Calling All Devs

Every week, designers, engineers and other developers from our five offices around the world answer backer questions submitted on SPECTRUM and voted on by YOU.

You can submit your questions for consideration in future episodes of Calling All Devs here.

And for info on becoming a subscriber, go to: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/pledge/subscriptions

Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/transmission/16834-Calling-All-Devs

This Week in Star Citizen

Hello everyone,

Last week, we celebrated All Hallows’ Eve across our studios and crowned the winners of our two Halloween themed community contests. Check out the winners of the Pumpkin Carving Contest, and the FOIP Contest, highlighting the most terrifying or terrified expressions.

We welcomed more filmmakers to the annals of Star Citizen cinematic history with our Mustang Commercial Contest. Check out the work of the bold community filmmakers who embraced the maverick spirit of Consolidated Outland to create commercials that Silas Koerner himself would be proud of.

If you haven’t yet, you can also read up on Anvil’s latest bruiser, the Valkyrie. The Q&A on the recently revealed troop/personnel transport ship answers the top-voted community questions.

And with that, let’s see what’s going on this week:

Today we’re re-releasing September’s Squadron 42 Monthly Report as a Comm-Link. It’s important to note that this is a cross-post of the report you already received recently in your email’s inbox, but we wanted to publish it as a Comm-Link as well for convvenience. This is a cross-posting process we plan to continue for future Squadron 42 reports. Check that out here.

On Calling All Devs every week, designers, engineers, and other developers from our five offices around the world answer backer questions submitted on Spectrum and voted for by YOU. This week we talk about ship headlights, moving from planet to planet while offline, the docking functionality of the Merlin, and more!

On Tuesday, the Lore Team will publish another “Far From Home” piece, in which Old Jegger will be visiting an old homestead and reflecting on the reasons why he left. Check out previously published lore posts here.

Thursday will welcome another episode of Around the Verse where we’ll take a look at the latest Star Citizen news.

Tune in on Friday at at 9am PST for another episode of Reverse the Verse, broadcast live on our Star Citizen Twitch channel. This week, we’ll have Environment Art Director Ian Leyland on the show to answer questions following up the variety of CitizenCon presentations related to the “man-made” structures of Alpha 3.3.5, such as “Welcome to Lorville” and “The Mod Squad.” Post your questions on Spectrum and vote on the ones you want to see addressed most.

Ulf Kuerschner
Senior Community Manager


The Weekly Community Content Schedule


MONDAY, NOVEMBER 5TH, 2018
            Calling All Devs   (https://www.youtube.com/user/RobertsSpaceInd/)

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 6TH, 2018
            Weekly Lore Post   (https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/spectrum-dispatch)

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 7TH, 2018
            –   

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 8TH, 2018
            Around the Verse    (https://www.youtube.com/user/RobertsSpaceInd/)
            Vault Update   

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 9TH, 2018
            Reverse the Verse   (https://www.twitch.tv/starcitizen)
            Roadmap Update   
            RSI Newsletter   


Community MVP: November 5th, 2018


We are constantly amazed by the contributions made by the Star Citizen community. Whether it’s fan art, a cinematic, a YouTube guide, or even a 3D print of your favorite ship, we love it all! Every week, we select one piece of content submitted to the Community Hub and highlight it here. The highlighted content creator will be awarded with an MVP badge on Spectrum and be immortalized in our MVP section of the Hub.

Don’t forget to submit your content to our Community Hub for a chance at seeing it here!

Operation Hammerhead by Gwim


The Black Star Initiative is putting the Aegis Hammerhead to the test. What does the turret say?!

Enjoy the video on the Community Hub.

Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/citizens/16833-This-Week-In-Star-Citizen

Squadron 42 Monthly Report: September 2018

Squadron 42 Monthly Report: September 2018

This is a cross-post of the report that was recently sent out via the monthly Squadron 42 newsletter. We’re publishing this a second time as a Comm-Link to make it easier for the community to reference back to, and plan on following this process for future Squadron 42 Monthly Reports.

As the development of Squadron 42 thunders on, the brain trust at UEE Naval High Command has retooled their dispatches.

We aim to bring you the most significant and comprehensive project updates available. However, particularly sensitive details will remain under wraps to avoid unnecessary leaks to the civilian community.

Read on for a look into the work done on Squadron 42 during September and keep a weather eye open on this channel for future briefings.

CitizenCon 2948 saw the first look at the latest Squadron 42 trailer. If you missed it, or want to check it out again, you’ll find the full 4K version on the official Star Citizen YouTube channel.

Cinematics


The Cinematics Team split their time this month between creating content and advancing tech and tools. They had several meetings about where to fit PCAP to reworked props and where to change geometry to fit the specific shot performances; in particular, where to place the Idris and Bengal’s captain’s chairs.

They modified and completed several Trackview master sequences featuring newly-edited PCAP, including camera and lighting. The completed sequences essentially show a conversation or first-person cinematic and all of its branches in a linear fashion. The animators then use these to iterate on pose-matching, while the level designers use them as the blueprint for how the scene will play out once it’s scripted via AI logic.

On the tech side, they worked with tool engineers to improve the navspline for puppeteering ships. The spline now features better ghost vehicle rendering too, allowing its control points to be manipulated as editor objects. General work on the usability of the spline is continuing with numerous improvements. The team also revamped the ability to trigger weapon and turret fire on ships.

