Edition 50 - May 2013

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X3: Albion Prelude Update 3.0

Shady Business

Egosoft is pleased to announce the release of X3: Albion Prelude 3.0 - Shady Business! The fight of the Corporations for power, prosperity and technologies continues.
A Split 'bridle' is missing and StrongArms, Jonferco and the Beryll are trying everything to find her. They seem to be putting in a bit too much effort just to save a Split wedding. What other interests they have in finding the Split bridle? You'll find out in the 'Shady Business' plot. Another place another story. Some corporations rise; others fall. A few owners of struggling corporations are clever enough to ask for help. Who knows? Maybe one of them will also try to contact you. Find out in the 'Corporation Troubles' plot. Turned-off gate connections drastically change the universe, as we know. While some factions fight for control of the remaining territories, others pursue more peaceful objectives. Help those discovering new places to settle in the 'Breaking Grounds' plot.

But this is not everything Update 3.0 has to offer by a long way. Four new generic missions have found their way into the game. Amongst those are the 'Tour of a Lifetime' and 'Repair Station' missions that some of you might know from earlier X games. In the hope of continued support in the ongoing war, the Terran government has finally decided to offer previously unavailable weapon and support factories for sale. Driven by a similar logic, the Argon federation has put its newest supply ship into mass production. While not directly involved in the war, the Split Patriarch has revealed his long-kept secret flagship to counter the armament efforts of the other races.

Also new in this Update is the added support for Gamepad controllers. Finally those of you who want to play X3: Albion Prelude with a Gamepad will be able to do so.

It's not only new things that have been added, though; some old bugs have also finally bitten the dust. These include a problem with super-shipyards preventing M6 ships from undocking without collisions, the destruction of captured ships by the war manager, as well as several problems with generic missions. As usual, the complete changelog can be found in the documents folder of your X3 Terran Conflict addon directory.
X3: Albion Prelude 3.0 is available now for download over Steam. The Steam client will automatically update your game to the latest version, provided it has not been configured to prevent this. We have also updated the NoSteam EXE to version 3.0 - to use this you will need to update via Steam first.

As many of you will already be aware the 3.0 update for X3 Albion Prelude has been very much a community effort, with the vast majority of both the creative talent and the development coming from our tireless team of DevNet volunteers. We at EGOSOFT would like to take this opportunity to thank the team for all the time and hard work that they have put into this project, and also to thank the numerous other DevNet members who have been involved in testing and providing feedback to the core team. Feel free to join us by showing your appreciation on the forums!

The developers of the AP Community Project are:

  • Christopher "eldyranx3" Wagoner
  • Daniel "Woffin" Finney
  • DrBullwinkle
  • Filipe "Ketraar" Teixeira
  • Jack "jack775544" Kerr
  • Jacob "Unbekanntes Feindschiff" Grimm
  • X2-Illuminatus
  • Mark "KJ" Schubert
  • Matt "Cycrow" Gravestock
  • Phil "Dillpickle" Royle
  • Roguey
  • Daniel 'Scion Drakkar' Heim
  • Stephen "killerog" Button
  • Umbru
Special thanks from the developers of the AP Community Project goes to all Community Members that posted ideas, feedback, helped to test and translate this update.

PS: The X3: Albion Prelude 3.0 poster is now available for download from here. - X2-Illuminatus

Shady Business Prologue Story

The prologue to the eponymous Plot of the newest update to X3:AP

Development of the Shady Business plot necessarily involved detailed discussion of how the storyline fitted within the traditional X3 game lore. Naturally, the developers of the update know all about the plot and its setting within the lore background. Unfortunately, not everyone who plays this plot can have the same insider knowledge as they do.

Community developer eldyranx3, who developed the Shady Business Plot, decided to address that particular problem by writing a descriptive Prologue narrative for the plot. This is the perfect background and an enjoyable read for anyone wanting to immerse themselves in the lore aspects of the plot.

The Shady Business Prologue is now available in English for download from here. - X2-Illuminatus

Open letter regarding Steam and a few announcements

Dear Customers,

Ever since 2006, when our games became first available on the Steam platform, there have always been critical discussions about Steam in our community. After our move to make Steam a mandatory requirement for activation and updates of X3: Albion Prelude at the end of 2011, these discussions heated up and some of our fans turned away from our games in protest at this step.

Since I take these concerns seriously, I would like to respond to the main criticisms from my perspective as a game developer, and make an important announcement at the same time.

Here is a link to our FAQ to help those of you who want to know what Steam really is and what it does and does not do:

The most common misconception is that people believe they have to be online to play our games. This is not true. You can play games without being online through the so called "offline mode", but yes you do need to install the Steam client and have to be online when you install the game on a new machine. Another important fact: you can install our games on multiple machines, but you can not play on multiple machines at the same time (just like with a DVD). Every time you want to switch from one machine to another, you have to be online for a moment before you can switch that machine back into "offline" mode. But now lets get to the main reason for this mail:

Long term support and new updates:

Ever since the first X game, we have released free updates for our games. Among other things, these updates also allowed our games to continue to run on new versions of the operating system or on more modern hardware (this patch, for example, was needed to make XBTF run on fast machines) (XBTF patch for Win64). Developing updates for a game long after its original release, however, does cost money. This service is only affordable for a developer who is still making money from old games.

