Issue 39 - April 2010
|Versión en Español
|A Few Words from the Editor...
|X3TC 2.6 Update
|Welcome to A New Home
|Free Steam with Update 2.6!
|Steam Achievements and more for TC
|X3: Terran Conflict Bonus Pack
|Great new content for Terran Conflict!
|Definitely NOT robots in disguise!
|A Day in the Life of...
|Bernd Lehahn, EGOSOFT MD
|Credits & Contacts:
|The Uninteresting Bit at the End
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A Few Words from the Editor...
Welcome to the 39th edition of the X-Universe News, the first of 2010. Work continues apace at EGOSOFT HQ, not just on maintaining and improving your enjoyment of X3: Terran Conflict, but also on future projects. We're very pleased, in this issue, to announce the 2.6 update of X3: Terran Conflict, which not only brings a couple of tweaks here and there, but also includes some awesome, and I hope you'll agree, very different new content. More on that later, of course.
Also in this issue, I'll be highlighting some of the important localisation work that is done, not just for the X-Universe News but more importantly for the games themselves. We'll be bringing news of the long-awaited X3:TC Bonus Pack, which contains some of your favourite plug-ins and scripts, adding further depth and capabilities to your gameplay. We also have some exciting news about some important developments to Terran Conflict, made possible through cooperation with Steam. Also EGOSOFT big cheese, Bernd Lehahn, talks us through a 'day in the life of' the Managing Director of your favourite space game developer, a feature we hope to continue in coming editions.
Finally, as editor of the X-Universe News, I'd like to appeal to you, its readers, to bring news of your X-Universe experiences and exploits to your fellow readers. We've featured stories of paper models, video-making, "Dead-Is-Dead" gaming and complex building in recent issues and none of these would be possible without your experiences of playing EGOSOFT titles. This issue is no different - it features a small interview with Belisarius, who tells us his tale of universal conquest in X3: Reunion. You too can tell us all of your intrepid exploits in the X-Universe by sending details to the e-mail address at the bottom of the newsletter. Clearly not everything sent to us may be featured but we will try to show as wide a variety of stories as possible. All that remains for now is for me to hope that you enjoy this issue.
Welcome to A New Home
Update 2.6 of X3: Terran Conflict brings the long-awaited community mission, A New Home. This is a quest comprising a series of challenging tasks, which ultimately will lead you to what some consider the ultimate X-Universe prize. After months of coordination and development by a team of eager DevNet members, this new game content promises to be an exciting addition to Terran Conflict's gameplay. EGOSOFT is particularly pleased with the hard work that has gone into this and hopes, as do its developers, that it brings much enjoyment to players. Bernd Lehahn, EGOSOFT MD, said of this latest update, "Once again we are very pleased to release another update for X3:Terran Conflict. Even beyond version 2.6, in cooperation with Steam and with thanks to our vibrant community, we are looking into continued development of new missions and other new content for this game. I would also like to use this opportunity to remind the core community of scripters and modders on our forums, that we are still collecting material for the Superbox. Please get in touch with us if you want to see your material included!"
Another key feature of the 2.6 Update is the introduction of STEAM achievements for Terran Conflict. We'll take a closer look at what that means for Terran Conflict players in the following article.
Also featured in Update 2.6 is a new gamestart, based on the classic Argon Prime start of previous games. This update also brings improved rendering performance to the game and a number of fixes, including the missing wares for sale at the Goner Temple, weapon information displays for ships with only missile turrets and some issues with the Freight Scan mission. See the Update's change log for full details.
