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Around the Verse: Weapons: The Game's Arsenal Written Thursday 9th of March 2017 at 03:29pm by CanadianSyrup, Psylence and Desmarius, StormyWinters

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)

Misc Information

  • CIG was at GDC 2017 and had a busy three days on the show floor partnering up with Amazon.
  • CIG also attended PAX East unofficially with Tyler Witkin and several developers hanging out at the convention.

Austin Studio Update

  • Big focus this month on first pass and implementation of trade in game
  • Design team designing next round of shops that’ll be available in 2.6.2 patch
    • Need initial list of commodities, location at which to buy/sell them, variable economy to provide player options/places to sell commodities
  • Goal is to have functioning/fluctuating economy that mirrors the real world
  • Economy will include goods going from mined/gathered states ->refineries->manufacturers-> buyable/tradeable goods
    • Prices on these items can be impacted by players actions which can affect supply/demand
  • Early stages begin with basic commodity structure representing major groups: ore, gas, food, etc
    • Once system is proven out with small subset, commodities will evolve and expand into more specific things like gold, hydrogen, etc
  • Next is places to purchase and next major release they’re adding a new station type called the truck stop being worked on by Frankfurt Design team
  • New shop type called the Admin Office which will focus on buying/selling station import/exports for local stores and will also control local storage rentals and have a job board of complete/planned deliveries
    • This will be in majority of locations without fully fleshed out TDD
  • Prices of commodities will vary by supply/demand based on dynamic economy but first iteration commodity prices will stay within range of base prices and likely be set by hand
  • They need to test buying/selling around universe before upgrading to variable rate
  • Art side: Lighting team doing both initial lighting/polish passes for some locations in Squadron 42
    • Team is also going back to Retaliator/Constellation and doing general optimizations/polish work including fixing strobe lighting bug in Retaliator cockpit and improving performance inside these ships
  • Ship art team: grey box phase of Drake Cutlass Black
    • Concentrating on adding primary/secondary detail within geometry and material work
    • Interior has gotten attention in the form of added detail and kitbashed pieces from Caterpillar and completed first lighting pass
  • Ship Animation team: Wrapped up grey box on MISC Prospector with UK team
    • Finalizing Drake Buccaneer animations
  • PU Animation team: create animations for NPC characters to interact with environment including replacing rough retargeted animations on the female with properly shot animations of female performance
    • Headway in debugging issues with animation skeletons and animation pipeline in general
    • With Code and Design, researching better ways to implement hundreds of animations developed over the years, for example creating an entire eating experience for characters specifically NPCs
  • Server Engineering team: supporting Live and upcoming 2.6.2 patches and introduced/continue to enhance multi-region support for matchmaking
    • Tweaks to party system, contact, friends which include improvements to invitations, online/offline state notifications
  • New diffusion architecture refactor for backend services
    • Diffusion allows easily created stateless microservices using a combo of C++ and proprietary Use scripting language which creates highly scalable, high performing stateless services
    • This supports higher number of concurrent players with improved stability and less downtime
    • All backend services updated to run on diffusion core allowing refactoring/rewrite of services without impacting current service operations
  • Finished new diffusion API gateway allowing Spectrum and other external services to integrate seamlessly with the diffusion network
  • Player relations: spent working with design teams and stakeholders on better ways to collect and distribute specific feedback which is used for Evocati and PTU waves during testing
  • Player relations team is growing in Austin! There are open positions and if interested check out cloudimperiumgames/jobs

Spectrum Update

  • Spectrum team is glad for the feedback.
  • Short term: Bring the forum functionality at least in line with old forums.
  • Mid term: Give Spectrum true, native, mobile support on iOS, Android, maybe Windows.
  • Long Term: Voice with multiple channels (Officer, Squad, etc).

