This post is a transcript of Around the ‘Verse: Episode 3.03 material that is the intellectual property of Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) and it’s subsidiaries. INN is a Star Citizen fansite and is not officially affiliated with CIG, but we reprint their materials with permission as a service to the community. INN edits our transcripts for the purpose of making the various show participants easier to understand in writing. Enjoy!
Sandi Gardiner (SG): Hey everybody, welcome to season three, episode three of Around the ‘Verse. I’m Sandi Gardiner, VP of Marketing.
Chris Roberts (CR): And I’m Chris Roberts, CEO and Project Director of Star Citizen and Squadron 42. So on this week’s news on the Star Citizen Alpha 2.5 front, we just opened up the early PTU to wider groups so we can get a little more data on the bugs that require a larger group of players to show up regularly. It’s one the big advantages of having you guys out there helping us test this thing. Be on the watch for another wider PTU push later today or tomorrow with the hope of going live next week.
So this week’s Around the ‘Verse, it’s Austin’s to show us what they’ve been working on. Headed by John Erskine who’s our Austin Studio Manager and VP of Online Operations. Austin’s the centre of our online publishing operations, IT, community support and it’s the headquarters of our global test crew. As you probably know, Austin’s dev side is headed by Tony Zurovec who’s been spending a lot of his time in all four of our studios this year working closely with the teams around the world to bring the PU to life which we’re working very hard on. So let’s kick it over to Jake Ross over in Austin for the Austin Studio Report
Jake Ross (JR): Hey guys Jake Ross here, Producer of the Austin studio and here with you this week to talk a little bit about what’s going on here in Austin.
We’ve got a few updates for you this week that hopefully, you guys haven’t really seen before, something new. So I want to first hand it off to David Swofford, our Director of Public Relations to talk a little bit about what’s going on in his world as we approach Gamescom.
David Swofford (DS): I thought I’d tell everybody a little bit what I do in world of PR for CIG. I do manage the public relations, the media relations for the company all over the globe from all of North America, Asia, also a lot of Europe and Germany and the U.K., very important markets including several others there in Europe, but if you see things like for instance this Edge magazine cover. You may have remembered that one, the Edge from the U.K. and also a more recent cover, this one with Mark Hamill on the cover of GameStar magazine in Germany. These are the sorts of things I’m responsible for. I deal a lot with the media, they want pictures, they want interviews, I facilitate that. Sometimes it involves a trip to one of our studios. We set things up with all of our executives with Chris and Erin and so forth and others, and it all comes together and ends up in something like this.
More recently, I mean very recently we have a cover on PCGames magazine in Germany and in fact that particular magazine is sort of a preview of what we’ll be showing at Gamescom to the press and also to our backers. So if you’re in Germany and you see that on a newsstand, pick it up and read it, I think you’ll enjoy it. In terms of Gamescom and what we do, there are meetings that we set up with the press and Chris and Chris details some of the cool technology that we’re showing and so they enjoy that and write about it and get their pictures and their interviews and then you’ll see that come out about I don’t know anywhere from that weekend of Gamescom to the following week, maybe two weeks out. So we’ll get a lot of coverage as result of that and that’s all my responsibility. So we’re really looking for to it, it’s going to be an exciting Gamescom. I hope you watch our livestreams and our other events that we on our website. It should be a real exciting time.
JR: Alright good stuff, thanks, David. So now I want to pass it off to Bryan Brewer, Lead Animator here in Austin. He wants to give an update on the female character animations.
Bryan Brewer (BB): Hey guys, we’re going to be taking a look at the female animation in our game. Where we’re at right now, where we came from and where we’re going.
We have rebuilt the skeleton to now fit the new female mesh which you guys have seen in previous versions of Around the ‘Verse and kind of here she is in all her glory. So what’s happened is the technical animators have come in and they’ve given her a skeleton which you can see by this little pink structure. They’ve skinned her, they’ve given her to us and we have come in and started testing animations out on her.
