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Monthly Report | Ship Rentals, Economy & New Planets

Welcome to a Summary of the Star Citizen Monthly Studio Report: August 2018 this goes over what all the CIG, F42 & Turbulent Studios have been doing over the last few weeks as well as what they are working on now. These monthly reports give us an awesome insight into all the work that is going into Sq42 Ep1 and Star Citizen.

There is a few bits that I’d like to Highlight from the monthly report first:

Headway was made on the Economy features for this quarter, with efforts to allow the economic status of resources to affect pricing reaching a significant milestone. Recipes for all items were completed so that, as the price of resources or parts fluctuates, players will be able to see a noticeable difference in the pricing of items. However, the change won’t be instantaneous and will develop over time. They’ve also been working on creating new shops for Lorville and look forward to bringing players new items from the latest locations.

Environmental Art has now completed the art for a host of smaller locations for Lorville, including the new habitation modules, lobbies, and the interiors for Lorville’s bar, admin office, and shops. The first iteration of a security checkpoint and a transit platform (complete with train car) have also been finished. As well as this, they’re almost complete on the Teasa Spaceport interior with its new shop archetype, the Ship Rental Store.

Work continues on the Underground Facility and Crashed Relay, with both moving into the final art stage.

That ship rental store sounds like it would mean the ability to obtain ships in the PU with aUEC, this would be awesome.

Polishing and bug fixing is still ongoing for Hurston and its four moons, and work has started on the two moons orbiting (ArcCorp). Beyond the roadmap, they’ve also started looking at (MicroTech), they’ll be looking at frozen oceans, snowy mountains, frozen vegetation, and other elements that require technology and shaders to be modified and developed.

Character, NPCs & Animation
They’ve improved Hair and Head tech, which will increase the visual quality of the current characters while revising the core tools used in the character wearables tech setup.

They’ve started testing vertex cloth simulation to allow more realistic clothing movement on all characters.

Work continued on NPCs like bartenders, race announcers, shopkeepers, admins and new Mission givers. Soon players will be able to walk up and order tasty drinks from a believable barkeep, lots of work has also gone into the facial animations of all these characters.

They’ve  on improving player stances and locomotion assets and used motion captured data to replace placeholders in the AI combat set.

They also updated ship character animations to new sequenced animations for more flexibility when moving forward with new ship & cockpit designs.

The Tech Art Team worked on tools and the pipeline for authoring true next-gen cloth simulation setups for all dynamic attachments such as skirts, trench coats, jackets, and other loose-hanging clothing and equipment. The new softbody solver, which our Engineering department developed, is functioning as it should and will enable us to create all kinds of interesting secondary animation effects such as jiggling, sliding, and collisions.

The’ve started work on some new weapons from Hurston Dynamics for ships and a sawtooth knife from Kastak Arms.

AI Updates
Subsumption: When hundreds of NPCs are active simultaneously, their activities need to update and respond to events or change in subactivity, depending on the internal or external state of the game. They have dramatically reduced the impact on performance of this.

Visual Perception: One of the most useful senses belonging to NPCs is their visual perception. Visibility checks are continuously performed by every NPC to assess the clearance of their line of sight between them and all other NPCs or players in their field of view. Visibility checks are raycasts ultimately performed by the physics system. Previously this relied on a legacy module of the AI system provided by the Lumberyard system, called VisionMap.

The new system handles the visibility checks directly in the individual NPC vision components and makes good use of the entity component update scheduler by using multi-threaded updates in a time-sliced fashion.

AI navigation and cover data will not be part of a central manager anymore, instead there will be entity components (inside object containers) that will contain that data. This will help the OCS since the AI data is kept internally for each object container.

They’re creating functionality to mark up the paths used by the AI to allow subsumption events to be triggered. This is part of the work needed for the Walk and Talk feature.

Squadron 42 feature teams have been looking into triggering dynamic Track View cutscenes from conversations, including participant synchronization.

There has been various AI improvements. They worked on populating Lorville with an assortment of civilians, engineers, guards, workers, etc. In general, they’ll exhibit similar behaviors as the NPCs that already exist in PU, but with more depth and flavor to help them better match the lore of the area. A lot of design work went into having the AI interact with one another and respond appropriately to events and stimuli generated by other NPCs or the player. For guard NPCs, they worked on designing a patrol system from the ground up. This should allow them to quickly map interest points and connect them with probability paths to define a patrol route that can change dynamically based on rules the designers control, or on game-driven events. At the same time, they are improving the existing simple patrol behaviors and prototyping more features in order to have an initial implementation for future releases before the actual system comes online.

FPS Combat AI had numerous improvements which will hopefully be in players hands in the near future.

Ships & Vehicles
The new Tumbril Cyclone variants and the Consolidated Outlands Mustang are art-complete and in their final phase with Systems Design. There are final optimizations and polish on the Aegis Hammerhead.

They’re also wrapping up some last modeling, lighting, and material tweaks on the interior of the Constellation Phoenix. When finished, they’ll move onto the LODs for the interior and exterior.

The Banu Defender continues with the majority of its interior now at final grey box stage, while the Origin 890 Jump is starting to take shape in the lower decks with most of the ship receiving a grey box pass.

The Art Team is in the greybox phase for the Anvil Hawk, while System Design is currently wrapping up the whitebox phase.

The greybox phase of the Origin 300 series refactor by detailing out the landing gear, headlights, and other features. They made another pass on the cockpit and pilot chair and are closer to getting that area to a satisfactory level. Next up is a test of the interior collision with a character in-game, as well as testing the enter/exit animations.

