Comm-Link:Monthly Report - August 2014
Star Citizen keeps getting bigger! August saw a major reveal at Gamescom, plus trips to Dragon*Con and PAX to share Star Citizen with the masses! On the development side, we’ve made massive progress on everything from the First Person Shooter module to the soon-to-be-playable racing mode! You can learn what each of Star Citizen’s studios has been up to in this month’s report, available below.
- 1 CLOUD IMPERIUM SANTA MONICA
- 2 CLOUD IMPERIUM AUSTIN
- 3 FOUNDRY 42
- 4 BHVR
- 5 FPS TEAM
- 6 TURBULENT
- 7 MOON COLLIDER
CLOUD IMPERIUM SANTA MONICA
Travis Day, Producer
August has been an exciting month for the development of Star Citizen and Squadron 42! We showed off what we’ve been working on for backers at our event in Cologne, Germany for Gamecom and for everyone around the world via a livestream. (Available below!) We showed off the new ships and gameplay modes being included in version 0.9 of Arena Commander, teased FPS which will be demoed at PAX Australia, and showed off some early work towards multicrew combat using a Constellation.
As always these kinds of live events are very exciting for the team both as an opportunity to showcase their work to the community and also as an opportunity for those in attendance to meet with our backers face to face. Being around so many people as excited about Star Citizen and Squadron 42 as we are, is truly invigorating. We are truly lucky to have such an engaged fan base participating in the development process helping us to make this game. So, thank you all for your support!
The multicrew combat demo was put together by the group here in Santa Monica with some support from the guys in Austin. It required a lot of hard work on various systems that lay the groundwork for bringing support of multicrew ships to Arena Commander, Squadron 42, and ultimately the Persistent Universe. To that end, we wanted to share with you some of the underlying technology that was in the demo that, perhaps, isn’t readily apparent when watching it.
Localized physics grids. Sounds exciting, right? Well, it is! Generally in 3D games with physics you have what can simplistically be thought of as a large cube that encompasses the whole map, a grid. Inside that cube physics are being simulated for every object and player that have physics set to active relative to their position within that grid. This is what handles collision with objects, projectile physics, etc.
Problems arise when you want to have players freely (not scripted and not on rails) moving inside a freely moving vehicle/object. This is because that single physics grid only has awareness of each entity in the level as an individual and doesn’t (by default) understand their relationships to one another. This manifests itself where, in a Constellation for example, the ship is flying forward while pitching and yawing. Unfortunately the global physics grid thinks of you and the ship as two separate objects with no relationship and so it pitches and yaws the ship while moving it forward and treats the player as though nothing has happened. As the player you will see the ship yaw around you, pitch around you, and ultimately the collisions with it will fling you around like a pinball.
Here is where the localized physics grid comes into play! It allows us to have multiple smaller physics grids within the larger global physics grid. The global grid will track each smaller grid as an individual and that smaller grid tracks all objects within it relative to whatever it is attached to. Where this gets cool is when you attach a localized grid to a ship like the Constellation. Now, when the Constellation pitches and yaws while flying your player position stays relative to the ship so you will also pitch, yaw, and move along with it in perfect unison. This allows for ships to have fully functioning interiors with characters running around while the ship itself is blasting through space and maneuvering seamlessly. Completing this work was a large accomplishment and also a very foundational piece for SQ42 and Star Citizen in the long run.
One of the other more “under the hood” things that went into the demo was on the HUD. One of the critically important pieces of functionality for the HUD in the long run is being able to separate and subdivide its component pieces so that they can be displayed on different screens, have their positioning and size customized per HUD per player, and be rendered directly to a texture for seamless display on fixed screens. All of these features have been added to the system so that moving forward we will be better able to support customizing the HUD both on the development side and for players to customize their own visor HUD. We’ve also added the first step in fully supporting passing HUD elements and control over them between the different seats in a multicrew seats. The HUD is something we pride ourselves on as it is the thing you will see most of the game in its current state. More work needs to be done (there always is) but the foundation is there and now we need to keep refining and tweaking so we can make it even more awesome.
