It’s time for episode 44 of Around the ‘Verse!
– Ben is all alone this week. Sandi is in London, shooting SQ42. We can’t know who she’s playing or what she’s shooting, but she’s having a great time.
– Week was pretty big. Friday has Hyper Vanguard Force, a great game created by Dave Richard, Christine Marsh, and Behaviour.
– The FPS status update came out on Friday as well. Check it out for character models, back-end work, audio work. It’s not just the folks from Illfonic, it’s involving all the teams around the world.
– MISC Starfarer update post came out as well. The Tanker was one of the ships Ben helped design early in the campaign. Foundry 42 have taken it over, are using it for SQ42.
– The Starfarer Gemini was also released. It was originally a bit of flair text, but fans liked it, so it’s been made. Impressive ship, more armour and weapons, but loses some speed and cargo capacity.
– QA on the Starfarers this week, if you have questions, ask on the forums or on Reddit.
– Crowdfunding is going very well. Just hit 82 Million, likely thanks to the Starfarer.
– John and Brenda Romero stopped by CIG early in the week. John is the father of FPS, co-creator of Doom. He and his wife now teach a game-design masterclass, and they got shown around CIG.
– A huge shout-out to the Star Citizen subreddit, which hit 50,000 subscribers last week. CIG do not own or operate the subreddit, but they love the community. In fact, it was Reddit that discovered Star Citizen before the game even went live. 7 users registered before the site even went live.
– Welcome aboard to Patrick Prost, new lead moderator. He’s been answering CS tickets, and will now be moderating the official forums.
Santa Monica – Darian Vorlick and Travis Day.
– They’ve been doing support for Illfonic. Taking the vehicle radar system, doing a framework adjustment, making it more able to support things like audio events triggering radar blips. Basically a new signature type – sound. Different materials can broadcast sound events (materials will broadcast sound when they’re impacted, etc…), and those will show up on radar. [FPS Radar, not ship radar]
– That’s being tackled by Mark Abent, who is not just a bugsmasher. He’s also a feature-smasher.
– AI programmer Chad Zamzow is coming up with a series of taunts, where you can use taunts to do things like pull enemies off you, tell your wingmen to ‘attack my target’, etc.. The ability to choose what targets your wingmen attack.
6:40 – Illfonic – David Langeliers and Chuck Brungardt
– Gadgets and strategy they’ve found during playtesting.
– They’ve got a hologram gadget and a personal shield gadget. Normally you can select one, if you’re heavy you can get multiple, but light or medium you can only get one each. It’s fun to have one person drop the personal shield, and have another drop the hologram behind it, so people get stuck shooting at a protected hologram that you don’t notice is a hologram till you’re closer.
– An entire team will kit out with force propulsion grenades, and try to pull players into a warehouse when the gravity is off, then throw all the grenades at the same time. Results in players flying off in all directions, which makes it hard to organize a team.
– That’s it for this week, ‘look forward to next week’.
6:50 – Austin – Jake Ross and Lee Amarakoon
– Social module
– They have an emote system in testing phase (behaviour are incorporating that into the chat system). /dance, /clap, /cheer work.
– Player info service and presence service are in code review, which go into network back=end work, to help the game run smoothly.
– Lee has been working on VFX for Nyx, and working on the tunnel system. Tunnels with water dripping down that look like the sewers from Ninja Turtles, adding various things to the outside of Nyx, just making it look like an asteroid with a base inside. Lots of fog and smoke and steam for atmosphere.
– Lee also did the crystal for the flair. If you wait a while, you can see some tendrils floating off of it.
11:00 – CIG UK – Eric Kieron Davis and Forrest Stephan
– They’re normally in LA, but they’re out in the UK to work on the character pipeline.
– Making sure that for FPS release, the characters are up to the standards of the rest of the Universe. They’ve been up-rezzing the models, making sure they’re built with PBR materials, just making them look better as a whole.
– In an effort to raise the bar, they’re building some new tech. The new tech won’t be on the characters for FPS release, but it’ll raise the bar soon after. Currently for FPS, we’ve seen the characters, but in the very near future the bar on the quality of characters will go even higher.
