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January Monthly Report Summary Written Saturday 6th of February 2016 at 11:46am by Erris

Hello Citizens! Welcome to The Relay’s Monthly Report Summary! This time, the summary was done entirely by Shiver and Stormy, so thank them for all their hard work! First, the intro: Month kicked off with...

Hello Citizens! Welcome to The Relay’s Monthly Report Summary!

This time, the summary was done entirely by Shiver and Stormy, so thank them for all their hard work!

First, the intro:

  • Month kicked off with a series of summits in UK/LA. One more to go, AI summit in Frankfurt
  • Expect regular updates to SC Alpha, one significant patch/month.
  • Cycle will be repeated: numerous PTU test patches followed by live release, then content for next patch prepared/integrated
  • Team is working on content for Alpha 2.2, expect to hear more about this release very soon

CIG LOS ANGELES

  • January marked the release of Star Citizen 2.1.0
  • Additional world missions were added to the universe, biggest stand out feature was the additional two flyable ships, Vanguard Warden and MISC Freelancer
  • Sabre now in hangar

ENGINEERING

  • Biggest milestone was the successful release of SC 2.1.0
  • Lead Engineer Paul Reindell made solid progress on the item refactor collectively called Item System 2.0, preliminary features have already been released
  • This feature provides greater control over itemization on the back end of the game
  • Implemented a physics controlling component that handles the physicalization of objects, this lives as a layer between the items and it’s physical proxy, interfacing how the physics mode of an object is changed
  • Engineer Mark Abent has been creating parameters for ammunition
  • With many systems moving away from strict XML towards their own internal data management system, there’s a need to convert projectiles to this new management system
  • Outwardly, no visible impact on the game itself, it changes how parameters are loaded and allows them to move away from XML project path
  • Associate Engineer Chad Zamzow has been working on change on how shields function
  • Making higher levels of shield health better at preventing damage, well managed shields should provide a positive benefit over poorly managed shields
  • End goal of making lasers increasingly effective at depleting shields the more damage a shield takes
  • Provides interesting decisions for players balancing regeneration speed, sheer strength, and signature in their shield generator options
  • New Interaction system has been worked on by their Engine Programmer Allen Chen, changing interactions function
  • Current “Use” function prevents them from adding more than one action to a single interactable object
  • Decoupled the interaction logic to allow multiple actors to interact with a single object simultaneously

TECH DESIGN

  • 890 Jump just had its technical documentation completed by Matt Sherman
  • Creating technical design documentation provides artists with a template of specifications
  • Info such as dimensions, hard points, internal volume, and various functionalities will ensure artists are incorporation all necessary design elements
  • Xi’an Scout has reached ‘grey box’ tech design phase
  • Grey box stage is where nitty gritty details of the ship begin to take shape
  • Lead Tech Designer Kirk Tome has given the Scout it’s overview such as its variants, characteristics and an idea of ergonomics of the cockpit will be laid out
  • Tome has also taken on the task of refactoring the mass of every ship in-game
  • He’s researched how to properly calculate mass of their ships and apply these findings
  • Functional realism being an end goal in SC, want to make sure all ships are using calculations ideal for the materials the universe contains
  • Calix Reneau has created a metrics system to quantify shield performance
  • Allowing the Tech Design team to analyze these performance numbers they can fine tune how shields function not only as a whole but how they respond against various weapon types

ART

  • The team is beginning to fill out the shader libraries for MISC
  • Reliant shaping up to be one of the most stunning ships yet as well as being one the most collaborative multi studio efforts
  • MISC Reliant all-hands-on-deck effort by CIG LA Art team
  • Elwin Bachiller and Denial Kamentsky completed exterior POMs and decals and generated almost all geometry required to destroy it
  • Concept artist Grumukh Bhasin has been creating large renders to wallpaper new building
  • Each conference room given a different theme based on a ship manufacturer
  • Omar “Armani” Aweidah and Jeremiah “Versace” Lee are creating uniforms and clothing designs for characters in-game
  • Want to make sure their pilots, pirates, explorers, etc are geared appropriately for their chosen lot in the life of SC
  • Jeremiah completed medium armor concept
  • Omar the high-poly geometry for the male navy battle dress uniform

