Star Citizen: Around the Verse – Ship Pipeline Pt. 1: Concept to Greybox

Star Citizen: Around the Verse – Ship Pipeline Pt. 1: Concept to Greybox

Closed Captioning provided by Sandi Gardiner (SG): Hello and welcome to
Around the Verse, our behind the scenes look into the development of Star Citizen. Our special guest host today is CG Supervisor,
Forrest Stephan. Welcome back to the show Forrest. Forrest Stephan (FS): Thank you for having
me, it’s absolutely great to be back. SG: It’s great to have you back and the
big news this week is of course the Alpha 2.6.1 patch being released to the Evocati
along with a host of bug and crash fixes. The patch includes nice improvements and continued
tweaks of weapons and flight systems. FS: Yeah that’s absolutely fantastic. It also has the single player Mega Map which
makes hopping around between levels a heck of alot easier as well as multiple regional
servers which know people have been waiting for, can’t wait to get this in the hands
of the players. SG: Yeah we had Will, and Adam, and Dave,
they were playing around with it today having a blast. FS: Having a blast, totally. SG: Before we get to the show is there anything
interesting that you’ve been working on lately? FS: Always interesting things. So I’ve been helping develop the look and
the tech with art direction and cinematic design for the holograms for capital ships. You know the bridge holo globes in the briefing
rooms. With all this AR stuff happening, it’s great
to actually see some hologram stuff in our game and actually develop some custom tech
for it so it’s pretty exciting. SG: Very cool and is that for Squadron 42? FS: That is for Squadron 42. SG: Alright. FS: It’ll eventually show up in the PU,
but the focus right now is to establish a consistent look, interface, design, a way
to communicate the briefings to the player for the Squadron 42 campaign. SG: I also heard that you were working on
some dead body tech. FS: A big part of the build up for 3.0, corpses
are part of the set dressing. You know in the wrecks, the abandoned ships
and we wanted a way to use our loadouts, our current characters instead of placing these
temporary props so we developed a system to use a physics based approach to having designers
place these dead bodies everywhere. SG: I Don’t know why I find that exciting. I don’t know what that says about me, we
can move on from there. FS: Actually if we can show a video maybe
you’ll see how fun it actually is. So it shows how our system is able to generate
impulses to get some fun poses. We can create a nearly infinite amount of
variety of natural poses because it’s all physics driven and it all kind of depends
on the simulation. SG: That’s very cool, and that will be a
great tool for our artist. Now let’s go to Jake Ross for what the Austin
studio has been up to. [3:18] Studio Update Jake Ross (JR): Howdy folks, Jake Ross here,
Producer of CIG Austin with a look at what’s going on here this month here in the Austin
studio. Lead Designer Rob Reiniger has completed his
game design document for the shopping kiosk feature and we’re now discussing timeline
for implementation with UI team and the Game Code team, We’re very excited to have this
feature ready to implement. We’re excited to wrap this up because it
means pretty soon we’ll be able to use this interface for, not just shopping but things
like items and clothing, weapons, and ship parts in the game, but also for performing
landing pad services such as repairing and refueling your ship, loading and unloading
cargo, and that kind of thing. This is a huge step in the right direction
that will allow us to bring much of the shopping experience on our website to the in-game universe. On the animation front, the PU Animation team
has been trucking along nicely on the implementing and polishing the “usable” animations
that will be used in both Squadron 42 and the PU. Currently we’re polishing up these “table
leans” that we’re using for things like leaning on the table in the mess hall for
aboard the Idris in Squadron 42. We’ve also been getting female versions
of the already existing male animations like “work zones” and “wall leans” in the
game as well. The Ship Animation team has been wrapping
up polish tasks for combat speed “enters” and “exits” into the cockpits. We’re hoping to wrap all of these up by
the end of the month at which point we’ll be moving on to implementing new cockpit start
up sequences for the different cockpit types. Which is cool. We’re still determining who our code resource
will be … that we’ll be partnering with on that feature but once that is done we’ll
be ready to hit the ground running implementing awesome new interactive system for starting
up your ship before take off. On the art side of things, ship artists Chris
Smith and Josh Coons have been making good progress on the new and improved Super Hornet
and the Drake Cutlass Black respectively. The updates that Chris is doing on the Super
Hornet are to bring the ship in line with our current quality standards that we have
now. And these are almost complete and we’re
looking forward to getting these out to y’all in … 2 … release 2.6.1. Over in DevOps land we’re working hard to
