Other News, Blogs & Casts
Guard Frequency Episode 164 | Doug Drexler of Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek TNG, DS9, Voyager, Enterprise…
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
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.
- 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 EricStudio 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 ‘VerseBack 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!
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.
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.
The post INNSide the ‘Verse: A Promising Young Marine’s Life Cut Short appeared first on INN.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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!
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.
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
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.
Origins: Part 1
Santa Monica Pier, June 2910
“Look, mommy, there’s a spaceship in the sky.” The little boy pointed towards a sleek passenger transport climbing steeply out over the Pacific Ocean. The sky to the west was awash in gradient hues of pink, purple, and orange, as the sun slowly slipped beneath the horizon. A sweet, soft breeze blew down from Malibu.
“That’s nice, isn’t it Werner? Be careful with your ice cream darling.” The young woman licked the corner of a napkin and used it to clean a growing coat of chocolate off his chin. Behind them, thousands of blinking, colored lights on the Santa Monica Ferris wheel dominated the skyline.
“Do you know what kind of ship that is love?” She was always amazed at how smart he was, particularly for a five-year-old.
“Um…That is an Origin 890 Jump.” He replied. “Probably the 7 PM bound for Port Luna. When Can we go to space?”
“Why do you want to go to space, love?” She replied with a smile.
“To kill Vanduul!” The boy held his hands out to fly an imaginary spaceship and yelled “Pew! Pew! Pew!”
She laughed for a moment, and then looked at him lovingly. “No sweetie, I couldn’t bear the thought of you off fighting the Vanduul. Besides, you’re going to be a doctor or a lawyer someday, not a fighter pilot. Plus, you’d never get to see your daddy if we went to space.” She said.
Of course, nothing would make the boy’s mother happier than putting a galaxy between the boy, his brother, and their shiftless father, who was missing the mark as a positive role model.
For her own part, she had always dreamed of a life among the stars. Even after giving birth to two healthy baby boys, she still imagined serving aboard an Endeavor exploration vessel as a medical officer. However, shortly before Werner’s fifth birthday, she started getting sick. Her thoughts drifted back to the day she was diagnosed.
“I don’t know, it’s like a whooshing sound in my left ear.” She said, sitting on an examination table dressed in a hospital gown with her long, dark hair pouring down onto her shoulders in a tangled mess of curls.
A short, middle-aged doctor with spectacles and a bald spot framed by tightly cropped hair peered into her ear with a scope. “There is nothing physically wrong with your ear.” He pulled back and glanced at her sympathetically. “Look, I’ve been following you since you were a kid and you know you are always welcome here, but…Well, you know I’m just a pediatrician and you’re twenty-four years old.”
“I know.” She replied, and looked down at the floor.
“This seems like some sort of auditory hallucination. I’m no expert, but when you consider this symptom in the context of the other difficulties you’ve experienced with coordination and motor skills, and your family history…” The doctor trailed off as Marlena’s eyes began to fill with tears.
“I want you to go downstairs and talk to that friend in neurology I mentioned last time you were here.” He added.
Marlena swallowed hard and a tear rolled down her left cheek. She knew what was next. Her mother, her aunt, and her grandmother, they all died young. Each suffered a wasting, lingering death; the result of a tumor, slowly growing and eating the gray matter inside their head.
Even now, after all these generations of modern medicine, there is no cure, only treatments that delay the inevitable. It’s more like a curse than a disease really. A mean trick of genetics, causing star-shaped glial cells, called astrocytes to grow uncontrollably and destroy normal tissue in its path.
After two MRIs and a lumbar puncture to analyze some cerebrospinal fluid, her diagnosis was confirmed. The next day she started taking medications to slow the disease process.
“Mommy?” The boy held out a sticky little fist with an ice cream soaked napkin balled up in it. “Do you need a tissue?”
“No.” She sniffed back tears and wiped her face with one of her clean napkins. “Finish your ice cream love.” She kissed him on the forehead and the boy started chomping on his cone. They both looked out over the Santa Monica bay at the sunset again. The departing ship disappeared into the night sky and Marlena’s thoughts drifted.
The boys’ father was once a handsome, passionate young man. They met hanging out on Venice Beach with the rest of the kids in their neighborhood and quickly fell in love. Sometimes they would just fall asleep on the beach together, sharing their interest in music, surfing, and smoking marijuana.
They never were officially married. After having Werner and his brother, Marlena quickly matured into a responsible young mother, but their father never got off that beach. As time went by he showed up less and less frequently. Once Marlena was diagnosed with cancer, he stopped showing up at all.
For a while Marlena dropped the boys off at his mother’s place in Santa Monica every Sunday, so he had a chance to see them grow. Sometimes he was there. Sometimes he wasn’t. As time went by he became more and more like a ghost, haunting their lives and her past. Just a few days earlier, while taking a walk with the baby, Marlena came across him lying unconscious in the sand, baking under the California sun.
“Pew! Pew!” The boy was finished with his ice cream and now running in circles around the park bench. Suddenly he tripped over the stroller parked in front of his mother and giggled. In it, his sleeping baby brother began to stir and whimper. Marlena caressed the baby’s cheek with the back of her first two fingers and within seconds the baby sighed and settled back to rhythmic breathing.
“Be careful with your brother Werner! You need to look out for him.” Marlena turned to look at the boy thoughtfully. “Do you know that son?” He jumped off the edge of the park bench and landed on the boardwalk with a loud thud, making a convincing “explosion noise” with his mouth.
“I know mommy.” He replied. Werner picked himself up and dusted off his shorts.
“Look at me, Werner.” She said in a soft but convincing tone. “Look at me.”
The boy looked up at her and they locked eyes. She grabbed his hand and pulled him in close to her face.
“Promise me you’ll always look after Martin and protect him.” She said.
“I will mommy.” As he said it, Werner tried to wiggle free of her grasp.
“You promise?” She repeated, softly.
“I promise.” He settled down and looked her straight in the eyes. “I will always look after my brother.”
“Good.” She replied and loosened her grip into a hug. He spun around and watched as the very last tendrils of the setting sun gave way to deep dark blue and black. Venus shown down on them brightly. “Very good my love.” Away to the South, another ship departed the Los Angeles spaceport.
This week on Around the Verse Lead Technical Designer Kirk Tome joins Sandi Gardiner to share a detailed look at level-design. We also get a report on the UK studio progress from Studio Director & Global Head of Production Erin Roberts.
On this episode of Around the Verse, Chris Roberts and Sandi Gardiner learn how art and tech intersect to create the various weapons in Star Marine. Also, the Austin studio details their progress in this week’s studio update.Introduction
- Chris Roberts (CEO, Game Director)
- Sandi Gardiner (VP of Marketing)
- Tyler Witkin (Community Manager)
- Tyler Nolin (Community Manager)
SANDI GARDINER: Hello and welcome to Around the Verse, our weekly look at the development of Star Citizen. I’m Sandi Gardiner and here with me is Game Director, Chris Roberts
CHRIS ROBERTS: Thanks, Sandi, it’s great to be here. So, if you’ve been reading the newsletter you’ll know it’s been a busy time for our community team having just experiencing GDC last week. Then immediately heading into PAX East this week and following that we’ll be at South by Southwest. It’s wonderful for CIG to be on the ground so much recently, interacting with different developers in the case of GDC and fans in PAX East and South by Southwest.
SANDI GARDINER: To celebrate PAX East we’re holding another free fly sale this weekend where you can fly the Aegis Sabre around the Universe. So, if you’ve been wondering what the Star Citizen buzz is all about now is your chance to find out.
