Monthly Studio Report: November 2017
Welcome to the Monthly Studio Report, where we collect updates from our various studios around the world to show you what they’ve been working on this past month. As many of you know, there’s been a concerted push among our various studios to get the Alpha 3.0 to the community. Since our last report, we’ve gone to Evocati and begun a staggered release to the PTU, so the team’s busy fixing bugs discovered by the testers and working on overall stability and performance. With that, let’s get to it.
CIG Los Angeles
CLOUD IMPERIUM: LOS ANGELES
LA Engineering has been racing towards 3.0 at a breakneck pace, with the primary focus being on resolving bugs from Evocati and PTU and adding final polish to features like cargo, item components, atmosphere systems and more. Part of this work has been integrating all the item systems in ships with UI in order to bring a real sense of control to the cockpits. Lastly, updating Quantum Travel has been an area of focus for several weeks, pushing to deliver a more immersive experience.
This month, LA Tech Design spent the bulk of their time closing down tasks and knocking out the remaining bugs for the Item 2.0 Ship Setup. They’ve solved several issues with the 300 series, Mustang, Nox, Starfarer, and Scythe while identifying some more dependencies on the final lighting setup as well. The updated animations for the Gladiator were delivered this month so a total setup refactor has been completed.
In addition, the team also finished setup on all the ship headlights as well as the “SaveGameLogOut” functionality that allows for logging out anywhere there’s a bed.
This November, the Character Team spent a lot of time polishing the cast of Squadron 42. They also polished many new Star Citizen characters and assets that they are excited to release with 3.0.0 while working on developing concepts for clothing, finalizing the legacy armor sets and more.
The LA Ship Art team has spent much of November updating a lot of ships to take advantage of new tech. In particular, the ships now use new Light Groups set-up, new fog tech, new Render-to-Texture screens and to made proxies airtight now that oxygen has been introduced to Star Citizen. They’ve been juggling these various tasks with fixing a lot of art bugs in preparation for ships included in the Alpha 3.0 release. Additionally, they’ve made progress on the art for future releases, including the Anvil Hurricane, Tumbril Cyclone and the Consolidated Outland Mustang update.
In addition to working with the PU design team on polishing Alpha 3.0 mission content, the Narrative team continued to expand the Xi’an language with the help of the community, and worked with the cinematics team to create the Galactic Tour Hammerhead piece. For Squadron 42, they spent time discussing additional set dressing with the prop and art teams to help further expand environmental storytelling in the game. Looking ahead, the team also spent time this month continuing to plan out narrative content goals for 2018’s quarterly updates.
For Environments, the Global Technical Content team has been continuing work on the features that were revealed at the GamesCom Procedural Tech Demo. In addition to supporting asset and code performance improvements, they have been investigating bugs with lighting and visareas, and have been working side by side with the graphics team to develop scripts and shader tech to help catch performance issues as well as improve other areas like the procedural cities. They’ve also worked in conjunction with our tech animation team on animated environment assets, and with engineering and design on new tech for Derelict Systems, Outpost Locations and a Planetary Placement Systems.
For Ships, the team has been busy handling damage implementation for the new ships coming down the pipeline for the 3.0 release. All of this whilst juggling a variety of ship bugs related to UV2 damage, landing gear compression, visareas and log spam errors. Progress was made to support gas effects for the incoming Breaching feature. They’ve also been supporting Tech Design and the Ship Art teams with some new tech for ship lighting and ship proxies.
On the Weapons front, the team has continued to work on new weapons in the pipeline, including working on Mannequin set-ups, weapon bugs, an adjustable stock, and some exciting R&D on animated weapon attachments which will have many additional uses beyond just weapons.
A lot of work for the Tech Animators was in support of Squadron 42, rigging and simulating new costumes coming down the Character & Heads Pipeline. As with the other areas of focus, ample time has been spent on fixing bugs, mainly related to skinning and character item implementation.
The team has also been making great progress tracking, trimming and solving a vast amount of MoCap data for Squadron 42. The list of accomplishments rounds out nicely with the implementation of new health checks, a CIG Tools Installer, Tools management/migrations, and a ton of support for facial animation, usables, wildlines and cinematics.
Finally, there was a lot of miscellaneous support that the team had their hands on, including technical direction for WAF asset builds (which reduce build times significantly!), website development, R&D and some due diligence on a prospective upgrade to our internal DCC tools Max and Maya and MoBu.
