Issue 22 - August 2006
|Editor's Note:||The slightly longer short note...|
|Steam Powered X² & X³:||Egosoft enters the age of Steam|
|X² On Linux:||Penguins in space, where will it end?|
|X Race makeovers:||Ever wanted to see the X species up close?|
|On a Mission - DevNet:||Missions not so impossible from CBJ|
|Egosoft: Online Shop:||Improvements to the shop and new prices for X³: Reunion|
|Egosoft FAQs:||This edition's Egosoft FAQ - What is DevNet?|
|Credits & Contact:||The Uninteresting Bit!|
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The slightly longer short note...
Welcome to the latest edition of X-News
It has been three months since the last edition of X Universe News, so you might think that not a lot has been happening, well not surprisingly the X Universe never rests. In fact we have more than one edition can give justice to, so we will be producing monthly issues for the next few months.
Have you heard the good news? Hot on the heels of X² The Threat for the Mac, we now have X² for Linux, so all those who prefer to view the world with their trusty penguin at their side, can now take their LinuX Box into the alternate X Universe. Both X²: The Threat and X³: Reunion can now be downloaded to a PC near you. We also have a first look at some new race concept pictures that give a totally new perspective to the Boron and Paranid.
So you might be forgiven for thinking that DevNet sleeps, or even takes a long holiday between game releases. Starting with what will be a regular inside-look at DevNet over the coming editions, we get to kick this one off with a nova-style addition to the game that will change the universe as you know it.
A DevNet team, led by CBJ, has produced a tool that makes mission development more accessible to the community. The Mission Director turns the universe upside down, so that scripters and those with little programming experience can produce mission content for the game. This might just get those scripters and potential content developers waving their NDA's at CBJ in DevNet. To assist those new to the Mission Director, our man of words, Toastie, has produced a beginner's guide to assist those who want help deliver content to the game.
Next Edition No 23 August 2006
In the next issue representing the Modding & Scripting community, we will have a detailed and insightful interview from DeadlyDa and Red Spot, co-producers of the well respected and 'massive mod' The Deadly Ship and Station Mod, which contains a fleet of cool ship designs and player stations. This is a truly outstanding addition to the game and as a result we will be making it available outside the Modding & Scripting forum.
Egosoft enters the age of Steam
No, we're not developing a train simulator, nor has a new race appeared in the X-Universe with steam-powered spacecraft!
Download X²: The Threat and X³: Reunion
Penguins in space, where will it end?
Order X2: The Threat for LINUX in our Online Shop now!
More than 20 years have passed since Kyle Brennan, test pilot of the X-Shuttle, was catapulted into unexplored space
Now take up the role of Julian Gardna, convicted of the theft of a transport ship and given a second chance. >From this point on the choices are all yours.
In the immersive universe of X2 there are no rules. Return to a life of piracy and crime, build your own trading empire, join the ranks of mercenaries or become an ace combat pilot, commanding a fleet of starship from the bridge of your carrier. Any path is open to you.
If you wish to, you can follow the evolving storyline and take your place among the greats of the universe or blaze your own path to glory.
But beware. Something is stirring in the remote areas of the galaxy. X2 features stunning graphics, beyond anything seen before in the space genre.
Open ended gameplay allows you to choose your path freely, in a universe that would take you almost 2 days playing time just to fly from one end to the other. Pilot any of over 60 classes of ship ranging from the tiny Argon Discoverer, a one-man fighter, all the way to the Teladi Albatross, a huge carrierclass ship over 2km long, capable of carrying a squadron of fighters, all at your command.
A complex yet intuitive interface allows complete control of your empire. Be it a trading fleet of merchant vessels flying between the factories and stationslittering space or a fighter wing of deadly Split Raptors.
For more information visit LinuxGamePublishing.com
Ever wanted to see the X speicies up close?
At a recent visit to the office I spotted some concept art work being used as pizza plates on the pool table, err conference table, so when nobody was looking I searched the server for the originals and relocated them into the web server public folder.
