FOUNDRY 42: UK
Over the last month, the graphics team focused on both 3.0 and the Squadron 42 vertical slice. Most of that time involved bug fixes. Highlights included major fixes to texture streaming bugs (they’ve since found another bug in Lumberyard and the fix will vastly reduce VRAM usage on the next release), a fix for facial animation glitching, and various fixes for hair and temporal anti-aliasing. They also continued to develop the Render-To-Texture system, including adding expose control to video comms calls and using the system for the new ship targeting displays.
The Squadron 42 vertical slice also benefited from some of their new features, such as a new cloth shading model, improved light-beams, the debut of volumetric gas-cloud tech, and a new particle-based shield effect that uses signed-distance-fields to allow the particles to flow smoothly along the hull of the ship. Their r-focus for the new year will shift to improving performance and various planned shader improvements to enable more dynamic materials.
The team was really excited to reveal the Hammerhead in November and since then they’ve been hard at work finishing the exterior sections not seen in the video. They did a detail pass across the hull and engines, and gave the underside more attention. The landing gears were also added, so the exterior is now ready to start on the damage set up. For the interior, they blocked out the floor plan using existing Aegis kits from the Idris and Javelin. They also worked out what bespoke and new pieces are needed to finish the interior and have a couple of guys at work on these now.
The Avenger has been undergoing a complete re-make to address issues with the original and make it conform to the current ship metrics and requirements. The updated Avenger revealed in the Around the Verse holiday special was a combined effort between the ship team and the newly formed Squadron 42 team. The cargo and bounty hunter variants are art complete, and work on the EMP variant is scheduled for January. Work to finalize the remaining exterior parts, such as landing gear, damage and LODs, will start soon.
The 600i is entering the final art phase. On the exterior, the thrusters and landing gear are near completion, and work is due to start on the turret. The interior is going through a polish pass, while work on the bridge, corridors and exploration module are due to be wrapped up soon. Since the last update, the team listened to backer feedback and removed the struts from the bridge windows.
The Gladius was a big part of the Squadron 42 Vertical Slice, so they spent time tweaking it for the demo. This included implementing the new glass and screen shader, cockpit lighting and headlight tweaks, screen sizes/positioning and adding the new starmap. Cockpits are the most complex parts of the ships, bringing together input from across the company, and they went through many iterations before satisfying the requirements of all departments.
Work continued on the Eclipse, as the cockpit and exterior were grey boxed. The mesh is currently going through a detail pass before starting on textures and shaders.
The Vanduul Blade exterior is almost complete, and has been brought into line with other Vanduul ships. The team’s current focus is on the interior and working out the enter and exit mechanism for pilots.
The UK VFX team spent December bug-fixing and optimizing for 3.0, following on from the sanity pass discussed last month. R&D work continued on signed-distance-field shield effects, including power-on, power-off and impact effects for the Gladius, Cutlass and Buccaneer. They also honed in on the finer effect details seen in the Squadron 42 Vertical Slice demo. There are too many to name individually, but highlights include the Coil itself, the lightning storm inside the giant asteroids and the Slaver base cryo-pods.
The team also made solid progress on VFX for the Scanning feature. Amongst other things, it will emit a virtual particle grid (only seen via the UI) that allows players to better visualize 3D space when they’re in, well, space.
The UI team spent December splitting their time between wrapping up features for 3.0 and working on bugfixes for the Squadron 42 Vertical Slice. On the PU side, the team had daily standups for each feature with Directors to get feedback straight away. These daily syncs not only helped progress for the Starmap, PMA, VMA and MFD/Visor holodisplays, but ensured that communication was kept close between the various departments involved in pulling these features together ahead of 3.0 going Live.
In the run up to the Holiday Special, the UI focused on various bug fixes, including ensuring that the Visor UI would turn on at the correct time, removing quantum linking text from the Gladius HUD, and providing performance fixes alongside others to polish the experience. In addition, fluff screens for Chemline were designed and implemented ahead of the stream.
