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!
Sandi Gardiner (SG): Hello and welcome to another episode of Around the Verse, our weekly look at Star Citizen’s ongoing development. I’m Sandi Gardiner
Chris Smith (CS): And I’m Chris Smith
SG: On today’s show we’ll be taking a look at some of the derelict ships that will be scattered around Crusaders moons for 3.0 and eventually all across the Star Citizen universe.
CS: But before we go searching for wrecked ships, let's check in with Eric Kieron Davis for our update from our Los Angeles Studio.
Eric Kieron Davis (EKD): Hey everyone, glad to have you back in Los Angeles. I’m Eric Kieron Davis and I’m here with your monthly studio update.
As you may have read in the production schedule this month we hit our second internal pre-evocati milestone on Star Citizen Alpha 3.0 which have allowed our daily director reviews to get a comprehensive understanding of how all the new features are working together, these have really energized the team and are really excited at what we are starting to see. So let’s dig into some of the things that Los Angeles completed this month.
Our engineering team worked towards delivering some of the core 3.0 Persistence and entity system features. We finished a large refactor on something we call the Persistent Data Manager which changes the way data is stored, modified and accessed while playing the game. This change allows us to distinguish between physical and legal ownership. This distinction is a core requirement to support many systems such as criminality, missions, and persistence spawning. We’re now leveraging this new physical ownership feature to develop tracking and management which will allow for parking. For example, say if you park your new pristine Nox inside of a Cutlass black, it will be there the next time you call your ship. We would hate for it to be the reason it’s Nox what you expected.
Speaking of gameplay, we’ve been hard at work on the cargo to shopping experience. So whether you gain that cargo through a mission, exploring derelict wreckage or just outgunning a fast moving hauler we want it to feel seamless and satisfying. So our engineers have been working on the placement of cargo crates into your ship's cargo grid, cargo debris generation on a ship explosion and migration lifetime policy into game rules which is how we’re going to make sure this information stays attached to you. Once your ship has your hard earned cargo, it will generate certain percentage cargo in the cargo grid and presumably you’ll want to sell that cargo so our engineers have integrated this newly complete shop code with the solar system shopping service which allows the shop inventories to populate dynamically. It also allows items and commodities and stock to be influenced by the purchases and sales of other players.
Now over on planets we’ve put the finishing touches on our gravity lev system which was needed for some ground vehicles, specifically as changes to the planets, physics, IFC or Intelligent Flight Control system, and some other necessary improvements left the hovering vehicles dragging more than hovering. So our new grav lev system is an improvement over the original system in many important ways. So your future hovering adventures are just going to get better and better.
Now over on the content team they’ve had quite a productive month. You may have seen examples of our Mission Giver, Miles Eckart and meeting him in a bar is no coincidence. He tends to be as his best when he’s got a couple drinks in him so we wanted to make sure his cup was always full and moving. So we’ve setup some runtime simulations for the undefined liquid in his cup that not only follows his animated movements, but will also respect planetary gravity. This is a great first step in a more liquid filled world and to ensure that they react as expected, we’ve used one of our first active mission givers cup as a first implementation which you’ll see in 3.0. Now we’re going to let you decide if Miles cup is half full or half empty.
Another exciting simulation to keep bringing Star Citizen alive is the springy landing gear technology we’ve now introduced to many ships. Up until now ships have landed as gracefully as a cinderblock no matter how good of a pilot you are and to rectify this we’ve begun implementing the landing springs and compression technology to allow for a bit more cushioned landing experience, especially on uneven terrain. Not only will you feel the difference, you’ll also see the landing gear react naturally to the weight of the ship, relative to the planet's gravity as you come in for landings. Sometimes the smallest things make the biggest impact.
Now as we’ve talked about before, our tech content team supports every pipeline across all the studios and they’ve made progress on improving several tools to help everyone speed things up and be a bit more efficient including useable requests, my loadouts, vertex reorder, character requests, playgraphs and so on. Now one tool that they made exciting progress on is updates to our exporter. We’ve now taken the latest Lumberyard updates and bugfixes and incorporated some of our own to the exporter UI. This means that anyone working within the Maya pipeline benefits from these fixes and improves their overall workflow.
Now our QA team has been focused upon the now completed conversion of all ships to item 2.0 and testing new other features for 3.0 such as the updated quantum travel system, new planetary missions, and the new mobiGlas functionality. They also supported the global team with various test requests as new features continue to come online. Now since our last update, another ship has entered production.
