Another week, another Around the ‘Verse, this week, Episode 2.12!
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BL: Welcome back to Around the ‘Verse, I’m Ben Lesnick. This week, on the AtV Interview, Jared sits down with David Swofford to talk about his history with Chris Roberts, and we hear about lighting artist Emry Switzer about the Nyx landing zone. But first, I’m home alone again. aah. Seriously though, where is everyone? Jared? Jared? That’s about all that’s going on right now. Now, lets check in with David Swofford, our director of public relations here at Cloud Imperium Games.
The ATV Interview
DiscoLando: Thanks guys and now for this week’s AtV interview we’re sitting down with our PR Director David Swofford, David how are you doing?
David Swofford: Happy to be here, i’m doing great.
DL: Now you’ve been with Star Citizen since the beginning really right?
DS: Pretty much
DL: Tell us what a PR Director does for Star Citizen
DS: Well my job is to stay in touch with all the media outlets and most of the ones we use that we, like the PC Gamers and the Kotaku’s and the Polygon’s and make sure I don’t leave anybody out. Gamespot all those, IGN. I have pretty much regular communication with those people on a regular basis. I’m always looking for stories, ideas, that we can pitch to those outlets. They’re calling me a lot of times wanting to get an interview with Chris or you, or someone else in the company. So it’s just managing that, facilitating that and making sure that they’re getting what they need from us in order to do their job.
DL: Not just interviews but game assets, you were, as I walked past your office earlier today you were trying to wrangle up a cover for what was it? Gamestar?
DS: Yes, we’ve got a Gamestar cover out this month. Gamestar’s in Germany so it’s not just the USA either, it’s handling a lot of our international media also. UK, Germany, France, all over the world.
DL: So basically just wrangling up all our press?
DL: In the shortest basic sense I guess.
DS: Yes, and it’s changed a lot too from when I first started, it was all about magazines, physical magazines and we still have a few of those there, but they are few and far between
D: I’m sorry. Magazine. What is a magazine?
DS: What is a magazine exactly? You know those gaming magazines? Course you know that were on the shelves and there used to be entire shelves devoted to gaming magazines and now there’s maybe one, two or three on the shelf. Now it’s all, like everything else it’s all online. Same with anything with the media now, everything’s online and it’s all about video and it’s all about pictures, so it’s changed, you got to change with the times and that’s the way it’s gone
DL: And this is a project of a lot of change. We’re doing a lot of things different so I imagine it’s interesting feat for the press to keep up with all the things we’re doing differently.
DS: Yeah we do more communication externally than any other company i’ve worked for, any other product. A lot of what you guys do on the community side helps me a lot because the press is so interested in what we’re doing that they’re generally watching everything we post on a daily basis and so you kind of take a little bit of the work away from me but we have a good product too and that always helps somewhat
DL: That helps a lot. Now this isn’t your first project with Chris. You’ve worked with Chris before. Where did you and Chris start?
DS: We started, well Chris was at Origin, I came to Origin as their PR person. PR Manager and then Director in ‘94. So worked on Wing three, that was one of my very first projects. We went up to Hollywood and we did the Green Screen Shoot, with Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell and Ginger and Tom Wilson. So worked on Wing three and then we brought in the live sets with the film about a year after that for Wing four and then Chris went off and did his own thing with Digital Anvil and then went off to Hollywood and then called me three years or so ago, three and half a years ago, the summer of 2012 and said “I’ve got this idea about raising money and starting this new project” and i’ve stayed in the gaming business, during that whole time that he was out or with another company where I wasn’t and he said would you like to help out? I thought about it for about five seconds and said “Sure sign me up”
DL: Obviously I haven’t known Chris for very long but it’s always reassuring to me when I see the number of people that he’s worked with that have come back to work with him again, it’s definitely been my experience. Working with Chris is a pleasure day in and day out. He’s a very demanding task master he has very high standards and he asks a lot of his people
DS: That fact has not changed. From Origin days he was the same way back then
DL: It’s never not paid off so far
DS: Absolutely. I think every game he’s worked on has done quite well. So it speaks for itself.
DL: You mentioned Wing Commander Three and this occurred to me here, I wanted to ask you about this. What was it like trying to promote a game with full motion video, it was an entirely new genre at that point the interactive movie. What was that like?
