Roberts Space Industries

Transmission

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ID:

17144

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11

Date:

July 9th 2019

Squadron 42 Monthly Report: June 2019

Squadron 42 Monthly Report: June 2019

This is a cross-post of the report that was recently sent out via the monthly Squadron 42 newsletter. We’re publishing this a second time as a Comm-Link to make it easier for the community to reference back to.

Attention Recruits,

What you are about to read is the latest information on the continuing development of Squadron 42 (SCI des: SQ42).
Through our thorough investigations, we’ve obtained intel on recent operations pertaining to Track View cinematics, AI enhancements, stun mechanics, and more.

The information contained in this communication is extremely sensitive and it is of paramount importance that it does not fall into the wrong hands. Purge all records after reading.

UEE Naval High Command


AI


June’s Squadron 42 roundup starts as always with the AI Team, who enabled a multithreaded update of the Subsumption component, which will have a big impact on overall game performance. They also updated the Tactical Point System to support asynchronous generation, which improves the efficiency of large usable search radiuses and has less impact on frame update.

The Character Combat Team spent time refactoring human combat – new tactics have been added, NPCs understand open environments better, and a lot of bugs have been fixed. The first version of an ‘investigate’ behavior was also completed, which will enable NPCs to search for players if they manage to escape during combat.

Ship AI implemented a component that better balances the targeting selection of AI ships. One new element allows the designers to set up suggestions on how the AI should spread individual ships within a group, which in turn allows systemic behaviors to choose which target should be attacked first.

Combat wise, behaviors were added to make better use of the pilot skills and all initial ‘skill sheets’ were completed. Several flying maneuvers, such as the ‘fly by’ and ‘breakaway’ mentioned a couple of reports ago, were reworked to support strafing and the afterburner has been improved when flying over splines. They continued work on 3D pathfinding and are currently implementing a more efficient way to evaluate the environment and build flight paths using information from the distance field calculated by the physics code. This will also allow AI ships to better navigate highly complex environments, such as dense asteroid fields and intricate structures.

Finally for AI, the Social Team introduced several new functionalities to the vendor AI, such as enabling NPCs and players to interact with usables without the need to explicitly trigger interactions.



Animation


Last month, Animation continued to develop human-style enemies, including enabling them to use sidearms and the previsualization of two new enemy types. They worked closely with the Design Team to prototype melee combat and began working out the kinks in the takedown system. Jumping, and closing out the technical needs for it, was a priority too. They also began creating animations for ‘first selects’ (a unique animation for the first time a player holds/equips a weapon) and worked with Design on weapon inspection and how they’re picked up.

The team moved forward with ship-to-ship communications, including getting the g-force animations playing properly for AI pilots. Once the pipeline is completed, they’ll be able to start producing ship-to-ship comms calls in earnest.

Tying into the AI Team’s work above, Animation started on the motion capture data for the updated bartender and bar patron behavior and began work on a new mission giver coming later in the year.

They also continued on usables, with the aim to have all requested animations complete within the next few months.



Art (Characters)


Character Art continued to focus heavily on bringing up the quality of hair. Work continued on the Vanduul, while the concept stage of the Xi’an race made great headway. Refinements were made to existing outfits and the material library was further expanded, which will help improve the overall quality of costumes in the game.



Art (Environment)


The Environment Art Team finished work on the base asteroid set and began trialing new shaders to great result. The finished set was handed over to Design and features asteroids ranging from 30 meters to 3 kilometers. The current challenge is how to texture such a wide range of sizes and shapes.

The team pushed further with Archon Station’s traversable sections, which are now essentially content complete. They’re now moving onto creating the detail, such as the masses of machinery and pipework that fill the station. As mentioned in previous updates, the team is keen to get away from the ‘room, corridor, room, corridor’ mentality and are instead working in traversable paths around important structural features. For example, an oil rig is predominantly designed for a single purpose – how people get around and live on it is worked in afterwards. The team are pushing this approach to really nail believable and natural gameplay spaces.

Work on an important comms array continued. The structure is huge and the team are currently working to ensure both the interior and exterior are fun to explore and play, which involves working on a visual language that makes it clear where and what the various gameplay options are. Players will be encouraged to play the way they want, so rather than holding their hands, they’ll be ‘channeled’ at certain points to ensure they witness crucial scenes relevant to the story.

VDB remains in focus and the team are currently in the process of merging it with their asteroid belt work. The goal is to create ‘sea beds’ of asteroid rings and belts that not only stretch as far as the eye can see but are a challenge to navigate.



Art (Weapons)


The Weapon Art Team finished modeling and texturing the Hedeby Gunworks Salvo frag pistol and Behring GP33 ‘MOD’ grenade launcher. They also spent time cleaning up optical attachments and polished a few other weapons, including the Klaus & Werner Lumin V SMG



Audio


June saw the Audio Team focusing on chapter four and building on the extensive work the other departments have delivered so far. The levels are already incredibly impressive and present the team with some interesting challenges on how to approach sound and audio effects.



Cinematics


This month took a major step forward in terms of new tech and tools. These new additions will give the Cinematics Team a thorough pipeline to aid scene integration within the campaign.

