Xciting Stuff: X: Rebirth Pathfinding Dev Diary

By Craig Pearson on May 7th, 2013 at 8:00 am.


Hands up who likes complex space sims? Okay. Now hands up who likes complex German space sims? I thought that would thin you out a bit. The complexiest and Germaniest space sim of them all is the X series. It is a series that’s evolved over time into something that actually feels like a place of work, but in an admirable way. Every game I’ve ever started of X has lulled me into watching the universe trundle along. The Kha’ak might be invading, but if you watched me playing it you’d think the point of the game was to stalk low-level transport ships as they go about their everyday business. Which is why the development diary below had me completely hooked: it shows the game’s pathing in action.

So it’s exciting, but in a completely unexciting way. Hooray! This is the first real look at the game outside of a few screenshots released a hundred billion years ago. It still has that irradiated glow of a ship bathed in the light of a nearby star. The cockpit has been updated, because I can now read the instruments. What else have they updated? I’m going to have to pick my way through all the other developer diaries that they snuck out without telling single soul.

This particular diary is to show off AI’s decision making process when it arrives at a space station. If you can handle it, is here.

X: Rebirth has no release date. Back in 2011 Egosoft said it would be out by the end of the year. They clearly didn’t say which year.

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62 Comments »

  1. tanith says:

    I could swear that they said that they wanted to release this game at the end of 2011, although sometime in early 2012 they then realised that this was not going to happen.

    Oh well, I am still really looking forward to this game. I actually reminded myself to check their site every couple of months to see whether there are any new updates but for some reason I forgot. Thanks for reminding me! Totally missed those dev diaries, too. Although judging by the dates they only started doing those about a month ago so it’s not actually bad.

    Rebirth is certainly going to be interesting, only being able to pilot one ship and what not, just like in the old days. :D
    Sounds disappointing but it actually isn’t, or at least not so much. The idea of piloting a big, M2 battleship is really cool but actually doing that is not so much fun because those are too heavy. The best thing is to get some kind of M7 because it is a good mix of speed/manoeuvrability and defence.
    And cockpits! Yay. Haven’t seen those since X2. :>

    • Gamboni says:

      Cockipts yay indeed. I never realized how integral they were to my experience until they went away. It was like the difference between a real-life situation and a simulation. It felt like flying a camera around.

    • Keyrock says:

      Yeah, I’ve been waiting for this game since mid 2011 myself. I found the single ship limitation frightening at first, then I found out you’ll still be able to “virtually” pilot other ships, which eased my fears a bit. I agree that M1s and M2s are a pain to fly. For me the sweet spot is M3+. Enough firepower to take on any fighter and some corvettes, and fast and maneuverable enough to be fun to fly. Admittedly, though, I spend most of my time trading.

      It’s time to fire up X3: TC again for a while, I guess. ;)

  2. Screamer says:

    YAY! It lives! Glad they still busy with it, thought this went into the development black hole.

  3. Matthias says:

    Oh boy! I’m on RPS!

    This is actually only part of what I wanted to talk about, smaller ships move a bit differently – I’ll probably do a part 2 of this at some point.

    So, you know, if you want to see more of this, like, favourite, subscribe, it really helps the channel out ;-)

    • Artist says:

      *throws his money at the screen*
      Oh, yes please! Talk about more AI stuff… Like out of sector AI!
      You can also feel free to talk about a release day… *yukyuk* ;)

    • Correa says:

      I have been following and watching all the dev videos and loving the amount of detail being shown and explanations on how certain functions work. And how well you are trying to make everything so configurable for a variety of pc specs. Keep them coming :)

    • Uglycat says:

      Dude, you need to bring your monitor up to eye level, you’ll end up with back strain looking down like that all day :P

      • Premium User Badge

        Martel says:

        That’s one of the first things I thought as well. For the sake of your future self Matthias, hit that desk with an ergonomic redesign.

        Excited for the game as well, have all the other X products and have even played them :)

      • Premium User Badge

        LegendaryTeeth says:

        Love ittttt. So subscribed.

