Seasons Greetings to all Modders Everywhere,
December is always one of the most exciting months for me, and this year it is unusually busy. We have months worth of updates to release to the Enhanced 4X Mod and Star Wars: Interregnum, rumors of new patches for our game Engine, Sins of a Solar Empire Rebellion, and of course the ever important Mod of the Year contest (almost enough to make you forget there is a new Star Wars movie too!). So without further delay, here's what you can expect from us over the following month.
Enhanced 4X Mod version 1.8
The Enhanced 4X Mod (E4X) is more than just the core framework used by Star Wars Interregnum. On its own it is one of the most ambitious and well thought out expansions for Sins of a Solar Empire available. Yet over the last year or two, E4X has largely taken a back seat as I worked to bring Interregnum to life. Updates were thus fairly small and designed to keep the mod running smoothly and efficiently, rather than adding new content.
That will all change this month with E4X 1.8. So whether you are fighting your battles in the universe of Sins of a Solar Empire or the Galaxy Far, Far Away, here are some key changes and new features you can look forward to.
1. New Planets
It has been over two years since a new planet type has been added to E4X, and I'm pleased to announce 1.8 will contain more than one! Exactly how many will be in the eventual update may depend on time, but expect to see some more teasers like this on the E4X page. Also, I can say that several of these new planets boast quite substantial resource income... at least in one category.
2. Starfighter Rebalance
The 4X genre got its name from four words. Explore, Expand, Exploit, and Exterminate. E4X was created to try and improve the base game mechanics of the first 3 "Xs", since Sins of a Solar Empire already handled the Exterminate part so well. As a result, the mod largely kept the combat system intact, only adjusting imbalances and broken gameplay mechanics.
E4X 1.8 will begin to change that, starting with perhaps the most persistently difficult units to balance, fighter craft. E4X already changes strikecraft substantially, but until this point most changes were designed to fight lag by reducing the number of fighters in the game at any one time, rather than changing the game balance itself.
The change is a simple one with vast implications; all strikecraft, both fighters and bombers, will now use the fighter armor type. This means that "flak" or antifighter frigates will now be a hard counter to both forms of strikecraft. Before, the only real counter to bombers was fighters. However, with large swarms of fighters, this did not always work in reality. 1000 fighters would eventually defeat 1000 bombers, but the difficulty in effectively targeting so many units usual means that much of the fighters' damage would be wasted and the bombers would cause substantial damage before air superiority was achieved. With bombers now taking heavy damage from flak frigates, an adequately defended fleet with a mix of both fighters and flak should be a much tougher target for bomber spamming.
3. Resource Ratio Adjustment
I try to keep up with user comments and Let's Plays of my mods, and one thing I've noticed in quite a few of them is actually an unresolved issue from Vanilla Sins. In 95% of games, the player is short of the crystal resource, while often well stocked in credits and metal. The black market of course helps players purchase any needed resource, but that costs money to use and slows the player down.
The crystal resource was designed as a rare commodity primarily used for research. Yet research is so important to the early part of the game, you will almost never have enough of it unless you start next to several Ice planets. The next version of E4X will make this a bit less of a problem thanks to a variety of changes.
- Your starting Terran planet will now have two crystal asteroids in addition to two metal. This should make early game resource ratios much more even.
- A number of unit types have had their crystal costs reduced or eliminated, while their metal costs have been increased. This includes Antifighter frigates, Carrier Cruisers, Heavy Cruisers, Envoy Cruisers, and Siege Frigates.
The end result of these changes is that crystal will be less of a pain to get, metal will be more useful, and you'll need to use the black market less.
4. Skybox Shuffle
When E4X was first ported to Rebellion, it had among the best collections of background skyboxes, thanks to its incorporation of the Infinite Space planet mod. In the years since however, the quality of skyboxes used by the mod community has increased dramatically. As such, four new skyboxes have been added to the mod to bring it up to modern quality expectations.
However, adding more skyboxes has a noticeable effect on the game's RAM usage, as skyboxes are typically among the largest image files used in the game. To improve efficiency, all but three of the skyboxes currently in E4X and Interregnum have been removed (this includes Vanilla skyboxes). Not to worry though, if your favorite skybox was removed and you do not mind the extra ram usage, a new minimod will add them all back in, giving you an impressive 16 backgrounds to choose from.
Interregnum Alpha 3.1
The new Star Wars Interregnum content we've been working on should be less of a surprise, as we've been teasing them over the last few months. Usually we only update the mod to add a new faction, but since our new Graphical Lead ERock72 has started, it seemed wrong to make you wait for Beta 1 to get so many good graphical changes. In short, 3.1 is all about polish and immersion. Major improvements have been made to the AI, entirely new models have been added and other improved, numerous units and abilities have been tweaked in response to feedback, a few new abilities have been added, and a group of UI fixes and additions all await you in Interregnum 3.1. Oh and of course you get everything mentioned above for E4X. What a bonus!
Mod of the Year
Hopefully all of the new additions above have gotten you excited about the work we've done this year. If so, please take a moment and vote for our projects for Mod of the Year. While we gladly welcome support for both the Enhanced 4X Mod and Star Wars: Interregnum, we are mostly focusing our efforts on supporting Interregnum, simply because as a Star Wars mod it has a greater fan base and stands a better chance of going far into the contest.
If for some reason you're still not motivated to hit that vote button, I'm pleased to announce that my yearly attempt to bribe you has also returned (I suppose it is a holiday tradition of sorts now)! Depending on how well Interregnum does in the contest, I pledge to do the following things.
- Interregnum makes the top 100: An in depth article will be created detailing a new force that will be making an appearance in Interregnum Beta 1. Hint: it is NOT the New Republic (though they will also be added then).
- Interregnum makes the top 5 or an Editors Choice: The Eclipse Super Star Destroyer will be added in a future update, as a rare special unit.
- Interregnum wins Mod of the Year for its category: I'll publicly commit to adding a 5th new playable faction to the mod, to be released after the New Republic.
If any of these things appeals to you, please take a moment to vote for these mods. And please remember to come back a week from now for the second round of voting!
Last but not least, please enjoy whatever holidays you celebrate this year, from the mod team.
-GoaFan77, Ahobgoblin and ERock72