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Around the Verse: Scanners Aglow, Torpedoes in Tow Written Thursday 31st of May 2018 at 12:00am by Sunjammer, Erris and Nehkara

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)

Squadron 42 Project Update

  • Weapons team is overhauling weapon recoil: base recoil is defined for each weapon but effected by player's position, state and other stats.

  • Ship AI team continues to smooth out take-offs/landings on the Idris, adding canned flight formations, progressing target prioritisation, and iterating behaviours

  • Odin spacescape is in the work: the Gas Cloud tech used to create the Coil is also being used to create nebula and other points of interest

  • Props team continues to produce control room assets for Chemline set with damage variants created for each asset

  • Started work on scrap piles for an, as yet, undisclosed location.

  • Work continues on the Bengal Carrier: new locations, including a brig, are being added

  • Animation team adding variations to NPC combat sets (trained vs. untrained) and focusing on their interaction with cover objects

  • Character Art team are creating additional hero costumes for the major S42 characters (e.g. Graves)

Scanning

  • Currently you can see active targets in your "passive  radar range" i.e. normal radar

  • Ping mechanic sends out a pulse of energy and returns signal values of items outside your passive radar range

  • Approaching objects and hovering your cursor over them will provide additional information

  • Four pieces of surface information: name, health, status and faction

  • Scanning further could reveal crew, crew health, subitems, cargo, etc.

  • Using the ping can be dangerous as it "lights you up like a Christmas ball"

  • In the PU radar and scanning are also used for mining.

  • Radar will return a mix of mineable and non-mineable rocks, approaching eliminates non-mineable rocks, scanning reveals the actual resources

  • Radar is used to find objects in the universe; scanning is used to find out details about those objects

  • Radar and scanning will be entirely mining focused in 3.2 but will be expanded post 3.2

Aegis Eclipse

  • Inspiration for the Eclipse primarily the B-2 stealth bomber.

  • Role in battle is to fly in, fire giant torpedoes aimed at destroying capital ships, and fly away intact.

  • Single seat spaceship - just a cockpit, exterior, and torpedo bay.

  • Cockpit feels very utilitarian and enclosed.

  • Atmospheric flight mode, space mode, and landing mode all have different shapes.

  • Tried to replicate the vaguely avian feel of the B-2 bomber.

  • Intricate and complex animations are a notable feature of the Eclipse, including a unique torpedo mechanism.

  • Torpedo launcher has the ability to select a torpedo and then lower it outside of the ship to launch it.

  • In the future you should be able to equip different torpedoes and select the order they launch in.

  • Landing gear is also very intricate.

  • Primary armament is just three giant torpedoes which are size 9.

  • Generally will fly as part of a group or convoy - you will need protection to be able to deliver your missile payloads.  This adds a team play element.

  • Minor armaments beyond the torpedoes - a couple size 2 or 3 ballistic weapons.

  • Aegis Eclipse has been designed to fit inside an Idris while in landing mode.

  • Eclipse will serve as a very useful ship for groups of players.

Full Transcript

Intro With Eric Kieron Davis (Senior Producer), Dave Haddock (Lead Writer). Timestamped Link.

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

Dave Haddock (DH): And I’m Dave Haddock.

EKD: This week we’re going to take a look at the design and implementation of ship scanning and radar systems, and go to Jared for some details on the Aegis Eclipse.

DH: That’s right. But first let’s check in with Phil Mellor for our monthly Squadron 42 Project Update.

Squadron 42 Project Update With Phil Meller (Lead Designer). Timestamped Link.

Phil Meller (PM): Thanks guys. Hello and welcome to another Squadron 42 update.

The Weapons System has been receiving an overhaul and right now a lot of attention is being put on recoil. Weapon feel is of course incredibly important in any FPS experience, and Squadron 42 features a lot of on-foot shooting sequences where this new recoil will be seen a lot. So a tonne of work goes into a seemingly small part of the overall package that a lot of everyday players may even take for granted.

