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!
- Character Customizer is being Introduced with 3.1.
- Will allow players to change their head type, eye colour, skin colour, hair style, and hair colour.
- This feature has completed all tasks and is currently undergoing polish.
- Helmets are also being polished to enable better lighting within the helmets and bugfixes
- Ongoing work on the male and female character models as well as improvements to the legacy Outlaw and Marine armour.
- Visual improvements to the first three moons: Yela, Daymar, and Celin.
- Remaining tasks include detailed polish, improved procedural distribution for planetside features, and dynamic weather effects.
- Environment art team has been working on improvements to Delamar, specifically the transitions between close, medium, and long range visuals.
- R&D team have been working on a new tech called Speed Tree which will be talked more in depth at a later point.
- Player hangar revamp is underway to bring them in line with current tech and make them usable in the persistent universe, no date on when this is scheduled to complete however.
- Prototypes of Hurston and its moons is ongoing.
- Bringing the service distress beacon feature online.
- It currently functions similar to that of how quest beacons do and players will be able to change the distance in which they see beacons once they’ve accepted them.
- Polish for the Personal Management App for mobiGlas which includes work on the Star Marine Loadout customizer to enable players to use items from the PU in Star Marine (with limitations based on level and modes)
- Finishing touches on the ships displayed in the Ship Shape from last week.
- More weapons from several arms manufacturers have entered the polish stage.
- Concept art is finalizing the design for the joker distortion cannon, blocking out the Behring pistol, and work on several other weapons.
- 45 out of the 46 tasks have been completed to meet their performance goals for 3.1.
- Ship audio only really comes together once experienced in game: each sound is an instrument and the gameplay is the conductor
- Terrapin thruster design is composed of many layers that respond independently and dynamically to various inputs
- Layers include electronic sympathetic layer, rotation layer, main tone layer, strafe layer, surge layer, induction layer
- Part of the fun of creating sound for SC is creating sounds for environments that don’t really exist: lots of artistic freedom
- Audio has the ability provide information that would otherwise be difficult to convey solely through visuals
- Goals for derelicts was to make players feel uneasy as they explore them by making them hear and feel what they can’t see
- Some rooms convey the lack of energy, almost silent, but the further into the ship, the darker and eerier the ambience becomes
- Prototyping system to support outpost power level states and weather outside interacting with the outpost structure
- Currently there are two states (powered down, powered on) and audio spots can to those states
- Parameters can trigger structural sounds (creaking, vibrating, etc.) when, for example, the wind hits a certain speed
- The new Audio Propagation system provides information about how sound can travel between rooms/areas to reach the listener
- Emitters on exterior of outpost sections are aware of the atmospheric conditions outside: will not activate on planets without atmosphere
- Music plays a big part in guiding the player emotionally through the game and they've been expanding music content for the PU
- Experimenting with new implementation methods to improve the perceived variation of these music cues: multiple intros and outros
- Locations like GrimHex have two music areas: outer area = armistice ambient, inner area = cinematic ambient
Sandi Gardiner (SG): Hello and welcome to another episode of Around the Verse I'm Sandi Gardiner.
Chris Roberts (CR): And I'm Chris Roberts.
SG: In today's episode we'll be taking a look and maybe more importantly a listen at some of the ways that we use audio in Star Citizen.
CR: Yes, it's always good to listen, but first let's go to LA studio Director Eric Kieron Davis for a quick Star Citizen project update and see what the devs have been up to recently in the PU.
Eric Kieron Davis (EKD): Thanks guys. If you're following along at home on the roadmap we're going to kick things off with characters.
The character customizer being introduced in Alpha 3.1 is being polished by several teams working to fine-tune this highly anticipated feature. The gameplay feature team is tweaking the options for eye and skin color as well as the way they're presented within the customizer. We want to make sure the interface is intuitive and responsive as possible and the UI team continues to make adjustments to the customizer to ensure that. The character customizer is one of the most exciting new features coming online with Alpha 3.1, as it will allow citizens to begin their journey, creating an avatar that can fully represent them within the Star Citizen universe.
On the roadmap we see that all tasks for this feature are completed and have entered the polishing phase where feature teams work with QA to hammer out as many bugs as they can before bringing the first iteration of this character customizer to life.
