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Squadron 42 Monthly Report

Welcome to some more Star Citizen this time with updates to Squadron 42 with it’s version of the Monthly Report – Squadron 42 Newsletter

The AI Feature Team finalized the implementation of non-player interactive scenes and are now working on the setup for scenes with player interaction.

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.

Thave also been working with Physics to start implementing a new 3D pathfinding algorithm that can utilize the info in the physics grid to plot a course. They started implementing formation flying with support from the EU Vehicle Team and have been helping out with the tools that preview video comms in ships and select characters, ships, and dialog to make sure the animation, lighting, and camera positions work correctly. They’ve been experimenting with camera movement in comms calls to make them feel more alive too.

Work on the Vanduul facial rig is beginning in earnest again. They have new meshes and textures to experiment with and are currently re-authoring the whole facial expression set. Tech Animation have been helping to make sure combat works correctly, NPCs are able to navigate environments, and props articulate as they should.

They continued polishing characters. Finishing touches were added to the Vanduul armor and the team are currently exploring the Xi’an. Work also continues on the material library, which affects all armors and outfits and will allow further improvements to visual quality. In a similar vein, tools for the hair pipeline are being built and tested to help artists author higher-quality hair.

The Actor Feature Team continued their work on the next iteration of jumping. This time, they concentrated on making jumping from heights look and feel more realistic by removing ‘flappy’ arms and improving the way weapons are held while falling. They also implemented an ‘anticipation’ animation based on velocity, which will improve the transition from falling to landing. March’s work on takedowns also continued, with the team implementing block-outs for both barehand and knife takedowns when the victim is prone.

A project to give better cinematic control over ships. They can now open full ships in the editor and select any entity on them, add it to the TrackView timeline, and animate it (something that required proxy placeholders before).

They have a working break-free cinematic mode that lets players switch between filmic or first-person viewpoints. Time was spent setting it up to work with the briefings the player receives from superior officers throughout the campaign. The mixture of first-person viewpoint and player-character reaction affords opportunities to show little moments and that would otherwise be lost if the scene was experienced entirely from a fixed perspective.

The Gameplay Story team had a productive month and were able to implement 13 scenes to a high standard. They also tested several scenes that take place on the bridge of the Idris, with characters interacting well with their seats and flight controls.

They have implemented a physically-based detail mapping technique for the organic shader that intelligently blends and scales micro-details to match the overall macro surface textures. This allows for logical and varied details on organic assets with minimal artist setup. Extremes in brightness for video comms were fixed via better HDR color reproduction too. On the optimization front, they made three major improvements to the volumetric gas cloud tech: significantly more efficient brick culling for shadows via rasterization, resolution up-scaling to save fill-rate, and aggressive node pruning to save memory.

The Level Design team made a lot of pipeline optimization to streamline production of the required social AI behaviors, which involved forming a mini-team to tackle the mountain of required useables (these are vital to the implementation of crew schedules and behaviors that make the game’s social spaces believable and realistic). The Art and Design teams mapped out all space-based points of interest and action bubbles to ensure they have beautiful and astronomically-correct backgrounds. They have a number of new senior hires that will make a positive difference to their output in the coming months.

Narrative worked through an assortment of editorial selects for key campaign characters & progressed with key lore to help ground the fiction behind some of the latest concept work as well as writing several set-dressing documents to guide environmental storytelling.

They constructed background display screens for Aciedo station and branding and decal pass for Archon Station’s interior.

VFX worked on improvements to screen interference & adding on and off sequences for comms calls. They blocked out some key destruction sequences and are continuing to flesh out environmental effects. Iteration on the gas cloud toolset continues, which will ensure the tools deliver everything required to flesh out related locations, such as The Coil.