Greetings fellow Citizens! Check here for episode 2 of 10 for the Artists!
This episode features Lance Powell, Supervising Art Director, and Elwin Bachiller Jr. [posing as Daniel Kamentsky for the first 2/3 of the episode], Senior 3D Artist and later on in the episode they are actually joined by Daniel Kamentsky, Surfacing Artist.
LP: Basically, they want to know if you will be able to purchase additional fuel, store fuel in the hangar, and so on.
EB: So, a couple of things. You will definitely be able to purchase fuel. You will be able to – well, the plan is to allow some ships to able to collect fuel from nebulas by just flying through them and then converting it inside the ship to actually use it as a propellant.
And then we’ve got ships dedicated to fuel entirely like one of the versions of the Starfarer – the entire purpose of it is just to haul fuel from one location to the other and it’s got the ability to refuel ships while in flight… so, that’s kinda cool.
LP: Sounds like a space AAA (Amercian Automobile Association – roadside assistance).
EB: Yeah, exactly.
LP: So, you run out of fuel. You hit the button… and it says, “OnStar. Can I help you?” and you’re like, “I’m stuck. I’m out here in a nebula.”
EB: I’m hoping we make it sort of like a skill challenge where you have to actually line up your ship on to the Starfarer, get them to dock properly, and then refuel and just take off. But who knows, we’re still working on that.
LP: And if you’re texting, then what happens?
EB: Crash and burn… kill about 16 people.
LP: That’s right.
EB: We joke about it sometimes… about getting sent into orbit. I actually want to do the “vomit comet” – the parabolic flight – that would be super cool.
So, coming up with a cool design…
LP: Can I just stop you for 2 seconds and just join me in this…
*Looks into the camera*
CR… we want to go to space. For research.
EB: For research.
LP: For research.
EB: So, the design question – I think in a previous 10 for the Artists we talked about this a little bit. We tend to start off with real life examples of what it is that we are trying to achieve. So, if a spaceship is designed to accomplish a specific goal – whatever that might be, transporting fuel, dogfighting…
LP: Space AAA.
EB: Space AAA. A mining ship… whatever it is. We collect as many references for the actual function before we even start figuring out how we’re going to design the aesthetics of the ship. So, we start off with function and then we go ahead and build the design around it. The rest of that comes from the style guides that we’ve already put in place for the manufacturers. So, if you have an Aegis ship which is supposed to be a mining vessel – well, the Reclaimer is actually not a mining vessel. But, as an example let’s assume there was an Aegis ship that was a mining vessel. We would start off with mining equipment as references, and then we’d go ahead and apply the Aegis aesthetic on top of that. So we’d have smooth curves. We’d have like… space shuttling panelling, since that’s part of the look for them, and we’d probably have the intakes on the top since that’s like an Aegis thing. So, we have style guides which define some of the elements that these ships need to have and that’s kind of how we arrive at the look. And we’ll do variations of that and pick the coolest one.
LP: Right. I think just to add some colour to that… the game takes place in the year 2900 [not entirely accurate… 2945] and one of the things we kick around a lot, more as a form of entertainment to new people who come on – myself included – the year 2900 is just a date that works for the story. It doesn’t have practical implications on how design is going to work in the future. And a good example of that would be… there is some technology that is being worked on today and that technology far outshoots anything we’re planning for Star Citizen 900 years later.
So, the concept that we’ve been working with on the art side, specifically with the Persistent Universe and with some of the concept art, instead of people going… “Well, in 900 years everything is going to be a hologram and you may have a teleporter and your dog is going to be made out of nanobots and they’ll be able to freeform and reform.” Instead of all that stuff, we’re saying… you can take a look at Rome as an example and 2000 years ago Rome was a dominant culture on the planet. They were hundreds of years ahead of almost every other culture and then they had the plaques and wars and they were sacked several times by the Gauls and basically it sent them back into the stone age. So, 900 years is really… what does it mean? You look at Star Wars is at 900 years… you look at Star Trek is at 300 years. So, it’s our timeline and how we choose to tell the story.
