Welcome to some more Star Citizen with a summary of the July/August Monthly Report, with highlights of what the various CIG and Foundry 42 Studios have been and are now working on. Lot’s of quite important updates this month.
Monthly Studio Report: July 2018
They’ve made substantial progress on Hurston’s four moons, with each becoming a visually unique location for players to explore. While working on the moons, the team also spent time improving the wind simulation on vegetation objects, which will breathe more life into the locations as wind moves through the grass, bushes, and trees. Hurston will be quite a visual change compared to the other locations currently in the game. The Lorville team moved onto the outer districts, shifting focus on the view of the city while flying above and around it. Lorville has received many improvements since it was first shown at CitizenCon.
Work has been completed for the PU hangars, with only final lighting tweaks left to complete the two archetypes needed for the first release. They focused on developing new habitation modules and security/customs common elements. The habitation modules are coming out of the white box phase with their footprints, layout, modularity, and basic art determined. Now begins the process of making them pretty! The security archetype involves a lot of systems and designs that must be tested and iterated on before art can finalize it. As with the habs, these issues have been largely solved and the team began the next level art pass. The early white box design of a new location type was signed off, the Underground Facility. These will be something the team hasn’t tried before and are very excited to develop!
The VFX Team worked on several moons for the PU, including various new biome types. This required them to expand the planet editor tools to allow for more unique and varied particle systems to be spawned procedurally using the object scattering systems.
The procedural layout generation tools are receiving improvements, they took the opportunity to further polish the upcoming Rest Stops. They used the tool to generate a series of stations and verify their layouts, as well as to look into transferring old functionality of CryAstro into Tier 0 of the refuel/repair/rearm system. They also investigated early Tier 0 versions of Habitation, Refineries, sub-surface content, and more.
They improved the look and positioning of 2D and holographic advertisements, as well as fixed various issues with light leaking and other consistency issues between connected rooms.
The new transit system received attention as well. Focusing on the debugging capabilities of the system, laying an important piece of groundwork for complex elevator and train networks.
Ships & Vehicles
The final pass of the Constellation Phoenix’s modeling and lighting is currently underway. When finished, the team will move onto the final flight prep setup and polishing tasks. Then, they’ll create the LODs to complete the art pass for the Phoenix.
The Mustangs Landing Gear Compression was also completed.
The Tubril Cyclone Variants turret operator animations were reworked and polished.
They Greybox pass of the F8 Lightning is also complete.
They are starting work on the Anvil Hawk Light Fighter / Bounty Hunter
They’ve been working on some sequenced animations in vehicles, which will allow greater flexibility for future enter, exit, and cockpit animations.
They are deep in the concept phase of the 300i re-work and are currently fleshing out the new shape along with integrating many of the ‘wish list’ features that have been accumulating over the last few years, including new cargo options.
However, a few concerns were voiced about the new design, which the team will be taking into consideration for the next and final round of concept presentation.
They worked on the MISC Freelancer base model by adding a few extra comforts to the interior, such as a toilet, shower, and food dispenser. The variants (MIS, MAX, and DUR) went into the updated art pipeline to get them looking as good as the base version.
The Origin 890 Jump also went into production this month. It already cleared the whitebox review and advanced to the greybox production phase.
The Banu Defender finished its initial R&D phase and is partially through the white box phase.
VFX are doing a first pass on the Aegis Hammerhead’s effects.
Characters & Animation
They’ve been working on new Hair and Head Tech which will improve the appearance of current characters and revise some core tools used in the character wearables tech setup process.
They have made progress on the Hurston clothing collection, Virgil TrueDef Pro Armor, and reworked the Odyssey Flightsuit. Alongside the new content, material variants will be made to help fill out the NPCs found on Hurston. Plus, progress was made on a variety of Squadron 42 costumes.
They continue to research and develop animations for the PU’s female character. Very different animations are needed when the character sits in a ship versus moving around in the ‘verse, but progress is being made and the fidelity of female animations are getting closer to those of the male characters. They have been working on the next gen character customizer as well.
They’ve created animations for the reload and firing states of the upcoming Karna plasma assault rifle. To finalize assets for the SpecOps combat AI, they held a motion capture shoot to update the placeholder assets for hit reactions and the various threat level reactions to sights and sounds. They also improved enemy SpecOps AI combat poses with better blending between motion states. Other tasks included supporting the ‘carryable system’ with a wide range of assets and a general clean-up of the animation database. They revamped the player’s ‘no weapon’ and ‘stocked’ locomotion forward assets.
The Actor Feature Team has been developing an animation motion warping system, which gives each animation a variable distance it can travel without the need for a unique asset for each situation. The vaulting and mantling mechanic is being developed alongside this and comes into play when the prop being vaulted over has a variable depth and height. The new technology takes these dimensions and modifies the vault animation so that it seamlessly adjusts for the additional movement. This creates a better result than having multiple animations to cover all eventualities. It also frees up the artists from adhering to strict sizes and metrics when creating environments.
NPCs & AI
They’ve been experimenting with how to make a bar feel like a living breathing environment, instead of static NPCs serving and consuming drinks. The intent was to give the bartender and others enough character, life, and flexibility so that they can deal with multiple patrons at once, including the player, while looking as lively and realistic as possible. They have placeholder block out animations for them at the moment used for testing.
They’ve also fleshed out the Bartender and Patron line sets and began building out the AI logic in Subsumption.
There are several NPCs through the various stages of the pipeline, such as mission givers like Constantine Hurston, Clovus Darneely, and a new character of interest, Tecia Pacheco.
