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Around the Verse: UK Studio Update - April 2018 Written Thursday 5th of April 2018 at 12:00am by Sunjammer, Erris and CanadianSyrup, Nehkara

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

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

UK Studio Update

  • Environment

    • Focusing on 3 components for the first iteration of Rest Stops: exterior, hangars, interior.

    • Varied building materials, colour schemes, ad placement, and the modular construction of the station's exterior allows automated layout generation with artistic control

    • The new "common element" hangars share core design functionality but allow mixing and matching of walls, entrances, exits, and service modules in a variety of styles

    • The ProceduralLayout tool can automatically generate large numbers of layouts using a set library of room and connector prefabs. Randomising prop placement and lighting is the key making locations appear different

  • Props

    • Improved entity system within DataForge allowing an entity to contain both gameplay features and visual keys through a unified system

    • Revised metrics and template assets for Usesables and interactive props so they are easier to understand and supporting scalability/functionality

    • Now able to create destructible props that mesh swap and update environmental effects

    • Created a new set of low tech medical props and medical dressings for PU

    • Working on sub-items used in customising ship component performance

  • Missions

    • Replacing the existing AI with new Subsumption behaviour: focusing on balance and implementing wild lines

    • Taken the opportunity to reassess the Vanduul and Pirate Swarm game modes within Arena Commander

    • Excited about is the prototype of a scramble race event that can work in space or planet-side

    • Rebalancing the Reputation Progression system: it was too easy to earn a negative rep and/or too hard to earn a positive rep

  • UI

    • Researching ways to improve performance by analysing where the CPU is spending its time, e.g. improved how the ECG's values was stored and how the graph was drawn

  • Graphics

    • Shaders, textures and geometry have now been organised in such a way that we can render multiple adjacent meshes

    • Working on new shader effects for RTT: an edge highlighting effect for ship targeting displays, and a drop-shadow effect to make icons stand out more

    • Collaborating with the VFX department to improve our GPU particle system, e.g. to allow better, cheaper electrical and plasma effects

    • Also working through fairly large snag list for the 3.1 release

  • Tech Design

    • Implementing and tuning new weapons: Gats ballistic gatling, PRAR distortion scattergun, and AMRS laser cannon

    • Supporting the conversion of existing gear to Weapon 2.0

    • Rebalancing including distortion weaponry, countermeasures, flight and atmospheric landing turbulence, and shield set back and regeneration rates

    • Working with Art on new ship concepts which will be revealed throughout the year in Ship Shape segments

  • Ship Art

    • Aegis Hammerhead’s interior is mostly set out (except crew dorm and kitchen area) and cargo area and bridge are in a detailing pass

    • Aegis Eclipse is in full production: tightening up POM panel lines, enhancing materials, and ensure moving parts are operational

  • Audio

    • Weapon Audio system has undergone a substantial refactor

    • Designing full NLPC weapon perspective sets along with specific sounds for various distances

    • Took part in a recording session at Oscillate Studios to create source material for ships

  • Derby

    • Hosted an Imperator Subscriber event and scanned three more faces into the game

    • Gameplay Story team have been getting all gameplay story scenes organised in Shotgun and started implementing them in-game

    • Progress has been made on R&D for the Vanduul face rig, internal facial rig technologies, and iterations to female rigs in Maya

    • Facial Animation team has been finalising animations on various PU shopkeepers, bartenders, and mission givers

mobiGlas

  • Implementation of mobiGlas in 3.0 suffered from several problems including breathing motion affecting cursor placement, mobiGlas showing up oddly depending on the position of the player’s body was in, and more.

  • These issues have now been mostly addressed and with it came a more full-screen format for mobiGlas which improved readability.

  • Massive push to unify the layout and code base for the vehicle and player loadout in mobiGlas with the loadouts UIs for Arena Commander and Star Marine. This will allow for improvements and bug fixes to be made more easily. This can also extend to the shop item kiosk.

  • Long term work also ongoing to allow for the saving of loadouts for easy switching between them.

  • UIs can be branded while retaining the same underlying code.

  • mobiGlas should now, in 3.1, be more usable, more readable, more intuitive.

  • Looking forward to bringing the map and mission manager up to an improved level as well.

  • Another high priority is improving stat readouts throughout the mobiGlas to give more information to the player.

  • Added UI for service beacon user-generated missions and in the process did some work on the mission manager app.

