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Around the Verse: Pirate Swarm Written Thursday 19th of January 2017 at 12:00pm by StormyWinters, Sunjammer and

First episode of Around the Verse in 2017, hosted by Sandi and Chris. 

As per usual, anything said during the show is subject to change by CIG and may not always be accurate at the time of posting. Also any mistakes you see that I may have missed, please let me know so I can correct them. Enjoy the show!

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

Studio Update

  • Explorer flight suit in production with different suit types offer customizable options providing advantages and disadvantages.
  • Polishing head options and hair. Going through rounds of feedback.

  • Drake Buccaneer is now in graybox phase.

    • It already has the fuselage, engine, wings and front landing gear completed.

    • Moving onto the nose, cockpit and rear landing gear with the final art pass being after graybox.

  • Work continues on Radar 2.0 and It now takes advantage of Item System 2.0, is cleaner and slightly redesigned.

  • Mega-map work continues with loading/unloading of object containers.

Behind the Scenes: Pirate Swarm

  • 2.6 introduced an exciting new game mode called Pirate Swarm featuring a whole variety so different ships
  • Pirate Swarm is an essential testbed for Star Citizen and allows new AI behaviors and technology to be tried out
  • Pirate Swarm was an evolution of Vanduul Swarm but they wanted to give the player a different feeling
  • The team focused on creating archetypes by looking at the whole package: ship, weapon loadout and combat personality
  • They tried to close up the combat and introduce a bit more tailing/chasing
  • The basic archetypes of light, medium and heavy fighters mark your progression through the waves
  • The Aurora LN is the "brawler", the 350R is the "sniper",  the M50 is the "nuisance", the Cutlass is the "gunship", the Gladiator is the "punisher" and the Constellation is the "battleship"
  • They improved the way the AI uses afterburner: it's now part of the behaviours
  • The goal for Subsumption is for all AIs to be driven by activities, i.e. to have jobs, and in time will mean different turrets can target different players
  • 2.6.1 they are focusing on the Aces, the best pirates, giving them the overpowered weaponry their ships can handle, giving Pirate Swarm more of a challenge to it
  • Custom pirate skins in a crimson/black scheme so as to not only make the ships look more menacing but also make them easily identifiable amidst other ships

  • The Caterpillar pirate skin has a pirate emblem on the wing and tick marks on the side of the ship and most of the raw metal parts have been painted black giving it more a stealth look/feel to it

Full Transcript

Intro With Chris Roberts (CEO, Director of Star Citizen and Squadron 42), Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing). Timestamped Link.

Sandi Gardiner (SG): Hello and welcome to the first regular episode of Around the Verse in 2017, last week we featured a special AtV which unveiled a first real look at our alien languages, specifically the Vanduul and Xi'An… or Xi’An as we learned that’s how the military pronounces it. Definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already seen it and I’m Sandi Gardiner and with me is Star Citizen’s game director Chris Roberts.

Chris Roberts (CR): Thanks Sandi and happy new year everyone, I hope you’ve all been having as much fun with Alpha 2.6 and Star Marine as we have.

SG: Especially the new players who may have gotten Star Citizen as a special holiday gift. Welcome.

CR: Yes. Speaking of gifts, look at this - this is amazing. This is a fairly large Caterpillar model that was 3D printed and painted and assembled. It has a really cool cut-away back over here and you can see one of the crew members moving cargo around, different moving parts. This was done by Mark “Deadweight Fig” and his son who did it for us as a present so thank you so much and they didn’t just do this larger model luckily enough is for me, so that’ll go pride of place, thank you very much.

But there’s also smaller 3D printed Caterpillars and a Cutlass and even a Buccaneer which is actually really cool - it even has these little guns on the bottom and everything. So awesome, thank you very much and the smaller ships are for the ship team who I know will be incredibly excited to see this.

They love building the ships and seeing how everyone gets excited by them and doing their own 3D modelling of them and printing of them - so it’s totally awesome and this is one of the many reasons why I think Star Citizen is so special - we have such an amazing community, so into the universe and the world and do cool stuff like this. So yeah, it’s really awesome, thank you so much and I’m very happy.

So anyway, back to business as it were. Things are already well underway in our studios as we focus on our next milestones and up and coming patches - after any major release like 2.6, we make sure we take all the information we learn and properly adjust our production moving forward - so there’s a ton of discussions and post mortems going on right now - directors and producers from all our studios in LA this past week and even this week meeting and planning and working through our whole schedule for this year.