A collaboration with the tech teams featured example scenes that contain performances by real-life actors. As the actors were directing their performance to a specific point, the goal is now to guide the player towards that spot via UI. The first tests look promising.

Engineering


The Actor Team made a lot of small improvements to how first-person gameplay feels, such as speeding up weapon swapping, tweaking ADS aiming when moving, and adjusting weapon sway. They also revisited and fixed issues with the jump mechanic before undertaking a more detailed pass using the new time-warping tech to clean up the assets. Progress continues with the Usable Editor Tool, which enables the team to create and amend new usables directly in the editor and simplify the current process.

The new Walk and Talk prototype is making progress, with two characters now walking together while having a believable and dynamic conversation. The EU Gameplay Team has been supporting the cinematics group, fixing issues they’ve been having when creating cutscenes.

Facial animation


The team worked along-side Tech Animation to test the Vanduul facial rig. They also ran the first set of reviews for the new Facial Animation Quality Benchmark, with the goal of establishing a gold-standard for facial performance in a triple-A game.

Gameplay Story


September was a particularly exciting month as the Story Team implemented more scenes than ever before. The aim for Q3 began with around 10, but they managed to get 23 working in-game to a high standard. They also gave more thought to the lighting and positioning of scenes within levels, which has led to considerable improvements to their visual appearance.

Graphics


The Graphics Team worked on several new features as part of ongoing space-crafting improvements. This included adding shadows onto and from gas clouds (with a 75% memory saving), the addition of turbulence and interference when near dense regions of cloud, and a new GPU spline based lightning system. On top of this, they also improved reflections from water and added tessellation to the organic shader, which is mainly used for rocks and terrain.

Level Design


The team is operating at full capacity, with a heavy focus on scene implementation and usables. Making all the locations of the game feel realistic and believable (particularly the way the AI interact and move around on their various schedules) is always a top priority.

All chapters of the game have a single design owner and several support designers who can work on them simultaneously. The numerous feature teams all have S42 technical priorities on their backlogs and have a steady stream of technology and workflow improvements coming in on a weekly basis.

Props


The Props Team shifted priorities slightly this month to focus on getting their templates updated to work with the new usable systems, with the aim to make it easier to scale functionality out across the game.

Work has progressed on junk and scrap piles, with the whitebox assets getting a material pass. The original simpods have been brought up to scratch, staying true to the original concept but being reworked using the custom normal workflow. They were also converted to work with the most current shaders. Finally, the team has been going through the cinematic scenes and have started work on the props with performance capture associated with them.

Ship Art


The Ship Art Team paused for a couple weeks on Persistent Universe work to take care of some pilot-fitting issues on a prominent S42 campaign ship. They raised the pilot position up and refined the interior geo a bit more. Now that it’s done, they’re back in full swing on the 300i grey-box for the PU.

Tech Animation


The Motion Capture Team has been reconfiguring their whole rig to trigger capture on every platform over TCP/IP: reference, facial & body. This made it much easier to match and manage the resulting datasets and has improved workflow across the board.

They put it to the test on a recent shoot in Manchester and worked to implement much of the resulting animation. They have also been refining the pipelines in which they process the data sets from motion capture and bring them together as a whole in their animation DCC of choice, Maya.

Female animation received baseline processing, with retargeting of the core reference databases and basic animation done to make the refinement pass as easy as possible.

They also worked on multiple fixes for the usable system and supported the Combat AI Team with new weapon setups for left-handed combat.

Lastly, the team has been developing the facial rigging pipeline and skinning toolsets, with the Vanduul as the central focus of development.

UI


While UI predominantly provided support for new features in the PU, they also supported various environmental needs for Squadron 42, such as ambient displays in the background of scenes and locations.

VFX


This month, the team focused heavily on a variety of feature improvements, including significantly upgraded lightning effects. This doesn’t just refer to how it looks, but how it can be dynamically controlled and how it interacts with the player. This was all done in close collaboration with the Art and Design teams.

They also worked on various cinematics, as well as several in-game cutscenes. Some have been challenging to work on as they flesh out unique environments and situations that haven’t been seen before in a video game.

Weapons


The Weapon Art Team finished production on the Kastak Arms Sawtooth knife.

Covert Intel


Conclusion

WE’LL SEE YOU NEXT MONTH

Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/transmission/16792-Squadron-42-Monthly-Report-September-2018

Q&A: Anvil – Valkyrie

Q&A: Anvil Aerospace – Valkyrie

Following the launch of the Valkyrie from Anvil Aerospace, we took your community-voted questions to our designers to give you more information on the recently unveiled troop/personnel transport.

Special thanks to John Crewe and Todd Papy for answering these questions.

If the Valkyrie can´t hold cargo, how are the players supposed to transport small supplies (ammo, food…) and weapons (like mortars or anti-tank weapons, railguns or RPGs etc…) to the front lines?

The Valkyrie’s purpose is to carry troops and a vehicle down to a location, drop them off, and provide close support via its weaponry. It is very much a dropship/gunship rather than a resupply ship. While some dropships may simply drop off the team and jet, the Valkyrie is equipped to provide continued support for drop off and extraction. The troops onboard have a gunrack per seat alongside storage lockers for additional items if the crew are not using them. The combination of troops, FPS weapon racks, vehicle deployment, and the ability to provide close support, all makes the Valkyrie a strong candidate for when you need to get in and out planetside.