Steam Achievements and more for TC
We are very pleased to announce that as part of the 2.6 Update, the STEAM-deployed version of Terran Conflict will feature Steam Achievements. Over the last couple of months EGOSOFT staff have been working in conjunction with Valve and members of the DevNet Community to come up with an array of achievements reflecting the very diverse nature of the Terran Conflict gameplay. We won't spoil all the fun right now by telling you all the achievements, we'd rather you played the game and found out yourselves! Many games are released with this feature and EGOSOFT are conscious of the benefits that such achievements can bring to players' experiences with the game so with this in mind, we decided to integrate the achievements mechanism into the game. We're equally conscious of the fact that not all Terran Conflict players downloaded the game from Steam. For this reason and so as many of you can enjoy , we're very pleased to announce that owners of the DVD boxed version of the game will be able to register their existing product key with Steam to download that version of the game for free and be able to enjoy Steam Achievements too!
That's not all! In addition to the introduction of Achievements to Terran Conflict, there will be a further game feature which has also been made possible through our ties with Valve and Steam. Using Steam technology and thanks to inspiration from our own community, work is underway to develop a Dead-Is-Dead (DiD) game mode. We are very excited about this and hope that this development will be ready for the next Terran Conflict Update. Those of you inspired by the adventures of Squiddy McSquid and other DiD heroes will be able to embark on your own DiD adventures, made possible using Steam technology. We hope that this will bring a new and exciting dimension to your gameplay.
Great new content for TC!
It gives us great pleasure to announce that along with the release of the 2.6 Update of X3: Terran Conflict, the first Bonus Pack for X3: Terran Conflict is now available. Many of you have been waiting patiently for this, some less so, but here it is! Bonus Packs contain script plugins, created by members of our own DevNet community, which have been tested and certified for use in the game. Each plugin brings its own new set of features to enhance your enjoyment of X3: Terran Conflict. The plugins included in this Bonus Pack are as follows:
EGOSOFT extends its thanks to the authors of the plugins and everyone who was involved in the testing and the signing process.
Definitely NOT robots in disguise!
When it comes time for me to prepare a new X-Universe News, it invariably coincides with the release of a game, a new game edition or an update. These releases will have required many hours of localisation effort on the part of EGOSOFT's localisation staff, which represent the German, French, Italian, Spanish, Polish and Russian languages. Just when these poor guys and girls think it's safe to relax, most of them get a copy of this X-Universe news to translate! To highlight the difference these efforts make in bringing the X games to life for players across Europe and the world, I have put the spotlight on a couple of the guys who make such valuable contributions to your enjoyment of the games.
I asked DevNet member Alex Vanderbilt to tell me about his experience as an EGOSOFT translator:
"I'm a member of the German translation team and I've been translating texts for EGOSOFT since X3: Reunion and I'm really enjoying the work; not just because it's for one of my favorite games but also because it's good experience and training for me as I'm studying Translation at university. Thus my work for X is a nice playground to practice and apply what I've learned in the university.
"Initially the translations I did for Reunion were small and easy tasks as I joined the team quite late in Reunion's development. The amount of work I did on that was nothing compared to what would follow with TC. When TC appeared the real work began. There were shedloads of texts, sometimes pages of copy and pasting, sometimes pages and pages of pure translating - not to mention struggling with the deadlines for these tasks. As every race has its own peculiarities, you had to start to think like them, to feel like them, to eat and to breath… well, you know what I mean. For me, switching between the always credit-hungry Teladi and the glorious, fanatical Paranid (which some of you know I really like!) was a strange but very useful experience, from which I learned a few lessons.
"Besides the actual in-game texts, e.g. for updates, I'm also occupied with translating English news and announcements, the X-Universe News as well as change logs etc into German and sometimes into Spanish too. Now, a year after the main translations for the game life is a bit calmer but now and then the goliath awakens and throws loads of texts at the poor translators. In fact as I say all this, I have a curious feeling I may have to translate it all again!"
I also asked Italian team member, Christian (aka Garga-Potter) to share some of his experiences of localisation work with me:
"Having become addicted to X2 and X3: Reunion I took the step into the 'dark side' of the games by signing the NDA, not really knowing how I was going to help, but I wanted to.
"Not being very good at betatesting, I asked to be part of the Italian translation team. I thought I would start as a 'newbie' but because the 'old' team was suddenly too busy with Real Life, I very quickly climbed the ladder and ended up being in charge of the Italian team (well... at least being in charge until the usual team leader had time again!).