This started out as an animation in Maya focusing on the Behring P8 Assault Rifle as a starting point for the visual goal for animation. The variations and randomness are added to each shot: the amount the weapon kicks back, the horizontal and vertical movements of the weapon. This new system allows us to define a base recoil for each weapon but the player affects it depending on their position, their state, and other stats. As you can see a lot more customisation goes into this than you might think.

The Ship AI continues to come along with recent focus being put on smoothing out take offs and landings on the Idris, creating some canned flight formations to make designers’ lives a little bit easier. A lot of progress has been made in this last area as we determine just how AI prioritises targets based on threat level, chance, and personal character bias. The Ship AI teams also continued to iterate on fighter and gunship behaviour with constant feedback from QA along with a lot of backend improvements helping us steadily improve ship combat in general.

Also in the works is Odin system spacescaping. Part of our recent focus on S42 development has been has been working on our space scene overworld - or as we call it in the project our “spacescape”. Through development on the Coil the engineers have been busy building the amazing Gas Cloud tech that isn’t just confined to the mysterious Coil: it’s also being used throughout the campaign to create nebula and other pockets of interest in space.

We can use this as a tool to drive the narrative forward in particular areas and build the areas in space very much like a conventional interior level. Controlling colour, density, and the style of simulation could add a huge amount of potential variety to the spacescape. From angry, aggressive simulations like the Coil to softer, more serene bodies of gas just floating in space. This gives both Art and Design a great amount of scope to make our space scenes look amazing and convey a message or mood to the player.

From a Design standpoint we had to strike a balance between plausibility, reality, and cool  looking visuals. This tech - once perfected here in Squadron 42 - will also be applied to various systems in Star Citizen’s PU.

The Props team continues to turn out control room sets for Chemline, with even more computers, screens, and other monitoring gauges filling out the pieces. To really sell the abandoned vibe we’ve done damage pass creating damaged variants of each asset - adding flexibility and reuse to the set.

Work has started on scrap piles for an upcoming location. We can’t go into too many details but we are in early days of building out the texture set and geometry.

Visual targets are now being built up on Chemline - along with several other S42 locations - with full concept art support to provide direction for the Art and Design team.

Ship emergency and distress states are being iterated on and polished with critically damaged ships still in space environments now looking suitably beaten up. This is separate to the fully destroyed versions that have previously been seen crashed on planets.

Work continues on the Bengal Carrier as well with new locations being built out in near final states. These include a brig that although visually different - as you would expect from a different manufacturer - still echo the functionality of the Idris because - at the end of the day - a brig is a brig.

The Animation team have been working towards getting variations into the NPC combat sets. Alongside the trained mercenary sets we have been developing out the visual language for the untrained NPCs. The trained combatants will be confident in their actions, decisive, and a much more difficult archetype to kill. The untrained sets will be more skittish and wild in their actions.

With this in mind we’ve been paying particular focus to to how the different groups interact with the cover objects. As an example of this The trained military sets will change hands when entering the left side of cover, whereas untrained NPCs will remain right handed. This allows the trained set to be more concealed when stepping out and firing versus the more wild, undisciplined untrained set.

There are also stark differences in the firing stances that the trained military will take versus their civilian counterparts. Details like these are what we aim to deliver to give a fully fleshed out variety and believability to both friendly and enemy AI sets for Squadron 42 and Star Citizen. We’re currently still in an implementation stage as we continue to expand the AI combat behaviours. As we lock down all the technical details more we’ll take another animation pass to really tighten up the visuals on all the combat assets.

The Character Art team are creating additional hero costumes for our major characters such as Graves played by John Rhys Davies. A lot of effort goes into the styling of S42 characters to infer their personality and history. Graves’ jacket is from his old days when he was part of the 118th Squadron. Button up shirt, work pants and heavy boots paint the picture of a professional manager of security who works on a rugged mining base.  And our artists even added an extra little weight to this once trim navy pilot - I know that feeling - to emphasise his advancing years.

So that’s it for this month. We’ll see you in June for another S42 update. Now back to you in the studio.

Back to Studio With Eric Kieron Davis (Senior Producer), Dave Haddock (Lead Writer). Timestamped Link.

EKD: Thanks Phil. An advantage of developing Squadron 42 alongside Star Citizen is that many features and mechanics can be shared; which we saw with a few of the items covered in this update.

