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[RSI.com] March 2017 Monthly Studio Report

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Monthly Studio Report: March 2017

Greetings Citizens!


Welcome to the monthly report where we collect updates from our studios around the world into a single comprehensive place to summarize the various progresses (and setbacks) they’ve experienced.

Last month we debuted our new style of Monthly Report, utilizing the weekly Studio Reports found in Around the Verse to create an overview of progress made in the last four weeks. In addition to our continuing progress with Squadron 42 and the PU 3.0 undertaking, we released both 2.6.2 and 2.6.3 to the entire community, and have now focused those attentions to the upcoming Star Citizen Alpha 3.0.

With that, let’s review some of what each studio did this month.

CIG Los Angeles

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CLOUD IMPERIUM: LOS ANGELES


SHIP ART AND DESIGN


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The ship team spent a lot of the month working on the Drake Buccaneer. Art created a custom dual weapon mount and generated all the LODs, while the tech content team implemented UV2s and Damage. Tech design made their flight balance passes to get it ready for flight with sound and then passed it along to VFX. The ship team has also made a lot of progress on the newly revamped RSI Aurora. The whitebox phase in now complete, which includes a proxy layout of the space, establishing the animation positions, placing the screens, and making sure the characters could hold the controls. The final geometry of the cockpit has begun in an effort to improve the inside of the ship. Now that tech design has implemented all the art updates into the ship’s new archetype, the RSI Aurora is heading into greybox.



TECH DESIGN


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The tech design group completed the design for the Multi Function Display (MFD) screens, which controls power, heat, coolers, shields, weapons, countermeasures and missiles, in preparation for Item 2.0 functionality. These designer prototypes are meant to help understand what’s needed and see how everything will interact with each other.



UI


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As soon as these designs have been approved, the UI team will create an interface to take advantage of the functionality that engineering is implementing in the back end. Once this system is in place, a ship that is staffed by a knowledgeable crew will be able to operate their ship beyond the default system settings and min-max the various ship systems to suit not only a player’s style, but potentially save a player during a potentially devastating attack.



QA


This month QA aided LA Development by checking a variety of fixes for 2.6.2 issues. They also provided support to Austin QA with PTU & LIVE sanity checks, smoke tests, sweeps and deployments, and helped new hires get up to speed with the game. As for feature work, the team swept ship destruction VFX, Item System 2.0, implementation of recent loadout changes, and tested multiple iterations of new targeting and ESP code. For a quick reminder on Quality Assurance terms, a Sanity Check basically ensures that the game loads. This is now automated, but can take about an hour or two to investigate any errors that arise. A Smoke Test checks the basic functionality. This process takes 6-8 people about a day if there aren’t any major issues. A Full Sweep means checking everything possible, a process which requires a much larger team and can take over a week. Full Sweeps are the most arduous, rigorous, and intense, but also incredibly important.



ENGINEERING


The engineering team started a new shop entity that uses DataCore components to allow shops to be easily streamed in with object containers, with the aim to be finished in the next sprint. The plan is to make shops more dynamic and reactive to the economy by retrieving their inventory from the back end. The engineering team added a new attribute to vehicle XMLs that allows designers to specify the interior grid type of the vehicle (small, medium, or large). This optimization will reduce memory storage as all ships previously defaulted to medium size.

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As discussed previously, a new Light Group entity was developed, equipped with a state machine to serve as the ultimate light switch. Now that implementation of the core state-switching functionality is complete, the next step is to start using the Light Group in our vehicles and environments and replace all instances of the old layer-switching method of light management. This new light group entity reduces the number of lights used, which has dramatic impacts on performance. For example, hundreds of entities were reduced down to 90 or less with no visual impact on the Drake Caterpillar.

A framework is being developed in IFCS (Intelligent Flight Control System) for the autopilot to handle situations like take-off and landing sequences. This also applies to AI control, so they’ll be providing the AI developers with a set of tools for controlling the ships, like a “move-to”, “change speed to”, etc. This will improve the stability and predictability of ship motion under optimal conditions.

The Room System and Atmosphere Containers were updated with several new features, better debugging tools, and several bug fixes. The room system has only been implemented in a few locations, but these changes will allow the implementation of rooms and atmospheres throughout the various locations and ships in the game. At the moment, the entering and exiting of airlocks are scripted events. They don’t factor in atmosphere of any kind. This new system will be able to replace this setup with an actual room and atmosphere that allows for a dynamic experience.

In addition to the room system changes, a new feature allows the designers and artists to set wear and dirt parameters for loadouts. This functionality comes in two levels: overall and individual values for specific items. Wear and Dirt values are used by the render node to set shader parameters that make items look old, dusty, scuffed up, and burnt out. This task also used Loadout Editor side work, where the team added UI support to edit wear and dirt.

Recently, the team started on the Entity Owner Manager. This system will be responsible for managing ownership and lifetimes of all the entities in the game and is a core feature required to take gameplay from a multiplayer game to a persistent online experience. It will work in conjunction with the back end persistence systems to indicate dynamic changes to the world that need to be tracked and persisted across sessions. The Entity Owner Manager will also work with various game and engine systems, including Debris, Salvage, Criminality, Streaming, Missions, Cargo, Shops, and more to help create the persistent experience across clients and servers.

The team has been working on scanning subcomponents, which required some slight refactoring of the object databank. After the changes, the databank can support the storage of “child” entries, which will be the subcomponents on ships/players/etc. In doing this, the thread safety of accessing data within the databank was also improved. This allows calculations to be moved onto other threads, which will help improve performance. This focuses on two big elements: the ping component and angle of focus. The ping component is the method in which a player or pilot will send out a wave to see if there are any objects of note within their scan range. This could be a ship, an asteroid, or even traces that mark whether a player entered or exited quantum travel. Since other players can detect these traces, we think that this could have some pretty heavy game implications. For example, if you were an outlaw, it would allow you to track potential prey. Angle of focus allows players to adjust the angle with which they’re scanning. A smaller angle will also provide more range, but only contacts within the angle can be detected. The underlying radar query logic is being refactored to use zone queries rather than a huge iteration of registered radar objects. This will make the scanning system much more efficient.



TECH CONTENT


Since the tech content team supports and implements every pipeline within Star Citizen and Squadron 42, one of their main focuses have been performance improvements. For instance, the team changed the mesh vertex and position formats, which massively improves streaming of these meshes as well as reducing build size.They’re also improving the Python integration within our editor, which allows for faster development of Python tools which are used by every department across the company. The tools can script any sandbox process they want. For example, it can place asteroids and generate modular outposts, which saves a tremendous amount of development time on otherwise tedious and time consuming tasks. The tech content team completed a character animation tool that tracks and reports the number of various wild lines each character will have in the universe. With over 1200 pages of script for S42, which include all story lines as well as wild lines, a tool was needed to continuously generate reports on how many were completed and what was left to solve. Once the various lines are all in, the system will be able to pull lines based on player action and situation, but also randomize the potential wildline responses so the NPCs aren’t repeating the same line every time.

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All helmets have been converted to a dot skin format. The conversion was important to allow a unified LOD ratio across the character skins. This means no more helmet-less people running around the ’verse. To ensure this is easier in the future, Tech Content also created a tool that rigs skins and exports automatically which will drastically reduce dev time from an entire day to just a few minutes.

Heads were also successfully converted to use the human skin shader developed by the graphics team. Since there are 44 different areas of blended wrinkles and blended diffuse, the texture cost was quite high, at about 100 MB per head. With this change, roughly 90% of the original texture memory cost was saved without discernable visual impact.

With the implementation of the female character progressing rapidly, thousands of animations have been transferred from male to female to complete her motion set and provide a data for animation to iterate on.

To help the cinematics team focus on content needed for Squadron 42, a tool was written to allow for visibility of scenes before they even hit the engine. This allows for fast exporting of animations and preview renders which are then automatically uploaded to Shotgun. This makes it easier and faster to review the many hours of cinematics for Squadron 42.



NARRATIVE


The narrative team has been developing some additional 3.0 missions. They’ve also begun documenting posters and props to populate the world of Star Citizen. The team also created an equivalent Time Capsule approach for the Xi’an history from birth to present day as a means of expanding Xi’an history and society documentation. Breakdowns of ethno-groups in the Star Citizen universe has been in progress to take full advantage of the character customization technology 3Lateral showcased at GDC a few weeks ago.



CHARACTER ART


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The character team is working on the ingame mesh of the Heavy Outlaw. Next, it will go onto rigging and implementation. The light, medium, and heavy female marine armor and the undersuit has been sent to rigging and implementation. Once the male base suits were done, an adjusted wrap technique was used to save development time. We’ve also made progress on the Female Explorer suit, which has now moved through the high poly phase, so she’ll be exploring the universe in no time. On the Squadron 42 front, both the EVA deck crew and the Marine BDU have gone through the high poly phase and are onto the in-game mesh and texturing phase. We’ve continued developing the Vanduul and the medium and heavy versions of the OMC outlaw faction. Lastly, the mechanized Titan Suit is in R&D along with other alien concept sculpts.

CIG Austin

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CLOUD IMPERIUM: AUSTIN


DESIGN


The ATX Design team focused on getting 2.6.2 out the door, which has mainly consisted of adding new subscriber flair items and fixing some minor bugs. Additional shop-related elements have been updated as the shopping system continues to grow. The team is also in the process of revising the Stanton System Map. Also, Landing Zone AI and Usables are undergoing additional development.

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New subscriber flair will be rolled out in the coming months. One of the new items is called the ‘viVid Display,’ which can display game locations holographically. Players can use the ‘viVid Display’ to find out more about locations, including their intended visuals. Other flair items include a series of ship schematics, which will showcase the level of detail that goes into ship design. These light board displays can be hung from any poster style port in your hangar.

