Hello fellow Citizens! Here is Episode 55 of 10 for the Chairman, including images and the full transcript!
This week saw an amazing answer by Chris Roberts about 64 bit and how the Zoning System will address instancing issues that many Backers (admittedly including myself) have been a little worried about lately. So read through it – it’s a bit long, but that’s because Chris did an amazing job going overboard in-depth about exactly what systems are being work on, how they function, and what effect(s) they’ll have in-game! It’s really cool!
Question: “Will player organizations be able to recruit NPCs into their ranks? If not, what other mechanics might be put in place to allow organizations without 24-hour activity to protect organization-focused content like captureable space stations and capital ships?”
Answer: “The concept we have with NPCs is that you can absolutely hire them to do jobs for you. So while organizations won’t recruit NPCs, you can hire NPCs. So can individual players. These NPCs can fulfill roles like on a spaceship or standing guard over an asteroid base, and the like.
There will be a fair amount of NPCs – CIG is looking at SQ42 and the Idris (which doesn’t even feel like a frigate anymore – it’s massive), and it has 71 NPCs in the “Interstitial” – which is when you’re on board the ship and running around in between combat. During those times, you can talk to people and form relationships – there’s still a lot to do. Thus, there are 71 NPCs in the ship to really fill it out.
There will always be a balance of NPCs and players, so if you have a bigger ship with like eight of your friends, and you’re all on the Idris, then you’d have NPCs that you’d hire for security and other roles.”
Question: “Will we see Vanduul/Pirate NPC use different types loadouts such as stealth, bomber, etc….?”
Answer: “Yes, absolutely. Vanduul, Pirates, general people who use different equipment and loadouts – some people would have a stealth or recon setup, some would have a brawler setup, some would have a nimble and fast setup, etc. We have light fighters, bombers, medium fighters – there’s a whole selection not any different than how it was in Wing Commander.
There will be plenty of variety and it will be pretty cool – you guys are really gonna like Squadron 42. It’s really an AAA title – it’s pretty good, and we’re really ramping up for that. In April, we’re gonna be doing a performance capture, and before that, a motion capture – we’re actively in production for that, and it’s gonna be really cool.”
Question: “Can I fly from a space station in Earth orbit to a space station in Lunar orbit without engaging my quantum drive? Or will traveling between such points require the use of the quantum drive?”
Answer: “That is a good question. So the way we’re setting up the solar systems is one of the big reasons we went to large world. It’s gonna be one continuous space – there won’t be separate maps for each area. So there won’t be, like, an orbit around Earth and an orbit around the Moon. But they will be very far apart from each other because, obviously, scale is pretty big. So while we won’t be realistic size for a solar system, it will be relatively compared to what you’re used to in a game, but massive.
So if you went to fly at our normal speed, it would take days to get to another point of interest. I have no doubt that there will be diehards who do that, like the one person who went across the Minecraft map for forever. But generally, you’ll wanna do quantum drive to get there to avoid taking up all that extra time. But yes, the system would be able to handle you just flying and flying and flying if you wanted to.”
Question: “What happens if my communication systems and engines got blown up, but the attacker decides to just leave me helpless out in space? Will I be doomed for all eternity to wait for another player to come around and rescue me? Or will there be a mechanic that makes an NPC “visit” me after like 30 minutes of inactivity?”
Answer: “Especially out in the Persistent Universe, we don’t wanna see players floating out forever and getting stranded. So we’ll probably put some mechanics in place so you get auto-rescued after a certain amount of time. We don’t have a time-frame established right this moment, but that’s our line of thought at this time.
Because it goes beyond engines – what if you eject and are floating out in space? So the idea is that there is some kind of beacon built into your flight suit and then there will be people out there who earn money by rescuing people. So you could be a mission for a player or even an NPC to come rescue you, and then you’re back in the game.”
Question: “The Mustang recently saw performance changes in AC 1.0.2. How are these changes achieved in an engine that physically models ship movement? Do these changes affect maneuverability across other ships?”
Answer: “So specifically in the Mustang, while I’m not 100% about what we did in 1.0.2 – though I know for 1.1 we’ve been doing a re-factor on IFCS and flight control modeling and background mathematical models we’re using – to give a more predictable consistent outcome to the actual physical simulations. So hopefully in 1.1, there will be more stability of some of the flight issues Backers have seen. So it’s aiming for 1.1, possibly for 1.1.1. It’s still a work in progress.
