Other News, Blogs & Casts

Joint Ops

INN - 3 hours 41 min ago

A long time ago, in a totally different epoch of INN, I started a series called SpaceOps Strategy because I was fascinated by the possibilities of managing joint operations in a zero G environment and I wanted to explore the idea. Fast forward to today, when I discovered this amazing video created by two exceptionally talented Star Citizen Organizations: UEMC and VVar Machine

In it, they demonstrate the effective use of tight communication, coordinated tactical maneuvers, maintaining a secure bubble around their package, and formation flying. On top of demonstrating great skills in-game, the video itself is well shot and produced. I’m looking forward to seeing more!

The post Joint Ops appeared first on INN.

Guard Frequency Episode 168 | Up Ship Creek Without A CCU

Guard Frequency - Tue, 05/23/2017 - 09:14
Greetings Citizens and Civilians, you’re tuned to episode 168 of Guard Frequency — the best damn space sim podcast ever! This episode was recorded on May 19th 2017 and released for streaming and download on Tuesday, May 23rd 2017 at GuardFrequency.com [Download this episode] In this week’s Squawk Box, there’s iron in them there asteroids! Next, we […]

Guard Frequency Episode 167 | Harry Potter and the Salami of Secrets

Guard Frequency - Tue, 05/09/2017 - 03:14
Greetings Citizens and Civilians, you’re tuned to episode 167 of Guard Frequency — the best damn space sim podcast ever! This episode was recorded on May 5th 2017 and released for streaming and download on Tuesday, May 9th 2017 at GuardFrequency.com [Download this episode] In this week’s Squawk Box, Elon’s at it again! Next, a slightly different […]

Guard Frequency Episode 166 | Trappists of Strikes

Guard Frequency - Tue, 05/02/2017 - 13:48
Greetings Citizens and Civilians, you’re tuned to episode 166 of Guard Frequency — the best damn space sim podcast ever! This episode was recorded on April 28th 2017 and released for streaming and download on Tuesday, May 2nd 2017 at GuardFrequency.com [Download this episode] In this week’s Squawk Box, Trappist-1 may be throwing its life forms all […]

Introducing the UEE Advocacy Office of the Ship Registry

INN - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 15:26

Behind the scenes, the INN publishing team, with help from testers at Those Guys with Ships and The Republic of Lorell, recently developed a brand new tool for the community and we’re ready to share it! Introducing the UEE Ship Registry website, allowing members of the Star Citizen community to finally name all the ships in their hangar with a single system of record.

With the UEE Ship Registry, you can search for ships which have already been named using a detailed, advanced search feature. You can also see who registered ships, where they are primarily registered, what kind of ship it is, and what it’s being used for. Of course, y

Of course, you can also register your fleet and come back later to log in and add more ships or edit your existing fleet as needed.

Check out the UEE Ship Registry Today!

 

The post Introducing the UEE Advocacy Office of the Ship Registry appeared first on INN.

Republic of Lorell: Borders Closed

INN - Wed, 04/26/2017 - 12:14

Today, the Republic of Lorell naval command issued an update regarding their recent border closure. Earlier this week, the Republic was infiltrated by three agents whose objective was to develop trust and eventually board and disable the Republic flagship, the RLS Sarpedon, the RoL Idris currently parked at Crusader L1, so other members of their pirate org could then board the ship and take command.

The pirates’ plans were foiled when the Office of Naval Intelligence received a tip that they had been infiltrated. After interrogations, two of the infiltrators were executed and third was released on the condition he does not return to any Republic-controlled space.

Out of an abundance of caution, the Republic closed their borders while Intelligence officers review their security procedures. However, they are planning to reopen their borders shortly. As to why the Republic was targeted, we’ve learned this was a random crime of opportunity.

We reached out to the UEE about this incident and on the growing piracy problem in Crusader, but they elected not to comment at this time.

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The post Republic of Lorell: Borders Closed appeared first on INN.

Guard Frequency Episode 165 | Using Boston Pronunciation

Guard Frequency - Tue, 04/25/2017 - 06:15
Greetings Citizens and Civilians, you’re tuned to episode 165 of Guard Frequency — the best damn space sim podcast ever! This episode was recorded on April 21st 2017 and released for streaming and download on Tuesday, April 25th 2017 at GuardFrequency.com [Download this episode] In this week’s Squawk Box, NASA is taking a dive, and we’re not […]

Guard Frequency Episode 164 | Doug Drexler of Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise…

Guard Frequency - Tue, 04/18/2017 - 01:49
Greetings Citizens and Civilians, you’re tuned to episode 164 of Guard Frequency — the best damn space sim podcast ever! This episode was recorded on April 14th 2017 and released for streaming and download on Tuesday, April 18th 2017 at GuardFrequency.com [Download this episode] This week’s show is going to be a long one, so we’re […]

INN’s Wolf Larsen on the Versecast Podcast

INN - Mon, 04/17/2017 - 12:41

Hey Citizens! This week Wolf Larsen, INN’s founder and creator, joined friend and org-mate Gleep on the Versecast podcast. Wolf and Gleep talk about BarCitizen, INN, Republic of Lorell, Starship Crew Connector, Roleplay, and more!

http://files.enjin.com/300849/Podcast/Versecast/episodes/Versecast_150.mp3

Tune into Versecast every week for more great Star Citizen community content and learn more about Those Guys with Ships.

The post INN’s Wolf Larsen on the Versecast Podcast appeared first on INN.

Guard Frequency Episode 163 | Readings from a Fuschia Canoe

Guard Frequency - Tue, 04/11/2017 - 07:47
Greetings Citizens and Civilians, you’re tuned to episode 163 of Guard Frequency — the best damn space sim podcast ever! This episode was recorded on April 7th 2017 and released for streaming and download on Tuesday, April 11th 2017 at GuardFrequency.com [Download this episode] In this week’s Squawk Box, it’s a race! For real-life space bucks! […]

Guard Frequency Episode 162 | Don’t Panic, and Squawk 7700

Guard Frequency - Tue, 04/04/2017 - 02:14
Greetings Citizens and Civilians, you’re tuned to episode 162 of Guard Frequency — the best damn space sim podcast ever! This episode was recorded on March 31st 2017 and released for streaming and download on Tuesday, April 4th 2017 at GuardFrequency.com [Download this episode] In this week’s Squawk Box, we talk about reusable rockets and robot revolutions! […]

April #BarCitizenLA Announced

INN - Thu, 03/30/2017 - 13:01

I’m excited to announce the date and location for #BarCitizenLA April! Bar Citizen events are the best way to get together with fellow citizens in your local area to talk about life in the ‘Verse!

Join us at 7PM at Ye Old King’s Head in Santa Monica, California on April 8th, 2017. At this month’s event members of the CIG team will be joining us including Community Managers Jared Huckaby and likely Tyler Witkin, who will be visiting from Austin. INN will also be sponsoring a couple door prizes and free swag.

Ye Old King’s Head has a great menu of food and drinks so come hungry and thirsty. Check out our pictures from last time we held the event there.

The post April #BarCitizenLA Announced appeared first on INN.

Guard Frequency Episode 161 | David Wessman, Jack Mamais and Zack Harsch of Starfighter Inc

Guard Frequency - Tue, 03/28/2017 - 02:28
Greetings Citizens and Civilians, you’re tuned to episode 161 of Guard Frequency — the best damn space sim podcast ever! This episode was recorded on March 24th 2017 and released for streaming and download on Tuesday, March 28th 2017 at GuardFrequency.com [Download this episode] This week we’re skipping Squawk Box to bring you another interview, this […]

Around the Verse: What is Mega Map?

INN - Mon, 03/27/2017 - 17:42
Published on Mar 23, 2017, this edition of Around the Verse: What is a Mega Map, Sandi Gardiner and Forrest Stephan share how mega-map improves playability in Star Citizen, while Eric Kieron Davis stops by with the Los Angeles studio update.

