Cave Modelling

Caves are a great addition to the Star Citizen environment. The modelling for these subterranean worlds is convincing and interesting.

Cave Prototypes

The goals for the design and implementation of the caves were decided with reference to concept art that captures the intention in a set of images.

A cave concept image featuring water, ferns and glow worms.
Cave concept art brightened for clarity.

The first prototype caves were built manually to test out the concept and goals. Later in the development process, cave construction was broken down into reusable assets. Rules and probabilities were added to individual assets to define how each of them can be used during procedural assembly.

An individual hand made cave.
a visual prototype using assets from the moon Ariel.

The devs are suggesting there will be thousands of caves eventually and the Outpost placement tool has been extended to include cave system placement over a planet.

A player model in a cave prototype showing the scale of the open space.
Prototype for cave contents shows how large some of the spaces may be.

Cave Assets

The major building blocks of caves have been prepared as assets that ha e been given detailed attention by the environmental artists.

A cave example from the prototyping phase
A cave with coloured markup giving direction to the procedural generation tools.

The individual assets are assembled into template rooms that are modified by procedural generation guided by style properties.

Critical path markup

Organic elements are part of the asset library that can change the character of a cave system. Harvestable and mineable items are scattered within the caves to provide a purpose.

Roots and other organic material have been added to the asset library.

A type of cave-dwelling yellow Lichen has been used to mark pathways to guide the player around the cave system in which the designers say they have been lost themselves numerous times.

A cave entrance can be created with a specific type of room, but the surrounding terrain can be used to good effect, for example, sinkholes, craters and canyons. You may also find small entrances hidden among surface features such as tree stumps.

Procedural Creation

Initially, the pathways between cave rooms were prototyped using simple geometric paths on a level base.

Prototyping path generation between cave rooms

The next stage was to make the routes look more organic. To increase diversity, stand-alone decorative assets are added.

A sequence of rooms is created. Each marker is an entry/exit access point.

Each cave room asset has one or more entry and exit points that can potentially be used to connect cave rooms together.

Caves marked by bounding boxes to which passages will be attached.

A complete caves system is generated by an adaptation of the Rest Stop building technology which randomly connects rooms with passages. Extra care must be taken to ensure the cave entrance is correctly embedded in the surface and that the cave elements do not project outside of the local terrain.

Lighting

The lighting is added is such a way as to hint at passageways and caves that can be explored.

Lighting is used to show the topology of the passages

Where glowworms are present, they are provided by the particle effects team and the ambient light is enhanced by additional muted lights.

Glowworms in the roof of the cave

Sound

Sound has been used to create an eerie feel with a combination of ambient ‘drone’ sounds and localised one-shot effects such as dripping water or tumbling debris. As you move around the room, the sound of the cave will alter.

Audio placement within a single cave

Cave rooms viewed from the outside are bounding blocks filled with lighting and audio effects.

Caves are designed as individual rooms
Cave rooms viewed from the outside.
A 3D prototype of a fully decorated cave.
A prototype of a fully decorated cave with water, ferns and glow worms.

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