What can we expect for drop ship gameplay? Can you give examples of missions or jobs that this ship could perform without having 10+ friends in game.

While the ideal gameplay for this ship is dropping friends off into combat zones, naturally not everyone has that amount of friends available at all times to facilitate this being a common occurrence. Typical gameplay missions for solo or low player counts would be hiring NPCs for combat missions and transporting them to the location or retrieving groups of abandoned NPCs/players from their own missions which may have not gone to plan. At its core, this ship is designed for transporting people and a vehicle from A to B, so missions will revolve around that concept, varying the location, duration and danger of pickups and drop-offs.

What can the ship do when not carrying troops; will it always have rows of empty seats taking up space, or can those be repurposed to better fit a gunship role, or some other third thing?

The ship does not have any modular rooms that can be swapped out by the owner and there are no current plans to add that level of modularity to the ship.

Is there a storage space for weapons, like weapon racks?

Each of the 20 seats has a weapon rack for a single primary weapon up to size 4, for example an Arrowhead sniper rifle. These racks are alongside lockers on the back wall of the vehicle bay.

Does it fit in an Idris/Polaris/Javelin?

It does not fit in any of the above ships – it is too tall and too wide for the Idris to fit without breaking parts off. It is too long and wide to fit in the Javelin’s flight bay, and is too big in every axis for the Polaris.

How is a ‘vehicle pad’, which presumably has either tie downs or a mag-lock grid to keep the vehicle in place during flight ops, different from a ‘cargo grid’, which would use those same mechanics to safely store SCUs of supplies or trade goods. Not every dropship mission is about bringing bodies to the fight – sometimes it’s ammo, fuel, food, medicine, equipment etc etc.

From the very initial design, we wanted the area at the back to be purely for vehicles and not used for storing commercial cargo. Technically speaking, we do not require a cargo grid to store a vehicle for persistence reasons, instead we use the physics grid, so there is actually no technical requirement to have a cargo grid to secure vehicles. In-game, we always require the magnetic cargo grids to store commercial cargo securely in ships, and the Valkyrie does not have this functionality. We’re still finalizing the in-fiction reasons for the differences between securing cargo vs. vehicles.

Will the door gunner arms be moved further center of the door to allow for better range of motion?

We are reviewing the current positioning of them and seeing whether we want to move them further out. However, the restriction being that we still want to allow 2×2 exit of characters alongside the gun and as it is on an arm, the further out it is the more it blocks the exit. It was a conscious design decision to have the guns on that specific side to not allow them to have a full 180 degree arc, which the wing remote turrets cover instead. In addition, the door guns are the very first implementation of manned standalone turrets and we have plans for the future to make better use of blendspaces and IK to give a more natural pose and movement which will allow you to keep a line of sight down the gun regardless of the aim point.

Will the ground vehicle ‘hook’ allow for multiple smaller vehicles (like 3 Noxes or 2 dragonflies) or it is a one vehicle only slot?

Officially the vehicle capacity is 1 vehicle and when you are able to prespawn vehicles inside there will only be one slot to spawn from. However, given our future persistence plans and indeed how it works currently, if you choose to manually load more in after that point then these are saved inside the vehicle in the position they were left at.

Is the ladder to the upper Habitat open to the rover bay? What about planets without an atmosphere, or poisonous/corrosive atmospheres? Will we suffocate in bed?

The ladder hatch and the upper area is indeed open to the rover bay, meaning if you open the doors it will vent all the living quarters. This as an intentional design decision. The ship is designed for operations down to planets with breathable atmospheres with the crew compartment there to make the crew comfortable if they have to wait for troops to return. Obviously, if you are away and dropping into a dangerous atmosphere, you can suit up in advance to prevent injury.

Could this ship be used practically for boarding action in space?

While the ship is designed for dropping troops in breathable atmospheres, provided the troops are suitably equipped for EVA, there is no reason the Valkyrie couldn’t be used for boarding actions in space.

The commercial for the Anvil Valkyrie calls it a “multirole ship”. How is the Valkyrie understood to be multirole?

The Valkyrie is capable of dropping 20 troops plus a vehicle as well as providing a good level of weaponry for close air support to those troops. As mentioned in the trailer, it blurs the line between dropship and gunship.

Real life dropship concepts (Blackhawk/Huey) have very good visibility under the pilot’s feet so they can see where are they landing. The Valkyrie does not have any visibility for below ground. Will it be equipped with some kind of below camera or something to help land it efficiently?

There is actually a window beneath the pilot’s seat for visibility down under the ship. However, given constraints with our character’s movement versus how much you can move around in real life there are limits to how much you can see out of it. We know people are keen to have some kind of external camera that isn’t the third person view for our ships, and we are looking at ways of implementing that.

Will Valkyrie get a medical module for Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR)?

During concept, we looked at potential variants to the Valkyrie and the CSAR one was one of the most liked options. Ultimately, we chose to just create the one ship from the concept phase with no modularity available. In the future, if we choose to do anything, they will most likely be full on variants, but there are no plans to do this at this time.

