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Around the Verse: Trouble at Drake Written Thursday 6th of April 2017 at 12:25pm by CanadianSyrup, StormyWinters and Sunjammer, Psylence

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 

Austin

  • Shoutout to Clifford aka Miku, Simperium, and Daktari for their generous and delicious gifts to the Austin studio.
  • Design Team:
    •  Focused on 2.6.2 out the door.
    • Adding new subscriber flair.
      • New subscriber flair is called the vivid display which can display game locations holographically and find more information about said location.
      • Other items like ship schematics can put on light displays on walls.
  • Revising the Stanton system map, will give more details later.
  • Landing zone AI and useables undergoing further development.
  • Updating shop related elements and the system itself.
    • The update will change how players could only purchase an outfit as an entire set on items to purchasing items individually or bundled for a discount price. For players this is great, but for designers it's even better because it allows them on the backend to setup a variety of different combination of outfits quickly for display in the verse.
  • PU Animation Team:
    • Finished up a mocap shoot using the in house Optitrak system to help fill in the gaps from performance shoots down at the Imaginarium studio.
    • Captured transition animations for female and male characters such as sitting down at tables with trays, getting chow, eating, drinking, etc.
    • This transition animations are important as they're used for useables which are objects players or NPCs can interact with in the environment from doors to cups to switches.
    • Currently they're working with the Frankfurt and U.K. studio to allow NPC's to work with multiple useables and interact with them all at the same time such as grabbing food from the chowline, using a tray to put other useables on it and then walking to a table and sitting down with the useables, then after they're done, throwing away the useables and putting the tray back.
  • Ship Animation Team:
    • Finished major animation tests for the Cutlass Black.
      • Implemented a new cockpit template called the stick template which positions a player in a pose like that of a helicopter.
      • Also planing to support the cockpit experience improvement pass, but details on that will come later.
  • DevOps Team:
    • Additional logging that was added to the game better track issues players experience and download the status of the users session the moment the issue is experienced.
    • Debugged further issues with the launcher itself and fixed the music bug for the launcher where Windows 10 users' launcher would crash because Windows 10 set the Kilohertz rating at 192 which caused the launcher to crash with music so now music is working again.
  • QA Team:
    • 2.6.2 testing and Squadron 42 testing.
      • Cross studio testing was done for the Multiplayer MegaMap and Seralized variable.
      • Tested the new Drake Buccaneer.
      • Tests involving ground vehicles on planetary surfaces in a multiplayer environment.
      • Testing the PlanED tool and subsumption tool.
      • Expanded the QA team by four which brings the total to 24 QA members in Austin.

Turbulent

  • Enjoyed being on the Subscriber Town Hall and want to do more Town Hall questions in the future.
  • Spectrum V0.32 launched with performance updates to how messages and threads are rendered in the client.
    • Also allows the ability to reorder communities at the top left side bar.
    • Channel thread list now allows you to see the thumbnail images and and video previews.
  • V0.33 is being worked on to include nested threads which allow players to choose between chronological type, or nested type which is similar to Reddit in that replies are contained in an area based on who they replied to.
    • Bugfixes and optimisation didn't make it into V0.32 for Android, but hope to have them in for V0.33.
  • In the coming months when they've added the above features and more, they'll begin the archive and shutdown process of the old forums. They won't be importing the old forums, but will keep the forum and subforum catagories. Plenty of notice will be given when this will happen.
  • The new launcher is being built with Electron Shell and has been going well. 
    • The Delta patcher technology is now being used internally to some extent and hope to have it out to the community in the coming months ahead.
  • Another project started was the redesign of the RSI website. The goal is to make it better for new users and old users. This project has only just started so there isn't much to see yet.
  • Also being worked on is the ship stats page update. Certain ships aren't being properly reflected in the stats page and are being updated to reflect that. The ship stats page is supposed to display what the design/intent of the ship is and not exact stats.

Behind the Scenes: Environments.