Work was also completed for flight AI, creating new behaviors and changing existing ones, with a focus on making ship combat engaging and fun. Work has also been done on the flight pathfinder, taking it a few steps closer to having AI traverse the entire ‘verse on their own. FPS AI work focused on NPC tasks for the 3.3 release, including new behaviors, features, and optimizations.
They laid the foundation for combat ship AI improvements, specifically giving AI ships the awareness of an enemy tailing them. They will build on this with further maneuvers, like enabling the AI to abruptly decelerate to cause the tailing ship to overshoot or wildly change its break-away angle to shake pursuers. Progress was also made on advanced civilian/security guard interactions and patrol behaviors, which will be implemented in future landing zones. These behaviors will work in sync with one another and will allow NPCs to react accordingly to different types of stimuli from the world around them. The behaviors are scalable to allow for more stimuli to be added if and when needed. It will also determine how NPCs react to their surroundings, such as Security Guards reacting differently to certain crimes in one location than they would in another.
On the FPS side, they began populating Security Outpost Kareah with combat NPCs. They also worked with the Mission and Level Design Teams to create additional facilities fit for combat encounters.
In an effort to allow the economic status of resources effect pricing, the team is constructing recipes for items so that, as the price of resources fluctuates, the players will be able to see a noticeable difference in the pricing of items. The change won’t be instant but will develop over time and can be influenced by the player base.
Work is also happening on getting the ship rental shop working in the PU to coincide with the ability to rent ships.They’ve implemented the support for associated customization menus and worked on the UI design for the Spectrum app in the mobiGlas.
Work on additional layouts for Truck Stops will lend a bit more variety to the shops that players will encounter when traveling to far-away locations.
Server & Backend Services
They also continued efforts to create Services using the new Ooz/Diffusion framework. This is part of the refactoring of the Persistence Cache to make it more scalable. Another accomplishment this month was finishing up the new Entitlement Processor service, which is far more robust and efficient than the legacy solution. The legacy Friends Service was also written into this new framework.
The other Services created so far are:
- Character service: provides an API for character specific runtime and persistent data.
- Wallet service: responsible for managing player currencies.
- Item Loadout Service: manages player or ship default and custom loadouts.
- Insurance service: manages all insurance claims.
They’ve also worked very closely with the feature teams to add more gameplay analytics to help track game performance and resource consumption on a regional level, as well as on the individual game servers themselves. This additional data will help them tune server density to deliver the best possible compute and memory performance.
Object Container Streaming & Core Tech Improvements
The Graphics Team completed the work required to make the renderer ready for Object Container Streaming.
The Network Team finished the entity bind culling functionality to allow more optimal networking based on how far away entities are from the player. They also did prep work for Object Container Streaming alongside other teams working on that technology.
They have been adjusting AI logic if necessary to handle the current streaming requirements.
They progressed on moving skinning computations to GPU compute shaders (dual quaternion skinning, blend shape, as well as tangent reconstruction submitted), and continued work on improving hair shading. They made significant progress on new solutions for cloth and volumetrics simulation, which they hope to show off soon. They added support for OC Streaming (entity aggregates) and exposed GPU load and memory stats directly from the Windows Graphics system. They also made advancements in the physics system refactor (queue refactoring, batch jobs, etc.) and revamped the exception handling code to improve the consistency of reported crashes.
They’ve updated shaders for 3.3 and 3.4 which will give various benefits to the game.
They also improved the room culling system to allow for more complex level setups of rooms within rooms.
This new feature allows the Art Team to build more elaborate interiors in both Squadron 42 and the PU with improved performance. The next focus will be on features to enhance the quality of lighting in and around gas clouds and large interior spaces where large lights would normally result in very low shadow resolution.
VOIP/FOIP & Group
The next iteration of the Group System is being worked on for 3.3. They additionally worked on a series of tests to increase stability in the code base as services continue to grow.
VOIP/FOIP – The Backend Team collaborated with the UK Audio Team to build voice services in-game. They overcame a huge hurdle by successfully piecing together a prototype with one user in-game having a conversation with another on a web platform interface.
They are working on additional turret improvements for 3.3.
They also continued their work on Ping & Scanning, including moving the scanning infrastructure over to the servers, generating signals via blackbox entities, and implementing the various information that will be provided by transponders.
They focused on removing some of the legacy systems, updating the three-pane mobiGlas chat widget, and setting up the chat to come from a new backend service.
The UI Team further developed the RTT item preview system that allows for a generalized method of displaying one or more 3D items anywhere in the UI.
This works on things like kiosks, mobiGlas, MFDs, etc.
They’ve pre-visualized what approaching a no-fly zone might look like to the player.
The Story Team pre-viz’ed all remaining scheduled scenes. They then began to fully implement 16 scenes that the Design Team prioritized for Q3. The implementation pass is a slower process than pre-viz, but the team is delighted to work closely with Design and see the scenes come to life in-game.
A high-level review assessed the implementation of animations for Squadron 42 scenes featuring Master-at-Arms Duncan Chakma in the armory.
Work on the cinematic simulation assets, such as rigid and soft bodies for the Squadron 42 cinematics.
The Weapon Art Team primarily focused on Vanduul weaponry and finished the first pass of both modeling and texturing on the Plasma Lances, as well as a handful of scavenged knife variants.
Spectrum 3.8 & then 3.8.1 was deployed & contains the features: Friends, Notifications, Quick Access Sidebar, and Message of the Day. You can sort friends by status or alphabetically and see information about their activity. You can also group friends by common orgs. Including pending friend requests, you can now have a maximum of 800 friends.
“Your in-game friends will be linked to your Spectrum friends in the future. Currently, your Spectrum friends list and the list of your friends in-game exist independently. When the game integrates the Spectrum friends system, your in-game contacts will not be copied to over. You should use this transition period to add your in-game contacts to your Spectrum friends list.”