X4: Foundations revisiting and expanding spacebasics

Spaceship explore-o-trade-a-shoot-y-sandbox series X will return revamped and expanded with X4: Foundations [official site], developers Egosoft announced over the weekend. They’ve muttered for years about what they’d fix and changed after 2013’s disappointing X: Rebirth and lawks, it looks like they’ve learned a lot. Spacemen will once again be able to fly every ship in the game rather than being locked to one, for starters. Transporters will let us teleport around between ships, the economy is more complex, factions are more alive, and… ah here, watch the announcement video introducing all this and more:

It’s the usual basic dealio: space exists, and we’re invited to lark about in it. Explore, trade, run missions, fight, upgrade ships, buy bigger ships, build space stations (this time part-by-part with snap-together modules), build a sprawling economic empire staffed by NPCs, research technology, poke at NPCs, be a naughty spacepirate, and so on.

X4 continues the idea that the economy runs on real resources which have a physical presence. Cargo ships haul goods around, and prices are determined by supply and demand. X4 goes a little further.

“For the first time in any X game,” Egosoft say, “all parts of the NPC economy are manufactured from resources. Ships, weapons, upgrades, ammo and even stations. You name it. Everything comes out of the simulated economy.”

Gosh. That sounds like it should dovetail nicely with the expanded faction system.

“X4 will be the first X game to allow our races and factions to freely build and expand their empires; the same flexibility the player enjoys in creatively designing space stations from modular building blocks is also available to them. Races expand their empire based on supply and demand, which leads to an extremely dynamic universe where every action the player makes can influence the course of the entire universe.”

It could be an interesting sandbox to poke at, feeling and seeing the effects of it all.

That should be easier to oversee and jump into too. Teleportation is coming as a researchable technology, letting spacemen jump to any of their ships to take over from NPC captains. And tying it all together is a new map screen giving an overview of everything everywhere and letting us command our empire.

Oh, and the game is prettier now too. Oh! And X4 will still let us roam around space stations like in Rebirth, this time with the novelty of being able to admire and hop aboard our ships.

X4 sounds really promising but, after the X: Rebirth mess, it’s maybe sensible to be cautious. Rebirth was buggy and a disappointment as an X game, cutting some key features and launching before it was ready. Egosoft have done a lot to patch Rebirth up since and have seemed aware of its flaws but still, don’t count your spacechickens before they quaxtch.

No firm word yet on when X4: Foundations will launch.

Hey, look, this video shows more:

45 Comments

  1. maninahat says:

    Ugh, I’ve never been able to like the X games: too much space trucking, and not in a positive way. If they can find a way to play the game in which I don’t have to either exploit the stock market or invest a 100 hours (or rather, leave the damn game running nights so my factories churn out cash) just to buy a cool ship then I’d give it a look in. Also fix the combat so it doesn’t devolve into jousting with spaceships that accidentally crash. Maybe I should stick with Rising Sun.

    • Cederic says:

      Hmm. In X3 the swiftest way to earn seed funding was capturing new ships and selling them. Keep the one you want.

      Doesn’t get you the capital ships but funds the extensive factory network that does. If you want a carrier though, yeah, it can take a while to earn that much.

      I found the capital ships less fun to play though. Killing them, sure, but flying them? Nah. Too slow, too clumsy. Nice for taking out competing factories though :)

      X4 will be very very welcome!

  2. Kaeoschassis says:

    Sounds good. I’d quite like to be (very) excited, but it’ll all come down to whether they can actually deliver it with the time and money they have, this time.

    Still, it’s something to look forward to. I’d love for it to work out.

  3. wombat191 says:

    I’ll wait for the reviews but it sounds like what star citizen is promising but a better single player experience :)

    • modzero says:

      Did Star Citizen finally release Alpha 3? Because otherwise, ha, no. And I’m not even a fan of X.

    • mtomto says:

      A lot of hype around the X3 stuff too, and that game failed hard. So I’d wait for user reviews. Game review sites are too quick to jump the hype train in my opinion – most of the time “reviews” are more like “previews” and doesn’t catch any of the flaws… just the positive.

      • Cederic says:

        X3 didn’t fail hard. X3:R had its issues but X3:TC was excellent and sold well.

        Or maybe not, I haven’t seen the Egosoft financials. They released X3:AP for free though, so they had developer time to invest.

  4. Solidstate89 says:

    I’ve always wanted to get into the X-games, but never could get over the beginner hump (the hump being Mt. Everest). X3: Rebirth was supposed to be easier on new players, but after every review I read, it basically sucked everywhere else.

    I’ll be hoping X4 is when I finally get to jump into the X universe of games.

  5. rustybroomhandle says:

    I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, even after the X:Rebirth fiasco. That actually turned into a not-entirely-terrible game eventually. I like my space sims single player and have always had a soft spot for the X games.

