Frontier: First Encounters

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Frontier: First Encounters
Frontier First Encounters box.jpg
Cover art for Frontier: First Encounters
Developer(s) Frontier Developments
Publisher(s) GameTek, Konami
Platform(s) DOS, but with jjffe which also contains additional fixes, it can be played on Windows, Linux and Mac OS X
Release date(s) April 16, 1995
Genre(s) Space trading and combat simulator
Mode(s) Single player
Distribution 3½" floppy, CD

Frontier: First Encounters, also referred to as FFE or Elite 3, is a 1995 computer video game published by Gametek for DOS. The player pilots a spaceship through an open world universe pursuing trading, combat and other missions. It is the third game in the Elite series of games which debuted on the Acorn BBC Micro computer in 1984. It is expected to be followed by Elite: Dangerous in 2014.


Ship flying over the terra-formed planet Mars
The game's bulletin board system features full motion video character faces

First Encounters plays much like its immediate predecessor Frontier, being the game is a combination of trading, fighting and a variety of other activities like spying, bombing and a variety of other military activities; the combat ratings were also carried over from the previous games. Like Frontier: Elite II, First Encounters features realistic Newtonian physics, the ability to seamlessly land on 1:1 scale planets in realistic star systems, and rival factions for which the player can perform missions, gaining or losing standing accordingly. The game's graphics were an improvement on Frontier, using Gouraud shading and more extensive use of texture mapping. As well as employing the same open-ended gameplay of its predecessors, it also features a storyline concerning an alien race called the Thargoids.

In addition to these now-established tenets of the Elite series, First Encounters added full motion video BBS character faces in the CD-ROM version and journals which report on happenings within the game's known universe, occasionally mentioning the player's exploits. The game also allows the player to earn special ships that are not available to buy. These ships are given as rewards for completing missions; the ships are the Turner-class Argent’s Quest, the Stowmaster-class fighter (which comes with the Argent’s Quest, equipped as the escape pod) and the Thargoid Warship, given to you by the Thargoids at the completion of the Thargoid missions.

As well as military missions which are procedurally generated, the game also includes storyline missions specifically programmed by Frontier Developments which take the player through a linear series of events starting with the “Wiccan Ware Race” and culminating in a “Thargoid Missions” trilogy. Some of these missions can only be completed under specific circumstances, or with specific combat ratings. The missions take place between 3250 (the start-date of the game) and approximately 3255.


First Encounters was the sequel to Frontier: Elite II. It was released by the financially struggling publisher, Gametek in Easter 1995 and was well reviewed, despite being released before the development team thought it it was ready. The game shipped around 100,000 units.[1]

First Encounters had a number of firsts to its name.[citation needed] The detailed modelling of the geography of the planets was impressive given the relative lack of power of the PCs it would have been played on, typically Intel 386 machines. First Encounters was the first game to use procedural texturing to generate the vegetation, snow and other features on the planet surfaces.[citation needed] Mountain ranges, cliffs and alien landscapes and visual effects all contributed to the atmosphere of the game, and the coloured lighting from the redder stars gave some planets an eerie look.

Like Frontier: Elite II, the game was re-released as shareware. Being a DOS game, First Encounters has difficulty running with post-DOS operating systems such as Windows 95, Windows 2000 and Windows XP. DOSBox and the unofficial ports like JJFFE do allow the game to be played however.


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