Hey everyone !
So, no, I’m not dead. I won’t go into details, but I had to stop writing Grand Rogue Auto for (mostly) financial reasons and partly for a lack of interest in the subject matter. Also, to be honest the code base was kinda crumbling under the weight of new additions, so a fresh start was needed, we’ll get to that.
Anyway, that’s not exactly why I’m writing this post right now. Of course it’s about X: Rebirth (and also about a new project that you may find relevant to your interests).
As I said countless times before release (to deaf hears), X:Rebirth is the worst game made by Egosoft ever. There’s no arguing it. First of all like all previous games, it’s a buggy unfinished mess. That’s not really an issue in itself, as Egosoft will patch the bugs as they always did. But it’s kinda interesting to note that the longer they take to write a game, the more buggy it is. Bugs are one thing, given the complexity of the modern games, developers can easily be forgiven as long as they fix them (Paradox and Bethesda are notorious for this and no one, except idiots, would blame them). However, broken promises are another thing, much harder to swallow:
They promised (as always) a much better user interface (UI). Given the UI in X2/X3+ it should have been a fairly simple task, especially when starting from scratch. Instead they made an “XBox Interface” ™ to be able to sell their game on XBox. Sadly, the deal was never made, and they ended up with a bastard system worst than anything seen before. Making a good UI is not a trivial task, I agree. Still, since X1:BTF they should have known their system well enough to at least improve. But nope. I’d love to have a coherent explanation, but apart from a canceled contract with Microsoft / Xbox, I have no idea.
One day we asked about planetary landings and exploration (like did Elite 20 years ago and like does Evochron:Mercenary nowadays), and they said 2 things:
- “Procedural / Terrain generation is costly, we can’t afford it”. That I know is a lie. I do procedural stuff all the time, It’s not costly by any mean, you don’t need to buy a 10k license to do so when easy to use and adaptable code is found all over the internet.
- “We don’t want to add something just for the sake of it if it has no practical functionality”. Fair enough, that’s an argument I can rally behind. The amusing part, is that X:R features (3 different copy/pasted) station interiors where you *have* to walk around to do your trading, recruiting, mission taking replacing a much more convenient menu, for immersion sake, you know… That is more purposeful and immersive than planetary flight, I guess.
On the other hand, sectors are larger (that was much needed, thanks), well it doesn’t exactly work like before and it’s hard to describe, but it’s better on that front for sure. Except that you have to do a minigame/QTE when moving across said sectors… Sigh.
Stations are also bigger, and ship faster. All of that kinda defeating the point, because if everything is bigger and faster, then, basically everything is the same at a different zoom level. Except for the pathfinder, who understandably get more confused. And hell yes it does, poor thing. But no worries ! For this not to be too blatant, it has been disabled on your personal ship ! Yep, no autopilot, suck it up, that’s 7 years of development for you, A* path-finding is too complex for Egosoft I guess (even if a basic collision avoidance algorithm would work in a space game with basically no terrain). Also, fun fact, yes sectors are bigger, but the whole universe is way smaller. ‘Tiny’ would be the best word to describe it.
Of course, old timers will tell you that modders will fix all that and add tons of features. They are both right and wrong. The UI is supposedly written in LUA (scripting language widely used in gaming), if it’s true, well yes the UI can be rewritten from scratch. What’s weird, despite LUA not being a compiled language, there’s no trace of such file in the release. I don’t understand that, they must be very well hidden or something is very wrong here. I won’t speculate, my limited time with the game doesn’t allow me to. Adding and modifying game assets (ships, map, weapons….) has been made much easier that’s for sure and making things cross compatible too. However, I am not sure that large plugins like Pirate Guild, ADS or Race Response Fleet can be put into X:R at all. They removed the script engine in favor of the Mission Director system. There’s pros and cons regarding this system. Pros being you can actually type it on a notepad. Cons being that’s it’s the most horrible scripting language i have ever seen (and god i’ve seen plenty) and that it doesn’t scale well with large projects. If someone manage to achieve something along the line of Pirate Guild with it, Egosoft should hire him (or burn him as a witch, i don’t really know).
So yeah, quick fixes from the modding community, sure. Overhauls, and years of additional gameplay not so much sadly.
Oh, yeah, another lie. “We don’t support 32bit”. When their game is a 32bit application with the LAA flag set to true. Meaning they can manage 3Gb of RAM, and that’s all. What’s true is that they don’t support 64bit systems in fact. This said, i’ve read countless of ridiculous posts on the matter so here’s a summary good enough for everybody (and toward other coders, yeah it’s no 100% accurate, i know):
Contrary to popular belief, applications compiled in 64 bit are marginally slower than the same compiled in 32 bit. Not in a noticeable way for the end user, but still. 64 bit means that the processor has to move around larger blocks of memory which take more time. In any case, having 8 or 256Gb of RAM won’t change a thing performance wise (even in a true 64bit app, it wouldn’t matter as much as people may think).