start supporting multi-region server deployment. We’re very excited about this feature and
we’re hoping in the not too distant future we’ll be able to deploy servers in more
regions than we have previously to help improve latency among other things. We’re hoping to use data centers around
the world to spin up more game servers in regions like North America, Europe, and Australia. So, yeah, that’s all I have for you this
week guys. Thanks. See you around. [5.38] Back in the Studio SG: Thanks for that Jake. The Cutlass Black rework is really shaping
up. It’s actually one of my favourite ships. FS: Is it? SG: It is. FS: I absolutely love when we go back and
do these ship updates. It’s such a great way to see how far our
ship pipeline has come. Right? SG: Not only is the tech constantly improving
but our artists keep getting better with every ship they make. FS: It’s incredible. SG: Speaking of the ship pipeline, this week’s
Feature Focus reveals the extensive process ever ship goes through. FS: Oh, it’s incredible: you have artists,
you have designers, you have directors, animators, programmers, and so many more people all involved
from all the studios and have their hand in creating these ships from the concept to be
flight ready for us to play with. SG: Let’s take a look. [6:18] Ship Pipeline Part 1: Concept to Greybox Luke Davis [LD]: Hi, my name is Luke Davis. I am the producer here at Foundry 42. I look after the ship environment and U.K.
tech design departments. Here at CIG the ship pipeline has seen a remarkable
evolution. Before I got here at Foundry 42 we were still
outsourcing ship assets to various companies to help finish the artwork that we didn’t
have the capacity to do in house at the time, and it proved that we had … there were very
various issues that came along with outsourcing our assets. One of the biggest issues was the, the communication
breakdown between the various departments, so whereas now we have the absolute luxury
of being able to have various departments and disciplines within the same studio. Specifically the art director, the art team
and the tech design team are all in the same building whereas previously what we had was
a tech design department in Los Angeles, we had an art team here in the U.K. and we used
to outsource ships for concept and the 3D assets to another company. What we now have now is an official design
document that our tech design team both in L.A. and in the U.K. sign off on and sort
of go write this how many thrusters it should have, this is the exact animation template
it has to use, this is what weapons it should be using and sort of give an idea on what
roughly what the ship needs. It’s minimum requirements not to define the
shape or you know how it should work. It’s just what should be in it. Jim Martin [JM]: One thing I really like about
the process here at … at Star Citizen is that they kick you off with … with a 3D
kind of cheat sheet of volumes saying we need engine size to be roughly this particular
cube, we need a gun to be this size. They, they want to make sure that as you start
thinking about it, you’re kind of aware of what the, what the different shapes and what
the different proportions are. And that really helps me out, because when
I start a design after I’ve looked at reference and the past ships and thought about myself
on course design-wise I’m going to go in and begin with a sketch pass. And that’s my thinking pass. You know when I have a pencil in my hand and
I have paper in front of me and I’m just noodling and drawing that’s when I’m really getting
my head around what I want the design to be or how it should balance or, or what the proportions
could be. And so in my first physical pass with the
Buccaneer I did a kind of big cheat sheet that was basically kind of pared down to the
most simple components: engines, cockpit, guns, wings. You know let’s move stuff around and let’s
kind of see if we can get a feel for it. LD: So one of the challenges of the ship being
in the concept phase is not just to make a pretty ship, it’s to make sure that it works
for what we want in the game. So you know you’ll, you’ll take what design
wants, what Chris originally envisioned for the ship, and try and turn it into some sort
of image. Elwin Bachiller [EB]: What tends to happen
when we get a concept into production is we’re handed a series of images that have been finalized,
final paint overs and just beautiful illustrations. In addition to that we also tend to get a
concept model which is what the artist use to paint over and do his final renders. To actually make that usable we tend to have
to rebuild that model. We can’t just … I mean we can technically
take that and put it directly into the game, but it would be very expensive, because the
cost of models tend to not worry about poly count anything like that, and also it wouldn’t
conform with some of the technology we are using. So, we essentially have to just rebuild that
model, but in most cases we aren’t just rebuilding the model we’re also making some changes along
the way, especially as we discover changes that we have to make due to the white box
phase. JM: As the concept guy you’re, you’re used
