Monthly Studio Report: May 2017

SPRINTS

Let’s start with the ongoing Sprints.

We’ve completed the initial groundwork for the Air Traffic Controller sprint and moved on to more of the functionality including communicating with the ATC. When you want to land, you can now target the station and, using the player interaction system, select the option to request a landing. You will then start a communication channel with the NPC and have a dialogue with them. We’re currently in the process of implementing this in real world test cases, for example in our PU map we’re setting it up at port Olisar so both requesting your ship as well as landing will all go through the ATC system.

As part of a push to make Star Citizen more accessible, we’re introducing a new Hint System to lower the initial learning curve for new players. As they take their first steps into Star Citizen universe, various hints will get displayed on the UI after a given amount of time to indicate how to interact with the different systems, such as entering the proximity of the ASOP terminal or letting them know about the mobiGlas feature.

For 3.0, we’ve also changed how the Player Spawns into a level. Currently, each bedroom in the PU map has its own spawn point and then some flowgraph logic to position them correctly in the bed, and play the correct animation. As you can imagine, based on the number of spawn locations in the PU, this is adding up to a lot of flowgraph and setup. Going forwards, we’re creating a new spawn component which can be added to any entity. For example, if this component is added to a bed, we will then assume the player will need to be attached correctly to it and play the normal lie down idle animation automatically. This now means we can now remove a large amount of flowgraph and simplify the setup of the level.

We’ve made progress on implementing the mission broker and the mission manager systems. These will determine how a mission and all its objectives are presented and given to the player to complete. This system will also track what missions a player already has and how far through the objectives they are.

In the AI Locomotion sprint, we’re spending time refining the way the AI walks and runs around a level. We have found that just following the path which is determined by the path finding code gives a result which looks very unnatural. We’ve now implemented a new path smoothing algorithm which makes AI traverse around corners in a much more natural way, so it doesn’t look like they’re just going from one point to the next. Because they are generally moving to get to a particular place we are currently working on making reaching that point, and going into whatever animation is required, be as seamless as possible.

GRAPHICS

The graphics team wrapped up the major features mentioned in our last update such as lit fog, real-time environment probes for planet lighting, and the render-to-texture work for holograms and video comms. In addition to general bug-fixing, they’ve also tweaked our lighting model to improve the appearance of ground reflections of the sun on planets at sunset and sunrise.

ANIMATION

On the FPS weapons side, the UK animation team completed the previs for the new Gemini L86 ballistic pistol and nearly completed the Arrowhead with just some minor polish work left on the reload states.

The takedowns have gone from an implementation pass to a refined animation pass, with concentration on stronger composition, solid posing, clear silhouettes, and polish to the mocap data to better sell the overall action.

The AI animation work is ongoing with improvements to the posing of enemy patrol states and reactions to sight and sound.

The team are also helping to export the remaining gameplay story cinematic scenes, so that design can implement, and better visualize the story within the levels they are working on.

The Derby animation team are finishing off the facial animations for the 3.0 Mission Givers and Eckhart’s body animation is being polished and implemented too. Last week, some of the team attended a PU audio and facial shoot in London. They captured some awesome footage from a great set of actors and we think it will go a long way to fleshing out the Universe.

VFX

The VFX Team have continued tests with the new Lightning Entity, this time focusing on smaller-scale, interior electrical effects. They also tested the features in the new particle system, as provided by the Graphics team including better trail options, and depth-buffer-based collision (required for sparks, for example). The team started the first Levski exterior VFX Pass which includes refinery flames and general ambiance. Flight-ready VFX, including interior damage and thruster effects are now done for the Cutlass rework and the team have continued on the Atmospheric Flight Effects sprint, with heavy focus on playtesting, bug-fixing and testing new features as provided by the Graphics and Engineering teams.

Outside of these features, the team continued ongoing polish on the VFX for new weapons, and reworked versions is continuing up to the 3.0 release.

SHIP ART

The Origin 600i has finished its concept phase and the next ground vehicle has been rocking along. We’re just about to kickoff a whole new round of ships, but can’t spoil which ones.

In Reclaimer news, the team completed work on the drone room. They were keen to focus on the drone deployment and storage mechanism, and are excited to see this become functional when drones come online. The Engine room has also been completed, making use of re-purposed assets from the Idris where possible. All the reused assets go through a process of re-skinning with Reclaimer materials to make everything feel consistent and cohesive. On the exterior, the damage setup is nearly complete with internal geometry being built to be exposed when the ship takes damage.

The initial batch of work on the Derelict ships and wreckage elements are coming to an end with support is now in place for design to create mission scenarios based on derelict ships in space or on planets. Material variations of each ship have been created, so that depending on which planet the ships are placed on; they will look visually embedded to the surface type. All that’s remaining for this phase are the technical elements such has LODS, Vis-Areas and Collisions.

The Gladius cockpit has been revamped and re-lit for the new “Cockpit Experience” sprint.
This has been an exercise in improving the player’s feeling of immersion and has been a collaboration between several departments. From the art side, this was achieved by clearing a channel between the top support screens to reveal the Gatling gun on the nose, making a range of interactive buttons for more interesting animations and remodeling the throttle for improved functionality. The cockpit canopy has been extended for better clarity and new interior lighting has been added to help bring it all to life.