  • Improvements in 3.1 for user feedback about where they are hitting their targets or where they themselves are getting hit.

  • User feedback is critical to helping them prioritize what needs to be done next and what isn’t working well.

  • UI is far from a finished product and will be continually improved and iterated upon.

Full Transcript

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

Sandi Gardiner (SG): Hello and welcome to another episode of Around the Verse. I'm Sandi Gardiner

Chris Roberts (CR): And I'm Chris Roberts.

SG: Star Citizen Alpha 3.1 went live last weekend with a character customizer, service beacons, improved UI, five new ships, ten ship weapons, and two new FPS weapons officially entering the verse.

CR: Yeah that's quite a lot and along with that we have improvements to framerate and visuals so if you haven't been to the moons of Crusader recently, go check them out.

SG: Yes, go check them out. And a big thanks to everyone in the community that helped test 3.1 on the PTU as well as all of our incredibly hard-working teams across the globe who made the first quarterly release of 2018 possible.

CR: Yes, a huge thanks to all of you and as we look forward to the rest of the year, starting with Alpha 3.2, we are taking into account the backer input collected in the survey that went out last week as we shuffle some things around and continue to build out the roadmap.

SG: We will have a full roadmap update soon but this week we'll hear from our studios in the UK.

CR: Yes, also we’ll see what the teams in both Winslow and Derby have been working on lately with looks at evolving AI improvements, weapon tuning, procedurally created space stations and more.

SG: After that, we'll get some insight into the newest versions of the mobiGlas, a feature which continues to change and improve along with Star Citizen itself but let's go to Ricky first for the UK studio update.

Studio Update With Ricky Jutley (Producer). Timestamped Link.

Ricky Jutley (RJ): Hi and welcome to the UK Studio Update.

Starting with the Environments team work has been underway on our next generation of space stations beginning with the Rest Stops. Rest Stops are unique among the space stations we’ve designed so far as they are created semi-procedurally. This will allow us to populate the PU with many variations of them easily. And to do that we’ve put a lot of focus on developing the right tools and workflow needed to achieve it.

There are three main location components we’ve been focusing on to achieve the first iteration of the Rest Stop space station.

The first component is the exterior; the unique silhouette of the Rest Stop’s exterior is designed to maximise readability from a distance whilst also allowing for individual personality and variety with the ability to vary layout and architecture. Varied building materials, colour schemes, and ad placement mean that a great number for visual possibilities are achievable throughout the modular construction of these stations which allows us to automate layout generation while maintaining artistic control.

Hangars have also undergone plenty of recent development work. The Rest Stop will be the first station type to fully utilise this type of hangar which we are terming a “common element” and can be used in every utilitarian hangar in the game. Even though every hangar of this type will share the same core design functionality, they are built to allow for mixing and matching of walls, entrances, exits, and service modules in a variety ways and styles to achieve varied looks across different locations.

The third location component we’ve been focusing on is the interior. Developing the Procedural Layout tool used to generate these Rest Stops has been a big - and admittedly challenging - project. We are now at a stage where we can automatically generate large numbers of layouts using the tool and a set library of room and connector prefabs. Maintaining visual consistency and coherence while still making locations appear different remain artistically challenging for the tool and the team. Much like the exterior component the trick is to randomise a lot of smaller choices, like prop placement and lighting, rather than alter the larger room forms. This method allows us to maintain artistic control over the main spaces, flow, and form.

Improvements have been made to the Prop teams’ entity system within DataForge, allowing for one entity to contain both gameplay features and visual keys while being set up and controlled using one system. This means that once we set up an entity we can drop it into any level retaining all working functionality. This also makes for easier syncing between animations and material effects such as glows or UI elements. Consequently the number of lights needed to fake glowing materials or flashing lights during different stages of animation has been significantly reduced.

We have revised our metrics and template assets for Useables and interactive props making them easier to understand and allowing for improved scalability and functionality support for these item types.

Building on these tech improvements we are now able to create destructible props that mesh swap and also update environmental effects such as lights, VFXs, and audio accordingly. These aren’t being implemented in 3.1 and we are still in the early stages, but these tech developments are laying the foundations for future releases.

A new set of low tech medical props is being built out along with some new medical dressings. Both are planned for used throughout the PU as common medical elements.

We have also been working on the sub-items that will be used to customise the performance of ship components and making sure that when that feature comes online  there is a wide selection of visuals to support the gameplay.