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The Shopping System will be revamped in our next release. As the Item 2.0 system advances, the Item Port structure has been changed as well so it can fall in line with the end goal. These fluctuations have re-addressed things like how Shop Mannequins and Item Bundles are set up. The team’s goal is to create a base mannequin object that the shopping system can apply loadouts to. The items on a given mannequin would be purchasable by themselves, or as a bundle for a discounted price. In the past, every outfit was only purchasable as an entire set of items. On top of that, a bespoke mannequin setup had to be generated for each unique outfit display. Fortunately, advancing tech will soon allow the Loadout Editor to quickly create various item combinations within a given shop. That loadout, comprised of items in the shop, will then be assigned to the shop’s inventory as a “Bundle.” The Shopping System will then spawn these bundles directly onto an empty shop mannequin with no additional effort by the designers. A process that took hours will soon take minutes, allowing different item combinations to be quickly generated for display on the mannequins. While this might seem like a minor change, this will actually unlock a multitude of options for the design team to create realistic shops.



ANIMATION


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The PU Animation Team just finished a small Mocap shoot using the in-house OptiTrack system. This was a pickup shoot to help fill in all the gaps from the Performance Capture shoots done at Imaginarium studios and captured transition animations for both male and female characters. These animations included sitting down at tables with trays, going through the chow line, eating, drinking, rummaging, or sitting in cockpits and turrets. A Usable is an object that a player or NPC can interact with like a chair, wall, table, or any other set piece, but also include props such as cups, plates, bottles, crates, and anything else that can physically picked up by a person. Obviously, animation can only get these game assets so far. The biggest challenge right now is making all the usables function in game. It is up to code, tech and designers to make them work, which is why Austin Animation is working closely with our Frankfurt and UK studios. The team also amended metrics for door control panels, bathroom toilet facilities, and chow lines in the Idris mess hall. Tech is being put in place that will allow an NPC to navigate to a usable set piece and perform a variety of actions (like grabbing a usable prop off the set piece, setting other usable props onto it, walking away with the prop, going to and interacting with another usable set piece, setting usable props on top of usable props, then getting up and navigating to a third usable set piece to dispose of the usable prop with all the usable props on it). Once this one test case is fully functional, we will be able to use these universal animations with different usables throughout the game.



SHIP ANIMATION


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The Ship Animation team has finished the major animation tasks for the Drake Cutlass Black. Characters can now enter and exit the pilot and copilot seats properly. For the copilot, the team used a new cockpit template called the “Stick.” This template positions the player in a pose like that of a helicopter pilot which was required to fit the new geometry of the Cutlass cockpit.



DEV OPS


DevOps added additional logging to better track issues and allows the team to dump the status of the users download session at the moment they experience the issue. The DevOps team then works directly with the Community Relations team to debug the issue or issues the user is experiencing. A great example of this is the latest version of the Patcher. As some of the Windows 10 users may have already noticed, the 2.4.9 version of the Patcher brought back music that had been missing. The exact cause of the issue was that the Windows 10 sound settings were set to 192kHz which caused the Patcher to crash if you had the music turned on. You can now enjoy all of Pedro Camacho’s music again!



QA


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The QA Department has been heavily focused on 2.6.2 testing. With the addition of Multiplayer Megamap and Serialized Variables, multiple cross-studio playtests between the ATX and UK studios were performed in order to check for any unexpected behaviors, such as increased desynchronization and lag between clients, massive performance changes (good or bad), and crashes.

Since the new Drake Buccaneer came online sooner than expected, we were able to perform frequent testing to ensure the ship was operating as expected for its inclusion in 2.6.2.

In the development stream testing, Squadron 42 testing continues, as well as a range of tests with ground vehicles on planetary surfaces in a multiplayer environment. Various development tools are also being tested, such as the Procedural Planet Editor (PlanED), and the Subsumption Editor.



PLAYER RELATIONS


The Player Relations team was very busy in both the US and UK this month helping with 2.6.2 and 2.6.3. We spent a lot of time with Evocati and QA working on getting the final bugs worked out, then managing our public PTU playtests. In the coming weeks, we will be increasing and updating our PTU test numbers, so we’ve spent a lot of time working on how to roll that out, too. Lastly, we also had a great summit in LA with other department leads and stakeholders to work out our plans for the rest of year, and we got to spend a little time working with our Turbulent friends as well.

Foundry 42 UK

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FOUNDRY 42: UK


PROGRAMMING


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The player interaction sprint is proceeding at full speed. Rather than outlining a whole mesh, they have created a system where sub-objects can be highlighted allowing players to choose individual parts. This is especially useful in cockpits, where players can interact with individual buttons and switches to access things like ship functions and resource distribution. The team has also been ensuring the new interaction system works seamlessly with the multifunction displays (MFD). The new placement system has also come online, so players can choose where and with what orientation objects can be set down. If the placement position is out of range, players now automatically go into a throw state.

Different actor states have been added to the Player Status System, so the player finds it harder, or even impossible, to do things like jump, vault and mantle depending on how fatigued they are. Mass has been added to the suit and weapons as another way to influence the player’s stamina. We’ve also added a breathing state component to bring together the player’s status with the procedural breathing animation and sound. The team is now starting work on new gameplay elements like suit punctures, oxygen recharging and depressurisation.The team invested time in the conversation system tech by creating a tool to help simplify complicated conversations when there are multiple actors in the same scene.



UI


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The UI team began the front-end skeleton framework for Kiosk shopping. This includes properly setting up all UI components such as lists, grids, buttons, TextFields, and other various assets. Once this is done, the engineers will hook these components up to the game data and get it presented diegetically in the game world. The team is also supporting the player interaction system to unify the way the players will interact with in-game UI screens across the game. This means the same underlying system used to interact with a MFD in a ship seat will be applied to all in-game terminals, wall-mounted displays, and kiosks. This will make interaction with in-game displays feel much less clunky and constrictive. In anticipation of the Graphics Team’s work on the new render-to-texture (RTT) tech, the UI team has done a round of testing using current helmet interiors to see how well the UI looks rendered onto an interior glass surface.The new RTT tech will eventually allow the UI to render properly in the rendering pipeline, making it feel much more integrated with the game-world than it is currently. They have also checked how well the text will read at various sizes and how any post-processing effects, such as motion blur or chromatic aberration, might potentially negatively impact the legibility of the text and symbols. The UI team is also looking at potential impacts the new incoming dynamic field of view system might have on the UI. This new system will allow such things like the HUD and 3D helmet interior to remain roughly the same size on screen when setting a lower or higher field of view.



AUDIO


The Audio team has been involved in all gameplay features like the Buccaneer, surface outposts, Squadron level development, and the actor status system. Work has continued on the Audio Propagation system to make audio respect walls, doors and paths. In the current system, audio triggers play from their point of origin and either being occluded or un-occluded, but always play from their source position. The new propagation system will allow a sound playing inside a room to be heard by anyone listening from outside the room, either through the door, window, or any other opening. This extends to other rooms, so a sound playing 4 rooms away will navigate the doorways and the air in between in order to reach the listener. Also, the first and second pass of the mix management system have been completed. This is a virtual mixing console that can be applied to certain areas or rooms and allows the creation of mix snapshots that can apply volume, filter or effect settings on any parts of the audio mix with faders in DataForge that can be tweaked in real-time. Setting up and organising these areas, and mix snapshots, will allow for easy adjustment of the audio mix. Finally, a lot of progress has been made on the WordUp dialogue tool to manage the huge amount of spoken lines in the PU and S42.

For fun, here’s a piece of original Star Citizen music called Atomos for you to enjoy.



CONCEPT ART


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The Concept team has been finishing the Gemini ballistic shotgun and establishing the look of a new ship weapon manufacturer, Preacher Armaments. Preacher prides themselves on making high-quality, reliable and effective weapons that are favored by bounty hunters, police, and militia. In 2940, the conglomerate Eon Group bought out Preacher from founder Kino Walton and immediately ramped up manufacturing. Preacher Armaments is aggressively making its way into stores across the universe.

Concept work for the Banu Defender is complete, as well as on two additional ships that will be revealed in the future. Work continues on the truckstop interiors, satellite interiors, New Babbage on microTech and dressing for the modular habitation modules. Here is a glimpse of a WIP Truckstop interior. Truckstops will serve as waypoints for haulers and other travelers making their way through the system giving them a chance to restock, refuel, and stretch their legs.



ENVIRONMENT ART


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The environment team has been refining the surface outposts with technical, engineering, and habitation spaces coming together with their preliminary dressing passes. The exteriors are now mostly complete. The team is also looking into lighting variations for the procedural system to add more complex setups for the lighting states. The greybox for the truckstop space station is continuing and now that all the building set pieces have been established, the detail phase has begun. On the Satellite sprint, we’re close to being Whitebox complete on the communication archetype, which means the modules and classifications that were specified by design have been visually explored.



SHIP ART AND DESIGN


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Our ship team has been continuing work on the Hull-C and Reclaimer, which includes the new light controller work that allows for easier set up of different lighting entities and switches them between property states (e.g., on, off, emergency) depending on various circumstances such as a player interaction or sufficient pull from a connected power pipe. The Javelin continues to be polished for both Squadron 42 and Star Citizen. The team is also completing the capital ships of the Vanduul Fleet.



VFX


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As you’re aware, the VFX was completed on the Drake Buccaneer and the ship was released in 2.6.2. Meanwhile, the RSI Constellation Aquila is going through its flight-ready pass. The MISC Prospector finished a thrusters first pass and damage R&D blockout. The new GPU-driven thruster trails have completed its initial implementation phase. On the Weapon VFX side, the style guide has been improved by bringing in a new system that defines the visual style of a weapon based on manufacturer and energy type. The Apocalypse Arms Scourge railgun, Kastak Arms Devastator plasma shotgun rework, and Klaus & Werner Gallant energy rifle rework finished their first pass. The layered impact library has been rolled out. Previously, impacts were per weapon and per surface type, but the new setup allows us to layer up individual elements which gives more flexibility and less maintenance.