Joining the character customizer in polishing are helmet improvements including updates to the model geometry, efforts to make sure certain characters are well lit within the helmets, and fix bugs like the light persisting even when the helmets are not being worn. Additionally our character teams are working on a few other projects that you don't see on the roadmap but are integral to features and content planned for future releases.
You can also see here the work being done on character models for male and female senators as well as finishing touches being put on the legacy outlaw and legacy marine armour models. When we say legacy armour, we mean older armours within the Star Citizen universe. We want you to feel this is a galaxy with history and these legacy armours are one of the ways we are aiming to achieve just that.
Now, moving on to locations.
Many resources are being put into the overall improvement of our procedural planet tech. Improvements to these visuals of our first three moons Yela, Daymar, and Cellin include colour balancing, object distribution, new diffuse height and global maps, have all been completed and outstanding tasks remaining include detailed polish, improved procedural distribution for planetside features, and some dynamic weather effects that Marco Corbetta has been working on.
The environment art team has also been working on Delamar, focusing on the visual transition between close, medium, and far viewpoints and the scattering of assets while also addressing some unwanted pink hues. Space views of yela have been much improved and on the R&D front the team continues to work on something called speed tree which you'll learn about more in the coming months. Additionally as you may have heard already on Calling All Devs, a revamp of the player hangars is underway. They are currently in grey box as work continues on making them properly modular so they'll function in a variety of Star Citizen environments. It's still too early to say when these new player hangars might make their way into the persistent universe but keep an eye on the RSI roadmap for an addition in the future.
Continuing to look ahead, the environment art and tech teams work to prototype the planet Hurston and its moons. For Lorille, the teams are discussing the best way to approach it utilizing the procedural planet object presets while one of Hurston's moons Ariel has begun the process of white box block out. For this particular moon we're looking at some very unique geography and you can see that the team has made a lot of meticulous progress building up the biomes. For some early work on the planet Hurston check out our CitizenCon 2947 presentation available now on YouTube.
From locations, we're heading over to gameplay where feature teams have been working on bringing the service beacon distress call system to life, which will ultimately allow players to contact each other in-game to request assistance or services. QT markers will show up when a player accepts a beacon following the same system currently used for in-game missions. As with many of the other new features that come online with every Star Citizen release this initial iteration is an important step to player-generated missions and content and we're excited to see how each and every one of you will be using it. So far, the notification range will be tunable. You'll have the ability to untrack or cancel a beacon once you've accepted it and the pop-up notification system will continue to be iterated on in future releases for Star Citizen. Teams are also adding additional polish to the personal management app in your mobiGlas. This includes work on the Star Marine loadout customizer. For example, whatever you've earned in the PU will carry over to Star Marine. Now, some items may not be available for certain game modes and the team is working on specific UI elements that will help you know what is and what isn't available.
In ship news, the vehicle team continues to make finishing touches to the ships and vehicles going live with 3.1 which you saw last week in our updated Ship Shape. And in the world of weapons and items, we have some exciting ship and FPS weapons from Gallenson, Amon & Reese, Preacher, and more entering their polishing stages. Concept art is finalizing the design of the Joker distortion cannon, blocking out the Behring pistol, and working on several other guns for FPS and what you see here is some of the work VFX has done this week on improvements to rail gun impact and distortion scattered gun effects. Finally this week in core tech, we have closed out 45 of the 46 tasks needed to meet our performance optimization goal for Alpha 3.1 this is of course a process that will be ongoing throughout development but having put a lot of focus on improving frame rate this quarter you should be able to easily see what the teams have accomplished for this upcoming release.
Well that's it for the Star Citizen project update this week. Back to you Chris and Sandi.
SG: Thanks Eric.
CR: Yes, thank you very much Eric. And with Alpha 3.1 just released to a wider testing group in the PTU and a live release a week away our dev teams and designers are looking ahead to Alpha 3.2 features and content as part of this, we evaluate where we are, set priorities, and make adjustments while also looking at quality of life issues in the current gameplay. We thought it would be useful to get your input on what potential aspects are important to you as far as this goes so look for a community poll tomorrow to help us with our roadmap.
SG: Speaking of the roadmap as you saw in Eric's update not everything we work on for the games makes it onto the roadmap. One aspect that you don't see for instance is audio.
