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Star Citizen | What Have CIG Been Working On? – Alpha 3.6 Additions & AI Updates

Welcome to some more Star Citizen with a Monthly Report Summary for June/July focusing on what CIG have been working on over the last few weeks and what they are working on now. New locations & gameplay as well as significant AI updates are on the horizon.

Environment Updates for 3.6 include:

New space station exteriors were completed and deliver much greater variety to help make each location feel unique. Work has since started on the interiors too, with the same goal of improving variety.

The various transit systems around the ‘verse were updated, specifically to make the waiting times between train rides shorter. Signs have been updated with visual directions in several locations to make navigation easier, particularly for new visitors.

Progress on the ‘hi-tech’ hangars continues, with the team working through the various modules to get them ready for their release on microTech (and later Orison).

The Update to the Transit System 2.0 meant that all elevators, trains, and shuttles across the PU had to be set up again. Aside from improvements behind the scenes, this change enabled the team to add several quality-of-life features for players such as multiple carriages on a single track, looping lines, multiple destinations, and limbo states for elevators, elevators actually move and can go to multiple locations if they have the “track” set up for it.

New Rest Stop locations that use procedurally generated exteriors were added and Delamar was rotated on its orbit to adjust its proximity to GrimHex. 

Lighting was updated for legacy locations with fresh lighting, optimization, and polish, with the underground facilities, Port Olisar, and Levski all getting attention.

As well as New content included lighting the utilitarian space station exteriors and planetary junk site locations. 

Further out on the Roadmap, Pre-production began on New Babbage, with the high-level layout, whitebox, and placement and tiering of shops and offices currently in progress. 

Work has completed on Orison’s whitebox (Crusader’s Cloud City Landing Zone), They are about to start the greybox phase, where the floating city’s core forms and shapes are locked down and its functionality and flow are going to be refined.

They began prototyping lighting for dark and ambient caves along with the bright and functional hi-tech hangars.

Progress continued on Planet Shading V4 and live-environment probes and is planned to ramp up in July. Planetary Effects V4 is part of this as well & Further improvements were made to color tinting, allowing greater accuracy when players quickly traverse differently colored terrains. They also prototyped a method of allowing particles to orient to terrain, which allows effects to convincingly follow the curves and contours of the environment. 

Ships

They are  currently progressing on the greybox stage of both the Banu Defender and Esperia Prowler.

The past month they have closed out the Vanguard Hoplite and Warden for Alpha 3.6, which involved adding Level of Detail (LOD), the final lighting pass, and finishing off the rear ramp and the Hoplite’s rear seating. Some of the finer exterior details were given a polish too, including the rear thrusters and flip-up lights.

With the Origin 890 Jump, continued towards the ‘art complete’ stage.It had its last lighting pass, final art was submitted for the ‘battle bridge’, and the cargo bay elevator door, airlock, and hangar landing pad were added. A few small tasks remain on the ship’s exterior that, when complete, it will get it’s damage pass.

Ship Feature wise they have been developing vehicle radar detection and scanning (including surface and detail scanning) and under-the-hood core tech improvements to the item port system. Time was also dedicated to fixing a variety of bugs and issues, from mining performance problems to crashes.

There was also a focus on finishing the misfire system and making sure it communicates properly with players. Hover Mode received a lot of attention too, with various changes and improvements currently being worked on. Exploratory work began on a brand-new design for ship MFDs as well.

There is a new Gladius HUD with an updated layout, which is being tested for 3.6 and after some iteration it should propagate to other ships.

Gameplay & Other Feature wise

Work was completed on the 1st iteration of criminal database and hacking screens. Related to the new screens are two new underground facilities on Hurston and ArcCorp, which can be used by players to hack into the criminal database and remove their crimestat not just Security Post Kareah.

They are working on the few last remaining issues with the new black market “fences” & kisoks. When sorted, stolen goods will only be accepted at off-the-radar locations and normal shops will refuse to accept goods taken from other players and NPCs.

Work with service beacons continued, with the most recent iteration of Escort/Assist now visible in Alpha 3.6 PTU. Rather than use the same system, real-world players will deploy ‘Escort’ beacons for support, while NPCs will exclusively use ‘Combat Assist’.

In-game ship pricing has also been a priority they have expanded the existing methodology for scoring and pricing ships and components, this is also tied to the ship customizer. The team is currently wrapping up a pass on in-game ship pricing that should hit the PTU build of Alpha 3.6 soon, expect there to be more tweaking of ship prices before 3.6 goes LIVE.

