Cloud Imperium Games has run into another snag with the development of Squadron 42, the single-player campaign for the upcoming Star Citizen. The delay has moved the campaign out of the 2016 ballpark and into unknown territory, but they promise that it's still coming.
The single-player campaign, starring Hollywood heavyweights such as Andy Serkis, Mark Hamill, Gillian Anderson, Mark Strong and Gary Oldman, will possibly see the light of day sometime in 2017. Thankfully, the performance capture work -- involving getting the voices and the movements of the characters -- has been completed.
According to the Kotaku article, a slide was made available during the presentation to give gamers a heads up about the tech hurdles that the team had to face when working on Squadron 42, including a pathfinding logic for the AI, which determines how AI NPCs move around on the ground, navigate around objects without clipping, and perform tasks without falling through the floor or getting stuck on nodes or corners. They're also still working on getting the proper animations attached to the AI so they move around and operate properly within the massive universe of Star Citizen, and that they have properly enhanced flight AI so they can maneuver through asteroid fields, dodge debris, dock, take-off, recon and engage in proper combat.
A lot of this may seem like stuff they should have already completed, but remember that they're dealing with a massive open universe using a similar design to No Man's Sky. The major difference is that there are operable NPCs performing tasks all throughout this simulated, persistent universe, so they're not just stuck in specific loops or hovering in a locked state above a planet's surface.
Technically, what they're doing with the game and the AI is uncharted territory in the world of gaming, so it's going to be interesting to see how they manage to pull off this massive feat in Star Citizen.
And the Squadron 42 content still in progress ties into object container streaming and CPU and GPU optimizations that they'll need to rework after adding in the new content. The AI spanning the persistent universe is definitely going to be the biggest challenge because a lot of companies in AAA games have big problems making the AI both effective and intelligent without consuming all of the CPU usage. It's a fine balancing act that sometimes requires a lot of concessions to make work properly.
In some cases the AI is the last thing you work on after putting in all of the other interactive and functional components, because you give the AI what little remaining CPU cycles you have left without breaking everything else.
On the upside, all of the content is at grey-box stage or better, so that means that all of the basic functional mechanics are implemented and working. That's a great sign. They're planning on finishing up one of the chapters to final shipping quality as a test for "flushing" out technical and performance issues before letting it loose to the public. They also have plans on building out more tech and systems for use in Star Citizen over the long term to help ease in future updates and content integration.
I'm sure some fans have lost all hope and have given up on Star Citizen, but others are likely enjoying the ride and seeing how an AAA game comes together for better or for worse. In an open-development environment, all of the hiccups, setbacks and technical hurdles are laid bare for the public to see, and this happens all the time with a lot of major games during the development process, but for Star Citizen we get to see how it happens by peeking behind the curtain.