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Around the Verse: 3.13 - LA Written Thursday 10th of November 2016 at 08:00pm by CanadianSyrup, StormyWinters and Sunjammer, Desmarius

As is with any information on our transcripts and summaries, everything posted is subject to change by CIG and in some cases may not always be 100% accurate at the time. While we strive for accuracy, mistakes do happen so please let us know if you find something amiss that we didn’t catch. Enjoy the show!

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

Misc. Information

  • A reminder to veteran and new backers that your feedback is crucial to the project and to report it to the forums or bugs to the issue council.
  • Star Marine Update:
    • Design has finished the latest around of adjustments for the Damian map and has been handed to Art for their pass.
    • Design has moved onto Echo 11 for its adjustment pass.
    • Working on improving hit and death reactions to be more satisfying.
    • Animation has been testing combat signaling and emote system to determine whether an override animation or additive solution is best.
  • Arena Commander:
    • Pirate swarm is in testing along with new AI profiles.
    • Audio is now doing their pass which is one of the final steps before it’s ready.
  • Blockers found recently:
    • In Vanduul Swarm, players and AI we’re getting placed on wrong teams.
    • Tech Design had an issue where a mysterous force would push a player away when trying to enter ships with interior grids, further attemps resulted in death.
    • Bug with the Herald cockpit windows turning opaque.
  • Herald and Vanguard are recieving their last round of polish.
  • Reverse the Verse is tomorrow at 11am PST, 7GMT, 8pm rest of Europe

Studio Update

  • Mark Abent is finishing off the Item System 2.0 conversion of existing ships.
    • Also working on room system and action system.
    • These systems allow for destruction of doors resulting in depressurization of rooms.
    • They also allow for interactions – using objects to change the state of other objects.
    • This replaces CryEngine’s flowgraph system that doesn’t work well in multiplayer.
    • This system is a prerequisite to the Persistent Universe missions and Squadron 42.
  • A demo level is demonstrated with the room system and atmosphere containers.
    • Airlocks are currently faked in game – this is a more general system.
    • It is in early stages.
    • Spheres shown indicate composition of atmosphere.
    • Rooms indicate the volume and boundaries of a atmosphere.
    • Rooms are connected by room connectors.
    • Room connectors are used to create pressure equalization.
    • If a door opens to outer space, oxygen levels will start to drop.
    • It allows emergent gameplay – rooms can be specifically exposed to atmosphere to depressurize or be opened to other rooms to pressurize.
    • It’s a very early system, it has just been hooked up to audio and will soon be hooked up to player behaviour and visuals.
  • The new inner thought system gives contextual information for objects and items.
    • Allows the designer to create relationships with small modular pieces that scale to complex behaviours.
    • An example is shown with a door controlled by a laptop and a proximity sensor.
    • Interactions are defined in DataForge through the Sendable; Linkable and Locked by Links attributes.
    • The inner thought system updates in real time when states change.
    • All behaviour is self contained and can be combined in larger pieces to create more complex behaviour.
  • Drake Buccaneer is in the same class as the Hornet, Gladius, Sabre, etc.
    • It’s intended to be super fast and maneuverable but flimsy.
    • Wings will be made smaller and sleeker to emphasis speed.
    • Aim to have main gimballed gun on belly usable all the time – even when landed.
    • In order to achieve this, landing gear will be redesigned to allow full firing arc and to retract fully into body for performance reasons.
    • Cockpit entrance will be on the left side instead of the right to be in line with other ships in this class.
    • Shape of the nose will change to allow for a fold-out ladder.
    • When setting up a ship they use placeholder items until they know what the ship’s custom animation/art/tech design needs are
    • A lot of the temp items are so they can get the ship flyable and start tuning it
    • Buccaneer has 28 total thrusters
    • When working in whitebox they have just basic game play: roll, pitch, yaw, speed up, slow down, etc
    • Not uncommon to make tweaks to the design once it moves into production to meet certain standards to make everything fit properly

Community Update w/ Tyler Witkin

  • One day left to submit an entry to the Esperia Prowler Art Competition with winners announced November 25th
  • Follow our nomination for Global Game Awards’ Most Anticipated Game of 2017 at game-debate.com/awards before it ends November 25th
  • Congratulations to RiceMaiden for his 3-D printed P4SC Rifle winning him this week’s MVP
  • Watch Reverse the Verse tomorrow at twitch.tv/CigCommunity for discussion of today’s show

