Relayhttps://relay.sc/feed/transcripts/atom2017-03-27T02:53:01+00:00https://relay.sc/transcript/happy-hour-march-24th-2017-summaryHappy Hour: March 24th, 2017 Summary2017-03-24T18:55:00+00:002017-03-24T20:09:03+00:00CanadianSyruphttps://relay.sc/contributor/CanadianSyrup TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Today's Happy Hour featured Technical Designer, Calix Reneau in a live demonstration of creating a gameplay mechanic, specifically shooting a basketball in the new Javelin basketball court. Calix used an editor called "Flowgraph" which allows him to visually code in as you can guess a flowgraph format.After going through two iterations to get the throw correct, the hardest part was actually making the ball bounce. CryEngine has support for bouncy materials, but there's more involved than that to make a basketball bounce as you would expect.After a half hour of tweaking Calix was able to create something like a basketball and added a scoreboard for final touches.This mechanic isn't something guaranteed to make it into the game and was more of an insight on what it takes to create a mechanic in general.
The show is live! Today on the show are Community Managers Tyler Nolin, Tyler Witkin, and Jared Huckaby with Technical Designer, Calix Reneau. Today Calix will be trying to make a hoop mechanic after it was revealed the Javelin will have a basketball court in the Javelin cargo bay.There's also an air hockey table if you didn't see that as well in ATV.So the mechanic will be purely a concept. So there's no confirmation that this will be in the game or commitment as it's not in the schedule, but they thought it would be a fun thing to do to show backers how making a mechanic works and maybe this one will make it into the game someday.They're starting off with just a plain asset that happens to be a massive sphere the size of a human, but before he resizes it he adds some gravity to it, specifically 10 on the scale. He's also working within "Flowgraph" as the editor is called.Calix then resized the ball so it just fit through the hoop. Tyler Nolin asked: [how does the ball get it's bounce?] Calix: That's actually the hardest part of this whole thing.CryEngine does support bouncy materials, but he's going to have to take a lot of effort to make it feel like a basketball.Calix showed the flowgraph he's made so far and how it connects to one another, he's created a toggle so far to I believe enable a player to shoot it. There's a lot of boxes that he's connecting seamlessly and it's very interesting, but hard to follow as he's quick (He's good at what he does in a nutshell).The flowgraph for what anyone is wondering, is a tool created to basically allow designers to visually code things. Instead of having to do it the traditional way, they have their presets that they can define and chain together in a way that allows them to see the procedure in how things run. It's a big time saver.Calix attempted to shoot the ball into the hoop and did it successfully! Except it got stuck... So he made it a tiny bit smaller.He's added an impulse to make it "throw" more like a human, but the ball is always shot to the centre of the screen and has to make it shoot where the cursor is instead. After some adjusting he's make it work. There's not a lot of freedom in terms of what moves you can do such as layups and etc, this is a very basic mechanic.To make the ball bounce now he's going to try to add a Raycast which is a fancy way of saying, march here until you hit something and tell me where you hit it.After making some adjustments to make it bounce, he then broke the physics so now the ball has a mind of its own and defies the laws of gravity, but Calix decided to leave the bounce mechanic for now and work on the strength mechanic to throw the ball.Calix has made it so the more you move your mouse after you hold the left click, the harder you'll throw it.After playing with the throw mechanic, Calix decided that it wasn't very intuitive and scrapped it and decided to try and make a timer based mechanic, originally you would flick the ball to get the strength, but it was clumsy.It works much better now, he also added some visual aid to tell you how much power is in the shot based off the colour in the reticle.Now that Calix is satisfied with the throw, he moves back to the bounce aspect of the ball. He determines where the ground actually is in order to make the ball accelerate away from the ground based off the inertia. However after a first pass he made it WAYYY too strong and if you've ever watched "Flubber" It's like the scene in the driveway with the golf ball and bowling ball.After being puzzled by why the ball was launching itself so high, he figured out it was continuously applying the impulse and now the ball behaves a little more like it should, but still behaves like a heavy ball.After he released the ball now, for some reason it bounced on its own after rolling flat on the ground and jumped 10 feet in the air.After playing around some more, he just couldn't figure out why it wouldn't bounce properly so now he's gone back to the state where the ball didn't bounce, but behaves properly as it should. So he went ahead and deleted the script he made for the bounce because there's a possibility he assumed something was correct and that could cause problems.Calix loves this aspect of the job because problem solving is a big part of his job and figuring out how to make things work is a big part of his daily workload.He has the ball "bouncing" now, but it's in an infinite loop, which isn't bad, just has to continue tweaking it and finally he got something that looks like a basketball bouncing. It's still pretty wonky as the ball will bounce on its own for a bit more so than it should, but it bounces!He adjusted a few more values to correct the ball from bouncing more so than it should, and now it looks pretty good! Still needs some work though. The only issue now is that the ball bounces against the ground, but against walls it's still doing the same thing it did before.So after some trial shots, Calix adds a scoreboard to give incentive to what he's actually doing!After applying a scoreboard above the hoop and trying it out, it doesn't work.. So now he's trying to figure out why it wasn't working and it's because it was looking for the player to score a point and not the ball. After correcting it and shooting hoops he got a point regardless if it went in or not because it was a proximity based counter that didn't factor if it went into the hoop or not.After tweaking again it works closer to what it should, but still needs some editing.While Calix tweaked values, Jared and Tyler Witkin decided to hold hands on stream... Not literally because Tyler Witkin is in Austin so they put their hands as close as they could together to make it look visually correct.Now he's added two pointers and three pointers! However that's all the time they have for now. This concept was just for fun and whether or not it makes it down the road is unknown, but it was a great example on how a mechanic is born and the iteration and tweaking needed to get it to a rough point that we can understand.
https://relay.sc/transcript/around-the-verse-what-is-mega-mapAround the Verse: What is Mega Map?2017-03-23T21:50:00+00:002017-03-23T23:37:27+00:00CanadianSyruphttps://relay.sc/contributor/CanadianSyrup TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Studio Update L.A.
Ship:Working on Drake Buccaneer: custom dual mount created, LODs generated, damage implemented, flight balance and VFXMade a lot of progress on the revamped RSI Aurora: completed whitebox, finalising cockpit geometry and it’s heading into greyboxA few other ships progressing through design and a slew of "quality of life" fixes for 2.6.2Tech Design:Completed design for multifunction displays for power, heat, coolers, shields, weapons, countermeasures and missilesQA:Checking various fixes for 2.6.2Providing support for Austin QA with sanity checks, smoke tests, sweeps and deploymentHelping new hires get up to speed with the gameSwept ship destruction VFXs, Item System 2.0, loadout changes and the new targeting and ESP codeNarrative:Additional 3.0 missionsDocumentation for posters and props to populate the universeCreated a "Time Capsule" timeline for the Xi'an history and society documentationCharacter:Doing breakdowns of the ethnic groups in the SC universe utilising the power of the behind 3Lateral GDC demoEngineering:Started work on the new Shop Entity that uses data core components to add object/container streaming and retrieve their inventory from the backendAdded a interior grid type attribute to vehicle XMLs for designers which will reduce memory storageImplemented the core state switching functionality for the Light Group EntityDeveloping a framework in the IFCS to enable the autopilot, and AI, to handle situations like takeoff and landingNew features, debugging tools and bug fixes for the Room System and Atmospheric ContainersAdded wear and dirt parameters to loadoutsStarted work on the Entity Owner Manager which will manage ownership and lifetimes of all entities in the game in conjunction with backend persistenceWorking on scanning subcomponents and refactored the object databank to support storage of child entities. This improves the thread safety of accessing data within the databank and improves performance. The work focuses on two elements, ping component and angle of focus.Ping is the method where a player sends out a wave to detect objects within scan range from ships, to asteroids, or where players enter or exit quantum travel.Angle of focus allows players to adjust the angle for more range, but at the cost of a smaller focus.Tech Content Team:Has made performance improvements from changing the mesh vertex and position formats to greatly improve streaming of the meshes and reduce build size.They’ve also improved Python integration within the editor which allows more development of python tools for all studios. The team can now script various sandbox processes such as generating modular outposts, asteroids, etc.They’ve converted helmets to .skin format to prevent helmets disappearing.The team also created tools that rig skins and export them automatically and as such reduces dev time from a day to just minutes.Heads have been all converted to use the human skin shader which has reduced the memory cost by 90% of 100 megabytes.Female character has had thousands of animations transferred from the male character to complete her motion set.Team has completed a tool to track and report 1255 pages of Squadron 42 script which includes all storylines and the numerous wildlines. Once the lines are all in the system, the lines will be pulled based on players actions and situations and be able to randomise the wildlines so that they’re not repeated all the time.Tech Content team created a tool for the Cinematics team to allow for visibility of scenes before engine to allow for fast exportation of animations and preview renders.Character Team:Worked through concept, high poly and currently on ingame mesh of the heavy outlaw which will then go to rigging and animation.Light, medium, and heavy female marine armour and undersuit has been sent to rigging and implementation.Female explorer suit has moved through the high poly phase.EVA deck crew and marine BDU are in ingame mesh and texturing phase.Medium and heavy armour versions of the OMC outlaw faction in production.Mechanized Titan suit is in R&D along with other alien concept sculpts.Mega Map
Mega Map is a new feature that lessens load times and eliminates load screens altogetherThe Mega Map doesn't load all at once, but empties and streams new content as needed in object containersThis allows a user to switch modes a lot more quickly and effortlessly and creates more persistenceOne bug from this allows for blurry free flight after getting tipsy in the hangarMega Map for multiplayer is complicated by the sheer numbers of players who might visit the same level at one timeMega Map scales from single player to multiplayer without having to reload.Object containers load in and out, depending on position, using other object containers to scale what’s displayed.Star Marine and Arena Commander use Mega Map, but it’s intended for use in PU too.Subscriber Perk
Due to popular request, there will be a Jump Point volume 3.The monthly free fly ship has become a permanent perkImperators will now have access to all ships and variants for one week after a new patch has gone live.Imperators also gain access to some alien ships currently released and when they become available such as the Vanduul, Xi'An, and Banu.
Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing), Forrest Stephan (CG Supervisor).
Sandi Gardiner (SG): Hello and welcome to Around the Verse, our weekly look at the development of Star Citizen. I’m Sandi Gardiner and while Chris Roberts visits the Frankfurt studio I’ve been joined today by CG Supervisor, Forrest Stephan. Thanks for stopping by Forrest.
Forrest Stephan (FS): And thanks for having me, it’s great to be here.
SG: In today’s episode we’ll share how the Mega Maps feature eliminates load screens between levels which means more time for gameplay and less time waiting. Very important stuff.
FS: Very important, but first lets kick it off with Eric Davis in our Los Angeles Studio Update. Take it away Eric
Eric Kieron Davis (Senior Producer).
Eric Kieron Davis (EKD): Hey all I’m Eric Kieron Davis, Senior Producer here in Los Angeles. We’ve had quite a busy month since we last talked so let’s just dig right in.
To start off our ship team has been working on the Drake Buccaneer. Art has created a custom dual weapon mount, all LODs have been generated, the Tech Content team has implemented UV2s and damage, Tech Design is making their “flight balance” pass, which will get it ready for “flight with sound”, VFX is making solid progress as well. The Drake Buccaneer will be a great addition to the Drake lineup and we really can’t wait until you’re in the cockpit.
The Ship team has also made a lot of progress on the newly revamped RSI Aurora. The whitebox phase is now complete, which includes a proxy laying out the space, establishing the animation positions, laying out the screens, and making sure the characters could hold the controls. We’ve started the final geometry on the cockpit in an effort to improve the inside of the ship. Now that Tech Design has implemented all the art updates into the ship’s new archetype the RSI Aurora is heading into greybox. It’s been awesome to see all these different pieces come together and breathe a whole new life into an already great design. We’re really looking forward to finishing up and getting it back in the air.
There are a few other ships making their way through design as well as a slew of quality of life bugs/fixes for the upcoming 2.6.2 release but we’re not quite ready to reveal those just yet.
In addition to ship production the Tech Design group completed design for multifunction displays or MFD screens which control power, heat, coolers, shields, weapons, countermeasures, and missiles in preparations for Item 2.0 functionality. These designer prototypes are meant to help us understand what’s needed and and see how everything will interact with each other. Once these designs have been approved, the amazing UI team will create an interface to take advantage of that functionality that Engineering is implementing in the backend. Once the system’s in place a ship that is staffed by knowledgeable crew will be able to operate their ship beyond the default system settings and min-max the various ship systems to suit not only your playstyle but potentially save your life during a devastating attack.
This month QA aided LA Development checking a variety of fixes for 2.6.2 while also providing support to Austin QA with PTU and Live sanity checks, smoke tests, sweeps and deployments, and helping new hires get up to speed with the game. As for feature work the team swept ship destruction VFXs, Item System 2.0, and implementation of recent loadout changes, and tested multiple iterations of new targeting and ESP code.
For a quick reminder on quality assurance terms: A “sanity check” basically ensures the game loads which is now automated but still can take an hour and and another 30-60 minutes to investigate any errors that arise. A “smoke test” checks the basic functionality but this takes six to eight people roughly a day if there aren’t any major issues. And a “full sweep” means checking everything you possibly can - a process which requires a much larger team and can take over a week. As you’d expect full sweeps are mostly arduous, rigorous and intense but also incredibly important.
Now over on the Narrative team they’ve been hard at work at some additional 3.0 missions. They’ve also started some much needed documentation for posters and props to help populate the world of Star Citizen. They’ve also made a lot of progress on Xi’an history and society documentation by creating an equivalent Time Capsule approach for the Xi’an history from birth to present day.
Also those that saw the 3Lateral head test portion of GDC a few weeks ago, we can now talk about how the team has been doing breakdowns of ethno groups in the Star Citizen universe, utilising the power behind that technology as our Character Customisation is rapidly coming together.
Now the Engineering team has begun work on the new shop entity that uses data core components. It will allow shops to easily stream … be streamed in - and object containers - which will be finished in sprint. The plan is to make shops more dynamic and reactive to the economy by retrieving their inventory from the backend.
The Engineering team also added a new attribute to vehicle XMLs that will allow designers to specify the interior grid type of the vehicle: small, medium and large. This is a pretty big optimisation that will reduce memory storage as all ships previously defaulted to medium size.
Now last time we discussed the development of the new Light Group Entity that was equipped with a state machine to serve as the ultimate light switch. Now the implementation of the core state switching functionality is complete. The next step is to start using the Light Group in our vehicles and environments, and replace all instances of old layer switching method of light management. This new Light Group Entity has allowed us to reduce the number of lights we’ve been using which has dramatically impacted performance. For example on the Drake Caterpillar we were able to reduce from hundreds almost most thousands, of entities down to 90 or less with no visual impact. And that’s just the beginning: in the upcoming weeks we’ll continue to evolve the Light Group with additional features based on feedback from other departments.
We’ve been developing also a framework in IFCS, or Intelligent Flight Control System, for the autopilot to handle situations like a takeoff and landing sequence. This also applies to AI control: they will be providing AI developers with a set of tools for controlling the ship like a “move to” or “change to”, etc. This will improve stability and predictability of ship motion under optimal conditions.
There was also a large update to our Room System and and Atmospheric Containers with the addition of several new features as well as better debugging tools and several bug fixes. So far the Room System has only been implemented in a few locations but these changes will allow us to fully implement rooms and atmospheres throughout the various locations and ships in the game. At the moment all the airlocks you enter and exit are scripted events: they don’t factor in atmosphere of any kind. With this new system we’ll be able to replace this set up with an actual room and atmosphere that allows for a dynamic experience.
In addition to the Room System changes they’ve added a feature to allow designers and artists to set wear and dirt parameters for loadouts. This functionality comes in two levels: overall as well as individual values for specific items. Wear and dirt values are used by the render node to set shader parameters that make items look older, dusty, scuffed up, and burnt out. You’ve seen an example of this on the module surface outpost seen in the last week’s Studio Update. This task also used Loadout Editor side work where the team added UI support to edit wear and dirt.
