one another, update each other with their data (how much energy they draw, etc.), animate, and exhibit the same behavior on all clients over the network. This system is pretty cool and in use already, so why does it need a refactor you might ask… Well let’s explain!
As we’ve continued development on Star Citizen and moved on from the days when this system we’ve added a lot of new features that weren’t around back then. One of the things that we’re adapting the
item port system for is all the player characters. So when you’re Heavy Marine is running around in the upcoming FPS release he will be using the same unified system for his items and attachments as your ship. We’re defining item ports on the character just like ships that have rules about what size things can attach to them and hook up into the player’s data driven entity. So for example if you equip an energy pack to port 24 it feeds into the suit energy which can be drawn down by a personal shield in slot 15. This is just an example for illustrative purposes but it should convey the basic principles.
Where this gets really cool is as we move towards the integration of FPS and ship combat with things like multicrew ships. Because the characters and ships both use a unified item port system they can interact in ways that were never before possible. So for example now when you sit down in the cockpit of your Hornet we can plug in your character and attached items to the ship. I.E. if your EVA suit is low on power we can charge your suit off of your ships reactor via a plug in the cockpit. If you sit down into a turret that is supposed to display a physical screen if you don’t have a helmet the ship can now query your characters item ports and check against the presence of a helmet. If you have one it can pipe in the relevant targeting data from the ship to your visor or it can decide it needs to bring up a physical display instead. Pretty cool, right?
Speaking of the visor we’ve also been refactoring the current implementation of the HUD visor for ships so it is much more extensible, optimized, and completely unified and interchangeable with the FPS HUD. The idea being that you can now toggle between visor modes yourself or the game can switch you contextually based on what you are doing. Sitting in your ship and the ships HUD will pop up in your visor. Hop out and pull out your gun and the visor will flip over to FPS combat mode and bring up a different set of information within the same framework. All in all this will be a much more robust and optimized implementation of the HUD that supports the seamlessness that so critical for the immersion of Star Citizen.
On the Design side, January saw the hiring of two additional Technical Designers here in LA, Matt Sherman and Kirk Tome. They’ve already proved invaluable at freeing up Design bandwidth to tackle some longer term goals without sacrificing continued iteration and polish on the currently released content. We’ve tackled the design and prototyping of several of the longer term systems during this month such as how cargo will work, not just a paper design but actual in-engine prototyping of the core principles of the system working based off the paper design. There has also been a fair amount of design focus on working with Engineering on the polish and development happening on the signature, missile, and countermeasure system that we covered above.
As you may know from the write up on the ship pipeline the Design team plays in important role in the development of every single ship that goes into the game from ideation all the way to final implementation. To that end we’ve kicked off a fair number of ships at the beginning of this year. Ships like the [REDACTED], [REDACTED], and [REDACTED] were all kicked off this month and are moving forward in the Concept phase and still more were greenlit to start moving into the Hangar and Flight Ready phases. The design team has been working diligently on whiteboxes and nailing down metrics for virtually every item onboard ships. This was a step that we added to the Ship Pipeline when we took it over here in LA back in September and it’s already been paying dividends in less mistakes and reworks down the pipe. It’s also proving to be one of the most important stages in ship development!
We’ve spent a lot of time in the past talking about the ship pipeline but what are ships without items? To this end the Design team has begun the large undertaking of mapping out the entirety of the long term plan for ship items. Not only all the functionality of each ship item/weapon but also what different items or weapons of the same type will do differently and mapping that to a particular manufacturer from brand consistency. So not only do we have a lot of new items and weapons designed coming out of January but there is a lot more focus on making them feel different from one another and have distinct advantages and disadvantages and having those relate to the various manufacturers across all the types of items and weapons they make. If it sounds like a massive undertaking, it has been, but we’re already seeing this time spent paying off as it creates a much more unified and interesting framework for items within Star Citizen.
Last but not least is the tuning! Virtually every day our Design team and QA team are discussing balance changes, scouring the forums reviewing player feedback, and discussing action plans for addressing the issues that are identified. It cannot be oversold how important this time spent iterating and collaborating with QA and the community is. During January there has been a lot of adjusting, tweaking, and tuning happening some of which you saw in 1.0.1 and a lot more that will be releasing with 1.0.2. The play experience of space combat is very important to us and very important to the game so just remember, if you don’t like something or have an idea for how we could improve something, voice your opinion and let us know. It may take some time to get feedback addressed but we are always changing and improving it.
Our Art team has had an exciting January! This month we hosted all the global members of the ship team in LA for our first ever “Ship Summit”. It was a great opportunity for our global Art, Design, Animation, and Engineering leads on ships to get together and discuss the current pipeline, improvements/changes, best practices/techniques standardization and for some of them to meet in person for the first time. Coming out of the summit we’ve further refined our pipeline and established common gold standards and techniques around which everyone can align globally.