Transcript: Around the Verse – What is Mega Map? Introduction
  • Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing)
  • Forrest Stephan (CG Supervisor)

SANDI: Hello and welcome to Around the Verse, our weekly look at the development of Star Citizen. I’m Sandi Gardiner and while Chris Roberts visits the Frankfurt studio I’ve been joined today by CG Supervisor, Forrest Stephan. Thanks for stopping by Forrest.

FORREST: Thanks for having me, it’s great to be here.

SANDI: In today’s episode, we’ll share how the mega maps feature eliminates load screens between levels which means more time for gameplay and less time waiting. Very important stuff.

FORREST: Very important, but first let’s kick it off with Eric Davis in our Los Angeles Studio Update. Take it away Eric

Studio Update
  • Eric Kieron Davis (Senior Producer)

Hey all I’m Eric Kieron Davis, Senior Producer here in Los Angeles. We’ve had quite a busy month since we last talked so let’s just dig right in.

To start off our ship team has been working on the Drake Buccaneer. Art has created a custom dual weapon mount, all LODs have been generated, the Tech Content team has implemented UV2s and damage, Tech Design is making their “flight balance” pass, which will get it ready for “flight with sound”, VFX is making solid progress as well.

The Drake Buccaneer will be a great addition to the Drake lineup and we can’t wait until you’re in the cockpit.

The Ship team has also made a lot of progress on the newly revamped RSI Aurora. The white box phase is now complete, which includes a proxy laying out the space, establishing the animation positions, laying out the screens, and making sure the characters could hold the controls.

We’ve started the final geometry on the cockpit in an effort to improve the inside of the ship. Now that Tech Design has implemented all the art updates into the ship’s new archetype the RSI Aurora is heading into grey box.

It’s been awesome to see all these different pieces come together and breathe a whole new life into an already great design. We’re looking forward to finishing up and getting it back in the air.

There are a few other ships making their way through design as well as a slew of quality of life bugs/fixes for the upcoming 2.6.2 release but we’re not quite ready to reveal those just yet.

In addition to ship production, the tech design group completed design for multifunction displays or MFD screens which control power, heat, coolers, shields, weapons, countermeasures, and missiles in preparations for Item 2.0 functionality. These designer prototypes are meant to help us understand what’s needed and see how everything will interact with each other. Once these designs have been approved, the amazing UI team will create an interface to take advantage of that functionality that Engineering is implementing in the backend.

Once the system’s in place a ship that is staffed by knowledgeable crew will be able to operate their ship beyond the default system settings and min/max the various ship systems to suit, not only your playstyle, but potentially save your life during a devastating attack.

This month QA aided LA Development checking a variety of fixes for 2.6.2 while also providing support to Austin QA with PTU and Live sanity checks, smoke tests, sweeps and deployments, and helping new hires get up to speed with the game. As for feature work, the team swept ship destruction VFXs, Item System 2.0, and implementation of recent loadout changes, and tested multiple iterations of new targeting and ESP code.

For a quick reminder on quality assurance terms: A “sanity check” basically ensures the game loads which is now automated but still can take an hour and another 30-60 minutes to investigate any errors that arise. A “smoke test” checks the basic functionality but this takes six to eight people roughly a day if there aren’t any major issues. And a “full sweep” means checking everything you possibly can, a process which requires a much larger team and can take over a week. As you’d expect full sweeps are mostly arduous, rigorous, and intense but also incredibly important.

Over on the narrative team they’ve been hard at work at some additional 3.0 missions. They’ve also started much-needed documentation for posters and props to help populate the world of Star Citizen. They’ve also made a lot of progress on Xi’An history and society documentation by creating an equivalent time capsule approach for the Xi’An history from birth to present day.

Also, those that saw the 3Lateral head test portion of GDC a few weeks ago, we can now talk about how the team has been doing breakdowns of ethno groups in the Star Citizen universe, utilizing the power behind that technology as our character customization is rapidly coming together.

Now the engineering team has begun work on the new shop entity that uses data core components. It will allow shops to easily be streamed in and object containers (which will be finished in sprint). The plan is to make shops more dynamic and reactive to the economy by retrieving their inventory from the backend.

The engineering team also added a new attribute to vehicle XMLs that will allow designers to specify the interior grid type of the vehicle: small, medium and large. This is a pretty big optimization that will reduce memory storage as all ships previously defaulted to medium size.

Now last time we discussed the development of the new light group entity that was equipped with a state machine to serve as the ultimate light switch. Now the implementation of the core state switching functionality is complete. The next step is to start using the light group in our vehicles and environments, and replace all instances of old layer switching method of light management.  This new light group entity has allowed us to reduce the number of lights we’ve been using which has dramatically impacted performance. For example, on the Drake Caterpillar we were able to reduce from hundreds, almost thousands, of entities down to 90 or less with no visual impact. And that’s just the beginning. In the upcoming weeks, we’ll continue to evolve the Light Group with additional features based on feedback from other departments.

We’ve also been developing a framework in IFCS, or Intelligent Flight Control System, for the autopilot to handle situations like a takeoff and landing sequence. This also applies to AI control. They’ll be providing AI developers with a set of tools for controlling the ship like a “move to” or “change to”, etc. This will improve stability and predictability of ship motion under optimal conditions.

There was also a large update to our room system and atmospheric containers with the addition of several new features as well as better debugging tools and several bug fixes. So far the room system has only been implemented in a few locations but these changes will allow us to fully implement rooms and atmospheres throughout the various locations and ships in the game.

At the moment, all the airlocks you enter and exit are scripted events; they don’t factor in atmosphere of any kind. With this new system, we’ll be able to replace this set up with an actual room and atmosphere that allows for a dynamic experience.

In addition to the room system changes, they’ve added a feature to allow designers and artists to set wear and dirt parameters for loadouts. This functionality comes in two levels: overall as well as individual values for specific items. Wear and dirt values are used by the render node to set shader parameters that make items look older, dusty, scuffed up, and burnt out. You’ve seen an example of this on the module surface outpost seen in the last week’s Studio Update. This task also used loadout editor side work where the team added UI support to edit wear and dirt.

We’ve recently also started working on a pretty massive task called the entity owner manager. To give you a little background this is a core feature required to take our gameplay from a multiplayer game to a persistent online experience. This system will be responsible for managing ownership and lifetimes of all the entities in the game and will work in conjunction with the backend persistent systems to indicate dynamic changes to the world that need to be tracked and persisted across sessions. The entity owner manager will also need to work with various game and engine systems including debris, salvage, criminality, streaming, missions, cargo, shop and much more to help create the persistent experience across clients and servers.

In other news, the team has been working on scanning subcomponents which require us to do some slight refactoring of object databank. Now the databank can support the storage of child entities which will be the subcomponents on ships, players, etc.

In doing this we also improved the thread safety of accessing data within the databank which allows us to move some calculations onto other threads which will help improve performance. This work is focusing on two big elements, the ping component and angle of focus.

The ping component is the method in which a player or a pilot will send out a wave to see if there are objects out there of note within their scan range. This could also be a ship, an asteroid or even signal traces that mark whether a player entered or exited quantum travel. Other players can detect these traces which could have some pretty heavy game implications. For example, if you’re an outlaw it could allow you to track potential prey.

Angle of focus allows players to adjust the angle with which they’re scanning. A smaller angle will provide more range but only contacts within the angle can be detected. We’re currently refactoring the underlying radar query logic to use zone queries rather than a huge iteration of registered radar objects which will make the scanning system much more efficient.

Now if you remember from our last update, our tech content team supports and implements every pipeline within Star Citizen and Squadron 42. One of the main focuses for this team is performance improvements, for instance we’ve changed our mesh vertex and position formats which massively improve streaming of these meshes as well as reduces the build size.

They’ve also been improving the Python integration within our editor which allows for faster development of Python tools usable by every departments across the company. They can now script any sandbox process they want, for example, placing asteroids, generating modular outposts, etc. All of which saves tremendous amount of development time on otherwise tedious and time consuming tasks.