The Anvil Hurricane is now in the Whitebox phase of the pipeline and we’ve already completed temp exterior and interior lighting, proxy animations, temp interactive cockpit control layout, and setup almost final hierarchy of the ship, temp proxies, and the ship is now setup for the initial breakpoint damage. The enter and exit and seated templates for the turret and the pilot seated are also set up and we’ve also go all the ship item breakouts complete. Now during this phase the main reason we set up temp stuff is to make sure all the parts in the ship that we’re aiming to build are all functioning as intended. For example a temp animation doesn’t articulate exactly as it would in the final, but allows us to see what we may need to adjust it in the final asset. As well as the temp lighting is, so we know exactly where to build the lighting fixtures. Now this is all done to set a plan of action to allow for the production of the final assets to go faster and smoother. It also allows the entire ship team to have a clear vision of the plan for the ship. We’re really excited to see this ship take the verse by storm.
Finally our character team is in full force knocking out a vast amount of new high quality work for both Squadron 42 and Star Citizen. In production we’ve moved more bridge officer uniforms from concepts into the high poly phase and they’re making rapid progress. Our newest combat pilot flight suit for Shubin is also going through the high poly phase and is moving to the ingame modelling and texturing in the near future. Another combat flight suit that will be used by some of our outlaws is in the high poly phase then will move into ingame modelling and texturing. Our medical corpsman has gone through high poly and into ingame modelling to get them working in our various med stations throughout the verse. With the introduction of the Levski landing zone on the Delemar asteroid we have a few civilian costumes ready to go in the verse to help populate the People's Alliance of Levski.
Now on the topic of customisation, we’re starting to explore other opportunities and one of which will be tattoos. Well I may not have any in real life, I may be rocking the sleeve like our Character Art Director, Josh Herman in the verse. We’ve also made a lot of progress on several concepts like the new ship jacker concept. You may want us to keep this one in concept because once he’s ingame, we can’t take it back.
Speaking of healing in battle we’ve made solid progress on battle damaged versions of our costumes for our NPCs to help you understand how or why someone passes away in the verse. Lastly we’re establishing the look of the new mobiGlas. As you know, mobiGlas is quite a difficult asset as it has to exist constantly on the player while also being grounded in the future world. While a lot of games get away with obvious HUD projections or holographic displays, our mobiGlas has to come from a piece that’s physically placed on the character which means it needs to be present on a naked wrist, a wrist with long sleeves, a wrist with jackets, and then to add complexity, it needs to also fit on undersuits and armour. With this in mind and are really excited by the prospects of this new piece.
And that’s it for us here in Los Angeles, thanks for watching and thank you to all of our subscribers for providing the support that allows us to give you this in depth look at the nitty gritty. Have an amazing weekend, L.A. out.
SG: Lots of impressive work being done by the character team.
CS: Yeah, the team is killing it. A lot of effort and detail goes into each character to make sure that players can get the sense of personality, just by looking at them.
SG: As part of the push for 3.0. Our team of vehicle artists have been creating a look and feel for all the destroyed vehicles that will be scattered on the moons of Crusader.
CS: The team tackled a number of issues besides making sure the wrecks don’t look all the same. For one they had to figure out a way to place them on uneven ground.
SG: For more details let's check in with the team to see what went into those wrecks look so good.
Nathan Dearsley (ND): The whole derelict process started last year. You probably remember the demo that we done at Gamescom. You saw a Starfarer in a kind of derelict state. We also then took that information or that kind of data shall we say and started to prototype using the same geometry on planets. So, the R&D process was kind of done mid last year. It's kind of exponentially grown from there.
Jay Malhotra (JM): So initially the sort of task that was given to us was to create these derelict sites, and at the beginning it was sort of more of a technical challenge where we were just trying to break the ship apart, but then I think gradually over time the more we started to delve into it the more the possibilities of what could be done with it, which is sort of growing and growing in scope, so that by the end of it we were thinking things like … inhabited like … space sites, sites that'd been taken over by bandits. You could be set up as decoys with potential enemies that could be waiting there for players then to sort of jump into and surprise them. The more we thought about it; the more it grew, and the more ideas that came about from it. So, it started off as more of a technical challenge and just trying to get something in there, and it sort of grew and grew in scope as we went along, which was for us like a really exciting thing.