        Can’t wait for this to come out. The X series is one of my favourite of all time, and this one is looking to be the best. So glad it’s so multithreaded :)

      • Matthias says:

        That’s also one of the most frequent comments I got on the video – in short:
        - I’m sitting half-turned to the camera, and not in my natural programming position, which is lower
        - The camera is tilted (check out the top of the PC case)
        - When I’m working normally, my eyes are about level with the top of my main monitor

        If people are still worried, I can also add that I just got a bigger monitor :-)

    • Nickel says:

      Yay, more X! X: Rebirth is pretty much my most anticipated game this year… and I really really hope we actually get it this year.

  4. Arona Daal says:

    JES! Zis looks feri Gud ! Zee Kaiser will be Broud!

  5. Lancezh says:

    It looks actually quite awesome. Glad they are still on this.

  6. staberas says:

    I dont know …. i loved the X series back in the day for boldly going where no other dev has gone before, but now i want more , Star-citizen ,Infinity are going way farther than rebirth.

    • Prime says:

      Limit Theory. That’s all the space game I think I’ll ever need.

    • SuicideKing says:

      If you haven’t played FreeSpace 2 yet…play it.

      With the mods from the Source Code Project.

      And play Blue Planet too, for me it’s serving as FreeSpace 3.

  7. Prime says:

    “Every game I’ve ever started of X has lulled me into watching the universe trundle along. The Kha’ak might be invading, but if you watched me playing it you’d think the point of the game was to stalk low-level transport ships as they go about their everyday business.”

    Nailed it. For every moment of high-stakes action in the series there’s an ENORMOUS amount of downtime filled with ultra-repetitive busy-work. I’ve bought every game in the series but have never managed to get to the highest economic ranks due to the unholy amount of real world time it takes to afford, then build a production empire capable of generating and sustaining that kind of profit. When hard-core players take to leaving their PCs on overnight, the game set to run by itself, to get up to those levels you really have to take a long hard look at what the regular player is actually getting out of the game.

    That said, Rebirth *could* be that very same reinterpretation. For that reason alone am I interested. If they can marry the lovely visuals with something much more approachable and kinder to regular players then this could be the first X game to break out of the niche mould.

    The new pathing sounds great. As the bloke says, the old ships used to chart their course once every second or so, but without any reference to what came before or where they were going. This sounds much more intelligent, as well as freeing up those vital CPU resources. Tech win!

    However, if we’re still going to be spending laborious hours/days/weeks watching slow, heavy transport ships dock in the most tedious and grinding display of Space Capitalism yet depicted then I fear that the X series will never break away from EVE-like spreadsheet management to become something that non business-oriented gamers (like me) will enjoy playing. Before X:BTF I’d would have laughed if you’d told me that a space game could be dull and boring.

    • Gnoupi says:

      “When hard-core players take to leaving their PCs on overnight, the game set to run by itself, to get up to those levels you really have to take a long hard look at what the regular player is actually getting out of the game.”

      To be honest, from what I recall, that was done by some but a bad idea in general. You could get things to automate for you (admittedly with one mod or two to save, like the EST) to save on the micromanagement, and focus on more fun things like exploring and following the missions.. but I didn’t feel like I had to grind it.

      Why a bad idea? Because the economical system in place was not really perfect, and tended to degenerate after a while: factories without energy, entire systems without any resources, etc. So letting the game play itself in high speed was usually not recommended.

      • peterako1989 says:

        “Why a bad idea? Because the economical system in place was not really perfect, and tended to degenerate after a while: factories without energy, entire systems without any resources, etc. So letting the game play itself in high speed was usually not recommended.”

        funny how this reflects real world economy xD

    • foop says:

      Weirdly, this is what got me into playing Eve. I thought that if I was putting lots of effort into making imaginary money with pretend spaceships I might as well do it in a persistent world with real people rather than in a save game that exists only on my PC. I escaped from Eve when I had a son, although now he’s old enough not to require attention urgently when I’m somewhere in low-sec I’m getting the urge to return.