CR: Yes audio is one of those things where if it's done right you almost don't notice it at all but it's hugely integral to conveying the stories, experiences, and immersion that drive the game.
SG: Let's go to Lee Banyard and some of our other audio team members to find out more about the design and implementation of Star Citizen’s sounds in this week's feature.
Lee Banyard (LB): Hi I’m Lee Banyard, Audio Director here at CIG. Today we’re doing an audio special about how audio contributes to immersion, gameplay, emotion of the whole game. And we’ll go through it piece by piece; going through all the different people who contribute to the experience in various ways.
First piece we’ll be looking at will be the ship audio and how … in a way ship audio in our game only really all comes together once you actually experience them in game itself. So it’s almost like game is … it’s akin to an orchestra really. Each part of a ship audio - thruster elements - it’s very difficult to say just take them in isolation and appreciate them. They all work together and the game is almost doing the job of … as you pilot your ship it’s playing them and articulating them in a way that you can’t experience anywhere else.
So much of our sound design is effectively done with the game. The game actually sound designs in realtime and we’re … we’re at the mercy of that as well. So the process of sound design for ship audio particularly it’s an ongoing, iterative process as they change upstream and they balance for fight stuff we have to change the audio to meet and reflect that. It’s … yeah, it’s a complex process. It’s immensely rewarding.
Darren Lambourne (DL): Hi, I’m Darren and in this video I’d like to show you how the Terrapin thruster design is composed of many different layers that all respond differently and dynamically to the pilot input.
This is a rather subtle layer that sits in the background and plays counterpoint to some of the more energetic layers. So while those bigger, more robust layers will rise in pitch and volume when the ship is exerting itself, this one falls in pitch and sounds a bit thinner and less energetic.
This rotation layer more specifically picks out the pitch, roll and yaw inputs.
This one’s a bit more general. It’s tied to the numbers coming from the amount of thrust that’s happening. So this is describing what the thrusters are doing mainly.
Then we have our surge layers which is more momentary and it picks outs larger thrust events. So lots of acceleration or lots of deceleration tend to push this layer up.
Here’s the strafe layer now for when we’re doing translational maneuvers. And that works obviously in concert with the rotation layer. It also emphasises the deceleration maneuver as well.
This induction layer describes the energy of the thrusters exciting resonant properties of the space frame. And this as a general concept is something we’re looking to expand upon in Star Citizen much, much more in the future and beyond spaceships as well.
So here it all is in concert. And hopefully you can pick out all of those component parts that we’ve heard in isolation before. Thanks for watching.
LB: Part of the fun of creating sound for a space sim is you’re creating sounds for environments that don’t really exist. That gives you a lot of creative, artistic leeway. Or there’s just no parallel in the real world at all. I think there’s a lot of emphasis on the sound. There’s a lot of responsibility in creating a narrative, a mood, an experience that brings stuff up over and above what it would be in real life. So, yeah, ambient sound plays a huge role and here’s Francesco and Josh to talk about that.
Francesco Del Pia (FDP): Hi, I’m Francesco and I recently designed some of the ambiences for the derelict ships.
With audio we have the ability to give the player pieces of information that would otherwise be difficult to convey solely through visuals. One of my goals with the derelicts was to make the players feel uneasy and unsettled when they explore them by making them hear and feel what they can’t see. For example with sound you can imply what is happening behind the wall or inside of a pipe or even on a different floor. I wanted the player to feel as if the derelict reacted to their presence as they walk around it. In the following video you’ll see how I managed to create the ambience for the Starfarer derelict on Daymar.
I wanted to convey the lack of energy of the place through it sound so some of the rooms in the ship are very quiet - almost silent - but if you stand still and listen to what is happening in the environment around you you will hear quite a few sonic details coming from specific parts of the derelict structure. I will now solo the ambiences and boost their volumes.
While I walk close to the walls try to focus on each individual component of the environment and to listen to it’s parts creaking, rattling, groaning, buzzing, and so on.
The further you go into the ship the darker and eerier the ambience becomes. This is to indicate that you’re venturing deeper into the wreck.
With the sound you can guide the player through the level. So for example I’m emphasising the wind when you are close to the exits is a very effective way of letting the players know they are nearing a way out.
