Continuing the tale of Ferme du Vieux Chêne with a rewrite of the original 2nd post. This should bring us up to date and allow the story (and the gameplay) to develop in future posts…

We visited the local farm machinery and supplies store. We had some advice from Claude Gerard – “You’ll need a tractor – a small one to begin with, maybe eighty to one hundred horsepower.” “Then you’ll have to decide how you want to farm. Sustainability is very important and most of the appellation d’origine contrôlée producers now look for good scores when they buy your product.” “Being sustainable puts up some costs and it may be difficult for you to farm like that in the beginning with just a small field. Other costs can be reduced though, so it’s something you should consider.”

We mooched around the tractors, bemused by strange model names and numbers. “I thought cars were bad…” Our musing was broken by the appearance of a tall man in grubby overalls and boots who emerged from behind a very large tractor. “Bonjour” he said in the manner of a question rather than greeting. “Can I help?” “Umm, we’re just looking at the tractors…” was my lame response. He took the lead – “Ahh! Anglais – you are from du Vieux Chêne?”, “Yes”, “Claude said I should expect you.” He smiled, rubbed his hands on his overalls then shook ours – “I’m Jean Armand, call me Jean.”

It turned out that Monsieur Gerard had briefed him on our needs. “You need a small tractor – I think I have a good choice for beginner farmers.” He led us over to a small modern red tractor. “Massey-Ferguson 5S.105. Very modern tractor, easy to drive, good visibility – ideal for a novice farmer!” “Should we buy new though?” I asked. Jean smiled, “This is going to be your only tractor for a while I think, so you should buy new to keep down the repair bills. It will be going everywhere with you – even the supermarché!”

We discussed sustainable farming. Jean stuck his hands in his pockets, looking a little doubtful. “Most farmers here are stuck in the old ways.” he said, shaking his head, “Sure, they want to move forwards – but all that investment; the machines they bought in the past… It will take a long time to change.” “But, you, you have nothing – you can choose to do that from the start.” He suggested that we begin by getting our field’s soil sampled – “I can hire you a sampler.” So we set off with the new tractor along with instructions on how to use the sampler and drove up to our farm. The sampling was so simple that the job was done in no time…

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We had a few days wait for the results to come back from the lab which was just as well as we had a lot of reading to do about nitrogen and ph levels, seeding rates and crop types. Finally, though, we got the results…

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…Most of the field was a good Loam soil. The ph level was a bit low so we’d need to apply lime. Off we went to visit Jean once more. “Ahh – yes, you will need a spreader.” He smiled and led us round to the yard at the back. Once there he showed us a couple of possible types and explained a bit about their use. “The spreader can be used for applying lime and also solid fertilizer.” he said, “That makes it a very useful tool for farmers in this area. There are few dairy farms around here so there’s not much manure to use on our fields.” We discussed whether to buy or hire… “You should buy!” said Jean, “This tool will make you money when the other farmers need their fields fertilized!” We sat down and talked over the available spreaders and the various set-up’s. We decided on one of the Bredal range and agreed the spec. Jean promised to have it ready for collection at the end of the week…

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On the Saturday, we took the spreader to a grain store facility where Jean had told us there was a lime supplier – it was just across the road from ‘du Vieux Chêne’ which was really handy…

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Jean had estimated the amount that we would probably need to completely lime our field – he was about 400ltr over but that was better than being short and having to go back for a refill! With the field done, we would have to decide whether to sow a crop immediately or wait for next year. We could possibly sow canola – a crop that would grow over winter…

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…Or we could choose Wheat or Barley. We also had to consider our finances and the difficult equipment choices around sustainable farming versus the traditional ways. Perhaps we should wait until the spring and see what work came our way from other farmers?

Here I am after a couple of days trying out X4: Foundations… Beyond does not really sum things up. I’m caught in a mealstrom of thoughts and concerns. This game is overwhelming in the first instance and I’m not sure when the second instance will kick in! Let’s see if I can put that into words…

My initial thought that this space game sits somewhere between Elite and EVE Online is largely correct. However, it seems to lean much more towards the EVE side of the fence. I think in the long term game I will be spending more time manageing my ships and stations than I will be flying myself. But in the beginning, when there’s just me, I will have to fly my ship and do some work to make the money to kick off whatever get-rich-quick plan I think I have in mind. And that’s the issue – this game relies heavily on very detailed menues. Until I have mastered them, I won’t really know what my long term goal is.

I’ve spent the first 3 days since I bought the game in the Steam sale, trying out flying the ship and learning some basic ways of making money. There are missions and there’s one that is intended to play a part in expanding your knowledge of the surrounding area and the way to do things like hiring crew and buying ships. But, you may need to keep accessing the encyclopedia and help videos from experienced players to understand what is going on because it’s not really clear in the game itself. Elite is a much easier game to understand at the beginning – choose a cargo, ship it to where you can make a profit, and try not to get killed along the way. I can still remember my first couple of battles in Elite and the feeling of fear that was finally replaced with jubilation as the attacker ran away or was destroyed. I can’t say that I’ve had that in X4. I have been killed by someone who came at me out of nowhere when I was trying out that first mission. Unlike in Elite where I’d have known what I needed to do to survive, X4 is not so intuitive when it comes to combat – note to self: try the tutorial and see if that helps!

So, back to making some money outside of doing missions. I’ve been wandering around the local area trying out the long range scanner and finding other stations that are not visible to start with. Then I’ve found some asteroid fields. If you go and look on YouTube for beginners guides, you’ll find that asteroids sometimes have crystals and they can be very valuable. I’ve proved to myself that this is correct. I’ve found lockboxes – a sort of easter egg in space – but I’m wary of those as I understand that they may be injurious to my ship’s health and the goods inside may be illegal anyway! It has been a slow process of getting to know the ship that you’re given to start with and to test out it’s capabilities. Yesterday I spent a while mooching around a couple of the stations in the sector where the game starts me off. I was looking to see what other missions would pop up. But, perhaps the most important thing to happen on my patrol was the opportunity to take on some criminal vessels. These pay a small Cr500 reward but they often drop valuable items that you can collect. By the end of an hour or so, I was feeling a lot happier with my flying skills. I had 2 killed criminals and I’d been able to pick up the loot that they dropped. The first had an illegal cargo, so I ditched that (no point in getting a criminal record myself). The second had some ship parts that I made Cr30k on when I sold them. So, I can kill small ships but I will definitely need to get better at it or find out how to run in this menu driven game.

Ultimately, the beginner videos make it clear that you should be prepared to lose ships and crew. Possibly even stations if you get around to building those. This is going to be a very long-haul game and I’m not sure if I’ve made a pact with the devil on this one 😜 If this post seems less positive than my gaming posts usually are, it’s down to the uncertainty of how best to proceed. Like Elite, there is no right path to follow and no one holds your hand. However, I think I’m just about ready to start the game proper this week 👍‍

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