DH: That’s right. And one of the features that will be factoring into both games very soon are the shipboard scanning and radar systems.

EKD: Yes. A lot of the early focus for these mechanics relates to the MISC Prospector and mining with that feature right around the corner in the PU. But eventually all ships will have scanning functionality including those highlighted in Squadron 42.  

DH: Let’s learn more from the designers themselves in this week’s feature.

Scanning With Dan Trufin (Lead System Designer), Mark Abent (Gameplay Programmer), Kirk Tome (Lead Technical Designer). Timestamped Link.

Kirk Tome (KT): Today we’re going to be talking about some improvements we’ve made to the Radar system regarding two adjoining systems, specifically, our Ping system and our Scanning system.

Right now in the game you can see active targets that are within what we’re calling our “passive radar range”. So that’s your normal radar. What we wanted to do though is - because the distances are so vast - want to give you a way to get some info about things that weren’t within your passive radar range. One way we incorporated that was by introducing a ping mechanic.

So when you do a ping it sends out a wave that is larger than your passive radar radius. And it return to you the signal values of items that are outside of that range and within this larger ping range. And these are - I’m sure you’ll discover that whether they’re friendly or not by whether they turn and fire at you or whether they stay stationary or whether you’re able to interact with them. And then as you fly up to them, holding you your cursor over them will eventually give you some information that relevant … that’s important about that ship, so things like ship owner, faction, what ship type it is.

Then we’re going to be expanding that gameplay after this first tier of implementation so we can do things like you should be able to scan the crew manifest: how many crew members are onboard? What cargo do they have? Are they worth commandeering? Do you want to take them out, take their cargo? Are they some kind of … are they faction based? Are … do I really want to attack them and upset a particular faction? So you can make decisions about that.

Mark Abent (MA): The cool thing is the way that we designed this whole infrastructure is if we have a vehicle we could provide four bits of surface information on that: its name, its health, its status, and its faction. And then as you scan further into the detailed scan you can discover the crew, their health. You could uncover subitems. You could uncover cargo. And you could build in this big manifest and then with this manifest you could store it for later and maybe in the future - who knows maybe for information running - you could package this information up and then sell it if you’d like.

And the … that idea is that you could send out a big wave mystery energy game logic. It sends out a big pulse and you light up like a christmas ball so it’s a dangerous thing to do. It’s not dangerous to use radar but it’s dangerous to use the ping because you’ve now shown the world where you are.

It’s also good for stealth gameplay. Since everything is based on how much power you’re using and how much energy is getting turned to your - we call it - heat or infra-red. If you throttle your settings down - so they’re not consuming as much power and they’re not generating as much heat - your radar signature goes down. Because it goes down people aren’t able to detect you at greater distances. So if you’d thrown it all the way down you could go under the cover of people’s radar.

But you’re limiting yourself: you’re throttling all your power down. Your shields might be down. Your weapons might not be powerful. So if someone sends out that ping pulse wave and detects you they could go immediately fly over there and start dropping all sorts of lasers on you before you have a chance.

However since he lit up like a lightbulb you know “Hey, there’s someone out there. I don’t know if he found me but he’s searching.” So it gives that interesting gameplay where the predator is searching for the prey and the prey doesn’t know if he should run or fight type of deal.

KT: Scanning may not be the friendliest action in the world. So as you do go up to a ship and then you scan them the entire crew should be alerted, “Hey, you’re being actively scanned!” So what you do from that point can be up to you. Is this an aggressive action? Are they friendly? You know “Why the heck are they scanning me?” If they’re looking over my cargo then we can incorporate gameplay where you get informed of that and then … you can take evasive action. You can counter attack them.

In the PU radar and scanning are also used for mining.

Dan Trufin (DT): Right now Radar finds only mineable rocks. We added - artificially added - some non-mineable rocks in the mix just to create a bit of - element of - “Do I find it? Do I not find it?” But this is only for longer distance: as you get closer the radar will be able to better understand if it’s mineable or not mineable and will eliminate the ones that are not minable.

