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Squadron 42 Updates – What’s Being Worked on Now?

Welcome to a Squadron 42 Update, every month we look at what CIG are saying about the progress on their Single Player Campaign of Squadron 42, what’s new, what’s struggling and when it looks like it’s going to be completed… tho that one is a little less clear…

Squadron 42 has some different needs in some areas development wise when compared to the PU, on one hand it doesn’t need Multiplayer and is much more on rails than the PU BUT it has cinematics, a story line and a lot of incredibly high quality sequences.

Squadron 42 Episode 1 is still listed on the Roadmap for a Feature Complete Beta by the end of Q3 2020. While this could certainly see delays BUT that’s what is currently shown.

Optimistically, Squadron 42 Episode 1 could be in players’ hands between Q4 2020 and Q2 2021. Squadron 42 isn’t a typical AAA development, CIG have said time and again they will not release it until they have it “near perfect to their vision” so bare that in mind, there is no hard release date confirmed YET.

There have been some Squadron 42 Features that were targeted for completion in 2019 BUT have yet to be completed that I wanted to talk about, a lot of these are being worked on for the PU at the same time and have a lot of additional tasks added as they evolve the features.

AI & Ships are the most “affected”:

The FPS AI Cover Usage Feature was reopened as they want to get some more polish as was the FPS AI Combat Weapon Types Feature. Having AI using cover appropriate and being able to be setup with and use different weapons effectively.

There is also FPS Stealth v2 – with NPC behaviors that allow for a player to approach an encounter using stealth tactics. This also allows for the NPC to react appropriately and realistically as they search for potential intruders, identify corpses, and transition between low and medium threat levels.

Fighter Ace AI – Implementing the functionality for veteran or ace-level combat pilots. Some of the behaviors will include decoupling, ship loadout-based behavior, or cleverly using the environment in their tactics.

The Javelin, Idris & Bengal Capital Ships haven’t been marked as completed either tho it’s expected that they are just waiting on some core tech further down the line to then finish them off as well as all the associated cinematic scenes & NPC task associated with them to be complete.

This is true of all the Vanduul Ships too, they aren’t marked as complete BUT they are most likely as complete as they can be at this stage.

However Work was done to improve accessibility to ships. They now have a visual viewport selection of a ship’s itemports and can add them to sequences. This is a huge improvement over the previous long single list, particularly on huge ships with potentially thousands of itemports like the Bengal.

Back to features that were supposed to be completed – The Physical Damage System – Making use of the physics engine to create a system that looks spectacular as well as behaves realistically when large objects such as ships are being damaged by weaponry or colliding with other ships, locations, or even planets. This also has weapon damage, armor, environment and damage types all important to the game and what they actually hit and where. 

The Power System Updates – Expanding the existing power system to provide systemic connected gameplay in environments and vehicles. Includes connecting the door, lighting, and lift systems to power and dealing with the impacts of EMP.”

Player Status System Updates – which is a focus for 3.9 in the PU is still receiving work. Though it’s needs are likely a little simpler for Squadron. It tracks things like Health, Hunger and Temperature.

Player Interaction System Improvements with Continued development of the interaction system that lets the player select dialogue options, interact with props in the environment, and generally interact with the game. This has become part of a wider update to the PU and SQ42.

Atmospheric Effects & Cloth Simulation Improvements, HDR Color Processing for appropriate monitors, 

Although there is a fair bit listed there a lot of it is almost completed it seems OR requires another feature to be finished before marking it complete. Some of those Features have also been rolled into their next iterations, so the next version of them with a bit of a jump.

All of those features are being worked on to some degree BUT CIG have also made progress on a lot of their Q1 & Q2 2020 goals, they aren’t idling.

We have had a Squadron 42 Newsletter and I have also recently had a look at the PU Monthly Report (Which you can find a link to my video on that down below)

Let’s have a look at some of the other progress that CIG have recently talked about with SQ42.

AI is a big focus and IMO the area that CIG are struggling with the most especially where SQ42 is concerned. In addition to continued work on FPS Cover and Loadouts they have also have finalized an implementation for some of their 3d navigation & pathfinding systems for AI, making AI pilots more aware of their surroundings and safe paths they can take both in space and in atmosphere.

They are much more easily able to puppeteer ships for cinematic scenes too, with the IFCS responding precisely to requests. Now, for example, if Old Man’s Gladius comes to a halt, the correct thrusters will fire.

The Dogfight Team are still building out the core AI movesets and behaviors to deliver believable and scalable AI for all scenarios.

A lot of work was done on improving  the interrupt and join tech. It now uses Subsumption static variables to simplify the logic setup and provide additional triggers, such as area volume. During January, they managed to complete 975 interrupt, busy, and conversation rejoin lines. 

They also began incorporating the new player facial animations. This involves ensuring that the animation triggers and synchronizes correctly. One particularly complex scene that involves six characters preparing for battle made great progress, with animation and weapon handling flowing seamlessly.

CIG’s Gameplay Story Team Said “We have plenty more background elements and post-scene animations to complete, but I’m certain this scene will become a highlight for our team’s work on Squadron 42.”

Characters – They have been updating hair styles and adding new tech. Head update passes are currently underway as hairstyles are completed.

Development continued on the Vanduul race, with the team working closely with Tech Animation, who are developing their internal Rig Logic system.

Squadron uniforms were brought up to the latest standard, including the Bridge Officer uniform that was updated courtesy of the new material library.

Ships

There has been a focus on the Gen12/Vulkan renderer, that will continue for several months. This major project will improve renderer performance, achieve higher frame-rates, and open the door to various new GPU technologies as well as an inclusive agnostic approach to hardware & software where possible. 

VFX began the year examining the GPU particle system and prioritizing features required for SQ42. They continued their push towards replacing older CPU particles with the GPU system, including a more robust method for spawning parent/child setups with deeper levels of interaction than before.

There has been a lot of general improvements to graphics and effects too.

They Expanded CPU Multithreading to 30 threads, they are making improvements to this further to reduce potential stalls and idling.

More generally Level Design are pushing on with AI behaviors, level mark-up, and moving some of the less-detailed greybox block-outs to their final states. 

They also finalized the design of the SQ42-specific helmet UI they are also implementing the new UIs HUDs, MFDs and icons with the new 3d building blocks for ships, environments and interactables.

And that’s it for this month, we are expecting a Major Roadmap Update for 4.1 on the PU side of things this week and 4.2 in the near future, I would also expect some tweaks to the Squadron 42 Roadmap as well BUT I’ll keep you apprised on anything that changes.