September 2021 Monthly Report for Star Citizen
Hello friends, while I couldn’t get a video together to cover Star Citizen’s progression in September, I’ve got a juicy Star Citizen Monthly Update here for you to read through and get all the highlights. Please consider signing up for the newsletter here on the site to get updates on new posts, giveaways, and other news around here! Now let’s get to it!
In September team the AI Content team concluded work on the ‘worker’ behavior which we discovered in the last monthly update. This AI archetype can be implemented into places like hangars, security checkpoints, and city centers to add the industrial-influenced ambiance that has been managed by placeholder functions up until now. They also added T0 security NPCs to outposts with the ability to interact with usables while patrolling.
The AI feature team worked on perception changes for stealth to improve location-based stealth gameplay. They also revealed useful data such as what kind of sound event is detected. This could be helpful in triggering the proper reactions from NPCs. A lot of work was done on tightening up the fine details of combat logic regarding subsumption and the overall behavior surrounding hand-to-hand combat.
The AI tech team focused on making 3D collision avoidance for AI ships work in complex scenes with narrow spaces. They also finished implementing the docking system into the AI subsumption editor. Which will allow AI to manually dock and undock from areas when needed. Technical documents were also worked on which relate to AI systems and server meshing.
The animation team spent time in September improving vendors around the game. A wide-reaching improvement considering the number of food carts there are in Star Citizen, and the amount of interaction we will have with them. New idle animations have also been added for characters sitting and characters at bars and counters. Improvements were also made to drunk locomotion coming in 3.15, as well as a new asset drop animation. This is one of those little animations that I think make a really big difference, so it’s great to see an update on something so fundamental.
Last month, the character art team finished up 2 new armor sets that will debut in 3.15 to fill out various gameplay archetypes. This could be medical gameplay and professions requiring ‘utilitarian’ armor. They also worked on improvements coming to the character customizer in 3.16 which will massively improve the quality of heads. That tool hasn't seen an update in quite a while. Clothing and armor for the citizens and gangs of Pyro were also worked on.
The final art for the Crusader Ares was complete. The Drake Vulture moved into the greybox stage with the interior complete. One of the previously mentioned unannounced ships is currently in the final art phase with attention being directed at dynamic animations to give players more feedback about the ship being in motion. Another ship from last month's report is now art complete with the team planning some bug fixing and final tint preparation. In the UK yet another unannounced ship is moving through production while several others reach the final art stage. The Hull series also made good progress with the Hull A approaching Whitebox review, and the Hull C receiving numerous item updates.
The shader system saw several changes too – shader parser initialization was streamlined, and the user cache was moved to the ‘Window’s APPDATA folder’. This will be rolled out post Alpha 3.15 and should fix a long-standing issue for some users.
Regarding atmosphere and volumetric clouds, there have been various improvements to cloud shadows. The research went into various topics: 1) a quick prototype for better rendering of rain clouds was implemented, 2) integration of cloud shadows into the atmosphere has been implemented (among other things will allow for light shafts from clouds), and 3) because of these shadows in the atmosphere a prototype for improved rendering of multi scattering in clouds and atmosphere was implemented. It acknowledges the presence of clouds in the atmosphere when it comes to indirect lighting and will help to shade clouds (brighter, more natural white tones in shadows) as well as the ambiance of overcast skies on the ground (less hazy and blueish – in case of earth-like planets). These research items are still WIP and will hopefully mature enough to be shipped in the coming months with other improvements to rendering quality and performance.
The Greycat Multi-Tool has become the first weapon/gadget with two types of reloading action - one for the healing attachment - one for the healing attachment vial and one for its battery. This means the user has to manage two different resources to get the best from it.
The features team supported various mission teams in connecting content to the rep system. Not sure if this will be in 3.15 but it is sorely needed. And looking further ahead, the team began work on selling at shops, the cargo rework, and jump town v2.
The vehicle features team progressed through September with work on jump points. A lot of balancing was done on the missile and turret side of the game, and support was also given to the intoxication mode of driving and flying.
Graphics & VFX Programming
The graphics team improved the water shader, allowing shading to be based on available tiled-lighting data rather than the nearest environment probe to create more consistent lighting in scenes involving water volumes. Judging by recent and upcoming feature development, it seems more and more like that is becoming an important thing, perhaps due to Squadron 42.
The lighting team spent a lot of time on Orison’s new stores. Cousin Crow’s, Providence Surplus, and the Crusader Showroom.
“A lot of effort went into ensuring these new locations thematically fit within the style of Orison but that each has a unique style and flavor. To help support the addition of these locations, we made further lighting optimization work around their respective platforms.” Lighting Team
It’s nice to see a landing zone get its second pass the next patch after implementation. The landing zone teams are getting good, and I’m excited to see how the location expands with new missions and the stormwal coming in later. Support continued for colonialism outposts, with lighting passes almost complete on all current modules and components. Optimization and polish work are ongoing and new dynamic lighting was added to support airlock cycling.
As the release of Alpha 3.15 draws closer, Narrative worked to ensure all final elements and last details are in place before it goes live. This included a pass of the hints added in support of the new gameplay features, journal entries to help explain some of the more complex systems, and item names and stats being adjusted for the NikNax asset manager app.
The Delphi reputation app also received attention to ensure everything is as clear as possible now that organizations can have multiple scopes for players to earn ranks in. This is a great step forward for the reputation system to develop into a true part of the game, and not just a feature.
Beyond Alpha 3.15, time was spent discussing details about the in-development hacking gameplay, Pyro’s space stations, and non-water-based oceans. A recording session to capture mission and public address system dialogue was also completed, and work continued with AI, Design, and Audio on new NPC behaviors.
Systemic Services & Tools
Throughout September, Systemic Services & Tools (SST) continued to work on the economy, tools, and Quantum (the AI simulation). If you haven’t already or are not able to at the time of reading, I highly suggest watching the System Thought panel from CitizenCon 2021 to get a better idea of how these systems are progressing.
Work also continues in earnest on intelligent NPC spawning, with an impressive internal milestone hit by the team. Finally, in preparation for Alpha 3.15, new edge cases in the inventory system and backend services were addressed.
Last month, the UI team focused on performance improvements, optimizing some of the more costly areas of the user interface.
“We made more progress on the underlying code work of the Starmap, and started to get some placeholder UI into development builds so we can really start playing around with it, as you will eventually!” UI Team
UI also worked on screens for the upcoming infiltrate and defend mission archetypes, and finished the screens for hospitals and the personal inventory.
The vehicle tech team put the finishing touches on a Squadron 42-specific vehicle mechanic with the intent to bring it over to the PU at some point. No idea what this could be. The groundwork for incorporating radar and scanning into FPS gameplay progressed. Some functional radar and scanning design changes are in the works too, this could be interesting, there are a couple of small nuisances with the reworked system.
Major improvements in how players control doors and other room-related interactions (such as lights, atmosphere, and communication systems) are in the prototyping stages. The aim is to fully immerse players by allowing them to control their environment while exploring on foot. We’ve seen this in several Inside Star Citizen episodes these last couple of years.
“Expect more door control panel interactions to come soon!” Vehicle Tech
VFX finished off their work on the new vehicle wakes, which was done alongside the Vehicle Feature team, and effects were completed for an unannounced ship.
That’s it for September, folks. Thanks for tuning into this Star Citizen Monthly Update & Progress Report. See you back here next month!