Comm-Link:Monthly Report - October 2014
Between two very big public demos showing off vastly different (but intimately connected) aspects of Star Citizen and a major Arena Commander patch launch, it has been a big month for Cloud Imperium Games! You’d be forgiven for assuming we didn’t have anything else to share… but the truth is that work has continued on all aspects of Star Citizen at studios around the world in October. Below you’ll find the full breakdown, studio by studio.
- 1 CLOUD IMPERIUM SANTA MONICA
- 2 CLOUD IMPERIUM AUSTIN
- 3 FOUNDRY 42
- 4 BHVR
- 5 ILLFONIC
- 6 TURBULENT
- 7 MOON COLLIDER
CLOUD IMPERIUM SANTA MONICA
As October comes to an end so too does another productive month of development on Star Citizen. Two big pieces of news from this month were the release of Arena Commander V0.9.2 and the unveiling of the FPS at PAX Australia. Chris’ sentiments about V0.9.2 that this is the best dogfighting experience in the game are shared amongst many on the development team and we’re all quite pleased with how the control improvements, balance changes, and HUD/targeting updates came together and have been received by the community! Likewise we’re very happy with the reception of the FPS reveal and look forward to keeping the community updated on its progress towards releasing early next year. No time to rest on our laurels however as there is a lot more work to be done on the path to Arena Commander V1.0! Now to the department updates!
This month the Engineering team has wrapped up work on the new paint system for vehicles that we are hoping to introduce with Arena Commander V1.0. This will at first allow us to use it to provide the proper paint jobs for variants in a much more efficient manner. Later it will become the system that is used to allow players to customize their own paint jobs and the decals applied to their ships.
We’ve also been working hard on the improvements to missiles and signatures for Arena Commander V1.0 that Chris has outlined to the community. These improvements will enable a whole slew of new gameplay strategies for masking one’s signature, stealth gameplay, and signature management. Along with this we are improving the way that radar works to give more gameplay options to our players for how they use and interact with their radar for different purposes. Improvements in these areas should add a lot more interesting depth to engaging in ship to ship combat especially with the larger maps sizes.
The flight model and targeting/HUD have also undergone a lot of development effort within the past month which many of you are now experiencing with the changes in Arena Commander V0.9.2 (AKA Star Citizen patch 13.2). The inclusion of lag pips, ESP, new target prediction, and changes to the way convergence works are all things that we’ve worked on in the past month and have been thrilled by the positive reception in the community.
One other system that we’ve been working on in collaboration with the UK is a new state machine for handling our ever increasing complexity in our vehicles. The new system entitled GOST (Game Object State) will help us in the long term better manage vehicles and their various systems in a unified and cohesive way that is easily accessible to Designers and Artists rather than requiring Engineering support. This system will give our vehicles awareness of what actions they are currently performing and what additional actions that state permits or precludes. Put into a gameplay context this means that the ship will now know when it is landed vs. flying, when airlock doors are open vs. closed, landing gear are deployed vs. retracted all within a single system that is exposed and accessible to non-engineers on the team.
First for 13.2 the Design team here in Santa Monica worked extensively on balancing the ships, weapons, items, and getting the 325A added into the dogfighting. To this end they worked with Engineering on creating a tool to allow us to rapidly update all items statistics and dependencies in a single source file which we can us to properly export new item definition files all at once. This represents a huge step forward over the old method of hand updating various individual files every time we wanted to perform a balance pass.
As part of the above we’ve also updated the mass of all items in the game and re-enabled the calculation of mass additions and subtractions when items/parts are added or removed (blown off) a ship. This adds some interesting new gameplay considerations and flight characteristics based off of how you kit out your ship.
The Design team also started this month with a concerted push towards the design of future ship systems and gameplay. Things like electronic warfare, mid-flight repair, and better defining the various components of your ships computer and how they will impact your user interface and capabilities. Once these systems are fully designed the goal is to break down the Engineering and Art requirements to begin introducing these new mechanics into the game as quickly as possible. With regard to the ships computers it will also introduce a new level of customization to your ships capabilities and user interface so that you can better tailor your ship to your desired play style.
In between all of this the Design folks have also been spending some dedicated time working in concert with the Concept guys currently engaged on the Carrack to better layout the ship and provide feedback on design considerations for the Carrack as it progresses through the ship pipeline.
Our in-house Concept Artists have been diligently moving forward with the interior and exterior design of the Carrack. We are getting close to having the ship nailed down and ready to share with the community. We are looking forward to being able to share this cool ship with everyone in the community!
