Following on from the success of the new format X Universe News that brought news of X Rebirth, we're pleased to bring you edition 43 of the X Universe News in the same format.
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Egosoft MD Showcases X Rebirth at FedCon XX

Egosoft Managing Director, Bernd Lehahn, and members of the Egosoft development team attended the annual Sci-Fi convention in Düsseldorf in late April and Bernd took to the stage to showcase some early Alpha footage of X Rebirth.
On Thursday 28th and Saturday 30th April Bernd gave a presentation on X Rebirth to assembled journalists and sci-fi games enthusiasts. Bernd explained that one of the key design aims of X Rebirth, because of the vastness of space in general terms, is to bring the action closer to the surface of the massive space stations in the game. One good thing about this is that the player can enjoy the glorious detail of those space stations while flying around them.

The video footage shown was from an early Alpha build of the game and some things may have changed since and Bernd stressed that some things may yet change.

Speaking about the gameplay, Bernd described the game's plot as an important introduction to the Universe into which the player has been thrown. X Rebirth will retain the open 'sandbox' gameplay style that made its predecessors so popular.

In the question and answer session that followed the presentation on Saturday 30th, when asked if the game would have an interface for Modding, Bernd stressed that, like previous games in the X series, it is Egosoft's goal that X Rebirth can be modded. He did, however, point out that since the technologies used in X Rebirth are so different to those in previous X games, it is not really appropriate at the moment to get the Modders or other community members involved. Time spent explaining the game's mechanics to modders etc. now would detract from the time that developers are able to spend preparing the game for release. Bernd added that once the game is released scripters and modders will have the best opportunity to see how the game can be changed. - Toastie

KGN Interview with Bernd Lehahn at FedCon XX

At FedCon XX in Düsseldorf Egosoft boss, Bernd, was also interviewed by Krawall Gaming Network (KGN) website and gave some further hints and information above and beyond those in the FedCon presentation. Let's take a look at some of the key points from that interview.

The concept is being rebuilt from the ground up this time, what key issues will be dealt with in doing so? - The transportation system will be much different. Instead of just flying from one place to another through the lonely void of space, there will be closer interaction and proximity with other ships. While this interaction may seem like 'GTA in space', you wouldn't be dragging anyone out of their ship and beating them up. In previous games, players asked for more and more content, sometimes at the expense of quality. This time around quality is the watchword.

Will the player be able to leave the ship? - There won't be any FPS-style action, but interaction with Non-Playing Characters (NPC) is very important in X Rebirth. You will interact with your factory managers and other pilots, for example. The most important NPC is your female co-pilot.

So this is a reboot, right? - It's certainly not X4!

What features have been left out from previous series? - Things haven't been left out just because they're hard to develop, rather we've concentrated on bring in gameplay features that are 'cooler'. Previously, for example, it was possible to pilot a capital ship from its bridge. No more. It took many players a long time to get to the point where they would own one and it wasn't a huge amount of fun to fly. If we'd included this, it would have put us back a bit.

What's happened to the User Interface? Some are concerned it may be dumbed down and [the game] may even appear on console. - No, no console. The game will become less complicated, but no less complex.

Will it be multiplayer? - Nope. It's something we've had in mind and there have been some good ideas, nonetheless, it's just not feasible right now.

Will there be more action in the story? - The story is good and important for newcomers, but we want to ensure fun gameplay in all areas. 'Yes, the plot might only last 10-20 hours, but that's not why I buy the game,' say most X-fans, because there's at least another 100 hours of gameplay beyond that... once the story is over, the player is free to do as he likes in the universe. We're keeping the sandbox.

What can you say about the story? You're not breaking with the canon of the story, but everything is new. - In the future of the X Universe a lot has happened since the events of Terran Conflict, among which is the fact that the Ancients' gate network that binds the people of the X Universe together have shut down. Some say it started with a supernova, but the end result is that some regions are totally cut off from others and the universe has changed dramatically as a result of the isolation. This gives us a huge amount of design freedom and imagine the possibilities this gives the player!

