Interview: Egosoft On X Rebirth’s Troubled Development

By Rick Lane on June 24th, 2014 at 7:00 pm.

X Rebirth suffered a disastrous launch. Panned by critics and alienating fans, it was easily the worst received entry in Egosoft’s long-running space series. It was also the most successful, selling more copies than any other X game. In the six months since release, Egosoft has been working to justify its customers’ purchase, fixing bugs, reworking systems, and adding new features. I spoke with Managing Director Bernd Lehahn to find out what exactly went wrong and whether there’s any chance X Rebirth can be rescued.

It’s probably fitting that our chat begins with an apology. “The state of the game at release, it’s something that we feel sorry about,” Lehahn says. “We had a lot of trouble with the development over the years and delayed the release again and again. But, honestly, when we released it, I didn’t think it was, at the time when we released it we didn’t really see that many problems with our tests.”

You only need look at the general critical opinions of Rebirth to see why Lehahn is so keen to make these regrets clear so quickly. “It’s an appalling, broken mess, and I’m not going back,” lamented Craig in his WIT. Meanwhile, those sites that put numbers at the end of their reviews awarded it a measly Metacritical average of 33. For the record, I went a whole two points higher.

It’s important to note Lehahn’s apology refers specifically to the game’s bugs and broken systems, rather than any design decisions. Over the course of an hour’s discussion, he is by turns accepting and defensive regarding whether various parts of Rebirth’s design worked or not. Lehahn’s view of the end product aside, one thing ultimately becomes clear. X Rebirth has been a developmental nightmare for Egosoft from start to finish, one that they still haven’t fully awoken from.

Work on X Rebirth began way back in 2007, before the release of the major X3 expansions Terran Conflict and Albion Prelude. It was originally conceived as an entirely separate game from the X series, with a new setting, different mechanics, and powered by a fresh graphics engine. “But then throughout the development we figured it would have been stupid to just give up the fiction, the background that we developed over so many years,” Lehahn explains. “The storyline, the books written about it, the factions, which gives us a lot of meat to work with. Therefore we let the game play in the same universe. In retrospect that was maybe a mistake.”

Despite sharing the same setting, Egosoft wanted to make it clear that Rebirth diverged from their usual space exploration fare, and was not designed as a sequel to X3. ” I never felt comfortable with calling X Rebirth ‘X4′,” he says. “I’m sure we could have sold more copies if we called it X4, because especially our German marketing wanted to call it X4. Our publisher here in Germany, they were pushing us all the time.” It’s just as well he didn’t. Lehahn believes had he accepted such a name change, the backlash would have been far worse. “Many people expected X4, and it’s not X4. That is definitely in some cases a problem with expectation. But, well, that’s something we have to live with.”

Eventually it was decided that Rebirth would retain a fictional link to the earlier X games, while everything else was rebuilt from the ground up, starting with the technology. Previously, all of Egosoft’s games ran off a single CPU core, and the game Lehahn had in mind was far more technologically demanding. Hence, everything had to be recoded to make use of multi-threading. “You have to design the whole game around the idea of having parallel processes running and doing things in parallel.”

Lehahn envisioned a galaxy that was stylistically far busier than what had been explored previously in the X series, inspired by films like the Fifth Element, with vast, bustling stations that were essentially cities floating in space, each visited by hundreds of individual ships. This required an engine capable of rendering a far greater number of objects, and more significantly, a complete rewrite of the game’s AI code. “In the past we could never make space stations which were too complicated in their three-dimensional geometry, because this is always a huge problem to find flight-paths for ships around such stations,” Lehahn observes. “But with X Rebirth we redesigned this entirely. For example, navigation meshes became necessary so that especially small ships can navigate with meshes.”

The massive increase in space-traffic also necessitated a rethinking of how these ships navigated between sectors. And so X Rebirth’s highly controversial “space-highways” were born, linking together the majority of X Rebirth’s points of interest with a sprawling three-dimensional road network. Lehahn planned Rebirth to show both extremes of a lively interstellar civilisation alongside the vast emptiness of space, but admits that in execution Rebirth pushed too far toward the former. “This is definitely also something that we want to rethink a little bit for the future. But overall I still believe that highways are a very good method of focussing and giving missions that you play a faster pace.”

Of all the modification done in X Rebirth, perhaps the most significant revision was to how trading was handled. In the previous X games it was possible to perform trade runs in your own ship, and hop between ships to take manual control. In X Rebirth, players could only control one specific ship, and instead remotely controlled a fleet which performed trades for them. This caused frustration amongst many fans of the series, who felt artificially restricted by the lack of direct control and found that the new trading system required extensive micromanagement.