On the VFX front our team spent some dedicated time working with the Illfonic guys to put the finishing touches on the FPS and its opening cinematic. We’ve also been pushing forward on expanding our VFX library and going back through to improve some of the older effects with new techniques we’ve learned as we’ve progressed.
For modeling the team continues to work on finishing damage states for legacy variants so that we can introduce them into dogfighting between now and V1.0. In addition to this we’ve been working on the Cutlass’ and Mustangs to get them combat ready as well. Others on the team have been focused on creating some amazing looking new weapons and items for inclusion with the release of Arena Commander V1.0 as part of our push to add a bevy of new customization options to the game. We wrapped up the Cutlass’ at the beginning of the month and did a beautiful job polishing and making the Redeemer Hangar ready which was the ship the community chose from The Next Great Starship.
For our lone rigger here in Santa Monica (John Riggs) the last month has been focused almost exclusively on the FPS portion of the game. Finalizing the rig and getting it properly weighted and adapted to the different character models that appeared in the FPS demo recently at PAX Australia. This has been and ongoing and iterative effort in concert with the character modelers as they made changes to the look and feel of each of the characters.
John and Chris are no slouches and immediately after finishing the Cutlass commercial this month they jumped right onto the next one which you’ll be seeing before the end of this year. This commercial will be much more character driven and allow us to test out some of our new facial animation and character model/animation pipelines that are being driven out of the Foundry 42 offices. In addition to being a cool way to showcase our beautiful assets, commercials are also very useful for testing and proving out different aspects of our game art, animation, audio, and mocap pipelines. These will be extremely important to the production of Squadron 42 and the Persistent Universe so having the ability to put them through their paces ahead of time will be a huge time (and money) saver and help us to produce the best quality when it comes time to use these pipelines on the other aspects of the game.
Well that wraps up the update from here in Santa Monica. It has been an exciting month for us with CitizenCon, multiple ship additions to the Hangar and Dogfighting, the reveal of the FPS, planning and execution on PAX Australia, and the continued work towards Arena Commander 1.0. As we’ve built out our team here and globally the pace at which features and content are being delivered continues to accelerate which is very exciting to see. We are all looking forward to the month of November being another month of rapid progress that we can share with everyone. Thank you again for all of your support and for allowing us the honor of working together to create Star Citizen, it’s really an amazing privilege to have such an engaged community with us on the journey to creating our shared vision.
CLOUD IMPERIUM AUSTIN
The Austin PU team spent the first part on this month wrapping up the demo that you saw at CitizenCon. While that demo should have given you a pretty good sense of where we’re heading with the landing zone environments and how the transition from space to planetside will look and function, we’re already well into the planning and implementation stages for the next demo that will reveal a lot more features and detail. Hats off to everyone who made the demo a rousing success! The Live Operations team has been busy all month supporting releases for CitizenCon and for PAX Australia, and thanks to them we managed to get a number of updates and presentations out the door and into your hands. The publication schedule throughout the end of the year will maintain a torrid pace, so they’d better rest up now while we’re in the eye of the storm.
Here are some detailed department updates:
Persistent Universe Team
Aside from helping to make the PU demo look gorgeous, the art department continued fleshing out the Persistent Universe beyond ArcCorp, including work on Terra Prime, the second planetside landing zone. They’re also moving into NPCs and props, both of which are slated to have their production ramp up considerably in the near future. R&D on a modular space station art set that can be customized to fulfill a variety of different roles is ongoing and will allow for all sorts of interesting scenarios to be designed for players to explore. It will eventually allow us to create a variety of landing zones in deep space including medical facilities, vacation resorts, military outposts, fuel depots, mining colonies, and much more. These stations will play an integral role in the Persistent Universe, and thus a tremendous amount of effort is being expended – led by Cort Soest and Patrick Thomas – in order to allow us to be able to quickly and effectively take the base art set and customize it so that each instance looks and feels unique.
The CitizenCon demo gave the most revealing shot yet of what we’re aiming to deliver in regards to the shops you’ll find at many landing zones with Dumper’s Depot, and the team at Behaviour continues work on several more that you’ll soon see. We’re starting work on the shop interfaces this month, as well as the associated persistent database functionality, which means that buying and selling items within the world of Star Citizen will soon be a reality. Lee Amarakoon has been supporting Behaviour by creating visual effects for our shops and landing zones to help make them feel alive and exciting.
Our character team has been helping to support the FPS module by assisting in the creation of the characters that you saw at the PAX Australia demo. It takes a lot of effort to make truly next-generation quality characters, and David Jennison and Billy Lord are doing their best to ensure that they live up to the high standards of the rest of the game. Our animation team has also been spending a lot of time supporting the FPS module, and have helped iron out a number of kinks in the motion sets, retargeted animations to the new rig, and solved numerous motion captures issues for our next commercial.