SG – Hey everybody, it’s Sandi, I’m here on the set of SQ42 in between scenes, and I’m here with Chris Roberts, and how’s it going?
CR – It’s going good! We’re in our fourth week of performance capture, so that’s like principal photography on a film, so, I’d like to tell you about the story, but I can’t. But we’re having a good time. I think we talked about what motion capture and performance capture is, performance capture is where you capture everything on the face as well as a body mesh, and you can see all these people moving things around here, we can’t really tell you what the set is, but you sort of block out elements that are the same size as the digital props or sets are, so the actors know where to touch, where to interact. So it’s fun. Having a good time.
We’re on the Imaginarium motion capture volume, here at Ealing studios, which is where we’re shooting SQ42, and there’ll be lots of cool behind the scenes footage, so when SQ42 comes out and you guys get to play it, you can also see a lot more of behind the scenes, that you can appreciate. But I think you’ll appreciate that we’re not kind of sharing it all out there right now so you can discover the story and the characters and the plot. I will say that I’m really excited by what we’re doing, I think we’ll sort of take the sense of being on a ship and interacting with various people and characters that hasn’t been done before. The very first Wing Commander had that sort of promise, and things went on from there, but I think right now we’re doing something that’s going to be really fluid and kind of more immersive than has ever been done before. On anything I’ve seen. But that can maybe just be my hyperbole, but I hope not. It feels good.
So we’ve still got a bunch of tech to work out, but we’re definitely capturing some great stuff, some sort of more personal, emotional stuff, characterization stuff, so hopefully your crew, you’ll really have time to sit, talk with them, interact with them, get to know some of them, so when things happen later in the story it’ll have some impact on you as a player ‘cause you’re emotionally invested so, it’s a lot of fun, we’re having a good time, Dave is videoing this right now, I trust the lead writer with Will being responsible for writing the SQ42 script, he did an amazing job, which so far about 450 pages, I think it’s going to end up at around 550, which will make it more pages than any of the ones I’ve done before, including Wing Commander 4, so….And I’m being told I should stop now, so, by the way, it’s 400, it’ll be about 500 pages solid, because Wing Commander 4 was about, the page count was higher, but not actually scene counts or line counts. Anyway, that’s it, and, there’s the update for you guys!
– Thanks for the update, we could literally not do this without you, cause you are literally the ones doing it.
– Now, lets kick it to kick it to Ship Shape, with Lisa Ohanian.
– Lisa has Marc Toscano with her, the lighting and look dev artist.
LO – Mark, tell us a bit about your process.
MT – Well, normally what we’d do is get the ship from modelling, and put it into a grey room, a neutral environment, literally a grey room, and we work from there. Highlight the ship, accent body parts, and just make it cool.
LO – What’re the basic lights needed for an SC ship?
MT – we’ve broken it down into 4 categories. Navigation lights – running lights or strobes on any kind of aircraft or naval vessel. Accent lights – lights that highlight logos or nooks and crannies to give the ship some character. Beauty lights – If it’s a military ship, beauty lights are formation lights, otherwise it’s more lights to highlight the ship and the overall look.
LO – You mentioned giving ships character. What things influence the character and style of ships?
MT – Mainly what kind of ship it is. For example, the Mustang has 4 or 5 variants. Civilian, military, racing. The military model will be more subdued. Running lights, maybe a strobe or two, the racing model, you want to highlight the company sponsoring the ship, the logos, make the ship look really really cool.
LO – so the manufacturer impacts the look of the ship?
MT – Yes. We’re currently putting together style guides for each manufacturer, so each will have a certain look. Even though it’s in the galactic world of Star Citizen, everything will have a standard (navigation lights and such), but each company will have a particular look to it.
LO – So what’s your favourite thing about doing lighting for ships in SC?
MT – Goes back to the style guides. You get to define the overall look of everything.
LO – Well, thanks for joining us. I’m Lisa, this was Marc, and tell us in the comments and the forums what you want to see in future episodes of Ship Shape.
– I guess you could say that was one of our ‘lighter’ segments.
– Now over to James Pugh.
JP – Hey Kirk, how you doing?
KT – Terrific.
JP – Thanks for coming on. So, what’re you working on right now?