LAQA’s primary focus was testing lighting and the new light groups, LOD’s, breaching mechanics, character art, the myriad of new updates to the code base made by the engineering team, and the way Item Ports were set up by tech design. They also aided the global QA team with publishing checks for PTU and Evocati deployments and several live internal gameplay reviews.
CLOUD IMPERIUM: AUSTIN
The ATX design team have been tackling all things shopping to get the game ready for the PTU Release of the 3.0 build. There have been two core elements that we’ve been focused on since the handing off the Mission Givers implementation tasks to the design team in Frankfurt.
The team also outlined the desired income per hour goals and has adjusted both the mission reward calculator and the item prices accordingly. This work has also included the ship respawn time and prices. While we expect to dial in these values over the next several Alpha builds based on player feedback and analytics that we collect, we feel like this is a good representation of where we want it to be.
Meanwhile, the rest of the team tidied up all the physical shops in the three major locations: Port Olisar, Grim HEX, and Levski. In total, there are roughly fifteen separate places where players will be able to buy items in the game and we’ve been able to spread the items around the different shops with very little overlap. The team also worked with the LA Programmers and the UI team to add some new features for the shopping experience. Among these new features are:
- AR Markers have now been replaced by the new item highlighting system to fall in line with the overall loot system.
- Inner Thought is now being used on the objects where Try On, Inspect or Buy are concerned.
- Armor can now be purchased as separate pieces.
- All Item names are now unique
- First pass of shopkeepers are now in.
- The shopping UI has been cleaned up.
While there are still have many new features they wish to add, or existing ones they wish to clean up, the team hopes that the new shopping experience will make all players happy, and they look forward to continuing the refinement of the shopping experience in the new year.
The ship team knocked out 3.0 bugs for the Drake Herald and Cutlass Black, including fixing up their lighting states and visareas. They also finished up the whitebox modeling and a first pass at interior lighting of the Constellation Phoenix, so it’s now in game and can be walked through.
In other Constellation news, the Andromeda and Aquila had their interior and exterior lighting states updated and their LODs were refactored to be much more efficient. Several other ships went through similar updates, including the Hornet (F7C, F7CM), 300i (and variants), M50, Scout and Nox. The team continued their work polishing and optimizing the materials on all the ATX ships. Work also began on the whitebox modeling process of the Anvil F8 Lightning.
Server Engineering team focused on helping with features and issues in 3.0. The team has been tuning parts of the back-end services to accommodate the volume of data that flows between game servers, persistence caches and the database, and solved several issues, including the ability to reconnect to the same instance if you lose your network connection. Over the course of the month, they also improved data integrity if a server or service would go down, improved caching services functionality to allow items to exist in the universe outside of the player’s possession, and lastly solved many login and connectivity issues.
Looking to the future, the engineering team has been building the next generation of back-end services. The team is aiming to split up all larger services into smaller stateless services and enhancing the service architecture and Ooz scripting language to comply with the ever-growing requirements the game demands.
This month, the Ship Animation Team fine-tuned the player bed enters and exits as part of our persistent save system, which will allow the player to enter a bed and exit the game while saving their location in the universe. Next time when you load the game, you’ll wake up in your bed with your ship in its last location. In addition to this, the team finished updating the Gladiator enter and exits as part of the cockpit experience sprint. The speed and technical setup of the Gladiator has vastly cut down the time to enter and exit the pilot and copilot seats. The Austin studio also held a motion capture shoot to capture animations for the Tumbril Cyclone.
Meanwhile, the PU Animation Team helped support work on Squadron 42 and worked closely with Design to make all usables fully functional and bug free. Some of the challenges the team faced included syncing props to animate with characters, such as chairs sliding as a character sits down and getting a female version of every animation implemented into the game. The goal is to have a large batch of the Usable animation assets polished and finalized by the end of the year.
The DevOps Team worked around the clock to support our internal teams and the Evocati as we closed in on our 3.0 goals. In addition to publishing at least one game version every day, they have been able to complete some major internal projects designed to massively improve build times and error handling.
Since CitizenCon, 3.0 has been an all-consuming focus for the QA team as incremental updates were released to Evocati and to the first wave of PTU. Between Evocati and the PTU, there have been 26 builds published so far under Austin’s belt for 3.0 and 2 publishes for our sister team in UK. QA has been gathering fresh performance captures for our engineers with each new build that goes to PTU to focus on stability. The team worked with the LiveOpS cohorts to compile all the various new client and server crashes with metrics to show which has the greatest impact. With so many new missions in 3.0 and new gameplay mechanics associated with them, the team ensured they function both in ideal scenarios and when a server is at full capacity. At the same time, they’ve been testing various new configurations with UK QA and the engineering teams to increase the player cap. Squadron 42 testing has been proceeding at a brisk pace, with regular tests of levels run on new builds each day.
