Welcome to some more Star Citizen with a PU Monthly Report going over what CIGs various Studios have been working on over the last few weeks and what they are focused on now & near future. This video is targeted at Star Citizen & it’s PU Updates.
Let’s Start with some Highlights
They have been working on Security AI, which will eventually ask players to step aside to be scanned for contraband or stolen items. They determine a list of prohibited goods and controlled substances. A new salvage yard location is also in the works to enable players to sell and trade everything on the illegal / stolen goods list. This I believe is the scrap / salvage yards I got some information at from BritizenCon.
They have been rebuilding comm array and criminal database screens, which will be updated to support a consumable ‘hacking chip’. This is being worked into a mechanic that will support missions where players can attempt to prevent each other from successfully completing a hack. There has work on a major mission for Crusader’s Orison landing zone and they have prototyped an FPS combat mission aboard the Origin 890 Jump.
Ship Boarding Combat missions is something I am very much looking forward to.
They have been working on a new ship purchase kiosk, which will initially be found in Area18’s Astro Armada. Previously, players could only buy ships that fit into the showroom, which seriously limited choice. While shop displays are still limited by the size of the location, the designers can add any ship they want to the kiosk to greatly expand buying options.
They are also reworking the Ship/Vehicle UIs & HUDs. This is a significant task that will take several months to complete. Alpha 3.6 will see a new Ship Hud for the Gladius being tested, this I believe may be adopted by other ships after it’s been tweaked a bit.
Improvements include indicators for velocity, g-force, afterburner, ESP, and some new mechanics such as the thruster strength limiter and radar altimeter
They also completed major server optimization work, which included adding support for authoritative and non-authoritative entity component updates, this is leading to the first implementation of server-side OCS. Which sounds like it will be in our hands in the near future.
There is a lot of work that’s been going into Alpha 3.6 release, including improvements to the character customizer, hailing ships, shop inventory, and kiosk UIs.
Orison is continuing through the whitebox stage. They currently have the basic layout running in-game and, they will be working with Design to refine the on-foot areas. There’s progress on the ‘hi-tech’ hangars, with garages, security, transit, and habs all ready for implementation.
Pre-production began on microTech with the New Babbage LZ, this will offer players a very different experience from what’s come before, with corporate espionage, hacking, and high-tech industry all themes being considered for the icy planet.
New space station exteriors have just began their ‘final art’ phase. The most difficult part is apparently defining the various libraries, rule sets, and filters required for the game to procedurally generate interesting and believable locations. Procedural caves are progressing nicely too.
They are working on some environmental mission variants. They also added updates to the new NPC combat assist service beacons, which are almost complete and will be live soon.
Crusader’s Landing Zone Orison is moving through the whitebox stage, they are blocking out the required tier-zero shops by building shop templates rather than hand-crafting new layouts for each landing zone, which is important as more and more locations are added. This requires specific metrics for each of the shops and, while this might make shops feel less unique, it’ll free up the team to create a larger variety of franchises and brands. This also ties into the recent economy update where shops are hard-themed with items from specific manufacturers.
Testing for the New Transit Systems & microTech has started.
The Economy Team worked on getting the newly announced Ship Customizer ready, rolling out the first iteration with the new Origin 300 series. They worked closely with Marketing and Ship Design to create compelling customization packages for players to choose from. Several new items were added to the game to facilitate these ships, all of which have been added to the in-game shops too.
They also began working on a better methodology for how ships as a whole are valued. This could be through tweaking a ship’s initial itemization or maneuverability to help differentiate it in a more meaningful way. The team are pushing the economy to be one that scores items more on their actual performance rather than scaling prices exponentially. So, while ships are much more complex than general items, they want to approach them the same way they would any other item. With this in mind, they agreed several key points (that they will continue to expand upon) that can be used to measure the vast array of ship classes against each other in order to look at the game more ‘holistically’ than ever before.
They are working on Planetary Tech & Effects v 2, this will result on better looking planets and more scalable planetary features, some of the tools will support the more data-driven setups that the planets require, such as spawning particles based on temperature or humidity. They are also investigating the appropriate effect variations for distance (close, medium, and long range). Work on the real-time/live environment probe lighting also continued, with a focus on performance to ensure stalls aren’t introduced into the game.
Lighting investigated several light state switching options for each location with the goal of giving players more interaction and making the environments feel more alive.
With the Law System they have been establishing Stanton’s various jurisdictions and determine crimes that players can commit while flying around the system.
They have been working through the final art phase of the Origin 890 Jump, with the landing gear, hangar doors, master suite, engineering deck corridors, and crew areas all wrapped-up. The lighting pass is currently underway, including lighting states, exterior materials, turrets, main rear thrusters, and the large integrated components housed in the lower decks.
The Aegis Vanguard Warden and Hoplite exteriors are being wrapped-up to bring them closer to the vision of their original concepts. Work will swing back to their interiors soon. Then, they’re ready to fly. The P52 & P72 both received a VFX Pass too.
Work on the Merlin and Archimedes for Alpha 3.6 is coming to a close, while the Esperia Prowler, which is scheduled for Alpha 3.8, had its cockpit and pilot seat modeling finished.
