Issue 35 - February 2009
|Versiůn en EspaŮol
|A Quick Word or Two...
|X3: Terran Conflict 2.0:
|Terran Conflict Gets US DVD-ROM Release
|Keeper of the Gates:
|Helge Kautz's Latest Novel - Exclusive Interview
|X3: Terran Conflict for Macintosh:
|Hot News About Mac Ports for X Games!
|Xenon_Slayer's Big Adventure:
|Egosoft's Pet Brit Tells His Tale
|Credits & Contacts:
|The Tail-End Charlies
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A Quick Word or Two...
Welcome to X-Universe News, Edition 35. So if you thought that it had gone a little bit quiet on the news front recently, you'd be right. It's been quiet for a good reason. From a little before the holiday season until now, the Egosoft team has been beavering away working on the latest version of X3: Terran Conflict - more on that in a bit. For this issue I've also managed to grab a few words with Helge Kautz, the author of a number of X-Universe novels, about his latest masterpiece and other things. There's some good news for Macintosh users with a passion for interstellar adventures. I've also dragged Owen Lake (aka Xenon_Slayer) away from his desk long enough to answer some questions about how he ended up there.
Terran Conflict Gets US DVD-ROM Release
Egosoft recently announced that X3: Terran Conflict - The Aldrin Missions will be available at all major US retail outlets from 7th April 2009 on DVD-ROM. Concurrent with this release, the 2.0 version will also be made available to existing owners of X3: Terran Conflict via Steam download or from the Egosoft.com website. As is normally the case, we advise Steam users that their update will be downloaded and applied automatically. They should not try to apply the patch from the Egosoft website.
This latest version, entitled X3: Terran Conflict 2.0 Ė The Aldrin Missions, will feature a host of new missions and more great content, in addition to the customary attention paid to fixing existing issues.
In X3: Terran Conflict 2.0 - The Aldrin Missions the long-lost Terran colony of Aldrin is rediscovered and after many years of isolation, the Terrans are keen to bring the Aldrans back into the fold. The Terrans are making a massive effort to colonise areas of space thought lost or inaccessible. No colonisation is easy and you will not only be asked to help in the shaping of the new frontier but you will also be called upon to provide protection for the colonisation effort against forces determined to oppose the Aldrin expansion. You will be able to build new Terran stations and complexes, a new Terran ship will be available and a host of other new features are introduced as you play a decisive role in the shaping of this new Terran frontier.
The preparation for this particular update has been slightly different. This time around the decision was made to broaden the field of testers and therefore the extent of the feedback. DevNet Level 3 users were invited to download the Beta version of 2.0 and provide feedback to the core development team. As Level 3 DevNet users have not signed the same Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that Level 5 and above have, there was a calculated risk in taking this step. For the most part the attitude of this extended testing team has been commendable and Egosoft staff are very pleased with the quality of some of the testing and feedback. As usual Egosoft is indebted to the extensive network of volunteer developers and testers, without whose support the X Universe games wouldn't quite be the same. X3: Terran Conflict 2.0 lead developer, Owen Lake, gave X-News his overall impression of the Terran Conflict project, "I think X3: Terran Conflict is a fitting end to the X Trilogy, which started with X - Beyond the Frontier 10 years ago. From the furthest reaches of the X-Universe to Earth itself, we've seen so many amazing things. Terran Conflict still has part of its soul in its predecessors but we've added so much to it that it stands on its own as the best X game yet."
In a further development, Egosoft managing director, Bernd Lehahn has stated, "We are pleased to say that in association with our publisher, Koch Media, X3-Gold will be available in Germany and some other EU markets from April 3rd. This exclusive package includes X3: Reunion 2.5 and X3: Terran Conflict 2.0 and will mean that X3: Terran Conflict 2.0 - The Aldrin Missions will have almost 'worldwide' availability."
X3: Terran Conflict 2.0 - The Aldrin Missions will be published in North America by IGS Games inc.
