What's New in Oolite 1.80

It's been about a year and a half since our last feature release, so for those of you who haven't been following every last little bit on the forums, what's new in Oolite 1.80?

The dawn of a new version.

Systems, AI and NPCs

One of the things we wanted to do with this release was use the variety already in the galaxy maps a bit more. Previously, one Corporate State was much like another - economy had a small effect, but only a small one - but there's so much more potential in the maps. On the ClymAngus maps of chart 5, Xevera, a Tech 15 Rich Industrial Corporate State, is surrounded by five Anarchy systems in jump range, and the label on the chart just says "The Siege Worlds". You can easily see why it got that name.

The siege worlds: Xevera and its nearby anarchies.

Previously, though, if you've actually visited Xevera, there's not been anything in-system to distinguish it from any of the other Tech 15 Rich Industrial Corporate States. In 1.80, that's changed - it gets regular raids from the nearby anarchies, and has extremely well-armed Viper Interceptor patrols paid for by the wealthy system government who try to intercept the pirates as soon as they jump in. It's also a favoured base for bounty hunters wanting to turn the tables and carry out strikes on the anarchies, because they can buy lots of equipment, get good repairs, and not have to worry too much about pirates on the way home.

Compare this with Ceesxe in chart 1 - same government, economy and tech level, but rather than being an outpost of Cooperative-friendly stability in a dense pirate hub, it's a border system with only three relatively stable neighbours. Very safe, with maybe the occasional pirate raid from nearby Veis, and not particularly popular with bounty hunters because there's hardly anything to hunt.

To help with this variety, the NPC AIs have been significantly upgraded, and the sorts of NPCs you'll encounter have been diversified. Pirates, for example, as well as the disorganised bands you saw previously, now sometimes also operate in well-organised packs centred around a heavy freighter - usually still a Python, but you'll also see Boas and occasionally even larger freighters operating out of the roughest systems. A full strength pirate pack can be well over ten fighters in addition to the command ship, as well as a couple of well-armed heavy fighters such as Asps or Fer-de-lances which split off from the main group, and do daring hit-and-run attacks on police and bounty hunter patrols while the rest of the pack go about the business of intimidating traders into giving up their cargo.

A pirate fleet attacks.

The game also tries to fit the player in a bit better. In Oolite 1.77 the game assumed that the player was basically a trader - pirates would attack you for cargo, and everyone else would mostly ignore you unless there was a bounty to get or you attacked them first. Now, your actions are used to determine what sort of pilot you are (or at least, what the locals have heard about you). Go around trading goods, and the pirates will attack you to steal them. Make a reputation as a fearsome bounty hunter, and they'll actively try to avoid you, unless they think the odds are really in their favour. Gain notoriety as a pirate yourself, and they'll happily let you tag along on their raids and pick up a share of the loot.

All the other NPC types make similar judgements about what you've done. Get a reputation as a pirate and then go clean, and the police might not be attacking you, but they might follow you for a bit just to make sure you're staying clean. Make powerful enemies transporting the wrong passengers, and not only will you have to contend with assassins after your clients, but they might put a price on your head after the job's complete too, as a punishment for daring to defy them.

Expansion pack format and manager

Another big change has been in significantly simplifying how you install expansion packs. There are over five hundred of them available written by members of the community, and one of the most important features of Oolite is that they're easy to write. However, it's sometimes been more effort than it needs to be to install them, or to find out that there's a new version or a new pack that you're interested in. Unless you read the forum regularly, it's been easy to miss updates.

So, there's now a new expansion pack format that puts all the data into a single file, and Oolite can download and install these at your request. If you've already installed it, and there's an update available, this is highlighted too.

Expansion pack manager

There are now over two hundred expansion packs ready to download and install without having to leave the game, and more are being converted and written every week.

Other updates

There are lots of other changes as well, including:

  • an upgraded joystick config page
  • positional sound up to 7.1 surround or binaural HRTF now supported
  • updated graphics for suns, planets, ships, explosions and more
  • a tutorial for people who've never played the game before
  • saving at (some) secondary stations such as rock hermits
  • more variety in parcel and passenger contracts
  • new HUD elements
  • many more tweaks and bug fixes
The tutorial

Expansion pack writers have lots of new features as well, including a powerful new AI library which you can use and extend with Javascript, many more properties and methods for customising the game, the ability for expansions to define new starting positions, or add more one-off scenarios alongside the tutorial - and of course, the new expansion pack format to make it even easier to get your creations to a wider audience.

Upgrading an existing installation

Oolite 1.80 should install straightforwardly and be compatible with almost all the OXPs you already have. However, there are a few things you should be aware of when you upgrade:

  • The default key configuration has changed - a few new keys have been added, and "dump cargo" has been changed from "d" to "shift-D" to reduce accidental jettisoning. If you have a custom keyconfig.plist you will need to add the new key settings to it. Check the new keyboard control summary from the start screen to see your current settings.
    Other new keys: ';' and ':' control the new HUD multi-function displays in the tutorial or with appropriate expansions installed, and '?' on the long range chart now highlights systems by economy, government or tech level if you have an Advanced Navigation Array fitted.
  • Your Commander name and your save game name are no longer required to be the same - you can set your Commander name in the F4 interfaces screen, then call your save games whatever you like. No more "Hello, Commander Jameson37-backup-2" messages from NPCs.
  • The graphics detail settings have changed a little. If you have a dedicated graphics card - or even a reasonably modern built-in one - then your computer can probably handle the new "Extra Detail" graphics setting with no problems, but Oolite won't enable this for you.
  • If you use a joystick or other controller, the configuration for deadzones and axis response has been significantly upgraded, and you should be able to get much better results. You can update your configuration through Game Options as usual.
  • You can now bind any primable equipment you like to the 'tab' and '0' keys through an interface on the F4 screen. The equipment previously on those keys has been converted to primable equipment.
  • If you were using Strict Mode before, this now only disables expansion packs, and does not make any other game play changes.

Expansion pack compatibility

  • If you have expansion packs in the OXP format already installed, you will need to uninstall them yourself when you install the corresponding OXZ format releases. Oolite cannot automatically determine which OXP folders might correspond to OXZ releases as the OXP format does not contain appropriate metadata. The OXP versions will not show up as already installed in the expansion pack manager, and will potentially cause conflicts if you don't remove them first.
  • While we have tried to keep old ship and shipset OXPs working as much as possible with all the changes made to ship AIs, if you have installed a replacement shipset OXP (i.e. an OXP which replaces the look of the default Oolite ships including the Cobra on the start screen) then you should install the Shipset Compatibility OXZ from the 'Miscellaneous' section of the expansion pack manager. This is only necessary temporarily until the OXP authors release an updated version of the shipset.
  • Most alternative HUD OXPs have not yet been updated to use the new features available in Oolite 1.80. They will still work, but other OXPs - and the new tutorial - may require the new HUD features for proper running. You may find it better to temporarily remove your HUD OXP until an updated version is available, or use one of the other updated HUDs already available in the expansion pack manager.
  • Older versions of the Energy Bomb OXP are not compatible with Oolite 1.80. If you installed this OXP before November 2013, you will need to upgrade to keep this weapon working. The version available in the expansion pack manager works, of course.