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Squadron 42 Updates – Are They On Track For a 2020 Release?

Welcome to a Squadron 42 Progress Update, every month we look at the Roadmap and Sq42 Monthly Report in some form of detail. Where are we with it’s features, delays, updates and progress & is it still on track?

Squadron 42 Roadmap

Squadron 42 Episode 1 is pegged to have a feature complete Alpha Q1 2020 and a Beta in Q2 2020. This could change in the future if delays occur BUT that is the current schedule laid out on the Roadmap. That means that the current plan is to get the remaining major features & tech into Squadron 42 over the next 2-3 quarters.

Quarter 2 2019 saw the completion of various features for Squadron 42 Episode 1

AI Spline Paths v2 allowing AI to pathfind and move around in the new Flight Model.

Standard AI Pilot Behaviors improving the baseline behaviors for 1v1 dogfighting situations for a pilot of standard skill. 

Probably the most important thing was On Demand Physicalizing v2

Which is cored tech tied to Object Container Streaming that will only physicalize objects around the player that are needed. This feature is needed due to the sheer size of the universe and the number of objects in it. Aside from other uses, this will help cut down on the performance requirements and allow for smoother play.

Hover Mode & the Flight Model improvements from the PU.

Vehicle Scanning v3 with better entity detection and Scanning behavior & for AI to use this too.

Fuel Mechanics v2 for both Hydrogen and Quantum fuel to work with the new flight model. Some of the work will implement different grades and types of fuel and their associated performance adjustments, as well as scooping fuel from the environment.

The Organic Shader which improves the rendering of things like asteroids, rocks and naturally formed objects / terrain.

Updates to the Carribables system to allow for more objects to be interacted with and picked up appropriately.

Player FreeLook allowing for the decoupling of a players head from where their weapons are pointing.

General improvements to jumping and falling.

The Shubin Interstellar miners clothing.

The Vanduul Lance – A Staff Weapon that can be used as a spear or plasma projectile weapon. (cough stargate cough).

Frag Grenade & medipen more correct implementation. Weapon Effect Improvements.

In the last month we also saw various features get delayed from Q2’s Roadmap including The Basilisk & Gunner Costumes, Death Animation Improvements, FPS Cover Usage v1, Greycat Cydnus mining tick & the Vanduul Cleaver.

There was a Squadron 42 Monthly Report, which I’ll Summarize here as well:

I’ll omit all of the parts that were shared in the SC PU Monthly report which I did a video on a few hours ago, I’ll link that video down below, it’s features will also be used in SQ42 Episode as one as well:

Character & Animation wise they continued to focus heavily on bringing up the quality of hair. The concept stage of the Xi’an race made great headway. Refinements were made to existing outfits and the material library was further expanded, which will help improve the overall quality of costumes in the game.

Technical Animation worked closely with many other teams on ship comms calls, animation workflows, and processes. They also continued to work through the backlog of outstanding wildline and dogfighting comms animations and are currently implementing the ones already processed. The Vanduul also made a comeback – the team are working with Facial Animation to refine the look and feel of the race to showcase to the game directors very soon.

They began developing animation-driven ragdoll death sequences. This tech enables death animations to play while the body collides with the environment or reacts to external factors in a realistic and believable way. It’s still in the early stages but is beginning to work as intended.

More progress was made on melee attacks, with support added for different attack types, blocks, and directional dodges.

They also looked at the player status system and began rebalancing the stamina system to improve gameplay. They’re currently implementing a ‘stun’ mechanic, where a player can become unsteady until they’re eventually knocked unconscious for a period.

With Environments they finished work on the base asteroid set (with asteroids ranging from 30 meters to 3 kilometers) and began trialing new shaders. The current challenge is how to texture such a wide range of sizes and shapes. They are also trying to create ‘sea beds’ of asteroid rings and belts that not only stretch as far as the eye can see but are a challenge to navigate.

Worked continued on Archon Station’s and it’s traversable sections, which are close to content complete. They’re now moving onto creating the detail, such as the masses of machinery and pipework that fill the station. They are keen to get away from the ‘room, corridor, room, corridor’ mentality and are instead working in traversable paths around important structural features. For example, an oil rig is predominantly designed for a single purpose – how people get around and live on it is worked in afterwards.

Work on an important comms array continued. The structure is huge they are currently working to ensure both the interior and exteriors are fun to explore and play, which involves working on a visual language that makes it clear where and what the various gameplay options are. Players will be encouraged to play the way they want, so rather than holding their hands, they’ll be ‘channeled’ at certain points to ensure they witness crucial scenes relevant to the story.

Design continued their work on the various levels, improving the flow and refining technology. There are improvements to the crew behaviors in numerous areas and there’s been the implementation of vital narrative scenes.

The Tech Team are still improving general workflow for consistency and stability. The goal here is to have this section in a highly polished state in Q3 to enable them to move forward with the other chapters, all of which have design owners and are being worked on concurrently.

They have worked on new Ship HUD designs, which can be seen on the Gladius in 3.6.

The Graphic Design Team worked on logos for the three main squadrons in the game, created UI screens to help bring the Archon bridge to life, and looking into retro sci-fi branding for the Aciedo environment.

With Cinematics There has been some major steps forward in terms of new tech and tools. These new additions will give the Cinematics Team a thorough pipeline to aid scene integration within the campaign.

New code allows sequences from the cinematic timeline tool to blend seamlessly with AI locomotion before and after the scene ends. This is still being tweaked, but the majority of the heavy lifting is done and is functioning as intended. There have been various pipeline improvements to these systems and they have replaced some of their internal tools.

Improvements were also made to the ‘Actor Action’ track in their sequencer tool. They can now grab, handover, holster, unholster, and equip items not just from a character’s loadout but any item from the world put into the sequence. For example, this makes scenes possible where a character hands over a weapon to the player and they hand it back.

The Gameplay Story Team have over the last month implemented 12 scenes to a high standard and achieving their goal of completing all of chapter 4’s scenes by the end of 2019’s second quarter. They also supported the Design Team, who have begun triggering these scenes in significant numbers.

They’re currently working with the recently integrated Universe Outliner that allow them to animate many doors, cupboards, and flaps that were previously inaccessible.

With Graphics they finished the optimization of gas clouds, which should bring the cost to under 2ms on most GPUs. They’ll reassess the performance once the assets are finalized and decide whether further steps are required for lower-spec GPUs.

They planned out the next stage of the major renderer rework. This involves fundamental changes to the structure of the renderer to allow pre-calculation of as much rendering data and entity creation as possible to minimize the work in each frame. When complete, it should result in significant CPU performance improvements, but will take several months to complete.