The first game in the X-Universe series, X: Beyond the Frontier, or X:BTF among series veterans, hearkened back to the granddaddy of the Wide-Open Sandbox, the Elite series. It was developed by the then-virtually unknown German studio Egosoft and published by THQ in the United States and SouthPeak Interactive in Europe.
The game places you in the role of Major Kyle William Brennan of the Terran United Space Command, currently posted as the test pilot of the USC X (later called the Xperimental Shuttle), a combat-capable prototype equipped with an experimental jumpdrive. During the test jump, something goes drastically wrong and Brennan ends up in an unknown part of space. He encounters an alien race, the Teladi, a highly capitalist profit-focused culture. Finding Brennan helpless, they repair his ship and loan him some money. They also give hints on trading in the X-Universe, and may tell him (if he asks) about the Argon and other alien races in the X-Universe, a network of sectors linked by jumpgates. With his jumpdrive destroyed, and no idea how to return to Earth, Brennan finds himself stranded, alone and indebted to an alien race. The player is free to choose how to continue the game, and if or when to pursue the main plot.
The game was criticized for its Nintendo Hardness but nevertheless garnered a niche following that has persisted to this day (though the X3 trilogy is more widely played). It was re-released on Steam in October 2010 after being carefully updated to run natively on Windows XP.
It received an Expansion Pack, X-Tension, in 2000 that allowed the player to fly virtually any ship in the game rather than just the X-Shuttle, and followed Brennan as he set up a trade and engineering company that would eventually become the later games' TerraCorp. It was also made into a book, Farnham's Legend by Helge T. Kautz, which was nominated for the Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis (the German equivalent to the Nebula Award) in 2001.
Please put tropes not specific to X:BTF on the main X-Universe pages.
X: Beyond the Frontier provides examples of the following tropes:
- Adaptation Expansion: Farnham's Legend fills out a huge amount of the backstory of Kyle Brennan and the X-Shuttle and adds multiple characters who would go on to play important roles later in the series.
- Alien Invasion: Brennan drops into the X-Universe during a time of mounting Xenon raids that eventually turn into a full-scale war, the Second Xenon Conflict.
- Aliens Speaking English: In Farnham's Legend Brennan is surprised beyond belief when a Teladi ship hails him in Japanese. Turns out they learned it from the Argon.
- "Blind Idiot" Translation: Due to someone apparently mistaking the unusual term for a typo, BoGas is referred to as the nonsensical-in-context "Bio Gas" in most of this game's text. It also translated Home of Light's German name, Heimat des Lichts, as "Light home". The latter was corrected in the later titles, but the first remained that way in the case of the BoGas factories, which are still known as "Bio Gas" factories.
- Cool Starship: The X-Shuttle.
- Coming in Hot: When Kyle found Nathan Gunne's recordings in an asteroid, he saw footage of the Terran captain's flagship, the USCSS Dragonfyre crash-landing on Argon Prime. The lore mentions that the ship was later repaired and became the Argon Federation's first flagship.
- Critical Existence Failure: In X:BTF and X-T ships have no defenses other than shields. The later games give you Regenerating Shields, Static Health.
- Diegetic Interface: The X-Shuttle (and every ship in X-Tension) has a full cockpit, with tooltip information displayed on moving multi-function displays, and ship info screens and communications dialogs projected directly onto Brennan's retina.
- Early Game Hell: Beyond The Frontier was bad about this, even by X standards. You start out with a debt, almost no money, no SETA so you get to enjoy spending 30 minutes real-time flying between stations, no weapons, and truly pathetic shielding (two 1 MW shields, about as much as an M5/scout ship) in a game where zero shields = dead.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: In X: Beyond The Frontier, you were limited to piloting one ship (the X-perimental Shuttle), the interface was clunky and confusing, ships had no defenses beyond shields, trading and building was seriously limited, and combat was very simplistic. The series didn't really hit its stride until The Threat.
- 11th-Hour Superpower: Ban Danna gives you the most powerful shields, a pair of 125MW shield, after completing the main quest.
- FTL Test Blunder: The Justified Tutorial consists of the player character, Kyle Brennan, testing an experimental jumpdrive for Earth's United Space Command. The jump test Goes Horribly Wrong: instead of his planned destination of the Centauri system, Brennan winds up emerging in the space of the X-Universe's Proud Merchant Race, the Teladi, with the shuttle badly damaged and the jumpdrive completely destroyed. Brennan canonically ended up spending the next three games trying to get back home, even founding a MegaCorp to fund jumpdrive research.
- Future Imperfect: Besides Earth being a fairy tale according to the Argon, Farnham's Legend has a downplayed example in a scene where Elena Kho finds a guitar that belonged to a crewman on the USCSS Dragonfyre in a Teladi antiques shop. The owner thinks it is merely a piece of visual art; Elena proves him wrong.
