Welcome to some more Star Citizen today talking about plans for New Planets and Landing Zones, ship updates, procedural tech v4, mission & economy updates. we had the STAR CITIZEN MONTHLY REPORT: APRIL 2019 come out which had a huge amount info on what CIG have been working on over the last few weeks and what they are working on currently. This is a summary and highlights of that Monthly Report.
They began an early whitebox of Crusader’s landing zone, Orison. Basic architectural forms and structures are being developed. They are trying to find the right balance between expansive on-foot areas while keeping essential points of interest within sensible traversal times of each other. They’re also getting a head start on Alpha 3.9 by designing some of the missions that will appear at Orison.
The Modular Team finished whiteboxing new sets of assets for more diverse space station exterior shapes. Prefabs, rules, and filters that enable the procedural tool to do its thing are being established too. All of this will lead to a much more interesting and diverse set of station exteriors to fly around and land at very soon.
The Environment Team also focused on the ‘hi-tech’ common elements found throughout MicroTech’s New Babbage. The new hangar, hab, transit, garage, and security elements are currently being finished up and readied for their debut in Alpha 3.8. On the organics side, they completed another push on procedural caves and continued to update the PU’s existing planets, including investigating canyons (the first results of which are looking very promising).
Work continued on Area18 in the future, there’ll be new points of interest around the planet. They made progress on the procedural tool by building up of a library of rooms to give more variation to future rest stops (including refineries and cargo ports).
Narrative created branding for several new tiers of rest stop that will be peppered around the PU in upcoming patches
Lighting spent the month polishing ArcCorp’s rooftop locations and converting the underground facilities to a more modular workflow. This allows the team to provide quality and consistent lighting much faster and better support new additions to the facility layouts.
They also worked on lighting for microTech, them Jumping on the lighting early allows the team to future-proof the setup of the power system and other player interactions to make life easier in the future.
The New procedural planet tech v4 has seen work, this includes a wide array of general improvements to planets. The Graphics Team’s role has been making the texture placement and tinting more ‘physically’ based, which offers many benefits such gradual transitions between biomes and logical texture placement, which give a more varied planet, quicker content authoring, and less pop-in. It also removes the need for ‘distance fade’, meaning players can scout locations from orbit knowing the appearance won’t change when they reach the surface. Although it’s going well, procedural planet tech v4 is still very much work-in-progress and won’t be ready for the PU for some time.
In parallel to this the VFX team have been working on ‘planet effects v4’. This is a new round of iteration on the tech that generates planetary effects such as desert sand, dust, drifting pollen, etc. and the team are looking into ways to allow effects to be more closely driven by planetary data. For example, using a planet’s height map to reduce or increase specific effects depending on how high up the player is, combined with the effects options available from the room system (temperature, pressure, humidity, etc.). They have started converting planet and landing zone effects over to a new decoupled lighting setup.
They are redoing the mineable resource set up to take advantage of the upcoming harvestable tech. This allows more control over where resources are spawned, in what quantity, density, and condition. The same tech is used to spawn planetary rocks and space asteroids. In the future, it’ll be used to spawn all harvestable item in the game, including flowers, trees with fruit, and even weapons and ammo from crates.
With Props in addition to finishing off the low-tech props for cities they also completed a set of the utilitarian hangar props for more variety for landing zones.
They also wrapped up all low-tech requests, including making metric adjustments to some of the cargo and storage props in preparation of gameplay features making use of them.
Ships & Items
Lead Vehicle Artist Chris Smith completed the whitebox phase of another as-yet-unnamed ship.. Chris now moved onto the greybox phase, where he will further refine the geometry, make a first lighting pass, and properly tackle the cockpit area. People are speculating that this is something that might be new & flyable at CitizenCon or a surprize for 3.6.
Vehicle Artist Josh Coons is concentrating on refining the textures and materials of the Banu Defender, which are essential to getting the desired final look. He is also progressing with the interior lighting & the cockpit area & testing a few additional texture sets.
Work continues on the Origin 315p, 325a, and 350r still planned for the 3.5.x branch. The Esperia Prowler completed its whitebox phase and is planned for completion for 3.8 at the end of 2019 and now joins the Banu Defender in greybox which is planned for 3.6. Progress was also made on the Kruger P-72 Merlin, which is also due for release in Alpha 3.6.