Our ship team, consisting of Chris Smith, Josh Coons, and Jay Brushwood, have been working to get the 300i variants and Redeemer ready for the hangar.
A fair amount of design time last month was spent drawing up detailed plans for our next several milestones, and of course helping out with the CitizenCon demo in various capacities. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover in order to achieve our near-term goals so it is crucial that everything is planned out in advance prior to ramping up on the production side. While there are still a number of important details to work out, our basic schedule through March 2015 is now pretty solid, and development is really starting to accelerate in a number of critical areas.
An empty solar system is a boring solar system, and thus when you’re out there amongst the stars we’re aiming to provide you with a diverse array of interesting visual phenomena, many of which will have the potential to be exploited in various ways. Phenomena interesting to a scientific observer might provide cargo transports with a valuable commodity, or clever combatants with a tactical advantage versus their less knowledgeable counterparts. Thus, technical, design, and aesthetic considerations were recently debated in order to determine the initial list of phenomena that we were going to support, and how they would look and function within the game. You will of course see nebulae, asteroid fields, comets, electromagnetic storms, and the like, but we’re also going to be aiming to include quite a few surprises. Suffice to say, for now, that exploration and discovery will play a huge role in Star Citizen.
A lot of preparatory work for the Subsumption AI system that will guide NPCs along their daily routines was completed, and we should be able to provide you with a lot more information on this front next month. Production on the AI is now fully underway at CIG Austin and in the UK at Moon Collider, and will soon expand to include Behaviour.
A lot of progress was made on our conversion to a 64-bit address space – which will allow us to create dramatically larger solar systems – last month. Thanks to James Wright and Allen Chen, we’re on track to have everything we need on this front by January 2015. Andrew Nguyen, who got drafted to do a lot of work on interior ship physics a while back, will be moving to the 64-bit addressing team in the next couple of weeks to help with the workload.
Things have really started moving on the networking front. After completing numerous technical design documents laying out exactly how each piece of the technology would function, we’ve now moved into full production. Tom Sawyer has begun work on the friends system, Brian Mazza is finishing up the low-level persistence functionality, and we’ve been working with a couple of new contractors on the chat system and process manager.
Tom Davies and Jeff Uriarte continue to develop the basic editors for Subsumption required for designers to properly set up NPC AI activities. Davies will soon move on to adding support for Quantum Travel – which you’ll need to cover the vast distances within a solar system, and Uriarte will be teaming up with several other people in the PU group to help get hangars running on the server, which is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle for our upcoming Social Module that will allow players to invite other players into their hangar.
The Star Citizen QA team has been busy this past month testing a total of four releases. Also, a lot of time was spent with the new FPS demo revealed in PAX Australia. Our partner studio Illfonic has been doing a fantastic job developing the first person shooter aspect of Star Citizen. We are very much looking forward to the experience the FPS module will bring to the Star Citizen universe. We are also especially excited for the Arena Commander 0.9.2 update. QA has been working very closely with Chris play testing and providing feedback on the improvements to ship flight and combat controls and we all agree the ships have never felt better! Next month we will be setting our sites on testing more updates and the new features that will be included in Arena Commander v1.0. See you in the verse!
The Star Citizen DevOps team has been busy this month deploying and maintaining 4 patches (0.9.1.1, 0.9.1.2, 0.9.1.3, 0.9.2.0) to the live service, while continuing to work on the improving the speed at which our patches are built, improving our current build server to make it faster and more reliable for developers, and creating a new Launcher version with Regional Servers and Language selection. We also have been investigating new video streaming technology with the help of the Platform team, interviewing for new positions to grow our DevOps team, and continue cross-training for everyone! Finally, we have been learning more about the Persistent Universe server architecture and how we will be deploying and maintaining it in our live hardware environment. Our goal is to learn everything we can early enough to help suggest and shape the development so that our players have the smoothest possible play experience in the Live environment.
This month the IT team has been hard at work improving internal services and preparing equipment for a number of public events. Our team size has expanded to keep up with the furious pace of our rock star developers and it’s quite exciting to see the new infrastructure come on line. In Manchester Kyle Cunningham has recently joined the IT team and has already proven his expertise on desktop and end user support projects. In Austin, we’ve added Mike Pickett and Paul Vaden. Mike is a network infrastructure and security expert who we call “Sniper.” Paul is one of those IT gurus with tons of experience setting up and supporting the internal and external services for countless multiplayer and MMO games.