"To speed up the proof-reading process and to avoid mismatches or destroying the actual XML scripts used for the game, I created a small database-driven site so that every member of the team could log in and work on his bit of translation without interfering with each other and without the risk of damaging the XML coding of the original file. Through the efforts of DannyD, Confucio and me, the Italian team has been able to coordinate its efforts centrally, overcoming issues with some existing mistranslations (some sector names and weapon types). The hardest part of Italian localisation in general is keeping the Italian texts as short as the English ones as usually the Italian can be a lot longer. The final step of our process is to generate the translated XML files with only the new or amended texts and send them to EGOSOFT."
Clearly without such efforts EGOSOFT games would not be as widely popular as they are and the X-Universe News wouldn't be as widely read, so this is a fitting opportunity to thank all localisation staff members, past and present, for their efforts and for always maintaining such a 'can do' attitude.
In previous issues of the X-Universe News we have tried to highlight ways that different members of the community have used their X-Universe experience to enhance others' enjoyment of X games. In this issue we're taking a look at one aspect of X gaming that quite a few have no doubt tried but not all succeed - Universal Domination. Due to the nature of the game, there will always be the threat of Xenon or Kha'ak, but eliminating the other races is a singularly tricky challenge. I asked DevNet colleague, Belisarius, if he'd share with the community his experience of attempting Universal Domination in X3: Reunion.
Q. Hi, Beli. In X3:R you were able to conquer the whole Universe. This is something many X players think or dream about doing, but often the 'realities' of the X-Universe mean we just don't get around to it. At what point in your game did you think, "I'm going to go for it... I'm going for total domination?"
A. Hi, Toastie. The idea of conquering the whole universe developed in my head right after I finished the main plot of X3: Reunion, but I didn't get started straight away. The reason behind this idea was the frustration I felt after finishing the plot; there wasn't much fighting anymore. People who know me also know that I'm not a big fan of the trading part of the games. It is easy to build complexes and run a few Universe Traders to gain money, but there was never much useful to do with that money except to build more complexes and hiring more Unitraders. That'd be a never-ending cycle, a boring never-ending cycle. Then patch 2.0 with the Bala Gi Research Missions was released and the player was granted the opportunity to build his own HQ. With this giant station I could reverse engineer ships and rebuild them. That really was when my evil plan started taking shape properly. The whole universe feared the Kha'ak and the Xenon, but they didn't expect me to be so frustrated that I'd start a 'Universe Domination Tour'.
Q. Which game start did you use and did this influence your decision to go for it?
A. I'd chosen the normal start with Julian Brennan starting in Argon Prime. Sure, this influenced the idea a little bit as if I'd have chosen another start without the plot activated I either would have started my domination tour right after a few In-Game hours or not at all, as with the plot disabled I wouldn't have been able to get the HQ and build my own fleet as quickly. I'm glad that I chose wisely.
Q. What tactics did you use in your quest for total domination?
A. There actually wasn't a tactic as such, but a plan what to do first and how to proceed. You can't build ships without the required resources, so I had to build giant complexes producing the wares I needed. At the beginning I even thought that I'd reach a point somewhere in the game when it becomes impossible to proceed without cheating. I was determined to go as far as possible and I really made it!
Q. What was the most challenging aspect of this quest?
A. Building the complexes. Clearly you can build stations and complexes anywhere, but I don't know any self-sustaining complex that doesn't need ore or silicon wafers i.e. mines to work. The problem of having enough mines of the right type in my sector nearly caused me to scrap the plan of universe domination and play another game, but then a topic on egosoft.com caught my attention which described how to bring mines into a chosen sector. I have to admit that this was an exploit but I wanted to stay vanilla as I had in all of my games played so far. It took more than 150 game hours but in this way I built dozens of giant resource producing complexes in one sector.
