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Monthly Report Summary – July Written Friday 21st of August 2015 at 01:31pm by AnalogDan

Tl;dr Summary:  CIG continues to optimize the behind the scenes workflow for better efficiency. This sounds like a mishmash of buzzwords, but it’s not; a global machine such as CIG needs all of its cylinders...

Tl;dr Summary:  CIG continues to optimize the behind the scenes workflow for better efficiency. This sounds like a mishmash of buzzwords, but it’s not; a global machine such as CIG needs all of its cylinders firing in correct timing to move forward at full speed.

Note from AnalogDan:  I’ve been read all of the monthly reports this year, and when read them I always felt like CIG seemed to be describing so much work getting done. Yet it didn’t seem like we were seeing much progress on our (the customer’s) end. The multi-crew, planetside, and (to a lesser extent) FPS demos at GamesCom have finally made me realize how much work CIG are doing behind closed doors. On one hand, it’s nice to know that there’s a lot being done that we’re not seeing (Sq42, especially), and that’s why things have seemed relatively quiet/slow in 2015. On the other hand, it’s hard not to wish that CIG would keep us a bit more in the loop.    

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July Monthly Report Summary

By AnalogDan, Nehkara, and Erris

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CIG Santa Monica

[AnalogDan]
Engineering 

– Updated seat animation controls.

– Optimization improvements for 1.1.5.

– AI weapons targeting, AI module compatibility, and large ship AI behavior received work.

– Turrets, turret attack behavior, and turret compatibility received work.

– Led to work on turret rotation bugs, projectile bugs, and collision bugs.

– Established ship gravity enabling/disabling process.

– Improvements to loading and cache.

– Merlin HUD bug and Gladius bug received attention.

– Multilayer clothing/material system for characters being worked on by Okka Kyah.

Design 

– Many long-needed balance updates were finally added with 1.1.5.

– Ships were tuned to retain momentum.

– Missiles give disruption damage.

– HUDs, shields, and component retrofitting were worked on.

– Addressed hatch interactions on Cutlass Blue, alongside other work.

– Established new player loadouts.

– Setup “some new ships.”

– Worked on stats, items, and flight balance for new ships.

– Reviewed flow of level design for some maps.

– Turret usage and interactions were worked on.

– Hatches and doors received lots of work.

– Wrapped up some Starliner documentation.

– New items for Merlin and Scythe were a focus.

Art 

– Zane has been working on different ship UIs.

– Worked heavily on engineering screens (as seen in the multi crew demo).

– Melin and Scythe HUDs were a big focus.

– Working on FPS character bugs to get FPS module out the door ASAP.

– Addressed flash light placements issues for lighting dark corridors.

– Continuing to concept characters.

– Huge “quantity of people, aliens, and creatures that inhabit this universe.” 

– Creating in depth uniforms, advanced pilot helmets, and organic creations.

– Herald is being worked on to be released ASAP.

Writing 

– Squadron 42 performance capture shoot wrapped up.

– Dave and Will were on set for rewrites and incorporating changes to the scripts by Design.

– Generated “wild lines and interactions for the secondary and supporting characters that you encounter in the story.” 

– Internal company database has undergone reorganization for better user friendliness.

– Groundwork for StarMap and Galactapedia still being laid.

CIG Austin

[AnalogDan]

Persistent Universe Team

Art 

– Prep for Social Module has been ongoing.

– ArcCorp>Area18 underwent complete overhaul.

– Sweeping vistas overlooking the city were added.

– Seedy back alleys for shady dealings were added.

– Shops received work to be taken to the next level.

– Started from scratch with the lighting. 

– Updated the skybox and atmospherics.

– Updating character models for Social Module.

– Starting to working on new clothing assets for proper variety in Social Module. 

– Stanton>MicroTech>New Babbage style guide being wrapped up.

– Nyx>Delamar>Levski market bazaar area being fleshed out in concept.

– Finishing up a smaller version of the security turret prop.

– Defining look of clothing line: Terra>Fashion Casual.   

– This will be the most prominent clothing collection in systems within Terra’s sphere of influence (ArcCorp, Crusader, Odyssa, Mariana, and Terra).

– Helped out with animations for GamesCom demo.