  • Ian Leyland, F42 Environment Art Director, and the team talk in depth about surface outposts
    • The initial idea for came from Design's need to create small locations to bring players to

  • The team with concepts and mood shots, which were validated, before going into production

  • The visual style and elements needed to support a modular format and enable Design to create some interesting layouts which still felt unique

  • Once the concept was signed off it was broken down into its constituent parts: the start of the High Tech Surface Outpost building set

  • They made a whitebox using the standard "template set", modified it and added "add on" pieces

  • The greybox had to be in line with art style but remains as modular as the whitebox

  • The greybox is often more detailed than the production version: some of the details are baked down into textures

  • The materials library is finalised and tested for production and applied to the assets

  • Once testing started it was obvious a flat base wouldn't work due to clipping or floating so a system of legs were added

  • Ramps, elevators and ladders were rejected in favour of "high tech" stairs to get the player from the surface to the door

  • The final assets are grouped into prefabs to allow outposts to be developed more rapidly

  • Future work will be to add variety: new layouts, new materials and new add ons

  • Not just look good, but look correct for the story behind it i.e. lived in.

  • The modules link together to allow for generation of outposts

  • The goal is to create multiple variations and perceived variations.

  • Planetary materials, the weather system, and aging are examples of variables being used.

  • One hurdle is getting the planetary editor to put the outposts in the right spot.

  • Interiors and Exteriors change, and have differences/variations from one to another.

Full Transcript

Intro With Chris Roberts (CEO, Director of Star Citizen and Squadron 42), Eric Kieron Davis (Senior Producer). Timestamped Link.

Chris Roberts (CR): Hello and welcome to Around the Verse, our weekly look at the development of Star Citizen. I’m Chris Roberts.

Eric Kieron Davis (EKD): And I’m Eric Kieron Davis. Chris it’s great to have you back on Around the Verse. How was your trip to the U.K. and Frankfurt offices?

CR: Very productive. As I mentioned in last weeks newsletter we held an overall project review in Frankfurt. I was joined there by CIG team members from across the globe, from all our four studios actually. We reviewed and plans sprints as well as work to improve the overall cockpit experience when you’re flying around in Star Citizen. So you’ll see that down the road,not quite yet, but that’ll be cool.

EKD: That sounds great. One of the best parts of Star Citizen is flying around the universe which brings us to todays episode. We’ll be sharing some of the technical considerations that have gone into the upcoming planetary outposts that we’ll populate future PU environments.

CR: Yes, but first let's check in with the Austin and Turbulent studios for their update

Studio Update With Jake Ross (Producer), Benoit Beausejour (CTO). Timestamped Link.

Jake Ross(JR): Hey guys, Jake Ross here, Producer here in Austin. I wanted to a take a quick second and thank Clifford aka Miku, Simperium and Daktari for their generous and delicious gifts to the Austin studio. We always appreciate the show of love and support from our community and these tasty treats help keep us fueled and encouraged, so thanks guys.

Now let’s take a look at what our full bellied team at Austin has been up to this past month. This last month the Austin design team has been focused on getting 2.6.2 out the door among other things, 2.6.2 work has consisted mainly of adding new subscriber flair items and fixing some minor bugs as well. We’re also updating additional shop related elements as we continue to build upon the shopping system. While I can’t go into major detail right now, I can say revisions of the Stanton system map are in progress. Also landing zone AI and usables are undergoing additional development. For this month we have a peek at our latest subscriber flair and details on how we’re expanding the shopping tech to utilize some new tools that relate to the Item 2.0 system.

First let’s take a look at the new subscriber flair that’ll be rolled out in the coming months, one of the new items is called the vivid display which can display game locations holographically. Players can use the vivid display to find out more about locations, including their intended visuals. Other flair items include a series of ship schematics which will showcase the level of detail that goes into our ship design. These light board displays can be hung from any poster style port in your hangar, we hope you’ll enjoy these upcoming additions to subscriber flair and look forward to additional flair in the coming months.