Every developer who did not sell all rights to a publisher, but is in the fortunate position to sell directly on Steam has a huge incentive to continue to support their game in this manner. We have seen that even such an old title as X: Beyond the Frontier (1999) still finds new fans on Steam, and we have been able to develop the updates to make a game from 1999 run on Windows 7 64bit and Windows 8. Without Steam we would not have been able to provide this service; an advantage not only for us but for all our customers.

Steam Play (Linux and Mac):

Today when we talk of "PC Games", we no longer ONLY mean Windows. For some time already, both Mac OS and Linux have become valid alternatives. External partners ported our games over to MAC and Linux and sold them as a new product, sometimes for a different price. Unfortunately these externally developed ports had a number of problems for us as a developer as well as for our customers:

For the customer: Should you ever switch to a different operating system and want to continue playing our games, you had to buy the game again.
For the developer: Since the porting is not based on a single set of source code, it gets increasingly expensive to develop updates for all platforms.

Steam's solution to this problem is quite radical and customer-friendly. Steam encourages all developers to turn their titles into so-called "Steamplay" games, where versions for all operating systems are part of just one product. You buy it once and you can play it on all operating systems that the developer supports. This even works if you bought a game for windows in the past and the developer adds support for another operating system later.

Trusting Valve / Steam:

I can not overstate how the above two points as reasons to consider giving Steam and the company that operates, Valve, a leap of faith. One argument commonly heard against Steam on our forums is that people are worried that they are dependent on Steam's existence in the long term. What if Steam goes out of business in the distant future? Maybe I will not be able to play my games then. (sidenote: We do provide a "no-steam.exe" for our games for exactly this extremely unlikely case).

It is much more likely, in fact, that a game you own on DVD will not work anymore at some point in the future because:
    a) The last available version of the game does not run on whatever the latest hardware or Windows version is.
    b) You may have switched to a different operating system or even a new type of hardware for your living room PC (read about BIG PICTURE below).
    c) Or maybe the DVD is no longer readable.
Steam creates a financial incentive for developers to update their games long after release and to bring it to as many Steam platforms as possible. This is a big advantage for all customers.

Also, do not forget that Valve, the company that operates Steam, has a direct financial incentive to maintain the platform in the future and keep it as attractive as possible. If our fans are happy and continue to use their service, they can make money selling games.

Announcement 1: Steam play: X3 games on Linux and Mac

EGOSOFT is currently working on porting all X3 games (X3: Reunion, X3: Terran Conflict and X3: Albion Prelude) natively to both Linux and Mac OS. There will be a transition period in which we phase out the older ports by 3rd parties, but our goal is to make all three versions available under "Steamplay" for all customers. This means that everybody who owns a Windows license on Steam will automatically own all three versions!

Announcement 2: X3: Albion Prelude update for "Big Picture" gamepad mode:

EGOSOFT is currently working on an update to X3: Albion Predulde which will add a completely redesigned gamepad (controller) mode to the game. This new mode will work in such a way that all important functions of the game are available using a standard (e.g XBox 360 like) gamepad. If you choose to play X3: Albion Prelude in your living room on a big screen, this mode is for you. Together with the new Steam Big Picture mode, this will make sure that you will never have to get up from your couch ever again. (OK maybe there are some biological limitations to this statement) ;)

The long term strategy:

We do not rule out the possibility of our games also being released on other download delivery platforms, but not in the near future.
Steamplay, Big Picture, automatic updates and long term development of updates. All of these things combined should show that what we are collaborating on here is to build a platform for games in the future; a platform that can stand the competition of console games and exist next to it for the longer term. And I am pretty sure that there are more cool things to come in the not so distant future. ;)

February 2013, Bernd Lehahn, Managing Director, EGOSOFT GmbH

X Rebirth development videos

Watch the Egosoft developers showing you the game

For a long time it has been quiet around X Rebirth. Now this will change with the newly added Making of X Rebirth video playlist on the Egosoft YouTube channel. Watch the team work on and show you the different development areas of X Rebirth. In the latest video Matthias shows us how the pathing will work in X Rebirth and how it has been changed in comparison to the old X series.

I was also able to get my hands on an exclusive video about 3D modelling. Follow Alex and Lino, when they explain how ship and station models are created. Watch the video here:
Also don't forget to subscribe to the Egosoft YouTube channel to get more updates. Let us know which areas of development should be cover next via our forum or facebook. - X2-Illuminatus

X3 Series for Linux

Egosoft makes its own ports

As mentioned by Bernd in his open letter about Steam, Egosoft is currently working on porting all X3 games to Linux and Mac. Since the responsible developer for this task (in the forums known as timon37) is also the newest member of the Egosoft crew, he was the perfect 'victim' for this edition's interview.