Character Pipeline: Then and Now

  • The old materials system:
    • updating materials was manual and very labour intensive
    • maintaining consistency across characters was a nightmare
    • materials didn’t work in all lighting conditions and variants had to be created
    • only had 2048×2048 pixel resolution
  • The new materials systems:
    • updating materials means updating just one texture file
    • consistency is assured across all characters
    • it’s flexible against all lighting conditions
    • can now zoom in to see micro details
  • Physical Based Rendering (PBR) is a realistic approach to rendering game surfaces and how they react to light which uses real world measurements and an accurate shading model
  • Character pipeline is all the different phases required to create a character: concept, high poly, low poly, and texturing and materials.
  • Concepting is the first step: it’s fast, provides lots of ideas and allows different forms to be explored
  • 3D concepting can make it really easy to transition into the high poly phase, eg. Nomad’s helmet
  • High poly is the first time you see the character come to life and when the problems, movement and details are figured out
  • ZBrush is used to create the high poly: it’s very easy to get a base topology down and iteratively subdivide it to produce more detail
  • After the sculpting passes are complete they can see how the character as a whole reacts to different lighting
  • To make a low poly character they use Maya and topogun and capture the silhouette within the set limits
    • The mesh is composed of thousands of quads and triangles to give an idea of what the high poly sculpt will look like.
  • The pipeline uses specular physical based lighting.
    • What that means is when the light hits a surface, they define on the surface, through the specular channel exactly what type of surface that is.
  • They have tools that allow them to swap materials instantly and modify the roughness of the material to alter the gloss, and other features.
    • It takes a small amount of time to take a character and transform their outfit into something completely different.
  • Modularity is a big focus to allow players to customize their look however they want and have everything fit together properly, this also includes armour.
  • Creatures are also a focus right now as seen recently with the worm and insects. They intend to populate the many worlds with a variety of creatures and the pipeline enables them to do almost anything they desire.

Full Transcript

Intro With Chris Roberts (CEO, Director of Star Citizen and Squadron 42), Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing). Timestamped Link.

Chris Roberts (CR): Hi, thanks for joining us for this week’s Around the Verse. I’m your Host and Game Director, Chris Roberts and with me is

Sandi Gardiner (SG): Sandi Gardiner, hi Chris.

CR: Hi Sandi.

SG: On today’s episode we’ll dive into the latest Star Citizen developments coming out of our Los Angeles studio and while ATV mainly highlights content that’s coming in future game patches, there’s plenty of gameplay that needs your help testing available right now.

CR: Yes so backers can download the 2.5 Alpha and explore around Crusader in the PU, visit Arc Corp, check out their ships in the hangars, dogfight against Vanduul or fellow players in Arena Commander or try a hand at racing on one of the Murray Cup tracks.

SG: Yeah, lots to do and any bugs you find or feedback you have please let us know on the forums and the issue council. All of your input is such a critical part of the process.

CR: Yes it absolutely is.It’s especially critical as we get more and more new players joining us every week looking at it, getting fresh new eyes so we have new opinions. So newer veterans, Star Citizen would not be possible with out and we’d really like to thank you.

SG: Yes we would, and the support of our generous subscribers as well who help us to provide these behind the scenes shows and tons of other weekly content.

CR: Yeah definitely, a big thank you to everyone.

Alright, so let’s get onto the rest of the show, so let’s go to Eric to learn what’s happening with the L.A. studio.

Studio Update With Eric Kieron Davis (Senior Producer), Elwin Bachiller Jr (Lead Ship Artist), Daniel Kamentsky (Associate 3D Artist), Matt Sherman (Technical Designer), Chad McKinney (Gameplay Engineer), Paul Reindell (Lead Engineer). Timestamped Link.

Eric Kieron Davis (EKD): Hey everyone, I’m Senior Producer Eric Kieron Davis with your studio update. Here in Los Angeles, we not only get the chance to work on elements for the upcoming Persistent Universe releases as well as Squadron 42, we also work on some larger foundational systems that affect both games – let’s start with engineering lead Paul Reindell and team to talk about what they are working on.

Paul Reindell (PR): The major things we’re working on right now, obviously is the Item System 2.0, finishing out, Mark is doing a great job on finishing all the ships to get ported over to the new system.

We currently working also on the room system and the action system which is the whole system where we place different module rooms, put them together and you can define atmosphere, and then something like “destroy or blow off a door, the atmosphere goes out and the player will die” and at the same time we also building the whole interaction linkage system which allows us to place different objects in a level and a designer can just draw a interaction link for something then make a button here, and they make a power plant here and now they can just draw an interaction link, “press this button and a power plant goes on now” which is a huge prerequirement for getting all those dynamic missions working in multiplayer since CryEngine flowgraph system is just not working in multiplayer so we are replacing that all but Chad doing a great job working on that.

