Upwell Hangars Evolved
Station dwelling capsuleers,
On behalf of Scotty the Docking Manager, we’re here to give you a behind the scenes look at our recently updated Upwell Hangars that came with the Uprising Expansion in November. Over the years, New Eden has become more visually vibrant and offered players an increasingly visceral experience. The most recent update brings even more immersion and interactivity with the brand new Upwell Hangars. This all comes as part of the EVE Evolved initiative, which continues the ongoing investment in building stronger foundations to support EVE’s future.
Evolving A Hangar
As part of a renovation project to upgrade New Eden’s iconic trade hub, the Jita Hangar saw glorious updates in 2021. A new station environment was also created for the new player tutorial while the NPE (new player experience) was being updated, welcoming new players even more warmly to New Eden. Both hangar updates were one-off creations, but they demonstrated a world of possibility when it comes to improving the player experience of being docked. What would it feel like if players had more possibilities for interactions with their ship – not just the one they’re piloting but also those parked in the same station?
During Fanfest 2022, we demonstrated a small platform in the Upwell hangar as an early work in progress, representing the goal to create a much more immersive hangar environment for players.
The road from demo to functional product was a long one, and required constant iteration along the way. However looking at the before and after pictures of the experience, it was more than worth it.
Just to show how far it’s come, here is a fun look at one of the earliest iterations compared to where it stands now:
In Uprising, ships animate more gracefully towards their docks, and the docking platform is also more reactive. As your ship arrives onto the small platform, the docking arm animates up and forward while the ship boosters come alive, and the ship animations change between states. In addition to that, you will also notice little things such as gas emitting from ships and lights changing color, while holographic extensions of the docking platform change state and a sign welcomes capsuleers to the station. Together, these features create a more vibrant and dynamic universe by bringing ships and stations to life.
An important consideration was to ensure that your ship is the focal point. Therefore, docking state holograms are brighter during the docking sequence animation, after which they begin to settle down to ensure that your ship stands out in comparison to the rest of the environment.
The docking animation sequence adapts to the ship that is placed in the dock, with small variations and animation behavior adjusted based on ship size. For example, you will see less roll on a larger ship to the point where ships above battlecruiser size have their roll animations cut off completely. After all, those ships are not quite as nimble as their small friends, and this gives them the feeling of scale that they deserve. The animation below, while sped up, gives a good indication of ship scaling:
As part of this work, undocking timers for EVE were also standardized, as Upwell structures had previously performed differently from other stations and didn’t have an undocking animation. Docking animations have now been implemented for Upwell structures, giving you a chance to cancel an instant undock while also offering a more appealing and immersive experience.
In addition, there are now fun new ways for you to interact with your ship in the hangar. Different animations will occur based on when you cancel the undocking sequence, and who knows, there might even be some Easter eggs coming!
To achieve this generational leap in hangar fidelity, a considerable amount of time was spent ensuring that the new hangars perform as well as currently possible and implemented tech such as:
Screen Space Ambient Occlusion
Commonly referred to as SSAO in games, this creates shadows in concave areas of geometry on screen which helps to create a more realistic-feeling game world for players.
Due to the fact that new hangars would be assembled from modular components, SSAO was as crucial as a nice space rug to tie the room together.
Depth of Field Blur (DOF)
"Depth of Field Blur" has been implemented in the new hangars as this helps to emphasize scale. This is utilized to a minimal extent in the initial implementation, and adds to the overall cinematic feel of the hangars.
This feature will really start to shine in the upcoming December release, which will bring you the option to turn DOF on with a shiny new toggle in the graphics settings. In December, DOF strength will change dynamically based on the distance of the camera drone from your ship, which offers a great opportunity for those who like to create screenshots and desktop backgrounds from their favorite ships! Below is a work in progress video showing the dynamic blur by distance:
Another new feature for Upwell hangars is lit particles, which brings the ability to specify particle systems to be affected by the lighting in the environment, such as the clouds around the docks. This is particularly noticeable during docking and undocking, when ships’ boosters light up the surrounding clouds.
The new layout system empowers artists to design assets with a top-down approach, allowing for a procedural way of generating assets. It will also make reworking or adding assets to hangars in future a much easier process, without having to rebuild the entire hangar model.
The new Upwell Hangars bring two new cameras into EVE, as it was essential to have a new camera approach for your docked ship to give an added sense of scale. Although the classic fade-to-black solution is easy to implement, it reduces immersion and engagement, and was therefore not used. This presents definite challenges, as no black screen means not being able to lean on tricks of the trade and doing things off camera. It was therefore time to get creative with the scene transition. This section explores each problem and solution:
No longer relying on the ability to load and place assets during a screen fade, an alternative was required to create a smoother transition in ship spawning and removing scenes. When you unpack or board a ship that is currently not present in the hangar, the ship will materialize in an empty dock on screen if one is available. If the selected dock is off screen, however, a little trick happens where your old ship will be replaced by the newly-boarded one and the docking animation restarts. This makes it feel like the ship was recalled into the hangar at your command. Likewise, when you remove a ship from the scene either by trashing or repackaging it, there is a nice dematerialization effect for that.
Boarding A New Ship
Transitioning to a new camera position in a procedurally generated space requires an equally complex camera system. As the dock positions can vary in both position and rotation, the system had to be able to transition from point A to B smoothly and without clipping through geometry. Meanwhile, player agency is paramount, and therefore the camera starting position was an important consideration, as it will vary based on player camera rotations.
