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.

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.

Epic Games made the most of the its stage at GDC 2016. In the company's “State of Unreal” panel, CEO Tim Sweeney packed in as much news in as he could – an empowered battle against CryEngine's latest announcements. The success of the latest iteration of the Unreal Engine was a focus point; according to Sweeney, Unreal Engine 4 now has over 1.5 million users, and the seven largest franchises on the engine have generated over $1 billion in sales each.

The Unreal Engine news wasn't limited to larges titles, though. Last year, Epic announced a grant for indie developers using the Unreal Engine and, not to be outdone by CryEngine's $1 million indie fund, Epic increased their grant from $800,000 to $1.2 million. Epic is additionally partnering with HTC and Valve to bring 500 Vive units to indie developers to increase the development of VR titles.

In our latest graphics technology interview – one of many from GDC 2016 – we spoke with Crytek's Frank Vitz about CryEngine's underlying graphics tech. Included in the discussion is a brief-but-technical overview of DirectX 12 integration (and why it's more than just a wrapper), particle FX, audio tech, and more.

This is following Crytek's announcement on CryEngine V (published here), where we highlighted the company's move to fully integrate DirectX 12 into the new CryEngine. As an accompaniment to this interview, we'd strongly encourage a read-through of our 2000-word document on new graphics technologies shown at GDC 2016.

Crytek announced at GDC 2016 its fifth iteration of CryEngine, cleverly suffixed with CryEngine “VR” in the teaser trailer. The new build of CryEngine makes a few major moves that impact gamers, but most interesting to us is a heavy focus on low-level API optimization, new particle FX processing procedures, cloud FX, and VR optimization.

Oculus and Crytek have teamed up to challenge the acrophobia of anyone with an Oculus Rift VR system. Crytek’s new game, aptly named The Climb, allows players to virtually free-climb dangerous cliffs. Now players can take on one of the world’s riskiest sports, with the only risk of falling being from one’s own chair.

The short trailer released by Crytek displays the game’s signature CryEngine visuals, as well as a pair of “Master Hands.” Speaking about The Climb and the Oculus Rift, Crytek founder and CEO Cevat Yerli said:

Our most recent interview with Cloud Imperium Games' Chris Roberts became a two-parter, following an initial discussion on DirectX 12 and Vulkan APIs. Part two dives deeper into the render pipeline, network and render optimization, zoning, data organization, and other low-level topics relating to Star Citizen. A lot of that content strays from direct Star Citizen discussion, but covers the underlying framework and “behind-the-scenes” development operations.

Previous encounters with Roberts have seen us discussing the game's zoning & instancing plans in great depth; since then, the Roberts has brought-up the system numerous times, expressing similar excitement each time. It is clear to us that the zoning and instancing architecture have required a clever approach to problem solving, evidenced to us by a previous pre-interview conversation with the CIG CEO. In a pre-shoot talk, Roberts told us that he “loves engineering problems,” and had considered the instancing system to be one of the larger engineering challenges facing Star Citizen. The topic of instancing was again revisited in this sit-down, though at a lower, more technical level.

Physically-based rendering promises photorealistic lighting in 3D environments by offering a mathematical, less production-intensive approach to the rendering of light. The three letter acronym – “PBR” – has circulated lately as industry frontrunners like Chris Roberts (Star Citizen) have touted its presence in triple-A titles. A few game engines come to mind when we think of advanced, hyper-realistic graphics capabilities; one of those engines is the CryEngine, developed and maintained by Crytek and best-known for advancing PC graphics with Crysis.

While at GDC, we had the opportunity to ask a pair of CryEngine developers to explain what PBR is, how it affects gameplay, and if it has any performance or production impact to games. Joining us in the below video is 3D Environment Artist Sina Els and Engine Programmer Scott Peter, providing a top-level definition of physically-based rendering and its uses.

Far Cry 4 has had an interesting journey since its unveil earlier this year. Far Cry 4 features lush environments and gameplay ingenuity, but initially struggled to communicate why it takes the franchise into new themes and settings.

far-cry-4-concept1

Some of the Himalayan air has cleared between Ubisoft and the community, allowing folks like us to judge Far Cry for what it is as a game.

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