In the video are lots of massive stations and modules with greenhouses etc. Are these interactive to the player? - Of course. Stations will be gigantic and much more detailed than in the past but it's not just about the visuals, there are many more ways to interact with them now and they are much more important to the economy.

What can one do there? - Loads. How trade is done is even different. There's no landing to pick up wares and take them elsewhere. You now overfly the station and see what's on offer. Scanning stations and ships (legal or otherwise) will be important in the game. It was the case before that it didn't matter where you fired. Now the player can identify critical systems and target them.

Will the game support modding? - Yes, we're not changing our philosophy. We'll open up the games to the fans and work with them. The foundations of this have long-since been established through our forums and its embedded 'DevNet'.

With thanks to Bernd Lehahn and KGN. You can view the original german interview here.

DortCon 2011

Egosoft Art Director Alex Preuss Featured

It seems Alex and his work is becoming a regular feature in the X-Universe News, but his popularity doesn't end here. He was invited to take part in this year's Dortmunder Science-Fiction Conference (09-10 April 2011) as one of the guests of honour.
Egosoft's Art Director had a small gallery showing off his award-winning science-fiction artwork and held interviews and answered questions from fans of his work. Having been heavily involved in the art design work for Egosoft's latest project, formerly known as 'TNBT', he was very pleased to be able to show off some of the early concept art from the new game.
Alex's concept art from X Rebirth certainly got tongues wagging on Egosoft's forums. There was a range of artwork illustrating many possibilities in the imaginations of many avid X gamers. One of the most striking pieces is that of Solar City.

Many of you will now have seen the X Rebirth trailer and I hope you'll agree that the concept art you see here is a beautiful inspiration for the massive structures you may see in the existing and future trailer videos. - Toastie.

Let Battle Resume!

X3: Terran Conflict - Out of Sector Combat

Many of you may have had one of those 'What the!?' moments; you know the one: "Your Boreas was destroyed in Sector Blah by Pirate Harrier". The emotions range from bemusement to downright frustration. It shouldn't be possible. I refer, of course, to the OOS combat code and its sometimes-strange results.

In OOS combat (Out-Of-Sector - a sector you, the player, are not personally in) the calculations to determine the outcome of engagements are different to those used In-Sector (IS). This is primarily for performance reasons. The OOS code tries to reproduce similar results to IS fights. This is done with calculations based on things like size, class, speed and manouverability of the ships involved in the battle. Unlike in previous games of the X-Series, in X3:TC the calculations have led to some unexpected results. In X3:TC's OOS combat it's possible that one of your ships could be destroyed by a much weaker ship. An ideal example is the Xenon Q. It is able to destroy almost any other ship in OOS combat, even if the other ship is a fully-equipped M2 destroyer. This is something which has certainly caused a lot of headaches for many players.

Almost a year ago Egosoft provided DevNet testers with an updated OOS combat code for further testing. Although the code fixed a few of the known problems, the tests also returned some very odd results. Unfortunately, due to its complexity and a shortage of time, testers and developement capacity, the code had to be dropped, particularly in light of higher-priority bug fixes. At that time the code was far from ready to be released into the wild.

The code was actually implemented in version 3.0 of the game, but was not activated. If you aren't already aware of this, you can now try out the new OOS combat code for yourself. If you are so inclined and are familiar with the modification of the game, all you have to do is modify the file globals.txt (the current one can be found in the types folder of the cat/dat number 10). This contains a new value: SG_OOS_FIGHT_MODE. Just change it from 'SG_OOS_FIGHT_MODE;0;' to 'SG_OOS_FIGHT_MODE;1;'. Alternatively you can download this .zip archive and extract it to your X3:TC main directory. It contains the Types folder with the already-modified globals.txt.

