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Star Citizen Report Mensile Novembre e Dicembre 2021

Benvenuti al primo rapporto mensile PU del 2022! Iniziamo sempre l’anno guardando indietro agli ultimi due mesi di sviluppo, quindi i rapporti di seguito mettono in evidenza il lavoro svolto tra novembre e dicembre 2021. Pubblicheremo anche il rapporto di gennaio alla solita ora all’inizio del mese prossimo, quindi rimani connesso per la prossima puntata!!

AI CONTENT

Il team di intelligenza artificiale nel suo insieme ha chiuso l’anno creando mappe di test delle funzionalità per i comportamenti dell’IA utilizzabili.

Le mappe di test delle funzionalità sono nuovi processi di test autonomi che vengono eseguiti ogni giorno e stampano report, che sono estremamente vantaggiosi per il team in quanto consentono loro di identificare i bug molto più rapidamente di prima.

“Una sfida significativa che abbiamo sempre dovuto affrontare nel team è stata capire quando un problema era specifico per una determinata funzionalità o se un cambiamento esterno da parte di un altro team causava il problema. I modelli identificati dai test delle funzionalità risolveranno questo problema”.

AI CONTENT

Attualmente, il team sta testando circa 50 utilizzabili e 20 comportamenti dell’IA con cui il giocatore può interagire. In genere, un utilizzabile ha da tre a sei direzioni da cui i personaggi possono avvicinarsi e lo stesso numero da cui escono, ciascuno riproducendo un’animazione diversa. Con un numero così elevato di permutazioni, automatizzare il processo era essenziale. Il team passerà presto a test di funzionalità più avanzati per i comportamenti più complicati, come il barista, l’ingegnere e le guardie di sicurezza.

AI Content ha continuato a migliorare i baristi e i patrons per Alpha 3.16 e ha aggiunto più opzioni di drink, tra cui Cuba Libres e Mai Tais. Le animazioni di “Lavoro occupato” sono state ideate anche per aumentare la varietà quando il barista non serve i clienti. Ora ci sono 10 diverse animazioni, tra cui stretching, pulizia del vetro e organizzazione degli scaffali. Al patron e al barista sono state aggiunte anche espressioni facciali inattive.

AI Content ha anche iniziato a implementare animazione per i distributori automaticì e ha iniziato a includere prodotti utilizzabili dei coffee shop.

AI FEATURES

AI Features hanno lavorato su livelli di test delle funzionalità, impostando test da ripetere con condizioni iniziali diverse, ad esempio equipaggiando l’IA con armi diverse. Oltre a identificare e correggere i bug prima che diventino un problema, i livelli di test delle funzionalità sono utili per mostrare ad altri team le funzionalità esistenti e come utilizzarle. Man mano che acquisiscono familiarità con la tecnologia, inizieranno a coprire le funzionalità esistenti per mantenere la qualità su tutta la linea.

Il team ha anche studiato e risolto i problemi con il comportamento del barista, inclusi i problemi di “popping” quando ci si sposta tra le diverse aree del bar.

AI TECH

L’IA Tech ha terminato il lavoro sulla versione iniziale della navigazione planetaria, che contiene tutti gli elementi di base necessari per utilizzarla nel gioco. Una volta implementata, le mesh di navigazione verrà creata sulle superfici planetarie attorno ad attori e NPC, che saranno in grado di utilizzarla per trovare percorsi e muoversi lungo di essi. Sono stati aggiunti miglioramenti sia per i processi di generazione che per il Pathfinder per funzionare anche con questa nuova tecnologia.

Il team ha continuato a riorganizzare il controller dell’arma AI utilizzato dall’IA della nave, questa volta concentrandosi sul miglioramento delle torrette missilistiche e della precisione. È stata aggiunta anche una nuova tecnologia di prevenzione delle collisioni (l’ostacolo di navigazione dell’IA) per l’uso in aree ristrette e spazi con oggetti concavi complessi. Ciò ha comportato l’aggiunta di forme primitive semplificate (come sfere e scatole) che possono essere utilizzate dal sistema per prevenire le collisioni.

Il team è anche tornato alla funzione push/pull del carrello AI per aiutare i progettisti a iniziare a utilizzarla, il che ha comportato la regolazione del path follower e la creazione di una mappa di test delle funzionalità. AI Tech ha continuato a perfezionare la tecnologia del path follower, in particolare l’elemento social AI, migliorando la funzionalità e impostando utilizzabili collegati a un percorso. Gli NPC potranno seguire il percorso e fermarsi per utilizzare gli utilizzabili collegati. Oltre a questo, hanno studiato e risolto diversi problemi con la mira, l’osservazione e la locomozione degli NPC; la maggior parte dei quali riguardava problemi di sincronizzazione tra server e client.

