Summer Edition - 2007
|Editor's Note:||An introduction...|
|Mac and Linux versions arrive!:||X³ Reunion isn't PC only any more|
|More Bonus Material?:||Michael Clausen maps X³|
|The XTM mod:||Behind the scenes with the modders|
|Other News:||More updates coming for X³... and for X2!|
|Credits & Contact::||The bit that nobody reads anyway!|
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Welcome to the first summer edition of X-News
Hi everyone and welcome to the latest X News. I must start with an apology for there being a delay since the last update but will also reassure everyone that this will not be the case for the future as there is a lot happening and a lot to report on. So, what has been going on in the X Universe of late? Regular forum visitors will have seen the latest mod release by XTM now being made available for download from the Egosoft servers, but that is just one part of what is happening at the moment. We have some interviews coming up and also maybe a taste of what will be coming up in the near future from the Egosoft studio.
It seems an age ago now, but back in April I braved the English Channel and popped over to the Egosoft office for the first visit this year. Buoyed by the good weather and the fact that I won the subsequent poker tournament the first night (but lost anything I touched on the PS3), I spent the next couple of days looking at the progress of current development work. When new projects are in an early stage, you’d expect a nice glitzy showcase ready to tempt a publisher into opening their wallet. What I saw and what has moved on since is a real ‘step back and wow’ experience. The developers have always had grand ideas and a vision that cannot easily put into words, but what is planned and what has been achieved to date is astounding and far beyond my own expectations. The X Universe isn’t in safe hands – it has been genetically fused with gamer feedback and next generation gameplay control to bring something really special to gaming. Expect some extraordinary developments to be revealed in the coming months.
Read and enjoy!
X³ Reunion isn't PC any more...
Great news as the world of X³ ever-widens. X³ is now available on the Mac and in it’s last stages of development on Linux.
You can pre-order a special edition X³ from LGP at http://www.linuxgamepublishing.com/ and download the Mac version direct from Virtual Programming http://www.vpltd.com/ . Come on, nothing completes a 30" Apple screen like screaming through an X³ asteroid belt with all guns blazing!
Michael Clausen maps X³
As you can imagine when making any game there is normally a substantial amount of material (art work, graphics, sound effects, models etc) that is created, and for one reason or another gets discarded and consigned to a distant folder in a dark corner of the network. This is of course something of a waste however it is normally for a good reason and inevitably it is replaced with something better and improved.
Imagine though that there was a some fantastic high quality material that had been made by a fan, and a publishing decision meant that it would never now see the light of day. Well of course the best thing to do is to let you all get your hands on it for free! Michael Clausen has put hour upon hour of hard work into creating possibly the best ever maps created for X³, and we are really pleased that he agreed to let us make them available for download to the community. The attention to detail is simply amazing, and in order to let you build up the collection of the entire universe, we've divided it up into 33 seperate sections. As usual you can find these maps in our download area.
Behind the Scenes with the modders
To look ahead to the future, sometimes we must also look back and in this respect work on X³ has not been idle. To follow this up I was pleased to speak recently to Mox from XTM and get his thoughts on their latest mod for X³.
Abyss: Hi and welcome to this interview, I’m The_Abyss and it’s my privilege to ask you some questions as well as getting the best of answers out of you as can be achieved in the space available to us.
Mox: Hi, nice to meet you too!
Abyss: First tell me something about yourself.
Mox: I’m Mox(-XTM-), leader of the XTended Mod(XTM). In RL I’m doing some freelance art- and ICT-stuff. Every spare minute I can muster goes to modding for XTM.
Abyss: Sounds almost fanatical, are you?
Mox: Depends really, I’d like to think of it as great fun most of the time with perhaps a fanatical edge to it. However, I’m pretty sure my significant other would turn that equation around the other way.
Abyss: What sparked your interest into modding X³ Reunion?
Mox: I’ll never forget my first weeks of the game. Every sector discovered, every ship watched in space was like a lucid dream. A quest of graphical excellence matched by a broad scope of interesting possibilities. It made me curious to how it was made and how to expand upon it.
Abyss: So what happened then?
Mox: After a solid period of playing the vanilla game I cautiously endeavoured in coming to an understanding of the games modding possibilities via the Egosoft forums. With the help of long-time experts like Doubleshadow and DeadlyDa my expertise grew little by little each day. If it would not have been for the community's support I might not have bothered beyond that initial phase but instead it made me feel right at home and I couldn’t wait to learn more.
Abyss: Go on…
Mox: Upon reading some user comments about the possibilities of a frigate-class I jumped at this opportunity and shortly after the M7-Mod saw the light. Over time the scope of the mod as well as the team around it grew to such proportions we renamed it into the Xtended Mod.
Abyss: If it grew to that size, there must be a huge team of fans behind it, right?
Mox: Actually the opposite is more of a fact. Over the past year many people have contributed to the mod to greater or lesser extent. Especially guys like AalaarDB, Voxol, Bunny, Paratrooper, Darkwrath, Stevio, Unserene and Woffin have left their fingerprints on critical components of the mod for everyone to enjoy whilst they themselves have moved along to other challenges. Current team size is pretty small yet stable and even though we have but a single scripter (al_main) and a single modeller, it’s still the combined efforts of the entire team that makes for the smashing results we’ve been able to achieve. There have also been many beta-testers and translators involved in several release stages, all of whom have made significant efforts in both time and commitment to give the Mod its overall quality.
Abyss: Could you give me an example of a problem you faced on the Mod, and tell me how you solved it?