So here is some of the art work of the Boron, which look pretty impressive and probably the first ever full body shot of a Boron to ever be seen by the XFan community. Their ocean-born origin is is still reflected in their peaceful natured spacefaring steps into the wider universe.
The Paranid are equally stunning, with their tri-ocular vision detailed to an amazing likeness. Their mysterious and enigmatic mystical head markings a reference to their religious belief in themselves.
The pictures detailing the humanoid features of the male and female Split, conceal their true aggressive nature, and mindset. Lastly we have a concept of the Terran Helmet, but as they are human, a face shot would not present anything new.
I hope to find more concepts for the next edition, as soon as they re-enable my server accounts.
Missions not so impossible from CBJ
Abyss: To get a taster of what is to come in the next installment of the X series, I've managed to grab CBJ for another interview. Hopefully this time we'll be able to steer clear of the subject of pizza, and maybe he'll tell us a bit more about what the team has actually been working on. So CBJ, what's been happening?
CBJ: Well I had a lovely four-cheese... oh, you mean development-wise. Well, there's been plenty going on, as you can imagine, but one thing that I think will interest DevNet, Scripters and other players quite a bit is something we've called the Mission Director.
Abyss: The Mission Director? OK, I think we can safely assume that it has something to do with missions, but what does it actually do?
CBJ: Correct, it's all about missions. One of the things that players often tell us about the X series games is that they want a greater range and variety of missions. We agree, but unfortunately in the past developing missions has always proved resource heavy, difficult, and testing them has been even more time-consuming. The result has been far fewer missions in the game than we, or the players, have wanted.
Abyss: Yes, more missions would certainly add depth to the game. But why was mission development so difficult and how does the Mission Director change that?
CBJ: In the past missions were developed as an integral part of the game itself and required a lot of high-end programming. This meant that developing and testing involved a lot of going in and out of the game, rebuilding game components, and so on, and all of that took a great deal of time. Another factor was that missions mostly consist of waiting for the player to do something, and this isn't something the existing tools were particularly good at. We decided that by making a mission development system that was much more closely matched to the needs of mission developers, we could drastically reduce the time taken to develop and test missions.
Abyss: What about the Script Editor? Wouldn't that have been a solution?
CBJ: The Script Editor did go some way to solving the problem of rebuilding the game every time you want to test something, but if anything scripts made the issue of writing code to wait for things to happen worse. We also learned from the feedback that scripters gave us, in particular that they didn't want to be tied to editing their scripts in the in-game Script Editor.
Abyss: So essentially the previous way relied on highly-skilled programmers and a lot of time without much to show for it in the end; the Mission Director is a new tool that can be used to produce faster mission content for the X games. But how much easier is it to develop missions with it?
CBJ: This is the exciting part. The Mission Director replaces the need for high-end programming, making it accessible to those with basic skills in handling data and using in-game variables and objects such as ships and stations. In many ways it brings the skills required to a level that scripters and players with a little experience in basic programming should be comfortable with, opening the door for mission development to the wider community.
Abyss: OK, you've explained what it is and why you've done it. How about showing us an example so that we can see how it works?
CBJ: Normally I'd be looking closely at my NDA right now, but since it is just you and me Abyss... as far as mission developer is concerned, the Mission Director is effectively an XML schema that can be used to define XML documents that describe missions, and...
Abyss: Stop right there. What's an XML schema?
CBJ: Sorry, I didn't mean to get
technical so soon. An XML schema is like a combined dictionary and
grammar specification for an XML document. It defines the XML tags and
attributes that are valid and where they can be used, and with a good
XML editor it cuts down the amount of typing required to create an XML
document by about 75%.
Abyss: Right, um, thanks. I think that was already more than I really wanted to know. Let's get back to the Mission Director.
