Let’s explore the details…
Throughout July, the Design Team further experimented with how to make a bar feel like a living breathing environment, instead of static NPCs serving and consuming drinks. The intent was to give the bartender and others enough character, life, and flexibility so that they can deal with multiple patrons at once, including the player, while looking as lively and realistic as possible. They also began building out the AI logic in Subsumption, started rounds of feedback with Tony Zurovec, and worked with the Narrative Team to get lines written for the Bartender and Bar Patron characters. The aim is to get these lines, along with the placeholder animations provided by the ATX Animation Team, added into the game for internal review soon.
In an effort to allow the economic status of resources effect pricing, the team is constructing recipes for items so that, as the price of resources fluctuates, the players will be able to see a noticeable difference in the pricing of items. The change won’t be instant but will develop over time and can be influenced by the player base.
Work is also happening on getting the ship rental shop working in the PU to coincide with the ability to rent ships. Work on additional layouts for Truck Stops will lend a bit more variety to the shops that players will encounter when traveling to far-away locations.
On top of all this, the team took a moment to review how their data is structured and are finding ways to make things more efficient and organized for ease of use in the future.
The Animation Team continues to research and develop animations for the PU’s female character. Very different animations are needed when the character sits in a ship versus moving around in the ‘verse, but progress is being made and the fidelity of female animations are getting closer to those of the male characters.
Placeholder block-out animations were sent to the ATX Design Team for the Bartender character to help them see the results of some of the AI R&D they were working on.
Alongside this, they continued to move several characters through the various stages of the pipeline, such as mission givers like Constantine Hurston, Clovus Darneely, and a new character of interest, Tecia Pacheco.
On the Ship side, animations were completed for the new Tumbril Cyclone variants. Specifically, the turret operator animations were reworked and polished.
The Ship Team is deep in the concept phase of the 300i re-work and are currently fleshing out the new shape along with integrating many of the ‘wish list’ features that have been accumulating over the last few years, including new cargo options. They recently showed off the first round of concepts on ATV, with the community generally feeding back positively. However, a few concerns were voiced about the new design, which the team will be taking into consideration for the next and final round of concept presentation.
The final pass of the Constellation Phoenix’s modeling and lighting is currently underway. When finished, the team will move onto the final flight prep setup and polishing tasks. Then, they’ll create the LODs to complete the art pass for the Phoenix.
This month, the Backend Services team finished up support for 3.2.1 by fixing some critical bugs that were discovered after 3.2.0 went live. Specifically, they rectified issues with currency and fixed a bug that prevented the player from purchasing items from shops and inventories.
They also continued efforts to create Services using the new Ooz/Diffusion framework. This is part of the refactoring of the Persistence Cache to make it more scalable. Another accomplishment this month was finishing up the new Entitlement Processor service, which is far more robust and efficient than the legacy solution. The legacy Friends Service was also written into this new framework.
The other Services created so far are:
- Character service: provides an API for character specific runtime and persistent data.
- Wallet service: responsible for managing player currencies.
- Item Loadout Service: manages player or ship default and custom loadouts.
- Insurance service: manages all insurance claims.
Dev Ops have been supporting the additional publishes related to 3.2 this month while also making great progress on the various feature stream enhancements to the build system.
“One of the most satisfying aspects of our publishing effort is to see the new gameplay features showing up on the various live streams and we’ve been enjoying many of those.” – Dev Ops
They’ve also worked very closely with the feature teams to add more gameplay analytics to help track game performance and resource consumption on a regional level, as well as on the individual game servers themselves. This additional data will help them tune server density to deliver the best possible compute and memory performance.
Feature stream work progressed this month as well. This project breaks source control branches down to the individual feature level to help the developers work more independently without potential conflict. This effort was well received by the devs and will be expanded. However, it was not without challenges, as these streams create an additional load on the build system and storage subsystems. The team worked through most of these issues and are now closing in on the final details that will allow them to scale the build system much wider than its current capability.
PLAYERRELATIONSThe Player Relations team helped wrap up 3.2.1 this month. This is the second such quarterly release, and the team is really hitting their stride with the new publishing cycle. They also wrapped up the Live Release Production Summit in Austin, Texas which dealt with subjects such as improving the publishing process and how the team can grow the Evocati volunteer group for future releases.
“We’d like to point all players to our growing Knowledge Base, which has over 100 articles and has seen almost 100,000 visitors since its inception. We will continue to grow this by adding new ‘How To’ articles, patch notes, and live service notifications here as well as on Spectrum.
