Monthly Studio Report: May 2018
Welcome to Cloud Imperium Games’ Monthly Studio Report for May, bringing you insight into what all of our studios have been working on. This month, the team made updates to Alpha 3.1, and pushed forward on new systems, ships, and features for Alpha 3.2 and beyond. Work also progressed on various aspects of Squadron 42. With that said, let’s dig into the details.
The Vehicle Features Team’s primary focus this month was working on scanning for the mining feature and making improvements to turrets, both of which will appear in the Alpha 3.2 release. Regarding scanning, the team worked closely with VFX, UI, and other teams to develop the pinging, scanning, and blob work needed for the launch of this feature.
The team also completed the implementation of cameras on remote turrets that can be controlled by players, allowing them to focus their turret target on a ship to see its relevant status.
The team, consisting of Vehicle Art, Systems Design, and Tech Art, developed vehicles for both Alpha 3.2 and subsequent releases. On the art side, the Anvil Hurricane completed its flight prep pass and has been handed off to the other vehicle disciplines for the 3.2 release. The Art Team has also wrapped up their pass on the Consolidated Outland Mustang Alpha and has begun working on its variants.
Work was also done on the greybox set-up for the Consolidated Outland Mustang Alpha, the RSI Constellation Phoenix, and the Anvil F8 Lightning.
Meanwhile, the Tech Art Team worked on their final flight prep passes, which included damage and landing gear compression on the Anvil Hurricane and the rest of the 3.2 ships: the Aegis Avenger, Aegis Eclipse, Origin 600i, and Vanduul Blade. Additionally, the team took a Tech Art pass in support of the MISC Prospector for the mining feature.
The Gameplay Features Team is working with the Spectrum and Backend teams to sync to the new Spectrum architecture, which will allow players to view and manage their contacts in the mobiGlas Comms app. The team is placing the chat feature directly into the mobiGlas, so players can communicate using both the visor chat and the mobiGlas Comms app. In addition to this, Group creation, destruction, rules, and interaction are now being implemented and improved as the team works alongside Turbulent. The ability to invite contacts to groups by selecting them in interaction mode is being added, as is identifying contacts by name in your visor.
A wide variety of tasks kept the Narrative Team busy in May. The month kicked off with a release of a Loremaker’s Guide to the Galaxy segment focused on the Oso System. They also recorded episodes for several upcoming systems. They wrote and released three new lore pieces, including part one of the Subscriber exclusive short story Hostile Negotiations. May’s issue of Jump Point focused on the Crusader Hercules Starlifter, game optimization, a Galactapedia entry on whiskey, and more. Two older Jump Point features also received wide release on the site, including the tragic tale of the Lost Squad and part one of the serialized story The Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The Squadron 42 Team spent part of the month working with Production to organize work on the remaining narrative tasks and started tackling a handful of set dressing documents. These kickoff documents focus on specific areas of the game and list ideas for props that could be used to sell particular story moments.
The team also wrote procedural text for new PU mission types. They drilled down into the specifics of some upcoming locations, which included creating posters to be plastered around Lorville and other locations. They worked with other departments to organize and streamline game documentation essential to inter-office communication, and collaborated with the Community Team on Ciera Brun’s Journal of a Volunteer, which was featured on the Hercules Starlifter sales page.
The Character Art Team showcased their work on the Legacy Armor sets for both the Outlaws and Marines in an episode of Around the Verse (both of which will appear in Alpha 3.2).
A considerable amount of effort was put into multiple Squadron 42 characters along with new weapon concepts. The upcoming Mission Givers for PU outfits have made tremendous progress, as have the clothing collections for both Olisar and Hurston. The updated flight suit continues to be developed, and R&D on the pipeline for delivering character heads (including realistic hair for all characters) also received attention. And, as always, bugs were fixed for the Alpha 3.2 release.
The team put together features and fixes for Alpha 3.2 and pushed ahead on content for future releases. They refined the recipe system to prepare it for future implementation – early iterations will be simple, but will form the basis of a more complex system that allows players to get into the nuts and bolts of what makes items in the ‘verse tick.