And to your point about the ships: I think that the ships take a nod from a lot of the cultural and creative influences that we grew up with. So, you’re always going to see something that inspired us at some point in time slowly work its way into some of our designs because that’s what we grew up with – that’s what we really enjoy. More importantly, it’s also what CR’s tastes are – it’s right in line with the stuff that we grew up with.
I think the aesthetics kind of lends itself to something we’ve seen and re-envisioned, more than something that we’ve never seen because we can’t imagine what stuff is going to look like 900 years from now.
LP: Love it. Love it. Boom!
Now… followup question, and this is my own – When?
EB: That’s a hard one to answer. I know for me, I try to keep my references as real-world as possible. We do have other spaceships that we look at as reference and inspiration as well, but we’re definitely not sitting down and picking other ships from other universes and saying, “We want this ship.” It really comes down to the purpose – what is it that we’re trying to accomplish with the personality of the vessel, what it’s purpose is, and then we build from there. We may use small elements from other sci-fi universes that we’ve seen but we’re definitely not sitting there saying, “We need our version of exactly that ship.” That doesn’t happen.
LP: To add additional information to the conversation. This isn’t a direct response to the question but one of the things the design team is looking at is using frequencies of light. If you’re using a red laser, you’re going to have a longer band and it will have less impact. If you’re using a green laser it will be somewhere in between. If you’re using a blue laser, it will be a shorter frequency and far more damage. Everything in between, all of the various damage styles. The various range styles that come along with that. So, the complexity – it’s being discussed right now to incorporate more real-world style future laser effects.
I think things like neutron weapons, proton weapons, we’re treating more like practical physics instead of traditional sci-fi. The weapon itself will provide – knock a couple of neutrons off of an atom and all of a sudden you’ve got an accumulation of something with extremely heavy mass. So, instead of it being a beam weapon… it is a beam weapon but it’s like you got hit by a bus.
EB: Right now, that’s where it is still at. You go out into space, hop into your little bed, go to sleep and that’s how you can kind of log off in space and it might save your state out there. It’s something that we still have to prototype and test to see if it actually makes it in as a game mechanic.
So… I guess the answer to that question is… Maybe?
LP: What about things that you’re working on right now like the component swap?
EB: Yeah, so components… ultimately what we’ll want to do is build our components… which will include beds and sinks and toilets and bathrooms and things like that – build it so that we can just use them on every ship, or as many ships as possible so we can reuse the assets and that bakes in the ability to potentially customize the interiors. Now, do not take me at my word on that because the smaller ships are all basically custom interiors. You will not be able to swap out an Aurora bed for a Mustang bed for example, it’s not gonna happen… but it might be possible in the future. We’re kind of trying to build our assets to make that a possibility later on.
Now, the other components such as fuel tanks, ammo boxes, powerplants, ballasts – like we have… I don’t even know how many… in the 10s of different types of components which are all completely swappable across all ships of the same class. So, there’s a little bit of that going on and all of those components definitely have heavy gameplay implications. For example, if you have an ammobox on one side of your ship that is now adding mass to one side of your ship. The handling of your ship is going to take a hit as a result of that. The avionics will still compensate in order to make it as unnoticeable as possible but the moment you start using the weapon and the weapon starts drawing ammo from the box, you start losing mass which changes the handling of your ship and every component, depending upon its location on the ship will affect the mass at that location which then changes the rotation speed. It affects the physics in a major way. I’m not the best person to talk about how the physics work but the whole thing is going to be awesome.
EB: That’s an interesting gameplay question. Right now that has to be playtested to see. I am a really big fan of not really giving you an obvious distinguishing element between the two. Because I do want the world to feel: 1) Extremely cohesive; 2) I want there to be weight behind your decisions.
So, if you decide to attack a ship you may not immediately know that its’ either an NPC or a PC.
Now, the cool thing about not giving you obvious identifiers on a ship is that that then requires you to get a scanner. It adds to the gameplay loop. So, if you get a scanner and scan the ship. Then you might now have the information that you need to make that decision. So, I prefer going that route.