The fruits of this standardization and improvements to our modeling techniques are born out in the new items that are being introduced into the game. The new shield generators were all bit using the new pipeline for ship items/weapons and use the latest modeling and Tech Art techniques we’ve begun employing for all ship parts potentially other parts of the game as well. Our items have really come a long way from where they started and the visual improvement is pretty apparent, even for those who aren’t artistically inclined.
Furthering that our Art team has also been busy making use of the new paint system and the work done by Engineering and Design to get it so players can swap paintjobs. This is actually a great example of what makes open development so cool both for players and for developers. With the paint system
you’ve actually seen the first implementation for 1.0 with some ships having bespoke paintjobs using the new system. Then we iterated and for 1.0.1 added them to the buggy to prove the system was extensible and used that as an opportunity to put in the capability for swapping the paintjob at runtime. Once all that was complete we moved on to adding that swapping ability for players on the Aurora with some of the skins that we’ve promised as well as a fun one for the community in 1.0.2.
We’ve also begun concept, modeling, and flight readiness work on a number of upcoming ships. Some fan favorites like [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] are high on our list and progressing well towards hangar ready and flight ready respectively. Suffice to say that while January did not see the release of a new ship there are a lot of them running through the pipe right now and we’re excited to show them off once they’re ready!
Art, Design, and Engineering have been working collaboratively on some upcoming improvements to our damage system for ships that we look forward to sharing with you all once they’re all up and running. These improvements will vastly improve the fidelity of damage to ships while actually optimizing performance from the current state of the system. Coming out of the ship summit our internal team is looking forward to using the new system.
Last but certainly not least on the Art front are Characters. Following the Ship Summit we’ve been working on putting together a demo for the character team of where we can apply some of the best practices and techniques used by the Ship team to the character armors and other hard surface clothing/materials to continue to push the bar even higher for the visuals in Star Citizen and Squadron 42.
As many of you may already know, towards the end of last year we shot a lot of motion capture and performance capture at Imaginarium in London. What you may not know is that we’ve also created an entirely new and greatly improved rig for our characters this rig was created by the aptly named, John Riggs here in LA in close collaboration with the other members of the Character team globally. So, in the month of January we’ve spent a lot of time refining that rig with the new characters and new animation data from our recent shooting. So far progress has been great and the new visuals are looking very promising and we look forward to improving the animations in the game substantially for everyone as soon work concludes on this.
Well, that wraps up the department updates for this month and covers much of the progress that we’ve made this month. Before we let you go we just wanted to say that it is important to note that while each studio provides the community with a separate studio report much of what we’ve covered above wouldn’t be possible without our comrades around the globe. It cannot be stated enough that while there are multiple studios working on this project there is one team working together and it is only with each other that we’re able to make this the BDSSE.
CLOUD IMPERIUM GAMES AUSTIN
The New Year is off to a great start and January has been a busy month as always. We’ve made some updates to Arena Commander, have been very focused on planning for the coming year’s development efforts, and we shared a ton of information at the PAX South event right in our back yard here in San Antonio. Many people from the Austin studio were able to attend and participate in the event, and I certainly enjoyed the time this gave to interact with many awesome members of our community. We had Ben and James here and filmed a lot of footage that you may have seen, or will see soon on Around the Verse! Here are some in-depth reports from other teams in the studio!
Persistent Universe Team
Our Art Team this month has been primarily focusing on props, characters, and environments. Our character team, comprised of Megan Cheever, David Jennison, and Wilbur Lord, completed a few of the NPC’s you will be able to see ambling around ArcCorp Plaza when the Social Module launches soon. Specifically we finished up the Medic, Bartender, and one of the Bar Patrons. We’ve got a few more characters to finish up before the Social Module launches, but it is exciting getting to meet a few of the faces we will get to see in the Persistent Universe.
Some of our other artists are working on fleshing out some of the cool elements that will eventually be featured heavily when the game launches. Ted Beargeon has been spending much of his time concepting out a communication relay that will send information through Jump Points. Watch the PU Town Hall presentation to get a sneak peek! Patrick Thomas, our Sr. Artist, finished up modeling the Repair Drones that will appear outside of space stations. Ken Fairclough made some concepts of various medical props that will be found in the Medical Unit. Last but not least, our VFX artist Lee Amarakoon created some nifty fountains that will appear in Terra Tower on the Terra Prime landing zone.
This month we also played host to CIG’s Environment Summit. Artists and designers from Foundry 42, CIG LA, Behaviour, and Illfonic flew down to Austin to spend a week ironing out the kinks for how we build our environments across the project and solidifying crucial details for standardizing environment construction. The Art Directors all got together and spent some time discussing architectural styles for our environments. We’ve got some pretty interesting ideas for creating some interesting and diverse locales across the ‘verse.