And that’s all the prerequirement for our single player campaign but also for the whole PU mission system.

Chad McKinney (CM): Hi, my name is Chad McKinney and I’m a Gameplay Programmer here in the Los Angeles studio, I’m going to be talking about interaction linking and the room system.

So this level demonstrates the room system and atmosphere containers – the room system and atmosphere containers are used to create boundaries for our space stations and ships and places in the game where we want there to be pressurization of different gas levels.

It’s something that we’ve to date faked in the game with the airlocks and you know, if you go into an airlock without a space suit, you’ll die. The system in place that does that isn’t very general and it doesn’t allow for emergent gameplay. What we’re working on now is a system that is a more proper way to handle pressurization and depressurization in the game and it’s still pretty early days for this – as you can see this test level just has some basic boxes and shapes that define their room volumes and we have some test assets in here just to play around with it.

These spheres that are inside these volumes represent the atmospheric composition so here the blue spheres are oxygen and the red spheres indicate that that room has been filled with carbon dioxide.

The room system uses three main types of entities – one is the atmosphere container which is the thing that has the atmosphere composition so for instance, if I come over here and look at this debug output, I can see that the composition in a particular room is 0.8 percent oxygen and 0.12 carbon dioxide so if I walk into space, I have nothing. There is no atmosphere in here.

So the atmosphere container is a very important part, the next is the room, the room indicates the volume and the boundaries for the atmosphere that is connected to it – later on this will also be used to indicate security and power connectivity but for now we’re just working with atmosphere. So that’s atmosphere containers and rooms and the third important type is the room connectors – so here is the yellow box around this door, this yellow box indicates that there is a connection between this room here and outer space.

Now, the room system uses these room connectors to try to create pressure equalization between different areas – well, between the two spaces that the room connector connects. In this instance, the room connector is connecting a room to outer space so if I open this door, the oxygen levels in the room are going to drop. And if I walk into the room, we get some debug output to see that the pressure in the room is dropping rather quickly and the pressure in the adjacent room is also dropping although less quickly because it has to traverse through the room connectors.

Now, having a system like this is really nice because it allows for more emerging gameplay, I could for instance close this door and close this door off and keep the pressure- keep the depressurization localized to a specific space or I could reopen the door and allow for the oxygen levels in the other room to fill up this space so that the people on this side of the space station don’t die.

As you can tell, the room system is still pretty early days, we are- we just now hooked it up to audio and we plan on hooking it up to the player behaviour and visuals soon but for now we’re still developing it and I look forward to having this into Star Citizen which I think is going to allow for some interesting gameplay.

So by now, you guys have started to see the new interaction system start to come into 2.5 as well as the new content that we’ve been putting out for instance in the demos at Gamescom and Citizencon – the new inner thought system gives contextual information for objects and items in the game that you’re interacting with. One useful tool that we use with those interactions are something called interaction links – interaction links allows the designers to create relationships between items so that you can build up more interesting behaviour from smaller and more modular pieces.

As an example, here in this test level, I have set up a door that is connected to a laptop and a power cons- or a power generator and in any given level you can have a door that has certain interactions like open and close but you probably don’t want the player to directly interact with the door – for gameplay reasons you might decide that it’s useful to have the player actually interact with something that’s next to it, in this instance I have this laptop here. Laptop has a interaction for an open and close which is defined in DataForge. In DataForge we can assign certain values, such as ‘Sendable’, ‘Linkable’ and ‘Locked by Links’ and this just means that we can actually link this interaction to something else – Linkable indicates that it can be linked to by a different interaction; Locked by Links means we’re going to share the locking, which is the semantic locking and unlocking interaction.

So here we’ve set up this laptop and in the interaction links panel, we’ve created a link which has its source output open connected to the input door’s interaction of open and the same thing with close.

This means that if I go into the game, instead of going up to the door and enter, instead of that you come up to this terminal and use the open interaction which will open the door. I can also use the close interaction and back and forth and as I use these interactions, you can see that the text, the contextual information given to the player, actually updates in real time and this happens because of the semantic state sharing that is implicit in the interaction links.

Now this doesn’t have to be with just something that we just walked up to and interacted with but anything that supports interaction links – I’ve also set up a proximity sensor here that will open the door and close the door whenever I enter area here. When I walk in, the door opens and if I walk out, the door closes again. What is nice about this is it allows us to have self contained behaviour so in this case, proximity sensor which can then be hooked up to something else to build up a more complex behaviour which is walking into an area with door opening but you hook up the same proximity sensor to anything else – for instance I could hook the same proximity sensor into a trap that maybe opens a door and sucks out somebody into space and they would then die.