Lehahn’s explanation for this change is twofold. He claims the limit to one player ship came down to a lack of resources as a consequence of rebuilding so much else in the game. “This project was big enough that way already,” as he puts it. Moreover, he desired the trading in Rebirth to be more realistic, getting rid of what he saw as “cheats” in previous games such as cargo compression technology enabling players to fit more goods in their ships, and time-acceleration which made the game run faster. He wanted players to be more like businessmen than delivery drivers, flying around, picking up offers and discounts from stations rather than making cargo runs themselves. “The only thing that we did is really cut out the very early part, where you start with a small ship, where you trade the goods yourself… if you focus on that part, we can really make it more realistic, and have actual capital ships fly without cheating.”

To me it seems odd to make a game about interstellar spaceships that shoot lasers and fly through space highways more realistic, especially when that added granularity is only going to make an already complicated game even more fiddly. I ask Lehahn if there was any point where it felt like development wasn’t going the way he planned. He responds with an exasperated sigh. “You have this so many times with big projects. So many technical problems on the way. Everything you develop which is on that scale, and new which is really new. You always wish you could simply take an engine and just make a game with it.”

We move on to the topic of the actual release, and why Rebirth was so infested with crippling bugs on launch day. Lehahn confesses the beta testing they did was insufficient for what Rebirth really needed. “We based everything on previous games as far as our Q&A and testing worked, we usually had this – through our website – organised test team called DEVNET which has about 200, 300 people all in all that were testing the game.” As we discuss the ins and outs of these problems, his voice takes on a more sombre tone. “It’s a pity that… It’s always sad if some customers are unhappy and there definitely were some. We want to improve, and it’s definitely sad when the game has bugs when it comes out. That’s the biggest grief, unfortunately.”

I point out this isn’t the first time Egosoft have experienced severe problems with bugs on release either. Very similar issues occurred with X3: Reunion. Lehahn replies that, like Rebirth, X3 was powered by new tech, and at the time they were under pressure to release from their publisher. I ask whether this was the case with Rebirth as well. “I’m not blaming the publishers but yes, of course. You always have. I mean, as I said, the game was in development for seven years, it was a really huge beast for a small company like us.”

The sad truth is Egosoft have now earned themselves a reputation for releasing unfinished games. The only silver lining is they are also known for supporting those games extensively after release. For better or worse, with Rebirth the case is no different. The team spent the immediate period after release smoothing out the game’s bugs, and since then have focussed on more extensive changes and additions to the game, culminating with the X Rebirth 2.0 release in April.

The list of changes is expansive. Several new game starts have been added, each focussing on a different play-style. These are accompanied by unique cockpit windows, a compromise to address the lack of alternative flyable ships. “This is just a very easy method of showing the player the variety and the possibilities of the game,” Lehahn says.

Further alterations include the addition of difficulty levels, and an extended generic mission-system which includes chains of missions more in-line with those seen in X3. The map system has been altered, and a 3D radar has been added to the cockpit which Lehahn is particularly proud of. He also more reluctantly reintroduced a form of autopilot into the game, letting the player select a destination while your AI copilot takes the controls “Autopilot is of course believable,” he comments in reference to Rebirth’s more “realistic” approach. Lastly, flying through highways has also undergone a redesign. Instead of essentially flying through a nine-lane grid system, you’re actually navigating traffic freely.

These changes are all welcome, and Lehahn claims feedback from the community has been very positive, but do they make Rebirth worth playing? On a personal note, these alterations don’t affect the clunky script and grating voice acting, which were the main reasons I bounced off Rebirth. They also don’t fundamentally alter the kind of game X Rebirth is, and they never will. While Lehahn might be willing to make certain compromises for the community, overall he is committed to the design concept behind Rebirth.

That said, 2.0 still isn’t the end. Further changes are on the way, such as the ability to look around your cockpit while flying. At the same time, Egosoft are looking toward new game possibilities. “Whether these are at some point called X4 or X Rebirth 2 or whatever, I cannot talk about now,” Lehahn says. “We are making experiments, we are trying out certain things. Depending on the outcome of those experiments, we will decide how our next product will look and how it will be called.”

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78 Comments »

  1. thebigJ_A says:

    The two old review links are broken (“his wit” and “two points higher”).

  2. mf says:

    They sold out their current fanbase for a new, wider audience. End of story. Also, buggy mess.

    • Artist says:

      Thats utter rubbish and just cuts a long story short. The main reason for their big X:R-sales is the decent hype they build up and especially that they sold the game on steam primarily. Im pretty sure that most analysts will see the reason for their “additional” sales in the huge steam userbase. Maybe also the current Space-game hype initiated through Star Citizen.

    • jezcentral says:

      Is aiming for a different audience a bad thing, though? Or do they owe said fanbase game after game without ever being able to move on?

      Buggy mess, though, yeah. I can’t argue with that.

