Chris Roberts is back! Watch this special 85+ minute episode of 10 for the Chairman featuring Ben Lesnick and Chris Roberts dubbed “Ben for the Chairman”.
Ben for the Chairman
Transcript by Erris, StormyWinters, Ghost404, Kagedgeek, and Myself
Welcome to Ben for the Chairman, the 60th episode of the 10 for series. This episode is special, as Chris has been away for some time.
As such, today’s Ben for the Chairman episode will delve into a number of topics.
As the full video is an hour and a half long, INN will start with notes, and will attempt to complete a full transcript at a later date.
– Working on Performance Capture shoot was awesome. Wing Commander 3 and 4 were live action, green screens and such, but tech has changed so much. Now they can do something completely different. Motion capture is just the body. From Uncharted or the Last of Us, that’s Motion Capture. Faces and such are hand animated after. With more recent technology, CIG can get the entire facial performance of the actor.
– They had a 66 day shoot, longer than any film Chris has done. 53 days of full performance capture; 3 cameras capturing face, 50 capturing movement.
– Performance capture lets them capture the full emotion of the performance. Chris is very excited by how the performance capture will bring you into the game.
– Goal with SQ42 is to deliver emotion in a story in a video game that maybe hasn’t really been done in the past. Script was over 600 pages.
– 90% of the p-capture scenes are not cinematics driven, they’re player driven. Don’t know where the player’s going to be in the scene or enter the scene. Lets the player move around a ship and interact with crew members and decide on the relationships to foster.
– Should make it a lot more affecting if someone you’ve taken the time to connect with dies later in the story.
– SQ42 is not an ‘extra’, it’s a full, AAA game. SQ42 is what they were originally talking about during the initial Kickstarter campaign. Because of the funding, they’re able to invest more into the game and the technology.
– First-person conversation system will carry over into PU.
– Average Hollywood script is between 100 and 120 pages. General rule of thumb is a page a minute. SQ42 script was 5x longer than a movie script.
– Just filming the conversational pieces. Action sequences are part of the game, and don’t get counted in there as much.
– The storyline has a trilogy set up. And they’ll also be telling other stories inside the PU as well.
– The Trilogy – it’s not one game then some DLC. It’s Wing Commander 1, 2, and 3.
– Movies are good at telling stories over short periods of time – Die Hard happens over one night. Novels are better at telling stories over long periods of time. The scope they’re hoping for is three full, standalone AAA titles. Think Episodes 4, 5, and 6 of Star Wars.
– At least a 20 hour experience. Just the performance capture stuff that was shot is 5-6 hours of content, then there’s all the action.
– You don’t want to play something that’s not great, and Chris doesn’t want to make something that’s not great.
– Hard at work on Star Marine. Illfonic are working round the clock on it, and many people in other studios are working on it as well.
– Chris has some code up on his screen that he’s helping with as well.
– Lots of people working on it in the Frankfurt office as well.
– CryEngine’s very powerful, but it’s dense and complicated as well. Having the engineers that built it helps. They have the engineer that created CryAnimation, which is a great resource to have.
– Working on closing out a few things.
- Networking (Networking’s a bitch, whether on SC or any other game). Working on getting 32 players in Astro Arena and at least 16 in Gold Horizon. Ultimately want to push beyond there.
- Animations. Challenge on the animation is that most FPS games have first person and third person. First person is essentially a floating camera. Not physically realistic, but it’s normally okay because you can’t see your character. It’s also why, when you get into mulitiplayer in something like Call of Duty, the animations aren’t nearly as fluid. Player animation doesn’t translate to what someone does in first person.
– Real life has inertia. If SC were just doing an FPS, they could do what CoD does, but the foundation for the whole game is First Person. Because it’s a multiplayer game, there has to be player controlled characters interacting with their environments, and that has to look good. CIG can’t ‘cheat’ and put arms up where the eyes are, like many other FPS games do.
– Means they have to unify first and third person together. If they can get it to work, it makes life simpler. Camera where the eyes are.