With these additions we’ve been able to deploy increased bandwidth and network capacity in our UK studio as well as adding new firewalls in all offices in order to keep up with the massive increase in secure network traffic between locations. We’ve also moved out of the planning phase and started work on several improvements to our build and distribution pipeline which should dramatically reduce the build and publish times.
In other news, IT teams from each studio have contributed to the design and development of new demo machines for our public events. Demo machines are always a big deal but tend to be large and bulky. We’ve now managed to pack everything we need in to small form factor machines reducing cost and improving portability. This allows us to support more demo machines at our fan events than ever before and we’re pretty excited about that. Check them out in our next live event!
Another busy month at Foundry 42! It was a pleasure to meet a number of you at CitizenCon and PAX Australia, and I’m looking forward to delivering the space combat experience you deserve. Here’s what Foundry has been up to for the last month, from each department head:
Word for the day: Growth! We have made great inroads to filling our open positions here at F42, animators, level artist, ship artist, go go go!
I’ll keep this brief this month (If I can), obviously there was PAX Australia and while we aren’t fully involved we are always there nibbling in the background, helping with advice, VF, animations. The character department has been working hard with ATX, outsource partners and Illfonic to help deliver characters ready for the show while also juggling the long process of defining the character customization pipeline. Part of the lower floor of the studio has been taken over to setup the face/body scanning camera rig and are busy ironing out the kinks so we can do our first Manchester test shoot – it’s a complex process but the team are blasting along well.
Let us not forget that it was also the Hangar ready sale of the Gladius! An incredible effort by the team on all fronts to get this ship ready and is a real milestone for F42 as this has been developed from start to finish in house, to top it all off it will be featured along with the ship pipeline team on a well know British (and worldwide) gaming magazine – coming soon!
While the Gladius took major focus, all the other ships are progressing well and we are ramping up art staff to finish off the Retaliator (Military version) along with the Gladiator which I know a lot of people are waiting for, it’ll be worth it, it’s a complex ship, so hang tight and it’ll be in your hangar before you know it!
We are also taking a look at the damage system for the ships that we are hoping will make it less art/memory/setup intensive which will be great for the global future of the game. Areas like progressive damage shaders and decals are also having work done by the tech and art team. Vanduul fleet is developing too, we have some first pass models to help with cinematic setup for Sq42.
Components! Yes, so many and so varied – it’s become our mission to help iron this stuff out, weapon mounts, weapons sizes, modularity and standardisation rules! Along with some redesigning of interior spaces for the Cutlass and Avenger. What about the Starfarer?! Its continuing, the cockpit and escape pods concepts are almost done, we are methodically working our way along the ship – as you know, it ain’t small.
For 13.2 the environment team put some major focus onto making the maps larger, reshuffling asset positions, improving lighting, VFX polish, tweaking of shaders, think of it as another layer of polish. On the flipside, the Shubin mining station has additional work and the interior are now being tiered and prefabbed, personally I can’t wait to be walking around this facility, it’ll be amazing.
Animation department has be pulled from pillar to post (as they say) and have coped admirably, taking on the wide range of tasks for Gladius, Gladiator, PAX demo intro and character work. Further discussions have taken place with 3Lateral about integrating their tech further into our pipeline, it’s been a steep learning curve for us this past year and this is one hill we really have to conquer! (please send oxygen!)
Hey everyone! PAX Australia and the FPS demo has been the main focus for the audio team for October. Designing the weapon sounds was a real focus for this, and a lot of time was spent finalising them as much as possible. Following on from that, ensuring the demo was mixed and sounding good was everything.
For those into the audio tech: it might not have been obvious from the livestream, but in-engine reverb wasn’t quite sufficient to sell the sense of different room-types and spaces when high energy impulses (guns etc.) were fired off. So especially authored content was added that modified the weapon sounds when they were triggered in different rooms, thus these spaces are more clearly defined in-play. This is a basic approach at a system we want to build upon much, much further, looking to ground the player in the world as much as we can and give them that sense of differing materials, space, and variation. All affecting the audio to reinforce immersion – this is very much what we’re all about. Sound should have meaning and be integral to the gameplay, and those systems that do this are so important to us.
Other sounds we were proud of included the personal shield, the area of denial gadget and the electric shotgun. We have electric arcing elements in the tail-off phase of the electric shotgun sound, which may seem like a little thing but is something we found satisfying! Plus it was fully ‘wet’ (100% mix) on the reverb side to really sell the energy and space-occupying quality of the weapon.
We found it cool to explore some of the UI sound scheme for the suit and helmet. It’s fair to say we’ve only scratched the surface of this, but it’s exciting to us to think how the suit/helmet HUD might differ from the in-ship HUD/UI elements.
