Looking Back... X3: Reunion

Jon Blyth goes beyond the frontier, avoids the threat and joins the reunion

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Lehahn: We've seen some incredible things from our players. We've seen save-games and read reports on our forums from people who pushed our game to its limits: building gigantic fleets, taking over sectors, building several thousand stations, 6,000 in-game hours for a single player, 50-billion credits... Everything. All of these extreme and unpredictable scenarios are probably a reason why our forums are so popular, with well over a million posted articles in less than three years. When you invest that much time and effort into a game, you want to show it to the world.


Lehahn: The user interface was redesigned and there was no real use for a cockpit anymore. Of course, we could still have displayed a cockpit as a decorative object, but we didn't want to spend a lot of time and effort to design a feature which would then just be turned off by the majority of players because it lacks any function and just blocks your view.

Lehahn: I first got in contact with Andy in 2004 through a friend at our English
publisher. At that time, we were in discussions with several professional scriptwriters, but Andy had the large benefit of not just being very talented but also knowing and liking the X fiction. He did give X3 a pretty complex story with better dialogue than any of the older X games. The main elements of the plot were decided upfront already, but Andy was pretty free in how to tell that story. However, we wanted to have a certain mission structure and this lead to the events of the main story step by step.

Lehahn: Although the story was far better than that of X2: The Threat, and certainly didn't have the problems with cut-scenes and dialogue, I feel that we still haven't found the best method of integrating a story into this otherwise freeform game. I'm not saying it's bad, as I certainly don't intend to make our own game look bad, but for the type of game X3 is, it's not as good as it could be. For example, the mini-games that we intended as teasers to lead into the game didn't work quite as well as we'd hoped. Fortunately, the atmosphere develops out of the game world as much as the plot. After X3 was done, we all sat down and thought a lot about how we'll tell a story in a game like this in the future.


Lehahn: We took out space station docking for the sake of realism. Our internal sceneries were never designed to truly fit into the stations they were used for (X2's space stations had a strange Tardis-like feel). Our aim was to create as realistic a universe as possible within the limitations set, with the best possible gameplay. So, we'll never consider using more Newtonian flight physics, for example. Once we realised that there was a problem with the docking, we were in a position to react very quickly and release improved versions of the game. So a large part of our customers never experienced any problems with docking.

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