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Egosoft Interview

September 14, 2011

 

Here at TGB one of the most exciting things we get to do is talk to the people who actually make the games we know and love.  Recently we got the amazing oppurtunity to sit down with Bernd Lehahn the director of Egosoft, developer of the X series.   During our interview with Mr. Lehahn we were able to get some insights into why they make their games the way they do and we also got some exciting new details about their upcoming release X: Rebirth. 

TGB: First I want to say thank you for taking the time to talk with us at TGB.  We are very thankful for the time you are spending with us today.

TGB: The X series seems to be your primary title as a company.  What has inspired you to continue development of the x universe instead of expanding into other areas?

Bernd Lehahn: This was really an easy decision. We all love space games.  Yes it is true, that only few developers have the luxury of concentrating on one series, but I am sure this is not because they wouldn’t like to. It is relatively rare today that a developer keeps full control of his own IP and directly makes money with every sold copy of a game.  Once you are in this position however, it is great to work with a community of fans and build something larger.  This is also the reason why we were able to support our games much longer than a normal game developer can afford.  So it is all closely connected with keeping control and building a larger IP. Hmm… I hope I can answer some of these questions with a simple: Yes or No 😉

TGB: The X universe has been quite successful for Egosoft.  Why has Egosoft chosen not to expand onto other platforms such as the Xbox 360 or Playstation 3?  Are their hardware limitations?  Control Problems?

Bernd Lehahn: Well it’s certainly not a trivial task to bring such a complex and hardware hungry franchise to a console. Our games have stood and will stand in the future, for total freedom inside a very large universe. I don’t think it’s impossible to bring this to a console, but it’s a big task. So as a small developer we have to concentrate on one platform at a time.

TGB: Many previous PC exclusive developers have complained that piracy is a big problem for them and have moved away from the PC platform as a whole in some cases.  Do you, as a developer, feel piracy is a huge problem for you?

Bernd Lehahn: Piracy sure harms us, but I think we found a good compromise in how we protected our last two games (and in how we removed that protection afterwards). It is always impossible to judge how much more we could sell, but I do not believe any developer moves to another platform just because of this. Consoles are a big market and developers would be stupid not to develop games for this market.

TGB: The X series, while it has some story elements is primarily an open sandbox.  Has Egosoft ever considered doing a more focused cinematic campaign to drive the story behind the X universe?
Bernd Lehahn: Yes, in fact with every game we have tried to improve on the storytelling and experimented with ways how to combine the open sandbox with a plot.  X2 had some cutscene driven plot elements, X3:Reunion had plot minigames etc.  But this was all not perfect because we had to stick with a lot of the existing designs. That’s another reason why X Rebirth had to be redesigned from scratch and is not just X4.

TGB : Speaking of X Rebirth are there any exciting new features that you can tell us about?

Bernd Lehahn: Many… I am writing a series of postings for our own forums for the next few days in which I describe in depth a lot of the new game design and cool features.One very cool new feature is drones for example. The player will have only ONE ship to fly himself. But this one ship is super cool. You can move around inside, transport and talk to NPCs aboard etc. But you also can still own and control drones and capital ships. Drones can even be controlled in first person, so in reality you still have lots of ships to steer from cockpit view. The only difference is that this is done using a virtual reality system (goggles come down from top of your cockpit and the co-pilot takes over flying the main ship) and you won’t die if these drones get destroyed. This system gives us a lot more freedom in designing new and very diverse experiences.

TGB : Are you going to be adding some FPS style gameplay to the X universe?  Planetary Interaction perhaps?

Bernd Lehahn: No. Not that we didn’t think of it. Marrying an X game with something like Mass Effect sure brings some nice ideas, but again: We are a small developer and have to do one step at a time. You WILL however be able to step out of your ship and stand on platforms.  Talking to NPCs is a big and important way of controlling the game and a step to making things easier (less complicated menus and simpler conversations).

TGB: Will X Rebirth utilize some of the newer graphics technologies such as DX11?  Does DX11 present development challenges for developers?

Bernd Lehahn: That’s not decided yet. X Rebirth will run on DX9 API as long as all the features that we need from the API are possible with it. That does not mean we may not at some point also support DX11, but for now we do not see a need.  Our engine is quite different from all the big established names, because it is designed specifically for a space game. We would love to use an engine like Unreal or the CryEngine, but unfortunately we had to develop it all ourselves, because this was the only way to have cutting edge space graphics.

TGB: So X Rebirth features an entirely new graphics engine?

Bernd Lehahn: An entirely new everything engine :)The graphics engine was actually replaced  between X2:The Threat and the X3 games, but the X Rebirth engine is a much bigger step, because it also means a whole new tech platform to support multithreading for AI, physics and other tasks.