Quantum Linking progressed nicely. Soon it will be synced with the Group System to allow for various interactions between local players and those in a party. Once done, groups can easily Quantum Jump to a shared destination together.
Spline jumps were added, which allow players to travel from one side of a celestial body to another. The team can adjust the parameters to ensure a smooth experience while still allowing for future iterations and tweaks by the Design Team.
With the animations of Battaglia and Klim added, focus has shifted to a pair of new mission givers. The team is also building out the Bartender character, with the goal of instilling a level of life and dynamic activity fitting of a real, hard-working mixologist.
Feature creation and bug smashing kept Server Engineering busy in May. With the Persistence Cache being broken up and streamlined, several new features and services were created. Data Cache, Badge Service, GEID Broker, and Character Management Service were previously part of a larger Persistence Cache. They were broken out to allow for higher efficiency and scalability of the Backend Services, ensuring they work within the improved and more efficient Diffusion Service Architecture. The Generic Cache service can now be used by any other service to store data and contain persistence. The Persistence Item Cache grants game items for online players, and will organize and manage the associations of items between each other and provide optimized queries.
The team and Turbulent continue to modify the Gateway Service to support the bridge to Spectrum. This work ensures that Spectrum and Services won’t have trouble when Spectrum becomes integrated into the game. Work was also completed on creating a link from CMake generated services into WAF. Now, developers don’t need CMake to use services and can automate the process of building services using WAF for other developers to quickly integrate with their workflow.
The PU Animation Team finished their previous set of Mission Givers and NPCs and handed them over to Design for implementation. A new set of Mission Givers is now being worked on, and research was done on the Bartender’s animations to bring as much life to this NPC as possible. They also collaborated with other teams to get the Vanduul fully functional and ready for motion capture.
The Ship Animation Team continued adding a modular system for entering and exiting seats and turrets. By breaking up the existing animations into sequences, the character can use any of the enter/exit templates to interact with any cockpit type. For example, there can now be an animation that uses the Aegis Gladius enter animation, but then has the player grab a dual-stick control scheme. Previously, the team was limited to only using the Gladius enter animation for cockpits that used one specific configuration. They can now use thousands of different combinations, granting more flexibility when creating new ships.
The Ship Animation Team focused on completing the new ships for the 3.2 release. They created new animations for the Origin 600i and the refactored Aegis Avenger, as well as the Aegis Eclipse, Anvil Hurricane, and the Vanduul Blade. Plus, they’ve been fixing various bugs for the 3.2 release. They’re very excited about the improvements made to the ship pipeline and are looking forward to the opportunities that it provides.
Work continues with high polygon and flight-prep modeling of the Constellation Phoenix. In the last few weeks, the team focused on the exterior of the ship, getting it fully fleshed out and finishing the damage setup and LODs. They have also been getting the Constellation Emerald setup and modeled. Constellation variants share most of their parts with each other, but to accommodate the Emerald’s paint job, UV revisions of the original Constellation were required. Once the exterior is done, they will return to the interior to finish various parts such as the floor, guest quarters, and master bedrooms (and the all-important hot tub!).
The high poly and detail modeling phase is complete on the F8 Lightning, and the team have moved on to getting it flight-prep ready. The internal damage has been completed and work on LODs are next. Then they will concentrate on the last polish and efficiency pass before creating marketing material for the ship reveal.
On the Publishing side, QA wrapped up the last of the 3.1 incremental patches by testing fixes and changes to IFCS. In addition, they tested the new Launcher updates and monitored both PTU and Live to report any new issues to the devs.
After the devs wrapped up work on 3.1, QA focused on updating test documentation and processes in preparation for 3.2, continued verifying bug fixes, tested new tool updates, and trained new hires. As the month progressed, more 3.2 features came online for QA testing. These features included Quantum Travel improvements, new ship testing, Item Kiosk shopping, PMA/VMA improvements, and ship & weapon Power Allocation.
Leadership worked to better incorporate processes into the new development cycle. This includes dedicating testers to specific feature teams and having them create documentation and test cases. They have also been looking at new software to make testing more efficient as the game grows exponentially.