You don’t have to scan it until you get close so you already know you have a mineable rock when you’re pretty much in visual range. And at that point it’s just about finding out how good of a minable rock. Is there something super valuable in there or is it something that you just work for one hour and get just pennies for it.

Radar was mainly used to find … in order to find objects in the universe. Whether they’re hidden things that players have to find, or a ship, or a wreck, or something like this. And scanning is the finding of … finding of details of what that object is made of, what the components are.

KT: So you do your ping. Find out generally where things are. You fly up to them. As you get close enough to them so they’re in your passive radar range and so they’re now active entities. If you fly up to them, close enough - in this case we had the Prospector working this way - you can go up to it and you’ll switch to your mining UI and then as you hover your cursor - your flight cursor - over the … this mining resource target, over time there’ll a little indicator that shows you what percentage the … that scanning ability’s at. And as you progress through the scanning indicator it’ll ... eventually give you exactly what the resources available in that mining entity are.  So that will give you an idea of “Hey this is worth mining” or “You know what, this isn’t exactly what I was looking for. Let’s go and find other targets.” When you get to that point, do another ping. Get some more general information about where things around you and then start heading off towards those targets.

MA:  I know the mission guys are really excited. They want to start using this post-3.2. Because 3.2 is mostly going … all going to focus on the mining aspect but after that we want to start opening it up to all the ships - other than the Prospector - to use it in the general scanning so you can start scanning whatever you want.

Back to Studio With Eric Kieron Davis (Senior Producer), Dave Haddock (Lead Writer). Timestamped Link.

EKD: Really cool stuff guys. As you can see, the functionality currently being fine-tuned for mining will have various uses when it's applied to different ships and situations.

DH: Yeah and in Squadron 42, radar is factoring into missions and situations in fun ways adding realism and elements of flight simulation to the proceeding.

EKD: Yeah, and while we're on the subject of radar, a certain ship planned for Alpha 3.2 release is particularly adept at flying under it.

DH: That's right. Let's go to Jared right now for a new installment of Ship Shape exploring these stealthy Aegis Eclipse.

Ship Shape With Jared Huckaby (Community Manager), Joe Neville (3D Vehicle Artist), Corentin Billemont (Technical Designer). Timestamped Link.

JH: Greetings Citizens and welcome to another edition of Ship Shape, where we take a look at what's on the ship pipeline, who's working on what, provide interviews with developers, and continue with our brand-new bi-weekly cadence that means smaller but more frequent updates.

I'm your host Content Manager Jared Huckaby.

Now, on the show this week we'll be sitting down with some of the team members working to bring the stealthy Aegis Eclipse to life in the upcoming Star Citizen Alpha 3.2 let's check in on the progress of this torpedo-delivering dynamo now.

Ship Shape: Aegis Eclipse

Joe Neville (JN): The inspiration for the Eclipse has been primarily things like the B-2 stealth bomber. It's, you know, a flying wing. It's designed to be this like stealthy secretive capital ship killer. Its role is to kind of fly into the battle, fire some giant torpedoes, hopefully try and take down the capital ships and then fly away intact.

It's based on Aegis so there's a lot more angles and a lot more filets and soft curbs. Looked at things like the Saber Raven and tried to kind of compliment things like the holes in the wings, so you can see the same kind of designs we implemented within the Eclipse.

It’s just a single-seat spaceship. It's just a cockpit and an exterior and a lot of torpedo bay.

The interior of the cockpit is very utilitarian. It has a lot of quite heavy technical cladding almost when you get inside this thing - you feel like you're kind of a small part of this like, you know, really complicated bomber really. Climbing into these things is almost a bit of a challenge in itself. I think when you actually get inside the cockpit for the Eclipse, you feel very encompassed by it. When the canopy closes around you and the computers come towards you, you feel like you're sat in a bomber.  

The Eclipse has three different modes essentially. It's going to have - there's not code support for it yet but the intention will be that it has - obviously an atmospheric mode where all the wings fold back and the fins fold up and it kind of transforms into this really quite agile shape and the space mode is the typical triangular shape of the B-2 that you'd normally see. But it also has quite an interesting landing mode as well - when the Eclipse comes in to land, all the wings fold upwards and when the canopy opens it kind of forms a shape which is quite almost beak-like.

