Mercenary represents the next generation of Evochron, taking gameplay, control, physics, sound/music, and graphics in several new and improved directions. Its new graphics engine supports most 3D video cards with at least shader model 2.0 support. The new planetary engine offers a much higher level of detail along with new effects including a cloud and haze system that renders clouds you can see in the distance from space then descend and fly through while in planet atmospheres. Planetary rings also provide a hazy cloud effect as you fly through them. New gas giant planets feature moving cloud layers and powerful winds that can disorient even the best pilots. The game also includes new solar systems to explore.
The sound and music has been enhanced significantly and includes dynamic music by Rich Douglas that changes with the level of hostility around you. Higher sampling rates and new sounds enhance the audio effects in the game.
The new fleet command system lets you issue orders to AI ships in single player (both in your fleet and in military war zones, once you're rank is high enough) and to human controlled ships in multiplayer (kept private for only the other players who have matching clan ID tags in their callsigns). You can order ships to form up, attack hostiles, defend you specifically, mine asteroids, or reload and refuel.
Mercenary features twice as many ship frames to choose from, both civilian and military. You can now also change the number of crew compartments, countermeasures, equipment slots, and secondary weapon hardpoints. Up to 8 equipment slots can now be installed on a civilian ship, which helps to support installing more of the new equipment items available to you.
Particle cannons now have unique ranges and also now have some unique attributes beyond just damage, range, and firing rate including kinetic effects, shield array damage, and energy depletion.New equipment items include 5 different mining beams, most of which are optimized for recovering specific materials, an anti-missile system, shield array recharger, cannon heatsink, afterburner drive, and automatic CM launcher. Larger inventory pools offer a wider variety of items and the new scrollable inventory list lets you easily browse through more items at every station and planet docking point. Carriers now have their own dedicated inventory pools and can frequently provide secondary weapons you currently have mounted on your ship (letting you reload after a combat mission in a war zone).
The game also features smarter AI with more advanced tactics and greater challenge in war zones and high level systems. Capital ships fight more aggressively and are equipped with anti-shield torpedoes that deplete the shield arrays of an opposing capital ship. They also now carry flak cannons which inflict kinetic effects and can damage your ship if you remain in range.
You can now deploy temporary energy stations, repair stations, sensor stations, fuel processors, shield arrays, and mining probes. Temporary deployable objects can be tactically useful on the battlefield, aid in exploring for hidden items, harvest resources, or if you find yourself stranded or in need of repair. You can also build permanent trade stations, constructor stations, research stations, energy stations, and ore processors. Permanent stations allow you to dynamically expand the game's universe with new trade locations, resources, populated AI regions, and economies.
The new lobby mode is available at stations, cities, and carriers. You can now enter a lobby that give you access to full chat controls (voice and text), inventory management, the shipyard, and storage hangars. Once inside a station, city, or carrier, you are safe from attack. A new 'quest' system features multiple objectives spanning many solar systems throughout the game's universe. The quest further trains you for the game, teaches you details on the history of the game's universe, and provides information on secret locations and hidden benefits in the game.
The new multiplayer system features far better performance along with several new options. In multiplayer, station building by players is tracked and stored by the server program, letting you expand and customize the universe of a server that other players can use and share. The new integrated voice chat lets players talk to each other using their PC's mic. The new gun turret binding mode in multiplayer lets you to link your ship to another player's ship. One player controls a 360-degree gun turret attached to the player's ship they've linked to.
There are many more improvements and new options/features. For details on the new gameplay, graphics, sound, and control options in Evochron Mercenary, visit the FAQ section on the game's website here: Starwraith.com
Planned features for the expansion include a new planetary engine, terrain walkers, weapon crafting, revised station designs, new AI skill variability, new gameplay options, and much more.
A dedicated development section has been set up to provide details on the expansion and its progress. It is available here: Starwraith.com
Here is a section on the planetary engine:
I've spent the last year or so working on a new planetary system for the game as part of the expansion for the game planned for next year. Not just terrain, but also atmosphere, cloud, scaling, and possibly even rotation effects (so you could watch a sunrise or sunset on your favorite planet). The original system I wrote a few years ago worked pretty well, but has had its obvious limits with detail. One of my main goals for the new system is to provide a much better visual presentation along with an engine that is also designed to accommodate the planned new gameplay opportunities. So the new planet system is being built to not just be something nice to look at, but also to be functional as an important component in the overall interactive feature set of the game. More details on that later.
In terms of visual detail, the result for the new system so far has been an increase of around 500% in raw mesh detail while using the same or less memory. This is a significant step toward bringing far more realistic terrain to the game. It has been achieved through a new LOD mechanism and shader system that is much more efficient. The new terrain system includes selective texture application and transitions based on slope and elevation along with normal mapping and haze effects. Even in its early form, the new system maintains a low memory profile while presenting far more detailed and realistic terrain. Terrain can be much more varied and range from vast plateaus to deep canyons and steep mountains.
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