Behind the Scenes: The Making of Weapons

  • When first creating a weapon they start with a writeup discussing the key points, the manufacturer and it's type and present it to a kickoff meeting. The Behring P8-AR assault rifle became their new gold standard for weapons
  • Concepts are compared to office replicas for ergonomic fit and then proceed to blockout for animation and rigging. All departments are represented in kickoff meeting for collaboration

  • Previsualizations, a final render mash and optimization of LOD are used to create the Myer rig and it's controls for the animators. The main focus for animation is reloading with first-person and third-person being synced

  • A weapon character definition file contains the skeleton and it's physics, a skin file, static geometry and attachment helpers. After creating a character parameter file and connecting the animation database to it's skeleton, animators can start exporting their animation
  • Once Tech/Art sends the rig, animators then check to see if the dimensions are correct, it sits in the hand properly, shoulders good, etc. Once it's good then they'll implement it into mannequin, the part of the engine that reads the animation from fragments etc.
  • Animation will go and then fill in the animations needed such as reloads in various stances. After art and animation have done their first pass it gets reviewed and verified that it works ingame.
  • Artists then go in and setup custom normals which are the finer details of the guns and also apply optimisation to the model. Once that's completed they will use a program called UV which is used to setup decals and pom decals such as wear and tear, stickers, etc.
  • VFX Then gets their hands on the gun and look at the what characteristics make up the gun, energy, ballistic, etc and then apply attributes like muzzle flash, projectiles, impacts, tracers.
  • Audio then gets their turn and begin creating sounds for the weapon that are a combination of multiple layers of sound that make up a large percentage of how a weapon feels when it fires. Audio also takes into account third and first person sound as well.
  • Once it's all put together it gets reviewed and feedback from all departments to make sure everyone is happy with their part and it goes to QA for testing.

Full Transcript

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

Sandi Gardiner (SG): Hello and welcome to Around the Verse, our weekly look at the development of Star Citizen. I’m Sandi Gardiner and here with me is Game Director, Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts (CR): Thanks Sandi, it's great to be here. So if you’ve been reading the newsletter you’ll know it's been a busy time for our community team having just experiencing GDC last week. Then immediately heading into PAX East this week and following that we’ll be at South by Southwest. It’s wonderful for CIG to be on the ground so much recently, interacting with different developers in the case of GDC and fans in PAX East and South by Southwest.

SG: To celebrate PAX East we’re holding another Freefly sale this weekend where you can fly the Aegis Sabre around the Universe. So if you’ve been wondering what the Star Citizen buzz is all about now is your chance to find out.

CR: There you go. So the Sabre is a magnificent fighter. It quickly established its dominance in combat with six guns on its wings including two laser cannons and two para scatter guns. So what better way to celebrate PAX East than to blow something up in space combat.

SG: Ya! While we’re on the topic of gaming conventions, our lead Community Manager, Tyler Witkin recorded his experience at GDC last week which we've included here in this special GDC lookback.

Tyler Witkin (TW): Good morning everyone. It’s almost 4:30 in the morning. We just arrived at the airport in Austin, Texas and we are about to leave town, heading to San Francisco for GDC 2017.

Tyler Nolin (TN): It’s going to be exciting, we’ll see you there.

TW: Oh, hello there. It’s the last day of GDC San Francisco 2017 and we’ve had an absolutely incredible time. We’ve met so many people from students to developers from around the world to backers and supporters of Star Citizen. It was amazing, the booth was great. Partnered with Amazing and Lumberyard, Star Citizen, it was just a full house all three days on the show floor and we couldn't be happier. With this we are done, we are signing out. Lead Community Manager, Tyler Witkin here and we will see you in the verse.

CR: Thanks for the inside look Tyler and we look forward to hearing about your time at PAX East this week.

SG: We do and in today’s episode we take a look at how weapons are concepted and developed through all aspects of production, but before we dive into weapon creation, let's go to our Studio Update. As Chris mentioned in last week’s episode our Studio Updates now give a more detailed look into what various departments at each studio have done in the past month. This way we can provide you with a comprehensive report on the progress of Star Citizen.

So let’s go the Austin studio and see what they’ve been up to

Studio Update With Jake Ross (Producer). Timestamped Link.

Jake Ross(JR): Hey guys, Jake Ross here, Producer for CIG, Austin. Let’s take a look at what’s been going on in our Austin studio. One of our big focuses this month is to get the first pass and implementation of trade in the game so Austin Design team has been designing the next round of shops, that’ll be available after the upcoming 2.6.2 patch. A few things that are required to make this happen are the initial list of commodities, the locations at which to buy and sell them and a variable economy to provide the player with options and places to sell their commodities.

