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Squadron 42 Progress Q1 2019

Welcome to some more Star Citizen with a Squadron 42 Update – (March 27th 2019)
Looking at what Cloud Imperium have been working on over the last month and what they are focused on now in regard to the Single Player Campaign and it’s features.

Squadron 42 Episode 1 is currently planned to be in Beta for Q2 2020 and if all goes to plan a full release by the end of 2020.

The Features in Squadron 42 and the PU are typically shared between each other & will make their way into the other at some point (based on the feature, but normally taking longer to get into the PU as it needs to be made suitable for Multiplayer)

This is basically a monthly report for Squadron 42 BUT some of it’s parts are the same as the PU Monthly Report, so I have compressed those down a bit more and removed parts we already know about from that, therefore this summary is best enjoyed if you have already watched my most recent SC Monthly report (which I will link down below).

AI
Ship AI, has seen general improvements throughout, including the way AI ships attempt to avoid the player’s fire & while dogfighting, which included the addition of evasive maneuvers to enemy ships. When an AI pilot has an enemy on its tail, it will try to utilize ‘break-aways’ with increasingly-varied directions and angles, trying to keep momentum, & chaining attacks together, adding some new SmoothTurning Behavior Logic.

AI pilots will also attempt to create diversions using evasive maneuvers.

Automatic incoming/outgoing ship traffic over planetary landing areas was implemented too. They are currently generalizing ship behaviors to enable the designers to easily set up traffic on cities, capital ships, and other areas as required.

They have made improvements to the existing character collision avoidance system. The changes began with adjustments to the smooth locomotion path, with data coming from the collision avoidance calculation to make sure the character has enough free space to move. This combines with the cinematic walk & talk functionality that they have been working on for interaction between NPCs and the player as they move around.

Social behaviors wise, they refactored vendor behavior to be generic and reusable in multiple contexts, first implementing a way for supporting motion-capture animations to be used as transitions between usables (which they’re temporarily referring to as ‘schooching’). We will see NPCs in both SQ42 and the PU using various new behaviors and animations in the future.

They have worked on restructuring behaviors so that they become more modular, with the goal to make it easier to implement specific chunks of logic and influence the AI’s skillset.

Behaviors for NPCs will be automatically selected and change dynamically based on a situation, both in combat and non-combat situations.

Character
The hair development pipeline has seen work. With the help of the Graphics Team, they developed new tools and shader tech to improve realism while maintaining quality and performance. They’re currently modeling characters and new hairstyles to test their new pipeline with.

Progress also continues on the Vanduul character model. The head and body mesh are complete, with texturing currently underway.

For Specific Characters, they’re working on Duncan Chakma, the Idris’ master at arms. This character has some of the more complex behaviors and solving him should speed up the development of all other characters that encompass complex player choices (such as movement from station to station, interacting with items, and giving/taking back weapons).

Animation wise they’ve made more improvements to Vault & Mantle’, as well as begining on Player Jump v2. They’re currently re-evaluating how the animations are set up in the code to help simplify and reduce the number of assets.

Stealth takedown mechanics have been revisited,  re-evaluating the previous work done on knife takedowns. They continued work on the free-look view limits (where the player’s range of view is restricted depending on their helmet/armor) and separated out the range when weapon aiming from free-look.

Cinematics
The testing of various cutscenes from the SQ42 campaign is on-going.

The Cinematics Team made substantial progress on major scenes encountered late-on in the campaign and prototyped various pieces. This included recording a total of 56 motion capture (mocap) lines and a handful of new wildlines.

Another significant sequence that garnered attention involves the Bengal carrier. A scene in the pilot ready-room required the mocap cast to use a circular table of 1.5m diameter and four chairs that could swivel, had no wheels, but could be pushed around. Compared to the size of SQ42’s ships and planets, relatively small things like table and chairs can be very important for cinematics.

They have been reviewing the latest progress on several chapters & capturing a few additional pickup performances needed for the completion of the game. This included recording tests for the female player character to ensure the pipeline is working correctly before the team proceeds with recording all of her performances.

They added additional ways of triggering conversations based on the distance or the direction the player is approaching an NPC from.

Some further work has been done on soft/rigid body destruction simulations that will be required for scenes where objects are destroyed (peeling back metal panels, fracturing and breaking of glass, concrete, etc.).

Which leads us nicely into Environments
Internal lighting for scripted events on the Javelin is now completed. Art are currently focusing their efforts on the ship’s exterior, as the player will see certain events play out from both inside and outside of the ship.

Two key campaign areas have been made grey-box complete.

Archon Station’s has seen more work, all surfaces are complete, with collision meshes added for good measure. The layout apparently does a fantastic job of selling the station’s scale when both far away and up close. The main transit system is also integrated, with all stops and secondary systems being finished throughout March.

A focus-team has moved back onto the Krugeri (which is the Bengal in SQ42) to help refine several areas with key cinematics. Alongside this, new areas are being added throughout the ship, including medical bays and an armory

Each of the four design teams progressed towards the goal of completing a handover flow for the first third of the game. This involved an in-depth dive into the details of planetary bodies in the Odin system, with the aim to get accurate Quantum Travel distances and create glorious backdrops for the various space battles.

The Design Team integrated the Air Traffic Controller feature (which coordinates all take-offs and landings) into the game-flow to help promote the ‘busy’ feel you’d expect when visiting a huge military capital ship. Refinements of both FPS and ground combat in-line with the current roadmap continued, too.

UI began working on the branding and theming for the Aciedo, Shubin, and OMC environmental UI displays, as well as the GRIN manufacturer too.

Ships & Vehicles
The Retaliator is one of several ships currently receiving tweaks to suit SQ42’s needs, this is going to mean that the PU will either see some updates to the Retaliator AND potentially a military version of the ship at some point. The ship plays an important role in certain missions, so requires some subtle amendments to suit.

We know there has been HUD, Turret and Gimbal improvements as well as fixes to snapping and erratic movements.

Scanning Improvements that we have seen being worked on for the PU too. Turrets create signatures and are scannable

There has been a lot of focus on vehicle damage and destruction,, they blocked out several destruction sequences after an extended R&D period with Art and Design to help determine exactly where and when certain story-driven destruction sequences should occur.

Engineering
The Engine Team optimize various aspects of the game & refactor CPU Usage & Shaders.

They have been pushing forward with their planet tech v4 and continued to improve character hair, which included initial support for edge masking and pixel depth offset. Game physics is progressing with Projectile Manager improvements, as are optimizations to wrapped grids and state updates.

Water Wave Generation calculations were added

The Graphics Team’s spent time closing down the final features for the volumetric rendering of gas clouds. This included unifying the lighting between volumetric effects and opaque objects, which required adding support for deep Fourier shade maps into the general lighting pipeline. Several other changes were made to allow gas clouds to be built from smaller modular pieces, which helps overcome the large storage requirements of volumetric data.

Another focus was adding multi-threaded rendering support to their editor, which will improve the performance for artists and designers working in complex scenes. In some cases, this can almost double the framerate and get much closer to the performance of the optimized ‘shipping’ build of the game. The editor code was written before the engine was multi-threaded and, as a result, there are many bugs that have to be painstakingly found and fixed. However, it is now nearing completion.

The VFX Team updated the existing particle lighting system to a more modern iteration. The previous version was based on tessellation, which increased the rendering cost and had limitations on shadow resolution. The new system is a global change that will remove the need for tessellation and improve shadow receiving for a crisper, smoother appearance.

And that’s it for the Squadron 42 Updates this month, if you have any question or feedback about what we talked about then I’d love to hear from you & remember to checkout my PU Monthly report too if you haven’t already!