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Squadron 42 Updates – Progress Towards Beta in 2020

Welcome to a Squadron 42 Episode 1 Roadmap Update, the Single-player Campaign Experience of Star Citizen, looking at what the Devs have been working on over the last few weeks and progress made.
You Can See the Latest SQ42 Newsletter Here
You Can See the Latest Changes to the SQ42 Roadmap Here

Squadron 42 Episode 1 is still listed on the Roadmap as having a feature complete Beta by the end of Q2 2020, it’s very possible that this date could see delays but I’ll update if anything changes, there has been a lot of progress on a smorgasbord of features over the last few weeks.

AI has made a lot of progress recently, they completed AI Flight Landing, Take-Off, and Travel – This Utilizes the new flight model to improve spline-following functionality and allowing for AI pilots in ships to land on and take off from carriers, hangars, or landing pads, and perform basic non-combat maneuvers, like patrolling.

Flight Mission Logic Additional Controls saw a lot of work towards completion which involves the ability to impart commands to an AI spaceship crew as a player would, interfaces that allow commands to ship AIs to defend other ships or lead/follow another ship while flying over user-defined splines. This will also have the ability to specify dangerous areas the AIs should try to avoid.

FPS Combat AI Behaviors have been updated to react to enemy presence with additional animations, audio lines, comms and could have the NPC investigating sounds or events.

General Flight AI saw firing behavior, target selection & mission/event response updates.

Usables used primarily by Social AI, NPC Vendors & Civilians went through a rework. This involved going into test levels and making sure the AI could navigate to the usables and use them according to their respective functionalities.

They’re also anticipating that testing will be required for the new ship AI formations feature. This system is already being used to a degree in the PU, but will need further functionality testing for SQ42.

Animation work for Melee & Female Character Motion has been coming along nicely.

This has seen iteration of unarmed melee combat, including looking into a heavy attack and creating windows of opportunity for punching, dodging, and blocking. The timings and balance of melee has been tested in multiplayer melee fights in a test bar.

The Hair Pipeline has been evolving and they have added tools to control hair grooming

Rigging for important characters was developed, as was texturing for costumes and uniforms. They are now continuing their texturing pass on heads and other outfits.

Concepting began on the UI for the ‘datapads’ various characters carry & they finished the logos for the main UEE squadrons seen on military ships and uniforms. 

The Cinematics Team has been focusing on conversations, briefings, or walk-and-talk scenes. There has been some new tech that unblocks the ability to fully implement these types of scenes. Mo-Cap and Animation Blending also saw work with more scenes being marked as ‘implementation complete’ which means a scene’s state machine is done, approved, and the animation editing for each fragment reflects that, including pre-scene idles, intros, dialogue options, waiting idles, resolves, post-scene idles, which even smaller scenes require.

The Social Team continued with the implementation of narrative scenes, crew behaviors, and some of the persistent entities such as the weapons vendor, firing range, and air traffic controller.

They are developing a motion matching system, which is a technique that creates much more fluid transitions between animations and will add an extra layer of fidelity to characters.

Various scenes that are planned for completion by the end of September have started & they have been creating idle animations and tasks where they believe they are required.

Work on the inventory system began. Alongside the physical inventory (items attached to your suit), players will get a container to stow resources and other smaller items.

Environments saw some important asteroid sets completed and will serve approximately 30% of the game’s needs in that regard. Asteroids (and other assets) evolve as the campaign progresses, so the next step is to create variations.

Gas cloud work continued too, with Design working out their modular set requirements for the basic traversal areas. 

They are are merging this tech with some of the asteroid belts as some of them have solar winds and need to have movement, affect ship flight characteristics, and so on.

Archon Station’s central hub received significant attention, including explorations of lighting & atmosphere there. The aim is to have a social space that feels as alive as possible and to accurately portray the fact thousands of people live and visit it every day.

Development of comms array exteriors is coming to a close, with particular attention being given to how the player freely traverses the area while being “funneled” to locations that show of the scale and grandeur.

They also began early work on one of the main planetary locations – a brutalist building with impressive scale.

Level Design are still polishing chapters that include traversal and exploration along with focusing on the combat experience. The Spaceflight Team are currently developing combat spaces with Art and the points of interest where quantum travel will be seen, with focus soon shifting from level layout to the player cockpit experience as more AI behaviors make it into the game.

They have been working out what stats and metrics the missions will keep track of & writing mission descriptions and info based on that. This will also factor in the reputation system, as these factors will help establish a player’s performance during the game.

The Game Engine saw Server OCS get worked on, general game updates & code support to optimize collisions, overlapping zones, geometry instancing, application of network states and an on-going physics updates for example vehicles now ‘go to sleep’ when landed, not updating ship physical entity if parts move slightly, not looping through all rigid entities during the ‘apply state from network’ part of the physics step, this make everything faster and more efficient. They are also starting to get various options for AA and scalable visual optimizations ready. 

Rendering Code is being updated to vastly reduce CPU cost & get ready for what is assumed to be Vulkan Support & any other modern graphics API they want to integrate.

There is a unification of fog & completion of some gas cloud tech is being done – atmospheric, ground & cloud with the way light deals with them & they their procedural layout generator now visualizes collusion issues better, this will all lead to better looking terrain and locations faster in areas like the Coil with it’s huge network of traversable gas clouds.

There were lots of general code & workflow updates as well as the addition of ‘child object container layers’ that can now have zones, ships, areas and scenes playing without having to wait for client mode to verify it works, these changes allow, for example, a fistfight scene play out on top of a Gladius wing while the player is flying the ship.

I am suspecting that there is going to be a good amount of Squadron 42 stuff to be shown off at CitizenCon, we know they have worked on some Vertical Slice Gameplay of the first ⅓ of the game and various ships and scenes have been worked on as well that CIG are unwilling to name at the moment.

The amount of progress with AI & the Game Engine has me most excited at the moment, AI is obviously core to SC and SQ42 so it needs to be great and in the PU it is far from such.

The Game Engine though is seeing SOCS and associated tech progress BUT also optimizations and the skeleton in place for things like Vulkan Integration and graphical polish something that will catapult the game into something even better looking potentially.

And remember any of these Squadron 42 Updates also directly effect the PU, though sometimes it take a little longer to get them in the PU due to it’s multiplayer nature and massive scope.