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EVOCHRON MERCENARY 2 (EXPANSION) FAQ


For the changelog, click here


- What is the 2.0 (expansion) update?
- What will the 2.0 update require?
- Will the old version of the game still be available?
- Will current pilot profiles (save games) work with the expansion? Are the new/updated profiles backwards compatible?
- If I want to, can I return to the 1.X version of the game?
- Which planet rendering mode should I use?


What is the 2.0 (expansion) update?
- The update is designed to expand the game and introduce a variety of new systems, options, sound effects, and graphics to the game. It has been built with a higher minimum technology level in mind in an effort to significantly improve the visuals, options, and capabilities of the game.

What will the 2.0 update require?
- The expansion is designed to update older builds of the game. To update to the expansion from an older version of the game, the following is required:
> Version 1.5X minimum of the game installed (1.828 recommended).
> You need to be a licensed user of the game, either a direct customer or purchased through a digital download service (Steam, GamersGate, or Impulse). If you are using the direct download version, have your ID and key available as they will need to be entered after installing the update.
> The system requirements are mostly the same, except for the new shader model 2.0 baseline minimum.
> 1GB of additional free hard drive space for the download and installation process.


If you think you'll want to reinstall the older version of the game at some point, you should back up any pilot profiles (the game will also back up pilot profiles for you automatically) and setting files you may want to use later with the older versions of the game. If you have a version of the game older than 1.5X installed and want to upgrade, download and install version 1.828, then launch the game one time and exit in the main menu, then follow the update procedure for the expansion.

If you have the direct download version of the game installed, the new version will prompt you to enter your reference ID and key, which will update the registration status on your computer for the new encryption and registration system. If you installed the game through a reseller, such as Steam, you shouldn't need to complete this process as the updating system for those platforms should automatically take care of the registration transition/update for you.

In terms of system requirements, most systems that can currently run the original version will be able to run 2.0. The new version may even require fewer memory resources on some systems and run faster. The only significant minimum requirement change is a video card that supports shader model 2.0 (and most video cards made in the last 5 years provide support for it). Here is a list of the minimum and recommended specifications for the expansion:

> Windows XP, Vista, 7
> 2.0 GHz or faster processor (multi-core processor recommended)
> 1.5 GB of free physical system memory (RAM) of 2 GB installed minimum.
> 1GB hard drive space available (3GB recommended for full 'pre-generated' planet terrain mode).
> DirectX compatible video card supporting at least shader model 2.0.
> 256 MB of dedicated video memory minimum.


Here are some details to be aware of:
First, the non-shader based render path is no longer supported. A 3D card with shader model 2.0 minimum will be required for the expansion. The planetary engine and many other elements of the graphics have been modified to render almost entirely with shaders and there isn't a feasible way to disable the effects for very old 3D video cards that are limited to a fixed function rendering system only. Most 3D video cards made within the last 5+ years include support for at least shader model 2.0.

Due to the complexities of the new graphics system, a minimum level of detail is required to render certain effects, particularly with planets. This means that some details can't be turned down or turned off to levels allowing for significantly lower memory use. As a result, 1.5 GB of free physical memory is an important requirement.

Will the old version of the game still be available?
- The current plan is to continue to offer the 'classic' version of the game for those who may encounter any compatibility issues due to limitations on their system or would prefer to continue playing the original version of the game. How long it will continue to be offered hasn't been established, but for the time being, it will be available as a separate download.

The expansion will be available through the updating process(es) of various digital distribution services (ie Steam, Impulse, Gamersgate, etc) and as a downloadable installer for direct buyers. But it will be optional in the sense you will be able to roll back to the older version as needed/desired by manually installing the older version (see below for details). If the expansion isn't compatible with your system due to lack of shader model 2.0 support or you just want to play the original version of the game, the original version will continue to be available to optionally install for those who want to play it.