Our goal in Star Citizen is to have a functioning, fluctuating economy that mirrors the real world in as many ways as possible. This economy will include goods flowing from their mined or gathered states, then onto the refineries, passing through manufacturers and ultimately turning into buyable or tradeable items. The price of these items will be an important element of gameplay because players actions can impact the flow of resources which will in turn affect supply and demand. For example, if trade lanes get disrupted between the various production sites due to player interference or something else similar, this will change both the prices they’re willing to pay for goods as well as the quantity of goods they have available.

Since we’re still in the early stages, we begin with a basic commodity structure that represents the major groups: ore, gas, food, medical supplies and vice… things like drugs or other illegal items. That way players can get an idea which resource items will be fought over in the Star Citizen universe. Once the system is proven out with a small subset, commodities will evolve and expand and grow into more specific things like gold, hydrogen, rations, bandages, etc,etc, etc. We want to ensure it’s a fun experience by getting the core economic structure in place and testing it out before getting bogged down in complexity of specifics.

Next, we obviously need places to purchase and offload this cargo once you buy it, refine it and manufacture it. The next major release we're adding a new station type called the truck stop which is being worked on by the Frankfurt Design team. We figure that all stations have the need for a certain level of resources in order to sustain their existence and thought it was a little weird to sell your resources directly to the shops themselves. So we created a new shop type called the Admin Office which will most notably focus on buying and selling station imports and exports for the local stores on the stage.  

This shop would also control local storage rentals and include a job board of complete and planned deliveries. This shop type will be in the majority of locations that don’t have a fully fleshed out TDD which is focused more on things like commodity trading. Ultimately the prices of commodities will vary by supply and demand based on the dynamic economy but as a first iteration commodity prices will probably stay within the range of their base prices and likely will be set by hand.

Basically we need to test  buying and selling around the universe before we upgrade to a variable rate, this will allow us to answer questions like: How fun is it to actually find cargo from a derelict spaceship? How fun is it to steal things from other players? Or from some unsuspecting NPC on a planetary outpost? How much is a reasonable reward when you run across them in these scenarios? What type of profit margins are going to make this compelling? We look forward to getting these elements into the game once we have answers to questions like these.

On the Art side of things, the Lighting team has been doing both initial lighting passes and polish passes for for some of the locations you’ll see in Squadron 42. The team’s going back to some older content like the Retaliator and Constellation and doing some general optimizations and polish work. These changes include fixing the infamous strobe lighting bug in the Retaliator cockpit as well as improving performance inside these specific ships.

The Ship Art team is currently in the grey box phase of the shipbuilding process for the Drake Cutlass Black. As shown in part I of the ship pipeline video, the grey box phase means that the basic geometry of the ship has been built and smart normals and UVs are completed. Now the team is concentrating on adding primary and secondary detail within the geometry and material work. The interior of the Drake Cutlass Black has also gotten a lot of attention this month in the form of added detail and kitbashed pieces from the Caterpillar. The team also completed a first lighting pass for the interior of the Cutlass.

The Austin Ship Animation team has been working with the UK and the LA studios to bring you some new badass ships. We just wrapped up the grey box phase of our mining ship, the MISC Prospector with the UK team. In Austin, we’re working on a new redesigned Drake Cutlass as previously discussed and we’re supporting them as well. Lastly, we’re finalizing all the Drake Buccaneer animations. All the ships will be completed, online and available before you know it.

Over the past month the PU Animation team continues to create animations so our NPC characters can interact with the environment. One of these animations includes replacing the rough retargeted animations on the female with properly shot animations of female performance. We’ve also made headway in debugging issues with our animation skeletons and our animation pipeline in general. With the help of Code and Design we also started researching better ways to implement the hundreds of animations we’ve developed over the years..

We began with the mess hall tables located in the Idris with the goal of creating an entire eating experience for our characters, specifically for NPCs. This starts with the character grabbing a tray, navigating to a table seat, the character sitting down, eating, drinking and performing any other actions. Finally the character will stand with the tray in hand and navigate to the tray disposal. We then provide these animations to the Frankfurt studio and they take it over from there. You may have seen a little bit of this in the Frankfurt update from last week’s Around the Verse. The global connection between each studio is key to getting our work done properly.    

