Star Citizen

The Weekly Report with Chad McKinney (Dev Responses)

Content of the article: "The Weekly Report with Chad McKinney (Dev Responses)"


The Shopping Kiosk Experience


I'm really interested to know if there are any improvements planned towards the functionality of the shopping kiosks in the PU.


CIG Chad McKinney@CIG_ChadMcKinney

There are plans to improve the shopping kiosk UI/UX, but the question is more about exactly when that work will get scheduled, rather than if. Given that the design work itself hasn't been finished (and generally we try to ensure the more detailed parts of a design are done close in proximity to implementation) I don't want to get into specific details on what exactly those changes will look like.  


Machine/Deep Leaning


I have always wanted to know do any of the devs use machine/deep learning for any of the tech in SC.


CIG Chad McKinney@CIG_ChadMcKinney

We don't use any in the runtime game right now, though there have been some discussions about various possibilities in all kinds of domains. The tricky bit with machine learning is that it is inherently probabilistic so you have to consider exactly what you're wanting to get out of said systems and how good your model is going to perform in a real time situation. For the most part in games you can easily throw together some rough heuristics for say an AI and get decently good enough behavior that the player can be convinced of some higher level thinking (F.E.A.R often cited here as an example), but getting some model to behave like this would be an entirely different ball game. I think there's definitely some interesting territory here, but it would require R&D to investigate.

Outside of the game itself, we are starting to incorporate some AI into other aspects of our tooling such as analytics, which for anyone keeping up with that field, should not be entirely surprising.



Armor Emblems & Rank Insignia's?


So I am a military vet and a big part of differentiating one servicemember from another is the patch, rank or insignia. Obviously, in the service, these must be earned often times through hardship or difficult trial. From the Airborne, Ranger, 75th Ranger Rgmt, to the Marines Marsoc, the Navies Seals, and the Air Forces Combat Controllers and Pararescuemen they all have their symbols that denote and differentiate them from the rank and file. Other, non spec ops service members have their insignias as well. While I realize that the majority of SC will be in the PU, the use of ranks, insignia's, and patches or other symbology could add real depth and belonging to you, the player in regard to your organization, your character, and your armor. For the Mercenary or Bounty Hunter, they could customize their armor with what we in the service call "moral patches" which essentially just look cool and add flair and personality to your kit. I realize that this would be quite the ordeal, and that it would require quite a bit of extra work in concepting and design of where the patches etc would fit on the armor, but ultimately it would breathe a lot of life into the universe, add depth, and for the rougher "moral patch" crowd, add a little humor. Thanks for your consideration of this idea! If you decide to design something along these lines, hopefully it will be as fun to concept and create as it will be for many of us who can wear our patches with pride.


CIG Chad McKinney@CIG_ChadMcKinney

We are working on the new reputation system which will at least at the data level allow us to track various reputation stats, including ranks, against entities and organizations. We will be looking to find various way to communicate these reputation levels and ranks in lore and in the interactions with the game world. I am not necessarily saying that armor customization will be included in that (first we'd need a whole armor customization system which doesn't exist) but things along these lines are certainly being considered.



how bleeding edge is cig (or gamedev in general) in picking up new research?

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i follow the "two minute papers" youtube channel and am fascinated by the research discussed there, esp as a lot of it seems to be relevant for game dev. i am now curious as to whether cig devs follows similar sources, what those sources are and if and how quickly new research like the one shown in the linked video gets picked up and incorporated into star citizen. there are tons of other examples on the channel, esp in regard to machine learning (i.e. using it to simulate movement instead of animating and other things) and i always wonder how realistic it is that such things make their way into actual development, or if there is delay and for what reasons.


CIG Chad McKinney@CIG_ChadMcKinney

Depending on the domain we do keep up with various interesting developments coming out of more formal research groups. I don't think I've seen this cool looking cloth on dragons (!) paper going around, but very often there will be discussions on all kinds of things like new developments in robotics that improve heuristics for jerk calculations to whatever the hot new paper out of SIGGRAPH is that talks about damage and deformation in meat!

Sometimes we'll actually move to incorporate these ideas if they are simple, but often times the context these papers work in are very far removed from the realities of a realtime game, so it is more for inspiration. Another thing to consider is that another word for "bleeding edge" is "unproven" and by now the games industry has fairly well proven out how to make a 3D game, and now everyone is pushing to see where to take risks or find novel improvements, but in many ways engines are not all that different from the Quake days and many engines (including some modern ones) are even direct descendants of the quake code base:

This is going to be very of topic but where do you consider to be the greatest gains left in regards to making a game graphics realistic?

CIG Chad McKinney@CIG_ChadMcKinney

We need to move past the traditional projection/rasterization method, I think raytracing and SDF is the future.



Dead bodies left every where.


So is dead bodies will not despawn, and they can be discovered. Is there a limit? Will we see a sea of bodies at bunkers or other mission points? How would this impact servers? Being Cloned we know where to find our stuff, but no idea who killed us.


CIG Chad McKinney@CIG_ChadMcKinney

I have mentioned this else where, but we already have a system for cleaning up entities that age out, and dead bodies will be no different. This is a system that will see more development int he future to deal with the increased challenges introduced by global persistence and server meshing, but fundamentally the idea is that certain entities won't necessarily last forever in all places depending on the kind of area, so for example you would expect a dead body to just sit around in the streets of a busy city, at some point someone is gonna get thing that cleaned up, but on the other hand you may expect a dead body to stay around for a long time in some random derelict with very low traffic.



