Star Citizen’s level design is coming along much faster than you probably thought

Following what turned out to be an intriguing Ten for the Chairman earlier this week, Cloud Imperium has released a Star Citizen Around the Verse episode that — our tipster summed it up perfectly — represents a “decent barometer of where we currently are in Star Citizen.” Design Director Todd Papy and Persistent Universe Lead Level Designer Andreas Johansson provide a behind-the-scenes look at the sci-fi MMO’s level design, arguing that using traditional level design would have meant their four level designers would need “650 years” to build out the game.

“We do build our locations with a tile set, which is small pieces of walls and corners and doors that we put together into rooms, but this is still not fast enough,” Johansson says. “We have to find a quicker way to do this. So, the way we can approach this is to looking into grouping these smaller tile sets into bigger entities, rooms. We have kitchens. We have toilets. We have locker rooms. We have lobbies.”

A modular approach using seeds and flowcharts proved necessary, allowing a level designer to theoretically pushed out dozens of space stations every day, although of course the designers have to playtest each to make sure they’re logical and consistent — in other words, to make sure “we don’t walk into a room and it’s a door into space and everyone has a very bad day.”

Erin Roberts also checks in from Manchester to note that the Foundry 42 Wilmslow and Derby studios now count 210 people together as the former expands office space. We’ve tucked the whole episode down below — it’s absolutely worth a watch for folks curious about the state of development and how quickly it can move going forward.

Source: Official site, Relay. Thanks so much to Zander!
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63 Comments on "Star Citizen’s level design is coming along much faster than you probably thought"

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Nick Smith

Okay…. so star citizen will let me fly to a space station with a couple of friends, then we all can get out of the ship and take over a space station using FPS mechanics?

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Tom

Star Citizen is much bigger than that. The scope of it is unlike anything ever created. You can find out all about it here:
RobertsSpaceIndustries.com

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steve

Yes. In fact you can do that now in the mini-PU, if by “take over” you mean “capture and hold”.

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Koshelkin

So we’re still on track for the 2022 release date then?

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Raimo Kangasniemi

I don’t think there’s a real point when the game will move from development to ‘finished and released’. I do consider it to be playable for larger audiences than the early access aficianados quicker than people expect – let’s say at some point in latter part of 2018.

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Darkwalker75 .

What is this obsession people have with hard dates for release and needing to make hyperbole of it?

I agree that there is such a thing as taking too long, but people also need to remember that what he have been seeing ins setbacks and so called delays are actually quite normal for a games development.
Just because we are not used to it does not mean it does not happen or that its the end of game development and crowd funding as some people are purporting.

Active development started after the initial crowd funding campaign ended in November 2012, that’s only a little over 4 years ago, but they didn’t start full production on day 1 like an established studio could.
Much of the first year went into building the studio and hiring people to actually work on making the game.

There are games out there that has taken twice as long and more then CIG has doe with SC so far, and they were made by already established studios that ad the resources to start full production from day 1, or could start slow and ramp up as needed without needing to hire people and find a place to house the studio.

Give these poor people a break and let them do their job, rather than hack on them for the smallest mistake they do, they are after all only human like the rest of us and just as prone to make mistakes.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

let’s not pretend this meme is anything but the result of CIG’s and chris robert’s own doing.

maybe if they didn’t constantly give overly aggressive ETAs over and over again while denying they were going to miss the ETA when every indication was as such only to recant and announce a totally not delay because that’s not what delays are totally! bullshit every single fucking deadline that passes then people wouldn’t meme this way.

the whole “games that take twice as long thing” is also silly because frankly games that have taken twice as long as this one tend to be fraught with red flags adn development hell, that the fandom pretends totally isn’t the case ever in this game so keep buying ships!

it’s beyond silly to defend at this point and only feeds the memes with hollow words that gets sillier and sillier especially when one examines the history of the narratives from both fans and CIG themselves on this.

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Darkwalker75 .

So they game ETAs that were missed, I don’t see what the problem here is.
That is beyond you trying to make it sound as if they are somehow knowingly and deliberately giving us ETAs they cant attain(something you cannot prove) and trying to make it sound as if they don’t know what they are doing.

