Dark or Light

Not So MMO - X4: Foundations – Initial Operations

Red Thomas Posted:
Columns Not So MMO 0

As disappointed as I’ve been in other games this year, X4: Foundations has been a title that went the other way and far exceeded my expectations.  It’s not a game for everyone, but it scratches a very special itch for many of us who crave that little extra touch of grand strategy in our games.  The down side to those more robust games is that there’s often a fairly sharp learning curve when getting started.

Hopefully this article will help you get past some of those early game complexities and get you into a position to better enjoy the game the way you want to play.  Of course, the game is complex because there is no single route to any objective and while these tips evolved from my own path, there are a ton of alternative methods for getting from A to B in X4.


It seems obvious, but then it’s also not.  The first thing to do is to check out the tutorial missions by hitting H on your keyboard.  This’ll walk you through some of the basics of X4 and get you off the pad.  You’ll learn some key functions like how to engage in EVA to repair stuff, and even how to load controller profiles and adjust key-bindings.

Basic stuff, I know.  There are more complicated things mixed in with the obvious stuff, so it’s worth doing, though.  There are a few caveats to be aware of.  For instance, you should stop when you get to the station construction missions.  It’s good info, but it’ll be a while before you look to build a station and you might as well hold off on them.  You can always go back through tutorials at your convenience, so you won’t hurt anything if you do decide to jump ahead a little early.

With the highway loop discovered, your traders will be more efficient, and you’ll have a great way to pick up missions.


The next thing I suggest when you’ve started a new game is to just explore.  You’re going to want to see what the different factions are and what their ships look like, maybe start deciding how you want to play in the longer-term.  The main thing is to find and explore the super highway ring that runs the circle through about a dozen sectors and connects most of the factions to each other.

This’ll accomplish a number of immediate objectives for you.  It’ll clearly let you explore the core sectors and build that general knowledge of what’s where, but it also reveals a number of important stations like the wharves and shipyards for several factions.  Revealing stations also reveals what they’re looking to buy and sell, which will be helpful as you start standing up your trading empire.

I spend most of my time these days on the bridge giving orders, rather than flying myself.

During this initial exploration stage, take the time to explore each sector connected to that circular super highway.  You’ll want to know generally what stations are where in each sector because it’ll make your life easier later.  Once you’ve explored the whole ring and the related sectors, you’ll take advantage of your work by taking missions.


The best way of earning money in the beginning of the game is missions, and this is where that core ring of sectors and the highway connecting them comes in.  The best way to get good missions is to pop your ship on to the highway going clockwise or counter-clockwise around the loop, hit M to pull up the map, select the exclamation mark on the left to pull up currently offered missions, and just go for a ride.

Your ship will blast through sector after sector while you watch the available missions that you’ll be offered as you ride along.  I usually pickup a handful before popping off the lazy space-river to start knocking a few of them out.  Missions will net you cash and rep, which will open up access to even more missions.

What I typically look for are missions to destroy turrets or mines, missions to repair satellites, missions to scan stations (even in hostile territory because those are usually in and out before you get engaged), or sometimes ones to bring specific resources to a given station if they specify a specific amount and it’s a commodity that I know I can get easily.   I also look for missions that pay 100k or more, and I will often find them paying over 200k credits.

You want to avoid missions that have you scan and repair stations because they seem bugged right now.  Another mission type to be wary of are the ones that ask you to bring the level of available goods at a given station up to a certain point.  Those will be good later, I think.  Earlier in the game, you just don’t have the resources to lift that much in the limited time they give you.


Cash comes a lot more quickly than you’d expect from doing missions.  You’ll look up and suddenly realize you’ve got a lot more money than felt like you had and you’re ready to purchase a new ship.  This is another situation where having explored all those sectors is helpful because you can right-click a wharf and order a new ship on the fly.  Be sure to crew it and outfit it with a handful of nav beacons, and then split the rest of your deployable space between satellites and resource probes.  I tend to lean a little more heavily towards satellites, but you’ll want plenty of both either way.