We’ve recently also started working on a pretty massive task called the Entity Owner Manager. To give you a little background this is a core feature required to take our gameplay from a multiplayer game to a persistent online experience. This system will be responsible for managing ownership and lifetimes of all the entities in the game and will work in conjunction with the backend persistence systems to indicate dynamic changes to the world that need to be tracked and persisted across sessions. The Entity Owner Manager will also need to work with various game and entity … engine systems including debris, salvage, criminality, streaming, missions, cargo, shop and much more to help create the persistent experience across clients and servers.
In other news the team has been working on scanning subcomponents which require us to do some slight refactoring of object databank. Now the databank can support the storage of child entities which will be the subcomponents on ships, players, etc.
In doing this we also improved the thread safety of accessing data within the databank which allows us to move some calculations onto other threads which will help improve performance. This work is focusing on two big elements, the ping component and angle of focus.
The ping component is the method in which a player or a pilot will send out a wave to see if there are objects out there of note within their scan range. This could also be a ship, an asteroid or even signal traces that mark whether a player entered or exited quantum travel. Other players can detect these traces which could have some pretty heavy game implications. For example, if you’re an outlaw it could allow you to track potential prey.
Angle of focus allows players to adjust the angle with which they’re scanning. A smaller angle will provide more range but only contacts within the angle can be detected. We’re currently refactoring the underlying radar query logic to use zone queries rather than a huge iteration of registered radar objects which will make the scanning system much more efficient.
Now if you remember from our last update, our Tech Content team supports and implements every pipeline within Star Citizen and Squadron 42. One of the main focuses for this team is performance improvements, for instance we’ve changed our mesh vertex and position formats which massively improve streaming of these meshes as well as reduces the build size.
They’ve also been improving the Python integration within our editor which allows for faster development of Python tools usable by every departments across the company. They can now script any sandbox process they want, for example, placing asteroids, generating modular outposts, etc. All of which saves tremendous amount of development time on otherwise tedious and time consuming tasks.
You also may have noticed the player’s helmets were disappearing once they got to a certain distance away from you. As discussed in the character customization featurette not too long ago, we’ve now converted all helmets to a .skin format. The conversion was important to allow a unified LOD ratio across the character skins meaning no more helmetless people running around the ‘Verse. So don’t be afraid as the oxygen system comes online we would hate to be the reason you lose that FPS battle on the dark side of the moon.
To ensure this is easier in the future, Tech Content has also created tools that rig skins and exports automatically. This dramatically reduces dev time from potentially an entire day down to just a few minutes. Now that helmets are optimized, heads were next on the agenda. We’ve successfully converted all heads to use the human skin shader developed by our graphics team. Since we do 44 different areas of blended wrinkles and blended diffuse our texture cost was quite high at about 100 megs per head. With this change we were able to save roughly 90% of the original texture memory cross without a discernable visual impact. This means we can have a lot more characters in the scene without melting your graphics card.
With the implementation of the female character progressing rapidly, we’ve transferred thousands of animations from male to female to complete her motion set and provide a data for Animation to start iterating on. This will also allow us to focus on refinement and subtleties without compromising on what she’ll be able to do while exploring the universe. There’s quite a bit more to do but we’re making leaps forward every day.
Another character animation tool the Tech Content team has completed is this track and report the number of various wildlines each character will have in the universe. With over 1255 pages of script for Squadron 42 which includes all storylines as well as wildlines, we needed a tool to continuously generate reports on how many we’ve completed and what we have left to solve. Once the various lines are all in the system we’ll be able to pull those lines based on player action and situation. Also randomize the potential wildline response so the NPCs aren’t repeating the same line all the time.
To help our cinematics team focus on content need for Squadron 42, a tool was written to allow for visibility of scenes before they even hit the engine. This allows for fast exporting of animations and preview renders which would then automatically uploaded to Shotgun which makes it much easier and faster to review the many hours of cinematics for Squadron 42.
The character team has been blasting through the concept phase, the high poly phase and on to the ingame mesh of the heavy outlaw. Next it’s going to go into rigging and implementation. We’ve also sent the light, medium and heavy female marine armour as well as the undersuit to rigging and implementation. Once we had that male base suit done we utilized a wrap technique with adjustments to save development time and we’re sure getting everything together as quickly as possible. Another suit that has moved through the high poly phase is the female explorer suit. So she’ll be exploring the universe in no time.
On the Squadron 42 character front, both the EVA deck crew and the marine BDU have gone through high poly and are on to the ingame mesh and texturing phase, which means it should be in rigging and implementation in no time.
In a category of things we can’t talk about, we continue to develop the Vanduul as well as medium and heavy versions of the OMC outlaw faction and lastly the mechanized Titan suit is in R+D along with other alien concept sculpts and a whole lot more we can’t reveal just yet but stay tuned for updates in the coming weeks. Well, that does it here for Los Angeles, thank you so much for your support, we’ll see you again soon.
Back to Studio
Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing), Forrest Stephan (CG Supervisor).
SG: As you may have seen on our production schedules, our developers have been working on a new system called Mega Map. Understandable some of you may not know what that means.
FS: It is a tough concept to grab. In the simplest terms Mega Map means to eliminate the loading screens. So it basically streamlines the Object Containers while loading in and out the different areas and the different game modes.
SG: The goal of Mega Map is to allow players to travel through the universe without interruption or lag time. To better explain how Mega Map does this let’s take a look.
Rob Johnson (Lead Gameplay Programmer).
Rob Johnson (RJ): The Mega Map is a new feature that we're putting into the game to cut a lot of the frustrations with load times out for people, since you eliminate load screens altogether. The issues that drove us to this technology come from the unprecedented scale of this universe we're creating. What this means is we couldn't load it into one map without crippling memory and performance, so we divided it up and put segments into object containers which we could load as needed. The problem with that was that it meant players would need to wait for a series of load screens as they moved about in the game. The Mega Map was our solution. We load the Mega Map as we would a standard map. The Mega Map itself is empty, but once the Mega Map is loaded we actually start to fill the Mega Map with content of various game modes, fire and object containers. So, we would load the Mega Map which is empty. Load the front end, which is a set of object containers. Load the front end game rules which tells the game how to work in that game mode. The user would then pick a new game mode to play. At that point we throw away all the object containers. We throw away the game mode; load in the Free Fly game mode and the Dying Star object containers, but we do that via streaming rather than a complete level load, so we are able to shave the vast majority of the load time down to a few seconds rather than long enough to warrant a load screen.As you can see, even with Mega Maps switched on there is still a load stall. It's only a few seconds compared to the 30 seconds it takes to load without the Mega Maps feature, but it is still something we're working to eliminate by making the feature operate asynchronously. So game-play wise that's great for players if they want to be in the front end changing some settings. They can go to a hangar. They can put some items in their hangar, look at their ships then immediately go back to the front end; no load screens, pick a game mode; race mode. They can dive straight into race mode; play around with one ship, decide they don't like that ship, come back to the front end, switch to a new ship; still no load screens rather than having a process where they're setting on the front end. They have to think carefully where they want to go, because they know the load screen coming up, go there, do some stuff and then load screen again. So, by adding this new feature we're putting into the game the first application of a lot of the object containers streaming which will be a fundamental part of the P.U. experience moving forward as the P.U. becomes essentially like it's own Mega Map with a bunch of sets of object containers that will stream in and out as you move through that map. The thing that makes it tricky in terms of game-play programming is with the new flow we now not destroying and recreating the player between game modes, so with the new setup it potentially makes it easier to persist. Some … some of the player's attributes between these game modes, because the fact that we're not destroying them and recreating them.So, one of the more interesting bugs that the new Mega Map flow has produced was QA finding that they could place down a liquor cabinet in their hangar, take a few swigs from a bottle, get slightly blurry vision wise then decide that they didn't want to be in the hangar anymore. They want to go to go fly their ship in free flight. However, with this new flow the player is not being destroyed and recreated, so unfortunately for you, the player, you now find yourself in the ship with blurry vision trying to fly through space which is probably not the best thing for a player to be doing. So, something we'll obviously be looking to fix, but a nice illustration of the kind of interesting challenges that we face in fixing up this new flow.Clive Johnson (CJ): Mega Map for multiplayer is a little bit more complicated. It builds on top of the single player implementation. The tech is the same up to a point. The additional challenge is that each level in our multiplayer game lives in it's own server to handle the tens of thousands of players who might visit it at any one time. A multiplayer match and it comes to an end and you want to change to another multiplayer game mode and map then you're going to have to unload the map that you're into, Dying Star, go out to the front and make your selections to what you want to do, and then load into the next map, say Broken Moon doing Pirate Swarm or whatever. Because you're going from connecting from a server back to the front end, we're going to drop the connection, but we've got to keep the Mega Map in memory, empty out all its contents, put all the front end pieces in, let the player make his selection, and then go and connect to another server while keeping a map in memory at the same time, and then stream in all the new pieces for the new map.