Here she is playing something called a ROM which stands for Range of Motion, this is something that we capture at the beginning of pretty much every motion capture shoot that we do. It’s kind of just a little calibration thing that we need our actors to go through before getting data back and solving, but to kind of tell you about where she came from. We’ve had two previous versions of the female which we’ve already done a lot of work on and already done a ton of animations on. This is what she looks like right here so you kind of get an idea of kind of what she looked like before and what she looks like now.
We’ve gone in and made her a little more heroic, she fits seats a little bit better, she’s a little bit more in line with the male and she’ll be fitting all the metrics in the game and if you remember from that last episode with all the other animators talking, there’s a lot to do with metrics in this game, a lot, which is basically trying to get everybody to fit in the same universe without having to adjust things for every animation for every character.
If I come in here and turn a couple things on you can see these red markers. These red markers are actually the motion capture markers used on our actor when we’re on stage and we’re basically do a test making sure that she’s following the data, that there’s not going to be any issues that nothing unforeseen or unexpected is going to happen.
JR: Alright thanks Brian. Lastly, I wanted to hand it off to Justin Binford, Director of QA to mention a little bit what QA here in Austin have been focusing on recently.
Justin Binford (JB): Hey guys, we’ve been very busy in QA. We’ve been splitting up our time and resources to make sure we cover everything coming online in the near future. We have processes in place to handle multiple test beds at the same time.
We start each day with a team huddle where we gather around QA Managers Andrews Hessey’s desk to discuss our daily plan as well as any challenges we may face. While we continue testing Squadron 42 and preparing for Gamescom, we’re also heavily focused on patch 2.5. 2.5 introduces a lot of new features, some of which include the flight ready Argo and Reliant as well as the pirate base, Grim Hex. We’re really excited to get this out to you guys. We’ve also been focusing heavily on testing the FPS game mode Star Marine which involves cross studio playtests between our four studios in preparation for patch 2.6.
JR: Hope you guys enjoyed that update. There’s lots of stuff going on here in Austin especially as we approach Gamescom, keeping everyone busy. Until next time, thanks guys, see you around.
Back to Studio
SG: And in other news, the new weekly newsletter was released this weekend packed with info as well as a sneak peak. So if you haven’t already read it, be sure to check your inbox.
The monthly report also went out over the weekend which is a good read.
CR: And a long read.
CR: But a good read.
SG: Good read.
CR: There you go.
SG: Track jackets and polo shirts are still available. Your last chance to get a track jacket as they are making way for Squadron 42 hoodies by popular request and the Gladius is the August free fly ship for subscribers and the subscriber flair is the Reliant model which will be attributed at the end of this week and it will go live in the game with the release of 2.5
Now let’s go over to Tyler Witkin for this week’s MVP.
MVP w/Tyler Witkin
Tyler Witkin (TW): Hey everyone, Tyler Witkin, Community Manager in the Austin, Texas studio here to bring to this week’s MVP.
A huge congratulations to DJ Brazzy for creating some incredible stylized vector artwork. We have a shared folder that CIG staff uses to share awesome screenshots and art created by the community for us to use for our desktop wallpaper. Needless to say these all made the cut.
So great work, congratulations again, you’re this week’s MVP. Back to you guys.
Back to Studio
CR: Well that was cool. I’m always blown away by the communities talent and enthusiasm for the universe of Star Citizen so it’s awesome.
Speaking of universe, lets hand you over to Tony Zurovec for a little far side game design chat.
Behind the Scenes: NPC
[When will we start to see NPCs within the game, and what can we expect?]
Tony Zurovec (TZ): We’re aiming to release the first NPCs in what’s currently called 2.7 in late 2016 with limited numbers at first and gradually increasing in quantity. The initial set of characters will consist of things like shop keepers, store patrons, maintenance workers, entertainers, tourists and vagrants and they’ll be found predominantly in the larger landing zones – Area 18, Port Olisar, Levski and GrimHex.