– They use tricks like camera stabilization – In real life, if you’re running, your brain makes it so you don’t look like you’re bouncing up and down so much. That kind of logic has been built in.
– Lots of work with animations.
Lots of animations that can normally work for AI, but it takes more work to build them into player animations, and to keep them responsive and fluid, without hampering the player experience.
– This is one of the reasons FPS has been delayed. Not something you can say ‘this’ll take a week to do’, it takes play time and experimentation time. Don’t want to put it out if it feels slow or unresponsive, or if there are glitches. Yes, it’s an alpha, but it will inherently hurt the feeling if the animations aren’t in.
– Making really good progress, hoping it’ll be able to be played on PTU at or after GamesCom (don’t hold him to that though).
– Definitely working really hard on FPS, and it’ll be a great foundation once it’s done. Definitely not ‘indefinitely delayed’. More people working on it now than ever before.
– It’s frustrating for CIG as well, they want it out as soon as possible as well, but if they’re not happy with how it feels yet. When they do put it out, it will still have issues, it will still need polish, but it will be able to be played. More constructive for feedback.
– Definitely thinking in terms of weeks, rather than a month.
– The delays don’t have as much to do with the FPS portion either. If it was just an FPS, they could get it out. The delays have to do with the feeling of the PU as a whole. Rather do one thing right, rather than do two different ones and then have to waste time refactoring them later.
– Frustrating, but it’s a better way to look after everyone’s money.
– FPS is foundational for the whole game.
– Apparently Crytek had talked about doing this sort of first and third person unification on Crysis 2 and 3, but gave up because they had deadlines. CIG have made more progress than when Crytek were trying. Don’t see it a lot in games, because it’s very hard to do.
– CIG are already built to be a distributed development company. Teams in Austin, Santa Monica, Frankfurt, Manchester, then outsourcers in Montreal, Denver, etc… They already deal with being separated by time and space. Everything is already online, and they use Shotgun to pass things back and forth. When Chris went to shoot in Eyling, they set up a fast connection for him.
– Shooting days were from 8-6, then he’d do video conferences with the UK and Germany, and with the U.S. Lots of e-mails, lots of online comments, all of CR’s waking time for the shoot and the weekends was either directing the shoot or managing the project. Part of the reason Chris didn’t do much community stuff, he was swamped. 16-17 hour days.
– Also brought people down to the shoot, lots of the UK guys came down and some U.S. folks went over as well.
– Ben tried to search for how many e-mails Chris has had in the past 3 months on Outlook. It broke the search.
– CR – There’s a couple reasons.
– Reason # 1: It’s a narrative story we want you to experience. If you see every aspect of it the whole sense of discovery won’t be there, and that’ll hurt the experience.
– We definitely want to keep a lid on the SQ42 aspects that are part of the story. Some of the general stuff like what does a Vanduul look like, that’s fine. A lot of the specifics like locations, characters, even some of the ships you’ll be on (flying or coming up against) we wanted to keep as a great discovery and surprise.
– Reason # 2: We have a lot of stuff in development and just because of programmer finishes writing something doesn’t mean we instantly put it out there. We have to test and polish it, refine it. When we think it’s in a good enough state to for some objective feedback, we get it out there and see what people think. That’s a big point for us. Programmers and artists here, it’s a constant fight because they want their stuff to be perfect. We don’t want to share stuff to early. It’s pretty stressful for an artist if you share something too early that he knows has 20 problems with it, then every backer gets on a forum and points out those 20 problems. It’s the same thing with Star Marine and why we aren’t sharing the build right now which we play test every week.
– For those reasons, we think there are points where it’s useful to share when the discussion will take it to places that we need that input on.
– We try to have these gates where internal development, we get it where we like it, then pass it to QA, after QA feedback to you guys, and you guys give us feedback and we take that back and work on it. That feels like a positive iteration cycle.
– We share it well before we would share it if it was our sorta final publisher game so I think you guys get a view of it sooner than you would normally have. Like I said we’re not going to share everything from day one for the reasons given.