Helge Kautz's Latest Novel - Exclusive Interview
Following the recent publication of his latest novel, set in the X-Universe, I grabbed a few words with Helge Kautz. We hope you enjoy reading.
Toastie: Hi Helge, I heard recently that your latest book has now been published. Please tell us a little about it.
Helge: Hello, sure. The new novel, entitled "HŁter der Tore" (Keeper of the Gates), is set against the background of the game, Terran Conflict, but with a separate storyline. Jel Nirin, the novel's protagonist, is a scientist working for the United Space Command on the dwarf planet Eris. Despite being one of the Solar system's top scientists, Jel Nirin is leading a relatively unremarkable life, until, one day, a swarm of three million Terraformer drones invades the Solar system... and every single one of them is carrying Jel Nirin's name inside its memory banks! Together with Earth dissident Lea Singer, Jel Nirin embarks on a journey through the Commonwealth of Planets to find the reasons behind this.
Toastie: At the moment itís just being published in German. Do you envisage an English translation, like for Farnhamís Legend?
Helge: I don't really see this happening. The translation of 'Farnham's Legend' was a huge effort that took over two years to complete, with many fans involved. But, of course, I'm not opposed to it. If someone is volunteering to coordinate the translation and muster enough volunteers to help - why not? :)
Toastie: If there's one character in an X game that you'd like to play, who would it be and why?
Helge: Well I think that would require a gender change for me (which I can assure you I wouldn't really consider) but if I was a character from the novels, than it would have to be Elena Kho. She's got the right mix of adventurousness, audacity and humour. She has an open mind and gets to see all the cool places. She's also a fun person to be around. So yes, definitely Elena. :)
Toastie: Who are the main influences on your writing, especially when it comes to X-Universe stories?
Helge: My main influences are certainly the sci-fi writers of the 1960's, 70's and 80's era like Larry Niven, Poul Anderson, Orson Scott Card, Greg Bear, Robert Heinlein. Not so much Asimov, though, because I don't really like his writing style, especially that of his earlier stuff. I grew up reading all that great and epic Space Opera and I've loved the genre until the present day. If it has a large, colourful universe, characters to love and hate and a handful of spaceships, you'll find me nearby.
Toastie: Who is your favourite author?
Helge: That would be Larry Niven.
Toastie: If you were adrift in space with only one book, which book would it be?
Helge: "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson. It's not a novel at all, but I enjoyed that book immensely! But please, can I also bring Carl Sagan's "Pale Blue Dot"?
Toastie: Only if one of them is an audio book! Finally, are you willing to share any of your future plans with us?
Helge: I'm working on the follow-up volume to "HŁter der Tore" right now, the working title is "Wšchter der Erde" (Guardians of Earth). After that I am planning on writing something that has absolutely nothing to do with science fiction for a change. You can't get rich writing sci-fi; it's hard to even make a living from it here in Germany, so I think it's time for me to write myself out of that corner eventually. Also, I am intensifying work on my musical projects, voXager (check out www.voXager.de) and Cybernetic Space Orchestra.
Toastie: Thanks very much for that. We look forward to hearing more about the next book and your future endeavours.
Hot News About Mac Ports for X Games!
Virtual Programming Ltd, a specialist software developer for the Macintosh platform, is pleased to announce that in April 2009 it will release X3:Terran Conflict for MacOS. Director of New Business for VP Ltd, Mr Mark Hinton, on the process of porting Terran Conflict for the Mac, said, "We have developed a brand new technology to bring PC games to the Mac platform, and X3:TC has proven to be quite a demanding game. However, we are very excited about it and believe the Mac community will be too."
VP Ltd has also been working on a re-port of X3: Reunion and according to Mr. Hinton this should be released 3-4 weeks after the release of X3: Terran Conflict. This re-port should please many Mac X gamers who have openly voiced their disappointment in the previous port of X3: Reunion, produced using Cider technology.