The Design Team spent much of this month creating LISTS! Between lists of props, lists of ship parts, and lists of NPC animations, there was plenty of list-making to go around. These lists will serve a variety of purposes, and all are beneficial. The props list will go to outsourcing to help provide direction when creating the art assets. The ship parts list will help when scheduling out the creation of ship parts and weapons to eventually get them into your hands this year. The NPC animations list will provide a basis for the upcoming motion capture shoots so our excellent animation team will be able to fill our universe with lively characters.
In other news, our alien language designs are now at a point where we can start recruiting graphic designers to help with establishing alphabets for each race. Pretty soon you guys will be able to not only speak Banu, but write it too!
We’ve also been heavily discussing implementation of player occupations, with the first one to garner focus being MINING. Establishing final design details for mining and the beginnings of implementation will be a major focus next month.
The Persistent Universe Engineering Team hit it out of the ballpark in January, setting the benchmark for their monthly milestones for the months to follow!
They have completed a proof-of-concept of the backend code for Multi-Player Hangars and getting hangars running on our servers. They still have their work cut out for them to get everything from this early stage to a playable first iteration…but they are extremely stoked for these next stages of development and making commendable progress working together with the UI Team over at Behaviour. All of this will be intertwined with the team’s first version of its Process Manager that is undergoing heavy early testing and iteration as you read this!
The team has also completed the initial backend work for a first version of our in-game Chat system, and is also working closely with the UI Team at Behaviour towards getting this feature ready for our Social Module coming early this year. If you are a chat “fiend” then this will be your dream come true!!
Meanwhile, our PU Engineering Team has been working closely with our boys over at Moon Collider in the UK on various editing tools to help give life to the NPCs that will populate our Social Module. This makes it an exciting time on both sides of the Atlantic. And if all this didn’t keep the team busy enough…in conjunction with the brainiacs over at Wyrmbyte…they are also investigating methods to get more players into our maps, starting early work on Player Persistence and performing R&D on developing our Economy Server…truly essential elements that will contribute to making the Persistent Universe and Star Citizen a sincerely mind-blowing experience!
As for the upcoming month of February….love will definitely be in the air around the studio. The PU Engineering Team has every intention of focusing a lot of that loving energy into every bit of code that they write! We’re certain it will show through in their work! Have a great and romance-filled February!
Live Operations Team:
Star Citizen QA hit the ground running for the month of January. Fresh from the break, everyone was determined to improve the state of Arena Commander. Immediately QA began sending daily emails to production reporting on the state of the build and highlighting the most severe issues.
The QA team from Foundry 42 in Manchester did an excellent job with an in depth investigation into missiles and counter measures. Jeffery Pease ensured all lobby issues were accounted for and Andrew Hesse worked closely with developers in Santa Monica reporting and testing ship related issues.
Christopher Hill and Tyler Witkin compiled and reported on feedback from the community which sparked some significant discussion by Chris and the rest of development. Improvements have been made to how our two teams work together. We are now more aligned with our testing and processes. This has helped to make our QA coverage and hand-off process much more seamless.
Further developments have been made in automated testing. Melissa Estrada has made progress on the creation of custom Sandbox Editor levels that can be utilized to automate functionality. She is also currently training our Manchester team on this process as well as general use and testing of the Sandbox Editor.
This month we welcome our newest member to the QA team. Todd Raffray! Todd is a veteran of the industry. He has worked on such titles as Bioshock Infinite, Star Wars: The Old Republic, Wing Commander: Prophecy and Ultima Online. Todd will be working closely with design testing systems as they come online.
It is hard to believe January is already complete. We are incredibly happy we were able to fit so many bug fixes in release 1.0.1 and hotfix 1.0.1a. Now we look towards February with more bug fixing releases as well as FPS/Social Module testing.
January has been a productive month for us. From providing the user support for multiple team wide summit meetings across multiple continents to designing new methods for reducing transport times for large data we feel like we’re making a difference. Our UK IT team headed up by Hassan has been providing support for our new office in Germany by acquiring, configuring, and installing all equipment from desks and workstations to servers and networking. Working closely with the rest of our IT teams, Hassan was able to bring that office on line on schedule which was no small task considering all the dependencies from outside vendors and suppliers.
We’re constantly working on ways to make life easier for the developers. This month we’ve rolled out a new VPN solution which has made a big impact in network performance for the remote users while further enhancing our overall network security. We’re also working very closely this month with the DevOps team on the ongoing project to improve our build/deployment cycle. This is an area that can be attacked from many different directions so we’re providing DevOps with volumes of analytics and data about all of our systems with one single goal in mind. “Make things faster!” We’ve already made dramatic improvements but we are just getting started. Without going in to too many details, early data is demonstrating modest reductions in build times and major improvements in deployment (takes way less time to upload a version for the public.)
