Games Arena: You announced X Rebirth two years ago, but how long did it take you to make this game? When did you start planning this rebirth of the series?
Bernd Lehahn: Shortly after X3 Reunion in 2006. So about 7 years… *sigh*
GA: When X3: Reunion launched, it was by far the best looking game I had seen, and it still looks great. Not only that, but the sheer scale of the ships was amazing, even compared to X2, where the ships were fairly beefy. And now you’re pushing that even further. What were the challenges you faced in making a game of such scale and complexity?
BL: Many. Lets begin with the AI. Our goals are high, we want to create cities in space. This requires AI that is able to fly through the most complex 3D geometries. Next comes performance in general. The graphics engine gave us a lot of headaches because it has to be able to sustain thousands of light sources on stations must be able to show them upclose but also from many hundred kilometer distance (not to mention from inside).
GA: Has the addition of highways changed the way you design the star map, or the layout of the systems themselves? They seemed a lot more crowded in the videos, than in the previous games, and they were crowded before as well, having had many accidents while trying to fly an M2 through just about any system.
BL: The new game is designed to bring real “highways” into space. That means LOTS of ships and high densities in some areas. It was our goal to create a much denser atmosphere everywhere. Of course in highways you don’t have collision problems so much because everybody is flying in the same direction, but in general the AI was a big challenge.
GA: For the first time since X2, we’ll be able to go inside space stations, with the character. What can we do in these stations? Is this a more elegant alternative to just directly calling up an NPC, or are we going to have more activities? I think I saw being able to crawl through ducts, in one of the videos.
BL: You need to hire people for many jobs. NPC hiring is a big part of this game and you always want to know how good people are at their jobs. There are minigames through talking to people to find this out and there are also traders and items you can collect on platforms. So yes there is a lot you can do there.
GA: Will there be any hidden things tucked away in the corners of the universe again to look out for? Like the crates from X2, the occasional free ship, or the odd flying saucer from X3. Also, can’t say for sure if it was in X3R or TC, but I remember at one time finding the old Argon M1 and M2, from X2, as floating derelicts in a system somewhere. Any vestiges of the old world floating around?
BL: Definitely. The highways allow us to make the universe a LOT bigger and still get you quickly from a to b. But you can leave them anytime and explore an endless universe. Thats where you can find unique items.
GA: The biggest change compared to the past games is only having one ship. How customizable is it going to be, to compensate for not being able to get in the cockpit of other vessels?
BL: The playership is of course much better presented than anything we were able to do in the past. The ship is your home and throughout the plot it becomes better by upgrading many aspects of it. Of course you can still hop into other “cockpits” when using drones via your virtual reality and you can still own many ships and let them be piloted by your NPCs.
GA: Have you made any changes to the ship classes? Do they still use the M size designation, are there any new categories? Same question for the stations as well.
BL: The classes system is very different. Ships are not categorized into these same groups anymore.
GA: Controlling a vast galactic empire could be a challenge in the X games, leading to a lot of, what I would call, menu diving. Have you streamlined the process in any way?
BL: YES. That was one of our most important goals. You manage your property like stations and ships by talking to people. Also you dont have to care about objects that are assigned to “bosses”. So a large transporter that works directly for your would still report to you about his actions but when you assign it to a station it reports to that stations manager and you would only hear from that manager about bigger things.
GA: Can you give us any details about the plot and the characters? For example, if you can say, what will be the main conflict? Will it imply any new threats, purple, or otherwise colored?
BL: Well the plot is of course there to get you into the changed universe and to learn the controls. It will also feature a major battle against the Plutarch Mining Corporation. There are also (still) other alien races in the universe and you find a few of them but the universe is not the same full X universe from before. Instead we show those fewer areas you find during the plot a lot more detailed. What was formerly just a sector of 50 by 50 kilometer is now really a whole solar system.
GA: Have you had a chance to try out the Oculus Rift with X Rebirth? Do you see it as something you would want to integrate into the game?
BL: Yes we have some samples here and yes we will look into this. They are COOL but we can not say when this will be available.
GA: Two years ago, X Rebirth was the only space game on the horizon, but now it seems the genre is really taking off again, with Star Citizen, Elite Dangerous and Starlight Inception on the way. What is your perspective on the future of the genre?
BL: It is looking great indeed and I love it. I always believed that space games are not a niche and can return in the center of attention like they were in the 90s. We look forward to these other games a lot.
GA: Thank you for your time, and best wishes on making X Rebirth a great game, because we all really want to play it.
BL: Thank you very much!