There was some work on the RSI Constellation, making a pass on vehicle hull proxies, and reworking landing gear compression on the Drake Caterpillar.
Work has continued on ship items, with particular focus on interiors and how sub-items work with small and medium powerplants. The aim is to ensure that there’s enough space inside ships to allow players to interact correctly with all sub items.
Weapon Art worked on finishing the Behring S38 pistol, Apocalypse Arms Animus missile launcher, and Klaus & Werner Lumin V submachine gun.
Design & Mission
There’s been work on the economy in Alpha 3.5, item distribution was completely refactored, there is a ‘travel tax’ that’s now applied to items as they appear further from the point that they entered the system. The aim is to mimic real life in how item prices are affected by how far they have traveled from their production source, but also to make it so that players can find better deals on items if they’re willing to search them out. Regarding item distribution itself, the entire item list (2300+ items) was redistributed into the various shops based on the shop’s brand franchise, this will start to see themes and shops appropriate to their stocks.
UI worked towards getting a new ship purchase kiosk up and running, which will make its first appearance in Area18 and allow players to choose from a wide range of ships.
They have been creating new missions that may be for Tecia ‘Twitch’ Pacheco in Alpha 3.6.
They added ‘spoofed’ missions, which are driven through the Service Beacon feature. These are important as they’re the first attempt at having AI dynamically generate missions for players as they fly around the universe. Currently, the AI will only request combat assistance from players, but the doors are now open to start using the approach for other beacons as further AI features come online. For example, the team are currently working on a refueling beacon for Alpha 3.6 that will allow players to request fuel from NPCs (the ability for players to respond to this beacon type will be coming in a subsequent release).
An internal initiative to improve the Service Beacon creation pipeline was launched. This is because, at present, it takes considerable work for the programmers to add new beacon types into the game. With the help of the UI Team, new technology is being created to allow the designers to create UI screens on their own with little to no programmer support. This is important to the team who plan to regularly add new beacon types which, at the moment, can be quite difficult. In the future, players can expect new beacons added much more regularly.
Animation & Character
Animation is working on a new mission giver, Eddie Parr a bartender. They’re refining NPC bar patron animations to help populate the locations that Eddie will be bartending. This has progressed ‘recycled body animation tech’ (RBT), which will help them expand the ever-growing universe while keeping the animation footprint down without sacrificing quality. It reuses animations in an appropriate fashion between NPCs.
They continued with several concepts for outfits & new armor.
Now that the female player character is in the PU, all the existing clothing is being brought up to standard to work with the new model. Work has continued on the hair pipeline, specifically on tools to help the artists build some new hairstyles.
They are working on improvements to the Character Customizer for 3.6
They have been improving general faces and motion capture for a more natural look.
They also began improving and integrating the VoIP and chat system into Arena Commander and Star Marine.
Combat AI was refactored to allow a more modular approach to the definition of tactics and behavior. The aim of this is to give the designers an efficient template that they can expand on and customize as they like.
There was a focused on reworking first reactions so that NPCs feel more natural and react correctly to everything from gunshots or objects being thrown in their vicinity to getting shot.
They’re currently working on formation tech, alongside the ability to set up flying formations, enables the precise positioning and orientation of ships. Eventually, this will be used for other gameplay features like AI refueling, rescue, and cargo scanning. Work also continues on additional combat behavior blocks for existing AI. For social AI, progress is being made on the unified vendor behavior that will cater to a variety of NPC characters such as bartenders and weapon sellers.
They optimized the AI EventDispatcher, which registers entities to specific events, that brought down CPU usage from around 12 milliseconds to 600 microseconds & they’ve further taken advantage of multi-threading for subsumption.
Graphics & Engine
The team also began to look into refining physics geometry instancing to reduce memory requirements. When finished, this will reduce the memory used in spatial and planetary grids and generally optimize the physics engine.
They are working on server-side object container streaming, general PU performance, R&D into the current status of the tile system, support for integrating physics into the game-dev stream, and preparatory work towards adding a target selector into the FPS mode.
They’re currently working on a prototype of the new Star Service, which marries game server and diffusion technologies, allowing more gameplay systems to live in scalable services on the backend.