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Star Citizen Monthly Report – 3.5 Updates & 3.6 Work Begins!

Welcome to a Star Citizen Monthly Report, Highlighting the work done by the various Cloud Imperium studios around the Globe and their work on Star Citizen & it’s Persistent Universe. This is a summary of the official CI Star Citizen Monthly Report dated April 12th 2019.

Ships / Weapons
They have completed the refactor of the Origin 300i. Chris Smith who was working on the 300 has now officially moved onto a new ship, which is currently in the whitebox phase.

The Origin 890 Jump has just completed the greybox stage and is now heading into the final art phase. Work is progressing on the Carrack, which now has the whole of the engineering section in the rear done to greybox and the habitation deck is only missing the captain’s quarters to be greybox complete. The Vanguard series is heading to the final art stage, with the rear section and cockpit both receiving a pass. The exterior is up next. Greybox of the Banu Defender continues, while the Character Concept Team was called on to build a foundation for the Tevarin species that will be used to help design the Esperia Prowler.

Pre-production began on the P52 Merlin update, P72 Archimedes, and the Esperia Prowler.

Improvements to gimbaled weapons were finished for Alpha 3.5 and the radar and scanning systems received a polish, including the implementation of focus angle and ping fire. Under-the-hood progress was also made with vehicle item port tech & migration to Data-Forge.

The Weapon guys started work on the Apocalypse Arms Animus missile launcher, the Klaus & Werner Lumin SMG, and new upgrade levels for various ship weapons.

Gameplay
They have completed tasks to improve both the Emergency Communication Network (ECN) and NPC spoofing missions (where NPCs send out service beacons asking for help). Which has seen old ECN missions phase out into the new system.

Regarding the in-game economy, a system built to create a robust and modular representation of item variance was polished and is now ready when needed. Inventories were also added to all new locations, including the new Alpha 3.5 weapons and items.

Narrative worked with Design to identify the production nodes and manufacturing locations of all of Star Citizen’s corporations for the expanding economy system. This led to a review of the item inventories of Stanton’s shops to make sure stores were carrying items appropriate for their location.

They have made progress with the area map feature, including the ability to visually distinguish between different floors of an interior.

Voice servers received an upgrade which will benefit from RTCP (data channel) improvements and enable active speaker detection in comms channels.

AI & Character
Character AI – Has had general improvements, combat behaviors to allow them to assign different tactics to different characters.NPC locomotion saw the integration of the collision avoidance system into smooth locomotion, which now takes into consideration the edge of walkable navigation areas.

Ship AI implemented new pilot skill levels to vary the agility of enemy ships and determine how they balance self-preservation and aggression. Improvements were also made to how non-player traffic behaves around landing zones..

Social AI – finished the first pass of ‘scooching’, scooching enables a character to fluidly move from one action to another within a group of useables.

They’ve made improvements to & finalized their work on the unification of the vendor/bartender AI, which will allow the same behavior to serve drinks at a bar and give players items from a shelf and weapons from a rack. Optimization has started on usables

Various teams have been working on Alpha 3.5’s facial customizer. This coincided with the adding of the female playable character into the game and creating new armors wearable by both sexes (which will continue into the foreseeable future).

They also worked on the next user interface for Character Customizer v2 for 3.6.

While the current version gives users all the required functionality, the process can be thoroughly streamlined through a number of layout and functionality amends. These changes have been prototyped and are awaiting implementation.

Tasks towards extending the character creation ‘DNA gene pool’ were also completed, which will eventually increase the number of heads the user can choose from and blend together. While still being significantly fewer than the planned final amount, the enhanced pool will give players much greater variety compared to the nine heads per male and female available in Alpha 3.5.

They have been readying mission-giver Tecia Pacheco for Alpha 3.5 debut & finishing the animation sets for Recco Battaglia and the ship dealers. 

Tecia Pacheco’s hair was tidied up before launch and the few non-Alpha-3.5-related hours were spent refining the hair creation pipeline.

