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!
The May Subscriber Town Hall was hosted by Jared Huckaby with the shows guests being two members of the U.K. Props team: Ben Curtis, and Corey Banford.
[Who are you and what do you do?] Ben Curtis is the Lead Prop Artist at Foundry 42 U.K. who leads the prop team and makes the props you see in engine. Corey Banford is a Prop Artist who makes props... That's all.
[What did you do before Star Citizen Ben?] Started in the games industry 12 years ago in QA working at a racing studio. He worked on the WRC Franchise and Motorzone franchise which had 3 titles on the PS3 and one on the PS Vita. He continued working there at Evolution studios on a game called Drive Club for PS4 where after his job was done there he came over to Foundry 42 U.K. two and a half years ago.
[What did you do before Star Citizen Corey?] He studied at Tside University for game art and this is his first job in the games Industry so he's very excited to have his first job in the industry and one that happens to be working on Star Citizen. He's been with Foundry 42 U.K. For just about a year and a half.
[What does the props team actually do?] Corey: Basically the Props team makes everything you see in the environment that aren't bolted to the walls and don't fly around. Ben: So examples being chairs, trash cans, benches or things like room generators or even ship components. Special effects aren't something they do, just the objects.
[What ship components are you making?] They're doing power plants, quantum drives, avionics, shield generators, jump stabilizers, and many more items. They aren't responsible for the types of things they make as that's up to design, but they work with design to in order to facilitate of the needs of them and create whatever they desire.
They also help with the concept of the ship components and work with concept artists to make sure it fits the dimensions given and what the design team is looking for to achieve what is realistically possible.
[What does an Avionics component look like?] They're simple in concept, it's a box with a set of drawers which have the guts in them. They took lot of references from server bays and today's servers look pretty Sci-fi already so they were able to design some pretty cool looking components.
Ben's favourite looking component at this point is the quantum drives.
Ben segued into the components and how important it is for concept artists to stick within the parameters that they're given because you can't cheat when it comes to making the components as they're physical objects and props has to be able to make those concepts into exactly as they're presented to them without conflict.
For small ship items they've covered 5 different types of items and there's between 20-25 for each type so there's a lot of effort put into consistency between component type sizes and ship manufacturers as well.
Players will be able to see components and know what it is based off how it looks so you could go into a shipyard and go, yeah that's "so and so" power plant because it's crudely put together and rusty or finding a component that's shiny and well made which means it's "this" manufacturer.
[What's the process of making a shield generator?] For something with a lot of gameplay they wouldn't touch production of it until there's a design doc and designers know what they want the shield to do and if the internals need to be accessed.. They'll have a meeting with the concept team and kick things off if it's a new shield generator and get all the questions answered and once a concept has been drafted then it goes to Ben who will then schedule it and assign it to a prop artist to create it.
When starting the production of the generator, they start off in whitebox and it literally could be a plain square box, but that box meets the dimensions so that animators and other teams can begin work on the ship without having to wait for the prop team to finish the component fully. After the shape has been formed it goes to greybox to add the finer details and art to the actual prop and once that's completed it gets passed to the appropriate departments for them to do their work.
[What is your favourite prop that you've worked on in the game so far?] Corey: There's a lot, but one of his favourites was working on the GSS ARTEX locker which was one of his first assets that required animation and had him get into animation setup which he enjoyed a lot.
His answer later changed to a shield generator that he worked on, but couldn't remember what it looked like.
The body bags were fun to make because they were given the task of having the bags only squirt blood where the body was in the bag.
Some of ben's favourites are actually the periods of time just before a release because of everything coming together is neat to see. He also felt the some of the things in Star Marine were bang on.
[I love the booze cabinet flair because you can get drunk, are there any other ingame flair props planned to affect people?] Unfortunately that's a design decision as design gives them requests and not the other way around. Sometimes they'll give design an idea if they have a really good one, but otherwise it's not up to them. Ben says off the top of his head he's not sure, but he's sure there will be.
