This week Around the ‘Verse will be in the UK! Check it out
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!
Sandi Gardiner (SG): Hey everybody, welcome to season three, episode two of Around the ‘Verse. I’m Sandi Gardiner, VP of Marketing.
Chris Roberts (CR): And I’m Chris Roberts, CEO and Project Director of Star Citizen and Squadron 42, making another guest appearance on Around the ‘Verse.
So on this week’s news on the Star Citizen Alpha front, 2.5 has been making good progress and is currently testing with the Evocati. We’re hoping to go to a wider PTU this weekend so check for updates on the website for that.
As you know we’re rotating between studios, so this week we’re going to highlight the U.K. studio and what they’ve been working on. As you most likely already know I’ve been spending a lot of time in the U.K. this year working closely with the team on Squadron 42 as well as Star Citizen. I mean I have to say it’s an incredibly talented team, it’s not 180 strong which is amazing and I’m lucky enough to have them help me build such an ambitious set of games and you know of course the other studios are also incredibly talented and great. So with that, let’s throw it over to Nick Elms, the Creative Director of Foundry 42 and see what he has to say.
Nick Elms (NE): Hi everyone, welcome to another monthly update from here at Foundry 42 in Wilmslow. We’ve hopefully got a few interesting videos for you today and we’re going to start with Karl, Zane, and Craig, all talking to you about improvements we’ve been making to the landing system.
Karl Jones (KJ): We’ve been working on a new landing system. We want to make everything a lot more intuitive, make sure the messaging is coming across to the player about what’s actually going on in the same. So essentially how that’s going to work now is as soon as you drop your landing gear, you’re effectively in landing mode, which drops you down to Precision mode as well which means you’ve got more finer control over the ship speeds and the ship’s movement and it also swaps out the AR for the landing AR that kind of flags all the landing areas and potential landing areas and whether or not they’re recommended or whether they’re valid or invalid. That kind of ties into the comm system too because when you approach some of these official landing zones, you’ll have to ask for permission to land on certain pads and stuff like that.
You’ll get near a particular landing zone, switch on comms and you’ll hail the tower at the station and request landing permission and then they’ll either grant it or not, AR will respond to whatever permissions they give. So if they don’t grant it, AR will tell you none of them are valid, if they do grant it, it’ll flag one of them for ya, call you over, take your ship over there and as soon as you’re in a boundary box, you can either land manually because your landing gear is down anyways so you just do everything yourself, lower the ship down and physically stick it on a geometry yourself, or you can hold auto landing key down which will safely land you on the pad itself.
Whether or not that’s available depends on which station you’re at. I know some of the high tech stations will offer the automatic landing and some of the others may not, it’s just all about what services they offer at that particular station.
All aspects of the game, we’re constantly working on whether or not there’s enough messaging in there and trying to improve the experience and make it more intuitive to the player and landing was just one of those ones that we were always aware we were going to come back and revisit. This pass that we’re doing on it now should do a really good job at clearing everything up for the player.
Zane Bien (ZB): In addition to making the whole landing system more intuitive in general to use, we want to have the UI improvements accompany. So we created a motion graphics mockup at what this would look like with the landing in different states. So when you have a recommended landing pad or a landing pad, you’re not able to land at a certain landing pad, we have different UI states for that and that’s shown and demonstrated in this concept that we had one of our Senior UI Artists, Rich Morrison mock up for us.
So one thing we wanted to keep in mind was that because you could have so many different landing pads next to each other, we didn’t want too much UI overlapping each other so we wanted to keep it simple, but obvious enough to see when you’re approaching the landing pad.
The other thing that we also had to take into account was say for instance landing pads are embedded deep within a crater or are hidden away, we have a visual element to tell you where that landing pad is despite it being embedded.
Craig Groundsell (CG): So our task was to improve the landing system to make it a lot simpler for players to land their ships. We had issues where players found it really hard to align it to the landing area and touch down, so the goal was to add in a few assists. So now we’ve got a feature where you can, the ship will orientate itself to match the orientation of the landing area or the terrain of the planet.
