Star Citizen Monthly Report: March 2024

PU Monthly Report

Welcome to the latest PU Monthly Report, this time detailing all the development progress made throughout March. With Alpha 3.23 looming, CitizenCon on the horizon, and Pyro inching ever closer, there’s a lot to look forward to this year. Read on for everything done in pursuit of these endeavors and more.

AI (Features)

In March, AI Features continued to fix bugs and make improvements to Human combat and other AI behaviors.

“One particular bug threatened to become our new ‘standing on chairs’ issue (a bug that has a lot of individual causes so can keep cropping up in different situations). So, like with that issue, we adopted a belt-and-braces approach that should eliminate it, even if new causes crop up in the future.” AI Features

AI (Tech)

Last month, AI Tech focused on finalizing and polishing features for Alpha 3.23 alongside optimizations for existing systems.

For example, work on planetary navigation was completed, with the team now able to generate navigation mesh over entire planets. To achieve this, the devs used the same concepts the Physics and Planetary Tech teams used for representing planet terrain patches. Compared to the previous implementation, where planet navigation tiles were represented as a cube/parallelepiped (as used in traditional navigation volumes), the new method uses a volume with a skewed square/rhombus base. While this brings new challenges, such as how two neighboring triangular navigation tiles will connect, it allows navigation mesh to be generated everywhere and on all types of planets and moons.

For boids, the team continued to implement new rules and finalized synchronization between the server and clients. They also worked on additional iterations with Design and polished the feature for release.

AI Tech iterated on new ship behaviors with Design, with the aim of greatly improving the AI combat experience. Substantial improvements were made to the aiming-control system for ships and turrets and to perception thanks to the addition of support for missile detection.

Elsewhere, improvements were made to the navigation-links system to reduce the computation cost over a frame by better utilizing the new Navigation Anchors concept. Subsumption loading logic improvements were also submitted that will more clearly show possible problems with the data so the designers can fix them sooner.

On the AI tools side, the team continued to improve and iterate on Apollo. This included implementing a new version of the ‘sticky’ header tree that shows a better representation of files/folders with behaviors and missions.

Animation

The Animation team has been working on the “Space Cow”, a medium-sized bird, a predator wolf-like creature, as well as several new vehicles entrance animations.

Art (Characters)

In March, the Character Art team completed a range of branded racing flightsuits and continued working on outfits for the Headhunters gang. The Character Concept Art team began exploring specialist armors and worked on handoff sheets.

Art (Ships)

March saw progress on the RSI Zeus – greybox was completed and all functionality has been validated, with the ship currently in the ‘beauty and polish’ stage. Habitation and the central hallways made significant progress and are approaching completion, while the cargo hold continues to progress with the loading ramp’s main piston structure improving rapidly as well as the ramp interior and exterior. The landing gear is nearly complete and the overall exterior continues to progress too.

The Anvil Legionnaire is whitebox complete, with the team currently waiting on gameplay validation and for artists to free up before they send it to full development.

The team’s work on the Resource Network began, with 10 ships nearing completion, some of which received the updated list of ship items. Following gameplay validation, relay locations will be polished.

Update work on a legacy ship continued too, with updates to the dash, cockpit, and some exterior housings.

Community

The Community team kicked off March supporting the Overdrive Initiative and Stella Fortuna, the latter with a banner design contest challenging participants to craft logos for in-game or fictional competitive racing or combat teams. Check out the incredible entries on the Community Hub.

The team also spent time helping prepare the RSI Launcher 2.0 for live release, alongside a myriad other support tasks to prepare for Alpha 3.23, 4.0, and beyond!

In the latest Roadmap Roundup, more details were shared about the upcoming Alpha 3.23 patch, while Alpha 3.22’s Test Universe Champions recognized outstanding players who dedicated their time and effort to the current patch’s testing phases.