– BL – The work has to speak to the vision rather than something we’re not happy with yet
– CR – You don’t want to show work, just to show work. You want to show work that says, ‘Hey we’ve taken it this far and we would love your feedback.’
– Feels like one of those battles, like Waterloo.
– Controller balance is going to be a complete ongoing thing, it’s something we’re very aware of. I’ve stated from the beginning I want the game to be controller agnostic so I do not want there to be a super class of user that because of their controller they can be better or beat everyone else.
– We do have inherent problem controllers in that some different controller interfaces are good for different things. So, a joystick or HOTAS is much better for flying precisely than a mouse, but a mouse if using a gimballed weapon is better for precise aiming. For the same reason a keyboard/mouse on a PC can school anyone using a gamepad in an FPS shooter.
– So, they have different strengths and I think the right answer in this is to allow complete option, player can have whatever they want, and to make sure the strengths of one thing are countered by a con. Like… yes, you have aiming if you have a mouse and gimballed weapon but your flying’s not so good. If you have joystick and you’re flying, your flying gives you an advantage that you can use over someone with a mouse.
– We haven’t got that balanced properly yet so that’s where we’ve been working on stuff, 1.1.5 patch that’s coming out we’ve still been playing around with some of the stuff.
– One of the big things, we’d announced awhile back was gimballed weapons…the gimbal itself takes up a size class and you have to drop down a size for a weapon
– Problem in the past, the size 1 weapon damage output compared to the size 2 damage output, there was maybe a 20-30% increase between size 1 and size 2. That doesn’t make much sense, it should be closer to say twice that much.
– I’m not saying it’s twice as much but if you get my drift you have a real pro and con there. The guy with the joystick, he might want to go with fixed weapons so that’s more difficult to put on target but when he does, he’s doing twice as much damage as opposed to a mouse who’s easier to put on target but doing half the amount of damage.
– You’ve got other things, the bigger the gun gets on the gimbal, maybe the slower the gimbal reacts.
– Those are things we are actively wanting and trying to balance. The biggest problem is we have so many things going on and we also have other considerations.
– Right now you’re just playing AC with single seater ships and dogfighting and the full game(PU) is not going to be all about that.
– Multicrew ships are going to be one of the big things. Flying with NPCs or friends and there’s going to be a whole different variety of different piloting styles.
– You can’t take a Constellation and dogfight the same way you can in a Hornet but other things in a Constellation you’ll have an advantage with.
– There’s also other things like in AC, there’s that respawn mechanic, people fire a bunch of missiles then they kill themselves so they can fire more missiles.
– That’s not going to happen in the real game, first you won’t want to kill yourself cause that’s a pain in the ass. Second, missiles are going to cost credits that you’re going to have to earn so you’re not going to spam them like that.
– There are certain play styles right now that happen in AC that won’t happen in the final game, that can give you an impression that one controller can have an advantage.
– We want to make AC itself a fun experience for everybody using their controllers and each one having their pros and cons.
– Also be aware that there are other considerations we are just coming into so in some ways we don’t want to be definitive, like, this is what it’s going to be like. We have to get the multicrew ships in and a bit more variety happening before we have a good sense of the full picture.
– Figure out how to best give each controller it’s own pro and con and make them feel sorta equal. Not to say we don’t experiment and play around with stuff, I think one of the problems is we held off on an AC patch because we thought FPS was going to be sooner so we haven’t really patched anything in AC for quite a few months. That was our sorta balance iteration.
– 1.1.5 has some balance iteration stuff that will hopefully make this a little better, maybe it won’t.
– I’ve made a real sorta commitment now and focus on the team and say, ‘No matter what, we’re busy trying to get things out like say multicrew, FPS or SQ42.’
– We can’t constantly be iterating on AC and trying to improve that and balancing that and taking people’s feedback.
– If I go take a look at being away and come back, it sorta feels like there isn’t a lot of new things to play with, at some point everyone gets bored and it becomes more about arguing about things then playing stuff.
– We’re trying to get back onto the content and delivering and taking people’s feedback and adjusting.