ND: We obviously … we have to populate the planets with a certain amount of stuff like outposts, which you've already seen, and the derelicts which you've seen today, and it's really a good opportunity to just get really creative with the assets we've already made. There's no real breakdown of the ship that exists, because we already have to break the head off and break the body into parts for the whole damage system to work in the engine. So, it's about taking that geometry with its interiors obviously and getting really creative with it and scattering these things on planets. You come across several different scenarios of derelicts, so we wanted to get down to a key of how long something has been on a planet, and that obviously dictates how it's aged over time and potentially how it's aged. So, if you come across something in a desert it's genuinely very dry erosion type that you see on metal. If you come across something in the snow, it's completely different. If you come across something in the swamp, it's completely different again. So, we have all this information that we need to make work on these assets with as little human input as possible shall we say, so we had to be very clever with the shader setup to work in different biomes efficiently.
Michal Kozlowski (MK): It all comes down to how big the ship is and how the interior was laid out. For example, the ship I was working on, the Caterpillar, is very, very modular ship by the design and how it was built in universe. So, I was allowed to go actually quite big with how many modules I could use for it, and that allowed me to create as many different scenarios in sets from just two small pieces to the almost full complete ship laid on the ground, but if it comes to smaller ships like Freelancer we pretty much resolved it by just using the existing damage and just spicing it up a little bit, because obviously when you don't have explosions, when you don't have all of the fireworks, and it's just on the planet, and you can go there and study it, can come up close to it. You kind of need to put more detail into it.
JM: With these derelict sites we wanted to give the player a point on the planet or somewhere in the universe which gave them a destination, and we didn't want the destination to be simply just some pieces in the floor. So, for us we want to explore the idea of these derelict sites being a character within themselves, so when you approach a derelict site you can then just by looking at it seeing what it offered, whether it's hostile, whether it was something that was a severe crash, whether it's a place that's been taken over by bandits, and so with that we wanted to create these little pockets in space where players could go and fill like they were part of history and there was a bit of story behind them and a bit of growth behind them. For us it was a great opportunity.
ND: For sure if a ship's been laid to rest say in the desert then it does almost mold in with the sand in a certain direction. So, you can get very creative with how that merges in with different terrain types for sure, but also you can go completely other spectrum like: What are you going to do if you find something in a lake? What are you going to do if you find something hanging off the edge of a waterfall? There are so many creative opportunities to create these … to create these moments that a player vividly remembers the first time they come across that site. It's our job for them to switch the game off and go, “Guys, have you seen this crash site here? It's like, it's totally awesome.” So, we want to create opportunities like that for the player to see.
We then need to go hunting across planets to find sites, so if you worked in film you will generally have a location scout like pre-production who will go through the script and they'll be appointed to go out around the world and find these key locations that would suit the script, so it could be anywhere in the world. So, it's very much … we have to do a mini-version of that in the editor, so we have to go out and find these locations that complement the sites we're trying to make. It's not as simple as place site here, done and walk away. If you were to fly around the planet on a ship it would take you an extremely long time. Right, so you'd have staff sat there all day flying their ships just going, “Oh I think down there'll look nice.” Then great. I'm sure they'd love it, but the fact remains we can't do that. So, in the editor we can just essentially warp speed around these planets, locate sites, locate valleys and you just ... it's really interesting that a certain site may look a certain way at a certain time of the day, but when that planet rotates and the sunset kicks in it's a completely different animal. So, we have to ... you think about that as well, and the habitation side of things like we want to get into … the sun goes down; lights go on. You know there's all these kinds of cycles that we need to think about. Maybe a campfire lights up. There's all these kind of things that add so much more than just a derelict lump of metal in the middle of nowhere.
MK: You want to also have enough rooms and can place your derelict in such a way that the light just goes exactly where you want it, so it's like a nice glancing or nice kind of complementing light on the derelict itself which further intensifies the effect.
ND: It's interesting because the … you know it's almost … you're doing exactly what they're doing in real life, and you're setting this scene up to be hopefully beautiful when the player comes across it.
JM: When players sort of navigating around they might just see a sneak peek of a little bit of a Starfarer or a little bit of a Gladius or whichever ship that may be, and suddenly it becomes an intriguing point and then you’re lowered into this location that you never imagined, and I think it’s moments like that which just add to the whole universe, where you never expect to come across something, and suddenly you find something which just tells a tale and a story. When we come to work on a derelict site, and how we approach it, we sort of have to use our own imagination and kind of come up with our own scenarios of what could have possibly happened in this crash site, what would potentially have developed over time with a crash site, because it might just be an initial crash, but then over time, different factions might have taken it over, so they might have all left a little trace of history. And so for us, there’s no written law in any of this, it’s kind of up to us to just go a bit sort of wild with our imagination, really push it, and it’s great for us as an artist cause it’s a bit different from just a sterile ship,, with these derelict ships it’s a way to take the existing assets and just do so much more with them.