CHRIS ROBERTS: There you go. So, the Sabre is a magnificent fighter. It quickly established its dominance in combat with six guns on its wings including two laser cannons and two para-scatter guns. What better way to celebrate PAX East than to blow something up in space combat?
SANDI GARDINER: While we’re on the topic of gaming conventions, our lead Community Manager, Tyler Witkin, recorded his experience at GDC last week which we’ve included here in this special GDC lookback.
TYLER WITKIN: Good morning everyone. It’s almost 4:30 in the morning. We just arrived at the airport in Austin, Texas and we are about to leave town, heading to San Francisco for GDC 2017.
TYLER NOLIN: It’s going to be an exciting time, we’ll see you there.
TYLER WITKIN: Oh, hello there. It’s the last day of GDC San Francisco 2017 and we’ve had an incredible time. We’ve met so many people from students to developers from around the world to backers and supporters of Star Citizen. It was amazing, the booth was great. Partnered with Amazing and Lumberyard, Star Citizen, it was just a full house all three days on the show floor and we couldn’t be happier. With this we are done, we are signing out. Lead Community Manager, Tyler Witkin here and we’ll see you in the ‘verse.
CHRIS ROBERTS: Thanks for the inside look Tyler and we look forward to hearing about your time at PAX East this week.
SANDI GARDINER: We do and in today’s episode we take a look at how weapons are concepted and developed through all aspects of production. But before we dive into weapon creation, let’s go to our studio update. As Chris mentioned in last week’s episode our studio updates now give a more detailed look at what various departments at each studio have done in the past month. This way we can provide you with a comprehensive report on the progress of Star Citizen.
Let’s go the Austin studio and see what they’ve been up toStudio Update
- Jake Ross (Producer)
Hey guys, Jake Ross here, Producer for CIG, Austin. Let’s take a look at what’s been going on in our Austin studio.
One of our big focuses this month is to get the first pass and implementation of trade in the game so Austin Design team has been designing the next round of shops, that’ll be available after the upcoming 2.6.2 patch. A few things that are required to make this happen are the initial list of commodities, the locations at which to buy and sell them and a variable economy to provide the player with options and places to sell their commodities.
Our goal in Star Citizen is to have a functioning, fluctuating economy that mirrors the real world in as many ways as possible. This economy will include goods flowing from their mined or gathered states, then onto the refineries, passing through manufacturers and ultimately turning into buyable or tradeable items. The price of these items will be an important element of gameplay because players’ actions can impact the flow of resources which will, in turn, affect supply and demand. For example, if trade lanes get disrupted between the various production sites due to player interference or something else similar, this will change both the prices they’re willing to pay for goods as well as quantities of goods they have available.
Since we’re still in the early stages, we begin with a basic commodity structure that represents the major groups: ore, gas, food, medical supplies and vice (things like drugs or other illegal items). That way players can get an idea which resource items will be fought over in the Star Citizen universe. Once the system is proven out with a small subset, commodities will evolve and expand and grow into more specific things like gold, hydrogen, rations, bandages, etc. We want to ensure it’s a fun experience by getting the core economic structure in place and testing it out before getting bogged down in the complexity of specifics.
Next, we obviously need places to purchase and offload this cargo once you buy it, refine it and manufacture it. The next major release we’re adding a new station type called the truck stop which is being worked on by the Frankfurt Design team. We figure that all stations have the need for a certain level of resources in order to sustain their existence and thought it was a little weird to sell your resources directly to the shops themselves. So we created a new shop type called the Admin Office which will most notably focus on buying and selling station imports and exports for the local stores on the stage.
This shop would also control local storage rentals and include a job board of complete and planned deliveries. This shop type will be in the majority of locations that don’t have a fully fleshed out TDD which is focused more on things like commodity trading. Ultimately the prices of commodities will vary by supply and demand based on the dynamic economy but as a first iteration commodity prices will probably stay within the range of their base prices and likely will be set by hand.
Basically, we need to test buying and selling around the universe, before we upgrade to a variable rate, this will allow us to answer questions like: How fun is it to actually find cargo from a derelict spaceship? How much fun is it to steal things from other players? Or from some unsuspecting NPC on a planetary outpost? How much is a reasonable reward when you run across them in these scenarios? What type of profit margins will make this compelling? We look forward to getting these elements into the game once we have answers to questions like these.
On the Art side of things, the lighting team has been doing both initial lighting passes and polish passes for some of the locations you’ll see in Squadron 42. The team is also going back to some older content like the Retaliator and Constellation and doing some general optimizations and polish work. These changes include fixing the infamous strobe lighting bug in the Retaliator cockpit as well as improving performance inside these specific ships.
The Ship Art team is currently in the gray box phase of the shipbuilding process for the Drake Cutlass Black. As shown in part I of the ship pipeline video, the gray box phase means that the basic geometry of the ship has been built and smart-normals and UVs are completed. Now the team is concentrating on adding primary and secondary detail within the geometry and material work. The interior of the Drake Cutlass Black has also gotten a lot of attention this month in the form of added detail and kit-bashed pieces from the Caterpillar. The team also completed a first lighting pass for the interior of the Cutlass.
The Austin Ship Animation team has been working with the UK and the LA studios to bring you some new badass ships. We just wrapped up the grey box phase of our mining ship, the MISC Prospector with the UK team. In Austin, we’re working on a new redesigned Drake Cutlass as previously discussed and we’re supporting them as well. Lastly, we’re finalizing all the Drake Buccaneer animations. All the ships will be completed, online and available before you know it.
Over the past month, the PU Animation team continues to create animations so our NPC characters can interact with the environment. One of these animations includes replacing the rough retargeted animations on the female with properly shot animations of female performance. We’ve also made headway in debugging issues with our animation skeletons and our animation pipeline in general. With the help of code and design, we also started researching better ways to implement the hundreds of animations we’ve developed over the years.
We began with the mess hall tables located in the Idris with the goal of creating an entire eating experience for our characters, specifically for NPCs. This starts with the character grabbing a tray, navigating to a table seat, the character sitting down, eating, drinking and performing any other actions. Finally, the character will stand with the tray in hand and navigate to the tray disposal. We then provide these animations to the Frankfurt studio and they take it over from there. You may have seen a little bit of this in the Frankfurt update from Around the Verse last week. The global connection between each studio is key to getting our work done properly.
The server engineering team has been supporting both live and the upcoming 2.6.2 patch, we’ve been introduced and continue to enhance multi-region support for matchmaking and there have been multiple fixes and tweaks to both the party system, contacts, and friends which includes improvements to invitations and online/offline state notifications.
We’ve directed much of our energy towards the new diffusion architecture refactor for the backend services. Diffusion allows us to easily create stateless micro-services using a combination of C++ and proprietary use scripting language. By combining these two languages we can create a highly scalable and high performing stateless services. In other words, we can support a higher number of concurrent players with improved stability and less downtime. All the current backend services have been updated to run on a diffusion core which allows us to continue to refactor and rewrite services for diffusion without impacting current service operations.
Finally, we have finished new diffusion API gateway which allows Spectrum and other external services to seamless integrate with the diffusion network. Player Relations team spent the month traveling to the various studios, Foundry 42 in Manchester and Turbulent in Montreal. Much of the trip was spent working with various design teams and stakeholders on better ways to collect and distribute specific feedback. This feedback can then be used during Evocati and PTU waves during testing. Player relations was heavily involved in testing, setting up and launching both 2.6.1 and Spectrum. It’s fantastic to see players jump right into Spectrum, we’ve gotten great feedback on how to improve it and we’re very proud players love Spectrum so much.
Last, but not least, we’ve been growing the player relations team in Austin. The team has open positions right now and they’ve been interviewing some awesome candidates, all of which are part of the Star Citizen community. If you’re interested in joining the team in Austin, check out our website and our jobs page at cloudimperiumgames.com/jobs.
