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Star Citizen May Progress Report

Welcome to a Star Citizen Monthly Report for the PU. Looking at what CIG have been working on over the last for weeks and what they are focused on now in May 2024.

From 3.23 Features, To Alpha 4.0 and beyond to a 1.0 Release… there are loads of juicy updates here: 

Starting with Ship Updates, the RSI Zeus is continuing with the beauty and polish stage. The cockpit is now greybox complete, which established the standard for the remainder of the ship. The habitation area is receiving the last elements of polish, including resolving the ceiling and personal storage areas. The cargo room ceiling had a pass and the devs began finalizing the walls. The mess hall is nearing completion, as is the central hallway. 

Work on the exterior progressed well too, which now has a significantly increased level of detail throughout. They are currently going through all other sections to ensure they have the same level of detail. They also started looking at lighting, including a pass of every room and the entire exterior. Following this, it will be outfitted with proper fixtures. I think we will see the ship in Alpha 4.0.

The Anvil Legionnaire is now whitebox complete, though requests were made to improve its usability when boarding hostile vessels. The devs are currently exploring options for collapsable cover built into the boarding tunnel. I suspect the Legionnaire will turn up by the end of the year.

Resource Network work was finished for 10 ships, while legacy updates were made to three additional ships to support a new selection of paints.

The Branding and Vehicle teams worked closely to create brand identities for upcoming and existing vehicles within the game. VFX worked on a variety of vehicles for an upcoming release.

I am expecting at least 3 ships / vehicles for Fleet Week and variants within that too. This is likely going to be a mix of straight to flyable and concepts. Tho any concepts will likely be completed relatively quickly imo.

Tech Design iterated on weapon balance and AI following director feedback. For the latter, an easier AI behaviour was created for use in very easy, easy, and introductory missions.

A call-to-action prompt was added to the elevator panels of multiple ships.

The Core Gameplay Pillar closed out features and prepared them for release in Alpha 3.23. A significant amount of time was invested into polishing and bug fixing as well as reviewing feedback from the community to improve features where possible.

Various improvements were made to weapons, including enabling the interrupting and canceling of backpack reloading and ammo repooling via actions like weapon swap, sprint, and melee.

Support was also added for hit-marker sounds, while recoil patterns are now the same for tap-firing and holding the fire button.

For jump points, the team enabled new fail states if a jump drive detaches or stops functioning and added tunnel push force from the edges of the map to help players stay on course. They also implemented the first pass of procedurally generated tunnels from design parameters, including randomness to tunnel shapes for variety.

Work continued on the Resource Network (Engineering) Experimental AC game mode, including enabling doors without power to be openable (but not closable) to prevent players from being trapped.

They implemented a throttle that manages power in one-SCU segments based on the updated UI design. 

Changes were made to Pirate Swarm’s final wave, which now uses two Idris capital ships (rather than Javelin OR Bengal). Gun Rush now supports multiple weapon lists (controlled by badges) that can be randomized from all enabled weapons. 

VOIP and mute/unmute were added back into Arena Commander too.

Additional item power range modifiers were added, which enable extra behaviors currently used for heat generation. This entered optimization for eventual release. 

For the life support and room system, the team implemented filters that degrade over time, with the life-support generator ceasing to work once all are used. 

Gas propagation now uses accurate positioning within rooms, while atmospheres will equalize differently depending on whether they’re high or low-atmosphere environments.

Technical requirements for crafting were scoped out with Design, and room-system documentation was updated to enable other teams to better implement their work.

Work continued on Maelstrom (Ship & Structure Destruction) and the radar and scanning feature. Planning continued for the transit refactor.

Further development was done on the Contracts Manager, with the team providing code support for cargo hauling missions. ‘Or’ missions were added back in, where players can choose between objectives.

Reputation-based hostility saw work. Alongside several issues and improvements, a new neutral zone was added. This is a special restricted area that all players have permission to be in, with NPCs ignoring reputation relationships and criminality and reacting neutrally to everyone. However, access will be revoked for any non-justified hostile act, with everyone else seeing that person as hostile and attacking accordingly.

To regain access after hostile actions, the offending player will need to exit the zone and wait a set amount of time before entering again. Remaining inside when hostile or entering before the allotted time will completely reset the timer. 

Mission Design continued to polish content for Alpha 3.23, including XenoThreat and fauna-related missions. They also made quality-of-life improvements to missions, including Missing Persons, and supported content for Distribution Centers. 

Work was done on the new Contracts Manager to ensure it has all the existing functionality alongside improvements. They also made the Commodity Update Journal entry a lower-priority notification and reassessed what missions notify players when they’re available. Further bug fixing was done for Overdrive Initiative too.

There was a lot of progress with freight elevators, item banks, and persistent hangars that were pushed to a 3.23.x patch in the near future.

Mission Design used the extra time until the cargo updates are implemented to add additional high-quality content and further polish the Cargo Hauling and Kill and Collect missions. They Said:

“The various shipping companies of Stanton often outsource cargo hauling to freelancers through contracts. These job-board missions task the player with picking up the designated cargo shipment at one or more locations and offloading it at one or more destinations. At their core, these missions will test the player’s knowledge of their ship’s specs and their ability to weigh the time spent loading and traveling against the payout.

They will see the player transport goods back and forth to various jump points, LEOs, Lagrange points, landing zones, and Distribution Centers. These goods consist of various commodities and vehicles of real value, allowing players to get a rudimentary sense of what it will be like to have a hauling career. Simultaneously, this represents our first step toward implementing the logistical structure of the ‘verse in a tangible, playable form, prior to a Quanta-controlled system.” 

