Edition 53 - March 2014

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X Rebirth - Update 1.25 and Progress Report

Egosoft is pleased to announce the availability of patch 1.25 for X Rebirth, along with a preview of several projects to be released in the near term. This update is comprised of two sections. Section one is a quick overview of the progress of the last couple of patches, and an explanation of their main features. Section two gives a quick outlook on what is currently being worked on, and what can be expected over the next few months.

1. Patch 1.24 and 1.25

As always you can find the detailed changelog here. I have also prepared a short video explaining some of the changes to gamplay. Namely the new target locking and the trade agent, including the change to how smalltalk achievements work.

- Smalltalk used to unlock a random reward if you managed to convince an NPC on a platform that you had something interesting to say about a topic. With 1.25, the smalltalk mini-game still works the same way, but rather than getting a random reward, the NPC will now offer the player a choice. For example, if the NPC is a dealer of some kind, you can ask him to give you a discount, or you can ask him if he knows a qualified NPC for a certain job, and he will tell you where to find the best one in your vicinity. For example, the next time the player needs a good pilot, locating the best pilot on a station will be much easier.

- Another new feature is the ability to hire agents on stations which will make sure that you are always kept up to date on all trade offers from that station. This feature can be combined with the trade computer extension to minimize the need to collect trade offers on stations manually. There is also a new feature that allows the player to see all trade offers per station from the station's info menu.

- The target locking update introduces a secondary method of setting a target object which is very similar to the targeting functionality seen in the X3 games. You can now press Shift F to get a lock on the object closest to your crosshair, or Shift E to get a lock on the nearest enemy by distance. Once this targeting mode is activated, the player can press page up and page down to cycle through more objects of the same category in clockwise/counter-clockwise order (or in case of enemies: closer/farther-away target). The other methods of dealing with target locks still work in parallel, but before the event monitor can show environment objects again, the player must first release the last explicit target object - by clicking in empty space, for example.

2. The Near Future

Now let me list a few projects we are currently working on, and which will be released in some form over the coming months. Note that this is FAR from a complete list. The following are a few examples of the different areas being worked on, and they are vaguely sorted in the order they may be released:

- Support for Steam Workshop integration: We will soon start releasing a number of tools on Steam to help modders work on X Rebirth. We are also working on full support for the Steam Workshop in order to make it possible for everybody to easily install mods by merely subscribing to them, and by making it easy for mod developers to distribute their work through Steam.

- Map on event monitor: This was already mentioned before. The first step will be to enable the map rendering on the event monitor whenever it currently shows no signal. We will then introduce some configuration options so the player can decide whether to view the map zone map on the monitor or the current text information.

- Improved support for joysticks and other input devices: We are working on improving the input mapping menu and the general support for input devices. There have been numerous individual requests in this area, and we are trying to keep this as flexible as possible so X Rebirth can be configured to make best use of all kinds of input devices.

- Improvements to menus: Improving our menu system is a big task, but some features that we've heard requested often could materialize within the next one or two months. A good example of this is a more powerful text based filtering system for menus akin to the trade menu. After we have added text input menus for renaming your ship, the next step will be to enable this functionality in live menus allowing the player to filter quickly with their keyboard.

- 64bit EXE: Right now X Rebirth only runs on 64bit Windows because of the amount of memory required, but it is still a 32bit executable. We are experimenting with a new 64bit executable that could potentially improve several issues. Rolling out the 64bit EXE will probably happen as a beta in parallel to the 32bit EXE. Depending on the feedback, we will then gradually move away from a 32bit EXE.

- Providing interaction functionality with NPCs from space to minimize forced landing: I know many people do not like being forced to land on stations for frequently repeated tasks. The first step to address this will be to have a list of all NPCs on a station available from the station info menu, and to then make some activities possible remotely. You will still probably need to be in the vicinity of the station - so that drones can take over the transport of acquired goods for example - but you only have to land to play missions and to pick up or deliver people.