While its true as you say that “games that have taken twice as long as this one tend to be fraught with red flags and development hell”, the opposite is also true.
Just because a game takes a long time to develop does not mean things are going bad.

SC has only been in development for about 4 years, by comparison SWTOR and ESO too 6 and 8 years respectively if I’m not mistaken, and to my knowledge where not “fraught with red flags and development hell” as you call it.
And those games were developed by already established studios who had the resources and manpower to start full development on day 1 or ramp up development as needed.
For SC on the other hand they spent much of the first year establishing the studio, finding locales to work in and hiring people to work on the game.

As for defending the game, as long as CIG keeps working on the game and shows us there is progress by releasing new content when its ready for release, I will defend the game against the irrational fear mongering, and claims of fans being blind to the truth from people who are unwilling to accept anything that does not agree with or support their unfounded and impatient opinions of how things should or should not be or be done.

If you don’t have the patience to wait for them to do this properly then, there are plenty of rushed, half finished and buggy games that’s just a remake of last years rushed, half finished and buggy games, then there are plenty of those games around.
I for one prefer to wait, and actually have the patience for it as well, for something new and innovative that’s properly done, even if it takes longer to get it done.

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Koshelkin

#feelsbadman

Zander
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Zander
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thickenergy

You mean the signs for the restroom don’t go on the doors to the airlocks? Guess I better start looking for another gig on craigslist.vrs.

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Space Captain Zor

Aye, be sure to watch the surprise that cuts in during the credits!

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NovaScotiaCitizen

today looking at my early backer rewards feels even better than usual.

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Xijit

Gee, now if only they could figure out how to develop a section for game settings that includes actual GFX options … But who has time for that when you are too busy vomiting the kitchen sink of post processing onto your game?

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Joe Blobers

The single one vomiting something is you in this comment section… clearly you know nothing about game developement.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i mean day 1 early access games that release to early access in earlier states than SC is in now have gfx setting menus. but that’s none of my business.

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Hebel

Yeah early access games with oldschool graphics.

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mysecretid

As others have said, graphical tuning, shaders, and all of that category of things tend to be among the very last elements implemented before a game’s release.

Basically, they are “icing” which can only be properly and completely applied once there’s a completed “cake” (the game itself) sitting underneath.

I’ve been in alphas and betas for other games where the sort of things you’re hoping to see were literally not implemented until the day before the game’s commercial release.

Cheers,

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

and literally thousands of early access games have them day 1 of early access alpha state release in rougher shape than SC is now.

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Armsman

Really? Could you name a few as I’d love to take a look.

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Hebel

Yeah, games with oldschool graphics or A+ game graphics.
SC is a game with top notch graphics comparible with the best singleplayer games.
The shaders, lighting and rendering is a lot more complex than by average early access games.

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Phubarrh

“As others have said, graphical tuning, shaders, and all of that category of things tend to be among the very last elements implemented before a game’s release.”

Space exploration too, apparently?

malibutomi
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malibutomi

Maybe because its not necessary until the last phase of development and they have more pressing matters, like finishing the gameplay elements first?
Go back to the hatecavern.

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Armsman

IDK – I thinks it’s BETTER to have the Graphics rendering system engine (including lighting) pretty much fully finalized BEFORE you start adding granular settings.

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Martinez

nobody does that as you would have to redo it every time they changed what the options were they made that mistake with the tutorial as it couldn’t keep up with all the flight and control changes ended up being a waste of time and money.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

well the tutorial they had was broken to begin with and never fixed as it was.

but it’s hardly the first thing they wasted dev resources on redoing multiple times.

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Hebel

Yeah, they should fix a tutorial which has an old fligt model. *facepalm*

Zander
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Zander

Yeah, lets fry the egg while it’s still inside the chicken. Meaning, how can you optimize a games graphics without finishing the game? Never seen this done.

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mysecretid

Thanks for this article, and thanks to the tipster.

I have tended to skip the longer-form videos from Star Citizen because, at least in the early days, they were more about what CIG intended to do, rather than what they were actually doing.

It’s good to see they’re actually busy banging away at game-universe building.

Cheers,

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

they’ve done away with the monthly text reports and moved a condensed and less word count padded version into atv every month apparently.

edangerous
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edangerous

That’s a shame, I used to enjoy reading through those.