KT – Currently we’re developing a system called GOST. In the past, what we’d done to hardcode ship systems, things like opening the canopy, entering ships, entering cargo areas, they were all pre-set in ways that were unmalleable.
JP – Can we get an example real quick?
KT – Sure, the Avenger for example. The way in which you open the rear cargo area and enter the ship through the various interiors by opening the doors and going into the seat itself, they’re all systems in which the animations and behaviours were all set in stone. So as we thought about making new ships, the amount of interactions we can have with them are becoming more and more limited. So what ghost does is it gives designers the ability to incorporate actions that are specific to components, especially new ones that come aboard. This is important for ships with large interiors such as the capital ships, in which we’ll make more interactions like, new types of beds or the shower, or getting into turrets, all those interactions we can make specific to the interaction on that ship as we see fit.
JP – So instead of it being a pre-canned thing, it’s almost like everything gets its own special one?
KT – Right, and we can do it on an interaction to interaction and station to station basis. If we make a new item, we can just go ahead and implement that almost immediately.
JP – So it’s almost like it’s freeing you guys. So instead of bringing down the ladder and getting in the cockpit, you bring down the ladder, end animation, then you can go through the animation to get in the ship, correct?
KT – Correct. In the past that was a one-off animation and experience. Now, if we choose to we can go ahead and make that interaction a little different by giving the choice to stop after the ladder has deployed, and then choose to enter the cockpit or the copilots seat.
JP – Interesting, so it’s almost like you’re opening up the possibility for more interactions.
KT – Right, especially for ones we haven’t created yet, and we know we’re going to have a lot more of those as we go further along and make ships that have functionality that we haven’t implemented, or even haven’t thought of yet.
JP – What was the impetus for the ghost system?
KT – Well, Dan Tracy knew that, going forward, our limited systems we had in place wouldn’t be enough. So we worked with our UK office and got the ghost system up and running. It’s still in its infant stages, but as we work with it some more, we’ll figure out ways in which we can make it a lot easier for designers to utilize and then start implementing it on our legacy ships, and then all our ships going forward.
JP – It’s almost like you’re laying the foundation to allow the freedom to decide what someone wants to do.
KT – Absolutely
JP – Interesting. So besides the ghost system, what else are you working on?
KT – I am currently implementing the whitebox for the Constellation, taking it from Hangar-Ready to Flight ready. I did that previously with the Gladiator, took it from Hangar Ready to Flight Ready, and it’s currently in game.
JP – Another thing you work on, which our fans are really excited about, is balance. What can you tell me about missile balance?
KT – One missile that was recently balanced was the Talon (he meant to say Tempest). Thanks to the community we discovered it was very difficult to avoid, nigh impossible, really. What happened was the Talon system, being that it’s a cross section type missile, we mistakenly gave it the ability to see through noise quite a bit, and that resulted in that avoiding it was incredibly difficult because of the ability for it to see through almost any amount of chaff. So we took the factor of the ability for it to see through noise, and we tweaked it so it was much closer to what the other missiles had. Another set of balances was we made its turning rate and its maneuverability, we ratcheted it slightly down, so it would not be such an incredibly overpowered missile.
JP – Is that fine?
*Disco-Lando Hennessy* – Talon! (also meant to say Tempest)
JP – So, after you balance the missile, how do you rectify, cause you don’t want every missile to be the same, that’s no fun, so how do you keep what that missiles’ supposed to be in mind when you’re trying to make it more aligned with the rest?
KT – It’s not a case of making every single missile unique, it’s about balancing different aspects of each missile. So, for example, with the missile type itself does a lot, whether it’s EM or Strike or a cross-section missile. All we do is we really tweak the various sensitivities and its behaviours in ways that are significant enough for you to notice. Nudging a number here, making it slightly slower, making it more powerful when it explodes. Making the shockwave when it explodes larger, so it pushes objects away, making the radius of the explosion it creates so it can hit multiple ships, all those packaged up make each missile unique.
JP – Sounds really interesting. Kirk, thanks for joining us.
KT – It’s been a pleasure
JP – Back to you guys!
– If there’s one thing that makes spaceships go, it’s thrusters!