      • sarcinelli says:

        It’s not bad just dumb. They alienate their established playerbase and didn’t find a new one.

        This may not be reflected on the sales of X:R (because veterans bought it hoping for a nice experience) but just wait until they release their next game.

        Good luck selling a new game after pissing off a lot of your loyal customers and failing to build a community around the new (unimpressed) ones ;)

  3. thebigJ_A says:

    I keep getting ‘halfway’ through Terran Conflict and then getting distracted. When I go back, I have to spend hours re-learning things, reading dense manuals on factories and complexes and what have you. I enjoy it every time, but it’s a lot of work.

    I love X3, but I’ll never try Rebirth. Everything they say about their design, even now, tells me they don’t want to make it the X game I like.

    Still haven’t tried Albion although I’ve owned it for ages. I can’t move onto a sequel when I haven’t finished the previous game.

    • vecordae says:

      I didn’t finish TC, either, but found AP pretty engaging. It’s basically a sort of opened-up TC. They have more ships, more effective ship classes (including M2+ battleships, M7C light carriers, and TS+ heavy cargo transports), combat balance tweaks, a stock exchange, the ability to actually purchase ATF ships, and PHQ and Hub plots with greatly reduced requirements.

      Basically, if you don’t find yourself all that engaged with TC’s plot, AP is usually considered an improvement. The only folks I’ve bumped into that prefer TC are folks with heavy investments in their existing games or find the notion that production grinding is a boring, tedious way to advance the series’ paper-thin plot vaguely upsetting.

  4. Zenicetus says:

    1,800 words in this interview, and the Elephant in the room — the word “XBox” — wasn’t mentioned even once?

    There are many vestigial XBox references in the code, and the entire control scheme is clearly built around the limited functionality of a gamepad. So there is a perception among many in the X community that this was a failed console game that they tried to rescue as a PC port. It would have been nice to hear a question asked about that.

    Yes, the X series has a history of continued support and patching, which by itself is a fine thing. But there is nothing worth patching up in this game, for many of us. I was one of those who bought it on pre-order (will never do that again for this company), and so far they’ve done nothing to make people like me feel any better about a wasted purchase.

    They need to move on to the next game and make it for consoles only, avoiding the traditional PC space sim market entirely, since that seems to be what they really want for their games.

    • Behrditz says:

      Im surprised that didn’t come up either. He mentioned multithreading, and all this “things were powerful enough” kind of talk, which makes it sound like it was created for the pc specifically, but like you say, there are so many 360 leftovers everywhere and it has never been addressed.

      • vecordae says:

        From what I understand, the 360-specific files are simply leftovers from the engine development stuff they worked with. If the intention was to release on 360, then that’s where they would have released the game first, I think. Its design and processing requirements don’t make a console an ideal platform, despite their attempts to make gamepads a viable control scheme for it.

        • Zenicetus says:

          I think the inference is that they tried to do it as an XBox release first, and the reason it didn’t happen was because they either couldn’t pass certification, or they couldn’t get it ready in time for the “next gen” (current) boxes and it wasn’t possible to move to next-gen. So they moved to a quick ‘n dirty PC release to salvage the project.

          The fact that the entire UI seems based on a gamepad and completely ignores traditional PC space sim controls and view perspectives is a strong hint that they weren’t really considering the PC as a platform at all..

          I don’t know how much of that is true (they ain’t saying), but at least it would explain why neither the original release nor the current “2.0″ release looks anything like 7 years of effort on the actual game screen.

          • Smoky_the_Bear says:

            “Further changes are on the way, such as the ability to look around your cockpit while flying.”

            Things like this make me think very much that you are right. Can you even buy a joystick without a hat switch these days? What sort of PC flight sim ships without the ability to look around, it makes zero sense.

          • nrvsNRG says:

            I would bet my left gonad that you’re correct in your suspicions.

          • malkav11 says:

            It’s possible that they were aiming for 360, but if I were going to target a new audience with a space sim on PC at this point, I would probably look at gamepad as a primary control interface. Joysticks simply aren’t common peripherals anymore, and while I personally do own one, I find it extremely unfamiliar and problematic as an interface, to the point where when I tried it with Terran Conflict I ended up just going to mouse and keyboard and made more headway. Whereas I’ve used a gamepad with both consoles and PC for over a decade now.

    • soldant says:

      It’s worth noting that X3:AP had 360 gamepad support too – and despite the fact that the UI shows selection wheels that work with a controller, it doesn’t actually work that well.

      Here’s the problem: Egosoft are crap at making UIs. The X series have been stuck in the same keyboard-driven UI that they’ve had since the very first game, with half-implemented mouse support being a consistent feature. They’ve never ripped it out and made it better. For example the in-game map in X3 should just function like a standard RTS map, but instead it’s still a keyboard-driven holdover from the previous games, making everything harder than it should be.

