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Rocking and Rolling.

We've pretty well regrouped after our various holiday festivities, family visits and trips, and are back to improving the game (some of us never left).

Anyway, the new client is coming along well. I did a lot of testing over the weekend, and Ray is currently in the process of fixing the bugs I turned up, and adding a few features that I think are necessary. We're shooting, tentatively, for releasing the client into open testing within a week (so say, roughly next Monday). This isn't at all unrealistic.. the client works ok right now, it just has a number of problems and usability annoyances. It will still be somewhat "rough" when it goes into testing.. some menus will still be incomplete (probably the new character creation and the various options menus), but it should be workable.

People are going to need to adjust to some changes with the new client. Existing scripts and binds may need to be rewritten, for one thing. The use of the console is changing, we won't be chatting from there anymore. We are also getting rid of the DirectX 8.1 GKGL driver, and standardizing on the DirectX 9 driver. I know some people have experienced issues under DX9, so we'll need those people to give us feedback from testing with the new client. We hope to have the vast majority of problems sorted out before the client goes into production.

The new client also has a bunch of cool new features.. and will have a lot more once we can change the protocol version again (something we've avoided to date, so we can do concurrent testing with both old and new clients simultaneously). For one thing, the initial public Test should support the ability to set four different preset ship configs, to speed up the ability to buy/equip preferred ships with addons. This feature should be accessible both at the station-menu level as well as at the "buyback popup" that appears after death. This feature, along with a number of others that will come after official release (auto-calculated profit for cargo and so on) should prove to make the game a bit cooler.

Michael is cleaning up the last few bugs from his Escort, Hive Hunt and Pirate missions. It's important to emphasize that these missions don't just represent individual developments.. he's basically polishing up a whole new mechanism for us to make mission-based content. Once he gets these cases working, we should be easily (and very quickly) able to make a lot of other use-cases (like say, a CtC or border-conflict type mission). I know we've promised this in the past.. with things like the much-maligned "mission editor" project of last spring/summer, but Michael's work is bearing immediate fruit, and you can even help test it on the Test server (prepend your username with test: while logging in).

Andy is helping Michael debug his missions, and also working on the new web-based framework for creating missions (a completely different project from Michael's, but related). As mentioned previously, this will let anyone.. developers or users, create missions and try them on the Test server. The idea being that lots of new missions will be created, and we'll propogate the best ones back into the production game.
In between his other short-term tasks, Andy will also be taking a look at our damage model (which is partially flawed, and results in inaccurate damage under certain conditions.. the well-known "wing bug" for instance). We don't have the time for a major low-level redux right now, but if an easy solution presents itself, we'll post about it here.

Sorry to everyone who's been experiencing server chat-lag recently. We suspect that the problem was related to one of the server processes building up an excessive amount of junk data, which was saved for some archaic purpose that's no longer needed. We cleared that out and seem to have solved the problem. We'll be addressing the issue on a more permanent basis.

So, in closing.. test of the new client in a week! Also, please continue to test the escort, pirate and hive-hunt missions on the Test server.