Now we’d like to share how we’re revamping the shopping system for our next release, as the Item 2.0 system advances, the item port structure changes so it can fall in line with our end goal. These fluctuations have forced us to readdress the set up for things like shop mannequins and item bundles. While the end result will be pretty obvious to the players, the differences for the designers will change drastically for the better. Our goal is to create a base mannequin object that the shopping system can apply loadouts to, the items on a given mannequin would be purchased by themselves or as a bundle for a discounted price. In the past every outfit was only purchasable as an entire set of items, on top of that a bespoke mannequin set up had to generated for each unique outfit display.

Fortunately our advancing tech will soon allow our loadout editor to quickly create various item combinations within a given shop. That loadout comprised of items in the shop will then be assigned to the shop’s inventory as a bundle, the shopping system will then spawn these bundles directly onto an empty shop mannequin with no additional effort by the designers.

A process that took hours before will soon only take minutes, allowing us to quickly generate different item combinations that can be displayed on the mannequins. What seems like a minor change actually unlocks a multitude of options for the Design team to create realistic shops, hopefully you’ll be able to see the fruits of these labours really soon in our upcoming releases.

The PU animation team just finished a small mocap shoot using our in house Optitrak system. This was a pick up shoot to help us fill out all the gaps from the performance capture shoots done previously at Imaginarium Studios. We captured transition animations for both male and female characters, examples of a transition animation include sitting down at tables with trays, going through chow line to get food, eating, drinking, rummaging or sitting in cockpits and turrets. The transition animations are shot in such a way that they can work with our metrics and are universal enough to be used all over the game with many different usables in our environments.

If you’re not familiar with our term usable, as a reminder a usable is an object a player or NPC can interact with like a chair, wall, table or other set piece. Usables also include props like cups, plates and bottles and anything else that can physically be picked up by a person. We’re currently implementing these transition animations into our usable system, obviously animation can only get these game assets so far, our biggest challenge right now is making all the usables function in game properly. It is up to code, tech, and designers to make them work together which is why Austin animation has worked closely with our Frankfurt and U.K. studios on this. Metrics are being created for door control panels, bathrooms, toilet facilities and chow lines in the Idris mess hall. We’re putting tech in place that will allow an NPC to navigate a useable set piece and perform a variety of actions like grabbing a useable prop, setting other useable props onto it, walking away with the prop, going to and interacting with another useable set piece, then getting up and navigating to a third useable set piece to dispose of the useable prop with all the useable props on it.

Once we get this one test case fully functional we’ll be able to apply what we’ve developed throughout the game.

The ship animation team has finished the major animation tests for the Drake Cutlass Black. Characters can now enter and exit the pilot and copilot seats properly. For the copilot we’re utilizing a brand new cockpit template that we’re calling the stick template. This template positions the player in a pose like that of a helicopter pilot. This was required to fit the new geometry of the Cutlass cockpit. We’re also planning to support the cockpit experience improvement pass, but we’ll have more info on that next time.

On the devops side, we added additional logging to better track issues that our wonderful community experiences from time to time. The logging we added allows us to dump the status of the users download session at the moment they experience the issue. We then worked directly with the community relations team here in Austin to debug the issue or issues the users are experiencing. A great example of this  is the latest example of the patcher, patcher 2.4.9. As some of the Windows 10 users may have already noticed, this version of the patcher brought back music that had previously been missing. The exact cause of the issue is that Windows 10 sound settings were set to 192 Kilohertz. This was causing the patcher to crash if you had the music turned on. You can now enjoy all Pedro Camacho’s music once again.

The QA department here in Austin has been heavily focused on 2.6.2 testing. With the addition of Multiplayer Mega Map and Serialized Variables, we were required to perform multiple cross studio playtests between Austin and U.K. We did this to check for any and new unexpected behaviors due to the major system changes such as increased desynchronization, lag between clients, massive performance changes good or bad and crashes, lots and lots of crashes. The new Drake Buccaneer came online sooner than expected so the ship team performance frequent testing to ensure the ship was operating as expected when it makes it way into backers hands.

In our development stream testing, Squadron 42 testing continues as well as a range of tests with the ground vehicles on planetary surfaces in a multiplayer environment. We’ve also been testing various developmental tools such as the procedural planet editor or PlanED and the subsumption editor.