      The 360 had nothing to do with Rebirth’s problems, it was entirely Egosoft not knowing what the hell they were doing.

      • Phier says:

        360 control was added to AP later. When Xrebirth launch, joysticks didn’t even work right. This is in a series that had fully re-mappable joystick support the entire time.

        No this is most definitely an failed Xbox game, the way they dumbed down er… streamlined… so much is consistent with playing from your couch. The problem of it being a buggy mess is another issue. If this were a pure PC game, with the LONG development time they had, there is absolutely no way in hell it wouldn’t have had native joystick support from day one.

        • soldant says:

          I wasn’t aware that joystick support was the hallmark of PC gaming…

          Seriously, stop blaming consoles as the convenient scapegoat for Egosoft’s inability to make a decent game.

          • Phier says:

            Did I mention the 30fps lock? Look you can keep your head in the sand if you like, but either egosoft is EXTREMELY incompetent, or perhaps, just perhaps they tried to make a console game that didn’t cut it and they quickly made it ready for PC.

          • soldant says:

            Yes, Egosoft are incompetent. To my knowledge FPS isn’t capped at 30, at least I haven’t found anything credible to suggest that it does – just random ranting forum posts. I’m guessing this myth came about because the game runs like absolute garbage – just like X3 did on release (still does, in some cases). There’s no reason to cap the FPS at 30 on the PC – it’s done that way on consoles to prevent screen tearing, there’s no reason not to allow for 60hz refresh rates on PCs (and thus target 60FPS).

            The game was in development for 7 years and it’s pretty clear that in the latter stages of development it was a PC title. Whether it was originally going to be on the 360 or not really doesn’t matter anymore – it’s obvious that the game in its release iteration wouldn’t have run on it. As for the 360 controller – so what, a lot of games offer that option.

            Egosoft are entirely to blame for releasing a crap game – stop giving them a shield to hide behind by blaming consoles for everything that goes wrong.

          • Keyrock says:

            While I’m not necessarily blaming Rebirth on consoles, though the interface and systems being designed with a gamepad in mind couldn’t have been more obvious upon initial release if the game physically reached out and slapped you in the face with a gamepad, not having flightstick support upon release in a hardcore space sim is absolutely, positively not acceptable. I’m not talking having separate premade profiles for a variety of flightsticks preconfigured out of the box (though that would have been nice), I’m talking just having flightsticks working properly at all. Not all axes were recognized, not all buttons worked. Maybe flightstick support isn’t the hallmark of PC gaming, but flightstick support should damn well be the hallmark of space sims. Space sims (along with flight sims) are the entire reason flightsticks exist.

          • soldant says:

            Rebirth is not a space sim (it never was), nor was it ever a successor to X3 – the community decided that’s what it was going to be despite the fact that it never, ever was going to be. Their attempt to make it gamepad friendly was probably an attempt to reach people who don’t invest in HOTAS joystick setups but probably have a gamepad they can use.

            The 360 gamepad being chosen is because it’s one of the more popular PC gamepads these days. But in any event, if it ever was going to be on consoles, it ended up not happening and they would have had plenty of time to fix these sorts of problems. That they did not demonstrates that it’s incompetence on their part, not PC gaming’s greatest scapegoat.

  5. unacomn says:

    Loved the X series, even with the flaws the other games had at launch. But Rebirth… I was probably the softest possible reviewer of it, I still liked diving into that universe, exploring the galaxy, but there were things wrong with it that went beyond bugs.
    The realism argument really falls to pieces, considering just what you can fit in that tiny Albion Skunk. You’ve got a dozen marines, really big drones that clip through your own ship, a lot of cargo an so forth. More so, there is no ship damage on collision, you just bounce off things. That was the saddest thing possible. The ship acts more like an FPS character then a ship that has actual size, inertia, weight.

    Also, I really wish you’d asked about the Xbox version theory, to utterly debunk it for good, and explain why they replaced the really well made interface of TC with a radial Xbox 360 style menu.

  6. Guy Montag says:

    I’m quite surprised RPS hasn’t mentioned a technically astounding mod for X3: Albion Prelude, Litcube’s Universe. It makes some pretty sweeping changes to the game, even on the engine level, making for a bigger and more stable experience, a far sight better than anything Rebirth has yet to accomplish.

  7. Bishop149 says:

    Pretty sure its “DevNet” not “DefNet” BTW, I was a member of it for a while.

    The point about X3:Reunion also being a broken mess on release is very valid, It was basically unplayable and remains the only game that when I went to buy it (in a shop! Who does that anymore?) the sales staff advised me against it saying they were seeing pretty much every copy come straight back with a complaint.

