Welcome to some more Star Citizen, looking at a Project Update for the Persistent Universe, what CIG’s various Studios have been working on in regards to Star Citizen Multiplayer experience and Playable Alpha. This is a Summary of the Monthly Report Released April 2020 with a bit more context and hopefully a bit more consumable.
Several critical bugs for Alpha 3.9.0 were fixed and there has been a focus on making 3.9.0 as playable and stable as possible.
They have refactored the Friends List and unified it between Spectrum and in game, it’s in testing for 3.9.
The new feature includes a new party window and the ability to right-click on contacts and ‘Join Session’ with any online contact. A presence indicator will also show the part of the game they’re playing and whether they’re available to party-up with, and a ‘Join Leader’ button will allow players to connect with another pilot on any server.
The Gameplay Features shared a message
“We understand how much of a pain point partying-up was in previous versions of the game and we wanted to resolve this for you ASAP. We felt it was important to rebuild the entire experience from the ground up, because it really needed to be! I’m certain it will still have a few rough edges, but we feel like it’s a MASSIVE improvement over what was there before and that you guys would appreciate having this in your hands sooner rather than later. Please look for threads related to it on Spectrum, as we will 100% be looking for feedback from you guys on where you would like to see it go from here.”
Food & Drink Mechanics are working and they have added various food items into several key shops as well as more variants. A Quick Buy feature was also added for these smaller, handheld items, so purchasing them doesn’t require using the mobiGlas.
New Babbage Shops & The New Mining Consumables saw lots of work too.
They have setup Volatile Cargo & Destruction Effects for it.
A new law was crafted to cut down on pad ramming.
With Environments they have worked on the first two planets in the Pyro system alongside various other environments. New landscapes, terrain, geology shapes, and vegetation are being explored and worked on with a huge amount of excitement.
The Environment Art Team said “Pyro is an unfriendly and hostile system and the opportunity to create something more otherworldly and dangerous-looking is a nice challenge and change of pace for us.”
They also began looking into the lore of several upcoming star systems, providing details on flora, fauna, points of interest, and gameplay scenarios players might encounter. Additionally, there was a coordinated effort with Systemic Services and Tools to expand the list of materials and resources in Star Citizen’s economy.
They have been testing New Babbage.
New Babbage has seen optimization to the cost of shadow casting by balancing the highest possible quality and framerate. The new day/night light states received constant refinement to ensure the transitions were believable and to prevent situations with too much darkness.
Object container splitting and physics grid changes made their way into the Alpha 3.9 build and subsequently affected ATC functions across all landing zones.
Lighting for the Klescher prison facility involved a totally different approach, as this location is built using a mixture of bespoke object containers (such as the main hub) and modularly built elements (like the mines and caves). They made several iterations on the hub, exteriors, and habitation pods and are currently focused on the underground sections. The challenge there is placing lights that feel natural, diverse, and lead the player.
Let’s talk about AI & NPC work. We start with Combat AI, who focused on refactoring the Cover System. The system uses prefabs and objects as cover now and can have multiple objects used as one cover object more generally they have simplified the AI navigation and pathing as well to make it more efficient.
They also worked on a new combat tactic for holding positions, which included a polishing pass based on discussions with the designers and feedback from the directors. They also began investigating the work required to introduce the reloading mechanic to NPCs.
Ship AI have been polishing 3D collision avoidance system for the game-dev and the Alpha 3.9 stream. Better collision avoidance enables additional combat maneuvers to be developed to add flare to the dogfighting AI. In particular, they focused on defensive maneuvers (retreat/flee) that tell AI ships to prioritize shaking off attackers to reduce their chances of being hit. Additional work was done for formation flying too. Work began on capital ship behaviors and standard dogfight activity was streamlined to accommodate new maneuvers and cope with the growing number of combat requirements.
Tests continued on dogfighting, security, and civilian ships, with an emphasis on the 3D navigation system in asteroid belts and clusters.
Social AI worked on new features that can be used for both systemic patrol and environmental scripting. Environmental scripting is used to create story scene markups that can be used dynamically by Subsumption behaviors to keep actor performances as intact as possible. Fitness behaviors were developed for New Babbage. There are currently nine different warmups and six exercises, including jogging, mountain-climber twist, push up, sit up, plank, leg raise, and burpee. They also spent time polishing the long touted bartender experience, which will debut in Lorville. He can currently provide bottled Smoltz, draft beer, and whiskey and cola.
They have been creating animations for work zones, which include datapad and multi-tool use.
Alongside body dragging & rig improvements, the Actor Team began looking at the visual fidelity of the ‘effort’ set of animations to get a heavier weight and feel to it. This is currently scheduled to be delivered in Alpha 4.0 and will further improve the set coming out soon.
A model was also finished that marks the beginning of some interesting work for a future PU release.
They are preparing to support “next gen content” for better facial rigs.
They have been working on improving the DNA system which will see their top tier get some visual benefits.
For Ships & Gear they have been polishing the Esperia Prowler getting it’s animations working for take-off and landing.
They also further developed the M50’s cockpit and exterior to better align them with the contemporary Origin style.
The Cutlass Blue’s prisoner pods were also iterated on to appear more “prisoner containment” like.
An as-yet-unseen ship completed the whitebox stage and will head into greybox soon. Several older ships were updated to work with the latest shaders.
Improvements to sub-targeting mechanics continue, this will see you able to target a ships individual systems.
They worked to convert and update ship HUDs to use the new building blocks tech.
They also further developed IFCS with the The Vehicle Features Team saying:
“A lot of things have been happening regarding the flight model, with thruster efficiency curves being finalized, tested, and improved. This work has also necessitated a new aerodynamic model, which we’re ironing out now and getting ready to convert a lot of ships to use.”
SDF-based atmospheric entry effects completed and are ready to be rolled out to all vehicles in a future release.
They also created a rig for the Aegis Gladius to enable proper animated interactions between characters and the ship.
They have been iterating on the Lightning Bolt Co.’s sniper and pistol after a round of feedback and they have shockingly good animations to go with them. Tweaks were made to the iron sights, rig issues were debugged, and the holding position adjusted.
Renderer & Backend
They’re currently testing and tweaking various parts of the iCache and are preparing to migrate several legacy services to the new model.
The Vulcan (G12) render mesh API was refactored for more streamlined and efficient creation and data upload. Unused legacy code was removed, and a shader handle was added to the remaining legacy pipeline. There was a huge amount of optimizations and tweaks made to reduce latency and improve efficiency but I’ll highlight a few bits.
They’ve worked on physics threading and performance. They enabled up to 30 physics threads (defaulting to ¾ of logical cores available) and they have optimized various processes. They are able to save a lot more disk space and Ram now as well with various other optimizations.
Work also continued on part containers/compute bounding box optimization (formerly known as physics geometry instancing). Skinned foliage was missing leaves, which was fixed before being given to the object-container-splitting physics voxel grids.
They also investigated performance issues with oceans and fixed HDR display and D3D debug runtime errors.
The Vulkan renderer will eventually become what Star Citizen uses rather than DX11, they have been converting the existing volumetric fog system and debug tools to the new system. They also began planning and prototyping how to handle interdependencies of resources between shader passes, as the system will need to allocate resources and efficiently schedule work while ensuring it doesn’t read resources before write operations are completed.
Turbulent & CIG have also worked on several as-yet-unannounced projects. And that’s it for the PU-centric update… though we do have a Squadron 42 update that I want to look through as well.
I am very much looking forward to 3.9.0 but also the Gen12 Vulkan Renderer Improvements NPCs & AI Features that make them not dumb and even this unannounced ship they have been working on.