The team also supported various community events:

“We started March with a LOT of energy thanks to the recent Bar Citizen Manchester in which nearly 200 of you came to hang out with devs, org mates, and good friends. Thanks to everyone for stopping by, we can’t wait to do it again soon! Talking about events, the System Seven ground racing league from ATMO Esports is still ongoing, watching all these elite racers zoom by live gave us the biggest goosebumps! We also enjoyed the Crux Cup from Anzia Racing, in which our teams took part once more and tried to race our way to the top scores!” Community Team

The Community team continued detailing the weekly schedules with This Week in Star Citizen, a series of comm-links that inform the community about Star Citizen’s developments and initiatives while also highlighting creations from the community. This month, the team added a new weekly chapter featuring four top creations from the Community Hub.

CitizenCon preparations are still underway with the show layout/general activations taking form. The team is excited about what’s already shaping up to be our biggest and best event to date. They also published a variety of post posts regarding all things CitizenCon, such as the CitizenCon FAQ, to better help players plan their travels and attendance.

Finally, Community updated the Arena Commander Schedule, which keeps players up to date with Arena Commander’s rotating game modes.

Core Gameplay

Last month, the Gameplay Features team successfully passed the go/no-go gates for procedural recoil, new scopes, dynamic crosshairs, and reload improvements. Further bug fixing is currently ongoing for these deliverables.

Progress was also made on ammo repooling, including network optimization and bug fixing. The looting UI was also updated to support the way ammo is repooled, while reload animations now play at the correct time following the ‘rummage’ animation.

Work continued on preproduction for base building, with Gameplay Features working closely with Art and Design to refine requirements and define metrics.

The team then added different colored loot screens depending on whether the player is looting an enemy, friendly, or neutral entity. They also added a button to go from the inventory to the loot screen and a pop-up window when an item swap can’t be performed. They also allowed for separate loot-screen styles between the visor and lens. Regarding the visor and lens, the conversion of on-screen chat to Building Blocks was completed.

The team then converted more markers to the new system, including navigation, ships, player, party members, missions, and landing pads.

For EVA, the devs unblocked animation content to support weapon customization and two-handed carry to work with the new EVA system. They also provided support for backward and sideways flying animation content. EVA thruster packs now relate correctly to the layer of equipment players are wearing, meaning VFX will come from the thruster nozzles on armor pieces or backpacks instead of the undersuit.

Improvements were made to how shop items are highlighted when players look at them, and the positioning of AR cards was updated to account for mannequins and vehicles based on Design’s feedback. The team completed buy and rent interactions for physical shopping too.

Gameplay Features made further improvements to prone locomotion, while additional support was provided to Animation to unlock animation asset production.

For Master Modes, improvements to aiming and targeting for the gunnery system were completed, and ESP saw further improvements, including smoother response to player input.

Throughout March, development continued on the Resource Network. As part of this, electromagnetic emissions are now based on power consumption and infrared emissions are based around coolant and heat generation.

The team also improved various debug tools, fixed bugs, and supported the ongoing testing of an experimental Arena Commander mode.

A temporary solution for ship-hull penetration was added until Maelstrom is ready to support physical ship armor.

“The system is subject to change as development and testing progresses, but currently all projectiles can deplete armor health. However, only ballistic weapons can penetrate the hull and damage internal components.” Gameplay Features

For life support, the team optimized the dynamic room atmosphere system and made it network compatible. Various improvements and refactors were also made to the room system, and various debug tools were greatly improved to allow the team to test the system before the player-facing UI is complete.

For transit, the team’s primary focus in March was supporting cargo elevators and instanced hangars. Alongside general refactoring, this required adding hangar destination exporting, communication between the transit and instance managers for available hangars, the ability to dynamically add destinations to transit carriages, requests for the creation of hangars, and support for capturing peripherals in dynamically added hangars.

Once complete, the team moved on to planning and architecting a refactor of the whole transit system to prepare it for the future.

For radar and scanning, the team updated radar zone queries to use new zone query time splice tech to improve performance.

Additionally, work began on ‘signature categories,’ which allow the team to apply different signature detections based on emitters. This can be used to independently detect components on a ship with higher emissions. For example, thrusters compared to offline shield generators.

