The XWA Upgrade is a massive mod made from fans for fans. We started more than 24 years ago planning to only upgrade the ship models to add some much needed details into them. Over the many years we have discovered many things that we can do to upgrade not only the ship models however but the actual game engine as well. These days there is barely any part of the game untouched. There are higher texture resolutions, more ships with more options to choose from. More flightgroup colors, VR support, fully dynamic and interactive cockpits and so much more.
- Updated HD Models
Replacing the old low-detail models with better, more accurate ones has been the core focus of the project since its conception. Today, with modern PC capabilities we are able to take it one step further and create highly detailed models with higher resolution textures.
- Hooks: Breaking the limits
By using runtime code injection aka. Hooks we have not only managed to break through many of the original game's technical limitations but also add new features and functionalities like animated model parts, multiple model profiles per ship, customizable hangar maps per ship or per mission and much, muich more.
- New Shader Effects
Using a completely new DDraw.dll we are now able to add modern day visual effects to the old game engines. SSAO/SSDO, Bloom, Dynamic Shadows, Animated textures, Normal Mapping and much more!
- Dynamic Cockpits
This new feature brings you absolute immersion by integrating the various HUD elements right into the cockpit models of flyable craft. As of now, this has been implemented for the various main fighter craft of the Empire and Rebel Alliance. However the roster of ships with dynamic cockpits is steadily growing.
- VR support
Yes that's right, with the new ddraw you can now run XWA using all common VR setups. To facilitate this, we have expanded the dynamic cockpits to include actual VR control elements.
- HD Backdrops and Updated FrontEnd
All the above features also also greatly improve upon the Backdrop and Frontend elements. High-resolution Starfield and Planet backdrops with Orbital scenarios, Updated Explosions, Dynamically generated Hyperspace and Lense Flare effects, Upgraded FrontEnd like Simulator Icons and new Mission simulator Pictures and much, much more!
- Extended Sound Effects
We can now customise many key areas of game sounds and assign new ones. This gives a much wider range of individuality to different ships.
The XWAU provides the technical foundation for and works closely with various other mods such as the TIE Fighter Total Conversion or the in-progress Embers of the Empire Campaign.
To play this mod it is required to have a copy of the game X-Wing Alliance (XWA) installed. As the 1999 CD version is becomming harder to support, we recommend you get one of the digital versions of the game. The GoG version does tend to be easier to manage, but the Steam version also works
Since the mod ads a lot of new features it does have a much higher required spec as the original game.
- Windows 10 or higher is recommended.
- At least 10GB of free space where XWAU will be installed with the same amount on your C drive during the installation and an additional 6GB of space for the downloaded file.
- A dedicated GPU is a must, integrated graphics will not be enough to play the game. We recommend at least something like a GTX 1060 or RTX 580 with DirectX11 support and 4GB of VRAM. For lower end GPUs you can switch to the golden ddraw, but note that this will remove a lot of the graphical fidelity.
- The .Net Framework 4.8 and DirectPlay is also required, the latter being enabled when installing the GoG version from XWA, or from our installer. The Framework is installed with Windows 10, but can be acquired for earlier versions as well.
- In case you want to start modding yourself with the new tools available you will also need the VC redist x86 which can be found here (Note, this is not needed for just playing the game).
The XWAU adds a lot of graphicals updates that the original engine was not meant to handle. As such even newer high end PCs can at times struggle. One of the reasons for this is that the engine was really only ever meant to run on a single CPU core and it does not benefit from multi core CPUs that are the norm these days.
This is also the reason why even modern GPUs will not help in some cases because some of the graphical computing has to be done on the CPU, which already has a high load on the single core the game runs on. Our resident code wizards are tirelessly working on improving performance and huge leaps have already been done, but you simply need to be aware of the fact that there are technical limitations in place that prevent the game to make use of modern technologies that would make the game run much better.
This is also one of the reasons why we are limited in the fidelity of the 3d models used, and optimizing the models for best performance is one of the key abilities our great modders have. We are aware of the plethora of incredibly detailed and often free to use models out there, but importing them into the game would simply make it unplayable and optimizing the models for the game is actually more work than building them from scratch. (Trust us, we've tried and it's simply not worth it)
There is so much we are still learning about the engine and we are trying to push it as far as we can. Sure, we might never be done, we might never get to that last model to be changed, but boy are we having a lot of fun on the way.
We sure hope you will join us on this ride and rediscover this old but sill really great game.