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X3 Unbalanced !
by Apricotslice

This is not a guide, this is a Rant ! :)

Forum Thread : http://circleofatlantis.com/X3forum/viewtopic.php?p=27
       Forum Thread : http://www.akeelasbeacon.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=16

Dont get me wrong, X3 is the best game of this genre since Privateer 1 and 2. But ......if you beleive in balance, go away, your not going to like this ! :)

One of the easiest ways to get into an argument with X3 players is over the issue of "Balance".

Many are almost obssesional about making sure the game stays "balanced".

In my opinion, X3 is over-balanced to the point of absurdity, and balanced so heavily toward keeping the original X gamers interested, that new players starting in the X universe with X3, are well and truely discriminated against.

What is "balance" ?

The balance is there in order that no single entity and especially the player becomes too powerful too quickly, or makes too much money too quickly. The game is over-engineered so that all methods of making money ultimately make it at the same basic speed. The only way to make mega-money is to have so many different things making that those limited credits an hour that it actually makes you millions per hour. But the early stages of the game do not allow you to do this, and the built in time frame for the game is to take weeks of trading to get enough credits together to really start making some credits.

The ships are all balanced. Each ship has a role. Each role has defined areas of vulnerability. Each ship has some strengths, but just as bad weaknesses.

The concept of balance means that in order to be good at one thing, you have to accept vulnerability in another.

Fine in concept. In theory, you should be able to build up a fleet of Carriers and Destroyers, supported by Cruisers and squadrons of each type of fighter.

Sure you can.

But the game contains no interface to give them orders properly. Fleet operations are a joke. The vulnerabilities of one ship are supposed to be protected by the strengths of another ship, but in fleet battles, forget it, the interface and basic nature of the combat engines ability to handle complex situations, means that the weak ships perish. and more often than not, the whole fleet, because no-one is actually watching anyone elses back.

Worse, In Sector (is) combat is completely different to Out of Sector (oos) combat. In sector, the dynamics of ships come into play, as well as collisions and how fast you can give tactics to ships (which is again, laughable as an interface). But oos, the whole thing is an equation, and you must outfit ships with their highest sheilds and the biggest guns it can carry, or it will be killed.

Take an M6. Put it in a pirate sector.

IS, it needs hepts on its front guns (but only 4, not 8), and pacs or ires in the turents. The front guns will run out of gun power if 8 hepts are loaded, and the ship will not fire most of the time. The hepts are too slow to hit M5's, and difficult to hit M4's. But if you dont have the hepts, the M3's wont be damaged. In the turrents, you need faster firing guns for missile defense, and for keeping faster ships off your back.

OOS, you put only Bhepts all round. If you dont, you wont have enough firepower to overcome a small patrol of Pirates, once the equation calculates the battle.

Put another way, IS, all hepts will get you killed because they are too slow and need too much power to fire, and the faster ships will evade the shots. OOS, your fine. IS, no hepts will get you killed because the M3's will get you because you cant hit them hard enough. OOS, no hepts is suicide.

So IS, you need a mix of guns and the experience and speed to change gun loadouts depending on your current target, OOS, you must have the heaviest gun.If your not in the ship, you are not going to be able to change gun loadouts fast enough to save the ship !

Each ship is deliberately designed with vulnerabilities. But the vulnerabilities are different IS or OOS. And there is no way of giving orders to the ship to change the loadouts depending on is or oos combat.

The OOS calculation by the way seems to total up the sheilds, total up the gun hitting damage, divides it by the age of the programmers grandmother and multiplies by the square root of the probability of the auto-pillok taking a Mammoth through Cloudbase SW at full speed without hitting anything. Whichever ships comes out weaker, die. No actual logic to the calculation.

Nor can you depend on the auto-pillok to fight your battles for you. I tried this once. I went into Xenon 101, turned on the pillok, turned on seta, and watched it out fly and out fight everything. Up until it slammed into the middle of the biggest roid in the system.

The new player, is unable to determine why they keep getting killed without resorting to guides and forum questions.

Why ? The game has been getting harder and harder from the first X game, as the loyal fans upgrade to each new game and demand in forum that there be new challenges and that the game itself is harder. Instead of building in a genuine scale of game difficulty, Egosoft chose to simply change the nature and spawning of the enemies to make the game harder.

The game is deliberately engineered to last for years ! And this is great and wonderful and just what we always wanted, those of us who normally play a game out within 2 weeks. But we are accustomed to being able to buy everything within a couple of days BUT in X3, the game is deliberately engineered so that it takes a minimum of several months to be able to buy the biggest ships, which equates out to about 6 months play for those who can only play a few hours a week. And in the meantime as you continue to play, the frustrations and boredom set in, as you desperately seek to get your race rank up and your credits amounting so that one day, about when the next blue moon sets, you can actually buy the biggest ships.