Sono stati compiuti progressi nello strumento dell’editor Subsumption. Il team ora dispone di tutti gli elementi di base in modo che i progettisti e i programmatori possano iniziare a utilizzarli per creare missioni e comportamenti NPC.

ANIMATION

Per tutto novembre e dicembre, il Team di Animazione ha lavorato sul lanciamissili Kahix e sulla selezione/deseleziona delle armi, ha migliorato il movimento accovacciato del giocatore, le animazioni inattive e la locomozione ubriaca e ha ulteriormente sviluppato gadget minerari.

Per l’IA, il team ha lavorato sui set di animazione per cowering, surrender, mess hall, and patron. Sono state completate le attività per i venditori e i baristi, il set di zone di lavoro multi-strumento, il blocco della sicurezza e la direzione dei giocatori, la ricerca delle prese d’aria, il vandalismo di oggetti e il comportamento medico. Hanno anche bloccato gli NPC che reagivano ai cadaveri.

Per quanto riguarda l’animazione facciale, sono progrediti con linee di sicurezza generali, animazioni per inattivi e lavoratori, fornitori e comportamenti medici. Il team di Motion Capture ha continuato a risolvere i dati per trasversali e IA malata o infortunata e ha collaborato con il marketing su vari video e promozioni.

ART (CHARACTERS)

The Character Art team wrapped up a visual update to the DNA head archetypes, which should see improvements to heads and eyes in Alpha 3.17.

Some of the team focused on the frontier-style outfits for Pyro, while others worked on a series of generic Stanton outfits from the backlog that will begin to appear in-game shortly.

The Tech team worked with Graphics on the second version of the ‘layerblend’ shader to improve wear and dirt tech.

ART (SHIPS)

In the UK, the Ship Team progressed well with the MISC Hull A, bringing most of the interior to the final art stage. The landing gear and extending cargo mechanism (along with LODs) were completed and are now ready to hand over to Tech Art.

The Hull C moved through the pipeline too and is currently approaching its greybox review. Work throughout December included converting materials to hard-surface shaders, adding control panels throughout the ship, and refining the pilot seat for optimal visibility.

Throughout November, the RSI Scorpius moved through the whitebox phase before greybox work commenced in December. Most of the exterior was completed by the end of the year, including the wings, thrusters, landing gear, and canopy.

An all-new vehicle progressed through whitebox, while the Banu Merchantman progressed towards greybox.

Tints and holo-viewers were worked on too, along with polish and bug fixing for the Alpha 3.16 release.

In the US, the Drake Vulture’s interior reached final art, with just a lighting pass remaining. The exterior colors and wear were worked on, as were LODs for the landing gear, while the internal damage pass began.

The Drake Corsair moved into greybox, and art was finalized for the cockpit and mess hall.

AUDIO

Audio’s main focus was on IAE, with early November seeing them wrap up sound effects for various vehicles and weapons. Specifically, the Crusader Ares, Aegis Redeemer, and Argo Raft each received ambiances, animation, and thruster SFX passes.

After the event, Area18’s hospital was given a sound pass and a PA system to enhance the medical feel of the environment. Effects were added to the Drake Cutlass Steel and the final VO was added to character breathing.

The Audio Code team continued to work towards the first release of Claudius.

COMMUNITY

The Community team kicked off November supporting the Alpha 3.15 release with a comm-link detailing the new hospitals, medical gameplay, and updated healing system. They also hosted a Server Meshing & Persistent Streaming Q&A as a follow-up to the CitizenCon 2951 panel, with a lot of additional information and answers to the community’s most up-voted questions.

To celebrate the launch of IAE 2951, the team published the Free Fly schedule, FAQ, and infographic to help players get to and enjoy the event. During IAE, they compiled several Q&As for ship reveals, including the Anvil SpartanArgo RAFT, and MISC Odyssey. The IAE’s Best in Show days also saw the finalists of the 2951 Ship Showdown take home their exclusive liveries and leather jackets.

In December, Community supported the launch of Alpha 3.16 and kicked off the Luminalia celebration. Outside the ‘verse, they provided daily gifts via the Luminalia Calendar and hosted two Luminalia themed contests.

They also published a Patch Watch spotlighting some of Alpha 3.16’s new features that don’t appear on the Public Roadmap.