While the largest improvements on this project will come from the DevOps team, all of us in IT find it highly rewarding to be a part of it.
The month of January has been a major planning and infrastructure testing time for the Dev Ops team. We have been evaluating configuration management tools, patching solutions, CDN solutions, metrics reporting, and continuous integration tools. Our team has built a plan to redesign and rebuild the Star Citizen build server and launcher. This should make developing the game easier and we will have faster turnaround times for our developers to review the changes they check into the game. We have also designed a plan to help the server team communicate more efficiently to our infrastructure layer which should reduce their work load and automate many of the manual process currently required with starting up and running our game server cluster.
With all the planning, testing, and evaluating going on, we also have launched the 1.0.1 PTU and 1.0.1 patch to live. We added a bunch of new analytic instrumentations and hooked them up to our own database so that our designers can begin looking at live player statistics to balance the game and make design decisions.
Finally, we have been working on a few new launcher versions that we hope to be releasing over the next couple weeks. The Dev Ops team has a bunch more projects they will be taking on over the next month, and are looking forward to releasing more content to the community in our upcoming patches!
Huge start to the new year. Not to waste time we worked over the Christmas period to set up a bunch of summits to kick off our plans for 2015, the first summit starting on our first day back from the holidays. In the UK we held both a Tech and Audio summit, which both went really well. We’ve broken down all our animation / cinematic needs for S42 in meetings this week, and the guys have been getting all the missions to a first pass playable state. Absolutely loads of new tech work going on, new environments and ship work, and we’re starting the big Wwise integration over the next weeks. This is going to be a big year with lots of updates and content to share with you guys throughout the year. Looking forward to sharing it with you all.
Happy New Year!!!!!!
Start of the year and straight back into it with a big tech summit over here in the UK. Over the Christmas period there was a last minute rush to get plane ticket and hotels booked for all the top tech engineers from the CIG Studios, Illfonic, BHVR and Wormbyte and getting everyone together for the first week of this month. One of the things that is great about these summits is that it gives us all a chance to meet up again in person and do some socialising with our far flung colleagues, and reinforce just what a great bunch of people we’ve got working on this project!
The summit itself was extremely productive, a full week discussing a multitude of topics from performance (general profiling, our new Zone system for spatializing everything from the universe down to each individual room in a ship, hierarchical LODs, GPU compute…), streaming, damage systems, UI, build systems, networking/backend, audio, perforce, new graphical effects, and much, much more. As you can see it was a busy, busy time! The upshot is we’ve now got a much better global overview and visibility of what the priorities are, both in terms of what needs to be worked on now, what is required in the medium and long term, and what is on the wish list. It also allows everybody to have a better understanding of which teams are working on what and how their work fits into the bigger picture.
Development side we’re doing various refactors of the code to help make it more reusable and maintainable. So for instance, seats in CryEngine have traditionally been tied very tightly with the vehicles, which is a pain if you want to use them in another location, say in a mining base or planetside. As a result we’re in the process ripping the seats from out of the vehicles and making them more generic. The vehicle seats will then become a specialised version of the new seat class.
Other than that it’s business as usual. Work has been progressing nicely on the various game mechanics such as the conversation system, take-off and landing, PAW, looting, and cameras, as well as continued work moving over to Wwise and general 1.0.1 support.
A new year dawns on Star Citizen and it looks this will be a very interesting one for us. We are really pushing ahead with Squadron 42 and hope that we are zeroing in on what will be a very rewarding single player experience in the Star Citizen universe. The missions continue to get more layers of polish as they emerge from the White-Box stage and as new art work gets integrated they look more and more amazing. A lot of the systems that we require for Squadron 42 are starting to firm up well, and things like “Landing” and “Take-Off” are very close to being deliverable in Arena Commander. The conversation system has been getting a lot more design focus before Christmas and is coming along very nicely.
Arena Commander is in bug fix mode, and I know the guys working on this read the forums every day to pick up feedback from you all. There is a real challenge in getting the play balance right for a game that is in early development as I’m sure you are all aware. But having our community giving such precise feedback during its development is invaluable to us making this game what we all want it to be. Also, as the controls systems get more and more detailed, we have been working on a Tutorial for Arena Commander.
The Ship team have been working on balancing and we have a lot of new modules planned for existing ships like the Retaliator and the Redeemer that should allow players to customize their play experience to suit their style.
It has been a fast and furious month, we had LA’s new Art Director visiting the studio followed by a visit from myself, Bjorn, Nathan and Ian to the USA to confirm pipeline updates and improvements; needless to say, all teams are moving in the same direction and we’re looking forward to seeing new content that not only beautiful but highly optimal!