Thanks, guys for watching and for all your support, see you in the ‘VerseBack in the Studio
CHRIS ROBERTS: Thanks for the update Jake. It’s great to see the level of detail each department strives for so they can create a realistic universe within Star Citizen. From the animation team creating anthropomorphic movement so NPCs can flawless complete the smallest tasks, to the design team developing an intricate commodity structure that will fluctuate at a variable rate based on supply and demand.
SANDI GARDINER: I couldn’t agree more. It’ll be interesting to see how a player’s actions affect the universe based on what they buy, sell, or if they choose to steal. Next, we’ll hear from Turbulent on the updates they’ve made to our chat and forum platform, Spectrum.Spectrum Update
- Benoit Beausejour (CTO)
Hi Guys, I’m Benoit from Turbulent and here’s an update on the production of the platform called Spectrum that you guys have seen released last week.
We’ve been super-busy cataloging your feedback looking at all the different bugs that you guys have been reporting. The feedback has been tremendous. We cannot be more happy, than seeing you guys react to what we’ve put out. There’s been a lot of people jumping on. We’ve seen organizations being created. All of this activity is creating this momentum that we really hoped for and how we designed the Spectrum platform, to begin with.
And so, my team has been looking a lot at the different issue council issues that you guys have reported. We have classified the feedback and have identified a bunch of short term additions that we’re going to be doing as well as realigning the long-term vision of how the platform is going to shape up with your feedback in mind.
That’s all because you guys are reporting this directly to us and talking to us about how the platform is being built.
Some of the releases that we’ve done since we launched, there have been two of them, have brought some of your feedback in top priority directly on the platform. What we’ve added is more readability on the thread list, where we’ve upped the font size, made secondary information a bit more faded. We’ve also brought in more of your feedback into how the sort algorithms are working. Our initial launch of the sort algorithms were a bit weird, so we readjusted them from the top.
We’re currently working on reaching feature parity for the forum engine of Spectrum with the previous forum engine. We’re looking at what we’re missing and you guys are telling us what we’re missing, which is great because then we can prioritize this list.
We’re bringing in ways for you to see your own posts or see another user’s posts. We’re adding timestamps to the thread lists. We’re going to simplify the way the thread editor works so that you can do inline medias, something a lot of people have been reporting the blocks were a bit problematic for some of the formatting options you wanted.
All of these are features and requests that we’re getting from you guys from the feedback threads. We’re really happy to be able to build this platform with you guys. By iterating quickly, we’re trying to do on Spectrum a weekly cycle and release every two weeks if we can muster it. We’re hoping that we’ll be able to keep this trend going, while also incorporating your feedback.
That’s on the short-term horizon for Spectrum. We also want to bring thumbnails to the thread list and, of course, secondary thread type (currently only classic threads exist). We want to bring Reddit style threads to this, where comments can be sorted by an up-vote score as well. That’s all coming in the short term on the Spectrum platform.
On the medium-term horizon, our major focus, and that’s based on community feedback, is going to be mobile support. Currently, Spectrum is mobile ready, it is responsive as a website, there are a few bugs and kinks we must adjust, but we really want to bring in a more native experience on mobiles to you guys. One of our big-ticket items is to bring native support to the different mobile platforms.
We’re looking at iOS and Android as our primary targets, and optionally if things go well we can also bring that to the Windows platform for Windows phone. This would allow you to have a real, native, experience on your phone, that is performant, fast, and is not just a web page wrapped in to a native wrapper. It’s actually going to be a native application that you can use and get your notifications from. Using native mobile notifications, native views, a lot more performance. We’re hoping that this is a bigger update, but we’re hoping in the midterm that this will be our first ticket item to get out from Spectrum.
On the longer horizon, what we’re looking at is, of course, voice support. As we’re doing all these features, R&D and work for the voice development is being done at the same time. We have a lot of different technical options that we’re taking and implementing currently to try and get simple voice chat in, which is going to be a theme in Spectrum.
We’re going to try and launch features fast and then iterate on them, instead of waiting a long time to launch a feature. We have the chance of having you guys with us, so we can launch it faster. The voice is being done right now, and that’s our major feature. Like when we do get voice support in, it’s will be a major element for the game because then you guys will be able to use it as you play Star Citizen (which is already great).
Moving on from voice there’s still a few kinks that we need to iron out. One of them is that we really would love to be able to reach a functionality where there is a command channel for you guys and a squadron type channel. So that Admirals and Captains can stay in the command channel and broadcast to sub-channels. This is a major functionality that we’ll have to do as a second stage, but we intend to try and get there, because I think for a game like Star Citizen that’s going to be a big must. That’s on the longer horizon is, of course, voice and desktop support which will come with delta patcher as well.
I’m in LA all week this week to discuss in-game integration between platform and game. As we’re fleshing out these functionalities and the game design around it. This are really the elements that are exciting for us, and for you guys I’m sure, which is what will make Spectrum unique between other platforms is how it integrates deeply with Star Citizen as a game.
This is how we’re going to make this different. This is how we’re going to make it the home of the gameplay. We’re spending the week planning how in-game integration is going to work out. Then I’m probably going to follow that with a visit in the UK to nail out the final print detail for that. I’m super excited to be able to work on this platform for you guys, and I hope that you guys will be want to follow us as we do more updates for the in-game integration parts.
Benoit signing outBack in the Studio
SANDI GARDINER: Thanks Benoit. I’m really looking forward to Spectrum becoming fully integrated with Star Citizen. This will definitely enrich the multiplayer experience by allowing players to communicate with one another in real-time as they play.
CHRIS ROBERTS: Yeah exactly. Community has always been part of the fabric of Star Citizen and Spectrum has allowed us to enhance that connection, and like Benoit said, the feedback on the issue council from backers, subscribers, and fans is immensely helpful to improve the Spectrum platform. Thank you to everyone for submitting bugs to the Issue Council.
SANDI GARDINER: Up next, we have our special look at the weapon development for Star Marine. While it’s easy just to focus on the question of whether it looks cool or not, in reality, there are a lot more factors to consider when building a new weapon. Especially since we aim to replicate how weapons look, feel, and sound in the real world.
CHRIS ROBERTS: Yes! The development of each weapon involves close collaboration across multiple departments so the technical specs feel seamless to the universe with nothing to detract from the player’s gaming experience.
To give you an idea of exactly how complicated the process is we sat down with the designers, producers, artists, and animators to show all the things that go into creating a weapon before firing the first shot. Take a look.Behind the Scenes: Making FPS Weapons
- Paul Jones (Art Director)
- Todd Papy (Design Director)
- Lee Banyard (Audio Director)
- John Crewe (Lead Technical Designer)
- Lena Brenk (Producer)
- Atri Dave (Senior Technical Artist)
- Uisdean Ross (Lead Animator)
- Staffan Ahlstrom (Senior VFX Artist)
ANNOUNCER: It starts with an idea. The answer to a question really. How can we best defend ourselves?
TODD PAPY: So, when we start a weapon what we do first a very, very high level write up, which discusses the key beats, the manufacturer, what type of weapon it is. From there we approve that, and then it goes into the actual kickoff meeting where we run through that document. We talk about what we’re trying to hit as far as those major key beats, and so when the concept is being worked on it is purely about those things and we make sure that if everything falls to the wayside we hit those three things.
LENA BRENIK: The weapons pipeline is a very traditional content pipeline, so what we create is a piece of content doesn’t have much. There’s no gameplay logic that ties back to all the other areas. It’s a weapon. It’s a fairly contained piece of art with effects and animation and it’s complex in itself.
