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Squadron 42 Beta Delayed – Monthly Report

Welcome to a Squadron 42 Episode 1 Update for September. Squadron 42 Episode 1 has seen a delay in it’s projected feature complete beta date form Q2 2020 to Q3 2020. This delay has been partly due to CIG’s new Staggered Development plans. As Squadron 42 doesn’t have a release date yet it’s unknown whether this delay of 3 months for the internal beta will effect whatever release date CIG had in mind currently anyway. If you were being optimistic, it’s possible that SQ42 Episode 1 could be released at the end of 2020 or by Q1 2021. Let’s talk about some of those Roadmap Changes & what else CIG have been working on for their premiere full game.

The Roadmap has seen features be reallocated largely from Q3 & Q4 2019 to Q1 & Q2 2020 for planned completion, with Q2 2020 where the game should actually be feature complete and Q3 is about balance, polish and bug fixing in it’s internal beta… I say internal beta because it’s likely going to be entirely closed to the public,(as Erin Roberts said though) potentially there could be some evocati tests just before the game goes out to full release.

There was the addition of the Human AI Combat v2, which is already at 22 of 27 tasks complete for Q3 2019, this was already in the PU Roadmap and is supposed to Improve the PvE experience by implementing a more modular combat behavior for AI.

Body Dragging that was scheduled for Q4 2019 has been removed from the Roadmap, though it might be part of another task or reappear at some point soon.

It was confirmed as well as Devs finish their work on SQ42 EP1 features they will move onto PU features OR directly onto EP2… Remember Squadron 42 is going to be a trilogy of games. Some of these teams features will be completed well before the game is released.

Let’s take a look at the work and updates that the Devs have shared in the monthly report:

Environments – Archon Station’s interiors progressed well throughout August – the social hub is coming to a close and many of the team have moved onto the engineering sections seen during key parts of the campaign.

The exterior of the comms array was tweaked slightly and work continued on the geometry and shaders. The station is about to receive a lighting pass.

The development of derelict ships began, with a few interesting variations created, including rotting, frozen, and attacked – all of which are being hand-sculpted to give maximum visual and emotional impact.

Levels continue to be refined and the pacing of gameplay is solidified.

They have been using place holder assets to be able to playtest playthroughs of the game and key sequences.

They have been updating detailed backstory and references for everything from key hero assets intended to catch players’ eyes to small props that make the universe feel more alive that will help set dress and make the world feel more immersive.

They continued to work on some of the key space environments, adding improvements to the ‘VFX transparent shader’, which is used to fill environments with moving dust and debris. They continued to improve the gas cloud tools and began investigating the destruction pipeline to further improve the campaigns more epic destruction events. They also started developing effects for a new rocket launcher, including the muzzle flashes, backblast, missile trails, and missile impact on various surfaces.

They also finalized the layout and AI operation of a major FPS combat zone.

Character – SQ42 allows players to create a character at the beginning of the story. This presents a unique challenge for cinematics and narrative, as most things relating to the story feature full performance capture and one of the goals is to keep all cinematic sequences unified. They test this, by picking sequences they’re currently working on and switched between the male and female facial performance capture and evaluated where they can keep the player body motion unified, where they can edit and adjust, and where they have to split the performances. 

They don’t want direct copies of line readings and want to give the actors freedom of expression, but the overall cadence and timing must match, particularly the start times for each capture.

The female character model is smaller than the male version, both in terms of body size and camera framing (they drop the artificial camera tripod height by 10cm for the female characters). Further adjustments to the character motions were made, such as adjusting the hands and back to fit in chairs properly. 

Animation continued R&D into motion matching tech (which will give us better blended animations and less snapping or out of place animations), looking at how seamlessly it can transition from locomotion into a usable enter animation. 

They also started implementing a firing range.

They finished the first hairstyle under the new finalized hair creation pipeline.

Revisions were made to various uniforms and wrapped up a key piece of enemy armor. An extremely important character concept was also completed and will soon move into the implementation phase.

There was a cool look at some more Ship Jacker armor in the SQ42 Monthly Report as well.

Chemline

They also looked into interrupt and resume tech for story scenes, which will allow a player to leave a scene, have the characters pause naturally, and start again seamlessly when they rejoin. This extends to NPC directional triggers, and other specific details relating to social AI and player conversations. 

The Dogfight Team is still focused on the various use-cases for the more complicated AI requirements of space combat, while the Tech Team finalized the templates for various crew behaviors.

Testing for the newest AI collision avoidance changes is also underway. There is lots of overlap work that has been done on the PU for AI too.

Engine – Rendering wise, the first draft of the new graphics pipeline was submitted. The goal is to gradually transition to a Vulkan/DX12-friendly pipeline and implement the Vulkan backend. The first pass includes initial interfaces and implementation, tone mapping, and the first Vulkan code added to the renderer. They have improved various planet rendering tech. This now allows additional evaluation of ground fog density samples (and clouds at a later stage) and incorporates them into the scatter equations. They will continue updating the render design along with a clean up of old cold and redundant features.

They continued with some core features, including gas cloud sun shadows. Volumetric sun shadows are now computed on the GPU and correctly account for shadows between adjacent and parented gas clouds. There is continuing work that involves factoring these volumetric shadows into the general lighting equation for opaque meshes. Alongside this, improvements were made to the glass shader refraction effect, which is used to render plastic sheets and icicles. 

They finished work on tri-mesh splitting, which optimizes collisions and intersection tests, implements collision filtering and collision merging, and fixes foliage skinning. They also made batch process physics proxy updates which now don’t update the physics proxy if the entity has network serialization disabled.