    Important difference however is that underneath it’s many release faults X3 was a game I wanted to play (and went on to sink an embarrassing amount of time into). . . Rebirth just isn’t, and is the only Egosoft game in a long time I haven’t bought.

  8. Iskariot says:

    I will skip this completely. Elite Dangerous is on the horizon. After Elite Dangerous there is no going back to its lesser rivals. Even if I wanted too, there is just one of me. In my opinion it is safe to say that ED will be the spacesim that rules them all. It is gaming history in the making. You can taste it.

    • Guy Montag says:

      The Elite series and the X series are very different games. It’s silly to disregard things like that. I can see no reason why I’ll stop playing X3 once I start playing ED, Star Citizen, or No Man’s Sky. Or Limit Theory, would I’d could argue is far more similar to X, barring it’s complete use of procedural tech.

    • Zenicetus says:

      It’s still a shame it turned out this way, because if they had just stayed closer to the previous series and made an X4, they could have retained a niche in the market alongside SC and Elite.

      The X series has always been an odd duck in the traditional space game genre, but it did have a certain appeal for people who were attracted to the spreadsheet side of the game as commercial empire builders. With a little cockpit pew pew fun on the side, rather than the main focus. I don’t think SC or Elite will scratch that particular itch, so they really blew it.

  9. balinor says:

    Bernd Lehahn is a scumbag and a liar as far as I am concerned. Plenty of people on DEVNET were making it known that it was not ready for release and yet he claims that it was.

    I was lucky enough to get a full refund for the game and I will not purchase another from them.

  10. smg77 says:

    Sounds like they really didn’t learn much from the debacle if they are getting so defensive over game mechanics that obviously aren’t resonating with their customers.

  11. UpsilonCrux says:

    Bunch of lying sellout scumbags.

    Bernd, if you read this – Ya blew it buddy. Ya blew it big time.

    They sold out to make a console game, but failed in selling out, because the game was that broken.
    When that went sour, they went around sweeping up the mess which they packaged into a bundle of lies and crawled back to their actual fans, the niche market which it had pretty much a monopoly on for games of it’s type, and tried to shill us *that* /THING/

    As Zenicetus suggests, the most likely scenario is that they couldn’t pass any of the QA submissions for MS. Having done these submissions myself, I can tell you right now that there was never a hope in hell of that steaming turd EVER passing QA Sub. Add to that the fact that every submission must be paid for, I can’t remember the figure offhand, but it’s not a paltry sum.

    As others have pointed out, the rumours (let’s face it they’re pretty much fact) of vestigial 360 code should have been the central question here, and a really obvious one to miss.
    For shame.

  12. LegendaryTeeth says:

    Whether they intended to do so or not, what they were building was “X4″ in the eyes of the players, and that’s all anyone wanted.

    • Stardreamer says:

      “what they were building was “X4″ in the eyes of the players”

      If players were dumb enough to believe this was going to be X4 then they plainly and simply weren’t listening. It was made VERY clear from the start that Rebirth was to be exactly that: a fresh start with a new approach.

      • WrenBoy says:

        If players were dumb enough to believe this was going to be X4 then they plainly and simply weren’t listening. It was made VERY clear from the start that Rebirth was to be exactly that: a fresh start with a new approach.

        I find it frustrating how easily Bernd Lehahns spin controls conversations.

        Absolutely everybody hated it because it was a huge stinking pile of shit. It was probably the worst game to come out in 2013 and 2013 had some pretty stiff competition in the shit games department. On the other hand some people hated it because it wasnt X4. Bernd constantly tries to pretend that everybody hates it soley because it wasnt X4. He is annoyingly successful in this.

        It was just shit, Bernd. Shit.

        You are a lying shit, Bernd. A lying shit.

        • L3TUC3 says:

          I was angry because it wasn’t X4 in addition to being a pile of shit. I’m typically pretty good at sniffing the bad preorders from the good ones, but this one I got burned pretty bad on.

          He’s lucky he made money off his fanbase, but looking at the metrics everyone pretty much ditched the game so fast Usain Bolt wouldn’t even qualify for the Olympics. I doubt Egosoft will survive another release.

          • WrenBoy says:

            Surely its mainly because its shit though. Imagine Rebirth was the game which Elite Dangerous appears to be. Maybe you would have preferred X4 but youd have to admit that Rebirth was a fairly slick piece of work. Imagine Rebirth was the game that Limit Theory has the potential to be. It wouldnt be X4 and maybe youd rather it was but itd be hard not to nod your head in appreciation nonetheless. I dont think you could justifiably complain much.

            I dont even know how good X4 could even be though. Rebirth is kind of like the Matrix sequels in that its so bad that it makes me look at the X3 games and wonder were they actually that good to begin with.