It’s a bit like trying to unplug your computer and then replugging it without losing power. That’s not the way we’ve been doing things before. It’s very much: Get to the end of a match, you drop the connections to the server, you clear everything out (it’s kinda like a hard reset of a system), load in the front end, make your selection, into that hard reset of the system, connect to the next server. So we’re just keeping the map in memory but switching connections and servers, switching between single player/multiplayer game modes at the same time, without doing this reset, which is a bit of a challenge.
The way the engine is being built, it’s kind of the assumption that once a system starts up it’ll either be in single player mode or it’ll be in multiplayer mode and it’ll always stay that way until the system shuts down again. Now we’re changing these things dynamically all the time, so that can create a log of bugs. It’s kind of been a process of trying it out, find out what it breaks, fixing it, trying it again, find out what it breaks, fixing it, and we just keep doing that over and over.
Taking a system like Crusader, extending it, you might have an object container for each of the stations, each of the comms arrays. There will be an object container that contains references to the object containers for where all these other things are, and they’ll be just sort of left there in a very light weight form. Then as you head toward, say, Port Olisar the object container for Port Olisar will get loaded in and expanded. That may contain other object containers that contain the interior or different decks or whatever, and they’ll get loaded in on demand.
You have a skeleton structure that’s defined by an object container and then you can fill in the various parts and collapse them down again, load out another part. Then it will scale it going down to let’s say a room as an object container. Assemble them together to make a deck, assemble them together to make a space station, that’s an object container, interior and exterior possibly could be different object containers. That’s linked to an object container in space that says where that space station is, and that will be parented by a sort of root system object container that says where all the different space stations are in that system, different planets and so on. It kind of scales out that way.
So far it’s only been done for the Star Marine maps and Arena Commander maps. When we bring this technology over to PU it’ll have to be done through Crusader and the other systems will come online. It’s a lot of work that we need to do still, but the technology is kind of at the point where we can start seeing the benefits of it now. Star Citizen is a question of scale really, isn’t it? It’s taken a standard game and made it much bigger than anything else that’s currently out there. The only way that you’re going to be able to do that is by focusing on what the player needs to know and tailoring that experience for each player even though they’re all connected to the same server. So you’re always looking for opportunities to not do something. Avoid that little bit of work. Well, on the computer side of things anyway.
Back to Studio
Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing), Forrest Stephan (CG Supervisor).
SG: Thanks guys for that insight on Mega Maps. Cutting down on wait times is really important to improving gameplay.
FS: Absolutely. I also look forward to seeing the multiplayer Mega Maps rolled out in Star Citizen.
SG: And then many players will be able to traverse the universe at the same time.
Now before we wrap up today’s show we want to express our gratitude to all of our subscribers.
FS: Yeah shows like this one would not be possible without your support which is why we are rolling out new subscriber perks. Due to popular requests from our current subscribers we’ve got a third edition of Jump Point in the works and we’re also making the free flight of the month a permanent edition for all of the subscribers. More details on the Subscriber Perk so take a look.
Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing), Alexis Lesnick (Subscription Manager).
SG: Hey everyone I’m Sandi Gardiner.
Alexis Lesnick (AL): And I’m Alexis. We wanted to take this chance to thank all of our subscribers, both Centurions and Imperators for your ongoing support.
SG: We look forward to continuing the journey with you and we’ve updated your subscriber perks.
AL: If you’re new to the Star Citizen community, Star Citizen’s subscription programs were created to provide an added level of community interaction and off you some unique perks. As a subscriber, Centurion, or Imperator you get access to Jump Point.
SG: Jump Point is Star Citizen’s monthly magazine featuring interviews with the dev team, in depth looks at the process of building game assets along with new fiction and lore pieces.
There’s also the vault which is updated weekly with all sorts of ship concepts, environments, and characters.
AL: Subscribers allow us to create all of our video content. Shows like: Around the Verse, Bugsmashers, Loremaker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Happy Hour, and Citizens of the Stars. As well as more in depth events like 10 for the Chairman and the Subscribers Town Hall.
SG: We like to put you behind the scenes here, hear from the creators themselves about the development of Star Citizen. Centurions and Imperators get exclusive access to submit questions for Chris and the rest of the dev team to be answered during 10 for the Chairman or Town Hall videos.
AL: You also get access to the subscriber forums where you can interact with other subscribers and myself, as well as participate in subscriber only polls and Q&A threads.
SG: A new perk for all subscribers is our ship of the month club.
AL: That’s where we unlock a ship for subscribers to test fly. So if you’re dueling it out in Arena Commander or exploring the space around Crusader, you can try out a new ship every month. Imperators will also have access to test flight all available ships and variants when new patches go live for a duration of one week.
SG: Subscribers get a variety of other extras including early access to event tickets and discounts on physical merchandise as well as subscriber exclusive merchandise.
AL: And for the collector in you, there’s a free hanger decoration each month. These have ranged from models to ships, glowing algae plants, and even an ancient underwater creatures skull for your ingame hangar.
SG: Imperator subscribers get a little extra. Double the flair, double the discount coupon, plus your ship of the month roster is expanded too. You can get access to some of the limited alien ships like the Vanduul, Xi’An, and Banu ships as they become available.
AL: So again, thank you to all of our subscribers.
SG: And we will see you
SG/AL: In the Verse
Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing), Forrest Stephan (CG Supervisor).
FS: In addition to the new subscriber perks, all active subscribers or anyone becomes a subscriber before April 17th will receive an awesome piece of flair, a Big Benny’s Vending machine.
SG: That’s a great addition to any hanger and if you’re interested in learning more about our subscriber program, click on the link in the description below.
FS: And that’s all for today’s show. Again thank you to all of our subscribers as well as our backers. None of this would be possible without you so, so much thanks for everything.
SG: Also please join us tomorrow at 12 Pacific for Star Citizen Happy Hour for a special game development episode. Jared Huckaby, Tyler Nolin, and Tyler Witkin will be joined by Technical Designer, Calix Reneau.
FS: After the excitement of last week’s basketball half court reveal in the U.K. studio update. Calix will try his hand at creating a first pass game mechanic that might make it possible to shoot hoops in the game. Of course this isn’t a mechanic scheduled to go ingame, but it will be a fun behind the scenes look at digital scripting, all the same.
SG: Wow, sounds like a must see episode. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you.
SG/FS: Around the Verse.
https://relay.sc/transcript/citizens-of-the-stars-episode-8Citizens of the Stars: Episode 82017-03-20T22:00:00+00:002017-03-21T00:04:24+00:00StormyWintershttps://relay.sc/contributor/StormyWinters
Jared Huckaby (Community Manager).
Jared Huckaby(JH): Welcome everybody to Citizens of the Stars, our weekly look at the amazing content creations made by you, the Star Citizen community. I’m your host for this week, Community Manager, Jared Huckaby. Now the Star Citizen community is an essential touchstone of our development and to start things out this week, we’re going to check in with Tyler Nolin and this week’s Citizen Spotlight.
Tyler Nolin (Community Manager).
Tyler Nolin(TN): Hey everyone and welcome to this week’s installment of Citizen Spotlight where we feature amazing content creators within the Star Citizen universe. Now this week’s guest, you’re probably already familiar with as we’ve featured his content before within our top five and our newsletter. So, without delay join me in welcoming Mr. Hasgaha. Hey, how’s it going?
Mr. Hasgaha(H): Pretty good, how are you doing?
TN: I’m doing well, now tell us a little bit about what you do within the Star Citizen community.
H: I do a little bit of everything but I’m probably best known for taking lots and lots of screenshots but I also do videos and a few other things here and there.
TN: Now a lot of players take screenshots and videos but what makes your work stand out?