Gamescom is behind us and we look forward to the next opportunity to share more of the ‘Verse with our fans. Citizen Con and PAX Australia are on the horizon and we look forward to the new challenges this complex but rewarding project brings. As we said at the beginning being around our backers is invigorating to our entire team, it makes the long nights and stressful times worth it. Star Citizen is a special game, the passion and dedication of our community isn’t just appreciated it is required to make this game a reality.
CLOUD IMPERIUM AUSTIN
Eric Peterson, Studio Director
Good day Citizens. As the sun continues to bake us to a crisp in hot as hades Austin Texas, our development teams have been toiling away to make sure that we bring a great experience to folks all over the verse. It has been an amazing month, from getting things ready for our show in Germany (always one of my personal favorites) to preparing for upcoming events like CiitzenCon, and Pax Australia. As most folks know our office is tasked with the persistent universe, and backend server support, as well as running the publishing arm of CIG.
Here is what the various departments in Austin:
This month the art team in Austin was busy helping out on several different parts of Star Citizen. We had ship artists helping to get the M50 and Constellation variants all ship shape for GamesCom and prepping the 350r for upcoming release. Our artists on the PU team developed some new concepts and began creating props to be used in our missions for the Persistent Universe, as well as some R&D on jump gate effects and weather effects for our Planetside locations.
Released the Constellation Commercial at Gamescom. Working towards future ship commercials. Planning, budgeting and scouting for motion capture and performance capture for Squadron 42 cinematics. Working on debugging facial animation pipeline.
Began working with Sean Tracy to improve animation pipeline and execution. Held an animation workshop to focus on identifying issues with our locomotion set and how to improve it using the 4D blendspace technology in CryEngine. Creating a new skeleton and rig and retargeting animations to that new skeleton as well as solving and editing the animations from last month’s mocap shoot. Our character artists were hard at work fleshing out characters for the Constellation commercial and the FPS demo coming up at PAX Australia, and our animation team hosted some of the guys at [REDACTED] to bang out some new locomotion sets for our characters.
This month, the Austin design team has been focused on integrating basic systems into the persistent universe prototype, transitioning from the surface of a planet to the hangar and then to space, and connecting systems with jump points. Technical designers have been putting the finishing touches on city interior (and space stations) building kits to enable faster construction of planetary environments. Meanwhile, the team has continued to add detail to other major game systems as they approach on the PU roadmap.
This month the platform team launched the new store with amazingly detailed and updated ship stats and many more ships available in the holoviewer! In addition, we launched the M50 and Constellation promotions with full stat, storefront, and holoviewer support. We’ve done tons of work on Leaderboards and look forward to launching this to the public very soon. And also completed lots of concept work on the new Starmap which was voted as a fan favorite in a recent stretch goal poll.
This week, we Integrated CryEngine 3.6.3 into our codebase and deployed it to the team. That is always a challenge and tends to bring new bugs, but this has been one of the best transitions to date. We also migrated the team to Visual Studio 2012 with IT’s valued support. And, we continued working on the server side persistence and related work for the PU, and PU prototyping including star system layout. We also continued work on Large World and related tasks and designed and began work on Movement Improvements including dead reckoning with our partner Wyrmbyte. We finished projectile light pooling, we implemented basic TrackIR support as well as other VR fixes. We released new versions of the launcher with bug fixes and many improvements. We also released 12.5.2 and version 12.6, and continue to work on version 13.0 or .9 as it is also known.
That and much more is what Austin has been up to this month, and we will continue to chip away at the granite that is Star Citizen, slowly revealing the beautiful statue underneath. On a personal note, it was quite an honor to meet so many enthusiastic Citizens at Gamescom this year and I look forward to meeting many more at our upcoming events, I love coming back to the studios and sharing with them the stories of meeting folks and sharing a laugh or a common enthusiasm for this great Chris Roberts adventure. We are all very lucky to be at this place at this time – and we will strive to always make you proud.