Finally we expanded the QA team in Austin by another four testers which brings the Austin QA team to a total of 24 members. We’re excited about this expanded and excited to have new people on board.

Thanks for watching guys and for all your support, we’ll see you in the verse.

Benoit Beausejour (BB): Oh hello, fancy seeing you here. This is Benoit from Turbulent and this is our Turbulent update for this month. Last week we were hosted by our friend Jared Huckaby in  the Community Team for a Subscriber Town Hall. This was our first ever Town Hall. We were super excited to get it set up and a bit nervous to participate, but  you guys sent us awesome questions and we’re hoping we’re going to be able to do so more Town Hall questions so that we can address the questions and different things you want to know about Spectrum and the platform we’re building.

This month we launched Spectrum version 0.32 which includes major performance updates to how we render messages and threads in the client. So hopefully this will allow you guys to switch faster between lobbies and channels and it should take way less CPU and render time than it used to do in the 0.31 version. I’m sure hoping you guys can see the difference already. 0.32 also brings two new features: You can now reorder your communities at the top left of the side bar. All you have to do is grab your community and drag it, drop it to the location you want to keep it and we’ll persist that across all your browser tabs and sessions so you can keep your favourite org at the top if that’s what you want to do.

Second feature is we worked on the channel thread list. Now when you see the subjects, we added thumbnail images to threads that contain media information and videos and so this way it’s way more entertaining to view the channel list because you’ll see the media previews there, so then you’ll have more incentive to click on this subjects and view the media content embeded in it.

Otherwise we’ve also worked on mobile optimisation and keyboard fixes. Unfortunately we’re not quite done yet and we’re not happy with the fixes so we had to roll them back from 0.32. We’re hoping it’s going to be ready for 0.33. This should fix bugs on mobile Android that people have been encountering when basically typing into the chat of mobile Android so we’re hoping to fix that soon.

The future holds good stuff for 0.33 which should come with a new feature again for forums called nested threads. Nested threads will allow you to create a new thread and change the discussion type from a classic chronological thread into a nested discussion. Now this gives us two benefits: First we can now sort by upvotes, the replies at the first level and get a nested reply tree behind it, but the second thing is that we give you guys more control and to the type of discussion that you want to start. So the OP creator will have the option of choosing whether it’s an nested thread or not.

So as we add all these features into the next releases of Spectrum we’re getting ready to be able to shut down and archive the old forums. We cannot do that until we’ve expanded our categories list to bring all those discussion from the old forums in. We’re not talking about an import, but at this point we’re talking about recreating the subcategories that you guys enjoy on the old forum inside the new system. So we’re talking about shipyards, ship owner threads and stuff like this. So as soon as we’re able to do that, we’ll be able to announce a date in which the old forums will go into archive mode, but we’ll give you guys plenty of notice before we do that.

This month we also worked on the new Delta patcher as you guys have called it and so we are responsible for building the actual application that hosts the patching libraries and so we’ve done a bunch of progress this month in getting this new application setup. It’s using a whole new application stack you guys might be familiar with, it’s called Electron Shell, we’re also using React and Redux like we do for Spectrum within this new application and so we’ve worked on our native bindings to get the patching libraries that the Frankfurt guys are working on.  So we’re currently able to patch the game data with this new launcher. It’s also used internally so we’re really excited about this project, it’s going to bring a lot more dynamism in how we release patches and so we’re really excited to get this moving and integrate it into this new app and hopefully we’ll be able to release that to you guys in the next coming months.

Another major project we started this month is a redesign of some of the elements of the RSI site. We’re trying to… This is a massive overhaul of the website and how it caters to new users and older users and so as we start this design process we’ll be starting to give you guys some updates on what we’re doing on that front and how that shapes up, but we’re only starting right now.