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      Even though Egosoft explicitly said many times prior to release that X Rebirth was not going to be X4? If fans still thought it was going to be X4, then those fans were stupid, not to put too fine a point on it.

      • JusticeInTruth says:

        The funny thing about your statement is, they didn’t start saying it wasn’t going to be X4 until fairly late into development.

        It begs the question. Why not?

        Probably because they were building a console game at first, failed to make that happen, and then were stuck with a consolish game. So, what to do?

        Slap enough cosmetic stuff on it to make it seem “plausible” that it started life as a PC game, and then to get ahead of the flak they knew would come their way, start telling the public that it wasn’t going to be an X game.

        Yeah, you’re right, it isn’t. It’s a badly conceptualized and poorly implemented failed console game that you decided to foist onto your loyal PC fans.

        Great job. Enjoy your “retirement.”

  13. Artist says:

    Lehahn says. “We had a lot of trouble with the development over the years and delayed the release again and again. But, honestly, when we released it, I didn’t think it was, at the time when we released it we didn’t really see that many problems with our tests.”

    Biggest bull ever! The amount of lies Mr. Lehan wraps himself up to might be typical for a 6yr-old but an established developer? I worked in software QA for years and its impossible that it was not know how broken and unplayable the game was at release! Nor the generally flawed gameplay (no, not in relation to previous x-games but even reviewed on its own)!

    I wish Mr Lehan would either have the balls Brad Wardell showed when he excused for the flawed Elemental: War of Magic or just hand over Egosoft to somebody with more integrity!

    • Artist says:

      Lehahn confesses the beta testing they did was insufficient for what Rebirth really needed. “We based everything on previous games as far as our Q&A and testing worked, we usually had this – through our website – organised test team called DEFNET which has about 200, 300 people all in all that were testing the game.

      Wow, what a suckers move to blame the testing process or even the testers. Some beta testers said that there was a ton of bugs reported weeks and even months before the release that havent been fixed.
      So yeah, one lie on top of the next one. Congrats again, Mr Lehan!

    • Baines says:

      On the other hand, I’ve been thinking about how similar this has been to Elemental.

      Both were buggy, incompletely, and flawed in design. Both had beta testers complaining about the state of the game. Both released to scathing reviews. Both had people in charge defending the design of the game. Both had a fair amount of BS spewed in those defenses. Both companies continued to patch and work on the game to get them into at least some playable form closer to the initial promise, even if not entirely what players wanted.

      The big difference is indeed that Wardell brought in someone from the outside to try to fix his problem. Well, that and Egosoft’s CEO has apparently managed to not be sued for sexual harassment and not then counter sue with claims that the accuser’s actions sabotaged X Rebirth causing it to be released in its heavily criticized state.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        That’s the nice thing about lawsuits – even if you’re never shown guilty because the suit gets thrown out (which was the case for both here), they still tarnish your reputation forever.

        Innocent until proven guilty is apparently a myth.

  14. KDR_11k says:

    Removing the early manual trade grind makes sense in theory but instead they gave us this silly NPC-driven trade thing that you have to deal with until you can afford a freighter which is effectively the same thing, just way less cool and more arbitrary (with there being no logic to which NPC charges what, unlike the station trade goods from before). Manual trade is the humble beginning you look back at when you’re running a gigantic empire.

    • Artist says:

      Actually I wonder that you dont mention the stupidity that you make more money by grinding money with scooping up the random crates instead of using your tradeships once you have them. So much fail in this game, unfortunatly.

  15. Lion Heart says:

    it also got the most refunds in the x series, i got mine the day it launched. make it 90% then ill concider buying it again, not a minuite before not even for 75% off

  16. Stardreamer says:

    I was one of those burned by X3: Reunion, the game that actually established my policy of never buying Day One ever again. It took about six months and up until the 1.4 patch to get the game stable and smooth enough to play for any length of time. but up until that point players were flat-out accused, by forum staff, of having poorly optimised PCs; the fault was not with Egosoft but with the gamers! That v1.4 worked so well proved that it was their crappy code. But I never forgot how badly they’d treated us – including some who were re-formatting their hard-drives and re-installing windows in attempts to follow forum suggestions!

    And now, with Rebirth, they’ve released a worse mess than Reunion….and it’s sold more copies than any previous game before it. Stardock were at least punished by poor sales, which led to staff lay-offs. Why should Mr Lehan apologise for making the most profitable game his company has ever made? Given Egosoft’s history of blaming everything but themselves that above interview is no surprise whatsoever.

    As for me, I’m done with the series. Now that some proper space games are incoming we don’t have to rely on this dull, third-rate also-ran with its 1995-era figure animations and modelling, excruciating voice-work and masochistic focus on making players WorkworkworkworkWORK for every goddam thing in the game.

