So, to make up for the slow trickle of information over the last month or so, this week we got swamped. Is anyone complaining? I'm certainly not.
Several WIP's from Jump Points were posted for public consumption, for both the Hull Series and ArcCorp, if anyone is interested to take a look at them.
The Chairman himself gave us a post on Friday, explaining what was going on with the game, and why it was taking so long to get it out to us. It seems as if they have completely scrapped a lot of the piecemeal stuff they were doing, and instead are just going ahead and pumping it right into what the PU will end up being, so they can just link them. One other interesting tidbit of news is that Chris has spent more days shooting scenes for Squadron 42 than he ever did for any other project that came before.
Last but not least, we got another concept sale, along with a design post from Tony Zurovec about how passenger transportation will work. It sounds like if you put a fair amount of time into it, you can make quite abit of money. Of course, the Starliner itself costs a fair chunk of change as well.
Just One Image...
Merlin HUD from ATV
There were tons of other pictures added because of the Starliner reveal, but otherwise there was nothing interesting from Sandi and if you want images from the continuing leak saga, then you'll have to go to reddit to check the spoilers.
10 for the Producers, June 22nd
Note that both Travis and Chelsea Day are going to be leaving CIG, though I do not know if a date has been given.
Do you think development of Star Citizen will become more stable(better to predict the timeline) after the FPS, Instancing, Large World and AC 2.0 are finished? Or will be a lot of friction when all this is integrated? How do you balance this problem of integrating new features and stable/predictable development between the main development branch and our live/PTU branch?
Honestly, it is something that will be discovered as they go along and continue development. It is a producers job to make sure all the pieces fit together, but it's always going to be a balancing act.
When working on timelines, how do you account for the unexpected? I imagine game development timelines would have lots of interconnected dependencies and a delay in one track of work might hold up another track. Do you just build in extra time for the inevitable issues that come up? Are certain tracks of work more predictable than others?
Pretty much all producers (including those at CIG) begin with predicable or easily understood processes. Then once the beast begins to grow, they have to be able to change and adapt along with it - though that is true of any large project. Every one of them will have plenty of predictable and understood events, just as there are guaranteed to be ones that throw them for a loop that will take effort to get right. "No plan survives contact with the enemy."
Is it possible to give an example of how long each aspect of a feature or asset takes. For example, what percentage is spent in concept, design, coding, and polish, etc? Does each asset/feature follow a similar breakdown or are some more resource heavy in certain areas? If so, are there any indicators to each asset taking longer at a certain phase?
Every aspect is its own unique special snowflake, so unfortunately it is impossible to say. Some things will take longer just because they simply require more work, period - but there are millions of variables to consider with everything else too.
When it comes time to staff a project, how cost effective is it to outsource vs hire a new team member? How is that decision made?
This is still something hotly debated within the industry itself. It's generally case-by-case, but the answer to this question depends on the answer of other questions. "How much time do you have for the project? How much money do you have for the project? When does the project need to be out?" Those only scratch the surface.
When delays occur in the production stream such as what’s happened with Star Marine, what are the producers at CIG doing to minimize it’s effect on the overall schedule of the game’s development? I’m aware that various modules are being run in parallel to help offset this, but are there other specific things that are being done that we may not be aware of?
(The answer to this one is complicated, Travis talks about their Stream and Branch structure, and the many different dev builds. There is no easy way to 'summarize' a technical post, so if you're actually interested check out the transcript linked above.)
As a senior producer, what is the most difficult aspect of the job – managing people/time, hitting schedule milestones, facilitating communication or staying within budget?
None of them are any harder than the other, but it's a painstaking balancing act that can be debilitating for the project if not handled correctly.
How much of planning is a ‘science’ that is calculable, and how much is ‘gut instinct’ – and how do you work out the reliability/accuracy of a dev-estimate for implementing a feature?
Every producer is different, so it really is impossible to say, sadly. However, the better you understand the team you are responsible for, the easier the producers's job becomes.
What do producers do to sharpen their skills? Being tired is obviously a factor and it can affect performance and how quickly things are managed, so that’s a given that a good night’s sleep can increase your capacity to handle things. However in terms of other things outside of work what sorts of activities can you do to improve your skills for “production?” Are there exercises in a software program that you can use as a resource or an extracurricular group of other producers you’re a part of? Books you read to garner inspiration?