– Be patient with us, we’re committed to make it a fun experience for all.
– For all means, beginners playing the game have it fun. Then there’s detail and depth that more experienced people can get into. You sorta grow with it.
– My goal, so easy to play but hard to master. It’s a cliche in the game business but it’s a very true mantra of what would make a good game.
– We are focused on that so don’t worry the way the controllers are aren’t the way they’ll continue to be.
– Our plan is not to gimp things but to really try and make things have their pros and cons. It will take time to get there and we’ll need your feedback.
– BL – So to speak directly to the controller balance thread, you would say gimbals are here to stay but we want to balance them in such a way that folks more skilled with a joystick have an advantage over someone using mouse.
– CR – Yeah, 100%. I can’t see any version of the future that you wouldn’t have some level of your weapons gimballed. Like Star Wars, there’s guns on turrets and stuff but there needs to be a con to that, to a pro on someone’s that flying…..Luke and his X-wing didn’t have gimballed weapons and he seemed to do pretty good.
– BL – He had a magic force.
– CR – The Millennium Falcon had it’s little turret on it. So, obviously gimbals and turrets for the same multicrew vehicles are super useful cause they won’t have the maneuverability that a single seater fighter will.
– We certainly don’t want it to be that someone with a gimbal has all the benefits and none of the downside, that’s kinda the goal.
– We’re committed to making it as balanced as possible. I would say in general, you would see more turrets and gimbals on bigger ships to make up for the maneuverability.
– The smaller ships we’re going to try and balance in such a way that you can put a gimbal on it but you’re kinda nerfing your ability to do damage.
– We have all this tweaking for power, distribution of that and shields. We’ve only scratched the surface of that and the physical based damage will also help alot with the balancing. It’s early days, ultimately with your help we’ll have something maybe not everybody’s 100% happy with but I think it’ll be good enough for everybody and I don’t feel like I’m unfairly hamstrung
– Just a natural thing; they have a very big company (255 people in house) and you just get turnover when you get to that size.
– There’s a lot of different reasons why people leave; they get an offer they couldn’t refuse or they get to do their dream; for most people here, what we’re building is their dream, but in some cases, like Travis Day being a World of Warcraft nut, working at Blizzard has been his dream. You can’t really stand in the way of something like that.
– Generally on a turnover basis, it’s been no different than when Chris was at Origin, a studio that grew from six at the beginning, to 110 when EA bought it, to 300 or so when Chris left; didn’t even know half the people and people were always coming and going, and that just kind of happens; it’s unfortunate and sometimes it’s for personal reasons.
– At CIG they’ve got a really great group of people and really great infrastructure; in some ways people see it more than they would normally, because they show more people than just the front person on a project, but you won’t see the whole staff.
– CIG show the whole staff, especially those in L.A.
– Just because one person is showing off a feature, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the one driving it. They’re working on it, but there are probably 10 other people working on it with them, and you don’t see them.
– Part of the downside of being as open as CIG are, there’s just more exposure to the regular comings and goings of a large development studio.
– To work on SC and SQ42, you have to have a certain mindset. It’s hard, you’re not shielded from anything. If people are complaining because something’s late or broken, there’s a developer on the other side that’s going, they don’t like what I’m doing, and it’s hard to deal with that all the time.
– Need to be ready for that if you’re going to be part of CIG.
– No particular ’sky is falling’ scenario. Alex left for personal reasons.
– Erin Roberts has agreed to become the global manager of production, which will help centralize and unify production techniques.
– No-one CR has worked with better than Erin. And he’s Chris’ brother, and he can say things to Chris that other people might not. Erin’s very good at coming in, pulling things and people together, and getting things done.
– Part of the issue is all our ships are incredibly detailed and incredibly complicated
– Seeing the concept at first(which takes a lot of time creating the 3D model and conceptual design) is just the tip of the Iceberg
– when it gets to modeling and putting it in engine there is a huge amount of work and iteration which goes between the artist, the designers and the animators to get all the features working, to make them functional inside and the spaces work.
