Try saying "mega map" 10 times fast! This week's Around the Verse does indeed cover the heck out of Star Citizen's mega map. Lead Gameplay Programmer Rob Johnson says that the intent of the mega map is to eliminate -- or at least reduce -- the annoyance of loading screens.
"We load the Mega Map as we would a standard map. The Mega Map itself is empty, but once the Mega Map is loaded, we actually start to fill the Mega Map with content of various game modes, fire, and object containers. So, we would load the Mega Map, which is empty; load the front end, which is a set of object containers; [and] load the front-end game rules, which tells the game how to work in that game mode. The user would then pick a new game mode to play. At that point we throw away all the object containers. We throw away the game mode, [then] load in the Free Fly game mode and the Dying Star object containers, but we do that via streaming rather than a complete level load, so we are able to shave the vast majority of the load time down to a few seconds rather than long enough to warrant a load screen."
ATV also catches up with the LA studio's work on ship production, multifunction displays, the room system, and the "entity owner manager" -- critical for the persistent experience. Listen up below.
Over the weekend, Cloud Imperium fielded questions from players on some of the more technical elements on display in Star Citizen's last Around the Verse. Turns out that some major DirectX changes are on the horizon.
"Years ago we stated our intention to support DX12, but since the introduction of Vulkan which has the same feature set and performance advantages this seemed a much more logical rendering API to use as it doesn't force our users to upgrade to Windows 10 and opens the door for a single graphics API that could be used on all Windows 7, 8, 10 & Linux," explains Director of Graphics Engineering Ali Brown. "As a result our current intention is to only support Vulkan and eventually drop support for DX11 as this shouldn't effect any of our backers. DX12 would only be considered if we found it gave us a specific and substantial advantage over Vulkan. The API's really aren't that different though, 95% of the work for these APIs is to change the paradigm of the rendering pipeline, which is the same for both APIs."
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."
In honor of PAX East this weekend, Star Citizen has unlocked its Sabre fighter for anyone to try. You'll just need to use the "PAXEAST2017" code on any account to get the free trial, which will last through Tuesday, March 14th.
As you're downloading that, you might want to check out the latest episode of Around the Verse. The team broke down Star Citizen's rather impressive economic chain in an elaborate flow chart (who doesn't appreciate a good flow chart?) and took a close look at the arsenal of weapons that will be used in Star Marine.
We've tucked the economy flow chart and Around the Verse for you after the break!
Persistent universe fans, heads up: On this week's Star Citizen Around the Verse, Chris Roberts is joined by Persistent Universe Game Director Tony Zurovec, who explains that his team is hard at work on mission scenario conversion and solar system services -- like commodities and shopping.
"The first one of these out the door will be the shopping service, and it's going to control inventory, prices, and demand levels for all the shops within a system. It's also going to hook up to the mission service so that low inventory levels will automatically result in the creation of mission to reverse the trend. The mission service is also really interesting because along with a lot of work that’s occurred, it's also going to allow us to start instantiating a lot of dynamic content for the game. This is all dramatically different than what we've had in the game today, which has always been much more static in nature."
There's also a studio check-in with the Frankfurt team; a lengthy segment on the Anvil Hurricane, the concept ship that rolled out to buyers last week; and a behind-the-scenes feature on character customization. Check it below!
Star Citizen's weekly Around the Verse treks to the Los Angeles studio for a check-in, but the real meat is the behind-the-scenes look at Spectrum, the communication platform the studio is building from the ground up, intended to be a chat and forum system that works within and without the game.
Meanwhile, the community is abuzz over the newly introduced concept ship sale featuring the Anvil Hurricane, which has its very own brochure. What are we buying again? Oh right, a pixel spaceship, carry on... or don't, in the case of the salty Redditors who are annoyed that RSI was able to get out the ship sale but not the promised internal schedule before the weekend.
Valentine's Day may be over, but the chalky candy hearts and five-foot teddy bears remain. You know what's one other thing that's still around? Star Citizen's Valentine's Day promotion, which will let you fly a multi-crew ship with your friends for free through the weekend.
There's also a new interview out with RSI's Erin Roberts, who addresses the big 3.0 release among other topics: "We’re working hard on 3.0 right now and you’ve hopefully seen some great stuff we’re putting into it on the tour. We’re still at the start of the year and there is a lot of scheduling work going on so I’m obviously not giving dates today and of course we want to give the juicy information to the community first, but we’re looking at putting out perhaps two or three big releases this year which significantly push the amount of locations, gameplay mechanics, and content that the players will be able to experience and give feedback on."