PAUL JONES: The Behring P8-AR, the assault rifle, was the one we chose to be the new gold standard. We knew right off the bat. We wanted something quite slick. It shouldn’t be too fancy, but it’s going to be in Squadron, so we wanted (it) to have some interest. Going to be a mix of alloy and polymers and now it’s kind of our initial direction. We were working off an M-16 silhouette, proportions, so that’s, just sort of starting ground basically.
PAVOL HUMAJ: After we get our hands on a concept we tend to compare it to our replica guns that we have in the office. We tend to check the buttstock weight, the thickness of the gun, the trigger guard, to make sure that a character with heavy armor can actually fit his fingers into the trigger guard. We check the accessibility of the handguard. If it is not too far away or too close to the player. Same goes for the mag release and safety.
So, we check all these and if needed we adjust the concept. Afterward, we create a block out, which is a simplified version of the in-game model, which basically consists of a few blocks of geometry. This is used mainly for pre-visualizations. After block out is done we send it to the animators and riggers, and we start to work on the actual in-game mesh, which is way more advanced than the block out.
TODD PAPY: Then tech art can bring up any concerns that they might have, weapon art can bring up any concerns that they might have, Audio, so on and so forth. So, all the way through the pipeline, so we have representatives for every single department in that kickoff meeting that can ask questions of myself or the designer that has worked on these weapons.
ATRI DAVE: After getting all the information we start our own process. First is the weapon pre-visualization setup, second is the final render mesh implementation, and third one is optimization of level of detail. We call it LODs. We create the Maya rig for the animators and we provide all sorts of controls for its mechanism. Then we hand it over to animators.
UISDEAN ROSS: When you’re firing a weapon, if it has moving parts, we have to animate those parts. The main-focus for animation is actually getting the reloads working. It’s the reloads in any first-person game are important to how the weapon feels. It’s getting the weight of the weapon, the timing it needs to feel like a realistic reload, and then obviously in Star Citizen we’ve got the combined first-person/third-person animations, so you’ve got the unique challenge of what you’re seeing in first-person and third-person is the same thing, but in first-person you need to have a good read on what’s happening, so that you’ve got some restrictions where you have to keep the weapon in the view of the camera. If you drop that out to reload then the player’s going to you know like wonder where’s the weapon gone.
PAUL JONES: And so just putting all these pieces together, just making the basics. Ensuring the grip isn’t too big, the finger couldn’t go in a neutral rest position when it’s not on the trigger, branding, materials, etc. Does it look good from third-person? Does it look good from first-person?
ATRI DAVE: We create a weapon character definition file, which contains four data types. First one is the skeleton and plus it’s physics. Second one is a skin file, which contains its deformation parts, and third one is static geometry which we call as a CGF. Fourth one are null attachment helpers which works with our weapon customization as well as certain helpers for the VFX.
After this stage our game skeleton for the weapon is ready. Then we create another internal file which we call character parameters where we connect animation database to its respective skeleton, and then animators can go in and start exporting their animation. Final product as a building block previsualization looks something like this inside the engine.
PAUL JONES: I mean way back in the day, like when we were doing the first sort of weapons, there were all sorts of things different things, different sizes, now we’re working far more with templates. It used to be that the animation department was less involved because we were just making cool weapons, do you know what I mean, we’re being artists and we’re like “Yeah, this is cool.” But really, it needed more involvement from all the parties.
UISDEAN ROSS: Once tech/art send us the rig, the first thing we do is put it onto our animation pools and just check the pivot point of the weapon, sits correctly in the hand. Everything’s good, it’s shouldered, you know, the first person view and the third person view are looking right. If the weapon has many moving parts, we’ll check all those are setup correctly. Sometimes they aren’t and then we feed back to tech/art and then it comes back to us again.
This is a G36, so its hand positions are closer in. So, this is the pose we gave art to model around. So they model this part of the gun so that it fits, but then the left hand we have to adjust it per weapon. The PRAR, for example, is a longer weapon so instead of holding it back here, the first thing we’ll do is adjust this and get the hand pose we’re happy with. We get that in-engine as early as possible so that we know where are the animations are going to have to start from, from the reload.
Once we’re happy with the hand pose, then we can move onto the doing the first pass of the reloads.
After we’ve done a few iterations, tested some time and anime stuff, once we’re happy with that, that’s when we move onto implementing it into mannequin, which is the part of the engine that the game’s going to read the animation from the fragments and stuff.
Code will usually set those up for design, and then animation will go in and fill in the animations that are needed. You’ll have different reloads for stand, crouch, prone, but we always try and make sure that the timing the same on each because you don’t want a penalty for being in crouch. Whereas in most first-person games, you’d have the same reload across all states because it’s actually just a floating pair of arms or it’s just a fixed body.
We always concentrate just on this stand, stand forward, reload. After it’s in mannequin, we can get it in engine. That’s when the design guys and art and any director that needs to review it can start seeing and can play with it. Usually, the first iteration is relatively rough because you want to that in quickly so that people can start feeding back on it as early as possible.
JOHN CREWE: Once art and animation have done their first pass, we put all that into the file and verify it’s all working in-game. It hasn’t changed massively since the original test we did. This is because quite often if you use one gun, and set it up as behaving as another one, it feels very different if it doesn’t have the right assets on it.
The visual style, sound, and animations of the gun can massively impact the feel of how people perceive it to be working. It’s just all very subtle shifts in increasing the rate of fire but keeping the same recoil values can massively change how something feels because it just slowly additively stacks. So, you change one number a small amount, and after you fired fifty rounds, your gun’s 45 degrees pointed further away than where you were before.
PAVOL HUMAJ: So now when we get feedback from animators, we address the feedback that our actual in-game model. We apply the so called custom-normals, which basically means that all the hard edges are developed and in the end it makes the gun way more beautiful because all the hard edges are nice and smooth and round on it.
After that is done and optimizations on the model are done, we do this thing called UVing, which is basically opposite of what making a paper model is. Instead of starting off from 2D sheet of paper and making it into the model. We start with the model and then unfold it nicely into a 2D sheet for texturing.
After this, decals and palm decals are applied which basically add small stickers or marking on the gun and the palm decals enhance the visuals of the weapon by adding small details that bend the light.
There are also unique textures applied to the model which enhance the look of the weapon as well as functionality. These are called wear and the dirt map. These are hand-painted or photo-sourced to ensure the highest quality and add dirt and wear, however, these can be controlled by code in real time so we can control the intensity and amount of the dirt and wear dynamically in-engine.
STAFFAN AHLSTROM: Every weapon in the game has a muzzle flash. Ballistic weapons and energy weapons. That’s what the main distinction of the weapons now. It’s energy or ballistic. So, each weapon has like, what is it, four pods? It doesn’t matter if it’s ballistic weapon or an energy weapon.
Muzzle flash, projectile, impacts, and the tracer, and the impact is a huge thing itself because we want to do different impact effects per surface. If you shoot ice you should be able to see ice fragments coming up and if you’re shooting up metal yeah we’re talking about sparks, and then dust from shooting cloth, water, and yeah how we will deal with the different planets. Like we have brown sand, red sand, black sand, and it’s just going to be crazy, but that’s so cool with this product, this game because the level of detail that every department wants to add to it…It’s just very inspiring.
PAUL JONES: You know, once a weapon has been built and maybe it’s gone to audio, Normally, animations are done, it gets to audio and audio is sort of putting their thinking on it. Generally, it’s been spot on and it’s kind of like a linear pipeline, it hasn’t come back, an infamous design, but we do have weapons coming up where the choices that they make will definitely influence the feel of the weapon and the weight of the weapon.