The Missions team has been replacing the existing AI with new Subsumption behaviour. Still fairly early in its development, we’ve been focusing on balance and implementing wild lines into the game for the AI controlled characters. For those that might not know “wild lines” are lines of dialogue that play systematically when the AI receives some sort of trigger such as receiving damage. These go a long way towards personalising each player’s experience as the AI will communicate with players differently, depending on their relationship and history.

As the AI continues to develop we’ve also taken the opportunity to reassess the Vanduul and Pirate Swarm game modes within Arena Commander. They have been rebalanced with the focus on delivering a satisfying experience rather than extreme difficulty.

Something we’re really excited about is the prototype of a scramble race event that can work in space or planet-side. In these death races opponents battle to collect randomly generated checkpoints and - more fundamentally - to stay alive. The race relies heavily on dialogue and we have upcoming recording sessions planned to supply this ahead of release.

Finally we’ve been rebalancing the Reputation Progression system as it became apparent that there were too many ways to accrue a negative reputation while attaining a positive one was too challenging.

The UI team has been researching ways to improve performance by analysing where the CPU is spending its time. Optimisations made to the code of the ECG graph on the visor significantly reduced the CPU cost without affecting visual quality.

The ECG graph has a buffer for the heartbeat value. With every update the game would add a new value to the front of the buffer while removing the oldest from the back causing expensive memory shifting. To prevent this the team now uses a circular buffer by just storing an index to the oldest location in the buffer. When the index reaches the end of the buffer it loops back to the start in cyclical fashion which is much more efficient because memory is only written to rather than being moved around.

The second optimisation applied to the ECG was to stop redrawing the whole graph each frame. Instead we add the new value to the right-hand side and move the whole graph along to the left. We use a clip window to ensure only the essential parts are drawn and the graphics data is recycled in a similar fashion to the circular buffer.

The Graphics team has been working on some major performance savings when rendering characters. Each of our characters are split up into many different meshes, not only for swapping out clothing and armour, but also so we can hide individual portions of an object to avoid inter-penetrating geometry.

Our shaders, textures and geometry have now been organised in such a way that we can render multiple adjacent meshes in one go which vastly reduces the CPU cost of submitting the work to the GPU while maintaining flexibility.

To improve the quality and legibility of our various UI screens we’ve been working on two new shader effects for the Render To Texture system. The first is an edge highlighting effect which we used for the ship targeting displays. And the second is a drop-shadow effect to help make sure icons stand out against bright backgrounds.

Graphics has also been collaborating with the VFX department to improve our GPU particle system. Our ambitious VFX artists are implementing lean production techniques to prioritise the features that will provide maximum impact. A couple of examples would be improved Spawn Inheritance and Curl Noise; both of which were requested to allow us to better, cheaper electrical and plasma effects for things like the Coil interior and the EMP weapon improvements.

They’ve also been working through fairly large snag list for the 3.1 release doing things like toning down the dust mote opacity in certain environments that have undergone lighting updates, and readding planet moon effects so they work correctly with the Planetary Tech improvements.

Tech Design has been finalising 3.1 release work, implementing and tuning new weapons like the Gats ballistic gatling, PRAR distortion scattergun, and AMRS laser cannon; whilst supporting the conversion of existing gear to Weapon 2.0. They also have been rebalancing a lot including distortion weaponry following fixes to allow items ... to affect items, as opposed to just shields; countermeasures to make them more effective post Item 2.0 implementation; continued iteration of flight balance, especially atmospheric landing turbulence; and rebalance of shield set back and regeneration rates.

At the other end of the pipeline they’ve also been working with Art on some exciting new ship concepts which will be revealed throughout the year on Around the Verse’s Ship Shape segment.

Also contributing to the game’s ever-expanding fleet is the Ship Art team. The Aegis Hammerhead’s interior is mostly set out with the exception of the crew dorm and kitchen area; while the cargo area and bridge are currently in a detailing pass. Another Aegis ship, the Eclipse, is now back in full production; the current focus being the exterior. The team is reinforcing its stealthy appearance by tightening up the POM panel line details, enhancing the materials and making sure all the movement parts are operational.

The Weapon Audio system has undergone a substantial refactor and work has begun on designing full NLPC weapon perspective sets along with specific sounds for various distances. An environmental weapon report - or tail - layer has been added for a weapon’s on planetside location to better reflect the environmental response of the weapon fire.