Support was also provided for the item-port editor tool with a refactor of default item loadouts, including defining them directly in the item-port parameters within the item-port container in DataCore.

Additionally, the team supported the restoration of several core analytics and the reporting of additional key information to better understand player activity across the game.

For Arena Commander, focus was on closing out deliverables for Alpha 3.23, most notably custom lobbies and the initial selection of custom settings.

Gameplay Features then continued to improve the multi-crew experience by adding access selection. Now, rather than either having multi-crew enabled or disabled, players can choose to enable the feature for friends and/or squad members only.

Engineering refactored the team-balancing system, removing layers of complexity that they had experimented with for Alpha 3.21 and 3.22. The new system has a simple balancing logic that prioritizes keeping squads together (with an exception in cases of extreme imbalance). A short delay has been added before balancing to allow for more players to connect.

The team also improved loadout definitions, allowing them to create and edit slots for different ammo types, including consumables and utility ammo. They also created a variant of the salvage and repair MultiTool with filled canisters for use in the Engineering Experimental Modes. This work also allows players to use their PU characters in Arena Commander; players who have a customized character will now utilize that rather than the default actor previously used.

For design, the team focused on supporting the Engineering Experimental Modes and a selection of new maps and modes. They also continued to work on the frontend UI/UX pass, which looks to establish a style for Arena Commander going forward.

Finally, the devs supported a new system for Gun Rush, allowing them to have multiple weapon lists that can be toggled on and off throughout a patch cycle. This provides more variety and the ability to test new weapon sets without waiting for a new patch.

March saw progress on reputation-based hostility, with the team fixing several issues with the new reputation system. Changes were also made to the trespass behavior. Now, all factions will defend a trespass zone if it’s owned by them, and factions with the appropriate settings will also be able to defend allied trespass zones.

For the mobiGlas, work continued on the redesigned Contract Manager. Last month’s work included adding a button to read/unread mission info and a toggle to switch between legal and illegal missions. The devs also completed payment validation for beacons and fixed several bugs, including making the contract timer reduce in consistent increments.

The team then made Journal compatible with the new mobiGlas and updated the Home screen, including adding visuals for recent notifications, active missions, and the player’s current jurisdiction and CrimeStat level.

Support was also added for the legacy Comm-Link and VMS Flash apps, and visual updates were made to the Wallet and Assets apps.

For missions, Gameplay Features provided a new data structure to Mission Design so they could start setting up hauling missions. The overall framework for the offline version of the Mission Service progressed, while ‘MissionService debugGUI’ was extended to Server Meshing.  

Improved debug tools were added to cargo-hauling missions too, such as the ability to debug complete parts of the hauling order to simulate collecting or delivering via freight elevators.

March saw progress on hangars, including the Instanced Interior Manager that handles instancing logic and reserves gateways for transitioning between the outside world and hangar. Now, players calling an elevator or retrieving a ship in supported locations will create an instanced hangar that the transit, air traffic control, and law systems correctly respond to.

Improvements were also made to the freight elevator kiosk, including the layout, branding, tooltips, delivery screen, and platform handling. The devs are currently integrating the kiosk with the personal inventory framework. The item bank is now functional and correctly uses the storage locker and updated delivery/selection logic, and improvements were made to the warehouse system to support missions too.

For the commodity kiosk, updates were made to the design along with the packing behavior and autoloading display.

Support was given to the Lighting and VFX Content teams toward ship-loading platforms too.

Economy

Last month, the Economy team continued rebalancing commodities, making sure they have a scalable algorithm that will work with other systems, like crafting.

Mission rewards are being rebalanced according to the difficulty and time required to complete them. As part of this, the team are working to better understand how much effort and time is required to perform specific activities in-game. In-game pricing is currently underway for new harvestables and hangar flair too.

Economy are currently involved in the design of reputation and org progression and are starting to balance the time and cost of autoloading freight elevators. They also provided support for cargo missions.

Finally, a comprehensive list of all intended resource sources, transformers, and sinks were created to help ensure the economy is stable for the long haul.

