It’s Around the ‘Verse time! Check out the transcript of the show.
Transcript by CanadianSyrup, Stormy Winters, Shiver Bathory, Sunjammer, Desmarius.
Jared Huckaby (JH): This week, it’s all pirate edition of Around the ‘Verse. We sit down with Designer Matt Sherman to talk about designing the next great pirate fighter
And then Ben Lesnick sits down with acclaimed Concept Artist Jim Martin to tell us how the Buccaneer came to life.
All this and more on this week’s Around the ‘Verse.
Pilot 1: Okay we’re about 20. Wakapedia get ready. Guys you’re gonna start self destruction in five seconds. I’m gonna start count down. Five, Four, Three, Two, One, Zero Countdown.
Pilot 2: I’m so confused…
Pilot 1: Someone cheated!
Sandi Gardiner (SG): This is the same group that put together the Voltron video a couple weeks back.
Zane Bien (ZB): 42, the ultimate question to the life, universe and everything.
SG: That is correct. Welcome to this week’s episode of Around the ‘Verse, a weekly look at Star Citizen’s development. I’m Sandi Gardiner, VP of marketing at Cloud Imperium Games.
ZB: And I’m Zane Bien, UI Creative Director here at Foundry 42.
SG: We’re filming ATV from Manchester this week as you know, Zane is resident in Manchester, how’s it going here?
ZB: it’s going great! I’m really loving it out here. I’m really especially lacking the long days now, daylight till 10pm, almost but yeah, it’s great.
SG: Daylight till 10pm but it’s not quite as warm as Zane is making it out to be, at least not for me wearing this nice Foundry 42 hoodie that I got given. Can you give us a little hint as to what you’ve been working on recently?
ZB: Certainly! We’ve been working a lot on 2.4 because it has a lot of UI requirements. Everything from Shopping to Port Modification and it’s just a lot of small features here and there that we’ve got to support. Aside from that we’ve been working on a lot of concepts for the overhaul that we’re doing for the holotable as well as the mobiGlass and writing some tech to handle what we’ve planned for 3D interfaces and it’s looking really cool.
SG: All out of my technical knowledge. Did you say you’re doing the Astro Cryo… something?
ZB: Cry Astro.
SG: Cr yAstro, yes… Zane is working on a lot and speaking of 2.4, 2.4 is on the way, we are currently testing it with on the PTU with quite a few of our testers and they’re doing a great job for us so we thank you very much for that and we will be going to the live servers very soon.
ZB: We know 2.4 has taken a little extra time, but of course there’s a really good reason for that. When we’re putting in a lot of these under the hood changes, persistence and so forth, there’s a lot of unforeseen bugs that you know, come up and we have to really tackle them and resolve them in order to make it feasible for a live release.
SG: In addition to the beginnings of persistence, 2.4 includes a host of updates and changes ranging from the openings of shopping on ArcCorp to the addition first large flyable multi crew ship the Starfarer.
The Buck starts here and thank you to Jared or Ben for writing that for me. Our latest concept sale kicks off tomorrow so be sure to check out the Comm-Link for all the details on Drake’s latest fighter and stay tuned later in this episode to hear more of some the people behind the ship.
ZB: We asked backers to retweet a spectrum message intercepted by the Drake Herald on twitter to get the first look at the Buccaneer. We’re happy to announce 2,000 backers were able to share the message and unlock the first image. In case you missed it, here it is.
SG: Subscribers have had their May flair distributed. This month it is a space cactus. The space cactus will be available in your hangar alongside 2.4 and be sure to wear gloves. Jump Point is live as well and subscribers should check out their areas for the latest issue of the magazine. This time around we have exclusive fiction about the Tevarin war from our very own Adam Weiser and we feature something on the MISC Prospector and more.
Some of the team has already moved ahead on Star Citizen’s 2.5 which will be our next patch. 2.5 will have plenty of additions, but it won’t be as much of a change as 2.4 so hopefully it won’t require as much testing for as much as of a wait and we’ll provide more details as the time gets closer.
With that let’s check in with our studios from around the world and let’s see what’s happening in News From Around The Verse.
Darian Vorlick: Hey everyone, welcome back to Los Angeles California, I am Production Coordinator Darian Vorlick and today we are joined by our newest Tech Designer
Stephen Hosmer: Stephen Hosmer
DV: So on this week’s update, we’ve got on the Tech Design team. We’ve got the guys looking at Item System 2.0 and seeing how that works, kind of with the rest of the ships on how the design functions, the power plants, generators, coolants, cooling systems, things like that. So Kirk Tome our Lead Designer he’s spearheading that with Calix Reneau and Matt Sherman,looking at the Drake Caterpillar, the Reliant, the Herald. We’ve got a lot of ships over in L.A.