LEE BANYARD: A certain weapon might sound different from the first-person perspective, to give you a kind of more subjective, a deeper subjective experience of firing that weapon, and then it sounds different again from a third-person. If you hear your weapon being fired by an enemy down the hall or whatever, it will be different. To try and reflect the fact that when you fire the weapon yourself or in real life, you don’t get to do that much in the U.K. thankfully, you’ll get that kick that you wouldn’t necessarily have the audio for.
In the old days, you would have one or two sound effects for guns. We’ve got layers and multiple layers and then in those layers, the multiple grains essentially like yeah, nice granular synthesis really.
It’s quite deep and it’s quite painstaking and it has its own technical challenges. If you were to line all that stuff up and read all the transients, the initial pop, you should line them up manually and that all works up fine. If you try to randomize these things, so use different layers that are working in tandem, almost like an orchestra you know, you need to try and make sure they all line up as well or else you get this smearing effect and it kind of muddy’s the water if you like, the audio where guns are concerned.
Trying to work out exactly how you deconstruct and reconstruct stuff is a large part of what we’re still doing, we’re still trying to improve that process.
It’s similar to music in a way, music does a similar thing that’s based more on logic, this is more based on where you are and also stuff like I said like first person where it’s you shooting somebody else. A lot of these things vary at one time and the idea is hopefully you really won’t notice it too much you know? That’s why I think it’s slightly taken for granted the audio thing which is when it works it seems natural and that’s what we’re aiming for.
If you haven’t fired a gun for a while and you bring it up and fire it again, that initial punch you get from it will be louder than if like from two seconds from that point you fire it again. So, there are little dynamic mix systems at work to try and make it pop through that bit more.
That’s what game sound designers do, I think that’s why it’s an interesting challenge compared to movie sounds is that we’re trying to come up with systems and we still have that authorship, we still sound design, we still do that creative stuff, but it’s married to this technical challenge that makes it so much more, to me, so much more interesting than they all sound alike.
PAUL JONES: That’s pretty much the process that we take and then yes, that’s when we sort of go “right”, or I think I go “right, I think I’m done”, and then it passes onto the next part of the pipeline because it’s not just visuals right? It’s the whole holistic thing, it’s VFX, it’s audio giving the punch of that weapon. Fans expect a certain level of quality in this, that all feeds into it. Everything works as it should basically.
ANNOUNCER: It started with an idea, and now it’s yours to fireBack in the Studio
SANDI GARDINER: Thanks, everybody, for that in-depth presentation. It’s amazing how much work goes into these weapons. Everything from the stock length to the trigger guard are accurately accounted for before the development process reaches animation. Every part of the creation is so intricate, down to the sound effects layering, yet when you use these weapons in game, battling it out in Echo 11, you take it all for granted.
CHRIS ROBERTS: Well not all of us take it all for granted, but it is a real credit to the entire team that they’re able to take on the numeral challenges that need to be considered when creating a weapon. Whether the player is in first or third person or how that changes the look and sound, which type of ammunition should be used and what kind of damage it inflicts on a target. The subtle shifts in different rates can completely change the weapon experience, what the decals say about the weapons history and the lore of the company that manufactured it.
SANDI GARDINER: There you go. That’s it for this episode of ATV. We’d like to thank all of our subscribers for giving us this level of community content.
CHRIS ROBERTS: Yes! And, as always, to our backers who have helped us on this journey, you are the ones taking the game to the next level so we can’t thank you enough.
SANDI GARDINER: We’d also like to invite all of you to join us tomorrow at 12 Pacific for Star Citizen Happy Hour. Sean Tracy, Steve Bender, Eric Davis, and Ben Lesnick will hold a roundtable interview that you won’t want to miss.
CHRIS ROBERTS: Yup that’s quite a lineup, it’s probably going to be pretty cool. So, that’s it for this week’s show so thank you all for watching and we’ll see you.
BOTH: Around the ‘Verse.
This is the first in a three-part series written by Brackstone, a member of the Star Citizen Organization: Republic of Lorell.
Once they are all published, you can read them at Where We Come From.Year: 2947
Natus laughed heartily across the table. “You mean it’s that good?”
I sipped my drink calmly. “That’s the truth. I took one drink, and I was filled with so much euphoria, all other sensations felt dull for a month. I swear to you, I would have lost myself if I had finished that single glass. As such, many in my crew lost themselves looking for more.”
“They died when the ruin collapsed?” Natus cocked an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” I did my best to look suddenly crestfallen. “Maybe if I was a wiser captain, I could have controlled them, but they were lost.” A part of me felt bad for so thoroughly bullshitting the man, but I found myself needing the money. “That’s why you’re getting such a good deal! I won’t touch the stuff, but if you have the resources and willpower, maybe you can synthesize something from it.”
Natus held the empty bottle up against the light to look at the emblem again. Four stars encircled with a gold chain looked back at him. He could not mistake the insignia of the Lorell Republic, even if I had no idea what it was. The price was steep for just any crate of booze, but these were worth much more. They were relics of a very proud people who highly valued their heritage. Natus didn’t feel the need to educate anyone about the bottles history, though. After all, if he could strike a bargain, then maybe he could skim a little from the powers that be for their gratitude.
“you ask a lot, but I can see you are an honest man. Let’s make the deal then!”
Mobiglasses came out, cheers were exchanged, drinks were ordered, and the two of us devolved into simply enjoying a drinking partner. I finally excused myself to the bathroom and Natus took the opportunity for some bragging. He pulled out his mobiglass and keyed in a contact.
“Told ya there was nothing to worry about Pope,” Natus grinned at the redhead on his screen. Despite the good news, her face remained stern. “Me and this fella were just having some celebratory drinks. It’s like I told you, he has no clue what he had. I paid less than a third what you said I could!”
“You have the crate then?” The stern woman said from Natus’s mobiglass.
“He’s parked on a pad not 50 yards from the bar. Once he’s done draining the lizard, we’ll get everything moved over.”
“I told you it would be fine!” I told the brunet staring back at me from my mobiglass. “He didn’t even blink when I quoted him the price. We just need to send him off with his box then we can get ready for tomorrow. We totally got away with this!”
“You should hurry it along instead of partying with your newest victim. Apparently, Playtus has been asking after you. I think your stunt with his merchandise has caused him some trouble.” My smile faltered a little at this news.
“They told me they wouldn’t go to authorities until we were wrapped up.” I wasn’t completely surprised; I had known these guys for a while.
“They’re charity doctors.” She responded rolling her eyes. “They’d launch themselves out of an airlock if they thought it would save some coked out spacer. You shouldn’t be surprised they’d sell you out with what you gave them. Those plants are about the only way they have to unzombify these people. It’s a good thing you have the credits because Playtus could find you at any moment now.”
“We’ll deal with that problem if and when it happens. Do you know if he has his favorite toys on him?”
“That sick freak? I don’t think he goes to the bathroom without them.”
I winced at the image she was implying. I came out of the bathroom and stepped out towards the terminal hall which circled the pads. I looked out the window at a very sad looking Constellation class freighter. It had no turrets or guns of its own, and bits of the outer hull were missing. It also had four guests walking around it wearing white robes. I cursed to myself as I walked through the door onto the pad.
“Playtus!” I grinned as I stretched my arms out in greeting, looking as happy to see him as I could.
“Who are you to smile at me!?” The oldest of the group stormed ahead of the others. They all wore the same robe and kept their heads shaved. Playtus himself was noticeably older than the other three. Behind him was a large man who looked like he could arm wrestle a Reclaimer and come out on top. Behind him were Playtus’s toys. The two women appeared to be in their mid and early 20’s. I knew they were sisters already, but anyone looking at them could have guessed. They had the same raven hair and the same noses. Their eyes were glazed over, and they moved as if not entirely sure where they were. “I’ve had two shipments scanned out this month. Now where I ask you, could the police have found a way to scan out my cargo so easily?” He demanded.
