Frontier: First Encounters (FFE) Frequently-Asked-Questions

By Jeroen van Drongelen and Graham Thurlwell (

© 1995-2004 Jeroen van Drongelen and Graham Thurlwell

Document version 2.9c (updated 31st December 2004)

This FAQ is now produced by Graham 'Jades' Thurlwell, since Jeroen has decided to concentrate on other things. This file is as such a hybrid of mine and Jeroen's experiences, so there may (will) be a different editorial style in some sections.

This file contains information about this game in the form of a question- and-answer style document, oh, let's say.. FAQ. Also, strategies, technical information, hints & tips, and loads of other info about FFE are included. The latest version of this file is available from:

Readers of this file can always contact me in case of wrong information in this file, additional facts, or just to chat about the Elite games. Please make sure that you quote the version number of this FAQ, as there are a number of out of date (and, in some cases, illegally hosted) versions out there.

In addition, more information can be obtained from my FFE site at:-

Here goes...


(Key to symbols: + Updated since last version [2.9b] * New since last version)

1. Introduction

2. Gameplay Questions

3. General Mission Questions

4. The Hand coded (-that includes Thargoid-) Mission walkthroughs

5. Troubleshooting guide / Bug List

6. Tips and Tricks

7. Interesting Star Systems

8. Customising and messing about with the components of FFE

1. Introduction

What is First Encounters? (I'll try to make it short..:)

Frontier: First Encounters (from here on mentioned as FFE) is the third in a science-fiction game series, all of them set in the same universe. This universe is shown to the player as a fully 3D virtual reality-view through the windows of a spacecraft of your choice. This universe contains other ships to interact with, space stations to dock with, planets to land on, etc.

The first of the trilogy, 'Elite', came out in the mid 1980s, and was one of the first games of its kind: not only the arcade element was there, but also the concepts of exploration, earning money, trading, etc. This was about the first of 'virtual reality' games, in a time that VR was just being invented on bigger computers.

Then, in 1993, after a LOT of Elite imitations, 'Frontier' came out. This was the second in the Elite trilogy, and had 'Elite 2' as subtitle. The gameplay itself had not changed, but was greatly expanded in possibilities, including the ability to have fully different solar systems, each appearing to function according to laws of nature, plus a universe that's made accordingly to current theories and beliefs of solar systems positions. The game 'Frontier' was criticized upon, as being dull after a few hours of play, because nothing would happen after the player got himself a nice rank and bank account. Whether or not this was a problem to you really depended on your personality and what you wanted out of the game. Whereas 'Elite' had some secret missions to complete when the player didn't expect it, Frontier didn't.

In 1995, FFE was made, and it addressed the problem of dull gameplay: a plot was made into the game, plus many improvements in graphics, sound, maths, etc. Unfortunately, after the exciting new missions, there seems to be little else to do, but hey, a 'regular' game would have ended by then, wouldn't it?

While there's been quite a lot of controversy about the abrupt end to the plot, intrepid players have hacked into the various files of the game and found out that there should have been a lot more happening, and an early interview with David Braben hinted that there were supposed to be other ways of playing the game. Of course, the numerous bugs and kludges employed to get the game released on time have denied this to us. (A page dedicated to the 'broken missions' can be found at

FFE is a so-called 'open-ended' game. It has no real 'goal' to reach, and it does not 'end' if played long enough, like Frontier and Elite. The player can see for himself what he decides to do with his spaceship, and how to earn his living. In the Frontier universe, a starship commander can take on bounty hunting, smuggling, mining, soldiering, pirating, delivering people or packages, and of course... trading. The money he/she makes can be spent on bigger ships, better weapons, a wide variety of new equipment, or just donating it to charity. There are also numerous 'missions' to fly for other people, including working for the three super-powers to earn a higher ranking. It was the introduction of military ranks and medals to obtain which was one of the new things Frontier and FFE offered over the original Elite.

Features of First Encounters

Who made First Encounters?

FFE was made by a lot of people who appear to work under the name 'Frontier Developments Ltd'. However, the idea and main programming work(?) was done by one of the programmers who wrote Frontier's predecessor "Elite", David Braben. Of course there was a whole team behind FFE, and the names of those people are mentioned in the manual and intro-sequence credits-texts. Some players of FFE find it ironic that the previous game, Frontier: Elite 2 (FE2) had a much smaller team than that which produced FFE...

The programmer Ian Bell, who wrote the first Elite game together with Braben, had no participation in FFE and only a small role in the production of FE2. However, he (and a lot of us Frontier players) feel that he should at least be mentioned in Frontier/FFE credits for more than just the original 1984 Elite credit. He thought up lots of spacecraft shapes and universe-details in Elite, which Mr. Braben used in his Frontier/FFE games. Without Ian Bell, OR David Braben, there would be no Frontier today... For those who would like to see a list of who did what, see the FAQ on Ian Bell's site at

The game was published by GameTek. After having financial difficulties, they were bought out by Take Two Interactive. However, they wanted nothing to do with the game, so the rights have reverted to David Braben's company Frontier Developments. The game has now been re-released as shareware, see The Elite Club's website for more info.

What are the system requirements for First Encounters?

I won't quote the label on the box, I'll tell you my own findings: To play on a MINIMUM system, you need:

However, this configuration will probably cause the game to slow right down to slide-show-speed. I've played FFE on a 486DLC-40, and it was just about playable on 'low detail' level. Here's what you need to run the game so you'll actually have fun:

The game is reported to run smoothly on maximum detail levels + SB16/Midi sound. However, when approaching big and busy star-ports, the frame rate drops noticeably. When a player is at a planet and there are some 20-30 ships around it may be necessary to switch to low detail.

Pentium 100's and above should have very little trouble. On a P120 everything appears to run smoothly, although I suspect a bit of slowdown when there's a lot of smoke close up.

Virtually all systems built since 1996 should have no problems running the game in terms of system requirements, although recent versions of Windows can cause some problems. See later in this FAQ for more info.

What versions are there?

Apparently, there was a UK and a USA version of First Encounters. I live in Europe myself, so I can only give information about the UK version. Apparently there are also translations into a couple of other European languages which are basically the same as the UK version (I'm pretty sure a German version exists).

The 1.00 version of First Encounters was virtually unplayable due to the many programming errors. The Frontier Development team started patching things up over the months that followed, resulting in a few 'patch disks'. The most recent one is v1.06, available from The Elite Club. This fixes a lot of problems, but still leaves a few of them in. Sadly, enough to devote a whole chapter to them. Apparently, this new patch simply overwrites FIRSTENC.EXE so there's no need to apply all patches. Just the original + patch 1.06 will do. The address of the Elite Club's patch section is

If you have the Shareware version from The Elite Club, it is already patched to version 1.06.

