The preview image for this post can in a way be said to represent one of the things we aim for with the FXmod. To someone who isn't familiar with the FXmod the terms "flashy" and "space battles" may come to mind, while some of our long-term followers may instead recognize this particular unit as the Hiigaran Light Cruiser –- now with properly working weapon turrets. In other words: there is something for everyone, and that is precisely one of the goals we pursue with this project.
Two months have passed since the release of build 1.30, and while things have been heating up in the literal sense of the word ever since, we have continued to steadily work on the next version. While I do not have a version number or release date for you yet, I do have a number of others things to share - or preview if you will - that should give an indication of what we have been up to & what you can expect in the next version...and beyond.
A number of these, in particular related to units, have already been spoiled on the [Images] page. Dreadnaught9ccn's new TUR HeavyGun Cruiser will finally make its debut and replace the clunky, outdated model this unit uses now (along with brand new weapon and firing fx), and the Taiidan and Kushan have decided to follow the trend that "less is more" in the present Galactic Year and Age when it comes to Resource Collecting.
Revisiting the Foundations
If I had to pick two (or three) keywords to define the upcoming build, however, it would have to be these: "balancing" and "bug fixing".
After we continued our work in HWRM our first priority was to port the mod over from the HW2C version of our mod. Soon after that 2.0 launched, and again we would be busy for months - this time tying up all the loose ends GBX left behind and trying to fix things on our own since they had stopped support for HWRM. But eventually that got done too, and what followed were a lot of content-centered additions - including a fully re-textured Kadeshi fleet (1.25) and new SP Missions and Modes (1.30). Now, with most of our (current) models added to the mod, we have begun to tackle another, major "to-do" item that has been on the backlog for quite some time now.
Balancing is, in a way, a trip to the past while keeping in touch with the present. In our case we are fortunate enough to have the aid of a number of players who frequently play the mod online, noting down suggestions and sometimes even recording their matches to underline their findings. Thanks to them, as well as the findings and comments left behind by many others, it is no real surprise that at the present (with about ~50% of the primary re-balancing work for the upcoming build done), we are already looking at about ~4.5 pages' worth of balance adjustments - and an additional 2 pages detailing changes to Research & Production for especially the Kadeshi and Hiigarans.
Values and such are subjects to change, but as things are now you can look forward to the following:
- The Taiidan received a substantial boost to their Capital Ship game. They now have faster & easier access to their larger ships, which also received a boost to their weapon ranges. The "Empress" Shipyard also received an additional construction bay (1 -> 2), being the only Taiidan ship (and one of the very few ships in the mod in general) to have this bonus.
- Higaran Capital Ships now follow the FXmod Vaygr rule of production – meaning that you are only required to have the prerequisite facilities up anywhere in the fleet to be able to construct said vessels (instead of needing to build them on each particular production vessel).
- Kadeshi players will find that Research&Production has been streamlined. Their numerous (and often confusing) modules & sub-modules have been consolidated, with their Corvettes and auxiliary units becoming available for production faster and their Frigates/Capital ships becoming available a bit later. As with the Hiigarans they now also get way faster access to their Mobile Refineries.
- Balance adjustments to the Vaygr are mainly centered around their RoF (Rate of fire), CDs and weapon travel speeds. Their combat now is a bit more a fast-paced, with bullets and missiles flying aplenty - to the point where veteran members of the HW2 modding scene may even recall and notice basic similarities to the old Point Defense Systems mod.
There is quite a lot more where that came from, including new (or extra) abilities on various units. The full details will be in the changelog, so there will be some reading to look forward to in due time.
Old and New
Bug Fixes are another major aspect of the upcoming build. Most notably the AI script bug in the SP Skirmish Campaign Mode (which you can read about [here]) has been fixed. Skirmish Mode itself has also been completely revamped, featuring an adjusted difficulty curve that is much closer to what we intended. You'll find that the first half of the Stages are pretty laid back and casual, allowing you to familiarize yourself with the mod and its races/playing styles (or just sit back and take screenshots), but that the final third will require rapid thinking and good gameplay to come out on top.
Another notable bug fix relates to the preview image. The Hiigaran Light Cruiser now is fully operational, as it can at last build its Sweeper and Annihilator Array Turrets and comes with new firing fx and sounds to boot. Other fixes include the AI treating some units (e.g. TAI Defense Fighters, KAD Defense Guns) as reconnaissance units, and some difficulty that prevented you from properly selecting and attacking the Kushan and Taiidan Research Ship's Modules. Speaking of the AI - we have made further adjustments to its behavior, and have made it more "individualized" - meaning that there will be more differences between each level of difficulty, much like a real player. But these will be discussed later.
So far the "old". The reason this section is named "old and new" is because even if the process of balancing and bug fixing (adjusting existing content) is the main focus of the upcoming build, it is not the only focus of the upcoming build.
For one such example of "old and new" one may turn to the image attached underneath this sentence:
Keen eyes may spot something, or rather a number of different somethings in this image. I will elaborate on the most apparent of these by saying that no, we did not add these to the mod - instead, we have finally figured out how to make the mod recognize them.
If your hunch was correct you'll have guessed that custom gameplay maps will at last be supported starting in the next version - so you can now expand on your experience by playing the FXmod on your favorite custom gameplay maps (provided that they work, i.e. meet the HWRM 2.0 compatibility rules).
New: Artifact Retrieve
Along with custom map support we are also adding two new Game Types. The first of these is based on the popular mode in HW:DoK.
Artifact Retrieve starts out as any other Deathmatch, but upon reaching the 5 minute mark the match devolves into a flurry of chaos, fun, and fireballs. Artifacts will appear near the center of the map, and will spawn again once they have been retrieved. Use Resource Collectors to retrieve artifacts, but beware - the other players will be after them as well. The first team (or player) that reaches the target number wins.
A popular saying among the stars is as follows: "All paths lead to Balcora". There indeed are many wins to win in Artifact Retrieve, but beware - there are equally many ways to lose. Dispatching too many RU Collectors will leave you dry on resources (and thus ships to protect your or allied vessels with - or engage enemies), dispatching too few may leave you falling behind. Work with allies to discover the perfect setup, or just sit back and let the chaos unfold - which is a 100% certainty given the FXmod's 8 playable and diverse races.
Summary & Future Plans
Our current goal is to polish and fortify the overall "framework" of the FXmod by locating and squashing as many of the remaining bugs as we can, as well as to improve the race/unit balance, AI behavior, and Deathmatch mode itself. The latter is tied in with the second new game type not discussed in this newsletter.
Once the maintenance on the framework has more or less concluded we hope to have provided players with the means to enjoy the mod over a longer period of time, which will allow us to divert our attention to the one of our three main goals besides RPG Mode and Custom (HD) models for all units: a fully-fledged mini-campaign entry for each of the races in the FXmod. The Hiigaran and Vaygr have theirs, so there are six more to go.
That brings us to the end of this newsletter. As I write "until the next one" I will leave you with some gameplay footage from the revamped Skirmish Campaign - The Shimmering Path that comes with the next version. As usual, we welcome any thoughts/comments/feedback or speculations on our [ModDB Page] or [Steam].
Until the next one,