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Martinez

they got redundant as it turned into what we want to do to “this is what we did last month that you already been playing for the month.”

edangerous
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edangerous

So we’ll just see that in video form now, no?

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Armsman

Um they still release the monthly studio reports, but the links to those are in the weekly e-mail newsletter that goes out. Usually the first Friday of each moth is the newsletter with a link to the Monthly report from the previous month.

Zander
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Zander

I think one of the main differences in Star Citizen is that they are building systems to create and run a universe. Todd Papy and Andreas Johansson’s section of the most recent AtV brilliantly outlined why this is not only necessary for something as large in scope as Star Citizen, but also how very cool it is.
Many if not most games create bespoke set pieces that are bound by a linear level design. Even modern “open world” games often have scripted patterns, predictable AI, and design analogs that are similar to other games. Why? Because there’s an element of “that’s how it’s always worked before” combined with the fact that it’s sometimes easier to create X, Y and Z, then tweak it to repeat on a loop when the player encounters it.
What I find fascinating about the design of Star Citizen is that much of what will happen in the game will happen systemically – the world will automatically and realistically react to many states like atmosphere, physics, damage, oxygen level, etc., create dynamic missions based on the current needs of the universe, and the system will have the tools to allow designers to create huge rulesets for the AI, providing the ability to react not only to player actions, but to the actions of other NPCs. In a sense, it will be able to play itself. It is possible that events could occur that even devs might not predict – in a world that will continue whether you’re there or not. And when you come back in, finding out what happened while you were away could be part of the fun!
It reminds me of when physics systems were first introduced into games – one could spend hours just domino-ing items into other items or solving physics puzzles. SC should introduce many groundbreaking systems – that I can’t wait to play with. Or for that matter, just observe.
I backed because I wanted to fund a game that solved long standing game engine and design issues in new and creative ways; a game that pushed the boundaries of technology and what is possible. I’m very happy that CIG continues to push forward in those areas. I love that they are going for top-fucking-notch in every area. Maybe I’m in a minority, but I’m willing to wait for something unique – ty Skulldugg on reddit for the IMO.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

the world will automatically and realistically react to many states like atmosphere, physics, damage, oxygen level, etc., create dynamic missions based on the current needs of the universe, and the system will have the tools to allow designers to create huge rulesets for the AI, providing the ability to react not only to player actions, but to the actions of other NPCs.

is this stuff you just made up or something? because i’m pretty sure none of this is even in the probably redacted design docs from 2013 let alone more recent comms.

malibutomi
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malibutomi

No hi didn’t make that up.
Video of atmospheric system: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KvNAPvISaDM

The dinamyc missions were explained many rimes in CIG videos, if a station runs out of materials for example that will generate missions to supply them, and if players don’t take the missions the NPC will take care of it.
Also just in this weeks 10FTC they explained that NPC will be around to fix things. If you shoot up a place, they won’t just reset, but NPCs will repair them (i think in a gereric repair fashion, but still)

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

that’s quit a nice video… of a map editor 3d view.

malibutomi
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malibutomi

Oh wait i’ll quickly time travel to the point its implemented ingame and link a video from there…oh wait the link won’t work.

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Space Captain Zor

there was a video awhile back during an ATV where a dev was showing off interior rooms with very basic controls that could impact/react to internal atmospherics, if I remember correctly, which is probably what he was thinking of. It was very whiteboxy looking, missing textures, etc.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

it’s a leap from that to what he said tho lol

Zander
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Zander

is this stuff you just made up or something? because i’m pretty sure none of this is even in the probably redacted design docs from 2013 let alone more recent comms.

No, I just watched the video and the design engineers said and demonstrated how it worked.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

which part worked? you named off a whole lot of things in that quote. some things would be really interesting to demonstrate and yet have yet to be mentioned by any of my far more interested associates.

Zander
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Zander

Check out malibutomi’s post

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Armsbend

So I guess CIG is saying they are doing really well if they get it down from a 650 year completion date.

Guys, this should take 650 years. We got it down to 13 years. Need more money!