TECH CONTENT

  • Sean Tracy is now at the LA office
  • Matt Intrieri and Mark McCall have been delving into the root case of the performance issue of drops in in-game performance for those who piloted/stood in proximity to the Constellation during 2.1.0 PTU
  • With 2.1.1 there should be a marked increase in game performance
  • Further content refinements by McCall including adding LODs to normalize mesh count for Constellation as well as converting thrusters for all ships to .CDF format and add LODs to thrusters
  • Riggers Gaige Hallman and John Riggs have been working on putting processes in place
  • John has finalized the skinning vertices on characters
  • Gaige has been organizing character outsource submission management in Shotgun
  • Patrick Salemo has been beautifying the Gladius by adding LODs to normalize mesh count

PRODUCTION

  • Senior Producer Eric Kieron Davis has been assisting the production team in Austin with PU processes, spearheading beautification of the new LA CIG office and keeping an eye on the target of 2.1.0 and 2.1.1
  • Mark Hong has taken control of Art/Technical content teams as producer
  • Randy Vazquez filled the much-needed role of Engineering/Tech Design producer
  • Production Assistant Darian Vorlick now fills a support role for the CIG LA team by providing data analytics, logistical reporting and any extra loads that may fall on other producers

NARRATIVE

  • Head of Linear Content, John Schimmel, Senior Writer Will Weisbaum and Lead Writer David Haddock were in the UK to meet with designers and discuss SQ42 production
  • They were able to address all narrative items of the story and adjust based on new insights as in-game tech advances
  • PU front, more landing zones in process of being built, going deeper into the look/feel of locations, characters and how in-game fictitious products are advertised/branded
  • Associate Writer Adam Weiser has been conforming the scripts of SQ42 to reflect dialogue recorded during last year’s performance shoot
  • Designers will no longer need to hunt down footage to see how scenes played out
  • Archivist Cherie Heiberg continued work with science consultants who have been generating data based on various planets/systems in the SC universe

CIG AUSTIN

PERSISTENT UNIVERSE TEAM

  • Keyword for this month was ROADMAP
  • Lots of scheduling and planning, good progress laying down a roadmap for features and content
  • Mark Skelton and Tony Zurovec were in LA the last couple weeks meeting with Chris Roberts and Erin Roberts and others to ensure that all goals are lined up and clear to everyone
  • Identified hero landing zones, smaller landing zones, and space content we want to bring online this year
  • The Levski zone in Nyx is in Final Art Stage
  • Final touches on shops they’ll have there: Cordry’s, Concientious Objects, Cafe Musain and Medical Unit
  • Initial VFX and lighting passes are under way for those environments
  • Hard design focus on creating blueprint documentation for the next hero landing zone, the Stanton>Hurston>Lorville landing zone
  • Rob Reininger working with BHVR to layout blueprints for various shop for Hurston and layout for city of Lorville itself
  • Pre-visualization for Hurston
  • Mark Skelton has been working with BHVR over art direction of this environment
  • In Ship Land, Chris Smith and JOsh Coons have been working away at Xi’an Scout
  • Emre has been working with them to finish up initial lighting pass on it
  • Aiming to finish up this ship in the near future
  • Then move on to revamping the original 3 ships in Arena Commander (Aurora, 300i, Hornet) to match current quality standards
  • Ship Animation side in conjunction with Art, working on enter/exit cockpit animations for Scout in preparation for it’s hangar ready release
  • Implementing a new cockpit type control scheme for this ship: The Dual Orb
  • On PU side, wrapped up work on the Medical Unit animations and making progress on the Nightclub scene animations
  • Tony has been going over Backend Networking/Server roadmap for the year with Chris
  • Jason Ely and Jeff Zhu are fully focused on Persistence right now
  • Several core backeng systems that need to be developed this year in order to make significant leaps forward in the PU
  • Tom Sawyer just finished wrapping up working on improvements to the Party System
  • Now will be writing a TDD for the work on his next focus, “True Friends System”

LIVE OPERATIONS

QA
  • Focused testing efforts on deployment of 2.1.0 to live, five deployments to PTU before going live
  • Added two new recruits, Jeff Daily and Katarzyna Mierostawska
  • Tyler Witkin and Melissa Estrada training new additions
  • After deploying 2.1.0 to live, QA started testing the game-dev development branch which will eventually become 2.2.0
  • Todd Raffray headed up a test of the Party System updates/improvements
  • Vincent Sinatra and Andrew Hesse completed additional investigations involving ship speeds, time to kill, and flight mechanics
  • They also were supporting daily developer playtests in the LA studio
  • Glenn Kneale and Andrew Mawdsley were visiting from Foundry 42 Manchester, sat down with Jeff Pease and learned how to effectively monitor/report issues with back end services
  • Tested and deployed a small hotfix(2.1.2) to PTU then live
  • Focused on testing new additions/updates in game-dev branch which will become 2.2.0
GAME SUPPORT
  • Rollout of 2.1.0 and subsequently 2.1.1 and 2.1.2
  • Chris Danks and Will Leverett in Game Support worked alongside Production/QA/Live Ops to put out daily builds to have tested, assessed, fixed and pushed live
  • Game support has been catching up from the holidays, have been providing faster turnarounds for players who send in technical-related tickets because of it
  • Also been pushing hard to get caught up on hacked accounts
  • Reminder that they don’t condone buying/selling of pledges using gifting system and actively discourage it, gifting mechanism was never intended for this use
  • Working with company leadership to discuss plans for growth in 2016
IT/OPERATIONS
  • Nothing broke down!
  • IT team didn’t receive one single alert over the holiday