For leadership, the focus has been training new hires and keeping in constant communication with the other departments, talking to Production to ensure that the right bugs are on their radar for PTU and Live triage, attending stand-ups with the Development teams to find out what needs to be tested coming out of the sprints, and working with Player Relations and Issue Council every day to keep up to date on the latest feedback and reports from backers. All these different avenues combined to ensure QA is consistently on the same page across the company.
The month of November kept the Player Relations team on its toes. After assisting and moderating a phenomenal CitizenCon, the team rolled right into helping backers with their interest in our game-changing Pioneer. The team also worked with Evocati every day to publish new 3.0 builds, run playtests, assess stability, and gather crucial feedback. With the push to PTU, they wanted to thank all our relentless Avocados who are always there to answer the call! Lastly, the team expanded in Austin and Frankfurt as their list of duties continues to increase. They are excited to hire our first full time German support staff, as well as roll out moderation support in several new languages.
Foundry 42 UK
FOUNDRY 42: UK
The graphics team spent their time bug fixing 3.0. When QA/Evocati get their hands on completed features and assets there’s always the usual influx of unexpected issues. This included numerous problems related to rotating planets/moons because much of the older rendering code made assumptions about things being stationary, and especially doesn’t cope well with changing the frame of reference when moving in/out of orbit.
The team also created a new glass shader that provided a great visual improvement over the past one, and they were really keen to see it implemented as soon as possible. A pass was done across all ship canopies.
They also closed down some minor feature work for 3.0, such as RTT functionality for ship MFDs and the ability for game code to control the camera’s exposure to make the mobiGlas more legible in bright lighting conditions (though more improvements are coming for holographic displays). In parallel, two team members continued their longer-term R&D tasks on the new shield effect, which uses particles rather than meshes, and improvements to the volumetric ray-tracing tech (gas clouds & fog), which is nearing the point where they can share some pretty cool visuals!
The Hammerhead has made rapid progress in a short time period. Work on the exterior was prioritized for its Galactic Tour appearance. After receiving the concept mesh, the team did more than trace over the shapes but also made sure the mesh was efficient and game ready. Now that the Aegis brand is so well established they have a wealth of shaders and assets to pull from for quick iteration.
The 600i’s interior corridors were fully fleshed out, making sure they capture the higher class feel that is Origin. Further work was done with the exploration module, along with passes on materials and lighting. The block out of the bridge is done and work on it has started. For the exterior, the thrusters are almost complete and the landing gear should be wrapped up shortly.
The Idris has entered a polish and bug fixing phase. The team supported design with useables set up and are starting to see interactive items such as seats, benches and beds being useable by the player and AI.
Vanduul Void art is complete. Damage and LODs are being set up.
They chipped away at a more detailed greybox by picking two areas to focus on — engineering and habitation. The plan is to take these sections to final geometry before going into engine to create materials and lighting. This approach is taken to maximize the time spent being creative with the designs at the start and lays the groundwork for future tasks.
November saw the concept team finish and deliver two spaceships, the Anvil Hawk and the Aegis Hammerhead, with another ship and vehicle in development. They also reshuffled artists and moved some people to new disciplines to keep things fresh and reduce the risk of burnout. As you know, the team pumps out a huge amount of work and it’s important to stay on top!
On the environment side, they further explored areas of Hurston, landing sites, hangars and general building look dev, and some high-level exploration of Microtech. They continued with weapon development, making the first of the Associated Science and Development Distortion repeaters and refining the Hurston Electron Beam cannon.
Long-planned work on shield improvements finally commenced this month. This included the generation of ‘signed distance fields’ by our team in Frankfurt and a R&D-intensive collaboration with the Graphics team to generate energy effects that closely conform to the hull of a ship. This work was previously mentioned in Around the Verse and can be used to improve numerous ship-specific effects, like atmospheric entry burn-up and Quantum Travel.
Speaking of QT, recent design changes required the team to rebuild the effects so they fit the new code ‘hooks’ (triggers that call upon the effects to be activated). Once the timings and functionality were back in place, they continued to polish/optimize the effects. This was a time-consuming process and required careful collaboration with Design and Game-Code, but was worth it given the results.
This month has seen a company-wide push to clean-up log spam. For the VFX team, this is a case of removing references to missing textures or finding particle libraries that were moved/had their name changed, as reported by the editor when loading a level. It’s one of the less glamorous sides of the job but actually very satisfying to whittle away the error logs.