As soon as you engage the landing system, we switch the flight mode into Precision mode so that helps the player with the maneuverability of the ship, means they can do a lot more precise maneuvers and bring it down to a smooth touch down. When the ships within a specific height of the landing surfaces as well, we switch to automatic mode and bring the ship down in under autopilot to touch down.
So when we get close to a potential landing surface, what we do is fire out a number of ray casts from beneath the ship to test the surface normals on the ground and then we average those and try and orientate the ship upright to match those ground normals so that you should come in at the same orientation as the potential landing site. Even with visual aids and UI feedback, it was still pretty hard to align the ship correctly onto a landing area, especially when you’ve got a massive ship like the Retaliator and you’ve got other obstacles around the pad that are quite easy to collide into. So I think this helps orientate the player better.
The whole idea is that the then result is landing’s a lot easier and it’s a more enjoyable experience, but even then you can still turn off all these assists and try to land the ship yourself, and potentially make a hash of it or not.
This should all go live with 2.5 although we’ve got further iterations to do and to get some improved UI and get the latest UI prototypes in so it’s still an ongoing process.
NE: I hope you enjoyed that and now we’re going to go over to Gordon who’s going to talk to you about some of the improvements we’ve been making to the FPS cover system.
Gordon McLean (GM): You’ll already have seen the weaponries system that went into the live universe in an earlier patch. That’s the system when you approach a wall, A: your weapon will rise up in front of you to stop it clipping, and the cover system builds on top of that and as you approach the edge of a cover surface, A: you weapon will move slightly to indicate that you can lean out from cover and that position you can press the lean key to A: peak out of cover, you can press the fire key to blind fire, or you can press the indent sights button to step out fully and shoot.
The parameters for the cover are all stored in DataCore. We’ve put different setups for different weapons and for the different position in cover. Using Data Forge’s live edit feature we can connect the game in real time and edit these parameters as you’re playing it and it gives the Artists and Animators and Designs lots of freedom to tweak and modify these values rather than having to go in and create different overlay animations for each one.
So the heavy work of the cover system is performed in ray casting and we’ve got lots of rays that check whether you are in cover, whether you can lean out of cover and also do things like stop the weapon clipping through the wall if you rotate in towards cover. These rays try to estimate how close you are to the edge of cover so that when you do perform a step out, it keeps you as close to the corner as possible so you’ve got the best view of the battle while exposing the least amount of your body.
Finally we’ve implemented a feature called slice the pie, which is used while you’re stepped out of cover. So as you rotate further in towards a cover surface, that will move you further out and give you a better view of your surroundings, and we’re also going to extend this when we do a top cover and we’ve got a similar feature called slice the cheese which will take you further up so you can see down from a balcony or from a higher up position to shoot below you.
The cover system was originally conceived to slow the game down slightly more, make it feel a bit more tactical, sort of give you the option of taking your time and picking your targets, and when you’re playing it, a lot of the work went on with sort of Todd Papy, and Germany and John over here to sort of get the design right and get the feel of the game right, and we’ve had lots of work from the various Animators whose Ian Colon, and did a lot of work to get these animators feeling snappy and quick and so it felt natural and also there’s a lot of focus on making sure you wouldn’t get stuck in cover, it wouldn’t feel cumbersome, it was a very sort of fluid and natural feeling system.
A lot of the designers obviously play it while they’re doing the playtest or all us play it when we’re doing a playtest and it does seem to be getting used more and more now that there’s more features coming online and it does feel quite satisfying when manage to kill someone from cover when you actually managed to use it effectively.
So all the guns will work in the cover system and it’s sort of weapon agnostic, they’ve all got like I said different setups for DataCore and so the legs of a sniper rifle will have to raise slightly differently from a pedestal and you’ll hold it differently when you’re in cover, but yeah they will work, you’ll be able to walk up with a shotgun and sniper, look out, fire a shot, come back, and pull the shotgun and so on.
So the procedural cover system is going live in 2.6.
NE: And that’s all for this month from Foundry 42 Wilmslow, we’ll see you next month for another update.