ENGINE

During the last two months of 2021, the Physics team worked on a variety of topics. Quantum grids were changed to use one per solar system. They also received support for box queries. Grid overlap checks were unified for planets and other entities, and grid transitions were improved to allow a natural transition into grids that aren’t a direct parent/child of the current grid to transition from. Moreover, physics constraints received support for limiting the gravity tilt angle and work began to support structural joints on CGAs. Also, a quantum step function for spaceships was implemented and entities tied to a rope are no longer unnecessarily woken up when the rope becomes slack.

For optimizations, physics post-step notifications and networked rigids are now processed in parallel. Similarly, vehicle hit processing was moved to allow parallelization. Cross-grid collision detection was optimized to avoid expensive geometry checks as much as possible, and asteroid fields now use the faster hash function and cache physics proxies of their occupants to prevent redundant component lookups. Lastly, physics events are now more efficiently deleted after being processed.

On the renderer, further work was done on the transition to Gen12. Progress included improvements to instance buffers (indirections on GPU removed, support for offset-based buffer binding, support for different buffer layouts) after they had previously been optimized in October. Furthermore, shadow support for lightweight render nodes was added. Lightweight render node decals were also ported to Gen12 and projected decals were fixed. A G buffer copy pass was implemented, unnecessary GPU updates were fixed, and shader stage visibility was improved to compile and bind fewer stages. Render passes are now always submitted via render graph and support a fallback pass in case any required PSO isn’t compiled. Fog volumes and skybox rendering were ported, clip volume rendering migrated, render proxy shadow enabled, and color grading refactored for Gen12. Lastly, the sorting of PSOs was tweaked, resulting in significantly fewer API calls during rendering.

Regarding atmosphere and cloud rendering, R&D on the reprojection of frame data without the need for motion vectors was completed but didn’t yield satisfactory results. Therefore, the implementation will stick with the current reprojection scheme for the time being. To improve image quality nonetheless, research started on noise reduction of the original raymarch results that are fed into the filter chain to produce final full-resolution images. Results look promising and will hopefully be shared in a coming PU release. Additionally, irradiance computation for atmospheric lighting was improved; it now better integrates ground albedo and reflected sunlight. Lodding and fade out of ground albedo was also improved, which is important for large objects in high orbit. In general, code was unified in various areas and prepared for integration upstream into the main development branch as preparation for the coming transition of all atmosphere and cloud render code to Gen12.

On the core engine side, the team submitted the first draft of entity-centric component update scheduling, which is already showing promising performance results. The scheduler now also catches and reports invalid dependencies and provides options for various update processing scenarios (client/server only, etc). The commonly used performance stats (r_displayinfo) are being reworked. PageHeap (our heap to track memory corruptions) now supports dev team filters so issues can be more easily assigned to the owners of related code. Vis area culling received additional improvements and now better handles invalid shapes. Additionally, care was taken to ensure the engine’s exception is correctly invoked in case of stack corruptions reported by specially prepared game binaries (typically for debugging certain issues during PTU). The localization manager’s loading code was optimized, and the engine now collects GPU timings as part of its profiler telemetry data that can be consumed for analysis by the external profiling tool. Lastly, investigations regarding EASTL integration continued.

The teams also looked into compile-time optimizations. Some of the changes consist of the removal of unnecessary headers included in common header files used throughout the project, a cleanup of platform headers, removal of various boost cruft and removal/replacement of expensive unnecessary macros, reimplementation of a recursive helper template by an equivalent constexpr, and the externalization of huge if-else chains. Moreover, compile times were re-analyzed via clang and code file was redistributed to uber files accordingly.

FEATURES (CHARACTERS & WEAPONS)

Throughout November and December, the Feature team focused on the final patch release of the year, with a lot of work going into fixing bugs frequently raised in player feedback reports. The team also added some of the player inventory and actor status features that didn’t make the first release. For the inventory, this included features to make interactions with the client more robust, with better failure handling and improved feedback. For actor status, an important addition was the ‘corpse marker,’ which helps players locate and recover their equipment. The team also worked on the injury system to make medical gameplay more impactful.

In late November, the team moved on to salvaging. The initial focus was on the technical aspect of visually removing material from an object and ensuring its state can be reliably stored and recreated, both across the network and when the object streams back in again. This is currently being prototyped using the damage map system.