As always, we’d like to remind and encourage everyone to continue to use the Issue Council to help us triage and rate bugs and functionality. We’ll use that data to prioritize for future updates, plus your IC participation will make you eligible to get into earlier PTU waves.” – Player Relations Team
Last month 3.2 and 3.2.1 went live. For the QA team, this included publishing checklists for build testing and testing patches in the PTU, along with testing all the fixes as they were implemented.
On the Game side, they moved back to their internal dev stream and started testing the initial implementation of Object Container Streaming. They also shifted focus slightly to make sure all test plans and QA processes are updated and ready as more Object Container Streaming testing comes online.
On the Leadership side, it’s been business as usual with focus on coordinating testing priorities with their QA counterparts in LA, UK, and DE.
GRAPHICSThe Graphics Team completed the work required to make the renderer ready for Object Container Streaming. In addition, the team made the new surface shaders more efficient and easier to use, maintain, and improve. You’ll see the benefits from these updated shaders as the artists transition to them in Alpha 3.3 and 3.4.
They also improved the room culling system to allow for more complex level setups of rooms within rooms, which had previously resulted in rendering the entirety of the smaller room. This new feature allows the Art Team to build more elaborate interiors in both Squadron 42 and the PU with improved performance. The next focus will be on features to enhance the quality of lighting in and around gas clouds and large interior spaces where large lights would normally result in very low shadow resolution.
The UI Team further developed the RTT item preview system that allows for a generalized method of displaying one or more 3D items anywhere in the UI as part of a scrolling list component. This works on things like kiosks, mobiGlas, MFDs, etc.
The team implemented the necessary changes to support renting ships and items through the Electronic Access customization menus and worked on the UI design for the Spectrum app in the mobiGlas. They also collaborated with the Design Team to pre-visualize what approaching a no-fly zone might look like to the player. Work continued with the Environment and Narrative Team on crafting propaganda posters and signage for Lorville.
Additional headway was made on core tech & tools, with a successful prototype completed of the bindings system for the mining HUD display. This enables a more streamlined interface for exposing game data to the UI front-end.
The team created animations for the reload and firing states of the upcoming Karna plasma assault rifle. To finalize assets for the SpecOps combat AI, they held a motion capture shoot to update the placeholder assets for hit reactions and the various threat level reactions to sights and sounds. They also improved enemy SpecOps AI combat poses with better blending between motion states. Other tasks included supporting the ‘carryable system’ with a wide range of assets and a general clean-up of the animation database. They revamped the player’s ‘no weapon’ and ‘stocked’ locomotion forward assets. Finally, a high-level review assessed the implementation of animations for Squadron 42 scenes featuring Master-at-Arms Duncan Chakma in the armory.
GAMEPLAYSTORYThe Story Team began the month with pre-viz for all remaining scenes, which went well and took two weeks instead of the scheduled three. They then began to fully implement 16 scenes that the Design Team prioritized for Q3. The implementation pass is a slower process than pre-viz, but the team is delighted to work closely with Design and see the scenes come to life in-game.
The Actor Feature Team has been developing an animation motion warping system, which gives each animation a variable distance it can travel without the need for a unique asset for each situation. The vaulting and mantling mechanic is being developed alongside this and comes into play when the prop being vaulted over has a variable depth and height. The new technology takes these dimensions and modifies the vault animation so that it seamlessly adjusts for the additional movement. This creates a better result than having multiple animations to cover all eventualities. It also frees up the artists from adhering to strict sizes and metrics when creating environments.
The way Subsumption sets up missions for Squadron 42 means the team often has to play through part of it just to get to a certain point in the level. There is functionality inside the editor to manually run parts of the Subsumption setup, which fast-forwards the flow, but it was fiddly and not exposed when running the standalone game. So, the team created a system to record a sequence of Subsumption steps into a single macro that can be played back in either the editor or game client. This allows the team to skip through a mission to an intended place, which will speed up development and testing.
The Tools Team has been creating a way to link Shotgun (assets for artists and animators) with Jira (production and scheduling). This new tool monitors Shotgun for changes and then reflects them in Jira. This allows content creators to continue using Shotgun while producers and supporting teams can see all the information they require from Shotgun within Jira.
The Network Team finished the entity bind culling functionality to allow more optimal networking based on how far away entities are from the player. They also did prep work for Object Container Streaming alongside other teams working on that technology.