But generally, before that, if we’re doing changes we’re mostly doing things like adjusting thrust on various thrusters, adjusting mass to balance it, etc. We don’t have any hard-line rules, like, “Okay, this ships rolls at this rate,” – because everything is physically simulated. So we have to do things like move the position of a thruster, change the thruster mass, the amount of thrust put out, the mass of the ship, etc.
We’ve had some Mustang issues, like a bucking issue (which is kinda appropriate for a Mustang since it, you know, bucks…). So you’ll see these issues addressed in 1.1, or even 1.1.1. As well as the ability to toggle ESP off and on like you do with COMSTAB and G-SAFE. Generally, localized changes on ships don’t affect other ships, because we’re just changing the stats on the ship.
But the work John’s doing is gonna make the system a lot more stable inherently – and that will affect all the ships so they fly and feel a little better. Because as things are changed along the way, sometimes flight can deteriorate a bit because everything is physically modeled, so we have to go back and re-balance things to fix it up – just like in the real world!”
Question: “Is there any plan to allow use to replay Squadron 42 missions in our sim pod?”
Answer: “That’s a good question. I think we had the idea that you could replay the missions once you’ve beaten and unlocked them. Dunno whether that would be from the sim pod, but that’s actually a really good idea. So that’s a pretty simple answer for that one!”
Question: “What kind of handheld weapons do you envision besides guns? Can we expect to see swords and hammers?”
Answer: “Good question. We’re definitely gonna have a crossbow (thanks to Shroud of the Avatar). We’re definitely gonna have melee, so in the very early stage of the FPS, it’s just straight-up brawling, but in the long term plan for melee, you’ll have some basic punch/duck moves. But then you’ll be able to different places around the universe (like a Tevarian dojo) and learn some Tevarian martial arts, so then you’ll have extra moves to use.
From there, when you engage in hand to hand combat, the more moves you use, the more options you have against someone and the more defense you have. And if they haven’t had the same level of training, they’ll have fewer options to use against you. So it’ll be cool – if you spend a bit of time, you can pick up some combat moves around the universe. So we’ll definitely be having that on the melee basis.
For weapon options, we definitely have knives, not really sure about swords or hammers. So in the short term, probably not, but in the longer term, why not? It’s not all that different than a knife or some of the melee stuff I’m talking about. Although it probably won’t get to the point where two sword wielders can fence, who knows – in the long, long, long term future… :)
But generally, I would say you could expect the melee stuff you’d see in a modern world setting. So things like knives, different ways of fighting with your hands, and then guns and crossbows and stuff like that.”
Question: “How are resources going to be handled in the PU? Once a field has been mined will we have to wait for it to respawn or will new asteroid fields created elsewhere in the same system?”
Answer: “Our plan is that most of the elements around the universe are persistent. So there will definitely be massive tracts of minerals in an asteroid field, but once it’s mined out, you’d have to move onto a new area. Most systems will have lots of opportunities for mineral mining, like asteroid fields, and many such fields won’t even be marked on maps.
So there will be a whole Explorer/Prospector Career path where you’re going around flying around in empty space looking for asteroid fields, and then scanning them to see if they’ve got minerals, and then maybe laying a claim to a certain area to file that in the UEE at the ‘Office of Mineral Rights’ (or whatever we’re calling it in the UE Empire).
Right now, as Tony and I talk about it, we’re gonna have it so that the fields don’t regenerate, but longer term, we may do it because we don’t wanna drive everyone out of the center systems once it’s mined out. But we’re planning to have quite a lot of resources everywhere that’ll be quite hard for the players to exhaust right away or anytime soon. So there you go. Mostly, you’d find new asteroid fields created elsewhere in the same system.”
Question: “Will scans reveal which pilots are real and which ones are NPCs?”
Answer: “That’s a good question. I’ve said in the past before that I’d be cool for you not to know who is an NPC and who is a player character from a distance. I definitely think you’ll know once you get close and scan. This is because the whole idea of getting an identifier number (like a handle) is to identify who that player is. And so if you get one and it’s a real player, then it’s a real player, and if you get one that isn’t a player, then it’ll be an NPC. So I think scanners will reveal which are real and which are NPCs, but that’d be a more in-depth scan – from a distance, you might not know.”
Question: “How is the 64-bit transition progressing? Is it a required change before we see the multi-crew ships in 2.0?”