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Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/engineering/16829-Q-A-Anvil-Valkyrie

Phantom Bounty: Part Two

Writer’s Note: Phantom Bounty: Part Two was published originally in Jump Point 3.2. Read Part One here.

Devana lifted through the sky, and the gleaming towers of Tevistal faded away beneath the cloudline. Exhilaration raced through Mila at the feel of the Freelancer moving through the air, her back pressed against the well-worn pilot’s seat, all of the heady power of the ship under her command.

This was the one place she always felt free and in control, as if she could be anyone and do anything. But open space was a double-edged knife, filled with the promise of both endless possibility and danger. And today it was danger she and Rhys were headed toward: their last chance to catch the Phantom. To catch the terrorist who called herself Elaine.

“Did I ever tell you I love watching your face when you fly?” Rhys smirked at her from the co-pilot’s seat.

Mila warmed at the look in his eyes and lifted a brow. “I think you love watching my face when I’m doing . . . lots of things.”

Rhys grinned at her, and Mila knew they were both recalling the quick fun they’d just had in the bunk while waiting for clearance. She wasn’t going to try to label this relationship as anything other than business . . . for now. But being business partners with benefits sure was nice for the built-in stress relief.

When they finished their ascent and hit the emptiness of space, Rhys brought up the system map on the HUD and set a course for Mila to follow. She altered their path to follow a trajectory that would take them to the orbital platform at the edge of the system.

“If that dock snitch told the truth,” Mila said, “the Phantom’s headed to the orbital platform to meet her contact. But what do we know about this Septa platform?”

Rhys brought up the system map and searched for available data. “Septa’s owned by a company called McGloclin, but it looks like they haven’t been active out there for a while. Not sure what we’ll find on the platform. Maybe company workers, probably vagrants. No Advocacy agents there or any law officers at all since the corporation is supposed to be in charge. There’s a pretty large debris field drifting a few klicks from the platform.”

“Great.”

“Here, give me that tag number so we can scan.”

Mila pushed up her sleeve, and Rhys held his mobiGlas up to hers to grab the tag data the WiDoW addict had given them. It transferred over, and he ported it into Devana’s system. “Activating the long-range scanner.”

They both tensed as the scanner completed its initial search.

No hits.

A twinge of disappointment hit Mila, but it didn’t do much to dampen her excitement. “Well, we’re still too far from the platform, if that’s where she is. I’m sure the scanner will pick up something . . . soon.”

She and Rhys rode in comfortable silence born of months of flying together, but as they approached the platform, Mila recalled how Rhys had acted back on Tevistal. How she had acted.

He’d been controlling and had tried to keep her out of harm’s way when he’d needed back-up. And she’d acted hotheaded, violating their agreement about her handling tech and him dealing with contacts.

And now, this was probably it — the end of this mission, whether they caught the Phantom or not. If Elaine escaped, they’d have to find a new bounty, and that would take time and more creds they didn’t have. They needed to keep clear heads if they had any chance of succeeding today.

“Hey,” she said softly. “We’ll play this by the book this time, yeah? I take care of tech. You haggle and get info. We work together once we get close.”

“Agreed.”

“Just one thing.” Mila swallowed and met his eyes from across the small space. “You have to allow me to do my job. If there’s danger, we handle things the way we always have. This . . . this thing we have can’t get in the way of that.”

Rhys’s jaw tensed, and he didn’t answer right away. “I just want to keep you safe.”

“We keep each other safe.”

Rhys shifted in his seat and looked out at the nothingness ahead of them. “I’ve lost people . . . people I cared about before.”

So have I. But Mila didn’t say it. “We can’t let anything get in the way of our judgment. The mission comes first.”

He gave her a stiff nod.

“Mission comes first.” Mila bit her lip. His agreement was the outcome she wanted in this conversation, wasn’t it? So why the hell did she feel so disappointed?

Because you’ve fallen hard for him, idiot. Her cheeks heated at the thought. Now was not the time to be thinking about this.

She kept her eyes straight ahead, afraid the look in them might give her real feelings away. “I’m glad we agree then.”

The scanner beeped, and Mila’s heart rate picked up as she looked over at what it had found.

They’d located the Phantom’s ship. Tentative ID: a Cutlass.

“She’s heading away from the platform,” Rhys said urgently. “We might lose her on the scanner with all the debris.”

“Map a new trajectory. Maybe we can cut her off before she reaches it.” Mila throttled up, her breath coming more quickly as she followed the new course.

In minutes, they came up on the tangle of floating junk. It loomed before them, hunks of twisted metal and dead ships in the distance, sprawled out in a mess that would be tough to navigate.

Just as they reached the edge of it, the Phantom’s ship winked out of existence on their scanner.

“Kak.” Rhys fiddled with the scanner, trying to manually find the ship. “We’re gonna have to go in there. That debris won’t be easy to fly through —”

“We’ll be fine.”

Mila searched ahead, seeking any sign of a ship where the Phantom had disappeared from their scanner.

“There. The only one moving!” Mila pointed to a glint of metal in the distance, weaving through the debris. “I’m taking us in.”

“Let me check where she might be headed.” Rhys zoomed in on his map.