On the Tech Content side, Matt Intrieri took over one of our tools called Asset Validation Tool. What this does: Is a program that was originally being hamlocked by Austin but it’s now on our plate. When our Artists and Developers want to submit and check in a brand new ship or any kind of ship, it cross checks whether those assets are being entered correctly. Whether it maps up with the material properly, and if it does not, or if it finds some kind of error, it will not let us check in that particular part of the ship.
So this is the checks and balance on trying to minimise how many bugs go into the game. On top of that, I forgot to mention, we’ve got our brand new Tech Designer who actually just started today! So any idea what you’ll be working on in the Tech Design Team?
SH: I’m going to be working on ship design and implementation and balance.
DV: There you go! So as always we’re always looking for new and exciting talent. We got some more talent coming in and this is our latest addition to the team. So hopefully that means we’ll get content out to you guys out faster! Fingers crossed! So that’s all we got from Los Angeles, once again I’m Darian Vorlick
SH: And I’m Stephen Hosmer
DV: There you go, thanks guys.
Jake Ross: Hey guys Jake Ross here, Producer of the Austin studio, sporting a new look for you. If you can admire that, there you go! Wanted to give you an update on what’s going on here in Austin.
So first off persistent UEC. So we have an alpha currency out on the PTU right now, as part of our first shopping release. Where it’s a test currency, it’s there its sole purpose is being able to test ting with it and wipe it whenever we need, but we want to be able to get actual persistent UEC in the works as soon as possible just so we can get closer to what we’ll actually be releasing in the full game. So there are things to consider there that are, we don’t want to mess with people’s inventory or their actual real world hard earned dollars. So we want to make sure we have everything in order on the backend side of things before we even attempt to put out some form of persistent UEC.
So we’re working on a plan to schedule in the work to actually get actual persistent UEC in place. So that way we can get it out to you guys with as little hiccups as possible. We also talked a little bit about last week, the additional shops that we are putting into place for the new Pirate Base that we’re working on. So along with that comes new inventory so we are design side here, Rob Gaither and Rob Ranniger have put together a list of clothing assets that we want to see in the next release for that shop.
So these clothing assets are a little more piratey in nature and they will be a little bit more rugged, a little bit more frontier like as opposed to the cleaner cut clothing assets we have in Casaba outlet right now. So in addition to new assets for Casaba, new clothing to sell there, we’ll also have some cool new different types of clothing for this new pirate shop. So that will be cool!
The Freelancer ladder has been put in game. So it was done a little while back but I think I forgot to mention on this show. We actually got our Ship Animation Team here, Daniel Craig, to put in the Freelancer ladder for you guys. I know that was something a lot of you wanted to be able to access that side ladder. So if you haven’t noticed you can climb it now! If you own a Freelancer go check it out, special thanks to Daniel Craig for adding that in.
Last thing i’ll mention is a full blown lighting pass will be done, we’re prepping for that. It’s going to be done across the board: ArcCorp, Crusader, Port Olisar, and the shops. Everything is going to get a lighting pass on it. We’be got some new techniques that we want to include so we want to bring the lighting up to the standard the rest of the game has, not that the lightning right now is bad, it’s just we got some new things that we want to add to it, and make sure that it’s the best it could possibly be. So that’s all we got for you this week guys thanks and I’ll see you around.
Mici Oliver: Hi everyone this is Mici over in the UK, i’ve got Andy Nicholson with me today who is the Ship Balance Designer and he’s going to be telling us what his role here is at Foundry 42.
Andrew Nicholson: Hi everyone. So I used to be the QA Manager here at CIG for a while. So Ship Balance is quite a new role, new role to me especially! But something born out of necessity. So what I do is, look over the ships in game at the moment and basically tweak with the goal in mind of making everything feel balanced and fun. That’s addressing old ships that are in now and new ships that are coming through
MO: Cool! So I believe that you have been in charge of the control system that’s recently changed. So i’d like to ask you a little bit more about that!
AN: As well as breaking the ships i’ve been breaking the controls! That’s a two front attack! So in 2.4 I wanted to address, we kind of thought it was a big problem with the control schemes for Star Citizen, how the control mappings were quite hard to grasp across different aspects. I mean Star Citizen’s a game now.