If you look at the shape of the B-2 airplane, it's kind of based around birds of prey - I think it's based upon a Falcon - and if you look at the side profile it has quite an avian feel to it, so we tried to kind of replicate that on the Eclipse to a degree.

You know, it’s as wide as two to three Gladius’ - it's a wide ship. I think it’s as wide as it is long, if not wider. So, yeah I think if it's flying overhead and you've got a keen eye you'll definitely see it but I think by the time that you've seen it, it'll be too late and it’ll have already wiped you out.

I think primarily when I was building Eclipse I wanted to try and focus upon the animations. I wanted all of the ship to just feel very technically intricate. So, from the way that the cockpit opens and the ladder folds out to the way the torpedo bay delivers its payload - if you look at the way torpedo bay delivers missiles and has this kind of almost cylindrical delivery system inside it which is quite complicated. So, the torpedoes themselves get lowered just below the ship by this quite complicated mechanical arm and once they’re below the ship they have a forward firing motion.

Corentin Billemont (CB): So I know this is still probably the biggest issue that we have with the Eclipse at the moment is that this is a new kind of torpedo launcher. Like in terms of animation on how it works, this is something that wasn't exactly how it was in the game before. Like for the Retaliator, it's basically one torpedo on each launcher - it's like several torpedoes like this [side by side] - whereas for this one it's a torpedo launcher and basically it can choose the torpedo [by rotating] and put it in the middle.

Hopefully in the future you should be able to equip different torpedos and choose the order where you're firing the torpedo - like you could get regular torpedo in the middle, like a different torpedo on the left, and a different torpedo on the right and say after firing this torpedo you want the left or the right whereas usually it would be torpedo 1, torpedo 2, torpedo 3. But maybe you could say, “Oh yeah, I want torpedo 1 first and then torpedo 3 but not torpedo 2. So, even if it seems like a relatively simple ship, the torpedo launcher is a bit more complicated than other systems before.

JN: The landing gear is quite intricate too so when this thing moves and transforms it feels just just very technical compared some of the other ships but if you think if you look at it when it's transforming the entire thing just feels alive, so it's got this cool bells and whistles and that the fans will see this and think I know too cool piece of kit like how long moves like  it's you know it's gonna feel badass. There’s very minimal armaments in terms of the weaponry it uses; the entire ship's basically just three giant torpedoes. I think it uses size nine torpedoes so it's quite big missiles, the same the same size is what's the use on the retaliator, so if you just look at the size of the torpedoes compares the ship itself they're almost as long as the spaceship is, and it's got three of these so it's going to be and quite a force to be reckoned with.

The whole point in this thing is that it's probably part of a convoy. So when you're flying along you'll have your escort with you you know and the fighters around to protect you and you have one sole mission which is to you know fly to your destination and just deliver these size 9 torpedos to just wreak maximum havoc. You need your friends around you really to just give you this kind of ample protection to make sure that for the fighters trying trying to destroy your ship that you have people to defend you.

So it kind of almost welcomes a team play element to it because you need this protection to be able to deliver the missiles. I think if you just flew this the ship to a capital ship on your own and had you know say the Idris has fighters around it and they see you, you wouldn't stand a chance.

If you look at the exterior of the ship it's quite dark. It's all very kind of you know matte paints this very kind of dark color schemes, but we wanted to kind of contrast this with having the interior of the ship, having this quite bright white paint anywhere the ship opens up really is white inside, obviously excluding the cockpit because if you're flying through space the giant bright white cockpit then people are going to see you coming.

A couple of ballistic weapons - it has a couple of smaller I think size 2 or size 3 guns, but primarily the big focus of the ship is just the torpedoes. The fact that it has three size 9 torpedos kind of speaks for itself, so when you buy this and you know what you're getting into, there's no misconceptions of what this thing is - it's a bomber, straight and simple. It's going to wreak havoc destroy everything.

CB: We made sure that the Eclipse could fit in an Idris as well, so this is an important one. So this is something if you have the wings deployed you won't be able to go in an Idris, so you need to get into the landing mode which basically will collapse the wing tips will be like this the landing gear goes like that, and basically you can still fly and land in an Idris.