Concept wise, we have hired two new artists who are already making great work for the team; the Cutlass variants and the personal Arc Welder PAW. Gavin has been continuing on the Starfarer interior and we’ll have more to show soon
The team has been working towards getting the Shubin Interstellar interior building set to Greybox complete. The main architectural elements are finished so now we are focusing on the smaller details. Our Vertical Slice level for Squadron 42 is looking really promising, we are still continuing to refine the layout as more assets get transformed from Whitebox to Greybox geometry and as design work on gameplay.
Barrelling along with creating the character pipeline, new base male, new base female, new base female head, 4 test heads to 3Lateral, Shubin miner and character customisation clothing limits, more
Ships and Weapons
Retaliator has continued to be worked on along with alterations to the ARGO Rescue Utility Vehicle, Idris exterior meshing tests and Gladiator damage preparation. As you know (or might not) we are underway with the development of new damage tech for the ships to help reduce memory bloat and art creation timescales, not long now till we have a final test up and running – can’t wait! We have also started to look at FPS weapons and how to improve the pipeline and overall long term quality of assets, our first step being the PAW which is now concept complete!
There has been a major clean up and restructure happening with game content, this is never a glamourous task but always worth it in the end; With many of Sq42 levels being at a an early playable state (I mean early) we can now start to scope out the many VFX we’ll need to make this game shine – watch this space.
Been mostly organisation this month from animation. The re-target of skeleton on to the new final base character has taken up some time. There has been some behind the scenes naming convention changes and tidy up for handing ship animations back over to ATX with a flexible structure for moving forwards.
I have begun to break down our first animation drop from Imaginarium. We have also steadily continued work on the Gladius and Gladiator to get the landing gears etc in good working order for flight ready releases.
And of course we have been providing any support to AC we have been able to offer
This month, the main event we had was a week long Audio Tech Summit that ran from Jan 19th to the 23rd. This was a whole week’s worth of in-depth discussion, gathering together our audio personnel from across multiple studio locations to meet here in Manchester (or video-conference where flying in wasn’t possible!).
This enabled us to hammer out ways to define or improve all aspects of our audio tech, from the ‘glamour’ of run-time audio systems (VoIP/porting, propagation, real-time effects, DSP, etc.) to implementation tools, to more mundane (but necessary) aspects like how best to build our Wwise project and roll it out internally, and other foundation work such as best practices for mapping out ships, planetside locations and so on. Readers of the audio thread on the ‘Ask A Developer’ forum will be pleased to know we included many concerns and questions raised there, in this summit, including how we might open things up to the modding community. We also looked at some third party tech solutions too for the likes of procedural audio and 3d audio solutions, of which there are many.
The overriding theme, if we can call it that, is the need for us to take system-driven approaches to the audio we deliver. With a game of indeterminate scale and potentially limitless quality and detail, we have to look to ensure whatever we do can expand and be built upon in a robust way. These systems need to be designed in a way that never compromises the quality we deliver, and need to allow us to override and apply an artistically-driven approach to sound wherever the system-lead doesn’t quite cut it.
We’ve welcomed another new sound designer to our ranks here in Manchester, which takes our audio ‘hub’ to five, not including a new audio programmer who’s based in Germany and a technical sound designer based in Austin. We’re still looking to expand, this year promises to be a very busy one.
As we’re concentrating on the move over to Wwise now, some of our next few updates (that are still in FMOD) may not be up to our usual quality bar; hopefully you’ll forgive us for that, we’ll try to make sure whatever we put out is as good as it can be but we hope you’ll all understand if things aren’t as good as they should be!
Otherwise in January we’ve been working on pre-prod and production for dialogue sessions, sound effects gathering, but mostly we’ve kept on keeping on with Fmod > Wwise migration. We’ll all be happier when we’re done with that so we can concentrate on making the ‘Best Damn Sounding Space Sim Ever’! Overall a good month back after the Christmas break. Thanks again for all the marvellous support!
Like we mentioned in the last report, elevators were a big push this month. These elevators are way more complex than they seem as they’ll allow you to go from your hangar to planetside and more importantly to other players’ hangars. In the same vein, design for the first iteration of the chat system and for the multiplayer experience in hangars has been defined.
More planetside locations have been whiteboxed, and they are now in the hands of our talented team of artists. Nyx is the next “planet”, or rather asteroid, we’ll tackle. We noticed that the pace is accelerating; the team’s hard work on the planning for reusable assets and locations is starting to pay off. While we’re on the subject, iterations on tools have also been made to help us work better and faster.