The Server Engineering team has been supporting both Live and upcoming 2.6.2 patch, we’ve been introduced and continue to enhance multi-region support for matchmaking and there have been multiple fixes and tweaks to both the party system, contacts and friends which includes improvements to invitations and online/offline state notifications.

We've directed much of our energy towards the new diffusion architecture refactor for the backend services. Diffusion allows us to easily create stateless microservices using a combination of C++ and proprietary Use scripting language. By combining these two languages we can create a highly scalable and high performing stateless services. In other words, we can support a higher number of concurrent players with improved stability and less downtime. All the current backend services have been updated to run on a diffusion core which allows us to continue to refactor and rewrite services for diffusion without impacting current service operations.

Finally we have finished new diffusion API gateway which allows Spectrum and other external services to seamless integrate with the diffusion network. Player Relations team spent the month traveling to the various studios, Foundry 42 in Manchester and Turbulent in Montreal. Much of the trip was spent working with various design teams and stakeholders on better ways to collect and distribute specific feedback. This feedback can then be used for Evocati and PTU waves during testing. Player relations was heavily involved in testing, setting up and launching both 2.6.1 and Spectrum. It’s fantastic to see players jump right into Spectrum, we’ve gotten great feedback on how to improve it and we’re very proud players love Spectrum so much.

Last but not least, we’ve been growing the player relations team in Austin. The team has open positions right now and they’ve been interviewing some awesome candidates, all of which are part of the Star Citizen community. If you’re interested in joining the team in Austin, check out our website and our jobs page at cloudimperiumgames.com/jobs. Thanks guys for watching and for all your support, see you in the ‘Verse

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

CR: Thanks for the update Jake. It’s great to see the level of detail each department strives for so they can create a realistic universe within Star Citizen. From the animation team creating an trimorphic movement so NPCs can flawless complete the smallest tasks, from the design team developing an intricate commodity structure that will fluctuate at a variable rate based on supply and demand.

SG: I couldn’t agree more. It’ll be interesting to see how players actions will affect the universe based on what they buy, sell, or if they choose to steal. Next we’ll hear from Turbulent on the updates they’ve made to our forum and Chat platform Spectrum.

Spectrum Update With Benoit Beausejour (CTO). Timestamped Link.

Benoit Beausejour (BB): Hi Guys, I'm Benoit from Turbulent and here's an update on the production of the platform called Spectrum that you guys have seen released last week. We've been super busy cataloging your feedback looking at all the different bugs that you guys have been reporting. The feedback has been tremendous. We cannot be more happy than seeing you guys react to what we've put out. There's been a lot of people jumping on. We've seen organizations being created. All of this activity is creating this momentum that we really hoped for and how we designed the Spectrum platform to begin with.

My team has been looking a lot at the different issue council issues that you guys have reported. We have classified the feedback and have identified a bunch of short term additions that we're gonna be doing as well as realigning the long term vision of how the platform is going to shape up with your feedback in mind. That's all because you guys are reporting this directly to us and talking to us about how the platform is being built. Some of the releases that we've done since we launched, there have been two of them, have brought some of your feedback in top priority directly on the platform. What we've added is more readability on the thread list, where we've upped the font size, made secondary information more faded. We've also brought in more of your feedback into how the sort algorithms are working. Our initial launch of the sort algorithms were a bit weird, so we readjusted them from the top.

We're currently working on reaching feature parity for the forum engine of Spectrum with the previous forum engine. We’re looking at what we’re missing. You guys are telling us what we’re missing, which is great because then we can prioritize this list. We’re bringing in ways for you to see your own posts or see another user’s posts. We’re adding timestamps to the thread lists. We’re going to simplify the way the threaditor works so that you can do inline medias, something a lot of people have been reporting as the blockified blocks were a bit problematic for some of the formatting options you wanted. All of these are features and requests that we’re getting from you guys from the feedback threads. We’re really happy to be able to build this platform with you guys. By iterating quickly, we’re trying to do on Spectrum a weekly cycle and release every two weeks if we can muster it. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to keep this trend going, while also incorporating your feedback.