Mila gritted her teeth and directed the Freelancer into the debris field, cutting around a half-destroyed freighter. “Do you think she knows we’re here?”

“I don’t think so. She hasn’t changed her speed.”

Mila edged Devana around a hunk of twisted metal, trying to keep the distant glimmer in view.

“We should get above this mess. It’s safer.”

“No,” Mila responded. “We risk being detected, and then we’ll lose her if she goes deeper into this floating pile of kak. We need to go in and flank her. Catch her by surprise.”

Mila sped up, darting around small pieces of junk. Sweat popped up on her forehead as she tried to watch the debris and keep an eye on the glint of the Phantom’s ship ahead of them.

They were flying straight for the center of the junk pile.

“Shutting down unnecessary systems to increase shielding,” Rhys said. “Elaine’s not gonna let us catch her without a fight.”

“I know.” Mila killed the main engines, relying on maneuvering thrusters. “Hold on.”

As Devana slipped through the detritus, it swayed from side to side, avoiding most of the scrap metal and decommissioned ships.

Rhys grunted and shook his head as small pipes and bolts bounced off their hull.

Mila’s pulse pounded, buzzing in her ears with the thrill of the chase. Then the distant ship suddenly made a hard right and disappeared between two massive cargo hulks.

“Did she make us?” Mila pushed Devana to the limit to catch up.

“Maybe. She could be waiting for us on the other side of that ship.”

Just before they reached the Hull-C where the Phantom had disappeared, Mila rotated the Freelancer to starboard and slowed.

The massive skeleton of the Hull-C blocked their line of sight. She couldn’t see the Phantom’s ship, but it could be hidden just on the other side.

She tapped the thrusters and coasted beneath the cargo ship.

Mila barely breathed as they reached the far side of the dead ship’s hull.

“I got her on the scanner. Hanging right above us,” Rhys said. “A Cutlass, all right. Weapons ready. She knows we’re here.”

As they emerged, Mila’s heart thumped wildly. She rotated the ship in a deft motion to face the Cutlass. Devana was momentarily bracketed between the Hull-C and another freighter — a terrible place to be in a gunfight.

The Cutlass took a shot but missed, instead damaging the Hull-C above them. It was a straight shot; had the Phantom just missed on purpose?

“I gotta get us out of here.” Mila dropped the ship lower, trying to escape the narrow choke point they’d found themselves in.

“Use the freighter for cover!”

The Phantom fired again, this time a steady fusillade that still missed Devana, striking the hulk they were slipping toward.

“Mila, wait!” Rhys yelled, just as the Cutlass’s barrage triggered an explosion in the Hull-C. It burst in a wave of shrapnel, generating a force that sent Devana flying sideways.

Mila gripped the controls tighter as the Freelancer slammed into the other cargo ship with a hard shudder. The shielding held, but barely. Alarms sounded in response to the shield loss, and Mila felt the balance of the ship shift beneath her.

“Maneuvering thruster?” Mila asked, struggling to regain balance.

“Dammit. Yes. We lost one.”

From above them, the Cutlass rained shots down on their weakened shield.

“Shields at quarter power,” Rhys reported.

Another explosion sparked near the second cargo ship, and a new wave of debris headed toward them. Mila watched in horror as a jagged metal panel flew straight at the nose of Devana.

Rhys squeezed the trigger. Half the panel shot off in the opposite direction, but the rest of it stayed on course.

It slammed straight into them, and Mila’s head snapped back against her seat. Alarms blared as the ship rotated wildly, and she gripped the stick firmly, trying to steady them. A thin crack spread across the cockpit, slowly widening, and the temperature instantly dropped.

“Kak.” She and Rhys both said it at the same time.

“Gotta patch the screen. Now.” Rhys moved, grabbing their helmets from the storage compartment, and took the controls as Mila latched hers on.

She took the controls back as he got his helmet on. Rhys stumbled out of his seat.

“Getting the repair foam.” He said, his voice crackling over the helmet comms. He hurried toward the cargo hold as Devana banked through a fractured Starfarer. When Mila came out of the turn, she spotted the Cutlass as it ducked behind a blackened hull that was too far gone to identify. Angling the thrusters, she turned tightly to follow.

Rhys stumbled back into the cockpit and applied the foam to the crack, temp-sealing it.

“This’ll hold until we get to a repair dock,” Rhys panted. “But not if we take another direct hit.”

Mila keyed up the guns, her breath coming quickly now and frosting up on the interior glass of her helmet, as the Phantom danced in and out of sight ahead.

“It could have been far worse.”

Rhys smirked at her tone and strapped back into his seat. “Fine. I’ll say it. You were right about that extra armor.”

“That always does have a nice ring to it.” With Rhys back on weapons, Mila narrowed the distance to the Cutlass.

“Take her out, Rhys.” Mila focused on keeping the Freelancer steady as Rhys targeted the Cutlass’s engines.

Devana’s twin Kronegs opened fire.

The Cutlass jerked sideways, off course, and a small, bright flash told them they’d gotten a hit. Mila darted a glance at the scan. It updated, showing the Cutlass’s left engine had been damaged.

“Targeting her jumpdrive,” Rhys said. As the Phantom regained control of her ship, Rhys fired off a series of rapid shots, targeting the armored drive.