DevOps continued their work on the feature stream process and staging build system. Feature streams are a subset of the main development branches that allow the devs to maintain a tighter focus on specific features without their work interfering with others. DevOps was happy with the rollout, but it hasn’t been easy. The build system has grown so complex that minor updates and adjustments are risky, which is why they’re working closely with the Corp Tech team in Austin on a ‘staging’ build. This new environment will allow engineers to test changes in a safe location rather than apply them directly into the production environment.
The DevOps Publishing Team monitored the live service for stability and performance indicators, providing a constant flow of data to the dev teams. They also prepped the Evocoti and PTU servers for the next publishing cycle (which is right around the corner). The team provisioned more server capacity for all regions in anticipation of a very popular feature publish.
The Player Relations Team helped wrap up 3.1.4 this month, and have already started early preparations for 3.2 testing with the Evocati. The 3.1 publishes were the first of the quarterly testing cycle. It was a tremendous learning experience that will be used during further cycles.
The team was also proud to roll out over 80 articles to the new Knowledge Base – there have already been 25,000 visits in its first month. Players should check it out, as the team continues to add new ‘How To’ articles, patch notes, and live service notifications.
As always, Player Relations would like to remind and encourage everyone to use the Issue Council to help triage and rate bugs and functionality. The team uses this data to prioritize future updates. Plus, participation makes you eligible for earlier PTU waves.
Wilmslow & Derby
WILMSLOW & DERBY
The Actor Teams have been carrying on with the ‘pickup-and-carry’ work, now concentrating on reducing the animations required for the different combinations of item sizes, grip types, and player states. They did a rough calculation of all these combinations and it came out at roughly 1700 animations. However, with the sensible authoring of assets, combining animations in blend spaces, and layering up, the team should be able to get this down to under 100.
They’ve also been developing new animation time-warping technology using player knockdowns as their test case. The problem with something like a knockdown is that the time the character spends in the air varies based on the force and environment. Normally, you would play a looping animation, but this can look unnatural. This new method calculates the airtime and stretches a single animation to fill it. Used sparingly, it produces much better results, and the technique can also be used on other features like jumping.
The Social AI Team has got a test setup of a ‘usable’ now fully working with the new channels in Subsumption. A ‘use channel’ describes what you can do in a particular ‘usable’ – examples could be eat, drink, mend, and so on. This is a great milestone as the Subsumption setup simplifies how the designers create ‘usables’, whilst at the same time giving them much more flexibility.
The Vehicle Team has implemented the ability to under and overpower ship components, and hooked it into the vehicle’s MFD UI. For example, when you underpower your weapons, they fire slower or the projectiles have less energy. Similarly, your shields will be more effective if they have more power.
The Tools Team has been working on a new check-in request tool. As they get closer to a release, they lock down what does and what doesn’t go into the build to improve stability and reduce the risk of new bugs appearing. To help, they’ve been developing a new tool that can track all change requests and give a nice interface for the leads to be able to approve or reject changes. With the number of requests going into a build every day, the overhead of managing them was becoming very large. The hope is this new process will reduce the workload on the teams and production, as well as giving better visibility on what is and isn’t approved.
The ships due for 3.2 have really come along with all the final polish and lighting work that’s gone into them this month. The Vanduul Blade has undergone a rework; mainly around the wings so that it can better accommodate weapons after it was decided the underslung position looked too ‘human’ and needed to be more aligned with the Vanduul aesthetic. It’s also had some extensive work done to the landing gear – previously the ship just rested on the wing tips, but with this change, the wing tips now deploy landing gear to accommodate compression under the weight of the ship. The team has continued to optimize the ship and make sure everything is done so they can switch focus to promo shots and trailers.
On the Audio Code side, the preload manager system was optimized to work asynchronously, so that the audio thread isn’t blocked when streaming audio assets. ‘Asynchronous caching’ was also addressed, which keeps audio events in memory after the game has finished with them. Thanks to this work, assets don’t need to be reloaded from the disk each time they’re needed, which will improve overall performance.
As well as bug fixing, debug info was added to the aforementioned preload manager. The music system was improved with a feature to add a further randomized recombination of tracks. The Audio Propagation and Room systems were extended to enable cheaper pressure lookups and allow for room and object-based reverb. Weapons 2.0 audio tech was worked on further, as were the IFCS 2.0 audio set-up and multithreading optimization. Finally, on the code side, the ATL build process was ported over to WAAPI to enable more incremental audio building, improving iteration times for everyone in the team.
