The Game Archaeologist goes to Earth & Beyond: Final memories

The question that lurks deep in the recesses of most MMO gamers' minds -- the question that they never really want to ask -- is what will happen when the lights go out? When your favorite game is finally sent to its resting place in that server farm in the sky, will we still care about it, and if so, what will we be able to take away?

While most of us have yet to face this, considering the longevity of most launched MMOs, it does happen, and it will certainly happen to us sooner or later. And while you won't be able to take your max-leveled, uber-geared character out of the game and into another one, you hopefully have the memories, the friendships, the screenshots, and the bragging rights. With many canceled MMOs, the shutdown is fairly abrupt following the official announcement, although some games, like Earth & Beyond, give players enough time to say their goodbyes and get in those final experiences before everything goes dark.

Like many of the games we've been exploring in The Game Archaeologist, Earth & Beyond may not have enjoyed stellar popularity, but it certainly did have a remnant of dedicated fans who have yet to let the flames of their adoration die down. Today we've got a buffet of E&B goodness: the background story from the manual, final memories from a few fans, and a photo album full of concept art and nostalgic screenshots. Sound good? Let's go!

"A Brief Galactic History" from the Earth & Beyond manual

After two centuries of conflict, Humankind's three races – the Progen, Terrans and Jenquai – had achieved an uneasy balance of power by dividing known space between them.

The Terrans claimed Earth, headquarters to their massive trade corporations. The genetically engineered Progen, bred for perfection, commanded the wastes of Mars. The Jenquai, ever seeking knowledge, created great space stations to orbit the moons of Jupiter.

Peace was shattered when the first Stargate, an ancient artifact built by an unknown race, was discovered. Coveting its secrets for their own, the Jenquai hid the Gate from the other races. However, their efforts were in vain. Within months, a spy employed by the Terran conglomerate InfinitiCorp revealed the Gate's existence to the outraged Terrans and Progen. Humanity was suddenly thrust into conflict, an epic battle over control of the Gate.

The three races fought a devastating nine-year war, known as the Gate War, using weapons far deadlier than any previously conceived. Millions of lives were lost, and millions more would have perished had the Terrans not surprised their foes with a sudden cease-fire proposal. After months of negotiations, the three civilizations agreed to share the Gate and declared an uneasy peace.

However, InfinitiCorp had plans of its own. Under utmost secrecy, its scientists had reverse-engineered the Gate's technology, and within a few short years, the mighty conglomerate announced to the astonished worlds the genesis of the Infinitigate. The rush to colonize the galaxy was on.

Fifty years have passed since the invention of the Infinitigate. Progen, Jenquai, and Terrans alike have thrived, spreading their civilizations across two dozen star systems, exploiting their riches. However, though the races are at peace, acrimony remains. Tension and distrust govern galactic relations, and every citizen fears the day when the spectre of war will again raise its shadow.

Something else, something even more frightening, clutches at the minds of the humans. The aliens who built the Gate -- aliens with clearly superior intelligence and technology -- have yet to return. Where did they go? Will they be coming back? And will they be pleased to find an upstart Humanity colonizing what once belonged to them?

The next chapter in human history is about to begin, and you will play a pivotal role.

Michael Sell: Earth & Beyond lives!

My favorite Earth & Beyond moment was the appropriately named rebirth of my character on the "Sunrise" server that is currently in stress testing through a strong emulator community.

Anyway, the game is back, and the devs are great. We had Santa and the elves giving missions. I also bought the "heart shield" for Valentines Day. The community of people on right now are more dedicated to helping people than the game economy. Sadly, it does lack an economy, but new players will not have a problem finding what they need; simply ask and someone will make it. We have a group of super-builders that people donate to, and they make us whatever. We even have some raid functionality back.

Yep... seeing the "Sunrise" server after years of missing this game was my favorite moment.

Joshua Tompkins: Different from EVE

I used to play that game back in its day, and it's one game that I do miss. I enjoyed it much more then I did EVE Online; it just had a different playstyle that was more appealing to me.

Mushue: Hangin' around

Here's a screenshot of my Jenquai Explorer resting above the rings of Saturn. More so than Freelancer, Earth & Beyond truly made me feel like a lone soul cutting my niche out of the vast universe:

Ryan Keilhofer: Code-breaker

Earth & Beyond was one of my favorite early sci-fi MMOs. I thought it was neat that you could go from our solar system and the neighborhood of our solar system all the way out to the galaxy. The combat was fun and arcadey, and the ship upgrades were neat as well.

However, I think the most interesting part was the quest by the community to decode the alien NPCs' messages. The V'rix would send you a com with gibberish. Once the player community decoded them, they could go on missions and get artifacts. It was nice to have this enigma given by the developers that left it up to the players to solve.
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When not clawing his eyes out at the atrocious state of general chat channels, Justin "Syp" Olivetti pulls out his history textbook for a lecture or two on the good ol' days of MMOs in The Game Archaeologist. You can contact him via email at justin@massively.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.
This article was originally published on Massively.