So yeah, that’s the basics of interaction linking – you set up interactions in DataForge and then create interaction links in the interaction link panel and then just use them in the game.

So, that’s interaction linking and the room system, still a work in progress, there is a lot of work to be done with this stuff but I look forward to working on it, continuing going forward.

EKD: Interaction linking is some really exciting tech because it will help us allow everything from simple button action behaviour and also more emergent behaviour for networks of interaction links – so up next, here is an update on the Drake Buccaneer being built here in Los Angeles.

Elwin Bachiller (EB): So the Buccaneer is meant to be Drake’s answer to dealing with fighters – so ships like the Hornet, and the Gladius and the Sabre – it’s sort of in that class of ships that’s purpose built just for combat with a bit of a pirate flair to it. So it’s intention is to be super fast, super maneuverable but very flimsy. So it can’t really take that many hits so you can see this reflected in Jim Martin’s concepts – you’ll notice the ship has these gigantic engines that emphasis speed.

Some of the changes that we are going to be making when we move into the actual full production of the ship is the wings – they have a very particular shape that we’re going to make them a little bit smaller, little bit sleeker to emphasis speed even more and we’re also going to be placing maneuvering thrusters all around the main engines in order to give it the movability that it needs to basically outmaneuver a lot of the other heavy hitting ships like the Hornet or the Super Hornet which are essentially flying tanks but this will be a little bit more maneuverable – it just won’t be able to take the hits.

So, with the Buccaneer, you’re going to want to get in, do your damage and avoid taking any damage. From a design standpoint, we also wanted the main gimballed weapon on the belly of the ship to be usable at almost every stage of flight. So this includes having the landing gear deployed and in it’s current stage in the concept, the landing gear is blocking the firing arc of the gun on the bottom, so we’re going to have to redesign the landing gears entirely for a couple of reasons – one, to give the gun the firing arc it requires and two, for performance reasons, we actually are trying really hard to make sure that all the landing gear tucks into the ship so we can call that out in the game so it’s not eating up the resources the entire time in flight.

Some of the other changes that we’ll be making have to do with the cockpit – so you’ll notice in the concept that we’ve got right side entrance into the ship – we’re actually flipping that over to the other side so it’ll be standard with all the other fighters where you enter on the left side and we’re also going to be changing a little bit of the shape of the nose to accommodate a fold-out ladder so that players can actually climb in and out without any problems.

Matt Sherman(MS): To give you guys an idea of what really goes into setting up these ships we’re also going to give you a quick look at what’s going on with the Buccaneer and in it’s very early whitebox stages. So, really just starting the big, you know, production build out on this ship… artists are wrapping up the Caterpillar, I’m being able to move onto this now. I’ve been wrapping up work on the Herald and so now working onto the Buccaneer set up so a lot of this is still going to be temp or placeholder stuff as we’re piecing this ship together because, you know, we have to find out what are it’s custom animation needs or custom art needs or custom tech design needs before all these pieces can come together.

So what you’ll be seeing today has a few oddities, the pilot it’s not using the actual animation template that the final ship will be using. You’ll be seeing some fun oddities with the Herald animation, warping somebody through glass…some of the maneuvering thrusters and main thrusters are going to look a little bit awkward on the ship but those are really so we can take something that we have that works and in this case the main engines on the Herald. We can just change some of the data bolt those onto the ship, get something put together and get something flyable really quick and start tuning and find out, ok is this delivering on the goal set we want? Is this delivering on the gameplay we want to have.

Here we have the current whitebox on the Drake Buccaneer so just to a few of the quick highlights, we’ve got it size one and size three wing mounts. We haven’t built out the missile launchers yet, that’s going to be a little bit further into the greybox phase. Some wonderfully oversized temp engines on this thing at the moment, you can see that really big back here. A lot of this is just to get the ship up flying as fast as possible. If you notice any of these little dots littered around the ship, these are its maneuvering thrusters, 24 total maneuvering and then main and retro for 28 total thrusters on the ship.

So, let’s just go ahead and climb in. The onboard animation for it right now is a bit off, you’ll also sort of see the control panels are a bit broken but…so some of the other fun oddities of whitebox, the ladders won’t retract just yet, giant mains so you can see the fire shoot out the front of the ship. Then just basic gameplay is what we get in the whitebox so all the controls, you can roll, you can pitch, speed up, slow down, anything basic. Then we just started getting the tuning set up from here.

So the whitebox is really just the basic functionality check so we make sure it can start, it can stop, all its axial control… so roll, pitch, yaw and then from here we can really start getting the actual game play balance. Make sure that, you know, the thruster counts are just right, that the load balance on it is just right.