I'm very grateful to Lucike here as he made the scripts which made it possible to tell freighters to continually deliver the produced wares to the HQ. Without the Bonus Pack my game would have been modified quite early. Of course, building the resource complexes wasn't the only problem. All the ships I was building also needed weapons and these weapons needed to be stored somewhere. As the storage capacity of the complex isn't that huge and I needed the HQ's total capacity for the ship production, I also built 25 Equipment Docks. All this and I still hadn't taken a single step on my domination tour of the universe, because building a fleet strong enough for this took time. My fleet consisted solely of Split ships as I like the designs.
I had 150 Pythons, 55 Raptors and 230 Dragons (which was a bad idea as they are too weak against an Argon Centaur). A few of those ships were bought from the shipyards, but most were built in the HQ.
Of course all of this needs to be financed. There was my next problem. So I had to build more complexes selling products that the other races would need. The Teladi and Pirates were great customers in my weed complexes. My biggest one was self-sufficient and had 123 stations. It wasn't long before I had two billion credits in my account, so I spread it out to my EDs so I could get more. After I did all of this I started my great 'Universe Domination Tour'.
Q. Which race was the most satisfying to eliminate?
A. Borons! Hearing them gasping while dying gave me the feeling of being god in my own universe. I didn't want to enter a sector alone, firing at enemy ships and stations, so I took one of my Pythons into Lucky Planets and destroyed the Equipment Dock and the Shipyard. After that I was pretty sure they'd fire on me as soon as I enter one of their core sectors.
Q. Did you have to park flotillas in Xenon Sectors to guard against respawns?
A. Yes, I did and it felt like each respawn brought a wave of ships stronger than the last. But the Xenon weren't a huge problem as they are killable. There are ships in the universe which aren't, such as Argon One, which because of its relevance for the main plot, it's invincible and pretty powerful! There was also another Argon capital ship that I couldn't destroy. I think it was the Renown, another plot ship, but I don't remember if it was an M1 or an M2. I don't know how many ships I lost in the first few battle hours, but I think it was quite a few. It is impossible to assist in each battle and considering that the Out of Sector battle code in X3:R isn't the best, it was entirely likely that two M6 could kill an M1 within minutes. There I have to admit that using Split Dragons wasn't just a bad idea, but the worst one. A Dragon has just one turret and not the best shielding of all those M6 class ships.
Q. What were the first and last sectors that you 'liberated'?
A. I concentrated on Boron sectors first, starting with Lucky Planets. I then wiped out the Paranid (who are so arrogant, they don't deserve to be the last to get wiped out), moving onto the Argon, Pirates, Teladi and then the Split, the last 'liberated' race sector being Family Pride. My last epic battle was in Avarice against the mighty forces of BurnIt!. He may have thought his fleet was indomitable, but my flotilla of 25 M2s led by my personal Raptor overcame his forces in a final big battle. Unfortunately I couldn't overcome the Kha'ak as on Day 273 of my Universe Domination Tour, two Kha'ak capital ships entered my resource production sector, destroying factories and their guardians. Thus began the end of my era as Master of the Universe.
Q. Having done this in X3:R, how do you think you might do this in X3:TC?
A. I would do it the same way I did it in X3:R. This tactic worked well and the exploit with the jumping stations is still present in X3:TC and I hope it gets never fixed! But I don't think that I'll do this in X3:TC. This game offers so much fight that there's no need for me to take on the whole universe. I have to admit that I still haven't finished all of the plots.
Q. Finally, if you had one single piece of advice for a potential ‘master of the universe', what would it be?
A. It isn't enough to buy a little fleet and start to take out stations and ships. You will need to repair your ships and you will also need to buy or build new ships. Be patient and always have a plan of what to do next, otherwise your domination tour will come to an end right in the neighbouring sector.
Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Beli.