They implemented new female emotes and brought the male versions up to the current quality standard.

They have also been developing the final jump system and the female playable character as wekk as the combat AI system, adding new weapon options for enemies to use.

They have further improved ship entry and exit animations.

Environment
There have been a load of quality-of-life improvements, bug fixing, and polishing assets made for 3.5. Several locations, including Hurston and Lorville, were refined and tweaked to give an overall improved visual experience. Planet Tech continues to be updated we will see these updates finished later this year BUT they are also looking into ways to better scale natural features like canyons.

Planet ArcCorp is Content Complete. The final touches were added to ArcCorp with Area18, Riker Spaceport, and the surrounding city having received finalized textures, materials, and finishes. The last stages of development saw countless optimization tasks completed to make it good enough for players to explore. The final level of detail (LOD) tweaks were completed to enable the assets to perform well in-engine, along with other technical aspects like tweaking view distance ratios, altering vis-areas, and merging meshes.

Planning began for the upcoming procedural tool and next set of procedural space stations. Prototyping was done on cave layouts and potential gameplay was ideated in close cooperation with the Environment Art Team. There were also updates to Lorville, with the addition of small and medium hangars and a new transit line between Teasa Spaceport and the Central Business District (CBD).

After lessons were learned during the development of Lorville, the lighting team were able to optimize Area 18s lighting far more efficiently.

Alpha 3.5 will also provide a first look at the new Banu language that is being developed, so keep an eye out for more info on that.

Props for Area 18 are having a polish pass. The area’s food carts have dressing and prop variation. Updates were also made to older street furniture  and there has been work with the branding and signage assets used throughout the area.

Persistent habs are included in Alpha 3.5 so a pass was completed to convert a whole host of props from static objects to interactive entities, while hand grip was set up to work with the player animations and additional physics set up. I am sure people will be gathering Turtles / Tortoises.

The System Design Team finalized the current iteration of the no-fly zones around Area18 and ArcCorp, which required new features to be added to allow it to work at the scale required. Walla and Lyria both received their share of mining resources, with Walla getting unique Atacamite geode deposits

Backend & Server
Progress was made on the GIM (General Instance Manager) rewrite, with the new matchmaker successfully tested internally. The GIM’s internal match/group management system are now individual and highly fault-tolerant services that can be scaled as the project develops.

Another major change was the introduction of the variable service, which came with a surprisingly high volume and rate of data.

The first major part of the iCache has been completed and tested. The iCache is a highly distributed and fault-tolerant storage/query engine that greatly out-performs their current pCache. It provides an indexing and query system that can be utilized by other services for specific and complex item queries. This system is important going forward, particularly as the Persistent Universe sees greater volumes of players and server meshing comes online.

Rendering wise, they continued work on Temporal Sample Antialiasing (TSAA) with general quality improvements that translate to less flickering and a sharper picture. Lots of hair tech is coming online and improvements with physically-based Render among other updates.

Planetary ground fog (currently scheduled for Alpha 3.6), has seen many refinements and improvements too.

They also completed rendering support for CPU-accessible textures for RTT video comms calls and optimized shaders. We should now see better load times and better use of Hard & Solid State Drives

Work also began on a physics debugger that will allow the team to record issues, play them back, freeze time, etc. to help understand and speed up fixing complex physics issues.

Effort has been made for better aligned the sun and shadows with fog in large spaces (such as hangars) and they fixed a persistent glitch with indoor lights. For vid-comms and general render-to-texture, they fixed a few issues that were interfering with brightness.. They also switched most holographic scenes over to a forward-shaded render pipeline to improve efficiency.

In regard to gas cloud tech they have been adding the ability to rotate tunnel pieces, and creating a more intelligent streaming system to enable them to lay out large sections of the game without running over the memory budget.

VFX rolled out their new GPU particle lighting changes, which includes a new optional specular shading model for particles & better lighting of effects.

They are updating various older game effects like the EMPs too.