You also may have noticed the player’s helmets were disappearing once they got to a certain distance away from you. As discussed in the character customization featurette not too long ago, we’ve now converted all helmets to a .skin format. The conversion was important to allow a unified LOD ratio across the character skins meaning no more helmetless people running around the ‘Verse. So, don’t be afraid as the oxygen system comes online we would hate to be the reason you lose that FPS battle on the dark side of the moon.

To ensure this is easier in the future, tech content has also created tools that rig skins and exports automatically. This dramatically reduces dev time from potentially an entire day down to just a few minutes. Now that helmets are optimized heads were next on the agenda. We’ve successfully converted all heads to use the human skin shader developed by our graphics team. Since we do 44 different areas of blended wrinkles and blended diffuse our texture cost was quite high at about 100 megs per head.

With this change, we were able to save roughly 90% of the original texture memory cross without a discernable visual impact. This means we can have a lot more characters in the scene without melting your graphics card.

With the implementation of the female character progressing rapidly, we’ve transferred thousands of animations from male to female to complete her motion set and provide a data for animation to start iterating on. This will also allow us to focus on refinement and subtleties without compromising on what she’ll be able to do while exploring the universe. There’s quite a bit more to do but we’re making leaps forward every day.

Another character animation tool the tech content team has completed is this track and report the number of various wildlines each character will have in the universe. With over 1255 pages of script for Squadron 42 which includes all storylines as well as wildlines, we needed a tool to continuously generate reports on how many we’ve completed and what we have left to solve. Once the various lines are all in the system we’ll be able to pull those lines based on player action and situation and randomize the potential wildline response so the NPCs aren’t repeating the same line all the time.

To help our cinematics team focus on content need for Squadron 42, a tool was written to allow for visibility of scenes before they even hit the engine. This allows for fast exporting of animations and preview renders which would then automatically uploaded to Shotgun which makes it much easier and faster to review the many hours of cinematics for Squadron 42.

The character team has been blasting through the concept phase, the high poly phase and on to the in-game mesh of the heavy outlaw. Next it’s going to go into rigging and implementation. We’ve also sent the light, medium and heavy female marine armor as well as the under suit to rigging and implementation. Once we had that male base suit done we utilized a wrap technique with adjustments to save development time and we’re sure getting everything together as quickly as possible. Another suit that has moved through the high poly phase is the female explorer suit. So, she’ll be exploring the universe in no time.

On the Squadron 42 character front, both the EVA deck crew and the marine BDU have gone through high poly and are on to the in game mesh and texturing phase, which means it should be in rigging and implementation in no time.

In a category of things we can’t talk about, we’ve continued developing the Vanduul as well as medium and heavy versions of the OMC outlaw faction and lastly the mechanized Titan suit is in R+D along with other alien concept sculpts and a whole lot more we can’t reveal just yet but stay tuned for updates in the coming weeks. Well, that does it here for Los Angeles, thank you so much for your support, we’ll see you again soon.

Back in the Studio

SANDI: As you may have seen on our production schedules, our developers have been working on a new system called mega map. Understandably, some of you may not know what that means.

FORREST: It is a tough concept to grab. In the simplest terms, mega map means to eliminate the loading screens. So, it basically streamlines the Object Containers while loading in and out the different areas and the different game modes.

SANDI: The goal of mega maps is to allow players to travel through the universe without interruption or lag time. To better explain how mega map does this let’s take a look.

Mega map

Rob Johnson (Lead Gameplay Programmer)

Clive Johnson (Lead Network Programmer)

ROB: The mega map is a new feature that we’re putting into the game to cut a lot of the frustrations with load times out for people, since you eliminate load screens altogether.

The issues that drove us to this technology come from the unprecedented scale of this universe we’re creating. What this means is we couldn’t load it into one map without crippling memory and performance, so we divided it up and put segments into object containers which we could load as needed.

The problem with that was that it meant players would need to wait for a series of load screens as they moved about in the game. The mega map was our solution.

We load the mega map as we would a standard map. The mega map itself is empty, but once the mega map is loaded, we actually start to fill the mega map with content of various game modes, fire and object containers. So, we would load the mega map which is empty. Load the front end, which is a set of object containers. Load the front-end game rules which tells the game how to work in that game mode. The user would then pick a new game mode to play.

At that point we throw away all the object containers. We throw away the game mode; load in the Free Fly game mode and the Dying Star object containers, but we do that via streaming rather than a complete level load, so we are able to shave the vast majority of the load time down to a few seconds rather than long enough to warrant a load screen.

As you can see, even with mega maps switched on there is still a load stall. It’s only a few seconds compared to the 30 seconds it takes to load without the mega maps feature, but it is still something we’re working to eliminate by making the feature operate asynchronously.

Gameplay wise that’s great for players if they want to be in the front end changing some settings. They can go to a hangar. They can put some items in their hangar, look at their ships then immediately go back to the front end, no load screens, pick a game mode, race mode. They can dive straight into race mode, play around with one ship, decide they don’t like that ship, come back to the front end, switch to a new ship (still no load screens) rather than having a process where they’re setting on the front end and they have to think carefully where they want to go, because they know the load screen coming up, go there, do some stuff and then load screen again.

So, by adding this new feature we’re putting into the game the first application of a lot of the object container streaming which will be a fundamental part of the P.U. experience moving forward as the P.U. becomes essentially like its own mega map with a bunch of sets of object containers that will stream in and out as you move through that map.

The thing that makes it tricky in terms of game-play programming is with the new flow we’re now not destroying and recreating the player between game modes, so with the new setup it potentially makes it easier to persist. Some of the player’s attributes between these game modes, because the fact that we’re not destroying them and recreating them.

So, one of the more interesting bugs that the new mega map flow has produced was QA finding that they could place down a liquor cabinet in their hangar, take a few swigs from a bottle, get slightly blurry vision wise then decide that they didn’t want to be in the hangar anymore. They want to go to go fly their ship in free flight. However, with this new flow the player is not being destroyed and recreated, so unfortunately for you, the player, you now find yourself in the ship with blurry vision trying to fly through space which is probably not the best thing for a player to be doing. So, something we’ll obviously be looking to fix, but a nice illustration of the kind of interesting challenges that we face in fixing up this new flow.
CLIVE: Mega map for multiplayer is a little bit more complicated. It builds on top of the single player implementation. The tech is the same up to a point. The additional challenge is that each level in our multiplayer game lives in its own server to handle the tens of thousands of players who might visit it at any one time.

A multiplayer match and it comes to an end and you want to change to another multiplayer game mode and map then you’re going to have to unload the map that you’re into, Dying Star, go out to the front and make your selections to what you want to do, and then load into the next map, say Broken Moon doing Pirate Swarm or whatever.

Because you’re going from connecting to a server back to the front end, we’re going to drop the connection, but we’ve got to keep the mega map in memory, empty out all its contents, put all the front-end pieces in, let the player make a selection, and then go and connect to another server while keeping a map in memory at the same time, and then stream in all the new pieces for the new map.

It’s a bit like trying to unplug your computer and then re-plugging it without losing power. And that’s not the way we’ve been doing things before. It’s been very much, get to the end of a match, you drop the connections to the server, you clear everything out, it’s kind of like a hard reset of a system, load in the front end, make your selection, into that hard reset of the system, connect to the next server.

So, we’re just keeping the map in memory but switching connections and servers, switching between single player/multiplayer game modes at the same time, without doing this reset, which is a bit of a challenge.

The way the engine is being built, it’s kind of the assumption that once a system starts up it’ll either be in single player mode or it’ll be in multiplayer mode and it’ll always stay that way until the system shuts down again. Now we’re changing these things dynamically all the time, so that can create a log of bugs. It’s kind of been a process of trying it out, find out what it breaks, fixing it, trying it again, find out what it breaks, fixing it, and we just keep doing that over and over.

Taking a system like Crusader, extending it, you might have an object container for each of the stations, each of the comm arrays. There will be an object container that contains references to the object containers for where all these other things are and they’ll be just sort of left there in a very lightweight form. Then as you head toward, say, Port Olisar the object container for Port Olisar will get loaded in and expanded. That may contain other object containers that contain the interior or different decks or whatever, and they’ll get loaded in on demand.

