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Star Citizen Persistent Universe Monthly Report March 2023

Welcome to The Star Citizen PU Monthly Report looking at what CI’s various development teams have been working on over the last few weeks and what they are focused on now in March 2023… from ships, to locations, Features, Alpha 3.19, 4.0 & Beyond… let’s jump in.

The UK Vehicle Art approached the end of their work on the Argo SRV. The final art phase is in progress, including LOD and damage passes, and is expected to conclude with the final gate review and go/no-go this month.

Work also continued on an unannounced ship, which is well into the final-art phase.

A new variant moved into the LOD0 phase after passing its greybox review in January. Detailing work on the exterior and interior is ongoing.

The Crusader Spirit continued its greybox pass, with a review gate taking place at the end of the month. 

“While there are still a few visual design tweaks to be made, the Spirit is looking in great shape for the review.”

The MISC Hull C received a significant amount of low-level tech updates they’ve also been trying to fix any visual issues that occurred during the ongoing technical setup, while the MISC Freelancer is undergoing some interior tweaks to accommodate physicalized components.

Greybox on an upcoming vehicle progressed. Testing was done simultaneously on the modeling process to see if the team can reduce the LOD impact on production once they arrive at the final-content phase.

The Aopoa San’tok.yāi is currently in the greybox stage and is undergoing significant testing to see how far the team can take secondary motion. The Vehicle Art Team Said 

“The goal for us is to make the ship feel as though it is reacting heavily to its inertia. Doing this requires that we apply blendspace animations similar to what we do with characters.” 

The Vehicle Feature team has mostly been focused on the transit system, which was heavily refactored for the release of Persistent Entity Streaming.

“As we’ve been pushing through the various PTU waves to release Alpha 3.18, more and more issues have arisen. Most transit bugs do not present locally on machines, so we’ve developed a system where we can remotely log the transit system and observe what happened after a bug occurs. This has been extremely helpful in finding various bugs in the PTU.” 

For releases further ahead, new features were added to the flight system and some older systems were refactored in support of one of the Ship team’s unannounced vehicles.

The Gameplay Features team continued their work on the tractor beam, enabling ship owners to protect their ship items by locking them using ‘lock exterior’ functionality. They also added an interaction to the Greycat Multi-Tool that will detach unlocked items from ships to allow more control over item detaching. 

The team then expanded on the holo outline that Weapons Features provided to get clear feedback on the attaching rules for ship items. 

Thy continued their work on the Resource Network, which is now known as Engineering gameplay. Gameplay Features will provide a more in-depth look into this feature in an upcoming episode of Inside Star Citizen. 

In the US, the PU team worked on the physicalized cargo refactor. This significant conversion has several goals:

  • Convert the existing cargo render proxy to actual physical entities for each cargo container. This enables them to be manually added and removed from the cargo grid using the tractor beam.
  • Convert all commodities, minerals, and harvestables to a new resource type. This requires refactors of the mining and refinery systems to ensure they worked with the new resources.
  • Recreate the Commodity Kiosk using Building Blocks to give greater flexibility with future changes.
  • Ensure that all missions that use any form of cargo, usually in the form of carryable two-handed entities, still work with the new cargo resource system.
  • Work with the Ships team to mark up all cargo grids to use the new system.

The PU team worked closely with EUPU Gameplay to ensure the conversion worked not only with the Mining and Refinery systems, but also to ensure that the new Salvage system worked with the new resource system as well.

“Once we had confirmed that cargo was properly working with the cargo grids, Chris Roberts pointed out the fact that, since ships were always destroyed upon death, the majority of cargo was destroyed, thus reducing the amount that players could interact with the new system. So, we worked with the Arena Commander Feature team to implement Soft Death on ships. This ensures that the majority of the time a ship is ‘destroyed,’ it enters a disabled state, which preserves all of the cargo within the ship so that it can be retrieved by interested parties.”

The Mission Features Team made a few improvements to the Klescher Rehabilitation Facility, including changing the stashes to lootable containers . This allows them to put whatever items they want inside, such as rarer contraband alongside the typical sustenance and oxy-pens. A full stash should now contain an amount of contraband that can be returned, giving players another non-violent means to reduce their sentence. Players can now also steal minerals from other NPC inmates and, should they do it deep enough in the mines, get away without being caught.

Given these new options for generating merits, plus the new escape mission and Platinum Bay at the nearby outpost, the team decided to increase the cap on prison sentences to further punish those committing numerous felonies, though lighter sentences will remain the same.

“Mass murder now has serious consequences, leaving escape a much more tempting prospect.” 

Several unannounced missions continued to be prototyped. One of which sees players escorting ships as they quantum travel and land at various locations, potentially allowing players aboard to carry out tasks.

Also, after inheriting ownership of the Reputation System, the team began designing out the system as a whole alongside prioritizing which work comes first.

UI Art and Design have been working on several future features, including an interactive 3D UI prototype, a universal marker for the Starmap, and concept work for some of the updated vehicle UI styles.