Vehicle Features & Gameplay
Object Container Streaming will allow ships and other items to stream out at greater distances, which provides improved performance and reduction in network bandwidth.

Turrets Improvement, work is close to complete on gyro stabilization and improvements to mouse and joystick controls. For Ping and Scanning, they’ve moved the scanning infrastructure over to the server, have been working to extend its range, and have been expanding information received from scanning vehicles.

some new improvements to Quantum Travel. These include displaying the status of party members during QT (including when a player drops out) and laying the groundwork for Quantum Travel Route Planning.

They have been improving vehicle power distribution and heat setup. Cooler overclocking now works and per-item power throttling is being developed.

They’ve been testing the REC Rental Systems for Star Marine & Arena Commander, you can rent ships, weapons and items all from within game. They’ve been iterating on RTT item previews, this can be used with kiosks, MFDs, mobiGlas.

There has been various tweaks to mining. A lot of work has gone into how rocks are spawned in space using the existing procedural asteroids.

Graphics & Environment
The City of Lorville is entering its final stages as the team completes the outer boundaries of the city and the entry point from the planet’s surface.

They are looking to modify the arrival area with a few additional shops and features to make it feel more like an active spaceport. The end goal is to have an area that quickly brings the player into the city, but also offers a few select amenities for those who need it.

There will also be a few minor changes to Levski to reflect the content added to Lorville. Although the rework is minor, it will add a few new things and bring Levski closer to its intended purpose and full potential.

Both the Transit System and procedural tech is progressing, and are close to adding a new and more stable version of elevators along with moving trains/trams.

They’ve also been finishing work on the security checkpoint common elements, tweaking the atmosphere and color grading for the Hurston moons.

There is Improvements to the tech for space landscapes, which includes more realistic particle movement and lighting, GPU spline-based lightning effects, multi-threaded asteroid creation, and improvements to the volumetric gas cloud tech. Also, work was done on volumetric point light shadows for gas clouds, which are crucial to convincingly lighting our more complex space scenes.

Shader improvements. The layer shader system can now support the cloth shading model and sub-surface-scattering. While these features were previously available using specialist and expensive shaders, the new changes can be used on a wide variety of assets with no noticeable performance penalty.

PU-based feature teams worked on restricted areas, which will be used to stop players flying into planetside civilian locations. This is being complemented by an update to the landing UI. They also extended the mining feature to work with asteroids.

There is a strike team dedicated to Gas Cloud VFX they are fleshing out the plans for the feature now. They also began to clean up some of the older ballistic weapon effects, making use of new GPU particle improvements and adding more visual consistency on a per-manufacturer basis.

Group & Party
They’ve been implementing mobiGlas and Visor Chat System features and UI, along with replacing the legacy Group System and interface with new backend systems. Completing this will all for deeper FOIP & VOIP integration.

development and integration of a major piece of the game backend: The Event Bus. Through this Bus, multiple services can communicate through domain events and affect their own relevant domains (like groups, chat or voice). With this new piece in place, we were able to integrate a fresh new lobby/chat API to replace the current in-game chat services (which were limited per instance). This will allow groups and parties to have chat lobbies that span the universe.

VOIP & FOIP
Lot’s of progress has been made with the integration of VOIP and FOIP.

They’ve  been working hard to integrate the new backend for FoiP/VoiP data transmission and to optimize the data compression used.

Turbulent, Faceware, and Audio were able to transmit voice and face via WebRTC. In addition, voice can now be sent and received from any WebRTC enabled device, such as a PC web browser, phone, and tablet. A major risk in the project has been eliminated as getting audio and face synchronized was a major hurdle.

They are moving onto server work to add player entities to the entire framework so that they can know who is talking and map them to players in-game.

They completed the integration of the Voice Client libraries based on our initial transport prototype within the game engine, allowing testers to have a multi-way conversation from the game client. It supports echo cancellation, bandwidth throttling, QoS, and the transport of encoded facial data. They are now expanding the scalability of this infrastructure.

Tech & Other
The Network Team extended Bind Culling so that, instead of only culling out dynamically spawned entities such as ships and players, it can now also cull entire parts of the solar system.

he Network Team has also worked on converting networked entity spawning from blocking synchronous spawns to asynchronous non-blocking ones. Combined with their Bind Culling work, these asynchronous spawns should allow Object Container Streaming to work smoothly in multiplayer.

A big milestone was reached as the last of the old-style game objects were finally removed from the codebase. These have been replaced by component-based entities which are more efficient in terms of performance and sharing code. This also permitted the removal of a lot of now-redundant code from the codebase.

They also started the process for Automated Feature Tests – These tests will run for each build and will focus on testing systems that would be deemed risky and prevent usage of that particular build.

They’ve rebuilt and refactored several backend services for Leaderboards, Badges/Permissions, data updates, vehicle loadouts, transactions with in game purchases & mission rewards / service beacons.

The Engine Team completed the first part of the physics command queue refactor. The goal is to allow the move of physics away from dedicated threads and towards our system-wide batch model so that it can scale and perform better with the number of available CPU cores.

They also continued progress on new solutions for cloth/soft body simulations, with several optimizations and improvements, and continued work on moving the skinning computation to GPU compute shaders.

They made load time improvements that addressed some inefficient code, which should reduce load times by up to 20 seconds (depending on PC specs).

The issue council v 1.1.0 is schedule to be deployed it’s full of updates such as improved profile, more details in report creation, and newly mobile-friendly features. Plus, all known issues were fixed.