DS: Well a little bit of had been done then, just a little bit, but we took it to a whole different level, and I think the other thing we did we had this ensemble cast. A few other games have had this kind of this famous person, this actor, we had like five and of course bringing back Mark Hamill into the space combat game certainly helped a little bit. So that was, it was different because the other difference for me was I had been working on other Origin games where just dealt with the gaming press. You had Mark Hamill and Malcolm Mcdowell and Tom Wilson and suddenly people outside the gaming area are interested in your product. “What is this company that’s doing this game with these stars?” So on the PR side it really, it pushed me more into getting more, dealing more with entertainment press and sort of spread our net a little bit wider than what it was.
DL: In a pre-interview I asked if he had any embarrassing stories about Chris Roberts and to his credit he sat here and racked his brain for about fifteen minutes trying to think of an embarrassing Chris Roberts story. Were you able to come up with something? I don’t want to get fired, but maybe, i’ll get in trouble a little bit..
DS: Put it like this, when I came into the gaming industry it was ‘94 the gaming industry was still young and people were, doing quite well in it and so there were lots of interesting parties and fun parties and big parties and you know we’ve had successful products and the more success you have the, the bigger the more fun you have with those things. And Chris put on some interesting parties. There were quite a few interesting times back in those days.
DL: Any chance we could get some pictures?
DS: There were pictures. There are pictures
DL: This is the point of the interview where the interview just cuts to static cause the interview has been cancelled by Chris Roberts!
DS: This is where the PR guy rubs his hands and says “Yes! We have pictures”
DL: That’s as far as we’ll push that, we want to keep our jobs! David is there anything else you want the fans to know of? Your job is getting our message out about Star Citizen. I think we do pretty well between all of the shows and all the comm-link posts and all the interviews and the magazine articles.
DS: Community is amazing at this company. You and Ben and your group have done wonderful things. I will say this. Next year is a big year. It is a big year, and we’ve got lots of exciting things and it’s going to make my job easier because we are making so many wonderful parts for this game that are going to continue to sort of flow out. We’ve turned the corner, not that we really had a corner to turn necessarily but we’ve been working on a lot of things and we’ve sort of hit the top of the mountain and we’re going down hill and I think it’s going to. That’s a good hill to be going down!
DL: Star Citizen is going down hill, David Swofford, PR Director!
DS: As opposed to going uphill! We’re at the top, but it’s going to be a really fun interesting year and we’ve got lots of great things so standby.
DL: I’m so excited. I want to play Squadron 42 so bad, I can’t even verbalise it. Finally last question can you get Mark Hamill to come to my house?
DS: You know let me dial the speed dial, no i’m just joking. Hey who knows? He’s going to help us out on some promotions for sure. And by the way, I don’t know when this is going to be out but his face is going to be all over the newsstands here pretty soon, in connection with our product not just the other big project he’s working on right now.
D: This will be after the Anniversary live stream so..Ok David thanks for taking the time to chat with us
DS: As always
DL: Back to you guys.
AtV Behind the Scenes
BL: Thanks David, if you guys can believe it, David was public relations director at Origin back in the day, and when I was a sixteen year old eager to find out everything about Wing Commander, he was always very very patient with me. It’s always really cool that I’m working with him now on Star Citizen. Next up, Emry Switzer shows us the lighting of the Nyx landing zone, and how it came to be.
AtV Behind the Scenes
DL: Thanks guys, on this week’s AtV Behind the Scenes we sit down with associate lighting artist Emre Switzer. Emre? How you doing man?
ES: Doing good.
DL: Now, you’ve been doing the lighting for Area 18, for the lighting revamps for Hangars, and coming up next we’re going to see your lighting on the Nyx landing zone.
DL: So what we want to do is we’re hoping you could sit down and take a look at a bit about what goes into creating the lighting for one of our landing zones.
ES: Yeah, for sure.
DL: Alright, you’ve got the wheel, take us through it.
ES: Alright, so this right here is the level without any lighting really. There’s a basic environment globe in here for global ambient so we have a nice blue, that’s mainly just from the sky. But if we go in, this doesn’t really look that good. So if I go in here, I’ll just start turning on different layers and that’ll show what I’m actually doing. So, the first thing is the ambient. So I go and I place down an environment probe, which is this entity right here, and this basically captures the scene, it captures it in a 360 degree angle, and puts it in a texture, which looks just like this. And this gets reprojected back onto the scene as the ambient term which is essentially the bounds limit. Most games aren’t able to compute real, you can’t ray trace everything, so we use, we split our direct and our indirect lighting into our ambient and direct lighting. So this is the ambient. So this is all the bounce lighting that’s going on. So you can see it’s pretty dark compared to the exterior lighting.
DL: Yeah, but it’s a good start though.