Answer: “It’s going quite well. In fact, when everyone gets 1.1, they’ll be playing in the engine that is mostly in 64 bit. While players won’t really appreciate because it’ll still be old maps, and the final element that has not been moved across is the rendering side of stuff (which has to go to camera relative).
So the rendering and the 3d pipeline is still gonna be in 32 bit, mainly because the GPUs all run 32 bit, and there’s no real point to running 32 bit with rendering, because when you’re figuring what’s around you that you can see, that’s perfectly fine with the 32 bit range. What’s not fine is with a huge solar system that you’re gonna travel millions of miles across.
So we’ve essentially moved everything aside from the sound module in CryEngine and the rendering pipeline to 64 bit. Now, it will actually be in 1.1, so it’s part of our regressive testing.
So we’re in the middle now of doing the camera relative change, which is where you take the camera and its positions in 64 bit and any of the elements you’re rendering in their global 64 bit positions, and then you figure out the relative distance between them, and that turns into a 32 bit number and that goes through the rendering pipeline.
So that’s where we are in the process, and we’re almost done with it – so when you guys play 1.1, you’ll have most of the code running in 64 bit, for all the positions and matrices and such. But it’ll just be dealing with areas and ranges inside our current map range, which are designed to work well with the positions of 32 bit, even though you’ll be playing in 64 bit.
It is a required change for multicrew ships, mainly because we have large world plus the local grid physics stuff that demoed a little bit when we did Gamescom last year.
And we have the Zone System that we’re working on, which allows us to do a much better job of efficiently organizing and including and updating entities, objects, render elements, and such in a sparse area structure.
Typically, in most FPSes, they use something like an octree, which works really well for something like an FPS level, where there is a pretty constant density of objects which are all pretty high density. Because in an FPS level, you’re running around but not actually moving that fast, so there are objects everywhere – objects every single meter, so there are thousands or tens of thousands of objects.
But in Star Citizen, we have objects of high density, like a spaceship, which can have a lot of moving parts and people on board it, but then have a whole area of space with nothing in it (since space is mostly empty). And then you can get into a spaceship battle where ships are firing laser bolts at each other, and so that battle area will be really dense.
So an octree is really inefficient for that difference between a very sparse amount of data and a very dense amount of data. So we’ve been working on the Zone System, which is being led out of our German office, which is being staffed by a lot of engineers who built CryEngine. So we’ll have more to announce down the road, but we’ve got some legendary people – some of the best you can hire – working on this.
So one of the things we’re working on is finishing not only the large world, but the Zone System, which is what will allow us to be a lot more efficient about updating stuff. So it’ll make our rendering more efficient, it will allow us to occlude – ‘okay, here’s a big spaceship, I’m outside it, so I don’t need to render the interior zone, I don’t need to update the interior zone.’
So in terms of dealing with bigger space combats with big ships, like an Idris or a Bengal, and then smaller ships like fighters, and then people running around inside the ship and outside, the Zone System is really good at breaking those down into different areas of data density.
So that’s what we’re working on – again, with the Zone System, so in terms of flying between areas, you can have Earth and an orbit around Earth, and an orbit around the Moon. And then between them, there’s nothing. And as you enter a zone, the System might say, ‘Okay, let’s stream in the moon, and lets stream in the space station that’s around the moon, and let’s stream in the asteroids that are hanging out here, and lets stream in the spaceships that are hanging out here.’ And also, the space station around the moon could be another Zone inside. And so you’d stream that in, and it comes attached with more Zones inside. So it’s really good for updating and rendering and occlusion, and all that stuff.
So the Zone System and 64 bit and local grid are all things we really need to have the large ships work efficiently in a place where people can come and go and we can have lots of stuff happen. Because there’s a lot of people who are wondering, ‘How are you gonna manage to have these big spaceship battles.’ And it just requires a different approach on how we’re going to update and render and even communicate on the network.
Because the Zone System also would be used for figuring out how what level of network updates we’d use, what level of updates we’d use, what you see and don’t see. So all these things together, that’s all gonna be in multicrew ship combat, and that’s the foundational stuff for big space flying around over huge distances, going from planet to planet, and other stuff like that.
So that’s all in progress, and I think it’s gonna be pretty good. We’re seeing some really great performance gains in the Zone System way compared to the traditional octree system way. So there you go – probably more of a technical dump than you guys were expecting, but that’s it!”