They also conducted our usual “sanity pass” for 3.0 by checking every effect in the game and making sure they work as expected. This is where QA is invaluable, as it simply wouldn’t be possible for the VFX artists to check through all the game’s effects in such a time-frame. They are still working through these checks due to the size of our VFX library!
Last but certainly not least, lots of Squadron 42 specific tasks were tackled. As usual, the team can’t go into too many details but work ranged from Coil-specific plasma experiments, to mysterious debris clusters, and distant storms brewing.
CIG Audio has been all about working towards delivering 3.0 and making improvements to the player experience sound great and work as solidly as possible. Thus, bug-fixing and optimization has been taking up time for everyone between feature work (and often because of feature work!) in addition to the continued work on Squadron 42.
On the music side of things, the team have rolled out a new music composition pipeline to help step up productivity and improve communication for persistent universe music production. In addition to that, they are also working on a new logic-based music system to cater for points of interest such as space stations and moons with outposts – part of a move to make music transition more seamlessly overall.
In sound design, the pressurization system coming online is something that’s a big step forward. When on foot and EVA, you’ll find space doesn’t necessarily sound as if it has an atmosphere now. There are still a few teething issues to readdress a lot of sounds and ensure they’re set-up correctly within our Wwise bus structure, but when complete, it will add a lot more to the dynamics of the audio in-game and goes hand-in-hand with our ‘sound sim’ lore that justifies sonic feedback when in-cockpit.
Door and elevator sounds have also undergone much maintenance and re-work in response to upstream system changes. Outposts have had their foundational work done to account for different power states. Weapons – on both ship and human-scale – have been iterated upon, with some great work done on the HDR tech for those. The Character Foley system has been extended to account for landing/jumps more elegantly. Ships have been continually addressed and Quantum Travel, having been refactored upstream, has been improved and extended. In-game displays and MFDs now also emit their sounds in 3D from their perceived point of origin.
Where dialogue is concerned, ship computer voices have undergone some extensive rework with a lot of emphasis on producing runtime effects to simulate speakers and other playback mechanisms diegetically (which will prove especially satisfying once players can use them with live input from their own FOIP set-ups/mics). The team’s also continuing to improve the dialogue mix, add more dialogue to mission givers and NPCs, and making improvements in dialogue spatialisation.
As well as the above, the team has been making lots of incremental improvements and as always, it’d be great to get your feedback on the forums in case there’s anything in particular you would like them to address.
The team worked hard on this year’s CitizenCon demo. The positive response was great for the team to hear. They have been planning the tech roadmap for further city development work, as making a living and breathing cityscape has many complexities. Memory budgets, engine rendering, city building shaders, and day/night sequences are all being developed.
They also made sure that the 3.0 release build was as stable as possible. There were only a handful of bugs so this should be a very strong environmental experience for the player. The team continued to refine tools to enable more efficient workflows. An example of this is an automatic dropping system for landscape POI’s, like outposts, being implemented to remove a lot of the brute force work which was previously required. Also, after internal playtesting, they wanted to improve the experience at outposts on the dark side of a moon. The lighting engineers worked on a solution to provide these areas with more light so players could see what they are doing. They also started converting all the old shops in Area18 to the new systems for things like usable, doors, etc. The new layout not only improves the plaza’s performance but enables it to be filled with more NPCs and allows the team to add some new beautiful areas where you can take in the vistas of ArcCorp.
The Derby Studio was super busy with tasks for 3.0 and the Anniversary Sale. They ran the in-house headcam system for a motion capture shoot in Nottingham for the Galactic Gear Hammerhead segment.
Face scanning at CitizenCon 2947 was a great success. The scanner went from in pieces to fully built on a new frame in two weeks. It was tight but we did it! The rig took an epic 12-hour ferry journey to get to mainland Europe, then a 300-mile drive in the “Scan-Van” to Frankfurt. A massive thanks to all the volunteers who helped set up and tear down the scanner. The team couldn’t have done it without you! All 10 scan winners enjoyed their scan sessions and it was great to meet a bunch of super enthusiastic SC gamers.
Finally, the team is excited to see the characters in 3.0 and are currently working through the levels to polish and improve their facial animations.
November was focused on 3.0, getting it to Evocati and then to PTU. This means there were a lot of bug fixes and optimizations, as well as the finishing of features like persistent spawning, player interaction, missions, and so on. However, this doesn’t mean they didn’t get to work on any new features. The team was split into those that support the PTU and its requirements, and those working on new tech to incorporate into future builds when it’s ready.