As well as the sound design side of the FPS demo, we had some truly great and polished material through from Pedro Macedo Camacho, whose music contributed hugely to the mood throughout. He worked tirelessly, as did everyone, and we all hope it gave a good first impression. We’re aiming high (pardon the pun!) and it’ll only get better as we progress.
We’ve talked previously in these monthly updates about the ‘simulated sound’ concept of Star Citizen, which is the mechanism whereby sound in space is justified. Something we’re thinking about is whether a standalone suit would do as good a job of audio simulation as a ship would, when exposed to space directly. Perhaps considering it might have less processing power than the ship, it might be lacking somewhat? Or perhaps sound isn’t simulated when in the suit, at all, or it picks up a data stream from the player’s ship which attenuates/falls off over distance? The aesthetic and practical implications are many, so we’re curious as to what you might all think about this.
Ship damage is something we want to look at soon. We have so many ideas in this area; the different ways the ship might perform sonically to reflect its state, right from its smallest parts to its largest constituents. There are some great opportunities to go to town with detail, almost to the extent that the player can close their eyes and know just what’s wrong with their ship at a given moment – that’s what we’re aiming for. Again, any ideas that you have here will always be welcome!
In terms of the back-end side of things re. audio. I’m sure it’s something you’ve heard before, but we are moving to Wwise from FMOD – there are some technical hurdles to overcome with this, and taking our assets from FMOD and incorporating them into Wwise and eventually going live with it, is honestly no trivial task. But doing this properly will set up our foundation for the future of Star Citizen audio and it’s truly not something to be taken lightly. We’re taking a ‘measure twice, cut once’ approach, we want to minimise any ‘audio downtime’ and ensure a smooth transition so that no-one’s enjoyment of the game is affected. Once it’s done we can really push onward!
Incidentally, I’m the new Audio Director on Star Citizen, Lee Banyard. Feel free to address any questions regarding audio my way. My background – I’ve been lucky enough to have worked on the sound design of the Batman Arkham series of titles (including Asylum, City, and most recently Knight) for Rocksteady over the last six and a half years. I’ve been involved in game audio for almost my entire professional life and I consider it an absolute honour and privilege to be where I am right now on Star Citizen. There’s a lot I’m pushing to do behind the scenes to maximise sonically the Star Citizen experience. I’ve more of an emphasis on sound design than music, I think that’s fair to say, but I have a deep appreciation for all aspects of the audio experience and as we build the team here, I hope our push for quality becomes more and more evident.
That’s all from us sound people for now, thanks for reading (and listening!).
Foundry 42’s engineers have been busily hammering away on several fronts over the last month. For the 0.9.2 Arena Commander patch we’ve added new targeting features to the game including Gimbal Lock, Look-ahead and Target Focus, as well as polishing up relative mode, the HOMAS (or HOJAM depending on which way you like to hold your stick!) control scheme and control customisation. It’s been great to see a large amount of you fans are enjoying theses updates after the hard work that went into them and it’s really a double win for us as the new targeting controls further enhance the feel of the Squadron 42 gameplay.
In Arena Commander we’ve also implemented the new target reticule, scanning and missile lock animations on the HUD as well as helping out on stats tracking, fixes to race mode and the terraformer beam. There was also a fix for that nasty 300i level loading hang that was blocking some users from multiplayer dogfighting; a bug that was tracked down to a Linux server only issue which made it a hard one to spot in our Windows development environments. In our next big future patch there’s also some multiplayer scoring additions to look forward to including bonuses for first blood, kill streaks and revenge kills amongst other things.
On the Squadron 42 front work on various mechanics is in progress including zero-g player traversal and we have been assisting the US team in looking at multi-crew ship and vehicle system fix ups. Our tools team has been hard at work on our “DataForge” application, a game reflection database that will be used for a wide range of things from editing ships in game to setting up conversations for S42 and the PU.
Last but not least work is underway on our new Localisation system to make the game playable in other languages, network engine upgrades are in progress to assist our PU friends state-side and work is being done to switch our sound engine to Wwise – this will help to speed up our sound effects pipeline due to its feature rich toolset and keep the audio guys in the basement happy!
This month the graphics team has primarily been adding features and bug fixes for the PAX FPS demo and the 0.9.2 release. This includes effects such as the breathing on the helmet glass (which we’re still working on improving), improving the quality of the out-of-focus blur when using the ironsights on guns, and fixing various issue with the lens-flare effects you see around bright light sources. In parallel to this work we’ve completed the ship paint job tech and have begun the long process of rolling this tech out to the many existing ships.
