Frontier: First Encounters
|Frontier: First Encounters|
Cover art for Frontier: First Encounters
|Release date(s)||April 16, 1995|
|Genre(s)||Space trading and combat simulator|
|Distribution||3½" floppy, CD|
Frontier: First Encounters, also referred to as FFE or Elite III, is a space trading and combat simulator video game developed by Frontier Developments and published by Gametek in 1995 for DOS. The player pilots a spaceship through an open world universe pursuing trading, combat and other missions.
Frontier: First Encounters had a number of firsts to its name. 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. 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.
First Encounters carried over the gameplay features from its immediate predecessor Frontier: Elite II, in that the game is a combination of trading, fighting, espionage, bombing and a variety of other military activities; the combat ratings were also carried over from the previous games. Like Elite II, First Encounters features realistic Newtonian physics, the ability to seamlessly land on 1:1 scale planets in authentic 1:1 scale 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 the previous game, introducing Gouraud shading and more extensive use of texture mapping. As well as employing the same open-ended gameplay of its predecessors, First Encounters also features a storyline which takes the player through a series of events starting with the “Wiccan Ware Race” and missions concerning an alien race called the Thargoids. 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.
Comparing First Encounters to earlier games in the series, creator David Braben said that where the original Elite was "basically just trading" and Elite II positioned the trading as "something to do while doing missions", the developers had done "almost no work" expanding the trading for First Encounters, as it was not seen as the focus of the game. The player's objective is instead to explore, have fun and "find out what's happening with the aliens", although how they achieve this would depend on how they played the game.
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.
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 was ready. The game shipped around 100,000 units.
Like 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 and FFED3D do allow the game to be played however.
- Frontier Developments Official Elite Website
- Penn, Gary (1995). "Life, the Universe and First Encounters". PC Gamer (Future Publishing) (18).