In Dialogue, new content was delivered for Alpha 3.2 via an improved dialogue pipeline. Characters now have their vocal output processed in real-time through communication devices, via porting the audio and any local secondary sound and transmitting it much as one would find in the real world.
In Sound Design, the Scalpel sniper rifle underwent further work and is ready for final review. The FPS weapon system is ripe for refactoring and some work was done to improve quality and simplify the system. They also delivered sound design for the Gemini F55 LMG, the Klaus & Werner Demeco LMG, and the Associated Science & Development Distortion Repeater.
The shopping and mining kiosks were polished to increase responsiveness and synchronization. The mining mechanisms have been worked on extensively and are now ready for further implementation and iteration, with work on the fracture and tractor beams for the mining arm receiving a lot of attention. Hangars had some extra improvement work, and ambiance for the Lorville trash biome was prototyped.
On the ships front, the Origin 600i, Aegis Eclipse, Esperia Blade, and the Anvil Hurricane all had sound added for their thrusters, moving parts, and interiors. The conversion to IFCS 2.0 created a big project to bring everything in line with the modifications to that upstream system. Development of the ship-wide audio concept also continued, separating maneuvering and ‘cockpit feedback’ sounds from the thruster burn sounds, and adding more directionality towards rotation sounds. Room tones that react to ship handling and damage states were also added to the Constellation as a proof of concept. The new physics objects system had assets created to put it through its paces, which will give more behavioral fidelity across the game.
In Music, the Vanduul and Xi’an themes were pushed forward for Squadron 42. For the Persistent Universe, new music was created for derelict ship exploration (small, medium and large).
The UI Team primarily focused on feature work for the Item Kiosks, Mining, and QT Linking. The Item Kiosks wireframes were signed off and later implemented into Flash and hooked up on the code side. The team is now finalizing additional branding skins for the terminals alongside bug fixes on the code now that the QA Team have started testing it. The HUD design for mining was finalized and implemented too. The team is also working on a Kiosk terminal that allows players to sell the refined ore gained from mining. Finally, the QT Linking Flash work has been completed in the UK, with the code hookup for this being tackled by engineers in the LA studio.
In addition, work progressed on improving the UI Tech, with the relevant TDDs being written and a proof of concept being created for the building blocks system. Finally, the team supported the Art Team by providing a generic utilitarian branding sheet to be used within the upcoming Rest Stops among other areas.
Animation tackled the implementation pass for the trained combat set of FPS AI combatants. This included enter and exits from cover as well as combat actions like peeks, reloads, blindfire, and reloads. A previs pass on the untrained combat set was also completed this month. The team took raw motion capture to compare it to the trained set, so combatants would feel distinct and stay true to their character.
The team also worked on improving the looting system and added assets to improve the general look and feel of picking up objects, boxes, and items in Squadron 42 and the Persistent Universe. Work also continued on the weapon recoil improvements. As shown in the recent ATV, the team worked with design and code to develop the look and feel of all FPS weapons.
The team also made some important strides on the Vanduul animation, creating a behavior set to provide a visual guide on how they will move and operate in Squadron 42. Player locomotion sets have been updated to work with an entity-driven system to ensure that client and server animations are exactly the same. The team also made tweaks to some of the poses to allow for better blending between animations and minimize foot sliding.
This month has seen a similar pattern to last, with the team supporting the ongoing Mining and Scanning sprints. The effects for both are coming along at a rapid pace, improving almost daily – as evidenced by the various WIP footage seen in recent weeks.
Ship VFX received plenty of attention in May, including the luxurious Origin 600i. Work continued on weapons VFX, with visual improvements to legacy ballistic guns, as well as general fix-ups required since the conversion to weapons 2.0 was completed by the Game Code and Systems Design Teams.
Collaboration with the Graphics Team also continued, with spline emitter tech coming along nicely. This continues to open up new ideas, and is likely to prove useful in unexpected areas, such as in Quantum Travel.