You have a skeleton structure that’s defined by an object container and then you can fill in the various parts and collapse them down again, load out another part. Then it will scale it going down to let’s say a room as an object container. Assemble them together to make a deck, assemble them together to make a space station, that’s an object container, interior and exterior possibly could be different object containers. That’s linked to an object container in space that says where that space station is, and that will be parented by a sort of root system object container that says where all the different space stations are in that system, different planets and so on. It kind of scales out that way.

So far it’s only been done for the Star Marine maps and Arena Commander maps. When we bring this technology over to PU it’ll have to be done through Crusader and the other systems will come online. It’s a lot of work that we need to do but the technology is kind of at the point where we can start seeing the benefits of it now.

Star Citizen is a question of scale really, isn’t it? It’s taken a standard game and made it much bigger than anything else that’s currently out there. The only way that you’re going to be able to do that is by focusing on what the player needs to know and tailoring that experience for each player even though they’re all connected to the same server. So, you’re always looking for opportunities to not do something. Avoid that little bit of work. Well, on the computer side of things anyway.

Back in the Studio

SANDI: Thanks, guys for that insight on mega maps. Cutting down on wait times is really important to improving gameplay.

FORREST: Absolutely. I also look forward to seeing the multiplayer mega maps rolled out in Star Citizen.

SANDI: Yah! And then many players will be able to traverse the universe at the same time.

Now before we wrap up today’s show we want to express our gratitude to all of our subscribers.

FORREST: Yeah shows like this one would not be possible without your support which is why we are rolling out new subscriber perks. Due to popular requests from our current subscribers we’ve got a third edition of Jump Point in the works and we’re also making the free flight of the month a permanent edition for all of the subscribers. More details on the Subscriber Perk, so take a look.

Subscriber Perks
  • Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing)
  • Alexis Lesnick (Subscription Manager)

SANDI: Hey everyone I’m Sandi Gardiner.

ALEXIS: And I’m Alexis. We wanted to take this chance to thank all of our subscribers, both Centurions and Imperators for your ongoing support.

SANDI: We look forward to continuing the journey with you and we’ve updated your subscriber perks.

ALEXIS: If you’re new to the Star Citizen community, Star Citizen’s subscription programs were created to provide an added level of community interaction and off you some unique perks. As a subscriber, Centurion, or Imperator you get access to Jump Point.

SANDI: Jump Point is Star Citizen’s monthly magazine featuring interviews with the dev team, in-depth looks at the process of building game assets along with new fiction and lore pieces.

There’s also the vault which is updated weekly with all sorts of ship concepts, environments, and characters.

ALEXIS: Subscribers allow us to create all of our video content. Shows like: Around the Verse, Bugsmashers, Loremaker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Happy Hour, and Citizens of the Stars. As well as more in depth events like 10 for the Chairman and the Subscribers’ Town Hall.

SANDI: We like to put you behind the scenes here, hear from the creators themselves about the development of Star Citizen. Centurions and Imperators get exclusive access to submit questions for Chris and the rest of the dev team to be answered during 10 for the Chairman or Town Hall videos.

ALEXIS: You also get access to the subscriber forums where you can interact with other subscribers and myself, as well as participate in subscriber only polls and Q&A threads.

SANDI: A new perk for all subscribers is our ship of the month club.

ALEXIS: That’s where we unlock a ship for subscribers to test fly. So if you’re dueling it out in Arena Commander or exploring the space around Crusader, you can try out a new ship every month. Imperators will also have access to test flight all available ships and variants when new patches go live for a duration of one week.

SANDI: Subscribers get a variety of other extras including early access to event tickets and discounts on physical merchandise as well as subscriber exclusive merchandise.

ALEXIS: And for the collector in you, there’s a free hanger decoration every month. These have ranged from models of ships, glowing algae plants, and even an ancient underwater creature skull for your in-game hangar.

SANDI: Imperator subscribers get a little extra. Double the flair, double the discount coupon, plus your ship of the month roster is expanded too. You can get access to some of the limited alien ships like the Vanduul, Xi’An, and Banu ships as they become available.

ALEXIS: So again, thanks to all of our subscribers.

SANDI: …And we will see you…

BOTH: In the ‘Verse

Back in the Studio

FORREST: In addition to the new subscriber perks, all active subscribers or anyone becomes a subscriber before April 17th will receive an awesome piece of flair, a Big Benny’s Vending machine.

SANDI: That’s a great addition to any hanger and if you’re interested in learning more about our subscriber program, click on the link in the description below.

FORREST: And that’s all for today’s show. Again, thank you to all of our subscribers as well as our backers. None of this would be possible without you so, so much thanks for everything.

SANDI: Also, please join us tomorrow at 12 Pacific for Star Citizen Happy Hour for a special game development episode. Jared Huckaby, Tyler Nolin, and Tyler Witkin will be joined by Technical Designer, Calix Reneau.

FORREST: After the excitement of last week’s basketball half court reveal in the U.K. studio update. Calix will try his hand at creating a first pass game mechanic that might make it possible to shoot hoops in the game. Of course, this isn’t a mechanic scheduled to go in game, but it will be a fun behind the scenes look at digital scripting, all the same.

SANDI: Wow, sounds like a must-see episode. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you.

BOTH: Around the Verse!

 

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Loremakers Guide to the Galaxy: Elysium

INN - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 08:23

Originally published on April 26, 2016 as a segment of Around the Verse #2.25: In our third episode, Writer William Weisbaum from the CIG Lore Team explores the Elysium System.

LOREMAKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY: ELYSIUM

Hello and welcome to another edition of Loremaker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  I’m your host for today, Will Weissbaum, Senior Writer, here at CIG in beautiful sunny Los Angeles, California.  On today’s episode we’ll be taking a look at Elysium, which is a fantastic system for all its history.  Let’s go take a look at it now.

So we are starting off on Earth. This beautiful blue marble we all call home, but not for much longer as we’re going to expand out through the stars.  [whispering] Let’s go . . to Elysium.  How about that?  Magic.  So it is a five planet system that was discovered way back in November 15, 2541.  And what was so noteworthy about this system upon it’s discovery was that it was inhabited.  It was not an empty system.  We quickly learned that there was another space faring race called the Tevarin living on Elysium IV or as they called it Kaleeth [pronounced Kay-lith] or Kaleeth [pronounced Kay-leeth].  Depending on whether you want to use the right or incorrect pronunciation.

So the UPE, the United Planets of Earth, the government at the time were very excited to discover a whole new race. They were spacefaring technology wise but not as quite as advanced as us humans.  And we thought it was a great opportunity to expand our reach and incorporate an entirely new alien species into our civilization.

Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out that way, because the Tevarin attacked us. They wanted what we had and it was a full all out war, our first interspecies war, and it was terrible, but what came out of it was the rise of a young Colonel Ivar Messer who rose through the ranks and became the hero of the war at the famous Battle of Idris IV where he managed to turn the tide of the offensive and really stick it to those Tevarin. Even though the Tevarin weren’t as technologically advanced as we were, they were brilliant strategists and were able to hold out much longer than anyone thought, even taking over human systems and driving our forces back.

So, by the end of these four years we were able to conquer them. We sent them fleeing out into the verse, hiding in various places in Banu and Xi’An space. So after that moment, we started colonizing and terraforming worlds that were formerly part of the Tevarin Empire were now part of the human empire, as Ivar Messer had now become the Imperator and had transformed the United Planets of Earth eventually into the United Empire of Earth.

Now, everything seemed to be going well as humans settled into Elysium until around 2603 when the Tevarin returned with a vengeance and they had a new leader.They had a new leader called Corath’Thal, who was dead set on reclaiming the Tevarin homeworld for his people.  He burned a path through the stars fighting his way towards Elysium. There was in Centauri the famous Battle of Centauri where Squadron 42 had their first major victory ever in shutting down the Tevarin offensive after a grueling seven years of fighting. Rather than accept the defeat, the Tevarin pushed through the jump in Centauri and fought their way towards their home planet knowing that it was a doomed effort until they finally turned down their shields.