ND: The first part of the process obviously we kind of built off the stuff we’d done last year. The shader setup we’d done just kind of wouldn’t work anymore, for the way the planets work, so the second layer on a ship’s shader needs to inherit what the biome is, right, so there’s always going to be metal, but then that second layer could be snow, it could be sand, it harmoniously blends with the terrain, it doesn’t look like it’s just been stuck on. And it’s a case of really kind of understanding what you’re trying to do with the site, so as we’ve worked and the guys have kind of worked on this stuff, we’ve been going aw, you know what’d be really cool? Could we set up a little base here where someone’s come and taken the husk of, or you know the hull of a Cutlass, and they’ve created a little hacking pod out of it?
That instantly transforms that ship into something completely different, and it’s a makeshift home for someone. And then yeah, kind of like if you were to find a site potentially up high in a high altitude, for sure where are you going to get power from? Obviously you’ve got solar panels which you can use, but we’re also trying to get movement into the scenes as well, so rather than these kind of static sites, just putting in some more fans generating a bit of power, a few aerials whisking in the wind, cloth obviously speaks thousands of words when it’s moving, and there’s all these kind of little things that we’re trying to do to kind of, it’s like that kind of subconscious meaning to everything that we’re trying to execute at the same time, which is cool, I think it’s really cool, and the guys have done really well at creating this kit that compliments the sites as they are.
As we said, we started off with the base hull, and you’re still going to get these sites, eighty percent you’re just going to find the ship and there’s going to be nothing in there. The other twenty percent, someone’s come across it and they’ve decided to make it their home, their outpost, maybe it’s a smuggler’s den. There’s all these kind of archetypes that you can kind of tap into to get really creative.
MK: Quite the big technical limitation that we had to always keep in mind was that the derelicts, we’re not going on the planet, we're not going there and just creating piece by piece like we would a bespoke city or a bespoke location; they have to kind of work wherever future artists or designer would want to place them. So we had to always keep in mind that the ground is going to be placed on, it can be flat, or it can be fairly distorted. Which was a big challenge in and of itself, to find that balance between how granular it has to be so it can conform to the more difficult terrain, and how detailed we can make it while keeping those limitations in mind.
Our technical artists have made a special tech, piece of tech, for us. Basically it’s able to track an area that we selected for all the deformities and all the ‘how the ground is actually, how it looks. And it can sample all the areas where we want different pieces to be at, and it will place it exactly so it’s bedded exactly how it should be, and we don’t have to do anything. We actually build out derelicts on a flat surface. Everything else is done by the amazing tech done by our tech artists.
Richard Money (RM): Once we got all our pieces together, we started having a bit of fun with putting these wreck sites together. We looked at alot of reference once again just to see what happened when, say for example, when an airliner has a crash, how it burns, how the different components break, and lay on the ground. So we looked at reference, we assembled pieces in a separate level, that way we had a bit more control over where everything went, and we could figure out exactly where things were going to go, and then it was just a case of packaging that together, exporting it onto the planet, and then essentially figuring out how it aligned with the planet. Just going from there really, a lot of iteration and a lot of back and forth, but it was necessary to get the result we wanted.
ND: There’s the whole kind of design side of things, so these, they’re not just there for show. Design obviously have an input in what goes in them, you know, are they mission, are they a mission waypoint, and then you know, once other systems start coming online, of course, you might come across a site, and it may be massively hostile, you know. And what intrigues me, and I kind of think I touched on it last year in an interview I’d done with Jared, he was talking to me about like, what are you thinking, and I’m thinking multiplayer map mode. Okay, there’s a starfarer here, that’s kind of a map in itself, but now I’ve got the luxury of kind of spreading that map around a kilometer square if I need to. But then you create these things of high risk and high reward, so there may be kind of like, one turret is working, right? You capture that turret, you all of a sudden become, a game objective in yourself. It’s just, like I say, you just look for opportunities with this. We’re creating the ultimate sandbox basically, so you look for opportunities to make the most of that.
MK: I was responsible for breaking up the caterpillar, which is that big transport ship that can have a custom length, which was quite a difficult challenge on its own, because if you look at the Starfarer for example, every starfarer looks exactly the same. Caterpillar can have two cargo modules, or it can have fifteen of them, the way it was built. So I have to kind of, either I or an artist in the future that will be working on this ship and creating new scenarios, can build pretty much whatever he wants, and he’s not restricted by just doing like a five module one.