Erin Roberts, Studio Director
Hi everyone, August was a massive month for us at Foundry 42. We put a lot of focus on release 13, and the Gamescom event and it was fantastic to see eveyones’ response to what we showed there. I had a chance to talk to a bunch of the community while in Cologne, and really enjoyed meeting everyone, getting feedback and answering questions. The F42 team is really ticking over now, and you guys will start seeing a bunch of new content and gameplay over the next few months, not to mention our work on Squadron 42 which although we can’t show yet, is really coming together nicely. As always thanks must go out to all our backers, Star Citizen would not be this special without the community, your feedback, support and energy. That is what makes Star Citizen special and really drives everyone here in development to create this amazing universe.
Development on Squadron 42 has continued well this month, with us breaking down the campaign further and putting more planning into how the players “home” ship will be an engaging and believable hub for them to explore and interact with. The vertical slice work is continuing and asking many questions that we have been focusing on answering going forward. One of the challenges with creating the “story campaign” is to make sure that we keep the agile gameplay without introducing bespoke mechanics that would not be available in the PU. We have been spending time this month working out how some of these mechanics will work across the game as a whole (for example, scavenging items from dead bodies).
The ship pipeline is rolling on with work being carried out on the Starfarer now, other ships still progressing well. I bang on about it every monthly report, but I really can’t wait until we can get you guys running around some of these bigger ships in game, it really adds a whole new dimension to everything.
Arena Commander work is also continuing well, with more systems coming online and game modes being refined and polished. You’ll see all that soon enough as we get closer to the next patch.
Another month and the big GamesCom event! If you saw the show you’ll have seen all the work we’ve been putting into getting the demonstration together, including the two new game modes Murray Cup Racing and Vanduul Swarm coop. As a result it was one of our more trouble free presentations!
Since GamesCom we’ve been working hard polishing up these two new game modes to make them as awesome as possible for their introduction to the community in the Release 13 update. We’re really stoked about the amount of progress we’ve made this month for Arena Commander, not only the new game modes and also the much improved audio, HUD improvements, control improvements (including 6 DoF!), leaderboards, and the usual bug fixing and polish.
Longer term we’re making great progress on Squadron 42, with lots of support for the designers on our “vertical slice”. We’re also been busy making progress on improvements to setting up vehicles, which is going to be imperative once we start working on the larger vehicles. This includes continued work on our new DataForge tool alongside the start of a new vehicle state system which will allow the ship setup to be much more data driven.
Overall another busy month!
The art team has increased again! We have added two artists to the environment team and also taken on a Lead Character artist and a Lead VFX artist.
Concept work has taken place on Shubin interiors, the Anvil F8 heavy fighter, the mining drone cabin, Panther class carrier Bridge and Javelin interiors.
The Environment team also worked hard and completed the New Horizons map including a cool trailer for GamesCON – great work team!
Work is continuing on the spaceships – Gladius, Retaliator and Gladiator have all gone to their texturing phases, the Idris, Javelin and Panther interiors are all marching forward too.
Amongst all that we have also hopped back to greyboxing the Shubin exterior for the vertical slice level.
Animation have also been hard at work prepping for the VS and supporting the states with Arena Commander fixes and additions.
It’s been the month of Gamescom and an exciting time for all involved! Team audio have been spending their time split between the constellation demo, trailer sound design, Murray Cup, sounds for the new ships and continued work on the audio in general. Not too much then!
As we move passed Gamescom we’ve been trying to get the last few bits into the release 13 before it is let loose into the wild. This has including things like UI sounds that play when you hit an enemy (good feedback!) and some updated boost sounds.
The New Horizon Speedway has had some attention, for example as you fly through the tunnel in the centre of the map you’ll hear air whooshing passed you that modulates based on your speed.
Included in DFM 0.9 is ‘Trevor Basque’ the official announcer for the Murray Cup. When racing around New Horizon you might note that the sound of his voice is actually played back at 3D positions in the environment as if it was playing through speakers like at a real race! The PA system delay effect is actually the culmination of the dialogue lines being played back from several of these points with the delay time being calculated in-game based on distance, it isn’t just a pre-baked effect! After this we’d like to use this system to add a visual counterpart to the game object so you can see the speaker where the sounds are emanating from. The ‘Bitching Betty’ ship computer voices will be using a similar system inside of multi-crew ships.