Please note that this file hasn't been through Egosoft's signing process, which means using it will mark your savegame as ***modified***. Modified savegames aren't considered in the game statistics on the Egosoft site and you won't get any achievements from Steam either. Also before trying it, be sure to back-up your savegames. - X2-Illuminatus

A Day in the Life of...

CBJ - Egosoft All-Rounder

In common with many people in the field I work in, I'm not really a morning person. However, circumstances usually conspire to ensure that I am up and at least semi-functional before 08:00 most mornings. Until recently I had help from spoon-dissolvingly strong coffee to help with the transition from semi-functional to functional, but currently I'm having to manage without that.

I'm usually at my desk some time between 09:00 and 09:30, and I normally start the day by reading emails, reviewing code changes that have been checked in, and trying to work out what on earth it was that I was doing when I finished work the day before. During this time I try to avoid being interrupted, so I tend not to make my presence known to the other members of the team. I should explain at this point that I don't have a personal cloaking device; I just don't work in the office, so it's quite easy to hide!

Some time before 10:00 a fanfare announces my presence to the rest of the team. Well OK, not really a fanfare; more a change of icon colour. Within minutes there are usually two or three chat windows open on my screen, as other team members take the opportunity to catch me before I get too deeply involved in my own coding. The sorts of questions I generally get asked at this point involve how best to implement a particular piece of functionality, how to correctly make use of an existing code library, how to go about tracking down a particular bug, and so on. Sometimes I can answer these questions quickly; other times it can take an hour or two before the other person has everything they need to enable them to get on with what they were doing.

Once the day's first round of requests for help has been dealt with I can finally settle down to some work of my own. Currently I'm very heavily involved in optimisation, which means spending a lot of time up to my neck in spreadsheets full of numbers, tracing calls through dozens of functions in dozens of files, all written by different people. This kind of work is about as close as a programmer gets to slinging a rifle over their shoulder and going out on a cull; the target is code that is taking up too much valuable CPU time. Please note that the rifle is metaphorical and doesn't usually get used to shoot the person who wrote the code in question.

"Lunch. Working at home has its perks, one of which is not having to share a kitchen with the rest of the team."

Back to the code-face. Programming is an endless cycle. You come up with a design for what you're going to write, write some code, check the code, fix any obvious problems, compile the code, fix any compilation errors, tweak the code some more, compile again, fix any new compilation errors, run the code, fix any bugs, run the code again, fix any more bugs, and then start back at the beginning of the cycle again with a new batch of code. At any point in the cycle you might also find a flaw in the design, such as a requirement that you missed or an error in the logic, and have to go back to the beginning. With a code-base as big and as complicated as a game, even just the compile process can take time. With two quad-core PCs on the job it can take between 3 and 10 minutes, depending on the type of build, and it's while this is happening that I find time to make the occasional forum post. And of course there will also be time spent dealing with the various requests from other team members for more help or information.

Just about the time I need to go and see to my domestic duties there is usually a flurry of new requests for help or information from guys in the office who are still trying to finish up their work for the day. Needless to say I try and sort those out as quickly as possible, because...

Pizza! Living out of range of any of the usual pizza delivery options, I have to make my own. Starting from the raw ingredients I can knock up a batch of pizzas in about an hour. The results are usually pretty good, though I would still like to improve on my dough and I'd love to have a proper pizza oven to work with.

The downside to working from home is that it's hard to get away from work completely. I usually spend a little time back at my desk in the middle of the evening, tidying up whatever I was working on earlier, writing emails, or whatever else needs doing.

By this time I'm usually back at my PC again. If my current tasks are particularly urgent, or if some part of the design has been bugging me, I quite often carry on working on them for a bit. Similarly if there are other people working late then I might end up helping them with what they're doing. Otherwise it's more of a mixed bag: some work, some time on the forums, catching up on the news, maybe even playing a game for a bit.

Time to shut down... er, I mean go to sleep.- CBJ

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