The Graphics Team worked on multiple features this month, the main focus being mining, which required the expansion of the ship damage-map system to work on new types of assets. It also required completely new visuals to show the cracking and heating of rocks. This work also allowed the team to diagnose and fix some long-standing bugs that should lead to improved texture details.
The multi-resolution gas cloud work is complete, making it possible to combine several gas clouds together at different resolutions and scales. Memory, however, is still the limiting factor, so the team compressed the density fields to just 8 bits per voxel (down from 32 bits). However, the shadowing data is still too large and can’t be compressed as easily. Therefore, research has started on various forms of deep shadow maps that work in 2.5D to try and avoid the memory and performance issues associated with full 3D lighting data.
The foundations of the new multilayer shader system are finished and focus has shifted to adding visual features to the shaders. The first being a new clear coat shading model to achieve convincing paint and anodized metals – both important for high-tech materials. The next is a texture mode called height-variance blending which allows for realistic blending of natural materials (e.g. rock/sand/grass). It supports per-pixel-control of the blend and crucially works at any distance with no aliasing, which is obviously critical with the scale of the game.
Some other tasks included optimizations to the rendering in the editor, a holographic effect for use within Squadron 42, and improved temporal anti-aliasing stability.
The Environment Art Team started the final pass of the Common Element Utilitarian Hangars. The most critical aspect of this was the setup of the master material to give the artists a fully functional set of textures to pull from when taking the assets to final quality. Each piece used in the hangars will now go through its final art pass where, amongst other things, it will have its finished UVs, textures, custom normals, LODs, and physics proxies. There are lots of assets to get up to final quality, but when complete, the hangars will be considered finished from an Environment Art perspective.
Alongside this, work has been done to get future locations ready for production when the bulk of the Environment Team moves onto them later in the year.
The QA Team continued daily maintenance of their numerous checklists as well as Subsumption, Editor, and Page Heap regression. Additionally, they took some time to be trained by the Engine Team to better understand how to interpret a callstack, which will ultimately lead to quicker and more reliable bug assignments.
A new quick smoke checklist for the client was setup to provide the Design Team with an overview for specific systems in the Persistent Universe, such as AI turrets and their functionality. With the new checklist in place, when asked for the current state of a system worked on exclusively in the DE office, QA will be able to provide information much faster.
QA has also been working closely with the Cinematics Team to provide specifically requested support and set up test levels for easier reproduction and a quicker turnaround. Testing on a potential Test Case Management Software candidate was also started to determine if this new software would allow QA to more efficiently manage and track our test cases and reports.
The team added mechanics for NPCs to use grenades to flush their opponents out of cover if they remain stationary for too long. Also, more work was done on improving the way the NPCs react to incoming grenades – they now use a navmesh to determine where they can safely escape to. Combat ships now know how to fight as proper gunships and not just fighters. For example, if a ship with numerous turrets engages you, it may fly around while its turrets track you down, as opposed to flying directly at you.
Regarding Vanduul combat, a lot of work was done to previz the way they fight. The emphasis was to make them as different from Humans as possible, so players have a completely different experience when fighting the Vanduul. The team is happy with the current results and are approaching full production for the Vanduul enemies. General population NPCs are also being experimented with as the team tests small, almost cinematic vignettes that the player can experience as they walk around major landing zones. Mining is also progressing as it approaches the bug fixing and polishing phase.
The Environment Art Team continued their push on Hurston, and the second group of ecosystems had their first pass completed. One of the newest ecosystems is the Wasteland Biome, which was first shown during CitizenCon 2017 and will cover a large part of the surface of Hurston. The team took the time to properly update the Wasteland biome to take advantage of the newest planet tech completed this year. The second biome that received proper attention this month was the Strip Mining ecosystem, which too can be found around Hurston. Lorville is also moving forward, with the artists spending their time focusing on the various areas the player will be able to visit, refining the shapes and architecture, adding materials, lights, and assets to further bring these areas to life.