Ultimately, it comes down to game design and they’ll make the best decision for the game once it’s playtested. But my vote is: Don’t distinguish.
LP: To add a little extra colour to that as well, I think that the lighting schemes on various style ships will also play a minor part in that. So, when we get down to a lot of the pirate ships, their visible markers at a distance based on the lights and any type of material use will show them as being a potential enemy at a glance.
But, to “Daniel’s” point, that you may not actually get a sense of friend or foe at a glance. Because… you want that interaction. You want that… little more thrill being able to sit back, watch before you engage. And… if you’re engaged or if there is some other marker that comes at you that says… oh okay, they’re firing on me… it’s probably a bad guy. Then it triggers that engagement.
The classic style gaming where it’s like… you go to your nav point and all of a sudden there’s four or five blips of red. It’s a little arcadey and it’s something we’ve been trying to avoid.
LP: I don’t want to say no. We haven’t discussed that on the PU side. It’s not something that potentially wouldn’t happen in the future, but I can’t say that it’s happening now. There haven’t been any discussions.
EB: Well, right now the art team is focusing on building out the inhabited locations. We will have uninhabited locations as well.
Further in the future once the game is released, I know that we will be doing R&D on potentially procedurally generated planets so that we can expand the number of locations. We will still have to create art of that as well, even if it’s procedurally generated. So… the answer is yes. We will be building art for all locations.
LP: Are you sure about that? Is that your final answer?
EB: I don’t know how else we would see art… even if the programming… it’s just not the way our game is built. So, I am pretty convinced that we will have artists building art even for procedurally generated planets.
So, the methodologies that we’re using right now are split between 90/10 and then 10/90 and that means that the majority of the encounters that you’ll have on an auto-generated planet will be auto-generated encounters. Versus the other side… you go to a planet like Terra and the experience is going to be very well crafted. So, it depends on which planet you go to… which system you’re spending your time around and so on.
Something that was also brought up in the question which is really interesting… the breathing apparatus, how is your ship impacted by planets with higher gravity… those conversations have been discussed and they’re in the works. The details are to be determined.
EB: I mean, one easy way that we could… for the examples you mentioned, how ships might be affected by different atmospheres and temperatures and things like that… because of the way we’re building our damage system, we may be able to leverage that in order to apply effects to the ship based on the experience that the ship is getting. Right, so if you go through an especially hot environment and that’s peeling off your paint or whatnot. We have the technology built in to leverage that in order to actually affect your ship in that way, so if you go to a crazy hot planet and then leave… now you may look scorched. The foundation for doing that exists.
LP: So… I’ll take a first stab at that. I think that “Dan” will take the second part of that.
The short answer is going to be yes. The way that we’re approaching the planets right now… through a lot of our sci-fi influences – and we’re talking more desolate planets from Star Wars, Luke’s home planet to Hoth. But we’re also looking at components like Blade Runner. Basically we’re drawing from all of our experiences and a lot of those are going to not just feed back into the persistent universe but we’re going to have to continue to build out the persistent universe – the styles, the structures, the environments. Because you do want to show a cultural influence and how it has impacted planets.
That said, the way that we’ve been approaching a lot of these things is through as much modern reason as we can. Which is, 100 years from now what happens to human space exploration. Well, we colonize the Moon. We colonize Mars. 200 years from now, what does it look like… okay now we’ve jumped out to maybe Ganymede or somewhere else. 200 years after that, we’ve gone out to maybe the edge of the solar system.
What happens with planets like Mars is the next wave of construction. So the traditional cultural influences are really going to be determined by whoever is providing the finances to that location. But, I think more importantly, they will be building on top of the structures that have been put there. If you look at a base on the Moon or a base on Mars say in the next 100 years, you are going to find it’s very modular… very container-style setup. It’s more akin to Cowboy Bebop in a lot of ways or the movie Moon than almost anything else. But then say, 200 years from now you don’t just scrap those structures… you now start building on top of it with something a little more modern.