Throughout the year, work on the hacking minigame continued. It has gone through multiple iterations, with each prototype being playtested internally using a simplified 2D in-game representation. It has since evolved to be more competitive, tying into some of the in-world gameplay mechanics like scanning. As the core layout of the minigame has remained fairly stable throughout the multiple prototypes, work began on bringing the visuals online. The concepts for this saw multiple iterations, with it currently looking like the player is executing scripts to programmatically attack the target system. The interface, as it currently stands, will offer the user different options to input the various commands.

FEATURES (GAMEPLAY)

Gameplay Feature’s work for November and December focused heavily on tasks for releases in 2022. Significant progress was made in enabling item selling, with the kiosk UI approaching completion and backend code trending towards completion in Q1.

The cargo rework is ongoing but intermittent as supporting work from other teams comes online. The team are using the time between these jumps to work on small quality-of-life fixes where possible. The team also worked on (and released) Jumptown 2.0.

FEATURES (VEHICLES)

Towards the end of 2022, Vehicle Features focused on the grav-lev rework. In November, they wrapped up the base implementation and tuned the available bikes for improved stability and handling. In December, players got a hold of the feature and flagged bugs, issues, and instabilities for fixing. This led to massive improvements throughout the Evocati and PTU patches. 

“We’re incredibly pleased with how the community helped us hone in the feature for release. There are still some issues we need to fix up in 2022, but we’re generally quite happy with how the rework turned out.” Vehicle Features

Towards the end of the year, some team members looked to the future with technical reworks being planned and started for the transit networks and restricted areas. While these won’t result in significant changes to the player experience (particularly in the case of transit), they will result in far fewer bugs and much better general stability. These sorts of reworks are necessary because, longer-term, they free the team up to focus on either new features or improve other aspects of the game.

The last major focus was on jump points, which are progressing well. The team are currently working on ‘abnormal exits,’ which are situations where the player might exit a jump point prematurely or not in a usual, safe way. For example, a player falling out the back of their ship, the powering down of the jump point, or a jump drive failing.

“Dealing with all the possible cases in a sensible and consistent way is a tricky problem, but the result is a feature that has a genuine sense of risk and danger to its use, so it’s important we get it right.”

GRAPHICS & VFX PROGRAMMING

The Graphics team completed a significant amount of work on shaders and materials towards the end of last year, with one of the main focuses being updating volumetric water lighting so it works in a similar way to the volumetric fog model. There were also several bug fixes for water volumes in general. The hair shader also received attention due to updates to the hair clip volume interaction and efforts to prevent artists from having to rework assets through emulating the old visuals with the latest shading model. They completed the shader conversion from the old DX9 style and kicked off work on the opaque ice/crystal shader to solve quality and rendering issues with previous attempts using GlassPBR. As it’s opaque, the shader will be cheap to use extensively. For example, in scattered planetary rocks and the Banu Merchantman’s floors and walls.

For Gen12, the team implemented a fallback rendering system called ‘pass group fallbacks’ for use when the shaders are compiling. For Vulkan, they continued with the GPU marker refactor, adding API versioning and fixing issues with arrays of resources on Vulkan. They also spent time investigating issues with the Overwolf implicit layer (DLL injection) that were impacting players in Alpha 3.15.1.

Development of the fire hazard feature continued, with the VFX Programming team moving heat and temperature to the physics proxy, working on IR emission, and fixing various bugs with the temperature component and look-at debug camera.

Salvage-wise, an investigation was made into the networking of damage-map data as well as implementing placeholder interfaces to unblock the game coders. The main damage-map features are being worked on in Q1.

Numerous updates were made to particles, including new controls for the mesh particle offset position and min/max pixels, a new option to pick ‘attached zones’ of particle entities, particle texture aspect-ratio support. There were also bug fixes for flashing/black particles, emitter bounds calculations, entity placement on planet OCs, and shock diamonds.

Finally, a number of performance improvements and optimizations were made to emitter memory consumption, material glow lock contention from entity effects, and gas cloud zone contention on destruction and impact MFX.

LIGHTING

November and December saw the Lighting team wrap up support for IAE, which involved a fresh and interesting new lighting style for the existing convention halls.

“At this stage, it’s all about ensuring each ship has a light rig on it that shows it off as best as possible while maintaining render budgets to keep the experience smooth.” Lighting Team

With that done, the team moved on to providing support to the Ship team, which involved looking at various older ships and optimizing their lighting setups alongside another layer of polish. This task was mostly successful, though existing tech issues and bugs with some ships need to be ironed out before further progress can be made.

To wrap up the year, the team moved back to working on Pyro’s space stations, this time exploring more look-development and visual benchmarks, and supported the Jumptown 2.0 locations with updated visuals.