Alas, many of us just gave up. Repetitively shooting tens of thousands of kills is boring in the extreme. There are other challenges in the game.

Also, and this really annoyed me when I first saw X3, most of the inovative money making initiatives introduced by updates to X2 were deliberately sabotaged in X3, in order that the new player could not make money too fast. Again, this was for the fan base, who already knew how to make money quickly and didnt want to be allowed to use the tried and true ways from X2.

So the new player starts off in X3. Is there a tutorial about how to survive and how to trade ? No, that was X2 !

The newbie flies off into the sunset and rams the nearest gate on autopilot and wonders why it killed them. Goes exploring and the first pirate patrol kills them. They spend a week doing cargo runs of e-cells and suddenly realised they are bored and not making any real money.

Into the forums they go, and ask all the same questions over and over, ad nausium.

Not their fault tho !

The game is heavily unbalanced in favour of the experienced player, against the newbie.

Interesting though, the game now has a number of new starting positions. You no longer have to start as "our hero".

The scripting and modding forum has all sorts of  fixes and get arounds for the frustrations and limitations of the "vanilla game".

And this gives the new player some incentive to change the game in their favour.

Which brings me back to the arguments over "Balance".

I rapidly lost interest with the vanilla X3. The hugely wonderful graphics didnt deliver the interface to go with the pretty sectors, and the game plays so close to X2, that I'd been there, done that, got the t-shirt and worn it out. Why bother doing it again. And as for the gameplay bugs, officially there are none, so who am I to bash my head against a brick wall about them then ? [rubs head]

I started looking for other challenges, and found a good one in huge complex design, for which of course you need mucho-mulla ! I couldnt be stuffed earning it the slow way, so simply scripted it in and went on to play with complexes for a good long time.

Eventually, that wore off, and I started to play around with modding ships, at which point I suddenly found all those petty ship restrictions and removed a lot of them.

Whoa !!! Suddenly the game was FUN !!! I made myself a ship that could protect itself, could run if I wanted to, could take a hammering while I ran if need be, could pick up everything lying around the universe with plenty of space to spare, and which was in fact a delightful ship to fly and fight in. I called it the Gunbus, and released it as a mod.

More recently though, this ship and its sister ship, the Camel, were rejected for inclusion in one of the new super-game-upgrade-mods on the basis that the ship itself was unbalanced and so not suitable for the mod. Fine, thats their decision to make and no problems with it. But it brought the old arguments back into mind again and this writing flowed out when I was asked to write something new.

Fine. I applaud all the purists who want to play X3 as it was designed, with all its vulnerabilities. I take my hat off to the people who can take on a sector full of red dots in their trusty Buster and be the only ship left after the furball. I sit in amazement of the people who take an M6 or more amazingly an M2 (strangely enough) into a Xenon or Khaak sector and simply leave space dust behind when they leave.

I cant do that ! I'm not that good a pilot. I dont strafe, I like speed. I prefer Wing Commander combat engines. I spent so many years in a "real" combat engine that adapting to this one, is not only beyond me, but I really cant be bothered. You can ? Great for you.

I'm happy for all the people for whom being the underdog, the under-equiped, the hero with an inferiority complex, the reluctant hero who prevails against all odds, for whom the challenge of the game is in being weak and vulnerable and winning anyway. Personally, I've played so many of those kind of games the thought of doing another one that way makes me want to puke. I am really happy if your happy having fun this way. But I'm not and I get sick of people shoving "balance" down my throat when unbalanced as all hell is what makes it the most fun for me.

The bottom line is FUN, whatever gets you off.

Yet the forums are full of frustrated newbies. Got news for you - Frustration does not equal fun ! (Ok, a small percentage get off on frustration and if this is you, I can understand why your still reading and I'm very happy for you.).

So. I'm a newbie, flying around in a Buster with tissue paper for shields and pop guns. Bang, your dead. 50 times, bang your dead.  Why do you bother. Whats the point ? Take this stupid impossible game back to the shop or ditch it. (Millions have ! Well maybe not millions, but my local shop has had a more than 50 % return rate, and its not all about the early hardware problems.)

So, we are a masacist. We didnt return it, we didnt bin it, and we sure as hell are going to get our moneys worth out of it.

Hello ! :)

Alternate starts. Different characters. Different starting ships and ranks. Hey, cool, suddenly the story of how YOU play YOUR game is important.

Right-on ! Now I can dig this.

Lets make our own up !

Where do we start. Read the manual. Ok, fine, dont read the manual, but read the bit about the past history.