SG: Thanks Nick, and in other news Gamescom party tickets are sold out. So that is going to be a really fun event. There’s a livestream happening if you can’t make it on Friday, August 19th, Chris will be there, 1200 PST
CR: In person.
SG: Yeah, in person or 1900 UTC. Big Benny’s t-shirts in new sizes are available for everybody. Also our staff have been very keen to get in these t-shirts so look forward to seeing them on future ATV episodes.
The rotating freefly ship which was the Sabre last month just ended for subscribers and the next one is now the Gladius so get in there and fly that. Meanwhile there’s a flash sale on the Sabre this week due to popular request, but speaking of ships let’s also check out one of the new flyable ships that will be in 2.5.
Geoff Coffin: Hey I’m Geoff, I’m currently working in Tech Design. I’m working on the Argo multiperson utility vehicle, and today I’m just going to be showing you around the Argo, showing you a little bit of the process that’s gone behind it and all the work that’s gone into it really. So, the Argo itself is primarily a Capital ship support vehicle. So, what it does is you’ll have the Idris fly into a location, but it might not be able to go through an asteroid field or something like that, and the Argo can then fly in. It can pick up any survivors in one of its pods, or it can be fitted with the cargo pod with repair gear in the back of it, and with that repair gear if the ship gets damaged it can send out a crew of engineers that can fly around to the damaged part of the ship and they can start fixing it back up.
It’s also going to be having… the Argo doesn’t currently have this because it’s a work in progress, but it’s going to have a mechanical arm. It will also be able to repair parts of the ship, but as I said it’s currently a work in progress. Unfortunately it won’t be going out in the live version of the ship. It is very much a support vessel. It has no quantum drive, it has no weapons, it’s lightly armored. It’s completely tethered to it’s parent ship, but at the same time it’s not really designed to be going out and doing its own individual thing. It’s purely a support craft.
The cargo itself has three pods. One is a cargo pod which you may have seen in the CitizenCon video from last year where we introduced the Stanton. The cargo pod has space for a limited amount cargo and it’s also got a seat for one personnel to sit in during a transport. It’s also got a transport variant which has eight seats in it for obviously larger scale personnel pick up/drop off, which would be quite handy for when the Idris is in orbit and you need to send the Argo down to a planet. Finally it’s going to have a rescue and recovery pod which we haven’t finished yet, but this pod will have limited medical facilities, so if someone gets injured on the battlefield you can cart them into it and take them back up to the ship to receive proper care.
The Argo is also going to eventually be able to attach and detach it’s pods. So, currently the different versions of the Argo are different ships. So, you got the cargo Argo and the transport Argo which each have their own bespoke pod, but eventually you’ll be able to detach one pod and attach another or even if it could get to an escape pod from a destroyed Capital ship. For example, it could go out and pick up one of those escape pods and then drop that off in the Idris or whatever its parent ship would be at the time.
Yeah for a bit of the design process that went into the Argo, it used to have a much, a much sort of smaller pod, but that was a real… not really be able to store a lot of like cargo, couldn’t really fit a person in the middle of the stuff, so the pod was made much bigger, and it was given a rear ramp. So, now picking up cargo and dropping it off is now considerably easier. It also looks a lot nicer, I think personally. Also the lower thrusters on the front of the ship, they’re currently located underneath the cockpit, but previously they used to be actually on these thruster pugs, which are the circular objects that all the thrusters are mounted on, and what they would do is they used to fire down into the pod itself which… yeah, we had to fix that cause it didn’t look too great. [laugh]
That is the thrusters on the Argo, on the legs, they don’t rotate with the legs, so when it’s landed it actually uses its legs as supports, and when it takes off its legs will rotate back into like a fixed position, so that they can help with flying cause the ends of the legs each have a main thruster on them and they’ve also got the retros mounted in there, but the pugs themselves on the sides don’t rotate so they can actually help with takeoff and landing otherwise the ship would have a fairly hard time getting off the ground. There’s also a few minor design changes it went through like in the early versions of the Argo that the public may have seen the legs were… they were sloped much further forwards so a lot of the weight in the back of the Argo was actually unsupported. There’s a few videos floating, that we’ve got floating around where the… when the Argo is placed into a gravity box, the sheer weight of the Argo, I mean it would rest on the floor for a few seconds and then just rock backwards and yeah, that was a bit silly. Yeah, that’s the Argo. It’s a lovely little ship runner, basically it’s a skiff that’s a general workhorse for all the Capital ships hopefully will be flown around.