The mobiGlas AR design is changing quite a bit as we’re starting to implement it for realz. It’s really exciting to see these functions appearing in the game world. Progress on other apps have been slowed down due to our focus on other features.
On the Flair side, we’ve been working on the February Takuetsu Model and preparing a cool lineup for the future flairs that’ll allow subscribers to show off their dedication to the project.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget bug smashing, yeah we do that too! There are a lot of bugs in the ‘verse apparently.
Back fresh from the holidays, the UI team has hit the ground running: chat UI, lobby work, elevator UI, loads of mobiGlas mock-ups, more control customization features, logos, banners…. the list goes on and on.
We’ve continued working on CryEngine Tools that will help us create AI used for NPCs populating planetside locations, working specifically on allowing Game Designers to customize their activities based on a time schedule. We’ve also began to start investigating how to hook-up Conversations for those NPCs will have between themselves, as to provide a more immersive experience for the player. We’ve also been very hard at work on modifying the Hangars to allow you to invite friends over to your hangar. We are also working on new UI elements to support this invitation/joining process.
We’ve completed a prototype of the in-game star map, which will eventually be viewable inside your ship and also in your mobiGlas. We’ve fixed a great amount of bugs related to the Lobby and Contacts feature. We’ve also started integrating the possibility of doing FPS matches through a Lobby. Last but not least, we added some very cool Control Customization options, which will let you customize your control in a much more precise manner than before.
This month we focused on building one of the major tourism locations on Terra Prime: the Prime Tower.
Standing at a height of 2km, the Tower is definitely one of the most dominant landmarks on Terra III. It features a shopping mall with high-end shops and a park area at the top to rest and enjoy the view.
We’ve also started conceptualizing the Delamar landing zone, located in the NYX asteroid belt. It’s a former mining colony located under the asteroid surface, where rebels took refuge to hide from the UEE awhile ago. Nowadays, pirates have also settled in for the same reasons.
Finally, we’ve finished the Sim Pod concept arts and started the production so you can see it in your hangar soon!
Greeting Citizens! Has another month gone by already since the last report? I guess it has, but it sure doesn’t seem like it. The FPS team has been focused on getting all of the remaining features implemented and polished for the first release. We’re very close now and we’re super excited for all of you to play it and let us know what you think!
The programmers have been putting the final touches on the zero-g push & pull system. This allows you to navigate an environment in zero-g without the need for a jetpack or other form of propulsion. You can grab and pull yourself along surfaces, then crumple your legs up and push off, headed towards another point in the level. This is all done procedurally so it can be done anywhere in any level, without the need for designers placing specific points to attach to. It’s all pretty slick but requires quite a bit of polish and bug-fixing to address all of the different edge cases involved.
Two new weapons were also hooked up, one large weapon that is capable of dealing damage to multiple foes and another that is good for taking out enemies at a distance. I will leave you to speculate over what they are. Work also continues on the HUD and making the 3D radar system work for players who are currently in zero-g, which should be finished soon.
Lastly, lots of bug-fixing has been happening. Mostly for the FPS module but we have also squashed a few of the bugs for the 1.0.1 release.
The animation team has been busy creating block-out animations for all of the new features, and they just received the brand-spanking-new mocap data from December’s shoot. They are now in the process of getting these animations hooked up in game, which should give us some much more realistic looking movements that are more fluid and natural than what was seen during the PAX Australia demo.
The design team has been putting the final touches on our two whitebox Team Elimination maps. Playtesting and balancing now begins and final art added. Paper designs for future maps and game modes are in the works now. A balance pass is in the works for all of the weapons and gadgets along with the new grapple beam attachment which will be used in the zero-g specific Team Elimination map.
Vents, that is the word of the month for the artists! Art assets are being modified to support the vent and crawlspace system… and there’s a lot of it. This basically entails taking a bunch of wall pieces and putting in vent spaces so they all fit together like nice puzzle pieces.
In addition to all the vent work, the artists have also been busy working on the zero-g specific level concept, which is now going in to full production.
The concept and block-out for the long range weapon I spoke of earlier has also been approved, and work has now begun on the high poly model and visual FX.
The biggest piece of news from the VFX department has been a new family member for one of our artists. Congratulations Matt! While his new little one has been keeping him busy, he has also managed to create visual FX for the new weaponry and the grappling beam. This work will be ongoing in to next month.
That about wraps it up for all of us here at IllFonic. Enjoy playing Arena Commander 1.0.1 and we will see you very soon!
Greetings, Citizens, From Terra’s snowiest landing zone.