How do I know which version I have?

Start the game, watch the intro, and when you see a big octagonal ship with green lasers shooting down all other ships, press SHIFT-V. The version number will be displayed. Most patched games will return 'v1.1 remastered version'.

Please note that there is not an actual 1.1 patch, the most recent official one is v1.06. If you have the Shareware version from The Elite Club, it is already patched to version 1.06. Also, it's possible that earlier patch versions report '1.1 remastered' so the best way to make sure you have the right version is to install FFE from scratch and then the 1.06 patch. If you decide to use John Jordan's JJFFE version, you'll be running the executable that came with that rather than FIRSTENC.EXE so you won't have that problem.

My version is an old one - how do I receive a new one?

You can get a patch that will update your copy of FFE to a more stable version. You can get this from the Internet from The Elite Club at

The JJFFE Alternative

John Jordan has managed to modify the game so it will run from the Windows desktop. This was done by decompiling the v1.06 version, modifying the code and then recompiling it.

The most recent Windows version (at the time of writing, this is V2.8) uses Direct X, so you should be able to get the game to work with any cards or devices that have Windows drivers. If you enable it in the JJFFE config file (ffewin.cfg), your joystick will work properly.

John's JJFFE website is at The site contains all of the info you'll need to get it running, including an FAQ.

2. Gameplay

Space-travel in FFE is quite different than in most space-simulators. Instead of the 'Flight Simulator' feel that most games offer, FFE has a more 'realistic' way of space flight. Read on...

How do I control a starship?

In most situations, the device used to control a starship is a matter of personal preference. However, it must be said that controlling by keyboard alone has become quite difficult. In FFE, the enemy ships evade more effectively than in Frontier, so it's quite hard to track them with keyboard controls. I've found that most people (including myself) use a mouse for steering, and keyboard for everything else (throttle, ECM, etc).

I can't say anything for joysticks, except that I've heard lots of people complain about bugs in the joystick routines. This problem is now covered in the 'Bugs' section. Gametek says it's a game written primarily for mice. Er, that is, it's written for people I guess, but they will be using a mouse. A computer mouse of course, not a real one.. Ha ha.. who would want to use a real mouse...? (it's getting late).

While the original DOS version has buggy joystick support, John Jordan's JJFFE runs in Windows and uses the Windows joystick routines, which should mean that you can use any joystick for which you have Windows drivers.

What are the control keys?

The table below lists all of the key commands for FFE.

Key Function Key Function
A Ship Dive TAB Cycles through all 3 engine modes:
B Energy Bomb
C Centre Galactic Map ENTER If Engines OFF: ACCELERATES ship
If Engines ON: INCREASES Set Speed
D Mining Machine Launch
If Engines ON: DECREASES Set Speed
H Hyperspace
SPACE Fires Lasers ESC Pause Game
L Text Labels On/ Off ESC (again) Enter Preference List
M Launch Missiles and mines (only if Battle Target selected) Page Up Scroll Message Area / BBS Up
Page Down Scroll Message Area / BBS Down
N Navigation Computer < Turn Ship Left (Roll left if 'Use Elite Control Method in space' activated)
R Remote Orbital Map
T Target (Navigation Target or Battle Target) > Turn Ship Right (roll right if 'Elite Control Method in Space' activated)
U Undercarriage Up / Down
X Escape Capsule ? Hyperspace Cloud Analyser
Z Ship Climb

The Autopilot: friend or foe?

Almost everybody uses it, although it can be a pain in the neck some- times: the Autopilot. It's a great tool to get you safely from one docking station to the next while the Commander's reading the papers, or using Time Control to skip travel-time. The downside is, that the Autopilot doesn't handle 'objects in between' very well. It also has the tendency to crash into planets, instead of shutting down in time, and reporting to the commander that the target is near.

I must say that the autopilot functions best in maximum time acceleration mode. Example: You launch from an orbital station and set your autopilot destination to a star port on the planet surface. If you press ALT-F3 to accelerate time, you'll see the planet approach, you'll see the autopilot trying to get on the other side in a rather clumsy process, and chances are you'll see the planet approach too fast, and you'll crash. When you launch and press ALT-F5 (maximum time acceleration) you'll find that the moment you switch on time control, you're safely at your destination.

The autopilot can also be a handy tool to circle around other starships, or scooping up cargo-canisters.

What's the deal with the engines, they have different modes?

An FFE starship interplanetary drive has three modes of operation: OFF, MANUAL, and AUTO:

When the engine mode is MANUAL, you enter a SET-Speed value (by throttling up or down), and your engines automatically try to assume that speed. Also, when you change your heading, the steering rockets will push your ship into the direction you're facing, while attempting to maintain your SET speed. This is a computer-controlled engine mode.

When engines are OFF, you completely disengage all automatic computer control of your engines. You can control your main and retro thrusters, and can steer your ship. This mode can be very handy while scooping up cargo items, or in combat as it can offer you a lot more control. If you have JJFFE, you can control all of your ship's thrusters.

When engines are AUTO, the Autopilot will control all throttle and navigation functions, and fly towards the target set by you. When the target appears to be a Starport or orbital station, the autopilot will attempt docking/landing.

I know the engine modes, but how do I use them?

All starships have two head-up display cross-haired sights: one for direction, and one for actual movement. When those two crosshairs are both visible right in the centre of the screen of you (slid into each other) you are looking in the same direction as your ship is moving. You'll notice this by looking at the stars fly by.

Engines in Manual mode

When you slightly change your 'facing' direction, the 'movement' cross-hair will slowly follow. Slowly, because it takes time for your ships' steering-rockets to push you into the right trajectory. And the faster you go, the longer it takes. 'Real' physics you see...

Engines in OFF mode (full manual control)

When you change the direction of your ship, expect no change in the actual movement of your ship (other than gravitational influences) until you start pressing ENTER or SHIFT to fire your rear/forward engines. So, when you slightly point your nose up about 10 degrees, the 'movement' sight will not follow your 'direction' sight. But when you keep pressing ENTER, you'll notice the direction changing.

I keep crashing into planets!

The braking process is something to get used to in space. Sometimes, you must start braking a long way before you even SEE the planet you have business on. A handy tip might be: always point your nose (cross- hair) a little along the side of the planet. That way, when you're going too fast and cannot brake in time, you'll just swoop past the atmosphere, and you can try again by turning around, and approaching a little slower this time. When the planet is in sight, I suggest a speed of 30 KM/s.

When you're going too fast and are about to crash, you might want to turn your ship around, facing the opposite direction of movement, switch the engines OFF, and keep pressing ENTER. Remember, your aft engines are the strongest, and in engine OFF mode, they produce a little more thrust. You might want to point your ship 90 deg. upwards, so you'll avoid the planet altogether, instead of just trying to slow down.

