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Around the Verse: Hovers are for Lovers Written Thursday 17th of January 2019 at 12:00am by Desmarius, Sunjammer and

Hover vehicles in the new flight model, and progress on animations for female player model.

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

Hoverbikes and Gravlev

- The old gravlev system was dependent on the old flight model and thus quit in moving to the new one

- The new gravlev system is dependent upon the terrain adding risk and connectiveness

- Jet skiing uses simulated semi-submersion in water and friction for better modeling

Retargeting Female Animation

- Sharing the same skeleton between male and females often results in masculine females

- Automated retargeting of animations is practical due to the vast number of animations needed

- Manual retargeting is best for times where higher fidelity is warranted

- After retargeting is finished it's imported into a scene where certain pull and reach affectors are adjusted keeping the head cam and origin node in mind and inserted into game for testing

Full Transcript


Eric Kieron Davis (ED): Hello and welcome to another episode of Around the Verse. I’m Eric Kieron Davis.

Josh Herman (JH): And I’m Josh Herman.

ED: In today’s update we’ll take a look at how gravlev works in the new flight model and see recent work on playable female characters, but first let’s take a look at some recent community shenanigans.

JH: Our ever awesome Spanish community got together for their recurring event series, Los 50. This time around they engaged in an epic vehicular battle in a huge crater on Daymar.

ED: Yeah, those events are always awesome.

JH: Yes, they are.

[Los 50 Video Clip]

ED: The Los 50 crew …

JH: … Los Cincuentas …

ED: … The Los Cincuentas ... thank you ... always brings it. So moving on to development when creating an entirely new flight model, as we are currently working on, we cannot forget about gravlev.

JH: No we can’t. Let’s take a look at how gravlev vehicles will work when that new flight model goes live. Here’s David Colson and Andrew Nicholson with some insights into the wild world of hoverbikes.

Hoverbikes and Gravlev

David Colson (DC): The old gravlev system was heavily dependent on the old flight model, and because the new flight model is a lot of work in the difference of implementation the old gravlev stopped working when we moved toward the new flight model.

Andrew Nicholson (AN): The kind of fundamental difference between a gravlev thruster and a regular thruster is that it needs a surface to work with; it needs … so you need to be close to the ground in order to get the traction and speed that you need.

DC: And so alongside modifying and refactoring the implementation of gravlev we thought that we would reconsider how we want it to feel and how we want it to actually play. And so that prompted a different implementation that we think better achieves the design goals that have been set out for this.   

AN: We wanted to make it feel like you had risk again. Previously we were getting too disconnected from the terrain. Make the player have to make choices based on the terrain that’s up and coming. If it looks rocky and rough you want to avoid that and you can sort of build tracks around that sort of thing.

DC: Previously the bikes, I think, were a little bit too easy. They used to hover over obstacles which we no longer do in the new gravlev model. It’s a little bit more challenging, but there’s also a little bit more depth for you to learn how to drive nicely and properly. This is just how we’re modelling this to sort of make it feel a little bit more interesting and a little bit more fun to control with a few ... a bit more depth. And so as you’re hovering the suspension model will inform the gravlev plates how much thrust they need to provide to hold the bike at its certain height that it needs to be. We have a lot more control over this now. We can sort of modify the height as you’re going. So if you want to fly over rocks and stuff you could hold space and it will like go over the tops of rocks and things like that.

And then the jet ski model is essentially simulating as though you were semi-submerged in water. We have this like fictitious water around the bike, and then as you are going through the water we’ll model the amount of friction that the water is putting on the side of the bike, and then that will inform the thrusters on the side of the bike what thrust they need to be giving at any point and time. So we still have the thruster as effectively driving the bike and the grav plates, but the way they’re deciding how to thrust is a lot different to how it used to be. It’s a little bit more complicated I guess, but it feels a lot nicer to drive the bikes, so I think it’s absolutely worth it.

AN: I think overall the changes we’re making with the gravlev system are going to make for an enjoyable experience. The player’s going to feel more connected to the bikes. They’re going to feel more like bikes overall anyway rather than just floating spacecraft across the planet. They’re going to be connected to the ground and all the potential terrain issues we’re going to introduce can result in some quite exciting new race tracks going forward in the future.

Back in the Studio

ED: That looks really cool.

JH: It does. It looks awesome.

ED: I cannot wait for the new flight model.