We’ve also started on one of the largest visual tech features we’ll be developing in the next six months which is a fully volumetric gas shader. The intention is to use this shader for both massive gas clouds to bring our space environments to life, and also smaller vfx like smoke and explosions. Rendering large semi-transparent volumes with real-time lighting is a significant challenge and is rarely tackled in computer games other than perhaps more limited solutions for cloud shaders in flight sims. As a result there are many aspects to this tech we’ll need to research separately such as the building/placement of the volumes, the complex shape and movement, the light scattering and shadowing, and efficient rendering. So far we’re concentrating on the first two of these, but we’ll keep the backers updated.
This month has been a bit hectic, with a lot of work going into Arena Commander 0.9.2.
You will have seen the hangar ready Gladius, which we pushed to get ready for PAX. We have had it flying around in the engine, and it was great. But there is still some work to be done to tie up all the damage systems etc. to make it releasable.
There has also been a lot of work going into New Horizons Speedway, with greatly improved signing and new race track themed assets being placed in the map. We doubled the size of Broken Moon and Dying Star maps, spacing out spawn points and populating them with more art assets.
Squadron 42 is moving along well, with mechanics and levels all getting pinned down in greater detail. It’s always very exciting to get the video play through as the various levels get more art and design love. The fantastic FPS support from Illfonic has really helped our ground based levels come on leaps and bounds.
Turret gameplay was improved this month and is progressing well.
That’s about all I can report this month, thanks again for the fantastic support.
First, you all saw the CitizenCon planetside demo…if you didn’t then finish reading this report and go watch it right now! Obviously the beginning of the month had the team focused on that piece of amazing!
But the rest of the time here’s what we’ve been up to:
We’ve been blocking out and integrating all sorts of content in other locations of ArcCorp Area18 so that when you finally set foot on it, you’ll have more places to visit, and more things to check and interact with. Like a Bar maybe? Would you like that? I would! ;)
We’ve also been working closely with ATX to iterate on Terra Prime’s layout, the second planetside location you’ll be able to visit. Note that the more locations and planets we build the faster we’ll be able to develop others thanks to all the tools and systems we are currently developing and putting to test.
We are also active at preparing the first working shop. More than just visuals, the shops are to be dynamic (items sold are changed based on inventory and economy) so they require more work than your normal game shop but will be approximately 1313% more awesome than that other shop you went the other day, and that is a fact.
Then there’s the mobiGlas, we’ve seen it in game in all its glory and have been working on its visuals. We want to be sure the device is believable. The mobiGlas is a device running an oS that facilitates a 2944 space “insert job here” tasks. Each app found within has a specific branding. When designing them we put ourselves in the mind of the users to deliver something that is not only looking good but that is also very practical.
We’re also preparing an overhaul for flair items and hangar decorations, preparing them for the day you’ll be able to fully customize your hangar. We want to make sure every single object we create for planetside environments and hangars are sitting in the lore of the universe.
BHVR has also been planning, with our friends at ATX, the upcoming goals for the PU in order to get YOU in it as fast as possible.
Hope you had a good! Who dressed up as a Bengal carrier?
For the Art department, the beginning of this month was all about CitizenCon, making sure that our assets where ready for the presentation.
After an amazing CitizenCon, we went back to Terra and ArcCorp. There was extensive work done on integrating our assets using the tier system pipeline and folder structure. This will allows us to speed up the level creation process for the future locations.
There was also concept-art created to support Level Artists for Terra’s city view and locations.
Finally, we have finished the November flair and began planning for the December flair.
A lot of our focus has been switching towards Arena Commander V1.0 as the release gets closer and closer. As such, a good portion of our programming team is dedicated to UI features specifically for this release such as Lobbies, Friends as well as a new iteration of the Controls Customization.
Obviously, we’re not putting aside our usual development items and mobiGlas is still getting some traction in terms of programming. As mentioned previously, most of the features that we’re working on are really geared towards an eventual persistent universe integration and release. We’re seeing some pretty good progress from a couple of applications such as mG.Home, mG.Scheduler & mG.EasyShop. We’re working hard on standardizing and refactoring various features used by the other UI systems, like the Ship Visor or Combat Visor, so that they are easily reusable inside the mobiGlas.
We’re almost done with the implementation of our Room Management System which will eventually allow you to customize your hangar layout inside the game client (tease). The in-game UI integration for this is only planned for next year however.
Finally, we have dedicated some time towards implementing the subscriber flair that is due for release next month. We did hit up a couple of bumps during development such as the ‘SetDrunkLevel’ function not being defined in our player :(, but that has since been resolved!
