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Chris Roberts – 40,000 Players & Ray Tracing

There was a Chris Roberts interview about Star Citizen from the Intelligencer. He talked about various aspects of Star Citizen, his vision for it, technology, server meshing, getting lots of players in servers, ray tracing and more. This is a summary of that article and interview.

The Elevator Pitch for Star Citizen is a game that allows players to live a Virtual Life in a SandBox Sci-Fi Universe. It aims for the highest fidelity possible making use of modern tech to make a dream game a reality.

Star Citizen aims to remove as many of the limitations it can of previous games.

They are building it in a simulation style way allowing you to interact with the world and affect it. FOIP that they are still working on allows you to express yourself and make your avatar come to life and intergrating a diagetic VOIP system. They want to increase and encourage social interation and create a real feeling world.

The game is on a massive scale, Players will be able to be Farmers, Traders, Miners, Combat Pilots, Live on Planets, you can walk around on the ground level explore every inch of caves, go into cities, explore the interiors of some of them and then get into space ships and ships range for 20m to 200m in game CURRENTLY though there are ones over a km ships being built with full interiors including living quarters and toilets.

The idea is to have a huge amount of freedom and scale. Chris compares it to GTA 5 but on a much larger scale.

Star Citizen uses a lot of bespoke procedural tech to help build to world BUT it’s different than that of something like No Man’s Sky. They use Procedural techniques to assist in the building of areas, planet, cities, mission & game content BUT they get artists and devs involved in the placement and building process. They use procedural tools to paint at scale oceans, forests, mountain ranges, tundra. They want the whole Verse to be as highly detailed and reflective of it’s lore as possible.

Star Citizen has developed various technologies that weren’t feasible when the project began. The Procedural Planet tech at ground level being one of them. PCs are getting more powerful and they are building Star Citizen inline with ever improving hardware. They run Star Citizen’s Servers via AWS for a scalable solution as they expand their playerbase and game. Originally they planned to have lots of instances that then affected a GOD AI simulation BUT they are now pushing towards Server Meshing utilizing cloud power.

“So instead of having 400 servers and each server has 100 or 200 people on it, and those people can’t see [players on other servers], if they all mesh together you could have all 4,000 people or 40,000 people in the same world at the same time.”

“we’re quite far along on the tech to deliver that. I know Amazon has been working on some of this behind closed doors”

With traditional multiplayer games there is always an element of lag & delay between clients and the server communicating and sync issues. Using the cloud for Star Citizen will help mitigate some of the communication issues allowing for much less latency. It was also suggested that you want have cheating issues either.

Star Citizen is planned to be a LIVE game as long as there’s an audience for it they plan to keep making more content for it, beyond it’s release, they want to keep their model on the cutting edge. They want a game and tool set that gives players a huge amount to do, have stories to tell and inspires them to do things.

Regarding technology that they may implement in the future Chris said

“The biggest one would be proper ray-tracing [a rendering technique for tracing paths of light] and he would love to be free of polygons [the shapes that compose 3-D models]. That is a longer-term tech plan but that is probably four or five years down the road. In general in games. There is talk of techniques to use now where the processing is powerful enough that you can move away from the way you’ve built games over the past twenty years.

You need some heavy-duty computational power to do some of that stuff though, which is why people haven’t done it today, but longer term it’ll move that way. It’ll just be a far more photorealistic rendering. Lighting actually makes a massive difference to how a scene feels, it’s definitely one of the key area of how you emotionally connect to a scene.”

Chris feels that they have a direct connection with the players and consumers and are building something much better than a films fidelity could represent. The power of modern tools allows them to be unshackled from technical limitations to bring their game to a large mainstream audience.

Chris says it’s an exciting time and they are still in the early stages of understanding what is possible, like in the early days of film.