X-Rebirth: The story of the failed console game

General discussions about X Rebirth.

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X-Rebirth: The story of the failed console game

Post by Playbahnosh » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:16

After so many threads, so many hours played in frustration and so many unanswered questions, I think the puzzle is slowly getting pieced together. I've done some research, and what I found was pretty sad, but it explains the vast majority of problems and questions. Namely, Rebirth was never meant to be a PC game. There is a reason why Rebirth plays and feels like a failed console port, because it is! I know this is old news for some, but many people still don't know this, so bear with me here.

(These are just my theories, not facts, so take them as such!)

We all know, that Rebirth was in development for 7 years, that means it started around 2005-2006. What else happened around that time? That's right, the release of X3:Reunion, the next major installment of the X franchise. Was it a commercial success? Not really, as around 2005 was the time space simulators as a genre went down the drain for good. What else happened in 2005? Oh yes, the start of the new console generation with the release of the Xbox 360 followed by PS3 a year later in 2006. After Reunion's pretty rocky launch plagued by heaps of bugs, problems and lackluster reviews, I think the Ego guys had to sit down and think about the future. Face it, the space sim genre was dead, and with the advent of the new console generation, PC gaming was in decline too. The prospects for the studio were dire at best.

Now, I don't know if it was the idea of the publisher, Deep Silver, or Egosoft itself, but quite understandably, they wanted a piece of that nice console pie, thus the development of TNBT ("The Next Big Thing", as it was called before it received the Rebirth name) started. Maybe Egosoft was forced into this by the publisher, I don't know. Either way, Egosoft was a PC-only dev team specialized in space sims, they knew nothing about console development or what a console game must be like. Obviously a game like Reunion was impossible to port over to consoles, so they had to come up with something else. Space games being the only thing they were good at, they started developing a space game for the Xbox. Obviously, the the controls had to be drastically cut back to fit on the controller, so that greatly limited what the new game could do in terms of gameplay. And of course they had to re-think everything else too, since their target auidence has dramatically changed. Console gamers wanted a totally different type of game than what PC sim players had. More arcadey, easy to pick up and play with flashy graphics, more colors, pretty explosion, more "smoke and mirrors" and minigames that keep you in front of the screen. Development on TNBT was taking shape. While they couldn't reveal this new project to the community, they had to keep funding up, so a portion of the dev team was allocated to shovel out some new X content for some cash infusion and thus TC was released. While heavily relying on the modders and the community to supply new content for the game (because they had most of the manpower allocated on TNBT), they puttered along on both fronts.

Now, what exactly took place next is quite unclear, but for some reason, the new console game's production hit a brick wall somewhere around 2010. Either it wasn't accepted by Microsoft for release, maybe the game failed to meet expectation or something else happened that prevented the game to be released on the console. This was a major blow for Egosoft and Deep Silver, since now they owned a more-or-less finished console game that was now worthless. I think after this Deep Silver still pushed for a release, since they didn't want 5 years of development funding to go to waste, so Egosoft started reworking the project and porting TNBT over to PC. In the spring of 2011 Deep Silver announced X-Rebirth for the PC and gave a release date for the fall of 2011. That was obviously far too optimistic, since even the worst console ports need way more than half a year to be finished. At this point I think Egosoft thought Rebirth was simply too console-y and fell way too far from the X series, so they started reworking the game mechanics to at least resemble an honest to god PC game. But missing so much with the canceled release, they needed another quick cash infusion, so they cobbled together Albion Prelude and tossed it out to get some more funds to finish the project, milking the X3 series for it's very last drops of sour milk. But as years passed and the hype started to vane, the devs turtled up in their shell with absolutely no news leaking out, the community slowly started to lose all faith, leaving the vaporware they were promised in 2011 for other games. Egosoft started to run out of options....and funding. Obviously there was no milking the X3 games anymore, so they had no choice but to hastily hammer together a release candidate from the wrecks of the half-console/half-PC development and send it out into the wild, hoping for the best. They knew full well the game was not finished, it was a Frankenstein monster straight from development hell. It wasn't an X game, but they still needed the X title because of the selling power. It was now or never, either they release something or the studio goes bust. Maybe Deep Silver pressured them to release, I dunno.

Either way, this is the end result we got two days ago, we can all see. The reason Rebirth smells like a failed console port and not an X game, because it wasn't meant to be one. It was meant to be a different title with different gameplay on a different system entirely. A tale of desperation and bad decisions. Now, I don't claim to know the real story, but this is the best I could come up with after my research.

Feel free to share your thoughts.


It has been since come to my attention, that there are more pieces of evidence supporting the "failed console game" theory. Thanks to those who posted them!

If you look at this picture, you can see there are "_xbox" markers in the shader files, which only occur in games developed for the Xbox. There are also strange storage path links in the game's resource files that point to directories named "X4".

The rest, I don't think I have to spell out for for you, but here it goes:

- The fact the whole game was written around the Xbox controller. The whole UI and controls were designed around it. Keyboard+mouse works (kind of), but joystick support is abysmal, not to mention the other controllers like HOTAS, but what works seamlessly with the game is the Xbox controller alone.