It’s a new year, and it’s come with its changes. We’ve shown you a new homepage and tightened our integration with Arena Commander V1, we’ve wrapped up a lot of loose ends we’d had through 2014 and now we’re starting fresh with new goals and renewed excitement. Here’s a view of what we’ve been doing this month :
You’ve seen the new Homepage. It’s not final, we’ll be continuously tuning it based on you fans’ awesome feedback, but its goal will remain to appeal to newcomers and convey what Star Citizen is bound to become. That’s why we’re working on a new section, called the Community Hub (can you guess where it will be in the menu?). It will be able to cater to all SC fans, old and new alike. Function priming clearly over form, it will come packed with new features, that we’ll be detailing soon. Without spoiling it, we can say that if you already feel involved with Star Citizen, we’ll be taking it to a whole new level.
Most of you caught a glimpse of the Starmap prototype we’ve been building during the holiday livestream. For now the prototype is Unity-based, and we’re working hard to make it as tightly linked to real-time game data as possible. This is a huge undertaking, conjointly with all teams involved in the Persistent Universe, and it will make sure that the Starmap is relevant and reliable. Once we’re done with linking the game and the map, and we’re confident that the map can answer questions like “Where am I?”, “Where can I re-sell my Stimulants shipment?” or “What’s the safest way to go from Goss II to Stanton I?”, we’ll port it into webGL and integrate it directly into the site, like the Holoviewer for ships. What you can’t see
There’s also a lot of stuff that we do here that never shows up on the website, and it turns out that January has been pretty heavy with these operations. Since the website is also the Pledge gateway, we provide reports and financials to Cloud Imperium Games. We won’t go into any details, but every once in a while, like this month, we spend a bit of time reworking our business back-end system, our stats reporting engine, and the way we share player data with the game client.
Some stuff is not that obvious either but still has an impact : we’re setting up a global effort to optimize the website’s performance, and especially the way we handle smaller screen resolutions, mobile devices, and slower connections. Any feedback is welcome!
What’s to come
We’re always preparing for what’s ahead, and our Design team is already working on the next website updates. This includes new functionalities for Orgs, integrating Arena Commander stats into the Citizen Dossier, evolving the Contact List… and quite a few secrets we can’t really share right now. All to pave the way for the rest of the year and give the BDSSM a platform worthy of its scale. So stay tuned for more, and see you all in the ‘verse!
With major releases happening in multiple Star Citizen modules this year, all needing significant AI support, the Moon Collider team dived weapons hot into January in a way that would make John Woo proud. We’re really excited about all of the cool AI tech that will be featured in these upcoming releases.
One of the big challenges for us in the next few months is that with so much progress being made on all of the different modules, we need to make sure we get the necessary AI features in place in time for each module to make full use of them. In between Arena Commander, Squadron 42, and the persistent universe, it’s like we’re making the AI for three different games simultaneously! But this is Star Citizen, right? Ambitious goals are why we’re all here, so we’re working hard and we hope you’ll be thrilled with the results.
We were able to send two people to join in on the tech summit in Manchester at the beginning of the month. I think all teams would agree that this was a really valuable event. Certainly on the AI side it was great to discuss some of the big tech challenges that we need to solve this year, and start making some progress towards working them out.
One of the main things we did design work on this month was working out how to support local coordinate systems inside Kythera. When an AI is standing inside a ship, we want to be able to define “up” in reference to the ship, which makes all kinds of calculations a lot easier. But what happens when that ship docks with a station or another ship where “up” is different? Or if an AI is standing on one ship aiming at something on another ship? We want to hide the complexity of the calculations in these situations as much as possible, so we did a lot of work towards figuring out how to make that happen.
On the FPS combat side, now that we have the AI able to perform basic combat, we’ve been working with the Squadron 42 designers to continue refining their behaviors and get them behaving more realistically. This means giving them a greater sense of self preservation, so that they stay in cover more and take fewer unnecessary risks, but without making combat frustrating for the player. We’re also looking at how the AI should work together as a group, such as with sharing information about where the player is, performing flanking actions, providing covering fire, and so on. We expect to do plenty more design work along these lines in the next couple of months as the Squadron 42 maps get refined.
Foundry 42 has been doing great work on the Arena Commander tutorial and this month we were able to start providing some support for some specific features needed in particular places of the tutorial. Usually, we will try to identify when support for something specific can be implemented as a more generally useful feature, or if it’s an opportunity to add a feature that’s already on our roadmap but we didn’t expect to need just yet.
So, for example, we can create a spline for AI to follow, but up to now, they weren’t using boost to help stay on track if the spline was too aggressively curved. Having them apply boost intelligently as needed is quite useful, and since a need for this arose in the tutorial (you’ll have to wait to find out what it is!), we’ve now added that support in. This now allows designers to author tight splines in places that the AI would have had difficulty flying through before.