Learn more about Virtual Programming Ltd's product range at vpltd.com
Egosoft HQ's Pet Brit Tells His Tale
About a year ago the young Owen Lake tied up his knapsack and headed to Germany to take up a new job at Egosoft HQ. It's the sort of thing many an X-fan dreams of being able to do, but Owen got the job and is currently living the dream (and those of you who saw the picture (left) in the X3TC Developer Blog in the run-up to the release of Terran Conflict will know he's had some sleepy-time too!). I can assure you all, he's been kept quite busy since bursting onto the scene at WŁrselen. I dragged him away from 2.0 release preparations to interrogate him about his adventures before and since arriving at Ego HQ.
Toastie: Hi, Owen. Thanks for agreeing to this little chat. I know how busy you are nowadays. What's your official job description now then?
X_S: No problem, thanks for asking me. Since becoming an EGOSOFT employee at the start of 2008 my job title was lead mission programmer. I worked with Al Main on the plot and generic missions for X3: Terran Conflict. Obviously there is more to missions than just code - I also helped get the general story in place along with Helge, Al and yourself. I also focused on testing the game when I could.
Toastie: It's a long way from where you were a couple of years ago when you first got excited about the Mission Director. Please tell us how you got from there to here.
X_S: After testing X3: Reunion, I joined several people in exploring the capabilities of the new Mission Director for the then-codenamed X3.5. After creating several test missions we had built up the MD into this powerful tool which has given X3TC its many missions. I visited the EGOSOFT office in the summer of 2007 with the X-Tension Mod team to discuss the project, which would go on to become Terran Conflict. Later that year I was offered the job, which I accepted with much gusto.
Toastie: How easy was it to make the transition to working in Germany?
X_S: The hardest thing was saying goodbye to my family and friends, without whom I couldnít have got here. When I was offered the job I had just finished college and was a supervisor at the local Co-op which was a love-hate job, but not a career. With the support of everyone and the lack of heavy commitments, the transition was very smooth. I moved in with fellow EGOSOFT employee, Sascha (itís a guyís name), and started work right away. For the first week or so we had fellow Brits, CBJ, Cycrow and Al at the office so English was the primary language. Since then my German has come along very slowly but everyone speaks English perfectly. Getting a grasp of the language is one of my New Yearís resolutions.
Toastie: I know you get to return to the UK regularly, but while you're at the office and at your flat, what do you miss the most about the UK? What DON'T you miss at all?
X_S: Thanks to the magic of the internet, family and friends are never too far away so Iíll avoid that clichť. Iím just going to say TV. Every time I go back, there is always something good on the old box and it takes some effort to do the Ďright thingí and head outside. Here, if I want to catch a football game, Iíll need to head over to the local Irish pub and watching Stargate and Lost isnít quite the same without my Mum. Itís not all bad though. I get BBC World and Sky News. What donít I miss? One word Ė Chavs.
Toastie: How have you settled among the guys at the office and what's been the most difficult hurdle you've had to overcome?
X_S: Like I mentioned before, my language skills are not brilliant so German itself has been the biggest hurdle that Iím still striving to overcome. Everyone in the office has been amazing in acclimatising me to German life. The office is an incredible place to work. We have a pool table; the main form of transportation is by scooter and there is a slide in the garden. Okay, the slide isnít officially for us but Iíll have a go some day.
Toastie: Moving onto your involvement in X3: Terran Conflict now... you have been involved in many areas of the game's development. Which aspect of the game are you particularly pleased with?
X_S: Again, Iíll have to mention the Mission Director. For those who donít know, it is a scripting tool which replaces the complex KC code, deep in the bowels of the game from previous games. Many of the missions from X:BTF to X3:R have been ported to MD and because of its relative ease of use, new generic missions could be developed fairly quickly. Some of the generic missions can be easily adapted to form sub-missions of a plot story.
Toastie: And from the other point of view, is there something you feel hasn't been done justice, that you would like to improve if there was time?