JM: So myself, I was put in charge of the Starfarer, which is probably one of the more easier one of the ships, purely with the fact that it was kind of confined to just a few elements in terms of the ship by role, where some ships there were many parts and many different combinations, such as the Caterpillar. The Starfarer itself was just, essentially five pieces which I sort of had to work on, and work on the materials so that they blend with the correct planet, but for me, it was quite fun to do because of the scale of it. As soon as you place it on a planet, it just adds so much scope to wherever you are, and with the interior you’ve got a vast sort of structure which makes sense as a ship, and as soon as you make it a derelict site, you’ve got a lot of opportunity to sort of take that interior and do quite a vast range of things with it, in terms of making it either housing or some sort of security den where there’s some hidden scavenge or loot within.
RM: A thing that’s really interesting is when you have these wreck sites on the ground, they’re transformed in terms of their character. I think it’s quite eery actually. Looking at something, say for example the Constellation, it’s quite a sleek modern advanced piece of technology flying around, it’s great, and then it’s crashed on the ground, and it’s nothing. It’s just a shell, it’s a husk. But what we really try to get into the character of the wreck sites is just how varied they could be. For example, have people lived in them? Have creatures lived in them? How exactly did it crash? What caused it to happen? There are little things we can add to these crash sites that give them a lot of character and a lot of depth, and I think that’s what’s been really fun for me, just seeing if players can figure out exactly what happened, even if it may not necessarily be a mission object. I think having that interest certainly helps build the Universe.
Sam Doherty - Doherty Reclamation: guess you could say ships always held kind of a power over me. When growing up I couldn’t get enough of them. I’d hang out by the pads any chance I got, listen to the pilots swap stories. My dad used to tell me, you weren’t born, you landed. But yeah, there was always something about them.
Avi Lakata - A4 Reclamation: These aren’t graveyards to me, they aren’t. They’re a testament of life. Think about all the lives that touched this one ship before it got to this place, it’s crazy right? There are few things in this Universe that have that kind of power.
Janel Kess - Independent: To me it always comes down to the people who flew it. The modifications that they made to make it theirs, I mean, we could find ten connie wrecks, and even though the layout’s gonna be the same, every single one of them is going to be different. There’ll be some kind of lingering presence to connect you to the people who lived on it.
When I look at a ship, I see a person. I know, when people find these wrecks, all they see are mounds of scrap, or a payday, but to me... maybe it was just growing up on a dusty rock, but a ship was freedom. It was limitless possibility.
SG: These crash sites would be a great place to run missions, find valuable scrap, and maybe even encounter other players, should make for some exciting gameplay.
CS: Absolutely, just be careful not to get so caught up in exploring in one of them and you don’t notice another player sneaking up on you.
SG: And that’s all for today’s episode. A big thanks to all the subscribers for supporting our shows and be sure to tune in tomorrow at 11am Pacific to catch Happy Hour Friday. This week, Will Maiden, and Gareth Bourne will be talking cargo and other game systems for 3.0 and beyond.
CS: Finally a quick message to all of our backers. You guys are awesome, none of this could happen without your continued interest and support so thank you for letting us build this truly unique game.
SG: And until next week we will see you..
CS: Around the Verse. [Doesn’t do the handwave]
SG: Around the Verse. [Does it]
CS: I didn’t know what you were doing.
ND: And by the way you may come across a site that we’ve not spoken about. There’s only one of them in the verse and if you find it you’re in for a pretty big surprise. Yes there is, hopefully touch words, I’ve been very adamant about it and I’m 100% confident it will come through, but there is… We have to do derelicts for every ship in the game right? So it’s actually part of the ship pipeline now. So once we’ve finished creating ships, so it goes through the stages of whitebox, greybox… Sorry concepts, whitebox, greybox, production, texturing, optimization, damage, derelict. So that’s the other leg of all of this now. So we have to do that with every ship in the game so we’ve got quite a big backlog to do. We’ve done four already, but one of those four is massive and you might come across one in the verse. There’s only one in all the verse at the moment, but it’s there hopefully to be discovered and yeah you can get a good sense of scale of how big these things are when you’re on the ground. Good luck trying to find it.
And you can see that from outer space. So when you go across the planet you can see just this, like, 3-4 pixel thing on the terrain going past it, it’s that big, it’s huge.