Daniel Kamentsky(DK): So one of the challenges if you’re using a pre-existing animation template is if you have to alter the flight controls to match the animation template. So the Buccaneer we’re going to be using a centre joystick and a left throttle. So in this scene we have the rough concept model we got from the concept artist and what I did is I kitbashed in some existing Drake assets along with some other guiding rails, so I can line up the animation. So you can see he’s getting in, it’s still really rough and there’s clipping and all the parts aren’t animated yet but we’re really just trying to get an idea whether or not this animation is going to work with the ship.

EB: So the concept itself we’re working really hard to make sure that we keep the spirit of the ship and it’s current iteration concepted out so it’s actually really common that we make tweaks for our designs when we move into production and the reason why that happens is because the concept artist is focusing on communicating a specific feel to the player. So if it’s meant to be a quick maneuverable ship, we want it to look quick and maneuverable. If it’s meant to be a big cargo ship, you want it to look big and clunky like it can’t move.

What happens when we move into production we end up having to implement some standards for gameplay reasons, so this means, you know, floors have to be a specific height, ladders have to be a specific height in terms of the rungs, the seats have to be a very specific way to accommodate for our characters. That means we have to make tweaks to the concept to basically nudge it in the right direction to get it to fit properly. The changes that we make usually aren’t, you know, big sweeping changes where we completely redesign the ship, it’s just to make sure that it works properly with our game systems.

So when this whole process is done you’ll be able to get your hands on an awesome ship, the Buccaneer which is really meant to be the pirate’s answer to the military ships. So we’re talking about going against the Avengers, the Hornets, this is Drake’s answer to that problem. You know, the pesky law getting in your way.

EKD: I know I’m really looking forward to adding the Drake fighter to my line up. Other portions of the studio are digging deeper into 2.6 bugs. The art and tech design teams are delving into several different ships as well as concepts, characters and animations that I can’t really spoil yet but all you will be seeing in the not too distant future. In other news in LA we’re gearing up for the next week’s livestream and we’ll have some more information out to you soon. Well, that wraps us up this week, thanks for watching and we’ll see you again next time.

Back to Studio With Chris Roberts (CEO, Director of Star Citizen and Squadron 42), Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing). Timestamped Link.

SG: Awesome update with item 2.0 being fleshed out with the room system and interaction linking, it really gives us a sense of how the designers will be able to create interesting gameplay and missions.

CR: Yeah absolutely, so it’s opening up a ton of possibilities. Players will be able to approach a scenario in multiple ways, they can charge in guns blazing, turn off the power to fight passed security, maybe they want to forget all that or force open the lock… the airlock and vent everyone inside. So I really thinking the emerging game play that we’re working on will be a hallmark of Star Citizen. That’s exciting to see it all sort of come together to create such a complex system.

SG: It is and it seems like scanning will also be a pretty big deal with players gathering info on making tough decisions.

CR: Yeah right, while making rushed decisions with imperfect info which can be a lot of fun too. So imagine having a ship flying towards a ship and not knowing if they’re friend or foe or maybe your scanner points out that a ship in the area has an uncomfortable amount of guns so you decide to play it safe and stay clear. Going to have a lot of nice complexity.

SG: Speaking of, let’s go to CIG’s very own scan operator, Tyler Witkin who’s been searching the web for the latest and greatest from our amazing community.

Community Update With Tyler Witkin (Community Manager). Timestamped Link.

Tyler Witkin (TW): Hey everyone. Tyler Witkin, Community Manager in the Austin, Texas studios, here to bring you this week’s Community Update. Just as a reminder there’s only one day left to enter the Esperia Prowler Art Competition, so if you wanted to get your submission in I would do it now. We’re going to be announcing the winners to that competition November 18th at our anniversary live stream.

In other news we’ve been nominated for Most Anticipated Game of 2017 in this year’s Global Game Awards. If you want to follow all the progress on that you can head over to game-debate.com/awards , and the voting ends November 25th.

And now it’s time for this week’s MVP. A huge congratulations to RiceMaiden for his detailed efforts in creating a full sized 3-D printed P4SC Rifle straight out of the Star Citizen Universe. Awesome stuff, and we’re really excited to see what you print next.

Lastly the week would not be complete without Reverse the Verse, so make sure you tune in live tomorrow at twitch.tv/CigCommunity where we’re going to talk about everything that you saw on today’s episode. Thanks again for all of your support, and we’ll see you in the ‘verse.

Back to Studio With Chris Roberts (CEO, Director of Star Citizen and Squadron 42), Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing). Timestamped Link.