TGB: The X titles have traditionally been very friendly and open to the modding community.  Your in game script generator is a prime example of this.  During the last 10 years the number of developers who support the modding community have been greatly reduced.  The recent announcement that Diablo III would not feature any modding support at all had the modding community in an uproar.  Why has Egosoft chosen to be so closely tied to the Modding community?  Why do you think so many developers are not releasing Mod support with their new releases?

Bernd Lehahn: I can’t speak for others, but for us it’s an easy choice: Supporting modders helps adding to our games and bringing more cool content to our fans. With X Rebirth it is a bit harder than in the past because the whole tech platform has changed at once, so people can’t work with it before the game comes out. But we aim to release tools and documentation as soon as possible after the release of the game. TGB: last question 😀

Bernd Lehahn: phew…

TGB: Has the idea of adding multi-player ever been considered for the X Universe?

Bernd Lehahn:  Yes and the other half of the answer is again the same as twice above mentioned: We are a small team and have to focus, but …. yes 🙂

TGB: That is all the questions that we have for you.  I want to say thank you again for taking the time to talk to us about your company and your games.

X: Rebirth Trailer

httpvh://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LabrDe4XJo0

23 comments

  1. LeCiel - December 27, 2011 5:16 pm

    натяжные потолки тут

    Reply
  2. Nazaxprime - September 27, 2011 9:30 pm

    Were a little off topic with all the tech talk ladies and gentlemen… EGOSOFT is not toms-hardware or new-egg and to suggest they make computer building tutorials, shows you to have completely missed the point made when Bernd talks about them being a small and focused software development studio. I do believe “Minimum, and suggested requrements”, should be the extent of our reasonable expectation of support for such things, and to their credit, If you look at the online manual for X3:TC, I think you will find they have a pretty in-depth and inclusive section on optimizing your hardware and software environment to minimax performance.

    Next, I can appreciate any attempt to help a fellow gamer.
    I have been known to give others support to such ends, but I doubt that anyone will have a positive effect on someone that says “its not going to be anytime soon”, by implying that the issue at hand is that they more or less simply don’t know how to prioritize their finances, or suggesting that they simply don’t know how to spend their money properly to obtain a suitable “gaming rig”. The advice in this thread, while obviously well intentioned, was glib, ineffectual, and ineffective at best.

    Moving on to the topic at hand…
    I hear people worrying about the player being on a mother-ship, rather than shifting from ship to ship, but the drone controlling system is a superior and welcome streamlining of the current mechanic.
    Nowhere do I see official statements that the drone ships can’t/won’t have individualized cockpits or heads up displays… I would personally like to see manufacturer standardized HUD’s(faction specific), and will be saying as much on devnet(Thanks for your assumptions, I may have not of thought to suggest that without such discourse) so, my response to such a statement is that any assumptions to that effect are completely unfounded. I can guarantee we will have multiple cockpit designs for the different POV’s to hopefully include scalable FOV’s as well, once “we the community” get a hold of the new platform.

    I sincerely look forward to the change to a “drone control system”, as it sounds to me like shifting to a new craft will simply be a matter of communicating with your vessels now, rather than going through the time consuming and “pointless” act of ejecting and or transporting over(which is ridiculously expensive if your talking about equipping transporters to every vessel in a fleet, particularly when it would be logical in a future setting to be able to simply VR control any ship in your squadron/battlegroup/fleet… being able to do this from any system you can have a direct com link to? Perfectly effective, logical, and much less cumbersome, and in no way would it break immersion.

    I am really excited to see what they do with camera dynamics as well. Multi-threading support, and the reunification with true 3d environmental sound that was broken with the EAX incompatibility with vista and up, is going to really be a great thing as well… I cant wait to see the updated ship models by both EGOSOFT’s in-house are department, and the modding community. All in all, I freaking LOVE EGOSOFT and the gentleman that said “bury me with my copy”, I second that notion.

    Long may you reign EGOSOFT!
    Nazaxprime

    Reply
  3. Billy - September 24, 2011 1:45 am

    ^^my lappy can’t handle high end games on 1920×1080, but my another one with 1366×768 screen with same video card runs them fluently!
    i have to google now “egosoft”
    i haven’t played any of their titles. :p

    Reply
  4. berticus - September 20, 2011 6:22 pm

    no offence guys but your going way overboard in the specs department i’ve been running on a amd 3core @2.1 with 4gigs of ddr2 800 and a geforce 9600gso 512mb for over a year and a half now and still get to play 90% of new games at 1920×1080 with no probs! add to that case, 500watt psu, 1tb hdd and a 24inch lcd and the lot came to less than £400! i know people who would consider spending that on just a graphics card & chip! but i digress…. egosoft ROCK!!! love the X games just gutted there was never a full startrek mod ‘cos it’s the perfect engine!