to getting the ball rolling, but then once the ball is rolling you want that collaboration
with, with the physical design team that’s going to be doing the, the actual 3D of the
ship. You know and you want … because they keep
you honest and then you also keep them honest and you know they’ll … they may kick an
idea to you and go, “Well, you know, the engines are a little too close we need to
balance, balance”, then you’ll say, “Well I can do this”, so it’s sort of a really
great back and forth that I think is really important to the process. LD: One of the biggest issues that we have
in concept is the actual metrics because you have Chris on one side wanting the ship to
look a particular way as does the art director, the art director is constantly adjusting based
on the feedback Chris provides and the biggest difficulty is trying to keep the gameplay
metrics that we need to work in the game such as the animation template. So animation have four current ships it provides…
for each ship we have there’s a template attached to it and we have to make sure now
not to make anymore templates except when it’s absolutely needed and if we can use
an existing one that works. So we go, “Right you know what, we would
like same entry animation as we did on the Gladius, now try to use that entry animation
on that new ship. How would it work? What are the challenges that come with it?”
and it’s just to make sure everyone’s involved in communicating with everything
what their new risks and issues are as part of that pipeline. EB: So what we tend to do is we’ll get the
concept model if we have one and we will essentially build a rudimentary version of the ship. It doesn’t have anywhere near the detail
that the final model is going to have, but it serves as a representation for us to start
playing around with gameplay elements. So once we have this rudimentary model, we
can throw that into the game super fast and working with the tech design team we can start
actually adding weapons to it, we can start actually adding a rudimentary cockpit and
have positions for the animations to work properly. So we can actually go into the game, walk
up to this very blocky looking ship, press a button and then climb into it and start
flying the ship really early on within the first week and a half to two weeks of production
and this is what we call the white box phase. MS: For the design side of that, that’s
mainly just setting up some basic helpers and hardpoints. Get some thrusters on there, make sure it
flights, make sure it putters around and that’s also when we do a lot of the initial placement
for thrusters. So we need to make sure they’re distributed
evenly across the ship, they’ll be balanced, that’s going to handle right and get the
kind of performance that we want it to. LD: So once the disciplines have had a look
at it, and that’s the main part of the whitebox is that people look at it and go, “Right,
I’m ready now, I’m ready for when the ship goes into production so it is further
down the production”, the UI team have a look at it and gone, “Okay, they’ve done
the metrics right, the screen layout is completely correct, we don’t need anything new, we
are good to go”. The VFX department go, “Right, you know
what, the thrusters are in the right place, and the removeable thrusters are correct,
they know what type of ship items it’s using, we’re good to go as well”. Then that’s the main bit of the white box
phase. MS: Then it’s handed back to our ship artists
and they just build it out and make it look fantastic during the greybox stage. EB: On the Greybox phase, that’s where the
artists tend to do a lot of heavy lifting on the geometry so we’ll actually start
building very close to final geometry. We’ll start adding bevels, or as max usually
calls, “chamfers” all over the ship into order to use custom normals on our ships which
make it look as though its higher geometry than it actually is. Custom normals is a technique that we use,
essentially we call it custom normals, but the geometry that we have, each vertices on
the surface has a direction which determines how the light bounces off the surface. So typically there’s a technique called
subdivision modeling where you’ll take a surface and an edge and you will sort of reinforce
that edge by adding multiple loops to either side of where you want the light to bend and
that will give you a sort of nice flat surface on one side, and then a crisp little bend,
and then a flat surface on the other side so it looks really smooth. We really can’t afford to add that much
geometry because it makes everything a lot more expensive to do it with that technique
so what we do is we’ll take the vertices and instead of reinforcing the edges, we’ll
add a single chamfer, and we will then tell the vert to have the tangent pointing it exactly
where we want them to go and it will give us the illusion of having a reinforced edge
without having a reinforced edge. So it gives us a much cheaper asset in terms
of geometry, but the quality is just as good and it ends up making the ship look really
cool, but that’s essentially what we do in the greybox phase is build as close to