- The control options are drastically cut back and there are unbindable and missing hotkeys. Kind of like all bad console ports we've seen. (no targeting controls? In a game with space dogfights? REALLY?!)

- Rebirth's engine uses DirectX 9.0c, not DX10 or 11, but 9, the same version used by the Xbox 360.

- Texture quality and graphical fidelity is horrible across the board. It's only made to look better by piling on tons of shaders and effects, which ultimately caused the appalling framerates on even the strongest rigs.

- Text on the screen is tiny and unreadable at high resolutions. But it's perfetly readable at 720p and lower (TV resolution).

- The FOV is locked to around 60 (perfect for TV).

- Heavily compressed file sizes (fit neatly on one DVD), mostly seen in Xbox360 releases. Not required (and actually counter productive) for PC releases.

- "Xbox" tags are all over in the game's files. In a PC-only game...

- The UI is terrible and a nightmare to navigate with anything other than the Xbox controller. There is also no gravidar (again, in a space game with dogfights), the map system is a joke and there are no control option for anything else.

- Now, it can be argued this is mere conjuncture, but the popular gimmicks (FPS mode), the flashy spectacle instead of functional graphics, horrible UI, the minigames and the woefully restricted gameplay is a staple of console games and console ports and have absolutely no place in PC-only simulator games. They look really out of place, not to mention no X title (or other PC space simulation) ever had any of these.

The cat seems to be out of the bag. It's getting increasingly impossible for the devs to explain away all of these.

Feel free to share more and I put them up here.
Last edited by Playbahnosh on Mon, 18. Nov 13, 16:37, edited 5 times in total.

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Post by iforgotmysocks » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:19

Exactly what i assumed.

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Post by dubnium » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:20

this is the best explanation for that atrocity that rebirth is i've seen so far.

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Post by Theta Sigma » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:20

This shockingly horrible game seems best explained by OP's theory, got to say.

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Post by Vivicector » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:20

Sounds fine to me.

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Post by Hornet108 » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:24

This seems to be the running theory.

Sad thing is, with this engine, the X game they COULD of made would of been just fantastic - and would of sold about the same numbers that they are currently selling, more, probably.

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Re: X-Rebirth: The story of the failed console game

Post by Chips » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:26

Playbahnosh wrote:But this is the best I could come up with after my research.
What research? Honestly, what research?

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Post by SpaceSimSam » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:26

How much of this is speculation?

Any links?

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Post by iforgotmysocks » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:30

And thats exactly where it all ends.
The X - series becoming a brainless spaceshooter for easiely satisfied customers who just want to blow stuff up for an hour.

For Egosoft there won't be a coming back from this...
Accept the thought that our loved X - series came to an end.

I just can't describe the dissapointment i'm feeling...
After such a long time you are pushing your fanbase over the cliff to make room for some kids?

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Post by Divinity1990 » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:33

Sounds very plausible but I doubt Egosoft will admit that their product is FUBAR and that they deceived the fan base. Well, if Elite and/or Star Citizen deliver they can forget selling another space sim in their life time.

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Post by vekit » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:34

After reading Bernd's post, This is what i come to understand that Egosoft never meant Rebirth to be successor of X-series. They just want something nice and streamlining for new massive fanbase.Hence new UI and Ship interior.

In short,they are willing to ditch their old fanbase, if they're getting $$$.
which it's totally understandable, But i'm not sure that,in long run,would do any good to Egosoft.

I havn't played Rebirth yet. It seems like its not worth $50, gonna wait when its on sale next year

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Re: X-Rebirth: The story of the failed console game

Post by Playbahnosh » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:35

Chips wrote:What research? Honestly, what research?
Scouring the forums, reading countless threads, dev interviews and online articles dated back to that period, looking up and correlating dates and factoids, etc. I've been in this profession for 8 years now, I'm a games journalist, reviewer and editor for a gaming magazine, I know how to do research.

Still, as I said before, this is mostly speculation, I don't know the whole story, only the devs know that.


Post by Guest » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:35

but it's nothing a console game,
the UI fonts are so frickin small you can't read anything in Big Screen Mode.
The Gamepad Controlls are horrible!
Last edited by Guest on Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:36, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by irR4tiOn4L » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:36

SpaceSimSam wrote:How much of this is speculation?

Any links?
All of it :wink:

But it is quite sound and commonly held speculation. After all, the game is clearly designed for an Xbox 360 controller, has many low res textures, a console derived interface, a console-appropriate very low FOV on foot and has dropped proper joystick and mouse/kb support - which every previous title in the series has nailed and which is fundamental to a good PC game.

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Post by MagixJonsn » Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:39

Don't try to reason too much. It's much simpler. They wanted to jump the Mass Effect bandwagon, but weren't up to the task. Patience was lost to finance it and they released a trainwreck that is neither this nor that. If they had stayed to their roots, everything could have been polished (including the one-ship-feature) and the game would be awesome for its kind. But not "this".
Last edited by MagixJonsn on Sun, 17. Nov 13, 14:42, edited 1 time in total.

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