I shrugged. “You’ve been moving a lot of product lately. The fact that you’ve sold enough to draw attention like that should say a lot about your success. I’d still like to buy another shipment if it’s on the table. I can pay up front.” I drafted the transfer on my mobiglass and held it up, showing him the amount.
Playtus glowered back at me, but a twinge of greed worked over and softened his features. “Let’s talk on your ship. You’ve caused enough damage here.” He jerked his head behind him, and the two girls moved to the side of the pad where a cargo container was waiting. They each took a side as it began to hover. They never seemed to be looking at what they were doing. Their eyes creeped me out.
“Nothing keeps friends like commerce!” I smiled broadly as I lowered the cargo lift under the Constellation.
As we all boarded the lift, Playtus wrinkled his nose as he eyed over the ship and it’s interior. “I had no idea you were doing so poorly.”
“Well,” I glanced around, embarrassed. “You can see why I’m eager to do business with you.”
We made our way to the living quarters. “Can I offer you gentlemen some refreshment? I have a rather rare vintage in my cargo.”
“I believe you owe us that much.” Playtus sat on the couch, obviously disapproving of the ship he found himself on.
“Excellent!” I smiled as I made my way back to the cargo area. I listened to the doors hiss shut. I pulled a breathing mask off the wall as I keyed in some changes to the life-support systems. I heard the gas start to filter its way through the vents. I heard some sleepy sounds of panic in the next room, but they were brief.
The redhead on Natus’s mobiglass looked off screen as she read something. “You said your friend was parked in the nearest pad?”
“Yep!” Natus leaned back, contently sipping from his glass, still quite pleased with the days’ success.
“Then it may interest you to know he’s taking off.” She glanced back at Natus through the screen. He spat out his drink as he scrambled to his feet.
By the time he got to the pad, he had found the doors still closing and two men in white robes on their hands and knees, coughing furiously. Natus ran in.
“Where did he go?” He gestured toward where the ship had been as he ran to the robed men.
“The bastard robbed me!” the older of the two spat out.
“This guy seems to have a habit of that.” Natus thought to himself as he brought up his mobiglass. “I’m coming back to the ship Pope. Looks like we’re doing this your way.”
The woman scowled into the screen, but the corner of her mouth betrayed a smile. “You almost sound sorry for him.”
“Well, I’d hate to be the guy who robbed ya.” Natus began to jog back the way he came.
“Get up you damned lummox! Summon the ship!” Natus rounded the corner just after he got to see the old man kick his groaning friend.
“That was some intel!” I screamed into the com as I escaped the planet’s atmosphere.
“I told you to be on the lookout.” My pilot was on the com screen, looking indignant. “But you got them? Their safe?”
“I stuck them in the crate with the plants and tethered them to the floor. It won’t be a comfortable ride, but they’ll get through it. I’m not even sure they can feel it.” I hugged the throttle, never feeling like I was moving quite fast enough.
“So, what’s the plan now?”
“The plan is the same. Get in position and wait for me to ping you. I’m willing to bet he has a small fleet in orbit already so be quick.” I kept an eye on my emission readings as I broke atmosphere.
“What about the gentleman you sold the brandy to?” She asked.
“Oh!” I started in surprise. “Well, with luck he’ll drink himself out, and I’ll get back before anyone is the wiser.”
“Great, now we’ll have two groups of folks shooting you while you fly that piece of garbage.”
“Hey, this piece of garbage has done its job nicely!” I always disliked people bashing on ships. It’s not like they can defend themselves!
“Whatever, just live long enough to pay me.” She blinked off the screen.
I had escaped orbit and was sitting high off one of the moons. I worked hard around the cargo bay, lashing the brandy to Playtus’s container. Gravity was turned off. Well, gravity didn’t would be more accurate, but it was to my advantage as I glided about the cargo area, putting some finishing touches on the pistons that moved the cargo lift. Almost as if on que, an EMP rocked through the hull, overloading the already taxed systems on the old Constellation. The lights blinked out and a loud ‘kerchunk’ announced that someone had latched onto the airlock. Sparks from a cutting torch began to shoot through the lock on the port side, removing all doubt.
“You in position?” I whispered into my helmets coms.
“Stand by…” I heard in response.
“Stand by? Stand by! This is no time for ‘stand by.’ The door is being cut as I speak!” I panicked a little.
“I’m sorry, this is a tricky maneuver. Stay alive.”
I cursed as I turned to face the soon to open door. The door slammed open, and a woman drifted through, crouching low. The first thing I noticed was her gun. The second thing I noticed was a lock of hair drifting down her cheek. I’m ashamed to admit it, but the first thing I said was, “You have hair?”.
Her mouth gaped slightly, and she looked like she was about to respond, but she decided to shoot not one full inch to the right of my head.
“You’ve stolen my property.” She said somberly.
“I thought they belonged to your bald friend. How did you get away with your hair intact?” I desperately tried to keep the concern out of my voice. I just needed time.
“I honestly have no clue what you’re talking about, but if you want to leave this ship with the same number of holes you came in with, I suggest you turn over the brandy.”
“Wait,” It was my turn to sound confused. “You’re here for the booze?”
“Some have said that Pope here has a drinking problem, not while she was armed, though.” Natus floated out from behind her, a pistol extended. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?”
“Look, this looks bad, but if we could take a second to work this out without…” As I tried to diplomat my way out of this situation, Popes mobiglass lit as she received a transmission. I couldn’t hear what was said, but I soon heard another ‘kerchunk’ behind me, followed by cutting. I cursed loudly and trained my weapon around at the other airlock.
“Pull back and mobilize the response flight.” She said into her coms. Her eyes trained on mine “Who is that?”
“Someone very pissed off. You should probably find cover.” The door wretched open as the large man from before barreled in. Seeing people armed that he did not know, he immediately started trying to shoot them. Pope fired once before ducking under the rail. The shot caught him in the face plate which shattered. I saw him crouch on the roof behind the missile racks. His cheek was messed up, but he still looked alive and pissed.
“Brackstone! You will give me my children immediately! If I must fire on you and risk them harm, then your death will not be a pleasant one.” Playtus called from beyond the airlock.
“I’ve seen what you do with those girls; they are most certainly not your children,” I called back. This prompted a bellow of rage from the bleeding sasquatch on the roof, which managed to spray blood around the gravity-free compartment.
“You mercenaries, whatever he is paying you, I can double it. Return my property to me, and you’ll see yourselves rewarded and allowed to go.” Playtus called out
“Actually, we’re not with him. We were just finishing up some business of our own.” Natus called back
“You fired on us unprovoked. Surrender your weapons, and we can talk about a peaceful resolution. That’s being generous.” Pope responded to Playtus. I looked at her to see if she was serious. She was a friend of Natus after all. I was alarmed to not see an ounce of humor on her face. This was a special kind of crazy.
Laughter filled in from the air lock. The laughter of many more people than two. “Oh, my child.” Playtus crooned, “Perhaps ignorance might have given you leniency, but you stand between my children and me. None of you shall live!” Carefully, soldiers began to file out of the airlock. They slowly circled the walkway surrounding the cargo and trying to get around our cover. My mobiglass finally pinged.
“Now sir!” My pilot frantically shouted.
“Hang onto the crate!” I said to the people sharing the cover with me. Then I hit the macro I programmed in my mobiglass.