On the Hull C exterior, the team is nearly finished with the landing gear mechanisms and detailing the inner bay areas, while we create the initial animations and work towards final art. They finished modelling the front section of the interior and the section is getting a detailed lighting pass using the new light groups controller. Once this is complete, the tunnel section and rear engine room will be modeled and lit in the same fashion.

WEAPON ART

On the ships weapons front, we have taken the Klaus & Werner styling from the FPS weapons and used that influence to work on a K&W Laser Repeater. At the other end of the spectrum, we also concepted some cool-looking MaxOx Neutron Repeaters.

ENVIRONMENT ART

The Art team continued to hammer away at Shubin mining station interiors and focused on improving the overall “believability” of the structure, by zeroing in on the functionality of the individual areas.

Adding Texture and Visual Interest to our Space overworld has been a big priority for the 3.0, so the team has turned to giving our Space Scenes a major face-lift with the goal of diversifying environments and adding a unique flavor to each of our locations. Large volumes of inter-planetary space dust have been added and the team re-worked some of the distant nebula in the Stanton System to this end. We also worked on large-scale nebula rendering techniques, using the Pyro System as a test case. These techniques will help us create our interstellar scale nebula.

For Squadron 42, the team delved deeper into the look and feel of the Coil, which plays a major role in the first campaign. The team explored using powerful fluid simulations to help achieve this look.

For the Truckstop station materials, the team finalized the panels shapes, adding some hue and gloss variation and elements of wear and dirt. The unclad frames are also being finalized, with structural elements surrounding machinery and high frequency detail. They continued to work on the solar panels, trying different ideas out, and getting them to a stage where they gel well with the rest of the truckstop. The team also finalized the main hull pieces and proceeded to the front and back sections of the station. Special consideration is being made to ensure all the pieces work well as a modular set and don’t look visually repetitive. Detailing areas around the landing pad is ongoing and this includes adding more visual complexity to the back of the landing pad as well as the borders around the edge of the pad.

In relation to the Surface Outposts; more of the archetypal outposts have had a dressing and lighting pass, including an emergency shelter for crashed pilots to take refuge which can be found dotted around the moons. Also, an illegal drug lab, which may, or may not, be on one of the moons. The team also worked on providing further infrastructure to habitation pods including comms arrays, water collectors and small deploy-able communication units.

Planet integration materials for the outpost exterior has been tested and tweaked for sand and ice biomes. This determines the amount of dirt build-up that can vary for each biome, and can be adjusted for each outpost for variation.

Branding prototyping has been explored for procedural locations with the Rayari brand as a test case. This includes the main logos and text, along with secondary logos, idents, lines and signage. This would procedurally swap brands depending on who owns the outpost.

DESIGN

The live design team plowed ahead with content for the PU, but they’ve made sure to spend a bit of time giving some much-needed love to some of the existing Arena Commander and Star Marine maps. Dying Star has received a new lease of life with the addition of procedural asteroids, which give a more cinematic dogfighting experience. Both of the Star Marine maps have received a number of balancing changes, based on feedback from the community.
In Echo Eleven, we’ve made some adjustments to the capture points, and in Last Stand and Demien we’ve added a sneaky new EVA route from the Marine spawn zone to landing pad B.

UI

On the UI front, the team chipped away at all the various features of the new MobiGlas. Progress has been made getting the home screen fully functional and displaying elements of the actor status, atmospheric readouts, suit status readouts, as well as personal overview. The Player Loadout Management app is now working on the mobiGlas. This interface should easily carry over to handle ship-loadout customization as well. The next big task is to get the new overhauled Mission Manager and Universal Inventory Manager up and running as well. The team also worked to get the mobiGlas UI to be projected using the new render-to-texture tech, which will make the UI look much more properly integrated within the game world.

Work has continued on designing and implementing the upcoming character customization menu on the front-end, which will be introduced in 3.0. From here, players will be able to create and customize their various characters for the PU, obviously depending on how many character slots the player has. Initially, the level of customization will be limited, but it will expand in the future to provide much more granular control of character features.

AUDIO

The audio team has been working on several features for the 3.0 release, including the procedural planet ambiance system, which is designed to place appropriate sounds around the player dynamically as they traverse planetary bodies.

They’ve also refined the approach on how we produce ship armaments and first person weapon audio, further ensuring they’re satisfying for the player, while reflecting player-driven modifications and customization.

The team produced sound schemes for the different kinds of diegetic user interfaces that will feature in 3.0, including the kiosks – the audio direction of these vary to suit their tech level, and this presents some great opportunities to reinforce their look and feel.

Preparation has begun in earnest for a Foley session at Pinewood Studios, to ensure audio coverage for character clothing and armor; and content to extend the footstep system further. Progress has also been made on the foundational audio tech such as dynamic bank loading, the actor-status system, the audio propagation system, and the music logic system.

In addition, over the past month, the team produced content for derelict ships, bespoke 3.0 location sound design, ship damage VFX audio support, ship audio improvements and more.

Coming to Xbox One!
Spectrum Alpha 0.3.5 Live
 

Comments 1

tynmanz on Sunday, 11 June 2017 11:48

I don't think they should continue to put features into it. They can add them later.

I don't think they should continue to put features into it. They can add them later.
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tynmanz Monthly Studio Report: May 2017
11 June 2017
I don't think they should continue to put features into it. They can add them later.

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