That’s on the short term horizon for Spectrum. We also want to bring thumbnails to the threadlist and, of course, secondary thread type (currently only classic threads exist). We want to bring Reddit style threads to this, where comments can be sorted by upvotes score as well. That’s all coming in the short term on the Spectrum platform.

On the medium term horizon, our major focus (and that’s based on community feedback) is gonna be mobile lab support. Currently Spectrum is mobile ready, it is responsive as a website, there are a few bugs and kinks we gotta adjust, but we really want to bring in a more native experience on mobiles to you guys. One of our big ticket items is to bring native support to the different mobile platforms. We’re looking at iOS and Android as our primary targets, and optionally if things go well we can also bring that to the Windows platform for Windows phone. This would allow you to have a real, native, experience on your phone, that is performant, fast, and is not just a webpage wrapped into a native wrapper. It’s actually going to be a native application that you can use and get your notifications from. Using native mobile notifications, native views, a lot more performance. We’re hoping that this is a bigger update, but we’re hoping in the midterm that this will be our first ticket item to get out from Spectrum.

On the longer horizon, what we’re looking at is of course voice support. As we’re doing all these features, R&D and work for the voice development is being done at the same time. We have a lot of different technical options that we’re taking and implementing currently to try and get simple voice chat in, which is going to be a theme in Spectrum. We’re going to try and launch features fast and then iterate on them, instead of waiting a long time to launch a feature. We have the chance of having you guys with us, so we can launch it faster. The voice is being done right now, and that’s our major feature. Like when we do get voice in, it’s going to be a major element for the game because then you guys will be able to use it as you play Star Citizen (which is already great).

Moving on from voice there’s still a few kinks that we need to iron out. One of them is that we really would love to be able to reach a functionality where there is a command channel for you guys and a squadron type channel. So that Admirals and Captains can stay in the command channel and broadcast to subchannels. This is a major functionality that we’ll have to do as a second stage, but we really intend to try and get there, because I think for a game like Star Citizen that’s going to be a bit must. That’s on the longer horizon is, of course, voice and desktop support which will come with delta patcher as well.

I’m in LA all week this week to discuss in-game integration between platform and game. As we’re fleshing out these functionalities and the game design around it. This is really the elements that are exciting for us, and for you guys I’m sure, which is what will make Spectrum unique between other platforms is how it integrates deeply with Star Citizen as a game. This is how we’re going to make this different. This is how we’re going to make it the home of the gameplay. We’re spending the week planning out how in game integration is going to work out. Then I’m probably gonna follow that with a visit in the UK to nail out the final print detail for that. I’m super excited to be able to work on this platform for you guys, and I hope that you guys will be want to follow us as we do more updates for the in game integration parts.

Benoit signing out

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

SG: Thanks Benoit. I really look forward to Spectrum becoming fully integrated with Star Citizen. This will definitely enrich the multiplayer experience by allowing players to communicate with one another in real time as they play.

CR: Yeah exactly. Community has always been part of the fabric of Star Citizen and Spectrum has really allowed us to enhance that connection, and like Benoit said, the feedback on the issue council from backers, subscribers, and fans has been immensely helpful to improve the Spectrum platform. So thank you to everyone for submitting bugs to the Issue Council.

SG: Up next we have our special look at the weapon development for Star Marine. While it’s easy just to focus on the question of whether it looks cool or not, in reality there are a lot more factors to consider when building a new weapon. Especially since we aim to replicate how weapons look, feel, and sound in the real world.

CR: Yes the development of each weapon involves close collaboration across multiple departments so that the technical specs feel seamless to the universe with nothing to detract from the player's gaming experience.

So to give you an idea of exactly how complicated the process is we sat down with the designers, producers, artists, and animators to show all the things that go into creating a weapon before firing the first shot. Take a look.

Behind the Scenes: The Making of Weapons With Paul Jones (Art Director), Todd Papy (Design Director), Lee Banyard (Audio Director), John Crewe (Lead Technical Designer), Lena Brenk (Producer), Atri Dave (Senior Technical Artist), Uisdean Ross (Lead Animator), Staffan Ahlstrom (Senior VFX Artist). Timestamped Link.