Recently members of the Audio team took part in a sound effects recording session at Oscillate Studios focused on vibrating various metallic objects using transducers that respond to low frequency sounds. The metals were simulated via synthesized tones which were performed using a midi keyboard playing with the pitch in order to impart different resonances and sympathetic rattles to a diverse range of scrap metal objects. The primary focus of the session was to create source material for our ships, partly inspired by the Sound Production team at Warner Brothers who worked on the Christopher Nolan film Interstellar. They used large scale subwoofers to resonate the fuselage of aircraft to model the behaviour of spaceships under duress, simulating atmospheric entry, strong gravitational fields, and so on.

The Derby offices continues to expand its operations. It was a pleasure to welcome a number of our valued backers during the recent Imperator Subscriber event where the developers demonstrated core elements of their workflow including facial animation, motion capture, and technical animation. The tour also offered us the opportunity to scan three more faces and we look forward to seeing the lucky participants in the verse.

The Gameplay Story team have been getting all the required scenes for gameplay story organised in Shotgun and are working with the design to get the first few scenes implemented in-game and up to standard.

Progress has been made on R&D for the Vanduul face rig and internal facial rig technologies, along with iterations to female rigs in Maya. The new one-to-one conversion updates to the rigs will break a lot of animations that used props so we have been developing an automated solution to fix the animations files we have without an animator having to manually go through and reanimate everything.

And finally the Facial Animation team has been busy finalising animations on various PU shopkeepers, bartenders, and mission givers. This includes blending all the animations from the same facial poses so they all play seamlessly from one another.

That’s it for our UK studio update. We’re looking forward to a fun day at BritizenCon this year on 21st April in Manchester. Erin and Brian will be there along with others taking part in Q&A panels and many more of the team enjoying a day of interaction with the community. They are running a raffle with some great prizes and tickets are still available via the link in the description below.

And of course thank you to all our backers for continuing to support the development of both Star Citizen and Squadron 42.

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

CR: Thank you Ricky! So, it's pretty impressive to see just how many areas of Star Citizen that the UK studio is working on - from big procedural stuff like the rest stops, to polishing and fine-tuning audio, facial animation, weapon balance and combat, and even updates to Arena Commander.

SG: You also saw some of the optimization improvements they've been working on, with focus on the visor displays and personal manager app.

CR: Yeah we continue to fine-tune the PMA, improving its look and usability from what you saw in 3.0.

SG: Let's take a closer look at the PMA in this week's feature.

mobiGlas With Will Maiden (Designer), Zane Bien (Global UI Creative Director). Timestamped Link.

Zane Bien (ZB): In 3.0 we released the mobiGlas, just kind of like our first iteration into kind of a new UI that we had envisioned for it. It was an improved version but it still had a lot of issues in terms of the usability. Basically how it fit in the world and how it had some kind of issues with your mouse cursor. When you breathed, you would run into these issues where your mouse would be on the button at one point and then be off and then be on again just because of the breathing, so we took a look at some solutions to fix them. What we have now is a, you know, a much more intuitive and usable interface because of the new way we actually attach it. So, we actually right now attach the mobiGlas via an IK solution, so what we do is we specify where an IK target point is relative to the player's camera, so once we have that point then we can just procedurally animate the arm up and we will have some offsets that we can actually tweak to really kind of - because we want to be pixel perfect with this stuff and have it be just the right size, like if it's just slightly too big then you know we'll really want to adjust that. So now we've got the actual control to specify these offsets for the mobiGlas, and it really allowed us to really dial in the scale and the positioning that we wanted on screen to facilitate an optimal user experience.

See, the other benefit that came with that is now in all these different contexts, whether it's an EVA or whether it's on foot or you're crouching or you're in these various different ships - actually now that we have a single target point that's relative to the players camera, the UI is now in a much more consistent place, so the positioning and the scale is much more consistent now in all of the different contexts, because before would happen is that you'd have specific poses that animators had to hand animate and when the animator’s animating this they actually, it's very hard for them to actually see their positioning is gonna actually end up in the engine, so they - I think it's Maya, I'm not actually sure what they they work in, but when they try to integrate in the engine it's usually like at a different place so they kind of have to approximate it and so before all the mobiGlas poses and the different context were all approximated so you ended up with maybe in crouched like, part of it was cut off or angled a little bit more, so now we can actually have a much more control and fine-tuning of that sort of stuff so it's it's been really great and it really helps in addition to all the other changes that we made in terms of utilizing more of the screen real estate as well.