Graphics, VFX Programming & Planet Tech

Throughout March, much of the department’s focus was on bug fixing the various deliverables for Alpha 3.23.

Performance-scaling options were added to the water simulation to ensure it can scale to all hardware, while various improvements were made to water-boundary shading and visor wetness to achieve a seamless effect as players enter water. Support for distance-field collisions was also completed for more accurate collisions from vehicles.

The Vulkan team worked through several performance issues as they moved closer to matching D3D performance.

“This precedes the enabling of multi-threading for the next release to hopefully smash D3D performance levels on the CPU (GPU performance should remain similar). However, some performance issues currently remain. So, depending on the location/context, players may see worse performance, hence the BETA label on Vulkan. But the aim is for us to get widespread testing in Alpha 3.23 so that we can enable Vulkan by default in the following release.” Graphics, VFX & Programming Team

Alongside this, the team are currently reworking shaders to reduce the total number of PSOs (shaders) that need compiling when the game starts.

Work on Global Illumination continued too, with a focus on performance as the team move toward an internal rollout of the first version for testing by the art teams.

The Planet Tech team started work on Planet Tech v5, with initial focus on the groundwork required to set up spatial partitioning. They’re currently deciding how this will work with Server Meshing and server-crash recovery. The devs also introduced the concept of ‘default planets’ for the internal editor so that it’s trivial for anyone to create and use a planet for testing.

On the VFX-programming side, in addition to water improvements, the team continued with networking support for the fire simulation. They’re also making changes to the augmented-reality render layer to enable support for holographic weapons (e.g. muzzle flashes, projectiles, enemies, and impacts).

In-Game Branding

In-Game Branding and Locations worked together on Invictus Launch Week, with work approaching completion.  

The branding work for cargo containers and additional signage for various locations is also nearly finished.

Interactables

Last month, item banks (now called gear storage) were finished, including a heavily worn version for Grim HEX. They were then placed around the ‘verse for convenient access.

Explosive containers were reworked and now replace static meshes in levels so they will now explode if players shoot them.

Fire extinguisher recharge cabinets progressed through greybox and are currently being taken to final, while cargo hover trolleys are being finalized in preparation for the cargo hangar update.

Lighting

Alongside tasks for instanced hangars, freight elevators, and distribution centers, Lighting worked on Invictus Launch Week.

They also supported the upcoming Character Customizer, including addressing community feedback to solve some long-standing issues.

Locations

Last month saw the Locations team polishing content for Alpha 4.0. They also closed out the upcoming distribution centers, adding content and quality to give players the best possible experience on launch. They also kicked off preproduction for new mandates officially beginning in Q2.

The Landing Zone team finalized art for instanced hangars and prepared them for implementation across the ‘verse.

Mission Design

Last month, the Mission Feature team was restructured, becoming the Mission Design team. Despite the name change, the team will continue to build scalable, modular content for the PU.

Following feedback on the Overdrive Initiative event, the team is revisiting the standard data heist missions. Currently, these missions are locked to a single player (who then can share the mission with their friends), which causes a bottleneck for the missions and locations. In response, the team are trialing a change that will allow a singular version of the mission to be accepted by four players who will play together as contractors. This is an effort to free up missions and locations and create a similar effect to Overdrive Initiative where people who usually play solo are part of a team, potentially building friendships and enhancing the MMO feeling.

Work progressed on the upcoming cargo hauling missions, with players being tasked with hauling tracked goods from one location to another as requested by a shipping company. With a consistent payout of roughly 20% of the cargo’s value, a hauler’s income will be more stable than that of a commodity trader (who buys low and sells high as the market fluctuates). Still, once a cargo hauler gets comfortable with the profession, they might try their luck at commodity trading.

While the player is legally allowed to transport the goods, they do not own them. As a result, lawful stores across Stanton will not buy these commodities. To sell the shipment rather than delivering it, the player must navigate to a fence – a no-questions-asked shop often located in an unmonitored area of Stanton. However, due to its tracked nature, this cargo fetches a significantly lower price than ordinary sandbox commodities.