– 19 emotes hooked up so far: /taunt, /threaten, /cheer, /dance, and more.

Design 

– Wrapped up initial passes of Smuggling, Piracy, and Mercenary PC occupation design docs.

– NPC activity on landing pads and ship traffic around city received attention.

– Set up NPC activities for various shops.

– Hooked up emotes to chat system for viewing and testing.

– Worked on standardization of object interaction points.

– Trying to reel in number of different animations needed for various types of interactions.

– Peaceful AI system received attention.

– Adding more tasks for NPC design, including  “Compare”, “Compute”, “Create Object”, “Destroy Object”, “Find Object”, “Pathfind”, “Use”, “Send Event”, “Wait”, etc.

Engineering 

– Heavily supported 1.1.5 release, including new implementation of the Generic Instance Manager (GIM) and other network optimization.

– Arena Commander now supports matches up to 16 players.

– Implemented additional tools to help profile and monitor network performance.

– Made improvements/expansions to GIM for future releases.

– Updating and improving Persistence, Presence, and Friends services.

– Wrapped up bugs with iPredictor system, “which helps out by reducing the amount of network traffic consumed by tracking ships, asteroids and missiles in real-time play.”

– Solar System Server and Universe Simulator progress continues.

– Still working on internal tools for engineers, artists, and designers.

– “Dataforge, Asset Validation Tool, and our Useable and Character Archetype Editors” have been rolled out.

“Working towards new features and content for a big PTU release that will be incoming after Gamescom.” 

Live Operations

QA 

– Worked on 1.1.5 internal multiplayer testing.

– “Tested a significant improvement to the way ships fly from Wyrmbyte called iPredictor which resulted in ships flying much smoother when viewed by others.”

– Testing and monitoring new Generic Instance Manager.

– Deployed hotfix for 1.1.5 that “dramatically improve[d] the lobby connection experience.”

– Provided comprehensive feedback on balance changes.

– ”Resulted in some welcome changes to ship flight, health, weapon heating/cooling as well as missile and countermeasure effectiveness.”

– Testing Social Module and Persistent Universe.

– Tracking down bugs in the augmented reality experience.

– Star Marine testing is ongoing.

– “Testing integrity of builds deployed by the new BuildBot system, testing the Cryengine version 3.7 integration into the project, and testing new deployments of the tool used to disseminate builds to developers we call CopyBuild.”

– Hoping to roll out new Issue Council by the end of August.

Game Support 

– Concurrency playtests will take place throughout August. Help test the game!

“Game Support will also be creating a special “test group” to be named that’s made up of players who are dedicated to the meticulous and detail-oriented challenge of playtesting the game with us.” 

– “[We’ll] give you specific “missions” to test new content and features, and how to report that in a manner that is much improved from the current forum-based solution.”

IT/Operations 

– Frankfurt office move completed on time and on budget.

– “Developing new internal tools to further improve the data delivery performance throughout the company.”

– “Some developers reporting as much as 120x improvement in delivery times for our largest assets used in development and testing.”

– Building “test systems for the QA teams to help them work through various bugs seen on different hardware configurations.”

– The major compiling workload is being relocated from the largerx build servers to “an array of smaller build workers” to make use of parallel processing and caching.

Dev Ops 

– Mostly worked on new launcher and new build server.

– Released multiple PTU patches, new launcher, and pushed 1.1.4 and 1.1.5.

– New launcher is vastly improved, but some people have asked for the ability to limit the bandwidth it uses.

– Version 2.3 will have optional bandwidth caps.

– Launcher Version 2.3 should hit the PTU soon.

– New build system means they don’t have to wait as long for builds, and should decrease overall build times.   

– New system should reduce build times by >50% (based on initial tests).

Foundry 42 UK

[Erris]
Art

– Idris interiors, Tali polish, mining bot exteriors, and Xi’An transport ships are all being worked on, while the Vanduul fleet are being put aside to focus on large ships for now.

– Redesigning the health system for FPS.

– Lots of work being put into multi-crew UI screens, including multi-function displays, support screens, turret screens, and engineering screens.

– Got the Merlin flight-ready effects in place.

– Lots of work on optimization for Star Marine effects.

– Mainly though lots of work getting ready for Gamescom

Design

– ‘Large World’ functionality added, allowing for huge maps.

