The backstory goes like this: At some unspecified point in the future, humanity has spread into space. Over time, three distinct cultures develop:
- Terrans, who are the baseline for the other two 'races'.
- Jenquai, philosophers and explorers who seek knowledge above all else.
- Progen, genetically engineered proud warriors who excel at the military arts.
As one can probably guess, things weren't bound to stay peaceful. The Jenquai stumble over an ancient artifact: a jumpgate. The Jenquai, worried over what the other two races would do with it, keep it secret. It doesn't last, and a spy from the Terran Megacorp InfintiCorp leaks the information, sparking the Gate War.
Nine years of war later, a truce is declared and the three races agree to share the gate. Shortly after that, InfintiCorp unveils its "InfinitiGate", a reverse-engineered version of the ancient gate. The game itself picks up fifty years later, when things have started getting interesting.
Sadly, the game was shut down on September 22, 2004, after a comparatively very short run; it was this failure, along with that of Command & Conquer: Renegades, that would ultimately doom Westwood and lead into its absorption into EA Los Angeles and the eventual departure of every single Westwooder from EA. That said, diehard fans of the game continued to do their best to revive the game via the Earth and Beyond Emulator, including classes that were dummied out prior to the game's launch, and the game's server and client can now be emulated for the curious.
See also EVE Online, which launched around the same time (and was commonly perceived as the game's primary rival) but lasted much, much longer.
Tropes appearing in Earth and Beyond include:
- An Adventurer Is You: All classes in the game are some combination of Warrior, Explorer, and Trader, corresponding to the three experience types. Each race has an association with one type - Terrans are Traders, Progen are Warriors, and Jenquai are Explorers. For details on the individual classes, see the Character page.
- The Atoner: The Progen have an extremely subdued take on this regarding the sacking of Jove City during the gate war. Rather, they're sorry for how it occured. According to the game's bible the wartime leader of the Progen had engaged in more extreme levels of genetic modification to himself and his troops than necessary. The result, dubbed "Dog Soldiers", were the ones who sacked Jove City. The rest of the mainline Progen were horrified by the sheer brutality of the act, and when the generals found the leader and his troops sitting in a pile of Jenquai bones that had been gnawed on, they chose to purge the Dog Soldiers and the leader. The whole matter is considered a massive blight on the honor of the Progen as a whole.
- Bug War: Against the V'rix.
- Casual Interstellar Travel: Eeeyup.
- Earth Is the Center of the Universe: Subverted. Earth itself is merely the homeworld for the Terran faction. The real "center of the universe" is Saturn, the hub for Sol's gate network.
- Emote Animation: For both player characters and their ships.
- Fantastic Racism: A decent amount between the Progen and Jenquai, stemming from the Gate War, where the Progen sacked the old Jenquai capital of Jove City.
- Fantasy Counterpart Culture: All three have a distinct resemblance to an Earth culture.
- The Terrans are Americans and Western Europeans. Their colonies in Alpha Centauri, Tau Ceti, and 61 Cygni seem to have been settled primarily by Germans, Scots, and Africans respectively.
- The Progen are Roman. This is likely a deliberate choice, fitting with their hat.
- The Jenquai are Japanese, with a hint of Jewish. Since the ship that colonized Jupiter was called the Jenqui Maru, its crew (and therefore the Jenquai) are probably of largely Japanese descent.
- Japan Takes Over the World: Subverted. They left and colonized the moons of Jupiter.
- Mega-Corp: InfinitiCorp, among others. Even EarthCorp, the Terran Military is a Corp.
- Perpetually Static: Played straight. The game is fairly lacking in individual bosses who can be repeatedly killed, but many missions should logically happen only once:
- One mission has a hapless NPC required to undergo a vasectomy due to a bureaucratic snafu. This mission is part of the training for the Terran Enforcer, so this NPC has apparently undergone hundreds, if not thousands of vasectomies.
- Portal Network: The gate network, of course. Most of the gates are made by InfinitiCorp, but three - Akeron's Gate, Vishao's Gate, and the Appian Gate - were made by the Ancients.
- Precursors: The Ancients.
- Proud Merchant Race: The Terran hat.
- Proud Warrior Race Guy: The Progen's hat.
- Scenery Porn: Many of the space environments, such as:
- The aurorae of Uranus.
- Space Whale: Hundreds of them. Space - including the Sol System - is full of life. This at least prevents all the early game mobs from being either haywire drones or some variety of pirate.