Chris Roberts (CR): Every week it’s great to see what the community’s been up to, so four years in and they keep on surprising us. So, it’s one of my favorite segments of our show every week.

Sandi Gardiner (SG): Yes they do, and up next our character art team walks us through all the pipeline refinements and improvements they’ve been working on to make sure that we can not only produce some of the most amazing characters around, but that the system is flexible enough to populate whole solar systems.

Behind the Scenes With Josh Herman (Character Art Director), Jeremiah Lee (Freelance Concept Artist), Forrest Stephan (CG Supervisor), Omar Aweidah (Character Artist), Corey Johnson (Lead Character Artist). Timestamped Link.

Forrest Stephan (FS): Hey I’m Forrest.

Josh Herman (JH): And I’m Josh.

FS: And we’re going to take you through the Character Production Pipeline From Then …

JH: … Until Now.

So speaking of now we have a big character material library of steels and leathers and fabrics and all that kind of stuff.

FS: Yep.

JH: And it’s really easy to swap stuff between characters.

FS: Exactly.

JH: What was it like before on the old system?

FS: So the old system was a manual process. It was very labour intensive. You had to go into Photoshop, you had to go through each of your layers, manually mask out where each material goes. But you have to do that for every single character.

JH: Right.

FS: So if you have a hundred characters that are using a specific leather for example, you have to update one hundred character Photoshop files. Imagine updating one hundred character Photoshop files as opposed to now, where you only have to update one.

JH: So that’s a lot of work to do a hundred, obviously, a hundred Photoshop files for a hundred characters. So now, since we’re able to swap all these different pieces, and it sounds as if we are using one leather example for everybody, we spend a lot more time on that one leather because it’s going to be seen everywhere.

FS: Imagine dedicating resources just to do a leather for one hundred different characters. Imagine trying to keep it consistent across the board. It’s going to be very difficult. And from an Art Director’s standpoint it’s a nightmare to deal with right? Because you’re all about consistency right?

JH: Yeah. And maybe in different lighting scenarios they were totally different. When in a dark … in the old system a dark environment it would look bad but look great or vice versa. But now with this method, it’s much more consistent.

FS: Yeah, it is consistent. The old method didn’t really work with all lighting conditions either. So a lot of times if you had an extreme lighting condition you would not only have to go to your Photoshop file in order to make sure everything was correct, you would have to do a variant of that texture to ensure that it worked in that different lighting condition. And now you are getting exponentially more. With the new method that we’re currently using it’s flexible against all lighting conditions, across all characters.

JH: Which is great.

FS: Fantastic.

JH: And one of the things I really like about the new method is that when we zoom in the fidelity of the textures is way higher than the older one. You can zoom into the fabric detail to the stitch detail and it’s way, way higher.

FS: Exactly. It allows us to do micro detail now. So the previous method we were restricted to our resolution. You had a d 2048×2048 pixel resolution but your character is a hundred thousand polys there’s not much space to put that information.

JH: Yeah and if you zoomed in on something it would get pixelly and crunchy.

FS: Starts getting blurry and all that stuff.  

JH: Yeah.

FS: So we keep the old, traditional methods which allows you to still have that unwrap and that’s where we bake all our normal information and all that stuff which handles the way the light reacts and shadows on the character without needing to have the geometry there.

JH: The details from that are all picked up the micro details.

FS: The micro detail. Yeah. So we have these middle … little normal maps that when you get up close you can see them. So …

JH: Like all the threads and the little stuff.

FS: All the threads. So we’ve got a great macro system and then a micro system so that no matter what your distance from the character is, you’re never getting that break down of resolution.

JH: Right. Which is great because now we can get up … and get those really nice zoomed closed shots, and we can get those far shots, and they’re going to look equally good in every possible lighting.

FS: Because you don’t want to break the immersion. You want it to look real. If I get like this …

JH: Yeah, yeah. Right. It looks good.

FS: Did that make you uncomfortable?

JH: No we’re good.

FS: [to camera] Did that make you uncomfortable?

JH: So now that we have a really good “then and now” of our character pipeline, what is PBR?

FS: PBR stands for Physical Based Rendering. Physical based rendering is the realistic approach to rendering game surfaces based on real world measurements. A non-PBR model means you have no real world reference on how the materials will actually react in the real world. A physical based rendering system on the other hand has a very accurate shading model, to ensure that when the specular and the light hits a surface it will react accordingly to how that surface would actually react in the real world.

The Nomad character for example had both metal and fabric. In regards to PBR that’s two different ends of the spectrum. One is reflective and one is matt, which means that we had to ensure that all of our specular settings were correct so when the daylight hits the model every surface reacts accordingly.