One key thing to take into account is that your retro thrusters are often a lot slower than your main thrusters, so it'll take longer to slow down. This is especially the case in the larger ships like the Boa or Panther. Obviously, the bigger the ship the longer it will take to slow down. Flipping the ship round and using the main thrusters as 'retros' is a good idea.

I can't land manually. Explain!

Check the following conditions:

If your altitude is around 1000, and all the above conditions are OK, you should make a safe landing within a minute. A little longer on low gravity planets. Try landing on Earth's moon.. It takes ages for you to descent on SET speed 0.

A quicker way to descend, though very risky if you get it wrong, is to set your speed to 0 as normal, and then turn engines OFF. You will descend much quicker, accelerating on the way down. This is due to you not being slowed down by the thrusters. To slow your descent, turn engines back on. Note that the fastest speed you can get away with landing at is about 100 Km/h.

Help! One of my medals/permits has just vanished!

Relax! For reasons know only to David Braben, the medals and permits section of the commander information screen overflows by one line, so some of your medals and permits will effectively be displayed underneath the top of the console.

If you get another medal or permit, it might result in the bottom item in the first column moving below the instrument panel.

If you click the commander status button again you can see that the bottom line flashes up briefly so that you can read the hidden text. You haven't lost anything...

Where do I get a Class 3 Military Drive?

One of the slightly annoying new features of FFE is that systems selling this drive are very rare. I am on the lookout for systems selling them, these are listed below. This list is confirmed for Floppy v1.06 / JJFFE.

The galactic information maps on my website include maps with 'Tech Level' information. Only systems marked as being 'Tech Level 12' have the drive for sale. The maps, together with an explanation of the 'Tech Levels', can be found at

Where do I get a Class 4 Military Drive?

The Class 4 Military Drive is never for sale at shipyards. The only ship it is fitted to is the Argent's Quest, which you get by doing the Argent's Quest / Thargoid missions.

Where do I get a Large / Small Plasma Accelerator?

Like the Class 3 Military drive, Plasma Accelerators are difficult to get hold of. I am on the lookout for systems selling them, these are listed below. This list is confirmed for Floppy v1.06 / JJFFE.

The galactic information maps on my website include maps with 'Tech Level' information. Only systems marked as being 'Tech Level 12' have Plasma Accelerators for sale. The maps, together with an explanation of the 'Tech Levels', can be found at

Stardock doors open, I hit 'accelerate', but nothing happens

Make sure you have refuelled your internal tank. Press F3, F10 and click 'refuel'. Then accelerate again, and see what happens. Also, check that you have the right kind of fuel for the right hyperdrive!

I can't hyperspace

When you're just starting, you have a ship that can hyperspace a relatively short distance. Make sure you select a star system on the map that returns 'Fuel Required:' information on the lower-left on your star map, instead of 'Out of Range'.

Also, you can't jump when you're very close to a stardock or space station. The manual says why.

And finally, when you have engaged your autopilot, hyper jumping is not possible. Switch your engines to MANUAL or OFF and try again.

The ship flat spins wildly and is difficult to control / My joystick doesn't work properly

There seems to be a bug of some kind in the joystick routines in FFE, and the program can misbehave when some (all??) joysticks are used. I'm not sure what the problem is caused by, but it seems the only solution is to unplug your joystick before loading FFE (NOTE:- if you unplug the joystick while FFE is still running the game will crash). Fly using mouse instead (hold down the right button while moving the mouse to move the ship)

Although there's no official patch from Frontier Developments that will fix this, if you use John Jordan's JJFFE version of the game, the joystick support has been fixed.

Laser fires continuously while docked

This is another joystick problem. If you unplug the joystick before running FFE this problem will not happen anymore. As far as I'm aware, this bug has been fixed in JJFFE.

Autopilot's destroyed. How do I get home?

Don't Panic! You get home using manual controls. When you're done screaming, here's the deal:

The easiest way of getting to a safe place is to pick a planetary starport, as it saves time wasted on docking station-positioning. When you don't have atmospheric shielding, try to pick a MOON to land on.

First, set your target using your map. Point your nose towards it, and remember the distance (AU). Let's say the distance is 10 AU. Then, accelerate using the ENGINE OFF method (so keep ENTER depressed) until you're exactly half way there (5 AU). Then, turn your ship around and do the same. In the same time-frame, you should be at the same speed you were at, before you throttled up, or close to it. Then pick a comfortable speed (not too fast) and use a quick time acceleration (SHIFT F3 or maybe F4) to approach your target. If you find yourself 'spinning' and swooping around your target, then you were going too fast to begin with. Slow down, and if necessary, use faster time-acceleration. If your target is on the surface of a planet, it might be a good idea to establish atmospheric flight first, and then fly around the planet with an ALTITUDE reading AVAILABLE (that means you're well within the atmosphere). Fly about 30000 km/h, and use time-acceleration very carefully. To find out if you're going the right way, face the ground, and examine it. You should see your targeted green square somewhere. Align with it, and go around the planet to reach it.

How do I operate the Transmission Jammer?

The jammer is automatic - as soon as you enter the system where the satellite is the jammer will activate itself. You don't need to activate it yourself. Remember that the satellite will only be jammed when you're in the same system as it - once you leave, it will transmit your ID unless you've nuked it.

How is the Trade-In at the Shipyard Worked Out?

When you buy a new ship, the game estimates how much your ship is worth, and alters the purchase price of the new ship accordingly. If your current ship is worth less than the new one, you will pay the purchase price minus the value of your current ship. If the new ship is worth less than your current ship (rare, but people do sometimes go for smaller ships) then you'll get the value of your current ship minus the value of the new one.

Now, while you'd think that the shipyards would be generous and give you the value of whatever equipment was fitted to your ship, they actually don't. The only factors the shipyard takes into account are the value of the ship's hull plus the value of the drive - so a Cobra Mark Three with a Class 3 Military Drive is worth more than a Cobra Mark Three in identical condition but with a Class 3 Standard Drive.

Therefore, you should only sell your ship once you've removed all of the equipment at the upgrades screen. Please note that shipyards can only remove items of equipment that they have on sale as they won't have the tools (I think the only exception to this might be drives).

3. General Mission Info

Where do I find them?

Missions and tasks to complete are found at bulletin boards on orbital stations and spaceports. On almost every BB there are some people who want other people killed, people who require transport for themselves, or just the ones that want information. Also, when in a Federal or Imperial system, there's always the military to work for, who have the more exciting missions. Also, there are missions that have a direct influence on the newspapers and vice versa. Most interesting things you can do with those.

What sort of general missions are there?