Environments & Interaction

The Interactables team completed their work on fire extinguisher recharge cabinets, including both high-tech and low-tech versions. These will be placed in hangars for convenience and aid in ship-fire gameplay.

Industrial cargo containers had their final art passes, including branding and signage, giving them more credibility as container storage.

Lighting spent time in April polishing Distribution Centers before moving on to instanced hangars and freight elevators, with the aim of making every interaction an engaging event.

The Locations teams spent April closing out features for Alpha 3.23. For example, the Sandbox team completed Distribution Centers, adding the last elements of polish before shipping. The team are looking forward to players getting their hands on these locations and will be looking for feedback that they can take forward as Distribution Centers evolve in the future.

The Sandbox team are currently finalizing the last few outposts going into Pyro for Alpha 4.0 whilst supporting other Locations teams with their tasks for the upcoming patch release.

The Landing Zone team finalized art for the cargo initiative and helped out other teams on Alpha 3.23.

AI Features put significant effort into the Alpha 3.23 release, specifically the kopion creature that will be found across planetary surfaces and in caves.

“We’re really excited to share this new creature and the gameplay possibilities it provides. Kopions are the first of the creatures we have been working on and have posed many challenges during their development. We also had the pleasure of bringing all the hard work of other teams into a cohesive whole.” AI Features Team

New features added for creatures include ground alignment tech, which allows them to appear correctly situated when moving across the terrain, and the ability to attack in formation. The attacks themselves require motion warping and melee attack technology to connect with the player. The team also put a lot of effort into ensuring that these functionalities work well across different environments.

AI Tech focused on planetary navigation mesh, with the version implemented recently receiving significant improvements. Firstly, they removed generation limits over planet latitude, which gives stronger coupling with planetary terrain patches, allowing the nav mesh to generate correctly over the planet efficiently. They then improved generation response at lower framerates so that movement over planets in non-ideal performance scenarios results in acceptable nav-mesh generation times.

The multipath code was then optimized to execute faster, which will result in quicker generation of paths into, out of, and between usables. The team also enabled failure detection code in the movement system component to identify and fix situations where NPCs were standing on usables or out of the nav mesh. 

Another key feature worked on was the boids system used for the new marok creature. April saw the devs improving network synchronization and extending the system to support audio triggers from different agent states. Several optimizations were also made to the overall code. 

Significant time was spent verifying multiple parts of the AI system after evaluating the EPTU optik profiles. For example, the team optimized some of the navigation code involved in the destruction of navigation links and navigation volumes when larger outposts stream out.

The pathfinder was also switched from running using background jobs to batch jobs. The main pool that serves requests was split into two to better serve multipath and standard-path searches. Moving the calculation into batch jobs allows an increased number of calculations, which provides much faster results and utilizes more CPU time where available. These jobs are lower priorities, so they can always provide space for more urgent calculations and continue work across multiple frames. This should result in quicker response times for NPCs at lower FPS.

In parallel with supporting the Apollo Subsumption editor, AI Tech are also working on a new UX design for their internal tool. 

Progress was also made on the spaceship combat behavior, which is planned for release in Alpha 3.23. All NPC fighters now use this behavior, which involves them using limited ballistic ammo rather than infinite rounds as before. 

Finally for AI Tech, they implemented point defense cannons that will protect capital ships from incoming missiles.

The Animation worked on various creatures, including two predators and a prey animal. They also spent time polishing player movement in space and when prone (which will be live in Alpha 3.23) and implemented hit reactions for when AI is out in the open.

The Facial Animation team continued to develop facial animations for various game elements.

The Tech Animation team continued to generate and implement new head assets to the DNA gene pool, and are not far from completing the initiative of 40 heads for each gender. 

Many devs are currently dealing with the complications of players and NPCs putting on and taking off clothes live in the engine. They Said:

“This has been ongoing for some time and, with the addition of animation resources into the mix, we are seeing great headway in both generating the assets for animation and generating usable pipelines to expedite the entire process for everyone involved.” 

Additionally, the team are intrinsic in the creation and implementation of new creatures for both the PU and SQ42. 

They’re also involved in work toward consumables and the setup of foodstuffs, with the team aiming to guide this initiative and promote time-saving workflows.

The Character Art Team began work on two specialist armors, reworked a utility armor, and supported requests for the Character Customizer. They also continued working on creatures.

The Character Concept Art team continued developing specialist armors.

The Hair team kicked off new hairstyles for Alpha 4.0 and undertook R&D on fur.

Looking ahead with Narrative, the team helped with the upcoming Invictus Launch Week, making sure everything is ready for players to visit in-game. This was a particular focus of the Narrative Design team, who looked at the NPCs attending the event. The team also spent time working on cargo gameplay, providing UI and mission support.

Additionally, the Narrative team did a lot of planning and pre-production work for Star Citizen 1.0, detailing the scripts and assets that will be needed for its release. This includes looking at legacy work done in the game’s early releases and analyzing how best to update it to meet current standards.

Engine, Graphics & Networking

More preparation was made for Server Meshing, they are getting ready for EAC to be actively enforcing sanctions. There are Network Optimizations.

Significant improvements were made to clouds and fog also the addition of very high and photo modes for clouds. There was a load of shader optimization work.

There are continued Vulkan improvements as they march towards getting it in a good state.