ANIMATION


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The animation team has been exploring a lot of technical previs this past month. Part of that work includes improving the functionality of the shouldered weapon state to get the railgun ready and playable for 3.0. The team also polished the prone set so it will be ready for code to work their magic on fixing any edge cases and continued to work on Breathing & Stamina to create a solid look and feel for a player breathing across multiple states, such as normal, tired and hyperventilating. The weapons-free jumps are getting a pass to bring the animations more in line with the mocap rather than the technical first pass implementation. The Devastator shotgun, Gallant, Arrowhead, and Railgun weapon reloads have been improved. Meanwhile, the Derby Studio continued with Facial animation for SQ42 and Star Citizen cinematics. They attended a facial shoot down in London for 3.0 and members of the team visited the LA studio for some facial animation R&D meetings.

Foundry 42 DE

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FOUNDRY 42: DE


WEAPONS


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This past month, we completed all the rockets and rocket pods ranging from size 1 to 3 as well as the first art pass for the Knightbridge Arms Ballistic Cannons. The various sizes can now be used to test out the new modularity system and various upgraded levels and combinations. The FPS weapon artists finished a second art pass on the Klaus & Werner Arclight II, Gallant, and Arrowhead which now include new venting mechanisms that add more visual interest to the reloads. The first art pass on the Kastak Arms Ravager-212 and a second art pass on the Kastak Arms Devastator with an additional layer of detail was also completed.



LIGHTING


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The lighting team began determining a way to integrate lighting on modular surface outposts, so it feels coherent across potentially countless outpost layout permutations. The challenge with this task is that every room could have a different arrangement of props and objects, which dictates where lights would logically be placed, as well as the theme or mood of that room. For example, crew sleeping quarters should have a different mood than a hydroponics lab. To do this, the lighting team tested for possible issues (such as light leaking through walls or certain lighting variations looking incorrect when placed next to others) by integrating simple lighting variations into the procedural system. The team also focused on creating a visual target for our main room types (habitation, hydroponics, mining, and storage) to see how far we can push the lighting to match our concepts and goals for the interior look of our surface outposts. When these are finished, we can then determine how to break the lighting down into modular components that can be fed back into the procedural system.



TECH ART


The tech art team worked on multiple skinning tasks, including clothing for both the PU and SQ42 (to widen the range of character customization) and a skinning pass on the final Vanduul mesh (so the animators can work on their animations).The team created a tool that allows the team to quickly update the exact grip placements for individual weapons. Artists can now use a reference mesh, create an offset, hit export, and immediately see their changes live in engine. This will allow them to iterate much quicker than before. In addition, they developed a tool for the animators to redirect their walking animations to turn animations. This fairly simple tool that will ultimately reduce the time the animators need to spend on certain specific animations.



DESIGN


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The Level Design team worked on the modularity of Space Stations and Surface Outposts. As an initial proof of concept, the team has decided to move forward with five versions of the outposts. Ultimately with this system, we’ll be able to create a large number of outposts with different layouts and purposes, but first, the systems, props, and placement of planets need to work as intended. The Truck Stop is our first test of modularity in Space Stations. Soon, customizable hubs will be able to create variations using add-ons and procedural prop placement which can add flavor to various rooms. The modularity of Space Stations also extends to how the rooms connect to one another through the use of pre-made flowcharts. Design is collaborating with engineers to get it functioning in-game as intended. The system design team has been continuing their work on the usables system, as well as working with the cinematics team in helping to establish the final look and feel for the conversation system.



ENGINE TEAM


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The engine team finished the physics grid refactoring, which is used to store each individual physical object in the world and to allow for fast neighbour queries. The old legacy CryPhysics grid system worked by projecting the entire world onto a fixed 2d array of cells of uniform dimension. For memory reasons, the old system was configured to huge cell sizes to allow for our massive worlds, which lead to severe performance problems when dealing with lots of small objects as well as lots of entities returned due to the fact the grid would ‘wrap-around’ every few thousand kilometres. To address these issues, the new grid system was designed to have a sparse and fixed hierarchy of nested 3D grid cells of various sizes where objects will get inserted into different levels of the fixed hierarchy depending on their size. That way, the engine can efficiently handle objects the size of a planet (several thousand kilometres in radius) all the way down to small pebbles just a few centimeters across. Initial performance tests in Stanton have proven the new grid to be vastly more efficient (10x less entities returned for small queries, and queries in general faster in the magnitude of 1.2x – 2x) while using slightly more memory than the legacy system.

The team has also been developing the core foundation of our AI movement. While motion capture animation is perfect for cut-scenes and all types of linear animations where things are fixed and predictable, mocap-data can’t be used directly for animations that need to be truly interactive. To use mocap-data in interactive situations, longer motion-clips must be broken into shorter clips and generated into multiple variations of the same motion-style. As an example, a simple walk-cycle needs the ability to walk at different speeds, walk in circles, walk on slopes, and walk in different directions. A typical AI-character in Squadron might have about 1000 of these motion-clips. It’s impossible to create unique animations-clips for every given situation. That’s why we developed a blending technique called Parametric Blending.

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Parametric Blending enables all these clips to be controllable at runtime. It takes the concept of “simple” animation-blending and moves it to the next level. The goal is to make the outcome of a transition or an interpolation predictable for an undefined number of assets. Each motion-clip contains a combination of physical and stylistic properties (what we call the “natural” motion-parameters, because they are inherently part of the motion itself). To control a character in a game, these “natural” motion-parameters need to be passed to the animation-system, and let it generate the motion we need. Once there are enough animation-clips, they’re placed into a blend-space. The most important aspect of a blend-space is that each animation-clip represents a point in a coordinate-system and all points are connected by an index list. In a blend-space, blending is treated as a geometrical problem. The relationship between animation-clips is extremely important for the blending to work. The placement of the assets into the blend-space is fully automatic due to how the animators set up their locators before export. In a single blend-space, there can be more than 100 unique animation-clips and they can be controlled like a single animation. In a 2D blendspace, the travel-speed is on the X and the turn-speed is on the Y. This means we can generate all motions between a slow-walk and fast-walk while maintaining the correct turn-speeds. Blend-spaces are not only limited to simple motion-cycles, they’ll be used for most AI motions in our vast universe, enabling our AI-characters to move fluidly and realistically in the world.

The engine team also did improvements to the objects blending with terrain. The underlying terrain and objects shapes are now taken into account to blend procedurally distributed objects more naturally with the planetary generated environment.



QA


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The QA team has been testing the Loadout Editor. The Loadout Editor is heavily used by our devs across all four locations, so it made sense to increase the depth of testing on a daily basis. The first version of the Solar System Editor (also known by its shortened name: SolEd) is being tested as well. The Engineers went over SolEd’s functionality and gathered initial feedback from the team. QA documented the feedback and will work closely with the engineers on the best ways to address and test specific feedback in the near future. They also supported the Engine team with testing of a few things such as the updated Planet Physics grid and the Refactoring of Texture Streamer logic.



AI


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The AI team this month completed some work on Mission related functionalities for both the PU and Squadron 42 designers. They also improved the setup for complex conversation scenarios, where multiple characters need to interact with one another. The first step to achieve that was to allow the subsumption logic to run on top of players. That allows logic on predefined story scenes to be executed and also ensures the AI system can fully communicate with players and interact with them. The subsumption tool also had some improvements on the conversation setup. The team also kicked off work on “Conversation Sub Activities.” The sub-activities describe the logic for multiple characters in one view, to make it easier for designers to synchronize interactions between the characters and the environment. Essentially, those conversations will still result in unique sub activities that run on the different characters so that each individual entity can still handle further events/situations on their own.

The first pass on refactoring of the perception for the spaceships was also completed. There is currently a general perception component on characters that can handle several types of senses. A normal Human will have his own vision and hearing senses, but once sitting down inside a spaceship, they will also be able to interface with the spaceship radar and group the information about the different senses into its perception component. This will allow for progress towards more “character-controlled” behaviors on spaceships, since strict dependencies between the game code and specific behaviors running on the vehicles themselves will be removed.



CINEMATICS


The cinematics team is making steady progress across multiple chapters, from implementing new scenes to polishing existing ones. The team also assisted in defining the look of the conversation system and participated in the various sprints push this system along. The goal is to allow for a cinematic feel while still maintaining flexibility and immersion.



VFX


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The VFX team in Frankfurt has continued working on planetary effects. The systems for implementation have been progressing nicely thanks to the close collaboration between the VFX artists and Engineers. They started implementing some of the new effects on the planets, including various atmosphere and weather effects, as well as more specific effects for various types of assets that will be distributed with the object scattering system.



ENVIRONMENT ART


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The Frankfurt environment team has been primarily focused on finalizing the Crusader’s moons. The procedural assets distribution system has seen a lot of progress and is still improving. All the separate pieces that make-up our procedural planets and moons are truly starting to fall into place. The team is now moving on to get the Levski landing zone integrated onto Delamar and will be the first big landing zone on a procedural entity. This means a new procedural planet/asteroid and the exteriors architecture of Levski will be created. The challenge is to merge the procedural terrain and the landing zone in a way in which they feel like they belong together.

Turbulent

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TURBULENT



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This month, Turbulent launched spectrum 0.3.2, which includes major performance updates to help render messages and threads in the client. Hopefully, this will allow users to switch faster between lobbies and channels, as well as take less CPU and render time than in the 0.3.1 version. 0.3.2 also brings two new features. First users can now re-order communities in the top left of the sidebar by dragging and dropping the community to the new location.Second, the other feature is the channel thread list, so now threads that contain media information and videos have thumbnail images allowing users to preview the content.

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There has also been mobile optimization and keyboard fixes that will hopefully be ready for 0.3.3. This should fix bugs Android users have been encountering when typing into the chat. The new patch also adds nested threads to the forums Users can now create a new thread and change a discussion type from a classic chronological timeline into a nested discussion. This gives us two benefits. First, we can now sort by up votes and get a nested reply tree behind it. Second, users can gain more control into choosing discussion types. The post creator will have the option of choosing if it’s a nested thread or not.

Turbulent will also archive the old forums on Friday, April 14. We’ve expanded our category list to bring all those discussions from the old forum to Spectrum. This will not be an import, but a recreation inside the new system. This month, the team also worked on the new delta patcher. Turbulent is responsible for building the actual application that hosts the patching libraries, so we’ve worked hard over this month to get this new application setup. It requires a whole new application stack called Electron which lets the team patch the game data with this new launcher internally.