We’ll be looking to fine-tune performance, animation quality and usable functionality in particular with a focus on really amping up the diversity of their actions a little further down the road. That first wave of NPCs won’t have a lot to say but you can expect them to get progressively more talkative in subsequent releases. At the design level, most of the gameplay systems are unified under the auspices of Subsumption which means that conversational logic will be able to easily interpret and branch based upon your reputation in a given area – your personal history with that character, whether they have given you any tasks to accomplish and how you fared and other things of that sort.
The longer term objective is to inject as much as dynamism as possible into areas that will be populated with NPCs – one of the ways by which we mean to do this is via the addition of dynamically constructed daily schedules to the NPC population. This is going to allow them to vary what they are doing and where they are doing it based on the time of day – if you arrive at a landing site during the day then you might find shoppers hunting for a good deal and workers just going about their normal business.
If you touch down late at night though you might see fewer characters on the streets and a greater percentage of party-goers, entertainers, drunks and criminals. Another way by which we intend to add some ebb and flow to the environments is by taking into account what’s happening at a macro level within the system and factoring the results into the algorithms that determine the composition of NPCs that you’d see at any given time.
If business, for example, is booming you’ll see more well-to-do characters and less crime whereas if a location has fallen on economic hard-times then you’ll see vandalism and begging. If a war is raging near a planet then you’ll expect it’s medical facilities will be getting a lot of traffic, lots of limping and bloody pilots and marines should be going in and lots of patched together characters would be coming out.
Ultimately what we want is for the various landing zones to feel like living, breathing environments and not static portraits.
[Will I be able to hire an NPC crew for my ship?]
The ability to hire an NPC crew to help with the many tasks that operating multi-crew ships presents is actually seen as a fairly important aspect of the game as it’s going to allow solo players or just a group of friends that are missing a critical position or two to supplement their ranks as necessary.
This feature isn’t going to arrive in 2016 but I can talk a bit about where we’re heading – larger landing zones are going to have a personnel shop where you can peruse a library of available characters- each of whom is going to require a daily salary based upon their skillset and current demand. NPCs then can be rented but never actually purchased – retaining them is just going to be an ongoing expense.
NPCs that may serve in a crew will have attributes associated with them that denote their proficiency in a variety of disciplines – this is going to include things like, for example, how well they can pilot, operate a gun turret, control a tractor beam or repair damage to your ship. We’re probably going to wind up tracking a few psychological components like aggression and intelligence as well and using those to influence how that NPC behaves in various situations.
Most NPCs are effectively going to be specialists with a notable capability in only really a single area though there will be some exceptions. If their rating in one of these fields is beyond a certain threshold then they may be assigned by the player, their employer, a compatible responsibility on a ship – a combat marine then could be assigned to patrol an area and engage any foreigners that are detected but since they wouldn’t likely have any engineering knowledge they wouldn’t be able to be told to repair any damage that occurred to the ship. Every NPC attribute is going to be attributed- associated with another value that determines the character’s maximum potential in that area – this determines, in essence, how good that character can ever become at that particular discipline.
As a character does more of something, they will naturally improve their abilities up to that potential. It’s up to the employer, the player, then to decide when it’s time to give an NPC that looks to have prematurely peaked the boot so they can try their luck with another. A gunner with poor accuracy then might well be worth keeping if they’re fairly cheap and look to be steadily improving.The basic idea here is that you’re going to need to invest your time and attention – not just your money – if you want to gradually build a exemplary crew – the real NPC superstars – the guys that can repair damage in a fraction of the time or they can hit targets with stellar precision – they won’t be found looking for work in a local personnel office – they’ll be discovered by players that are willing to take a chance on them before anyone else realises their true potential.
Some of the NPCs that you encounter during your travels may, depending on how the conversation goes, offer their services to you – this method of recruitment will be considerably more time consuming that flipping pages at the local personnel office but oftentimes it’s also going to be way more likely to find a bargain or a multi-discipline NPC or someone with a higher than average potential to excel. Keeping track of and controlling your crew is going to be fairly straight forward – your mobiGlas will have an employment application that allows you to see how many characters you have working for you at that moment – what their costing you, what jobs they are capable of doing, what you’ve currently got them assigned to do and overall how they are performing.