– The Constellation rework’s been going for about 6 months, the Retaliator took 8 months, and lots of that was refining systems, finding ways to reduce draw calls, etc…
– Considered outsourcing but it’s too complicated due to the back and forth between departments
– 14 people on staff are dedicated vehicle artists.
– Looking to hire more hard surface modelers.
– With that number of resources and the amount of time ships take you have to have a level of priority and for us it is Squadron 42.
– Squadron 42 is definitely going to be there before the full PU, so it has been taking priority because there is a lot of ships to build there; the Vanduul ships, the UEE Navy ships and some of the aux ships like Starfarer, Herald the Cutlass. The Idris, the Bengal, they’re huge ships, and they take a long time. 5 or 6 working on the Idris right now.
– Just posted on the forums a schedule for the ships
– All ships will be completed but the priority moves about depending on Squadron 42 and the persistent universe.
– They are feathering in persistent universe, Squadron 42 ships that involve other kinds of game play that are important because they want to experiment with kinds of game play in future versions of Arena Commander that won’t be just about combat but things like mining and cargo.
– When they get multicrew, they’ll look into prototyping gameplay that’ll happen in the PU, like one person flies a cargo hauler, a few more people flying escorts, and then the other team’s pirates trying to stop them.
– That’s the longer term plan for Arena Commander.
– They’ll try to keep everyone up to date with the ship schedules more too.
– One: The community likes them and asks for them; constantly sees threads asking for one ship or another.
– Two: It’s obviously a good way to continue to raise funds for the game; it’s a big endeavor with a lot of people working, and more money equals a bigger richer experience they can do from the start.
– Also allows for investing more in the online cloud stuff earlier; they’ve been delivering petabytes of data for patches and updates and that all costs money, much more than they estimated at the very beginning. Concept sales help support that in addition to obviously helping with development costs.
– Three: Really wants to seed the universe with all these ships. People want to have a mining corporation, they want to build a huge merchant empire, they want to shuttle passengers around the universe, or just go and rescue people, take them onto a hospital ship and fix them up. CR wants to seed the universe with all these different ships and definitely wants to put them in the hands of players; doesn’t want every single player to start with an Aurora because that would feel weird and boring.
– Just like in real life with different cars, he wants there to be a full range of ships for all the different roles players can choose. Putting them in the hands of players is much better than putting them in the hands of AI, (they’ll definitely have AI running around) but players do the most interesting thing. That’s one of their tenets for the final PU, where players drive the drama and action of the universe; to do that you need a diverse range to go after different roles while also supporting the development of the game. Feels like it’s a win/win.
– (Ben can already see the [Concern] threads about Aurora pilots having their ship compared to a Ford Fiesta. Chris says nothing wrong with a Ford Fiesta; gets you from point A to point B and the new ones are pretty good. Ben asks how they deal with Vanduul. Chris says your starting ship isn’t meant to be the best ship you can fly.)
– It’s changed quite a lot. Started with the demo and a pitch, never thought they’d have nearly the amount of support they’ve had. Chris thought he’d raise between 2 and 4 million, and he had private investors lined up to invest another 10 or so. Planned on working hard to get a smaller, much less ambitious alpha together, then use money from that to build it into the big Universe he wanted to build.
– Smashed every single stretch goal set in the original campaign, then continued to talk about features, and the community continued to fund them.
– Amazing amount of support with 85 million dollars. Allows a much more full featured and ambitious game. It’s Chris’ full dream game.
– Feels like most people have gone, yeah, I want this game, and I’m going to give you the money to do it properly.
– Yeah, the original campaign minimum amount was increased web communication, and now they post more times than there are days in the week.
– Second promise was for a multiplayer dogfight, which we have in Arena Commander
– Last promise was a much smaller SQ42. Even the Persistent Universe was a stretch goal when they first started.
– Game has definitely gotten bigger, which presents a bit of a problem. Doing more things will take more time. The end result will be better, but there are pros and cons.