Oh, oops that was Nul. They did not . . they did not go to Nul. [laughs]  However, they did go to Elysium where eventually they turned off their shields and crash landed onto the planet burning up in the skies of Elysium IV which some of you may have seen in the famous painting that commemorated the moment that was called, ‘Tears of Fire’. Some of you may have seen the famous moment of the ships crash into the planet’s atmosphere burning up in the famous painting, ‘Tears of Fire’ that commemorated this historic moment. So after the Second Tevarin War, the Tevarin were pretty much shattered and humanity was kind enough to offer them a place amongst us as a subjugated people which catches up to 2610.

So that’s a little bit of the back story that marks Elysium. Let’s go now and start looking at the system itself. Currently it’s got four known jump points: one between Elysium and Centauri, another between Elysium and Leir, an Elysium – Idris jump point, and an Elysium – Vanguard jump point. It’s a little bit telling about how this system works. The Vanguard one of course is Vanduul space, which is a threatening area.

Centauri itself is a pretty happening system. It’s home to MISC So, there’s a lot of business traffic that flows through there. In Leir, Leir is kind of an outsider system home, in fact, to the Outsiders, so traffic to there is a little bit odd to say the least. And finally, there’s Idris which still is trying to regain its footing after the Battle of Idris IV which left it terribly scared. So, a medium amount of traffic heading in and out of this system, which is, Elysium today is still trying to find it’s footing in the Empire, it’s known mostly for it’s historical significance but it’s trying to forge ahead and define itself in the world of 2946.

So let’s look at the sun now, so the Elysium star is an F-Type main sequence star, it’s 1-to-1.4 times the mass of our sun with a white-to-yellow light. It burns hotter and faster than our sun, so it’s going to give it a little bit of a shorter lifespan than you would expect for a system but of course a shorter lifespan in terms of the galaxy is still billions and billions of years – 2-to-4 billions to be precise, or unprecise as I gave a range of numbers, instead of a exact one.

Now, next up, moving away from the star is, we have, Elysium I, which is kind of a cool planet in itself, in that it is a hot Jupiter, in classification known as a migrating gas giant which was believed to have been formed in the outer reaches of the system and then migrated inwards sweeping up loose planets and stuff in it’s path until it settled in very close to the star itself, only about .1au away. This means that its surface gas is very hot, creating a lot of wind surfing around it and a very even surface temperature. So it’ll be interesting trying to fly there to harvest things because of its proximity to the sun.

From Elysium I, we’re going to head on out to Elysium II, which is a coreless planet – coreless doesn’t mean that it’s hollow on the inside, it means that it just doesn’t have a magnetic core so it’s all throughout without a spinning coil like Earth has, which means it’s kind of like a dead lifeless rock in the system floating around. Some mining to be done there, but it still hasn’t been heavily developed yet.

Its surface is heavily impacted by craters which have led many scientists to speculate that there was some significantly large impact in its past but the Tevarin don’t indicate anything during their time and scientists are still trying to work out exactly what happened through research.

So, heading out from Elysium II, we’re going to head over to Vosca, Elysium III, which is a desert planet, which is really cool, when we took over this system from the Tevarin, this world was pretty much left alone, it was desert, arid, really warm, very little water, and it seems that the Tevarin did not have terraforming technology like we did. So when the UEE took over, one of the things they did was terraform the planet.

Now, a lot its surface is sparsely inhabited. Still, even though it’s terraformed, it’s still very rough place to live, very little when it comes in terms of water, there is some water mining at the polar caps but they are pretty small, a lot of the water has to be either shipped in on haulers or from water harvesting units that are scattered throughout the desert.

One of the major landing zones on the planet is Rez’s Landing which is an arcology built by Rehari Inc. used to mine some of the resources in the planet. It’s been digging itself deeper and deeper, as the years goes it struggles to find more and more resources, more and more resources to harvest. It is represented in the Senate, so… Even though it’s sparsely populated, it does have representation in the Senate.

Moving on from this desert world, we’re going to head probably to the highlight of the system which is Jalan. Now, Jalan is formerly for the Tevarin, Kaleeth, it was their homeworld and to date it probably houses more Tevarin architecture and historical sites than any other planet in the system.

Big part of this is doing to the Tevarin Purge where after the Second Tevarin War, a lot of the remaining Tevarin sought to free themselves from their connection to their past that had failed them so much. And a lot of these important sites were destroyed by the Tevarin themselves. However, because Jalan was in human control at the time, a lot of these sites were preserved for future generations to appreciate.

The main city on Jalan, is the capital, Gemma, which hosts a major temple upon a mount which from searching through the Tevarin records we know they chose the site because of its strategic importance – that it was well fortified and easy to defend rather than any kind of beautiful vista or religious significance.

The temple is a Rijora temple, which was the battle religion of the Tevarin. It’s a major tourist site today, and a lot of preservation efforts are currently going on to save the Tevarin artifacts from being destroyed just from ship traffic and people walking around so there’s a major effort right now to conserve the site.

Even though it goes against kind of one of the major industries on Gemma, which is tourism – so trying to balance those two is an issue that’s going on. Landing in Gemma will appear different than landing in other worlds, because the landing port is designed to blend into the Tevarin architecture – so that’s kinda neat.

One of the major things that you might have been reading about recently is the upcoming election on Jalan IV – a Senate seat – the election is coming up on May 3rd, so debates are starting to heat up across the Spectrum as people decide which candidate to support – of note is the fact that it’s the first Tevarin running to be senator, Suj Kossi and he is an ex-military man, served in the Navy, and he has the criminal background himself before he earned citizenship – so he’s offering a lot of hope out there for the Tevarin for bettering their lives in the UEE. A lot of people are still holding grudges against those two wars, so it’ll be interesting to see whether he’s able to gain a seat or not. He is a Centralist and has a lot core beliefs and believes in the strength of the military and in the Central Government.

He’s going against two other candidates – one Sakae Marigold, who’s more of a Transitionalist and is looking to curtail military spending in light of the new war with the Vanduul and really focus in on rebuilding the social structures that are needed. There’s a lot of unemployment and poverty going on Jalan as the system itself hasn’t really struck it’s economy foothold yet – outside of its Tevarin artifacts and tourism.

The third candidate is Gabrielle Gracián who is a Centralist, she served on the Governor’s Council for a while and has the backing of the current administration. A little people, a lot of people are a little bit wary of electing her because they fear that it’ll be a return to the norm – but she has a lot of experience whereas the other two candidates don’t as much.

So moving on from Jalan, we’re going to head way out 12.6au out to Elysium V, which is a dwarf planet lurking way out in the stretches of the system and it is a small rocky body. So there you are. That is the Elysium system and I hope I was able to enlighten you on some of its finer points today – in that you enjoyed taking this Loremaker’s Guide to the Galaxy journey with me. Thank you so much.

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Guard Frequency Episode 160 | Updates and Feedbark

Guard Frequency - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 04:35
Greetings Citizens and Civilians, you’re tuned to episode 160 of Guard Frequency — the best damn space sim podcast ever! This episode was recorded on March 17th 2017 and released for streaming and download on Tuesday, March 21st 2017 at GuardFrequency.com [Download this episode] As the show’s being recorded on St Patrick’s Day, in this week’s […]

INNSide the ‘Verse: A Promising Young Marine’s Life Cut Short

INN - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 16:49
Obituary: CPL Charles Swann

Marine CPL Charles Swann, of 1st Battalion, 1st Platoon, in the Lorell Navy, passed away on Sunday, Marth 19th, 2947. CPL Swann, better known as ‘Charley’ to his friends in the service, was killed in action while covering his fellow Marines. The Republic of Lorell has no comments regarding the nature of CPL Swann’s mission at the time of his death.

Charley Swann grew up in New Orlando on Terra. He was an exceptional student who focused his studies on political science and military history. Charley also excelled at sports and was captain of the New Orlando High School Sataball team. After finishing school Charley declared his intent to ‘make a real difference’ and joined the Republic of Lorell Navy.