One thing that we did in in looking at the current 3.0 vehicle manager and player manager was the kind of awkward menu so we basically have an accordion menu system where upon you have to drop-down lists and then when you click on something that then transitions you to a whole different window, and if you wanted to change another port or something… to view items in another port you have to go back and then drop down another menu and then select that. So, it was kind of a lot of user clicks in order to actually get to where you actually wanted to go.

Will Maiden (WM): We had the kind of the list on the side, this concertina list, with the 3D model that you could see what it - like rotated around; see where things were. That concertina wasn't... didn't really work for us - there was too many items in there. It kept collapsing so we needed to fix that anyway because it just wasn't as usable, but really we weren't using a lot of the screen space and I think that was a problem that we saw very early on with the mobi in general that was… there’s this really cool thing at any point you can open it up and see what you've got but there's a lot of screen going wasted. So, from a readability standpoint, because it was a lot smaller on screen, we really wanted to bring that out so, making it bigger, filling the screen, was a big thing and then once we had that extra screen space we didn't need to keep collapsing things down.

That was really it was a space-saving choice so by putting two separate columns on the left you could pick your hardpoint, you could pick what you put on it, and it's still got plenty of screen space to see your character model, see the details on the side. So, by bringing the view in all of a sudden it opened a lot of doors from from a usability standpoint.

ZB: So another great benefit that actually just simply fell out of this approach that we're taking is that now we've solved the flickering cursor issue. Now that like the UI is much more fullscreen and it's much more straight on to your camera, so it's much more usable. However, one of the things that we were concerned about with that is how much more static the UI was gonna seem with that approach, and you know we thought we might have needed to stop the actual breathing. So, you know, you just be like a statue and sorry we really, we didn't really want to take that away, but at the same time you know we you know we needed to improve the overall kind of usability so what actually fell out of the approach was that we can still have breathing and as you run as you may be after a long sprint you can pull up your mobiGlas and what you want to see you is like, yeah you're you want to be able to feel that your character is out of breath. Even you know whether you know regardless of the context you're in you still see the UI moving but you're the cursor position there's always going to be in the same place regardless of the movement even though we have the cursor is actually on the 2D plane in front of the mobiGlas technically. So it's much improved for sure.

For a lot of the apps now we've also done a massive push to unify the layout across the vehicle loadout, the player loadout in the mobiGlas and we wanted to unify that kind of UI with the loadout UIs in Star Marine and Arena Commander. We're also going to reuse that for the shop item as well, so the shop item kiosk essentially, we can really reuse the same system, so we really get a lot of return out of doing these efforts in terms of unifying the UI and both the code base as well as the layout, because you also want to unify the layout because you established user familiarity. So once the user is familiar with one thing then across all of these other interfaces they can they already know pretty much 90% how to actually interact with it and and they're in and that's a really a great thing for us in terms of development as well because that means less work when we have a unified codebase.

We've always wanted to unify the always different UIs so you'll notice some before and in 2.6 like in 3.0 we had this very specific Star Marine loadout screen that was different from the AC loadout, basically you had a very specific, you know, here's your primary weapon, here's your secondary weapon but you know as things expand as we want to add more hardpoints, you want to be able to attach like a scope to your gun or different attachments to a particular item, we need to be able to scale that and what we have right now you know can accommodate any kind of additions and future features that we want to actually you know introduce.

WM: So, we already had the code base for the vehicle and personal managers. They were already using the same code base. All we're doing really is changing the 3d model. The way that we build players really is the same way we're building ships, it's a skeleton with hard points on it - item ports - and you put a piece of armor on that player or you put a gun on that player or you put a missile launcher on a ship, it's all the same hierarchy essentially. We're just changing what's up front.  

Technically, to update Arena Commander it already had the same code base we just needed to put a new layer on top, but Star Marine required completely ripping out a whole old system so it was this kind of rotten bit of wood and everything else is working so that was the biggest technical challenge, was to pull out the way that we set up our characters because they were all having bespoke loadouts and systems, so that needed redoing. It also meant that if we were switching over to a new system we needed a way of tracking what I was using in elimination versus what I'm using in last stand. When you're picking one team versus another we needed a loadout system which is something we hadn't had in the PMA currently so that needed adding so there were a couple of new systems that needed to go in but that gives us a good groundwork now for what we plan to do with 3.2 moving forward and expanding loadouts in general so you can save them in the future.

