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Reviewed by: Bryan Pizzuti [03.18.03]
Developer: Egosoft
Publisher: TBA

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Interview with Bernd Lehahn – Head of Egosoft and Darren Astles – Fiction Co-Author.

HCW: How have you addressed some of the issued raised with the original game being too limited, and forcing the player into having to do trading missions to advance?

Egosoft: We have given the player a better starting position, a ship that comes with some of the expected equipment from the start. This is woven into the plot, but with the game being freeform the player can at any time, right at the outset, decide on a career path that suits them. Of course they can then sample each lifestyle at will, be it trader, mercenary, pirate, miner and so on.

They will be able to go and begin plundering the space lanes immediately as long as they pick their targets carefully, or trade in for a ship more suited to their chosen style of game play.

HCW: What advantages and limitations do you experience by using the "Elite" model of game?

Egosoft: It’s a freeform game with a rich plot running through it. Because we give the player as much freedom as possible, they can experience a much deeper game and play for a longer period than you would with some other types of games. We have taken a lot of praise for our dynamic trading system, but it’s not just the trade. The whole game Universe is dynamic. If you can see it, there is a good chance you can acquire it and you can almost certainly blow it up, if you play in that style.

This of course brings payback from the offended side and we attempt to bring a balance to this. Then of course, this brings its own problems with the plot. If you destroy a particular installation that is pivotal to the plot, we have to decide how we can respawn it in a believable way, if at all. That said, it is unlikely that a player will have the amassed firepower to destroy such structures early in the game.

HCW: Just for the destructive types out there whose attention was drawn by the “if you can see it, you can blow it up” statement, does this include things like planets?  What does it include that might not be obvious at the outset? 

Egosoft: Planets? The “player” cannot destroy planets or moons, no; there are no weapons available to the player that are strong enough to cause this amount of devastation. They are real objects though, not just painted backgrounds, you can fly around them or even into them. As for other items, then yes. Space stations, jump gates, any ship and asteroids. Anything really, but firing your small fighters’ lasers and a few missiles at a shipyard is only going to result in you becoming the hunted. You will need big ships and/or a large fleet before you start re-arranging the Universe.

HCW: How dynamic is the universe?  Generally, what can and can’t be affected, and to what degree?

Egosoft: A few examples will probably help to visualize the dynamics. Firstly, the X-Universe and all its inhabitants are self-sufficient. They don’t need you to be involved. Factories make goods, cargo ships transport them to where they are required and patrol ships attack pirates or enemies. Shipyards will create lost ships and send them back on patrol (including capital ships). It’s not scripted. It’s alive!

So what could you do? Blend in. Go hauling legal goods for small profits. Keep to the inner sectors where the capital ships roam and offer protection. Take on easy missions, build up a reputation and save for that Bliss farm on the outer rings of Preachers Refuge.

Or you could take the pirate life, dangerous, but rewarding. Have bigger ships with bigger missions and the fast life. Always looking over your shoulder and scanning the radar, carrying seeker missiles instead of Chelt skins.

Let me give you some detailed examples. I was sitting in one race’s sector, minding my own business (well actually, I was taking a keen interest in the traffic with my newly purchased freight scanner) when I noticed a Boron cargo ship exit the gate. Now normally, this wouldn’t raise so much as an eyebrow, but I was in Paranid space and people familiar with the fiction surrounding the X-Universe will know, Boron and Paranid aren’t the best of friends. You can read about all of this in the fiction that ships with the game.

The Boron ship appeared to be heading all the way through the sector, but before it had reached half way, the local patrol ships had destroyed it. So what did this tell me? Firstly, a required resource for a factory somewhere in Boron space had temporarily run dry. So the factory requiring it had sent its vessel on a long and ultimately, deadly voyage.

Now, this means that the Boron shipyard will, in time, deliver another trading vessel to replace the one lost by the factory. The factory still needs the resource and will have a major delay now in getting it. What does that factory make? Do you see the potential knock on effect?

Then me? I’ve just seen, simply by watching, a gap in the market. I could haul that resource myself and they’d pay top dollar for it, until the “outage” settled down again or even better, I could go and deploy my own factory making that resource. I could position it right next to the factories that require it if I like or in a dense nebulae or asteroid field.

All because I saw one ship meet its maker.

Want to start a war? Go and take out one of the capital ships patrolling distant sectors. Watch that race build another one at the nearest shipyard. If its journey back to its patrol area takes it through an enemy controlled sector….

Want to corner the market in Computer Components? Build factories, out-price your competitors, go and buy up all their stock, set up a blockade on a gate or just destroy their factories and order your fleet to wipe out their cargo ships, or do it yourself.

You see it is possible to affect the X-Universe in many ways. I know players in previous games who have removed a whole race and replaced it with their own empire or become the sole proprietor of a particular product.

You don’t have to do any of it though and that’s the key. Become the master of the Universe or spend your days picking up bounty-hunter missions and everything in-between.

HCW: In some of the materials released, it’s stated that the player can go and discover new societies. How does this work, and what rewards are there for the player in this? 

Egosoft: The player will start off in one area of space, controlled by one of the races. As they explore, either on their own or by following the plot, they will enter areas that are home to the other inhabitants. They might have enough reputation to trade straight away (can’t trade, can’t dock) or they might have to “impress” them by helping out with the local pirate problem.

Once you have docking rights, you have access to all the unique products, ships, factories and weapons that are unique to that race. Some missions are unique to certain races and you need a certain level of reputation before they are offered. Meeting a new race for the first time is quite an experience.

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