H: I don’t know… probably because I take so many of them. No, there are lots of people taking great screenshots. I try to keep mine as true to the game as possible but I tweak them ever so slightly trying to make them pop. I try to make them interesting to both long time backers and people who aren’t familiar with the game. Try to show stuff that maybe long time backers haven’t seen before or showed in a different way, just try to make it interesting, things like that.
TN: Do you have any advice for other players looking to make their own screenshots and videos?
H: You got to take a lot of them. You don’t have the most powerful gaming rig on the planet, mine’s actually 5-6 years old now. You just need a knack for taking them and an eye. I’m a graphic designer so I have all that schooling and composition and framing and all that kinda stuff but you just... same with photography learning you have to just take pictures. Take lots of pictures, it doesn’t matter if they’re bad, just keep taking pictures. Eventually you’ll kinda get it.
TN: That’s some really great advice, thanks so much for stopping by and answering some questions for me.
H: Thank you.
TN: With that, I’m Tyler Nolin and here’s what’s coming up this week in Star Citizen.
Tyler Witkin (Community Manager), John Erskine (Studio Director).
Tyler Witkin(TW): Hey everyone and welcome to another installment of Quantum Questions, where we put a developer in the hotseat to answer as many questions as they can in just under two minutes. Joining us this time is none other than the VP of Publishing and Studio Director for Austin, John Erskine. John, how’re you doing?
John Erskine(JE): I’m great.
TW: Fantastic, now how well do you think you’re going to do today?
JE: I think I’m going to do pretty good, I hear the competition’s tough but I think I’ll do pretty good.
TW: You’re going up against Brian Chambers with I believe 16 answers.
JE: I heard he set the bar pretty high.
TW: All right, well let’s get started. Two minutes on the clock starting now, what is your name and what do you do at CIG?
JE: I’m John Erskine, I’m head of publishing for the company.
TW: How long have you been in the game industry?
JE: Since 1998.
TW: Will we have support for languages other than english?
JE: Yes, we will.
TW: Tell us one thing you’re excited about in regards to Spectrum that people don’t know about yet.
JE: Good question, at GDC our team had a meeting at Twitch HQ to meet with some of their folks and see their roadmap… development roadmap for the rest of the year and we had some really cool conversations with them to talk about how we can integrate Twitch and Spectrum in some pretty cool ways. I think it’s going to be exciting.
TW: That’s very exciting. What does the eggplant emoji mean to you?
TW: What is your favourite ship?
JE: The M50.
TW: Will publishing ever expand outside the ATX office?
JE: Yes and in fact today we have publishing in Austin, Manchester and Montreal already and we’ll expand even further than that in the future.
TW: Now what’s something you’re especially excited about on the platform road map?
JE: There’s a lot of things but the new launcher and patcher that we’ve been developing, it’s been in development for quite awhile is going to be pretty cool. It’ll make it easier to download and patch the game and with the new launcher we’ll be able to integrate Spectrum and add even cooler functionality there.
TW: How strategic is Spectrum to the overall platform and publishing operations for CIG?
JE: It’s super strategic. You’ve probably saw some of the videos where we talked about it but initially we envisioned it as a chat platform and a communication platform and now we’re really envisioning as your connection to the game. Whether you’re in the game or out of the game or at work or on your phone or whatever so strategically it’s importance is major.
TW: In your opinion, on the publishing and dev ops side of things what are you most looking forward to that is currently being worked on?
JE: Probably stuff that nobody else cares about but some cool stuff on the logging and tools development side.
TW: And we’re done, we’re out of time.
TW: Thank you so much John for taking the time to come out and do this with us.
JE: You bet.
TW: Well, that makes 8 questions for John Erskine which doesn’t quite put him in the top spot. Make sure to tune in next week to see if Brian Chambers will finally be dethroned at the Quantum champion.
Ben Lesnick (Director of Community Engagement and Content Strategy).
Ben Lesnick(BL): Hey everybody, Ben Lesnick here. It’s time for your top five and MVP. Five, five, five, five, five, five, five, five. fiiiivvvveeee, top five.
Number five goes to Bobwire71 for his photos of the PAX East Bar Citizen. Great job, Bobwire you really captured the action.
Number four goes to my good friend Chris Reid who started the Wing Commander community with me way, way, way back when. It’s hard to believe but he just had a baby, so congratulations to Chris and his wife Lacey on the birth of Julianna.
Number three goes to TradTeam, a group of French speaking citizens who translates all sorts of Star Citizen content into french. Most recently they adapted the Hurrican brochure from our last concept sale, check it out on their website.
Number two goes to Dr. Oversteer for his amazing homemade cockpit. I’ve always wanted to do something like this, I am green with envy and no wonder they call you Oversteer. You have quite a steering wheel in the centre there.
And the MVP goes to AlexS189 as well as his conspirators P4nda and Radlock who put together an amazing Merlin trailer. Congratulations, you’re our MVP.
Alexis Lesnick (Subscription Manager).
Alexis Lesnick(AL): Hello everyone, Alexis here and it’s time once again for Sub-Conscious and since I’m such a nice person, I’m going to let everybody watch just this once. When I say jump, you say point… Jump! I’m going to assume that you said, anyway the March 2017 issue of Jump Point the exclusive digital magazine for subscribers was released last week. This issue includes a look at the Hurricane and interview of the AI work happening at Foundry 42 right now and plenty of new lore. Check it out.
Are you down and out over wanting to ask a Star Citizen developer a question, well here’s a quantum of solace, you can post and vote to the Quantum Questions thread on Spectrum for a chance to have your inquiry included in an upcoming Citizens of the Stars. Be sure to ask some short ones cause somebody have to beat Brian Chambers.
We’ll end this week with the vault… last week we shared some of the in progress update to the Aurora starter. It’s looking as they say a few universes over… downright shiny. This week you can look forward to some art to what we’re calling the truck stop, so stay tuned.
That’s it for Sub-Conscious this week, thank you for all of your support. If you’re not a subscriber and would like to be, you can learn more here. This has been Alexis and I will see you in the Den.
Jared Huckaby (Community Manager).
JH: Well, that’s this week’s show. A special thanks to John Erskine, Mr. Hasgaha and all the Star CItizen community members who take their time to share their work with us. For Citizens of the Stars, I’m Jared Huckaby and we’ll see you in the ‘Verse.
https://relay.sc/transcript/happy-hour-march-17th-2017-summaryHappy Hour: March 17th, 2017 Summary2017-03-17T18:57:00+00:002017-03-17T19:59:17+00:00CanadianSyruphttps://relay.sc/contributor/CanadianSyrup
There we go! The show is now live! Today's guests are L.A's newest Community Manager, Tyler Nolin. Andrew Fernando from QA, and community twitch streamer Gritspitter.Today they're going to start off with some Star Marine. Also playing with them in J.J, their Cinematographer whose responsible for their broadcasts.[Delta Patcher update?] No ETA right now, but they're still hard at work on it.[Tyler Nolin, What did you do before becoming a Community Manager?] QA in Austin, he had a good experience starting off there and learned a lot about the game and tools used.[Spaceships in 2.6.2?] There will be spaceships (No there aren't any new ones)[Jedi or Wizard in the Harry Potter universe?] Jared says Jedi.[Super important question: Are you going to add space sharks?] No. [Space Whales?] Nope.The next Gamedev Happy Hour will be a more visual scripting episode, think more Bugsmashers like.[Can the engine support Gundam style suits for a total conversion mod?] The game won't have it, but if you have the skills, go for it.[Did Chris approve the spider to be put into the game?] It hasn't been put through that process which is the pipeline so it's currently sitting on a pile with the other concept waiting for review.Gritspitter: There should be a system called regret with planet nope inside of it. Jared: I could design that system in minutes.[At which point will orgs be customisable ingame? Able to set ranks and budgets, etc] This Sunday(or next) they'll talk about that. First it'll go to Spectrum, then when it's relevant it'll be put in game.[Do you like Pineapple on your pizza?] Jared: It's damage inside of your head for thinking that.[2.6.2 to the PTU?] The plan was originally to get it to Evocati this week, but there's a few bugs to track down before that's possible.[Can the Reclaimer scrap a ship with people inside it?] Jared: I don't know, you'll have to find out and tell us how it went[Private servers?] Too soon for an answer on that right now. When the main game is finished or close to, then that becomes a more relevant question. It was apart of the original Kickstarter, but it's too soon to answer that how they'll work.[With VR being harder and harder to implement with UI changing, is it still being considered?] Will Maiden has a great post on the forum talking about that.[What is your plan for the game, what will you fly, what kind of occupation will you persue?] Tyler Nolin: He wants to fly a BMM and become a smuggler.Gritspitter: Looking forward to exploration, but quite a few different things. Playing scotty and running around and repairing things. Also make an alt character and make a hobo that never flies.Andrew: He doesn't know yet, he's a very indecisive person when it comes to that.JJ: ARRRRRR.Jared wants to fly a Genesis Starliner and be apart of public transit.[Will extra game packages give us an extra character slot, or will we have to have a separate account?] That's still something being figured out right now.[Which is better: Twizzlers or Red Vines?][When is the next concept sale?] No exact time locked down yet, but keep an eye on a thread in Spectrum where they will announce it when it's ready. They'll give a week's notice when they do.[More love for Medical/SAR] Once the Cutlass Black rework is finished they'll move onto the Cutlass Red and Blue.[From yesterdays ATV we saw modular stations that will populate a vast majority of the universe, will we see non-human outposts and stations?] You'll have to find out down the road.They've finished their last round of Star Marine and are bringing Happy Hour to a close. Gritspitter will be streaming after the show and will be giving away an Anvil Hornet SQ42/SC package.There's a Bar Citizen happening in the D.C. area, check out the Bar Citizen site for details.