  17. chiablo says:

    Everyone who paid full price for X-Rebirth should be given a complimentary key to Elite: Dangerous.

    • Flank Sinatra says:

      Sadly, I paid full price for X-rebirth when I read about the 2.0 changes. It went 50% off the next day on steam. I really got bernt on that deal.

      A week later I dropped $150 on Elite Dangerous. Haven’t regretted it.

      My main problem with Rebirth is that I never really feel like I’m flying in space. It feels more like I’m driving a van along the highway in between mini-malls and factory outlets.

  18. MellowKrogoth says:

    X3 and its standalone expansions were horribly broken and they really had to start over. I don’t know how anyone could cope with a supposed empire-building and space dogfighting game where you couldn’t run the time acceleration feature without your ships crashing into each other. Or where the favored way of “playing” the game was letting it run overnight after setting up a few stations. Or where entering Sudoku numbers through a horrible text interface was somehow a mission.

    Now, the solutions they found might not have been the best (even though the technical foundation of the game seems solid), but they deserve credit for undertaking this massive project. People who say they’re done with the series or whatever are heartless bastards. This company deserves all the support it can get, because even great artists have bad moments. They’ll strike gold again eventually if we keep them afloat.

    • balinor says:

      The MD of a company lies and releases a pile a shite and yet I’m a heartless bastard for deciding that the company deserves zero money from me in future?

      Congratulations, you’re a douche.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Sure, they deserve credit for for realizing that the X series was getting old and creaky, and needed to be rebuilt from the ground up. Although, some might call that just common sense.

      But they trashed whatever credit they had, by hiding the game until the day of release (no reviewer copies sent out), and without a demo, so nobody outside the beta testers knew what we were all in for. They relied on fan loyalty for pre-orders and Day 1 purchases, then they took that money and ran to the bank, making excuses all the way. They deserve every bit of opprobrium they’re getting now, because they didn’t act honorably. They knew what a pile of shit they were about to shove out into the world, and they did it anyway.

      Signed, Heartless Bastard

    • soldant says:

      I totally agree that the X series desperately needs an overhaul, specifically because it’s so laughably stuck in the past with its terrible user interface that it’s like playing an Excel spreadsheet at times, but they didn’t make things better with Rebirth. They’ve swapped one ineffectual, cluttered and difficult to use interface with lots of information for another ineffectual, uninformative, and difficult to use interface. That’s not an improvement, and that doesn’t deserve recognition.

    • WrenBoy says:

      People who say they’re done with the series or whatever are heartless bastards

      Its a bit of an understatement to say Im done with the series.

      I have a recurring dream I drift into every time I see an X:Rebirth article. In the dream I see a man. He is lying asleep in bed and as my dream begins he awakes. He instinctively reaches across the bed to touch his wife only to release that he is alone and has been for some time. He gets out of bed and walks through his empty house. He does not open any curtains.

      The man sits and meditates glumly in front of a large photograph. It shows a younger version of himself with his young son hugging him. He touches the bulky, unwelcome bracelet on his ankle as his mind drifts back to his last conversation with his wife. As his memory of her speaks to him he remembers being roughly led away. “You promised you wouldnt follow us. Dont you realise how long it took me to convince the boy you were dead?”

      As he was bundled into the police car the man sees his son in the distance. The boy is crying. The man tries again to tell himself it was because the boy needed his father but knows he was looking at the boys tears of shame at being reminded from whence he came.

      The man stops mediating and shifts in his armchair, gradually becoming aware that he feels ill. He has not felt well in some time. He shuffles out of his house, already late for his doctors appointment. Arriving at the doctors he feels no need to excuse himself for this.

      If he feels emotion when the doctor tells him he has testicular cancer he does not show it. Some days later he awakes in an unfamiliar room in a smaller bed than usual, pleasantly numb with morphine. The same doctor walks in. He is smiling broadly and is carrying a pair of unusually small testicles in a jar.

      “You no longer have testicular cancer, Mr Lehahn”, the doctor says with an easy confidence. “Of course if Im being honest you never actually did”.

      For the first time in months a degree of sharpness returns to the man. “But my testicles”. The man stares at the jar, frowns and slowly opens his mouth wider and wider.

      “Well Bernd”, says the doctor, “X:Rebirth was really shit”.

      • Lanfranc says:

        In other words, X Rebirth: 7/10?

      • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

        Stop, for just a brief moment, and really take stock of the fact that you just wrote an incredibly creepy work of fiction in which you fantasize about a man losing both his family and his testicles just because he happened to work on a subpar, lackluster video game that you don’t like.

        Seriously, though, get some goddamn perspective.

        • WrenBoy says:

          Heh. Didnt stop you reading til the end mind.