[Announcer]  It starts with an idea. The answer to a question really. How can we best defend ourselves? [Various Gunfire]

Todd Papy (TP): So when we start a weapon what we do first a very, very high level writeup, which discusses the key beats, the manufacturer, what type of weapon it is. From there we approve that, and then it … that goes into the actual kickoff meeting where we run through that document. We talk … we talk about what we're trying to hit as far as those major key beats, and so when the concept is being worked on it is purely about those things and we make sure that if everything falls to the wayside we hit those three things.

Lena Brenik (LB): The weapons pipeline is a very traditional content pipeline, so what we create is a piece of content doesn't have much … there's no game-play logic that ties back to all the other areas. It's a weapon. It's a fairly contained piece of art with effects and animation and it's complex in itself.

Paul Jones (PJ): You know the Behring P8-AR, the assault rifle, was kind of the one we chose to be right ... this is going to be the new gold standard. We knew right off the bat. You know we wanted something quite slick. It shouldn't be too fancy, but you know it's going to be in Squadron, so you know we wanted to have some interest. Going to be a mix of alloy and … and polymers and … and now it's kind of our initial direction. You know obviously you're working off an M-16 sort of you know silhouette, proportions, so that’s, just sort of starting ground basically.

Pavol Humaj (PH): After we get our hands on a concept we tend to compare it to our replicas of guns that we have in the office. We tend to check the buttstock weight, the thickness of the gun, the trigger guard, to make sure that character with heavy armour can actually fit his fingers into the trigger guard. We check the accessibility of the handguard. If it is not too far away or too close to the player. Same goes for the mag release and safety, so we check all these and if needed we adjust the concept afterwards. We create a blockout, which is very simplified version of the in-game model, which basically consists just of a few blocks of geometry. This is used mainly for previsualizations. After blockout is done we send it to the animators and riggers, and we start to work on the actual in-game mesh, which is way more advanced than the blockout.

TP: Then tech art can bring up any concerns that they might have, Weapon Art can bring up any concerns that they might have, Audio, so on and so forth. So, all the way through the pipeline, so we have representatives for every single department in that kickoff meeting that can ask questions to myself or the designer that is … has worked on these weapons.

Atri Dave (AD): After getting all the information we start our own process. First is the weapon previsualizations setup, second one is the final render mash implementation, and third one is optimization of level of detail. We call it the LODs. We create the Myer rig for the animators and we provide all sorts of controls for its mechanism. Then we hand it over to animators.

Uisdean Ross (UR): When you're firing a weapon, if it has moving parts, we have to animate those parts. The main focus for animation is actually getting the reloads working. It's the reloads in any first person game are important to how the weapon feels. It's getting the weight of the weapon, the timing it needs to feel like a realistic reload, and then obviously in Star Citizen we've got the combined first-person/third-person animations, so you've got the unique challenge of what you're seeing in first-person and third-person is the same thing, but in first-person you need to have a good read on what's happening, so that you've got some restrictions where you have to keep the weapon in the view of the camera. If you drop that out to reload then the player's going to you know like wonder where's the weapon gone.

PJ: And so just putting all these pieces together, just making ... you know the basics. You know the … the grip isn't too big, you know the finger couldn't go in a neutral rest position when it's not on the trigger, branding, materials … Does it look good from third-person? Does it look good from first-person?

AD: We create a weapon character definition file, which contains four data types. First one is the skeleton and plus it's physics. Second one is a skin file, which contains it's deformation parts, and third one is static geometry which we call as a CGF. Fourth one are a null attachment helpers which works with our weapon customization as well as certain helpers for the VFX. After this stage our game skeleton for the weapon is ready. Then we create another internal file which we call character parameters where we connect animation database to their, it's respective skeleton, and then animators can go in and start exporting their animation. Final product as a building block previsualization looks something like this [Weapon Held and Being Fired] inside the engine.

PJ: I mean way back in the day, like when we were doing the first sort of weapons, there were all sorts of things different, different sizes, now we’re working far more with templates basically. It used to be that the animation department was less involved because we were just making cool weapons, do you know what I mean, we’re being artists and we’re like “Yeah, this is cool.” But really it needed more involvement from all of the parties.