A hot topic in the community is the fact that Star Citizen has sound in space! How is this possible? Well it is something that we are putting great thought into and put simply, Star Citizen doesn’t have sound in space…. It has simulated sound that is played back to you to help you better pilot your ship. There will be more details about this in future posts and this method will be better supported in-game in future. Hopefully this begins to address the questions people have been asking.
That’s all from the sound guys, it’s early days for the soundscape of Star Citizen with a heck of a lot to do before the final game comes out but it’s great seeing the community feedback we’ve had so far.
Mathieu Beaulieu, Producer
Things have been moving pretty quickly here in sunny Montreal.
Our team has been spending a good amount of time debugging and optimising the new hangars to get them ready for public release. We have also begun working on the basic layout for the next planet locations and shops for Arc Corp Area 18 and Terra Prime.
Next month’s flair object is done and we are now preparing for the next one.
Our engineers have been busy helping out with tools used for populating space environments with various objects, which we will eventually need for mission prototyping. They have also been creating tools for our designers and level designers to facilitate the creation of tags and tagging requests, which will eventually be used for many in-game systems including mobiGlas, shops, AI, etc.
Work is well underway for the pause menu refactor, and we are moving along with the control customization implementation, as well the mG Scheduler prototype for mission management. Several other mobiGlas apps have been designed as well, including mG Wear for avatar customization, mG Skyline for the star map, and the mG Notification Center.
Finally, audio has been keeping up with the changes to the levels, sounding the flair objects when required and battling memory budget issues.
G’Day Citizens! Did you enjoy Gamescom? Are you happy with your Connies? We certainly hope so!
I’m sure you all must be aware by now… The secret is out. The beans have been spilled. The cat is out of the bag! That’s right, [REDACTED] will finally be showing off some FPS goodness at PAX Australia!
We’ve been hard at work getting things ready for the big event. As you may have noticed from the teaser that was shown at Gamescom, the station environment we’ve been working on has been coming together really well. More props are coming online daily and are being added to the environment. We now have detailed objects filling up the mess hall, security office and Gravity Control room… Along with all these props, visual effects are being added to give a strong sense of atmosphere. Air rushes through doors as they open, sparks trickle down from broken equipment and water splashes (you guys really seemed to enjoy that…) as players crash through puddles on the floor.
The engineers and animators here at [REDACTED] took a quick trip down to CiG Austin to hammer out some long standing animation issues. We now have a new skeleton and rig to work with that should greatly improve the animations in the game and fix many of the issues that we have been having (and some of those you may have been experiencing in the hangars).
On the engineering and design side, we have shifted from real life nerf-gun fights to in-game playtests. In my personal opinion they are much more fun, more productive and less dangerous! These tests have mostly been focused on improving stability and fixing network issues, but we are now transitioning to iterating on gameplay and balance.
I would like to personally thank [REDACTED], [REDACTED], [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] for all their hard work and crunching to put together an amazing Gamescom teaser trailer in a very short amount of time. I think everybody would agree that you guys did a real smash up job and deserve some special mention.
Lastly, I would like to give a shout out to an unexpected guest we had last month. Super Star Citizen Wulf Knight somehow discovered our true identity (are you a wizard?!), stopped by to meet the team, and then fed the entire office with pizza! From everybody here, thanks for the grub Wulf!
P.S. – Are you Citizens all hyped up for leaderboards like I am? I’ll see you on the rankings, my handle is [REDACTED]!? Turbulent
Benoit Beauséjour, Founder
The Platform team was all over the place this August, pushing the website to its full potential and shaping its future at the same time.
August Events and the Ship Catalog
Of course August was the month we officially released the new Ship Catalog and what we dubbed the “Store Revamp”. We reorganized the whole store to make it easier to navigate, while at the same time interlocking it with game data every step of the way. The new Ships catalog is the first brick toward a complete and thorough Galactapedia, giving you access to tremendous amounts of data directly from the game.