Now that we have the on foot sections in the FPS elements and flight we wanted to take a stab at making everything feel more cohesive and unified. So the idea was to approach it from, making it easy to switch between those three modes. So we took EVA, FPS and tried to run with is as much as we could with the the flight controls. So mapping wise we wanted, we experimented with jump also being strafe up, crouch being strafe down, and the strafes left and right were translating to the ship controls, which I think was mostly successful, i’m happy with the changes we made. We got some good feedback from the Avocados!
Once we made a few changes on that last week, and hopefully by the time you hear this you’ll be playing it and giving feedback as well and we’ll take that on board as much as we can. The old control mappings are still in game so if you want to use them go ahead, I wouldn’t recommend it!
MO: I think that’s everything we got time for this week, so we’ll see you in the ‘Verse bye!
Brian Chambers (BC): Hey everyone Brian from Frankfurt. This week I thought I would show you around the office space since we’re filling up but keep telling you we’re hiring new people and then i’ll also show you some new stuff we got going on. This week i’m also on my camera so audio and video may be a little bit different.
There’s Jason thank you Jason! So when we first moved in here we occupied just pretty much one corner, which was basically this space. Now as you see we pretty much have most of the desks filled to some capacity. I think overall, we have, we have 49 desks and we have 45 current employees. Here’s the tech guys I got to walk fast, they don’t like being on camera. This is Enis. Say hi Enis.
BC: Here is our kitchen/lounge we try to keep it as clean as we can. And then what I want to show you although it may get a little noisey is some new stuff that we have going on right now. Since we’re just about at capacity and we’re almost out of desks, we have agreed with the building management to give us some additional space. So we are just now starting construction on a brand new space.
Of course they’re drilling now right there you’re looking at is where they will cut a hole. They’ll cut a hole there and make a door and that will lead into our current space. Small offices, small rooms. Going to be really loud now! So that’s based in there, it will hold about another 25 employees. We should be good and have that all sorted by August 1st. And then we even have the room to expand a little more if we want. I think another 9-11 employees at that point.
So just wanted to show off the space, exciting news, enough people are interested in the game and excited about what we’re pulling off that we’re pulling in more and more people and obviously we need to make some more space. So cool awesome talk to you next week.
SG: This episode is all about the Buccaneer. So we sit down with two of the people who are behind the ship. First up Designer Matt Sherman and, secondly Concept Artist Jim Martin. Take it away Jared.
Jared Huckaby (JH): Thanks guys and welcome to this “All Buccaneer”edition of Around the Verse. I’m your Community Manager, Jared Huckaby and with me today is Technical Designer, Matt Sherman.
Matthew Sherman (MS): Hi everybody.
JH: Matt, how you doing man?
MS: Doing good.
JH: Good. Now, you’re the designer in charge of the Buccaneer?
JH: Right. Just so … just to give some background, when we do a ship they tend to get assigned to different designers.
JH: You don’t design all of our ships and whatnot.
MS: No. No.
JH: So what does it mean to design a ship?
MS: So this is taking … we’d get a rough, almost like a paragraph blurb to seed what this ship is going to be, what its place in the universe is going to be. And then we always have a big meeting where we kick off what we want all the goals to be. And so it’s also Design, Art, Community: like everyone’s involved nailing down “Okay this is the core idea of the ship.” And once we’re all happy on that then I take that, the results of that meeting, and it’s like “Okay what does this actually mean in terms of how many hardpoints for weapons does this ship get? How much cargo does it have? How many people are on board the ship? What components do we have to put on board to actually make sure it delivers on its intended purpose from that meeting?” Sorting out “Hey do we need a developer implement any special gameplay for this?” Just answering all the looming questions that would come up with “let’s make a spaceship”.
JH: Alright. And what were some … what was the original brief? Do you remember that original paragraph brief for the Buccaneer?
MS: In general it was to … to give the Drake manufacturer a complimentary fighter craft that would pair well with entire rest of the Drake family. I mean that’s been a big thing … the LA office out here, we’ve been working really hard on defining like the look, the style and the feel of Drake ships. We’re currently working on the Caterpillar and so we really wanted to make sure that the Buccaneer was a fleshed out member of the Drake family.
MS: And not some thing almost built in it’s own little vacuum of “Oh it’s going to do this.” But it wouldn’t have make sense with the rest of Drake. So everything the Buccaneer does goes with Drake ships operating together in concert.
JH: Right. Let’s talk a little bit about that then.
JH: The Drake ships operating in concert. The Caterpillar.
JH: How would you describe the role the Caterpillar in the Drake family.