CBJ: Sure. The Mission Director is different to the tools that were used previously for mission development. The key difference is that it is "event driven". What that means is that rather than writing code to wait around for something to happen, you just tell the Mission Director what conditions you are interested in and what you want to happen when they are met. An example would be a mission in which the player has to destroy a particular ship. Rather than writing code to constantly check whether the ship is still there, the mission developer just has to let the Mission Director know what should happen when the ship is destroyed.
Abyss: OK, so how would that mission look?
CBJ: It gets slightly technical again here, but I'll try to keep it brief. Missions defined using the Mission Director are made up of components called "cues". Each cue can include various pieces of information, but the two most important ones are the "condition" and the "action". The first defines what conditions need to be met and the second defines what needs to happen when they are met. A very simple mission which creates a ship (a Xenon M5 with orders to kill the player) and tells the player to destroy it would look like this:
This example demonstrates several features of
the Mission Director. It shows how cues are used, and how they can be
nested inside one another. It shows how conditions and actions are
used, and how you can perform several actions in a single cue. It also
shows how "variables" are used; in this case the player age (the time
since the start of the game) and the ID code of the ship to be
Abyss: Eh? Sorry, I think I nodded off for a moment. So what about the players? What does all this mean to them?
CBJ: Well, hopefully it means more missions and more variety. With the Mission Director it should be both quicker and easier to develop a lot of missions, and quite simply that means more of them can be fitted into the schedule. We've already had lots of great mission ideas from the players, as well as quite a few of our own, and the process of turning those ideas into reality has already begun.
Abyss: What about different kinds of missions? In X2 and X3 all the missions came from the BBS, but way back in X-BTF and X-Tension some missions were offered to the player while flying in space? Are we likely to see anything like that?
CBJ: Yes, absolutely. One of the key aims of the Mission Director is to free missions up from the BBS system. Obviously there will still be BBS-based missions, but there is absolutely nothing stopping mission developers from offering missions to the player in different ways. It is probably also worth mentioning that we plan to develop missions for the main plot and special advanced mission sets for future games using the Mission Director too, and obviously that will use still more of the Mission Director's flexibility.
Abyss: Sounds great, I understand why everyone is excited about the potential this new tool has. Aside from mission ideas is there anything else that players can do to get involved?
CBJ: Funny you should ask that. The answer to that is definitely "yes". The Mission Director itself is currently undergoing alpha testing and a number of DevNet members have already volunteered to develop and/or test missions. However, the more mission developers we have the more missions we can create, so DevNet members who have signed an NDA are very welcome to join the team. We're particularly interested in people who have a basic understanding of XML and/or even very basic programming skills and who are prepared to work on missions that have already been "passed" and balanced for inclusion in the game.
Abyss: Well that rules me out, but there are a lot of DevNet and community members who have more time to get involved in this than I have. This may seem like a rather leading question but if people decide to get involved, will they have to struggle without documentation like they did with the Script Editor?
CBJ: No, that's another lesson learnt. The beauty of an XML schema is that it is self-documenting. The same information that allows your XML editor to offer you the right text while you are editing can also be used to provide a basic reference guide to all the functionality available.
On top of that we are working on samples that show how to achieve simple tasks and a "Mission Director for Beginners" manual, produced by Toastie, for people who are new to mission development and want to see how quickly and easily they can produce content. Mission developers will also be able to use the library of already-completed missions to see examples of code that they can use.
Abyss: Back to the ‘what this means for players' again for a moment; one criticism that has often been leveled at the game is that it is sometimes difficult to know what you are supposed to be doing and where you have got to in your current mission(s). Will the Mission Director do anything to address that?
CBJ: There are several new features planned which should help improve things in this area, but I can feel the power of the NDA burning into the back of my neck so I won't go into detail. Suffice to say, mission developers will have access to these new features using the Mission Director and that they will be encouraged to use them to the full.
Abyss: Well, thanks for your time CBJ. Hopefully we will see the fruits of the Mission Director soon™ and perhaps we can catch up again later when your NDA burns have healed.