A lot of it has been reading books on the topic, then there is plenty of practice needed when it comes to dealing with other people. But like virtually anything else, practice, practice, practice.
Dear Producers, We have seen the process of fixing bugs on bug smashers. “Awesome programer sits down, thinks, and magic code fixes fly out of his fingers” Is the process of implementing a new feature similar? A lot of people seem to think so. Could you walk us through beginning to end, the process of taking a feature, from an idea out of Chris Roberts’ head (or someone elses) all the way to being played on our computers, including some obstacles you run into and how you over come them? Of particular instance to me are localized ship physics-instances, GOST, or grabby hands!
(This is another really deep-dive technical answer that cannot be summarized. Travis answers and pretty much goes into a verbal deep-dive of how GOST works.)
Imagine that you have two artists, designers, or other CIG employees working on a project within SC that you are producing. Along the way they have a professional disagreement about what they should do and it is clear that it would not be possible to accommodate both versions. How do you determine which version to keep and which one to scrap? Is it difficult to tell a fellow employee that, even though they are working hard, they need to change how they are doing their job because it doesn’t fit into your plans? What tools do you use to minimize the possibility of the situation described above?
All you can do is put them down gently and hope they understand. They work with professionals, and in that environment there is a certain expected degree of decorum expected.
ATV, June 25th
- They’re moving to a more unified production process with JIRA, which will result in higher output.
- Resident graphics programmer has been working on character shading tech. THey’ve revised the character pipeline, allowed them to do some very cool things.
- Worked on Grenades; EMP grenades can now disable all other gadgets, such as personal shields and holograms.
- Can now cook grenades as well.
- Continuing work on the jukes system. All the starts and stops are in, so when you’re running and stopping, it plays a weighted animation. Work now is going on jukes, which is when you’re shifting direction.
- Working on wrapping up the shader and texture phase of the Nyx/Delemar/Levsky zone.
- Implementing bartender, bar patron, wall lean, and more animations for background NPC’s, people working together to get those in, hopefully having the NPC’s start to come to life.
- Designers are talking with Tony back and forth about more occupations for the PU; Mercenary, Bounty Hunter, Smuggler, Piracy, Passenger Transport, Escort.
- Idris is looking awesome, working on the exterior; panel lines, doodads, widgets. Working on getting interiors textured, lit. It will look amazing and is a good test case.
- Retaliator is being made flight – ready.
- Mining Bot - One of the original vehicles, it’s gone into production, it’s getting more concept art done to solidify its heavy-duty feel
- Xi’An cargo ship: beautiful vertical ship. First pass on mesh work, getting more concept art, should be a sweet ship.
- Bengal bridge - Taking Ryan Church’s work, asked Chris what he wants, and added more on top. That’s been built, now they’re moving onto the upper, main, and lower hangars.
- Behring shotgun is in production.
Reverse the Verse
- HOTAS announcement hopefully at Gamescom. They can say it is looking very cool, and worth the wait.
- Merlin will be one of the next ships flyable in AC, along with the Scythe, which is why they are showing off the HUD.
- Gone from 12 guys to 120 at Foundry 42 in 18 months or so.
- Working on getting AI up and running, visual side is very cool as well.
- Biggest Challenge: Building huge locations, 6km long locations, huge capital ships, massive amounts of work goes into that.
- They are building big world maps right now, they are really cool.
- Making the engine work with both FPS and space at the same time.
- SQ42 will be a single player experience, will have co-op modes where you can play with friends.
- Release date is subject to change, basically want to have a really strong experience, may have public beta near the end, but they really want you to enjoy the story.
- You can play SQ42 offline totally (don’t have to be logged in).
- How many people total are working on Star Citizen total – 500 probably, including outsourcers, 300 internally.
- A lot of the game takes place on your capital ship, there will be other locations you visit, and lots of other stuff going on. Will be lots of large locations.
- Squadron 42 “will be a pretty special experience.”
- Idris; Interesting thoughts for them, since ship is well used in SQ42, they will have to make a decision of when it goes live, not sure if they will release before SQ42 goes live.
- There is no plan for the Starliner to be SQ42 as a flyable ship.
- Will definitely be marine planetary combat in SQ42
- Comic Con plans, several of them will be there, have a panel there on Sunday (Ben, Dave Swafford)
- Currently keeping cast close to the vest for Squadron 42 but will reveal it later on.
- Character creation will be in place for Squadron 42.
- SQ42 you are in the military, can’t really customize clothing.
