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Squadron 42 May 2020 Update

 Welcome to some more Squadron 42 with updates and a summary of what’s been and being worked on currently for the single player campaign element of SC. There is a focus on AI Updates, Cinematic & Scene Progression as well as ship and Locations that we will visit in the Game. This is a Summary and Highlights of the SQ42 May 2020 Newsletter.

There is a lot of much needed progress with AI & NPCs.

They are working on realistic firing, initially tackling reload actions and adding that to the NPC decision-making process. This will also have NPCs tracking their remaining ammo and using the “best” fire mode for a given situation. This can also be conserving ammo, switching weapon or looking for ammo.

They have made progress on Vanduul characters starting to set them up as with their general animations.

Ship AI complete their work on Escorts & Defend Target AI, which involves a leader and one or more escort ships:

When out of combat, the in-formation escorts fly alongside the leader and only enter combat when threatened. When flying out-of-formation, the escorts will join the formation if allowed to by the leader. If no formation is supported or all positions are reserved, then the ships will still follow but more loosely. Where the AI selects a direction and distance relative to the leader and maintains a loose position. Escorts can change position or leave the formation depending on the situation.

When in combat, escorts engage enemies governed by an assignment range that can be different for each ship. However, ‘engage’ doesn’t initiate a dogfight immediately and leave the leader undefended; engagement happens gradually. First, escorts gravitate around the leader to ensure they’re between the leader and target. If the enemy is closer (also defined by the assignment), the escorts engage in a dogfight. The overall flow ensures an escort is always in proximity of the leader to protect it and react if other attackers intervene. It’s possible to differentiate the defend dynamic by assigning different engage-ranges to escorts or adjusting how tightly they shadow the leader.

The Defend Target mechanic is also used for implementing simple convoy behaviors for shipments and peaceful operations.

Ship AI also worked on the Tactical Point system and the creation of the Tactical Targeting system. This can use this to encourage an NPC to target ships with low shields or with a criminal rating instead of the standard selection defined in the base query.

Several Character team members are temporarily supporting other related areas of development due to the suspension of all mo-cap shoots, including making headway into the large number of comms calls used throughout the campaign.

They continued their ongoing hair work, which included remodeling some existing hairstyles and working on new shorter styles. They also further improved the fidelity of blonde hair using the latest iteration of the hair shader.

They’re currently finalizing officer uniforms and will move onto others in the coming weeks around fifteen UEE Navy outfits are being created.

The Character Art Team said:

“Our focus is ensuring that details hold up during cinematic close-ups, as we do not use separate cinematic meshes. What you see in the game is what you get in the cutscene. By the end of this, they will be looking better than ever.” 

The Cinematics Team has shifted from scene implementation to the production pass stage. There are five stages in the pipeline: Pre-vis, Kick-Off, Implementation, Production, and Finalization. After the implementation pass, scenes will work in-game with the correct root for all NPCs, timing and editing is synced for all scene members, the number of animation fragments is decided so the player can interact correctly, poses are roughly matched, and the correct markup for abandon/interrupt is created. While the designers are marking up the abandon/interrupt points, the animators can make their production pass. This stage is all about final pose matching, fixing remaining small gaps in animation, starting proper polish. Once done, mo-cap polish is tackled by the animators. At the same time, the designers work alongside them to ensure cameras are locked and lighting passes progress to show the scene in the best way possible. The LookIK markup is also done at this stage:

LookIK refers to how an NPC, like Captain White, can look at the player and follow them. This can be with 100% strength, meaning he is leaning his upper body and the neck, head, and eyes follow the player with a field-of-view angle of 120°. However, each of these elements can be tweaked to a smaller percentage. For performance captured animation, the team don’t want Captain White to stare down the player at all times as it would override most of what the actor did on set. The Cinematics Team Said: 

“What we’ve found during these reviews is that we need to be careful with the strength of the eyes in LookIK. In real-life, people talking to each other are not completely locked together, so keeping the eyes alive is a small but rather important detail to get right. It helps to keep as much of the performance alive as we can while pushing what was once a linear mo-cap performance into our interactive realm.” 

Ships & Locations – Gameplay scenes on and around the bridge seats on the Idris underwent iteration and they are now beginning to support more of the Social AI work in this location. They have prepared hangar interactables for NPCs to use.

They worked on the Javelin’s engineering section, expanding it. Lighting work also continued across the ship, utilizing the new real-time cubemap feature used for light-state transitions

There was work on the Javelin’s built-in arsenal, including a new Behring Gatling cannon and considerably sized Behring torpedos.

They also continued to build the Aciedo comms array Assets & Location. The player will visit several arrays during the first section of the campaign, so the work needs to serve as the base for multiple stations before the unique art and assets can be added to each. 

Truck stops are progressing well, with impact damage being introduced to add to the feel of long-term abandonment, these aren’t the truck stops players are familiar with from the PU; all of SQ42’s environments are unique to the campaign, at this stage at least.

They also fleshed out the hangar interiors of one of the mining bases. This is the largest hangar in the game and needs to carry out multiple functions for the station and passersby. Important story moments take place there. 

Work also began on two new unique locations; one Brutalist in design and another more like a shantytown.

Level Design have been fleshing out some of the alternate routes that players can take through the levels that allow for more exploration or stealth-type gameplay. There will be various ways to complete tasks and missions. 

The Space/Dogfight Team continued ‘space scaping’ various locations in the game, crafting them into believable places with function and identity. 

They worked on the updated scanning mechanics, making sure they function correctly within SQ42. I am hoping we see this in the PU ASAP.

That’s not all tho! It is intended that you also watch the Star Citizen Monthly Report as well as it has a lot of additional work that is also part of Squadron 42.

We are awaiting some additional SQ42 Updates coming this May as well, as CI are working on a more appropriate way to give us SQ42 info than the linear roadmap they originally had.