Welcome to some more Star Citizen with a whole heap of updates on Alpha 3.5 & Beyond with what the various CI studios have been working on in the last month and are working on now.
This is a Summary of the Star Citizen Monthly Report February 2019.
Testing continues on Alpha 3.5 with the New Flight Model and other systems as they come online, such as the new weapons, ships, and locations such as ArcCorp & Area 18.
The Environment Team is racing towards the completion of ArcCorp and Area 18 – they’re currently implementing custom brands & advertising some of which are animated or holograms. The planet itself is in the final art stage and now includes skyscrapers rising above the no-fly zone to provide the player with landing opportunities and interesting buildings to fly around.
They are working on improving and upgrading the no-fly zones used across ArcCorp. Since the existing system now needs to support an entire planet, it has proven quite a challenge.
AI traffic over Area 18 is currently being developed. The team’s starting small, with a few ships landing and taking off around the spaceport, but they’re also investigating ways to expand it while being mindful of performance.
The core street furniture is now in and the team has moved onto the dressing pass, adding in new assets to give life to the streets, alleyways, and landing zone.
The ‘Hi-Tech’ common elements are steadily progressing, with the transit, habitation, and security areas all moving to the art pass stage. Players will see these common elements (alongside garages and hangars) when they’re added to microTech’s landing zone, New Babbage.
There is a new transit connection that is almost ready between Lorville’s Teasa spaceport and the Central Business District (CBD). This route will allow players to move directly between the two locations and bypass the L19 workers district.
Work on organics is ongoing, as are improvements to planet tech, creating a library of exotic-looking flora to fill the biomes of New Babbage with. Players can see it for themselves towards the end of the year. We can also look forward to upcoming information on the early work the team has done on procedural caves.
Design focused on implementing Area 18’s shops, NPCs, and usables. They are now being polished to ensure a believable and immersive experience upon release.
They have now got Area 18 in GreyBox.
They began planning the modular space stations that will be built this year too, including looking at the libraries, rooms, and content that goes into them. The procedural tool is also now at a stage where they can slowly start ramping up the modular station production.
They added new mineable rocks on ArcCorp’s moons. Wala in particular will have a new type of rock that fits better with the crystalline formations available on the moon.
They have refactored existing missions to make them scalable to make more content available in the planetary system (other than Crusader). Significant progress was made on a new drug-stealing mission for Twitch Pacheco, as well as a BlackJack Security counter-mission that tasks less morally-corrupt players with destroying the stash.
Another focus was on implementing a variety of encounters with security forces and bounty hunters when the player holds a high crime stat.
As well as practical work, time was taken to define the next tier of many aspects of the law system, such as punishment, paying fines, bounty hunting, and so on.
Ships & Equipment
They’ve completed & are bug fixing the Mako, Tana, and Sen MISC Reliant variants for Alpha 3.5. The Origin 300i will go into QA testing in the near future.
There is continued production on the 890 Jump, bringing more rooms into the final art stage from greybox (including the hangar area).
The Carrack is near a greybox-complete state and select areas are being polished for internal review.
Development continues on the Banu Defender which is utilizing a new style of production that caters to its organic art style.
A large portion of the exterior greybox is complete and is apparently looking fantastic.
The interior updates to the Vanguard are being wrapped up, with the entire area from the cockpit seat backwards being completely redone now. This is more than was initially anticipated. Now that the interior rework has been finalized and the framework for the variants locked in, the Ship Team can start on the exterior changes to accommodate them and continue with the variant-specific items.
Gimbal Assist and its related HUD improvements were finalized, allowing for better balancing of this new weapon control scheme. Turrets were also improved, as the team added a HUD and keybinds for input sensitivity, implemented adjustable speeds for gimbal target movement based on proximity to center aim, and fixed bugs with snapping and erratic movement.
There are scanning improvements, which include adjusting the area for navpoint scanning, enabling use of the navpoint hierarchy, and adding a Boolean to opt into the scanning data. This endeavor also covered adjustments to make scanning more involving by setting up AI turrets to generate signatures and be scannable and adding specific icons for scanned/unscanned targets. Ping and blob were implemented to display on the radar too, including focus angle and ping fire.
They are continuing to make item port tech optimizations, developed tech for utilizing geometry component tags in the paint system, and fixed a handful of crash bugs.
Economy & Items
The value of objects in-game has seen some thought, they are laying down the track for acquiring item properties and their values.
They have begun work on an administration interface for game designers and game operators to display real-time information about the state of the universe. This application can display information about groups, lobbies, and voice channels along with details of online players, quantum routes, and probability volumes.