In December, the environment team delivered final optimizations and bug fixes deemed as ‘must fix’ for the release of 3.0. As those tasks were completed, the team began to work on the next environments. A big focus of 2018 will be on getting spaces that are shared across locations functional, so the team worked on whiteboxing the kits for both hangars and habitation modules. The idea is to create kits for all these ‘common’ elements in a specific art style so they can be used across different locations. The whitebox stage allows design, art, and code to lock down the features of an element before committing to final art.
Elsewhere, the DE team has been looking at improvements to the planet texturing systems. The main goal is to improve the diversity and breakup of terrain types across a planet’s surface. The new tech increases the number of supported distribution channels by 5x, meaning there’s some improved visuals across terrains in the not too distant future.
The audio team had all hands on deck in the lead up to the Squadron 42 Vertical Slice. They ensured the demo was fully supported with all the Dialog, Music and SFX content required. This work included additional sound design for cinematics, location ambience polish pass, ship SFX balancing, dialog attenuation/mix pass, and new music content/logic implementation via Subsumption.
The audio team simultaneously supported the Alpha 3.0 release with content creation, implementation and polish of dialog, SFX, and music assets. These included implementing new music logic and content for PU armistice zones (Olisar, Levski and Grim HEX), improving definition and intelligibility of weapon sounds, and adjusting thruster sounds for the Dragonfly and Nox in light of ongoing flight model tweaks.
Going forward, the audio team looks to iterate on the current Foley system and actor status system (breathing component). They also plan to begin work on a fully fleshed out sound simulation system.
The Concept and Tech teams introduced a new core structure and narrative behind how Lorville on Hurston function and come together. They developed an exciting and visually interesting city archetype for integrating procedural and landing zone elements. The team did an extensive amount of concept work to solve most of the major design issues.
The base archetype for a utilitarian habitation was established for the first procedural and fully interactive room. Concept is busy investigating and solving both material and theming diversity for generating these units across the Stanton system.
SHIPS AND WEAPONS
This month, the team wrapped up the super large Tumbril Nova tank plus three other new ships of varying sizes and roles. They also provided support where needed and helped with marketing and new website revamp. For ship weapons, the team completed the Trident Laserbeam S4-S6 and the Hurston Electron Beam Alterations S1-S3.
The Derby Facial team was super busy right up until the 21st Dec with Facial animation tasks ranging from polishing the Prisoner Arrival scene to adding more in-game dialogue for random NPC characters.
The team also held their first Studio Christmas Party. It was a fairly small key event, but a good chance for staff and partners to enjoy some good food and a couple of drinks.
The team’s pleased to announce that Senior Facial Animator Tony Wills is moving positions and is now Lead Gameplay Story Animator. Tony will oversee 800+ in-game mini “cut scenes.”
The UK programming team did a lot of bug fixing and polish work to get Alpha 3.0 out of the door as well as the Squadron 42 Vertical Slice in preparation.
On the cinematics side, they implemented the dynamic lighting mentioned last month. This allows the devs to fade up a specific lighting rig for a cutscene to highlight the quality of the characters. They also experimented with a new dynamic depth of field (DoF) mechanic for non-combat scenarios to give the game a more cinematic feel. Rather than having an infinite DoF, which is usually the case, the game focuses on what the player is currently looking at and applies a subtle blur for everything that is nearer/further away.
The networking team worked on serialized variable culling, which will eventually become entity bind culling. This stops the server from distributing the state of variables on an entity after a certain distance. Considering the massive size of the PU and the content required to fill it, sending updates to everybody became a bottleneck. This helps the network bandwidth and performance side, as the server/client doesn’t have to deal with nearly as much data. The downside is that when the code is not expecting this behaviour, these edge cases introduced new bugs that needed to be found and worked through.
Otherwise, they tackled other performance issues and optimizations, polished as many features as as possible before the end of the year, and a enjoyed a nice break over the holidays!