UR:  Once tech/art send us the rig, the first thing we do is put it onto our animation pools and just check the pivot point of the weapon, sits correctly in the hand. Everything’s good, it’s shouldered, you know, the first person view and the third person view are looking right. If the weapon has many moving parts, we’ll check all those are setup correctly. Sometimes they aren’t and then we feed back to tech/art and then it comes back to us again.

This is a G36, so its hand positions are closer in. So this is the pose we gave art to model around. So they model this part of the gun so that it fits,  but then the left hand we have to adjust it per weapon. The PRAR, for example, is a longer weapon so instead of holding it back here, the first thing we’ll do is adjust this and get the hand pose we’re happy with. We get that in-engine as early as possible so that we know where are the animations are gonna have to start from, from the reload. Once we’re happy with the hand pose, then we can move onto the doing the first pass of the reloads. After we’ve done a few iterations, tested some time and anim stuff, once we’re happy with that, that’s when we move onto implementing it into mannequin, which is the part of the engine that the game’s gonna read the animation from the fragments and stuff. Code will usually set those up for design, and then animation will go in and fill in the animations that are needed. You’ll have different reloads for stand, crouch, prone, but we always try and make sure that the timing the same on each because obviously you don’t want a penalty for being in crouch. Whereas in most person games, you’d have the same reload across all states because it’s actually just a floating pair of arms or it’s just a fixed body. We always concentrate just on this stand, stand forward, reload. After it’s in mannequin, we can get it in engine. That's when the design guys in art and any director that needs to review it can start seeing it, you can play with it. Usually the first iterations relatively rough because you want to that in quickly so that people can start feeding back on it as early as possible.

John Crewe (JC): Once art and animation have done their first pass, we put all that into the file and verify it’s all working in-game. It hasn’t changed massively since. The original test we did, because quite often  if you use one gun, and set it up as behaving as another one, it feels very different if it doesn’t have the right assets on it. The visual style and sound and animations of the gun can massively impact the feel of how people perceive it to be working. It’s just all very subtle shifts in increasing the rate of fire but keeping the same recoil values can massively change how something feels because it just slowly additively stacks. So you change one number a small amount, and after you fired 50 rounds, your gun’s 45 degrees pointed further away than where you were before.

Developer: So now when we get feedback from animators, we address the feedback that our actual ingame model. We apply then so called custom normals, which basically means that all the hard edges are developed and in the end it makes the gun way more beautiful because all the hard edges are nice and smooth and round on it. After that it done and optimizations on the model are done, we do this thing called UVing. UVing is basically opposite of what making a paper model is. Instead of starting off from 2D sheet of paper and making it into the model. We start with the model and then unfold it nicely into a 2D sheet for texturing. After this, decals and pom decals are applied which basically add small stickers or marking on the gun and the pom decals really enhance the visuals of the weapon by adding small details that actually bend the light. There are also unique textures applied to the model which enhance the look of the weapon as well as functionality. These are called wear and the dirt map. These are hand-painted or photo-sourced to ensure the highest quality and basically add dirt and wear, however, these can be controlled by code in real time so we can control the intensity and amount of the dirt and wear dynamically in-engine.

Staffan Ahlstrom (SA): Every weapon in the game has a muzzle flash. Ballistic weapons and energy weapons. That’s what the main distinction of the weapons now. It’s energy or ballistic. So, each weapon has like, what is it, four pods? It doesn’t matter if it’s ballistic weapon or an energy weapon.

Muzzle flash, projectile, impacts, and the tracer, and the impact is a huge thing in itself because we will do, want to do different impact effects per surface. So if you shoot ice you should be able to to see ice fragments coming up and if you’re shooting up metal yeah we’re talking about sparks, and then dust from shooting cloth, water, and yeah how we will deal with the different planets. Like we have brown sand, red sand, black sand, and it’s just going to be crazy, but that’s so cool with this product, this game because the level of detail that every department wants to add to it it’s just very inspiring.