New code allows sequences from the cinematic timeline tool to blend seamlessly with AI locomotion before and after the scene ends. This is still being tweaked, but the majority of the heavy lifting is done and is functioning as intended. Another new addition is what the team calls the ‘AI>Trackview>AI sandwich’. This code made positive changes to Track View functionality and made some other internal tools redundant. The update went through QA and was extensively tested by the Cinematics Team to make sure their workflow wasn’t compromised. Initial bugs such as slowdowns in performance while scrubbing the timeline were quickly fixed and the team is now benefiting from a smoother and faster workflow.

Another update gives the team a visual method of selecting a ship’s interior and items. Any ship they pull into the editor can now be opened and its entities visually selected and added to Track View (previously, items were only selectable via a dropdown menu, which was less intuitive).

Improvements were also made to the ‘Actor Action’ track in the sequencer tool. The team can now grab, handover, holster, unholster, and equip items not just from a character’s loadout but any item from the world put into the sequence. For example, this makes scenes possible where a character hands over a weapon to the player and they hand it back.

In addition to testing the new code, the team progressed on some major campaign scenes.



Engineering


The Actor Team began developing animation-driven ragdoll death sequences. This tech enables death animations to play while the body collides with the environment or reacts to external factors in a realistic and believable way. It’s still in the early stages but is beginning to work as intended.

More progress has been made on melee attacks, with support added for different attack types, blocks, and directional dodges.

The team also looked at the player status system and began rebalancing the stamina system to improve gameplay. They’re currently implementing a ‘stun’ mechanic, where a player can become unsteady until they’re eventually knocked unconscious for a period.

Finally for Engineering, a new system is currently in development that ties together all the different things that trigger camera shakes into a unified system. It also applies camera shake differently depending on whether the player is in first-person, third-person, or cinematic camera mode.



Gameplay Story


The Gameplay Story Team had another highly productive month, implementing 12 scenes to a high standard and achieving their goal of completing all of chapter 4’s scenes by the end of 2019’s second quarter. They also supported the Design Team, who have begun triggering these scenes in significant numbers.

Alongside this, they added new audio to a handful of scenes and fixed errors that could have blocked the exporting of object containers in the future. They’re currently working with the recently integrated Universe Outliner that allow them to animate many doors, cupboards, and flaps that were previously inaccessible.



Graphics


Last month, Graphics finished the optimization of gas clouds, which should bring the cost to under 2ms on most GPUs. They’ll reassess the performance once the assets are finalized and decide whether further steps are required for lower-spec GPUs.

The UK studio hosted a mini-summit for the graphics and engine teams to plan out the next stage of the major renderer rework. This rework involves fundamental changes to the structure of the renderer to allow pre-calculation of as much rendering data and entity creation as possible to minimize the work in each frame. When complete, it should result in significant CPU performance improvements, but will take several months to complete.



Level Design


The Design Team continued their work on the various levels, improving the flow and refining technology with the various feature teams. The Social Team continue their work on the interstitial spaces, with improvements to the crew behaviors in numerous areas and implementation of vital narrative scenes.

The Tech Team are still improving the wider team’s workflow for consistency and stability, with oversight from the various specialist engineers. The goal here is to have this section in a highly polished state in Q3 to enable them to move forward with the other chapters, all of which have design owners and are being worked on concurrently.



Narrative


The Narrative Team went through an assortment of editorial selects for key Squadron 42 characters. They also wrote several set-dressing documents to guide Environment Art and Props with environmental storytelling. In addition, they had multiple reviews with Design on several chapter’s narrative moments and made further progress on their ongoing task to complete all in-game text.



QA


Changes to AI actors went into the build, which had an impact on the Cinematics Team’s workflow, so QA undertook extensive testing and test map creation specifically for Track View. The team are currently making improvements to the current automated test map as well as creating additional maps, which will make it easier to reproduce the issues the Cinematics Team may encounter.



Tech Animation


Technical Animation worked closely with many other teams on ship comms calls, animation workflows, and processes. They also continued to work through the backlog of outstanding wildline and dogfighting comms animations and are currently implementing the ones already processed. The Maya tools source control refactoring is complete too, which will allow the animators to work unhindered whether there is a source control connection or not.

The Vanduul also made a comeback – the team are working with Facial Animation to refine the look and feel of the race to showcase to the game directors very soon.



Tech Art


Last month, Tech Art (together with Core Engine and Tech Animation) took strides towards establishing the new updated in-house facial rigging pipeline. In order to flesh out the DNA gene pool and populate the game with unique looking characters, a large number of face rigs for both female and male characters need to be created. An in-house facial rigging solution will give devs the required flexibility and full control over production scheduling and rig asset quality (and therefore animation and deformation quality). The first test case and benchmark for this new system was the face rig for the female playable character. The challenge now lies in ensuring that the animation quality now matches (or surpasses) that of the male playable character. Initial results look very promising and the team is excited to take the next steps.



UI


The UI Tech Team spent time upgrading the new UI system to include scrolling lists and flexible layouts, as well as supplying the tech for the new Gladius HUD. The Graphic Design Team worked on logos for the three main squadrons in the game, created UI screens to help bring the Archon bridge to life, and looking into retro sci-fi branding for the Aciedo environment.



VFX


Alongside the vertical slice worked on with Environment Art, VFX continued to support the various art and design teams on a couple of key locations.



Conclusion

WE’LL SEE YOU NEXT MONTH



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