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Star Citizen’s wacky face over IP tech is expected to enter public testing today

Here’s the highlights from the 5th annual CitizenCon

Cloud Imperium Games and Roberts Space Industries
Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The team behind Star Citizen, the ambitious collection of spacefaring games from Chris Roberts, plans to launch a new update today. Called the 3.3 update, it will add new features to the test version of the multiplayer game’s incomplete alpha build, also referred to as the “persistent test universe” or PTU. One prominent addition is the long awaited face-over-internet-protocol that will allow players to map their expressions onto their in-game avatars in real-time.

The facial animation technology, referred to as FOIP, was announced at last year’s Gamescom. Produced in partnership with Faceware Technologies, it’s the consumer version of the motion-capture technology used in games like Star Wars Battlefront 2, Injustice 2 and Middle Earth: Shadow of War. Players can use commercially available cameras pointed at their face to enable lip synch and a host of other features.

According to Polygon staff who demoed FOIP last year, it works well. It’s also extremely creepy.

From our 2017 article:

It’s lifelike, yes, but that’s not always for the better. What we saw dipped heavily into the uncanny valley. Avatars at first had deadened expressions as their players stared vacantly ahead into the stream. Once aware that we were watching them, though, they began to move their jaws around, blinking their eyes, opening their mouths and showing us the full range of motion.

The team behind Star Citizen tells Polygon that the 3.3 update will also include 10 “new and reworked” vehicles, weapons, armor sets and collectible items. It will also see additions to the Stanton star system, including new moons, truck stops and space stations. Another major upgrade, called Object Container Streaming, will help mitigate the load on players’ home computers and should improve performance. Expect to see more details today during the CitizenCon festivities, which are free to view online starting around 1:00 pm ET today.

It’s important to note that the FOIP tech, and everything else in the 3.3 update, will not be available on the alpha version of the persistent universe, referred to as the PU, at this time. Instead, it will only be available on the PTU, which is the test environment of that alpha version. There’s no word yet on when the 3.3 update will go out to the actual PU servers.

With more than $194 million raised so far, the Star Citizen project is the most-funded crowdfunding campaign of any kind, on any platform, for any thing. It is no stranger to controversy, having endured many since its inception in 2012. The most meaningful impediment at this time is a lawsuit by Crytek, which alleges both breach of contract and conspiracy related to the use of its CryEngine technology.

Creator Chris Roberts has not offered a release date for either of the Star Citizen products since 2016. Even with the 3.3 update, only a small fraction of the project’s proposed multiplayer component is playable at this time.

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