October has been a busy month. We had loads of fun creating decals and in-fiction UI screens to help bring even more life to Arc Corp Area 18. We have also been working on improving the control customization screen, as well as working on designs for the Arena Commander lobby system, friends list, and lobby chat.
We have been pushing forward with the visual benchmark for mobiGlas, setting the bar high with mobiGlas Home: transition animations between apps, the use of depth for different interface components, colour language, etc. This helps us to build a solid foundation and reference for the visual treatment of future mobiApps.
This month has been crazy busy for the team here at [REDACTED]! Wait… we’ve officially been announced… we aren’t [REDACTED] anymore, we are… IllFonic! That’s right, none of you saw that coming did ya?! Just kidding, but in all honesty, it’s good to finally be out there and officially part of the Star Citizen family!
This last month we have been making the final push leading up to PAX, and we think things have come together smashingly! We hope all you citizens agree now that you’ve finally seen the FPS module.
The art team has been putting the final touches on the PAX demo level. This has mostly been focused on lighting and performance improvements. They have also been making last minute changes to the weapons and helmets based on feedback from Chris.
In addition to putting in the logic for the PAX level and zero G fighting, the design team has also been working on the maps for the actual module release which will be coming early next year. There is a lot of special attention that is going in to the map design because of the unique mechanics that are present in FPS.
Squashing bugs and improving performance, that has been the MO for the engineering team. Things are really stable for the PAX demo (at least we hope so…), and running smooth.
The animation team has put in a bunch of work making the game feel really immersive. Working heavily with feedback from Chris, they have been putting the final touches on helmet animations, gun animations, sprinting animations and everything else that has gone in to the demo. All of this together really gives the character a sense of weight and being.
The guys at Foundry 42 in the UK have been a huge help this past month in getting all the audio recorded and implemented for the demo. Thanks guys, we owe you a pint! Weapons are sounding great and all the ambient sound effects throughout the level add a really strong sense of atmosphere.
I’m keeping the report short this month, as I hope the demo will speak for itself! We look forward to getting feedback from all you Citizens and can’t wait to hear your first oppinions on the FPS.
Lastly, I would like to give a shout out to the fantastic volunteer Citizens at PAX who helped get everything setup in Melbourne. You guys are amazing!
Another month down and many releases to go! October was a HUGE month for the platform team with releases for both CitizenCon and the PAX Australia event. The 890 JUMP, the Cutlass Variants and commercial, the Redeemer, Gladius and Herald all received custom comm-links for their release. Also spent time supporting the AMD promotion for the Mustang Omega. All in all, a major month in terms of releases on the web.
Platform team has spent the month of October in heavy technical design for the expansion of the Star Citizen web platform. with upcoming releases of AC, the web platform will be used to power some of the real-world social aspects of the game. In order to achieve this ; a series of major technical sessions were planned throughout the whole month to hammer a plan of action in how specifically this expansion will take place from a technical standpoint.
The main challenges tackled were all around notifications. Not only notifications to you the end-user but also subsystem to subsystem notification ; how the web platform and the game will be communicating together in real-time for data pieces like presence information, inventory changes, game status and such. Moving forward, these communications will be crucial because they will directly affect the player experience when you join a game through the AC Lobby or check out the status of your friends on the website. We are also now in the process of converting many of the subsystem-to-subsystem API’s that the platform provides to the game universe so that all communications across SC are in the same format. This will greatly help programmers in making the baseline protocol the same across all systems in the SC network.
This work is also in line with our objective of being able to support a piece of the new Lobby system that is being built. This new lobby will require account-to-account relationships (what you like to call Friends List) and this is a piece the platform team has been tasked to implement. We’re working to get a very first and simple implementation of this up and running to power this first iteration of the lobby. We have big plans for this feature and even though the first release will be extremely simplistic, the roadmap for it are huge.
Leaderboards were also worked on to add additional data to the listing views. We collect more metrics from games and not all of them are used to compute your Arena Rating. We thought showing more of those fringe stats would be interested to see! Also took some time to revamp the heading so they are not so massive. The HoloViewer is getting worked on these days to optimize it’s loading process. Some of this work is now already deployed but more mobile optimizations are coming! Chat is going to be getting a few minor updates including a name/message highlight feature. Oh , we also built an app to scan your even tickets to help Sandi’s team in big Star Citizen events!
One of the very interesting projects we will tackle next month is the creation of the PTU. The PTU stands for Public Test Universe and is a complete replicated environment of the production servers including website and game servers. With the PTU, we will be able to invite players to participate in testing phases by allowing them to copy over their account to the PTU servers and then connect to this new environment with an up to date client. This will be especially useful when we want to get some initial user feedback without deploying the entire patch to everyone.