          In any case your overly sanctimonious comment would have worked better had you not deliberately downplayed his role in the development of the game.

          He didnt just happen to work on the project. Hes the managing director of the company. As far as I can tell he is the creative lead. He is the guy who repeatedly spoke into the camera, lying about what the game was and what his ambition for it was. He is the guy who ignored the testers, deciding to sell a broken game to an audience who believed his lies. Hes the guy who is now trying to get his workers to share the blame which is singularly his by saying that the testing could have gone better. He is the guy who, in the face of his customers shocked disappointment, boasted about how much money these suckers made him.

          Happened to work on the project? Pull the other one.

          • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

            Oh, okay, you’re right. My bad. Yeah, that’s totally something worth him losing his family and his testicles over. I guess I’m the one who needs to get some perspective here. Thanks for correcting me.

            But really, stop being such an Angry Internet Man.

            Oh, and you’re talking about the fact that you got me to read your creepy ass fanfiction as though that’s some sort of badge of honor. Would you have preferred a “cool story, bro” or something? Well, okay, here you go: Cool story, bro.

          • WrenBoy says:

            Oh, okay, you’re right. My bad. Yeah, that’s totally something worth him losing his family and his testicles over. I guess I’m the one who needs to get some perspective here. Thanks for correcting me.

            Think nothing of it.

            Now that youve got me thinking about it again though he really should also have lost his hair and had his dog chase him out of his own home. Which then caught fire.

          • cpmartins says:

            Bravo sir. A creepypasta worthy of this game. And bravo for not giving two shits about the snowflakes not getting a joke. My hat would be off to you. but Berns ran it over while giving me the finger last night. What an ass.

  19. Viperswhip says:

    I follow the forums, but I enjoy AP too much to play this. It’s too alien. I watch Let’s Plays to see if it has improved to where I want to buy it and it has not.

  20. Kong says:

    I will keep my crappy collector’s edition box. In order to remind me how Egosoft values loyal customers.

    When I opened the package I heard Bernd’s voice saying “Fick Dich Du Idiot”

    • Flank Sinatra says:

      I still have the t-shirt that came with my copy of X2- The Threat. I’ve never worn it though. It’s quite hideous.

  21. WrenBoy says:

    reply fail

  22. racccoon says:

    This launch shows the REAL problem with gaming TRAILERS, ADS, HYPE.
    These things really need to played downwards by the devs in the future.
    Show only True performance on a not so superior system, use only the True in Game Play.
    end of .

  23. Dangersaurus says:

    These are the guys that still distribute Starforce in their demos right?

  24. Metalhead9806 says:

    The version i played recently is much better than the release version however its still not a good game. from a 3/10 to a 5.5/10… still needs way more work

  25. Chris says:

    RPS should be ashamed of itself. This is a total puff piece interview.

    Even if it were 100% bug free and didn’t have an FPS of a slideshow, it would still be a crap game.

    What’s next? An interview with Peter Molyneux that doesn’t say how crappy Godus is?

  26. frightlever says:

    You know who else had a distinct design vision? Microsoft, but now they’ve all but turned Windows 8 into Windows 7.

    Egosoft aren’t big enough to have skunkworks projects as risky as what they did with Rebirth. They could have made an incrementally improved X4 and had a lot more money in the bank right now.

  27. JusticeInTruth says:

    I want to know why they didn’t ask Bernd about all the dictatorial forum moderation being done on steams X Rebirth forum. Ketraar, a mod from egosofts own forum, seems to be running the show at steam for their game forum. He has banned, censored and basically run amok, silencing posters who make disparaging remarks at every opportunity. With even the slightest of excuses, he will ban or perma ban anyone not talking nicey about the game.

    In fact, RPS was asked if they would like more information about that and didn’t seem interested, and as far as I know, never really responded to the offers.

    The outright subterfuge going on with this game, from prior to release, all the way up to the current time, is nothing less than staggering in its proportions.

    Just so you know people, steam seems to support and allow, shady devs to run their own game forum with impuny. Egosoft is using its own mods or supporters to moderate the steam forum. That means you do not get fair and impartial treatment, it means if they don’t like what you have to say, they will find anything they can to ban you.

    They only want to hear happy things about the game. It’s called conflict of interest. They want to take your money and aren’t shy about what methods they use.

    Go look for yourself, although many, many threads have been deleted outright by them.

  28. CragAk says:

    I am enjoying this game and wonder what the hell you are all smoking?

    • Stardreamer says:

      Translation: “I have no problem with this game therefore there is no problem / my opinion is more correct than that of thousands of other players”

      Response: Don’t be so arrogant and ego-driven. Learn to see from other people’s perspectives. You may be happy to accept the flaws in the game but that does not mean there are no flaws, or that other people don’t have perfectly good reasons to be unhappy.

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