1. Since you're the *new guy* at Egosoft, let me ask the obvious questions first: Who are you? What is your background? And how did you find out about the job offer for porting the X3 games by Egosoft?
Tomasz Borowik, nickname timon (from lion king). Around 8 years ago I switched to using gnu/linux full time, and since then my two main projects were a hobby operating system with a few 3d graphics drivers, and a very peculiar (meta)programming environment (work in progress). Some side projects include a tiling window manager, a datahand like keyboard/trackball input device, head/gazetracking, and a 2d spacesim with ships that you design from destructible blocks (which I hope to finish someday). During all that I got to suffer the good and bad points of gnu/linux. My previous job was programming geolocalization games for iOS. I noticed the Egosoft offer through phoronix.com.

2. Had you ever heard of Egosoft before applying for the job to port the X games?
Of course, I've played X3:R and TC.:) Which arguably is a bit late into the universe.;)
Unfortunately I never found the time to visit the older titles or AP.

3. What can you tell us about your work? How does porting an X3 game to Linux actually work?
Well you can always search for some of Ryan Gordon's talks, e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3wDnOAjrtk.
They aren't bad, though they might give you an illusion that it's a matter of 3 days to make a fully working great port. Unfortunately the reality is a bit harsher and making something that works well on many hardware/driver/distro configs and will be maintainable/extensible gets really painful pretty fast. Also very often you can get something "working" very fast but then tracking and solving the few remaining issues can take a while.

4. The open beta test for the Linux version of X3R is running for quite some time now and people are actively reporting bugs. What were the biggest problems you encountered so far?
Hmmm, I guess that would be opengl, mostly because of drivers that do weird stuff that they shouldn't or don't do stuff they should, at least according to my understanding of the specs. By the way I got to learn why opengl isn't the best API, in short it's an ambiguous jumble of a million GL_whatever constants in which you can't tell what applies to what. The other problem was input handling, mostly because of the internal X3 design.

5. I heard that you will also be porting the X3 games to MAC. How is that going to work?
Hopefully well.;) It's roughly the same as the linux port, and I'm actually doing it in parallel. The main difference is the config dialog before the game launches, which will also be native on MAC OS.

6. There are already ports of the X3 games for Linux and MAC. Will you also update these versions or will owners of the existing ports have to buy the new ports again?
We got the keys for the Linux port and added them to Steam, so all you have to do is type it in. Unfortunately we do not know yet what will happen with the MAC port.

7. What is the current status of your works?
It was a bumpy road but R, TC and AP are all in "public beta testing" and for the most part they're fairly stable. The original plan wasn't to push them all in parallel but I've found ways to share most of the linux code, and decided it would actually improve the end result (and it did). There are still a few bugs left, but most of them aren't show stopping. So what's left is fixing the remaining bugs, filling in some missing pieces, and maybe some performance improvements or cleanup/refactoring to make the port more maintainable.

8. X3 games are the one thing, but what about X Rebirth? Are there also plans to port or maybe even directly release X Rebirth for Linux and Mac together with the PC version?
Unfortunately the chances for a simultaneous release are practically zero.
There are actually a few possibilities right after X3:R/TC/AP which aren't yet set in stone. But personally I'd really like to work on Rebirth as it's much more state-of-the-art and I'd get to actually play *cough* test it for long-period memory leaks;)

A big thanks to timon for answering the questions. If you want to help out testing the Linux versions of the X3 games, they are available on Steam to everyone, who has the respective Steam version of the games. Please report your findings in the X³: Reunion and X³: Terran Conflict Linux BETA support threads in the egosoft.com forum. - X2-Illuminatus

Multilingual X3:AP Galaxy Map

Where should I go?

Imagine you are lost in space with no idea where the next sector might be. Wouldn't it be great to have access to a detailed map right then? Such a map is the online X3: Albion Prelude Galaxy map by Community member Prof.Liebstrumpf.

There is more! Prof.Liebstrumpf's galaxy map does not just show the sectors and their in-game descriptions. Click on a sector and all of its stations, gates and asteroids are displayed with their position as at the start of the game. Select an object from the object list to the right and the exact coordinates of the object are displayed on the map. Even better, click on a station at it will reveal a list of all the types of ware the station trades in.

Prof.Liebstrumpf's X3: Albion Prelude Galaxy map is available in German, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Czech, Polish and Russian from here. You can change the display language by selecting the appropriate national flag at the top. The map has been updated for use with the X3:AP 3.0 update. Don't forget to drop by his topic thread in the egosoft.com forum here to share any feedback and appreciation you feel appropriate. - X2-Illuminatus
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