So this is important as well obviously because if you get an Idris you can use it as a mobile base, go somewhere then deploy some Eclipse, do some reconnaissance work or do some attacks, obviously use the Idris to keep enemies at bay. I think the flying wing design is pretty interesting as well in terms of shape and in terms of maneuverability to be a bit different since it's really flat as a design. In the atmosphere I won't behave like Sabre for example or some ships that are relatively the same size. The Aegis Eclipse is a stealth bomber that will be really useful for groups of players I think, especially because it can act both as a  reconnaissance ship because it's stealthy, it's relatively fast as well for a bomber, and if needed can't destroy something, but it's can also be used as a support role like if you have some fighters that are already there like trying to harass or destroy a big ship like your Starfarer or Reclaimer, you can come in, fire your torpedoes, do massive damage and come back, refuel, rearm, then do the same again.

JN: Having these niche roles really adds to the gameplay. I think if you had you know every ship could do every type of you know - combat and can mine and you know, could do everything… build bases, then suddenly you end up with a lot of ships which basically just exactly the same with no defining characteristics, so I think it's important to have a range of vehicles which deliver different types of user experiences, and also things that kind of encourage teamwork and collaboration.

You know it's kind of go on a bomber mission with your friends you know when someone's in trouble or you you've seen that there's some kind of capital ship in the system that you need to take care of be nuts to get your friends together and say look guys we need to try to take this down. It's just a fun thing to do.

Back with Jared

JH: Once upon a time I was falling in love now I'm only getting torpedos shot at my javelin. There's nothing I can do it's a total eclipse of my ship.

No worry about YouTube Content ID mention that one, huh.

The Aegis Eclipse is making its way towards release into the upcoming Star Citizen Alpha 3.2. As for other ships in the pipeline, we can see that the Anvil Hurricane, the Vanduul Blade, and the Aegis Avenger variants are all in the flight prep phase getting ready to join the Eclipse, while the Origin 600i is currently in final art review. But don't worry I hear they're our designers and engineers already getting ahead on their flight prep work to make its scheduled 3.2 release.

With these five different ships coming online at the end of June, they're pretty much the focus of most of the ship art and tech teams at the moment, but once they make it into your hands a brand new wave of ships will begin making their way towards release in subsequent patches. We'll have more about those ships in the coming months. For shipshape, I'm content manager Jared Huckaby. We'll see in about two weeks everybody

Outro With Eric Kieron Davis (Senior Producer), Dave Haddock (Lead Writer). Timestamped Link.

EKD: Thanks Jared; that ship will make a deadly addition to many fleets out there once 3.2 hits the PU. And for those of you who would prefer an in-your-face dogfighting to sneaky surprises, we still have a contest for arena commander and star marine aficionado’s.

DH: You can make your own tutorial video for either of those modes and compete to win prizes and have your work up on the official Star Citizen website.

EKD: Yes, and then tune in to reverse the verse live on Twitch tomorrow at noon for our monthly subscriber townhall episode.

DH: Jared will be back with Kirk Tomei and Mark Abent, answering subscriber questions following up on today's scanning features so make sure you get your questions in.

EKD: Yes and make sure you check out this week's calling all devs, if you missed it on Monday for answers to questions about dirty ships, UI updates, and more.

DH: Thanks of course to all of our subscribers for sponsoring the shows.

EKD: And thank you to all of our backers for making the development of Squadron 42 and Star Citizen a reality. Until next time, we'll see you…

Both:  Around the Verse!

Sunjammer

Contributor

For whatever reason, this author doesn't have a bio yet. Maybe they're a mystery. Maybe they're an ALIEN. Maybe they're about to get a paddlin' for not filling one out. Who knows, it's a myyyyyyystery!

Erris

Founder

Erris is Canadian. He does some random things for Relay, no-one really knows what, but still they're stuck with him. He’s also written one Young Adult novel that he can’t stand, which can be found here.

You can find him on Twitter too, if you want.

Nehkara

Founder

Writer and inhabitant of the Star Citizen subreddit.