Anyway, the list can go on and on for hours. I’ve not seen enough of the game myself to judge it, but reports on the official forum are mind-boggling. And I am not even talking about newcomers, but reports from die-hard fans with 10 years old accounts. So the question is how we ended up in this situation? Before trying to answer this question, I’d like to make a statement about myself. Despite their flaws, I loved every single game they made since X2 which was a freaking revelation to me (gaming wise). It’s hard to count how much time I spent with their games, but between modding and playing (mostly modding), it’s certainly not hundreds of hours, but several thousands I spent customizing their games. But I am not a fan boy. Egosoft has serious flaws, and I acknowledge that fact.
So first, there’s the constant “pre-release” lies. It’s not a new stuff, but it’s disturbing from a small company to lie that much about their products. No matter the iteration, before release they release press kits filled with false information. My favorite one being that they hired economists to balance X3. FYI you are the only one using money in this game, every other NPC ships is buying / selling wares for free. And funnily enough, even with this ‘cheat’, they managed to deliver a game with an economy so broken that most of the galaxy would stop producing anything if you don’t fill the blanks. Same promises were made about the AI, the relations between factions, all broken of course. And there I don’t know if it’s the ‘Peter Molyneux’ syndrome or not. I sincerely hope it is. But when it’s company width, it’s kinda alarming.
In any case, the constant lying, on purpose or not, in this day and age of twitter, youtube channel and blogging is bad for business.
Secondly, there’s the bugs. As i said earlier. Big games will always be buggy. As long as they are patched, i won’t complain about that, I spent enough of my time writing software to know that (too bad the customers don’t). Still, Egosoft, yes, I’m talking to you directly here. Stop using forum users as free beta testers. And if you do nonetheless, fucking listen to them ! Also, in general stop using your community as free workforce. As far as i know:
- you used forum members to translate your game for free. That I know because I had several arguments with the mods of the french forum who made a really crappy translation of your game, but how can you win an argument against someone who threaten you with a banhammer, even a decorative one (can’t really ban the most productive plugin maker for petty reasons) when you are trying to be civil.
- You used modders (including me, despite not requesting anything, you asked me to add my plugins to the package) to publish the superbox, gave X3:AP away to those who bought it, but gave no reward to the people who made the package possible in the first place.
- You replaced professional beta testers (with at least basic code knowledge) by a bunch of fans. And i don’t mean that as an insult toward the said beta testers, but they served no purpose. Not being paid they had no real voice (“ignore them, they are just X3 fanatics” kind of mentality).
- And given the voice ‘acting’ in X:R i’m pretty sure those are not pro either (also “nice talking to you, not” ? seriously?)
Many old timers (non modders) like to think that Egosoft is a friendly company, able to discuss with its user-base. That’s not true. Sure, mods are nice (damn i was “internet-friend” with several, if not most of them for a while) but they are from the community, not Egosoft employees. I remember a time when, we, scripters, found a bug in the “dock.to.something” script, a rare bug, not one a normal user could find, but still a bug. No answer. Then we asked for a common wiki / dedicated dev forum. We got an “answer” so limiting and contriving that most of us discarded the idea of contributing to it. Egosoft looks friendly because it doesn’t prevent free speech, and give more visibility to the people who know what they are talking about. That’s all, they are good at forum management, but they are certainly not open.
My take on all that ? Well, Egosoft, definitively love space games, they have/had a vision for it but it has always been clouded by the fact that they’d love to be a real AAA studio earning tons of money. They don’t like to be a “niche” development studio, despite others like Paradox or Matrix doing very well. I can’t blame them for that, but I am not sure it’s a valid excuse. More to the point, they will never achieve that goal, especially nowadays.
Finally, I am just going to copy/paste a forum post i made:
People who pre-order or buy a game on day one without reading any review have only themselves to blame (and that extend far beyond egosoft games). In fact, you are the main problem, encouraging companies to ship their game as soon as they have managed to balance their account. […]
Also, and that’s a small nuance, I don’t blame you for the poor product (of course), THEY made a shitty game yes ! But ffs, stop pre-ordering stuff from AAA studios, and buying on day one without even looking at reviews, you are encouraging this kind of practice. It’s toxic and i sincerely hope (sorry) that it will be a lesson.
I do understand people giving money to Kickstarter (or whatever) projects for coders with no resources, or small indy dev studios. But it’s a whole different story where donators are involved in the development process.
This said, given the experience I got writing Grand Rogue Auto, I am currently building, well, something very similar to X3, in 2D, with a nice GUI, taking advantage of all the core your computer may have to offer. It will be 100% moddable, procedurally generated and hopefully fun to play :). More info now available here. Also, it will be a donate ware. (free, give money if you feel like it).