Squadron 42 is making progress BUT we don’t have the Roadmap Updates or Timelines at the moment, CI are in the process of building a New Style of Roadmap for SQ42 and the PU that they say will contain a lot more information on features and be much more appropriate to displaying progress on their Games. We should see some updates on that and a new video series the “Briefing Room” that aims to give us some short snappy SQ42 based updates in the near future.
We don’t know how delayed Squadron 42 is off course from the last time the Roadmap was updated which had an internal Beta Planned for the end of Q3 2020. Tho I suspect it’s at minimum 2 Quarters on top of that.
But let’s take a the latest information from that Squadron 42 Newsletter starting with a couple of Highlights:
The Actor Team continued with force reactions. Now, when a ship has an impulse applied to it from either maneuvering or an external force such as an explosion, a relative force is applied to the characters inside. This triggers stumbles and potentially knock-backs if the ship is hit with sufficient force.
The Gameplay Story Team implemented another 8 scenes, leaving just 20 remaining. They also provided animation support for a high-profile section of chapter 4, which is made up of 10 scenes where the player is guided around the Idris. Alongside this, they worked with Design to sign off several gameplay story scenes as ‘greybox complete.’
They have been prototyping large-scale battles. This led to the reworking of a key turret to ensure the experience of sitting in and using it is both visually and viscerally rewarding.
Character Combat is progressing with Vanduul, locomotion aiming and shooting. These alien NPCs can now more effectively aim and accurately shoot at targets when standing, idling, or moving to better strategic positions.
They further developed the Vanduul Lance Melee Weapon, polishing and tweaking the rig and animation.
They continued developing the Vanduul with the Animation and Tech teams, while the character artists moved onto the Xi’an race.
Although a lot of AI work is relevant for both the PU and SQ42, one functionality required specifically for the single-player campaign is the ability for AI to Quantum Link with the player and other NPCs. The full Quantum Linking functionality relies on the PU’s PlayerGroup service, so a single-player version was added. This also allowed the team to refactor some of the subsumption logic and transform the old group variable into a more generic ‘entity tracker.’
Social AI progressed with three key scenarios: bridge crew, hangar crew, and generic vendor. For the bridge crew, they completed the first pass on the behavior described in last month’s report, simplifying some of the dependencies between usables and operator seats and allowing specific characters to override animations. This enables certain actors to have their own versions of generic seat interactions.
They continued polishing hangar crew behaviors and usable setups. They created a specific test map to easily verify how NPCs interact with the hangar environment.
Alongside work shared with the PU, Engineering further developed the ‘social’ aspects of SQ42. For the ‘walk and talk’ feature, they implemented a match-speed mechanic to make following a character simpler. This includes an ideal offset that the designers can place along a path so when the player is walking with a character, they’re kept in that relative position.
Further improvements were made to the triggering of interrupts and abandons in story scenes. The team added timers to events so that the designers can specify how long the player needs to be looking at a character before they respond. This means characters don’t always have to respond immediately to the player and the designers can tweak abandons depending on whether the player is leaving or just backing away.
For global AI, they improved the functionality of the LookComponent. First, they converted the internal look request queue to a more sophisticated priority-based queue. Each request is now associated with specific semantics that pile on top of each other based on a predefined priority. They currently have the following semantic order, from the lowest to highest priority:
- Look ahead: When moving on a path, an NPC might try to look ahead based on the path it’s following.
- Procedural object discovery: When moving around, interesting things might be noticed by the NPC that can then be looked at.
- Behavior-driven requests: The behavior can sometimes explicitly request the NPC look at something.
- Trackview: During cutscenes, the designers can override targets based on the scene itself.
- Synchronization: In a PU environment, the networked target is used by the NPCs on the clients.
The team also made several optimizations to collision avoidance and subsumption. The component code was adjusted to better support the updated parallelization and server meshing too.
Hair took up a significant portion of the Character Team’s month, with their biggest challenge mastering the extremes of the hairstyle range. For example, bright blonde and afro-textured hair require slightly different tech than is currently used. This work is necessary, as offering this wide a spectrum of choice is one of the team’s primary goals. To complete hair, the Character Team also require physics support, as the hair simulation features elements of the cloth physics currently scheduled for work later in the project.
“We want to make sure that when hair does finally get updated, players are rewarded for their wait. We should also start seeing some of these hairstyles trickle into the PU once the majority of SQ42 hairstyles are complete.” -The Character Team
Facial animations progressed for various pilots, the female player character, gunnery officers, and an as-yet-unannounced character.
More improvements were made to throwing, which now accounts for the physical properties of the object and adjusts the exit velocities accordingly. For example, heavy objects can’t be thrown as far as light ones. A more accurate AR throw predication arc is also being worked on.
Art was recently completed for a dogfight that also features a longer cinematic. Seeing the finalized art, sun position, and atmosphere come together can lead to tweaks at the white or greybox stage, as camera directions or other small details may not do the visuals justice. For example, sun positioning can cause the team to rethink shot choices to ensure elements like background lighting, silhouettes, and vistas look their best. In this case, the Cinematics Team moved the sequence to the opposite side of the axis between two ships. The exact camera angles will be finalized once the navsplines, approach directions, and overall timing are completed.
“In the end, we are getting a really moody and cool-looking vista to photograph our heroes in, so it’s worth it sometimes to revisit our camera choices.” – The Cinematics Team
The Weapon Code Team split the player-controllable turrets into two different firing modes, enabling the bigger STS turret to work as a ‘slave’ to the player-controlled AA guns. They looked at the camera shake of the prototype and emulated it, and VFX are now looking into hull impact effects, including how to get more impactful lighting and increase projectile sizes.
The Narrative Team have furthered their ongoing level reviews with Design, identifying locations and gameplay scenarios where dialogue adjustments may help with world-building and player understanding. As progress is made across the game, it’s vital for the team to play, refine, and repeat this process. Also there was progress on expanding how the Vanduul communicate, with additional meetings between Narrative, Audio, and our Xenolinguist. This work will greatly enhance the combat experience when battling these fierce warriors.
The Props Team spent the month supporting Gameplay Story with various dressing and cinematic-specific assets.
VFX are continuing their support of gas clouds alongside the Art and Design teams, in particular fleshing out gas-cloud-themed effects.
They also looked into improving landing and take-off effects, particularly for the Gladius as it launches from the Idris’ hangar. As part of this, tests were done using a signed distance field to enable particles to collide and flow against the blast shield.
They also began looking to further improve particle lighting (which will also apply to the PU). They added decoupled lighting a while ago, however the underlying lighting model wasn’t changed. The old lighting model wasn’t physically accurate, energy-conserving, and multiplied the light up to 6x brighter than it should have been. This resulted in some particles being much brighter than they should have been and broke the energy conservation model. The new lighting model is based on real-world values and take things like diffuse contribution, absorption, and scattering into account to achieve a more balanced result.
The UI artists spent time on the first set of screens for the main capital ships. The Tech Team worked on a 3D layering system to help them make impressive holographic UIs in the future too.
And that’s it for the Squadron 42 Update this month.