ES: Yeah, but it’s nowhere close to where it should be. So the next thing I do is I place down our direct, which is the other component, so I can go and enable that. And so already you can see it looks quite a bit better. And then after that we layer in fog and other atmospheric effects, and it gives the full look. And let me just toggle this off and on again…
DL: So how many lights are we looking at, right here?
ES: Probably, in this area, only around twelve to twenty I’d say.
ES: Yeah. Obviously in a full landing site there’s going to be a lot more, anywhere from a couple hundred to even a thousand or so. Because these maps are gigantic. So yeah, I’ll fly on through…
DL: Lighting really does make the level.
ES: So I’ll toggle all the layers off again. That’s before, that’s ambient, that’s direct, and then that’s your volumetrics. So, yeah. One of the other things we have to keep in mind is performance, and so that’s a huge aspect of the game, making it run on everybody’s PC’s right, so… let me go ahead and toggle off some of the other layers here, just so we can get a better representation of performance. And this right here is our lighting overlap. So basically every single light has a frustum, which is an area that it computes on, and so if you have a light, you can kind of see these spherical shapes within the scene, and there’s also cones, like you can see this sphere pretty well, so that’s a light basically, so if I turn it off again, you have this light, and it’s affecting this area. So you don’t want to have overlapping lights, and that’s what this is demonstrating. So, the darker the values are, so purple and blue values are really good, white values aren’t so good. So there’s probably a little bit of work to be done there.
DL: What happens when you have overlapping lights?
ES: Oh, it, so it has to do more passes on the GPU to figure out what colour it should shade. So you don’t want to do that. You want to have it be as simple and efficient as possible, so if you’re having tons of overlap you’re not having that. So that’s something that we try to reduce as much as possible.
DL: I imagine when you start you throw in a whole bunch of lights, just playing around, and then start kind of reducing the way a sculptor would reduce from a slab of marble.
ES: Exactly. If you start with something that looks good, it’s pretty easy to go in and make it perform better, but you can’t really take something that’s efficient and make it pretty, so… that’s kinda the trick. Let me go ahead and show the lighting only. So if I go here and just put it on a really basic flat material, you can see how the lighting affects the scene. So… fly through it again… So this is mainly just lighting. It’s got some spangler reflection and some other stuff going on, but… that’s that. So yeah. And then you go out and hide all the other layers so we can take a look around.
DL: Warn me when that’s going to come up man. Alright guys, this is the Nyx landing zone. It looks… kinda cool. I mean it’s okay… I mean it doesn’t look super super amazing just, super amazing. Jeeze. So… now… the skybox with the sun there, is the sun actually providing a source of light at all?
ES: Yeah, absolutely. So, the interior setup is pretty different from how we handle the exterior. So, the exterior actually, if I go here to the time of day tool, there’s around I think close to 100 variables that you can play with, that controls everything from let me slide this over here, the horizon colour which you can notice change right over here, to the fog colour… As well as other elements like the sun colour, so you can really go in and tweak every single value. And the sun is on a different system than lights, it uses cascades which means that you can get shadows that go out a lot farther than standard lights, so yeah. You can have shadows on distant objects like this and this and I think even these asteroids cast shadows, so… it’s pretty crazy.
DL: As quickly as he gives it to us he takes it away.
DL: Wow. Nyx is kinda cool. Alright, anything else you can show us?
DL: I know you had the selfland going on in the back….
ES: Oh yeah, I’ve got selfland. So this is the new hangar relight for the selfland hangar. So we’re working on trying to get this over to the release build, as previously mentioned. It’s a bit of a long process, there’s quite a few issues coming up all at once in regards to the hangars, but hopefully it’ll be in soon. But yeah, so this is what it should look like. You have a Constellation.
DL: Hopefully by the time this airs, this is what it will look like in your hangar. Alright Emre, thanks so much for taking us through. I don’t think anybody will ever have any doubts about how important lighting is to creating the scene. Thanks so much man.
ES: Thank you.
DL: Back to you guys!
BL: Now it’s time for this week’s MvP! But there’s… no-one here. So stuff it, I’m going to give it to AdzAdama, the guy who creates the incredible CIG photoshops on the forums. Adama, you keep us entertained here all the time, and we appreciate your strange wonderful hobby. That’s it for Around the ‘Verse today, and for Star Citizen in 2015. We’d like to say happy new year to everyone out there, it’s been an incredible year here for the team at Cloud Imperium, and we’re excited about 2016. Hope you’re all relaxing with your families and ready to ring in what’s going to be a very exciting year for hopefully Star Citizen and everyone. With that, we will say thank you, Happy New Year, and we will see you next time, on Around the ‘Verse.
DL: What’d I miss?