X_S: The biggest weakness of the X games is also its greatest strength: complexity. For those who have watched the series evolve, the addition of new features enriches the experience previously built up. For newcomers the freedom and scope is overwhelming and many compelling features are not available until the game has been played for some days. My improvement would be to make the game more accessible and digestible to new customers so that even more people can enjoy the X Universe.
Toastie: You assumed the lead in the post-release (1.0.1) development of the game from CBJ. Was that a steep learning curve; given what you had been doing pre-release?
X_S: Yes, it was hard but very exciting. Mission development took a back seat and I took on other roles such as planning the updates for X3TC, communicating with the many volunteers around the world and assigning tasks to people. At first I was a bit overwhelmed with all of the extra contact and workload but that has eased through time and I think weíve found a good balance.
Toastie: You've had lots of time to dig around in the bowels of the game. Have you had a chance to sit down and play it normally yet?
X_S: Unfortunately not. Iím constantly in the game at the office, but that is development and testing. Iíve not Ďplayedí an X game since the Bala Gi missions in X3: Reunion 2.0. Itís a shame, yes, but I hope to do it someday. I constantly look out for new feedback from our community and our network of testers are doing a great job, relaying important information to us. Iíve played the games since X-Tension so I know all of the ins and outs, but Iíll admit that Iíve never got to the point of owning a destroyer. I would like to point out, for the sake of my repí that I still slay Xenon from time to time. :)
Toastie: I'd like you to tell me your favourite ship and station from Terran Conflict.
X_S: I love the Terran Tokyo. Itís such a unique looking ship, with that large disk on the side. My favourite station is one of the new Terran docks. They are so huge and the detail is immense. You can get lost in them for hours finding new hiding places and flying across the surface. Obviously I try not to get distracted by them too much.
Toastie: Which one of the Terran Conflict characters would you like to play if it were a movie (and you could act)? ;)
X_S: Letís not talk about my acting skills. I think my character would be Captain Robert Pearle - being an undercover spy, captured by the Argon and then having to face the AGI head on. That would be a very interesting part to play.
Toastie: I jest about your acting skills, of course, because you did provide some of the voice talent for the game as well, didn't you? How much fun was it and does it seem strange to hear yourself in-game?
X_S: Yes, it was very good fun. Being the only English guy in the office, I oversaw some of the English recordings and took part in a few myself. I actually voiced Robert Pearle and several aliens. I really cringe when I hear my voice, so I have to apologise for making players cringe too! My favourite part was playing a Paranid pilot. The Paranid are very arrogant and egotistical so that fit quite nicely. After we apply all of the alien filters to the voices itís hard to tell which actor did what. I must give a big thanks to Christian from the recording studio and the actors who took part.
Toastie: All in all, it's been quite an adventure for you over the last year or so. What's on the horizon for you and what can you share with us of future plans, especially bearing in mind that Terran Conflict is the 'conclusion' of the X Trilogy?
X_S: Well, Iím not going anywhere and I will be busy for the foreseeable future. Obviously I canít say too much but big things are on the horizon. The whole reason Iím leading X3TC is because everyone else is doing other things. As for Terran Conflict, development is still ongoing. With the release of 2.0 looming, Iím looking forward to further developing it and I have some big ideas that I hope to realise. Weíre not done yet.
Toastie: Well, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I'll leave you to get back to your pizza.
X_S: My pleasure. Iíd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has made Terran Conflict what it is. Extra thanks go to my Dad who bought X-Gold years ago and introduced me to this series. Sorry Dad, Iíve permanently borrowed the disk. And to the community, you guys are the heart and soul of the X games. A huge thanks from all of us at EGOSOFT for buying our game.
The Tail-End Charlies
If you would like to get in contact with us, then feel free. E-mail: X-Universe-News@egosoft.com
With Thanks To
Translation and Proofreading
Belisarius - DE
Ogerboss - DE
Garga-Potter - IT
Xfrench - FR
Sblade - ES
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