- Highway redesign: We've heard a lot of criticism on the way the highways behaves, so we are experimenting with radically different gameplay inside the highways. It's still too early to provide details, but as soon as we have a prototype, we will probably make this available as a beta. How soon this will then be rolled out for public release will then depend on feedback we receive.

Again: There are many other things we are working on. We will continue to add features and of course fix bugs. Please stay tuned!

- Bernd Lehahn, Managing Director, Egosoft

Asian language support

Korean localisation available for X Rebirth now

Asian languages have always played a role in the X-Universe. While the first X-games just featured them in associated fiction and lore, we were able to provide Chinese and Japanese localisations for the later games.

In addition to the existing Chinese localisation introduced with X Rebirth update 1.15, we are happy to announce that another Asian language has made its way to the stars now; version 1.25 X Rebirth comes with a full Korean text localisation. We hope that thanks to this translation many more Korean players will be able to enter and enjoy the evolving X-Universe. - X2-Illuminatus

Interview with Helge T. Kautz

The Space Opera continues

The Collector's Edition of X Rebirth features the "X the Space Opera Per Musica ad Albion" a space metal opera by Helge T. Kautz, who amongst many X-fans is well known for his creative work within the X games and for his novels about the X-Universe. Our interviewer, Boro Pi, spoke with Helge about how he came to the space metal music genre, about his band project voXager, and his work on his newest novel "Plutarch Rising".

Hello Helge, it is a pleasure having you for this interview.
Good evening, Boro. Anytime.

Let us talk about music first. As many X-Fans already know, you are not only a writer but also an enthusiastic musician and composer. Recently, your album "Beyond the Frontier" was released, which you recorded and produced together with the project voXager. VoXager, however, is not that well known among the X-Community. Can you tell us more about this project?
Sure, I founded the project voXager about seven years ago. Back then, my band had just been disbanded, but I wanted to continue to make music. I love guitars, analog synthesizer, and Science Fiction. All that I wanted to bring together in voXager.

In addition, right from the start you set yourself a very ambitious goal. "Beyond the Frontier" was to tell the story of your first novel "Farnhams Legend" with music. What was it that inspired you for this idea? Are there any paragons who have told the story of a Sci-Fi novel in that way?
I have always been toying with the idea of putting a story from the X-Universe into a song. For a long time I was, however, unable to find a good starting point or which music style would fit best. Eventually, I found out about the album "Space Metal" of the Dutch project "Star One", and I knew immediately that this is the style, and the direction I want to take. Another example was Jeff Wayne's "War Of The Worlds", an outstanding rock musical from the late 70s revolving around a sci-fi theme.

How would you describe the music of voXager?
A colourful, enjoyable voyage with pop, electronic and heavy metal music.

The subheading of "Beyond the Frontier" is "Per musica ad astra", which refers to a Latin phrase, in which the travel to the stars is tied to hardships. Has this also been the case for voXager's way to "Beyond the Frontier"?
You bet. In those six years, I have had to learn from scratch how you produce an album. Composing and recording was the smallest part of it, the technique of mixing the music, on the other hand, a big one. The lion's share, however, was the organisation of all who participated in all those years. I am sure the next voXager album will be a breeze in comparison.

So are there going to be other voXager albums?
That's a given, I'm raring to continue! The next album's theme also revolves around the X-Universe and is going to cover the story of a very particular character.

A Teladi maybe?
A human with blue hair.

Very mysterious, but let's get back to your first album. Some of the voXager pieces were released in the X Rebirth Collector's Edition on BluRay, accompanying a movie from Richard Portley with music. What do you think about this particular use of your music?
I like it a lot; I've probably watched it over ten times now. It also makes me very happy that the BluRay version is set up as 5.1 surround sound; you literally hear the space noises all around you.
The BluRay, however, only contains a limited selection of your songs. How can I get my hands on the entire album?
Via Russian Warez pages and torrents... haha... Well, I would prefer if people who want to listen to my music would use the official channels and buy it via iTunes, Amazon, Google Play or the many other music portals. Or by buying the CD version, which I hope is going to be ready by mid February. Touch wood!