Once the new ship is built, you can give it orders from the map by clicking on the My Property icon and then highlighting the ship you want to order.  At this point, there are a couple ways to give the ship orders.  You can right click something on the map, or just out in empty space, for a context-based menu that’ll let you give the ship a specific order.  Queue orders up by repeating as desired.

The environment in X4: Foundations is really well done. Don’t spend your whole time in the map because every sector with worth spending some time admiring.

You can also right-click a commodity to issue a specific buy or sell order.  This is how I complete nearly all my delivery missions.  Though, you can also set permanent auto-trade orders to a ship by selecting it, right-clicking it, going to information, and then selecting the behavior tab.  In here, you can give ships default behavior.  There are a lot of options to chose from, and auto-trading is among them.

Your captain needs to be a certain rank in order to perform actions such as auto-trading, but you can crew the ship with service staff to increase the ship’s total rank, as well.  Either way, you give it the default behavior of auto-trade and then select the commodities you want it to be allowed to trade and maximum jumps.  Once configured, the ship will take off and start generating passive income for you.

The same process can be used to configure mining ships, or nearly anything else.  I’ve heard some say that mining is better because the returns are more consistent, but my handful of traders seem to be pulling in some pretty solid revenue.  I think it really just depends on how you want to play, either is viable.  Both will also help you later as you start building your own stations and sell goods out of your own house.


One of the best tips I can give you is to go wild with satellites and probes.  Satellites cover a decent area, so you can often drop them between stations, allowing you to cover multiple stations with a single satellite.  Sats will keep stations revealed, updating you and your traders with real-time market information, which makes your trading that much better.

I’m not completely certain, but it seems like I don’t get missions from a station unless I have it revealed by either a ship or a satellite.  You definitely have to have found the station, but it also seems like you have to have current information from it in order to get a mission.  Deploying satellites everywhere definitely seems to have improved the numbers of missions I get whenever I fly into a new sector.

I keep a few marines on each ship because they’ll occasionally find a derelict, and that’s a great way to add new ships to your fleet.

I actually built a scout for this and have him flying all around every system deploying satellites and resource probes constantly.  I’ve noticed my traders seem to be bringing in even more money, and it obviously helps me to send my miners to the most lucrative areas, as well.  I’ll queue up a ton of deployments and have him flying every which way to deliver data collectors wherever the whim takes me.  I consider it one of my best investments in game to date.

You Do You

Those are some of the processes I’ve used to jump start my own operations in X4: Foundations, but they don’t even begin to cover all the available tips for even just getting started.  There are so many ways to make solid money in the game and so many different ways to play that everyone is going to find their own way of doing anything.  It’s all viable, and often just as lucrative.

That’s one of the things I really like about X4.  You can play the game any way you want and still be successful.  They’ve done an incredible job of creating a single-player sandbox for you to enjoy and explore.  I’m not even a fraction of the way towards the end game yet and I played all weekend.

Don’t take any of this article as the only way, and not even the best way, to do anything.  Explore the mechanics of the game and figure out how you want to enjoy it best.  Getting past that early game and getting enough money to be able to really start exploring the game mechanics can be a pain, though.  New players to the franchise will especially struggle with content-overload.

I hope you’ve picked up a few tips to jump start your own adventure, though.  At the very least, maybe you’ve gotten a better appreciation for some of the game’s systems you might not have explored as thoroughly as you might have had you not jumped into the game and went straight to war with the natives in the local sector.

Whatever you do, you do you.  Just play the game the way you want, and I’m pretty confident you’ll find a way of turning a digital profit quickly.  If you have questions, post them below and I’ll see if I can help.  I need to get going, though.  I just got a message from Captain Heisenberg that he has more product ready for shipment and I need to go introduce the Holy Order to something that might just give them a new kind of religious experience.


Red Thomas

A veteran of the US Army, raging geek, and avid gamer, Red Thomas is that cool uncle all the kids in the family like to spend their summers with. Red lives in San Antonio with his wife where he runs his company and works with the city government to promote geek culture.