The Cutlass lurched and then took off again, swinging from side to side, this time heading for a half-scrapped Orion nearby. It disappeared on the far side of the ship, and Mila adjusted course to go after it.

“Not giving her a chance to drop another mine,” Mila said.

“I think we got her,” Rhys replied quietly. “She’s not getting out of here.”

Mila suppressed a smile and tried to ignore the giddy feeling in her stomach. “Good shot. But we still have to catch her.”

The Freelancer’s lights illuminated the torn-apart ship the Phantom had disappeared behind. Tangles of pipes and dozens of storage levels were partially visible where armor had been ripped out. The ship was a veritable warren of half-enclosed corridors.

Mila slowed as their lights found the Cutlass. It was stopped dead near the front of the ship, hugging close to the hull. Mila searched along the hull as Rhys activated the comm and hailed the Cutlass.

No response.

He checked the scan again. “I think her systems are failing. Maybe life support. We got some good hits in.”

A white spacesuit floated out between the Cutlass’s far hatch and the freighter’s hull. The Phantom flailed as she hurtled into the freighter and disappeared.

Mila pulled the Freelancer closer to the Cutlass and looked at Rhys. “We have to go in after her.”

“She’s setting a trap.”

“She’s running. She has nowhere to go. We have her.”

“She could have called for help. What if reinforcements show up? What if she met someone back at the platform and commed them? This freighter’s a death trap.”

Mila edged the ship closer to where the Phantom had disappeared and unstrapped her harness. “I’m going in.”

Rhys grabbed her arm. “Don’t. She can’t stay in there forever. We can wait her out. This is what she wants.”

Desperation surged through Mila, mingling with her adrenaline high. She pulled her arm away and headed back to suit up.

Rhys followed her and watched as she pulled on her armored suit and strapped her pistol to her hip.

“She always manages to slip away,” Mila said. She slammed a fist against the locker, frustrated. Knowing the Phantom was so close. . . right next to them in that ship. It was making it hard to think straight. But Mila was sure of one thing. She was going in after her.

“We’re so close this time,” Mila continued, trying to keep her voice steady. “Too close to risk losing her, and you know this could be our only chance. I’m going in. You can come if you want to.”

Rhys wrapped a hand around Mila’s arm and turned her to face him. She reluctantly looked up at him.

“I should be the one to go in there after her,” he said gruffly. “You watch the ship. If she comes back out or anyone shows up, you can comm me.”

“No.”

Rhys narrowed his green eyes at her, clearly worried.

Mila took a labored breath. “We should go in together.”

“Mila, someone needs to stay with Devana, and you’re the better pilot. Let me try to chase her back out here. The mission comes first.”

Mila’s stomach clenched at the thought of Rhys going in alone, but he was right. Someone needed to stay. And the mission had to come first.

Rhys took her silence as agreement, quickly suiting up and holstering his Arclight.

She kept her spacesuit on — just in case she needed to go in after him. Her throat tightened as she returned to her seat and pulled the Freelancer closer to where the Phantom had disappeared.

Rhys came back up to the cockpit and squeezed her arm lightly. “Keep the commlink open. Stay on guard.”

Mila nodded and took a deep breath, trying to calm herself. This could go sideways so easily.

She depressurized the cargo hold and lowered the ramp for Rhys. He pushed off and drifted into the dark body of the freighter.

She very nearly commed him to tell him to come back, that they could wait until the Phantom gave up, but she hesitated. Her feelings for Rhys battled with her need to capture this terrorist. Her need won out. This was their last chance to capture the Phantom. Rhys would be fine. He was a great shot.

Several moments passed, and Mila forced herself to check the scanners again. No sign of any other moving ships.

A dull thud sounded from somewhere on the hull, and Mila’s heart rate sped up as she pulled her gun from her holster.

She glanced back at the cargo hold door in time to see the light flash. The alarm sounded — a warning that the door was being opened from the other side while the hold was still depressurized. Mila turned back to the console and scrambled to lock the door, but she failed. It was too late to raise the ramp, too late to repressurize the hold.

Mila got to her feet, her pistol tight in her grip, and trained it on the door to the cargo hold.

At that moment, Rhys’s voice came over the comm. “There are too many places to hide.” His voice rose. “Mila, close the ramp! I just found an empty spacesuit. It wasn’t her.”

“I know. She’s here, Rhys. I repeat, she’s on the ship.”

The door slid open, and Mila’s body lifted off the floor as the artificial gravity systems were deactivated. She reached out to grab her seatback with one hand, and her pistol arm swung wide.

The Phantom floated through the door, weightless, and took a shot. It tore through Mila’s suit, and she cried out.

A terrible burning pain ripped through Mila’s shoulder, and her oxygen began to vent. She shot back desperately, but the Phantom pushed off the ceiling toward the floor in a well-practiced zero-G evasive movement, and Mila’s shot missed, taking a hunk of wall panel out instead.

Adrenaline flooded her. They’d cornered the Phantom and now she’d fight to the death to take Devana. Mila wouldn’t let that happen.

She took another shot, but missed again as the Phantom pushed off the floor. She hurtled forward and slammed into Mila’s injured arm.

Mila gasped and caught a glimpse of herself in the dark reflective glass of Elaine’s helmet, at the bloodied torn shoulder of her suit.