With the upcoming addition of wildlife to the PU, Mission Design began working on related content, building three mission variants: 

Kill ‘X’ Amount: This extermination/population control mission tasks players with killing a predetermined number of animals on a planet. Players must locate the animals themselvesClear Location: This will be a specific location that requires having its animal population dealt withKill and Collect: This is one of the first resource-collection mission types where players must locate animals and collect their resources

Following a recent hire, some older mission modules were refactored. As such, the Destroy Illegal Satellites mission received a small facelift.

Following further testing of Blockade Runner, a small change was made to ensure the event stays fun and engaging for all players. Work on the XenoThreat Global Events continued too alongside freight elevators.

Narrative

Last month, Narrative continued to work closely with Design to support a variety of content, from revising existing missions like the New Player Experience to outlining new missions being developed to support upcoming gameplay.

The team continued to iterate on future narrative initiatives designed to bring more character and stories to the universe. This resulted in a series of proposals that they’ve been reviewing with Design. They also continued to outline ways to improve AI behaviors to sell more of the Star Citizen lore. Narrative also met with some of the gameplay teams to talk over the ‘lorification’ of upcoming systems.

Another group of posts went up on the website as well, including a Whitley’s Guide for the 890 Jump. The Narrative team also tackled a handful of questions from the forums in a new edition of Loremakers alongside another batch of Galactapedia articles.

Online Technology

In March, the Online Services Team worked toward refactoring the social services backend. This involves porting the services to gRPC as well as making updates for Server Meshing.

The team are currently working to reduce EAC Anti-Cheat false positives in preparation of enabling sanction enforcement.

Lastly, Online Services finished off long-term persistence work for the Character Customizer, enabling players to save their characters between patches.

R&D

In March, work continued on the temporal render mode. Tracking movement of objects moving through clouds was improved so that history can be rejected or kept as correctly as possible. A novel method was developed because typical disocclusion algorithms only work for opaque scenes, but the team want objects to fly through transparent clouds, be partially occluded by clouds and fog, etc. The generation and blending of soft depth for clouds and atmosphere was improved. This depth information is crucial to properly handling history rejection when moving through clouds.

The team also supported the Gen12/Vulkan endeavor by analyzing the current list of pipeline state objects (PSOs) used to render the game and suggested several ways to reduce it. These suggestions are being worked on by the Render team and will result in a shortened shader pre-cache phase the first time players start the game (precaching is done to avoid shader-activation-related hitches during gameplay).

Tech Design

Tech Design supported various areas of development to prepare for Alpha 3.23 and beyond. This included item banks, with the team making a new rundown variant entity, setting up state machines and animations, and iterating on the main screen and player interaction points and flow.

Hangars were supported alongside ship flight, including iteration on new AI behaviors to make them more responsive to player actions. Master Modes received polish too.

Support was given to QA for visual scripting automation, and nodes were added for getting and setting player stats.

For UI, Tech Design worked on test-level setup and FPS crosshairs and hit markers, updating and polishing animations and fixing bugs. General bugfixing was also done and various tools and workflows received improvements.

UI

Last month, the Montreal-based UI team worked closely with the Core Gameplay and UI teams on the new cargo gameplay updates. This effort encompasses the development of the new freight elevator kiosk, commodity kiosk, and item bank.

They also began preparing mandates coming later this year, including the Resource Network and jump points.

The UK-based team focused on adding the new player-facing UI to the game. The new version of the mobiGlas was made fully functional in time to get player feedback, with visual polish still ongoing.

The new visor and lens received visual improvement while the last functionality elements were ported over by the Programming team. UI also continued to polish the new shopping UI and Character Customizer ready for release.

VFX

Last month, the VFX team finished their work on distribution centers and freight elevators. They also completed tasks for several upcoming vehicles.

Progress continued on jump point effects, including concepting based on new gameplay considerations that became apparent during testing.

The team took another look at water effects to coincide with the Graphics team’s plans to release some of the water improvements that were shown at CitizenCon.

 

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