Greetings folks! It's time to see what the Foundry 42 Frankfurt studio has been up to in the last month!
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!
Forrest Stephan (FS): Hi and welcome to Around the ‘Verse, your weekly look inside the development of Star Citizen. I’m Forrest Stephan, CG Supervisor here at Cloud Imperium with a man you might know, Game Director, Chris Roberts.
Chris Roberts (CR): Thanks Forrest. Hi everyone, thanks for joining us. Last Friday was our big Anniversary livestream. We tried a new approach for this year and framed it as the Intergalactic Aerospace Expo, an in fiction ship exhibition which I thought was a really cool idea.
FS: Super cool idea. So cool in fact that people on the forums kept asking about getting to go to that in game. Do you think there’s a chance?
CR: Well you never know, so you know me an in fiction stuff, but having ingame events like this or the Murray Cup Finals will be amazing ways to make the universe feel alive so let’s see long term. In the meantime though it gave us the chance to see some new Galactic Tour segments which are always fun and unveil our first Tevarin ship the “Prowler”.
FS: Really? And the Tevarin.
CR: And the Tevarin, although we didn’t quite manage to show it on the show, we had to do it a later on Twitter due to a small technical fault, but Josh Herman gave us a first look and me and Dave Haddock and Josh sort of talked about the Tevarin and Nathan Dearsley put together an amazing segment called the Big Guns of the UEE which showcased the capital ships, and there were four new dogfighting variants as well as a preview of 2.6 Alpha with some exciting Arena Commander and the Star Marine gameplay which was a headline of the livestream.
FS: Yeah that’s a ton of cool stuff. We also have a big sale on physical merchandise as well. So check out the site to see what you might have missed.
CR: Yeah, definitely and there was one other announcement that we did on Friday, we made some new over the weekend, but you can now check out our brand new in depth production schedule report on the RSI website. So this breaks down the current status from all the departments that are working towards the release of 2.6 Alpha. Basically this will serve as direct feed from our production department to let you guys know where we’re at in terms of getting the build towards you. So a lot of information there that will be updated weekly and it’s a pretty big thing, we doing this as an experiment, not many people do this, but I’m excited about it, a lot more transparency so let's see what happens.
FS: yeah I’m sure everyone appreciates it, it’s incredible. We’ll be talking plenty more about Star Marine later on in this episode, but first let's now go to Brian Chambers in Frankfurt for a studio update. Take it away Brian.
Brian Chambers (BC): Hi everyone, I’m Brian Chambers, I’m Development Director at Foundry 42 Frankfurt. Since our last update here, the team has grown by another five people - we have two new environment artists, a tech animator, regular animator and a producer. So we’re taking the time to integrate them into the team, show them what they need to know to hit the ground running.
Let’s kick off this week by checking in with the weapons time and see what they’ve been doing over the last few weeks.
Tobias Wanke (TW): Hello everybody, so here’s a quick update on what the weapon artists have been up to recently - starting with ship weapons. We’ve taken a look at all of our missiles and polished and optimized them - we’ve also added a bunch of new ones for 2.6.
The FPS weapons team has started to work on our new manufacturer - Kastak Arms - and created the first set of new concepts and whitebox meshes. As for FPS gadgets, David will now talk you through some of the new stuff he’s been working on recently.
David Sibbe (DS): Many of you have seen the multi-tool in Austin’s latest AtV. But today we want to take a closer look at it. The Greycat Industrial Multi-tool is a pistol-sized power tool with modules attached to the front.
In it’s current state, it has two modules - the first is the cutting module with the lasers and a lens to cut through thin steel or open containers; the second one is a welding tool to quickly repair objects or patch up damage. It’s also possible that we add more modules in the future with different functionality - right now, there is no active display. But we plan to implement it before it is available for you.
We also made a variety of grenades with different effects and styles. The first grenade you are able to use is the MK-4 Frag Grenade which will make its first appearance in Star Marine as part of the multiplayer gameplay. But when it comes to PU and later on Squadron 42, we need more variety. So we incendiary grenade, cluster grenade, EMP and radar distortion. I hope you liked our new stuff so maybe leave a comment and see you next time.
BC: Thanks guys. The Level Design Team, last few weeks have been continuing to work on the modularity system and surface outposts that we showed a few weeks ago. They are also working on a handful of space stations - all focused for 3.0. When they work with the space stations, they are primarily working on whitebox and greybox while the UK art team in tandem dials in the visuals.
System Design Team has been focusing on usables and character actions for both player and AI - how they interact with the world and the objects and all the details around that. They’ve also been working on a take-off and landing system for ships and that’s both from platforms and from other ships - so a ship taking off and going in and out of another ship.