Elaine slammed her pistol directly into Mila’s helmet, then knocked her gun from her grip.

Mila recovered, grappling with the Phantom, and managed to slam a fist into her arm, making her lose her grip on her own gun. Both pistols drifted away, floating toward the far wall.

Mila tried to push off the wall toward the pistols, but Elaine grabbed her in a tight chokehold.

“Almost there.” Rhys sounded panicked, and Mila didn’t have the breath to respond. “Hang on.”

She fought against Elaine, trying to throw her off, but the two of them just spun in weightless rotation, bouncing off the walls. Mila finally got her feet planted on one of them and pushed hard, slamming herself and Elaine back against a cockpit seatback.

Sweat dripped into Mila’s eyes as they struggled, and blackness crowded around the edges of her vision as the oxygen escaped her suit. The cargo hold was wide open, all their oxygen gone. Soon Mila’s suit would be just as empty.

Elaine kicked off the seat, propelling them both down the aisle, sending them flying toward the floating pistols.

Mila was still in a tight chokehold as she reached for the nearest pistol, but the gun spun out of reach. The Phantom punched Mila in the ribs, hard, and squeezed the bloody wound on her shoulder.

Mila nearly blacked out.

Without warning, the gravity came back on, slamming Mila and Elaine to the floor. The pistols clattered to the floor with them. Mila scrambled away from Elaine and closed her gloved fist around the nearest one. She flipped over on her back, pointing the gun up at the Phantom just as she was about to attack.

The Phantom froze and slowly lifted her hands, palms out, in a gesture of surrender. Mila’s pale, stricken countenance reflected back at her from Elaine’s dark glass visor.

Rhys ran through the door, pistol out.

“Cuff her. Throw her in the pod. I need oxygen,” Mila gasped. The pistol wavered in her grip as she fought to stay focused. She was suffocating.

Rhys slammed the Phantom into the wall, then dragged her into a restraint pod.

In moments, he was back, reestablishing oxygen levels from the cockpit. Then he lifted Mila’s helmet from her head, and the dark spots clouding her vision faded. She could breathe again.

She tried to smile up at Rhys, but the stabbing pain in her shoulder made it come out in a grimace. “We got her.”

Rhys took off his helmet and lightly touched her cheek, his brow furrowed with worry. “Yeah, we got her. But it looks like she got you.”

“I’m fine.”

“No, you’re not.” Rhys grabbed a medpen and plunged it into her arm. The healing agent took over, easing Mila’s pain.

Then Rhys leaned down and gently pressed his warm lips to hers. As they kissed, relief flooded her. She hadn’t allowed herself to admit how worried she’d been for him when he went into the freighter.

She lifted a hand to the rough stubble of his cheek, and Rhys laid his hand over hers. “You were right,” he said. “I think my professional judgment’s been compromised . . . by this. By us. I never should have agreed to that plan. We should’ve waited. But I saw that stubborn look on your face, and . . .”

Mila shook her head. “If you’re compromised, so am I.” She gave him another kiss. “We’ll figure this out. The important thing is that we both made it out okay. We completed the mission.”

Rhys finally cracked a smile and helped Mila to her feet. “We did it. Are you ready to unmask our Phantom?”

“I’ve never been more ready in my life.”

Rhys typed in the pod’s code, and the door slid open, revealing the Phantom cuffed to the interior bar.

This was the woman they’d hunted for months, the woman who had nearly killed them on more than one occasion. And they’d never even known what she really looked like.

Rhys raised a brow at Mila. “You want to do the honors, or should I?”

Mila lifted a brow in return, and he stepped out of her way. She winced as she used both hands to unlatch the Phantom’s helmet. She pulled it off with one swift movement and took a step back.

She and the Phantom met eye-to-eye for the first time.

And Mila’s heart nearly stopped. She lifted a shaking hand to her mouth, covering it.

Rhys gave her a confused look.

“Evony Salinas,” the Phantom said. “Who knew a Salinas would ever go into bounty hunting?”

Rhys’s eyes widened. “Who? What’s going on, Mila?”

The Phantom stared at Mila intently. “Going by your middle name now?”

“You know the Phantom?” Rhys’s voice was low, incredulous.

Mila dropped her hand from her mouth and finally found her voice. She backed up another step. “Her name is Casey Phan.”

“Phan? As in Phan Pharmaceuticals?”

Mila nodded. “The same. But . . . Casey Phan was murdered ten years ago.”

TO BE CONTINUED

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Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/serialized-fiction/16827-Phantom-Bounty-Part-Two

Jump Point Now Available!

Jump Point Now Available!

Attention development subscribers: the October 2018 issue of Jump Point is now available in your subscription area. You’ll learn about the development of the Drake Kraken, go in-depth with the team building Huston and Lorville, learn about Constellation Phoenix in a new Whitley’s Guide excerpt and more!

Interested in becoming a development subscriber? You can learn more here.

Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/transmission/16824-Jump-Point-Now-Available

Q&A: Drake Kraken

Q&A: Drake Kraken

Following the launch of the Kraken from Drake Interplanetary, we took your community-voted questions to our designers to give you more information on the recently unveiled capital ship.

Special thanks to John Crewe and Todd Papy for answering these questions.