LIVE OPS

  • 2.1 published to live service 3 times with 9 to the PTU
  • Progress on tools that that support build process
  • Most impressive updates in for form of interface and usability, allowing more control to the dev teams
  • Nearly completed work on public crash handler which will be incorporated in February, hopefully
  • Will help track down and fix client crash bugs once and for all
  • Finishing work on a new type of build which they hope will impact client load times
  • Hoping get new builds in the pipeline in February

FOUNDRY 42 UK

ART

CONCEPTS
  • Slow month due to holidays
  • Team has covered finishing off the Javelin exterior, Idris/Javelin turrets, Shubin corridor and main bridge, low tech props, asteroid outpost garage exterior and Apocalypse Arms Rail Gun (first pass)
CHARACTER TEAM  
  • Forrest has been visiting and giving them a good understanding of the new pipeline
  • Also been working with associate producer Andy to get a comprehensive schedule together
  • “Randall Graves” is now close to in-game final and the Bridge Officers uniform high poly is looking good too
ENVIRONMENTS
  • Picking up whiteboxing phase for environments in SQ42
  • Big changes to layout, composition, vistas and flow
  • Whiteboxing out a new location for Crusader which will feature a familiar character
  • Take it into full production next month
  • Progress on their testbed for asteroid bases, look development for terrain now complete and now applying that to the rest of the landscape
SHIP ART
  • Final art stages with Sabre and StarFarer
  • StarFarer will be a bit longer but hoping to have the Sabre flying around Crusader soon
  • Resources back on the Idris
  • Javelin and Bengal getting their whitebox work well underway
VFX
  • Adam focusing on “thruster standardisation” tasks, a number of inconsistencies to smooth out across all thrusters in game
  • Creation of boost effects, Adam working with John Pritchett to give more improved functionality to enhance thruster effects
  • Mike working on cleaned-up, simplified VFX style guide, to ensure visual consistency across the whole range of effects they make
  • Also gives clear visual language for different manufacturers and races
  • Mike also working on cleaning up the effects “templates” and building up their libraries so there’s a greater range of effects to choose from
  • Collectively been lookings at the effects requirements for SQ42, going to be lots of explosions
PROP ART
  • Continued focus on ship components, putting finishing touches on the third
  • Change of approach on materials
  • After consulting Character and Weapon teams, going to use the same layer material they use
  • Allows them to achieve higher quality surface on the components and cheaper rendering wise
  • Hoping to make use of this layer material in other areas of prop productions
  • Prop audit coming to a close started to do a polish pass on some of the older and commonly used assets with the aim of improving quality and performance in one hit
  • Work started on supporting the Squadron levels, working close with the environment team on building some of the key props
  • Work commenced on next set of flair assets for subscribers hangars, planning something a bit different
DESIGN
  • Systems design is still refactoring the UI for the HUD to give new players a less steep learning curve
  • Also looking at all the usability aspects of the game in relation to new players. Ex: USE prompts, inner-thought, controls unification, better on foot navigations aids, augmented reality
  • mobiGlas getting much needed design love, priorities being apps required for military version for SQ42 and shopping experience
  • Looking to get fuel collection tiered up so players will have interesting things to do with the StarFarer in the coming Live releases
  • Tech designers working away on all new ships
  • Have a dedicated Ship Balance Designer who can act on feedback in terms of where ships fit in overall game

ENGINEERING

  • Some progress on some of the core systems to help make the game easier to maintain and fix some annoying little bugs
  • Simplifying how how packets get sent to server and client to build a ship
  • Lot less traffic required, also more robust and easier to track down any problems
  • Calling this Loadout Helper but will probably change
  • Object Container work making good progress
  • Now have proof of principle where they can export a level as an object container and have load into game correctly
  • Now begin to try and split the level up into multiple containers and get them to stream in/out of memory, this is where it breaks
  • Converting the prefabs over and getting containers working with Zone Systems
  • Audio guys are trying to track down an audio corruption bug
  • Been hard to reproduce, only hear it after playing the game for around 4 hours in a session with a full server