- SQ42 will have VR support, as all of Star Citizen will.
- Needless to say, SQ42 is a pretty big, epic story.
- There will be a luxury version of the Starliner. Starliner is quite modular, can configure it however you want. They have already mocked up a freight variant.
- The Vanduul work very differently to Humanity, ships are pulled from parts, kinda patched together, destroy planets, take resources, make ships
- Soon safety features will be outlined not just for the Starliner but for ships in general.
- What happens when you have a hot tub and turn off gravity? Fun times, are actually working on tech for when that happens.
- Q: How many docking ports does the Starliner have? A: Three right now.
- Q: Does the Starliner require external structures for Boarding and loading? A: That is still being designed.
- Foundry 42 working on large world maps. Large world maps can be any size and are impressive. Test maps take 2 hours from one side to the other. Working on being able to travel faster. (I interpret that as a Q-Drive] Large world maps are planned to be shown at GamesCom.
- You will be able to save in a number of locations in SQ42, basically will be checkpoints in levels.
- Starliner has landing skids, so its more of a VTOL.
- Q: Will the Vanduul board UEE ships? Erin Roberts: I can tell you categorically that they will.
- SQ42 spoiler: Vanduul will not be friendly. Vanduul children eat human children for fun.
- SQ42: Plan to start with Single Player, release Multiplayer content afterwards.
- Co-op: Talked about putting multiplayer IN Squadron 42 but found that you couldn’t do a strong storyline that way because you have to worry about where everyone else is and what they’re doing in the story.
- Did 4 player co-op all the way through in Starlancer but it makes it hard to have a strong storyline.
- Want a strong storyline for Squadron 42 and want you to be able to play offline.
- HOWEVER, they are planning to take scenarios from SQ42 and have a bunch of people be able fly together in them separate from the campaign. Don’t have to worry about storyline and you can have big co-operative battles using some of the settings from Squadron 42.
- Plan to release the multiplayer co-op part just after singleplayer SQ42.
- There will be effects you take from SQ42 into the PU.
- You can play SQ42 after skipping it at first, and will be able to gain stuff from it, but it will not change your alignments or your reputation.
- Q: Are you allowed to replay Squadron 42 repeatedly? A: Yes! (but it won't do anything for you after the first time)
- The Austin studio is making Stanton, the star system will be their gold standard, fleshing out everything they can, what happening with every planet, moon, see how long it takes, so they can see how long it will take for others. Will hopefully be able to show it off soon.
- Gurmukh is currently working on the Vanguard interior and is about to kick off work on the Vanguard variants.
- The new damage tech will allow them to start working on skins and customizing ships. Erin Roberts helping get that stuff moving in Santa Monica.
- WWISE is now in the new stream, working hard on getting FMOD sound effects back to where they want it, trying to get back to the standards they had.
- Working on getting real-time echo into the game.
- Zane is working on Merlin UI including implementation. Down to the wire… he’s working both days this weekend trying to get it in. This is an internal goal, it’s not coming out immediately.
- Merlin UI is even better than the shots show.
- Zane isn’t happy with the Scythe UI. Animation turned out pretty good but design could be better.
- Working on ways to improve interaction with the HUD… currently very cumbersome. Coming up with new control schemes to make interaction with the UI much more fluid, same way you interact with physical controls
- Merlin – expect it to handle similar to an M50, still working on exact top speed, all fixed weapons on the Merlin with a custom centerline gun.
- M50 mass, general ship mass is getting revision as they get physically based damage online.
- Started some guys on the Herald, still has a ways to go.
- No update on the Avenger Variants.
- Will be hand to hand combat in FPS, not complete in the initial release - more complex later
- FPS netcode changes will impact AC as well, will increase player counts across the board
- Major blockers for FPS: Locomotion animations need to feel good in 1st person and look good in 3rd person. Network code is one but they want to wait for an official announcement.
- CryEngine has some network code challenges, are writing some custom code
- Jason is a PU producer but is helping work on this because, surprise surprise, they will need servers and network code for the PU.
- Probably will be shooting people in the PU, with guns!
- One grenade should be able to push another grenade, they are both Physics entities.
- Travis is not being fired, his leaving is for very good reasons. Travis is going on a dream of his. He’s going to Blizzard.
This Week in SUN...No news again. Welcome to the doldrums of summer, those of you in the northern hemisphere.
Keep cool and game on,