The cargo lift lurched beneath us, then shot us clear of the ship. Had I not been wearing a flight suit, the g-forces would have certainly knocked me out. Hydraulic fluid rained down then danced with the momentum in the vacuum of space. I looked up to see an Avenger, evidently a Warlock, off the port side of the ship. On the starboard side was latched a Polaris. I was satisfied to see Sasquatch frantically trying to cover his face plate with his hands as he and several other soldiers twirled outside of the ship. I was surprised to see that my two unexpected passengers had listened to me and were clinging onto the cables holding the two crates together. It’s not that I was sad that they survived. No one deserves to be at the mercy of an angry Playtus, but considering I had been held at gunpoint by them not two minutes before, I was surprised they had decided to trust me. One of the nearby crates housed a battery that I rigged into the mag plates of the cargo lift. It held the crates and to a certain degree our suits, to what was left of the lift. I had cut the pressure regulators for the hydraulics and the mechanisms that held the main pistons in place. What resulted was this bullet hurtling towards the black.
“Mr. Brackstone, you need to tell me what the fuck you are doing! Now!” Pope yelled into the coms.
“Right now, I’m flying a cargo lift. If I’m paying my pilot enough, we should be getting a pickup.” Engines sprang to life nearby as a Carrack powered up after running into the area on momentum. Playtus’s ship would only just now pick up its existence. Hopefully, that would give us some time. I cut the power to the plates and activated several jamming devices. Hopefully, they were preoccupied with their men, but the garbled information clogging their scanners would prevent them from going back in their logs and identifying the ship. I lifted the crates off the plate with my EVA thrusters. Natus, catching on to what I was doing began to help. Pope saw her rifle now floating off the plate and took the time to sling it on her back before she joined us. As my Carrack, the Baleboste approached, the front-loading ramp lowered, and two hands held tractor beams brought the three of us down with the cargo.
“Welcome aboard cap!” one of the tractor operators clunked the P.A.W. tool against his helmet. The door closed and atmosphere poured into the loading bay.
“Where are they!” A frantic man entered the cargo area and began running down the stairs. “My girls? Did you get them?”
“They’re in the crate.” I knocked the crate with my hand. The adrenaline was starting to wear, I let myself slide down and sit on the floor.
“Open it!” He bellowed as he tried to work the latch himself. The two crew in the area set about undoing the cables and undoing the air tight seal on the crate. I took off my helmet and closed my eyes for a moment. I heard him wailing in the crate.
“Harriet! Martha! It’s me! It’s Dad! Won’t you please look at me girls, won’t you say something?” I’ll never get used to the sound of a grown man crying. I hauled myself back up and rounded to the front of the crate. They were tethered to the floor inside of some heavy padded sleeping bags I had picked for the occasion. Some of the plants had dislodged and now fallen to the floor next to them with gravity restored. They none the less looked completely serene and oblivious.
“They need to flush whatever they used out of their system. They’ll be fine; we just need to get back to the hospital ship, they can use these plants to figure it all out.” I turned to motion for the crewmen to assist but saw that they were quite preoccupied with our new guests, one of which was armed.
“Cap…” one began.
“Max, get Mr. Madrin and his daughters in the med bay. Raul, I want you to get to the bridge and make sure we’re heading to the hospital ship. Signal them and let them know we’re coming.” I tried to sound confident. Max stared at me briefly, then shrugged.
I kept my hands in front of me as I slowly approached Pope and Natus.
“Well, that was fun!” I flashed my most winning smile.
“What happens now?” Pope asked. She held her rifle at rest, but I had just seen her shoot another man in the face with a lot less warning.
“Now,” I replied, “you get your brandy, I drop you off wherever you wish, and we part ways. I’m not interested in any more gun fights for the day, and I hope you believe me when I say I didn’t mean to wrong you.”
Pope and Natus looked at each other for a time, then they both nodded.
“Great! There are too many folks out here that just start shooting. Anyone who doesn’t shoot me immediately I’m happy to call a friend.”
We talked more once things were squared away. I learned about some place called Lorell and discovered how my family had ended up on Rytif. When we met with the Seacole, a Hope class Endeavor ship, we were surprised to find another Carrack already waiting with them. The name ‘Veritas’ marked its hull.
“They said that you had a couple of people for them?” The Seacoles captain asked as we approached. “Thought they were you at first, gave us a little surprise.”
“Their friendly,” I assured him. “Some of their crew ended up with me. Prepare to dock; I have two patients and a fresh batch of zombie flowers for you.”
The Seacole expressed its gratitude for the additional plants. Whatever Playtus had been spreading around the system, it was tricky to develop an anti-toxin for. They needed the plants to synthesize more. I was given a contact and told to keep in touch. Folks who don’t immediately try to shoot me have been growing rare. I was looking forward to seeing them again.
It’s a funny thing learning about your family history. I already knew where I’d come from; I lived my life after all. All I knew before was that my family was not one of the early land owners on Rytif. We had come later and been laborers or technicians. Lower class, but it didn’t seem so bad anymore. I had heard stories about people in my family who had harbored anti-Messer politicians, but in Bremen, that was a common story among the people. It was popular to have been a part of the resistance. I knew we were not among the early colonizers, but I had honestly not given much thought to where the Brackstones had been before that. While I had not been particularly curious, there was comfort in knowing. I remembered a letter I had gotten from my uncle towards the end of my time in the Navy. He had said that I came from a long line of people who died of lost causes, or something like that. No one would accuse him of being a pleasant man, but looking back at the broader scope of my heritage, I could see that he was wrong. We had an affinity for lost causes, that was true, but we also seemed to have a habit of surviving them.
Greeting readers! It’s time for another in depth organization spotlight. For this piece, I illuminate L.A.M.P (Loose Association of Mercenaries & Privateers) for you. LAMP was founded on “LAMP Day,” the 19th of November 2942, and is a worldwide organization. I appreciate eXec‘s time and enlightening effort answering my question making this article possible. LAMP is a longtime Star Citizen organization with a rich history and philosophy. Enjoy!Origin of (the) LAMP
The first thing that you need to learn about this organization concerns its name. Knowing that origin story truly sets the stage to better understand their atmosphere of community, engagement, and fun. Simply put, LAMP began as a Star Citizen insider joke. Here is the story:
During the first Star Citizen community live stream, way back in 2942, an IKEA lamp was placed in front of the streaming camera with a ‘back soon’ note attached to it. Sleep deprived players began hailing lamp as a god, self-named prophets began interpreting it’s will, and some hours later it was given its own camera and new notes posted on it. Thus a meme (and in game faith) was born.
For hundreds of dedicated players, LAMP is now more than just a meme. It provides a common symbol for a thriving Star Citizen organization. This symbol intrinsically binds all members – new and old – to the creation of this game. That heritage and history provides an important anchor for less serious joking and meme creating as well as a theological foundation for the group’s role players, the Cult of Light. The lamp is a guild mascot, an endless supply of ship names, a battle cry, and the iconic imagery for the organization. It is a very malleable thing. You can ignore it or overly-embrace it. That is what makes “the lamp” so great. It is as you wish it to be or how the LAMP wishes it for you — depending on your preference.The Light of LAMP
The chief purpose of this loose association of players is to provide in-game activities for every play style and level of engagement. It’s a pretty simple approach. LAMP welcomes pilots of every skill and dedication level. Lone wolves, squadron fanatics, capital battle-group wannabes, industrialists, explorers, and pirates are all welcome. As a ‘loose association” organization, this group seeks to provide players an array of fun, social activities without the stifling demands of hierarchical importance or chains of command. This is a fundamental organizing principle for the organization along with “don’t be a dick.” LAMP is friendly to role-players, but it is not a requirement. Members are free to embrace or ignore the Cult of Light. You can use it as a backdrop for your character’s story, create a different narrative or not have a backstory at all and just like to shoot things.The Leadership of LAMP
This organization has a refreshing philosophy on activity, leadership, and participation. It values community first encouraging members to get to know each other. Across many time zones and amid a great variety of interests, members who step up with an idea to positively engage the community, are celebrated and allowed to flourish. LAMP eschews all the pretend-military/corporation rank dynamics that define and create drama in other organizations. All organization activities in LAMP are and shall remain voluntary, un-coerced and grassroots-organized. Being an organization of over 1,500 players provides an opportunity for everyone to find their proper fit under the light of LAMP. There are always people around who want to team up, but those who want to be a lone wolf are never penalized.