The Tech Art Team continued to improve the deformation algorithms and asset pipeline of the v2 character customization system. Since the underlying tech for facial/head customization is working as intended now, the focus has shifted towards polishing the corresponding assets (head morph targets, head attachments such as hair and beards, etc.). R&D work on the technical foundations for body customization of both male and female characters has begun. Besides developing suitable deformation methods, the team also needs to determine what range of body shapes they can support without introducing clipping artifacts, and which body types they want to support from an artistic perspective. Time was also spent fixing existing bugs and improving the usability of the internal character editor, Character Tool.
For FPS weapons, they supported the Gemini Light Machine Gun, which is now ready for its final review and sign off.
They also completed Tech Animation work, such as implementing multiple animations into Mannequin for the Cinematics Team, improving the Playblast Tool to speed up reviewing, and improving the binder process to map animations from MotionBuilder onto our Maya rig.
They also completed Tech Animation work, such as implementing multiple animations into Mannequin for the Cinematics Team, improved the Playblast Tool to speed up the process of creating playblasts for reviewing purposes, and worked on improving the binder process to map animations from MotionBuilder onto our Maya rig.
The AI Team worked on adjusting the AI components with the new API to allow a safer construction in different threads – it’s a fundamental step towards fully achieving Object Container Streaming. The Actor code has always been very dependent on Lua (it’s not easy to make a thread safe with good performance), so all the AI components are now being moved to either be fully C++ or Dataforge components. They also worked on a few core functionalities for Subsumption. Subsumption Missions can now define Event Callbacks: missions can receive and send Subsumption events and logic can be written to be executed in association with specific events as described by designers. This functionality is part of the overall effort to support designers in creating more modular missions, and enforce correct communication between modules that can preserve thread safety and avoid a ‘spaghetti code-like’ logic. They also extended the functionality of supporting multiple Mission Objectives for each Mission module. They continued work on improving the way ‘usables’ are defined and executed: designers can now create behavior logic associated with the different use channels of each usable type. For example, assuming there is a usable bed that might expose the following use channels: ‘Sleep’, ‘Rest’, ‘WatchTV’, ‘SitOnBed’. When an NPC uses a ‘use channel’, it will effectively use some logic written by the designers in a similar way to Subsumption functions: this allows a more modular definition of the actions allowed when interacting with a usable maintaining the context of the behavior that is currently running.
Human combat is progressing with improvements in the grenade handling during combat, so fighters can now react to incoming grenades and try to duck to reduce the damage received by explosions. Vanduul AI progress is also continuing along in the prototype phase. For Ship AI, take-offs and landings have gone through a small refactor to allow AI behaviors to utilize designer placed splines to be more robust and deliver a more cinematic effect. Work was also completed on improving the validation of the navmesh during spawning: this allows designers to easily request spawning of characters in reachable areas where there are multiple navmeshes present.
The Lighting and Enviroment teams have been working closely to add new whitebox-level lighting to the Lorville landing zone. The goal is to start blocking in a basic mood and ensure the entire location is lit consistently without areas that are unnaturally bright/dark while maintaining visibility along the critical player path. Alongside this, they’ve been continuing work with the Rest Stop’s modular lighting. They also recently received some updated holo-advertising assets from the Props Team in the UK and started to explore how these can drastically influence the lighting and mood wherever they are placed.
As the Hangars common element starts to move into the final art stage, they’ve been experimenting with some variations of lighting for each module, which have similar benefits and drawbacks to the Rest Stops modular system. Each module must be somewhat independently lit so that it looks consistent in every configuration. They also built a new test environment for the Character Team where they can balance skin and armor assets in a completely neutral lighting scene for greater consistency across our wide range of characters.
The Weapons Team completed a full polish of the Gemini F55 Light Machine Gun, Klaus & Werner Demeco LMG, and Kastak Arms’ Scalpel sniper rifle in preparation for the 3.2 release.
The PU Level Design team spent a large amount of time working on flagship landing zones, pushing the ways in which they use procedural technology for layouts. They’re currently looking into customizing the various entry points into Lorville, as well as adding content for the immediate areas around the city. Time was spent revisiting Area18 to revamp and fully integrate it into the universe, taking advantage of the new procedural tools in place.