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Another major project started this month is a redesign of some of the elements of the RSI site. This is a massive overhaul of the website to address how it caters to new users. We can’t talk much about it now, but there will be updates as the design progresses. There has also been progress on updating the Ship Stats page. The ship stats are supposed to reflect the intent design of a ship and not necessarily the exact stats that are currently in game, but at the same time, there are things that are missing. The team is changing how the back end manages this by re-designing some of the tech view, specifications view, and holoviewer.

Community

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Community



Some of our devs attended Austin’s biggest media festival, South by Southwest, and participated in a special panel last month. Before that, Community Manager Jared Huckaby and Lead Community Manager Tyler Witkin attended PAX East where they got some hands on time with our incredible backers. CIG team members haven’t been back to meet our East Coast backers since 2014, so it was good to visit again. In addition to meeting many content creators at the PAX event itself, they were also able to attend a Boston Bar Citizen with fans from all over. The importance of these events cannot be understated, as they’re not only a great chance for you to meet the team, but it really energizes the team to directly interface with all of you. And speaking of Bar Citizens, the team was also honored to attend meet-ups in Brisbane, Australia; Austin, Texas; and Santa Monica, California. There are Bar Citizens happening every week. Learn more about them here.

Subscribers this month saw the Space Station flair series begin in addition to receiving their very own Big Benny’s machine as part of the annual Subscription update. The March Jump Point was also released with a focus on the Anvil Hurricane. The issue also includes plenty of lore, part of an original Star Citizen serial, and more!

On Citizens of the Stars, the team checked in with some of the best screenshot artists, original video makers, and news reporters in the community while also spotlighting plenty of other backer projects. Don’t forget, if you’re a subscriber you can contribute questions to Quantum Questions and vote for which ones are asked to the weekly development guests. Check out the thread in the Subscriber’s Den on Spectrum.

During this month’s Happy Hours, the team showed how our designers prototype new systems by building a basketball game mockup live, and our very own Ben Lesnick took a dive into Chris Roberts’ Privateer to talk about how this classic game has influenced Star Citizen.

Star Citizen joined the worldwide celebration of Space Week with many developers, including Sean Tracy and Erin Roberts, appearing on the Twitch front page to talk about the worlds being built in Star Citizen.The team at Turbulent also held a live Town Hall to answer questions about Spectrum and their other platform work. Spectrum continues to update with more functionality on the horizon. As of today, old forums are being closed and archived. Posts will still be available to read, but Spectrum will be the new home for any future discussions.

Last week, the team held a special ‘Drake-over’ sale to celebrate the Buccaneer being flight-ready. With the Dragonfly and Cutlass finishing up, the current Drake lineup is almost done. Also on the ship front, a lot of work has been put into our next reveal, the Banu Defender. Stay tuned to learn more about both the Defender and the Banu race! Additionally, an update to the Referral Program is in progress. Expect to hear more about this soon, including details on a special contest.



Conclusion

WE’LL SEE YOU NEXT MONTH



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    • Przez Nebthtet
      Monthly Studio Report: May 2017

      Greetings Citizens!

      Welcome to Monthly Report for May 2017, our detailed list of what the developers in Los Angeles, Frankfurt, Austin, and the UK have been up to for the past four weeks in both written and video form.
      CIG Los Angeles

      CLOUD IMPERIUM: LOS ANGELES

      ENGINEERING

      Our Tech Design, Engineering, and QA teams have made steady progress in their various disciplines to roll out a fleet of ships that operate under the Item System 2.0 system with updated or new items that can be loaded onto them. We’ve now successfully converted the Origin M50 Interceptor to fully utilize this new system since it is a comparatively easier ship to set up while still allowing us to discover issues that we can address for all 49 flyable ships and beyond.
      Our first round through the setup procedure allowed us to identify opportunities to create tools that will further speed our implementation time in the future. This attention to detail has really allowed us to balance power usage, heat generation, associate EM and IR signals, and balance hydrogen and quantum fuel consumption across our ships and a lot of insight into how the player could consider upgrading their ship components.
      The engineering team also made major strides in the areas of persistence and inventory by creating a technique for clients to request persistent information. This work will be incorporated into several large features in 3.0 such as cargo, shops, commodities, Air Traffic Control, Ships, Players, and more. It will allow game code to query for and modify data for entities that aren’t even spawned, such as selling cargo from a ship that’s landed at a station and hidden away by ATC. These features will also allow game code to correctly re-spawn and orient ships or items that have been abandoned on planets or in space, meaning you can expect the world and your possessions to remain in the same state in between game sessions.
      We’ve made progress on the system which allows one to park their ship inside of another to transport safely from point A to point B. This was based off of a rework of the landing mechanic that’s currently in the game. The new docking areas are set up the same way as landing pads used within the universe, taking components with a different interface and a new mechanism for locking. There has also been some work on the physics of getting the Ursa Rover to sit in the cargo bay of the Constellation Andromeda without popping through walls and jittering.
      The team has also now also converted the basic quantum drive to Item 2.0, giving it the ability to store quantum travel and other navpoints. This means that all discovered quantum travel points can be set as travel destinations at any time regardless of distance and signature strength. This also involves working closely with Design on a way to better display them to the player in a logical interface. From here, we can move on to pure 2.0 systems as Quantum Drive now uses the pipe system for fuel and power checks as well as make quantum drive look and sound as awesome as it behaves by connecting VFX and Audio to the actual transit.
      This month we’ve implemented a several new features into our Intelligent Flight Control System (IFCS). On the physics side, we’ve implemented an autopilot system to allow AI and any other systems to utilize IFCS, like takeoff, landing or quantum drive, or anywhere a ship control needs to be automated. We’ve also added support for Cinematics to be able to automate the motion of thrusters on ships, so they don’t need to hand animate every thruster action in a cinematic. With this in place, the thrusters on a ship will now behave as intelligently as they do in game.


      SHIP TEAM
      Our ship team made steady progress on the RSI Aurora since our last update. The art team has now completed the seat geo for the ES and LN variants and started work on the engines while tech design is implementing these new assets directly into the ship archetype making this our first scratch built Item System 2.0 ship. Also, the Anvil Terrapin’s exterior is nearing completion of the greybox phase and has near final animation.


      TECH ART
      As you know, the scale of Star Citizen is such that even large teams need some additional support in the form of outsourcing partners. One of the difficulties with outsourcing tends to be ensuring a team’s refined processes are adhered to and all assets that are delivered meet our requirements for easy integration into the game. As you’ve heard about in the past, there are many pipelines and processes within Star Citizen and some are more complicated than others. Onboarding an outsourcing team requires tools that can be installed and run in an external environment with limited support from us in order to save time. So this month, the tech animation team developed a standalone installer that automatically mounts sample assets, tools and documentation, no matter if it’s for Motion Builder or in Maya. We can now easily minimize the ramp-up time for any potential partners and while allowing them to benefit from the extensive internal tools that are developed for our needs.
      Tech animation is responsible for the character’s skeleton and, like all things, creating a character skeleton can be done manually or automatically. Typically, a skeleton rig is not so complex and tends to be somewhat static, so it doesn’t change often, but, when you’re on the cutting edge of technology, updates are often required. For example, an animation engineer may require the addition of a specifically named joint for code purposes, thus requiring changes to all skeletons in the game, which would be a time consuming process if done manually. We’ve now completed our SRC (or Source) rigging scripts and can make these kinds of updates quickly, easily, and bug-free. The time and energy saved is not only for the rigging team, but also for the animation team who will be utilizing these skeletons day to day. A programming analogy would be to think of the rig as a compiled executable. The SRC rigging scripts are the source code. If we need to add something to the skeleton, we update the source code and compile it rather than patching the executable. You just build it anew.
      The tech art team also created a new data structure that will allow players to customize their eye color. This supports the first pass of the character creator where players will be able to select from a preset eye color pallet.
      In addition, tech art took advantage of a feature provided by the LA Engineering team that allows the body skin tone to automatically adjust to the skin tone of the face through the magic of item port tags. In the case of NPCs, this will maintain consistency for our characters and in the case of players this will ensure your body always matches your face.
      They’ve also created a process to generate SDF (or signed distance field) volume textures, which are used in conjunction with our atmospheric flight model to simulate engine trails. We’ve made solid progress on art tools for our various art teams. One such tool is our “unbevel” tool, which simplifies our LOD (or Level of Detail) creation process to increase performance on anything beyond our first LOD and speed up delivery time for our ship pipeline.
      Finally, this month we’ve taken large steps forward on our procedural system for outposts including color tinting, material variation, and even variation of props and their placement within the outposts.


      CHARACTER TEAM
      Our character team have added more armor suits to the armory. We now have a fully rigged female medium marine and the male heavy outlaw suit going has moved from concept toward final implementation. We’re also far along on many new uniforms, costumes, characters, and heads for Squadron 42. The male OMC light is wrapping up its initial high poly pass and has moved onto in-game mesh creation. The male Shubin miner uniform has begun in-game texturing now that the mesh is complete. A new outlaw uniform has just finished up concepting and is on its way to high poly. Our Female Marine BDU finished up sculpting and is headed to in-game modeling.
      With the FOV slider work in-progress for 3.0, the character team also spent time working on our helmet interiors starting with the heavy outlaw and heavy marine which is used by our UI team to establish necessary boundaries.


      NARRATIVE
      The Narrative spent the month divided. Dave and Will shipped off to the Wilmslow office to spend some time with Design and attend Squadron 42 level reviews with Chris. During that time, they also generated a handful of new scripts for 3.0 to cover [REDACTED] [REDACTED] and [REDACTED] which was very exciting to expand upon. Meanwhile, back in the LA office, Adam and Cherie were holding down the fort. Adam was juggling Jump Point articles, News Updates, while working on components for 3.0 while Cherie was maintaining her stalwart battle against chaos on our internal wiki and spearheading several new archiving systems to catalog the massive amounts of performance capture data as well as video captured for our various marketing and community programs.


