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Star Citizen Environment AMA

Star Citizen we had a load of information about Planets, Biomes and Environments that CI are working on OR are planning to work on for the Persistent Universe from a Environment Art AMA that the Frankfurt Team did on Spectrum. This is a Summary of that Information…. The Frankfurt team primarily creates assets for the persistent universe, though the Tools they develop are used for Squadron where appropriate as well.

What are the current targets and goals for the Planetary Tools and the expanding gameplay area in the short, medium and long term?

As you know our asset libraries contain everything from geology, vegetation, surface materials etc. Let’s say we get to a point where these libraries are filled with a great number of different archetypes of rock formations, cliffs, trees, flowers and more. The bigger and more diverse of a selection of assets that we already have, the less likely it is that we need to invest time into creating new content for new planets.

Example A: For a generic dusty rocky moon we have most assets we need – so we can start immediately putting together the moon and more similar variations if we want to.

Example B: Let’s say we are asked to create a tropical island planet – in that case we need to build all

the necessary content (palm trees, tropical shrubbery etc.) that is required, since those are not yet part of our asset libraries at this point.

The long term objective is to build up strong asset packs that can be reused for the majority of planets so that we can focus on adding more systems quicker. Due to our tools, we’d still have the capabilities to make planets feel drastically different despite some assets being reused

Significant tech & tools work was done every year so far and the most recent update lets us create a moon/planet even faster (again) while being more flexible than before, letting us update planets way easier which lets us do tweaks more often and achieve better quality. We are quite happy with the improvements and the team is looking forward to what can be done on the current basis of it in the future.

What can you tell us on the progress of the Pyro System?

The team has already been working on Pyro for some time and it’s progressing quite well. We have also not seen any decrease in the teams weekly output considering the WFH situation!

New geology packs, surface materials are constantly being added to our libraries that allow us to construct exciting and fresh biomes with very different looks.

Improving existing assets from a quality point of view is also being worked on to ensure consistency between the new and old libraries.

Besides creating all the content necessary for Pyro, there is work being done on the planet-tech and tools

which has always been a dependency – any changes to tech mean some kind of rework or adjustment on our end as well.

This is a very good thing, because with these new changes any updates/tweaks in the future can be done much quicker in the future.

Pyro has a lava planet, are we going to see lava flow or volcanoes?

Unfortunately our tech currently does not support flowing lava (or even water) so the art direction of the planet was changed to have static, cooled down lava instead. It is definitely something we want to tackle properly in the future though – either as an update to Pyro III or a different planet in a different system.

Will we ever see forests like in the carrack trailer in game?

There are definitely ideas and concepts for having forests or jungles for upcoming systems.

The stanton system we worked on until now didn’t require lush biomes and the tech wasn’t ready to scatter millions of plants to create a dense forest. We’re still improving our tech to allow us to have more assets on a planet.

But the environment team is already looking forward to try out something new and create some beautiful forests in the future.

Will trees ever be breakable?

We definitely want to have breakable vegetation in the future, but right now there has not been any work or R&D on that.

We’re currently doing R&D for touch bending so that botanicals will bend when the player walks through them/a vehicle drives through. Breakable vegetation would be the next step then!

Are there going to be Carnivorous/Dangerous Plants?

We do have some plans for hazardous landscapes and dangerous plants in the future. To create carnivorous vegetation we would need to build animated botanicals, which would mean working together with our animation department. The engineers would also need to implement that the plant reacts to the player when he enters a certain distance.

How will existing planets be updated with new biomes?

With one of the recent updates to the Planet Tech we are now able to add and change everything on a planet in a very non-destructive and much more procedural way than we could when we originally re-created the existing planets/moons end of last year. The improvement allows us to go back to any planet and every biome on them and update/improve and even add new ones if the necessity arises as well as giving us more natural transitions between them.


We’ve just recently worked on more believable beaches and coastlines but don’t expect them to have white sand 

What are the next steps for Planet Tech V4?

We’ve had a lot of improvements to the tech being implemented lately and it’s getting closer to what it was originally envisioned to be when we set out on the planetary tech and planet rework. With those and a few more improvements that are still being worked on right now that will bring the Planet Tech to a state where we can create and interate on existing and new planets/moons very quickly and have everything come together for a more coherent, final frame. So right now the focus is mostly on improving quality/speed and once that is in a really solid place we’ll look into new, currently unanswered challenges.

Can we expect huge and unique planetary terrain formations like big craters?

Huge craters, yes! Sometimes when we tackle new planets, we experiment a bit trying to figure out how to get visual features like these in using our updated tools.

Will older geology Assets get replaced with better ones?

Yes, and very soon as well – we are currently in the process of replacing a lot of the old geology assets with new, better ones using the new organics shader and will continue to do so until all are on the same quality level.

Are you working on different kinds of caves?

Not at the moment. The focus for us right now is on pyro planets. We had many ideas for caves that had to be put on the backlog in order to ship tier 1. We will revisit those once it is time to expand existing planets with more POIs but just to give you an example we have prototypes for caves you can enter with different sized vehicles.

Why are the icy caves from the citizencon demo not in the game?

The cave shown at CitizenCon is very similar to the ones currently placed down on Microtech and its moons. You’re right – now with SSOCS we are not bound by the number of caves in the verse anymore. The reason we didn’t invest more time either just generating new rocky caves or actually working on completely new archetypes like ice caves is the question of importance and currently Pyro has a higher priority for now. Personally I would love to get back working on the next tier of caves improving their versatility, add more archetypes, gameplay opportunities etc. There was so much feedback from the community and it’s all written down on my personal notebook waiting to get undusted once we shift gears and begin additional work on caves.

Will the completion of Crusader lead to more Gas Giants?

Crusader is our starting point when it comes to gas giants. Once we are happy with the way it looks, there is no reason for us not to reuse that tech to help us create additional gas giants.

What is the status of improvements being made to asteroid generation?

We are continuously improving our tools and workflows and will be using what we’ve learned on updating the existing geology assets as well as creating new ones for pyro and apply it when we get to updating the asteroids.

Will there be underwater Plants ,POIs etc ?

You can already find a tease of marine assets like coral and seaweed on some existing moons and planets which have an ocean, like Hurston. Our team in DE is more than excited to start working on underwater environments in the future, but until we have underwater gameplay it is not a priority right now.

Can planets be hollow or without big chunks?

Using the current version of Planet Tech they can not be hollow or missing big chunks. There might be other approaches to building planets should we get to building a planet that actually needs it or changes to the tech to allow for that, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.

Will space/land minables in the future spawn stacked ontop of one another for a variety of mining types & equipment?

We already have first person mineable rocks spawning on the bigger ship mineables. The idea behind it being that you need to get out of your prospector when you spot a smaller mineable and use the multi tool, then head back into the Prospector to mine the ship mineable itself. We do plan to expand that functionality more in the future.

Do you take future gameplay into account when crafting environments?

We will always go back to older planets and moons to make sure we support whatever gameplay updates come in. For example when we implemented mining, we made sure to create and distribute a mining rock variation on each planet and moon. We do not want people to feel like there is no reason anymore to visit Daymar or Yela, because other planets have “more” gameplay.

Are you going to remove all some of the rocks and add roads on the planets/moons so that driving is more viable?

Instead of creating “artificial” roads for pristine areas of a moon or planet, we are tweaking the density and placement of rocks to have “natural” roads appear by not spawning rocks everywhere.

Will definitely be working to create more sophisticated roads in the future.