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What’s Happening with Squadron 42?

Welcome to a Squadron 42 Update for January 2020 – I wanted to combine what information we currently have on SQ42 Progress with their Monthly Report / SQ42 Newsletter for a bit more of a deeper dive into where we are with Squadron 42 Episode 1s Development Currently.

Squadron 42 is currently Roadmapped to have a Feature Complete Beta by the end of Q3 2020 and there has been a couple of leaks from 2019 suggesting that CIG were trying to get the game released in 2020 as well (Mark Hamill saying Squadron 54 was out & BBC Click saying that CIG had told them 2020), though there is no Confirmed Release Date for the Game Currently nor have CIG confirmed to the community that they said this. The Beta as well is likely to be an internal beta SO not given to the public… potentially Evocati may get to test bit of it just before it’s release is what Erin Roberts said some months ago. CIG are currently in Scheduling and Roadmap Meetings which could see changes to this in the next few days potentially.

There were some Delays to a few of the Q4 2019 Features that CIG had wanted to get done by now that being the Ace Pilot AI, Player Status System & Improvements to the Player Interaction System these features are being worked on currently also CIG appear to be reworking the Power Systems Feature as well. Squadron 42 is HOWEVER making progress with various features from it’s Q1 & Q2 2020 Roadmap as well.

Squadron 42 was absent from CitizenCon 2019 and largely from 2019, something I thought strange there did also seem to be ships and media around CitizenCon that would imply that maybe that it shouldn’t… I saw pictures of ships like the F8 Lighting and some UEE Capital Ships while at the event. I am not sure if this is an indication of additional delays.

In the recent Crytek Lawsuit, Crytek had implied IMO that CIG had shared with Crytek that SQ42 was a long way off… however CIG recently confirmed that they HAD NOT SHARED INFORMATION ON DATES OF SQ42s RELEASE WITH CRYTEK only that they hadn’t decided how players would access the game (via the same launcher as SC or not).

We did however have a Visual Teaser of various Locations & Ships that will appear throughout Squadron 42 Episode 1 and even some looks at the Vanduul Warriors. There is certainly a huge amount of progress on the Acideo Comm Array, The Shubin Mining Facility, The OMC Base, There were full reworks of the Vanduul ships bringing them in line with the Blade, we saw the Scythe and Glaive more obviously get this as we have the old ones in the PU currently. Vanduul & UEE Capital Ships are looking like they are almost ready for prime time and the Odin System with it’s Coil Giant Gas Cloud Nebula is looking very fleshed out now.

Let’s Summarize the latest Squadron 42 Newsletter & Monthly Report

There has been a lot of focus on further fleshing out Key Locations & Gameplay Loops including improving gas clouds, GPU Particle Collisions & some of the older effects. They are currently working on Vulkan Integration and many optimizations to the Engine and Renderer.

Engineering – They began implementing the new personal inner thought system. This now-radial menu allows all player functionality to be accessed more easily (such as taking off a helmet or equipping weapons). It’s context sensitive too, so the options will change depending on the location or available actions. For example, in a cockpit, additional options such as exiting the seat or engaging landing gear become available. They also added a ‘favorites’ section for commonly used commands and enabled keyboard/button shortcuts to be assigned to any command.

Regarding melee combat, is now working on body dragging, starting with interacting with the body, repositioning it, and basic player movement. 

They have now finished the temperature system and moved onto hunger and thirst, setting up the initial stats for the Actor Status System. The display for some of this will hide when not in use, meaning the screen isn’t cluttered with things players don’t need immediate knowledge of. Further to UIs & HUDs they are continuing to build the final looks of various UI elements, including the visor the player wears throughout much of the game and target selection. 

AI Updates Quick Summary

As mentioned in the PU Monthly Report CIG have made progress with AI features like Planetside Traversal, AI Collision Avoidance, Social, Stealth AI as well as AI Movements & Perception.

Further to that The space and dogfight teams progressed with the AI behaviors of specific types of ship. Combat maneuvers are constantly being iterated on, while AI awareness of its own ship emissions, remaining ordinance, component damage, etc. is in progress. The team are also delivering level prototypes for some of the ‘exotic’ gameplay puzzles specific to Squadron 42 that rely on underlying core mechanics.

The Level Designers are focused on the FPS-heavy sections of the game, working alongside the various feature teams to make sure AI behavior is realistic in all encounters. The pre-combat behaviors were also worked on, such as patrolling, investigation, and reactions to audio attenuation on differing materials.

They continued to work on narrative interactions, applying additional polish to the various scenes in the form of gestures, head turns, and eye-looks to make them appear as natural as possible. This ongoing process will take a while to complete as there are several hours of conversations throughout Squadron 42 that allow the player to feel a part of the world, rather than just a spectator.

Cinematics have worked on story scene implementation and production quality passes for the camera, staging, and lighting (most scenes received their third of four planned passes).

Alongside the usual pipeline tasks, they worked on upcoming tech developments, specifically enabling players to interrupt & resume certain scenes and NPC conversations. This also takes into account the player not “behaving” and approaching scenes at different highets or from different directions. Blending together the animations without fragmenting.

They have been pushing for final production quality of some of the Characters.

Character Art are finalizing the bridge officer, using Executive Officer Sofia Kelly as the testbed for the new skin and hair. This led to the prioritization of scenes and where the character and camera move around a lot to test the temporal anti-aliasing (TSAA) stability.

TSAA gives them the look and feel they want for the game but it was interfering with eye lights and reflections, so, Engineering delivered a solution to ensure eye-light reflections in character eyeballs are not smoothed out and the bright dots are kept alive, which is vital to giving characters an additional flicker of life. Currently, characters as lit as if on a movie set.

Another area that received a quality push was comms calls. Squadron 42 features real-time render-to-texture comm feeds from NPCs. So, if the player has a comms call with Old Man, the wing leader will actually be in his cockpit and ‘filmed live’ when responding. They wanted to determine a ‘gold standard’ for key video comms partners the player will interact with, including their wing leader, air traffic control, and an Idris captain. They have tried to have the NPCs in the best possible area and lighting for these calls BUT they are still working out if they want to add other effects and tweak them further.

Narrative have been building out text requirements for mission objectives and UI, they reviewed progress on the various levels and synced with Design on the overall game experience. They also worked with the Animation Team to provide additional material for background NPC scenes. For example, they added moments where named characters interact with random NPCs to create additional character or story flavor.

Audio wise they have been paying particular attention to the Idris recently.

A logo for an important faction in the SQ42 narrative was also completed.
And that’s it for this months update I hope you like the new formats for the Monthly Reports, I’ll link my Star Citizen PU one down below as the games are obvious sharing the same engine and assets. I am very excited for SQ42 and hopefully CIG will be more forthcoming with information on it this year compared to last.