Alright, moving on. Devs have been adjusting animations for playable female characters in order to differentiate some movements from their counterparts.

JH: Let’s go to Bryan Brewer for more info about the process of retargeting animation.

Retargeting Female Animation

Bryan Brewer (BB): Right now we’re undergoing the arduous task of retargeting all of our male animations to our female character. Typically in games males and females share the same skeleton, but that has a few drawbacks like the females tend to be masculine. In our game we decided we wanted to have a unique skeleton for our female so that she is unique and different from our male character. This does however come with a few challenges that we have to overcome. For example, her arms and her legs have different proportions than our male.

We have two ways of retargeting our animations. We have an automated approach, and we have a manual approach. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. The automated way is headed up by Rob Howes in our content tech department. With thousand of animations it’s purely impractical to be able to do everything by hand. Our manual method is reserved for retargets where we want a higher fidelity. It’s usually done by the animator who did the male animation after it’s been approved. It’s usually for when we want to have an interaction with an object like a spaceship, and it opens up a set of controls for us so that we can better have contact points and interactions with that object.

After an animation is finished and improved by our animation director we import the female character into our scene. With the click of a button she is being driven by the male character. We then take a little bit of time to turn on and off certain pull and reach affectors over the course of the animation. We also keep in mind the technical requirements such as head cam for the player view and the origin node which we call the locator locomotion. When we are happy with the result we bake down the live retarget and export to game for testing.

The advantages of first retargeting all the male animations to the female is that we are able to get everything in game and handed off to design right away. They are no longer having to wait for animation to supply them with content. One of the disadvantages though is that the female will still be very masculine. In some cases it doesn’t matter. You’ll never notice. In other cases we definitely need to replace those animations with properly shot female motion capture.

Once we’ve successfully replaced all the retargeted animation with properly shot female motion it will make our game feel more alive, it’ll give variety to our universe, and hopefully make everything feel more immersive.


ED: So playable female characters. What are you the most excited about getting that new playable character into the game?

JH: I think I’m just excited about bringing the additional choice to the players.

ED: Yeah. unintelligible

JH: Just kind of getting an extra … another gender into the verse is going to be an exciting thing. We’ve been talking about it for a really long time.

ED: Yeah.

JH: And I think it’s just exciting to finally be able to provide that to the player.

ED: So, we won’t be able to talk about this much after it gets out, …

JH: … Sure …

ED: … but what even the challenges to get this new height rig into the game and everything that the world currently …

JH: … Sure … Bryan was kind of mentioning it shortly, but getting all of the skeleton … an entirely different skeleton into the game …

ED: … Yeah …

JH: ... is really complex, and it doesn’t seem like it at first, but it’s a completely different proportion. So all the weapons they’re going to use, all the ships they’re going to use, all the usables they’re going to use, everything needs to be tweaked, …

ED: … Right ...

JH: ... because it’s a different skeleton.

ED: Yeah.

JH: So it’s a lot of work from a lot of people, and it’s an exciting moment for us to finally build to deliver that.

ED: Yeah, so we .. I mean .. we’ve talked about this before we have female NPCs. Why is it so hard now to do playable? And again you’ve probably answered this question about eight times …

JH: … Sure …

ED:  in the last many years, but what/why you know we’ve got female NPCs what’s the difference?

JH: The difference is that when you look at something like a shopkeeper or a mission giver or something like that, they have a defined set of animations and a defined set of data. Whereas a Player has a ton of stuff they can do: you can shoot, you can fly, you can shop, you can do all these different things. So it’s really just the amount that is being processed: it’s just considerably more.

ED: Exciting times.

JD: Yeah.

ED: Exciting time to be alive.

JH: Finally, Environment Art continues  to work on Wala and Lyria : the two moons of ArcCorp.

ED: And that just about does it for today’s update. If any of you are in the San Antonio area this weekend, please make sure to stop by the annual PAX South Bar Citizen event. Members of the CIG team are planning on stopping by so make sure you say hello.

You can head over to barcitizen.sc for more information.

JH: And thanks to the Subscribers, of course, for sponsoring our shows.

ED: And thank you to all Backers for all that you do. Until next time, we’ll see you …

Both: Around the ‘verse.



When he's not pun-ishing his patients or moderating Twitch streams, he's at Relay pun-ishing their patience as a member of the transcription staff. Otherwise, he can be found under a rock somewhere in deep East Texas listening to the dulcet tones of a banjo and pondering the meaning of life.

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