      QA
      QA has been busy supporting the transition into the Item 2.0 conversion by taking an early look at the ships, and determining how to convert all existing checklists to the new 2.0 framework. When making any impact to our game, QA has to test everything, which in this case, included all the different interaction points. Prior, the interaction points were limited to the exit and entrance, but now checks have been added for Ladder Entry/Exit, EVA entry/exit, Power On/Off, Engines On/Off as well as looking ahead for features not yet implemented such as Ejection and cases in which more than one player attempts a particular interaction.
      CIG Austin

      CLOUD IMPERIUM: AUSTIN

      DESIGN

      Right now the ATX Design Team is completely focused on things related to 3.0 or near term goals.
      First off, the team has been building State Machines for the first few NPCs that we’ll be implementing. To provide a bit of background, a “State Machine” is a way to visualize how the NPC will behave, it not only acts as a behavior tree, but also informs the animation team when and where our animations need to transition between each other. We hand off these state machines to the Animators who then approve the behavior or give it back with feedback. Not only does this drive the animations we need, but also guides the NPC’s behavior setup in Subsumption.
      The Nav Beacon System is a new mechanic that will allow players to create their own roads throughout a given Star System. These are physicalized objects that are deployed through utility mounts and give players visual markers to lock onto for Quantum Travel while in space or, if used on planetary surfaces, will provide a known point to fly towards. Players will be able to grant “Use” access to others as well as “Hack” another person’s beacon, both allows you to use someone else’s Nav Beacon. There are multiple sizes and quality levels that dictate several things: how far they can be seen from and how long they last before they need to be serviced by the Owner. Finally, because they are physical objects you will be able to not only find, but destroy someone else’s Beacon, which should make for some interesting gameplay.
      Finally, the team have been organizing Miles Eckhart’s assets (which are being polished by the animation team in our Derby Office), creating his state machine, and getting his initial behavior up and running in Subsumption. Eckhart will be unlocked to the players by accumulating ‘Reputation’ with him, earned by completing other available missions. Once unlocked, you can visit him for a wide variety of missions. The new “Mission Manager” will drive his selection, but you will be able to choose from anything he currently has available. Setting up this character will provide a lot of great information for future Mission Givers, so we’re looking forward to getting him out there.
      PU Game Director Tony Zurovec has had his hands full with several things this month like reviewing mission scenarios for 3.0, but a major part of his focus was on Subsumption. As a reminder, Subsumption is the data-driven and highly abstracted foundation on which all of the AI and mission logic in Star Citizen is constructed. Tony finished the conversion of the Subsumption tech to Linux for integration with our backend services and completed the Shopping Service for game code to start hooking the new shopping tech into.


      SHIP TEAM
      Ship Artist Josh Coons has been working on the ship LODs for the Cutlass Black. It’s a very time-consuming task since our LODs are mostly handmade and the ship he’s working on is quite large with many pieces that have to be optimized. In addition to optimizing the mesh, he also reduces the material IDs, as he goes down the LOD chain. This way the mesh will have less draw calls from a distance and be more efficient on the engine.


      ANIMATION
      This month, the PU Animation Team finished up the two-handed carry animations for a variety of postures (such as standing, crouching and zero-g), a number of crate sizes and even a variety of heights. Code and Tech has hooked it up so that you can retrieve cargo in zero-g, EVA back to your ship and stow your acquired loot in your cargo bay. Animation Director Steve Bender stopped by the office for a visit, so we ended up doing a last minute mocap shoot in our office where he ran around like a crazy person capturing all our FPS starts and stops for a stocked rifle locomotion set. We also took this opportunity to get Sandy Gardiner in the suit and capture some exercise motion for our female characters when they decide to do a workout in our exercise usable. On the second day, lead animator Bryan Brewer hopped in and captured needed animations for the crouching carry animations. Animation worked closely with design to start work on some of the interactable NPCs, such as bartenders and shopkeepers.
      The Ship Animation Team continued to improve upon the cockpit experience. They worked with designers and programmers over in the UK to update our gforce blendspace poses, utilize a low pass filter for smoother, smarter camera motion; as well as adjust the cockpit geometry to allow for button presses. In addition to this, we created a system that will allow us to make comms calls within the ships during flight.


      IT/DEV OPS
      Our Server Engineers have been providing support for the shopping service which communicates with Diffusion and the game systems through our new Diffusion gateway. The gateway allows external/non-Diffusion services to communicate with the game as if they were an internal Diffusion service.
      We’ve also focused on integrating the Diffusion code into the primary game development branch that will be deployed with 3.0. This was a massive integration with a lot of moving parts and required a large amount of collaboration between Server Engineering and DevOps. The effort has taken a few weeks to get everything moved over, tested, and in a state where it can be deployed.
      We have also been working on a Service Creation Tool. This tool will provide a simple to use UI allowing engineers to create new services, add/remove or modify components, and management in source control. The output of the tool is a basic service shell and set of source files that are customized for the new service. When complete, this will be a huge time saver and allow new engineers to create services without worrying about any boilerplate work and thus allowing for rapid service development. We have started to add Star Citizen specific extensions to Ooz. For those who don’t know, Ooz was written by Lead Server Engineer Jason Ely and is the scripting language that drives Diffusion. These extensions expose SC-specific constructs to Diffusion, allowing services to provide more intricate support for game-play features which help move the game into a more distributed architecture.
      We’ve also continued work on the Router Mesh functionality. This feature distributes services over multiple router endpoints and provides redundant communication paths between other services. The mesh will use a technique to isolate high bandwidth services away from lower bandwidth or more critical services. The primary responsibility of the router mesh is to provide a high level of service availability and performance.
      Finally, the DevOps team has been busy optimizing the build and publishing systems. The game builds are growing rapidly as content continues to pour in for 3.0, so we’re constantly tweaking and tuning to keep up with the demands of the dev team. Ahmed and his team have been collecting feedback on network performance from our three locations and comparing that to internal data, so we can optimize network performance wherever possible. This is an ongoing task but we’ve already found some good opportunities for improvement in this area.


      QA
      For May, Austin QA worked heavily on regression of bugs, particularly on a massive sweep through our open bugs to see what items are still valid given the new systems and tech coming online for both PU and S42. This allowed us to eliminate a considerable number of bugs before they ever reached development, saving our busy developer cohorts time they would have spent investigating issues that were no longer occurring in the latest builds. Major testing items for our group included actor serialization, multi-threaded resource containers and network transport queue for the Engineering teams. We continued testing the Moons in the Stanton system for any potential issues such as collision and performance testing. New vehicles, ships and FPS items came online throughout the month (including the Behring P8-SC SMG which we were very excited to play with) in addition to testing the continued Item 2.0 implementations. All of which have kept our Arena Commander and Star Marine testers very busy.
      On the new system front, we’ve been working very hard testing the new procedural breathing and stamina system as well as the new Air Traffic Controller system. We’ve also been testing some updates to our current game Launcher – primarily bug fixes to our players but also a few quality-of-life fixes, continued providing additional support for the animation groups here in Austin, including mocap file cleanup, supporting setup and teardown for pick-up shoots and in-game video captures for final reviews. Regular Editor and engine testing has continued as well, with ATX QA completing regular smokes of the subsumption editor, procedural planet tools as well as our normal editor testing.


      PLAYER RELATIONS
      The Player Relations team has been extremely busy preparing for upcoming 3.0 work. The biggest item that players will see is the New Player Experience that will ultimately go on the website. These are intended to provide helpful guides for new players entering into the Star Citizen universe and help bring them up to speed with the game and its various mechanics.
      We’ll also be adding to the Evocati ranks in the coming weeks, and are excited to announce that we’ll be adding headcount in Austin, Manchester, and Frankfurt.
      Foundry 42 UK

      FOUNDRY 42: UK

      SPRINTS

      Let’s start with the ongoing Sprints.
      We’ve completed the initial groundwork for the Air Traffic Controller sprint and moved on to more of the functionality including communicating with the ATC. When you want to land, you can now target the station and, using the player interaction system, select the option to request a landing. You will then start a communication channel with the NPC and have a dialogue with them. We’re currently in the process of implementing this in real world test cases, for example in our PU map we’re setting it up at port Olisar so both requesting your ship as well as landing will all go through the ATC system.
      As part of a push to make Star Citizen more accessible, we’re introducing a new Hint System to lower the initial learning curve for new players. As they take their first steps into Star Citizen universe, various hints will get displayed on the UI after a given amount of time to indicate how to interact with the different systems, such as entering the proximity of the ASOP terminal or letting them know about the mobiGlas feature.
      For 3.0, we’ve also changed how the Player Spawns into a level. Currently, each bedroom in the PU map has its own spawn point and then some flowgraph logic to position them correctly in the bed, and play the correct animation. As you can imagine, based on the number of spawn locations in the PU, this is adding up to a lot of flowgraph and setup. Going forwards, we’re creating a new spawn component which can be added to any entity. For example, if this component is added to a bed, we will then assume the player will need to be attached correctly to it and play the normal lie down idle animation automatically. This now means we can now remove a large amount of flowgraph and simplify the setup of the level.
      We’ve made progress on implementing the mission broker and the mission manager systems. These will determine how a mission and all its objectives are presented and given to the player to complete. This system will also track what missions a player already has and how far through the objectives they are.
      In the AI Locomotion sprint, we’re spending time refining the way the AI walks and runs around a level. We have found that just following the path which is determined by the path finding code gives a result which looks very unnatural. We’ve now implemented a new path smoothing algorithm which makes AI traverse around corners in a much more natural way, so it doesn’t look like they’re just going from one point to the next. Because they are generally moving to get to a particular place we are currently working on making reaching that point, and going into whatever animation is required, be as seamless as possible.


      GRAPHICS
      The graphics team wrapped up the major features mentioned in our last update such as lit fog, real-time environment probes for planet lighting, and the render-to-texture work for holograms and video comms. In addition to general bug-fixing, they’ve also tweaked our lighting model to improve the appearance of ground reflections of the sun on planets at sunset and sunrise.


