The X Shrine
Tribute to the Best Games Ever

Why This Exists
I felt like it. I think there might have been some other justification, but it probably only makes sense in the darker and less rational corners of my warped mind, so I'll spare you the speculation and get right to the good stuff: blurry camera phone pictures!

The View From Above
The View From Above
The shrine, assembled and arranged in all its shriny glory on my sofa. Behold the majesty and the awesome. Tremble at the mass of gaming goodness.

Where It All Began
Where It All Began
This is the game that started it all. Well, more accurately, X: Beyond the Frontier is that game. A few years ago, I was visiting my grandfather out in Arizona, and he showed me a game that he found at some department store for $5. I was hooked so deeply that I went out and bought the last copy they had - also for $5. That was easily the most valuable five bucks that anyone has ever spent in history. In the end I logged well over 400 hours playing X:BTF. The expansion pack, X-Tension, and the combo package, X-Gold, are notoriously impossible to find in North America. The copy of X-Gold featured is an imported re-release from about a year ago. It's not quite the same as having an original X-Tension box (which are basically worth their weight in highly refined platinum these days) but at least it rounds out the collection.

Apoch Enters the Game Development Industry
Apoch Enters the Game Development Industry
This is X²: The Threat, the first commercial game title that I've actually worked on. (I don't count my brief and inconsequential stint with the Warcraft III: Frozen Throne open beta.) I originally came across it when I was hunting for a patch for X:BTF on Egosoft's web site. They had a really truly awesome video of the game's graphics engine (which was later totally put to shame by the final game itself). I remember thinking that anyone who could take the already incredible graphics of BTF and improve on them was a pretty darn decent development house.

Then I saw the tiny, almost hidden link that read "Developer Section." Were these people really so naive and insecure as to have their private development assets reachable from the Internet? I clicked it to find out. What I found was the XDevNet - where gamers could actually contribute ideas, writing, AI scripts, and even work on side quests for the games. All it took was a signed NDA, postage to Germany, and a little free time. They were actively looking for AI programmers. I couldn't pass up the chance.

I never did end up working on AI, instead getting caught up in writing quests and missions. In fact, to this day, I still haven't learned the AI scripting engine in the game, or the updated version featured in X³. But that's okay - I got a better deal than AI in the end.

X³ - A Geek's Dream Comes True
X³: Reunion is the first commercial game I've worked on from start to finish. We began back in the summer of '04 on an expansion pack for X², which went through a few truly God-awful working titles before we settled on X²: The Return. Eventually, X²:TR was scrapped, and we chose to put our time and effort into X³ instead, producing a full separate title. There were many reasons for the decision, but the most interesting (to me, anyways) was technological: by doing a new game rather than an expansion, we got away from several limitations that were imposed by the need for save-game compatibility with X². That freedom opened up the door for the awesome new graphics engine in X³, and a few other goodies - although I have to say, for the record, that the team did an incredible job adding new content and features to the game even while save-game compatibility was planned.

Games Through Time
Games Through Time
These are the game discs from X: Beyond the Frontier and X-Gold. The game, amazing and massive as it was, easily fit onto a single CD. In fact, the game and the X-Tension expansion pack also fit onto a single CD. Those were simpler times.

Games Through Time Part II
Games Through Time Part II
X²: The Threat came on two CDs. In reality, the second CD is mostly collected fan fiction and artwork, and some horribly awful demo of some other game which history shall not remember. Even still, the size was a massive leap up from the compact, one-disc X-Gold distribution. X³ has entered a completely new arena, and ships on DVD-ROM. Some concessions had to be made to even get it to fit onto that format in a single disc - it's that huge. I've heard rumours that there is a distribution in North America that is six or seven CDs, but I haven't been able to confirm that yet.

The original X:BTF manual came in a classic, massive cardboard box, the way games used to in the Good Old Days. The considerably more compact, DVD-box sized manuals for X² and X³ have improved on the content and visual impressiveness, if not in raw dimensions. Sadly, my X² manual seems to have been lost in a move somewhere along the line. I can only assume it rests peacefully in some unopened box somewhere.

Added: Captain, Contacts at 12 o'clock!
Captain, Contacts at 12 o'clock!
Best Buy sells X³. There's something warm, happy, and surreal about seeing something you've worked on sitting on a shelf in a major store.

Added: They're Everywhere!
They're Everywhere!
WalMart also sells X³. I think the Best Sellers sticker was probably the coolest thing I've ever seen. Ever. OK, maybe that polar bear surfing on a styrofoam block was cooler.

I am torn.

Added: X³ US English Edition
X³ US English Edition
This is what the US edition looks like opened up. The manual is printed differently (plain white page background instead of the nifty pattern that DeepSilver used) and there's some unholy number of CDs in the package.

Added: X³ US English Edition (inside)
X³ US English Edition (inside)
Unlike the DeepSilver publication, Enlight's release comes in a complete DVD form-factor cardboard box, with all of the nifty little text talking about the game.

X² came with a pack of cards for a game called Trumps. I assume this is an invention from our fine friends across the Big Pond, as I've never even heard of it. The cards have pictures of various ships from the game, and some basic information and stats. Since I have absolutely no idea what to use the cards for, I've chosen to leave the packs unopened as collectibles. A couple of extra booster packs came with the Egosoft store preorder copies of the game.

Even Better Swag!
Even Better Swag!
Now this is some swag that I do know what to do with (regardless of what you may be told by certain "persons"). Originally, Farnham's Legende was written in German by Helge Kautz, and was long an object of envy among the English fans of the games, including myself. We got a really lucky shot to translate and publish the book with the first run of the X³ bundles. I was privileged to play a small part in proofreading the book; unfortunately, I only got to read the last couple of chapters, so naturally I had to get the whole thing and read it. It's a great story - highly recommended to anyone who can actually manage to find one of the few copies in circulation.

Swag You Can Wear (Legitimately)!
Swag You Can Wear (Legitimately)! sent out these limited-run shirts with preorders of X³. No gaming shrine is complete without a shirt, so here's mine.

Mementos of the Journey
Mementos of the Journey
Everyone involved in working on X² and X³ got a nice thank-you from the Egosoft office. The X² one was a nice little Christmas card (nice for hopefully obvious reasons). Due primarily to time pressure and the lack of a nearby holiday, the X³ note was a bit more succinct, but no less heartfelt, and no less appreciated.

As they say, the journey is the reward. It's been a heck of a few years - just over three now since I first signed up with the DevNet crew. I'm looking forward to all the stuff that comes next.

All Hail X. May There Be Many More.

Written and directed by Mike "Apoch" Lewis.
The Spectral Samurai aided in various nitpickery, design,
and general moral support during the last few years.
(I might forgive you for the damn Moon Pies when you get
around to actually playing one of my games...)

Unavailable for Photo:
X² Manual
X:BTF Original Box

Lettered in Verdana (or Arial, if your browser is brain-dead).
Crafted with loving care in Notepad.
Photos courtesy of my crap camera phone.

One geek acheived his lifelong dream during the making of this page.

Gratuitous and meaningless copyright notice.
November 9, 2005

Added X³ US Edition pictures November 22, 2005