With that said, let’s dig into the details.
Design was heavily invested on working through several issues remaining for quantum travel. This included helping groups travel together and tuning how quantum splines work to ensure an enjoyable experience when traveling from one side of a celestial body to another. Issues were also addressed to ensure that accidents between a moon’s surface and a ship moving at quantum speed are minimal.
While the majority of the team’s focus has gone towards improving the quantum travel experience, work has also gone into adjusting the economy by tuning rewards for missions, cargo deliveries, and mining runs. Work also progressed nicely on ensuring that bars in future releases feature a well-crafted and intelligent bartender to make the experience fun and believable. Although it’s still in the early stages, Design is excited about the first iteration coming to a PU pub near you!
The Backend Services Team grew as a new engineer joined to help with the rewrite of Services under the new Diffusion Architecture. Several Services have already been rewritten while support for the legacy architecture continues. This month focused on taking the legacy p-cache and breaking it up into smaller, logical microservices. Much like replacing parts in a moving engine, legacy work still needs to be maintained until the new shiny goodness is ready to go. When implemented, it will allow for better performance, scalability, and functionality.
Here are some of the Services being created to replace legacy work:
- Entitlement Processor Service: handles all purchased and rented items from the website and assures that real game items are created and managed.
- Loadout Service: caches and manages the various loadouts for all ships and the player avatar configuration, including outfits and weapons. Right now, the game servers and clients can only access metadata from objects that are currently spawned on a game server. Usually, the devs want to view data of an item that has not been loaded into a game server.
- Variable Service: solves the loadout problem above by decoupling the metadata from the items and providing a runtime cache and API allowing game servers and other Diffusion services access regardless of the state of the item.
- Wallet Service: deals with changes in currency and manages the current balance in-game. An API is setup to allow for other services to query or modify the player’s balance.
Animation was hard at work on the next set of mission givers that will bring more life to the PU later this year. There was also rapid progress on the retargeting of male animations to female skeletons, which brings players closer to being able to choose a female avatar in the PU.
Animation also supported outsourcers by creating master retarget files to process all the motion captures shots for the PU, S42 cinematics, and gameplay. They also helped finalize the Vanduul pipeline, which makes converting motion capture data into in-game assets quicker and easier.
Ship Art put the finishing touches on everyone’s favorite stroke of lightning, the Anvil Aerospace F8! All that that’s left for them to do is to finalize the Level of Detail (LOD), make some last-minute material/art adjustments, and be on call to fix any bugs that arise during testing. Also, after an official kickoff meeting, work began on some early concepts ideas for the Origin 300i rework.
The team proceeded on the highly anticipated Constellation Phoenix. Extra care has been given at every stage of the process to ensure that the quality and luxury of RSI is properly showcased. The interior and exterior were fleshed out and are now going through an edit to cut back on some of the busier areas. Next up, the modeling portion in the master bedroom and flight-prep art (interior damage) will be finished, so Tech Art can start with their damage process. Once these steps are done, there will be another lighting pass to get the interior dialed in and closer to completion.
The 3.2 release was especially rewarding for the DevOps Team as it included features they’ve been anticipating for a while. On the build side, they’ve been tuning and supporting the feature streams, which are a subset of the main development branches that the dev teams use. This project helped to further isolate each team’s specific feature work and stopped it from interfering with the work of other teams. This led to significantly more builds, as each feature team gets their own on top of the test and general use builds. For this month alone, over 200 unique builds were generated. Overall, the build support improvements have been very helpful and well received, but the team is still working out minor details and constantly tuning the branches for the best output.
The Publishing Team supported daily deployments to Evocati and PTU, and assisted the dev teams with the collection of server performance and bug reports. Server reports are typically more fun on a big publishing month because there’s so much new data to track and report. As many have already noticed, the team increased the pace of publishes again, completing 16 PTU deployments in June. These additional publishes helped the dev team work out the final touches of new features. The team also ramped up the servers in anticipation of Alpha 3.2 release and can’t wait to see them fill up.
