Caves are an intriguing addition to the Star Citizen environment. The modelling for these subterranean worlds is convincing and alluring.
The First Caves
This notification by Wakapedia on the forum gives some useful information about the new cave systems:
“…We have added 15 caves to the game, 5 on each of Hurston, Aberdeen, and Daymar. These caves can be discovered by accepting a regional missing person mission that can be accepted by one person at a time but are shareable to your party. Along with the missing person mission, you can also find caves using your ships scanning feature to see them from a short distance…”
Looking for a Cave
After a long time, I eventually found a cave on Daymar. As I was trying to land, my ship was shot to pieces by an unsocial player and I died along with it before I could get out.
Next, I went to Aberdeen. I figured it would get less attention because of its unhelpfully misty atmosphere. After travelling across the solar system 3 times in a row due to server disconnections I eventually found my first cave.
The scanning facility seems to be limited to the Prospector. In my ship, the mine didn’t show up on the scanner but I could see it out of the cockpit window. There isn’t much to distinguish a cave from the surrounding rock.
The pathways through a cave are marked with lights and vegetation, but even so its easy to get lost. The climbable ledges have lichen on them.
I found some harvestable plants sitting on blue vegetation. It probably has some worth, and a backpack would have made it easier to carry a number of them. It’s probably worth obtaining a mining kit and some flares just in case you do spot some minerals.
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.
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.
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.
The major building blocks of caves have been prepared as assets that ha e been given detailed attention by the environmental artists.
The individual assets are assembled into template rooms that are modified by procedural generation guided by style properties.
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.
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.
Initially, the pathways between cave rooms were prototyped using simple geometric paths on a level base.
The next stage was to make the routes look more organic. To increase diversity, stand-alone decorative assets are added.
Each cave room asset has one or more entry and exit points that can potentially be used to connect cave rooms together.
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.
The lighting is added is such a way as to hint at passageways and caves that can be explored.
Where glowworms are present, they are provided by the particle effects team and the ambient light is enhanced by additional muted lights.
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.
Cave rooms viewed from the outside are bounding blocks filled with lighting and audio effects.