[What are the first capabilities that crew members will be able to execute?]
Some of the first duties than NPC crew members would be able to perform will be things like operating the scanners and weaponry on a ship, serving as onboard security of a designated area or acting as a general purpose engineer capable of effecting repairs.
Farther down the road would be more exotic functions like acting as pilot for which we’ve already done a lot of the groundwork – AI ships are already quite capable of engaging in combat and laning but they don’t yet know how to position a ship when the objective is to retrieve ejected cargo or how to hover over the surface of an asteroid body, taking input from the scanners – which would be identifying valuable pockets of ore – such that the beam and cargo operators would be in a position so that they could do their jobs.
The intent ultimately is to give the player the ability to direct their crew as necessary in very, very broad strokes but to avoid defocusing the game and injecting too much micromanagement – we don’t want to become Sim Citizen. Much of the time you won’t need to do anything other than hire an NPC and assign them to a ship – a doctor for example would spend most of their time in the ship’s medical facilities – if such exist – and automatically heal any injured crew members to the best of their ability. There are some positions though that will, on occasion, require more frequent communication – a ship’s pilot, for example, needs to know where you want to go, whether you’ve decided that you want to break off from a particular encounter. Engineering efforts on the other hand, they could be prioritized so that you’re able to dictate what you want back online first – propulsion, shield or weapons.
[Some ships will support very large crews. Will I have to hire each character individually?]
We’re predominantly focused on ships with smaller crews at the moment – in order to make some of the larger ships really feel occupied though, you might need many dozens or even hundreds of NPCs – to that end we’re probably going to allow you to hire a base crew from the personnel office while specifying only a few key things like whether you want a skeleton or a full crew and the average level of competence.
Cooks and janitors and security guards then could be hired en masse allowing you to focus on hiring just the individual specialists as you’d typically do on the smaller ships to really customize and enhance the control and the efficiency of your ship. Senior crew members, you might even call them your Officers are really an enhancement of your character and your ship – they are an extension of your overall capabilities.
Once you’ve sifted through the rubble and found an NPC with a lot of potential and also invested the time and money to allow them to really bloom – we want them to really matter to you – as such, and given the difficulty and expense in replacing them, then we might allow the concept of ship insurance to be extended to cover senior officers of your NPC crew for an additional charge commensurate with their demonstrated capabilities.
Back to Studio
CR: There you go, I can’t wait to get more NPC life into Star Citizen Live – it’s going to be pretty damn cool. And just so you know, Tony and Francesco Roccucci who is our lead AI engineer have been making great progress internally on Subsumption and our new mission system so watch for further updates in the coming months on that.
So in this last segment, we’re going to have a look at a ship I think you’ll all really like – bare in mind it won’t replace your current one if you have it – if you do well enough in Squadron 42 you may very well get the opportunity to fly it. So here’s Chris Smith, our Austin Lead Vehicle Artist to tell you a little bit more about it.
Ship Shape: Hornet F7A
Chris Smith (CS): Hey guys. Not too long ago I received the awesome task of creating the new Hornet F7A ship which will be featured in Squadron 42. I recently got done with the modelling and texturing portion of the ship build, and I would like to show you guys the process of how we created the all new Hornet F7A.
The original Hornet F7A MK1 was created by CGBot and it was used in the first pitch video by Chris Roberts. The F7A is going to be featured in Squadron 42 so naturally we were looking to do a complete update for the Hornet, since the mesh being used in the game as of now is still essentially the old CGBot model from four years ago.