In X2, you save the galaxy, well sort of. Your the hero, everyone is in your debt. In game time, you play on for about 6 months to a year and amass a huge trading empire and an even huger battlefleet. Your personal ship is a Nova, or an M6, or an M2. Your combat ace of aces better.

Along comes X3.

WTF ? Suddenly you have no factories. No fleet. No race rank with anyone. You have gone from Hero to Zero with the insertion of a disc. Worse, your personal ship is gone and your flying this old fleatrap that cant get out of its own way, let alone keep you alive, and hey, it has no upgrades either and just 2 little popguns. And suddenly your "harmless" instead of an "ace of aces".

Whose nightmare is this ? What is wrong with this picture ?

First and definitely foremost, if my personal ship had been destroyed, I would not have survived its destruction. Lets get that quite clear. Me and my ship functioned so well, that only stupidity of a high order would have gotten my ship trashed. Only a Khaak battlegroup could have done it. And they take no prisoners and leave no survivors. Dead ship is dead me. So wtf were they thinking of in telling me otherwise ?

Oh and about the Buster. I wouldnt be seen dead in one. Bad enough to lose my M6, but put me in a Buster ? Please ! Adding insult to injury !

Second. In X2 I made a Billion before I gave up. I hit the limits of how much the game can store for you. WTF happened to it ? The Khaak took out the bank as well but left every other building on Argon Prime intact ? Please !

Third, whoever cut the speeds of ships more than by half between X2 and X3 should be taken out and shot immediately. Insanity of the highest order. To add insult they left in the BBS message complaining about above 1000 speed ships. Only ones in X3 are racers and they are not obtainable and never leave a single non-race sector.

Everyone who watched Top Gun knows the line. Say it with me ......

I FEEL THE NEED,...... THE NEED,...... FOR SPEED !!!!        (sorry I cant spell the yell afterwards).

Suddenly a snail can outrun you to the docking queue. Its impossible to escape if a pirate group cuts you off. Disturb a Khaak cluster and your dead before you can say "oh sh*t".

Speed speed speed speed speed. What do we want ? Speed. When do we want it ? Now !

Of course, Egosoft know this, so they put in a failsafe, knowing that modding in extra speed was easy. Instead of an auto-pilot, they gave us the auto-pillok ! And insist this isnt a bug, meaning they did it deliberately. Super speed up your ship, crash into everything if you use the auto-pillok. Typical.

Fourth, .....you get the picture.

So, lets rewrite this travestry of justice a bit.

Start the game in quickstart. Tell the merc to go park at the EQ dock.

At the begining of X3, your sitting in the Buster. It isnt yours, you just "borrowed" it. You have lost all your factories. But you still have ships. You get on the horn and get them to jump to Argon Prime. While they arrive, you go off and do the combat mission Ban Danna wants you to do, in the Buster (this is actually easier in half a ship). After that, forget the plot, its not going anywhere.

When you get back to AP, you will find your M1 parked safely, with a Gunbus watching over it. Next to it will be your TL. Your personal Gunbus is parked near the EQ dock. Go dock there yourself and swap ships. (Hint : You need the Gunbus mod installed, and the script editor enabled, and you just create the ships.). They are of course, fully kitted out. (courtesy of the script editor add wares function).

Next, make a withdrawl from the bank. (Hint : add money script).

Fully kit out the buster and the merc, and send them to your M1. Thats your mobile base.

The second Gunbus - make sure its installed with Mk3 trade software. Send it down to Cloudbase SW, then send it into each sector until you get it to Empires Edge, and start it sector trading. Keep an eye on it. A fully upgraded cargo hold means big bickie trading, so it will be ready for universe trading before you know it.

Then, make some decisions. You have a mobile base, a kick-ar*se ship and some funds to get started again. You decide how you want to play from here.

For those who want to play a defensive, try not to kill game, you have a ship that can get you out of trouble and all you need do is find a sector to base in and start building that trading empire !

Thats what I did, anyway.

Be creative. Mod your own ship. Decide your own back story, and start the game as someone who counts, not as wet toast.

Who cares about Balance ? The game is supposed to be FUN FUN FUN !

If you enjoy getting killed a lot, thats your look out, and why are you still reading this ?

For the rest of us, do whatever you have to, to make the game fun for you,

..and say it with me.....

....to hell with the balance !!!

Somewhere beyond the Unknown Regions, phoning home.

Discussion of this rant can be done here :

Links :

Gunbus Mod Page       :
Auto-Pillok                   : http://circleofatlantis.com/games/X3/autopillok.html
Gameplay Bugs           : http://circleofatlantis.com/games/X3/bugslist.html