The Cinematics Team worked with the Level Designers on newly created whitebox levels to implement scenes that had not yet been featured in the game. They were brought to an initial implementation stage called PreVis to give visibility on runtime length, coverage of space, as well as the environmental interaction each scene requires. The process is important so that scenes taking place on a traversal path from A to B feel properly paced when level designers lay down paths. It also gives everyone working on a level an early preview of the narrative in that specific level. Since Squadron 42 is a narrative-heavy game, getting that in as early as possible helps ensure everything will work as intended.
The Cinematic Animators have been doing R&D on a sophisticated bit of performance capture manipulation called ‘feather blending’. This technique allows drastic changes to performance capture if needed, so animators can decide from which bone to ‘feather in’ the original performance capture on top of. In addition, they can add an additional animation of him holding his pilot helmet in his left hand at his hip and dial in a certain LookAt-range, so he can look at the player. In total, that means combining 3-4 different separate clips of animation at any given time and blending them seamlessly for a convincing result. The team also went back to a level that has a large cinematic and started overhauling the planet setup and vistas to the latest workflow standards. That level also includes Squadron 42’s way of customizing your character, so work was completed on some assets that will be at the core of that process.
The Engine Team generally work on several areas at the same time and this month was no exception. One long term task that was completed was the refactoring of the Entity Component Scheduler. The system is responsible for managing the ‘update frequency’ of the game logic. As more and more features were added over time, its design degenerated, resulting in a hard to use system. With the refactoring complete, each aspect of the scheduler is now orthogonal to each other, making the code easier to maintain and extend. They also decoupled the ‘IN_RANGE’ and ‘IS_VISIBLE’ events from their component updates, which allows components to receive and react to those events without having their update logic depend on them. More features are planned to be added to the scheduler over time.
The team also spent time improving the threading system. For the background job manager, they added a Fiber-based system. As the system was used more and more for Object Container Streaming, they took the time to clean up all out-threading primitives. Now all those are Fiber-aware, allowing them to schedule another job when a background job is blocked and thus a more efficient resource usage. In the same code area, they adjusted the scheduler to not block on submission to improve runtime performance by preventing the main thread stalling when submitting numerous jobs simultaneously. They also gave some focus to Object Container Streaming, making the 3DEngine loading code thread safe, allowing us to load large parts of our game world in the background. They made several improvements to the shader build pipeline and infrastructure code, started work on the vertex animation processing refactor and optimization (moving it to the GPU), and continued work on the telemetry system, amongst numerous other things.
The Engine Tools Team continued working on improving the general game editor stability and usability. New tools were added for designers to improve their workflows, including a new console implementation to easier parse the engine/game logging for warnings and errors, also adding better support for the massive amount of console variables and commands they currently have. Console variables and commands can now be filtered and saved out as favorites and shared between designers.
On top of that, a tool called the Window Outliner was added to make it easier for designers to setup, save, and share their favorite toolsets. Another tool, called the Universe Outliner, was added to better scale with the amount of content inside the universe, which replaces the entity outliner from Lumberyard, including additional information for Subsumption. The level layer handling was also replaced by the Layer Outliner, again for scalability and workflow improvement reasons.
Flexibility was added for the engineers to produce QATR test builds, either by building their code changes against major builds already distributed to the company, or against their own time. This was an engineer request as it gives them more freedom when building changes and handing off for QA verification. A bug in incremental linking was fixed which allowed us to reduce our output PDB file size by almost 50%, taking it down from 2.5GB for debugging StarCitizen.exe to 1.25Gb. They put finishing touches on unifying the DevOps codebases that are used by TryBuild and the main build system, Transformer, so that there can be one umbrella that covers the continuous integration monitoring. This codebase unification also leverages the tech in the Transformer main build system, which has a more straightforward layout in designing both tasks and jobs.
The VFX Team worked closely with the Graphics Programmers, Gameplay Programmers, Designers, and Environment Artists on the resource mining feature to create an entire suite of new effects. There’s a primary mining beam which heats up and fractures the rock. There are also effects that play on the surface of the rock to show it being cracked apart. After the rock is destroyed, an explosion effect is parameterized based on how well you did; if you add too much power, you get a much larger explosion than a successful operation. After you break the rock, a secondary extraction mode uses a tractor beam to collect the minerals into your cargo hold.