MS: The Caterpillar is the home base ship. Lots of … lots of cargo space inside from the walk through you and Calix did last week. Lots of just eventual options and room for growth that we’re setting the ship up for. So I know there’s always talk of modules and different options, so while we don’t have any … a full list, locked in of “this is exactly what the Caterpillar has.” We have a lot of potential for what that list can entail. So I can really flesh out, build the whole family together and serve as that main base centerpiece.
JH: Alright. The Cutlass.
MS: The Cutlass is is kind of that mixed skirmisher-hauler. So it’s always had more of a unique history in the game. And … it’s definitely not exactly where we want it to be, or even where I think a lot of people envisioned it being initially, but now as the Drake line grows out we’re going to be able to make sure that the Cutlass has it’s solid place in the world. So unlike another ship that would hold about as much cargo, so I want to say like the Reliant and the Cutlass can hold roughly about the same amount of cargo when you max them out, the Cutlass is going to have a lot more guns. It’s going to have a lot more fire power that’s constantly bringing to bear. It’s going to have the dedicated turret gunner on that versus just the remote pilot seat on the Reliant. And even though they’re a bit different in size and scope it’s still how we’re making sure that, even after any reworking, the Cutlass is going to have that weird “fighter fused with a hauler” description that was in the original blurb way back in 2012. So we’re definitely going to recapture that and fun with work ahead.
JH: Alright. The Herald.
MS: The Herald is the … it’s almost like the drag racer out of them all. Because, info running, it’s going to be about gathering that intel, getting that intel from point A to point B … although making sure that gathering is more the “meat and potatoes” of the activity where it’s not just like “Oh here is your item, go do a fetch quest”. It’s like “Oh no, getting that item in the first place is going to be a little bit more involved.” And once you’ve got that intel well, “Hey someone found out.” You want to get out of there fast and those giant engines are going to help deliver that. You’re not going to be turning that well at high speed and at max cruise speed but you’re definitely going to be able to just point in a direction, go fast, get out.
JH: And long range surveillance and stuff.
MS: Oh yeah.
JH: You send the Herald out first. It gets there first. Takes the picture. And bugs out fast.
MS: Exactly. Pops the radar, “Okay. What signals? Who’s around? What can I find out about where this place is where we are now?” Capture all that data. Bring it back to your friends. Show them, “Okay this is what we’ve got going into this next place.”
JH: So … so if you’re in a merchant group and you see a random Herald show up for two seconds … two minutes before it disappears. You might want to man the turrets.
MS: Yeah. Yeah, yeah you may want to be like “Oh … “
JH: Yellow alert!
MS: “Somebody definitely saw us and they … oh, they got a scan off. Yeah let’s … let’s be a little bit more cautious.”
JH: Got you. And now we’re adding the Hera … the Buccaneer to the family.
MS: Correct. Adding the Buccaneer.
JS: And what is the Buccaneer’s role in that.
MS: The Buccaneer is more that dedicated, interceptor-fighter support for the Drake family. So it is very much combat over cargo. No actual discreet cargo on the ship. We’re instead using it … serve as a launch point to look more into how we want to approach smuggling gameplay into the future. We’ve still got some unanswered questions on that so we can’t go into the exact details but we’re making sure that the Buccaneer is poised to be able to leverage that as soon as we’ve got all those systems ironed out, approved, everything set. So once we do get cargo gameplay and it’s like “Oh no, you’re not just being a legit business man” you can … you can take those shady deals and and move contraband from point A to point B and have purpose to that in how you are hiding that stuff in your ship.
JH: Got you. So right off the bat it sounds like you’re not meant to be a one-man pirate force.
JH: In any of these ships.
MS: No. You’re … it’s very much going to be about working in tandem with others because … even an old pirate ship in the romanticised Caribbean era like “No it wasn’t Blackbeard by himself on that ship.” It was Blackbeard and his crew of…
MS: Other crazy people who are just going to jump overboard like go to the next ship, steal that ship. “Well we’ve got two ships now, why are we going to sink this one? Let’s go keep raiding other guys.” And so it’s definitely going to be a type of actively where … and not necessarily large groups, it should definitely be something that small groups of even three to five players should be able to get a really cool pirate experience out of even just a Buccaneer and a Cutlass paired together. Should work really well together because you’re going to have the more agile firepower that the Buccaneer’s going to bring to the table. You’re going to have the more just durable and rugged ship that the Cutlass should eventually evolve into because it is … that is a bigger ship so it should be taking more hits than it is currently. And so when you have both of those together it’s like “Well you’re going to be really distracted by that Buccaneer because it’s going to be harassing you but then that Cutlass is going to have enough firepower on it where if you get too distracted and it start’s pointing at you, it’s going to start tearing holes in your ship.” So making sure that they both just work great together.