We’ve got some- a lot of work to do but a lot of cool stuff to get done.

SG: Also for the new year, we’ve began making adjustments to all the content we create every week to incorporate a lot of the great feedback we’ve been getting - old favourites like Loremaker’s and Bugsmashers will be sticking around but we are experimenting with adding a few new shows to the line-up.

CR: Yes, last week saw the premiere of our new livestream show, Star Citizen Happy Hour, where various team members and streamers will play and discussing game - which is obviously the important part, discussing the game so you get some of the developer insight into why some things are they way they are.

The first happy hour had Design Director Todd Papy and Senior Producer Alex Marschal answering questions from the backers and providing some great info on Star Marine.

SG: It was definitely a great start, and I’m looking forward to seeing what community managers Jared and Tyler will have in store for us tomorrow.

CR: Yeah - pretty cool.

SG: Also since our community has grown so much, we decided our coverage of it needed to grow too. The community update portion of AtV will be moving to it’s own show on mondays called Citizens of the Stars which will be premiering in the upcoming weeks.

CR: Yep - I saw a pilot of it and it was looking quite fun actually so that’s great. AtV has a few other changes as well, while we still provide the detail, behind the scenes insight into the game’s development - we’re building our feature stories with a more global approach to better represent how our team works together rather than focusing on one studio for each episode.

So we’ll still have the studio update per local studio but the background feature isn’t necessarily going to be from that studio and it’ll be more in-depth ten-fifteen-twenty minute piece rather than the shorter four or five minute piece we’ve had.

SG: So let’s first go to the LA office and see what they have been focusing on.

Studio Update With Eric Kieron Davis (Senior Producer). Timestamped Link.

Eric Kieron Davis (EKD): Happy new year everyone, I’m Senior Producer, Eric Kieron Davis, here with your studio update. We’re cranking through some really exciting things here in L.A. so I want to give you a quick glimpse into what we’re working on.

Filling a universe with unique clothing is no easy task, and as you’d expect, clothing and outfit production is in full force with our character team - one example that is currently in production is our explorer flight suit, you may remember early concepts of this suit from a while ago with the idea being that different suit types that will offer customizable options - each providing advantages and disadvantages for ultimately enabling different styles of gameplay.

We’re also deep into the polishing process for different head options as well as hair, and they are going through some thorough rounds of feedback to put them in your hands at the highest quality as soon as possible.

We’re also diving deeper into production on the Drake Buccaneer which if you are following along on the ship pipeline steps - we moved into the graybox phase since we last talked. As of today, we’ve already completed the fuselage, engine, wings and front landing gear. We’ll be moving on to the nose, cockpit and rear landing gear before going on to our final art pass.

Now, engineering has had a lot going on, such as Radar 2.0 - the main reason we’re revising the radar system is so they can easily take advantage of Item System 2.0 and also provide some opportunity to clean things up and redesign things just slightly.

We’re also far, far into the mega-map code. Specifically loading and unloading of object containers which will open up a universe of options in the PU and beyond. Well, that wraps us up for this week’s update. Thank you for joining us and see you soon.

Back to Studio With Chris Roberts (CEO, Director of Star Citizen and Squadron 42), Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing). Timestamped Link.

SG: I love seeing those new hair options - seems like everyone-

CR: [touches Sandi’s hair]

SG: -thank you. Seems like everybody came back to the office ready to dive back in and it feels like we’ve already started making some great progress.

CR: Definitely, I’m also very excited about the Buccaneer coming together as you can see there’s a really cool little- [stretches] where is it- Buccaneer, look at that - 3D printed one and I- yeah- we’re building it and it’s looking really good so Gin and Daniel are both working on it and making it- gonna be awesome. So you guys will like it using a lot of the stuff we’ve developed in terms of materials, feel and look as we’ve done for both the Herald and the Caterpillar - so that should be very, very cool.

SG: Should be very, very cool. And the mega-map code - that’s going to make a noticeable difference when it comes online, right?

CR: Yes, so definitely the mega-map is basically us retro-fitting all the Arena Commander and Star Marine content to take full advantage of our new object container streaming system so once in it will significantly reduce the loading times for players getting into the game and that’s a big queue for us since we want to let you play a match of Arena Commander or jump to a match of Star Marine with a minimum amount of loading.

We did do a lot of optimization for 2.6 so getting into a game is much quicker in 2.6 than it was in 2.5 but we’re still working on it and making that better.

SG: So for those of us that don’t have patience like me, that is a great thing. Speaking of Arena Commander, our special feature this week takes a closer look at Pirate Swarm and the design and tech it took to bring this game within a game to life.