Planetoid Orbits, Quantum Travel, and Object Containers


CIG Chad McKinney@CIG_ChadMcKinney

There's a lot to unpack here, and you may find my answers not entirely satisfying, but I thought I'd just add some comments (since in part this is more of a question for design)

Many of us are aware that, although you COULD turn on planetoid orbits (planets around stanton, moons around planets) it creates a complication where the planet will have moved by the time your quantum travel gets you there. Makes perfect sense, really.

To be clear, the navigation but I mentioned regarding orbiting is only one of many that surface when orbits are turned on, so it is not the real blocker, really it is more that there are so many different systems impacted that we haven't yet prioritized it to the point to have a concerted effort across teams to address these various issues.

I think it would be reasonable if jumping from one planetoid to another landed you "behind", where that planetoid "used to be" prior in its orbit, if you're jumping from very far away.

The design direction at the moment is to always jump to where the planet is ending up, not where it was before you jump, in order to avoid needing to do any kind of "fix up" secondary jump. I think from a gameplay pattern perspective it could get very frustrating to have to make a second jump every time you wanted to go somewhere just to get more aligned with the target, especially when you would expect at the point in the future you should be able to route a path to where you will need to be to be within a reasonable distance of the planet, accounting for travel time.

Of course, this is assuming that object containers even CAN BE anything other than a primitive solid… assuming that it can be a "ring" as described. It's understandable if having a hole in it may not necessarily be a thing that object containers can do…

One thing to note here is that object containers don't move, in fact that are completely static. They may be spawned in a zone that moves (like a planet) and their child contents may be moveable (like say some crates) but the object containers themselves are fixed in zone space, though they may move in world space if their zone moves.

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Player owned Items Inventory


Can we get a button on our mobiglas that displays all items the player owns (Ships, components, ship weapons, armor items, personal weapons, meds, miscellaneous ) like a complete inventory, at this point the only time we see what we have is when we try to equip the item type to a specific (size) slot on a ship or the avatar it would be nice to have a list of sort to show everything in context to the menu examples in brackets above or similar, maybe even with location when ICache is in, so the player can see what is in the hab or homestead or on a ship (weapons locker)


CIG Chad McKinney@CIG_ChadMcKinney

There will be improvements to player inventory and management, I don't want to go into details yet as not everything is finalized, but along with physicalized inventory we also want to improve how you view and interact with said inventory.



ICache and game servers in-game geo-location


I expect ICache will have some geo-location key (along with other keys no doubt) to make it fast to find items in a certain physical area in the game. Is this correct, and if so, are you planning to co-locate ICache and the corresponding game server VMs on the same physical hardware/rack? Would they even run in the same VM potentially? What keys are you planning to use?

I imagine an age key might help with cleanup, for example, or it might have some built-in collection process.


CIG Chad McKinney@CIG_ChadMcKinney

We are using something we call a StarHash which is a kind of geohash formatted specifically for our 64bit scale solar systems.

These will allow for spatially querying a service called the (you guessed it..) StarHash service, which allows us to query data quickly in certain areas, with the main use case being server streaming. We've had a version of this running as an internal background job since the initial server streaming implementation went in, but now it will be moved out into its own set of services so that server nodes can mutually query on this data set.



What programming language was used to create SC?


I imagine things have progressed somewhat since the days of 8080 cpus and 64 kb ram, when chess and checkers programs were written in assembly language and then coded into Basic line-by-line as peek and poke statements.

A friend and I have a friendly wager. I say C++, she says C#. Likely we're both wrong. There's a bottle of wine on the line here.


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CIG Chad McKinney@CIG_ChadMcKinney

the game engine is almost entirely C++ (with a bit of assembly), and in fact we removed Lua so not even game scripting is done in Lua. To improve iteration time we use something called Recode that allows us to hotswap code changes at runtime which is much faster than restarting the whole game, while allowing us to maintain the performance benefits of writing native code. Now the designers do script in a visual scripting language called subsumption for AI behaviors and mission logic, but that is a very small amount of "code" that is executed during runtime.

Elsewhere we use C# and python for tooling and C++, C#, Ooze, and Typescript for various backend services.



Do you have any plans on hiring more people to go fix the backlog of bugs?


There seems to be a backlog of bugs, some game breaking that seem to be ignored. Any plans to hire more people dedicated to fixing bugs? It would be nice if you hired more people that would be focused on bug fixes while the rest can focus on development.


CIG Chad McKinney@CIG_ChadMcKinney

Last I checked we have like 100 open jobs, so yes we are looking to expand significantly. Now that said we do want to maintain our standards and I can at least speak for the engineering department that even though we're trying to expand we don't want to let code quality suffer in that endeavor, so it will take time to fill these roles. Also, another thing to understand is that even with an expanded work force their focus likely won't just be on bug fixing, as it can be counter productive to fix bugs in game systems that still have designs in flux. Additionally we have some very large pending technical endeavors like icache/global persistence and server meshing still in development that will have an impact on current and in-development systems. For now we have to balance bug fixing and feature development. As we get closer to a beta we can then switch to focusing largely on stabilization and performance.


With this, I know you have people from Europe and America, but are you willing to have programmers from Australia? The time zones would not seem to be so much of a problem these days, but we are quite often forgotten down here.

CIG Chad McKinney@CIG_ChadMcKinney

For the most part we look for people who can work on site as gamedev is an incredibly collaborative endeavor. On occasion we will do remote but often this is temporary until the new employee can move. Since we are still planning on moving back into the on site studios for the most part we are still mainly looking at applicants who are willing to move to work on site at one of our locations.



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