Will current pilot profiles (save games) work with the expansion? Are the new/updated profiles backwards compatible?
- The expansion will accept pilot profiles from versions 1.5X through 1.8X and will update them automatically for the new format. However, 2.X version profiles should not be considered backwards compatible with version 1.X of the game. Since version 2.X profiles will generally not be backwards compatible with version 1.X of the game, the expansion will also automatically back up your 1.X pilot profiles (save games) to a folder named \OldPilotProfilesV1 the first time it is launched. This way, you can roll back to the older version of the game and restore your original save games as needed. Again, version 1.5X-1.8X profiles are forward compatible with the 2.X format and the they will automatically be updated to the 2.X format the first time they are saved with the expansion (2.X) version of the game.

If I want to, can I return to the 1.X version of the game?
The current plan is to provide the option to return to version 1.X of the game, in case you want to play the original version or if you need to for some other reason. If you think you may want to reinstall version 1.X of the game at some point, make sure to back up your configuration files before upgrading so you can restore them later for use with the original version of the game. The files you'll want to back up are:

keymap8.sw
pilotX.sw (where X will be a number from 0 to 99, the game will also back these files up for you)
sw.cfg

The other files are generally backwards compatible even after upgrading. These files are located in the default save data folder, details are available here: http://www.starwraith.com/forum/viewthread.php?tid=3433

Which planet rendering mode should I use?
- If your system offers low to mid range performance, you may prefer the procedural mode. It takes a little longer to update planet details, but the overall performance impact when details are loaded can be better and more consistent using the procedural mode on such systems.

If your system offers mid to high range performance, you may prefer the pre-generated mode. This mode saves some planet data to the hard drive and loads it directly from there into memory, significantly reducing the steps necessary to update planet details. This results in faster detail updates that can perform significantly better on faster systems.

If your system has a slower CPU/GPU and/or memory, but has a fast hard drive, the pre-generated mode may work better on your system. If your system has a fast CPU/GPU and/or memory, but has a slow hard drive, you may find the procedural mode works better on your system.

The pre-generated mode depends heavily on the performance of your system's hard drive. If the hard drive is slow (ie 5400 rpm) or it's performance is being reduced due to a security program running in the background, the performance of the pre-generated rendering mode can be lower than expected. You may want to enable the procedural rendering mode instead for such system configurations. While the procedural mode doesn't offer the overal update performance potential of the pre-generated mode, it has the benefits of using less hard drive space and lower disk performance needs.

If you are running a security program that inhibits the performance of your hard drive when files are being loaded, using the security program's 'gaming mode' (if available) or disabling it while you play may significantly improve performance and reduce stuttering/choppiness. Make sure no other non-essential programs are running in the background that could hinder the performance of your system and its ability to load data from the hard drive.

Also, sometimes the performance improves as data is initially loaded and 'cached'. So you may want to give the game a few minutes to settle in and load data it needs if you're near a planet as performance may improve the longer you play.

In the end, you may just want to try both modes on your system to determine which method is best for your personal preferences and system configuration.



EVOCHRON MERCENARY EXPANSION CHANGELOG


Changelog (not an exhaustive list, but includes most significant changes/improvements):

> User Interface (consoles and menus)
  > HUD Control Menu
   - Graphics 'noise' removed/reduced for a cleaner look and improved legibility.
   - Clickable options now display mouseover highlighting.
   - Target, Order, Deploy, and Build menu options now include highlight buttons and shadows.


  > Nav Map
   - Zoom option added to in-sector map mode for improved legibility and increased precision.
   - Larger icons with more detail.
   - Sector borders highlighted in white for easier zooming and selection.
   - Menu borders redesigned for cleaner look and clearer divisions.
   - Highlight buttons added to destination fields.
   - Panning/Scrolling system added to let player slide map around.
   - Alternate text movement system to support map slide mode.