Outside of his exemplary devotion to military service, Charley Swann was known to be quite charitable with his time in Lorell. He spent his off-hours teaching the children of the Republic how to play the ancient earth game of Baseball. He was known to tell anyone who’d listen how to ‘pitch a curve ball’ in different atmospheric densities.

CPL Swann is survived by his parents, Tom and Judith Swann, of New Orlando, Terra. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations made to the Lorelli Orphan Fund, C/O The Office of Rear Admiral Galadriel Pope, RLN Sarpedon, Crusader System. A private memorial service will be held on Terra.

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Star Citizen: Around the Verse – Level Design

INN - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 15:03

In this episode of Around the Verse, published on March 16th, 2017, Lead Technical Designer Kirk Tome joins Sandi Gardiner for a detailed look on level design. Studio Director & Global Head of Production Erin Roberts reports on the UK’s progress in this week’s studio update. And stay tuned at the end for a very special montage of ship progress.

Introduction

  • Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing)
  • Kirk Tome (Lead Technical Designer)

SANDI: Hello and welcome to Around the Verse, our weekly look at the development of Star Citizen. I’m Sandi Gardiner. Since Chris Roberts is busy at our Manchester office, I’m joined by Lead Technical Designer, Kirk Tome.

KIRK TOME: It’s awesome to be here Sandi.

SANDI: Our community team is at it again following up their appearance last week as PAX East with a visit to SXSW this week, and this Saturday the Austin studio will be hosting a panel as part of the festival.

KIRK TOME: The team will share details about the Evocati testing group, the importance of the Issue Council, and more! So if you’re attending SXSW you should definitely stop by.

SANDI: Later in the show the design team will reveal what goes into the modular designs for level and layouts in Star Citizen, but first let’s head out to Erin Roberts in the U.K. for our studio update. So, let’s take a look.

Studio Update

With Erin Roberts (Studio Director)

Hi everyone, I’m Erin Roberts. I head up global production at Cloud Imperium Games and I manage our European studios. I’m based here in our Foundry 42 Winslow office which is about ten miles south of Manchester in the northwest of England. We’re now at 201 people in this office and we have a further nine employees at our new small Derby studio in the east midlands, which focuses on mainly facial animations but also some body animation for Squadron 42 and Star Citizen.

Already this year we’ve hired 22 new staff and for a bit fun we worked the combined games development experience of everyone in Foundry 42, UK, which comes to 1510 years. We’ve just finished work on expansion of the first floor of Freedom house in Winslow which is given us back some badly needed space as everyone was crammed onto just two floors for the last few months and it wasn’t great. The new floor is definitely a breath of fresh air and has given us 76 new desk spaces, two conference rooms named Retribution and Gladius and a great new break area called Fortune’s Cross. Some of these names you know, others you’ll be introduced to as Star Citizen grows.

We’ve got a pretty big update for you guys so let’s to some of the details of what we’ve been up to this last month.

On the programming side, we’ve been working on systems to push the quality and immersion of both Squadron 42 and the Persistent Universe. We’ve completed sprint two of the player interaction system which improves how the player interacts with items or picks up objects using the new highlighting and inner thought systems. This will allow a much more intuitive and accessible UI experience for players clearly identifying what they can interact with as well as a clean, smooth experience while doing so.

The new mission system is moving really well, we are now on sprint three and designers are using the new tools to set up missions in the PU. The old flow graph missions which were not scalable to the need of our dynamic universe are going away to be replaced with a tool which can create diverse and systemic missions, giving the player an abundance of different and diverse mission types.

Also tied to this, the design team here is now also using the new Frankfurt developed system editor tool known as Soled, to visually put together our system maps for Star Citizen. Both of these tools will really increase the productivity of our design teams.

We’ve completed two locomotion sprints, the first to blend the walking to full run and back to walk animations sets to create a much more realistic feeling for player inertia whilst using the keyboard. The second sprint was to vastly improve AI path following so characters traverse closed spaces and blend between animations in a much smoother manner.

Our graphics team has been busily working on improving and optimizing the lighting in the game. One part of this was a major upgrade to the quality and accuracy of rectangular lights which is a feature the artists have been requesting due to prevalence of these types of lights in science fiction films. Typically, game support to the rectangular lights is very limited due to their high cost which is why we spent a lot of time optimizing our shaders to make them viable. The diffuse lighting and the reflections are now much closer to real world behavior and the difference this makes for our character lighting is absolutely huge.

On the networking side, the team is finishing off the serialized variable which will reduce network bandwidth for the PU. They finished the new message queue to make the sending and receiving of packets more stable and are finishing off the new multiplayer mega-map, so players can quickly traverse to different game modes without the long load times of the past.

Animation has been very busy also, weapon reload, firing, hand pose, select, and deselect work has been worked on for the P4AR, P8SC, P8AR, Devastator shotgun, railgun, Gallant and Arrowhead. Previous work has been done for the oxygen and stamina sprint as well as feedback on the female rig so we can lockdown final posing. Other work includes a no weapon locomotion pass update, stop to sprint update, and the prone combat animation pass.

Our facial animators in our Darby studio have been focusing on a lot of S42 work to bring our characters in story to life as well as work on the PU for 3.0 to support fixes, bartenders, shopkeepers and general population wild lines.

The concept team’s work is ongoing on the Aegis Reclaimer’s interiors. The team has worked on a second pass on weapons to improve reload visuals and add detail where needed and work has been ongoing on new ship weapons also. There has also been a lot of concept work for both our PU and Squadron 42 environments to give our artists strong direction on our planetary landscapes, habitations and landing locations but also for our space environments and space stations…And it is looking really cool.

Moving on to the environment team, has lots of ongoing work for Squadron 42 but has also started early work on the truck stop experience including the interior modularity to show the variety of locations we’ll be able to place in the PU. The team has been working to keep the art style consistent while also accommodating all the functionality required by design. The planetary service outposts are just finishing their initial art sprint and the base building set is complete. The team have all the elements needed to create small outposts in multiple configurations which are being set up so they can be distributed across different landscapes.

Now we have our building blocks, we can start adding the details which  give them flavor and detail. Also with the service outpost the team is developing how our shaders will react when we place these architectural elements in various biomes. We are looking into a system which will help give us believable systemic integration without having to invest lots of bespoke art time.

Lastly, the environment team has been investing time in creating the visual targets for our space look and feel. Not only do we want to add lots of detail to our locations, moons and planets but also we want space itself to be exciting and interesting to explore, whether traveling through anything from a nebula or dense asteroid field to a space storm or anomaly.

The visual effects team has been focusing on a lot of planning to support our new planetary environments, including atmospheric flight effects and modular procedurally generated surface spaces. Work has been done on thruster and damage effects for the Constellation Aquila, high tech damage effects library updates building on last month’s explosion template and also further polish to ballistic SMG weapons.

The UI team has been working incredibly hard over the last months putting together what you guys have already seen with the new front end interfaces from 2.6 and are still strongly plowing ahead with the needs of both the PU and S42. This month’s work has progressed on our new kiosk shopping interface. Proven out by our prototype which allows us to make sure it works in all our locations and shop types. Also work is continuing on improving all our in-game HUD UI where they’re walking around or on a ship.

The audio team, as always, are supporting all the sprints and tie into and support most of the work the other teams do. This month the standout tasks include fixing up performance issues and tool improvements. Audio for new ships included the Dragonfly, Connie Aquila, Prospector, and Buccaneer.

Work on the music composition for both Squadron 42 and the PU, speech processing, fixes to weapon audio and finally Foley work so the right noises could be heard from different material types.

Anyway, that’s it from the U.K. office this month. I hope you all enjoyed the update and it gave you some insight into how much is going on not only in this office, but all throughout CIG as a lot of these features we talk about are a collaboration between teams spanning sometimes all five of our studios. Hopefully you get an interesting glimpse of why the team is working so hard to create a universe and level of immersion never seen in a computer game before. This is truly why Star Citizen is the Best Damn Space Sim Ever.