For example, there’s a team working on the making the social AI have more life and feel less robotic. This started with the NPCs delivering wildlines, one off lines of dialogue dependent on the situation. These could be simple greetings, if they already know you or other NPCs, or a warning that they’re coming through when jogging and coming across another character. They were also given a bit more interest in the environment, glancing at items as they walk around or if nothing’s taking their fancy just looking at where they’re going. Layered on top of that are fidgets, where a character will scratch their head or look at their watch to help break up a repetitive animation. They’ve also been adding in custom locomotion sets for different characters so everybody doesn’t have the same walk/run gait.
The team also looked at cinematics in an effort to polish them so they look their best. They explored how the cinematic team can better control the lighting whilst in a scene without breaking it for the rest of the environment and how to dial in the depth of field and field of view. This is to give that cinematic feel and show off the characters without negatively impacting the control of the player. Other than that, there were lots of gameplay sprints and getting through all the functionality required.
The animation team has been working in tandem with design to focus on combat AI – chopping assets up to fit new metrics, providing placeholder assets to prove systems out, cleaning up existing assets. They have also been going through the performance capture data and creating game ready locomotion, idle & fidget assets for cast characters. The Idris armory has had a full sweep, so that design have all the animation assets for the master-at-arms and his weapon interactions. In line with this work, they worked hard to create some cool first weapon selects.
Outside of feature development, the team did bug fixing and debugging issues that are currently in 3.0 and beyond.
Foundry 42 DE
FOUNDRY 42: DE
This month the weapons team completed the final touches on the Kastak Arms Custodian skins, which were made together with attendees at the CitizenCon demo stand. The FPS team also started production on two new weapons: the Gemini H29 HMG and the Torral Aggregate Kahix Missile Launcher. The ship weapons team has started production on the A&R Laser Cannons (Size 1-6) and the Gallenson Tactical Ballistic Gatlings (Size 1-3), which should allow them to replace another big batch of legacy ship weapons with shiny new ones in the near future.
The DE lighting team focused on finishing our remaining 3.0 lighting tasks, which involved more polish and performance items in Levski. In addition to other general 3.0 bugs, they supported the shop team to help differentiate lighting in shops based on the location. A large amount of focus will now shift to various areas for Squadron 42.
The DE QA team did a wide range of testing this month to focus on issues found in the Evocati builds and testing the 3.0 branch in general. This included a streaming issue that occurred after being connected to a server for an extended period and the black screen some encountered when initially loading into Stanton. These issues were speculated to be the result of potential memory corruption and required more testing with Page Heap to provide the engineers with additional information to fix them. The fixes will ultimately increase the overall stability of the full game.
Subsumption testing also continued with new features and bug fixes going into the Subsumption tool weekly. The team collaborated with Design to learn their workflows in an effort to better test the varying uses of the Subsumption tool. This will expand the scope of QA subsumption testing to include test cases outlining how the Subsumption Editor works with our other tools used by the Design Teams, such as Dataforge and the Lumberyard Editor. Additional focused testing was also spent on the Sabre Raven’s EMP and its effects on other ships. These effects were recorded for multiple types of ships and reviewed by Design to make sure there weren’t any discrepancies between the design and how it’s currently working.
DE QA also worked closely with Marco Corbetta to get to the bottom of ships falling through the planet surface when players powered off and exited their ship. This was particularly tricky to reproduce as it only occurred on Shipping builds and could not be reproduced on internal Development builds. The Engine team discovered that the Shipping builds were specifically missing certain .r16 files which contain sample displacement textures made by artists. These are also used by the server for generating collision data but not for rendering. The issue was resolved by Build Ops and confirmed fixed the next day.
This past month, the Frankfurt Engine team tackled numerous fronts, such as wrapping up new items for 3.0, investigating and addressing existing bugs, as well as general optimizations.
The team made a lot of progress optimizing for both the server and client, and started conducting routine network stress tests to better understand how the engine scales on the server with a large number of players and learn what areas are still expensive and need optimization. With the increased number of players on the server and more code being moved to jobs for parallel execution, changes were made to the job system to allow utilization of more than 16 worker threads on servers without introducing extra overhead in job distribution. This is needed to allow an increasing number of player counts. This change to the job system will also translate to the client, so people with high-end CPUs will see extra performance benefits in areas where they are typically CPU bound. On the low-level optimization side, they changed the signaling mechanism of the core threading synchronization object on Linux from semaphore to futexes. This change spares one syscall in 99% of the cases, which provides a small performance boost.