JH: So the character pipeline is all the different types of phases that we are going to go through to create a character. It typically starts in concept phase, then it moves to a high poly phase, followed by a low poly phase, and then texturing and materials.

Jeremiah Lee (JL): 2D concepting is the very first step of character development where a concept artist will provide ideation sketches provided by the design brief. 2D concepting is very important in our pipeline because it’s fast, it produces a quantity of ideas, it’s loose – we can explore a lot of different kinds of forms compared to working strictly in 3D.

JH: the reason we chose 3D concepting for the helmet with the Nomad is because it’s very quick. Because it’s already in 3D it’s really easy to transition to the high poly phase. And for the Nomad it was a very tight timeframe. Because we ended up choosing the 3D concept we were actually very, very close to the end result and got to the high poly phase much quicker.

Omar Aweidah (OA): High poly is usually the first step in 3D visualisation of a character. And it’s the first time – as you start to assemble it together – you can start to see it come to life. And that’s when we start to figure out a lot of the problems and a lot of the movements and most of the details that go into the character. And we flesh that out as far as we can to get the character as realistic and to the quality level that we want. And from that point on it goes into the low poly modelling and retopo phase.

So for the high poly phase  of the Sand Nomad we used software called ZBrush. And ZBrush is like an amazing tool that allows you to go through different levels of detail. So for example I worked on some of the arm for the Nomad character and it’s really easy to sculpt because I can get a base topology down and get the shape and the silhouette of the character. And then we’re able to subdivide the polygons and continually go up in detail which allows us to do a few different types of things and get to more of a clay-like substance. And as you can see the character gets more and more detailed as we go up in subdivision.

So this would essentially be like a base mesh that we would start working with and we’d get some of the rough shapes and start filling out where all the assets go on the character, and what essentially it’s going to look like. Get a few different reads of the character. And then we could subdivide him up.

And once he’s subdivided and we’ve done all the passes – the sculpting passes – on the character, we start to see our first real iteration of what the character could look like. And in this situation we can move around different lighting: see how it reacts with some of the shapes. Not really trying to capture any materials or anything like this. At this stage we’re essentially just looking at character as a whole, from a first read, to a second read, to a third read. Getting all the levels of detail in from some of the bolds, to the belt, to the way the fabric folds work. Kind of how the character might actually look when he’s brought into game.

And ZBrush is a critical component of our pipeline and that allows us to subdivide the model into … and get really, really high resolution so we can see the character at it’s most detailed phase.

Corey Johnson (CJ): The process for the low poly for the Character team is pretty straight forward. We use Maya and Topogun in terms of software and our goal is to capture the silhouette as much as possible while keeping within the limits that are required for the game.

The process for doing low poly in the character team. We use Topogun or Maya to create it, our focus is on capturing the silhouette and making sure that the geometry isn’t too high and that it won’t kill the framerate in the game.

A low poly mesh is a simple mesh is built up of quads and triangles to give us an approximation of what our high poly sculpt is. So it’ll end up being little squares that build up the entire character.

FS: Our character pipeline uses a specular physical based lighting model. So what that means is when the light hits a surface, we define on the surface, through the specular channel exactly what type of surface that is.

So here we are in a test map where we’re doing some lookdev on some materials for the Nomad. Let’s show you some physical based rendering stuff.

Right here we have a gold polished material.

Right here we have a very basic generic metal

And then right here we have a just very rough microsurface pattern so it doesn’t have much reflection.

So if I come over here in my gold and I’m gonna go ahead and go to my glossiness which is essentially a roughness value and when I drag it down, you can see that we start loosing the perfect reflection until it comes all the way matte. That is because we’re essentially making the surface to simulate more roughness. The more roughness you have, the more the specular is going to distribute across a surface which is essentially a simulation for heat distribution. So over on our character we have this really slick way of actually swapping out all the materials and doing all this really awesome kind of thing.

So let me go ahead and get up in here and, get up in here, that sounds weird… So let me go ahead and select the best armour right here and we’re going to try and play with these materials a little bit here and show you the system we’re working with.

So over here we have our diffuse tent, diffuse wear, some gloss overrides. We have our blend maps right in here, that way we can mask out the different areas that we want to materials to come through. Then we have our wear, dirt, and ambient occlusion and our unique normal maps.

So under here you  have our colours so I want to tint the different objects. So let me go ahead and just kind of make this armour piece white. What’s cool about this system too is I can come over here to my armour piece and can just quickly swap out exactly what materials being referenced.

To make something like this gunmetal, I start over in  substance and create a series of unique materials and then I start compositing them to basically create a type of composite metal. So multiple multiple different metals,start combining them and we get this really cool looking composite which is a little more interesting than a pure precious metal because it has some diffuse colour and detail in there.