final geometry as we can using only two tones to break up the surface. So we’ll have a light grey and a dark grey
or maybe a high spec value, a low spec value, just to get a basic breakup of the colours
and how we’re going to break it up on the exterior walls. We’ll also do more finalized animations
in this stage. So we’ll go ahead and build full landing
gear and actually do the folding up and closing to make sure everything closes perfectly and
looks beautiful. And we’ll do this for landing gears, we’ll
do this for ladders, we’ll do this for the cockpit canopies: anything that moves on the
ship is something that we end up animating within the greybox phase mostly because we
can’t build the final geometry without knowing how it’s going to move. So it’s really important for us to work
on animation and building simultaneously. LD: Because when you go into greybox you start
needing to … Tech Design get much more involved. They have a working ship, or … in whitebox
form, and their job is then to go and make it flyable in the engine. And of course it’s only going to be a flyable
whitebox, but it’s flyable nevertheless. And it’s trying to make it work for all
the other disciplines. The goal is at the end of the Tech Design
greybox phase, is that other disciplines have something to work with. MS: Once I get it back from there it starts
getting into more of the nuanced set up. So really getting final thruster items hooked
up and not just placeholder items. Making sure all the guns are seated properly. Making sure everything is functioning – giving
the player the right line of sight. Making sure they have the right speed or convergence
angle. Just all that real core tuning that starts
to really build a ship out and give it its character. EB: So we try to produce a ship thinking about
the kind of experience and feeling that the player is meant to have. And you can really see this exposed in a lot
of our bigger ships that have large interior environments. So some ships are meant to feel very sleek
and clean, luxurious – so you’ll have a lot of clean walls, a lot of brightly lit
areas. And some ships are meant to feel really claustrophobic
and unsafe. The Caterpillar is a great example of that:
it’s dark, it’s dank; there are a lot of sharp edges sticking out. So we can also communicate that character
with our animations. So one really good example of that would be
the way … something as simple as the way a door opens. If you have a very smooth, quick movement
on the door it gives you the sense that everything’s working properly; there’s no mechanical
problems with it. Whereas opposed if you have a door that jerks
a little bit and looks like it’s scraping across the side as it moves out you get a
sense that the ship’s a little bit more dilapidated. That kind of thing. So when we build ships here we try to build
our proxy animations to have some of that feeling in them. So if a landing … if it’s a ship that’s
not meant to be perfectly smooth and perfectly refined – the Buccaneer’s a great example
of this as well – we would like the landing gear to deploy and feel like it’s dropping
before it gets caught because it’s not a perfectly smooth transition. So that’s … those are just a few of the
ways that we try to add character and personality to the ships. MS: One of the things that we’ve done really
well with building out the Buccaneer is … even before the first whitebox was checked in Elwin
had been planning out a new … just a new way of laying out some of the files or … updating
our current method of laying out the file inside 3D Studio Max that has really sped
up the process on doing hand-offs between art and design where an issue can be called
out. “Okay, cool”. The feedback goes back and forth. And I can still work, set everything up, without
ever having to worry about their work overwriting mine or mine overwriting theirs. So it just removes a lot of roadblocks and
that way it lets us – even with any uncertainty – it lets us be agile enough to jump onto
the Buccaneer or the Cutlass or whatever other ship or task is coming up when the time comes
for it. LD: The Drake Buccaneer is now considered
greybox complete in the production pipeline. There’s still many steps remaining before
it can be considered flight ready and we’ll be back later when it is. 20:30 Outro SG: A lot of really great info in there and
it’s fun to see how everything comes together. FS: Yeah it really is. And of course us developers can only do so
much, we rely a lot on the feedback that you, the backers, provide to us. All of your testing is vital to the project
so keep playing, contributing through the Issue Council and the forums. SG: And Star Citizen would not be what it
is without your support. FS: And the support of our Subscribers. SG: That is very correct. And it’s thanks to them that we’re able
to share the in-depth, behind-the-scenes shows we bring to you weekly. Thank you all so very much. FS: And that’s our show for the week. SG: That’s our show. Who knew? Make sure to tune in tomorrow 12pm Pacific
for the latest Happy Hour stream to what some live gameplay and discussion with Lead Writer
Dave Haddock. FS: Oh, awesome. And until then … Both: We’ll see you around the ‘verse.