NARRATIVE

Before the release of Alpha 3.16, Narrative worked closely with Design to write and capture the voice content for Ruto and the other security reps in preparation for Jumptown 2.0 (which was teased earlier in an installment of Data Cache).

Narrative met with Mission Features to start work on additional mission content, determining what kind of lines would be needed, and discussed content for future Dynamic Events. They worked alongside Character Art on the upcoming frontier-style clothing, which will be most common on the fringes of society, such as less-hospitable planets or areas without much commerce. It was decided that while it will be influenced by Earth and Terra fashion, it will have its own unique overall aesthetic.

The team provided names and descriptions for various items and components, and completed documentation on fictional elements of the overall universe.

As usual, there were several Spectrum dispatches too: The team answered some of the biggest questions from the Ask a Dev forum in Loremaker’s Community Questions, the Galactapedia received another update, and the latest installment of Something Every Tuesday delved into the annual tradition of Traveler’s Day.

PROPS

The Props team continued to work on Pyro station. This included refining the new trash assets, creating a modular set for the improvised marketplace counters, heating and lighting props, and other dressing/flavor elements such as generators and fuseboxes.

They also closed out support on additional underground facility mission props for the Mission Feature team and polished several hospital props alongside the team in Montreal.

Finally, initial whitebox work was done for the upcoming lockable/lootable crates and cargo for the ongoing cargo refactor.

QA

QA’s primary publishing focus was getting Alpha 3.15.1 and 3.16 to the PTU and LIVE servers. However, Alpha 3.16 wasn’t stable enough, so it was decided to use Alpha 3.15.x and piecemeal specific features in. This worked well, so the internal branch ID of 3.15.2 (externally called 3.16.0) was pushed to the PTU and LIVE with several 3.16 features in a much more stable build. Time was also spent hiring additional team members as the department expands.

SYSTEMIC SERVICES & TOOLS

In November and December, Systemic Services & Tools wrapped up work on the Economy, Tools, and AI Simulation optimizations and tools polish. New functionality will be added to these tools in Q1, some of which will be detailed in January’s report.

Work began to wrap up implementation of the new selling gameplay system. This required an under-the-hood rework of the existing shop system, which will act as the foundation for the initial implementation that’s planned for release shortly.

The whole team helped stabilize services and ensure one of the most stable patch releases yet, which was achieved by addressing various edge cases found with the new Super pCache and other backend services and systems.

TECH ANIMATION

To close the year out, the Tech Animation team set a mandate to finish upgrading all head assets to the new pipeline in preparation for the full DNA system refactor. This is a long-standing initiative that will hopefully conclude in early 2022.

“To get us there, we need to recreate every single head asset in the game and check it’s still working as we intend. All hands are on deck for this one, with the whole team pushing to reach the finish line.” Tech Animation

Alongside this, the team began cleaning up the animation databases, which involved triaging several hundred old animation asset references from the databases. Tech Animation also continued to support the various feature teams with embedded staff.

UI

Towards the end of the year, the UI Feature and Tech teams supported the Alpha 3.15 and 3.16 releases by addressing bugs, crashes, and performance issues related to the ASOP terminals, rental kiosks, vehicle management app, and inventory system. They supported other teams with their UI-related issues too.

They continued to update features for persistent streaming and supported the visual implementation of the refueling HUD.

Progress was made on the core tech and feature set of the new Starmap. For example, they added display controls to modify relative distance, orientation and scale, and the ability to frame selected objects appropriately.

UI Tech continued work on the core technology for hacking, adding the ability to select and edit text in the UI.

The new Building Blocks editor entered pre-production towards the end of the year, which will make working on UIs more efficient and developer-friendly. Additionally, more Building Blocks features were added.

On the art side, the team created a variety of new concepts for the mobiGlas, AR markers, Starmap, Aegis HUD modes, and Origin HUD. Updated icons for the law system were concepted too.

VFX

Towards the end of the year, the VFX team worked on a full effects suite for the Aegis Redeemer, including its unique ‘nutcracker’ thrusters. They also created effects for a Size 3 bomb for a future release.

“It’s not quite as destructive as the Size 10, but it’s powerful enough to cause a stir!” VFX Team

Work was also completed on Arena Commander’s Dying Star map, including a spectacular new version of the star itself.

Elsewhere, further tweaks were made to the planetary storm effects to help them pick up the lighting more naturally. Finally, R&D for salvage commenced.

POST RECENTI

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