The Environment Team has grown by a few people as I previously mentioned - they are primarily focused on expanding the existing ecosystems that we’ve shown you as well as creating new ones all to be used with the direction of 3.0. They work extremely close with the engine team on a daily basis - they iterate both on the tech side and the art side back and forth until we get the visuals where we need them to be.
For AI, the team has been working hard - advancements in subsumption behaviours as well as pushing combat a little bit further - we hope to have something to show you for our next update from Frankfurt. So, that’s it from the team here. Thanks for the time for watching, and goodbye.
FS: Thanks Brian, those weapons are looking pretty nice huh?
CR: Yeah, no they’re looking really good. I also like the pore, some of the grenades are looking good and the concept stuff for Kostak. Also having expanded ecosystems is really going to help the variety of potential environments and once we start populating with those modular outposts and other stuff that we do it’s going to be pretty awesome.
FS: Yeah, for sure. If you’re interested in reading more about planetside, there’s an in depth article about the making of Homestead demo in last Friday’s jump point. So subscribers go download it if you haven’t already. I’ve read it, it’s awesome, go check it out.
CR: Yeah, no it was a lot of work everyone put together in that one and we’re quite proud of what we showed off and I think it’s going to make a great thing. Also we should check in with our incredible community so let’s go to our Community Manager Tyler Witkin in Austin.
Tyler Witkin (TW): Hey everyone, Tyler Witkin, Community Manager in the Austin, Texas studio here to bring you this week’s Community Update.
We hope you enjoyed the Anniversary livestream. We were super excited to see Bar Citizen viewing parties around the globe. A handful in the States, Canada, France, Sweden, and more! And we want to see pictures from your events. So make sure to tag us on social media or add the hashtag #AerospaceExpo so we can check them out.
Now just as a reminder, the Anniversary sale is still going on with different themed sales daily. So check back everyday at Robertsspaceindustries.com to see what goodies are available leading up to the grand finale.
Now it’s time for this week’s MVP award. A huge congratulations to Xeron for his extraordinary efforts in creating a Star Citizen fan cinematic, “Vengeance of the Damned”. This actually involved 83 different citizens and if you haven’t seen it, I encourage you to check it out for yourself on our Community Hub.
Lastly the week would not be complete without Reverse the Verse so be sure to tune in live tomorrow at Twitch.tv/CIGCommunity at 7:00am Pacific Standard Time where we’re going to be talking about everything you saw on today’s episode.
Thanks again for all the support and we’ll see you in the Verse.
FS: The InterGalactic AeroSpace Expo is going on the rest of the week. So you can check that out on the website for details on the daily ship sales. We’ll also have a new Galactic Tour segment each and every single day.
CR: Yeah the fun is I’m always watching to see what easter eggs Thomas has put in. So there’s a bunch of people that have contributed to pull that together last minute, it was a last minute kind of idea and it came together really good so I think its been adding a lot of flavour to the expo.
FS: I agree. So up next we talk to team members from around the globe to learn more about the long road to bring Star Marine to life.
CR: Yes, the long road, and it’s only just getting born and it’s still going to have to grow a bunch when it gets out.
Todd Papy [TP]: I’m Todd Papy, Design Director here at CIG. Today I want to talk to you about Star Marine and the iterations it's gone through from Illfonic to even our current team.
So what you’ve seen before with Illfonic and then when it was handed over to our current team there was a lot of adjustments, a lot of breakdown of basic, fundamental features so we can use those as building blocks when we go forward with our tech as well as with Persistent Universe.
So when we started looking at Star Marine it was always meant to basically be a precursor to the Persistent Universe and use this as a building block. Now what we did, was we kind of did a little bit backwards, where what you see in Alpha 2.0, 2.1, even through 2.5, is very basic combat and navigation for Star Marine.
So in 2.6 what we’ve done is we’ve built that up a lot more: we’ve added vault, mantle, cover, as well as grenades and melee - just to name a few features - to actually build to what our combat is going to be and then from there, in the future, we’ll be adding other new features like gadgets as well as a breathing/stamina system and this will give us a fully fleshed out combat first-person experience.
Steve Bender [SB]: Animation-wise in Star Marine there’s a whole lot of things that go into it. You have your character animation, which would be, say, your body animation of your character running around. You have your facial animation, so perhaps the character breathes or makes some sort of expression when he shoots. You have procedural animations so we’re holding the weapon and we’re firing and that recoil that is happening is procedural. And then as the hands squeeze on the trigger and squeeze on the weapon that’s another character animation - but a partial body animation - that plays on top of that.