  1. Post
    Joshua Rau

    Thanks for Jake Ross' segment. It was full of good meaty information and I actually watched it 3-4 times to digest everything in there. Keep this segment coming! Something that jumped out to me is when the speaker was talking about something, the video often cut to a scene demonstrating what they're talking about. Keep this "show us" style up.

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    To the complainers, have a look in the background when they are looking at the bucaneer. That's deymar and therefore that shot was done in a 3.0 build.

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    Daniel Fajardo

    where is 3.0??? where is item 2.0??? what progress has been done. The ship pipe lie was explained before, even one mvp once was for guy who made that video. Quit stalling, stop making mediocre shows, answer the people who supported you. I hope you lost a ton of subscribers for this kind of bullsit.

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    LT Dan Official

    Falling Corpses!!! Great ATV, probably one of the best yet. You did a great job breaking down the ship pipeline process and showed some really cool footage along the way (not just watching people talk). Keep up the great work CIG! o7 – LT DAN

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    On se dit quoi !

    I don't care about new ships… I understand your financial plan with ships selling but 3.0 really needs to get there to finally play something… :/

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    Josh Brown

    I have a Gtx 1070 8 gb Ram, a 4 core amd fx zambezi 3.8 ghz cpu. Can't get more then 15 or lower fps. I am using the right nvidia settings, user configs, and cpu and Internet booster. HELP

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    Timothy Pryor

    I have a ship design. I would love to be able to download one of these ship documents and see what they are like and how I could make my ship fit that example.

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    Hybrid Synapse

    They are DESIGNING the holograms. JUST NOW….they are DESIGNING THEM. Alright, guys Imma mark my calendar for a year from now and check back later. Have fun with the bugs.

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    Paul Barlow

    Another great episode and great to see my Buccaneer is looking great—I can't wait to finally have that and the Dragonfly to complete my Drake lineup.
    I also woke this morning to my 2.6.1 PTU invite (sub), but had to work. I play in Hong Kong so I'm hoping the Australian server will be good.

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    Amazing I love Elwin he makes everything so easy to understand while still being quite technical about how everything works and interacts with each other. I'm glad CIG found him and reconigzed his talent during TNGS it honestly makes me want them to do another season.

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    The design tools/guidelines must make it tremendously freeing as an artist to know you haven't "wandered" while doing your thing.

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    Cujoman 187

    Awesome video this week! Keep up the good work! The Bucaneer looks pretty sweet! I can't wait to try mine out! The Cutlass Black is going to be so sweet! Thanks Josh for taking it under your wing and making it what it should have been to begin with! Your the reason I bought mine back! But I'm mainly looking forward to 3.0 and my Carrack though.

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    Dead Locke

    "This is the best gun ever! You should really buy it. There is no better weapon than this one. You won't regret this purchase! Blah blah blah blah blabiddy blah!" Oh, innocent description box, if only it were that easy.