The Ship Art Team worked on the MISC Freelancer base model by adding a few extra comforts to the interior, such as a toilet, shower, and food dispenser. The variants (MIS, MAX, and DUR) went into the updated art pipeline to get them looking as good as the base version. The Origin 890 Jump also went into production this month. It already cleared the whitebox review and advanced to the greybox production phase. Some areas even went beyond to establish the look and style of the ship’s interior. Finally, the Banu Defender finished its initial R&D phase and is partially through the white box phase.
The Audio Team supported Object Container Streaming and progressed with FOIP and VOIP features. They made great strides with the IFCS 2.0 system and physicalized object audio. Alpha 3.3 is the next major goal, so they generated audio mockups and prototypes to ensure they’re on track with the look and feel of the new features. Ship audio also kept the team very busy, as they supported a wave of new ships in the pipeline.
The team completed their work on the PU hangars, with only final lighting tweaks left to complete the two archetypes needed for the first release. They focused on developing new habitation modules and security/customs common elements. The habitation modules are coming out of the white box phase with their footprints, layout, modularity, and basic art determined. Now begins the process of making them pretty! The security archetype involves a lot of systems and designs that must be tested and iterated on before art can finalize it. As with the habs, these issues have been largely solved and the team began the next level art pass. The early white box design of a new location type was signed off, the Underground Facility. These will be something the team hasn’t tried before and are very excited to develop!
With 3.2 safely in player’s hands, the team jumped into 3.3 content tasks, including a first pass at the Aegis Hammerhead’s effects and a new plasma assault rifle along with the many biomes, landing zones, and modular areas of Hurston. Work continued on Squadron 42 tasks. Without revealing any spoilers, the team tackled included a visual polish of a screen interference and kicked off several experimental R&D sprints.
The VFX Team worked on several moons for the PU, including various new biome types. This required them to expand the planet editor tools to allow for more unique and varied particle systems to be spawned procedurally using the object scattering systems. They also continued their work on the cinematic simulation assets, such as rigid and soft bodies for the Squadron 42 cinematics.
The AI Team determined the tasks remaining for Object Container Streaming and worked on them accordingly, adjusting AI logic if necessary to handle the current streaming requirements. Work was also completed for flight AI, creating new behaviors and changing existing ones, with a focus on making ship combat engaging and fun. Tasks were completed to improve performance, which is routinely done to ensure things are optimized as much as possible. Work has also been done on the flight pathfinder, taking it a few steps closer to having AI traverse the entire ‘verse on their own. FPS AI work focused on NPC tasks for the 3.3 release, including new behaviors, features, and optimizations.
The DE Dev Ops Team continued to work with the Austin teams on both extending and finalizing the toolsets that govern synchronicity between central game-dev and feature streams. The API for controlling the central auto-integration system has been rolled out to accommodate the client-side feature-stream merging tool currently in development. This gives feature-stream owners control over how current their stream should be in relation to main central development in game dev, based on their preference and workflow style. The current feature streams are battle-testing these tools as they prepare to scale up the number of feature streams needed for the project.
The Weapon Art Team primarily focused on Vanduul weaponry and finished the first pass of both modeling and texturing on the Plasma Lances, as well as a handful of scavenged knife variants.
The Engine Tools Team focused on stabilizing the game editor after the Alpha 3.2 release. Usability improvements were added to increase the overall workflow quality for the designers when setting up the game entities. The new layer and universe outliner plugins received improvements based on the designer’s feedback, along with a general stabilization and performance improvement pass. The Look Development Mode, which is meant to improve in-game material setups, received an additional light mode to show assets under split light conditions, called Eclipse Mode. This helps artists improve their material setups for all possible in-game scenarios and makes it easier for them to compare the material under bright and dark conditions, for example, how an asset will look on a bright planet versus in outer space.
The Environment Art Team made substantial progress on Hurston’s four moons, with each becoming a visually unique location for players to explore. While working on the moons, the team also spent time improving the wind simulation on vegetation objects, which will breathe more life into the locations as wind moves through the grass, bushes, and trees. Hurston will be quite a visual change compared to the other locations currently in the game. The Lorville team moved onto the outer districts, shifting focus on the view of the city while flying above and around it. Lorville has received many improvements since it was first shown at CitizenCon.
The Lighting Team worked side-by-side with the Environment Art Team on Lorville. Lots of progress was made on the environment art, which gives the Lighting Team plenty of locations to bring additional life, mood, and atmosphere into. The core landing zone received an initial lighting pass, with work still to come on the shops, spaceport, habitation, and security.
With the procedural layout generation tools receiving improvements, the team took the opportunity to further polish the upcoming Rest Stops. They improved the look and positioning of 2D and holographic advertisements, as well as fixed various issues with light leaking and other consistency issues between connected rooms.