      ANIMATION
      On the FPS weapons side, the UK animation team completed the previs for the new Gemini L86 ballistic pistol and nearly completed the Arrowhead with just some minor polish work left on the reload states.
      The takedowns have gone from an implementation pass to a refined animation pass, with concentration on stronger composition, solid posing, clear silhouettes, and polish to the mocap data to better sell the overall action.
      The AI animation work is ongoing with improvements to the posing of enemy patrol states and reactions to sight and sound.
      The team are also helping to export the remaining gameplay story cinematic scenes, so that design can implement, and better visualize the story within the levels they are working on.
      The Derby animation team are finishing off the facial animations for the 3.0 Mission Givers and Eckhart’s body animation is being polished and implemented too. Last week, some of the team attended a PU audio and facial shoot in London. They captured some awesome footage from a great set of actors and we think it will go a long way to fleshing out the Universe.


      VFX
      The VFX Team have continued tests with the new Lightning Entity, this time focusing on smaller-scale, interior electrical effects. They also tested the features in the new particle system, as provided by the Graphics team including better trail options, and depth-buffer-based collision (required for sparks, for example). The team started the first Levski exterior VFX Pass which includes refinery flames and general ambiance. Flight-ready VFX, including interior damage and thruster effects are now done for the Cutlass rework and the team have continued on the Atmospheric Flight Effects sprint, with heavy focus on playtesting, bug-fixing and testing new features as provided by the Graphics and Engineering teams.
      Outside of these features, the team continued ongoing polish on the VFX for new weapons, and reworked versions is continuing up to the 3.0 release.


      SHIP ART
      The Origin 600i has finished its concept phase and the next ground vehicle has been rocking along. We’re just about to kickoff a whole new round of ships, but can’t spoil which ones.
      In Reclaimer news, the team completed work on the drone room. They were keen to focus on the drone deployment and storage mechanism, and are excited to see this become functional when drones come online. The Engine room has also been completed, making use of re-purposed assets from the Idris where possible. All the reused assets go through a process of re-skinning with Reclaimer materials to make everything feel consistent and cohesive. On the exterior, the damage setup is nearly complete with internal geometry being built to be exposed when the ship takes damage.
      The initial batch of work on the Derelict ships and wreckage elements are coming to an end with support is now in place for design to create mission scenarios based on derelict ships in space or on planets. Material variations of each ship have been created, so that depending on which planet the ships are placed on; they will look visually embedded to the surface type. All that’s remaining for this phase are the technical elements such has LODS, Vis-Areas and Collisions.
      The Gladius cockpit has been revamped and re-lit for the new “Cockpit Experience” sprint.
      This has been an exercise in improving the player’s feeling of immersion and has been a collaboration between several departments. From the art side, this was achieved by clearing a channel between the top support screens to reveal the Gatling gun on the nose, making a range of interactive buttons for more interesting animations and remodeling the throttle for improved functionality. The cockpit canopy has been extended for better clarity and new interior lighting has been added to help bring it all to life.
      On the Hull C exterior, the team is nearly finished with the landing gear mechanisms and detailing the inner bay areas, while we create the initial animations and work towards final art. They finished modelling the front section of the interior and the section is getting a detailed lighting pass using the new light groups controller. Once this is complete, the tunnel section and rear engine room will be modeled and lit in the same fashion.


      WEAPON ART
      On the ships weapons front, we have taken the Klaus & Werner styling from the FPS weapons and used that influence to work on a K&W Laser Repeater. At the other end of the spectrum, we also concepted some cool-looking MaxOx Neutron Repeaters.


      ENVIRONMENT ART
      The Art team continued to hammer away at Shubin mining station interiors and focused on improving the overall “believability” of the structure, by zeroing in on the functionality of the individual areas.
      Adding Texture and Visual Interest to our Space overworld has been a big priority for the 3.0, so the team has turned to giving our Space Scenes a major face-lift with the goal of diversifying environments and adding a unique flavor to each of our locations. Large volumes of inter-planetary space dust have been added and the team re-worked some of the distant nebula in the Stanton System to this end. We also worked on large-scale nebula rendering techniques, using the Pyro System as a test case. These techniques will help us create our interstellar scale nebula.
      For Squadron 42, the team delved deeper into the look and feel of the Coil, which plays a major role in the first campaign. The team explored using powerful fluid simulations to help achieve this look.
      For the Truckstop station materials, the team finalized the panels shapes, adding some hue and gloss variation and elements of wear and dirt. The unclad frames are also being finalized, with structural elements surrounding machinery and high frequency detail. They continued to work on the solar panels, trying different ideas out, and getting them to a stage where they gel well with the rest of the truckstop. The team also finalized the main hull pieces and proceeded to the front and back sections of the station. Special consideration is being made to ensure all the pieces work well as a modular set and don’t look visually repetitive. Detailing areas around the landing pad is ongoing and this includes adding more visual complexity to the back of the landing pad as well as the borders around the edge of the pad.
      In relation to the Surface Outposts; more of the archetypal outposts have had a dressing and lighting pass, including an emergency shelter for crashed pilots to take refuge which can be found dotted around the moons. Also, an illegal drug lab, which may, or may not, be on one of the moons. The team also worked on providing further infrastructure to habitation pods including comms arrays, water collectors and small deploy-able communication units.
      Planet integration materials for the outpost exterior has been tested and tweaked for sand and ice biomes. This determines the amount of dirt build-up that can vary for each biome, and can be adjusted for each outpost for variation.
      Branding prototyping has been explored for procedural locations with the Rayari brand as a test case. This includes the main logos and text, along with secondary logos, idents, lines and signage. This would procedurally swap brands depending on who owns the outpost.


      DESIGN
      The live design team plowed ahead with content for the PU, but they’ve made sure to spend a bit of time giving some much-needed love to some of the existing Arena Commander and Star Marine maps. Dying Star has received a new lease of life with the addition of procedural asteroids, which give a more cinematic dogfighting experience. Both of the Star Marine maps have received a number of balancing changes, based on feedback from the community.
      In Echo Eleven, we’ve made some adjustments to the capture points, and in Last Stand and Demien we’ve added a sneaky new EVA route from the Marine spawn zone to landing pad B.


      UI
      On the UI front, the team chipped away at all the various features of the new MobiGlas. Progress has been made getting the home screen fully functional and displaying elements of the actor status, atmospheric readouts, suit status readouts, as well as personal overview. The Player Loadout Management app is now working on the mobiGlas. This interface should easily carry over to handle ship-loadout customization as well. The next big task is to get the new overhauled Mission Manager and Universal Inventory Manager up and running as well. The team also worked to get the mobiGlas UI to be projected using the new render-to-texture tech, which will make the UI look much more properly integrated within the game world.
      Work has continued on designing and implementing the upcoming character customization menu on the front-end, which will be introduced in 3.0. From here, players will be able to create and customize their various characters for the PU, obviously depending on how many character slots the player has. Initially, the level of customization will be limited, but it will expand in the future to provide much more granular control of character features.


      AUDIO
      The audio team has been working on several features for the 3.0 release, including the procedural planet ambiance system, which is designed to place appropriate sounds around the player dynamically as they traverse planetary bodies.
      They’ve also refined the approach on how we produce ship armaments and first person weapon audio, further ensuring they’re satisfying for the player, while reflecting player-driven modifications and customization.
      The team produced sound schemes for the different kinds of diegetic user interfaces that will feature in 3.0, including the kiosks – the audio direction of these vary to suit their tech level, and this presents some great opportunities to reinforce their look and feel.
      Preparation has begun in earnest for a Foley session at Pinewood Studios, to ensure audio coverage for character clothing and armor; and content to extend the footstep system further. Progress has also been made on the foundational audio tech such as dynamic bank loading, the actor-status system, the audio propagation system, and the music logic system.
      In addition, over the past month, the team produced content for derelict ships, bespoke 3.0 location sound design, ship damage VFX audio support, ship audio improvements and more.
      Foundry 42 DE

      FOUNDRY 42: DE

      AI

      The AI team started a sprint focused on human combat, with the end goal of improving all the combat work done in the previous months into something that represents our final quality. We initially focused on all the shooting functionalities, making sure the basic controls for accuracy and friendly fire are implemented correctly then dove into improving behaviors related to awareness, such as reactions to potential threats seen or heard from a wide range of distances.
      They also finished converting the ship AI to a newer updated version, meaning that weapons, shields, and countermeasures now work with the new Item 2.0 system. For now, it also supports the old ships to avoid any compatibility issues that may creep up. This is part of an ongoing effort to move ships away from Kythera AI control and bring us one step closer to fully switching to Subsumption-based AI for all ships.
      The past month, the AI team did some additional work on the AI modules. These modules represent an item that can be attached to a seat (any seat of a spaceship or a turret) and execute a behavior logic defined with the Subsumption editor. You might think of it as a piece of custom software that can be instructed to take control of the same items that are available to a player sitting in the same seat. It might work as an autopilot or autonomously take control of a turret and fire at an enemy target. This feature is crucial in multi-crew ships where the pilot might assign specific activities to the AI modules instead of another player or NPC.


      SYSTEM DESIGN
      The System Design team continued working on the Air Traffic Control system, adding conversations with the traffic controller and a smart system for allocating landing pads for pilots wanting to land or take off.
      They also updated all our doors to Item 2.0, which now makes them modular and a lot easier to implement. These changes included switchable loadouts for each door, the ability to connect two rooms so air can travel between them and provide the functionality needed for new systems that are already in the works such as breaching, hacking. They also started reworking airlocks so they work better with the room and atmospheric systems.
      The team also did some very rough prototyping work on dynamic advertising which will contextually fill in the in-game panels/screens throughout stations with content that is reflecting the interests of the player that enters its proximity. The same system could be used for showing large scale broadcasts and warnings throughout the universe based on what is happening in the game at that specific moment, either globally or locally.