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Joe Blobers

Did you took 650 milliseconds to shoot such troll comment? :) SQ42 is coming before mid-2018 and major patch before that and Star Citizen MMO Beta end of 2018… Amazing job looking from where they started end of Nov 2012 with 12 guys and 6 M$

Try to achieve 1/100 of that in your life and you will get backers respect :)

Valen Sinclair
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Valen Sinclair

LOL, this guy know exactly when everything is coming out, even though SQ42 was supposed to come out last year, now this year, now you’re saying 2018. And all that time people were throwing piles of money at them. Apologists crack me up.

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Koshelkin

Wasn’t it due for Holiday 2016?

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Droniac

I wouldn’t be too confident of those dates.

They’ve talked dates for SQ42 coming out before (2016), as well as dates for SQ42 demos before (citizencon 2016) and, clearly, neither materialized. Given how little they’ve shown of it thus far and how the current estimate is more than a year out, I wouldn’t be surprised if mid 2018 becomes late 2018 or early 2019. Which isn’t a bad thing, imo, as long as the final product is good.

So… not like Duke Nukem Forever. The 2001 trailer for that was better than the game itself.

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NovaScotiaCitizen

Mass Effect Andromeda started in 2010 and look what you got. Your hyperbole makes you just look stupid and uninformed about how game development works

edangerous
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edangerous

O we could look at something like The Witcher 3 and see a project done right.

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Darkwalker75 .

Difference is that Witcher 3 is a single player game and is based on already existing games, which allows them to reuse assets from the pervious games.
That game is also created using existing formulas from other similar games, most likely with nothing really new.

SC on the other hand is an online game and at the same time doing something completely new, which requires a lot of R&D.
And unlike the creators of Witcher 3, CIG are actually making 2 games in parallel.

What is right for one project could be and most often are completely useless for another project.

edangerous
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edangerous

Sorry but that has nothing to do with the context of the post I was replying.

Yes you can use Mass Effect Andromeda as a “bad” example of what happens in gaming but you can also use The Witcher 3 as a good example. The idea that producing a game in a short time = bad or that CIG taking 10 years to finish SQ42 = good are fallacies.

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GoJammit

I’m not sure why we are putting these two against each other like Witcher doesn’t have some wacky animations too.

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Darkwalker75 .

My apologies, I misunderstood what you were saying there, and you are of course right.

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Joe Blobers

Did CIG started day one like Bioware with hundreds of developers/artists with EA as backup and game engine without modification? CIG was 12 people in Nov 2012 and 6M$ and SQ42 is not coming in 10 years but at worste by mi-2018. This is only chapter 1, 1 third of SQ42.

edangerous
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edangerous

Well in all fairness ME:A was made by a studio that who only did the multiplayer for ME:2, they didn’t have any proper AAA experience, they also switched to a different engine.

CIG has numerous vets of the industry onboard, they have Erin and his crew who have been working on games for years and they have like half of Crytek working on a crytek based game.

There’s no right or wrong here but where you can use one game as an example of how not to do it, you can easily find another game to use as an example of how to do things.

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Hebel

SQ42 is in production since Dec. 2012=4 years and 3 month, and it comes out at the end of this year or middle of 2018

edangerous
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edangerous

Hopefully :)

Zander
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Zander

Let’s be real. They never had to ask for pledge, (as you have been putting it today, begging) money since the scope of the project changed at the end of 2013.

So many people with cash to burn have bought into the idea and presented evidence of development, that all they’ve had to do the past 3 years to make money is introduce a new ship to buy.

If you’ve seen the video, which I know you won’t watch, Armbend. They explain how having a hand full of level designers with the new custom tools and new tech, they can bang out whole planets that are convincing and unique within days not weeks.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

i loled

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

“door into space” quote is hilarious to anyone that has clipped into space in their normal clothes and realized the only way to be killed by going into space with them on instead of a space suit is to go through the airlocks.

anyways check out this cool webm showing a nebula:

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Martinez

That system of needing air is coming, in the 3.0 video you can see “Oxy” as a resource in the HUD which we don’t have now. And they have had ATV’s months ago with Moving Atmosphere into and out of rooms. Pressure moving from 1 room Bleeding slowly into another , still early but very similar to Hellion.

wpDiscuz