They have been removing legacy damage from the Origin M50 updating it to the newer UV2 system, and working on animations for the Khartu-Al’s wings.
Work also continued on the ship item interiors, which included finishing a couple of small and medium-sized ship power plants, ironing out a handful of issues, and preparing for a larger push later in the year.
The Audio Team continued to push forward on improvements to ship weapons, vibration, and thruster components, which involved efforts on both the sound design and audio code fronts to create new systems and improve existing ones. A new addition from the team is that internal ship ambiance will now be directly affected by the flight model
They have pitched new commercial ideas for upcoming ships, and wrote an original song for a ship trailer currently in production.
AI, NPC & Character
The Ship AI Team exposed additional nodes in Subsumption to allow for greater scalability and interaction for the new mission System and general NPC Interaction.
This provides a way to tie the position of one AI character to another and will enable NPCs to join various flying formations or follow specific tasks & behavior. This uses the New Flight System’s autopilot mode. Eventually, this will give AI pilots more abilities during combat adding additional tactical maneuvers, including strafing, to bring AI ship abilities more into line with those of the player.
Ship strafing, is currently being tested and improved.
They have been developing different AI pilot skills changing the way they dogfight. Previously, pilot skill was used to determine the route through the branch of combat choices as the fight developed. Now, the skill influences the chance of the AI choosing a specific maneuver and its parameters, such as the duration of braking and evading. A ‘target selection’ option is now available to AI pilots that ensures they consider several factors when prioritizing between all detected targets. These factors currently include distance, perceived strength, damage sustained, and the number of allies already engaging. The next step is to introduce these influencing factors one by one and balance their relative importance during testing.
They have been working on improving the spatial perception of AI pilots. A 3D path planner used for positioning goals already exists, but the PU needs a system capable of adapting to different contexts (open space, asteroid fields, planetside, etc.). The aim is to create a new set of ways to query the state of the surrounding environments to give the AI all the information they need while having the lowest possible impact on performance.
They have been working on the ability to have players and NPCs interact with a usable (item) without being in an exact position.
They completed work on NPC reactions to audio and visual stimuli and moved onto reactions to close-proximity grenades and bullets.
There is continued fine-tuning of FPS combat tactics, shooting from cover, fighting in open space, simple search behavior, and improvements to first reactions as well as AI aiming and working out whether a AI has line of sight or can see a player.
Bar Tender NPCs have had some mocap and animation work – pouring shots to mixing cocktails, a lot of exciting new actions which will be rolled out to the PU throughout the year
They have also been further adding and refining animations and behavior for Civilians, Vendors and some new Mission givers.
The Facial Tech has had all it’s data exposed to the devs for greater variety & customizations of NPCs.
They have concepted several armors and clothing sets and been exploring alien races. They’re also currently adding the in-game t-shirts commemorating the first and second million backer milestones and subscriber helmets into the game. They are working on the material library, which will affect all wearable assets and enable them to push standards even higher.
Work continued on the hair pipeline as well.
Engine & Tech
Backend Services have been adjusting various services in the new diffusion network and finishing off tasks for the persistent item cache. They improved the variable, leaderboard, and loadout services too. Work was also completed towards ‘server-side’ object container streaming (OCS). Several bugs discovered during testing were addressed, as were some found on the current diffusion network. This paves the way for the completion of the new diffusion network before testing begins.
There have been improvements to graphical techniques & post-processing, shadows, lighting, ground fog, they completed physics-related tasks including geometry instancing to reduce memory requirements and physicalizing asteroids outside of the physics thread for performance gains.
Work continued on the Banu and Xi’an languages, with this month’s focus on expanding vocabulary.
Weapons Art finished modelling and texturing the Behring S38 pistol, Klaus & Werner Lumin V SMG, and Apocalypse Arms Animus missile launcher. They also started production on other Alpha 3.7 weaponry, including the Hedeby Gunworks Salvo frag pistol and Behring GP33 ‘MOD’ grenade launcher.
There’s been a first pass on the required adjustments for the cargo and cover metrics as well as work on the future bar experience seats and sleeping quarters.
Preliminary work was also completed on the integration of the group system into Arena Commander and Star Marine, which will be delivered sometime after Alpha 3.6.
Turbulent are working on a voice service rework to be able to elegantly handle several simultaneous connections, specifically when players are already communicating with a group or a lobby and other players approach them in-game. The first step is the addition of a voice session manager, of which development was started.
They also worked on the new Ship Customizer, which is currently up and running on the reworked Origin 300 series. Alongside new exterior and interior options, they added packages that can be added to the ships to alter their focus. The customizer service reads data from the game and generates a tree of possible selections based on the available options. This is the first example of the platform pulling ship configuration data from in-game and the first time players are able to manipulate aspects of their ship setup before playing.
And that’s it for the monthly report, we will take a seperate look at SQ42s Monthly report in another video. Are you particularly excited by anything we discussed? It does seem they are working on some of the more important core areas of the PU but are currently neglecting additional gameplay loops and mechanics like repair, medical, science, exploration, land claims and building that we have previously discussed. I know they are still fleshing out current content, we do have law & blackmarket systems as well as ship rentals in 3.6 and salvage later this year BUT I am more interested in whether people are happy with the direction, focus and progress at this stage.