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Star Citizen February Report – New Ships, Core Gameplay, Maelstrom & Resource Networks

Welcome to a Star Citizen Persistent Universe Monthly Report looking at what CIG have been working on over the last few weeks and what they are focused on now in February 2024 on the Road To Alpha 3.23…

The various PU teams kicked off the new year strong by making significant progress in a variety of areas including ships, locations, AI, and UI.

For Ships – The RSI Zeus continued to progress through the greybox stage, with some areas moving slightly beyond. The team are currently focusing on finishing various areas, including the entrance ladder and engineering, while polishing previous areas to make them match the contemporary RSI style. 

The RSI Polaris is currently in greybox, with modular pieces done for the lifts, habs, corridors, and hangar.

A previously announced vehicle completed its LOD0 phase, with the team also working on paints. CIG went onto say Some areas have already made it through final content, and we hope to be completely hands off in a couple of weeks before moving on to additional promised content work. 

An unannounced ship progressed well, receiving an updated lighting pass, including POMs to meet the current visual standard, three different lighting states, standardized headlights, geo updates, and glows in the thrusters. It also received a material refactor and other updates.

Two variants continued development: One moved through greybox and began the LOD0 phase, while the other completed LOD0 and is awaiting its gate review. 

Finally for Ship Art, gold-standard work on the Aegis Retaliator began.

To amplify efforts, the Character, Vehicle, Gameplay, and Arena Commander sections are no longer separate, as the Gameplay Features team has been reorganized (including teams for SQ42, the PU, and Arena Commander) to operate as one unified Core Gameplay Pillar. 

These Core Gameplay teams continued porting some of the SQ42 features seen at CitizenCon to the PU, which included making many features multiplayer-compatible.

The porting efforts and remaining code work on recoil improvements and dynamic crosshair were completed and refined to give players the best experience possible. EVA was also ported over and now has more intuitive strafing behavior and multiplayer support.

For player interaction they’re currently making sure that the interaction prompt, default actions, and control hints all work together to make it clear what will happen when players interact with something. Master Modes testing and refinement is ongoing too, with several successful playtests and rounds of positive feedback. 

The resource network and life-support features were further developed, the devs scoping out the remaining work needed for feature release and clearing important tech debt. They also continued to work on jump-point gameplay, including the procedurally generated tunnels and flow of entering the jump points.

Support continued for Server Meshing and server-crash recovery. Notably, there were improvements to the usable code for robustness and reliability.

For Maelstrom (the dynamic-destruction system), the current workload involves evaluating existing setups and generating workflows to fit the new pipeline. The team have already started retrofitting existing systems, including improvements to allow ship landing gear to detach with maelstrom debris and simplifying the design markup for configuring item control within vehicles. 

Theyalso continued on the transit system, preparing it for an upcoming refactor and  ensuring the current version is suitable for Server Meshing and Crash Recovery. This involved implementing a safe-recovery system for players who experience a server crash while inside moving transit. Engineering also continued refactoring the docking and landing systems, including a rewrite of the automatic dock/undock feature.

For the former Arena Commander Feature team, focus was on transitioning to the Persistent Universe and becoming familiar with the workflow and systems. While the team’s focus is now the PU, they’ll continue to maintain, improve, and provide regular content updates for Arena Commander, albeit with reduced velocity. That being said, the team finished work on three special events and formed a strike team to close out the Resource Network Experimental Mode.

There were two successful go/no-gos for Arena Commander: Grav Race, where players race grav-lev vehicles across five racetracks, and a major update to Master Modes, which includes a limited test of the new AI behaviors tailormade for Master Modes. Atmospheric maps were also added across all Master Modes game modes.

After last month’s successful tests, the team began implementing ‘streaming bubbles’ across all Arena Commander locations for improved performance and easier map setup. Additionally, they continued to refactor several UI systems to Building Blocks, improving the overall UI.

The team also worked on a wide range of features for the upcoming cargo update. This includes new cargo freight elevators, instanced hangars, personal hangar persistence, commodity trading changes and associated commodity kiosk updates, cargo grid improvements, hover trolley support, hauling mission support, and more.

UI worked on a Building Block framework for the freight elevator UI. A user-experience (UX) pass is also underway for the freight elevator and Resource Networks. Additionally, wireframes were crafted for the commodity kiosk UX, while attention was given to enhancing the overall user experience within the item shop.

The Economy team completed a balance pass on the UEC prices of FPS weapons. They’re currently looking into the impact of structural salvage on the in-game economy.

Narrative are working on various large scale initiatives that will add more story and character content into the game from tourist behaviours during the IAE & Fleet Week to Building an appropriate Civilian Population. 

The Weapons Art team redesigning and changing the dimensions of weapons optics. Improvements were also made to the FPS weapon wear map, while various animations were fixed for ship weapons.

The Character Art team completed the racing flightsuit and its helmet, and continued working on Headhunter outfits. They began exploring legendary armor concepts.

Mission Design continued to fix Siege of Orison for the live release, tackling many long-standing issues using new evidence. Work also continued on Blockade Runner, including finishing iteration cycles and fixing bugs.

EU Sandbox 1 Locations Team continued to develop the upcoming Distribution Centers, while Sandbox 2 worked on location markup for the new Starmap and high-tech and colonial cargo elevators.

Progress was made toward Pyro’s initial release. This involved finalizing the placement of outposts and integrating content, such as the new ‘defend’ mission.

Alongside this, the Landing Zone team continued to work on the Cargo feature, including freight and ship elevators for hangars.

Montreal’s Locations team began the year closing out mandates, starting new ones, and planning for 2024. For example, they closed out the final bug fixing for additional derelict settlements and kicked off the whitebox for building interiors. They also continued their work on the Distribution Centers mandate.

Alongside the Environment team, In-Game Branding continued integrating branding elements into the new distribution centers.

The development of Pyro’s outposts continued too, with attention on finalizing signage to enhance visibility and communication.

AI Features began the year working on a key AI-driven initiative for Alpha 3.23. This involved a variety of improvements and new behaviors that required frequent discussions between various disciplines. 

AI Tech added the ability for multiple NPCs to use ladders simultaneously when moving in the same direction, which completes that feature.

The transit system received upgrades to make the ‘UseTransit’ logic smoother for NPCs and more robust when handling fails, retries, and fallbacks.

For NPCs using elevators, the flow was improved to create a more efficient sequence. For example, characters won’t be seen going back and forward anymore and will instead board the elevator directly, eliminating unnecessary waiting or interim positions.

The development of generating navigation mesh on planets continued, particularly close to poles, to support outpost locations with NPCs. To achieve this, a new ‘TileName’ system for planets was implemented, which translates position locations into terrain patch IDs for more accurate navigation.

For spaceship behaviours, updated pilot-combat behaviour were included in the new Arena Commander mode added in Alpha 3.22.

They’ve been working on a 2.0 Game Launcher that’s being tested by Evocati.