Tyler Witkin (TW):Hey guys Tyler Witkin here, Community Manager in the Austin, Texas studio here to bring you this week’s MVP.
A huge congratulations Lord Bayne for his efforts in creating SCLoreCast. Bayne takes Star Citizen lore to a whole new level by bringing it to life with music, sound effects, and epic voice acting.
We can’t get enough of these so keep them coming, and congratulations again, you’re this week’s MVP. Back to you guys.
Nathan Dearsley (ND): The stuff we’re about to show you today is the full R+D investigation into the catastrophic damage of Capital ships. There’s some very specific milestones and goals that we try to accomplish with this cause there is a high level plan to have fully explorable dead ships, not only in space but also on planet surfaces.
The idea behind the R+D work was initiated should we say from a keypoint in the story, it was something that I wanted to kill two birds with one stone so we know we wanted to achieve these things with the PU and why not try and do the same for some parts of the story. So, the starting point was we obviously got a lot of Capital ship material that we can use, ranging from the Idris, to the Javelin to the Bengal. The key point is that we didn’t want to have to recreate everything from scratch so you could, for example, take an environment or a ship and go, ‘ok, this is 100% damage now’ and start again. You would get very good result that way but we wanted to do is we really wanted to push strongly use of existing assets, simple shader swaps and full use of the effects and lighting to push a mood and the feel into these areas.
By default, when I went around a lot of the different departments and I spoke to them about the catastrophic damage, the default thought that comes to everyone’s head is it’s on fire. Everything is burning to ashes and no one can escape or get out or get in and that’s great but if you study real world reference such as aircraft carriers, big ships in the ocean, oil rigs, they have very advanced fire retardant systems, that’s more than capable of essentially putting catastrophic fires out. So, fire crews can get in and not only does that make things accessible but it also kind of opens up opportunity to have a lot of wet surfaces that we can then with the light going out, play with very kind of clever lighting techniques to turn… kind of push a mood that we’re after which is dark, dead, slow, it should kind of work. The environment that you’re used to should now be working against you, so these are the things we’re trying to create.
As mentioned first, we looked at a lot of real world reference such as oil rigs, the large structures that can put themselves out like aircraft carriers. Obviously that’s not enough, there’s a wealth of films and reference that we can kind of look at and pull inspiration from. Lucky enough to have worked on some of those so much like the Cat, but the real kind of mood and feeling came from a lot of Ridley Scott stuff and if the wheel isn’t broken I don’t believe in fixing it. So, we have a lot of inspiration from IP’s such as Alien, Blade Runner, all the 80’s classic sci-fi film should we say. I hope that gives you some insight into the work that’s gone into the R+D for the catastrophic damage effects. It’s a huge collaborative approach between a lot of departments, not just Art but also Ali and his team and Mike and his team. With the VFX, seeing everyone come together to kind of produce these results is awe inspiring and I hope you liked it.
Alistair Brown (AB): For the last couple of months the graphics team have been working on a bunch of features to improve the quality of the lighting predominantly so we can get some better visuals in the downed ships or the crashed ships. This mainly comes down to improving the particle lighting and for the VFX team which we’ve added some volumetric features there to really make it stand out especially when we’ve got all the fog and other effects going. The other part of what we’ve been working on is to improve the bloom and lens flares to give a better glare when you look at these bright lights which we get in these very dark and broken ships.
When you think of a derelict or crashed spaceship, probably one of the first things you can picture is the atmospheric lighting. With shafts of light in the smoky, mangled aftermath so it was clear that this would be an area of technology we would need to focus on to achieve that look. The first improvement we wanted to make was on the lighting of our particle effects, previously they would use their own lighting system which didn’t support many of the usual features of our lights. So for example we would be missing crucial shadows or the brightness of the lights would be incorrect.