JH: Now this weekend we actually released the very first image of the Buccaneer through our social media. We had folks retweeting and unscrambling. And that picture has generated a lot of …
JH: A lot of response. And after this segment you’ll see an interview with Ben Lesnick and Jim Martin who will talk more about the art. People have been trying to decipher the loadout …
JH: From that image. So what can you tell us about the loadout?
MS: So, just working off the image, you’ve got a pair fixed size one guns on those outer wings tips. Then inset just a little bit more into those wings are actually size three hardpoints that are going to come stocked with a gimbaled size two weapon on it. Underneath the main body of the ship there’s actually, in the concept it’s a twin-linked size two gun, so that would actually be a size four mount underneath the ship, and then in the concept, the two size twos on there. But even that underbody mount is going to have a handful of options because …
MS: Just being a size for it’s like “Well okay, let me put a Revenant on here instead …”
MS: “let me put one big gun on.” So we want to make sure those are going to have some really good options to it.
JH: So … so if I understand correctly you can actually … if you wanted to go with an all fixed loadout for whatever reason …
JH: … you’d have a size four fixed …
JH: Two sized threes fixed, and a then two sized ones?
JH: That’s a heck of a lot of firepower!
JH: Now with the gimbals though …
JH: You have two gimbaled weap … size twos on the wings.
MS: Yeah, those are the underbody wings or the underbody guns on the wings so you see them sort of sticking out a little bit in, closer over to the engine side, but those are size three hardpoints with size two mounted guns on them.
JH: And what kind of firing arc are we thinking with those?
MS: For those it’s going to be more of a frontal arc. So 30-60 degrees, comparable to what we have on other wing mounted guns for the fighters. The more interesting ones are going to be that underbelly gun where it… now it’s not going to be the most 100% of the time utilitarian thing, but something that we actually have on a few of our other ships, not many people really encounter is some of the canard turrets. They can go turn around and so if you use the look behind key, now you’re doing your rear view camera and you start firing well your canard mount weapons will start firing directly behind you and so that big size four mount has that capability and so say you’ve got a bigger guy chasing you that, “Oh he’s just a wide target, I don’t need the reticle to get hits on him” you can put a little bit on pressure beyond just oh not just launched counter measures, no launch bullets that way.
MS: Fire backwards.
JH: Does it just go around or does it actually go down?
MS: It would be a rotation, well so the plan is the big size fours gonna have a 360 degrees rotational arc. How much it pitches up and down we have to work out because we also want to make sure if it pitched 90 degrees down that none of the guns starting to cut into the body. So some of that is seeing what exactly looks clean, but what also gives the ship enough both benefits and weaknesses. We don’t want to make it, “Oh it’s got 360 spherical coverage at all times with every gun because that’s kind of cheap.
JH: You mean sometimes we put weaknesses into ships on purpose?
JH: Is that game balance?
JH: Alright, so you can have a size three gun on the bottom, gimballed and I know the cockpit, it’s a glass floor on the cockpit. So tremendous visibility, you can gimble it around, you can use the look behind key to track things behind you.
JH: Do you still keep the reticle if you’ve got something locked on?
MS: Not currently with the look behind just because that goes towards a more abstract third person camera and so we traditionally cut off any HUD elements when you’re looking out of third person, but it should be something where if when you really get to know your ship, you can pull this off. Even with now Hornet pilots and Mustang pilots can take advantage of this with their nose turrets.
JH: Gotcha, and one of the talking points for the Buccaneer has been its maneuverability.
JH: So what can you tell us about it’s maneuverability.
MS: So we want this thing to be very agile. Even in our current concept pieces we don’t have every exact maneuvering thruster fully the ships going to need fully placed out because we need to make sure that when we start building out the final model of this for the game that we’re really being meticulous in placing these.
JH: Because we don’t fake the calculations we do it real.
MS: Yeah, yeah like where everything is positioned around the center of a mass on a ship absolutely dictates how is this thing going to handle, how is this going to perform, how likely are you to black out because if you’re sitting off center of mass and the ships tumbling around you, what’s that going to do to you at 800m/s in cruise? It’s definitely going to have the handling, it won’t be like a drag racer fast so it’s not going to be as quick as a Herald, but it’s going to be able weave in and out of a fight really well.
JH: Yeah, I know these engines are pretty sizable here.
MS: Oh yeah. When it needs force and when it needs to do more of a straight line kick, it’s going to have that. It should handle really well on like pitch based maneuvering. So pitch, roll are probably going to be it’s two strongest movement axis. Yaw will still be pretty capable, but it won’t be as spinning as other things or other setups on it could offer, but just making sure that any of the translational directions, it’s potent in. Even in it’s strafes, so if you want to basically sidestep someone with your ship, you should have absolutely have that kind of maneuverability and response to it.