– What about all the people at the beginning that are saying, hey, you said you were going to give me all this in two years? Yeah, they can’t do that, but it’s one of the reasons they went the route of offering multiple modules. Makes it so the players can play it and see features as the game goes along. Gives players something in the short term, and something at the end.
– Originally weren’t talking about Hangar module, Social module, FPS module, or anything. You get to experience the game in the short term, and you get to watch as the bigger game gets built around you, and built around your feedback.
– Stretch goal after stretch goal, even though they keep bringing in people and getting people excited, at 65 million, they said there was a huge amount of stuff to get done, and they’re going to focus on getting that finished out, and more money will focus on making everything that was promised as rich and good as possible.
– Yes, it’s increased in scope, but Chris thinks it’s what everyone wants.
– It’s the reason to go with crowdfunding too. If there were a publisher, they’d have likely said no, ship the smaller ambition. But with crowdfunding, the community sets the ambition. The community says, we want you to make something big and bold, and they funded us to be able to do that.
– There’s a level of interaction that exists almost nowhere else.
– Yes, the scope has changed, and it’s changed because the fans wanted it to change, and supported it in changing.
– ‘It’s going to be worth it to stay the course’.
– The amount of game the people who got in for 40$ are going to get is the best deal in the Universe. Hopefully people will think they had a great time watching the game grow, and then a great time playing it.
– The goal is to make the journey as enjoyable as the final product.
– CR – Doesn’t think it’s impossible at all. Very do-able; people who feel like that don’t have the technical ability or imagination to do it, they’ve got the fundamental technology pretty much cracked
– They are going to show the first large world map at GamesCom – you are orbiting a gas giant that is 182,000 km in diameter with 3 or 4 moons which will take 2.5 hours to go between the moons at top speed in the fastest ship; because of this they will have the quantum drive quick jump to get between stuff but it’s all in the same area/same level so no loading screens.
– Been actively working on the large world which is bigger precision for much larger distances – moved to 64 bit for all their 3D positions, blended with the zone system which is a dynamic container system, meaning you can have a zone inside a zone inside a zone which is a great way for sorting through the data for rendering needs and updates. Helps deal with the fact that they will have huge spaces with nothing and then areas with a lot of very dense information.
– The big challenge with Star Citizen is you have incredible fidelity but you also have incredible scale; no one has ever tackled that properly so they’ve built the core to handle that and the background streaming stuff.
– Will see some of the benefits of the streaming stuff with the 1.1.5 which will include 16 players which is double than before.
– It should have hardly any glitches when people are respawning because they are dynamically streaming and caching in a new way which will allow this big seamless world.
– The Frankfurt studio have people who built this engine and they have allowed us to do stuff you haven’t seen in a normal 3D engine.
– The other big technical thing they are working on is the backend moving to 32 players for FPS, looking at multiple servers slaved together in the cloud to continue to improve this.
– There is nothing that they don’t have a plan for. There is nothing on the roadmap that isn’t doable. Just comes down to how long it takes to get it done, sometimes it takes longer than they like.
– “What do I say [to people who think this is impossible?]” Bull shit.
– BL – Speaking for your team, the challenge is why we’re here.
– CR – Start on a space station, a bunch of people get into a Cutlass, taking off and flying along and finding a derelict Retaliator and crew of the Cutlass EVAing across to the Retaliator, getting inside, powering it up, and flying away. Will be showing a version of this type of gameplay and it will be real gameplay. Laying the foundations to build this incredible playground for people to spend many years in. This is what excites them… this is the game they want to play too.
– Working hard on FPS.
– Preview of multicrew to be shown at GamesCom which will demonstrate the large world and some of the zone system and the local grid stuff and transitioning between ships all working correctly. Will show the potential and scale of where Star Citizen is going.
– ”SOON” after that we will have FPS in people’s hands.
– Then next stage will be the multicrew Arena Commander which will be “not too long” after the FPS maybe 4/5/6 weeks after.
– Then start rolling out some of the persistent universe aspects.
– Maybe roll out some of the persistent universe aspects with the earlier modules like FPS or multicrew AC with plan of feathering content out to have some nice stuff to show at CitizenCon.