https://relay.sc/transcript/around-the-verse-1Around the Verse: Level Design2017-03-16T20:17:00+00:002017-03-16T22:25:30+00:00StormyWintershttps://relay.sc/contributor/StormyWinters TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Chris Roberts is back in the U.K. for several weeks.Community team members will be appearing at South by Southwest convention as well as several members of the Austin studio will be hosting a panel on Saturday to talk about the Evocati, Issue Council, and more.The end of ATV Features a sneak peek of in progress work on the MISC Razor, Javelin, Hull C, and ReclaimerStudio Update U.K.
The office at Manchester has grown to 201 employees with an additional 9 employees at their new Derby studio which mainly handles facial animations and SQ42 body animation supportSince the year began they’ve hired an additional 22 employees and have expanded to an additional floor giving them another 76 desk spaces.Programming team has completed sprint two of the player interaction system to enable better interaction with objects and interaction with objects for the inner thought system.Mission system is on sprint three and new tools are being used for setting up missions for the PUWith the new system it can scale much larger than before and with the Soled editor they can visually put together system maps to increase productivity.Two sprints of locomotion has been completed with blending walking to a full run and back again, also improving AI pathing for close quarters for vastly improved logic.Graphics team has been improving and optimising lighting, specifically quality and accuracy.Networking finished off the serialized variable which helps reduce needed bandwidth for PU.Also finished new message queue for more stable packets Finishing the multiplayer megamapAnimation team has been busy with weapon animations of all kinds and work on the P4AR, P8SC, P8AR, Devastator shotgun, Railgun, Gallant and Arrowhead.Previs work on oxygen and stamina sprint.Feedback for female rig to lockdown final posing.No weapon locomotion pass, stop/sprint update, prone combat animation pass.Facial animation work ongoing at Derby for Squadron 42Concept team has been working on the Aegis Reclaimers interiors.Second pass on weapons to improve reload visuals and detailsShip weapons also being worked on.Many concepts for PU and SQ42 environments such as planetary landscapes, habitations, landing locations, space environments, and space stations.Environment team has been working on the truck stop experience and planetary service outposts are finishing their initial art sprint with base building set being complete.They’re also working on creating a system to integrate the modular elements of base building with architectural terrain elements into a system that’s much faster than hand placing consistently.Visual effects team has been working on supporting planetary environment effects such as atmospheric flight effects, and modular procedurally generated surface spaces.Work on damage and thruster effects for the Constellation Aquila.Further polish to ballistic SMG weapons.UI team has been busy with new front end UI for SQ42 and the PU.Work has progressed on the new Kiosk shopping interface to make sure it works in all locations and shop types.Also improvements to ingame UI when walking and in ships.Audio team has been supporting all the sprints and have been busy with fixing performance issues, and tool improvements.New audio for the Dragonfly, Connie Aquila, Prospector, and Buccaneer.Also work on music composition for Squadron 42 and the PU, speech processing, and fixes to weapon audio.Also final foley work for noises being accurate depending on different material types being hit or stepped on.Behind the Scenes: Level Design
Star Citizen level design is not the traditional made-to-order type of process, but one that relies upon modularity to build archetypes for the extreme number of locations to be built while keeping the feel of repetition lowCIG does this by not only using tile sets, but by grouping these into larger entities like rooms all with a neutral feelThese neutral tile sets are augmented with their content, different architectural styles, tech levels, age and damage, cleanliness, activity and demographic locationThese work together to provide a uniqueness to each locationAndreas and other level designer started about 18 months ago, now more resources are becoming involvedArt is working on how it can be done from an internal and external perspective; how to give things have a unique silhouetteA tech artist/code is working on a tool which can generate random locations that can be played and testedBuilding up the tools, the library of rooms and props, and the pipeline so they can "flip the switch"The process: A flow chart will be used to indicate where rooms are supposed to be Applying a seed to the flow will generate a location The same flow with different seeds will generate many different locationsIt will be possible for a level designer to generate 20 to 30 layouts a day, however each still has to be tested and verifiedOnce they start producing 15 to 20 different truck stops they can see where the repetition is and work to reduce thatThey should have enough archetypes the player should be seeing the same areas over and over againIn the white box phase: artists are breaking down the tilesets for satellites, planetary outposts and truck stopThe system is intended to build out the lower and mid tier space stations: they will still have bespoke layouts like Grim Hex, Hurston, Area 18, etc.In the future they would like to see if the system could be used to build a city but that's not it's real purposeThey want locations to feel real and believable, places where people live/work for months at time, rather than a gameplay space
Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing), Kirk Tome (Lead Technical Designer).
Sandi Gardiner (SG): Hello and welcome to Around the Verse, our weekly look at the development of Star Citizen. I’m Sandi Gardiner. Since Chris Roberts is busy at our Manchester office, I’m joined by Lead Technical Designer, Kirk Tome.
Kirk Tome (KT): It’s awesome to be here Sandi.
SG: Our community team is at it again following up their appearance last week as PAX East with a visit to South by SouthWest this week, and this Saturday the Austin studio will be hosting a panel as part of the festival.
KT: The team will share details about the Evocati testing group, the importance of the Issue Council, and more! So if you’re attending South by SouthWest you should definitely stop by.
SG: Later in the show the design team will reveal what goes into the modular designs for level and layouts in Star Citizen, but first let's head out to Erin Roberts in the U.K. for our studio update. So let’s take a look.
Erin Roberts (Studio Director).
Erin Roberts(ER): Hi everyone, I’m Erin Roberts. I head up global production at Cloud Imperium Games and I manage our European studios. I’m based here in our Foundry 42 Wilmslow office which is about 10 miles south of Manchester in the northwest of England. We’re now at 201 people in this office and we have a further 9 employees at our new small Derby studio in the east midlands, which focuses on mainly facial animations but also some body animation for Squadron 42 and Star Citizen.
Already this year we’ve hired 22 new staff and for a bit fun we worked the combined games development experience of everyone in Foundry 42, UK, which comes to 1510 years. We’ve just finished work on expansion of the first floor of Freedom house in Wilmslow which is given us back some badly needed space as everyone was cramming onto just two floors for the last few months and it wasn’t great. The new floor is definitely a breath of fresh air and given us 76 new desk spaces, two conference rooms named Retribution and Gladius and a great new break area called Fortune’s Cross. Some of these names you know, others you’ll be introduced to as Star Citizen grows. We’ve got a pretty big update for you guys so let’s to some of the details of what we’ve been up to this last month.
On the programming side, we’ve been working on a number of systems to really push the quality and immersion of both Squadron 42 and the Persistent Universe. We’ve completed sprint two of the player interaction system which improves how the player interacts with items or picks up objects using the new highlighting and inner thought systems. This will allow a much more intuitive and accessible UI experience for players clearly identifying what they can interact with as well as a clean, smooth experience while doing so.