PLAYERRELATIONSThe Player Relations Team coordinated with Evocati to test Alpha 3.2 on the PTU and prepare it for live service. They focused on the core features of 3.2, including scanning, mining, ESP improvements, quantum linking, and the new ships.
Now that 3.2 is live in the PU, the team would like to remind all backers of the new Knowledge Base. They’ve added quite a few guides for the update, and now have over 90 articles published. Players should check back regularly, as it will continue to grow with new ‘How To’ articles, patch notes, and live service notifications. Finally, the team wants to encourage everyone to continue using the Issue Council (IC) to help triage and rate bugs/functionality. They’ll use your feedback to prioritize future updates, plus IC participation makes you eligible for earlier PTU waves.
QA helped push the 3.2 builds to Evocati and PTU, which included publishing checklists for build patches that went to the PTU.
On the game side, QA focused on the 3.2 features, bug regression, and performance testing. Things tested included the mining feature, the new ships, the Avenger rework, quantum travel, the group system, and kiosk purchasing and player wallet updates. They also tested updates to the Editor and Subsumption tools.
On the leadership side, it was business as usual coordinating testing priorities with counterparts in LA, UK, and DE.
GRAPHICSThe Graphics Team focused on bugs that covered a wide range of topics, including fixes for SLI/Crossfire, missing LODs on mining rocks, and flickering shadows. They also added a few minor features to improve the overall player experience, such as adding drop shadows to all transparent ship UI screens, adding brightness/gamma/contrast support, optimizing the glass shaders, and fixing multiple issues with RTT on the ship-targeting UI which reduced the cost by a factor of 10. After fixing the 3.2 bugs, the team’s focus has shifted to Object Container Streaming, which is crucial to ensuring this critical feature isn’t blocked.
UIUI supported the 3.2 release at full tilt, working on the Item Kiosks to add as much as possible ahead of the live release. Alongside this, the team supported the Mission Team by creating new screens for Comm Array missions, provided the Gameplay Team with quantum travel UI elements, and helped the EU Vehicle Team with their work on overclocking. UI also focused on critical bug fixes ahead of 3.2. This included multiple issues with the ATC system, such as making the UI clearer for color blind players. Changes for the PMA/VMA included making select ship items uneditable and ensuring all armor pieces are displayed correctly.
The team worked on the new Spec Ops AI combat set and prepared it for full implementation. This set includes cover, high and low enter and exits, peeks, stepouts, blindfires, reloads, and grenade throws. Iteration and feedback on weapon recoil continued with the goal of providing a solid first-person experience across the full range of weapons available in S42 and the PU. Preparation started to replace the AI base locomotion sets with finalized data. New capture footage was reviewed with an eye to implement improved AI motion sets and visuals. Further animation work was completed on Master-at-Arms Chakma to fill in any gaps that the Design Teams had in implementing his behavior for Squadron 42. Work on the Vanduul concentrated on close-combat and weapons. Player grips now allow varyingly sized objects to be held and carried in a more flexible manner, whether it be one or two-handed props. Finally, the team completed general bug fixes for the 3.2 release.
GAMEPLAYSTORYThe Gameplay Story Team delivered previsualization (pre-viz) for 150 scenes that the Design Team requested, which was achieved a week earlier than expected. This gave the team a couple of weeks to do more in-depth implementation work on high priority scenes. Pre-viz work on the remaining 66 scenes will happen during the first few weeks of July.