One important project that we’re also working on that has seen a lot of progress is the ship stats update. So we know the ship stats don’t currently reflect what's exactly ingame. Now I want to mention again that the ship stats are supposed to reflect the intent, design of a ship and not specifically the exact stats that are currently ingame, but at the same time currently there are things that are missing so we are working on to putting that up to date. We’ve got all the information to do so and so now we’re working on changing how the backend manages this and redesigning some of the tech view specifications and holo viewer changes to be able to display that and so we’re hoping that we’ll be able to go through all the current loadouts in the next coming weeks to be able to show you guys an update there.

That’s it for Turbulent. Thank you guys for watching.

Back to Studio With Chris Roberts (CEO, Director of Star Citizen and Squadron 42), Eric Kieron Davis (Senior Producer). Timestamped Link.

CR:  Thanks guys. The ship animation team did a fantastic job on the redesigned Cutlass Black and with the Buccaneer flight ready, we’re proud to announce that the entire Drake lineup is all in engine which is a pretty big achievement.

EKD: Yeah! They’re also on sale. Now you can get the Buccaneer, Dragonfly, Herald, Caterpillar, and Cutlass until April 10th.

CR: Yes so the sale includes all three models of the Cutlass including the updated Cutlass Black. People often question the business ethics of Drake Interplanetary so we decided to dig in a little deeper into what Drake’s been up to. Take a look.

Terra Gazette: Take Down With Matt Sherman (Technical Designer). Timestamped Link.

[Speaker] 70 year ago, Drake Interplanetary built the Cutlass in a gamble to win a military bid, but the military didn’t buy it. Drake Interplanetary wasn’t deterred however, the company retrofitted the Cutlass for civilian use.

Matt Sherman (MS): When we first rolled out a flyable model of the Cutlass to the public, it kind of drifted from our own expectations and from our own intent. It lost some of the aggressive characteristics that we had sold it on when we first unveiled it and that was one of the biggest things we wanted to recapture in the rework. We wanted to make it feel like, look and feel like the ship he had originally promised to people, but to really pull that off we did have to make some changes and split off a few pieces of functionality, build then what that left us with was a lot more room really build on the raiding/support potential of the Drake Cutlass. Where now this can be that backbone of a small militia unit of a small defense group.

Josh Coons (JC): The first iteration of the Cutlass wasn’t very ergonomical for the pilot or the Copilot. We had many complaints from the customers saying it’s hard to get in and out and people stepping on other people's toes so we went with a better design on this one. We have the pilot and Copilot being able to enter and exit from either side of the C stations with neither the pilot or copilot getting in the way of each other on enter or exit for much faster mounting, dismounting.

The living quarters have also been retrofitted to be a little bit more spacious. The armaments have been upgraded. We have more space for armour and equipment as well as bunk racks and the main living quarters as well as access to the guns main weapon system, located in the living quarters instead of the rear.

MS: It’s going to be a very potent threat to come across for mid sized ships and up because it’s going to carry a lot of mission firepower. We’ve added more guns to the ship, just it’s general armour and durability can now really sell through both its appearance and its performance. We didn’t skimp out on what it can do. We made sure it can haul your cargo it can haul your friends. You can blow up a ship if it’s trying to take you down. Some people decide to use our ship to take other people down I guess.

[Speaker] The Travel Safety Advisory System estimates that 15,000 people die annually in outlaw raids and the Cutlass Black accounts for two thirds of all ships used by known piracy groups.

People have often questioned Drake Interplanetary role in these raids. Is the company intentionally marketing their inexpensive but deadly Cutlass Black to criminals?

We decided to find out.

Posing as an applicant for their sales department, one of our reporters traveled to the Magnus System and sat down with Drake Interplanetary’s long standing Ceo, Jan  Dredge.

She didn’t know, she was being recorded.

Jan Dredge (JD): Your resume is quite impressive. As you probably assumed this last interview is really more of a formality.

Reporter: Can I ask a question?

JD: Ask away. Unless they're salary related. That goes through HR.

Reporter: Of course, of course. I *am* curious about the Cutlass Black -- have you considered including mandatory background checks for buyers? You know, avoid selling to criminals?

JD: Listen, what happens after a Cutlass leaves the showroom isn’t my problem. When there’s a murder, you do blame the killer or the person who manufactured the gun?