The current speed of the wind on the planet affects some of the sounds we hear inside the derelict. For example if the wind outside is heavy we’re able to hear gusts coming from some of the vents around the ship which also started rattling harder as if the air found a way to pass through the broken ducts.
Thank you for listening.
Josh Bell (JB): Hi, I’m Josh and I’m going to talk a little about our process for designing the ambient audio of Star Citizen.
In this quick video I’m going to show you an audio system I’ve been prototyping for supporting the outpost power level states and sound of the weather outside interacting with the outpost structure.
So at some point in game we’re going to be able to turn the outposts on and off by inserting or removing the power core from the power module. We really wanted to capture that feeling of finding shelter in a safe place during a storm when the player comes in from the environment outside and turns on one of these outposts.
For the time being there are two states: powered down and powered on. And all of these audio spots you see here respond to that state.
So if I just bring down the power level parameter here in Wwise you’ll hear the audio transition to the powered down state. This brings up the general ambient room tone of the place as well as bringing in some of the sounds of the structure and all of the machinery settling back into their resting state after being powered down. Eventually when we have animations for the outpost power up and power down sequences you’ll really be able to see and hear the outpost generator spooling up and down.
We’re also prototyping a sound system to cover the idea of the outpost structure reacting to the weather outside the outpost. So this isn’t set up in game yet and as the Audio team work downstream we rely on a lot of the game systems working before we can do a lot of the interesting stuff we want to do. But we can start preparing for when we eventually have a system like this by generating our own parameters in Wwise to prototype with.
So this parameter, Temp_Wind_Speed, allows us to hear how this system might work in game. So this is what we call a “blend container” which allows us to crossfade between different sounds depending on the information we get from the game. Here we’re crossfading between different wind speeds based on the wind speed outside. And here we’re triggering sounds of the structure - creaking, vibrating, and moving subtly - when the wind hits a certain speed and stays there.
We also have a new system on the audio code side called the Audio Propagation system which basically allows us as sound designers to get a lot more useful information about the way that sound can travel between different rooms and areas to reach the listener.
For example the wind and creak emitters on the exterior of the outpost sections are aware of the atmospheric conditions outside so they know not to activate if they’re on a planet without an atmosphere, and they know to activate if they’re on a planet with an atmosphere.
These outposts have been a great way to explore ambience that react to meaningful game parameters which is an area of the game sound that is only going to get more and more crucial as development continues.
So we’ll have a quick listen to that in game.
LB: Music plays a big part in guiding the player emotionally through the game. We have so many associations with music - due to film and other games of course - and for our game it’s no real exception: we … it’s there to pull you through and it can be manipulative but when it’s done well, it’s a seamless overall contribution to the narrative experience. And on that note here’s Phil Peers-Smallwood to tell you about that.
Philip Peers-Smallwood (PPS): We’ve recently been working on expanding our music content for the PU. This includes new music for space stations, landing zones, moons and other points of interest.
To get new music in the PU we start by drafting a composition request. These typically include concept art, playthrough captures, reference tracks and music direction from Chris Roberts and Lee Banyard our Audio Director and the wider Audio team. These are sent on to our PU composer Pedro Camacho and through discussions back and forth, iterations and polish we get to a point where we can implement the final cues in the game.
At the moment we’re experimenting with new implementation methods to improve the perceived variation of these music cues. We’re currently doing this by bookending each main cue with specifically composed intro and outro variants. However we’re looking to further expand this in 3.1 and beyond by adding additional stem variation with each of these current elements.
So here’s a quick video about a recent music addition and how it’s been implemented with these intro/outro variants.
So in the 3.0 release we added music to Port Olisar, Levskii, and GrimHex and for this video we’re going to take a closer look at one of the GrimHex cues.
Okay so here we are in the Wwise project and the track we’re going to look at today is GrimHex two.
So in this playlist container we’ve got multiple intros, multiple outros, and the main body loop.
So let’s get into the structure of the playlist container. So this is a sequence container which calls three run containers. The first one holding all of the intros. The second holding the main body piece. And the last one is holding all of the outro tracks.
So the idea behind this is when the game triggers this GrimHex track it will randomly select from one of these three intros, then transition into the main body piece, and then transition into a randomly selected outro - one of these three here.
Now the reason we’ve done this is to provide a greater degree of variation for this cinematic cue so you’re not always hearing the same intro and the same outro giving you a bit more of a varied music experience in these locations.