The team at Turbulent made some massive leaps in development for group services with several Spectrum releases to PTU, and provided platform support for the Community Team.
On May 24th a new release of Spectrum hit the PTU. This very early patch includes a ‘Friends’ implementation, allowing you to send requests and manage your contacts. Using this early rudimentary version, the team discovered functionality bugs and system limitations, and has been refactoring code to optimize the experience.
Currently, the Spectrum Team is in sprint 4 of 4, which is all about the notifications system. The notifications system will provide the necessary alerts for receiving and sending friends requests. This is the last missing piece to get the friends system feature complete. Calling all Spectrocati, expect a full release on PTU within the month.
On May 25th, a new European Union Law came into effect, protecting the use of personal data. Turbulent made substantial changes on the backend side to create new tools, ensuring that CIG was compliant with the new rules that came into effect.
The Backend Team also produced new tools for the roadmap. A new Import Console has been created on the backend so that production leads can now easily import all their Jira tasks without any requirements from the Platform Team. This has made the review and publishing of the Roadmap faster and much more efficient.
Turbulent supported the Starlifter launch, designing the page, and publishing the posts from Ciera Brun and Operation Sword of Hope. They really enjoyed working on this project as it included an exciting twist, and reading all of the community stories made it all more rewarding.
Turbulent’s Front-End and Design Teams have been working on building a page to host the FanKit. The Fankit is still being built, and will include a series of wallpapers, logos, possible 3D models, and audio. It will be an excellent tool for our community to build their personal fan projects, not to mention give out some exclusive items.
The team launched the Knowledge Base on May 10th, and the Player Relations Team has currently built over 82 articles with FAQs, known issues in patch releases, and many other self-help articles. Based on page views since release, the team already knows that the Knowledge Base has had a positive impact on the community, which will continue as the number of articles increases. Last week when RSI Platform unexpectedly experienced server downtime, the Knowledge Base jumped into action to get a post out and inform the community.
They also released a new series of Contact Us forms that will help optimize and prioritize requests. Ultimately, this will help Player Relations react faster to urgent matters.
Turbulent has been asked to participate in the build of game code for the Groups services, and the Backend Team has been working furiously to build it. The team has been concentrating on an API service to setup group invitations system and the concept of leadership within a group.
The two releases of the Groups service were completed last month, which included all the necessary calls for the invitations. The system is being implemented and tested by US gameplay teams. The next iterations of the service release will include a call for group leadership.
Taking into account player feedback and constructive input during Evocati and PTU phases, the Community Team supported a successful publish of Alpha 3.1.4 to the Persistent Universe, with improvements to Gravlev, flight controls, and more.
The public unveiling of the Crusader Industries Hercules was celebrated with a story contest where more than 500 contenders competed to win an M2 military variant. Make sure to check out all the Hercules stories, available to read on Spectrum, which feature the ship in everything from cargo runs to epic space battles.
The team ran several screenshot contests, in concert with an Intel Streamer Promotion, giving away three Intel® Optane™900P SSDs. If you haven’t seen them already, head over to Spectrum now and check out the beautiful entries depicting the themes of space combat, scenic vistas, and lifestyle.
Also in May, another contest was held, aimed at helping new pilots jump into the verse by giving an overview of the Star Marine and Arena Commander game modes. In this contest, content creators had the chance to win game packages and leave their mark on the Star Citizen website as the winning entries will be added to the How To Play section.
Subscribers received limited edition finishes for their Devastator shotguns this month, continuing a series of weapon finishes exclusive to subscribers and commemorating the Imperial Cartography Center.
The Community Team is excited to announce a direct and organized process for creators to invite official CIG representatives to their podcasts, videos, streams, and talk shows, as the Invite a Developer form is now live and integrated into the ticket system. Check out the FAQ to find out more.
And don’t forget: on October 10th, the entire CIG team will celebrate current and future developments of Star Citizen and Squadron 42 at the Long Center in Austin, Texas. The first wave of CitizenCon tickets is gone, but stay tuned in the coming months for further details and more chances to get tickets.
WE’LL SEE YOU NEXT MONTH…
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