Behind the Scenes: Pirate Swarm With Francesco Roccucci (Lead AI Programmer), Ben Lesnick (Director of Community Engagement and Content Strategy), Luke Pressley (Designer). Timestamped Link.

Ben Lesnick (BL): Hey everybody, my name’s Ben Lesnick. I’m Director of Community Engagement here at Cloud Imperium Games.

With Star Citizen Alpha 2.6 we introduced a pretty exciting new game mode called Pirate Swarm. Pirate Swarm is essentially a “gauntlet mode” that throws you against wave after wave of enemy planes. Unlike our previous gauntlet mode, Vanduul Swarm, Pirate Swarm has a whole variety of different ships, ranging from the M50 interceptor to the Constellation multi-crew ship.

Now Pirate Swarm is not just a great new challenge for the community to take on, it’s also an essential testbed for the future of Star Citizen and Squadron 42. What Pirate Swarm has let us do is create new AI behaviors for the different types of specific ships. It’s let us introduce new technology for our Artists that allows them to update ship art rapidly, skin interiors - all sorts of exciting things that we’ve been working towards. So a lot of what you see in Pirate Swarm today is what you’ll see powering Star Citizen in the future.

Now to make Pirate Swarm possible it took the efforts of developers from all four of our studios around the world. Let’s check in with them now to see they made it happen.

Francesco Roccucci (FR): Pirate Swarm has been an evolution of Vanduul Swarm as well, so we wanted to give a bit more unique feeling for the player. So they would still play against a swarm of enemies but not feeling the same as with Vanduul faction.

Luke Pressley (LP): What differentiates Pirate Swarm from Vanduul Swarm is not just the enemy and the ship types. We focus very much on the archetypes. And what I mean by that is we don’t just look at a ship, we look at the whole package: the ship, its weapon loadout and its  combat personality.

FR: This is also a consequence of the fact for Pirate Swarm we tried to close up a bit the combat environment. So instead of being really far apart the spaceship and trying always have this “optimal” combat fight approach, we tried to have more a bit of tailing. So the player has a bit more story chasing one of the spaceships and being able to see a bit closer the enemy and shooting from … a closer perspective. So of course the AI has to be able to escape from you in that environment.

LP: So if we look at what archetype are present in Pirate Swarm you’ll find the backbone is made of Gladius, Sabre and Vanguard. These are our vanilla light, medium and heavy fighters, and they mark your progression through the waves.

When we came up with the more unique archetypes, we started with the Aurora LN. We wanted this to be our brawler - something able to get up in the face of players and worry them if they were inexperienced, but something that was such a poor shot that it was just fodder and would be easy in the starting waves.

Next we wanted to make a “sniper style” ship. So we chose the 350R. This is because whilst being fragile it’s also extremely quick, so that meant it could keep a distance from the player and be a struggle to hit if you did manage to get close.

Once archetype I was extremely keen to get into the game was the “nuisance” ship. The natural choice for that is the M50 because it’s so small and so maneuverable that it is by far our most frustrating ship to fight anyway. On top of that we added Suckerpunches which are our distortion weapon that completely take out the shields. Which means on it’s own it’s completely harmless but you add in some fighters with it and suddenly it’s an extremely worrying little ship to have around. And on top of that, just to give it a sting in the tail, we added couple of Marksman missiles. So once you’ve killed all those fighters around you it still a little danger there.

Obviously we couldn’t make a pirate themed game mode without including the Cutlass. This is our gunship. It is armed to the teeth. It’s got Pyroburst shotguns, Tarantulas and Longswords. It’s … you don’t want to get in front of this thing.

Now that we had our close up monster we needed our long range punisher. For this the natural choice was the Gladiator with it’s huge array of missiles and torpedos.

Finally we wanted to get players the opportunity to fight against a fully maned Constellation. For us the intention was this would be our battleship - something that would hang on the edge of the battlefield and and pound the player with its cannon. And if the player did manage to get close enough it would open fire with it’s turrets.

FR: There were mostly, lets say, two parts we have been worked on. One was making sure that the flying ships would use some of the functionality that was already available for the player.

One we can discuss about is for example the afterburner. So the afterburner for the player passed through several iterations and … also the AI use it in different ways - so it was trying to  use it to accelerate over specific splines or specific areas of the environment.

