Donnerstag, 25. September 2008

Markus: Solar System


My name is Markus Pohl, and I've been working on X3:TC as art director.
I've been working on the X series since X2: The Threat and my main work area is 3d graphics. this ranges from modelling/texturing, coordinating external teams to writing exporters & plugins for 3d studio max.

For X3:TC there were a lot of new art assets needed. the most obvious ones came with the integration of the solar system and its inhabitants to the universe. I've created the solar system planets & backgrounds for those. As some of you will surely notice, I've not always sticked to all the scientific facts, but (like in the case of Venus) let my imagination play in, too. some of the solar systems planets are a bit boring in reality - so I decided to interpret them more freely to get atmospheric sectors.

Though the best looking planets we have in the sol system were created by nature and I tried to stick as close to the originals as possible: jupiter and saturn.

One of the main restrictions for planet design was texture resolution. for normal X3 planets we use a technique to circumvent this limitation, but for large scale surfaces that feature lots of unique details (jupiter's stripes & red spot, mars' craters, plains & volcanos) only texture resolution helps.

The other big chunk of assets came in with the terrans themselves. Though we had already seen some of their ships in X3:Reunion, we obviously needed a lot more of them - as well as factories, stations and the famous ringstation around earth.

The ships are divided up into military ships and civil ships, so for some classes you will find mutliple ship designs.

Here are some M3 impressions:

and some stations

we decided to make the terrans bright, clean & huge. they were staying in their system for quite some time, afraid of the terraformers to return. so they have built up an impressive defence force with huge military stations, outposts and defence fleets, always ready to attack. just try flying to earth after beginning the game, you will surely meet them ;)

there is a lot to see & explore, I hope all of you enjoy playing it!


Freitag, 19. September 2008

Klaus: UI development

Hi, I'm Klaus Meyer, one of the programmers at Egosoft, mainly involved in interface programming for X3: Terran Conflict. I've been a great fan of the X games since X: Beyond the Frontier, and started working for Egosoft in 2002, during the development of X2: The Threat. Almost at the same time I also started studying computer science, so my working times have been pretty irregular since then. Ironically, a few months ago I had to suspend my work on the user interface to take an exam on user interface design. But don't worry, that doesn't mean that the UI in Terran Conflict is only half-finished. ;)

The new UI concept that you can see in X3: Terran Conflict was designed by one of our artists, Christian Vogel, and implemented by Michael (aka BurnIt!) and myself. At first we were unsure if we should implement it since it's a radical change compared to X3: Reunion... but after all, X3: Terran Conflict is more than just an add-on, and the improvements over X3: Reunion are so enormous that we just had to try it.

In X3: Reunion there are three separate menu systems that have evolved over time: The big standard menus, the so-called quick menus at the bottom, and the icon menus in HUD and in the sector map. For X3: Terran Conflict the standard menu system has been overhauled and the rest has been replaced by the sidebar and context menus. You will also find that there is no such thing as a big "ship menu" or a "station menu" any more, which have been rather central menus in past X games. Now ships, stations, and other objects "only" have unified context menus, which allows for much quicker interaction.

Another important change is the new mouse control. You can steer your ship by pressing the left
mouse button in space and keeping it pressed while the ship turns towards the mouse cursor. This steering method is known from the game Freelancer and works very well - that way it's possible to play the game almost completely with the mouse: The scroll wheels adjust the ship's speed, and you fire your lasers with the right mouse button. The lasers will even fire towards the mouse cursor! But on the other hand, in this case you'll have to live without the Auto Aim feature. If you don't want to keep the left button pressed all the time, you can turn the cursor flight mode on and off permanently with the space bar. (Some playtesters prefer the scroll wheel button - of course you can customize the controls.)

It's still possible to disable the mouse cursor and steer the ship directly with the mouse as in earlier X games, this is what we call the classic mode. In this mode the left mouse button is also available for control mapping, in case you want to fire with the LMB.

I guess that many of you are just reading these lines in the hope of an answer to THE question: "Can I remove the sidebar?" This question pops up in many comments on in-game screenshots, so here's the answer: Yes if you play in classic mode, and optionally in cursor steering mode. Or if you disable all HUD elements for nice screenshots. You can still open the sidebar with the keyboard then - but if you play with a mouse cursor, it's always there so you can click on it. Just give it a try, it may be better than you thought.

Dienstag, 16. September 2008

Daniel: Teaser music

Hi there. I’m Daniel Finney and I’ve always been a fan of the X series, ever since X-Beyond The Frontier was first released back in the day. Hours upon hours of my childhood have been lost to trading energy cells in Seizewell, capturing Pirate Orinocos and basically flying around enjoying the view. One thing I’ve always loved more than anything else about the games however is the soundtrack. Every time I sit inside my ship, the music has me captivated and I can’t help but fall into it. I don’t know if this is just the way I am, being a musician at heart, but it is something that I have always felt. Luckily, I was a member of The X Universe forums about a year ago (where some of you may know me as Woffin) and helped contribute towards the Xtended mod with a few tracks of my own.

Then along came X3: Terran Conflict. The guys at Egosoft offered me this fantastic opportunity to be a part of something which has been such a big part of my life for so long. At short notice, I was drafted into the team not long after the project had begun and was immediately faced with writing the music for the Teaser video. I was told that this would have to be my best piece of the entire project (no pressure there!) as it would give all of you people your first glimpse at the game. I have fond memories of working with Martijn (Mishra) for this, as he was the guy who did the video side of it. We would spend night after night communicating with each other, sending various versions backwards and forwards between ourselves, fine-tuning everything you could possibly think of. We were initially aiming at a purely electronic sound and experimented with Bass, Drums, Synth and a few String parts as you can hear in one of our early mixes:

Click for first version.