  6. DodgyG33za says:

    Loved the X universe until rebirth, which I didn’t buy because, well, it was pants.

    Will be willing to give X4 a good hard look as I like me a bit of business empire management with my space pew pew.

    Not really a fan of getting out of the spaceship though – it implies that we won’t have VR support which will be a big disappointment.

    • Behrditz says:

      X Rebirth has a VR version, so they arent averse to trying it. What makes you think that leaving your ship and walking around in first person would preclude VR? I have a feeling they are not going to go third person for the on-foot stuff since they’ve already done that all in first person and might just use some of the same assets. They also wouldn’t need to rig up a full visible avatar, which works pretty well in a “be who you want” game.

  7. Erithtotl says:

    Even after the X3: Rebirth fiasco, I would consider giving this a shot because they have done good things in the past.

    Just a warning though, DO NOT PRE-ORDER THIS GAME! (unless you want to be an alpha tester)

    • frightlever says:

      Yup, absolutely don’t pre-order it.

      Bear in mind this isn’t just shinier X3 – they’re keeping some of the stuff from X:R, and adding stuff like teleportation, to let you hop around amongst ships. Why? That question makes me wonder what they’ve done to make teleportation a necessity.

      • Solidstate89 says:

        What’s hard to understand? They’re adding teleportation so you can take control of any ship you own whenever you want. The thing about X3: Rebirth was that you were stuck on your one ship, but you could take control of others as if they were remotely controlled drones – but you were still on your main ship.

        This is just them adding the ability to jump between your ships whenever you want. It’s the best of both worlds.

    • Jay Load says:

      I TRIPLE-THIRD THE APPEAL TO NOT PRE-ORDER THIS GAME. Egosoft games on release are like cakes taken out the oven while they’re still runny. You can dip a finger in and get a rude, raw sweetness, but you really really really want to wait until it’s cooked to perfection, iced and decorated. (For best results: let modders get their teeth into it first)

      Having said that, I’ve a feeling this time it’s only going to take one review of “Heyyy, not bad….” on Day One for me to throw my entire bank account at the screen.

    • Dread Quixadhal says:

      Yep, I have to agree. I’ve loved Egosoft’s X series games since X Tension, which I liked enough to order directly from Germany back when it wasn’t available here in the US.

      But, every single game has been buggy on release, some more than others. Most were playable, but expect crashes and weird save-file-breaking things for the first 6 months or so.

      The exception was Rebirth, which I blind ordered based on how much I’d loved the other games in the series. That fiasco cured me of ever pre-purchasing a game again. It still sits in my Steam inventory, mocking me, to this day…

      I’m certainly looking forward to X4, and hope it’ll turn out brilliant. But my money only hits the screen after I’ve seen an honest pre-release review from someone I trust, which usually happens only a few days before official launch.

  8. Blackcompany says:

    It has to have a flight model. Period. Elite Dangerous hasnt had a positive addition since the flight model, but they NAILED that part of the game. The feeling of weight and heft and the sounds…really puts you IN the ship.

    I have a strong feeling that, if this game just goes with age old disembodied camera with no weight or momentum thing…its not going to go well for them. My gut tells me they need an actual flight model this time.

    • Minglefingler says:

      Yup, Elite’s flight model and sound design are far and away the two best things about it. I tried a few of the X3 games after playing Elite but it never felt like I was piloting a spaceship and I never made it past the intital learning curve as a result. I’ve given up on Frontier adding anything to Elite that would make it a game I want to play so hopefully this will scratch that itch, if they can get the flying part right.

      • rustybroomhandle says:

        I suspect you will be disappointed then. The X series is not about spaceflight and dogfighting even though it contains those elements. The X series is more like a massive economic sandbox with space as the backdrop.

        • frightlever says:

          Yeah, X3 could barely cope with automated fleets using their simplified spaceflight model without them regularly crashing into gates etc..

          • syndrome says:

            haha X series barely cope with the Kepler’s laws alone, I remember each stellar system was basically a skybox with three or four hanging planets, which is practically NMS without ability to planetfall.

            that’s a hardcore NOPE for a “simulation”, in my world at least.

            X is simply a Eurotruck Simulator, but with spaceships instead of trucks, with some “fight” and space backgrounds, where you build trading chains and merchant empires.

  9. Behrditz says:

    Rebirth is NOT X3. X3 was the last game in this “proper” X style.

    That being said, Im pretty optimistic about this one, since they will be building it for PC. Part of Rebirths problem was it started out as an xbox 360 game (there are multiple references still within the code) and once they built the foundation on that, it was very hard to build up to the proper level that most X players expected.

    • Papageno says:

      Thank you. X3 was Reunion, then came Terran Conflict (which was basically the earlier game fixed, with an additional campaign, then Albion Prelude (more tweaks and YA campaign). THEN came the Rebirth nonsense.