ZG: Bug fixing as well, so I mean if there's something wrong in the base implementation somewhere then we fixed that and that propagates to anywhere where we use that code base. For testing, obviously any change you make we have to test across everywhere where that UI is used so not so much for testing but definitely for feature development we can just hey let's use let's use this unified code base, we can use it for we can use it for the character customizer, we can use it for shop item kiosk because in the shop item kiosk - this is something that's that we're planning for the next release is essentially being able to pick any port on your ship or hardpoint and see all the valid items that are available in that particular shop, so it's just filtered differently but it's the same actual interface.

So the other thing too is we can also - it's not doesn't necessarily have to be bound to, “Oh, you pick a hard point and then you see the items,” we can also do the reverse

whereupon we see all the items and then we can see what valid hard points there are as well, so there's both options and we would want both options there because there's use cases for both.

WM: Long term this means in Star Marine you can save an Elimination, a Last Stand for Marine, a Last Stand for Outlaw loadout. It means that we can prep the ground now for player-created loadouts not just in Star Marine but in the PU. So if the player’s got their favourite exploration loadout or they've got their favourite combat loadout or they've got a favourite stealth loadout, they can set what they want, save it, and then when they move up to a locker or something they can quickly switch their gear and it'll remember oh you want this helmet and this undersuit rather than having to manually go through each. So the need that we had for Star Marine to have those fixed loadouts, it means we had to do the work up front to be able to save and then load back up loadouts. So, moving forward we should be able to start implementing player-created loadouts and that's quite cool.

ZB: Skinning-wise obviously they can be branded, we have a branding system, at least in the kiosks we actually have in the commodity kiosks where we right now it's just branded Port Olisar and we actually have a different brand for Grim Hex where it’s more like a DOS terminal so it really kind of fits into the feeling of the environment much better so, when we have those different skins obviously they’re just different skins but under underneath it all it's all the same.

WM: In the short term we're gonna be hopefully seeing a lot more usable mobiGlas. It's full screen now, all the icons have been brought down to the bottom so it should be a lot more readable, a lot more intuitive, players should be able to quickly see where things are, what they can fit on things, and be able to read the text a lot clearer. So for 3.1 we wanted to make sure that it was better under the hood but also a lot more convenient to use.

So yeah, it was largely dealing with all the problems we either didn't get fixed for 3.0 or all the feedback that we could got to address and say like let's make sure that this is great moving forward because there's a lot of other apps - the map and mission manager and things like that - that we want to tackle that need bringing up to a better level, so this was kind of the first step at iteration that... I mean, throughout Star Citizen we talk about, we put things out there listen to the community, improve things, this is that in action really it's putting something out there at our first pass, getting that immediate feedback but actually being able to then quickly turn around rather than waiting three, four, or five months to be able to say right let's get on that immediately because this is a barrier for people enjoying the game so let's get that fixed.

ZB: So in terms of what's going into 3.1, there's a lot of stuff UI-wise but you know when we're talking about the mobiGlas, a new overhauled vehicle manager app, a new overhauled player loadout app is going in as well as a new contracts manager as well. It’s largely the same kind of functionality as you as you saw previously, it's just a much more streamlined user experience.

WM: Yeah for 3.1 we've been focusing on making it all usable. On the Star Marine and Arena Commander loadouts as well we've been using the same system. They’ve kind of separated, we had the one that was on mobiGlas, we had a bespoke system solely for Star Marine, and then we had the old system on Arena Commander and what we wanted to do for 3.1 was bring those all under one roof, make sure it's a single codebase, it all looks the same so the player knows exactly where things live and what they can do in one they can do in the others it meant that any bug fixes we do in the future, that's all taken care of immediately and so it makes moving forward a lot more streamlined and Zane can then have a singular design vision. If we add one widget on one thing it's everywhere.

Bringing the Star Marine loadout and the AC loadout in line with the work that we've already be planning to do for personal manager app and the vehicle manager app, that was a kind of a big overhaul that really sets us up now moving forward.