    • Ninja Foodstuff says:

      The stock markets in x3ap really help in this regard.

  8. SuicideKing says:

    http://blueplanet.hard-light.net/

    That is all.

    Ok, no, will check this out too.

    • Yosharian says:

      Uh. What the hell is it? Website doesn’t explain anything at all.

      • Prime says:

        Mod for Freespace 2. Majestic space combat a-go-go but little else.

        • SuicideKing says:

          Oh come on…the story and writing are pretty good.

          No sexism? Check. Female lead? Check (for War in Heaven). Character development? Check. Surpassing FS2′s mission complexity? Check. New ships, weapons and graphics? Check.

          They’ve effectively made FreeSpace 3.

          And hey, even after watching vids of Limit Theory and Star Citizen…and all the other space sims…never seen a single one with better dogfights.

          • Prime says:

            New ships? If you count a design stolen and thinly adapted from Babylon 5′s earth cruisers then yeah.

            But at the end of the day it’s just combat. Dudes shooting AI dudes. I need more from my space games, I’m afraid.

          • Yosharian says:

            I found Freespace 2 to be terribly boring, didn’t get past the first mission. I was hoping for a similar game to Freelancer, FS2 by comparison is just boring. So ‘Freespace 3′ doesn’t sound too appealing to me.

          • SwENSkE says:

            I’m not that much into Wing Commander/X-Wing/Tie-Fighter type of space-sims, too.
            Privateer, Freelancer, X-series – that’s what I want of my space sims. Earn money to buy better ships, upgrade them, explore the universe etc.
            Give me that and I’ll throw my money after you.

          • Yosharian says:

            There’s where it doesn’t make sense for me, because I loved X-Wing and TIE Fighter.

          • Premium User Badge

            LegendaryTeeth says:

            Only question I have is: Is it done? If I go download Blue Planet right now, can I play through to the end of the story, or are there parts that still need to come out?

            No spoilers please :)

  9. mipearson says:

    “Yes, this is just a SCHPLINE” and I’m in fits of giggles.

  10. Drake Sigar says:

    Avoiding it like the plague. I’ve got most of the other games in this little gold pack, and haven’t played more than half an hour before deciding the interface renders the games unplayable.

    • MrThingy says:

      Shame. Your loss, I guess.

    • peterako1989 says:

      They have made clear that Xrebirth will fix the complicated interface and generally everything that was a chore to do in the previous games. I would give this one a shot if I were you cause they make this game for people like you, who previously hated the games for their counter intuitive interface. I’m not biased. Though I like the games I don’t like the interface either, nor anyone in the community. everyone realises that the interface must change radicaly.

    • SwENSkE says:

      Well, I never had problems with the interface. I think it gets the job done.
      On the other hand I’m an old fuck and used to learn keyboard combinations.
      And the games are so incredible I would even play them without any UI at all. Well, I’d try at least.

      • Premium User Badge

        LegendaryTeeth says:

        It’s a bit of an expert UI, meaning it’s actually alright once you’ve put a lot of time into it and memorized the shortcuts. Obviously it’s a bit of a brick wall at the start though, which understandably puts people off.

        Hopefully with Rebirth it will be both easy and intuitive to get into, with powerful shortcuts for advanced users to fly through.

        • SwENSkE says:

          That’s my hope, too. As long as they don’t dumb down the rest of the game.
          Getting more people into the X-Universe can only be a good thing.
          But this ‘one ship thingie’ makes me feel a bit awkward. And no, virtually flying drones doesn’t really help.
          One of my favourite things in X was always capturing pirate/alien ships. Can’t see how this could work in X:Rebirth. Even if you could still capture them it’s pointless if you can’t fly them.

  11. Yosharian says:

    It’s absolutely fantastic that people are still making games like this. I love it.