Area Management was optimized by disregarding an Octree for Areas they never search in. An “area” is a special markup for the designers which tracks all objects inside a specific location, such as a bar. The system now allows them to send Events when an object (like a player) enters an Area (the bar), on which the game code can then react. They also support spatial queries against those areas (using the same code as the Zonesystem, as this allows them to support areas of nearly arbitrary size). This behavior requires that for each moving object, they check if it is no longer in any area or if it entered a new one. On top of this, and for them to have efficient spatial queries, they need to maintain an octree per Area. The team realized that many of those areas were never used for spatial queries, which means they had numerous unneeded computations with the octree’s. This is now fixed and they only maintain the octree when actively searching in an area.
They also spent some time investigating memory leaks, and developed a lightweight memory tracking system which can be run on the server in the background with an acceptable performance impact. They can then review the results in an effort to analyze and fix specific memory leaks people encounter. The team also did some minor bugfixes for the Patcher Library, which implements the functionality for the delta patching. Improvements were made to the new temporal antialiasing technique to improve overall image sharpness and preserve luminance of bright objects. Additionally, motion vectors for software skinned meshes were fixed, so that postprocessing technique can properly take them into account (temporal antialiasing, motion blur, etc).
Regarding skinning and characters, the team fixed code to allow mesh compression on skin meshes with morph targets. Since faces are very detailed, this will result in substantial memory savings and lower rendering overhead. Lastly, with respect to future engine improvements and memory savings, they made good progress in implementing GPU based ray intersection tests to offload these types of computations from the CPU and reuse the already existing high-fidelity render mesh on GPU for precise intersection test. The results of those computations are provided asynchronously as to not block the CPU mid-frame and can be used on any type of effect that doesn’t need server authority (anti cheat measure).
The Level Design team polished the locations for 3.0 with the focus being bug fixing for Levski and surface outposts. As that work was completed, they turned towards the future and to something called “Common Elements.” These are components that each location will use, like hangars, garages, housing, offices and so on that will be tied into our modular system and combined with the various tilesets. The team will quickly be able to use them to add essential components to locations. They also looked into train stations and monorails for our flagship landing zones, as well as early work on city Space Ports.
The DE VFX team worked on particles and VFX that are used throughout the universe. They’ve gone over almost every existing visual effect again to ensure there are no issues. One recent challenge has been staying on top of the physics system for particles. With such an active development cycle, sometimes things that previously worked need to be modified to accommodate the updated system(s). They also continued to flesh out the GPU particles system and added new features to it. The team is approaching the point where the old CPU based system can be phased out and rely solely on the GPU for most effects throughout the levels and universe. They also worked on applying signed distance fields to our particle effects. These are 3d textures that specify the distance to the surface of an object. With these textures, they can reconstruct the interior and exterior of geometry and have the motion of the particles affected by the SDF. It can be used for collision detection as well as allowing particles to flow over the surface of the SDF.
The System Design team took over the mission givers behaviors, finalizing the implementation and making sure all the edge cases matched the design. The first case was to finalize Miles Eckhart so they could utilize the same defined template for future mission givers. Another related task was to implement the admin officers behaviors and integrate it into the mission system. The admin officer’s main job is to deliver mission items to the player and to accept deliveries of incoming mission items. FPS AI combat saw major improvements, as the system design team worked with AI to make sure the characters enter, exit, peek, and shoot from cover and that their behavior looks as natural as possible. They also addressed bugs and tweaked things required for 3.0 with the focus being on AI, usables, doors, rooms & breathing.
The Environment team polished areas that are used in 3.0, making sure that players get the best possible visual experience and encounter no visual bugs. Next to polishing, the team focused on what will be coming after 3.0. A glimpse at this post-3.0 Environment work was shown during the CitizenCon demo and is just a small example of what will eventually be on Hurston. A whole new range of ecosystems are being worked on that are visually very different from what’s been seen before. They’ve also been hard at work on unique vegetation, large trash mesas, and the city of Lorville, which is another major landing zone using the procedural city tech.
The DE Tech Art team spent the month tackling content creation, new tool building, and supporting various teams, while also addressing issues for 3.0. They added a new Usable for both AI and Player characters, and fixed bugs for existing Usables such as minor animation popping. For characters, they did various skinning tasks that will be used for both the PU and Squadron 42, which will help with character variants. They developed a tool which can help artists export animated geometry into engine more efficiently. This tool combines multiple manual processes into one and error checks before export, making the process much quicker and less prone to human error. For weapons, they finalized the setup for the Gemini R97 shotgun and prepped the Torral Aggregate Kahix Missile Launcher for production. The tech art team also grew by one member and time was spent getting him familiar with the toolset, workflow, and best practices. His focus will be to improve and extend our internal character editor, as well as enhance our existing systems for cloth, hair simulation, and similar physics-based secondary animation effects on all characters.
