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Star Citizen Monthly Report January 2023

Welcome to a Star Citizen Persistent Universe Monthly Report… looking at the highlights of what CI have been working on over the last 8 or so weeks and what they are focused on now in January 2023. This is an extra meaty report as we didn’t have a report last month with extra attention spent looking at New Ships, Locations, Gameplay Features & Missions. 

It appears that many new ships and vehicles are coming…

The US Ship team made the finishing touches to the Drake Corsair. Then moved onto the whitebox stages of two new vehicles. For one of them, they brainstormed several options for entering and exiting. Whitebox began on a new production vehicle too.

The UK team completed their pass on the salvage feature, ensuring all major visual and gameplay issues were resolved for ship exteriors.

They then began work on the Crusader Spirit, which is progressing through the whitebox phase.

They Said “The biggest challenge has been ensuring that the escape raft on the VIP variant is fully functional at this early stage so we can avoid extra work in the future.” 

The bulk of white box work was also completed for an unannounced vehicle, and development began on an all-new small ship. 

The Vehicle Feature team worked on porting the transit system to Alpha 3.18’s new persistent tech system. Most recently, they allowed trains to slow down and wait for transit ahead of them on the track. This should fix issues with trains overlapping.

They have new tools to see how each thruster on a ship gets used and make necessary changes to get ships to fly how they want.

Tech Art completed a dirt/wear pass for all cockpit glass to ensure the pilot’s vision isn’t obscured. A similar pass for turret glass is planned for a future update.

The Graphics team delivered mesh-tagging tech and enabled new damage shaders for salvage.

They completed and fixed the Drake Corsair and Cutter while improving the ship. 

They also further developed the MISC Hull C’s interior walkway animation, which syncs with the exterior hull transform animation. The final walkway will be a skinned asset with 10 sliding rings connected by stretchy tubing.

Let’s take a look at work more focused on Locations & Environments

The EU Locations 1 Team continued working on the rundown Pyro space station. With more designers now on the team, they made great progress on the layout of each room and are currently exploring interesting gameplay options across the location.  

EU Locations 2 worked alongside the US-based PU team to add new cargo elevators into existing hangars, which will be used during the updated cargo gameplay.

Pre-production of the local law office location began, which will be essential for several upcoming gameplay loops. They also worked on IAE and the new-player experience, the latter of which involved improving existing landing zones for new visitors.

EU Sandbox 2 worked on further exploration and experimentation for the underground facilities. They also finished the sand caves’ visual target, worked to set the benchmark for rock caves in the PU, and began looking into improving and adding to microTech’s forest.

Narrative spent time updating some of the detailed planetary conditions, such as temperature and atmospheric content, for upcoming star systems to more closely align with the intended gameplay and solar positioning.  

The Planet Tech team focused on polishing river tech and improving resource streaming performance with a new and more aggressive threading model that guarantees a stall-free experience. Additionally, maintenance was done to stabilise the Rastar tool.

More recently, work began on the asteroid SDF to introduce support for new primitives. The team also progressed with hardware-assisted terrain instancing to improve the CPU submission time footprint.

A new local space for terrain vertices representation was introduced, which will improve floating point precisions and accelerate other internal operations.

They also began looking at offscreen techniques to achieve a localised water simulation model for water-object interactions.

The Interactables team continued their work on Pyro, creating more advanced and unique assets, including stalls that can be found in the rundown stations.

Prototyping continued on deployables with the team saying: “These assets take a long time to figure out and overcome unforeseen challenges that are presented by other teams to ensure that they do not hinder gameplay.” 

Fixes were made for the current in-game coffee machines. Soon, players will be able to take select cups to these machines and have infinite cups of coffee.

Progress was also made on a new template for an asset that will be integral to bounty hunting, which is running alongside Environment Art’s bounty-hunting office.

They also started pre-production on lootable content, including improving the current loot pool.

The Lighting team completed day and night lighting passes for the time-trial racetracks. They also continued to improve all lighting aspects of the colonial outposts. This involves a lot of interior and exterior work to ensure that they fit the environment and create the intended cold or cozy feeling within the buildings.

After small changes were made to the Jumptown Dynamic Event, a lighting pass was done on a few areas to bring them back up to the current standard and ensure that the new additions fit the existing theme.