    Reply
  5. thsoundman - September 19, 2011 9:38 pm

    You don’t need to spend a fortune on building a gaming rig. You can build a killer rig for under 1,000 US and if you are really looking to save money you could realistically build one for under 600 US. It all depends on what you want. I generally don’t buy a new mouse, keyboard or monitor (Because I run eyefinity) when i build a new rig so I never realy have to worry about those extra costs. If you would like good sir I could help you build a rig that would suit your needs.

    I currently run a gigabyte motherboard, 8gb DDR3 CL7, Radeon 5870 and a Phenom 965 and I have absolutely no problems maxing damn near every game on the market. Let me know if you would like help. I’m sure there are others here as well as at Egosoft who would be more than willing to help you out.

    Reply
  6. Mr Bean - September 19, 2011 1:43 pm

    Because that won’t cost a lot will it 🙂

    Reply
  7. Mr. Reeves - September 19, 2011 1:02 pm

    I forgot to mention that you will also need an intell 2600 K processor.

    Reply
  8. Mr. Reeves - September 19, 2011 1:00 pm

    harold 5187 you can build your own computer. You just buy the parts and plug it in. Get yourself a haf 932 case, p67 sabertooth motherboard, in win commando 1200 watt powersupply, evga gtx 285/260 in sli for graphics, ddr3 1.5 volt 1600 mhz memory, and two identical western digital server grade 2 terrabyte hard drives set up in raid.

    Also get yourself an aftermarket cpu cooler like the cooler master V 12 so that your processor last longer.

    You can use your old keyboard and mouse. And if you don’t have one get a lcd monitor. Something from ASUS is good because of the .2 milisecound responce time.

    Then put it together and turn it on.

    It would be helpful if Egosoft actually did a series of videos on their youtube channel where they build an affordable gameing computer from ordering the parts to putting it together.

    I’m buying X-Rebirth because I have always enjoyed playing Egosoft’s products.

    Reply
  9. harold5187 - September 19, 2011 8:44 am

    I too have been an EGOSOFT devoted fan since the days of XBTF. I doubt I will be able to play the new game, because of my old computer; I can play X3 Terran Conflict at low graphics okay without much lag, but I’ll need a new computer for the new game, which isn’t happening anytime soon, sadly. As far as the new features, I am all for it. I get so sick of being in a cockpit %95 percent of the game, and even when controlling a capital ship, I never felt I was on a capital ship… If I can move around the ship in FPS mode and interact with other characters, then that would make me feel more at ease. It’s a start towards a great move by Egosoft, that I have been trying to talk them into, which is incorporating on some degree or another, no matter how large or small, to incorporate 1st person perspective. Then comes the weapons, and the ability to dress your character up in neat clothes, etc. Great Job Egosoft… Regardless of whether or not I can play it, I’ll still buy it, and play it whenever, even if its in the afterlife, just bury the game with me!

    Reply
  10. TheMuffinMan - September 18, 2011 9:36 am

    I’m a huge Egosoft fan and the X-series oddly enough when i was younger i was given this game by accident instead of another one i wanted…..one of the best mistakes to have happened, i love space games and this is one of, if not the best, i’ve ever played….really looking forward to Rebirth cuz it sounds like there are a ton of great new ideas but the best part is they’re trying to stay true to their franchise by keeping that sandbox element…..can’t wait for this one

    Reply
  11. thsoundman - September 17, 2011 10:24 pm

    One of the best things I noticed about Egosoft is how much they take their consumers interests into account when they do things. I also was impressed on how they understand the scope of their games and aren’t trying to do everything but instead are focusing on several things and working to make them very successful.

    Reply
  12. Lochar67 - September 16, 2011 9:47 pm

    I have played these games since elite days and the fact that we can actually move around in 1 ship is an awesome addition!! That is way more immersive than just cockit views. The drone view sounds like a normal X series ship flying so not disappointed there. What I would love to see tho is more personal touch to the other ships where you can recruit captains for them instead of sending AI commands. I never liked having a mercantile empire that was all AI controlled except for the ship I was flying. Oh and I do hope the 1 ship has a personal shuttle to it.. 🙂

    Reply
  13. TrueTamTam - September 16, 2011 4:09 pm

    Egosoft RUUUUUUUUUUUUULEEEEZZZZ!!!!
    Thank you for your awesome games!!!!