The rest of the engine however uses a system called tiled lighting which can efficiently cope with hundreds of light sources and so we adapted this system so we can use it on our particle effects too and this really helped us tie the particle lighting in with the rest of the art much better. However because particles are really just approximations of volumes, we decided to go one step further and apply volumetric lighting by sampling the lighting many times across each particle’s volume. This gives every light the ability to cast light shaft within every particle effect.
The other big change is to improve our bloom and flare effect which simulates the glare and bounces of light you get due to imperfections within a camera or the human eye. There are generally two approaches to flares, artist driven and procedural. CryEngine’s base flare implementation is artist driven and blends and distorts many textures on top of each other to create complex flares that can look great in the right conditions but also aren’t physically based so don’t simulate the actual lightship or spawn correctly to other effects such as depth of field and motion blur.
Procedural techniques on the other hand are generated by code purely based on the high dynamic range image data and therefore give accurate highlight shapes and respond to other effects as expected. However procedural technique usually look quite simplistic due to their cost so we came up with an efficient method of generating physically based flares where each individual element can be customized to exhibit a wide range of physically based distortions and colour shifts.
Yeah, the whole system still runs faster than our previous system. So, hopefully you can see the benefits of all the new tech and hopefully it will be with you soon in the next few weeks in the next release.
Darren Lambourne (DL): I’ve been working on the sound design for the ambience inside the Idris and specifically the last few days have been working on the various damage levels across the ship so from 10% damage right up to 100% and today I’m going to show you the more extreme of those damage states and that the Idris on a really, really bad day.
So, here we are on the Idris and obviously looking around something pretty catastrophic has happened so this is the audio design for a very damaged, crashed in fact, Idris and we’ll fly through the level now, nice and slowly so you can soak up the ambience and I’ll keep the chat to a minimum.
Once again, with this version of the Idris the emphasis has been on detail and creating a very positional 3D environment to explore. This approach of using hundreds upon hundreds of individual sound spots of create the audio environment does give you this sort of 3D positional thing but it gives you a great sense of depth and as you approach many of these sound spots, their character changes. They brighten as you get closer to them and we bring in lots more layers of detail so as you examine something and get closer to it, it opens up and you see and hear more information.
So, for just a moment let’s remind ourselves what it’s like on the other end of the damage spectrum, onboard the Idris on a good day and you could hear it’s a pretty serene experience. It’s a calm, gentle ambience that the ship’s humming away nicely but as we start to bring up the procedural damage in the audio. Things start to rattle and hum and the ambience changes dramatically, the whole feel of the ship changes. Much more tension. The electrical boxes on the wall rattling and vibrating in different ways, again reflected in hundreds of sound spots across the ship. That all have this dynamic character which morphs and changes to reflect the health of the ship.
So right now, let’s have a look back on the catastrophically damaged Idris. Let’s take a quick look behind the scenes. So, here you can see we’ve got some emergency fire sprinkler sounds and there’s a particle system right now and that has a sound of the sprinkler associated with it. Here on the floor there’s an auxiliary sound, it’s the sound of water drops splashing and hitting other surfaces so you know there’s these different dimensions too even simple ambient sounds such as the fire sprinkler.
So hopefully that’s given you a sense of what we’re doing to bring the ship alive really and take our immersion to the next level. So yeah, thanks for watching.
CR: Now tell me that wasn’t amazing. I hope that shows the kind of attention to detail we’re aiming for. Imagine coming across a crashed wreck on a planet or floating in space or perhaps in Squadron 42, it’s just going to be so cool.
SG: Yeah, that was totally awesome and in other news Ben is back at work. Happy to have him back at work, he may or may not make an appearance on RtV although it’s a little early as we’re changing the time to accomodate the UK. Reverse the Verse will be on 4 pm local UK time so you can Q+A with UK Devs including our Vehicle Art Director Nathan Dearsley.
CR: Always very interesting to listen to him so with that we’d like to thank all the subscribers for making this show possible and the all the backers out there for making Star Citizen and Squadron 42 possible and we’ll see you around the ‘Verse.
SG: Around the ‘Verse.