There was a lot of persistent universe work done this month. I mentioned the local coordinate design work above, and a lot of this design was also implemented, along with increasing the precision of world positions from 32 to 64 bit, which will allow us to keep AI positions accurate in much larger spaces, something that is essential for the persistent universe. We solved all of this at once by refactoring the internal position/vector structures that Kythera uses. It was a big task and it has happened alongside a lot of similar work that other teams have been doing throughout the rest of the codebase. It’s always scary when you go and change one of the fundamental data structures in your code, but it actually went quite smoothly, largely thanks to taking the time to work out the design thoroughly up front. A big shout out to our resident uber-coder Mike Bell for making this happen!
Another big area of work for the persistent universe is the Usables system. This is the system that allows designers to mark up objects in the world to allow AI to interact with them, and to define what those objects do. It is a powerful system that forms one of the cornerstones for making AI in the persistent universe able to do interesting things. We’ve been relying on a simple prototype system up to now, but this month we were finally able to make real progress on getting the full Usable system in place for the designers to use. There’s still more features that we need to add, but it was great to make a solid start on it.
On the FPS combat side of things, we made various small improvements as we continue iterating on the behaviors of the AI and polishing the combat experience. This is being mostly driven by the needs of the Squadron 42 vertical slice at the moment. So last month we added the ability for AI to be tasked with defending a particular area. This month we added a couple more tasks for the AI: holding position, which makes them aggressively defend a specific spot; and combat move, which tells them to move to a particular place while intelligently taking cover and engaging with enemies along the way.
We also improved their standard combat behaviors to make them investigate the last known position of the player if they lose all trace of the player for a while. We still need to improve this behavior to make them coordinate as a group, and just send one or two poor unlucky guys out to find the player rather than several of them going, but that will come as we start to add various types of group coordination.
Up to now the AI characters have been far too accurate with their weapons, making it necessary to fight them in god mode for all but the most masochistic developers. So we added in some accuracy modification support, allowing designers now to tweak the accuracy of the AI and make fighting them a little fairer. It’s actually quite difficult to make AI inaccurate in a believable way, and our change isn’t quite there, so we will need to work on this some more in the future.
Finally, we did some general optimizations to the Kythera AI systems that will be useful across all of the Star Citizen modules. We now have enough core features in place and some good representative levels for each of the modules that we can get a good idea of performance troublespots under “real world” conditions, so we’ve been making significant reductions to the time per frame that Kythera is using when there are large numbers of AI in a level.
Hi Everyone! I’m incredibly excited to be able to add a Community section to this January report. I promise to keep these short and sweet, since by this point I’m just happy your eyeballs aren’t completely dried out. I hope to cover everything from past events to featured videos to inside jokes from our team, and grow this section with YOUR HELP. Like something? Want to see more? Let us know!
January’s ATV highlight comes from our community week in Austin. Ben, James and Thomas visited the Austin office and captured an extensive amount of PU goodness. On top of numerous interviews, Ben hosted an episode of Around the Verse with returning guest host Pete Mackay. Check out this special Texas-sized episode HERE.
After a quick drive down to San Antonio, our #StarCitizenTownHall during PAX South was a great success. Fans were treated to three panels, an ideas forum, and a special presentation by Chris Roberts. If you weren’t able to attend, or if you just want to relive all the Persistent Universe goodness, all five of the Town Hall panels are available HERE.
Beyond the panels, spending time with fellow citizens during the meet and greet was incredibly exciting. Meeting and talking with everyone in attendance only reinforced the fact that Star Citizen has the best community out there. Austin’s Ryan Archer snapped pics capturing the fun, and included his own blurb about the event. You can check that out HERE.
In the most comprehensive design post to-date, the Chairman presented mobiGlas. Immerse yourself in augmented reality using mobiGlas, and get your first taste of the Star Citizen universe through Chris Roberts’ vision. Words like “bonkers” and “stunning” can be found amongst the comments, but you need to check this one out for yourself HERE.
The forums added another piece of valuable info, thanks to moderator AngryPeas. He has created an info depot for new users that are looking to dig into Star Citizen. It was a great help to me, and I hope to pass along the knowledge to some of you. You can find it in the New Recruits section of the forums, or simply by clicking HERE.
Reverse the Verse is my personal highlight every week. Our team loves hanging out with the community in the immediacy created by Twitch. The #blamejames trend returned, and we’re actively working on getting the Austin office more integrated in RTV live streams. If you haven’t checked it out, we go live every Thursday…sometimes Friday. By following CIGcommunity on Twitch, you can be notified as soon as we go live! Come say hi! You can also check out past replays of Reverse the Verse HERE.
For our subscribers, we promise to bring you even more exclusive content in 2015. One aspect of that promise will be weekly updates to the Vault. Not a subscriber? Gain access by signing up HERE.
So much for keeping this “short.” Can’t wait to have more for you guys in February!
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