  > Inventory Console
   - Current/Available Contract(s) and Items for Sale button moved to list frame.
   - Confirmation prompt when selling items to stations, cities, and carriers added.
   - Confirmation message and red highlighting added to cargo items to confirm discarding in open space.
   - Text descriptions added for equipment items, weapons, and commodities when highlighted.
   - Menu borders redesigned for cleaner look and clearer divisions.
   - Jettison button moved from 'Other Options' menu to cargo bay menu.


  > Trade Console
   - 'Request Information' button added for info from AI ships.
   - Player-to-player contract options added.


> Ship Systems (cockpit, HUD, weapon, and flight systems)
   - Graphics 'noise' on cockpit displays removed/reduced for improved legibility.
   - Readout brackets improved for a cleaner look and fewer 'blue' color tones.
   - Readout labels spelled out with more characters rather than only one character.
   - Radar display field size increased for improved legibility and less obstruction.
   - Ship status and target status displays increased in size for improved legibility.
   - New gunsight added for a cleaner look and lower level color tones for less obstruction.
   - Pitch ladder cylinder mesh detail increase for smoother panning and a more consistent display surface.
   - MDTS system updated to reduce jittering and improve accuracy.
   - Flight time clock added to provide a 'Hobbs Meter' style display (format DD:HH:MM:SS).
   - Weapon impact direction indicators added to HUD gunsight (red flash for impact direction).
   - Flight/event log added (inventory console), logs most important player-specific events.
   - Beam weapon system now operates independently from particle cannon system (including separate cycle rates).
   - Maneuvering thruster system now more realistically operates in atmospheres under drag conditions (continually firing to maintain rotations).
   - Revised direction indicators for improved legibility and adjusted scaling/positioning to eliminate clipping at the edges of the screen.
   - Formation system now tracks and matches friendly/linked ship's jump system in multiplayer (and will automatically re-target the ship when it arrives after a jump).
   - Text readouts for gun turrets (and now terrain walkers) color coded to displayed low (red), medium (yellow), and high (green) values.
   - Formation system now maintains distance of around 200 from targeted ship to reduce shield collisions.
   - Station names now displayed in multiplayer when a detonator is activated.
   - Underwater image enhancement system added for terrain walkers.
   - New cockpit models and textures added (two selectable types).
   - Gravity displays updated for a more velocity relative value.
   - Incoming gunfire alert indicator added to Heads-Up-Display.
   - HUD target highlight indicator updated to include velocity.
   - Countermeasure system now has its own dedicated timer.
   - Heat signature indicator added to Heads-Up-Display.
   - Alert indicators all flash on and off.


> AI System
   - Passive hostile threat level system added. Proximity based, >5K will generally leave player alone.
   - Capital ship jump drive navigation updated to prevent near misses with stations upon arrival.
   - Capital ships can now turn during combat to stay within weapon range and while navigating near stations.
   - Traffic pattern system added to accommodate new hangar entrances and enclosed structure.
   - AI ships can now fly faster and evade more effectively.
   - Combat intelligence/accuracy increased.


> Gameplay
   - Weapon impacts now produce higher kinetic effects for higher challenge with MDTS use.
   - 'Request Information' list system added for new trade console option (includes occasional payment requirement).
   - Raw hydrogen can now be mined from gas giant planets, nebula clouds, and stars when no fuel converter installed.
   - Dedicated independent contract mode added for new player contract system (accessible in trade console).
   - New 'Weapon Lab' added, allowing players to custom design their own particle, beam, and missile weapons.
   - AI ships now also share in the same kinetic weapon impact effects for more accurate consistency.
   - Terrain walkers added (includes dedicated cockpit, HUD, controls, physics, models, and animation).
   - Dedicated mining system added for terrain walkers, no separate mining beam required and 5X faster.
   - Reputation system updated to save earned values with individual factions each time profile is saved.
   - Contract pay for mining contracts increased significantly and now vary depending on required material.
   - Mining system can now recover individual units of matching material from containers in open space.
   - 'Space Debris' system added where items will fall from space and land on planets for later discovery.
   - 'Space Debris' multiplayer update system added to synchronize cargo items between players.
   - New optional contract objectives for terrain walkers (material recovery and surveying).
   - New destroy contraband smuggler contract objective for 'Fair' and 'Moderate' systems.
   - New secondary hardpoint items: Fuel Packs, Charge Packs, and Shield Packs.
   - New fabrication options added to constructor stations.
   - Anti-missile systems are now twice as effective.