Although decent, we weren’t satisfied and thought we would throw a few extra parts in there with some more percussion and some more orchestral instruments. Once again it sounded decent, but not quite enough. We both realised that only the best was good enough, so we singled out the orchestral parts, which you can have a listen to here:

Click for second version.

One night, Martijn appeared online out of nowhere and started shouting to me “Why don’t we try a guitar?!”. Good point Martijn. I’d never thought of using a guitar before because it’s not normally something you expect when you listen to X music as it’s mostly ambience, orchestral and synth parts. So out came the guitar and I put down a quick recording, mixed it down and sent it back over. “What do you think of this?” I said to him. It was at that moment that we both realised a guitar was exactly what we needed. Over the next few days (during which neither of us got any sleep!) and after many mixes and file transfers backwards and forwards, we’d refined the track and got it perfectly hooked up with the scenes in the video too:

Click for final version.

Simply put, no. That was only the start. Very shortly afterwards, Alexei and me were given our targets and our tasks, so we set off to work. While Alexei focused more on the plot and theme side of the soundtrack, I worked on the ambient tracks and general sector background music, with some of them also being used for the recent trailer videos too. What you can expect to hear on your travels in X3 Terran Conflict is more of the high quality work that you come to expect from these series of games, but with a slightly menacing twist. As you’ve probably discovered by now, the universe is on the brink of war and everywhere you go, conflict is ready to break out and this is what I aimed to achieve in the music. You’ll find that guitar from the trailer coming back to you in certain places but there’ll also be times when you should, very rightly so, feel isolated and alone and on the edge of your seat, waiting for that attack that could come at any moment. Then there’s the safe havens, the reclusive sectors, where you look around and just lose yourself in the vast and magnificent surroundings, where all of the violence and all of the troubles that face you seem to not matter any more.

All in all, you’ll have to keep your ears open when you’re exploring the many new areas that X3 Terran Conflict has to offer you. It may just be that it makes you feel like you’re really there.

Dienstag, 9. September 2008

Matt: Boarding crew and wings

Hi all X Fans, I’m Matt Gravestock and I’ve been working as a DevNet volunteer in X3: Terran Conflict, many of you most likely know me as Cycrow from the X-Universe Forums. I started my X days with X2 not long after it was released, before getting X3: Reunion on release day. I was also scripting and modding the game since X2, although mainly it was on X3 from when I first got the game, before eventually moving onto development for TC. The development has been very challenging, but also enjoyable, and we hope you enjoy the results.

I've been working on many features since joining the team just under a year ago, these include the Flight Wings system that has been briefly shown in the Trailer and the Boarding Crews that has also been mentioned.

The boarding crews are basically an extension to ship capturing, allowing you to acquire ships that are not usually capturable, i.e. larger capital class ships. The process is a lot more involved than simply capturing and requires you to buy and train marines that you can use to board a ship. The marines are trained in a variety of skills, each will be used in a different stage of the boarding, which includes cutting through the ship’s hull while the shields are down, fighting with any onboard marines and hacking the ships control computer. Marines can either be sent in space suits or using a special type of missile, a boarding pod, capable of carrying marines to the target ship.

Marines, especially their training can be expensive and time consuming, you can send marines to training centers to train up in the specialized skills, but they will also need to gain experience from boarding operations to increase their skill level. This means you cant simply board an M1 ship, you need to board smaller ships first so your marines gain enough experience to be able to board larger ships.

On a final note, for the scripter’s among you, there have been many exciting things added to the Script Engine, which should allow you to create even better scripts than before, one such ability is the creation of custom input menus allowing you to get better input from the user.

Mittwoch, 3. September 2008

Ivan: Writing dialogue

Originally we asked Owen Lake, the guy behind the Terran plotline and one of the mission programmers, to write a little article for the blog today.

Unfortunately he had to catch up on his sleep after some really stressful days, trying to kill plot bugs. So while he gets his well deserved rest, let me introduce Ivan Tefalco:

Hi I'm Ivan Tefalco. Over the years I've worked with Egosoft on a wide range of dialogue and text content for the X-Series, from race, trade and and combat ranks to Bret Sera's message from beyond the grave. From sector descriptions such as Presidents End in X3, to the NPC AI responses given by races when you communicate with them throughout your journey in the X Universe.

Each race has grown over time to have a very particular style and manner of response. For example, the Paranid excel at that 'holier than thou' attitude, while the Boron tend to be meek and at times subservient. With X3:TC, those styles have evolved in line with the timeframe each game is set within. Universal translators have improved to the point where there is some standardisation of speech, however this doesn't mean you won't find unique and varied content amongst the myriad of pilots out there flying around on their daily routines.

Both Pirate and existing races have had substantial in-flight content added to the already wide array of responses previously created in Reunion. If you dig deep enough, you will see nods to sci-fi cult classics, as well as replies to player contact that will draw you even deeper into a game that for many is very much a part of reality.

Without wishing to spoil many of the surprises out there, all I can ask is that you listen as well as look on your travels. When your hull's down to twenty percent and the Yaki on your tail decides you're too cute to kill, just remember, there's a great deal more out there than meets the eye.."