The new system or the new mission system is moving really well, we are now on sprint three and designers are using the new tools to set up the missions in the PU. The old flow graph missions which were not scalable to the need of our dynamic universe are going away to be replaced with a tool which can create diverse and systemic missions, giving the player an abundance of different and diverse mission types. Also tied to this, the design team here is now also using the new Frankfurt developed system editor tool known as Soled, to visually put together our system maps for Star Citizen. Both of these tools will really increase the productivity of our design teams.
We’ve completed two locomotion sprints, the first to blend the walking to full run and back to walk animations sets to create a much more realistic feeling for player inertia whilst using the keyboard. The second sprint was to vastly improve AI path following so characters traverse closed spaces and blend between animations in a much smoother manner.
Our graphics team has been busily working on improving and optimizing the lighting in the game. One major part of this was a major upgrade to the quality and accuracy of rectangular lights which is a feature the artists have been requesting due to prevalence of these types of lights in science fiction films. Typically game support to the rectangular lights is very limited due to their very high cost which is why we spent a lot of time optimizing our shaders to make them viable. The diffuse lighting and the reflections are now much closer to real world behaviour and the difference this makes for our character lighting is absolutely huge.
On the networking side, the team is finishing off the serialized variable which will reduce network bandwidth for the PU. They finished the new message queue to make the sending and receiving of packets more stable and are finishing off the new multiplayer megamap so players can quickly traverse to different game modes without the long load times of the past.
Animation has been very busy also, weapon reload, firing, hand pose, select and deselect work has been worked on for the P4AR, P8SC, P8AR, Devastator shotgun, railgun, Gallant and Arrowhead. Pre-vis work has been done for the oxygen and stamina sprint as well as feedback on the female rig so we can lockdown final posing. Other work includes a no weapon locomotion pass update, stop/sprint update and the prone combat animation pass.
Our facial animators in our Derby studio have been focusing on a lot of S42 work to bring our characters in story to life as well as work on the PU for 3.0 to support fixes, bartenders, shopkeepers and general population wildlines.
The concept team’s work is ongoing on the Aegis Reclaimer’s interiors. The team has worked on a second pass on weapons to improve reload visuals and add detail where needed and work has been ongoing on new ship weapons also. There has been a lot of concept work for both our PU and Squadron 42 environments to give our artists strong direction on our planetary landscapes, habitations and landing locations but also for our space environments and space stations… and it is looking really cool.
Moving on to the environment team, has lot of ongoing work for Squadron 42 but has also started early work on the truck stop experience including the interior modularity to show the variety of locations we’ll be able to place in the PU. The team has been working to keep the art style consistent while also accommodating all the functionality required by design. The planetary service outposts are just finishing their initial art sprint and the base building set is complete. The team have all the elements needed to create small outposts in multiple configurations which are being set up so they can be distributed across different landscapes.
Now we have our building blocks, we can start adding the details that give them flavour and detail. Also with the service outpost the team is developing how our shaders will react when we place these architectural elements in various biomes, we are looking into a system which will help give us believable system integration without having to invest lots of bespoke art time.
Lastly, the environment team has been investing time in creating the visual targets for our space look and feel. Not only do we want to add lots of detail to our locations, moons and planets but also we want space itself to be exciting and interesting to explore, whether traveling through anything from a nebula or dense asteroid field to a space storm or anomaly.
The visual effects team has been focusing on a lot of planning to support our new planetary environment including atmospheric flight effects and modular procedurally generated surface spaces. Work has been done on thruster and damage effects for the Constellation Aquila, high tech damage effects library update building on last month’s explosion template and also further polish to ballistic SMG weapons.
The UI team has been working incredibly hard over the last months put together what you guys have already seen with the new front end interfaces from 2.6 and are still strongly plowing ahead with the needs of both the PU and S42. This month's work has progressed on our new kiosk shopping interface. Proven out by our prototype which allows us to make sure it works in all our locations and shop types. Also work is continuing on improving all our ingame hud UI where they’re walking around or on a ship.
The audio team as always are supporting all the sprints and tie into end support most of the work the other teams do. This month the standout tasks include fixing up performance issues and tool improvements. Audio for new ships included the Dragonfly, Connie Aquila, Prospector, and Buccaneer.
Work on the music composition for both Squadron 42 and the PU, speech processing, fixes to weapon audio and finally foley work so the right noises could be heard from different material types.
Anyway that’s it from the U.K. office this month. I hope you all enjoyed the update and it gave you some insight into how much is going on not only in this office, but all throughout CIG as a lot of these features we talk about are a collaboration between teams spanning sometimes all five of our studios. Hopefully you get an interesting glimpse on why the team is working so hard to create a universe and level of immersion never seen in a computer game before. This is truly why Star Citizen will be the Best Damn Space Sim Ever.
Once again I’d like to thank all our subscribers for helping us put together these updates together and of course everyone in the community for your incredible support. You are all powering us on to make this groundbreaking universe and dream come alive. It’s really appreciated by everyone here at Cloud Imperium Games. Thank you all, and I’ll see you in the verse.
Back to Studio
Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing), Kirk Tome (Lead Technical Designer).
SG: Thanks Erin, it’s wonderful to see all the ways the Manchester office works with other studios to improve the Persistent Universe.
KT: Yeah I can’t wait to experience all the different missions and locations that will be available as the PU grows.
While we’re on the topic of the expanding PU, designing levels and layouts for Star Citizens is unlike level designing for any other game. While most games only want to take a player from point A to point B, Star Citizen needs to feel like a livable place. So traditional game design techniques don’t always work.
SG: Which is why we sat down with the Game Director, Todd Papy and Lead level Designer, Andreas Johansson. Up next they’ll share how their level design process is unique to Star Citizen.
Behind the Scenes: Level Design
Todd Papy (Design Director), Andreas Johansson (PU Lead Level Designer).
Todd Papy (TP): So, today we kind of want to talk about our level design process and so in particular towards the Persistent Universe and how that differs from what we consider traditional level design processes. Both of us come from a very traditional level design process, which is you're building everything very bespoke. You start with where the level … what the level goal is, where it starts, where it ends and then everything getting from the start to end is tailor made and the path is, is completely chosen and tweaked and tuned by the designer as well as the artists until the product ships. With all of the challenges that we need to build and solar systems that we need to build in S42 or in S42 as well as Persistent Universe, we couldn't use our traditional experience from there. So, we started talking about a modular system and what that will allow us to do is basically build archetypes of things and then from there go through and start switching out different modular pieces. So, why don't you kind of run us through like a truck stop or …
Andreas Johansson (AJ): Yeah, I mean … our greatest challenge is how do we populate the universe that is the size of our game with enough content to give … feel alive, right? We have a hundred solar systems in the game. We might have 50, might have a hundred space stations and we have a hundred space stations we're looking at 10,000 locations which we have to build. And with the small team we have, four level designers, it would take us about 650 years to build that the traditional way, which was …
TP: It's totally achievable in our lifetime.
AJ: I mean it's a long term job situation, right? [Laughs]
TP: Yeah, exactly.
AJ: So, I mean the only way we can really do that is like Todd said is like with a modular system. We do build our locations with a tile set, which is small pieces of walls and corners and doors that we put together into rooms, but this is still not fast enough. We have to find a quicker way to do this. So, the way we can approach this is to looking into grouping these smaller tile sets into bigger entities, rooms. We have kitchens. We have toilets. We have locker rooms. We have lobbies. We have everything that you can imagine that you need on a space station to …
TP: To make it feel believable …
AJ: Yeah, exactly. So, instead of building every location unique we build these rooms we populate the big library of assets and then we use these assets, assets to put together the station itself in a much quicker way.
TP: Correct, but even then when we're talking about a base level of an archetype or something like that. We're talking about a very neutral feel and look to that so that when we start adding these modular pieces in a hub section or something like that, you don't really notice you know like if, if those base assets are in, in that neutral sets then you really start to noticing the repetition and …
TP: … and everything.