The AI team split their attention between different in-game functionalities and raising the bar on numerous aspects at the same time. Regarding Subsumption, they worked on improving features related to the usability of the tool and exposed new functionalities to the design team. Subsumption conversations now allow designers to specify multiple input parameters and not just the input participants. This allows the creation of a more complex abstraction of logic and more complex conversation branching. They also introduced two new subsumption functionalities — the support for Event Parameters and Trackview scenes. Event parameters simplify the logic, exposing sub parameters for each event, which then allows designers or programmers to create more complex logic using events to carry more information across different actors. The Trackview support requests the execution of Trackview scenes as needed and tied to the conversation logic which allows the alternative option to create scenes using Trackview to achieve the best visual results, but still allows the Subsumption logic to react or take over when necessary.
The team also continued to refactor the way the AI controls different vehicles. In the future, behaviors won’t run anymore on the spaceships themselves, but the different seat operators will control the different items they have on any given ship and have the appropriate behaviors. Different operator skills can now directly influence the different actions, and vehicles like multi-crew ships can benefit from the different NPCs operating the various seats. They also worked on manned and automated turrets. Both of those possible controllers will take care of executing all the required operations to turn on the turrets, activate their functionalities, search for targets using the radar, predict where to shoot and so on. Work on NPC on-foot AI mostly focused on human combat, polishing the different entries/exits to move into/out of cover, and the different actions that can be performed while in cover (peeking, shooting from different sides of the cover, changing body directions and so on).
Regarding the other systems, a huge number of fixes and improvements went into the Mission System, offering all the functionalities requested by designers for the current missions. The Spawning Manager received lots of optimizations and new improvements, especially on the environmental validation to spawn elements correctly and safely in space and on the ground.
A new release of Spectrum, a major milestone for the Launcher and additional 3.0 launch support kept Turbulent very busy for the month. Here’s what we’ve been working on:
The release of Spectrum 3.7.1 consisted of bug fixes, quality of life improvements and unnoticeable changes to sustain long term development and maintenance. Let’s talk about latter first.
The team is improving the code base and release process so that launching new versions remains a frictionless process as much as possible. Spectrum also adopted a new versioning scheme to better communicate the scope of a release and then proceeded to update a lot of internal dependencies to avoid potential future breaking changes. There’s also discussions about bumping React to the latest version as well as migrating the code base to TypeScript. Those changes would allow us to trap more bugs before going into production and refactor parts of the project without affecting stability.
Also, the team set to improving how to handle change requests, better manage priorities coming from different sources (Jira, Issue Council, Forums, internal communications, etc.) and get better at tracking/communicating progress.
Last, here’s summary of the latest application changes:
* Addressed several pain points for Android device users where entering text would produce unpredictable results.
* Spectrum now suggests a list of mentions based on the authors of the last messages in a lobby when typing ‘@’.
* Embedded Twitch clips will no longer automatically play.
* Significant progress has been made on Custom Emojis and Custom Roles and with the hope to deliver those for 3.8.
Launcher testing started in October with the release of the RSI Launcher 1.0.0-alpha.20 to Evocati for testing. This is the first exposure public users have had with the Delta Patcher.
Users have been very happy with the Delta Patcher, as some patches are as little as 100 megabytes! Pretty dramatic reduction in patch sizes compared to the previous technology used to deploy Star Citizen Alpha 2.6 and below.
With help from the great Evocati, the team has been able to gain exposure to a multitude of user setups, hardware configuration, Windows versions and personal user preferences that affect the function and operation of the launcher. Most of the following weeks have been spent iterating on issues found during this phase and fixing bugs that affect patching and gameplay. Most notably, issues related to Windows N and file permissions have taken a lot of time to figure out. As always, the Issue Council has been our greatest ally in getting the bugs vetted, verified and checked before being tackled.
- The application will now properly trap game crashes and application errors.
- The game library polling mechanism have been tuned to a real world case with many users listening for updates.
- The application will now properly repair permissions on the game library if a permission error is detected.
- During a “Verify Files” the launcher will also check for an update!
- The sound system has been expanded to provide a better sonic experience in the launcher. Volume slider!