Now we change to be a bit more conscious decisions of the behaviours itself. So when the pirates try to escape or breakout from the player chasing then they can use the afterburner and get this extra trouble boost so they can, let’s say, be a bit further away from the player and try to occupy some space that allows them to attack the player a bit easier and safer way.

Another one has been the usage of the … of specific new behaviours that we tweaked specially for escaping and breaks. So we tried to make it a bit more dynamic.

Subsumption work is our big goal and we try to have all characters driven by activities and sub-activities: so they have jobs. So a pilot will have a “pilot” job. Or a guy that controls a turret or the shield of a specific spaceship will have their own activities to do their jobs.

So the idea is that even Vanduul Swarm and Pirate Swarm will benefit of all this improvements we will do in the future. So eventually we will try to create more coordination in the crew of each ship so that a pilot can try to chase one target while one turret is attacking him, but maybe the spaceship is composed by different turrets so some other player that is in the level can be also attacked by the same ship and so on. So it just create a bit more natural feeling.

LP: So with the line up sorted for 2.6, what we’re going to be focused on for 2.6.1 are the Aces. Now naturally these guys are the best pirates of all, so they should have the best weaponry on their ships and that’s what route we're going to take. We’re going to give them the most overpowered weapons their ships can handle. So in conclusion, 2.6.1… get ready because Pirate Swarm is going to get even harder.

BL: So, that’s how we teach our characters how to think and fight but that’s not much good if we don’t have cool ships for them to fly and for Pirate Swarm we wanted to update our existing ships with some of the new technologies that are coming down the pipeline. A lot of the updates we’ve done are showing off technology you’re going to see in Squadron 42 and Star Citizen, in terms of ship customization and just our ability to rapidly update ships for particular purposes. Let’s go over to some of the artists who worked on the mode to see how they did.   

Chris Smith(CS): For the Pirate Swarm we went ahead and made custom pirate skins for ships. For the pirate skin, it was decided to go with a crimson red and black scheme which gives the ships a little bit of a menacing look which is good for a pirate ship. Then we go into the material and tinting the main colour channels for the hull, the scheme that was chosen should also make it easier to identify a pirate ship amidst all the other ships out there. Some of which will have colourful custom paint schemes and such. The crimson red is also supposed to stand out against other red colour paint jobs that will be out there. When we create the materials for the ships during the build process, we go ahead and carefully plan out the main 3-4 submaterials that will be applied to the main hull of the ship, giving us the ability to later on change or tint the colour for various custom paint schemes.

Special Edition: Caterpillar Pirate Skin With Elwin Bachiller Jr (Lead Ship Artist). Timestamped Link.

Elwin Bachiller(EB): So, what’s cool about the skin is that it changes the colours a bit and it comes with a nice pirate emblem on the wing a couple tick marks on the side the ship. My favourite part about the ship is actually is that all the raw metal parts on the ship which are very reflective and easy to see in space have been painted over with black. So you’ve got a little bit of a stealth element going on with the pirate skin.

Back to Studio With Ben Lesnick (Director of Community Engagement and Content Strategy). Timestamped Link.

BL: And that’s how you form a swarm, we’re really excited about the fact that Pirate Swarm is now in backers hands and we’re very eager to have your feedback. What do you like? What do you not like? How’s the new flight model treating you? Let us know on the forums and we’re eager to get your feedback, be sure to tune in tomorrow when Jared and Tyler will be taking on the Swarm themselves live on the Star Citizen Happy Hour, til then back to you guys.

Outro With Chris Roberts (CEO, Director of Star Citizen and Squadron 42), Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing). Timestamped Link.

CR: Thanks Ben and thanks to everyone for shedding a bit of insight into the process that went into making Pirate Swarm. The archetypes and the AI behaviours has added a lot and I know the team is eager to expand and growing Arena Commander with new modes, ships and levels in future patches so sorta… we’re doing some fun stuff coming down the road.

SG: And it was fun to seeing how all the different studios contributed while they all have their own specialties, it’s a nice reminder how the entire team is really just one big dev family.

CR: Yeah, great to have a couple different accents mixed in there so, you know, you got the English and American and…

SG: Australian.

CR: Australian on your side.

SG: Well, that’s all for today’s show. As always we want to thank our subscribers for helping us produce all our extra content and behind the scenes shows. Let us know on the website what you think of the changes and all the new shows as they come online.


Director of Fiction

Moonlighting as a writer in her spare time StormyWinters combines her passion for the written word and love of science fiction resulting in innumerable works of fiction. As the Director of Fiction, she works with a fantastic team of writers to bring you amazing stories that transport you to new places week after week.



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