      LIGHTING
      Our Lead lighting artist Chris Campbell continued work on the surface outposts (particularly on the habitation sets) and coordinated with the UK Environment Art team to stay in sync with all their updates to assets and dressing.
      Another issue Lighting has been trying to solve for 3.0 is how to improve the amount of visibility on the dark side of the moons. Previously, without any interest objects in the sky, the planet surface would be far too dark since it would have to rely solely on cubemaps, therefore the player wouldn’t be able to see any detail in the environment. Chris worked with the engineers to add another layer of atmospheric glow and irradiance which allowed us to brighten the atmosphere, giving a nice gradient that shows the shape of the horizon and some depth in front of the player. The irradiance provides a base level of brightness on the actual surface geometry, so the player can faintly see themselves as well as the surface around them. Finally, he’s also been providing support for S42 environment lighting and setting visual benchmarks for the levels.


      ENGINE TEAM
      The Engine Team implemented the initial version of our new IO scheduler which will improve performance by only streaming in textures, meshes, sounds, etc that are being used to stay within a memory budget. Eventually, it will also allow the job manager to better utilize CPU cores in cases where streaming jobs are waiting for IO. Moreover, it will lay the groundwork for a version of the scheduler specifically designed for SSD drives to exploit their superior random disc access properties that will allow for multiple concurrent data streams with high throughput. All in all, this ensures all data is available in time for complex scenes to render without having to wait for LODs and all the related artifacts. Meanwhile the incremental patcher moved into initial internal QA testing. As previously discussed, this system will deliver builds incrementally to devs and gamers alike, so every time you update the game you’ll only need to download what has actually changed or been added since the last time rather than the entire build which will make the update process much faster.
      We also revived our internal memory analysis tools for Linux to help find and fix memory leaks on server instances much faster. Memory leaks are one of the contributing factors for server stability and we want them fixed as quickly as possible to make sure servers can run for a long time without issues.
      On the rendering side, the team made several improvements to the atmosphere and night skies as mentioned in the lighting update. The night side of planets and moons now exhibit more details due to scattered moonlight and a visible sky gradient in the distance when close to the terrain surface. They also looked into additional improvements for stronger ground-based haze to further increase visual cues for scene readability and continued working on the Object Container streaming (SolEd as well as PlanEd) and the rewrite of the living entity code is on track.


      ENVIRONMENT ART
      The Environment art team continued to work with the Level Designers on Levski’s exterior. Both art and design regularly work closely together to verify that the art is made in a way that doesn’t break any portion of the design. The last layout changes for Levski are coming in and the set dressing pass is close to complete. The area around Levski is also being populated with slightly larger mining structures than what we previously had in. Since the Levski exterior has grown over the past few weeks, it’s also going through an optimization pass with the artists looking into reducing memory consumption wherever applicable and making each individual asset as efficient as possible.
      The terrain of Delamar was polished up and both the Assets and Rocks are all being finalized. The team also set up the specific asset scattering presets for the different ecosystem to populate the asteroid with defined objects.
      The overall Planet tech has gotten a couple of new features as well. The overall amount of materials that can be used on the terrain has increased significantly, therefore new materials are being created for the moons to make the surfaces even more diverse from one another. Along with that, the moons also got a performance boost by optimizing which assets are being drawn on the surface of the procedural entities at any given time.


      TECH ART
      The Tech Art team worked on multiple Mannequin tasks including animations for both usables and cinematics. In case you are unfamiliar, Mannequin is a tool within Lumberyard that allows us to construct complex interactive character animations. They also refined some of the pipeline tools by adding new features and fixing bugs to make them easier to use and more dependable. The team also prototyped a Vanduul weapon, started R&D on some Physical Simulation for weapons, and fixed some lingering bugs.


      VFX
      Over the past month, the VFX team continued to work on the particle effects for the planets as well as implemented new animated decals. This now allows us to project certain animated textures onto objects, so it will follow the contours of those objects instead of having them on a flat plane that is roughly aligned to the surface. This helps integrate certain effects into the world a lot more efficiently and with a better result than what we could do previously.
      The VFX team also expanded this month. Our newest member will primarily focus on the large amount of cinematics work that needs to be done for Squadron 42, including soft and rigid body simulations as well as destruction particle effects and the scene setups that go along with it.


      WEAPON TEAM
      This month, the FPS weapons team primarily focused on R&D efforts for weapons skins. They prototyped camouflage patterns, decals and material variations which will set us up for future weapon customization and allow us to quickly and easily create special one-off variants. The ship weapons artists are currently working on the Preacher Armament Distortion Scattergun S1 to S3 and started work on the Apocalypse Arms Ballistic Scattergun S1 to S3.


      CINEMATICS
      This past month, the Cinematics team focused on a Pre-vis pipeline, with the goal of getting most of the cinematics into the game regardless of whether they are polished or rough. This will help Designers and directors get a better idea of the overall flow and pacing for the full playthrough of Squadron 42. They will be working closely with the Facial and audio team to get a representation of the full performances in the engine.
      They also worked with Kyle Moody from the UK to set up a small motion capture system setup in one of our common areas. These eleven OptiTrack cameras gave us a small capture volume of roughly three meters squared. The cinematics team will primarily use this setup to capture background characters for individual scenes as well as transition animations to help link animations that are not quit aligning. It can also be used to capture quick animations that we can use for outstanding R&D tasks for our Animation engineers, and save the animators some time. The system won’t be set up permanently, but once we have a small list of animations that we want, the team can set it up in about an hour and quickly get what they need.


      GAME PROGRAMMING
      This month, the Game Programming team did a pass on improving the functionality of doors, then started working on airlocks. Both the doors and airlocks need to be simplified as much as possible and integrated with the latest changes of the Item 2.0 system.
      They also started planning the work needed for the improved Weapon System. That new system is based on the Item 2.0 system and will allow the designers to create a wider variety of weapons more easily. It will also address technical issues such as client-side-prediction and server authority. It’s still in the research phase and is a long-term effort however we’re confident that we’re on the right track and implementation can begin within the next few weeks. Finally, they added a few small features to the weapons such as the ability to have different muzzle flash effects or different vent effects based on the current fire mode.


      QA
      This month, the QA team welcomed their newest hire, John Lang, who quickly got up to speed and became a primary point of contact for any Game-Dev client issues in Frankfurt. He’s also been heavily involved in various system testing this month, such as the new Stamina System currently being worked on in both the Frankfurt and UK offices. Together with Glenn Kneale they were able to begin the initial testing pass in an effort to gather data for our game programmers to use for bug fixes and overall improvements to the system.
      The QA team also worked on testing the patcher, Editor, server connections, and the Star Citizen client using the new pak system in order to catch crashes and differences between builds pulled with the old patcher vs. the new patcher. This is an ongoing test that they perform daily to stay on top of any new issues that arise from build to build.
      Additionally, they also spent time testing various multiplayer issues for the Stanton System, which included moon collision testing. They worked extremely close with the engineers to test very specific things in very specific ways to get the data that the engineers are after. The engineers then take those findings to work out fixes for issues and also to improve things such as stability and memory usage.
      Turbulent
      TURBULENT


      This month, the team’s main goal was to streamline some of the information about the game and make the entry point into Star Citizen better. We aren’t removing any content and RSI will remain the Hub for all Star Citizen development and the Star citizen community, but soon you will see some new designs to the site that will clarify and streamline information about Star Citizen the game, the development, the community and Squadron 42.
      Aside from Design, our content and UX team have been hard at work with the creation of a new player guide. We have been working closely with CIG Player Relations, QA, Marketing and Production departments to consolidate information and generate a guide for new players. This is not an easy task because it’s not easy to identify what we call the “must knows” for the new players. Since the game is in alpha, the player guide will be designed as modular, changing as new patches are released to accommodate the ever-changing menus, UI and additional features. However, we are confident that the work we are doing will support new citizens and further expand our community.
      Keep your eyes open for the exciting new site launch.
      Community
      Community


      Summer is here and the community team has been busy supporting the 3.0 push. May was the busiest month for Bar Citizens ever, with events happening around the world from Boston to Perth, Berlin to Oklahoma City just to name a few. Bar Citizen is a great way to get to know your fellow Citizens, so keep your eyes peeled for one happening near you.
      This month on our dedicated community show, Citizens of the Stars, Todd Papy answered the highest voted Quantum Questions, Big JR made a life-sized Artex GSS replica and we had great community guests including Karmola, Alysianah, Captain Richard and Clifford aka Miku.
      Josh Herman joined us for another special episode of Happy Hour, in which he created another 3D creature for Star Citizen live for the community.
      We ran one of our most fun sales yet, revealing the Eclipse bomber as part of a UEE de-classification scene. The team had a whole lot of fun with social media, putting out little hints and teasers about the ship in the lead up to the reveal.
      Sandi spent some time in Austin this month for a Concierge Summit to work out how to better serve our backers. The project they’ve been working on is top secret, but expect to hear more about it soon.
      Our Subscribers helped test the Drake Buccaneer all this month, and it sounds like it’s in a good place right now. Next month, they’ll be flying the Caterpillar and anyone who subscribes is welcome to join. Subscribers also received the next item in their holographic flair set, a 3D model of the Icarus One station for their tables.
      And speaking of flair, we held a Subscriber Town Hall with members of the Star Citizen props team. The team answered plenty of subscriber questions about their work, and it was a rare opportunity for the community to meet the people making the universe feel lived in.
      That was it for the last month. To give you an idea of what to expect this month:
      Spectrum will receive a major update that will adds a myriad of new features, including Reddit-style threading and the return of ship forums.
      We’ve been spending some time behind the scenes working on the New Player Experience and learning how to best teach new Citizens how to fly. You’ll see the results of that work in the not-too-distant future.
      The team has also been busy planning Gamescom and CitizenCon, and we will have a date and further information to announce about CitizenCon shortly.



