Monday, October 19, 2015

X3: Terran Conflict - 20/20 hours

So I finished X3: Terran Conflict just as it was getting good. Thanks to an online guide and a couple of lucky breaks, I was able to automate my two freighters . . which proved to be a huge waste of money, so I went back online and found a few tips on how to make them profitable (basically, you have to have the right location), and after awhile they started making money. I eventually got enough to buy a third freighter, and I'm just a few thousand credits from automating that one too.

And then it came time to quit.

It's frustrating, because I feel like I'm on the cusp of being successful, and that I only have a little ways to go before I enter a new and exciting stage of growth (I really want to build space stations), but I can't be entirely sure how much longer it will take to get there. I'm sorely tempted to keep playing.

However, I'm not going to. Surprisingly, this doesn't have anything to do with my timetable. I've stretched games before, and there are things about this one that appeal enough to me to make it a contender. I like the depth of the simulation, and the fact that you can get through twenty hours without firing a shot or losing a ship (though autopilot glitches brought me perilously close a couple of times). Unfortunately, the user interface is . . . not good.

I'm not normally one to complain about having to sort through menus, in fact it's one of my favorite activities, but X3: Terran Conflict really makes navigating the menus into a chore. To issue orders to one of your ships, you have to go into a menu, nested inside another menu, which itself is probably inside a third menu (provided you can't directly see the ship you're commanding). And that's if you know precisely what order you want to give. Checking the map requires you to exit out of the command screen and go into another nested menu. And if you need to consult your encyclopedia or check your credit balance, you have to go through a whole other set of menus to do it. It wouldn't be so bad if you could keep multiple windows open at once and stack them side by side, but for some reason, you can't open a new menu until the old one is closed. If the game were turn-based, I might be fine with it, but it's real-time, which means that while this is going on, you also have to pay attention to your ship's flight path (in theory you could do it while docked in a base, but you can only speed up time while flying, which is an absolute necessity, given the slow travel speed of freighters).

That being said, the menu thing is only a deal-breaker in the context of a guy trying to play a hundred games in less than a hundred years. If I didn't have anything else to do, I'd gladly put up with it, because the exploration, acquisition, and mercantile expansion aspects of the game are so satisfying. Not for the first time, I'm left feeling as if I'd be happier if I just picked a hobby and stuck to it. I did a quick check on the Steam Store page's reviews, and I saw people who had two or three hundred hours+ sunk into this game, and I'm intensely curious what their galaxies must look like.

Once this blog is all done with (hah!), I'll have to do some sort of retrospective, where I look back at the various games I've abandoned too early, and return to the one with the greatest untapped potential. X3: Terran Conflict will definitely be a contender (though I expect the issue with the menus will probably knock it out of the running).

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