– ‘Local Physics Grid’ is in, allowing you to move around a ship moving around in space.

– solved various specific issues to make sure things worked for Gamescom.

QA

– Lots of interviews for new positions this month.

– Lots of cross-studio play to test the player count increase from 8 to 16.

Code

– 1.1.5 released, which was the first release with full Wwise support.

– Lots of work fixing up errors this transition created that were creating major performance problems.

– Working on solving in-game stalls that have been happening.

– Looking into a lot of big engineering changes to the engine that should help improve performance, things like the global resource manager (which unlocks work required to get prefabs loading in the background), the Zone system (which will allow them to quickly cull entities from being rendered and updated that the player isn’t concerned about), and a new entity component system (which will be a more efficient way of updating entities)

Audio

– first Wwise release this month.

– Lining up recording sessions for weapons and footsteps.

– Origin’s ship computer returned to a ‘familiar old friend’

Graphics

– Worked on geometry streaming system – loads in only the required geometry that’s close to the camera, and allows more detailed meshes with an overall lower GPU memory footprint for better performance.

– Lots of bugs were created, as many older ships and environments still aren’t optimized for the new system.

– Lots of work optimizing LOD’s, with things like ships, asteroid creation, etc…

Foundry 42 Frankfurt

[Nehkara]

– Moved into new office space, move went smoothly.

Cinematics

– Sorting through performance capture selects from the big shoot in London at The Imaginarium.

– Doing Vanduul test animations for an upcoming pickup shoot where they will get the performance of a particularly important Vanduul.

Engineering

– All systems developed over the last months came together for Gamescom – Large world, local physics grids, and the zone system.

– The efficient moving of large, complex, interactive groups of physicalized objects is something that was impractical with CryEngine before.

– “We have formalized the entire pipeline for ships content production, rendering and efficient integration with the engine and physics system.”

– A lot of habits for programmers had to be changed due to the large world, as well as a significant amount of bug fixing and optimizations.

– Over the next month they will polish these systems and have them enabled by default.

AI

– Manchester and Frankfurt working together with a focus on human AI.

– Worked to improve handling of long strings of pathfinding requests.

– Expanded functionality in CryEngine to correctly support local navigation meshes – this is the first step to having NPCs moving around multicrew ships as they fly.  Next step is top integrate the navigation meshes into the zone system.

– Also worked on exact positioning and movement.  Some things in Squadron 42 and the Subsumption system require NPCs to be in an exact location and facing a specific direction.  They added this functionality to the Behavior Tree.

– Tactical Point System and Cover System have been connected.  Developed a basic human behavior that searches the map for cover and fires at the player.  Integrated the CryEngine posture manager into this as well to determine if a character has the correct posture to fire from a specific target to hit a precise target.

– Cover system integrated into the zone system.  Allows covers in moving spaceships.

– Integrated usables into the navigation code so designers can place usable objects in the world and link together vaulting or jumping over these objects.

– Frankfurt has continued coordinating with Moon Collider on AI systems.

Design

– New team member Clement Melendez -> he has already gotten up to speed and taken on one of the Squadron 42 levels to work on.

– Andreas, Lead Level Designer, is currently working on the other level being developed in Frankfurt.

– Todd Papy has been working tirelessly with UK Design and Illfonic on getting the jukes system sorted out.  Looking much smoother – a lot of the kinks have been worked out.

– Setting up foundations of FPS AI.  Working to ensure that AI systems will work with all parts of the game.

– Iterating on tools designers use to create AI behaviours.  Looking into how different types of NPCs should react to stimuli.

– A lot of experimentation in terms of AI going on.  Want to add ‘soul’ to the NPCs.  When they react to something, want the player to understand who they are.

– Once zone system was completed, helped with the Retaliator multicrew setup.  Built new tech for VisAreas that work better for SC ships than the standard ones in CryEngine.  Used VisAreas and Portals to define what to render.  A few technical hurdles in the setup but everything got ironed out.

Build Engineering

– Working on tools for auto-testing; remotely testing the game for crashes and the like.

Audio

– A lot of work preparing for the first release with the new Wwise audio system.

– Completed a first pass on a Managed Audio Object system which allows for efficient placement of many sound sources within the game without a loss of performance.

