With well over 70 million dollars in funding, Star Citizen is one of the most successful crowd-funded titles in gaming history. Cloud Imperium Games isn’t throwing this money away either, as a new and highly detailed damage system is being prepared for the space shooter, trade and simulation title.
After a long day at the Penny Arcade Expo in Boston, Star Citizen is heavily on display and Cloud Imperium Games is ready to reveal loads of new content in the coming days. Today, as revealed in high detail on their Comm-Link, an all-new damage system is in production which will dramatically change the way we visually and mechanically view battle in Star Citizen. In striving for excellence, Cloud Imperium and the multiple studios behind the development of Star Citizen are looking toward real-life references in order to figure out how to properly implement damage on their spacecraft, and as explained today we’re going to get a feel for that while in virtual combat before the final release.
As put on display in the small gallery above, the depth in detail for minor destruction in Star Citizen will be as profound as the details in every other texture and model of the game. Highlighted here, you can see each level of the textures that are applied to make an effect work, including the burns, indentations and holes as they directly impact where each other can occur. Some new tooling of every ship would be required to allow this feature, as well as new destruction variety on every ship. Given the level of technicality, I’ll leave it to the guys at Cloud Imperium for this one:
Additional tech needed to be developed for placing our Particle and Squib Effects to complete the look of our new damage pipeline. When a part such as a Wing detaches from the ship, Squibs and Particles detonate along the edge of the separation. The Squibs, when detonated, specifically cause holes and burn damage to appear on the skin of the ship, revealing the ‘guts’ of the ship underneath so that the piece of the ship looks like it was torn away from the body. Particles also fire off as pieces break off from the ship, adding dramatic smoke, explosions and sparks. A specialized art tool, developed by Matt Intrieri, was created to convert helper objects in 3DSMax into XML code to add the effect in-game. CIG’s Effects Artist, Mike Snowdon, used the tool to add the Particles and Squibs to the ship along the edges of each part of the ship, creating dynamic and realistic effects based on the ship’s systems at each location.
As we can see from the “Squib Ship”, there are multiple variations of damage your ship can now reflect and this will, in the future, allow for multiple points of weakness as opposed to a few pre-canned explosion points as we see in the 1.0 and 1.1 versions of Star Citizen today. Cloud Imperium is working toward building this technology to load particle effects entirely from the GPU as well, which will allow for up to 100 times more particle effects than the game manages currently with the same load on your PC. If you’re wondering what the future of mechanical damage looks like in gaming, look no further because with Star Citizen, the future is now.
With our new damage technology now in place, we continue to strive for even more realistic and efficient methods to push our graphics in all areas. We’ll be adding more effects under the skin of the ship as gaping holes are revealed, adding touches like sparks on damaged equipment under the skin. Several lighting and particle setups are being prototyped to take our ship interiors through Healthy, Damaged, Critical and Flatline states that will inform and immerse our players during battle. Our new state machine being developed called GOST, will determine the healthy (or unhealthy) flow of energy around the ships systems and will have a big impact on our multi-crew interactions and the effect of ship damage on them. Given the complexity of our largest ships, that are really like floating levels, big questions remain about hull breaches and how to portray critical damage in the vacuum of space and how this will affect players inside. And optimizations in all areas will allow us to add more and more players simultaneously to create massive multiplayer battles. We are very pleased and excited to be releasing this first iteration of our newly optimized damage technology and hope the players feel the same.