It's a game within a game so a lot of the user interface kind of felt like it didn't need to be one of the same to what was in Star Citizen itself but it meant that we had two ways of doing the same thing so by and large the end goal of, “Let's consolidate these,” needed doing sooner or later but what we got in for 3.0 and it's been there for a while actually, I think since 2.6  brought in Star Marine updates, that user interface did exactly what we needed to do but as we're looking to add more items that you can buy with REC and improve the experience in Star Marine, that needed to grow and the interface in Star Marine just wasn't able to add new items and things like that because it's all very handmade, so it needed updating. As we were fixing bugs we had a whole bunch of 3.0 bugs that needed to look at, it became very clear that we're fixing these bugs twice - there's a bug for this and a bug for that - and so it became very clear, instead of just doing all this let's just do the work upfront that we needed to do eventually anyway let's just get it done now and then it's taken care of.

So, for MobiGlas on a larger scale we want to look at the Starmap more and that's got a lot of work to kind of make it more usable, more readable, use the space that we now have, I think that was kind of constrained before, we've got a lot more space now. So, using the space better for the Starmap so it's more intuitive because I think that's going to be - once you've got your kit and you've got your ship, finding where to go is is the next big thing so we've got something that works but making that better. We've also got things like the journal and other secondary apps that you're not gonna be using all the time that we want to make sure work really well so they'll be coming through down the line. Then in terms of the VMA and PMA those apps, they've still got a whole bunch of stuff that needs to come in. We want to improve the stat readout.

At the moment there's just kind of basic information and basic size information but there's a whole bunch of stats under the surface that aren't being read into the screen yet that we want to show so you'll be able to compare this gun to that gun, that piece of armour to that piece of armour. So, when you're deciding do I want a big heavy piece of equipment or a light piece of equipments, “Like well this protects from more damage but it's going to slow me down or it's going to take longer to aim or to move,” and so players can make conscious decisions about when they find a derelict and they find a piece of equipment that's just floating in space, “Do I want to take this with me?” They can compare stats immediately which is also useful in the market, it's also useful when creating your favourite loadouts. So there's a whole bunch of additional features that we want, now that we feel like it's a usable system and and that flow has been sorted, layering in now personally created loadouts, stat comparison, new features that that we think are going to enhance and make people use that more and get more value out of it.

ZB: So another thing that we have going into 3.1 is an overhauled Arena Commander and Star Marine loadout screen. So Star Marine is no longer a bespoke UI, it's using the same unified system that we set forth with the personal manager and vehicle manager in the mobiGlas so those all have been unified. We have a character customizer UI - the first iteration of that at least going in for 3.1, obviously looking to expand into much more robust features later down the line, of course as is with everything. New overhauled mission manager UI, largely the same functionality in terms of missions but just streamlined user experience and streamlined user interface layout and in addition to that service beacon functionality - so the ability to create service beacons and user generated missions that you can accept and you know you can view other players missions, so there's a lot more player generated content there. Obviously we want to, later down the line, introduce more filters so you can have - you know I want missions just this rating or more or I want only contracts of this type - so you will have all of that functionality to implement later down the line but this is now kind of like our first iteration of that. So, as we get new features they're really kind of rudimentary and basic but they expand over time.

Now obviously it's great to have the screen real estate to be able to expand into so another reason why we're happy about the foundation that we set with the new mobiGlas and layout. There are also some new improvements to the ship UI and HUD, so now we have much better feedback for the user in terms of where they're hitting their targets ship or where they're getting hit so it's more obvious and we brought back some of the functionality that we were... that was missing from the visor including like EM and IR signatures that you can now see. Later down the line, there's a whole lot of improvements that we want to make to the ship UI. It's definitely not in the final state that we see it so we have improvements that we still need to make for that and that we'll want to look to do for 3.2. But for now, one of the major improvements that we made was to how the ship model renders so it's more efficient and easier to see.

So in Star Marine, the load-out presets were necessitated because you have different loadouts that you will need to use depending on what side you're on, but base foundation of that is actually going to drive the idea of loadout presets where you can save a particular configuration and just quickly change into that loadout so you don't have to just do everything individually so we'll have... you'll be able to set your own loadout presets so it's much more easy to access what you like and for different roles like stealth and so forth.

WM: So making sure that it's not it's not like a mobile phone where you've got 700 apps

and it's like where was the thing that I actually need to make sure it is… because you don't want to be playing the game off your wrist, you want to be out there in the Verse playing it properly, so striking the right balance between what's too much information, what's not enough information and a lot of that's going to come from community feedback. Listening to what the fans say, “More of this, less of that, I find this quite hard, I'm having trouble with this,” and that's worked really well from 3.0 into 3.1, keeping that going, keeping our ears open and listening to that feedback as we're constantly keeping an eye on what the community says on Spectrum, Reddit, and other formats.