They began working out how to bring the rental functionality from the Arena Commander frontend to in-game consoles in Area 18 that is coming in Alpha 3.6.
The Weapon Art Team completed the Gemini S71, Kastak Arms Coda, Banu Singe Tachyon cannons, Gallenson Tactical ballistic cannon reworks, and five variants of the Aegis Vanguard nose guns. They’ve also had VFX work too. They also carried out extensive visual exploration for the new Tachyon energy weapon class as well.
They’ve been fixing offset reload animations and locomotion issues for the pistol set too.
Characters & FPS AI
Lots of work has gone into implementing the new DNA feature into the character customizer, creating and setting up the user interface (UI) as well as the female playable character.
Theres been some optimization of rig assets with runtime facial rig logics, this helps with eye contact and minimizing errors to help avoid the uncanny valley.
They’ve finished the remaining animation sets for some Characters in the PU including Characters on ArcCorp in 3.5 and Ship Dealers. There’s also been work on yet-to-be announced characters too.
American Sign Language (ASL) emotes are being added to the game and are currently being improved with the addition of facial animations.
Animation also are doing some secret things with the Cinematics Team that we will get enjoy soon apparently.
They’ve been improving the hair pipeline & have developed new tools and shader tech to improve the realism of hair while maintaining quality and performance.
More work went into mission-giver “Twitch”, including textures and rigging, with her hairstyle being used to trial the new hair pipeline. The Work continues on the assets required for DNA implementation and the female player character, while refinement of the Xi’an concept is making great progress.
Combat AI received perception updates which were tested by QA to address issues where the FPS AI would not recognize the player being present in their vicinity.
They’ve made improvements the FPS AI character collision avoidance system giving characters a good amount of free space when they move around each other.
They’re also restricting combat behavior to allow better scalability when adding new tactics and are investigating some of the bugs found in the Alpha 3.4 release.
There is now a system that automatically selects behaviors for shopkeepers, this is part of ongoing working to unify vendors and make them work in a modular fashion, so they can reuse animations and edit general behaviors for all NPCs.
They’ve also expanded wildline sets for security pilots, bounty hunters, and combat assist pilots were scripted and recorded. The AI and Mission teams will use these sets to begin prototyping and testing out new gameplay for inclusion in future builds.
On the Ship AI front they’ve improved various aspects of dogfighting gameplay, including evasive maneuvers. When an AI pilot has an enemy on its tail, it will try to utilize different break-aways with increasing and varied angles. It will also try to keep momentum and chain together attack maneuvers. To achieve this, the team exposed new ‘SmoothTurning’ subsumption tasks to the behavior logic.
When detecting enemy fire, AI pilots will utilize evasive maneuvers to create a diversion.
They also implemented automatic incoming/outgoing ship traffic over planetary landing areas. They are currently generalizing ship behaviors to enable the designers to easily set up traffic on multiple cities, capital ships, and so on.
Engine & Backend
Backend Services continued to lay the foundation for the new diffusion network to help scalability for the backend structure of the game. Emphasis is on ensuring the Dedicated Game Servers (DGS) correctly connect to the new diffusion services, particularly the variable, leaderboard, and account services.
They’ve nearly completed the new Item Cache Service.
As work is completed on the new diffusion services, testing will ensure a smooth transition to the new network.
A lot of optimizations have been made for 3.5, they’ve improved CPU usage & the instance system used in compute skinning, they only have to skin once per frame.
HDR support was added to their editor.
Game physics is progressing with Projectile Manager 2.0, as well as optimizations to wrapped grids and state updates.
Support was added for ocean Fast Transform (FFT) wave generation to physics buoyancy calculations, as well as exposed optimized terrain meshes.
A major system initialization clean-up was completed as part of an initiative to share core engine functionality with PU services, work began on the lockless job manager (a complete overhaul for faster response in high-load scenarios), and a new load time profiler was created.
The VFX Team updated the existing particle lighting system to a more modern system. The previous version was based on tessellation, which increased the rendering cost and had limitations on shadow resolution. The new one is a global change that will remove the need for tessellation and improve shadow receiving for crisper, smoother shadows. ArcCorp’s Lyria and Wala will be the first moons to use this new particle lighting system when it’s ready for deployment. It will help the particles integrate into the moons more realistically and address issues when the particles have long shadows going through them, such as during sunrise and sunset.
They also continued to iterate on thruster damage effects and began rolling it out to all ships.
There’s been some R&D into some improvements to in game streaming video that will be rolled out in the upcoming release. This method also enables the transmission of in-game video streams to web clients so external to the game.