The first step is that we sit down with the Designers and figure out what it is … what is the intent of this particular behaviour or gameplay that we’re doing. We create a state machine for that which tells us - if we go from, say, an idle stance and we start to move and we need to jump or we going to vault or melee - how those things connect. Then once we understand how they connect, in the case of larger actions, say a stealth kill or running, we’ll go and we’ll shoot motion capture and we’ll grab the motion capture of those actors, we’ll bring them into MotionBuilder and into Maya, and we’ll work on those animations to get them to be technically correct for the game. We’ll play them then in the product to see how they feel, and we’ll make adjustments within Maya or MotionBuilder or something like this to try and really bear down on the quality that we’re looking for for the game.
In the case of things like, say, reload animations because it’s important in the first person view for us to see the weapon reloading - but we also have a tied first person and third person view - we can’t really motion capture those reloads fully we have to do a lot of hand animation on those to make sure that they look good in third person and in first person.
So depending upon what the asset is will give us a different track that we go on. Either we do it with mocap or we do it with keyframe.
Jens Lind (JL): So as a lead programmer I manage a team and our work is mainly player related. So for Star Marine it has been a big advantage for us to have been able to look at specifically the core FPS gameplay without this big PU backdrop. But with any features we do we always want to think about how they go into the PU. We don’t want to put a feature in just because it’s easy to do it in Star Marine and then three or four months later find out that, that’s one or two years worth of work to get it into the PU. We want these pieces to fit into the final game.
John Crewe (JC): Alpha 2.0 back at the end of last year and we’ve slowly been iterating on the features for that. So we have two different throw modes for the grenades in Star Marine. You can do underhand rolls or overhand throws or lobs. And currently that’s selectable depending on the view angle - whether you’re looking above the centerline of the screen or below the centerline of the screen. And we can adjust that quite easily on dev side but we’re going to look to expose that to be a more user customisable preference. So currently it’s set a fraction under the center of the screen to decide between if you’re below that then do a roll, if you’re above that then do a throw. So we’re going to see whether that’s something we let users customise - because obviously not everyone wants to do it like that - or whether we can expose that out into two different throw modes. And it’s one system so it’s not just for grenades - it will be for gadgets or any throwable objects.
You can also “cook” or prime grenades. So you literally just hold down the key to do that. Depending on how long you hold it for, is how long it cooks for. Obviously let go before the timer runs out. You have some audio and UI feedback for that. Just remember the grenades have quite a big radius on them so if you hold it down for too long and don’t let go soon enough then you will get caught in the blast radius.
We use DataForge to tweak all the parameters for grenades so the throw speed, their mass, the angle that you throw them at, the rotation that they throw so you can … we can have different rotations … rotational values for overhand and underhand throws. So underhand ones we want to roll more on one axis than the other so they roll along the floor more. Overhand sort of go end-over-end so they hit and bounce rather than hit the ground and just slide. Try something: doesn’t work. Go into DataForge move a slider around, type a new value in, save that out, jump back in game and you’ve got the new values there so it’s very quick to iterate.
Star Marine is a simulation of FPS combat inside the game so it's like we have Arena Commander as a simulation of the dogfighting. Functionally it’s the same between Arena Commander and Star Marine and the PU. So what you’re learning in both of them is directly applicable to the PU. So it’s not like we’re giving you easy mode for how ships handle or how weapons handle - it’s the same. So you’re not wasting your time doing one and then you suddenly get ruined going straight into the PU. It’s good to learn. And Star Marine is obviously the FPS side of it whereas Arena Commander is the ships.
JL: If you look at Arena Commander, for example, Arena Commander is an amazing tool for the ship team to balance how the ships work, how the ships feel, how they play against each other. With Crusader … having FPS in Crusader it’s been great for initial feedback but it doesn’t have the competitive edge because you always start out in a green zone, you might have a lot of people that aren’t interested in that aspect of the game. Whereas, with Star Marine, you’re not going to jump into a game if you don’t want to run around and shoot at people. So this going to be amazing to see what we can get out of that.
TP: So now we are going to give you a little bit more of a deeper dive into how we go about building levels as well as gamemodes for Star Marine. With that, when Chris Roberts starts talking about FPS experiences and everything like that - he doesn’t want it to be a traditional open FPS world.
Sean Noonan (SN): At the moment we started off by using it just as a large 3D space - six degrees of freedom to shoot. That’s not as interesting if there is nothing there, so we need to build things around it.
Multiplayer level design is an iterative process - you start with an idea and that can come from either concept art or just the idea for a scenario or potentially a top-down sketch. I prefer to work with rough 3D shapes which I can then flesh out into the basics of a white box. So when the whitebox is playtested, it requires a lot of iteration, it requires perfecting the sight lines, timing the choke points and maintaining metrics.
A white box’s primary intention is to minimize rework later on whilst getting the balance and fun in the game as soon as possible. Parallel to the initial playtests, art and narrative are also working, they are planning their treatment of the locations and spaces and they very much informed by the white box but they do bring their own idea from their own pool.