Mox: The most challenging task to date we’ve met has been how to ‘sell’ our .7a version mandatory game-restart to our fans. Leaving the old approach of staying save-game compatible no matter the costs caused quite a few headaches for the team but in the end we decided to meet as much of the fans’ demands as could possibly be achieved by making sure it would be a one-time event and it would be worth the effort without doubt. We even added some pretty extravagant custom-starts to compensate advanced players for their empire-losses and give them the possibility of a head start early on in the game.
Abyss: Development is often about setting goals, compromising and then meeting those new goals. Did you encounter similar hurdles?
Mox: Good question. Well, we have been reasonably successful at every goal we’ve set, but we have had the normal ups and downs. I'd say that we do actively try to monitor our progress levels and the quality of the work so that it can constantly be improved upon. For example, I have had more then a few hiccups with model materials (textures) for .7 where the satisfaction was not what I thought it should be. I learned that I have to really monitor certain difficult tasks closely so I can keep their satisfaction level as high as possible. I’ve also grown used to the idea that sometimes you’re better off abandoning parts of a project early on and start over from scratch from a different angle in order to achieve better results.
Abyss: You’re clearly on top of the XTM work - what was your role in your mod’s most recent success?
Mox: Apart from doing all the models and most of the graphics I like to think I also functioned as an anchor for the team to stay on target and keep focus.
Abyss: What mistakes did you find that you made, and what have you learned from them?
Mox: Mistakes? Who me???? The biggest mistake I made was to keep adding content at times where other progress was low. This resulted in too much of a compromise between quantity and quality at certain levels where it would already have been possible to release a pretty good product at an earlier stage of development. The lesson learned here was to really stick to feature-freezes once they are put into effect in order to avoid unnecessary delays.
Abyss: Mmm – yep – classic development decisions – good to know that everyone has them! What was the best decision your team ever made regarding the mod?
Mox: That’s a tough one, let me think… I’d say that has probably been the decision to stick to original X³-Universe related content and thus keep the mod as faithful to the vanilla product as possible.
Abyss: You never get tempted to bend that rule?
Mox: Sure we do! For example: The .7a Paranid M0 battlecruiser Olympos is heavily inspired upon the Star-Wars III flagship ‘Invisible Hand’ of General Grievous (Abyss – did NOBODY else think that droids don’t cough?) and the Pirate M2 Reaver is pretty much a copy of a Reaver ship from the Serenity (Abyss - it doesn’t get too much better than this) Motion Picture. Apart from those however we aim to feature original yet faithful to the X-Universe content only. We have also incorporated some of X2’s popular M6 class ships specifically to meet the many requests from our fans to see them return into X³.
Abyss: (cough) Reaver ships are pretty cool. So, what are your long-range team objectives, and what steps have you taken toward obtaining them?
Mox: To continue expanding and improving the mod on the path we’ve set out on whilst keeping quality high and listen to our fans’ feedback and incorporate their suggestions where possible. We always aim for as pleasant a combination between visuals and functionality as can be expected and in order to continue achieving just that we’ve got some pretty interesting surprises left.
Abyss: What motivates you to go the extra mile for a project or goal? After all, you’re not being paid for this.
Mox: Being somewhat of a perfectionist it comes rather natural to me to work hard and aim for the best results possible. It goes without saying I have to restrain myself from time to time in order not to get bogged down into micro-tweaking. The same goes for the rest of the team where standards are high yet the fun-factor should never be one to be neglected either.
Abyss: What does it mean to be successful? According to your definition, how successful have you been so far? I mean we at Egosoft recently made your mod the first to be hosted on our servers?
Mox: It really means the world to us to read users’ comments about our mod and see the results of hard work translate into their positive feedback both via our topics on the Egosoft forums as well as our own section on The XUniverse(TXU) forums hosted by our team member Mokonzi. This is always a boost to continue and judging by the overwhelming cheers of our fans I’d say it’s safe to say we have done a good job. The support we have received from Egosoft recently has, of course, been the ultimate accolade and is great recognition for the team’s efforts.
Abyss: What is the most creative thing your team has ever done?
Mox: Difficult choice but in terms of popularity I’d have to say the .7 trailer caused more then a few good vibrations. Our team member Mishra has made it into a masterpiece with limited means and should be credited for giving the Mod quite a positive boost both in and outside the community.
Abyss: Ok great, looks like that’s about it for now!
Mox: Thanks for this awesome interview as well as the support given by Egosoft thus far. It has really made a profound impression on the team to be acknowledged on such a professional level by one of the leading companies in this gaming-genre.
Abyss: Thanks again - I'm sure that won't be the last we hear from you all.
More updates coming for X³... and for X2!
Well if you’ve read this far you certainly will not want to stop now. There will be another X News very soon and you will not be disappointed by the content. Due to the XTM interview, we’ve had to push a few things back. Next time we’ll be talking to Toastie about his development work on the “Mission Director" for X³, which all modders and scripters will really NOT want to miss. Also included in the next issue will be details of not only a new 2.5 patch update for X³ but also a new update for X2! Yes, two new updates, available soon and right out of the blue. I’ve seen them both, and it isn’t what you’ll be expecting…
The 'move along' nothing to see here bit!
If you would like to get in contact with us, then feel free. E-mail: X-Universe-News@egosoft.com
Editors in Chief
Greg "The_Abyss" Kingston - Great Britain
Michael Baumgardt - Germany
With Thanks To
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