- 5 new background music tracks have been added from the SC soundtrack!
Only one major item remains for 1.0.0 of the launcher — the specific handling of the initial download, which is a problem with the new object based Delta Patcher. A game build is comprised of many files (upwards of 300k-400k) many of which are smaller files. Currently, when patching from scratch, your launcher will fetch all those files. This process is not only highly inefficient but also slow and error prone. The team is currently working on solving this by allowing the distribution of a “Kick Start” pack that will contain all small files and the base assets to start the game minimally. This base pack can then be fetched first, with a multi-threaded range downloader, if you have no pack files on disk. Once the kick start pack is downloaded, a normal delta patch can be applied to bring you to the latest version.
The team plans on tracking on base pack file per minor release (semver) of the game, which will always keep it fresh and fast.
They’re excited to get this in your hands as they believe this significantly improves the onboarding and update experience of Star Citizen.
This month, the Turbulent team brought to life the 2017 Anniversary sale. The sale unveiled two concept ships: the Anvil Hawk a small, light fighter with an emphasis on weaponry, and the Aegis Hammerhead an impressive patrol ship with multiple turrets designed to combat fighters. These two concept ships were just the start, as each day passed they released a chance to nab some your favorite ships, including a limited allotment of the Idris and Javelin.
Along with this sale, the team created the Observer test, which was your chance to test your knowledge of all-star citizen ships. The test proved to be too easy for our most die-hard fans, however it was still great to see the community brag on spectrum with their gold badges.
The team is happy to reveal a new website with the Live release of 3.0. The design and development team have been working hard to tie up loose ends and are extremely excited to release the new designs and continue building on the new and improved platform.
In addition to the re-design they are taking the opportunity to add a new Production Roadmap. Its purpose is for you, the community to be able to better track the features that are important to you. This is will be vastly different than our text version of the production schedule.
The second half of the year is traditionally a busy period for all things Star Citizen and this year was no exception. A lot has happened since the last report back in September with CitizenCon 2947 surely being the highlight on the community side.
Almost 1000 Citizens gathered in Frankfurt to explore new worlds, experience the latest technologies, get together and speak to the developers of their favorite Space Sim. During the show, Intel showcased their new Optane 9 SSD and with it, the brand-new Sabre Raven. The team also revealed our capital-sized Consolidated Outland Pioneer and with it the new gameplay mechanic of staking your claim and building outposts.
Another highlight over this month was the release of Alpha 3.0 to the Evocati and eventually the PTU. After burning down the remaining issues and bugs, we released our latest update to a selected group of testers, who helped us to iron out the kinks of 3.0 to release to an even broader audience, the Public Test Universe.
The team’s continuing to make steady progress on Alpha 3.0 by releasing new builds with our delta patcher and reviewing the improvements made. With the PTU in the community’s hands, the devs are not only polishing features but also addressing the bugs that come in thanks to this expanded group.
Everyone here wants to thank all our testers who helped to make this possible with stress tests during ungodly hours and myriads of bug reports sent in. Keep testing and stay awesome!
As a special anniversary perk, our Subscribers had the pleasure to take five ships on tour during October, namely the Constellation Andromeda, Aurora MR, Freelancer, Hornet F7C, and 300i. Currently, they’re enjoying the MISC Starfarer & Origin M50 as the two ships of the month. November’s town hall featured Senior Systems Designer Will Maiden, Lead Gameplay Engineer Chad McKinney, and Associate Gameplay Engineer Spencer Johnson as they answered your questions about cargo and hauling. If you missed the show, catch it on Youtube with all our other shows; from Citizens of the Stars and Bugsmashers to newcomers like Xi’an language lessons with Britton Watkins. So, if your response to a “.ath .u m.uexy.oa?” still is a “e yo nai”, you might want to catch up.
Last week, the Anniversary Special kicked off with eight episodes of ATV each highlighting a ship manufacturer. It welcomed some new additions, too: Anvil Aerospace’s Hawk, a light fighter with a diverse arsenal of weapons and the Aegis Hammerhead, a fast and light warship.
To close this month’s report, here’s a look at what will be next.
Make your vote count! Join our upcoming live stream (12/1 at 12 pm PST) and help us decide on a Drake ship to add to Star Citizen. If you haven’t yet, also check the new episodes of Galactic Tour and the return of Ship Shape, featured in our ATV Anniversary Specials. We’ll be saying goodbye to 2947 with our Holiday livestream where we’ll focus on Squadron 42and share our roadmap for completion.
Until then, we’ll see you in the ‘Verse!