There’s a lot of backwards and forth with art when maintaining metrics, there is always the desire to make things look visually appealing but we always need to make sure the mechanics will still work well with that. So that is judging heights of crates and mantling points and distances between doorways and keeping routes clear.
As testing progresses, art are able to flesh out areas that have become a little more set in stone and over time the map changes from a texture-less shell to a more believable and aesthetically pleasing location.
Ian Leyland (IL): What we wanted to do for this release of Star Marine is focus on two maps. This is a mood board we created for one of the maps. It gives Chris a good high level overview of the visual stance we’re going to do for the level.
This is one of the visual feedback sheets we do for the guys. It’s basically me screenshotting a level after it’s been in production for a little while and giving more specific feedback - everything from base form reads of the level, how it is flowing, mood and character that we want to start adding into the scene.
This is an example of one of the concept art pieces that we’ve done for one of the maps. Once the designer white box has been verified and signed off then we’ll take it into concept to see where we want to visually push the scene. This is a good chance for us to explore where we want to take it - play with the moods, play with the lighting, play with the dressing - see what will work before we take it into full production.
Once we got something we’re happy then the environment team will take it and try and recreate that as the best we can and treat that area as a visual target and then once it’s in production we can see how well it is working and then expand those visual elements out across the rest of the environment.
This is an early example of what I call a visual feedback sheet for the guys, so once the level is taken to about 80-90%, I’ll give them a final paint to where we want to take the level - just that last 10%, that last bit of polish. Usually involves things like material read, lighting, VFX - just so we get that final view.
What’s quite interesting is usually when you make a FPS map, it’s usually- traditionally it’s a stripped down version of the campaign level so it’s usually a little bit lighter, a little bit cheaper to run because you got a lot of characters but for us what we wanted to do is almost the opposite. We wanted to make a hero location for a- specifically for FPS, right?
So hopefully what the players are going to see is a lot more considered time and a lot more considered visually so we can get- I’m hoping a good experience.
Josh Herman (JH): So we have two marines and we have two slavers - a medium and a light of each one. In fact we are using the same assets as we are using in SQ42 and the same ones we are using in the persistent universe. So the marines you are going to see here in Star Marine are actually the first time that you are going to see these marines and we’re eventually going to be putting them into the persistent universe as well.
The things that we use mostly for the marines are going to be more industrial, heavier, bulkier suits but also trying to tie that into a bit of a slicker, streamlined feel. So that they can feel powerful yet streamlined.
SB: Making an FPS and indeed making Star Citizen is an enormous undertaking - it doesn’t all happen at once so as you guys are out there playing Star Marine. We wanna know your feedback, both the good and the bad, right? What do you- do you like the recoil speeds? How do you feel about this melee? What- do you use this cover system functionality? Do you not use this cover system functionality?
Because, this is a big community backed product and we can’t do it without the community and it’s a partnership between the game we are making and the game that they are helping us create.
CR: Well, there you go. There’s a lot of people that have been working on the various elements of Star Marine. There’s still quite a lot of stuff that will go, but while we have FPS currently available in the PU Alpha at Keria and Grim Hex, it’s a time consuming process if you want to practice your FPS skills.
FS: Yes it is. No matter how much I practice, I keep getting sniped on the landing platform then have to go all the way back to Port Olisar which I’m sure you know nothing about that.
CR: I know nothing about that, not at all. So anyway getting Star Marine out in 2.6 will allow testers to hammer a bit more easily on the mechanics and provide us with some valuable feedback. What we learn from this development will translate directly into Squadron 42 and the PU so I think that’s a really good way to approach things and people should realize that it’s much like with Arena Commander, we’re getting it out there and we will constantly be working and improving it and iterating based on everyone's feedback so please participate.
FS: Yeah most definitely, and of course while we’re all eager on the release of 2.6. There is a lot for players to do right now in the 2.5 patch. Missions and combat in the PU, shopping and dancing in Arc Corp.
CR: Always dancing, [Laughs] and there’s also Arena Commander with Battle Royale, Vanduul Swarm and Murray Cup racing all available to play and test so any feedback or bugs you find while testing should be reported to the forums and the issue council and that stuff is really helpful. I think it’s one of the superpowers of our game and community is we have this symbiotic relationship in a lot of different ways.
FS: As a developer it’s such useful information.
FS: That’s it for today, as always we’d like to thank our generous subscribers who make the extra contributions that allow us to make this video content.
CR: Yeah thank you guys and also a big thank you to all of our backers and supporters without whom we wouldn’t be here in the first place. So big shoutout from the entire team from around the world to you guys, thank you so much.
Make sure to tune in tomorrow at 7:00am Pacific time for Reverse the Verse with Brian Chambers from Frankfurt to talk a little bit more about what was shown today.
FS: Awesome, can’t wait. So until then we’ll see you…
FS/CR: Around the Verse.