  10. Zaxwerks says:

    Never could get into X3 but I really liked Rebirth (sorry die-hard fans)… well after a few patches… the only thing I didn’t like were the NPCs they were hideously ugly and scary looking.

    • Jay Load says:

      There are a couple of mods now that go some way to fixing the appearance of NPCs, if you’re interested.

  11. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    I’ve enjoyed the X series since X2, excluding Rebirth which everyone knows was a mess.

    So, I’ll be watching this one. I’d really like to have a new X game with a new universe…ish and stuff to explore and shoot the mans in again.

    Glad they didn’t just get mad and drop the series after a failed title. Looking at you, Mass Effect.

  12. Axolotl says:

    I really liked the X series at the time, until Rebirth came out as a hot mess. Hopefully they can continue the series properly this time.

  13. Guy Montag says:

    Didn’t expect to immediately be excited for a new X entry after Rebirth. I just hope they learned enough from that, and payed attention to what came out of X3’s great modding community.

  14. Zenicetus says:

    The main problem with X:Rebirth was that it was developed in a vacuum, with no outside player input. I hope they’re getting at least a bit more outside input on this one, because Egosoft has this tendency to be a hermetically sealed outfit that goes their own way, for better or worse.

    As for the trailer… I dunno. I like seamless movement without cut scenes or black screens. People will like getting out of their ships, Star Citizen style. It looks like we’re getting cockpits for every ship, which was a missing feature of the last couple of pre-Rebirth X games. The character models look better, from what I can see of them. Hopefully no scary “space grannies” hanging around the stations like in Rebirth.

    On the downside, the look of the cockpits and the overall aesthetic has an an odd, hard-edged look. Almost but not quite cell-shaded, with a lot of flat textures. It doesn’t look as good as Elite: Dangerous, which for me is the current gold standard for the look and feel of flying a spaceship.

    And the trailer barely features any combat or flying, which was always a weak spot in the X series. One thing I remember from X3 was how sloooow the ships seemed to fly, so I hope they’ve fixed that. IIRC, they were late to support joysticks and HOTAS in Rebirth, so that’s another thing I hope they’re on top of this time, and not just making it a gamepad thing.

    • frightlever says:

      “People will like getting out of their ships, Star Citizen style.”

      Sure, then after doing that a couple of times the novelty will wear off. If it’s optional, then have at it, but unless it’s mission-related (and they said during the Twitch stream that you can’t shoot NPCs in stations, so this is unlikely to be a blend of in-ship and on-foot shooting) you really shouldn’t HAVE to do it.

      In X: Rebirth you had to leave your ship and enter space stations in order to do necessary things. Necessary things which previously were handled from a menu in X3. It made doing simple things take a LOT longer. Bear in mind you may be role-playing the CEO of a mega-corporation, and you had to spend a couple of minutes running around a station to sell your cargo.

      Star Trek Online had the exact same problem. Needless first person walking in order to do the sort of thing that we, as 21st Century creatures, happily do from a menu over the Internet.

      Star Citizen is a MMO which prophets and seers have predicted will have a seamless mix of in-space, on-planet and in-station, combat and interaction. It makes sense to leave your ship and visit a station, and the actual act of doing so will often be a tangible risk. The X games are single player and space stations are going to be tedious to navigate, and a pointless time sink.

      I only played Rebirth during a Steam free weekend, and it was literally having to walk around the stations that dissuaded me from buying the game at any price. That and the space corridors. And probably a bunch of other stuff.

      Oh yeah, space corridors are still in, but I don’t think they’re doing that dodging mini-game. Jesus, I hated that system.

      And look, all that post-X:Rebirth bitterness is welling right back up again. I actually pre-ordered it, but cancelled within 24 hours before release after some Youtube reviews started filtering through, including some absolute classics.

      • Zenicetus says:

        I think I remember that they eventually patched Rebirth so you could make trade deals at stations without exiting the ship. Maybe that will be an option this time.

        • frightlever says:

          Maybe, but I think if you want to hire crew (necessary in X:R) you still have to visit the stations to check their stats. At this stage I can’t see me picking up Rebirth with X4 on the horizon, even if it’s a couple of years away.

      • thetruegentleman says:

        Yeah, walking around in the X Universe is beyond pointless: the only gameplay-improving reason to have such a mechanic would be for boarding ships and stations, where the actual assault could both dynamically disrupt ship/station operations and make clear how successful the boarding operation is.

        Trouble is, even a primitive version of such a mechanic would be a major resource hog: the game would need to written in something like Assembly just so enough people could play the game to make selling it actually worthwhile, and that’s just not going to happen.