[Speaker] After this audio released, family members of piracy victims expressed their outrage by calling for a ban on the Drake Cutlass. Today, Drake Interplanetary responded with a press statement.

We apologize for the comments made by Jan Dredge. After many years of devoted service, Miss Dredge has decided to retire as CEO of Drake Interplanetary and spend more time with her family. While she will continue to remain on the board, Miss Dredge will no longer be involved in daily business operations. Her son, Jon Dredge will fulfill her duties as Acting-CEO until a replacement can be found.

Drake Interplanetary is committed to the safety of all civilians. Our Cutlass Blue and Cutlass Red models are specifically designed for use by Police and first responders. They continue to save countless lives across the universe.

The Terra Gazette has confirmed that Jan Dredge’s so called retirement goes into effect today. However Drake Interplanetary refuses to comment on whether they will continue to sell the Cutlass Black to known piracy groups

Behind the Scenes With Ian Leyland (Environment Art Director). Timestamped Link.

Ian Leyland (IL): Hello I’m Ian Leyland I’m the Environment Art Director at Foundry 42. Today it would be really interesting to talk a little bit about surface outposts. So I think people have seen a few of these before - we’ve shown some little videos here and there and when the community’s come round the studio they’ve had a little sneak peek - but this is the first opportunity to really show what it’s about and, more importantly, the team involved in making it.

Eddie Hilditch (EH): My name’s Eddie Hilditch. I am the Senior Environment Art Lead.

Alex Remottie (AR): My name is Alex Remotti and I’m a Senior Technical Artist working on the procedural aspect of our system.

Nicholas Etheridge (NE): Hi. My name’s Nic Etheridge and I’m a Lead Artist on … for the PU team for environments.

IL: So the initial idea came from Design. Design needed a place to bring the player too. The smallest possible location. So we have cities, space stations but one thing we never really had was these smallest locations. So that was the initial idea from Design of what a Surface Outpost would be.

So we went away and we started looking at concepts for what they might look like in our universe. So we knew we wanted to integrate them quite well with the environment so we wanted a design that felt durable, robust, and felt like it could survive a few harsh winters.

So from there we started some mood shots just to see and explore what might work right and then once we had some nice idea we got it validated - made sure it worked for Chris and Design Director - and then we started taking it into production.

So from there one of the things we knew we wanted to do, like these were going to be modular: we didn’t want just one hero location. So the visual style and elements needed to support a modular format. So during the ideration process and concepting we needed to make sure we had elements that we could break up the visual language, break up that fatigue, and enable Design to create some interesting layouts which still felt quite interesting to look at.

EH: So we build all our environments modularly. We have to build them in that way to incorporate the vast number of environments we need across our universe. So once the concept has been signed off from Ian we we will start breaking that concept down into its constituent parts in order to figure out how many pieces we need to begin the process of making a brand new building set which is going to be our High Tech Surface Outpost.

NE: We took the concept and we made the outpost concept using the “template set” which is a set we use to whitebox all of our levels because it’s a basic set; it’s to metrics; it’s go a simple material on it; and it’s good for artists, and designers, and engineers just to block out areas and test with.

So we took that and we modified it slightly and started creating the outpost layout that we had from concept. Then we added the … whiteboxed add on pieces - like the roof pieces, antennas, pipes - to get that extra silhouette read from a distance - mid and far distances.

The biggest challenge is probably making sure that it’s all modular and fits together because the whole point of it being modular is it gives the artist the flexibility of many different layouts … of swapping pieces round and adding a bit of variation and detail. So from it’s foundation it had to be very modular, work together to metrics and have approval from Design too.

So the key things at the greybox stage are making sure that the assets are in line with the art style, that the material break up’s correct, the forms are correct, and it’s still modular from what we were doing from whitebox. That Design have playtested it and it works from their gameplay requirements. And that any major performance issues are looked at as well.

Often the greybox is modelled to a higher level of detail than the final ... actual final asset and this is because the …  all the ideas and forms and details get shaped out at this phase and these will sometimes get backed, later on, down to a texture. So often the greybox is actually a lot more expensive than the final form.