JH: Now Drake doesn’t build everything just for pirates. We’ve already seen the Advocacy uses Heralds for their own reconnaissance and message delivery. The police, the Cutlass blue version for police forces, for someone who’s not interested in being a pirate, why should they consider the Buccaneer?
MS: Even as a defensive ship, like we we’re talking about earlier in the segment, we want the Drake family of ships to feel like a cohesive family and so if you and your friends, you’re running a fully legit, we are just a cargo Caterpillar operation, we’re hauling freight from Stanton to Nyx or wherever, well you’re not gonna want to do that alone, you’re not gonna want to just risk the elements as it were and say “oh my cargo ship will get there without any problem”, you’re going to want some protection from that and we want to make sure that Drake ships feel like the natural choice to defend other Drake ships to work with other Drake ships.
JH: For that weapon on the bottom, the size four.
JH: Are there other attachments for that besides your standard minigun? What else can we put on that?
MS: So we’re definitely looking at some other options for that, although a couple of those options drift back more into the very pirate themed. One of the biggest ones that we’re definitely hashing out right now is an interdiction weapon. So we don’t have all the exacts of that mechanic locked in right now, but it’s one of the things we want this ship to have where well we need something that’s going to pull you either out of quantum or pull you out of jump or disrupt your ability go into those fast transit modes. So we’re looking at the Buccaneer being the Drake ship that carries that load into battle.
Then even in the situation where you have a couple, say you have two Buccaneers and a Cutlass and they’re jumping a target, those Buccaneers would basically be the ones trying to suppress the target, keep them from getting into the quantum, trying to keep their shields down, where the Cutlass and that crew, they’ll probably be the ones trying to be like, “Alright cool, they’ve got em pinned, you two guys get out the airlock, get over to that ship, take it over, let’s start getting whatever cargo or whatever valuables we can from them into our ship and then just get out”.
JH: Gotcha, I definitely like this way that this all seems to be working together. You’ve got your Herald for your surveillance and your information gathering, you’ve got your Buccaneer to disable the targets, you’ve got the Cutlass’s to bring in your boarding parties and stuff like that and then you’ve got your Caterpillar to haul away your booty.
MS: Oh yeah.
JH: It seems very cool.
MS: Yeah and it’s making sure that a manufacture feels like a true family of ships.
JH: Well Matt, thanks so much for your time, that’s been a brief look at the design phase for the Buccaneer. The Buccaneer goes on sale tomorrow, the, Twenty…
MS: And we’re still going to have a few other surprises. We didn’t go over all the exact specs on it today, so they’ll be some other cool stuff for you guys to look forward too.
JH: Check out that post on Friday. Matt, thanks a lot.
MS: Yeah, thanks for having me.
JH: Alright, to Ben and Jim.
BL: Hey everybody, welcome to Ship Shape. We have a very special edition for you, I’m sitting down with Jim Martin, the man behind the Buccaneer concepts that you’re going to be seeing this week. Jim, welcome to Around the Verse.
Jim Martin: Ben, thanks for having me.
BL: We really appreciate you coming out. You have been with Star Citizen since the very, very start. You did the Vanduul Scythe for the initial pitch demo…
JM: I did.
BL: The Drake Cutlass, you’re our Drake man essentially.
JM: I am Jimmy ‘Drake’ Martin.
BL: You’re here today to talk about our newest Drake ship, the Buccaneer. This is our chance to kind of have our Drake and eat it too, we did the Cutlass at the very, very start of the campaign and people… it went back and forth and ended up having larger cargo and less maneuverability than some pirates wanted so we’ve gone back and said, ‘ok, we’re going to do a ship in the same sort price class, similar role and focus on maneuverability and weaponry’ and of course, we’ve brought you in cause you’re the be all and end all of Drake designs.
JM: Ok, you guys reached out to me and said, ‘hey, do you want to do a small, maneuverable fighter for the Drake’ interplanetary and I said, ‘ of course, I do that would be great’. We kind of went over what are the keys components to Drake design which is utility, you know, which is definitely industrial kind of…very practical feel.
BL: Yeah, got that very like lived in feel especially like the Caterpillar and yeah.
JM: It’s not elegant, it’s more functional.
BL: It’s a working man’s ship.
JM: Yeah, yeah. Sturdy, reliable.