They have been working on v2 of VoIP & FoIP. This included adding the ability to ‘hail’ other ships by making video calls using the target HUD and a hotkey. Other options include using the comms and target multifunction displays (MFD) and the comms app in mobiGlas. Group chat preference improvements were also implemented along with the automatic creation of ship channels.

Weapons & Items

The Weapon Art Team finished modeling and texturing the Hedeby Gunworks Salvo frag pistol and Behring GP33 ‘MOD’ grenade launcher. They also cleaned up optical attachments and polished a few other weapons, including the Klaus & Werner Lumin V SMG.

The UI Team worked on screens for the Gemini S71 rifle and Greycat Industrial Multi-Tool alongside getting the ship purchase kiosk ready to use for Alpha 3.6.

FPS AI

With AI they have a multithreaded update of the Subsumption component for 3.6 & will have a positive impact on overall game performance. The Tactical Point System was updated to support asynchronous generation, which will improve the efficiency of large usable search radiuses and have less impact on frame update.

They have been refactoring human combat AI – new tactics have been added, NPCs understand open environments better, and a lot of bugs have been fixed. This update will hit the PU in Alpha 3.6. The first version of an ‘investigate’ behavior was also completed, which will enable NPCs to search for players if they manage to escape during combat.

They completed work on the first reactions to audio and visual stimuli & are now working on reactions to grenades and bullets.

Flight AI

Flight Behavior wise the pilot skills and all initial ‘skill sheets’ were completed for the PU (and SQ42). Several flying maneuvers, such as the ‘fly by’ and ‘breakaway’, were reworked to support strafing and the afterburner has been improved when flying over splines. 

Testing of this feature is underway, it is making the AI more interesting and challenging to fight against.

They continued work on 3D pathfinding and are currently implementing a more efficient way to evaluate the environment and build flight paths using information from the distance field calculated by the physics code. This will also allow AI ships to better navigate highly complex environments, such as dense asteroid fields and intricate structures.

They also implemented target selections to allow AI to switch focus between multiple enemies based on different parameters, such as damage done and proximity. 

Social AI

For Social AI new functionalities were added to the vendor AI, such as enabling NPCs and players to interact with usables without the need to explicitly trigger interactions. For example, if a player wants to order a drink, they only need to move towards the bar as they would do in normal life. This behavior is constantly improving and will eventually support all types of vendor in ‘verse. They’re currently working out the last few kinks in the unified vendor behavior before it’s considered complete.

Animation started on the motion capture data for the updated bartender and bar patron behavior and work has also began on a new mission giver coming later this year.

Character & Animation

They have worked on some new NPC profession Concepts. Bounty hunter concepts were approved and moved into the modeling stage and the Tumbril biker jackets were finished, as were some upcoming subscriber items. Some work is going into the new tech for suits and animated helmets.

Animation continued to develop human-style enemies, including enabling them to use sidearms and the previsualization of two new enemy types. They helped prototype melee combat and began working out the kinks in the takedown system. They also began creating animations for ‘first selects’ (a unique animation for the first time a player holds/equips a weapon) and worked with Design on weapon inspection and pickups.

Star Citizen has taken steps towards establishing a new updated in-house facial rigging pipeline. In order to flesh out the DNA gene pool and populate the Star Citizen universe with millions of unique looking characters, a large number of face rigs for both female and male characters need to be created. An in-house facial rigging solution will give devs the required flexibility and full control over production scheduling and rig asset quality (and therefore animation and deformation quality). The first test case and benchmark for this new system was the face rig for the female playable character. The challenge now lies in ensuring that the animation quality matches (or surpasses) that of the male playable character. 

A lot of work also went into the next iteration of the character customizer, which is coming post-Alpha 3.6.

Backend & Networking

They completed the initial test runs of server-side object container streaming (OCS).

Work started on the new router mesh, which will help scale and distribute backend service data load over multiple machines and reduce the backpressure experienced in the current system.

Work continued on the physics refactor, with the current task being to convert queues. They also started initial work for the instancing of physics geometry to save system memory, provided support for 3D flight navigation.

There is going to be a Series of Promotions for the Launch for Alpha 3.6, I suspect it will be along the lines of a freefly and new flyable ship sale as well as potentially 1 or 2 straight to LIVE new vehicles / ships.