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Cloud Imperium Games and Roberts Space Industries have been working hard on Star Citizen and Squadron 42 over the last six years. It's been a challenging project, but the end is almost in sight... well, at least the beta is nearly in sight given that it's set to roll out in late 2020.
Over on the Cloud Imperium Games blog, the developers announced that the Squadron 42 beta would be arriving by late 2020, following an alpha pass set to take place earlier in the year. This coincides with the release of the new public roadmap, which gives gamers a look at how far along development is for the different aspects of Squadron 42, including what the development and completion rate is on each of the game's single player chapters, as well as how it aligns with some of the technology being utilized for the Star Citizen persistent universe.
The general goal is that the features and content need to be complete for Squadron 42 by the end of 2019. This means all of the technology is complete and all of the core chapters and story content is implemented. The cinematics for the game were captured all the way back in late 2015, when the performance capture sessions involving Henry Cavill from The Man of Steel, Gary Oldman from The Dark Knight trilogy, and Gillian Anderson from The X-Files, and Mark Hamill from Star Wars.
The all-star cast's performance data was then compiled and refined over the years, as we've seen with glimpses and snippets of the cinematics from the single-player campaign. However, the biggest hold-up was that a lot of the shared technology between Squadron 42 and Star Citizen was not complete at the time. So things like ship scanning, the HUD for some of the ships, enemy vessels and models, weapons, locations, and some of the key components like enemy AI were not all complete.
In fact, AI is still the biggest research and development tech hurdle for Cloud Imperium Games to overcome. According to Chris Roberts, the AI both within the persistent universe of Star Citizen and the AI for the flight models and on-foot enemies in Squadron 42 need some serious improvements. The studio is currently hiring to address the AI conundrum in the games, as Roberts suggests that the team will need two or three more AI programmers to speed along the process of completing that challenge.
Once the AI is out of the way it's just a matter of refining a lot of the other components, including the custom shader models, the advanced flight control systems so the ships feel more dynamic, and finalizing the polish passes and post-processing. The final step after that is optimizing all of the content so that they can stabilize at 30fps and attempt to achieve 60fps within Squadron 42.
Most of the other tech has finally been completed, which was first implemented within Star Citizen but will be carried over into Squadron 42, specifically the object container streaming, which prioritizes data streaming and rendering so that there's less load on the servers, as well as less overhead on the end-user's machine. With the OCS implemented it allows the team to greatly improve overall optimization and essentially make the game run smoother at higher frames per second.
Of course, playing Squadron 42 is still a long ways off, and backers won't be able to get their hands on the alpha build until the first quarter of 2020, with the beta build expected to arrive at the end of 2020.