> Multiplayer
   - Sector and clan text chat modes added to limit incoming and outgoing messages.
   - Linked/clan players now have their names displayed on the nav map below their indicators.
   - Separate dedicated multiplayer contract linking system added for player-to-player arranged contracts.
   - Clan linking now requires both players to accept a link. One player submits the request and the other approves.
   - UDP port connection verification system (effort to eliminate partial connection conditions).
   - 'FPS' and 'MS' labels added to player list for frames-per-second and ping rates.
   - Shadowing added to player list for improved legibility with bright backgrounds.
   - Support for custom TCP and UDP port settings.
   - General performance improvements.


> Models and Textures
   - New capital ship models added (including carriers).
   - New station hangar structures added (5 entrances, enclosed, highlighted docking area).
   - Small ship sizes increased significantly for improved scaling and visibility.
   - New individual models for commodities, weapons, and equipment.
   - Emissive texture maps added for civilian and military ships.
   - Shape specific collision detection added for capital ships.
   - New planetary defense ring model.
   - New textures for stations.


> Environment
   - Clouds now move around planets that have them.
   - Rain and snow now varies depending on cloud cover allowing for variable weather conditions.
   - Weapon collision system added for city structures.
   - Planet rotation system added (including close proximity object movement system and multiplayer synching).
   - New planetary terrain engine (includes elevation based selective texturing, much higher mesh detail, shader based rendering, and greater variety).
   - Main menu now features a near orbit background scene and station lobby voice chatter now moved to in-game 'lobby' mode.
   - New planet ring effect added with an 'icy particle' look and that shields push out of the way as the player flies through them.
   - Improved background nebula effects (including a new cubemap structure for higher detail).
   - Improved lens flare effect.


> Graphics/Technology/Effects
   - Fixed function rendering systems removed, shader model 2.0 now baseline minimum.
   - Anisotropic filtering applied by default and adjustable 'Texture Detail' setting added to Options menu.
   - Multiple structure and texturing system added to default cockpit (4 levels X 4 textures each, base, normal, specular, and emissive). Provides a far more detailed and varied appearance.
   - New lighting effects for primary weapon flashes (using cockpit, terrain, and object shaders).
   - 'Procedural' and 'Pre-Generated' rendering data modes added for new planet terrain engine.
   - Capital ships now break apart into pieces when destroyed.
   - Anti-aliasing options added to Options menu.


> Sound and Music
   - New music by Rich Douglas added.
   - New multi-channel and tapering systems added to reduce/eliminate popping with some sound devices.
   - Real-time radio speech system added for traffic navigation.
   - Many new sound effects and enhanced effects.


> Control and Input
   - Axis channels can now be mapped individually by clicking on them, then selecting the control function.
   - Conflicting keys/buttons now allowed for multiple functions assigned to individual keys and buttons.
   - Conflicting key/button controls now highlighted in red in Configure Controls menu.
   - Separate control system and mapping options added for terrain walkers.
   - Mouse Look control system updated to provide full range of vertical input without locking.
   - Alt-left mouse click on HUD Launch/Jump buttons no longer engages maximum directional jump, now requires Alt-right mouse click.
   - Exit menu in multiplayer now has timer delay and access limitations during active nearby weapon fire to counter exploiting.
   - Inertial forward/reverse thruster control can now be mapped to an axis channel (including channels used for other controls).
   - Mouse flight control input now centers when pressing the ALT key to select options, then releasing it.






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