Coming Soon to an X-Universe Near You!
Following Egosoft MD, Bernd Lehahn's, reiteration of the company's policy with regard to the support and publicity of community mods, forum member TrixX contacted us asking how we might be able to help get the word out about the X-Timelines mod. On the cusp of the mod entering its Beta testing phase, we thought now would be a good time to let the wider community know about another new way to enjoy X3: Terran Conflict. I caught up with TrixX on the other side of the world through the magic of the interwebs and asked him about the mod.
The X-Timelines mod is approaching the release phase, with Beta testing getting underway. What were the key aims of the mod team in undertaking such a huge task?
Well initially the idea was to alter the game to more closely resemble the combat aspects of the Wing Commander/Privateer and Freespace games. Being a major fan of Privateer 2 (despite its many and obvious flaws) I found the X series to be a little sedate by comparison. This led me to find the Naval Shuffle mod by Sorenson when I first played X3:TC just over a year ago (yeah, I know I was late to the party!). The mod started as a way to introduce a faster balance to the game, then when Jack08 jumped on board around November last year the mod just snowballed as ideas were thrown about.
The current aim has been to alter the economy to be more involving for the player as well as to bring the excitement and speed of the above mentioned games to the players fingertips.
No doubt you all have a real life to keep you busy, so roughly how many hours a week do you spend working on a project like this?
Actually for me real life consists of Squash once a week and messing with cars in my shed between the odd IT job. Both Jack08 and I are working on this pretty much full time. Between us there is easily 80 hours a week going into the project.
Who are the team members and what have been their areas of expertise? How much has the use of other third party mods assisted your development?
Firstly there is Jack08, the primary coder for the project. He’s got a great knack of getting round problems we didn’t expect. sms_747 joined in December, a few weeks after Jack08. Looking for jobs within the team, she took it upon herself to design an amazing Universe Map for the second phase of the project. Not to mention that she helped massively with ideas for a storyline for phase 2, which does indeed continue on from Terran Conflict.
Litcube also joined the team close to February and has been invaluable with assistance on coding issues and allowing use of his library of scripts designed to help optimise the game. Not to mention his amazing work on effects and Stellar backgrounds. Finally there’s me. I’m the ideas man and balancer for the team as well as the project lead.
3rd party mods have helped in many ways. Litcube’s scripts have been a godsend, as has paulwheeler in allowing the use of SRM as a base for our ship files which really helped to speed up the project. Obviously the mod would never have started had it not been for Naval Shuffle and many other small and useful mods that have been acquired over time. We actually look forward to being able to present a really good product back to the community with the release of X-Timelines.
At first glance there are changes to the user interface and HUD and some major changes to balancing. What significant changes have been made which may not be so obvious?
Well the UI is designed to show what a player needs to see at any one time (unfortunately due to limitations I was unable to move positions of certain elements). Icons have been altered to highlight friend and foe more than neutral as has the boxing surrounding ships. The Gravidar got a large overhaul to make it hopefully easier to read and more useful to the player.
Balance is the heart of this mod. Starting back in August last year, I have been constantly tinkering and evolving my ideas for the balancing of every ship and weapon. Quite literally every ship, weapon, shield and missile in the game has been overhauled. The new balance even seems to play nice with everybody’s favourite, the Autopilot! For me the speed of ships was a major issue when I first played X3:TC, so that’s where I started and it’s meant that all modifications are geared to suit this faster gameplay. Shielding has been increased with the addition of Station Shields, which are much stronger than any ship shields. This should also allow for responses to incursions to have a fighting chance. I could talk for hours on this, however I think I’ll have to point to the FAQ we will be putting in the X-Timelines Beta thread soon.
Can players expect a bigger challenge from the established 'bad guys'?
This is another of the key aspects of the mod. Xenon are no longer an XP grinding machine - they are truly dangerous when they attack whether it’s a small patrol or a large fleet - it will not be a cakewalk. However the Xenon, along with the Kha’ak, still just play the enemy for the sake of enemies, but then there’s the pirates…
They got the largest overhaul of all the races. They now have stations that are part of the Black Market. These stations have patrols which literally go out and target traders that are passing through or near Pirate territory with the intention of stealing cargo and ships. Any booty is then available to purchase from the Black Market stations for those who are on friendly terms with them. Being pirates, they are rather timid when faced with opposition, however as with most gangs, they have big mates…
Is the universe the one we know and love or have there been changes to the galaxy map?
For Phase 1 we are using a slightly modified version of TC’s universe. This is compatible with all TC missions and storylines, but we added the “Ribbon" that runs through the Universe. Along with that we have also altered the state of the economy so it’s far less likely to stall. The Ribbon, however, is the most important part, giving fast passage to areas previously hard to reach or generally inaccessible. It’s also Pirate territory and therefore dangerous, very dangerous…
There will no doubt be some new ships to fly and enjoy. Is there a favourite among the team, which you think will go down well with the players?
We have a fairly large selection of new ships, most are familiar from the X-Tra Ship Pack and SRM, however there will be a few surprises we are working on. We are waiting on them to be skinned at the moment but we hope to have more “Zenith" ships for our Deep Space Exploration. I think we’ll go with Jack08’s favourite here (seeing as mine isn’t finished yet ;) ).
What work is still to be done? What can the modding community do to help?
With the Beta coming up imminently, we are looking for people who have a good eye for bugs and balance issues. There is a lot to test and we need to have people willing to play through the odd bug so we can release the best mod we can make. Also we are looking for anyone who has skill with 3DS Max and Skinning/Texturing for the new ships and stations we would like to introduce to the game.
If Egosoft offered to incorporate one feature from your mod into the vanilla game version, which would it be?
Probably the Black Market script that Jack08 is working on. I’m surprised how much more depth it adds when the Pirates feel like a living part of the game, rather than a side-order for randomly generated missions.
I'm a staunch vanilla TC player, what will convince me to play your mod? *evil*
Very evil question!! Seeing as we have altered the playstyle to be a fair bit faster combatwise, as well as flightwise, so I don’t think it really can be compared to the original Egosoft vision of the game. X-Timelines is designed more to get the player to enjoy a good flight across a few sectors, including the fear and sense of adventure which you get from the journey. Hence there's a restriction on jump-drives for the larger ships. We hope to offer a different experience which isn’t designed to compete against Egosoft’s vision but is a distinct and separate vision. In essence this is the game that Jack08 and I wanted to play and if others enjoy that then that's all I could hope for.
My sincere thanks to TrixX for his time. If you have time to spare and would like to get involved with this project please send Trixx a forum PM. I'm sure the team would appreciate your support. If you are working on a community project and would like us to help you shout about it, please let us know.