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Star Citizen Monthly Report – Caves & FPS Mining

Welcome to a Star Citizen Monthly Report Summary for August/September 2019.

Going over some of the updates that Star Citizen will see in the near future, from AI to Backend Features to New Gameplay.

AI – Character AI is working on new iteration of combat behaviors with better structural organization of the different tactics characters can evaluate during combat. Making the overall combat experience more stable and interesting. NPCs now have proper tactics for handling open spaces and have a better selection of cover options when fighting in locations with multiple floors. NPCs can also use different weapon fire modes to best suit their current situation. These choices are also affected by the AI’s ‘experience’ – so a scared, inexperienced soldier might shoot as much as possible with reduced accuracy and bullet conservation. 

Ship AI had behavior and technical improvements allowing for more behavior parameters. The first version of the Defend a Target behavior is working & makes use of the new target selection functionalities – Devs can now customize threat scores to enable the AI to select the most appropriate targets. It is influenced by several other factors beyond threat score of a ships, the number of enemies targeting a specific entity, or damage inflicted. The goal of this is to provide a more realistic fight experience and allows players to witness more meaningful decisions during firefights.

Ship 3D pathfinding saw work towards implementation, the new approach has two basic control modes: position and velocity. Positional control means that a spaceship wants to reach a specific location, so a path will be generated incrementally as it moves in space. Velocity control means that a spaceship is going to maneuver related to a specific target or location. Both approaches make use of the physical data stored in the signed distance fields (SDF) or distance based information.

They are tackling the problem of NPCs navigating across multiple meshes. The ‘offmesh link manager’ has been improved to accept the connection of different navigation meshes and the movement system can now handle different paths and follow multiple path types. This functionality is fundamental to the procedural generation of stations made by multiple navigation meshes (or ships composed of different customization elements) and to allow, for example, reinforcements to drop from a ship to a station.

They have been more generally improving & touching up in-game animations for Characters. 

Bartender NPCs made progress and they are planning to shoot more mocap to add to the experience too.

NPC Archetypes & Voice Lines have been updated.

Banu cuisine and some of the potential fighting styles have been discussed.

The bounty hunter NPC progressed to the high-poly stage.

The initial Material Library rollout is complete allowing much more blending and customization of various materials.

Facial expressions & detailed face scans are being improved for the character pipeline and this is also helping to expand the DNA pool of Characters that can be created.

There’s several improvements to the Comm-Link UI for Alpha 3.7, improving its general readability and user experience. Work also continued on multi-channel comms support for VoIP/FoIP, as did work on the second iteration of the character customizer. The new version brings a straightforward look to the UI that will improve the overall user experience when creating custom characters in Alpha 3.7.

Environment – They are finalizing the mood and atmosphere of lighting for the upcoming planetary cave locations. The challenge has been finding a balance between believable darkness, cinematic atmosphere, and readability to prevent players from becoming too lost. To support this, they’ve been looking into making improvements to the player flashlight and adding ‘flavor areas’ that can help players identify where they. Various asset work for caves is also completed and they are prototyping a personal flare that should be art complete next month. Players can expect to find new mineable and harvestable items when they eventually explore these new locations in the future.

Further progress was made on Planet Effects V4, with further improvements to the LOD system mentioned and the ability to spawn effects directly from surface types.

Progress was made on microTech and technical updates were made to planet tech to improve all existing locations. Players will see improved visuals, better consistency between ground and orbit, and direct correlation with the VFX on the surface when it goes live. 

New Babbage is making great progress and is well into it’s Greybox phase. 

New modular station interiors are being generated & tested to ensure everything is working as intended for their upcoming release.

A system was also added to enable special particles that have custom LODs embedded into the effect. This will allow the team to drastically change the look of an effect based on the range. For example, a dust storm may be thick enough to see some directional sunlight shading when viewed from afar, but up close it will just look like thick fog with no shading.

They also iterated on a tool that allows them to quickly generate multiple buildings defined by a rule-set.

Ships & Weapons – Finishing touches to the Banu Defender Art was made. Most elements of the ship are nearing completion, with they are now finalizing the material sets and preparing for a damage pass. 

Significant progress was also made on the Prowler following the finalization of the art direction for Tevarin ship interiors. The exterior is approaching the greybox-complete stage and the Tevarin interiors are developing their own identity.

They have been working on annunciator panels for ships, getting the individual lights to work correctly in the right situations & are now adding it to more vehicles. 

They also made various improvements to Hover Mode (and the new assist mode).

The Greycat Multitool mining attachment and new weapon attachment types are nearing completion.  Scopes, holo sights, red dots, and a full selection of barrel and under-barrel attachments are now being tested..

The Kroneg FL-33 laser cannon is having the finishing touches applied to the main geometry and materials and will move to the final art complete stage soon. The Hedeby Gunworks Salvo frag pistol was completed (including new functionality that allows devs change the projectile type when the weapon is fully charged) and work also began on a new rocket launcher too.

Gameplay – There is a lot of new gameplay being worked on for Q3 2019 and beyond, that has yet to be unveiled.

On the economy side of things, they spent time integrating and distribute new materials into various shops throughout the universe. They also continued work on improving the economic makeup of ships and are looking to make a holistic pass updating mission payouts and trade routes.

A mission giver audit started, which is the first step in an overall update of all mission-giving NPCs. Preliminary work was also started on new mission content and is currently in the R&D and prototype stage. A large number of new items are currently being added to shops for Alpha 3.7 as well.

FPS mining saw work for it’s gameplay including the mining attachment’s laser beam, impact, and rock destruction.

Engine & Backend – Graphics have focused on various tasks over the last few weeks.

Planet shading improvements, planet code optimization, a tint palette system to allow a much wider variety of colors, decals, and logos across the game.

And bounded light simulation which is being primarily used for flashlights.

Work began on the new resource service, which is responsible for placing and tracking natural resources on planetary bodies throughout the solar system. The new Star Engine Services received enhancements to its core technology and is now ready to be used for gameplay and other supporting roles.

Game servers are now using a generalized transaction service to handle shop purchases, insurance, and other related exchanges

They are also working on a physics proxy refactor which, when complete, will result in improved performance throughout the PU.

Several fixes were made to ensure aiming and shooting syncs correctly between the client and server too.

Turbulent began development of a new framework to build event-sourced microservices. This will support the development of an entirely new set of game services and will provide inventory and progress persistence, cut the development times of upcoming services, and increase reliability across the game’s social services. 

CIG are preparing for CitizenCon and there is going to be a lot of cool stuff being shown off!

As we get closer to CitizenCon we shall no doubt discover a bit more about what is planned and going on.