Once again I’d like to thank all our subscribers for helping us put together these updates together and of course everyone in the community for your incredible support. You are all powering us on to make this groundbreaking universe and dream come alive. It’s really appreciated by everyone here at Cloud Imperium Games. Thank you all, and I’ll see you in the ‘verse.

Back in the Studio

SANDI: Thanks Erin! It’s wonderful to see all the ways the Manchester office works with other studios to improve the Persistent Universe.

KIRK TOME: Yeah, I can’t wait to experience all the different missions and locations that will be available as the PU grows.

While we’re on the topic of the expanding PU, designing levels and layouts for Star Citizens is unlike level designing for any other game. While most games only want to take a player from point A to point B, Star Citizen needs to feel like a livable place so traditional game design techniques don’t always work.

SANDI: Which is why we sat down with the Game Director, Todd Papy and Lead Level Designer, Andreas Johansson. Up next they’ll share how their level design process is unique to Star Citizen.

Behind the Scenes: Level Design

  • Todd Papy (Design Director)
  • Andreas Johansson (PU Level Designer)

TODD PAPY: So, today we kind of want to talk about our level design process and in particular towards the Persistent Universe and how that differs from what we consider traditional level design processes.

Both of us come from a very traditional level design process, which is you’re building everything very bespoke. You start with what the level goal is, where it starts, where it ends and then everything getting from the start to end is tailor made and the path is completely chosen and tweaked and tuned by the designer as well as the artists until the product ships.

With all of the challenges that we need to build and solar systems that we need to build in S42 as well as Persistent Universe, we couldn’t use our traditional experience from there. So, we started talking about a modular system and what that will allow us to do is build archetypes of things and then from there go through and start switching out different modular pieces. So, why don’t you kind of run us through like a truck stop or…

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: Yeah, our greatest challenge is how do we populate the universe that is the size of our game with enough content to feel alive, right? We have a hundred solar systems in the game. We might have 50, might have a hundred space stations and we have a hundred space stations we’re looking at 10,000 locations which we have to build. And with the small team we have, four level designers, it would take us about 650 years to build that the traditional way, which was…

TODD PAPY: It’s totally achievable in our lifetime.

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: I mean it’s a long-term job situation, right? [Laughter]

TODD PAPY: Yeah, exactly.

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: So, I mean the only way we can really do that is like Todd said is with a modular system.

We do build our locations with a tile set, which is small pieces of walls and corners and doors that we put together into rooms, but this is still not fast enough. We have to find a quicker way to do this. So, the way we can approach this is looking into grouping these smaller tile sets into bigger entities, rooms. We have kitchens. We have toilets. We have locker rooms. We have lobbies. We have everything that you can imagine that you need on a space station to…

TODD PAPY: …To make it feel believable …

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: …Yeah, exactly. So, instead of building every location unique we build these rooms we populate the big library of assets and then we use these assets to put together the station itself in a much quicker way.

TODD PAPY: Correct, but even then when we’re talking about a base level of an archetype or something like that. We’re talking about a very neutral feel and look to that so that when we start adding these modular pieces in a hub section or something like that, you don’t really notice you know like if, if those base assets are in that neutral sets then you really start to noticing the repetition and…

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: Yeah.

TODD PAPY: …And everything.

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: So when we build things we build everything using a template tile set which is a complete that’s was like a neutral. It has no textures and nothing special on it, and then we build out the basic shapes.

We define the purpose of the room, and then we can convert that into many types of themes, low tech, high tech, all the things we have. But we also have another level on top of that which is the content of the room itself.

So, when they do a game that is an MMO, almost all MMOs use some kind of modular system or some kind of tile set to build their locations. You would always see repetition at some point. You will go into locations and say, “Bob, I’ve been in this room before”, and we want to get away from this, so we’ve gone through many iterations of the modular system and try to figure out how can we alleviate this in the best way possible. How can we make sure that even if it is the fifth time you go through this very room it still feels different?

TODD PAPY: And we have a couple of different ways of doing that…

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: Yeah.

TODD PAPY: …Like Andreas said we have the tile sets, so what we would consider low tech alpha, bravo, charlie, as well as high tech and then we have supermodernism and a few other tiles sets that will still need to be built and worked on.

Then from there we have wear and tear associated with that. So, there’s dirt passes. You know, how pristine is this truck stop? Is it in the middle of Crusader, so therefore there is a lot of money that’s around that one so that one will be in very pristine condition, versus something out in the middle of nowhere, and it’s super run down, and it feels more like a mom and pop or Route 66 kind of truck stop or something like that.

Then from there we’ve got like what he was talking about with the actual props that go inside there and then we also have the different levels of power. Piping that can go in there, so we can make it feel more like a derelict or it’s up and running and it’s got a certain amount of hustle and bustle associated with it based off the AI, or what is happening in the solar system at that time.

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: Yeah, so if you go back to for example the props that Todd mentioned that is something that is a very useful tool for us to change up the feeling of a location. The way we’re moving right now is that we won’t actually create, let’s say, a bathroom and fill it with all of the props that it needs. What we’ll do is we’ll create the shape of a bathroom and we’ll fill it with area shapes and volumes which can spawn in assets in different constellations. That means that you might go into exactly the same bathroom in one station and it looks one way. You go into the same bathroom in another station and there is a different amount of toilets. There is a different amount of sinks. The mirrors are in a different place. It looks different.

So, by using these kind of systems we can get a great amount of variation from our smaller component rooms and make the stations feel unique and different even though you’re actually playing with a similar room which you’ve seen before.

TODD PAPY: In the process, in us building this, I think we really started on this about a year and a half ago. And at that point it was just Andreas and another level designer that was really focused on this. And now we have the other resources really coming in.

Meaning art is coming in and working on how do we do this from an internal perspective, but also from an external perspective on the space stations.  And how do we make these things have unique silhouettes associated with them so that when you’re coming up to it you get a very clear read of what you are coming too, and the size of it, and what is it mean to be. Is it meant to be a very large space station or is it meant to be a small, little space station out in the middle of nowhere?

Then from there we also have a tech artists/coder that is working with us to build our modular system. This will allow us to run this tool which will allow us take these different shapes and combine them together with unique points of interest in those. And then basically randomize it, run through it, play it and see what it feels like. Randomize it again. And then this will allow us to generate the stations as quick as we possibly can because we do have a lot of content that we need fill. It’s just building up these tools, and building up these rooms, and the pipeline to actually flip the switch and really pump these things out.

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: One of the processes we’re looking into is we won’t have a level designer sitting and dragging rooms in the construction of a space station. That’s not how we are going to build it. Because we have the libraries of all the rooms that we can use in a space station. We have all the procedural generation of the props that exist in the rooms.

The way we are going to build it is we are going to create a basic flowchart of a station which indicates where rooms are supposed to be. You start with a hub, you come from elevator and you go into a hub, you might go into another corridor that has like a locker room or has a diner attached to it.

And we build this flow in a scripting tool and then from that flow we can generate a seed and we generate the location, basically the editor will generate a location, based on that flow.

So, taking the seed we can generate many, many different space stations with the same flow that will look completely different because we get different types of bathrooms. We specified it needs a bathroom so in one location it gets a small one and then another one has a medium one.

TODD PAPY: …Different stores…

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: …Different stores. It has different props in the rooms when you go into the location.

So, a space station will always look the same but you can have another space station based on the same seed that looks completely different. So, it might have the same hub but they actually feel different because they have different props and they have different layout of doors and connectors.

So, with that a level designer could technically throw out 20, 30 space stations in a day.

TODD PAPY: But …

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: But of course we have to go in…

TODD PAPY: …Yes…

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: …And double check all that information. We can’t just generate, ship to the Persistent Universe and it’s like “job’s done!”. That doesn’t work like that. We have to go in and verify the layout. So even though we can generate a large amount of seeds and a large amount of different stations we still have to do the proper work. We still have to go through, check the consistency of everything, see that it works, see that we don’t walk into a room and it’s a door into space and everyone has a very bad day. That would be pretty terrible.

