Ship Development

At the time of writing, there are 132 ships in the game and there will be more coming. Each ship design goes through a pipeline of processes from design to flight-ready that are checked and signed off at each stage.

star citizen ships
credit: Lundfoci for this ship poster (starship42.com)
A chart of the development pipeline for new ships.

Design

The ideas for the ships are germinated by writers and artists who are developing and maintaining the history of the universe in which the game sits. The ship’s appearance is driven in part by its functionality and in part by its internal requirements for such things as habitation modules, weapons and hangers.

Some of the rough concept sketches will make it through to a more refined sketch.

Concept

Illustrations are created to capture the look and feel from multiple angles.

An illustration to capture the look and feel of the concept from the original sketches.

Whitebox

An unpainted, flyable 3d model is created in minimal time with simple primitive shapes. The exterior appearance and the interior spaces are refined but not modelled in detail.

Greybox

Builds as close to the final geometry as possible using two tones of grey. Details are improved and library assets such as doors, ramps and chairs are added. The interior and exterior will have been finalised and there have been several passes to reduce poly-count.

Some animations are added to ensure that the ship dimensions are correct for folding of landing gear, ladders, cockpit canopies and anything else that moves on the ship.

a Buccaneer in Greybox

Final Art Stage

The final art stage includes animation, visual effects, lighting, audio and the tech art that makes up the cockpit and interior locations. The ship is scrutinised to see that it flies how it was intended to and that it has the correct health and shields.

A canopy animation being checked.

Ship animations and timings are finalised with character interactions. Graphical details like cut lines gratings and wiring are added using Parallax Occlusion Mapping textures.

The effects team work on the thrusters in parallel with the audio development.

Flight Ready Stage

Finally, the gameplay aspects are added, primarily in the structure and animation of the ship damage. The separation points are determined by modellers and the likelihood of different types of damage is expressed in an associated XML file.

Damage animations are added. The UI, FX and audio are tested and tweaked.

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