This is the last of our CitizenCon coverage from Sunday. Following this interview with Erin Roberts, we flew up to San Jose to tour a few of the hardware manufacturers located in the area. We'll likely have some coverage of those visits online within the next 2-3 days, for folks looking for a return to hardware industry discussion and architecture dives. A few reviews are also pending publication, likely going live next week.
We try to focus on technology at GN, as always, and so spent our previous interview talking about parallax occlusion mapping and 64-bit engine technology. We think that this is interesting and useful information to learn to better understand GPU interactions with game engines, hopefully better painting a picture of what's going on behind the GPU shroud. With Erin Roberts, Studio Head for the Foundry 42 UK branch, we discussed procedural generation edge blending for planets v2 (also defined here), development timelines to build the demo shown, and workload distribution between studios.
Immediately following our already-published interview with Star Citizen's Chris Roberts, we encountered Technical Director Sean Tracy, recently responsible for educating us on the game's 64-bit engine. The Technical Director took a few moments after CitizenCon to share details about the lower level technology driving the night's demonstration, like real-time physics, poly per pixel budgets, occlusion mapping, and more.
Tracy's role for the CitizenCon presentation primarily had him demonstrating the production tools utilized by CIG for planet development. This includes Planet Ed, already somewhat detailed here and here, which is the team's creation kit for planet customization and design. The toolkit takes the approach of getting artists “90% of the way there,” allowing them to fine-tune the final 10% for faster production pipelines and a hands-on polish. The tech demo showed a walk-through of CIG's team using large brushes to paint the surface with biomes, hand-placing bodies of water and buildings, and blending everything together.
CitizenCon 2016 included the biggest technological demonstrations that the game has publicly shown to-date, including fully functional procedural generation 2.0 for planets, real-time spring physics, and authoring tools. The technology suite was detailed in two of our recent interviews with Sean Tracy and Chris Roberts, but was overshadowed in some ways by statements given regarding a potential Squadron 42 demonstration for CitizenCon 2016.
Viewers of the stream (or our content) will know that Squadron 42 didn't make it into the live demonstration, already packed with hours of discussion on Spectrum (comms systems), procedural generation, authoring tools, and roadmaps. The demonstration was technologically and graphically impressive, but Squadron 42 was left out for polish and refinement reasons. Roberts indirectly referenced our interview on stage, stating that, “I gave an interview about 3 weeks ago and probably spoke too soon,” but continued that he hoped the planet and tools demonstrations would make up for this.
In our post-event interview, we spoke with CIG CEO Chris Roberts on his thoughts regarding the event, the roadmap for Star Citizen, and Squadron 42's absence. Learn more in the video, or find a transcript below.
Leading into Star Citizen's annual “CitizenCon” event, held today, we received preliminary details from CIG CEO Chris Roberts and Technical Director Sean Tracy, both of whom heavily focused on an unveil of new procedural planets technology. The first interview (with Roberts) covered the top-level overview of procedural planet generation technology, with the third interview (with Tracy) focusing on the driving tools behind the planets.
But CitizenCon 2016 marks the first time we've seen those tools in action, unveiled on stage in front of an audience of more than 600 people live, with more tuned-in to the stream. Our earlier interviews suggested that the first major, complete Squadron 42 mission would be unveiled at CitizenCon alongside this “Planets V2” tech and character technology updates, but the plans changed in the weeks since that discussion. Planets V2 took the spotlight with its Homestead demo, Squadron 42 has been delayed to allow for quality improvement on the single-player demo.
Note: This was written live during the event for immediate publication. We are continuing to live update.
(7:50PM PT 10/9 - We are done live updating. We've added 4K screenshots to this article, all new from tonight. We've got interviews with Chris Roberts, Sean Tracy, and Erin Roberts going live shortly.)
Before getting to further discussion, a recap of the last two weeks:
In this final part of our recent Cloud Imperium Games LA office tour, we conclude by talking with Technical Director Sean Tracy about upcoming technology to be shown at CitizenCon. The annual Star Citizen backer event will take place on October 9, Sunday, at ~3PM PST.
Until then, this discussion dives into new character technology that will be shown at the event, resource consumption and management, CPU thread assignment and the jobs engine, headbob and image stabilization, and authoring tools for Star Citizen. The previous three parts of this tour can be found at the links below:
Cloud Imperium Games has been talking about its 64-bit engine conversion for at least two years now, but we've never had a chance to properly explain the benefit of this move. Following last week's interviews with Chris Roberts (Part 1: Procedural Planets V2, Alpha 3.0 & Part 2: Weather System), we sat down with CIG Technical Director Sean Tracy to learn about CryEngine, the technical inner-workings of procedural planet generation V2, and more.
