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Star Citizen Confirm Road To Alpha 4.0 – Major Development Updates

Welcome to a Roadmap & Monthly Report Update for Star Citizen… what are the plans for this years major releases on the Road to Alpha 4.0… what have CI been working on over the last few weeks and what are they focused on now for the Persistent Universe we know that Testing of Alpha 3.17.2, the Siege of Orison and Alpha 3.18 have all begun but feature work goes well beyond this to work on 4.0…

CI’s release plans have changed for 2022 and there are some major milestones that they are planning to hit.

Dependant on how well the 3.18 PTU goes the current Roadmap Plans for the Road to Alpha 4.0 are:

The End of June Q2 Patch will be 3.17.2 which will start testing shortly.

Around the time of this release to live Alpha 3.18 will start testing with the Evocati and then eventually on the wider PTU… the expected testing cycle for the 3.18 patch is 2-3 months and it is targeted for a live release Q3 end of September.

CI still plan for a Q4 3.19 patch at the end of the year and around the same time they want to potentially have a super early test build of Alpha 4.0 to evo… tho this will likely slip into Q1 2023 for that. The Target is to have a 4.0 Live build end of Q1 2023.

Let’s checkout a summary and highlights of the PU Monthly Report released in June 2022.

The UK Ships team have been improving the damage maps on all ships in preparation for the salvage mechanic. Development also continued on several vehicles:

An unannounced ground vehicle progressed into final art and design, while a new ship entered the early greybox stage, with work on the cockpit and dashboard progressing well.

The Banu Merchantman continued to move through greybox, where they focused on the ship’s exterior art. The team are currently working on the underside and the look and feel of its wings.

The Argo SRV began production and is nearing whitebox-complete, with the final whitebox review scheduled soon.  

In the US, the team continued building the Drake Corsair. On the interior, major passes were completed on the turret airlock and manned-turret cabin, while most of the crew quarters were finished, including the captain’s quarters near the cockpit. The entire cargo hold was blocked out and details are currently being added. The main airlock/staging room on the starboard side of the ship was also completed.

On the exterior, progress was made on the greybox, including the nacelles and main/retro thrusters. Development began on the landing gear and remote turrets too.

Great progress was made on quantum travel boost, primarily making it feel right as ships accelerate and attempt to maintain heading. This feature also supports points of interest, allowing pilots to fly towards highlighted destinations.

The team are continuing to update persistent-tech features to use the new systems and fixing problems along the way (usually connected to systems such as streaming, networking, and persistence).

General balance work continued too, including a pass on general item health to stop ships from shutting down from explosions. They also continued to balance the refueling mechanic, deciding on the volume of fuel the Starfarer can carry and the sizes of ships it can refuel.

The setup and balance of the new ground-vehicle physics is progressing well. The team now have baseline handling and are laying out the remaining dependencies to make them game-ready.

VFX Concept Art began work on the quantum travel rework. This included storyboarding the gameplay requirements at the different stages of the process, such as spooling up, entering, and exiting. They’re currently investigating how it could look in-engine.

The Features Team have been updating the scanning feature, improving the visual effects when triggering a ping wave while on foot and how it highlights different contacts. Interactable items and points of interest critical to mission progression will be highlighted too.

The team is also increasing the amount of information gathered from scanned objects. For example, a door will reveal its current state and if it can be affected via hacking, NPCs and other players will show the contents of their physical inventories, and player corpses will reveal their cause of death.

“Hooking up all this data can be quite a time-consuming task as it requires a lot of data-mining of different systems and their variables. Part of the work is ensuring the addition of future data will be frictionless.” Feature Team

The team also created a model for serializing damage maps online, which is required for salvaging. The client is able to make accurate predictions but can also rewind and replay applications of hits on the damage map. The server will still send the full map to a client when required but this prediction will keep the need to send full data to a minimum.

Narrative continued to work with Design on a handful of new missions and initiatives. This included discussing new mission archetypes and tackling the new-player experience to devise a system to introduce new players to the game’s various mechanics.

UI refactored backend code to support the persistent tech that will come online in Alpha 3.18.

Various bugs and issues were fixed with Arena Commander & Star Marine Game Modes, largely due to the huge amount of feedback from players. Improvements to the racing mode were made too, which are planned for an upcoming release.

Locations & Environments – The Locations team have been working on the Reclaimer space missions and derelict Reclaimer settlement. They’re currently polishing and bug fixing in preparation for their release, which will complete the initial proof of concept for the derelict settlements.

The next stage is to take the proof of concept and see how much more depth can be added, with variations to both environmental art and level design. They’re also looking to add more module and habitation variations, more missions with different modifiers, and potentially new gameplay elements.

The 600i and Mercury derelict settlement, which will be located on Daymar, progressed well throughout the month. The Level Design team are currently looking at what the Environment Art team has done in preparation for adding missions and AI.

The rework of Lorville’s cityscape is ongoing, with the team switching from concept/pre-production to production.

Finally for Locations, the building interiors mentioned in last month’s report entered the concept phase.

Locations Team Said “We’re still in early days and are discussing how best to organise the conception so that concept art, environment art and level design all work together in the most efficient way. We’re also defining what we want to tackle in the proof of concept and what should be our target. Everyone here is eager to tackle this challenge and find a way to add pockets of gameplay directly inside landing zones.” 

The Lighting team continues to support the Siege of Orison mission.

They Said “The playable space of the mission is massive, which means a lot of lighting work goes into covering the whole area to provide an interesting and unique atmosphere at night and day while also ensuring good player visibility on objectives and AI.” 

Integration of the Mighty Bridge into the editor was completed. This also allowed the deployment of the first official Mighty Bridge tool, Vegetation Scattering v1, which will allow teams to deploy vegetation without collisions, brushes, and entities on planetary surfaces and objects. This will be especially useful for derelict settlements and outposts but will still be used across many PU locations. The next step is to develop a tool for creating crashed ship craters and tails in the ground in less time and at higher fidelity.

The procedural location creation tool is also progressing well – the foundation is now a lot stronger and the team have begun creating basic layouts. They’ve also moved to supporting corridors and corridor loops as well as supporting the various required templates (space stations, caves, underground facilities, etc.). The team’s current goal is to get v1 to the designers and artists so they can gather feedback and get it production-ready.

Graphics & Engine – Gen12 Renderer Updates have continued; they’ve enabled render cube maps, support for god volumes and other render nodes, a new reflection buffer. There has been a ton of efficiency improvements.

The porting over of planet ground fog was completed and Gen12 ports of atmospheric and volumetric cloud rendering have now commenced. Additional improvements to planet terrain height map rendering and spherical cloud and planet terrain shadow rendering were made too.

They improved thread scheduling for CPU usage.

They’ve added a rope pulley as an example of a dynamic entity.

They enabled more stages/systems to work with Vulkan.

There were many Render To Texture improvements.

They also continued updating shaders with experimental improvements to the hair-color model and Wear v2.

Work on damage maps continued, with a focus on debris creating its own map based on the parent map. They also implemented an interface for querying damage within an area and persistent snapshots as well as optimizations for processing hits.