So when the assets go into final production at this point we’ll flesh out the material library. So the material library will consist of simple, tileable, materials with wear and dirt. Such as simple metals, plastics to more complex panels to very detailed “greeble sheets”, “trim sheets” and graphical decals and illumination sheets for lighting. We need to make sure all the materials work together, that they’re all conforming to the same PBR workflow, and at that point then we go into the final production and apply those materials and flesh out the final assets.

EH: Once we’ve started to test our outposts on the actual surfaces of the planet we soon realised that a perfectly flat base was just not going to work. It was going to limit where we were able to place them. Planets don’t tend to be perfectly even. Everywhere we placed them we’d end up with a corner clipping through the ground a corner floating above the ground so we had to go back to the drawing board and incorporate a system of legs and feet which ultimately allowed us to place them in much more varied places on a surface of a planet.

Then we obviously had to get the player from the surface of the planet up to the door of the outpost. We thought a ramp would look really cool visually so we started implementing those. But after talking with Design we realised our “ramp metrics” from them was 15 degrees which is actually very shallow for a ramp and we actually ended up with outposts that looked like a Miami beach house or something because even if the outpost was only three meters off the ground we had to have an eleven meter long ramp to cope with it - and they look ridiculous.

So we went back to the drawing board. We thought “switch back ramps” maybe or some kind of complicated elevator system with ladders. But ultimately simplest solutions are often the best and we ended up with stairs - very high tech - but stairs actually turned out to just serve the purpose that we actually needed them to.

 

NE: Once all the final assets were made we basically grouped them together into prefabs which are like “smart groups” and brought them in - so there’s walls, there’s rooms, there’s doorways, and airlocks and the stair piece - so it’s very easy now to make a whole different layout of the outpost. So instead of having to bring each individual asset, and each light, and each vis area, they’re all prefabbed out. So you drop a room in then you drop some walls in and it’s done and it allows for more time working on the actual asset than world building.

EH: We have the ability to recreate the concept pretty much one-to-one which is great. But what we also have on top of that thanks to the modularity of it is the ability to create a vast number of variety of layouts and we can basically make as many kinds of layouts - within the same sort of theme and style - as we want. And as we develop the the building set more, and it matures, and we add extra pieces; that variety and the number of potential layouts we can create basically exponentially increases.

What comes down the line later is how to add more variety. Like we can’t have just white outposts every time you see an outpost. It’s not going to be the same outpost: it’s going to change layouts; it’s going to change materials; it’s going to change what add ons get added to it. But that all comes later. What we have here is a proof of concept and a final asset in its simplest form but with the ability to expand massively on it as we move along with its development.  

IL: So after the environment team has been in production for a certain period of time, that’s when I’ll start looking back into it with it again. We can visually see how the ideas progressed, when we’re getting some good ideas, but this is where I start introducing visual targets for the guys to work to.

From the process of going from the initial idea, to it going through into production, obviously the team has made additional design choices, visual choices, to improve the design. This is a good time to take another look at it, and see how it’s working. Initially when I was looking at it this time, I saw the real importance of how we’re going to integrate these things. It’s not only good to have beautiful architecture, you need that believability of understanding “Actually this thing has been here for many years, and how does that feel?”

What I did is I did some visual targets for the team, looking at things like materials, lighting, particles. Just to kind of describe that endframe. Working with what they already produced and the visual targets, that was perfect for the team to kind of take it on to the final art stage of production.

AR: When I received these visual targets, the first thing I tried to understand is: How those elements have been built, how are the modules being divided? Then try to build a less granular version of those model pieces. For example a room, or a wall, to cap the side the side of the room, is what we call prefabs. They’re kind of LEGO pieces.

When we’ve defined these kind of rules within our small R&D team, we start building connection points and dock points to help us stitch together those pieces. We define design rules and layout parts to make sure that the generation of these layouts is controlled, is based on a clear visual aspect, on a clear design, and on a clear cap of size When we have all these rules, we start trying out and iterate on the process of giving feedback to artists for having different variations or having a new rule set to stitch the things together in a different way.