 

BHVR

[Erris]
Design

– Casaba outlet now has a new layout

– The Million Mile High club is in the works.

Art

– Applying final touches and optimization to Area 18 of Arc Corp.

UI

– Large push to wrap up the first version of the chat UI.

– Lots of work polishing mobiGlas AR mode.

 

Illfonic

[Erris]

– Fixing up remaining issues with the juke system, almost have it done. Minor issues still, but working for the most part.

– Also working on the procedural cover system., and making tools for designers to easily tweak where weapons are in the game view.

Design

– Working on Gold Horizon, fixing sight lines and ladders.

Art

– Doing art passes to focus the signage and colour coding in Gold Horizon.

– Work is being done on porting Gold Horizon over to new standards and metrics that will be consistent for all future assets.

Animation

– Working on finishing out the juke system.

– Fixing things asset-side, and adding polish to each and every animation.

Engineering

– Worked on making sure the transition from private hangar to public Planetside location is seamless.

– Lots of work on improving immersion and increasing performance.

– Providing support for new lobby features required by FPS

– Improved performance of in-game UI’s, leading to an improvement from 60 fps to 75 fps in AC free-flight.

 

Turbulent

[Erris]
Starmap

– Worked on the WebGL viewer, which is what’ll be used to browse the map. Currently focused on ‘Galaxy’ and ‘System’ views.

– Building animated 3D versions of celestial objects for the map – planets, stars, asteroid belts.

– Working on 2D versions of other objects – space stations, gas planets.

– Working on the data API for the ‘Verse – all the objects found in the ‘Verse, and all their attributes.

Issue Council

– Design layouts have been approved, so Issue Council is in the final stages of development. QA to begin early August.

Community Hub

– Community hub is feature-complete.

– QA has begun for the hub, and will continue into the next month.

Migration to Google’s GCE

– All is prepared to migrate from ‘Rackspace’, the old web architecture solution, over to Google’s GCE.

Ship Happens

– The Merlin is now available to fly and buy.

Launcher

– First version of ‘Launcher v2’ was sent to PTU.

Game-Triggered Reward System

– ‘Players will be able to obtain rewards based on certain game conditions and events. Can’t reveal any more information at this point; you’ll have to wait until our next monthly report!’

What you didn’t see

– Built an app that allows CIG staff to support special promotions at events.

 

Moon Collider

[Nehkara]

– Sent some people to the Nucl.ai Conference in Vienna and learned some new things as a result.

– Worked to improve AI for Vanduul Swarm in 1.1.5 release.  Continue to help designers create enemies with personalities.

– Experimented with the Vanduul AI a bit in terms of how they approach combat.  Ended up making them somewhat more aggressive.  They also avoid obstacles better now.

– A minor bug in the tutorial alerted them to a larger issue with AI ship handling.  AI pilots should now have improved flying stability and orientation.

– Improvements made to splines that allow ships to adapt their speed to allow them to stay on the spline.  They can now just indicate that AI ships should fly along a spline as fast as they can, rather than a specific speed.

– Improved the behavior tree editor for designers to report if something has been misconfigured or if an input value is missing.

– Added new signals that designers can use in their behavior trees such as hearing a weapon fired or seeing an enemy.  Information can now be sent from anywhere in the game code to the AI system to tell it that an interesting game event has happened.

– Work done to unify Kythera’s string hash feature with Star Citizen’s.

– Worked on a “personal log” for debugging AI.  It notes all of the important things that happen to a particular AI and allows this information to be displayed in the game over their head.  Should complete this feature in August and get it to designers.

 

Community

[Erris]

– Launched a new show, Chris Roberts – Game Commander.

– Wonderful World of Star Citizen made its long-awaited return.

– Justin Chambers, a new editor, has joined the team, and taken charge of editing ATV, 10 FTC, MTD, etc…

– A new ‘Ship Status’ page has been added to the forums. Check it out here (https://forums.robertsspaceindustries.com/discussion/272231/ship-status)

– Ground-work on a complete re-vamp of the ‘Ask a Dev’ section has begun. New plan will reset all the Ask a Dev sections, and then more heavily curate and facilitate Dev answers.

AnalogDan

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