GRAPHICS

  • Last month focus was on improving performance
  • Significant improvements on existing scenes/ships and also on newer/more complex assets that are in production
  • Fixed various issues on Constellations and Retaliator room setup so they are properly occluded from outside of the ship and optimise the UI of both ships
  • Long term schedules for the year
  • Graphics team focusing on newer features starting with revival of the gas cloud tech
  • This will continue to be one of the main priorities for next couple of months
  • Researching efficient volumetric lighting techniques and get the look/feel right before getting into optimisations and polish stages
  • Improvements on some of the shaders such as glass and skin
  • New version of LOD merging tool to optimise space stations, FPS environments, improved fire/glow on particle effects, completely new physically based glare/lens-flare system

ANIMATION

  • Working on core FPS mechanics
  • Setting up some of the aim post requirements for technical implementation of cover low and cover high systems
  • Reworking no weapon locomotion, add in weight to animation in 3rd person while keeping camera steady in first person
  • Further adjustments to core gameplay requirements, lowering crouch locomotion set to better fit height metric set
  • Allow idle and locomotion to keep below cover height, no more head popping up when you move
  • Looking into implementation of vault and mantling mechanics, review motion capture data, working with design and code to try and break it up to allow for smooth gameplay

AUDIO

  • Tracking down the cause of the nasty distortion that only happens after lengthy game play
  • Possible solution hoping to roll that out soon
  • Support from the community and Audiokinetic’s support department in this matter
  • This has highlighted the need for audio programming engineers
  • Put together entire audio engineering roadmap to feed into wider code schedule
  • Senior Audio Programmer role available
  • Continued work on SQ42 where possible
  • Ross setting markers for workflow and continuing music logic system with Sam
  • Ship work ongoing via Darren and Luke
  • Stefan refining impacts of ship-based weapons, making them more dangerous when in EVA or unshielded by ship
  • Matteo continues with Foley work for characters
  • Phil putting together a rig for p-cap dialogue capture purposes
  • Bob speccing up dialogue system/database
  • Jason’s assisting with that and looking to proximity based VOIP tech
  • Forthcoming orchestral performance session

QA

  • Split between testing Star Citizen Future and Present, covering current release stream of 2.1.0(via 2.1.1 and 2.1.2)
  • As well as more developmental stream where new upcoming feature work is being done
  • Devoting time to reproduction of audio corruption and subsequent crash happening in 2.1.0 and 2.1.1
  • Considerable time needed to reproduce in PTU and Live servers
  • Andy Nicholson’s last month as QA manager in UK, will continue with the Design team
  • Phil Webster will be taking his place

FOUNDRY 42 FRANKFURT

  • Main focus has been to re-iterate goals set throughout December.
  • Production started out with planning sessions. What goals and when they want to achieve them by.
  • AI roadmap is nearly if not already completed. It includes AI for SQ42 as well as Star Citizen
  • Plans to start testing a new and streamlined patching process is in the works.
  • Code Department has been working on physicalised EVA.
  • Some more work was also done on procedural planet environments
  • First pass on AI making use of cover in FPS has been completed
  • The AI behaviour token system has been implemented as a basic foundation for AI behaviour. (I.e. they should be aware of and make use of cover and other rudimentary things)
  • More work has been given to automated testing setups for CryEngine. Currently focused on AI primarily and the way it handles obstacles in the game world
  • Cinematics working on scenes for SQ42 that are near the start.
  • Senior Environment Artists have been building terrain and key props for planetside scenes
  • Level Design has been doing prototypes for Modular Environments and the Power Management Systems. The Power system is ready for internal testing to judge if the concept is in line with the vision
  • System Design has gone through and made a detailed list of systems needed for Star Citizen
  • Cargo prototypes have been worked on internally to decide the balance between realism and fun.
  • Looting and resource spawn management systems are being worked on by the Design Team
  • Design is also interviewing and hiring new talent for it’s team
  • The Weapons Team have been working with the Concept Art Team on a new FPS weapon. Very early stages but looks good so far
  • Ship and personal weapon metrics have been updated
  • Mikhail from the Audio Team has been cracking down on bugs and a refactor of the current AudioSystem
  • Robert Stephens from the Art Team has been focusing on the Javelin Destroyer class escape pods to ensure that even these have the level of detail Star Citizen fans have become accustomed to.
  • Also on the Art Team; Pascal Muller has been working on art assets for the procedural planet tech.
  • The Tech Art team has been working on the character pipeline. Splitting character data into 3 distinct units. One for render mesh and character skeleton date, one for puppet rig and one to assist mapping the animation data to the puppet file
  • Tools are being developed to help smooth out the pipeline and to let the different files communicate with each other
  • In addition to this Tech Art also provided some support for the new EVA system animations and some rigging for a weapon prototype
  • VFX has been prototyping the look and style of Xi’an tech. As it looks different from other races to achieve this visual look they needed to integrate new tools into the texture creation