Finally, Star Citizen fans have a new Around the Verse episode to digest and discuss. See the Prospector and Super Hornet in action, and listen to the devs talk about the difficulties of creating multi-regional servers after the break.
This week's Star Citizen Around the Verse episode heralds the game's 2.6.1 update, which has gone live for the hand-picked special test crew of the Evocati. Following a brief check-in with the Austin studio, the video's highlight is an in-depth feature on the ship pipeline, so start at 06m20s if you're dying to learn about how the game's zillions of ships are rolled out.
Speaking of dying! This ATV includes a tease for "dead body tech," which is too amusing not to note. CG Supervisor Forrest Stephan explains: "A big part of the build up for 3.0, corpses are part of the set dressing. You know in the wrecks, the abandoned ships and we wanted a way to use our loadouts, our current characters instead of placing these temporary props so we developed a system to use a physics based approach to having designers place these dead bodies everywhere."
Festive. The whole episode, including bodies fallin' from the sky set to very solemn music, is below!
Star Citizen is upping its community game. If you hadn't noticed or were used to the old Around the Verse schedule, know CIG has been pumping out a ton of videos and new features in the last couple of weeks. One of those is the brand-new Citizens of the Stars, this week hosted by Community Manager Jared "Disco Lando" Huckaby and focusing on community members themselves.
The episode includes multiple "citizen spotlights" of fan content being produced around the game's, including a player who designed a language chart for the game, a player who used Google SketchUp to model the bridge of ship, and a player who created a short fan film called The Shuttle. But the highlight is the middle section, in which CIG's Ben Lesnick sits for a rapid-fire, two-minute Q&A, answering basic questions on game insurance, buy-back tokens, Duck Tales, and the infamous "Ben dance." He's a good sport.
Check out the episode -- and The Shuttle -- below.
Artificial intelligence isn't merely being thrown into Star Citizen because of its futuristic theme but because the tech is essential to how the game will play, from its mission system to ship handling.
In the latest episode of Around the Verse, the AI team engages in a lengthy Q&A session about how this tech will help the game as a whole. Thanks to the AI, missions will be able to vary a bit as you replay them, stations on large ships can function without a human at the controls, and players will be able to develop relationships with NPCs over time.
You can read the full transcript of the show on Relay or watch it for yourself after the jump!
One thing that's for certain in the future of interstellar expansion, and that is the assurance that plucky pirates will take their Jolly Rogers out to the stars to follow the call of treasure and conquest. So don't act surprised if you encounter one or two -- or two hundred in Star Citizen.
In the latest episode of Around the Verse, Director of Community Engagement Ben Lesnick explained how players are dealing with buccaneers in the game: "With Star Citizen Alpha 2.6 we introduced a pretty exciting new game mode called Pirate Swarm. Pirate Swarm is essentially a 'gauntlet mode' that throws you against wave after wave of enemy planes. Unlike our previous gauntlet mode, Vanduul Swarm, Pirate Swarm has a whole variety of different ships, ranging from the M50 interceptor to the Constellation multi-crew ship."
You can read the full transcript of the episode courtesy of the folks at Relay or watch it for your own bad self after the break.
"Don't waste your time learning Klingon, it ain't no use," Luna sang way back in 1996, but clearly, they had never met Britton Watkins, a man who's made a career out of learning, creating, and teaching made-up alien languages and is now working on Star Citizen.
In fact, that's what this week's Around the Verse is all about. The series is back, kicking off its first episode of the year with a special edition featuring veteran Hollywood conlang linguist Britton Watkins, who's putting his fluency in Na'vi and Klingon to work creating the written and spoken languages of the Xi'An and Vanduul (the latter of which is portrayed by Andy Serkis above) in the Star Citizen universe.
"You’re doing motion capture with live actors, so they need to be able to pronounce everything, so the phonologies of these languages are pronounceable by human beings, 100%, and they will be pronounceable by talented game players and other people who want to learn to make those sounds," Watkins explains.
In this week's episode of Star Citizen Around the Verse, Sandi Gardiner is joined by Technical Director Sean Tracy to issue the latest big announcement for the game: The 2.6 alpha is currently in testing by the hardcore testers under layers of NDA. Meanwhile, the duo checks in with the UK studio, whose members go on at considerable length about asteroid tech. There's also a behind-the-scenes on the music and audio for the game (it starts at 13:50, since you kinda need to hear it!) as well as flight balancing.
CIG has been making good on its promise to reveal more about the internal schedule of the game's development, as boring and frustrating as it may sometimes be. And that new schedule has today revealed that 2.6 is anticipated to land on the PTU for broader testing in just a few more weeks, with the aim to release the update on December 16th.
Check out the whole episode below.