The idea here was to keep the original Hornet F7 MK1 series in the game and then add the F7A MK2 model, modelled completely new from the ground up with our latest techniques and pipeline procedures. Chris thought it would be cool to have the classic Hornet and the new version run side by side, and players would have the opportunity to keep the old MK1 as a classic collectors item. We were also going to revisit the MK1 one last time with an update on the materials and damage systems to have it mesh better with our current assets. While we wanted an updated and new Hornet we still wanted to keep the essence of the Hornet line of spaceships: rugged and relatively simply, yet very effective. Also I had the thought that from a distance one should be able to tell that the ship is Hornet F7. Essentially I wanted to update the lines of the MK1 Hornet and also bring the mesh up to a higher fidelity and functionality level.
We also had a list that we gathered from fans, with issues and complaints about the current Hornet ships. From that list I gathered the most important problems and most of them were already on my list as well. I tried to remedy as many issues as I could.
The initial block out went well and quick. I took some inspiration from a few of the original concepts from Rob McKinnon and also jet fighters like the F14, F19, F22, and so on.
I started with the front nose section: I made it slimmer with more aggressive and aerodynamic lines. Also I took great care to enhance the visibility of the canopy as this was a main concern for the fans of the original Hornet. I did so by eliminating the side mullians altogether to create a great panoramic view with only the two main bars obstructing the view now. I also lowered the sides for improved visibility out of the cockpit.
I then moved onto the air ducts which I slimmed down and tucked in considerably to improve the overall lines of the ship.
The landing gear in the wings were moved to the body of the ship underneath the wings (much like the F14 Tomcat setup) for a cleaner overall solution for the wings set up, which rotates backwards at high speed.
The bottom of the ship received a big overhaul: I decided to close it up as opposed to the open design of the original where you can see the bottom of the ball turret. This way the Hornet feels more put together and less disjointed. Chris wanted to have the missiles hidden and then deploy as opposed to a wing mounted setup. Since I had closed up the bottom I was able to move the missiles from the air intakes and have them deploy from the bottom center of the ship. Which is a much cleaner setup and makes more sense.
The maneuvering thrusters were also moved for optimal thrust location, and they were designed to be equal distance, from top and the side, from the center of the ship.
The main body of the ship has been made slimmer overall and it’s much lower as well in order to accommodate the rear top maneuvering thrusters. From there I made it a smooth transition to the rear wings, which are slimmer in profile and more aerodynamic.
For the cockpit I worked closely with Zane to ensure correct implementation and design. We liked the original cockpit’s unconventional non-square screen designs and tried to incorporate this design spirit into the new cockpit. I also took many cues from modern fighters such as the F22 and other fighters.
From here I started with the first run of details to the ship working my way from part to part and also started to incorporate the big hit decals that define the ship from a small distance. I reused the existing Gladiator textures to create unique materials for the F7A and it worked out great as I saved a great deal of production time while staying within the manufacturer’s style for consistency.
On smaller ships we break the ship colours up into three main colours that can be changed in the ship’s materials to create different variations and paint jobs in a quick manner. Since the F7A is the military variant it was decided to go with the green version based on the original colour scheme of the pitch video.
That’s where we are with the Hornet F7A Mark 2. We hope you enjoy flying it in Squadron 42.
SG: I think a lot of people will be excited to fly the Mk2 in Squadron 42 – I certainly will.
CR: Me too.
SG: And as a reminder there’s no show next week – we will be streaming live from our show floor booth, sponsored by Intel, with Bad News Baron, twerk17, Captain Richard and DeejayKnight. And there’s also the Gamescom party livestream. Pop-up events will be on Wednesday and Thursday night and the beer garden on Saturday.
CR: It’s a perennial.
SG: Yep! There will also be a free-fly over Gamescom and goodies to pick up at the booth, so come visit us.
CR: Yeah, we’ll see you there.
SG: Yeah, and be sure to tune into Reverse the ‘Verse tomorrow morning at 11am pacific – it’ll feature one or two of the devs from today’s show for a Q&A. So jump in there and ask all of your questions.
CR: There you go, with that, thank you to our subscribers for making this show possible and thank you to all the backers out there for making Star Citizen and Squadron 42 possible. And we will see Around the ‘Verse. Bye.