Then we export our maps and we bring it in the engine.

So let’s come over here and let’s say we wanted metal pants. Why wouldn’t you want metal pants? I think I’m going to go with a bronze. Look at that, isn’t that fabulous? In fact that is just so wonderful that I want to make his undershirt the same.

Let’s go ahead and make that undersuit bronze, whoa, look at that…

Up here we have a cloth attachment that kind of moves around when you rotate the character and not only does it move around, but it has a cloth shader applied to it. So you can see we get this really nice fernell highlight on here. So let me jump over to it, and if I shift the colour you can really start seeing that cloth shader in action. Let me go to red and you can see those highlights, and that other colour is a secondary reflection so let me kind of match it a little closer. Really nice red.

So I’m going to go and take that red and we have a couple settings here, we have a diffuse falloff so I can strengthen it or lighten it. So we have these super cool colours going on, we got this bronze undersuit with this super cool black and white armour piece, so we’re just really quickly swapping out everything on these characters.

Do some colour adjustment, make it look like it matches the uniform more. Make it kind of dark. Jump over to the cloak, do the same. Awesome, and there’s a very quickly modified character.

JH: So as you can tell, we’ve got a whole character pipeline that’s really coming along well. One of the big things that we’re trying to focus on right now is modularity. What that means is creating and combining all of our different assets so that they can work with each other. When you’re buying clothes, that all the different pant options fit with all the shirt options. When you’re buying hats, when you’re buying jackets that they fit on all the shirts. Which doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it’s actually really important. The reason it’s really important is so that we can provide players the optimal experience for variety and what they can buy, not just in clothes, but also armour. So we’re doing this with armour as well so you can wear different types of armour on different types of suits that can mix and match and you can create the best combination for what your playstyle is.

The other thing that we’re really focusing on now which you’ve had a little bit of a sneak peek about is creatures.

So in the future we’re going to be doing all these awesome characters and creatures. Worms as you’ve seen, insects, alien lifeforms that are going to fill out these awesome worlds. With the strong character pipeline in place, any of this is possible.

Outro With Chris Roberts (CEO, Director of Star Citizen and Squadron 42), Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing). Timestamped Link.

SG: That was great. Really interesting to see how they blend 2D and 3D concepting to create a character.

CR: Yeah well PBR rendering really is a cool piece of tech. It’s taken a lot of effort to bring our character pipeline to where it currently is, but seeing the Sand Nomad’s come to life in the Homestead demo just shows that all that hard work is really paying off.

SG: And there you have it, that’s about it for today’s show, but before we go do you want to share an update on what’s happening with 2.6?

CR: Sure.

SG: Yes you do.

CR: Alright so for Star Marine, design’s finished for the latest round of adjustments on the Damian map which is our smaller space station combat map, and it’s been handed back to Art for their pass while Design moves onto Echo 11 which is this sort of bigger map that’s based on an asteroid base.

We’ve been working on improving our hit and death reactions to make them feel more satisfying. Animations also been doing some further testing on combat signaling and the emote system to see if an override animation solution or an additive solution will produce better results.

Lets see… the new Arena Commander mode Pirate Swarm is in testing along with new AI profiles that are currently being balanced. The fix for the new pickups are in now so audio can begin their pass, just as a note, audio is usually one of the last things to touch things because you don’t want to have everything change and they have change the sounds afterwards.

Lets see, a couple of interesting blockers popped up as well. In Vanduul swarm, players and AI we’re getting placed on the wrong team, seems Warlord and Vixen weren’t quite as trustworthy as they seem.

Tech Design had a strange bug where a mysterious force pushed players away when they had to enter ships with interior grids and if you try it again it would kill you so that’s not very good.

We also had a bug with the Herald where the Cockpit windows turned opaque so you couldn’t see out of them and therefore pretty hard to fly.

So speaking of the Herald, both the Herald and Vanguard Hoplite are receiving the last round of polish for their upcoming release in the 2.6 Alpha.

SG: There you have it everyone and to get more insight on everything Star CItizen, make sure to tune in tomorrow at 11am PST, 7PM GMT and 8PM In most of Europe for Reverse the Verse. The team here in L.A. will be answering questions on what we just showed.

CR: Yup and also wanted to let everyone know that ATV will be on hiatus next week as everyone gears up for our anniversary livestream which is on Friday, November 18th. We’ll have more details about what to expect on the website so be sure to check it out.

SG: And until then, we will see you.

SG/CR: Around the Verse!

CanadianSyrup

Director of Transcripts

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Desmarius

Transcriber

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