So let’s go ahead and trigger this GrimHex cue and see how the intros are randomly selected.
Now let’s take a look at how these sections transitions using this random functionality - with a couple of edits in the interest of time.
Okay so let’s take a quick look at the GrimHex level in the editor and just quickly go through how the music is implemented in the level.
Okay so here we are at the GrimHex location and you can see there are two red spheres. Now these are music areas.
So the larger sphere correlates to the armistice zone boundary. And when you’re in there it will play an armistice zone ambient cue. Now we’ve designated these to be friendly, neutral and outlaw. So Port Olisar being friendly, Levskii being neutral, and here GrimHex being outlaw. So whilst you’re in that sphere It will trigger that outlaw ambient music.
Now the smaller red sphere is the music area that triggers the cinematic cue for GrimHex, be it GrimHex one or two. So as you enter that location you should be welcomed with one of the cinematic cues with the multiple intros, main body piece, and multiple outros. And once that is complete it will default back to the outlaw ambient music.
This type of music implementation for points of interest in the PU is still a work in progress and currently quite rudimentary. However this is a system that do want to fully flesh out in the future. So the next time you’re heading out to Port Olisar, Levskii or GrimHex just take a moment and listen out for these new ambient and cinematic cues.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this quick video. Thanks for watching.
LB: Story, narrative, all this sort of thing … a lot of people they … they immediately think of dialogue - what’s the spoken word - and that is a big part of it. How characters interact with each other. That defines narrative and all this sort o f thing. But it all … there’s a synergy I think between all of the sonic elements. And obviously music is another one that’s quite on the nose - you understand when it’s happening. But sound design as well - sound effects - it all comes together … I’ve got a sound design background myself and they all have to work together and reinforce the same stuff. Yeah, all as one. So it’s … yeah, again that’s … in terms of the story and the narrative and the emotional fundamentals of a game I think they will say sound comes in through the back and visual come in through the front and that’s … we’re trying to meet in the middle. That’s what we do. All the stuff that we do with in the Audio team, that’s what we’re doing and what we’re all about.
CR: Thanks guys! So... really cool how many different audio components go into making a ship sound realistic and intense. The effect is almost musical.
SG: Sound design really does add a whole dimension of immersive storytelling that can't be achieved by visuals on their own.
CR: Yes and speaking of visuals, last weekend we held a screenshot contest in honour of St. Patrick's Day and the results were impressive and pretty hilarious. So, thanks to all of you who risked the brutal hangover to party in the Verse and share the results with us and congratulations to the winner... and I did have a brutal hangover on Sunday.
SG: Yes you did. Due to popular demand we're keeping the official Squadron 42 T-shirts on sale through the end of the month, so grab one while supplies last.
CR: The Aegis Vulcan remains on sale for a couple more weeks. Our first concept ship of 2018 is one of the more versatile and career-minded ships we've ever released, so if you want to know more about its planned in-game functionality check out the Q&A on our website where the ship's designers answer your questions about Vulcan.
SG: If you happen to be attending GDC in San Francisco, stop by the Intel booth to try out Star Citizen Alpha 3.1 and chat with some members of the team or stop by the Bar Citizen meetup this evening which will be going down at Louie's bar at 7 PM PST.
CR: And if you're in Southern California, William Weisbaum - one of the writers for Star Citizen and Squadron 42, very talented individual - will be appearing at WonderCon in Anaheim this Saturday. He'll be joining Fallout 2's Chris Avellone, Omensight’s Genese Davis, and Call of Duty World War II's Cameron Dayton for a presentation on writing for games on Saturday at 10 AM PST.
And that's all for this week. Remember to check out tomorrow's special episode of Reverse the Verse live at 12 PM PST where Chris will chat with Jared about 3.2 planning and potential quality of life improvements we'd like to hear from you about.
CR: That's very exciting!
And make sure to check out the new episode of Calling All Devs that aired earlier this week for answers to backer questions about radar displays, high velocity EVA, and all kinds of electronic warfare.
SG: A big thank you as always to our subscribers for sponsoring our shows.
CR: Yes and of course thank you to all our backers. Your support lets us continue to make Star Citizen and Squadron 42 the best they can be. Until next week, we'll see you...
Both: Around the ‘Verse!