Finally, crashed and derelict ships found in space and on planet surfaces were fixed due to previous setup issues which resulted in broken or missing lighting in most locations. The improved setups will provide a better foundation for the Lighting Team to create more interesting moods in these locations.
The System Design Team laid the foundation for combat ship AI improvements, specifically giving AI ships the awareness of an enemy tailing them. They will build on this with further maneuvers, like enabling the AI to abruptly decelerate to cause the tailing ship to overshoot or wildly change its break-away angle to shake pursuers. Progress was also made on advanced civilian/security guard interactions and patrol behaviors, which will be implemented in future landing zones. These behaviors will work in sync with one another and will allow NPCs to react accordingly to different types of stimuli from the world around them. The behaviors are scalable to allow for more stimuli to be added if and when needed. It will also determine how NPCs react to their surroundings, such as Security Guards reacting differently to certain crimes in one location than they would in another.
The new transit system received attention as well. The team focused on the debugging capabilities of the system, laying an important piece of groundwork for complex elevator and train networks. On the FPS side, they began populating Security Outpost Kareah with combat NPCs. They also worked with the Mission and Level Design Teams to create additional facilities fit for combat encounters.
This month the Level Design Team focused on the PU. They completed work on Lorville and explored how the Restricted Areas tech will be implemented into the full world. They also looked into the general areas around Lorville to ensure they have the correct content and points of interest. Development advances with the procedural tool allowed them to return to the Rest Stops. They used the tool to generate a series of stations and verify their layouts, as well as to look into transferring old functionality of CryAstro into Tier 0 of the refuel/repair/rearm system. They also investigated early Tier 0 versions of Habitation, Refineries, sub-surface content, and more.
The Cinematic Team updated the animation production pipeline to better communicate with the Design Team and make the overall structure more efficient. They also worked on chapters for Squadron 42, which consisted of numerous tasks depending on the current state of the cinematic, from animation and camera blocking, to animation polish, lighting setups, and TrackView work.
The team also completed some technical tasks: They implemented ‘Player Entity’ into Trackview and can now trigger ‘Mannequin Fragments’ which will allow the team to accurately use the Player and the new ‘look control’ while building their scenes. They’re also working on a technical solution for Subsumption to takeover player control in cutscenes when needed.
The Engine Team generally works across multiple areas and is called in to address potential code issues at any time – this month was no exception. They progressed on moving skinning computations to GPU compute shaders (dual quaternion skinning, blend shape, as well as tangent reconstruction submitted), and continued work on improving hair shading. They made significant progress on new solutions for cloth and volumetrics simulation, which they hope to show off soon. They added support for OC Streaming (entity aggregates) and exposed GPU load and memory stats directly from the Windows Graphics system. They also made advancements in the physics system refactor (queue refactoring, batch jobs, etc.) and revamped the exception handling code to improve the consistency of reported crashes.
The Tech Art Team worked on the ‘Maya to Sandbox Editor’ live link for synchronizing animations between the two applications, giving real-time, in-engine rendered graphical feedback to the animators. They consolidated the head to head attachment asset pipeline for the next gen character customizer – a crucial requirement to achieve 100% consistent topology on the head meshes once they are converted from the Maya-internal format to the engine’s format. Once consolidated, they stress tested it to find any bugs in the resource compiler tool (RC) and addressed them accordingly. One large bug remains, but once it’s resolved they can switch to the newly revised system.
Tech Animation focused on restructuring the weapons pipeline, modifying elements to make it easier to work on files and find them in the future. They added an additional meta system to the weapon rigs to enable animators to batch export weapon animations and moved nearly all files into a new folder structure to separate multiple weapons of the same type by the same manufacturer. They also addressed a variety of bugs across multiple departments.
Besides assisting the in-house development team with Editor and client reported issues, the QA Team focused on performance and system refactor testing. Client and server performance took a significant hit with the introduction of Mining, so they worked with the UK QA Team to gather performance RAD captures during a Mining specific playtest. Captures were obtained from a build containing changes that would improve performance centered around Mining. Captures were also done on an existing build that did not have anything extra included. Engineering then compared the captures done on each build, identified where there were improvements between the two, and noted what other areas would benefit from further optimizations.