Thank you too, Toastie. It was great fun. :-)
Bernd Lehahn, EGOSOFT MD
I have been asked to write a bit about what we are doing and how a typical day at EGOSOFT HQ passes. So here is my take on it - totally subjective and only my point of view! :)
Unfortunately I cannot go into much detail about the game that we are working on most of the time. We decided long ago that we want to make sure that we do not talk about "unlaid eggs" and wait until very late in the development before announcing this project. So for the sake of this article let's call it "The Next Big Thing" or maybe just "TNBT" to keep the article short. ;-)
10-12: Tech support
After my kids are in Kindergarten, I usually use the silence in our home to work on emails from the day before, having a very extended breakfast and contemplating replies to a few business mails and lots of customer requests. It is always interesting to read what people write to us. From praise to harsh criticism, from login problems to complex technical issues with our games - every mail is different. We always try to collect feedback and suggestions for our games from such mails and forum postings. Right now, however, this feedback is quite a bit out of sync with what we are working on. TNBT development has already been on-going since 2006 and it was always our intention to really reinvent space games for the better. So when reading feedback about Terran Conflict or Reunion now it unfortunately cannot easily be applied to TNBT. Around noon the kids come back from Kindergarten and daddy has to flee into the office to be able to work. Now my way to "the office" is a nicely short one. It is one floor down to be precise. :) Work times at EGOSOFT are very flexible. Some people, like me, arrive at the office around noon, others have been here since 7am already. The only thing we all have in common is that right now we all work very long hours, often including weekends. The reason for this is a deadline to deliver an internal milestone of TNBT.
12 - 2pm: Construction Worker
Over the last 5 years the team-size at EGOSOFT HQ has increased quite a lot. When we moved from a nearby town to our own new HQ here in Bardenberg in 2001, the office was really very oversized. There was lots of room for stuff like a pool table, an arcade machine, a fish tank and lots of other toys. At that time (prior to finishing X2), the team consisted of just five people and an intern. And this small team did the entire development with very little outside help. We started experimenting with some partners to work on things like the plot cutscenes for X2 at that time, but it's fair to say that 90% of the game was done in-house. From game to game the team has grown and the office has shrunk. :) Now we are working with 16 people in this same office plus some more working from England and the US plus lots of external studios who support us with graphic asset production. So as you can imagine, my work has changed a lot and many of the above-mentioned toys in our office had to be moved into the corners to make room for more desks. :) So part of my job is to make sure everybody has a place to work. Putting together IKEA tables, shopping for new office equipment, cleaning the company pool (it really does sound better than it is ... check out the picture). It's a nice contrast sometimes to sitting on a chair all day.
2pm - 4pm: Performance Tuning
Let's face it: after so many changes and now that a large part of my work is outside the 'tech department', I am no good as a programmer anymore. There are now lots of youngsters with much more knowledge and a much better programming style. :) So whenever I can make some time, instead of ruining their clean code with ugly hacks, I return instead to my favourite part-time job: Tuning and testing. Whenever a fast PC is available at the office, I use it to test TNBT and measure where the code is spending all those precious CPU cycles. Nowadays measuring the performance of a game is not what is used to be "in the old days". Every gaming rig has more than a single CPU core, so tuning is not just optimizing cycles, but also optimizing concurrency.
4pm - 5pm: Office Work
Every few days I have to drive to our HR department or the tax office. Yes, that's definitely the most boring part of the job and not worth describing. :)
5pm - Late at Night
Every now and then I have the luxury of being able to return home, by just walking up the stairs to see my kids and my wife or have dinner. Since my wife, Chia-Chen, also works for EGOSOFT, we can discuss private stuff as well as our work any time during the day. It has its downsides, but I really enjoy this mix. Once the kids are sleeping, we often have the TV turned on and both my wife and I each have a laptop open. Romantic, isn't it? ;-) I return then to the one program that, despite those little side jobs described above, I spend the most time with: Mail...
Ed: Thanks to Bernd for sharing his 'day in the life' with us all. Keep an eye out for more 'Day in the Life of' features in future X-News editions.
The Uninteresting Bit at the End
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
Alex Vanderbilt - DE/ES
Belisarius - DE
Garga-Potter - IT
Xfrench - FR
vbruzual - ES
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