To solve this, a three-phase camera system was implemented. In phase one, it takes the player’s camera location and flies through the hallway. This camera path can vary based on ship size and client performance, so it took a lot of fine-tuning to balance.
When the camera reaches its destination or runs out of time, phase two begins with the camera being quickly moved from the travel position into player control, so that you can start your ever important ship-spinning as soon as possible.
After this quick transition, phase three starts with platform camera controls where two new and exciting features have been implemented.
Platform Camera Collision
With this new feature, you will now be able to look under your ship! The new camera will give you greater flexibility than ever before, and you can slide your camera in between the platform on smaller ships and even duck below the platform’s outer edges on larger ones. The zoom distance is also variable, and changes based on ship size so you can truly appreciate the enormity of larger vessels. This will also allow you to take and enjoy cinematic shots of your favorite ships!
Max Zoom In and Ship Spinning
The old hangar system used a less granular, spherical method for zoom control, which meant that you could never get close enough to truly admire the beauty of some of the longer ships.
The new hangars improve upon this by using the shield ellipsoid as the basis for closeup views. When zooming out, a formula smooths the motion into more spherical movements for the ultimate ship spinning experience. Chef’s kiss.
IES Lighting Profiles
Uprising introduces the ability for us to utilize IES Lighting profiles, which allows us to author lighting in a way that gives the game an even better sci-fi atmosphere than before.
AMD FidelityFX™ Super Resolution
All these graphical updates do mean that new hangars are more resource intensive than the previous hangars. To help accommodate this, AMD FidelityFX™ Super Resolution (FSR) 1.0 has been implemented in Uprising. This technology allows you to increase your frame rate by rendering the game at a slightly lower resolution, which then gets upscaled to your display resolution. The advantage of this approach is that framerate can be increased without needing to sacrifice texture quality or post processing.
There are four settings available for this, ranging from “Ultra Quality” to “Performance”, with each option allowing you to make trade-offs between frame rate and image quality. You can find this feature in the settings menu, within the "Display & Graphics" tab. This feature works on all supported graphics cards for both Windows and macOS clients. It works particularly well on high resolution screens, like 4k. Give it a try!
When it comes to visual effects in EVE, the number one goal is to ensure that gameplay is visually represented as much as possible. Upwell structures are subject to various in-space gameplay states – and these states have been brought from the outside to the inside of the structure!
Depending on whether you have fueled your structure, the power generators keeping the lights on will go to "Low Power" and "Abandoned" mode. Traffic will also decrease significantly in abandoned structures. In addition, the overall hangar lighting now affects the color and brightness of the your ships, ensuring their lighting changes correspondingly with the change in hangar state.
The operating state of a structure is now visually displayed via holograms across the hangar.
When holographic billboards stop trying to advertise products or services and instead start warning you about structural integrity, you might want to phone a friend, or at least take a peek outside of your structure as something might be going down.
Hull & Low Health
When armor falls below 50%, fires, sparks, electrical faults, and other hints will start to appear progressively as the structure gets closer to collapsing. You’ll also hear warning klaxons and sirens, for the full "oh - I should really check out what is going on outside!" experience.
These warnings have been kept as hangar ambiance rather than full blown panic-inducing effects, so that you are not overwhelmed when you have more than enough to worry about already.
Should your structure be under attack, it will display active warnings on the small and medium platforms, as well as on the main entrance in the subcapital hangar. These come in the form of tall holographic billboards on the docks that are visible on a cycle; they will disappear after the structure stops taking damage and will reappear should the attacks persist.
Repair timers have been visualized inside the hangars, with the structure showing a non-numerical countdown to indicate how long processes will take, as a little nudge towards more reactive environments.
Environments in EVE should always feel as alive as possible. Upwell hangars give players a sense of existing in a bustling city full of activity – be it internal transit systems that are constantly in motion, or ships flying around with advertisements.
The new capital hangars provide a new environment for the enormous ships that live in it. The surroundings are more vibrant, and the designers have better control over lighting and atmosphere, supporting the main goal of giving these spacefaring behemoths a true sense of scale. To achieve this, a different approach was taken to the camera views and lighting adjustments, as it's one of the few places in-game where this is possible.
To give these ship classes the best angles and frames, they have designated camera locations. This is especially important as capital ships vary dramatically in size and shape, and this approach offers the best representation of scale.
Upwell Structure Types
Variety is the spice of life, and care has been taken to differentiate the types of structures as much as possible, by giving them their own unique flavor. To that end, the ceiling has been changed and a large corridor has been added to the capital hangar for larger structures. You might even notice an enormous ship at the end of the corridor in the Keepstar below.
Each type of structure even has its own specific skin theme, such as yellow aesthetics for engineering complexes, red for refineries, and so on. Post-processing and fog tweaks have been introduced to give each structure a different feel, and the hangar audio also reflects this. These subtle differences give hangars a much more immersive and unique feel.
That’s it for now! We very much hope that you are enjoying the updated Upwell Hangar experience and we look forward to hearing your feedback and suggestions on what you’d like to see next. The keen-eyed among you should also look for some Easter eggs in the upcoming December release, because how else will you be able to figure out a way to make your ship do a barrel roll when docked?
Dock safe! o7