Although the number of missions in the game are infinite, the nature of these can be categorized. I'll attempt to do just that. The common kind of missions are:

Explanation of each type of mission


The lowest paid, least interesting missions. Person A wants to find person B, and if you've seen person B, you can tell person A, and person A will pay you an incredibly low amount of credits. This mission requires you to remember the names of people you've seen so far on the bulletin boards. Sometimes a 'wanted' person is on board your ship. In this case, I advise you not to turn him over, it will damage your reputation. And besides, the credit you get for it is not worth it. Turning over your passenger should only be done if you have agreed on getting half or all of the fee up front.

Delivery (civil & military)

When taking on a delivery-mission, you are expected to take a small item (which doesn't take up any cargo-space) and deliver it to a nearby system. The risk of this mission depends upon the item(s) that are carried. When you accept a delivery mission, and get 2000CR or more upon completion, you can guess the item you're carrying is 'hot', and some people ARE going to try and stop you. Also, the person who's asking you to do the mission has information on the risk you're taking with it. This mission-type is also found in the Military or Navy.

Taxi/Transport (usually civil only)

These missions are virtually the same as the delivery mission, except that you now 'deliver' people or other sentient beings to nearby star systems. These missions are paid better than delivery missions, but require you to have enough 'passenger cabins' in your ship.

Assassination (civil & military)

These missions, only for commanders with a fair Elite ranking (about 'Below average' will do for the low-priced assassinations), require you to track down a target ship, and eliminate it using information you got from the person who gave you the mission. Most ships you are to destroy are bigger transport vessels (Lion transports, Boa's, Clippers). If you want to keep your record clean, you need a hyper- space cloud analyzer to track the target to a nearby star system, and hyper-jump after him. Needless to say, you'll have to know how to fight. This mission-type is also found in the Military or Navy.

Recon (usually military only)

You score high with the Military command if you succeed in these missions. These missions require you to photograph a site using the camera you're given (and you can keep it :).

When you photograph a site from a very close distance ( < 10KM I think) you'll get extra credit for it. These close-quarter recon shots are classed as "excellent" by the military powers, and earn you an extra 4 ranking points (explained later).

Bombing (usually military only)

These kind of missions are almost solely found in Military or Navy. Paid well, these missions have a high 'promotion value' for your Military career. You are to destroy a specific site on a planet or moon in a nearby star system, using a nuclear missile that you are given (make sure you have space for it!). Expect heavy opposition when you approach the target.

Classified missions (military only)

These are essentially the same as normal recon missions, but the system will be guarded by a military defence satellite. These broadcast your ship ID to whoever owns the base, and they will send hoards of assassins to take you out.

Fortunately, your employers will give you a transmission jammer to block the satellite's signal while you're in the system (the jammer is automatic) and a nuclear missile to destroy the satellite so it can't transmit when you leave. As soon as you enter the system, the transmission jammer automatically activates itself.

The reason you can only accept the mission if you have a military drive is that the satellite appears to send some sort of signal to all ships in the system, which will overload a hydrogen drive and destroy the unfortunate ship the drive is installed on. Kind of like a super energy bomb. Thanks to Huug Schenk for doing a series of tests of this theory and mailing me his findings.

The Satellite is a very large craft, with a civil ID(letter,letter,-,number,number,number). It will be orbiting one of the planets in the system, and is visible on the 3D system map. Select it as your autopilot target, and activate stardreamer until you're close to it.

Once you can see it, select it as your combat target (hit F5 to bring up the combat console, left click on the red circle and then left click on the satellite) and fire the nuke at it by clicking the black and white missile icon.

Once the satellite's dead, do the recon in the normal way.

What are Hand-coded missions?

These are the missions you bought FFE for...:) These are the missions that are coded into the game by hand, and not by some randomised mission generator (like all those 'Bomb this, Photograph that' missions). They also have a direct link to the real Universe, and the things that are happening in it. Your actions will be front-page news in at least one of the five newspapers, and these newspapers often contain 'clues' as where to go for these more exciting missions. Walkthroughs of the hand-coded missions are given in a different chapter, because it might decrease the 'adventure' element in the game. Read at your own discretion.

What's the difference between Military missions and other missions?

Military missions have a direct influence on what the Military think of you. This is noticeable in the form of a ranking system, but also the availability of missions. A commander who's not trusted by the Military (or who is inexperienced), is not given as much, and as exciting missions as an experienced and trusted commander.

How does Reputation work in the game?

As well as the more obvious ratings in the game, such as combat rating and military rank, FFE also takes into account your general reputation when deciding whether you will be suitable for taking a mission or whether you can gain other benefits.

Your reputation goes up and down based upon how you perform civil missions, successful deliveries will improve your standing whereas failure tarnishes it.

In order to allow you to recover from a bad rep, some missions will ignore your reputation. Conversely some missions will require a very good reputation. (Both extremes are basically managed by a random factor at mission creation). The part most people see if whether they can get an extra 10%, half payment in advance or full payment in advance since it uses the same system to decide whether or not to do so with another random factor.

It is I guess one of those areas where the game really comes into it's own and these situations only rarely arise since a player will usually perform a mission to the best of his ability assuming it will gain him something. A pure "take the money and run" player would likely find he runs out of customers very quickly.

The effects of a good reputation, and how to get one

A good reputation built up through sustained success over several missions can be exceptionally useful if transporting indivduals or their parcels is your main line of work. Particularly trusted commanders can ask prospective employers for a higher fee (typically 10%) and even for half or all of the money up front.

The most obvious way to enhance your reputation is to complete parcel and taxi missions on time. This shows prospective clients that you provide an efficient and prompt service. Some of the hand-coded missions (including the Wiccan Ware and Soholia Medicine Relief ones) also can improve your reputation. Finally, big donations to charity are always worthy of praise.

The effects of a bad reputation, and how to get one

You know when your reputation is getting bad when answering a BBS advert requesting transport gets you a response along the lines of "I'm [name] and I need [task] but I won't deal with someone of your reputation."

The best way to see a bad reputation in action is to take a few missions (e.g. deliver x to y) and make sure you fail them. Each failure will cause your reputation to take a hit. Lying to people putting out 'Missing Person' adverts also works. You could of course hack your reputation to a low level, but starting a new commander (who will have a neutral reputation) is easier.

This section contains information contributed by Mark Hetherington

What about ranking, how does it work, and why is it important?

You have 3 forms of ranking: one for the Federation, one for the Empire, and one from the Elite Federation of Pilots ('Elite rating'). The ones for the Empire and Federation have mostly to do with the military missions you'll be flying. Do them right, and you'll get promotions, and the higher your military rank is, the more missions you will be able to take. For instance, Imperial Bombing missions are available if you are at least a 'Baron'. And, when you are just an Outsider, you'll only see delivery missions on the Navy rosters.