    I tried to play X3:TC but found it a bit impenetrable. I’m hoping that Rebirth will be a little more accessible, or at least have better tutorials/explanations. If I could just work out what the hell I’m supposed to be doing at the start, that’d be great =)

    • Gnoupi says:

      Indeed, entering into an X game feels a bit like DF: don’t expect to get anything really done without reading wikis and other forums.

      I hope Rebirth will help with that (without sacrificing too much of the depth)

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      For a beginner I would say start with the Humble Merchant. First thing to learn is to dock and buy stuff and find a suitable buyer. The merchant trader beginning already sets you up in a sector where you can make some good profit from silicon. To find a buyer just scan the factories in the area and see who uses silicon and who is low on supply.

    • SwENSkE says:

      Play the story-line first if you haven’t played any other X-game before. It’s not that great but you’ll learn a lot of the important stuff you need for the free game (which is incredible IMO).
      The X-series has a very steep learning curve (just like EVE) but it’s absolutely worth to invest the time to get into it.

  12. Lawful Evil says:

    That asteroid in the background of the first picture reminds me a little of the Malachor V (as seen at the end of KOTOR II)

  13. phelix says:

    Ooh, modeled cockpits! Colour me intrigued!

    • dee says:

      Possibly just the one, though. I think it’s also supposedly modelling the inside of the ship though.

  14. Antsy says:

    I so want to like the X games but I hate, hate, hate the trailer park/industrial estate grids that constitute systems. Hopefully space will feel a bit bigger in this iteration.

    • Premium User Badge

      Kelron says:

      That’s one of the changes they’ve talked about specifically. Big changes to the system/sector layouts, with individual stations possibly being much larger and more important.

      http://forum.egosoft.com/viewtopic.php?t=306348

      They released a bunch of info way back in 2011 which may be of interest if you haven’t been following development already, there’s other threads stickied in that forum.

      • Prime says:

        Hmm. Remains to be seen if they’re truly renovating here or if those same industrial estate grids will still be present but now exist within a larger network of other kinds of locations.

    • Zenicetus says:

      The tiny 2D grid-like layout of star systems was one of the three things that always made me quit X games in frustration, before spending enough time to afford the big ships. If they’re making space actually feel BIG and space-like (see Independence War 2 for how to do it), then that will be a major improvement. Nice to see cockpits again, too.

      They’ll still need to improve two other things to get me to buy another X game:

      1) Ship speeds need to be much faster. Either remove the speed cap, or at least ramp it up so it feels like you’re moving when compared to nearby ships and stations. Flying through space at maximum speed in the fastest fighters feels like crawling through molasses. Again, see Independence War for how to give the player a sense of speed, while still making combat manageable.

      2) The enemy AI in combat needs to be much better, doing more than just 2-dimensional tail chasing.

  15. soldant says:

    Everything they do is absolutely pointless until they fix their atrocious interface that’s been kicking around since the first game. That’s all I want out of this – a proper UI that doesn’t date back to the first X game where mouse control sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t, and sometimes half works but still needs keyboard input because it was never properly upgraded.

    I love the series, but the UI is horrible. They said they’re going to fix it this time round. That’s what I want to see guys!

  16. Premium User Badge

    Bluerps says:

    There are complex German space sims, besides X? :D

    I’ve played the first X and X2 and enjoyed them a lot. I’m not sure why I never played any of the later games, to be honest.

  17. SwENSkE says:

    Egosoft and the X-series is one of the very few devs/game series I buy every game without even thinking twice.
    The story lines are often crap (or too easy for my taste, especially in the later parts) but the free play is fantastic. I can’t think of any other game (series) I have put that much time in. And the modding community is one of the best I know of – and Egosoft fully supports them.

  18. Scabmastah says:

    It’s funny that Craig emphasizes the complexity of the X-games, since the entire point of X: Rebirth is to rework the entire game to de-complicate things while keeping the complexity. If you want to read more of what the devs have said about the game check the FP thread. http://facepunch.com/showthread.php?t=1131683&highlight=Rebirth

    • Yosharian says:

      Sup guy! This thread is hidden from the public gaze!