AJ: So I mean we … when we build things we build everything using a template tile set which is a complete that's was like a neutral, neutral it has no textures and nothing special on it, and then we build out the basic shapes. We define the purpose of the room, and then we can convert that into many types of themes, low tech, high tech, all the things we have. But we also have another level on top of that which is the content of the room itself. So, when they do a game that is an MMO, almost all MMOs use some kind of modular system or some kind of tile set to build their locations. You would always see repetition at some point. You will go into locations and say, “Bob, I've been in this room before”, and we want to get away from this, so we've gone through many iterations of the modular system and try to figure out how can we alleviate this in the best way possible. How can we make sure that even if it is the fifth time you go through this very room it still feels different.
TP: And we have a couple of different ways of doing that …
TP: … like Andreas said we have the tile sets, so what we would consider low tech alpha, bravo, charlie as well as high tech and then we have supermodernism and a few other tiles sets that will still need to be built and worked on. Then from there we have wear and tear associated with that. So, there's dirt passes. You know, how pristine is this truck stop? Is it in the middle of Crusader, so therefore there is a lot of money that's around that one so there … that one will be in very pristine condition … versus something out … is out in the middle of nowhere, and it's super run down, and it feels more like a mom and pop or Route 66 kind of truck stop or something like that. Then from there we've got like what he was talking about with the actual props that go inside there, and then we also have the different levels of power. Piping that can go in there, so we can make it feel more like a derelict or it's up and running and it's got a certain amount of hustle and bustle associated with it based off of the AI, or what is happening in the solar system at that time.
AJ: Yeah, so if you go back to for example the props that Todd mentioned that is something that is … it's a very useful tool for us to change up the feeling of a location. So … the way we're kind of moving right now is that we won't actually create let's say a bathroom and fill it with all of the props that it needs. What we'll do is we'll create the shape of a bathroom and we'll fill it with area shapes and volumes which can spawn in assets in different constellations, and that means that you might go into exactly the same bathroom in one station and it looks one way. You do … go into the same bathroom in another station and there is a different amount of toilets. There is a different amount of sinks. There is … the mirrors are in a different place. It looks different. So, by using these kind of systems we can get a great amount of variation from our smaller component rooms and make the stations feel unique and different even though you're actually playing with a similar room which you've seen before.
TP: In the process, in us building this, I think we really started on this maybe, I want to say about a year and a half ago. And at that point it was just Andreas and another level designer that was really focused on this. And now we have the other resources really coming in.
Meaning art is coming in and working on how do we do this from an internal perspective, but also from an external perspective on the space stations. And how do we make these things have unique silhouettes associated with them so that when you’re coming up to it you get a very clear read of what you are coming too, and the size of it, and what is it mean to be. Is it meant to be a very large space station or is it meant to be a small, little space station out in the middle of nowhere?
And then from there we also have a tech artists/coder that is working with us to build our modular system. So that this will allow us to run this … this tool which will allow us take these different shapes and combine them together with unique points of interest in those. And then basically randomise it, run through it, play it and see what it feels like. Randomise it again. And then this will allow us to generate the stations that … as quick as we can because we do have a lot of content that we need fill. It’s just building up these tools, and building up these rooms, and the pipeline to actually flip the switch and really pump these things out.
AJ: So one of the processes we’re looking into is we won’t actually build … we won’t have a level designer sitting and dragging rooms in the construction of a space station. That’s not how we are going to build it. Because we have the libraries of all the rooms that we can use in a space station. We have all the procedural generation of the props that exist in the rooms.
The way we are going to build it is we are going to create a basic flowchart of a station which indicates where rooms are supposed to be. You start with a hub - you come from elevator and you go into a hub - you might go into another corridor that has like a locker room or has a diner attached to it.
And we build this flow in a scripting tool and then from that flow we can generate a seed and we generate the location - basically the editor will generate a location - based on that flow. So taking the seed we can generate many, many different space stations with the same flow that will look completely different because we get different types of bathrooms. We specified it needs a bathroom so in one location it gets a small one and then another one has a medium one.
TP: Different … different stores.
AJ: Different stores. It has different props in the rooms when you go into the location.
So a space station will always look the same but you can have another space station based on the same seed that looks completely different. So it might have the same hub but they actually feel different because they have different props and they have different layout of doors and connectors.
So with that a level designer could technically throw out 20, 30 space stations in a day.
TP: But ...
AJ: But of course we have to go in …
AJ: … and double check all that information. We can’t just generate, ship to the Persistent Universe and it’s like “job’s done!”. That doesn’t work like that. We have to go in and verify the layout. So even though we can generate a large amount of seeds and a large amount of different stations we still have to do the proper work. We still have to go through, check the consistency of everything, see that it works, see that we don’t walk into a room and it’s a door into space and everyone has a very bad day. That would be pretty terrible.
TP: We don’t know exactly how this will play out, I mean we have our ideas and I think once we’re fully through the R&D phase and can actually generate 15, 20 different truck stops we start seeing where the repetition happens and then at that point it will be trying to work out how can we cut down that repetition.
And then the other thing is since we’ll have so many different archetypes we’ll be … ideally the players’ not running into this area over and over and over again.
You know we’re still very early in the process.
TP: We’re in whitebox phase. And this is … really the artists have started to come in now and are breaking down these tilesets for the satellites, for the planetary outposts as well as for the truck stop. Those are the three main ones that we’re focusing on right now and each one of them requires their own unique thought process on the modularity and how those things work. The overall idea is still the same: it’s just how do those things connect together is very different.
AJ: I just want to reiterate we’re not planning on shipping 50 space stations per day. That’s not possible.
AJ: It’s the possibility of generating the layouts.
AJ: The actual stations will take quite a bit longer because you still have to make sure that everything exists and everything works.
TP: With this modular system this is really to build out what we would consider our lower or even mid tier space stations: we will still have very bespoke layouts. So for example if you think about Grim Hex or you think about Hurston or Area 18 these are very bespoke layouts that we go through and do handcraft. In the future we would … I think all of us would like to see if this system would work in actually building a city and doing it procedurally but this is really to build up the other 95% of the content that is in the universe besides just these big bespoke landing areas.
AJ: The way work has evolved over time form being not on level designers but more kind of “spacial architects” where … when in a traditional game when you build a level you have to think about gameplay, you have to think about covers and flows and where the enemy’s going to spawn and all this kind of thing. This is not really what we are doing when we are building our locations because we want this to feel real, and want it to feel believable. It should be a place where people live and work for months at time. So when we build these locations we have to think about how does rooms connect together? What is the flow? How would people actually build this? It’s much more thinking about the space as a living area for people instead of a gameplay space. And that is why the role of a designer, especially the level designer, has evolved into being a little bit more that just gameplay orientated.
TP: It’s less about path from point interest … point of interest to point of interest to point of interest. This is … it’s more about making sure that these areas feel absolutely believable. And that you understand that there was a thought process behind creating this.
AJ: Also being a space game it gives a little bit extra because if we go to space in the future as the Human race we would build things modular … modularily - can’t even say that word even though I work with it a lot - so it is not that strange of an approach to take. You would need things to function between different stations for repairs and for expansions of other things.
So you might end up going to a location in space and it’s a pirate base but you can clearly see at some point this was an old mining outpost that after the ore ran out it got transitioned over to a nightclub for mercenaries and then it got taken over by pirates and now you have this …
TP: Which is basically what Grim Hex is.
AJ: Petty much. It’s all party there.
This is actually where we’re at in the level design process and I know it’s take us a long time to get to this point but there’s a lot of research and development that have going into the process and how these areas are constructed and definitely hasn’t been a simple task.
AJ: Measure twice, cut once. Right?
Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing), Kirk Tome (Lead Technical Designer).
KT: I appreciate the amount of detail they put into designing each truck stop and space station, especially with the assistance of a modular system.
SG: I agree and it’s really going to help the PU feel authentic.
And that’s it for this episode of ATV, but before we go we’d like to thank all of our subscribers whose contributions allow us to make shows like this, Citizens of the Stars, Bugsmashers, and Loremakers. If you’re not a subscriber and are interested in learning more, click on the link in the description below.
KT: Of course Star Citizen wouldn’t exist without our backers so a big thank you for everything, we wouldn’t be here with you.
SG: No we wouldn’t and please join us tomorrow at 12 Pacific for Star Citizen: Happy Hour. Jared Huckaby, Tyler Witkin, and Community Streamer, Gritspitter will playing Star Marine with fans in Alpha 2.6.1.
KT: Thanks for watching and we’ll see you.
KT/SG: Around the Verse.