VFX began to plan for the overwhelming-but-necessary restructuring of their generic effects libraries. These libraries contain the most commonly used effects, including smoke, steam, and sparks, and have become too bloated over the years. In the months ahead, the team will be reducing the number of individual effects living in the libraries while making visual improvements as they go along.

Let’s move onto Gameplay & Features:

Gameplay Features worked on hull scraping for Alpha 3.18, including reacting to feedback threads on Spectrum and adjusting gameplay to match the goals for the first iteration of Salvage. Additionally, filler-station functionality was expanded to allow players to create several useful items for hull scraping. In the forms of crafting multitools and attachments at the cost of salvaged materials.

They continued with Resource Management Systems, including life support and artificial gravity. This included a redesign of the previous engineering UI (last seen at CitizenCon) to give a clearer, more modern design to support the vast amount of functionalities that will be expected.

The groundwork began for vehicle tractor beams. The next steps will be creating the tractor-beam UI and expanding the feature to support its proper functionalities.

The mining update continued, with changes made to the Argo MOLE and MISC Prospector to create bigger differences between the individual and multiplayer aspects. The first rebalancing pass was done for all mining heads, sub-items, and gadgets to support the updated approach to resource distribution. This involves new variances for minables to ensure they’re distributed in a more controlled fashion throughout Stanton and support future crafting releases.

Mission Features improved and fixed various aspects of 3.18s missions & gameplay.

For Security Post Kareah, the team addressed an issue with a secret item not working correctly. They also changed the way the datapad on the security chief spawned and adjusted the turrets as they were respawning too quickly. The trespass timer length was also increased. 

Narrative began planning new mining and salvage missions, which will help expand the career choices available through the Contract Manager. Work also continued on investigation missions, with several new mysteries for players to solve being developed. Additionally, the team discussed sandbox mission content, where players will encounter missions in the universe without accepting a specific contract beforehand.

The Characters & Weapons Features team added support for tractor beams snapping boxes onto cargo grids. This included a holographic preview to assist with moving loot into a ship. 

They also revisited the feature behind dragging an unconscious body into a medical bed. This is being made more generic so that bodies can be placed into other appropriately sized objects. As part of this, several improvements are being made to the flow itself to make it more robust and forgiving.

Animation shot motion capture for some background character animations that will be used in the PU.

Tech Animation have been working through head assets that will be added to the game and facial customization system. 

Character Art finished work for the frontier workwear outfits and frontier undersuits. Character Concept worked on exploration with fauna and the Duster faction.

The Arena Commander Features Team worked on the classic race refactor, including taking the Snake Pit, Euterpe Icebreaker, and Miner’s Lament courses to play-testable states. A refactor of the race manager and checkpoint system then began, with the aim to create a more robust, future-proof system that can be used by the PU teams to create races around the ‘verse. Design also began developing additional variants of holographic checkpoints and directional arrows for each track, which will vary in style to best suit the setting. Finally for racing, work was completed on the Old Vanderval, Rikkord Memorial Raceway, and Defford Link racetracks.

Investigation then began into adding turrets to the Jericho Station and Dying Star maps to either assist or hinder the player in Vanduul and Pirate Swarm game modes. Work was also done to speed up and ease the process of taking locations from the Persistent Universe and have them featured as maps in Arena Commander, which is currently being used for several upcoming racetracks.

The team supported the Soft Death/Destruction feature. They worked on improvements to AC and SM Gamemodes.

They are able to ban or allow vehicles and weapons in each game mode. This system provides greater customization for the developers, such as setting up a new mode that only allows a certain vehicle. This is used in Alpha 3.18 during Filtered Duel Mode, Squadron Battle, and Battle Royale to only allow small and medium combat ships. The first pass on new death cameras, which point to the player that killed you while moving and zooming dynamically, was submitted and enabled for all game modes too.

Work was submitted for an unannounced update to a classic Arena Commander mode, which will be further detailed in the coming months.

For the Engine side of things… lot’s of engine improvements were made by the physics team.
Gen12 Renderer is now enabled by default in 3.18… this is a major milestone and Vulkan will be enabled in the not too distant future too.
CPU cores / threads are being much better utilised.
Better atmosphere and volumetric clouds are being worked on too.