The UI Tech team progressed in various areas, including creating a color picker UI for use in interactive screens. They continued to help polish the new Starmap, adding space dust to make it easier to perceive movement, improving the controls, and creating cubic holo volumes. 

The VFX Programming team’s time was split between fire, quantum travel, and tool work. For fire, work began on decal shading to achieve glow, burn, and soot on objects within the scene. Quantum travel now has support for ‘quantum casting’ and ‘red shift’ along with various other code improvements. For tools, usability improvements continued and support was added for referencing particle effects from other particle effects.

The Arena Commander have been laying foundations for the AC overhaul… working on spawning and racing system refactors and the delivery of the refactored Rounds Module along with long-awaited bug fixes and quality-of-life changes.

The Design team focused on the conversion of a new Stanton location into Arena Commander, which will feature all standard game modes bar Classic Race.

“This location, which we’ll talk about more as we get closer to release, has the team tackling some unique challenges with taking PU locations that’ll help ease the process for future endeavors.” 

The team also began work on an all-new atmospheric dogfighting arena, which will be the first fully atmospheric map in Arena Commander.

The Characters & Weapons Features team continued to support the upcoming patch release with critical bug fixes, mainly for crashes and player-position desyncs.

The team also began looking at lockers and how to best create outfits as a pre-defined collection of items that can be equipped or worn in a single action. They’re currently looking at a combination of the item port and inventory systems to store and display large to small items. For example, a coat may appear on a hanger just like in the shops, whereas a small accessory item or weapon attachment could go into an inventory drawer.

Another inventory aspect in progress is allowing players to perform a reload directly from a backpack or pocket. For example, if ammunition isn’t directly available from their suit, players can perform a slower reload where it’s retrieved from their inventory. However, this only works if spare ammunition has been stored prior to engaging in combat.

The Locations team completed the exteriors of Seraphim Station and the three Stanton jump points. Work is approaching ‘final art’ on the asteroid clusters for the Resource Rush mission, and the team is working on the last few modules to close out ‘Content Pack 3’, which will enable them to construct and distribute Pyro’s small-to-medium outposts.

Tasks progressed on Ruin Station and the underground facilities, the latter of which are currently in the whitebox stage. For organics, they prepared and hardened some of their cave initiatives and began looking into additional biome work.

The Design team worked on new missions for Pyro’s outposts. They also began investigation toward achieving gold-standard outposts, which produced several feature requests to facilitate new and interesting gameplay loops in Pyro relating to the resource network and Reputation System.

The Planet Tech team worked on better shaping support for asteroid fields, improvements to the harvestable system, and adding support for instancing to terrain chunks.

Also, the Planet and Graphics teams worked together on a new water system. This is still at an early stage but aims to allow for GPU wave/ripple simulations at multiple scales as well as network-synced impacts for larger events (e.g. spaceships crashing). Shading improvements are also being made to achieve better reflections, refraction, and foam.

Lighting finished their work on the Lorville skyline rework. They then moved fully onto colonial outposts.

“This is a significant undertaking with many pieces that we need to get right!” Lighting Team

The In-Game Branding team’s work on Lorville’s skyline is coming to an end. 

They also began their tasks for Pyro’s Ruin Station, with the first step being creating the visual identities of the gangs and their environments.

The Interactables team continued work on Pyro, creating more assets for Ruin Station.

Narrative, with tasks for the upcoming release winding down, attention turned to the next patch and beyond. Several items, clothing pieces, and vehicles were branded and named. Work continued on the upcoming Salvage, Mining, and Investigation missions, while improvements were considered for Bounty Hunting v2 and the Contract Manager.

The team also continued to refine and hone their work toward the gameplay in the Pyro system.

“Seeing how the system’s lawless nature has the potential to enhance existing gameplay loops has been very exciting for us.” 

They also coordinated with the Environment and Design teams on building interiors. Additionally, progress was made on ‘narrative lootables.’ These are things like journals, articles, and messages that players might one day be able to discover as they explore the universe. Finally, the team’s narrative designers continued to work on expanding and improving player interactions with certain NPCs.

Engine, Graphics & Backend

The Physics team made several improvements to box pruning.
There were Optimizations to collision checks, shaders & physical entities. 

Further improvements were made to the Gen12 Renderer & CPU usage.

The Graphics team continued to close out the final tasks for Gen12 before they transition to assisting in the completion of the Vulkan graphics API.

The damage-map system was converted to Gen12.

Ulta Wide Screens saw more support.

Work on streaming system improvements started.

The Graphics team submitted the first iteration of a new render-layer feature to allow easy customization of objects in the world for use with game features such as scanning and the mini-map.

Online Services completed the development of shard isolation and the shard broker, with PTU testing beginning for both. These new features are used for isolating push workers and shard health/lifecycle respectively, with the goal being to maintain shard integrity.

The team also added inventory query caching to the entity-graph service, meaning faster response times and less load on the database.

The team performed a refactor for insurance, ASOP terminals, the VMA backend, and game code, with the goal of improving performance and fixing some long-standing bugs.
Boom that’s it for the monthly report this time!