Improvements to the shop and prices for X³: Reunion
The Egosoft Online Shop has had a number of
upgrades, and changes, though you will not see some of them as most of
these were made at the business end. One of the more visible changes is
the processing of purchases, which has been made easier with improved
options like the billing address, which can now be different from the
This edition's Egosoft FAQ - What is DevNet? and what do the DevNet levels mean?
To help a lot of new and veteran X game fans get a better insight into Egosoft, this will be a regular article about the company, covering many aspects of what is involved in the making of the games.
A good start for this edition, which is also relevant to the interview with CBJ and Abyss, is DevNet a hub for game development. It is where those involved in the games production mix with those dedicated community members that want to contribute their time and help in making current & future releases great.
What is DevNet?
DevNet is a hub of forums and chat where the developers and aspiring XFans are involved in the development and testing of the games. DevNet chat can be accessed via the Chat link on the left Community link of the front page. In it you will find people with different-coloured names (explained later) who chat and sometimes pm each other and higher-level members, especially during alpha & beta game development and testing periods.
DevNet is your opportunity to get involved with the development of the game series. This can be most often as a tester or if a particular skill, talent or frequent commitment is shown, will include more specialised testing or other help.
There are different levels of membership, you start with the basic level (1) which allows you to participate in these forums. To raise your level (3) you can enter your contact details in your Forum Profile and fill in the DevNet fields at the bottom of the page. Once you have signed up you will have access to the DevNet forums and the additional DevNet pages. You will also be able to access and read the Rules, Guidelines and FAQs about DevNet, and those who want to sign up for acceptance as level (5) will find a link at the bottom of their profile for the (Non Disclosure Agreement) NDA.
A lot of fans just stay at this level and contribute ideas in the forums that are available in the DevNet (please search to see if an idea has been submitted before posting a new topic). But others decide to get really involved at level (5), by completing and sending their NDA for acceptance. If then accepted, they can be selected for testing of Beta versions when new releases are at this stage. Their NDA means that for five years they cannot disclose any information to anyone who is not also at least a L5 DevNet member, any aspect of the game that is not public knowledge and some things even after they are known. Those who intend to commit to this work should always have a computer that can run the current game at a reasonable level, as Betas can be more demanding than the finished game.
At this level DevNet members then commit their time to delivering good testing, reports and sometimes get more involved in specialised team testing or other work. They know the downside to this is the repetitive testing of the same aspect of a problem, means not enjoying the game like a player, but the upside of this is the knowledge that due to their commitment and hard work, players are more guaranteed to get the best experience out of the game. They will know everything before the players do and due to their then greater experience and knowledge, will often be at the forefront of FAQs, Modding and Scripting and other help in the community forums.
Others will get involved in scripting or as is the case now, mission development and content creation. All in all many XFans join DevNet to take their game experience to another level or want to return the favour of hundreds of hours of game time with a bit of community payback. Whatever the reason they know the game is more than it would have been, due to their input and support.
The story of the XFans & DevNet does not end there, for instance where do the Level (6) and above, Greens and Golds come from?, well that is a cue for another interview another day. :)
What do the DevNet levels mean?
To summarise with the FAQ entry, The numbers in the DevChat relate to your DevNet level.
Colours also represent the higher DevNet rankings and also indicate who are Egosoft staff members.
Please note that in DevChat Green does not indicate that a user is a Forum Moderator, however most people at level 5 or in Green or Gold will be able to answer your DevChat questions.
The not so interesting bit
If you would like to get in contact with us, then feel free to E-mail: X-Universe-News@egosoft.com
Editors in Chief
Michael "Terrabyte" Madden - Great Britain
Michael "BurnIt!" Baumgardt - Germany
Michael "Terrabyte" Madden
Chris "CBJ" Burtt-Jones
Greg "Abyss" Kingston
With Thanks To
Translation and Proofreading
Confucio - IT
Daimonddragon - DE
Sascha Meuser - DE
Differix - DE
XGamer - DE
Thoto - FR
Player - RU
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