Star Citizen ATV Shows How Squadron 42’s Idris AI Comes To Life

Squadron 42 Idris AI
Squadron 42's Idris features 81 crew members with different roles. Your relationship with these characters depends on your actions. Squadron 42 is in active development. Cloud Imperium Games

Star Citizen backers can watch a brand new episode of Around The Verse, and this week’s installment features the monthly Squadron 42 update. The 30-minute video offers new insight into the game’s development and the AI technology that’s making it a reality.

 

SQUADRON 42 PROJECT UPDATE

Foundry 42 Lead Designer Phil Mellor opens with a quick update on the team’s overall progress since January’s feature. Most of his topics get pretty technical, but here’s what we know.

The simplest way to summarize the latest news is that optimization continues to progress across the entire project. Developers are constantly looking for ways to improve the code base in ways that bolster performance across Squadron 42 and Star Citizen as a whole. Animation problems with skeletons are being debugged, item updates have been streamlined and the early implementations of object container streaming will hopefully lead to less memory strain in the final game.

Similar efforts are underway with the game’s NPCs as well. Animations for Duncan Chakma, the Master Of Arms featured in December’s vertical slice, are getting a second polish pass. In that same vein, gear inspection animations are being touched up too. August Beck, the Quartermaster, has officially been implemented alongside her AI usables in the cargo bay. NPC walk cycles and conversations are also being worked on.

Squadron 42 MobiGlass 1
Here's a look at the MobiGlass dashboard for Squadron 42. Photo: Cloud Imperium Games

The biggest visible update comes on the UI side, with our first look at the military MobiGlass interface. Developers took inspiration for its stripped-down design from actual military hardware. You can check it out below.

Squadron 42 MobiGlass 2
The Mission Manager app has a similar aesthetic. Photo: Cloud Imperium Games

UNDERSTANDING THE IDRIS AI

This week’s feature offers an even deeper look at the AI details mentioned in the Project Update. We now know there are 81 characters on the Idris alone, and Foundry 42 has been working diligently to ensure each personality feels truly genuine. Simply put, every piece of AI will have its own unique story and relationship to the player. If you punch certain AI or smell bad, associated characters may avoid you. If you help them on a mission, they’ll be more inclined to offer a boisterous greeting in halls.

Squadron 42 inner thought
AI will respond to players based on how it's treated. This NPC looks pretty happy. Photo: Cloud Imperium Games

In true Star Citizen form, these intelligence systems have depth that goes far beyond hellos and goodbyes. Just like a real military vessel, life on the Idris is all about roles and scheduling. Both of these aspects have a huge impact on what NPCs do. An engineer during her work hours, for example, may be seen fixing the ship and going about her duties. On her day off, she may be seen conversing in the mess hall. These roles will have tiers linked to behaviors as well. A head engineer might walk around inspecting parts and call in a lower-rank employee for repairs if an issue is spotted.

Duties are further enhanced by Systemic Point Of Interest Look technology, or SPOIL. The SPOIL system essentially means AI will look at objects of interest and make descriptive comments to the player. Engineers may be focused on ship parts as they walk, while a captain might look out the window for incoming ships. If you’re focused on a fire, AI characters may tell you what you can use to put it out. In other words, AI behaviors and reactions both promise to be quite realistic.

Squadron 42 mocap
Motion capture for Squadron 42 remains an active process. Photo: Cloud Imperium Games

The backend systems that deploy this technology group behaviors and reactions in batches, and certain actions are categorized into orders or suggestions. Orders may tie into mandatory routines, while suggestions, like a greeting, will only happen if the AI feels like it. All of these concepts work together simultaneously to bring the crew of the Idris to life.

Star Citizen and Squadron 42 donation packages are available now. For even more Star Citizen, tune in to today’s Reverse The Verse on the Aegis Vulcan at 12 p.m. EST.

What do you think of Squadron 42 after this update? Will single-player work well in the Star Citizen universe? Tell us in the comments section!

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