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    [Question] Does CIG have a plan for people like me who will lose jobs because reality is "Boo" compared to Star Citizen? If I and my empire take over the verse, can i then do SC as a full time job? 🙂

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    Jay Cee One-Three-Six

    maybe its just me but moving the big gun to the top of the ship ruins it aesthetic and presentation to me. not even mentioning objective critiques like aerodynamics for in atmo use.

    like i get that youre trying to cut corners by making animations for other ships function with this one and save time but it just looks bad.

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    The further the game development progresses, the further away they push the goal and release date. What's wrong with finishing off what they have now THEN release updates and upgrades?Mind you, Sandi's cleavage gets deeper as time goes, so I'm keen to keep watching! 😀

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    Atrax R

    Great stuff guys! Love seeing how everything comes together. It's way more work than most people think.
    I really like that song at the end, before credits start rolling. Can we download that anywhere? Can't wait till I get my soundtrack. :3

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    whoever's idea it was to keep the background music playing over their talking is just daft. Come on, this sounds like something is running in the background that we forgot to turn off.

    You guys need a director.

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    So glad to see the progress happening on the Bucc. Not too thrilled about the top placement of the size 4 mount though… Makes it look like it's trying to copy the Hornet.

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    Carl Gatzby

    just wanna ask, how many servers will there be in star citizen? noobie here. And how many players are to play in a single server?

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    One of the best episodes so far! As a game artist student and recently exploring face-weighted normals, this was cool to hear that I'm learning things you guys use 😀

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    Jamie Shows

    I have a 4670k, 24gb of 2133mhz ddr3 ram, GTX 1070, and a 240gb ssd. Will I be able to play this game on ultra? Also, when is this game going to be released fully?

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    nothing to see here

    the level of abstraction in this game is extremely low, which resists the irony inherent in cohesive online communities.
    also will there be sex?/1/1/?

    the lower the abstraction level of a game, the more games will need to have more adult and tangible qualities to them in order to maintain even the most basic level of immersion and engagement.

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    The TEST Sqaurdon subliminal advertising worked a treat. Big thanks to CIG for allowing Montoya to brainwash the Star Citizen community into accepting that TEST Squadron is the BEST Squardon.

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    Truth Matters

    this game only works for the developers i gave them my 60 dollars i've only been able to play this game about 3x save your money its not worth it right now Waaay to many bugs honestly they need to take it down until they fix this thing then i'm sure the game will be great as of now it's very bad..

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    I can't pay attention to this video because the whole time I'm wondering what Sandi G's tattoo looks like. Put it on the verse Sandi!

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    Rosa Rodriguez

    bro why is all these geeks teeth yellow .. didnt you brush your teeth before gaming in yhe morning yup !! just like my cousin

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    I got a few questions.  1. will the players be able to put Corporate or syndicate patches on their armor (personal).  2. will the players be able to re-skin their ships, and 3. will the players be able to put their own corporate or syndicate logo's on their ships?

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    I feel like if the government gave CIG a contract to design a real spaceship they could actually pull it off by now.

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    Kurt Lurch

    I am disappointed in the direction you have taken the Bucc. Originally it was suppose to be a Boom and zoom fighter with light armor and heavy weapons but now its worse then the basic hornet as far as armaments. What use to be the main selling point of this ship was the heavy 360' turret and fast engines but now you have just ruined it… Thank you for not following the concept on this ship.

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    so the belly turret on the Bucc has been moved to the top of the sip now to avoid the landing gear.interesting…i wonder if it will function as well as a turret from up there. the big turret it has was one of the features i really liked about it. if thats still a S4 hardpoint and the ship is decently maneuverable, id like to put two fixed twinlink S3 guns there. though i will say i liked the aesthetic of a larger belly mounted turret. more akin to a Mustang rather than a Hornet or Gladiator in that sense. looked cool and more like it meant to be there. but i understand if there were complications with the geometry of the front landing gear.

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    Sounds like a really nice gun ..

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