[Can you tell us your work on 3.0?] Big focus for them has been the surface outposts and they're really excited for players to see them because of the themes they're giving the outposts. When creating the outposts they start with an empty room and then place main objects in the room that give players an idea of what the room is meant for. From there they'll add the small objects and fill the room and in some cases tell a story.
They also have worked on the props around the outpost which are larger to actually give the outposts purpose based on where they're located and make them fit in.
[What is the smallest and largest props you've worked on?] Smallest would be stuff like medical bottles, pens, little baggies. The largest would have to be the weather station which is an asset that goes onto a outpost. The com tower was the biggest one before that.
There's also shipping containers that are 10m by 2.5m by 2.5m.
There's the Mining bot, but they went quiet about that and said they'll talk about that some other time.
[You guys are from the U.K. Be honest, when you're making sinks: One faucet or two?] Corey: It would have to be two because it makes more sense, you can use both at the same time. Ben recently redid his bathroom and went to a single faucet because of his kids. Many gasps were had and Corey said he let the team down. Jared reassured him in saying that he was preparing his children for the real world.
[Are ingame props modular or bespoke, everything else in Star Citizen seems to be going to a modular system like the truck stop, satellite, moon bases etc. For example will there be standard sizes for boxes, crates, suitcases etc.] There's already standard sizes for prop making. There's standard sizing for props with cargo and cover metrics for everything else so standing, crouching, etc. Consistency is very important when designing props because you don't want to go into cover and can't shoot over it because it wasn't made properly. They do have some flexibility when it comes to creating certain props however, so it's not so strict as having a can of soda becomes much larger or smaller than what you'd think it would be because of standardization, but when it comes to contact points they have to be careful with metrics so as to run into situations where gameplay is impacted. They do it where it make sense, but not as modular as the ship team because most of prop stuff has unique shapes.
They have technology called layer blend which optimizes having lots of different materials together.
They gave a pretty in depth answer so if you want the full detail of it you can listen from this point here.
Essentially it allows them to compress a bunch of different textures together in one draw call and they can get variation using masks from a program called WDA map which they can put dirt or wear on the object. They also can add degradation with this program to objects via time or weather or both so an outpost for example that's been dormant for a decade may be completely worn down to something that's brand new.
[Will props have damage states?] Yes, with Star Marine they added a first implementation to it. They are looking at adding it to 3.0 and beyond with the goal of having damage states on almost anything, but right now very few things have it. They want players to be able to create their own scenarios using the environment to their advantage, but of course there would be limitations in the early days with being able to manipulate boxes and shooting out lights, but later growing that to many more objects.
[Have you ever put a prop into the game that had meaning to you in real life] There's a few on his list that Ben won't talk about, but there are a few that are nostalgic from movies and etc that are on his to do list and on the official backlog, but they'll be subtle.
[Have you guys worked on any alien props and where you do you get your inspiration for it] They have done a few within the team. Corey mentioned someone working on alien fruit, but in general there's some small stuff coming down the line, but can't really talk about what or who it's from.
[Tactical Tarp, Crusader Industries B419 AR Tactical Stealth Utility Tarp, thoughts?] Never heard of it, can't talk about such things on an open channel [They smiled while saying that]
[Bobble heads and hula dolls, what are the chances of them making it in?] They absolutely want stuff like that in, but it's a matter of priority at this moment for stuff like that.
[What can you tell us about the process of making subscriber flair now that you're responsible for it?] Corey: It's like being Santa every month. Ben: Once the internal team grew to a certain amount, they were able to take on the responsibilities Behavior once had for the project. When it comes to flair, they try to make stuff that's unique and tells a story on some occasions. Some flair is a reflection of things in the past like the Cactus which was used from the CitizenCon demo in the desert. They have been going back to some of the earlier flairs and updating them to today's standards to improve performance and give them some love with the new tech that's come online since then.
Some housekeeping: Loremaker's on Wednesday with Around the Verse on Thursday and a monthly report on Friday.