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Squadron 42 Creeps Closer To Completion – August Development Update

Cloud Imperium have given us a whole host of Updates on AI Features for Star Citizen as well as a load of Squadron 42 Development information that they’ve been working on over the last few weeks… we will check that out along with what CI are working on now in August with the AI Features and SQ42 Roadmap…

AI Content fixed a whole ton of bugs then returned to feature work including supporting the weapons vendor setup by creating weapon pickup and place animations, progressing with the locomotion polish, and retargeting overlay animations to the female skeleton. 

The AI designers continued implementing the dynamic conversations feature, expanding it to the eat-and-drink behavior. Now, NPCs can have conversations between bites or drinks.

AI Content Team Said “We are pleased with the result, as it makes the AI feel less individual and more connected with other NPCs.” 

AI engineers will now also seek out colleagues at wall panels and work zones (e.g. broken pipes) to start conversations. They’re currently working on implementing chatter for AI in bunk beds and arcade machines too.

For human combat, they continued to work on tactic selection. This will allow the designers to quickly tweak values to produce the best possible range of combat behaviors for the situation, including with multiple combatants with different setups and ranges. 

They also began aligning the existing perception systems to a new design where the perception meter rises depending on different stimuli (hearing footsteps or gunfire, seeing a target, etc.) and falls over time. Once different threshold levels on the meter are hit, they trigger different alertness levels that determine specific reaction animations and behaviors. For example, at the lowest level, the AI will react by simply turning their head toward the stimulus. At the middle level, they will investigate the stimulus and, at the highest, they will enter combat. Stimuli can also impact the meter in different ways based on the conditions of the target, including whether they’re crouched or standing and the location’s lighting.

Work also started on the investigation behavior, with the devs implementing a system to allow NPCs to determine potential enemy hiding spots, check them, and keep track of which ones they’ve seen. The next stage is for NPCs to share information so they can cover a level together.

They’re also working to improve the consistency of cover selection using the automatic cover generation system. They’re also planning to improve the quality of cover and provide more information to the AI so that less decision making has to be made at runtime.

For the Vanduul, the team blocked out several animations, including piloting, and some location-specific animations used to get the Vanduul from their spawn positions (often off the navigation mesh) into the level.

They also blocked out animations for human-AI mantling and vaulting to give NPCs more locomotion options when moving around the environment which AI tech are also working on they said:

“The basic idea is that, using all the existing markup, we want to allow NPCs to perform similar actions to the player in the environment. For example, we adjusted the ledge objects to include specifications that evaluate the navmesh and link multiple islands correctly.”

They also continued R&D on seamless transitions into usables. This time, they implemented a cleaner and more reliable system for sharp-turn animations, giving more natural movement to NPCs following paths around corners. This allows helps NPCs feel ‘heavier’ and show weight balancing when moving over sharp corners.

Progress was also made on the locomotion refactor. They began improving how AI actors process movement, which will allow them to decouple movement requests from what processes it. This is an important change to better support multiple path-followers used in different contexts. For example, actors, creatures, or NPCs driving a vehicle or pushing a trolley. They’re currently preparing to integrate into the Squadron 42 branch and verify that everything works as expected.

Progress was also made on ship reinforcement for Alpha 3.17.2. The team made the feature more robust by adding better monitoring of the disembarking process from the pilot’s perspective. They also added an abort phase for the dropship in case the drop location is occupied, and the pilot can now monitor the presence of a player inside the cargo area.

They also fixed several bugs relating to slow reaction time and desyncs/teleports. These issues are mostly caused by a low server framerate but the devs optimized the code and implemented tweaks to allow the code to better handle some of those situations.

The AI Vehicle Team finished enabling AI to use master modes; AI is now fully integrated with the ability to swap master modes when required by the operator mode they want to use. The designers will also soon be able to cycle modes to give AI access to higher SCM speeds when designing behaviors.

Bug fixes were also made throughout the month, including an issue with the ‘FlyTo’ not computing an efficient path and dive attacks not ignoring driverless space ships.

Animation team further developed zero-g movement and navigation, adjusting the feel to give a better overall experience. They also worked on a new SMG, additional weapons for the master-at-arms, ladder interactions, female console use, and locomotion (sharp turns and jukes).

New mobiGlas interactions were developed to give a more realistic feel to characters, and progress was made on the Vanduul, this time searching vents and climbing.

On the facial side, improvements to the facial animations of the named cast members continued.

The Character team spent time focusing on the remaining Navy faction outfits and progressed with the Screaming Galsons armors. They’re currently preparing to create the Shubin mining outfits and work with Tech Animation on head scans for various characters.

Weapon Art Progressed with the Volt shotgun, pistol, assault rifle, and sniper rifle.

Animation work progressed for the Volt weapons too, and first pass animations and reviews of the new melee weapon metrics were completed.

Work also began on some SQ42-faction-specific weapons, beginning with an SMG and shotgun. The military Multi-Tool had its whitebox updated with new screen positions to ensure the UI will work for the intended gameplay too.

Vehicle Features continued to support persistent streaming with a transit refactor alongside bug fixing.

Missiles received a complete flight retune after some bug-fixing highlighted problems with the way the missiles were set up. Now, focus is on the intercept portion of flight and controlling accelerations rather than allowing them to be controlled as dynamically as they were before.

The team also began balancing what speeds and tunings are required for the new Master Modes feature, ensuring they get the combat speeds right under normal thrust and boost so combat starts to move in the intended direction.

Narrative focused on completing first-pass scripting and recording scratch dialogue for a large section of one of SQ42’s middle chapters. Design refined the gameplay in this section so Narrative frequently played through these updated enemy encounters, puzzles, stealth, and navigation challenges.

The Narrative Team said “It’s very important to make sure the player always understands what their current goals are and what their next steps should be so, to that end, the writers have been working to balance dialogue hints to ensure that players who need a bit more guidance will be able to get it without spoiling the fun or challenge of a given area.” 

Additionally, as gameplay mechanics were iterated on and polished, the Narrative team adjusted the script to ensure that lines referencing those mechanics matched how the gameplay worked. For example, recent improvements to the radar and scanning system allowed them to streamline some of the terminology used by characters in-game.

The team also looked to expand the use of the dynamic conversation system to enhance the background and enemy NPCs that players will come across. While important key conversations are specifically planned for the player to encounter, there are some areas where the player’s freedom to explore has highlighted the need for additional content to bring it to life. Rather than relying on additional bespoke lines, the team is investigating using dynamic conversations to allow for a much broader range of content to fill the space.

Boom that’s it for your Star Citizen & Squadron 42 Updates today.