In LAMP, members are the fundamental guiding factor for the organization, not the “guild leader.” Such an approach might be refreshing to more seasoned, veteran MMO players. There are squads and divisions. They exist simply to help members find other like-minded players so they can do what they like to do. No one will ever be cannon fodder for a disengaged and distant leadership. Command is not something that’s bestowed upon anyone by an elite, bureaucratic, and nepotistic hierarchy. Command is something any member can earn by being good at it. It can also be lost if someone becomes power-crazed, lazy, and/or pushy. If you are known for being a nice, competent person, then people will want to sign up for the activities you host. As an even greater compliment, other squad leaders will want you as a wingman for their endeavors. In LAMP, the ‘guild leaders’ try to keep organizational structure strong, provide a common theme and direction, and ensure conflicts of interests are avoided on the diplomatic stage. Beyond these few things, the how, when, where and what of activity is up to members.The Love of LAMP
LAMP was founded purely in the context of Star Citizen and remains very focused and passionate about supporting and having fun in that game. However, many other multiplayer games are being played. The active membership of this gaming community provides its wide player base many opportunities to game together as a community. Are you interested in learning more about or possibly joining LAMP? Are you seeking a large group of players where attitude is more important than any one person’s preferred play style? Are you willing and able to be gracious to new players, humble in victory, noble in defeat, respectful to your adversaries, and helpful to strangers and org-mates alike? If so, then you’ll fit right in. Consider checking out ISNN’s interview of known drunkard and knave Dread Pirate Pete to learn more about the organization’s philosophy. If you have anymore questions about LAMP, consider using their contact form and reaching out. Check out the video and links below. Good luck!The Links of LAMP
Note: Organization spotlights are for informational (maybe inspirational) purposes and should not be considered endorsements by the author or INN.
– April 16, 2615 –
Your vows have broken my heart,
Oh, why did you so enrapture me?
Now I remain in a world apart,
But my heart remains in captivity.
Jim Collier sang, so well as he could, slumped against the Diamond Lass’s galley stove. He pushed eggs slowly around in the shallow skillet on it, tapping his false foot in time with the folk song playing through the ship. The tapping was soundless – absorbed by the old woven mats that covered the deck, and hidden by the music and the sizzling of breakfast.
“Dad-dyyyyy,” Guin’s voice complained. “You sound like a dying donkey.”
Jim glanced to his right. Guinevere’s legs were hanging over the side of the chair at her toy-covered “copilot” console. She was holding Butter Bear up, though, so his faded yellow plush face peeked over the back.
“And why that song again? You always sing it.”
He thought for a long moment. Butter Bear’s black-button eyes watched him from just behind the copilot’s seat.
“It’s … an old Navy song,” Jim lied.
“Oh,” Guinevere said, pulling Butter Bear back down. After a moment’s shuffle, her eyes replaced the stuffed toy’s, looking at him. “From the lions?”
The eggs sizzled and popped.
“The lions. The Lorell lions.” Guinevere pointed upward, past him. He turned his head and followed her finger, to the crimson roundel with four golden stars within it. When the Diamond Lass flew in Imperial space, he made sure to cover it up with the dangling sleeve of his old Imperial Navy jacket, but in times like these, privately, he let the roundel show. That didn’t mean he talked about it, though. Perhaps not enough.
Jim moved the skilled to a cool burner and shut off the galley stove. “You mean the Lorell Alliance,” he corrected Guinevere.
“What’s a alliance?” Guin asked.
Jim pushed most of the eggs onto a round ceramic plate for himself, and the rest into Guin’s favorite yellow plastic bowl. The Diamond Lass’s pop-up table was stuck permanently in its stowed position, so he had bolted a wooden one into place atop it, where the benches could still be used around it. Guinevere didn’t have to be told to come to the table. She and Butter Bear were tromping over while he managed to push himself into the bench. The girl joined, beside him.
“An alliance is a group of friends,” Jim said. “who promise to keep each other safe.”
“Mm,” Guin replied with a mouth full of egg. She chewed, politely, and swallowed. “And they sing that song?”
“Well. Not every alliance does. But my alliance — my friends, and I — sang it.”
“Shouldn’t it be a happy song?”
“Well, sometimes friends sing sad songs, too.”
Jim’s eyes wandered from his seat to the front of the ship, to the girder-framed viewport of the Diamond Lass’s bridge. Outside it, as ever, he could see the infinite black, the pinpoints of the bright, distant stars.
“When did you sing it with your friends?”
For a moment he was back in low orbit, lumbering through the atmosphere and the debris of other wrecked ships. He was cursing as loud as he could, pushing the Diamond Lass’s throttle past its limit. Every channel was erupting with desperate chatter at once, as Messer’s Hammer pulverized the planet’s surface and slaughtered the civilians trying to escape. Organization had vanished almost instantly. Nobody could communicate with anybody. He couldn’t coordinate with Leah. He could barely make her voice out. Guin, just an infant, was screaming from the bed behind him.
Jim felt the press of his fork in his hand and forced himself to set it down.
“We … had to leave our old home,” He told Guin softly. “Everyone had to leave, and with everyone going at once, it was very … it was confusing. Everyone knew they had to go, though, so they got in their ships, and flew up into space. But mommy and some of our other friends were on a different ship.”
“But everybody was flying at once, and everybody was talking at once. So there was noise and confusion. And … everyone was scared.
“I … heard your mommy, on the channels. then. She was singing, so she would sound different than the noise of everybody else. So I could hear her voice and knew she was still all right. And I had to tell her that I was okay, too, so … I started singing, too.”
Jim pressed his eyes closed. On the backs of his eyelids, he could see Lorell below, swirls of clouds over the mountains that gleamed golden in the sun, the vast forests of crimson-leafed trees. Against the vista, the angular black silhouettes of hundreds of ships, of every class and size, pushing upward. Above, though, were the flashes and streaks of battle. Then the Hammer’s retaliators were among them, launching massive torpedoes – weapons larger than the ships they were aimed at. The voices on the comm channels gave out in ones and twos and threes, replaced by feedback and static.
“We all … started singing,” Jim said, his voice almost a whisper.
“Everyone that was up and away from home was letting someone else, anybody else, maybe, know that they were okay. And they were singing that song,” he repeated, reminding himself. “Leah’s favorite. Your mother’s favorite.”
Jim slumped back against the bench. How long, he thought to himself, had he lingered there as the chaos spread? How much time had he spent, listening as hundreds of voices faded to dozens, and dozens to just a handful? Not every voice had left the choir by spooling out for a jump. He couldn’t tell when he had lost track of Leah’s. He stayed, minute after minute, wanting to hear her one last time – until finally, he engaged the Diamond Lass’s drives, and from then on, he sang alone.
Jim’s eggs were cold, then. Guin stood on tiptoes at the galley sink, washing her bowl and cup. Her attention had wandered from the story, but she was humming. Jim quietly sang along.
Alas, my love, you do me wrong,
To cast me off so discourteously.
For I have loved you so long,
Delighting in your company…