What is Mayhem 3?
Mayhem 3 has been in development since December 2019. It has mostly been a full time job and is today a robust mod, fully playable, and replayable!
I've started modding X3 in 2014 after the release of Litcube's Universe. Mayhem 1 began one year later with the very primitive idea of making it possible to conquer new sectors. I've always loved games where territory war is an important element of gameplay, it gives replayability and an experience often more intense and more customizable than story-based games.
Mayhem 2 was a total rewrite. I had understood that conquering sectors is not only about changing the race of a sector, it's about all the consequences and the price that you and the AI have to pay to achieve it. I also wanted to not make everything orbiting around money, so I've implemented a way to craft your ships, stations, weapons and equipment. I've developed Mayhem 2 for about 4 years (part time, obviously), but at the end I didn't want to play it anymore because of some important problems I had with X3:
- Jobs. This is the name of automated ships in X3. Even though Litcube has changed them quite deeply, the system remained the same: ships were created out of thin air and spawned around shipyards, with very basic goals and poor AI.
- The economy. Everything in X3 vanilla is fake. Products are artificially consumed and the AI does not use them to make their ships or stations.
- Ship control. X3 being about managing an empire, it should be intuitive to replace your ships, give them global orders, automatically put them into a fleet, repair them, etc. Having an empire is about macro management, not micro management.
- Combat. Even though combat in X3 is "ok", I've always felt that it could be greatly improved, not only by overhauling all ship stats and characteristics, but also by changing the AI behavior and rewrite their scripts.
- The galaxy. Always having to play in the same galaxy was the main reason why I eventually quit X3. So for a few years, I had this crazy idea of having procedurally generated galaxies in a game that was not at all made for that. Then I've realized that designing the layout of a galaxy was not that hard, and I've released Stardust, a very early version of the new mod I've always wanted. The name changed to Mayhem 3 a few weeks later because gameplay-wise, I thought most previous ideas of Mayhem 2, despite their sometimes poor implementation, were good to be kept. However, if having an empty galaxy was not that hard, making it alive would take months of work.
I've spent about 6 months on the development of Mayhem 3. It has been a very intense adventure for me, as a developer, not knowing if one day, I wouldn't face an engine problem that would crush the whole project. At the beginning, I was just facing an empty galaxy, so I had to make some golden rules:
- AI and Player use the same scripts, for everything. During the last stage of the development, this rule has to be bent a bit, to improve general gameplay and avoid some exploits, but when it comes to combat, trading and crafting, know that the AI is just like you and use the exact same tools (ie. the same automation scripts).
- To make sure the rule 1 was always respected, everything has been designed around the AI instead of the player. To the player's eyes, it's invisible, but under the hood, the scripts are generally designed for the AI, then some exceptions are added for the player.
- Every ship formation follows the same standard behaviors. There is A/ the leader, B/ some followers, and C/ some support ships that are in charge of independently defending their carrier. In X3 vanilla, you have a lot of scripts that have been added over each other, written by different coders who had a different approach and a different vision. Rewriting everything was a very good occasion to homogenize a lot of fundamental systems.
When starting Mayhem 3, I knew I had to have my own Jobs system, but I didn't really know how tedious it would be, because in the end all combat scripts had to be rewritten, and whole new systems had to be designed to make the AI lively and real. And by "real" I mean that the AI has to know what it wants, at what moment, how to build the proper stations and economy to sustain its goals, define the objectives of its fleets, and adapt all the time to other AIs, the player, and the permanent threat that are the Terraformers.
Mayhem is slower than X3 and Litcube's Universe. There is no jump drive, because in a game of turf war, being able to instantly teleport your ships makes no sense. In Mayhem, you get a true feeling of what attack and defense mean, even though you are eventually able to create "bridges" between sectors, with the help of jump beacons.
Although it is a very complex mod, I feel that Mayhem has never been so friendly to new players. There are a lot of menus, but I've tried to simplify most commands and I've removed many features that were feeling too arcade. In other words, it's supposed to be more intuitive than Mayhem 2 and LU, and the fact that all systems are realistic plays a great part in that goal.
That being said, it's important to understand that Mayhem 3 is not easy, and will never be. It's designed to be hard, and it's started as a cruel unforgiving "Dark Souls In Space", but made a lot easier in late stages of the development. Still, be warned, don't expect to be told what you have to do at every step of your journey. There is a lot to learn, and a bit of "die and retry" goes very well with the procedural galaxies :)
So, all in all, Mayhem 3 is about two things:
- Empire. Even though you can pilot every single ship, you are the leader of an empire and you have to think as such. There are tons of tools to make your life easier, and the mod has plenty of gameplay elements that make your task believable.
- Automation. I'm not a big fan of most 4X because when you have to manage every single unit, you don't feel like a leader, but more of a guy sitting behind a desk and repeating tedious tasks over and over. What I want is to assign a leader, put a hundred ships behind him and give him general orders like "defend this station", "invade that sector", etc. and let him retreat his troops if needed, or repair and resupply. What I also want is to have advanced control over my logistics and assign my little traders to some predefined work, instead of micro managing them. When you have a dozens of sectors full of activity, and that everything is oiled and working as it should, you really feel rewarded.
- Procedural galaxies. Think of it as a foundation. Everything is built upon that, and because the engine is not made to handle "randomized" galaxies, I had to rewrite most scripts, including combat.
- Be an empire leader. You start little, but with new missions, new plots, factions fighting each other all the time, weapons to loot, knowledge to acquire, abandoned ships to capture, pirates harassment and Xenons being more and more aggressive at every minute, you will have plenty of opportunities to grow and eventually compete with all the other belligerents.
- Crafting. Becoming self-sufficient should be your top priority. Have your own sectors to make your own stations that produce and manufacture your own products, used to make your own ships and weapons! You can scan other ships to get their blueprints, or build a Research Station to R&D all designs that the game has to offer (the list of available ships is the same as in Litcube's Universe, but every stat has been reworked).
- Mayhem! Yes, that's the name of the mod, and although it starts quite slowly, the galaxy follows you and adapt to your pace to offer you the best threats at the best time. In a nutshell, there are two consecutive main threats: the Xenons and the OCV. The former is dangerous, the latter is brutal! Depending on your actions, the galaxy can become a living hell, a no man's land, or something between the two.