I still have 10 levels to go before the Pandaria Remix event shuts down in WoW, but that’s in something like 60 days so I feel that I have time, considering I gain a level every three quests or so. Instead, I’ve been pushing hard against the boulder that is X4 in an effort to reach the top of the hill, but surely unlike the original subject of this metaphor, I’m pretty pleased with this progress so far.

When I last left off, I was unfortunate enough to have found the jump gate to the sector known as “Sanctuary of Darkness”. This fun family vacation spot actually has a pretty cool mechanic: so long as I stuck to the red-tinged areas, the ones filled with asteroids, and kept moving I was pretty safe. When I would stop, or if I misjudged the map and flew outside of the red corridors, I would certainly get hammered by the fierce storms and would have to re-load the last saved game. The goal was to find an inactive jump gate, scan it, and report the findings. I had to fend off some enemies once my scanning started, but they were small and there were only three of them so the combat wasn’t terrible. After that, I had to retrace my steps, dropping nav beacons every few hexes to chart a path for the NPC research ships that would be jumping in after me. While navigating the red zones was tedious and, at times, nail-biting, the mission step was quite engaging: not too hard, not “watch a TV show while playing” easy; not too long, but also not something I could rush through.

Upon leaving SoD, I received a system-wide broadcast from an organization called the Hatikvah Free League. They are former pirates who were now trying to go legit and were looking for enterprising pilots (i.e. me) who shared their love of free trade and low tariffs. I figured “what the hell” and accepted the mission which directed me over to their sector, but on my way there I stopped by Boso Ta’s station looking for some info, components, and maybe some repairs.

Boso Ta is a Boson, a member of the civilization of aquatic creatures from whom the greater alliance has been cut off. At the start of this game he jumped his station into the starting system and proceeded to ask for help (at the time I ignored him since I had other things I was already focused on). He said he had some things to talk about with me, so I stopped by his office while I was docked. Boso Ta is a scientist, not a station administrator, so he basically handed me the keys to the installation and told me to start researchin’, so I am now the proud and extremely confused owner of my very own space station in X4. I will certainly be writing another post about this, considering the complexity of owning, maintaining, expanding, and using a station is a game unto itself, and one that I have absolutely no knowledge of right now.

I left and visited Reen Omara, representative of the HFL. Upon agreeing to join with their faction, I was given a cargo ship and 250 units of medical supplies to deliver to the next sector. Pretty simple really, and the bonus was that I could keep the cash and the ship.

At this point, I own three ships and one station. I have gained rep with the researchers faction, and am now working with another. I have a mission to research “teleportation technology” at the station, but I have to learn how to expand the structure (the mission tells me I need more storage space), and then I have to figure out how, if at all, I can use the station as a passive means to collect the resources I need to complete that addition and start the research. Barring that, I need to source the materials manually, which means a lot of flying and taking odd jobs to earn the cash to buy the materials.

According to Steam I have played a total of 27 hours of X4: Foundation, which is the aggregate of all of the times I have tried to play over the years. It wasn’t until the Kingdom End DLC that I finally got a starting scenario which didn’t expect me to hit the ground running with knowledge on how the X games worked. This time, I was given tasks with clear goals — although I am still running afoul of mechanics that require me to get the timing correct without telling me I have to get the timing correct, or what that timing is — and after completing those goals, have been given opportunities for several other tasks. I am no stranger to sandboxes, and understand that the “fun” isn’t generally handed out like it is with “themepark” games, and I’m always OK with that so long as I can locate the on-ramps for the avenues that lead to the mechanics that the sandbox does provide. Sometimes we have to start small, like in EVE Online where a player can go ratting against NPCs, or can collect high-sec minerals, but it’s often during those times that other mechanics reveal themselves either organically, or they provide us incentive and ideas to learn more on our own. I never felt that the X series provided that. I always felt that the series expected that, by the time I got to X4, I should intrinsically know how to “play an X game” and that I would be OK with that. Though I had played previous entries in the series, I never got far because I never gained the compound knowledge because I never got far because I never gained the compound knowledge because…and so on. This time, I think EgoSoft has thrown me — and maybe others like me — a bone by stooping to provide just a hint of theme park to serve as a launch pad for my inevitable forays into the massive sandbox that is the ongoing X series.

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