June 13th 2019
What you are about to read is the latest information on the continuing development of Squadron 42 (SCI des: SQ42).
Agents devoted countless hours to bringing us this intelligence. Through their hard work, we’ve learned key intel on recent operations concerning Archon Station, AI transitions, inspired use of fog cloud technology, and more.
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UEE Naval High Command
Optimization continues all round, including the continued developing and fine-tuning of FPS combat tactics. This includes fighting from cover, fighting in open space, simple search behavior, and improvements to first reactions. Improvements were also made to the Posture Manage – the system used during combat to understand if an AI enemy has visibility of the player and a viable shooting direction when taking cover.
They also finished setting up usables (beds, seats, consoles, etc.) and are starting to create a pre-visual system for different human AI enemy types and weapon sets. Immediate exits from cover when under duress were also worked on and the team is working on a plan to outsource data sets for animation variants to better prioritize development time.
More female animation sets are currently in development and will now always be worked on alongside the male version. Currently, they’re starting with base re-targets from the male source and then replacing them with female-specific assets.
Finally for Animation, the team worked on a few new weapons and assisted the Feature Development Team on attachments, melee, and takedowns. They also working hard on incorporating all of the story scenes, cinematics, and through lines for [REDACTED].
“Hopefully they don’t censor it this time, because that scene where [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] go to [REDACTED] is really cool!” – SQ42 Animation Director
With work on the “organic shader” nearing completing, the team can start iterating on the asteroid set; initially focusing on the standard “space potatoes” before progressing to the more technically-challenging shard-like shapes needed for the latter half of the campaign.
Significant effort was put into the traversable areas found around Archon Station, with the team keen to avoid the standard ‘room, corridor, room’ approach and fully open out the station to highlight its sheer scale. Once these areas are further developed, a dynamics pass will take place to give each corner life and movement using the lessons learned from their investigations earlier in the year.
The team are currently well into the development of a key “comms array” seen in the campaign. The undisclosed array manufacturer has its own unique style that mixes retro design approaches and plenty of real-world references that grounds the entire station in reality.
Volumetric skybox work continues around the Coil, with one mission in particular receiving a lot of attention. It merges the new wind mechanics with the New Flight Model and, though still early days, is giving the team a thorough understanding of how best to create space locations with the speed and scale of the campaign ships.
The team also received a major code revision for the Track View tool that enables AI characters to blend in/out of cinematic scenes or Track View sequences in general. The new code is still in early testing, but when complete, will enable the team to add locomotion-based intros and outros. This means characters will smoothly enter scenes from whatever they were doing and transition back when it ends, removing the sudden jar as NPCs rush into position still seen in many modern games.
Progress was all made on “head look”. Previously, when looking down or sideways, there were situations where players could see into their own body or shoulder. They also restricted look movement depending on whether the player character is carrying a weapon and what their pose is, again to stop clipping through the geometry.
Melee takedowns now use the inverse kinematics (IK) system to ensure they appear correctly if the victim is on a different level from the player, such as on a slope or a step. They also started the first pass of punching and knife attacks for melee combat, again using IK to hit specific areas of the target.
The AI Team implemented channel routing for the usable feature, which allows functionality to be routed from one usable to another. For example, a bartender can deliver a drink to a patron whether they’re standing, sitting in a chair, or sitting in a chair at a table. They also implemented area slotting, which allows a usable interaction to be triggered when players enter an area, rather than having to move to a very specific point.
Improvements were also made to the third-person camera, giving options to link motion to the cadence of footsteps to give a more dynamic view. They also created the ability to change video rendered to a texture that simulates changing TV channels.
The Engine Team provided support for the procedural tools, which involved making improvements to automated object layouts and generating ground layers for the lookup texture (LUT) table. In rendering, they made major quality improvements to Screen Space Directional Occlusion (SSDO) shadowing, enabled temporal dithering for dissolving objects and terrain blending, and enhanced the temporal dither pattern for reduced noise on hair cards.
They also completed the final touches on gas clouds, various optimizations, and integrated the volumetric shadows into the fog system to fix a handful of bugs.
The “landing/take-off module” needed for many of the chapters received more focus, with contribution from the UI, Animation, and Engineering teams.
Finally, the “Outer Odin” levels were put in their correct object containers and can now be traveled to in-game.
They’re now working on creating reliable test levels with specific Track View functionality. Eventually, these levels will be implemented into the TestRunner feature tests made specifically for Track View cinematics. Changes made within the feature stream for combat AI were also tested to ensure that existing cutscenes wouldn’t be affected once they were ported into the game build. A few issues were also tested that could’ve broken the Track View tool itself and crashes were investigated that were introduced as a result of the change.
Additionally, animators were spread across many teams to help in the development of combat, weapons, usables, and cinematics.
SQ42 will also benefit from the ongoing developments to the central flight HUD. This includes indicators for velocity, g-force, afterburner, ESP, and some new mechanics such as the thruster strength limiter and radar altimeter. Players can get a sneak peek when Alpha 3.6 launches in the Persistent Universe, as the HUD is being tested publicly on the Aegis Gladius.
They also continued work on the new gas cloud tech mentioned last month, this time looking at ways the toolset can be used in non-gas cloud locations, such as asteroid fields. Finally, they fixed an issue with the current version of the tool that was causing bounding boxes to export incorrectly. This was rectified by manually forcing the bounding boxes and voxels to a specific size so that everything matched up across the various assets.