Do the Kraken’s shields cover other ships parked on the deck?

The Kraken’s shields cover the hull of the ship and do not cover the ships or people that may be on the exposed landing pads. Ships contained inside the Hangars are covered by the shields. With the improvements to shield tech coming with Single Distance Field in the future, the projected bubble people currently see will be removed with a more hull wrapping projection of shield energy.

What are the Kraken’s refuel, restock, and repair abilities for docked ships?

The Kraken is, in many ways, a mobile base. This means it is able to refuel, restock and repair ships that have landed on it but these resources must be taken from the Kraken’s stores.

Can you quantum travel while ships are parked on the deck? What about with people on the deck?

Yes, you’ll be able to Quantum with ships parked on the deck. Quantum drives in our universe create a little bubble around the ship to move it and protects outward to cover those in very close proximity to the hull. Like other ships in our game, being outside your ship when in Quantum travel is an extremely dangerous scenario, so it’s not recommended due to the slightest misstep resulting in death or abandonment in deep space.

What are your plans for landing on the Kraken while it is in motion?

Like the Idris or other ships where you can land whilst they are in motion, we’ll provide automated landing solutions for those who do not wish to attempt a manual landing. This will provide a safe and secure landing at the expense of time, similar to our current automated landings at stations and rest stops.

Can you spawn ships from the Kraken?

When you spawn your Kraken, you will be able to spawn ships in/on it if you own them, but beyond that point no other ships can be spawned dynamically on-board. It is similar to how the Constellation will be able to have a ground vehicle within when spawned but is unable to spawn another ground vehicle in the hold, mid-flight. Players landing on the ship during game-play will have their ships permanently on the pad.

What happens to the landed/hangar-landed ships if the Kraken pilot logs off/is disconnected? And what will happen when the owners of the landed ships log off? Do their ships persist until the Kraken is despawned, or is the pad free for another one to land on?

The Kraken will follow the same rule-set as the persistent bed log off system we current have in game, if the owner of the Kraken logs off and there are no other players on-board, then it will be despawned. If there are still players on-board, then the Kraken and ships on-board will persist. If a player lands their ship on a Kraken, then proceeds to log off, their ship will persist with the Kraken until the point the Kraken is despawned or destroyed, at which point if the player then rejoins they will either have it respawn at the point the Kraken was or have to reclaim it in the event it was destroyed.

How does the Kraken’s armor compare to other ships in its size-class, like the Idris?

In true Drake fashion, the approach to construction prizes pragmatism and cost-effectiveness. Consequently, the Kraken is substantially less sturdy than the Idris and other dedicated military ships that are expected to face direct heavy or capital-scale firepower.

What is meant by “Towards the rear of the ship public accommodations can be found for visitors and associates?” Does the Kraken offer any special function or gameplay for public services like shops, bars, medical, or trading for those who are waiting for repair or just visiting?

There are onboard accommodation rooms to cover 1-2 players per landing pad. These are basic habs like you’d find at GrimHex and provide somewhere to rest, change, and sleep. There are no dedicated facilities like bars or trading areas on-board at this time.

With the Kraken being capital ship size will it have escape pods now unlike other Drake ships?

Drake sees no need to provide expensive escape pods when the Kraken can hold plenty of ships to facilitate escape in the “unlikely” event of an emergency.

How many ships can the Kraken hold and still quantum drive with?

The current design for Quantum Travel requires all the doors to be shut before the Quantum Drive can be initiated, with no requirements beyond that, such as checking for maximum ship amounts. The Kraken can therefore quantum travel with a full complement of ships, although as mentioned earlier, being on deck is a risky proposition.

Can the Kraken equip military grade items or only civilian/industrial?

The Kraken can only equip Civilian and Industrial items and comes with Civilian Grade C items by default.

The Kraken brochure talks about configuring the rear hangars to fit our needs. Does this mean that the Kraken might have some modular capabilities to outfit those hangars to suit other functions like extended medical/S&R or salvage processing?

Drake always look to maximize the use of their spaceships, and whilst these rear cargo holds are ostensibly for cargo, there is a significant amount of real estate that could be re-purposed in the future for alternative uses.

How will this ship defend against armed boarding parties or other guests who refuse to leave?

The internal layout of the ship provides quite a few choke-points from the landing pads, allowing a somewhat organized defense against boarding. There are no inbuilt mechanics within the ship to deal with guests who refuse to leave. That will be down to the owners persuasion techniques.

Can we transfer cargo between docked/landed ships? If not, can cargo be transferred between docked/landed ships and the Kraken?

Every external landing pad has access to the internal tram route via a loading hatch located within the airlock antechamber. The internal tram is primarily designed to carry cargo between the pads and the main cargo hold of the ship to facilitate cargo moving between ships and the Kraken itself.

The Kraken shows some concept of it landed in a desert, as well as parked at Lorville . How can we expect it to fare in atmospheric flight. Does it have VTOL?

As with all ships of this size, the atmospheric flight performance can be characterized as poor at best, but the Kraken does have multiple VTOL thrusters to allow it to take off and land in atmosphere. There are two located under the front “ears” that pivot to face 90 degrees down and more are built into the underside of the rear hull in a permanent down-facing layout.

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Source: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/engineering/16813-Q-A-Drake-Kraken