The ranks are worked out on a points system, with each type of mission being accorded a certain value. As you continue to do missions, your points score will increase along with it. At certain scores the program will decide to award you a promotion.

Military Ranks

NoneOutsider 0
Private Serf 1
Corporal Master 16
Sergeant Sir 81
Sgt-Major Squire 256
Major Lord 625
Colonel Baron 1,296
Lieutenant Viscount 2,401
Lt. Commander Count 4,096
Captain Earl 6,561
Commodore Marquis 10,000
Rear Admiral Duke 14,641
Admiral Prince 20,736

Points scale
delivery=2 assassination = 14 photo = 16bombing = 18 excellent photo:20

Medals, and how to get them

Every so often, the military may deem you worthy of a medal. The medal you get depends on what you've done. Here's a list of the medals you can win, and when they are awarded:-

Military Medals
FederationEmpireWhen awarded
Certificate of Valour Crimson Brassard First 'important' delivery
Starburst Black Polygon First secret delivery
Purple Omega Golden Spike First assassination
Vermilion Crest Platinum Cross First Photo mission
Blue Excelsior Legion of Honour First 'excellent' photo
Frontier Medal Celestial Warrior First bombing mission

An example of an 'important' item is gravatic detonators. Note that your first photo mission shouldn't be 'excellent' otherwise you won't get the 4th medal.

Also, there appears to be a bug which may prevent you from getting the earlier medals. I do not know what causes this, or how the problem can be fixed.

How is the Elite Rating calculated?

The 'Elite rating' has nothing to do with how well you perform your duties. It's just how many ships you've defeated. You start out as 'Harmless', and when you've destroyed 4 ships, you're promoted to 'Mostly Harmless'. Keep this up until you're 'Average' or better still, 'Competent', and people on the bulletin boards trust you to do their high-paid tasks. I advise you to get 'Competent' as soon as possible, because the really neat missions are only given to Competents.

Despite what the manual says, the Elite Rating is still determined purely on the number of kills you get. In case you're wondering, 6000 kills will make you Elite. The ranking system is the same as that of Frontier Elite 2, and the number of kills required for each rank are as follows:-

Combat Ratings
Rating Kills
Mostly Harmless 4
Poor 8
Below Average 16
Average 32
Above Average 64
Competent 128
Dangerous 1,000
Deadly 3,000
ELITE 6,000

If you're wondering how this compares to other versions of Elite, take a look at this file:-

4. The Hand coded (that includes Thargoid) Missions Walk through

(WARNING: Reading this part might decrease the fun of playing)

These missions are special, different from the others. They can have an effect on the game like no other event. They might even give you nice things for your ship to keep...

The times listed is mostly the time that the mission is FIRST sighted. Sometimes the real action takes place months after the time listed. Monitor the newspapers closely, for they will provide information about these hand coded missions.

A more detailed walk through of the missions can be found at:-

Wiccan Ware race

This one's easy. Just pick up a parcel and bring it to Alioth. You should be able to get there using 2 jumps, you figure out how to. If you didn't win the race, you might want to restore your game, and try again. I suspect there is a random factor here.

Disease at Soholia

Not really so much of a 'mission' than a task to perform. In the first weeks of game-time, there is an ad on the BBS of Soholia from someone who needs medical supplies for the planet. Pick them up at a neighbouring star system and sell them on Soholia. No credit, just a whole lot of cash, even with 4 tonnes at a time. You might be able to buy a Viper after that, or a Class 2 Military Drive for your Saker.

Art delivery to Beta Hydri

The timing on this mission cam be quite tight, so be prepared to drop everything to do it (or save up for a Class 2 Military Drive first). Someone in the Federation wants a piece of artwork known in the Empire as the Duval Artifact taken from Checkovport in Achenar (1,-4) to Scott Town in Beta Hydri (0,-2). The Empire probably won't be too happy about you doing this, as it appears that the artefact isn't quite legitimately obtained...

Assassination of Dentara Rast

In the system of Tiliala [-4, -1] there's going to be a civil war. You can decide to assassinate a key figure in this war, Dentara Rast, by taking on this mission from a bulletin board. Expect a price on your own head when you do this. This is a typical assassination mission, with the exception that you must assassinate her BEFORE she hyper-jumps. You'll get a criminal record this way, and you'll be fined 10000 credits in the Federation, Alliance, and Empire. So there's going to be not much left from that 50000C hit.

A word of warning - if you wait for the target ship to hyperspace and kill it at its destination, you won't get credit for the kill. Blow it away before it jumps, and get out fast!

Kill the assassin of Dentara Rast

When you don't kill Rast herself, just wait a few weeks, and you'll find a mission in which you must kill Rast's assassin. A more 'noble' mission, this is. The Federation and the Empire won't blame you for this, although you'll still get the illegal firing fine.

As with the Rast hit, you may have to take out the target before it jumps to get credit.

The 2 hitch-hikers

These turn out to be Federation spies, so if you're an Imp-lover don't do it. Bring 2 hitch-hikers to Solo's Rock in the Imperial system Urtiz (3,-4), and pick them up later to bring them back to Singh Starport in the Federation system Edethex (3,-3). You'll see an article in Imperial Herald before you're supposed to return to pick them up claiming that two spies have been captured. Ignore it, your passengers aren't them. What they did in the mean time....? "Don't ask, don't tell".

The single visitor to Thompson's Planet

This has something to do with the 'Destroy Rockforth legal academy' mission. A single person must be transported to a star system far west. I suspect he is the one who creates a 'diversion' later on, when you are to destroy a building on the same world.

Destroy Rockforth legal academy

You are to turn the Rockforth building in Ackwada (-5,-3) into a nice, flat, plain piece of ground. It's just like a typical bombing-mission, but there's a bug here: the building sometimes doesn't get destroyed when you hit it from close-distance. You have to fire on it from +/- 200KM away, and hit SHIFT-F4 to advance time. The mission will score only then. You'll see a "DONE" in your mission roster when you're successful. If you're feeling brave, you can also check the damage by doing a low-level flypast. If there are columns of flame, the base has been destroyed.

Transport a Dolphin

If you read RIG, you'll know there's a lonely dolphin somewhere, waiting for some company. That's your job, if you like. You need a passenger cabin for this.. So long, and thanks for all the fish. "Admiral, there be dolphins here!"

Pick up hitch-hiker

A woman (probably a Federal spy) has to be extracted from the Imperial world she's been working on, which is Miargre (-8,-3). You'll have to get her out. You should drop her off at the nearest Federal base, which is Wafaphi (-6,-3). When you do, you're instantly promoted one rank by the Federal Military.