BL: So, let’s talk about the process of how you concept a ship. What do you get from us? You know, we all sit around and we come up with specifications and we dream up crazy things, what do we send to you to get this process started?
JM: The first thing that you guys send are kind of the specs of what you… you know you’re expectations for the ship and then also because we’ve done other Drakes, we have a design language that we then…that’s kind of been growing. Each time you do a ship, you add on to what the design thought is for the greater Drake design and so I got a packet of highlighting things we like about the earlier Drake ships.
Like things to keep in mind and then we talked about what we like that is real world technology that has that same utility feel, you know, whether it be A-10 Warthog or a Russian helicopter. Things that we feel might have a relation to the Drake aesthetic.
BL: I can definitely see some Russian helicopter with this one with the cockpit.
JM: Yeah, yeah. So, in my process I would take all of that, I would start with reference of earlier ships and kind of photo design reference maybe a helicopter, things that we feel look utility and fitting within that aesthetic and then go to a sketch pass.
BL: Do you… what is a sketch pass mean exactly? I know some people start in 3D, some people do 2D first, what’s your process for that initial look?
JM: I kind of feel if you start in 3D to early then you or maybe just me, I fumble and waste a little bit of energy, kind of being too spread out so for me the sketch pass and then a tighter drawing pass is my way of setting myself up to be more efficient in the 3D part of the design. So, I’ll just do a random sheet of loose ideas, maybe 10, maybe 12 sketched out.
Try this maybe big, small, long, four engines, just working out volumes and seeing what hits. Then I like to pick maybe my best three and say, ‘ok, I like this one, this one and this one’ and let me take those more of a finish. Then I’m also fine with if here at the office if Chris and Mark Skelton and the art directors want to take a look at that early pass and say, ‘we like this one, this one and this one’ then that helps me too.
BL: We use a tool called Shotgun here that artists from outside will upload there, what they’re working on and they get immediate feedback from Chris. He loves making his morning Shotgun pass, I think. You did the MISC Freelancer earlier on didn’t you? Cause I was thinking back to the sketches of that we got and I remember seeing the very first sketches and realizing that you were also the Jim Martin who worked at Deep Space Nine because it was the same style as the early sketches of the Defiant and I thought this is so cool, how did I get here. So, what’s next?
JM: Do a tight drawing, do a tight 2D view and set yourself up to kind of have a foundation for a 3D model and if I do three drawings then I like to have the art direction minds and Chris take a look and say… maybe pick elements of those they favour and taking that you go into 3D and you’re going to kind of make this jump because there are so many things that are more apparent when you start tumbling your model then when you’re designing off a one view, two dimensional drawing.
So, things that might have worked in the sketch or the drawing may not work in 3D or a version of that might not work and then you have to start thinking of it as a 3D model and what’s going to work from all angles. So, you just start moving it, looking at it, tumbling it, adding volume and you flesh out the base scratch model or study model and that’s kind of a core starting point.
BL: Now you have a sheet from us with the early specifications we’ve imagined, you know, engines and thrusters and guns. How much of that do you think about at this point? Are you saying, ‘oh, it has to have five guns right now’ or does that come later?
JM: You know what, that kind of for me, some of that comes midway in the process. Like when I’m starting I’m trying to make sure that I’m within your size parameters and letting the design kind of grow within that specific bounding box.
And then from there then you, you hit that point where you better start figuring out where the guns are going to go or you are going to be in trouble. Like you’re going, you’re going to have to start undoing things that were working once you add these other things to it. So even with the, with the Buccaneer, we tried some different gun configurations that were not working for the specs, and we abandoned them and went to some things that were, were lining up with what you need the ship to do. So, you know, the important thing is, is having it do what you need it to do for game play.
BL: Yeah, absolutely. So, what’s next? Is it… so you kinda go back and forth with the team, you get feedback from Chris and the art directors. I give terrible feedback myself, because everytime I see a page, “That’s cool! That’s even cooler! That’s even cooler!” and it’s totally useless to the process but…
JM: You know it’s going to get blown up. You know halfway through things that were near and dear to you about the design are going, are going to fall. They’re going to go, “You know what? The cockpit, it’s looking too bulky” and then you just need to roll with the notes and keep finessing the design based on what the feedback is. I know that for the Buccaneer it went about halfway with really, kind of, big engines that eventually we had to slim down, because it just was keeping it from having that sleek feel that we needed it to.
BL: Yeah, it had that very like military gunship feel to it…
BL: But it didn’t quite say it’s cheap and industrial as the rest of Drake’s line up.