TODD PAPY: We don’t know exactly how this will play out, I mean we have our ideas and I think once we’re fully through the R&D phase and can actually generate 15, 20 different truck stops we start seeing where the repetition happens and then at that point it will be trying to work out how can we cut down that repetition.

And then the other thing is since we’ll have so many different archetypes ideally the players’ not running into this area over and over and over again.

You know we’re still very early in the process.

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: Yeah.

TODD PAPY: We’re in white box phase. And really the artists have started to come in now and are breaking down these tile-sets for the satellites, for the planetary outposts as well as for the truck stop. Those are the three main ones that we’re focusing on right now and each one of them requires their own unique thought process on the modularity and how those things work. The overall idea is still the same: it’s just how do those things connect together is very different.

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: I just want to reiterate we’re not planning on shipping 50 space stations per day. That’s not possible.

TODD PAPY: Yeah.

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: It’s the possibility of generating the layouts.

TODD PAPY: Yes.

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: The actual stations will take quite a bit longer because you still have to make sure that everything exists and everything works.

TODD PAPY: With this modular system this is really to build out what we would consider our lower or even mid-tier space stations: we will still have very bespoke layouts. So, for example if you think about Grim Hex or you think about Hurston or Area 18 these are very bespoke layouts that we go through and do handcraft. In the future I think all of us would like to see if this system would work in actually building a city and doing it procedurally but this is really to build up the other 95% of the content that is in the universe besides just these big bespoke landing areas.

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: The way work has evolved over time form being not only level designers but more kind of spatial architects where, when in a traditional game when you build a level you have to think about gameplay, you have to think about covers and flow and where the enemy’s going to spawn and all this kind of thing. This is not what we are doing when we are building our locations because we want this to feel real, and want it to feel believable. It should be a place where people live and work for months at time.

When we build these locations we have to think about how does rooms connect together? What is the flow? How would people build this?

It’s much more thinking about the space as a living area for people instead of a gameplay space. And that is why the role of a designer, especially the level designer, has evolved into being a little bit more than just gameplay orientated.

TODD PAPY: It’s less about path from point of interest to point of interest to point of interest. This is about making sure that these areas feel absolutely believable. And that you understand that there was a thought process behind creating this.

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: Also being a space game it gives a little bit extra because if we go to space in the future as the human race we would build things modular…modularly.  I can’t even say that word even though I work with it a lot. So, it is not that strange of an approach to take. You would need things to function between different stations for repairs and for expansions of other things.

You might end up going to a location in space and it’s a pirate base but you can clearly see at some point this was an old mining outpost that after the ore ran out it got transitioned over to a nightclub for mercenaries and then it got taken over by pirates and now you have this…

TODD PAPY: …Which is basically what Grim Hex is…

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: Petty much. It’s all party there.

TODD PAPY: This is actually where we’re at in the level design process and I know it’s take us a long time to get to this point but there’s a lot of research and development that have going into the process and how these areas are constructed and definitely hasn’t been a simple task.

ANDREAS JOHANSSON: Measure twice, cut once. Right?

TODD PAPY: Exactly.

Back in the Studio

KIRK TOME: I appreciate the amount of detail they put into designing each truck stop and space station, especially with the assistance of a modular system.

SANDI: I agree and it’s really going to help the PU feel authentic.

And that’s it for this episode of ATV, but before we go we’d like to thank all of our subscribers whose contributions allow us to make shows like this, Citizens of the Stars, Bugsmashers, and Loremakers. If you’re not a subscriber and are interested in learning more, click on the link in the description below.

KIRK TOME: Of course, Star Citizen wouldn’t exist without our backers so a big thank you for everything, we wouldn’t be here with you.

SANDI: No we wouldn’t. And please join us tomorrow at 12 Pacific for Star Citizen: Happy Hour. Jared Huckaby, Tyler Witkin, and Community Streamer, Gritspitter will playing Star Marine with fans in Alpha 2.6.1.

KIRK TOME: Thanks for watching and we’ll see you.

BOTH: Around the Verse!

[Interference]

Special Feature: Ships

ERIN ROBERTS: Oh wait, didn’t I mention? The U.K. makes ships too. Hope you enjoy!

The post Star Citizen: Around the Verse – Level Design appeared first on INN.

Streamer Spotlight: Tirent_Longstar

INN - Mon, 03/20/2017 - 07:43

INN’s much-anticipated streamer spotlight series continues with Tirent_Longstar (Tirent). This in-depth spotlight article series seeks to (re)introduce unknown, not so well know, and very well known streamers – people passionate about sharing Star Citizen and other games while building better communities – to our audience. Enjoy!

For this spotlight, I had a chance to speak with Tirent_Longstar who has been streaming Star Citizen, and many other games, since 2015. Tirent strives to offer a good, entertaining time for regular visitors and new people alike. What sets Tirent and his channel apart from other streamers, depending on the game or occasion, is there may be costumes and/or props!

Interview ~ Streaming

When do you typically stream throughout the week? 

Any day I can turn on my computer, I try to stream. If I was able, I’d stream seven days a week. This is a goal to which I am striving.

Why did you decide to start streaming?

I started streaming for entertainment purposes. I want to entertain others and provide a good time. I want to share the gaming fun I am having and meet new people who love gaming . Helping others find community is the goal and having others in the channel motivates me and inspires me.

What do you enjoy most about streaming?

I enjoy capturing and sharing the true happiness of gaming on camera as it happens as well as the moments of failure and frustration.

When you stream, what type of engagement or atmosphere does Tirent_Longstar try to express/maintain?

Again, it is really all about the entertainment. I try to keep things very positive and relaxed. I try to facilitate a very interactive, fun community. We are all witnessing the roller coaster of excitement with the joys of accomplishment and the frustrations of failure in whatever game I am playing. We laugh and I try again.

Are you satisfied with your streaming? What else would you like to do?

I hope all who follow me enjoy what and how I do things. I am pretty satisfied with it, but I always try to up the entertainment factor where I can. I am not afraid to dress up a bit or bring in some props to add to the fun. I do want to form a larger following and stream more often, so I can build awareness about the games I like to play and share my experiences as I venture into new ones. I want to provide more giveaways too.

In addition to being a Star Citizen streamer, what other games do you like to stream?

I enjoy streaming Warthunder, various Steam early access games (Check them out before you buy!) and several MMO and/or FPS games. Recently, I’ve been playing a lot of Revelation Online and GR:Wildlands. I even play the occasional console game too.

Interview ~ Star Citizen

What is your main organization or affiliated organizations in Star Citizen?

I am a member of CINDER.

What role(s) in Star Citizen are you interested in most? (ie. Exploration, Fighter Pilot, Space Trucker …)

I’m not 100% sure yet. I have some ideas, but I’d rather not say. I think my path will find me.

What drew you to Star Citizen and for what are you most hopeful?

The community and the many possibility of and in the game. We have needed a game like this for a long time. Speaking of seeking and supporting community, I signed up on INN’s Crew Connector as Tirent.

What is your current favorite ship, armor set, weapon, load out and/or game mode?

So far, I am a big fan of the Banu Merchant. I like its style and story, but I am not planning on using it as a Merchant ship if that is possible. It is still in concept, so I am not sure how modular or adaptable it is to other functions. I typically take a more militaristic approach to things and I see potential with that craft. All that being said, I am REALLY looking at the Polaris. Wow! I’m a huge fan of naval combat and this baby — on all sides — has me in its sights.

Interview ~ Final Thoughts

What other hobbies or interests do you have?

I play tabletop war games like Dust and Warhammer 40k. I enjoy painting models and I like to fish.

What else would you like to share?

Join me on my twitch and have a chat :) I’m pretty active on CINDER’s discord channel, but feel free to look me as a friend — Tirent000#6599.

Tirent_Longstar – Direct Links Tirent_Longstar – Streamer Videos

Note: Streamer spotlights are for informational (maybe inspirational) purposes and should not be considered endorsements by the author or INN. We hope you enjoy learning (more) about this streamer and that you might follow and watch them.

The post Streamer Spotlight: Tirent_Longstar appeared first on INN.

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