PM – So, today we’re going to talk a bit about the flight control software that you actually built to make ships fly.
JP – I’d like to discuss a bit the algorithms i use to control the ships, talk about what’s in the game so people can understand a bit about how the ships are controlled, and then talk about the next step where we’re going to start adding algorithms for waypoints and auto-pilot for the larger ships.
PM – Can you start us off by giving us a high-level view of how the system works, and some of the key features of what makes the flight control software what it is?
JP – Okay, sure, the current flight control system is a feedback control system. It’s based on the idea that it’s velocity control, so you’re controlling the joystick or the throttle, and you’re setting a linear or an angular velocity for your ship. Based on the velocity set point, it uses a feedback algorithm to decide the velocity the ship needs and achieve that, and maintain, that velocity over time. That worked well for very dynamic control where you’re frequently changing the set point for velocity, I don’t know if we can show a graph of the controller response curve that I have. It’s a typical proportional differential controller, and that’s what I use in the game for the feedback control, so that type of control response is not optimal, which is something we got a lot of feedback from the community about, because they wonder why I’m not getting the maximum amount of acceleration out of my thrusters at any one given time, when they’re ramping up to a certain velocity or going back down to zero, and the reason for that is this type of curve here.
PM – Okay, so, which part of the curve are we looking at?
JP – This is just to demonstrate the form of the curve. It’s basically an exponentially limited cosign, so based on the games that you choose it can have, it can be overdamped, you can have oscillation, we want to try to avoid that. Or, in order to avoid that, you want to increase the damping so the settle time takes longer, but if it’s under-damped it takes too long to settle in to your set point, so there’s a critical settle point that we try to achieve that gets you there as quick as possible, given this formula.
PM – So looking at this graph, it looks like the dotted line here is, you’ve set the velocity to 100m/s, and you’re starting at 0, and the flight control software on the red line tries to get you there as fast as possible, and it overshoots. And oscillates back down until it settles out. So what’s going on with the blue-line?
JP – So that’s if you’ve tuned it so you don’t have any oscillation, but it’s underdamped so it takes longer before it settles.
PM – So with the redline you get this overshoot, but it actually settles down to the target velocity a lot faster than with the blue ends up.
JP – In a real control system, you want to try to tune it so there’s just about 2% overshoot before it starts to settle, and that gives you your optimal settle time, but for our practices, because of the fact that it’s a discrete system rather than a time varying system, and the inconsistencies that come out of numerical error, and things like that, I tend to work with a truly critically damped system, to try to keep things in control.
PM – Well, you’ve made something really cool, and I’m glad I got to talk with you a little bit on camera today, so we can share it with everyone else, cause as long as I’ve been here I”ve been super impressed by what you’ve been able to do, cause starting from the very beginning, I saw the initial phases of the initial implementation, and it was a lot of hard work, so I think it’s really really cool that I get to help you show it off today.
JP – Great, and thanks for the opportunity. It’s nice to finally get the chance to talk to the fans a little about it and get into some details.
PM – Well, back to you Ben!
*If you want to see more of the interview, more will be posted on Friday (probably on Facebook?)*
– Years back, there was a point where the entire company was Ben and Pete in a room without a desk. Good days.
– That wraps it up for Around the ‘Verse this week.
Subscribers, check your subscription areas for a new edition of Jump Point tomorrow evening.
James Pugh will be running a charity livestream this week on Twitch, with Disco Lando, and ship giveaways! Starts Saturday, May 16th at 10am PDT – Twitch.tv/cigcommunity
If you’re in Germany next week at Fed Con, one of the larger SC orgs, Phoenix Interstellar, has decided to volunteer some demo units to show off SC. May 21 – 24, Maritim Hotel, Duesseldorf, Germany.
If you’re interested in showing off SC at your own events, post it on the forums!
There’ll be a free-fly event unlock this week, all ships in the Aurora and Mustang lineup will be available to test.
– It’s a door. Closed, then an open door. Looks like…a door? [Note from Nehkara: I think this is a shot from Nyx]
– Tune into Reverse the ‘Verse tomorrow at 11am PDT to find out what the sneak peek was.