You may have noticed that this last month had been heavy with events. Gamescom, the Constellation lineup reveal, DragonCon, the shattered 50 Million barrier… These were all perfect occasions to make the whole site a better experience for everyone, one step at a time. We fine-tuned the way the Store can handle flash sales, stabilized the Chat for high traffic events… and overall smoothed out a lot of bumps in the site.
We took advantage of the new Ship Catalog to make its centralized data available across the board : the Constellation lineup saw the birth of Comm-links with Stats and Holo-Viewers that will never go out of date. The Community’s overwhelmingly positive response has been a huge influence on us to go even further an immerse you, the players, into the Star Citizen Universe as soon as you hit the Site.
Starmap, Leaderboards and future projects
In the aftermath of the new Store and Catalog release, we are now laying down the foundation of what the Website will be for the next few months. The Community has spoken, so the web-based Starmap is taking form. Still in early concept, we are making this into the second brick of Galactapedia. But it will be its own complete feature, and we can’t wait to share with you what we have in store for it.
We’ve also been working on creating the first Arena Commander Leaderboards module. Gathering the data from all available game modes, compiling data for users AND organizations, and displaying that huge amount of data in a way that will allow players to measure up against others, quantify their progress and even recruit promising players into their orgs is a beautiful challenge, and we are happy to step up to it. You won’t have to wait long until you actually see it, so stay tuned!
Pretty soon you’ll also be able to select the Hangar you want to see in the Hangar Module, and which ships you want to display, directly from the Web. That’s been another focus of ours lately, so that you can fully enjoy these beautiful 4 new hangars!
Of course concept work for Organizations Drop Two is still going on as well. It has been for a while now, and production on this will be kicking in shortly.
Full of challenges and great surprises, this has been a busy month, and above all, a promising one!
Matthew Jack, Founder
August was a big month for all of the Star Citizen teams, and Moon Collider was certainly no exception. With a big demo imminent, as well as a major new release to prepare for, there was plenty of work to get done
You all saw the Gamescom demo, of course, and with it the announcement of Vanduul Swarm Coop mode. We’ve been doing some work to make sure the AI behaves well in a multiplayer environment, but overall we were very pleased that the AI handled the transition quite smoothly, and there weren’t that many issues to deal with. This is a great gameplay mode, and we’re looking forward to hearing from the community how we can tweak and improve the AI to make it even better.
We’ve also done some work on Vanduul Swarm Singleplayer for version 0.9 of Arena Commander that we think will be a big improvement. We got a lot of feedback about ways to improve the behavior of team mates, and in particular people want them to do a better job of avoiding you. So we’ve improved their avoidance behavior and now they should give you a wider berth. We are keen to get community feedback on how effective this change is. There have also been some tweaks to all AI ships due to the speed increases in the new version, and we expect that we’ll be doing further tweaks as we get feedback from you all about what works and what doesn’t.
On the FPS combat front, we been continuing to do work on the perception abilities of the AI. There were also some issues with animation of the AI that were making them have trouble aiming at the player and being able to turn around properly when being flanked, but we got those solved and the AI are much more effective as a result. It was a good example of how AI and animation are often very closely connected.
We added a very cool feature to our AI debugging toolset this month, that has already proven to be extremely useful in tracking down bugs. One problem is that in multi player matches the AI will be running on the server and when you see something weird on a client, it can be hard to get good information about what the AI is doing on the server, so you can figure out if the problem is on the server or the client. We now have the ability to capture information about the AI from the server, and then stream it in real time inside a client with 3D visualized debugging, so we can see immediately if there are any discrepancies between what is happening on the server and on the client.
Finally, we’ve been doing more design work on the persistent universe, along with some prototyping work to enable designers to start placing objects in the world that AI can interact with. And as always, no month would be complete without doing various other bugfixes and optimizations, improvements to our processes and all of those little things that aren’t very exciting, but are essential to making all the cool stuff possible!
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