They also worked on a QA test request for the AI Cover System to be refactored to support the incoming Object Container Streaming changes. The main goal was to ensure that not only existing cover systems within an Object Container level still worked, but that the newly set up Cover Systems did as well. They re-exported levels and then tested in-client to ensure that cover was generated and the AI used it the same way they did in previously. There should be no visible difference between the two, and they needed to confirm that no new issues were introduced. The same principle applied to an IKSystem refactor QATR that they did for Animation Engineering. Multiple lines of code were removed to improve overall performance, and testing was done to ensure that this did not break any other new and/or existing systems or features. QA also started regular performance testing on the PU test map, which contains the new Rest Stops, Hurston, and Lorville in order to get a head start on identifying issues that these new locations may introduce.
On July 4th, the team deployed Spectrum 3.8! This build is now available to everyone and contains the latest features: Friends, Notifications, Quick Access Sidebar, and Message of the Day. You can sort friends by status or alphabetically and see information about their activity. You can also group friends by common orgs. Including pending friend requests, you can now have a maximum of 800 friends.
“Your in-game friends will be linked to your Spectrum friends in the future. Currently, your Spectrum friends list and the list of your friends in-game exist independently. When the game integrates the Spectrum friends system, your in-game contacts will not be copied to over. You should use this transition period to add your in-game contacts to your Spectrum friends list.” – Spectrum Team
Additionally, they refined the Settings page and slightly altered the display of embedded media in messages. Also, the member profile popup can now be accessed from the blocked users list by clicking on a member’s avatar.
After this major release, they deployed 3.8.1-rel.7 with minor bug fixes. You can refer to the Spectrum Knowledge Base for further details on using the new features
CitizenCon Microsite: Turbulent launched the CitizenCon microsite this month. The new microsite serves as the information hub for everything CitizenCon. From here you can purchase tickets when available, read more about the wonderful city of Austin, and plan your trip to CitizenCon. Eventually the microsite will contain information about the event, including the presentation schedule and the live stream itself. Stay tuned to keep up on the latest details for CitizenCon.
RSI Apollo: Turbulent supported the release of the RSI Apollo, which included a mini-game designed by CIG’s Oliver Hughes and Sam Child. The game was a homage to King Kong, a game Chris Roberts developed as a teenager. Players that achieve a high score of 100,000 points receive a special Guardian Angel Badge and are entered into a contest to win an RSI Apollo package.
Free-Fly: The team updated the page design and interaction for upcoming free-fly events. Stay tuned for the next chance to participate in a Star Citizen Free-Fly!
Group: Turbulent continues to iterate on Group services and are currently working on a feature that generates a claims token. This token can be used by other services to validate group membership, permissions, and the ability of a user to join. They additionally worked on a series of tests to increase stability in the code base as services continue to grow.
VOIP/FOIP: The Backend Team collaborated with the UK Audio Team to build voice services in-game. They overcame a huge hurdle by successfully piecing together a prototype with one user in-game having a conversation with another on a web platform interface.
Scan, Fracture, Extract. The community was hard on the rocks and dug deep during the past month. While Prospectors were busy mining, the team didn’t stop after introducing this gameplay feature with the 3.2 update. The recently released 3.2.1 patch brought reduced mission spawn timers, ship cannon changes, turret improvements, and more. Have you had a chance to check them out yet? Jump into the game and share your feedback with the developers on Spectrum.
The RSI Apollo was revealed as the latest concept ship, filling the gap between the Cutlass Red and the Endeavor for all medics-to-be. Learn more about the space doctor career path by checking out The Shipyard post covering medical gameplay as it works today and how it’s envisioned for the future.
The team celebrated the introduction of the Origin Jumpworks 600i with a video contest that asked content creators to devise a commercial for the luxurious ship. As shown countless times, the Star Citizen community has a wealth of talent and passion that delivers amazing videos, and they didn’t disappoint this time either. The quality of the submissions was mind-blowing, and the team wants to thank all the participants for the work and time put into creating the videos.
The Community Team has been planning a wide variety of activities for this year and next that are, of course, coupled with sweet prizes. So even if this contest wasn’t for you, there’ll be more exciting opportunities to leave your mark in the Star Citizen universe. Outside of these events, the team is glad to see more players sharing fantastic content and are proud to regularly highlight them. FPS battles, trouble at CryAstro, mining challenges, and races were all featured this month. The team can’t wait to see what August will bring.
Cloud Imperium Games will not have a booth or presentation at Gamescom this year, but some team members will be visiting the show in Cologne, Germany, from August 22nd to 25th. There will be a variety of activities and opportunities to meet up during the week, so keep an eye out for future announcements. While they’re excited to meet you in Cologne, don’t forget that CitizenCon 2948 is almost here, too! After launching the all-new CitizenCon website, where you can find all the event info, the team continued to plan for what promises to be an unforgettable event.