ENGINEERING/PROGRAMMINGThe Squadron 42 Gameplay Team worked with Cinematics to implement more functionality in the trackview tool to get new cinematic scenes working. Among other things, these changes improved the ability to animate the player by blending them into a cinematic sequence, gaining control over the player’s camera, and allowing a set amount of player-controlled head-look. The Actor Team got one-handed grips working with props of all different sizes and shapes. They started with two different grip types, one for round objects like a bottle or a cup, and another for square items like a book or datapad. The animators created two versions of each grip, open and closed, and the code can blend between the two allowing the player to hold props of different and awkward sizes without the need for multiple animation assets. The programmers have also been improving the animations used when moving from standing to running and back again. They are trying to keep the response times fast by reducing the amount of foot sliding and animation glitches. The Social AI Team held a mini summit with the Lead AI and Lead Engine Tools programmers and the AI team in Frankfurt to discuss the latest usable tech and the next steps in development. They are now looking to create a visual tool to help the workflow of setting up usables and reduce the amount of knowhow currently required. The EU Vehicle Team continued development of overpowering and overheating items with a focus on the quantum drive, shield, and cooler. They also expanded item wear to account for overheating. The Core Gameplay Tech Team moved Object Container Streaming to the stage where they can turn on the background loading of individual entities. Now, it’s up to QA to find out what bugs come from this change. They also worked on the base functionality of loading and unloading individual object containers. The individual features teams have done a fine job of making their entity components thread safe, as well as moving the Lua script over into C++, all of which is required for Object Container Streaming.
SHIPSThe Ship Art Team finished the remaining tasks needed to get the 3.2 ships ready for release. They also created trailers for the Esperia Blade, Aegis Avenger, and Eclipse, along with promotional shots for the Origin 600i. Other work included whiteboxing the Origin 890 Jump to establish the final room layout and proportions, and R&D work on future Banu ships, with a focus on the Defender. Finally, the Hammerhead is getting a damage pass for the exterior and LOD pass across the interior.
AUDIOThe Audio Department worked on all four of the 3.2 flyable ships trailers. They supplied the music heard in the Hurricane and Blade trailers, music and SFX for the Eclipse trailer, and music, SFX, and dialog for the Avenger. The Audio Department also supported the 3.2 mining feature with regards to UI, mechanical SFX, and beam SFX. Additionally, there was a focus on re-balancing audio in line with the IFCS 2.0 update.
The UK Environment Team has been finalizing assets for the new ship hangars, as well as making passes on their dressing, branding, and props. They prepared for upcoming sprints, including sprints for new habitation modules and security checkpoints. Elsewhere, the team investigated and began to whitebox ideas for new small points of interest to populate Hurston beyond Lorville. They did all this in addition to supporting the Alpha 3.2 release with usual bug fixing and maintenance.
VFXAs 3.2 drew to a close, the team completed flight ready effects on the remaining ships, including the Esperia Blade and Aegis Eclipse. They also worked on effects for the Avenger and Eclipse trailers. They finished off the remaining 3.2 weapon effects, including the Kastak Scalpel ballistic rifle, and continued to fine tune and fix any issues with the recent weapons 2.0 conversion. The team collaborated with the mining and scanning/radar feature teams to ensure the effects were as polished as possible. They also worked with the Graphics Team on numerous developments to the GPU particle system, including improved ‘spawn chance’ and more robust parent/child hierarchies.
ENVIRONMENTARTThe Environment Art Team continued their push on Lorville Section One Nine (L19), bringing more and more areas to a final state. With L19 coming alive, they’re kicking off production on the surrounding areas, including the procedural tiles that represent the wider city.Regarding organic environments, the team wrapped up the first pass on the Hurston biomes and moved onto defining Hurston’s four moons. Each moon has its own look and feel and reflects some of the elements found on Hurston itself. These new moons are an example of the planet tech system’s flexibility – being able to reuse, remix and create new locations using all elements built to date saves a lot of time, and the process is getting faster as the tools and assets mature.
BUILDENGINEERINGThe DevOps Teams in ATX and DE are coordinating a suite of tools to accommodate the various Feature Teams. This includes extending the existing auto-integrators behavior, which involves enabling classic chronological integrations as well as parallel, non-chronological integrations based on an acyclic dependency graph. This is similar to what’s used in code compilation to determine the ordering of tasks. Any stream of changes flowing via auto-integration can communicate directly to whoever the owner of the changelist is, or be deferred to a single stream stakeholder if they choose to oversee the resolution of integration conflicts themselves. As new options are added, a counterpart API is being rolled out to enable complementary tools to hook in. The first tool to hook into the API is a merging tool that handles laborious integrations from feature stream teams back into game-dev.
