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.
Covering the Star Citizen technology demonstrations and planetary procedural generation v2.0, we noted that the live framerate, although variable, seemed to stick around the ~96~100FPS AVG range. Even the hardest dips fell to about 75FPS, mostly when the Constellation star ship entered the camera frustum, but overall frame throughput was consistent and fairly fluid. (Note: Some folks reporting low dips to ~36-43 at times. We did not watch the FPS counter for the entire demo.) Frametimes were also on-point, sitting at an average of about ~8~10ms delta between frames, or effectively perfectly fluid on a 60-120Hz display. Z-fighting and artifacting occurred in the demo, but that is known to the team and is mostly a result of the LOD scaling and pop-in. Runt frames, however, were not much of an issue during the gameplay demonstration.
That comes down to hardware. As we detailed heavily in our Pascal architecture and Polaris architecture deep dives, this generation of hardware has focused efforts on stabilizing frame throughput for greater consistency. Variance between frame delivery exceeding that of the monitor's refresh rate, e.g. 8ms for a 120Hz display, 16ms for a 60Hz display, will create more runt frames and screen tearing at time of playback. This is because the monitor, without adaptive sync tech (which the projector almost certainly did not have), slaves to the GPU and either waits on refresh (V-Sync) for completed frames or immediately “publishes” the frames to the screen (V-Sync off). The latter creates tearing by producing runt frames which don't fully “paint” to the display, with the former producing stuttering when framerate falls below the V-Sync threshold, triggering what is effectively a reprojection of the previous frame.
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:
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.
For our average multiple interviews per year with Chris Roberts and team, this year has been a quiet one. The team's been keeping their heads down while working on finalizing Squadron 42, the single-player release of Star Citizen, for a major release this year. Version 2.5 and 2.6 of the Star Citizen client will soon be released – a matter of days for 2.5, in theory – but that hasn't stopped CIG CEO Chris Roberts from detailing plans for 3.0 while at Gamescom 2016.
The Gamescom event primarily covered procedural planet technology. This is a topic we discussed with Roberts back in 2014, who stated the following when asked for CIG's definition of procedural generation:
Cloud Imperium Games' Star Citizen achieved a major milestone with the distribution of its Alpha 2.0 package, allowing multiplayer exploration in addition to existing dog-fighting and free flight. This release gives players the first glimpse of the game's open world intentions, presenting environments forged in Sci-Fi influence.
There's not much in the way of gameplay just yet, but Alpha 2.0 has been made available to all backers for initial bug- and stress-testing. We decided to conduct a test of our own, specifically looking at GPU performance and preset scaling across multiple “game modes.” Right now, because the pre-release game is comprised of several disjointed modules, there's no one “Play Star Citizen” button – it's split into parts. Racing, free flight, and dog-fighting are in one module (Arena Commander), the Hangar stands alone, and online testing with ArcCorp and Crusader were just released.
For our Star Citizen video card benchmark, we look at GPU vs. GPU performance in the race, delta performance scaling on ArcCorp and in the hangar or free flight, and talk methodology. The game isn't done and has yet to undergo performance optimizations and official driver support, so we won't be recommending the usual “best graphics cards for [game]” this time, as we usually do in our game benchmarks.
Big news for Star Citizen fans: Alpha 2.0 is now available to all backers. This announcement comes on the heels of Star Citizen hitting a massive checkpoint, with Cloud Imperium Games now exceeding $100 million in crowdfunding. There are now more than one million backers -- or “citizens” -- and this CIG the Guinness World Record for “most crowd-funded project,” and game, in the world.
CIG CEO Chris Roberts said of Alpha 2.0, “it represents the first true slice of gameplay that includes much of what Star Citizen will bring to our fans.” This update will give backers many of the features Roberts has spent the last year toting.
Ongoing space-sim development project Star Citizen has received its latest trailer, teasing live gameplay footage from its Alpha 2.0 release. The Alpha 2.0 version is currently only available to a select group of backers; GamersNexus expects to have access in the near future, at which time our team will begin analysis, benchmarking, and gameplay capture.
Lieutenant Commander Steve “Old Man” Colton seems a fitting name for the role assumed by Mark Hamill, best known as Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars movies. That name, alongside some behind-the-scenes footage of the actor's performance capture, were both released today by Cloud Imperium Games and the Squadron 42 team. To catch up on previous developments for the SQ42 universe, check out our post detailing Star Citizen's Alpha 2.0 and Hollywood cast.
Performance capture is a mix of motion capture, which uses unflattering body suits and sensors to map human movement to digital coordinates, and acting. The Squadron 42 team decided to forgo more traditional games industry “mocap” in favor of voiced acting with 3D coordinate mapping, allowing professional actors – Mark Hamill and Gary Oldman included – to really dig into the material. Across the games industry, it's popular for captured actors to quip about the tight-fitting suits worn, and Hamill's now part of that group.
CitizenCon 2015, the fan event dedicated to Cloud Imperium Games' Star Citizen, today opened with an emotional speech from VP of Marketing Sandi Gardiner. The team then moved on to an upbeat “How Did We Get Here?” video, showing the ramping progression of the Cloud Imperium Games teams and events. The studio is now a global icon within the games industry, employing 270 staff across its Austin, Santa Monica, London, Montreal, and Frankfurt offices.
CIG CEO Chris Roberts went on to disclose, deploying between-the-lines commentary on recent events, that the CIG team has only increased in development staff, including an increase from 260 to 270 staff in the past two months alone.
Introductory content aside, today's presentation swiftly moved to a focus on content reveals.
Our definitive coverage of the latest CitizenCon event, hosted by Cloud Imperium Games at the Manchester Airport, dives into the A-list cast for Squadron 42, multi-crew ship demonstrations, and underlying technology.
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