JM: Yeah. It was more like, you know, yes it was keying off of like gun… helicopter gunship design, but it was a little too much. So we did a design redirection and got it to feel better, yeah. So then you’ll take the model and then you get your notes based on maybe an initial design pass where you send in some renders with some paint over saying, “this is kind of where it’s headed” and then you get the notes back and then you address in the 3D model. Then send in a corrected pass with a new direction, yeah.
BL: So, we go back and forth a couple of times and then we have what we think is the ideal. This is what we want it to look like. What’s your part of the process after that?
JM: Then you need to go to finish and try to get the model to a really good place where you have the detail in it that you wanted and the light on the model is doing everything on it you wanted it to do. You go for some nice paint overs to try and imagine what it would look like in the final version in the game and then you need to have it landed and the landing gear is always that last tricky thing at the end. You know, cause you really do need to have that resolved well. How did the landing gear tuck away? How does it extend for the landing? How do you get in the ship? How do you exit? Yeah.
BL: Yeah these are all the… you know when when we first started building ships very, very early we didn’t necessarily think about all this stuff. We went, “Oh you, you can’t actually fit in the cockpit here” or …
JM: Or you can’t get to the seat, you know.
BL: It’s been a learning process for our team. Now I think we have it down by the numbers for what we’ve said now, but it’s been really interesting learning how to actually build 3D space ships that work in the game. So, you done all sorts of incredible movie work and there’s going to be a separate interview where you talk about some of your history and other stuff…
JM: Yeah, yeah.
BL: You’ve done for Star Citizen, but how does building a ship for a game compare to similar tasks for a movie?
JM: One of the things that I really like about working in games is that when you get in a design assignment it really does focus on this specific design and how it works for the game and gameplay. That means that you really can have the chance to go for pure game design that is thought out from start to finish.
You know, sometimes in film it doesn’t need to be taken that far, because it may be a background thing. It may be something not necessarily, you know, not getting a story focus. With the games everything needs to be just taken from start to finish and it needs that attention to detail, I really respond to that.
BL: Next players are going to study everything …
BL: You’ve probably already seen they’ve studied every single millimeter of your ship design so far. You talk about doing the marketing paint overs you do for the sale itself. I think of our concept artists you are kind of unique and you are really good at these scenes with people and the ship. It makes them feel like they are real.
JM: Well, you know like I think that comes from working in film where you know that if you are trying to present something for a production meeting. You can show a prop, but a prop is more interesting when someone is holding it and interacting with it. You can show a set, but a set is going to be more interesting when people are standing in the set and it feels more alive.
If you’re going to do a coffee shop you want to have people sitting around a coffee shop drinking coffee, and I kind of apply that to this as well. I want to show the interaction with the thing that I designed, and try to make it feel like it’s happening in a specific time and it’s a moment. If you capture the moment you kind of capture the charm of maybe that illustration. Does that make sense?
BL: Alright so can you tell everybody why they should take a look at the Buccaneer. What makes this ship really cool?
JM: You know what, this ship is a utility fighter that is meant to take a beating and it is rugged and tough and it’s not pretending to be pretty. It’s going to get your pirate job done, it’s a Drake, come on. You know a Drake, rugged and tough.
BL: Sounds fantastic and we can’t wait to share the finished ship with everybody. In fact it’ll be available on the RSI site tomorrow. We’ll have a whole post about it, so please come and check that out. Thank you very much for coming in.
JM: Ben, awesome. My pleasure.
BL: It’s just such an honor to work with you, so…
JM: You guys are making the magic. I love it.
BL: Thank you very much. We’re very happy to have you.
Tyler Witkin (TW): Hey there, Tyler Witkin, Community Manager in the Austin Texas studio here to bring you this week’s MVP. A huge congratulations to Terallian for his video: We Are Star Citizens. Many don’t realize how much time and effort goes into working with the CryEngine and bringing a project like this to life. So absolutely fantastic work sir, congrats again, you’re this week’s MVP.
Back to you guys.
SG: Congrats Terallian, it is clear that a lot of time and energy and love went into making that.
ZB: I think that defines the Star Citizen community in general.
SG: it most certainly does, we have a very passionate community and we might be in Manchester this week, but we haven’t forgotten about ATV’s Fast Forward, check it out.
ZB: Be sure to tune into Reverse the ‘Verse 11am Pacific on twitch, and do you like Around the ‘Verse and want to show us? Hit like and subscribe below, it helps.
SG: [Laughs] Love it, it does help. With that, thank you as always to all of our subscribers for making this show possible. We will see you..
(Both): Around the Verse!
Enjoyed the transcript and want more? Check out our latest Foundry 42 interviews from The Relay’s visit to Manchester, UK.