LEVELDESIGNThe Level Design Team focused on areas of the Persistent Universe, including the flagship landing zones of Lorville and Area 18, and the Rest Stop space station layouts generated by the procedural tools. They completed a versatile whitebox version of a security checkpoint that can be easily adapted to locations of different sizes and security levels, and revisited the interiors of the Refinery space station.
TOOLSThe Engine Tools Team improved the general game editor stability and usability, and fixed bugs for the 3.2 release. They added the Look Development Mode for artists to unify and isolate light setups for assets. Artists and Designers can now select any asset in any level and activate this mode to have a consistent light environment for tweaking their materials – it’s important to have a consistent and neutral material setup across all assets as it results in much higher visual quality. The Look Development Mode supports a flat light setup for tweaking materials to get as close to a neutral in-engine light environment as possible, along with a presentation mode to get the best visual quality out of a given asset. With the push of a button, this in-engine mode works with all asset sizes, from little props to capital ships. It’s a great tool, as it avoids error-prone and inconsistent manual light setups, so saves time on tweaking the assets for the game.
QAThe QA Team started June by joining the EU Gameplay 5 Feature Team. One QA member was embedded with the team to attend weekly sprint and planning meetings and work closely with Developers to identify and resolve issues related to the Transit system. The Transit system includes elevators, metros, trams, and similar methods of transportation. Memory testing with the logging of Environment Variables enabled is also underway. In the first run-through, QA assisted the Engine Team in identifying a memory leak within particle emitters. The Graphics Team quickly created a fix and confirmed it once the changes were checked in. This type of testing will be a regular occurrence to ensure the team can stay on top of any potential future memory issues. In addition, they continued to test new versions of the Subsumption Editor, as well as stay on top of regression and inputting new issues encountered by the development team. The new Subsumption versions consisted of fixes that needed verification as well as a new option to allow subsequent messages to be skipped when there are multiple invalid callback functions generating warnings upon initialization. Functionality in how Activities read information from the platforms has also been improved. A developer can now directly edit an NPC’s schedule loadout via the Activity the platform is being called from. Physics refactoring has also started to pre-emptively catch any new issues from the introduction of these new changes. QA will be doing a weekly Physics smoke test every Monday to test the PU, Arena Commander, and Star Marine in the Game-Dev branch. Then, a report is generated and sent for review and any new issues introduced from the Physics refactor are addressed.
ENGINEThe Engine Team continued with Physics optimizations that allow for more overlap during terrain patch physicalization. They also optimized raycasting when flying over the planet grid along with shadow batch processing. Look Development Mode was introduced to the engine to enable the team to test shading setups in a controlled environment. They improved horizon SSDO quality and performance, which is now enabled by default. They started streamlining the asset pipeline flow for consistency in shading, cleaning up asset presets, and changing the plugin to improve consistency. For general code development, they supported the inline function expansion in callstacks presented via JIRA and Sentry, and improved support to compile Linux targets through Visual Studio. They completed the first iteration of the mining painter, continued to work on the telemetry system, and made skinning and vertex processing improvements.
WEAPONSThe Weapons Art Team completed all work, bugfixing, and polish for the 3.2 release. This included work on the Gemini F55 light machine gun, Klaus & Werner Demeco light machine gun, Kastak Arms Scalpel sniper rifle, and the Associated Science and Development distortion repeaters (size 1-3). They also spent time on Vanduul lances and knifes.
VFXThe VFX Team worked on and optimized the 3.2 mining feature. They tackled effects for the fracture beam, the tractor beam that sucks up rocks, and for various rock impacts and explosions. They also worked on the cinematic destruction pipeline for the soft body destruction simulations. They smoothed out the pipeline for importing the soft body simulations from Houdini into 3ds Max, and then from 3ds Max into the engine. This will be used for bespoke, cinematic destruction sequences.