This mission has a bug, which can catch you out. Sometimes you pick her up, take her back to a Federal world and you'll get both a 'Well done' and a 'You suck' message. I'm not 100% certain why this happens, but two things to try are avoiding removing your passenger cabin until you've completed the mission and making sure you don't enter and leave Miargre until it's time to pick Jan up.

The 5 Furies statue

This mission has a bug: the dates given are impossible for you to complete this mission. I found out that there's a typo in the dates on the contract screen. You don't have to wait until the first date to pick it up - the only date that matters is the delivery one.

So, get the mission, travel immediately to Fort O'Brien in Cemiess (-2,-2), and you're given the statue straight away. Drop it off at Oliverport in Epsilon Eridani (1,0) and you'll get your reward.

Assassinate Dr. Joreb Innitu (military 'special' mission)

A scientist comes too close to the truth. Need I say more..:) Take him down BEFORE he hyperspaces, it's the only way. It seems that the mission is scored as a standard military assassination. It's quite likely that this will be the first assassination you take from the military, so success will get you the appropriate medal (see the section on medals above).

The Thargoid missions part 1

You must be Elite ranking 'Competent' to get this mission

The papers mention something about Mick Turner who has died on his exploration mission to the Far North. Around 4 October 3252 you must go to Turners Requiem on Fortress Culloden, on Alioth [0,-4]. Go to the Requiem, and donate the maximum amount of credits. Then accept the mission, but don't go North just yet.

If you haven't enabled 'use file extensions' yet, this is a good time to do so (in the Others section in the options screen). If you make a mistake in the missions, you will be able to go back to a previous save to try again. Make sure that you save just after accepting the first mission and make sure you don't delete the save. The mission does not generate a contract, but there seems to be a time limit in this mission - you must be back at Alioth after doing the first mission before the end of December 3252. Failure to do so (for example because it took a long time to get the nuke and transmission jammer from a classified mission) will result in you being ignored when you get back and you will not get the second mission. Saving regularly is a good idea.

If you've gotten the information from the 'Journalists Welfare Fund' you know that the System you're going to is protected by a Defence Satellite which gives away your ID and position to INRA. So, you must first travel to a Federation or Imperial system and get a CLASSIFIED MISSION in order to receive a Transmission Jammer and a Nuclear Missile. You have no intention to complete that mission, but you really need those items for your Thargoid encounters. If your military rating is important to you, you may want to take the nuke from the opposing side.

When you have the stuff, travel to coordinates 32,32 and go to Pleione. In your Remote orbital map, go to Pleione 4B's orbit and you'll find a satellite. Target it, travel towards it, and... DESTROY it! If you don't, INRA will chase you forever, wherever you'll go.

Then, do what you're told by the Mission funders: use your map to locate the wrecked Turner's Quest, and take a few pictures. Also, look for its flight recorder that's there flying around somewhere. Make sure the 'object's labels' are visible by pressing L, target the flight recorder, and B towards it. Make sure you have room in your ship, by dumping some radioactives (the price for peace with Thargoids :).

You can also visit the wrecked Thargoid vessel, but it's not a mission requirement I think. The Thargoid ship is marked with "???" for its ID. There's lots of Alien Items there to scoop.

Then fly back to Alioth. You'll get a message congratulating you, and asking you to land at New Rossyth. Shortly after doing so, you should get the briefing for the next mission.

'Small' Bug:
Upon landing at Alioth and fast-forwarding to the next day, you may find that you are unable to take off, and text headed 'Message from INRA Counter-Intelligence Directorate' will appear. This might have been another mission, but there aren't any buttons for more info/accepting. You can get out of this by hitting F4 to get to the BBS screen (this might be fixed in JJFFE).

If you want to know more about what might have happened if the INRA mission had worked, take a look at:-

The Thargoid missions part 2

When you return from the successfully completed Turner mission, you are given the chance to go and meet the REAL bugs -- the Thargoid race. Once again, you're given the Argent's Quest at your disposal. This time, the Transmission Jammer and Nuclear Missile are standard issue, so you don't have to take a military mission anymore to get them. What you DO have to do however, is to take as much fuel with you as possible. To make sure you get enough, it's best if you free up some more cargo space. Hop over to Gateway, sell the Large Plasma Accelerator and replace it with either a 100MW Beam Laser or a Small Plasma Accelerator. Then buy as much military fuel as you can get. You'll thank me later ;-).

Don't forget to save your game before jumping to Polaris.

Go to Polaris (check your contract screen for the details), there's a Thargoid Forward base there, and a Thargoid shuttle. When arrived at Polaris, do the same as in Pleione: destroy that satellite first. It's at Polaris 3D.

Then, you can use your Navigation computer to quickly select '???'. That's the Thargoid shuttle, and you can engage aviation and time- control. When you're going to dock with it, save your game first. When docked, notice your radar. It's suddenly filled with dots. Go to the map and press 'C' to centre your chart on your current location. You'll notice that you're no longer at Polaris, but at Miackce, FAR north. Launch, and you find yourself floating between curious Thargoid (Thargon?) ships. The game's afoot.

What happens next is up to you. I suggest you don't fire, but wait and fly around a bit. Sometimes you might have to press ALT-F2 or F3 to speed up time, until you get the message from the Thargoids to dock at their space station. Save your game, and then press 'N' to select their docking station (the top, or first option). You can use time acceleration on the way to the station, but I recommend you don't use it while actually docking.

Wait for the Thargoids to disarm your ship. The Thargoids will then propose a mission to save their race from extinction... If pressing their response buttons "YES/NO" do not work, you'll have to restore your game. I suggest you say YES because the Thargoids will kill you when you don't. You know too much by now.

The Thargoid missions part 3

You must travel all the way back to human space, to the system Hotice [-3,-2] (aren't you glad I made you take all that fuel with you? :-)) and get a vaccine for the Thargoids. Go to the target on Hotice, fire your laser at it (the Thargoids said 'missiles', but that doesn't work) and when you see the bunker open up (the shape will change and there will be flames coming from it), land nearby it. Deploy your Mining Machine and wait a minute. Then retract it again, and look in your inventory. You should see a 'Mycoid Vaccine' in your hold. When you don't, make sure you have ROOM for it by dumping some radioactives. If you got it, blast off towards Miacke [37,144]. If you didn't follow my advice about getting extra fuel before going to Polaris, you might have to refuel somewhere to have enough fuel to get back. I think you must go to a Federal or Imperial world since the Alliance of Independent Systems expect results from you when you enter/dock at their systems.

