Star Citizen: New Information on Star Marine, Starfarer Sale

2015-05-10

Star Marine is the prototype of the FPS component of Star Citizen. Originally slated for release at the end of March, a new official post detailing its development makes no mention of a release date. The post does however explain the progress that has been made, and emphasizes that Star Marine will have better production values at launch than Arena Commander did.

Art

One thing the developers are polishing is the animations. Weapon animations, including reloading, are still being worked on. Sliding, cover, vaulting, and climbing are also “beginning their process into game. [sic]” What has been completed in terms of animations looks very cool, including what the animators call “jukes.”

The term juke refers to the sudden movements that a player might make which the developers have decided should look natural. Their strategy is that if a movement, like starting into a run, is so sudden that it would require an extra step, those steps are animated in. The intended result is that bobbing and weaving actually looks like bobbing and weaving and not just sliding around on your knees a la GoldenEye.

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Animating for Zero-G is said to be especially difficult, and involves a lot of hand-keyed animations (this is probably not something you can easily mocap). A facet of the developers’ approach towards physical realism and good-looking animations in Zero-G is to make use of ragdoll physics, so at this point in development character models can go in and out of full ragdoll state when incapacitated, and partial ragdolling of damaged limbs is planned for the future.

The developers have been applying the techniques they have learned from ships to the characters, including Physically Based Rendering (PBR), tileable textures, and multi-layer blending– focusing on working with materials to make them reusable, customizable, and pretty. The two factions, Marines and Outlaws, have been made over to look “truly next-generation” and to be more distinguishable from each other.

There has also been a switch to a new lighting model that is more realistic and gives the artists more control. Lights bounce onto surfaces better, as you can see in the lights added to the edges of the cover objects in the SATA Ball Zero-G sports arena to make them more visible. The changes to the lighting required edits to the PBR materials, which may have been an unexpected increase to the work load.

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SATA Ball

SATA ball is like Ender’s Game crossed with UT2004’s Bombing Run gamemode. It is handball in Zero-G with grappling hooks and phasers set to stun. Players will maneuver without thrusters, grappling around objects, trying to get the ball into the other team’s goal. They’re calling it a “Zero-G testbed”, so this is probably the gamemode that’s pushing all the Zero-G stuff to be up to snuff. There’s no new gameplay footage, but it looked good at PAX East.

When you finally get to search for a SATA ball match, it will be with a “completely new matchmaker, game instance manager, and party service”– all of these are being replaced in the Star Marine update. “Matchmaking will now be able to take into account skill levels, player ships and their associated armaments, prioritized map preferences, ping times, and much more.” The new chat system is also in the final stages of testing. The developers suggest that the networking improvements that are almost ready are major and “far smoother.”

All of this networking code will be the foundation of the upcoming Social Module that lets one player invite another over to hang out in his/her hangar, and will later “enable multiplayer landing zones and other points of interest.”

Technology

Star Citizen development has been updated to use the new CryENGINE version, CryENGINE 3.7. Chris Roberts said at PAX East that this is the last CryENGINE version that will be rolled into Star Citizen. CryENGINE 3.7 has native Oculus Rift Developer Kit 2 (DK2) support, and Roberts also said that Star Citizen will support the DK2 when the new update is integrated. The integration is difficult though, because Star Citizen has diverged quite a bit from vanilla CryENGINE: updates CIG has made to the base engine include converting the world coordinate system to use x64 bit, “the conversion to x64 global entity id’s, geometry streaming, GOST (Game Object State Machine), Voxelized Local/Multi Physics Grids and many more.”

Star Citizen is still moving to Wwise. The advantages are that it is easier to develop with and more integrated with the other aspects of development. Other features include feeding audio data to visual effects (e.g. to make fire dance to sound), dropping ambient sounds to let dialogue be heard, loudness metering, high dynamic range mixing (HDR) which silences soft sounds when loud sounds are blasting, “Convolution Reverb” for sampling audio reflection models from real spaces, real-time DSP to add wonky filters to audio at runtime, and a music system that changes tunes with changing game states. Here too, the general design spirit is to do more procedurally at runtime.

Finally, CIG has updated their internal development flow in unspecified ways with the intention of making releases more stable.

MISC Starfarer And Gemini Variant On Sale

Two work-in-progress Star Citizen ships are now on sale. Until Monday May 18th, the MISC Starfarer fuel tanker and its beefed-up militarized “G2G Gemini” variant will be on sale for $195 USD and $240 USD respectively.

The Starfarer was previously available two years ago during the anniversary sale and during the original round of crowdfunding. The ‘core’ Starfarer comes with two years insurance during this sale, rather than LifeTime Insurance (LTI). The anniversary Starfarer sale brought in $667,000 USD.

Back then it was little more than an idea, but now it’s a bit more developed. The exterior shape is finalized, the interior is in progress, and its role as a fuel transport and mobile refinery is now clear– though the modularity of its equipment will let you haul normal cargo too with a change of loadout. That said, it’s still not hangar-ready, nor will it likely be the next hangar-ready ship (that’s probably the Herald, which according to Reverse the ‘Verse “you’ll probably see sooner than you expect”).

The Starfarer Gemini has stronger armor, shields, engines, and guns at the cost of cargo space and agility. It also comes with a missile pod that can be swapped out for the fuel collector. It’s on sale for the first time, and being in the concept stage, includes LTI.

Breaking the usual rule that a ship must be flyable before cross-chassis upgrading (CCU) is available, vanilla Starfarers can be upgraded to Geminis for the difference in cost between the two. This allows those who purchased a regular Starfarer during the anniversary sale to get LTI for their space tanker. This prompted a fair amount of unrest on the Star Citizen forums, which lead to a response from CIG Disco Lando.

There is a Q&A thread that will be running all week to answer player questions about the Starfarer and its variant.

Star Citizen has raised nearly 82 million USD at the time of publishing.

This article originally appeared on TheMittani.com, written by Ramon Rakow.

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