PJ: You know, once one weapon has been built and maybe it’s gone, you know it gets to audio, Normally animations are done. It gets to audio and audio is sort of putting their thinking on it. Generally they’ve been, it’s been spot on and it’s kind of like a linear pipeline, it hasn’t come back, an infamous design, but we do have weapons coming up where the choices that they make will definitely influence the feel sort of feel of the weapon and the weight of the weapon.

Lee Banyard (LB): So you know a certain weapon might sound different from the first person perspective to give you a kind of more subjective, a deeper subjective experience of firing that weapon and then it sound different again from a third person perspective. So if you hear your weapon being fired by an enemy down the hall or whatever, it will be different from to try and reflect the fact that when you fire the weapon yourself or in real life, you don’t get to do that much in the U.K. thankfully, you’ll get that kick that you wouldn’t necessarily have the audio for.

In the old days you would have like one or two sound effects for guns lets say. We’ve got layers and multiple layers and then in those layers, the multiple grains sort of, essentially like yeah, nice granular resynthesis  really.It’s quite deep and it’s quite painstaking and… it has it’s own technical challenges. If you were to say line all that stuff up and read all the transients, the initial pop, you should line them up manually and that all works up fine. If you try to randomize these things so use different layers that are working in tandem, almost like an orchestra you know, you need to try and make sure they all line up as well or else you get this smearing effect and it kind of muddy’s the water if you like, the audio where guns are concerned. So trying to work out exactly how you deconstruct and reconstruct stuff is a large part of what we’re still doing, we’re still trying to improve that process.

It’s similar to music in a way, music does a similar thing that’s based more on logic, this is more based on where you are and also stuff like I said like first person where it's you shooting somebody else. A lot of these things vary at one time and the idea is  hopefully you really won’t notice it too much you know? That’s why I think it’s slightly taken for granted the audio thing which is when it works it seems natural and that’s what we’re aiming for.

If you haven’t fired a gun for a while and you bring it up and fire it again, that initial puncture you get from it will be louder than if like from two seconds from that point you fire it again. So that little dynamic mix system at work to try and make it pop through that bit more. That’s what game sound designers do, I think that's why it’s an interesting challenge compared to movie sounds is that we’re trying to come up with systems and we still have that orchestra, we still sound design, we still do that creative stuff, but it’;s married to this technical challenge which makes it so much more, to me, so much more interesting than they all sound alike.

PJ: That’s pretty much the process that we take and then yes, that’s when we sort of go “alright”, or I think I go “alright, I think I’m done”, and then it passes onto the next part of the pipeline because it’s not just visuals right? It’s the whole holistic thing, it’s VFX, it’s audio really giving the punch of that weapon. Fans expect a certain level of quality in this, that all feeds in it. Everything works as it should basically.

[Announcer] It started with an idea, and now it’s yours to fire

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

SG: Thanks everybody for that in depth presentation. It’s amazing how much work goes into these weapons. Everything from the stock length to the trigger guard are accurately accounted for before the development process reaches animation. Every part of the creation is so intricate, down to the sound effects layering, yet when you use these weapons ingame, battling it out in Echo 11, you take it all for granted.

CR: Well not all of us take it all for granted, but it is a real credit to the entire team that they’re able to take on the numeral challenges that need to be considered when creating a weapon. Whether the player is in first or third person or how that changes the look and sound, which type of ammunition should be used and what kind of damage it inflicts on a target. The subtle shifts in different rates can completely change the weapon experience, what the decals say about the weapons history and the lore of the company that manufactured it.

SG: There you go. That’s it for this episode of ATV. We’d like to thank all of our subscribers for giving us this level of community content.

CR: yes and as always to our backers who have helped us on this journey, you are the ones taking the game to the next level so we can’t thank you enough.

SG: We’d also like to invite all of you to join us tomorrow at 12 Pacific for Star Citizen Happy Hour. Sean Tracy, Steve Bender, Eric Davis, and Ben Lesnick will hold a roundtable interview that you won’t want to miss.

CR: Yup that’s quite a lineup, it’s probably going to be pretty cool. So that’s it for this week’s show so thank you all for watching and we’ll see you.

CR/SG: Around the Verse.

CanadianSyrup

Director of Transcripts

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