UX & Design
UX this month made progress on finishing up Two-Step Authentication flows. This feature is very important to us on multiple levels. We want to add security to your accounts but also we want the game to launcher to be able to secure your game logins. This new feature comes with the implementation of a “Security” tab in your account settings to control and view security related options for your account. The team also started advance work on a very big feature we want to add to the Star Citizen web platform: Community Bug Reports. More details to come! Many design sessions were spent on building a first pass prototype of the Star Map so we could present it to the PU team. This prototype serves as our iteration base to make sure the web Starmap has specific goals that match what the in-game Starmap will represent. It’s huge! It was very interesting to see what this web starmap will allow us to do and also how it can complement the work that is being done in the PU. More iterations of this prototype in November for sure!
The Art team spent many cycles building the Herald comm-link release but their main focused is working on the new Home for RSI. This new home will try to be more friendly to newcomers and more impactful for big releases. Out of this came out the decision to have a “Community Hub” that will serve as your “one stop shop” for all up-to-date info on Star Citizen. Will and Ben and James are super excited about this one! A lot more work ahead on these two pieces!
See you, out there, friends!
Moon Collider was all hands on deck this month as we did significant work improving AI across all major areas: dogfighting AI, FPS combat AI, and persistent universe NPC activities. As the other studios have been ramping up their use of AI features, particularly with PU world development and Squadron 42 levels starting to get fleshed out, the need for lots of core AI features has been increasing. So we’ve been working closely with the other studios to prioritize new AI features and get them implemented in time so that the giant Star Citizen production machine keeps running smoothly!
At Cloud Imperium, a great deal of communication happens over email and video conferencing, and that’s especially true for us in Edinburgh. This is usually good enough, but nothing compares to discussing ideas face to face, and so this month we did some on-site visits so we could have some deep design discussions and make sure we were all on the same page with various features.
First up was a team trip down to Manchester to visit Foundry 42. Here we had some great discussions about features that we’re adding for the 1.0 release of Arena Commander, as well as working out some design details for how we want AI to behave in Squadron 42, particularly when in combat. There was plenty to talk about, and being able to do it in person made a big difference. Also, while we were there, we recorded the video you saw of us during the CitizenCon presentation.
Next, Matthew Jack, the lead architect of our Kythera AI, went across the pond to visit the team at Cloud Imperium Austin. There he spent several days doing detailed design work on the persistent universe. There is a huge amount of work being done by that studio, BHVR, and ours to bring the AI to life in the PU, and it’s really important that we coordinate what we’re doing so that all our features integrate together smoothly.
Back at home, we did design work on what we call attack and stunt splines. These are features that allow designers to place interesting and complicated maneuvers in dogfighting maps, allowing AI to do moves that would be very hard to program in. We tend to make the AI play it safe when it comes to avoiding crashing into things, so if you want an elite enemy to be able to perform a crazy hard evasion through some tight asteroids that only the best human players can hope to chase, this is the way we do it. It also allows us to give AI some more scripted flying behaviors at certain times in Squadron 42, which will help set up some really cool cinematic moments.
We’ve been working on a major refactoring of how we author AI behaviors for several weeks now, and this month we were able to refine it and really start using it in more complicated behaviors. We’ve been developing behavior trees that now control everything that ships do in dogfighting, and what characters do in FPS and PU, and then refining the tools to make the authoring process faster and easier.
One of our favorite debugging tools, the AI Recorder, which we’ve talked about previously, saw a major overhaul this month. We use this tool to record what AI do during a gameplay session, which we can then playback and analyze to debug AI issues. We improved the interface to make it easier to use, and added the ability to save multiple recordings. We’re still working on being able to easily export recordings and share them around, which will make this tool perfect for allowing us to help designers debug issues that they see on their levels, particularly when we’re located on the other side of the globe, in a different time zone and country!
We did a lot of work on improving the behaviors of AI in FPS combat, making them smarter and more of a challenge to fight. Our discussions on site with the Foundry 42 team really helped with this, and we have a big list of things we’re still in the process of implementing to make combat behavior even better. We’ve also been adding a lot of flowgraph nodes which will be used in Squadron 42 levels to control AI when they’re not in combat.
Finally, we added a lot of infrastructure for allowing NPCs to do interesting things in the world in the persistent universe, again really helped by the design discussions on site in Austin. We’re making good progress in allowing designers to set up activities that NPCs can perform, and then making the AI able to find these things based on who they are and what they should be doing in the world. We’re really excited to start seeing the results of this when NPCs are able to act completely autonomously and do interesting things in the world, which we expect to really start to come together in the next few weeks.
// END TRANSMISSION