How large is the CD batch?
1,250 CDs are planned. Less wouldn't justify the production costs, since it is a very elaborately-produced Digipack with a booklet and two CDs.

Well then, let us talk about your next book: Plutarch Rising. The X Rebirth Collector's Edition contains a draft, which you can also download via paninicomics.de (only German). You told me before the interview that this was taken from an old draft. How much of it is still in the novel?
That's right, the text in this draft coincides in about 85% with the most recent version. Unfortunately, I had to replace the main characters. Originally, I had planned to introduce Ren and Yisha in the novel, but it turned out that my vision of their characters did not harmonise with the game's plot. This is why there are two completely new characters now, who in turn should come across as a lot more independent. The story itself remains the same.

So the novel and the game do not tell the same story?
Right. Since "Nopileos", my X novels have always been telling side-stories. The storyline of the game continues in the background, while the main characters of the books live through their own adventures. That is not going to change with "Plutarch Rising"... and I hope that this is what my readers expect from me.

I am convinced that this is the case. Is there something that you can/want to tell us about the story without too many spoilers?
A man, a woman, a Teladi, a Paranid, a devastated sector, a seemingly almighty organisation, super-intelligent and super-evil AGI, an acquaintance of old days, a conspiracy, mysterious happenings. An "Assurance of Reason". More?

Go on.
Heh, I knew it! Very well then: separated from the former "Community of Planets", the sector "Albion", which only harbours one planet, develops its own, bleak civilisation, which is dominated by the PMC, the "Plutarch Mining Corporation", and "Albion Courage ", a paramilitary organisation. There are remains of the old authorities who are barely able to keep up the public order; an official and elected government, however, is non-existent. Most humans and aliens are unhappy with this state of affairs. A message from the Alliance of the Word, the only connection with the outside world, suggests that the opening of the jumpgates is imminent. In the light of this silver lining on the horizon, a group of people forms up to fight against the oppression of the PMC. However, only after some haulers vanish without a trace so triggering an official investigation, does the real resistance form against PMC.

Many readers probably pricked up their ears after reading about the Paranid. There is a Paranid in your novel. Borons, too?
I am truly sorry, Boro, but Borons will never, ever and absolutely certainly not appear in the story; but a Paranid yes, who is about to cocoon himself in sleep for the next decazuras.

Ok, that means that I do not have to go to the casting for the movie of the book. In the draft, we meet again with Hatrak (a character from the book "Nopileos"). Will we also meet other old friends in the new version?
That is very likely. But tell me, you recognized Hatrak? A shame! (Laughs.) I could write entire series about her; she is definitely my favourite secondary character.

From old acquaintances on to something new. The book plays in the X-Universe; how was it for you as author to work in this radically different setting? Does it make the setting up of a plot easier or harder?
Harder, because the continuity is disrupted. After five books with a more or less steady development, a considerable break happens after "Guardians of the Earth". The jumpgates are closed; there is no interstellar travel anymore (for the time being), no government and fewer aliens. Everything feels tighter and overwhelming. That is definitely making the work more challenging.

What comes after "Plutarch Rising"?
Why don't you ask me what comes BEFORE "Plutarch Rising"...

What happens before "Plutarch Rising"?
Ah, nice, you gave me the perfect cue, as if you had known what I wanted to talk about. Not before the release of "Plutarch Rising" but before it on the timeline of the X-Universe there will be a successor to "Nopileos". I have the feeling that the story of "Nopileos" has never really been finished and I am dying to finish that.

And other people surely are dying to read that. "Nopileos 2" and before that (or rather after?) "Plutarch Rising"? It's now quarter past ten in the evening, are you going to write a couple more pages?
Not today, that's for sure; but definitely in the next days.

In this case, I wish you all the best. Thank you a lot for talking to me.
You are welcome; it was a pleasure. More Boron should conduct interviews. Good night.

If you are interested in voXager and would like to know more about it then visit Helge's thread in the X-Universe forum for some exclusive tracks introducing the space opera. Also you can visit the official voXager website for further news and updates in English. - X2-Illuminatus
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