Once the goal is reached, what we’ll want to do with these elements - with these outposts - is to create as many variations as we can, and then create a lot of perceived variation for the players. So that when we scatter them on a planet, the player can play and can see a lot of different locations, a lot of different sizes, a lot of different vistas. That moment comes a second aspect of the procedural variation which is placing them on a planet.

In this case, what we have, is our principal artist and our art direction working on giving a visual target of how they want the outpost to look when they are placed on planetary surfaces. So we have a lot of things like lightning, the planetary materials, the weather system, the aging of the outposts, coming in as variables to set some defaults on the outposts. We have the surface itself that can be very even or uneven, and we need to make sure the outpost is correctly placed.

This has been one of the biggest challenges we’re still tackling, which is how we can find the correct place on the planetary surfaces to guest our outpost. Sometimes we have a feet system adapting, which is one of the first solution, but we also have better shading system to integrate the feet on it. We have a terrain system trying to adapt, and trying to give a more clear and a more even place for the player to be able to enter into the outposts. We face problems with the access to the outposts. We’ve tried to find visual and technical solutions for this.

The planet editor is one of the tools we’re using for placing them is trying to find the correct average distance of this kind of outpost, finding a correct spot on the planet. Then giving to the designers a way to modify these settlements, because together with the outposts we’ll get some visual add-ons, which are just very nice elements that will give variation to these groups - to these outposts. Also some design elements, for example a loot crate could be a design element, that needs to go together with the outpost to give the game play.

These elements also get variated by the planet editor by accessing some defaults, or some design changes through time through missions. Which is what we were mentioning before. Like changing, in runtime, the value of the wear and dirt system that could give, if the planet is sandy, a varying amount of sand on the surface of the outposts. We’re looking into more aspects for interior and exteriors to be different. The interior could have rust and dust, and the exteriors could have the planet affecting it with mud or sand, as we said.

We’re looking into other variations as well. Interior dressing with props, there will probably be a sneak peek on it. It’s actually all the things that you see on my side are still in R&D, they are clearly in white box phase because the visual target we are trying to reach is very, very high.

I’m confident that what we have reached is very good, but is actually considered gray box on this title which is incredible

IL: Hopefully you guys have enjoyed the piece and it gives you guys a good idea of where we’re up to right now with these surface outposts, and giving a little introduction to some of the team members that’s going into making them.

Outro With Chris Roberts (CEO, Director of Star Citizen and Squadron 42), Eric Kieron Davis (Senior Producer). Timestamped Link.

EKD: You know sometimes the simplest solutions is the best solution, like the stairs on the outpost.

CR: Yep, but like we saw it takes a little trial and error to find the easy solution. Although …

EKD: A little. A little trial and error.

CR: Yeah, a little trial and error.

EKD: Well that’s it for this week’s ATV but before we go I want to thank all of our backers: you are the reason Star Citizen’s development is possible.

CR: Yes and a big “thank you” to all our subscribers: your contributions help us produce all this great content. And to show our gratitude we’re giving a Big Benny’s vending machine to all active subscribers. If you’ve been wanting to join our subscriber programme, sign up before April 17th to get this great piece of flair. There’s a link in the description with more info.

EKD: And in addition to the Big Benny’s vending machine, subscribers will also receive another piece of flair next week as part of their rewards. Also next week we’ll be announcing our revamp … the revamp to our referral programme.

CR: Yep. Alright. Lots of stuff going on.

EKD: Yeah.

CR: And tomorrow check out Star Citizen’s  Happy Hour and noon Pacific. Community Manager Jared Huckaby will be interviewing members of the LA Ship Tech team on everything that goes into making spaceships for the BDSSE.

EKD: And I think that’s about it. So thank you so much for watching. And we’ll see you …

Both: Around the ‘verse!

CanadianSyrup

Director of Transcripts

A polite Canadian who takes pride in making other peoples day brighter. He enjoys waffles with Maplesyrup, making delicious puns and striving for perfection in screaming at the T.V. during hockey games.

StormyWinters

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.

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!

Psylence

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!