If all goes well, you get a message from the Thargoids when you enter Miackce, asking you to dock again. Press 'N' to select "???" again and engage Stardreamer. Save your game before docking (save your game before hypering in, for that matter). When docked, you'll get a message asking you to wait briefly. Do just this--don't engage time control yet! After a few seconds the Thargoids thank you, and are willing to give you a Thargoid War Vessel as a present. You can accept it, or decline it, but you've come all across the Galaxy for this..admit it! Click YES and when they tell you to enter time control, and press SHIFT-F5. Then wait until you see the familiar human background change to the alien interior, and you get the message GO IN PEACE. Blast off towards human space, namely Alioth, and receive a big well done message from the Alliance. You can keep your ship, and sell the goodies in it. You will be able to reach home in TWO jumps!!

Once you've finished at Alioth, go to the system where you got the Classified mission to face the music. After that, the Universe is yours! By the way, contrary to what the Alliance tell you, you are not actually outlawed in Federal or Imperial space - you probably would've been had the game been properly finished, but not in the version that shipped.

Bugs in this mission

Sometimes the Thargoid stations are busy. Restore game, hyperspace in again and see. Or, hang around in front of the docking bay and have the ship crash into you. This might actually be fixed on v1.06. Lots of save games required for this one.

Sometimes, when you return to Alioth, you receive a rather neutral message that you are paid, and your old ship is given back to you. When this happens, restore the game back from where you blast off from the Thargoid station in your alien ship. I don't exactly know what causes this "bug", but you might want to try again, and try to avoid any populated systems on your way back. Perhaps it's random, I don't know. But I have solved many Thargoid-mission returns this way. You can keep your Thargoid ship.

5. Troubleshooting guide / Bug List


Even with the v1.06 patches, FFE is still a bit unstable. Therefore I strongly urge you to leave 'extensions' on (i.e. jades.01) for the saved games. If you get caught by an unrecoverable bug in a saved state, restoring the previous save may rescue your commander. Another thing that this can be useful for is restoring your position if you make a big mistake in play.

Software / Technical Questions

What operating system do I need?

The normal version of FFE only runs in DOS - Windows 3.xx, Windows 9x, ME, 2000 and XP won't run it at all in Windows mode. This is due to the way that the game has been written. If you're using the original version 1.06 copy of FFE, you should reboot into DOS mode if possible, since this seems to be the best way to run the game.

However, it is now possible to run it in Windows 9x by using a modified version. See the next section for info on this.

How do I run the game on Windows?

FFE is a DOS only game in its normal release version (v1.06 CD and 3.5"), and therefore can only be run if you've done a command prompt only boot. This is possible on Windows 95 and Windows 98, but versions of Windows released after that (ME, 2000 and XP) either have no DOS support at all or it is difficult to get a workable command prompt session.

While it is possible to get the offical version of the game running eventually, this is not with out a lot of messing about, which may be difficult for the less advanced user. Using JJFFE is a lot less hassle and it actually has more bug fixes than v1.06.

Game won't run. What are the configuration tricks?

FFE was written to be run from DOS, but people have had some trouble getting it to run on the more recent versions of Windows (95,98,ME). On 95 and 98, it is relatively easy to get to a proper MS DOS session, but this is more difficult on ME. NT, 2000 and XP apparently don't have proper DOS support so running the game will be problematic.

It is much easier just to use JJFFE (see above) since this runs direct from the Windows Desktop.

FFE might have trouble with computer memory, or the way your memory has been set up. Try the following configuration using DOS 6.xx or the memory managers you get with Windows:

; ** CONFIG.SYS **
Device = C:\Windows\Himem.sys (Or C:\DOS\HIMEM.SYS if you don't have Windows)
Files = 40
Buffers = 40
LastDrive = Z
Stacks = 9,256
Dos = High
;This line is for CD version owners, in my case the Toshiba CD driver
Device = C:\Tools\TOSHV111.SYS /D:CD0

@Echo Off
rem Put your Soundcard settings or other SET's here, for example:
Set BLASTER=A220 I5 D1 H5 P330 T6


rem Put your Soundcard drivers, CDROM MSCDEX + other drivers here

Diagnose /s
C:\Tools\SBMPU401 /e
rem only load mscdex if you are using the CD version


Game runs, but no music is heard

This information only applies to the official V1.06 of FFE running in DOS. If you're using a version of JJFFE, techinical questions should be addressed to John Jordan - after reading the information on the JJFFE website.

Because of the age of FFE, it only supports a limited number of soundcards compared to Windows, although in practice most soundcards released had the capability to emulate one or more of the Soundblaster range of soundcards (which in the DOS and early windows era were as close to 'Industry Standard' as hardware got).

If you have a wave table add-on card on a Soundblaster 16 soundcard, try downloading the SB-MPU patch from Creative labs. Enable it like I did in the AUTOEXEC.BAT, and you'll have less trouble. Also goes for a number of other games.

Also use FFE's latest version, 1.06. There were bugs with the sound in earlier ones. Of course, make sure you've run SETUP to set your sound equipment!

If you own a Creative Labs Soundblaster AWE64 card (Value and Gold) and have Windows 95, you may find that the DOS drivers for your card supplied on the accompanying CD will refuse to install even if in DOS Mode. You will get digital sound from the card when adding the soundcard settings in your AUTOEXEC.BAT file, but MIDI won't work.

What you need is a file called 95dosapps, which contains updated drivers for using the soundcard in DOS mode. You'll find the relevant file at in the tech support/drivers/awe directory

Once you've installed the files properly, you will need to select AWE 32 as your soundcard. Be amazed at how much better the music sounds! Pity it doesn't improve the sound effects...

Game runs, but no digisound is heard

This information only applies to the official V1.06 of FFE running in DOS. If you're using a version of JJFFE, techinical questions should be addressed to John Jordan - after reading the information on the JJFFE website.

When booting 'clean' or indeed cleaner than normal :) make sure you DO have all your soundcard drivers loaded and configured correctly. Your soundcard's settings must be set accordingly to FFE's sound settings, and with hard resets, soundcards are returned to their default settings. Also use FFE's latest version, 1.06. There were bugs with the sound in earlier ones. Of course, make sure you've run SETUP to set your sound equipment!

My mouse doesn't work

Because offical FFE runs in DOS, you need to have a DOS mouse driver loaded because the Windows one only works in Windows. You may have got a DOS mouse driver with your PC, but if you're desperate I recommend you download the Logitech mouse driver from:-

Game crashes when I try to fire laser

You might have one of the early versions of FFE. Patch the game to the latest version (1.06). Also, you might try to delete the file HMISET.CFG from your FirstEnc game directory, and re-run SETUP.EXE from this dir. Try auto-detecting, and make sure there are no IRQ or DMA conflicts. This bug is known to exist in version 1.01 or below.