      Conclusion
      WE’LL SEE YOU NEXT MONTH…


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      Spectrum Alpha 0.3.5 Live
      Highlights:
      Today we are pleased to release the latest update to the Spectrum Alpha, 0.3.5. This update incorporates many new features that were requested by you, the Star Citizen community.
      View Modes
      You can now select your preference for how threads are sorted (hot, last-activity, top, new) in channels via the Settings. You can now select your preferred thread view mode (nested, classic) via the Settings. You can now select your preference for how thread replies are sorted (top, new, old) via the Settings. The forum category default sort setting has been removed and is replaced by a user-specific setting. The thread type chosen in previous Spectrum versions has been replaced by a user-specific setting pair (sort and view mode) Threads will now persist your preferred view mode and sort if you change it from your user-specific setting. Read State
      Spectrum now tracks if you read each reply in a thread and will display a yellow unread marker to indicate a reply you have never read. Tags
      A new forum category level setting allow you to enforce that threads must be created with a tag. You can now bookmark forum tags directly to your sidebar! You can now browse the tags available for each forum category and community index. Threads list will now indicate which threads contain posts made using tracked roles in that community (Staff posts will be marked in the SC public community) Bookmarks
      You can now edit your bookmark aliases by visiting the “Manage Bookmarks” view. Search
      New filters are now available to search by author and role within your communities.
      This is just another step in making Spectrum the best communication platform for the Star Citizen community.
      Click here to read the complete patch notes for 0.3.5

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    • Przez Nebthtet
      Chris Roberts and Sandi Gardiner host today’s episode, which features a UK studio update and part two of our feature on how Item 2.0 affects ships.
      And for info on becoming a subscriber, go to: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/pledge/subscriptions
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    • Przez Nebthtet
      Senior Writer Will Weissbaum tours the Tayac System, which is home to The Ark. Find out how this system went from being a military black site to a bastion of education and diplomacy.
      Remember that you can always explore the Star Citizen Universe yourself in our web-based Ark Star Map.
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    • Przez Nebthtet
      HuXa Vote
      UEE Congress (397)
      2947-06-06 SET

      Session AutoScript
      Proofed and Admitted – Archivist Yates (#57573BDF)

      2947-06-06_15:21 – Session Begins
      SPEAKER MARSHALL MADRIGAL (U – Borea – Magnus Sys): Ladies and Gentlemen, now that the majority of you are finally here, let me start by saying that while I certainly understand the additional security measures take longer to navigate, it would be beneficial if all of you could adjust your schedule to arrive earlier rather than to presume that the session will be extended to accommodate any late arrivals. I very much hope that we can see our way to starting tomorrow on time. And in that spirit, I am happy to finally declare that we have a quorum and call this session to order. First on today’s docket is the Human-Xi’an Trade Initiative. I ask for unanimous consent for the vote on the motion to proceed. Is there any objection?
      SENATOR HIDEO UTO (C – Severus – Kiel Sys): Mr. Speaker?
      SPEAKER MARSHALL MADRIGAL (U – Borea – Magnus Sys): Senator Uto.
      SENATOR HIDEO UTO (C – Severus – Kiel Sys): Mr. Speaker, in light of the recent shameful attacks perpetrated against Imperator Costigan and out of respect to those involved, I move to postpone the pending vote until after we have had a chance to conclude the ongoing investigation into the occurrences of May 30th.
      SENATOR TRACEY GLENN (U – Saisei – Centauri Sys): Point of clarification.
      SPEAKER MARSHALL MADRIGAL (U – Borea – Magnus Sys): The chair recognizes Senator Glenn.
      SENATOR TRACEY GLENN (U – Saisei – Centauri Sys): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Would the honorable senator from Kiel care to explain why the recent horrific attack should impede this distinguished body voting on a trade initiative?
      SENATOR HIDEO UTO (C – Severus – Kiel Sys): I’d be happy to. It seems highly likely by the timing of this attack that it was at least in part motivated by HuXa and in fact, could potentially be an attempt to influence this very issue. Until we understand the full scope of such implications, would it not be wise to allow prudence to carry the day?
      SENATOR TRACEY GLENN (U – Saisei – Centauri Sys): Let me see if I understand, Senator Uto. Because the atrocious actions taken against Imperator Costigan may have been designed to influence the vote on HuXa, you are suggesting that we delay said vote to prove that they in fact did have an influence?
      SENATOR HIDEO UTO (C – Severus – Kiel Sys): I object to your oversimplification.
      SENATOR TRACEY GLENN (U – Saisei – Centauri Sys): And I object to you trying to leverage fear and rumor-mongering into political gain.
      SENATOR HIDEO UTO (C – Severus – Kiel Sys): You have no right to stand there and —
      SENATOR TRACEY GLENN (U – Saisei – Centauri Sys): The fact is that we have no official report detailing the motives of these assailants. As far as we know they were as likely to be striking a blow for Terran independence as they were for —
      SENATOR MIRA NGO (T – Terra – Terra Sys): That is outrageous. Where do you get off accusing Terra of —
      SENATOR TRACEY GLENN (U – Saisei – Centauri Sys): Sorry, that was a poor example. I withdraw the statement. I simply meant to —
      [ gavel banging ]
      SPEAKER MARSHALL MADRIGAL (U – Borea – Magnus Sys): Enough. I know things have been tense this past week, but that is no excuse for this lack of decorum. Now, I believe your point was clarified, Senator Glenn. Unless anyone else has anything to add, I move to close the discussion. All in favor of the motion to postpone?
      [ vote ]
      SPEAKER MARSHALL MADRIGAL (U – Borea – Magnus Sys): The nays carry it. Motion denied. Let us proceed. Senator McCain, as sponsor of the initiative, you have the floor.
      SENATOR WILL McCAIN (U – Cestulus – Davien Sys): Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I ask for consent to grant speaking privileges to a special guest, Imperator Costigan.
      [ surprised murmurs ]
      SPEAKER MARSHALL MADRIGAL (U – Borea – Magnus Sys): Without objection.
      IMPERATOR COSTIGAN: I apologize for the theatrics involved in my appearance here today. I know it is traditional for an Imperator to more formally announce intent to speak to the Senate, as I did many weeks ago when I had the distinct pleasure of first introducing the Human-Xi’an Trade Initiative. However, my security team decided it was best for the time being if my schedule were kept a bit more under wraps, so I ask for your indulgence as I come before you.
      When Ambassador Coso first began the negotiations that would result in the drafting of this deal, it was with two specific goals in mind. The first was to help ensure the continued economic growth of the Empire through trade. The second was to help ensure the Empire’s continued peace along our Xi’an borders through improved economic relations. I firmly and unequivocally believe that the Human-Xi’an Trade Initiative accomplishes both these aspirations and more.
      We all know too well the cost of war. Right now as we speak, the brave men and women of our armed forces are nobly struggling to end the Vanduul threat, but not all threats we must face come from outside. Stagnation and close-mindedness are just as likely as any war to bring all we’ve built to an end. Humanity saw what living in fear was like under the Messers and Humanity said no. When Senator Akari signed the Xi’an peace treaty in 2789 it was a first step forward out of the darkness. Today, the UEE is ready to take the next. By expanding trade relations with the Xi’an we will be expanding our potential not only economically, but as a people. But do not mistake moving forward as running ahead blindly. The Human-Xi’an Trade Initiative is a careful, measured step. Under this agreement, our Citizens’ security remains not only intact, but strengthened thanks to the additional revenue estimated to be generated. Our Citizen’s livelihoods will be equally protected, thanks to the fair and balanced terms of the agreement that will see us share growth and mutual prosperity with the Xi’an. There’s an old Earth aphorism that I keep going to, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” The time has come for our two cultures to stop holding each other back and instead raise each other higher than ever before.
      Thank you all for allowing me this chance to speak. Our actions here today will help shape Humanity’s future for centuries to come and I don’t think it could be in better hands. I return the floor to you, Senator McCain.
      SENATOR WILL McCAIN (U – Cestulus – Davien Sys): Thank you, Imperator Costigan, for sharing your vision with us and for your fortitude in light of last week’s savage attempt on your life. It is a stark reminder that while there is no denying that the Empire has a long history of violence, it is up to all of us to aspire to something greater. I implore you all to vote yes for the Human-Xi’an Trade Initiative. I yield the floor.
      SPEAKER MARSHALL MADRIGAL (U – Borea – Magnus Sys): The Senator from Earth?
      SENATOR VICTOR SKOVIRA (C – Earth – Sol Sys): Thank you. Allow me to say that it is a pleasure to see you in this chamber once again, Imperator Costigan. My thoughts go to the families of those who lost their lives in the attack. Now, I don’t want to waste everyone’s time by rehashing the well-argued positions that have been put forth by my colleagues over the last several weeks, but I would be remiss if I did not remind all of you what it is that is at stake here today. With the Vanduul waging relentless war along our border, with merciless outlaws terrorizing innocent Citizens every day and, as we were reminded all too well last week, with assassins daring to strike at the very heart of our Empire, it is clear to me that our vigilance must never waiver if we wish to persevere.
      The Xi’an are not like us. They are the definition of alien. All of them — from their lowliest criminal to the head of their mightiest house — all work for the glory of Emperor Kr.ē — the same glorious leader whose suspicions and distrust kept us on the brink of war for centuries. Are we to forget the lessons of the past just because some of us are distracted by the promise of a supposed bright, shiny future? While I agree that a position of peace with the Xi’an is far stronger than one of aggression, I am not convinced that intertwining our economies is in our best interest. This so-called trade deal only trades one thing as far as I’m concerned. It exchanges our security and our sovereignty for … well to be honest, I am not perfectly sure for what. Credits and economic growth is what they want you to think, but I fear that what we hope to gain is nothing compared to what we are posed to lose if HuXa passes. My vote is no. Mr. Speaker, I yield.
      SPEAKER MARSHALL MADRIGAL (U – Borea – Magnus Sys): If there are no further motions before the Senate?
      SENATOR RACHEL LESTER (T – Vann – Croshaw Sys): Mr. Speaker, I request a brief recess.
      SPEAKER MARSHALL MADRIGAL (U – Borea – Magnus Sys): Very well, as I see we still have several stragglers arriving through security, fifteen minutes recess granted. The vote on Human-Xi’an Trade Initiative will proceed once we’re back in session.
      [ gavel bang ]
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