      To view it you need to be registered and signed in.

      We get a lot of spammers and trolls, so you need to get an invite from an existing member to register.

  19. Sardonic says:

    I tried to get into X3 and TC like 4 times, without success. which baffled me, being an eve online veteran.

    I have high hopes that this will be the game that I get into.

    • DrZhark says:

      I tried several times to get into X, X2, X3, finally with X3:TC I went over the learning curve and man, did I have a blast! I loved that game and played it non stop for several months, built mega complexes, ‘borrowed’ the big ships and even cheated to get the ones I wasn’t suppose to get, enjoyed mods, I lived large in that universe. I can’t wait for Rebirth

  20. drvoke says:

    I’ve got almost 300 hours logged between X3:R, X3:TC, and X3:AP. They are good but deeply flawed games. The worst aspect is the AI pathfinding, and the second worst is the incredibly slow pace of the economic game. It seems they’re working on the first, but what’s going on with the second? With those hundreds of hours I’ve spent, including leaving the simulation running overnight, I’ve never managed anything more than a single self-sustaining factory complex. It’s also incredibly easy to get outmatched in combat, and there is very little hint as to what works and what doesn’t in regards to combat without reading wikis and hours of testing. The on-line encyclopedia helps, but you can’t keep it open while you do other stuff so you either have to write everything down, or play the game in a window with the X3 ship/weapon database open in another or something. It’s a great game made maddening by impossibly convoluted interface decisions. I’ve never hated a game I loved so much as with X3.

    Mods help with the most egregious AI pathfinding fails (i.e. kamikaze AI pilots in your fleet exploding against the hulls of the enemy), but the slow pace of the economic game means that building said fleet takes more time than it’s worth and you will never risk it in a real battle because it represents a few billion credits that took five real weeks to accumulate. Not to mention that building said fleet requires feats of logistics you should never ask someone ostensibly playing a game to achieve. Even building a competent trade fleet is hours upon hours of work, given how huge many of the systems are and how far apart the various components you need to build the best ships you can afford are in the universe.

    With all that said, there is actually no other single player space game which allows you to start from a single ship and build a galaxy-spanning trade empire complete with escorts and a defense fleet and factories and bases and capital ships, etc…

    • Professor Paul1290 says:

      Wait, 300 hours and you did not manage past more than a single complex?!
      I’m pretty sure I’m misunderstanding this, but if I’m not then even across three games that’s assuming you spent at least around 100 hours on one of those games, and that’s still absurd.
      If I’m not misunderstanding this then I have to ask. What were you doing with those hours?

      I think the hardest time I’ve had making money between those three games was my first vanilla run of X3: Reunion, and I think I’ve done around 100 something hours in that game. However, in that time I got multiple complexes running, a fairly large fleet of trade ships, and had a rather sizable collection of various combat ships all the way up to a capital ship or two. I wasn’t using any mods, cheats, or external help of that sort, that was with only the tools the vanilla game provided me with.

      The other two games shouldn’t require that much time. Terran Conflict and Albion Prelude provide more effective ways of making money compared to Reunion and their plot quests are so generous in the way of rewards that you could pretty much skip the slow “startup phase” that you had to endure in Reunion.

      That said, I’m pretty sure I must be misunderstanding your situation in some way.
      If I had to spend that many hours in these games only to still not it past the point you seem to have implied, I would have quit on them a long time ago.

      • drvoke says:

        Yes, you misunderstood as I wasn’t clear. Obviously building complexes isn’t ALL I accomplished in 100 hours in X3:TC. I also built a formidable trading fleet, explored the galaxy, did a bunch of random missions, tried and failed to do a bunch of stuff, lost fortunes and made fortunes. Yes, it would be absurd if I had one single goal (build a complex!) and could not achieve it in 100 hours. And don’t forget leaving the computer running overnight several times. And also that I was talking about building a closed loop complex, not just a cahoona bakery connected to a solar power plant or whatever.

  21. zeekthegeek says:

    Kha’ak still makes me giggle.