We get a sense of what they want more of, what they want less of, and we can say, “Does this align with what we want? Does this make sense? Yeah that would be a good use of mobi. This wouldn't be a good use of mobi,”  even if people want the fastest point from A to B and sometimes I mean let me just buy my cargo from my mobiGlas because why do I have to get off my ship go into the thing and but sometimes that's not what - no, because we want you to physically go there because it's part of the experience of traveling. If you could do everything from your wrist, you'd never leave your cockpit. There's some things that don't suit mobiGlas and there's some things that absolutely do that - there's no other way you could change what gloves you've got on other than physically... which would be horrible. So, it's what do we streamline and what don't we streamline. But yeah, listening to the community feedback - what do we feel like that's important and also do we hear this a lot or do we hear it from one person. One person really wants a feature… okay that sounds cool but realistically that's going to be two weeks worth of someone's work to get that in versus 60-70 or a hundred people have asked for this one thing, okay well that's a big win for us and it's something we want to do and it's something you desperately want - let's put that into the game.

It's finding the right time to put that in obviously, but because we have kind of quarterly cycles and it's something we're constantly looking at we can just, “Okay, let's drop that in, let's drop that in,” and so we're looking at the mission manager on the side whilst we're also looking at the VMA and PMA because it's right there. We just need to just change

a bit of this flash and then it's in, great. It's a day's worth of work and then we've improved that feature as well so as work comes in we can just keep evolving the design so it's no longer a case of it's mobiGlas  2.0 or 3.0, it's the living mobiGlas.

ZB: So while we've made a lot of these improvements and we were able to accomplish a lot in terms of improving the UI for 3.1 there's still a ton of stuff that we that we wanted to get in

that we haven't yet. So we want to be able to view stats on the player so and be able to compare items when you're actually using this loadout screen so that's a whole other thing that we need to build in still is the stat comparison and, you know, if I equip this component to my ship how is that going to affect my speed and my acceleration and so forth. So, we don't necessarily have too much of that right now, but that's something that's definitely we're looking to going into in the future because it's pretty vital especially in the loadout screen and just general kind of effects as well, so we need to have a much more improved highlighting of the different items that you're focusing on on the character. So that just comes with shader improvements and yeah just the general feeling of it is just gonna be iterated over time so I think we sort of lost the zooming and panning functionality, in this unification some stuff sort of got lost as they were quite bespoke but now we want to be able to obviously have that come back and you know have this nice feeling of the ship or the character and you kind of zooming out to the the port and that kind of highlighting very nicely. That's something that obviously would be really nice to have but wasn't necessarily critical for 3.1 but definitely going forward we will want to add in that polish for sure.

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

CR: The PMA improves with every release. We still have a little more work to do with the item previews, but we're getting closer to the finished article with every release.

SG: And that's all for this week. Remember, if you're out there in Alpha 3.1 and you're interested in checking out new ships like the Reclaimer, Terrapin, or Cyclone, our flyable ship sale is still on through the end of this weekend.

CR: Yes and CitizenCon is coming up in October in Austin, Texas. We're finalizing venue details now and we'll have more details including ticket information soon.

SG: Reverse the Verse airs live tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. PDT or 5 p.m. UTC on our Twitch channel with developers from the UK Audio and Props team stopping by and if you missed this week's episode of Loremaker's Guide to the Galaxy, tune in to learn more about the mysteries and dangers of the Nul system..

CR: Yes, and check out new episodes of Calling All Devs every Monday where your questions could be answered by a member of the team. Thanks to our subscribers for sponsoring all of these great shows.

SG: Yes thank you and we have some exciting stuff on the horizon for subscribers starting with new usable in-game flair like the weapon finishes debuting later this month.

CR: Yeah those are looking pretty cool. Thank you, of course, to all our backers - without your dedication, we wouldn't be able to do any of this.

SG: No we wouldn't and until next week…

CR: We'll see you...

CR/SG: Around the Verse.

Sunjammer

Contributor

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

Erris

Founder

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

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

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.

Nehkara

Founder

Writer and inhabitant of the Star Citizen subreddit.