BHVR

DESIGN

  • Francois Boucher and Jesse Kalib worked on blueprints and whiteboxes of Hurston shops
  • Working with ATX, iterated on Hurston locations and about ready to hand most of whiteboxes to Art team
  • Updated shopping prototype and put it in situation in both Casaba Outlet and Nyx/Levski bazaar market, highlighting future needs/current flaws
  • Lead Designer Guillaume Bourque working with members in Montreal and other studios setting next collection of flair items on right track
  • Helping set up Bar Citizen Montreal event for early February

ART

  • R+D for brand new planet
  • Mostly creating a distinct feel/ambience to make sure all planets don’t look alike
  • Great opportunity to apply latest technique
  • On building sets, moved to polishing phase of the industrial/mining set
  • Continued work on different shops to explore in Levski
  • A lot of work on industrial props and next month’s flair objects

ENGINEERING

  • Simon Jambu worked on Party System
  • John Corbett continues work on datastore system, allow temporary mods on ships, handled through holotable on Port Olisar
  • Martine Poirier working with other studios on in ships’ display screen optimization, reducing memory and CPU footprints of ship UI as well as making system ship component driven
  • Adamo Maiorano and Fabien Poupineau going ahead on shopping experience, working on different prototypes

TURBULENT

ORGANIZATION INVITATIONS

  • Refreshed the look and feel so it gives prominence to Organization’s own branding
  • Added colour schemes to match type of Organization

SUBSCRIPTION CAMPAIGN

  • Wrapped QA phase, launching in beginning of February
  • In addition to redesigning Subscription section of website, produced some logos and animations that can be used in videos
  • Added exclusive rewards (for Centurions and Imperators) in easy to read matrix

SHIP HAPPENS

  • Three ships brought into game
  • Sabre hangar ready with release of 2.1
  • Vanguard Warden and Freelancer base flight ready with 2.1
  • Sale launched alongside 2.1 release featuring Sabre, Warden and Aegis Fighter Pack featuring both Sabre and Vanguard Warden
  • Sale of Xi’an Khartu Al
  • Free fly coincided with PAX South

MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION

  • Begun development on core mechanism for multi-factor authentication, will reduce number of hacked accounts
  • Updating design layouts to match current look and feel of website
  • MFA is in place, you will need second authentication factor besides user name/ password in order to access the game
  • You will decide how to receive this second factor
  • Still in early stages

ARK STARMAP

  • Discussions with dev team on how to best integrate Starmap into the game
  • Factors to consider, visual integrity, performance, code maintenance, star system updates and what technologies should be used in-game version

BEHIND THE SCENES

  • Working with dev team to build something call the Panic Service
  • Responsible for receiving game client crash data and cataloging in a centralized database
  • Game crash data sent via the “Receiver”, then processed by the “Worker” and stored in database
  • Devs now able to access all crash data from database
  • Save time troubleshooting

COMMUNITY

VIDEOS

  • 10 For series started incorporating hosts from different disciplines
  • With addition of 10 for the Devs, can now answer questions by development subscribers with more than one perspective
  • AtV continues expanding to include coverage from other studios
  • Hoping to have a chance to visit the European studios in person this year
  • Constructed three free standing sets to improve overall production value
  • Upgrades to audio and lighting equipment
  • Release of two videos detailing Gillian Anderson’s work on SQ42

FORUMS

  • Added Shipyard sub-section to forums, dedicated to discussion of your favourite ships

LIVE EVENTS

  • No official at any conventions this month, a single person at PAX South to meet fans

PERKS

  • New Subscriptions landing page this month
  • This month’s Subscriber flair was the AV8 Battle Armor Replica from the Puglisi Collection

And that’s all! Hope you enjoyed the summary, join us again next month for another!

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Erris

Founder

Erris is Canadian. He does some random things for Relay, no-one really knows what, but still they're stuck with him. He’s also written one Young Adult novel that he can’t stand, which can be found here.

You can find him on Twitter too, if you want.