Tracy sat in on our first meeting with Roberts, and was able to prepare some additional points of depth with notes taken from that meeting. The entire discussion with Tracy ran for about forty minutes. We've split that into two parts:
Part 1, today, is on 64-bit engine technology, world space coordinates, edge blending, and meshes and layers.
Part 2, Wednesday (10/5), is on CPU threading, system resource and load management, character technology, and more CitizenCon info.
Note: You may find our previous discussion on DirectX 12 & Vulkan of interest.
It took us nearly 5000 words to cover the first half of our two-part interview with Cloud Imperium Games CEO Chris Roberts, who joins us now for the second half. In the first part, we dove straight into discussion on Alpha 3.0, plans for unveiling procedural generation V2 at CitizenCon, and Star Marine & Arena Commander A2.6 updates. Roberts' procedural generation plans initially disclosed to GamersNexus in 2014 have mostly been realized, and the team is now working on a second iteration of the internally built Planet Ed[itor] toolset. Much of the new procedural generation technology will be shown at CitizenCon on October 9, but Roberts also teased to us that new character technology would be on demonstration at the event.
This is the second and final half of our interview with Chris Roberts, CIG CEO & Chairman, but not the final interview for our trip. Technical Director Sean Tracy joined GamersNexus to discuss deeper engineering solutions to technological challenges faced by the team, offering some insight to game development that we think our 'regulars' will enjoy from an engineering standpoint. The first half of that content will post on Friday, September 30. The second half will be announced alongside the publication of the first half.
Both interviews – with Roberts and with Tracy – ran about forty minutes in length, and contained a trove of new information related to the title's immediate future. With Tracy, we'll discuss engine architecture, what it actually means to “refactor for 64-bit,” authoring tools, and more.
It's been three years since we first visited the Cloud Imperium Games studios in Santa Monica, though we've conducted a dozen interviews with CIG CEO Chris Roberts in the time since. Now, taking a victory lap through Southern California's hardware manufacturers, we stopped over at CIG's offices for a second in-person visit.
A lot has changed. The studio, for one, is now in a new location that's farther from the Santa Monica beach, but in a larger space. The team has grown significantly in both organization and team size, and challenges faced, and Roberts has adjusted his interview technique just enough to ease off on providing release dates.
Our latest visit had us focusing on the new planetary procedural generation tech, version 2.0, the predecessor for which we originally detailed two full years ago. Roberts talked us through the start-to-finish plans for CitizenCon's presentations, additional Alpha 3.0 launch details, Star Marine, procedural generation, character tech, and engine refactoring in a forty-minute interview. We've split the interview into two parts, the second of which will go live on Monday (September 26). Our time spent in the office was doubled to accommodate a second interview with Technical Director Sean Tracy, responsible for answering our deeper hardware and software engineering questions. That content will go live next week, after the first two parts of the interview with Chris Roberts.
We saw a lot of games at PAX West and, as always, didn’t get a chance to cover all of them individually. One little game stood out, though: Midair, the spiritual successor to the Tribes series.
Cloistered away in the back of the sixth floor of the Seattle Convention Center, Archetype Studios barely got their game into PAX. Another exhibitor dropped out of the show two weeks prior to kick-off, opening a slot for waitlisted Archetype. As longtime fans of the Tribes series, Archetype Studios and its founders were disappointed by Tribes: Ascend’s support and payment model, leading to the creation of Midair. The game was already successfully Kickstarted for nearly $130,000, about 30% more than initially asked.
The Coalition's Gears of War 4 demonstrated the capabilities of nVidia's new GTX 1070-enabled notebooks, operating at 4K with fully maxed-out graphics options. View our Pascal notebook article for more information on the specifics of the hardware. While at the event in England, we took notes of the game's complete graphics settings and some notes on graphics setting impact on the GPU and CPU. The Coalition may roll-out additional settings by the game's October launch.
We tested Gears of War 4 on the new MSI GT73 notebook with 120Hz display and a GTX 1070 (non-M) GPU. The notebook was capable of pushing maxed settings at 1080p and, a few pre-release bugs aside (pre-production hardware and an unfinished game), gameplay ran in excess of 60FPS.
We've got an early look at Gears of War 4's known graphics settings, elevated framerate, async compute, and dynamic resolution support. Note that the Gears team has promised “more than 30 graphics settings,” so we'll likely see a few more in the finished product. Here are our photos of the graphics options menu: