Welcome to some more Star Citizen, The Monthly Report for December / Jan was released and gives a load of insight into what the studios have been working on over the last few weeks and are now geared towards, this is a summary & highlights of that Report focusing on the new info and what is coming next.
They have been fixing issues with FoIP & VoIP, Comms, Video Streaming, and the Group System & been working on deeper item sub-targeting, so we will be able to target, engines, powerplants and more. There is also ongoing turret improvements.
Planning has already begun for the upcoming Alpha 3.5 release – particularly the testing of the new flight model.
Improvements to ship combat systems continued via automated gimbals, HUD changes to support Ping & Scanning, and the vehicle ‘XML to DataForge’ migration began. A vehicle gimbal aim-assist feature is on its way to completion.
Further investigation was made into the issue of Ship AI idling during mercenary and Emergency Communication Network (ECN) missions to ascertain whether it was AI or network related. The team could only reproduce it during ship AI missions in the live environment and encountered something close to it during a 20-player playtest. The one consistent factor was that it only seemed to occur when performance took a dip. So, it was deemed not an AI issue and will be further investigated by the Network Team.
An Economy Features Team focused on adding new weapons to the various shops around the ‘verse. Shop inventories were set up for all the new location. Tweaks to missions and the overall economy were also made to move the game closer to the end economic goals of the team.
In January, they began testing on a new formula that dynamically alters certain commodity parameters within the wider economy. A new approach is also being taken towards vehicle components to help create interesting choices for players when in shops.
The design was complete for a new nav marker ruleset that makes how and when players see destination markers more intuitive. Rulesets were also created to add functionality to the Quantum Travel and Service Beacon systems to give players more options when traveling in a party and choosing a location for service beacon transport respectively.
Environments / Locations
They have began work on microTech and its landing zone, New Babbage. In preparation, designs were trialled for the ‘Hi-Tech’ common elements, which include habs, garages, and hangars in an all-new architectural style. These new sets will help the team build New Babbage and ensure the visual style feels fresh and different.
Recent improvements to the organics shaders and pipeline will improve the look of geology and planets. This update has been a long time in the making and the team is looking forward to giving all planet assets a visual upgrade.
The team is currently moving from whitebox towards release for both the planet ArcCorp and its main landing zone, Area 18. Some necessary changes have been made to Area 18’s original layout, mainly for performance reasons but also to improve the general layout and city ‘feel’.
“The task of creating a planet-wide city that players can circumnavigate which also blends well into the major landing zone remains a constant challenge, but one that’s bearing impressive fruit. Progress has been good on improvements to the believability and read of ArcCorp as a city, with the space taking a huge visual step forward from when it was last seen.”
On Hurston & Lorville now that thaer CBD has been added to the city They are looking into the trainlines that connect it to Teasa spaceport.
The majority of the Level Design team is currently focussing on ArcCorp and Area18, with the hangar, shop, vendor, spaceport, and overall layout now finalized. They also gave the planet and its moons a necessary design setup, began an investigation into quantum traveling AI, and introduced a variety of new narcotics during the prototyping of a new mission from ‘Twitch’ Pacheco.
Lighting looked at the small and medium-sized common elements for the player hangars and created different lighting variations for the Rest Stop, Lorville, and upcoming Area 18 styles.
These assets will go into their libary to be more widely used around the Verse too.
They have been developing ideas for the branding of street and food stalls in Area 18 and outlining the NPC archetypes needed to populate the city and mission content.
New mission props were created that focused on the illegal drug trade and surface relay kit. Ideas were floated for cockpit flair and work began on ship sub-items and planning how they interegrate, though a lot of the prop team have now move onto getting Alpha 3.5 props ready, for locations like ArcCorp/Area18.
Ships & Vehicles
Origin 890 Jump is being worked on with greybox work done on the atrium, master suite, guest suites, and engineering deck. They also refined the exterior hull styling to try and move a few areas closer to the original concept and make the overall ship less ‘cartoon-looking’.
The Anvil Carrack, has progressed since it was last seen. It’s currently in greybox, with the team tackling the feedback generated from the discussions on RTV, particularly the controversial landing gear changes and bridge layout.
Aegis Vanguard had had work done on it’s Updates which will also propagate to the Harbinger and Sentinel Variants, with focus primarily on interior adjustments along with some quality-of-life fixes. Greybox is progressing nicely, so the team will be moving onto the exterior and tackling feedback points to ensure the base Warden model is properly prepared to accommodate the variants.
With the 300 series they’re in the process of getting the damage and customization pass complete, finishing up detail work on various parts, and finalizing the materials.
The Reliant Variants have seen work too.
Extra care was taken with the Defender to ensure it represents the overall Banu design aesthetic and can be built on in the future. The exterior is currently going through the greybox modeling process and is nearly complete. Afterwards, it moves to interior greybox modeling.
The VFX Team began R&D work on the Tachyon cannon; a weapon type with faster-than-light projectiles.