The art director who is driving that, Mark Skelton, and Corentin at the Montreal studio. – they are spending a lot of time focus on what those rings are and what happens when the humans leave our system and move out to the next system and that first system they move out to is a terraformed planet. Now you’ve got jump capabilities. That planet is now a complete overhaul of something that we’ve seen before, so it might not have any of the flavour that you’re used to… but it may take suggestions from Dubai or a couple of other ultra-modern cities. But a lot of those things are being explored and the art direction that we’ve got from that so far suggests that we’re going to be taking nods from all of those components but it won’t be exact.
A good way of looking at that would be something like Naboo. Naboo had, you know, kind of a renaissance style architecture to it. At the same time it had, you know, a lot modern day Star Wars techie stuff as well. So, it depends on the lens that you’re looking at the environment from but…
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: It’s a little more complicated but it’s going to take nods from a little bit of everything.
EB: We have several locations on Earth, so we will probably draw directly from the cultures at those locations. We have landing zones in Russia, China… I would expect that those are influenced by those cultures.
So… yeah, definitely.
DK: So, right now we actually have our ‘shears’ set up so you can, theoretically, tint stuff with the diffused channel, specular channel, so we can do really big, significant material changes and colour changes, but it’s yet to be implemented in programming, and a lot of the older ships that have yet to be updated with physically accurate textures still need to be brought to that system. But once it’s all brought into place, you should be able to take like, the M50 for example, and make it black, or you have a Constellation, you want it blue, you should be able to do that. it’s still yet to be pushed through design, but I think it’s definitely a possibility.
EB: Would you say it’s a lot like buying a car? The question’s a lot like buying a car, right> This person wants full control of, full RGB control, but as a manufacturer and the artist for the style guide, you’d want to limit the range. Can you talk a little bit about that, plus also the various material types? Gloss vs. Pearl and so on?
DK: So, it’s a little bit complicated with physically accurate textures, and you do want to keep design consistency throughout your game, like, it’ll be a little distracting if someone flew through the Universe with a pink Retaliator that’d be weird, but what we’d probably end up doing is giving you different surfacing types, and different gloss values maybe, different colour values as little swatches you could see. Almost as if you’ve ever looked at car paint. They have orbs that you can see the surface on before you get your car coated, and you know, you probably will see your ship, and we’ll give you a really wide range, so it’s not like we’re limiting you too too much, but you know, I don’t want pink Retaliators in our universe.
DK: Planets are a little bit…I can talk about what I use when I’m doing surfacing on ships and normally what I go to is I have, one of the popular resources for a lot of artists, especially at our company, is Pinterest. We have running galleries of a lot of stuff, and I’ll look at a lot of planes, a lot of tanks, a lot of cars, I just slowly, whenever I see a surface I like, I grab it, I put it in a folder, and I save it for later. So I have a library in my head of, if I was going to build an Aegis ship, I’d be like, so Aegis is kind of militaristic, scary, industrial, panzer. That black, slightly glossy paint, you know, that kind of thing. So it’s not so much a matter of texture reference for photo source, it’s building up a reference, and one of the things I keep catching artists doing is they will constantly look at other computer graphics to draw inspiration from, and the key to creating believable materials is drawing all your reference from real world things.
LP: Exactly. I think, to add to the question, and round out the PU, you also touched on it. We’re building a Universe that’s meant to be accurate. So, if there’s a red giant, or there’s a brown dwarf, or there’s a white dwarf, we’re shooting for something that’s meant to be plausible. I think that from the concept creation side, the concept artists go out there and create the look they want based off of a feeling they’re trying to capture, but then the production artists get their hands on it, and we dial it in towards the real world.
That’s all the questions for today. We want to thank the subscribers for making 10ftA possible, we also want to thank all the backers for making SC possible. I’m Lance Powell, supervising art director for CIG, and…
DK: I’m Daniel Kamentsky, surfacing artist at CIG?
LP: You put a question mark at the end.
DK: There’s a little bit of a question mark there. I’m definitely a surfacing artist.
LP: And you’re definitely at CIG? And you’re definitely here?
DK: I don’t know, I might be on the moon…