        • Premium User Badge

          DuncUK says:

          Getting out of your spaceship and walking around is something people ask for and think they want in every space career game ever made. On the one hand it sounds like it could be very immersive and would cater to every sci-fi gaming fans fantasies of a full space life simulator. The downside being that you’re asking for two games in one and short of a budget like Star Citizen, one side of the game will always be compromised. Elite Dangerous is still dealing with the legacy of having promised it in the original kickstarter but I have my doubts they’ll ever implement it.

          In the rare cases it’s done it usually means that the 1st person elements are unsatisfactory, underwhelming and/or unnecessarily shoehorned in. Unusually, in the case of No Man’s Sky I’d argue it was the space flight that took the back seat and was by far the more rubbish of the two.

  15. foszae says:

    The fact that they seem to have learned from their Rebirth mess is promising. Talking up a full-sim economy and proper fleet management pretty much hits exactly the key reasons i’m an X universe fan instead of any other space franchise. And given that Egosoft is practically my benchmark for good community interaction (over the long scale particularly), i i will be supporting this game. What can i do? It’s a niche that almost no other game attempts.

  16. Hunchback says:

    Here’s to hoping they don’t pull a Mollineux with this one… again.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    Hopefully the X games will follow the fabled Star Trek films formula, and provide real corkers on the even numbers.

  18. gi_ty says:

    This sounds right up my alley. A singleplayer first person 4x game! I hope this turns out decent because the way its described sounds like my dream game. I sunk a few hundred hours into Albion Prelude but the end game didn’t have much depth. High hopes for this one!

  19. haldolium says:

    Once again I’m ambivalent towards another X announcement.

    This is the promise everyone was asking for after Rebirth, but no matter which X title, it is a small team which wants (and did) create a HUGE universe, so stuff *will* suffer. So far it’s been often the interface, and quite honestly when I saw their “here is your map, that is where you go for everything”-screen I was turned off immediately.

    Nothing really clear there and I’d bet on my mothers rent that there will be severe issues in usability, interface and probably performance when this launches.

    HOWEVER (and in the case of X games, that really needs to be caps locked) it will be in the spirit of X and it probably WILL be unique and often astonishing DESPITE the all-time visible issues that might get patched over a year after release.

    EGOSOFT is a cool developer and I have a lot more faith in them learning from their Rebirth issue (and ofc all the other mistakes before) as from many other developers that are still some kind of AA but are forced to be presented as AAA in terms of marketing. Even the announcement of X4 is more sincere as that.

    TL:DR YEAh!

  20. Jay Load says:

    Okay, excited. Here are my thoughts.

    I liked X-Rebirth. I’m actually still playing it, 120 hours pf sheer joy later. It was more readily accessible than the Dry, Corporate-heavy main X-series, more balanced to let players actually have some fun rather than narrowly focusing them on the endless grind for money. Mind you, I bought it at v4.0 so I missed the early abominations. There was a lot Egosoft did right with X-Rebirth, as well as the famous amount of stuff they didn’t do so well on. I just hope in going back a step they take away the good things they learned from X-Rebirth, and don’t forget that more casual players might enjoy their universe too.

    X4: Foundation looks like it’s building on BOTH the main X series AND Rebirth. More classical X player freedom, but still Rebirthy attention to detail and depth of world-building. It certainly looks like it’s using X-Rebirth’s engine, albeit upgraded.

    Vulkan? Cool. I’m not averse to DirectX being given a middle finger now and again.

    I like the experimentation with the map interface. I think this could go some very interesting places.

    I’m really excited. Even more so as this might push me into finally upgrading my eight year old PC!

  21. Peppergomez says:

    Egosoft are capable of making good games, as long as you don’t buy them within a year of their release date.

  22. racccoon says:

    I do love their ideas, and the try hard approach’s at this very difficult area space trade freedom of movement etc, etc. I hope this one has more lessons learnt in it and it makes a good show. The whole idea of these devs its to make a great space game, they flopped on the last one, I’m hoping it runs well this time around, at least on all 4’s! :)

  23. Hyena Grin says:

    Everyone is allowed one bad game, I say. I won’t write them off over Rebirth, especially given its story of development (not starting as an X series title, which is something they probably should have stuck to).

    Still, their games are often too big for their own good and have a lot of problems at launch, so I’m not about to preorder or anything. We’ll see how it all turns out.

    I’m hoping for it to turn into a decent single player space-trucking game, as nothing has really scratched that itch since Albion Prelude.

  24. foop says:

    X (or was it X2) was what got me into playing EvE Online. I’d spent hours building up stations and trade routes, and then realised that I could do it in a persistent universe with other people.

    So there’s that. I’m not sure if I should like them or hate them for that.

  25. Neutrino says:

    Fingers crossed it turns out well.

    Just please don’t follow the herd and have the cloud layers on your Earth like planets rotating at 20,000 kph just so kids with ADHD can see the layers moving. It’s completely unrealistic and utterly immersion breaking.