They also began implementing thruster damage effects in keeping with the new flight model planned for Alpha 3.5 and began R&D on how to use particle effects to help make Area 18’s volumetrics more visually interesting. They also worked on effects for the new Kahix rocket launcher – a handheld anti-vehicle rocket launcher with a unique tech style.
They have been working on getting AI Stable & converting all the movement logic that ships use to the New IFCS.
Giving AI gunships new tactical options & new behaviors that allows them to circle enemies and use their turrets to attack from a constant distance. They can easily modify this behavior to change things like the optimal attack range and when to disengage the target. The ‘fly-by’ and ‘breakaway’ tactics were also amended to make better use of the predicted hit position and allow ships to better evaluate the environment to determine the optimal direction for evasion.
Gunships will be much more dangerous.
Fighter AI was updated to take full advantage of the new flight model too.
For FPS AI they have been working on cover and pathfinding to help enable AI to decide which cover location to use, when to shoot, and when to relocate.
The perception system was expanded to handle damage recognition; AI characters now have proper awareness of damage, so they know the exact location of the source and will behave accordingly, tracking if a specific enemy they lost sight of is the source of damage and updating the knowledge they have about them.
They have developed additional tools for AI allowing them to edit variables and get debug information much more easily too.
Animation & Characters
They have been working on Mission Givers including Constantine Hurston and Tecia Pacheco otherwise known as “Twitch”
and are currently working on ship dealers to give players a salesman-like experience when buying vehicles in-game. They’re also continuing to actualize the emotes shot at CitizenCon, to get them into the game.
Polish was added to various NPCs throughout the ‘verse, with the aim to make them as realistic and believable as possible.
They have been unifying all the armors and undersuits for the female playable characters.
The DNA Customizer Feature has seem a lot of work towards it’s 3.5 release.
DNA is a major feature that affects the entire facial setup and pipeline for characters in Star Citizen. This significant feature touches a lot of teams, and through a lot of dedicated collaborative work, is progressing very well. The teams are currently updating mesh formats to support the data sets required, wrapping up and fixing any bugs relating to GPU skinning, and updating all the attachments in the game with the mark-up required for DNA compatibility. The system has begun to roll out in the PU on NPC characters and is already yielding performance wins. Lots of cooperation and iteration between all DNA teams has resulted in a fun and intuitive interface that allows the player to easily create their own face for their player character.
Moreover they have updated a system that now allows players’ customized faces to be stored persistently in the database and the corresponding data packets to transfer efficiently over the network and be applied to the correct avatar at runtime. Likewise, it allows all key NPCs (every shopkeeper, security guard, civilian, and eventually mission giver) to have a unique face built internally by the designers. While R&D on the DNA system was done using male faces, the face pool for female characters is being populated and is planned to come online at the same time.
Have been working to improve the ship & cockpit experience in the new flight model with thruster improvements, better positional audio reaction points, so you feel where you are getting shot from OR the power of each individual thruster.
They have also been getting the sounds of each component, environment, turbulence & how they interact with your soundscape all dialed in.
We will hear lots of prop and debris work, with different sound for materials, if an object is hollow and rolling down the stairs you’ll know that from the sound.
Footsteps for both male and female characters will differ from 3.5 onwards too.
Pedro Camacho has been working on music for upcoming zones like ArcCorp and Area 18.
Some engine improvements they made tangent reconstruction optimizations for character faces, data optimizations and compression to lower bandwidth requirements, separated static and dynamic GPU data, and moved bone-remapping to the GPU (to save CPU memory and provide more flexibility).
Work began on HDR color grading and output on supported displays, while splat map support for planet terrain was added, as was an improved film grain with unified dithering. The development of planetary ground fog began along with significant improvements to temporal sample anti-aliasing (TSAA).
The physics engineers enabled joint limits on driven ragdolls and fixed instability caused by a threshold in the solver. They also made the first steps in exposing the spatial grid structure for walking and exploring and added physics support for planetary oceans.
Improvements were made to crash handling, including various thread-safety improvements to enable more robust handling of obscure crashes, and the addition of extra information into minidumps to allow for better debugging of fibres.
The Graphics Team’s focus has been on performance and memory saving:
The performance gains mainly came from improvements to shadow culling and optimization to video comms, especially on lower-spec machines (though there are some quality issues still to address).
The largest memory saving came from fixing a particularly nasty bug in the mesh streaming code which could result in all levels-of-detail loading for a mesh rather than just the ones needed. Other savings came from increasing the sharing textures used by various effects and improvements to the logic in which textures should be streamed in (interestingly, the game can now run with as little as 400mb of textures!).
On top of this, the team resurrected the water volume tech and made it compatible with the zone system so it can be used on planets, space stations, and ships.
Backend Services – have done a large portion of the foundation work for their new diffusion backend architecture. This includes the continued break-up of the general instance manager into smaller scalable services. The dedicated game server needs to communicate properly with the new services, so hooks and proper calls have been set up between them.
They are working on more efficiency tweaks now for the system and fleshing it out.