    Reply
  14. Galaxy613 - September 16, 2011 3:25 pm

    “How on earth are we gonna be able to take part in space bat­tles now with 1 ship?”

    I donno, maybe you should read the article?

    “You can move around inside, trans­port and talk to NPCs aboard etc. But you also can still own and con­trol drones and cap­i­tal ships. Drones can even be con­trolled in first per­son, so in real­ity you still have lots of ships to steer from cock­pit view. The only dif­fer­ence is that this is done using a vir­tual real­ity sys­tem[.]”

    You have one command ship that you CANNOT let die. But all others are expendable for the player. This doesn’t change as much as people are whining about how much it does. Was BTF really that bad by only having a single ship?

    “But this one ship is super cool. You can move around inside, trans­port and talk to NPCs aboard etc.”

    This sounds completely unique in the series and I’m personally excited to see what Egosoft has in store. Give them a freaking chance guys.

    Reply
  15. Donbeech - September 16, 2011 3:09 pm

    Its no different to now in X3TC if you think about it, You only ever directly ‘sit’ in one ship personally yourself. My understanding is that its a clever way to hide the fact they didnt want to design 100’s of different cockpits for all the different ships …..so reached a compromise with the ‘VR’ thing hence only needing to design one central cockpit.

    Reply
  16. Chris - September 16, 2011 2:24 pm

    How on earth are we gonna be able to take part in space battles now with 1 ship? I mean will we be sitting miles away watching the fire works go off as we tell the A.I pilots of our cap ships to fight and send in drones that don’t result in our deaths if destroyed. Looks like we won’t be able to invade heavily fortified sectors now unless this 1 ship can be upgraded into something overpowered, and if it can’t be upgraded to said strength then space battles are going to feel like a desk job whereby we rely on the A.I to win fights for us…

    Reply
  17. Tom - September 16, 2011 11:17 am

    I’m slightly concerned about the one ship thing. hopefully you can switch to any ship and control it normally wherever it is allowing you to jump around the galaxy without using the jumpdrive and it should give you points and credit for ships killed remotely if u can’t get out of your ship. This may force you to accept losing ships more than just saving all the time. I always intended to use the remote control from the corner window but it was always a hassel to set up and even if he was your wingman the box would go away or once you were in control of the other ship it was hard to go back to controling yours. If you can just directly control anyship you want that’s not so bad to be in one ship.

    Reply
  18. Max koh - September 16, 2011 10:12 am

    i wonder did they manage to program it to support massive ship fights without lag? i dun want to face the issue where i send in 10 capitals with fighter support in X3TC and it lag so badly not because my computer is shitty but becoz the program cant use up more then 4gb of rams n processor i think? (im using an intel i7-2630QM

    i dun like to command ships on a map screen i like to be there where the action is taking place with all the “fireworks” display =)

    Reply
  19. Jerry - September 16, 2011 8:23 am

    I was late to the X series having only discovered them at the X3 stage. I weep at all the amazing fun I COULD have had in the previous games. I am so looking forward to Rebirth that I salivate to think of it 😀

    Looking forward to this epic game Egosoft!

    Reply
  20. Donbeech - September 16, 2011 7:15 am

    Great interview, The whole ‘Virtual Reality’ Thing sounds like a brilliant idea rather than having to Design 101 different cockpits just make the one awesome cockpit, Fingers crossed it works as good as it sounds! Also sounds like the story & npc dialog’s etc is going be more important this time around just make sure you hire good actors /script writers to voice the dialog as Ive always felt with previous x games this is a weak spot.

    Oh and if anyone from Ego Read this, Any chance of some official Rebirth Wallpapers to plaster our desktop’s with to get us all excited even more? maybe even some widescreen Dual & triple monitor love ?

    Reply
  21. krm398 - September 16, 2011 7:04 am

    I’ve bought the X games starting with the very first one, XBTF, and loved them because of the open ended play and wide universe and massive enemys and large numbers of ship you can own and fly. Flying ships was my passion and I couldn’t wait for the next new one. Having one ship forever is a huge step backwards and now I see its true, I’ll wait to see how its done, Mr. Lehahn, if you see this bring out a demo fast and first, or your sales will plummet until we, the fans see what this new universe is like.

    Reply
  22. zero_19 - September 15, 2011 8:32 am

    I think it’s less knowing limits and more having a clear mission statement. What do they want to do, and do well, rather than, “let’s make a game!” and just seeing what falls in place.

    Reply
  23. CharcoalCoyote - September 14, 2011 10:30 am

    I like that they know their limits and stick to their guns. Excess ambition has ruined many a person who’s tried to do any sort of creative endeavor. Also, space games ftw!

    Reply

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