- Game-Breaking Bug: This game and X-Tension had high resolution support added years later, but it was done with an extremely clumsy hack. Playing on any aspect ratio other than 4:3 cuts off the top and bottom of the screen — enough of it to render the game unplayable at most of the high resolutions due to crucial information no longer being visible. This is especially bad in X-Tension, where this issue cuts off most of your Argon Elite's throttle (Your starting ship)
- Gone Horribly Wrong: The plot-triggering event. The X-Shuttle is Earth's first attempt at Faster-Than-Light Travel in nearly eight centuries. During the jump test, the jumpdrive goes haywire and locks onto the method used by previous attempt, in other words the X-Universe jumpgate network. As the drive charges, you can hear the scientists yelling everything up to and including "Abort the jump test!" Then WHAM! Suddenly you're on the other side of the galaxy with most of your ship's systems shorted out, and to add insult to injury, within a few minutes, you're a few thousand credits in debt to the local Proud Merchant Race for making your ship able to fly again.
- Last Disc Equipment: The 125MW shield and the Gamma High Energy Plasma Throwers, the most powerful equipments described in the manual, are only available once you complete the main quest.
- Last Chance Hit Point: Applies to everyone. Once any ship or station's shields go down, the next hit they take will destroy them.
- Justified Tutorial: Consisting of testing the sublight systems of the X-Shuttle.
- Mobile Fishbowl: Farnham's Legend briefly shows a Boron walking around a space station built for the other races in a pressure suit filled with water.
- Mythology Gag: In Farnham's Legend, referencing the "auto-pillock," the tendency of the autopilot and NPCs in the games towards crashing into things.Yayandas: We are about to calibrate the newly installed, super-responsive inertial damper. You will never again feel the slightest shake, and never once be torn from your sleep, even if you are rammed head-on by a Xenon.
Nopileos: Rrrr... do they do that?
Yayandas: So one hears...
- Non-Standard Game Over: Two are possible in the Justified Tutorial:
- Keep shooting at the mothership in the tutorial and the flight controller will threaten to reassign you to a radar station in Alaska. Do it again, and he will.
- Take too long in completing the tutorial objectives that involve drones, and the flight controller will get frustrated and abort further tests.
- Novelization: Farnham's Legend.
- One-Hit-Point Wonder: Any ship in X: Beyond the Frontier and X: Tension, once stripped of its shields, will be blown away by its pilot sneezing.
- Pass Through the Rings: As part of the Justified Tutorial, to test the X Shuttle's maneuvering.
- Planet Killer: The Xenon built one of these, the Xenon BMS. This ship is bigger than the Community of Planets/Commonwealth's destroyers, and so is classified as an M0 Mothership. The ship can destroy planets and so part of the game's plot is convincing the Community of Planets' races to fight against it. It acts as the game's Final Boss. X-Tension also has one in Xenon Sector 472.
- Pun-Based Title: X-Tension ("extension").
- Save-Game Limits: There are only 10 save slots, you can only save while docked at a station, and it costs 10 credits. The last is not a problem once you get the ball rolling. It's a big problem when you're just starting out and the only money you have is what the Teladi loaned you.
- The Lifter (the Argon TS) bears an intense resemblance to the Eagle Transporter from Space: 1999.
- The penultimate What the Hell, Player? the player gets during the tutorial for shooting at the mothership (see Non-Standard Game Over) is almost word-for-word what Kittridge says in Mission: Impossible regarding the SCIF room operator who allowed Ethan Hunt to steal classified data out from under him.
- Try to Fit That on a Business Card: In Farnham's Legend an Argon senator has to meet with a Paranid dignitary regarding an unusual anomaly they detected (read: Kyle Brennan's jumpdrive mishap). The Paranid's full title is "Priest Duke first class, negotiator and assistant to the Bishop of Paranid Prime, envoy of the Pontifex Maximus Paranidia, prophet of the New Revelation in his own right, Reverend Olmancketslat."Sen. Nan Gunnar: That is one hell of a long title.
- Unusual Euphemism: In Farnham's Legend the Teladi characters occasionally use "rotten egg" and "egg salad". (The Teladi lay eggs.)
- What the Hell, Player?: Of escalating severity for shooting at the mothership in the tutorial. The responses initially amount to, "Very funny, knock it off" and escalate to Mission Control threatening to reassign you to a radar station in Alaska. Any more shots after that result in a Non-Standard Game Over.
- You Can't Go Home Again: Kyle was stranded in the X Universe due to the X's Gateless Jumpdrive's misjump. The drive was also damaged beyond repair. In Farnham's Legend, Elena also had this happen. Her ship, the Getsu Fune was able to successfully jump to Argon Prime, without frying its jumpdrive. Unfortunately, it crashed and sank into the planet's ocean. Although Getsu Fune was successfully retrieved and repaired, its Jumpdrive was also destroyed in the crash, stranding Elena as well.