The game bombs out with an 'Unhandled Exception Error' and lots of numbers

Try the configuration files AUTOEXEC.BAT and CONFIG.SYS mentioned earlier. Remove any EMM386 or QEMM memory managers, but you must leave HIMEM.SYS in. If this error occurs during Thargoid missions, there's nothing I can do at the moment. There seems to be no solution for it other than rebooting and restoring earlier games. Make sure you have the latest version of FFE, though. In version 1.06 I never saw this error.

I load a game, but FFE returns me to the options menu immediately or I load a game, but FFE says 'No Commander File'

There is a problem with FFE's save-game slots. The 28th slot is never 'loadable' (this bug is fixed in JJFFE). So, delete some of your earlier games and try again. You also might want to switch directories if you don't want your games deleted.

Also make sure all your commander files have an A attribute. When in DOS mode, type ATTRIB +A *.* in your commander directory. When in Windows, bring up your commander directory, choose 'select all,' right click in the directory viewer, select properties from the menu and then make sure the box next to 'Archive' has a tick in it. Without A attributes your commander files might seem to be gone, so if you've made a full backup recently you must attrib them back.

If the program keeps rejecting your commander file, just try another. If this keep happening during Thargoid missions, there's nothing I can do about it. Just make sure you have version 1.06, it doesn't seem to happen there.

Windows 3.11 says 'Borland 32 bit DPMI module needed' and Windows 95 says 'this module cannot be run on WINs32', or something in that direction

Gametek has informed me that FFE is not, and will not be, compatible with all Windows versions. But then, who needs Windows eh? Windows 95 users will have to make an MS-DOS session of it by right-clicking FIRSTENC.EXE and choose Properties. Alternatively, choose 'command prompt only' when booting.

You can run the game in Windows if you use JJFFE. See above for more info.

FFE slows down to a crawl on a >= 486DX/66 CPU

This can be a number of things. According to some people in, it can be caused by a plugged-in joystick when no joystick is selected in SETUP. There is no joystick options in FFE setup, incidentally. It also might have something to do with the way your computer handles your memory. So try booting as "clean" as possible (see 4.1) and when this fails, try examining your CMOS settings. There might be some entries there having something to do with write back cache or memory refresh (slow/fast).

WARNING: Only change settings in your BIOS when you know what you're doing, and before you start, make sure you have a way to set the CMOS back to default in case you screw up.

Game runs too fast on my computer

This is a pretty common problem these days, and mainly affects older DOS games. Fortunately, there is a utility called Mo'Slo, which can slow your system down to more playable speeds.

More information about Mo'Slo, and a downloadable version, can be found at:-

The game asks me to 'Insert CD ROM'

To fully understand the answer to this question, it is necessary to learn a little of the history of the game. FFE came in two versions - CD and 3.5" floppy disk. The CD version had animation sequences in all of the BBS screens. These would be played upon arriving at the screen in question and would then display as the last frame of the video. While a nice idea in theory, the phrase 'Amateur Night' applies rather nicely to the FFE videos... The 3.5" version did not have any videos (not enough space on three 1.44MB disks!) and, unlike the earlier Frontier: Elite 2, does not have 'identikit' pictures.

Usually, the floppy version has the 'Videos' option in the 'Others' preferences screen switched off and the area where the people appear is left blank. As with other settings, the state of the 'Videos' option is saved in the saved states. Because of this, it's possible that some saved states you download may have videos switched on, which will cause non-CD versions to display 'Insert CD ROM' in the corner of the BBS screens. This is particularly the case on JJFFE, which has the CD code re-enabled.

To get rid of the 'Insert CD ROM' prompt in the BBS screens, go to the options menu on the game, and look in the Others menu. Make sure that the box next to Video (at the bottom of the list) is not red.

I have the CD version, and on some saves there are no videos!

You're probabably using a save that has been originally downloaded from a website. While the CD version came with 'lovely' videos for the BBS screens, the floppy version didn't. As a result of this, the 3.5" disk users have videos turned off by default. Unlike most games, FFE saves the preferences with the saved game rather than a separate config file - therefore whatever settings the person who generated the save used will still be in effect.

To turn the videos back on, go to the options menu on the game, and look in the Others menu. Make sure that the box next to Video (at the bottom of the list) is red. This should reactivate the videos.

As I use the floppy version, all saved states downloaded from Jades' FFE Site have the videos switched off.

Can I run FFE without the CD in the CDROM drive?

That's possible. I use it too, sometimes when I get fed-up with the video animations, and want to play some CD music while in orbit. Here's how it goes:

Go into your FIRSTENC directory on your hard disk, and type ATTRIB -R *.* /S This will flag all your files READ-WRITE, in case this wasn't done already. Next, create a directory in your FIRSTENC dir. called CD_DATA. Copy all the FirstEnc CD files into this directory, EXCEPT the dir. called \DATA!! This directory contains all the movies, and that's about 600MB. Even for big hard drives this is a waste of space. You don't even HAVE to copy ALL of the CD's files into CD_DATA. These are the files in MY CD_DATA dir:

\FX\*.* \SOUND\*.*

But for now, copy all of them and delete some later if you think they're not needed (like the French or German versions)

Next, find the file FIRSTENC.CFG and load it into a text-editor (for DOS 5 or higher users: EDIT FIRSTENC.CFG will do). You'll find only one drive- letter in there, corresponding to your CDROM drive (G: in my case). Change the letter into something that doesn't exist yet in your PC, let's say J: for example. Save the file.

Then remove your FIRSTENC CD from the CDROM drive, and type: SUBST J: X:\GAMES\FIRSTENC\CD_DATA (where X: is the drive letter where FFE resides, and GAMES being the directory where FFE resides). When you see an error message, you might want to check your SUBST command for errors, and your CONFIG.SYS to check that your LASTDRIVE is indeed J or further in the alphabet.

When no errors are displayed, start FFE without CD. I recommend creating a batch file to SUBST the drive to CD_DATA, start FFE, delete the SUBST drive afterwards. When you're in FFE, the first thing you must do is TURN THE VIDEO ANIMATION OFF!! If you leave them on, the game goes looking for that \DATA directory that we didn't copy..:-)

Engine sound is gone when I throttle up

This is sometimes due to the fact that your music is set to ON or Continuous. If you turn music off, all sound effects are restored. This may be due to the quality (or lack of quality) of your sound card

Musical instruments get corrupted or keep 'hanging' continuously

This happens more often with wave table users than the FM synth users. I cannot give a solution, except to try the MPU401 patch from Creative's website. It solves some problems (and not just with Frontier).

From what limited knowledge of electronic music I have, it appears that the files suffering from this are those which originally appeared on Frontier: Elite 2. It could be that they got a little scrambled in conversion. The Quality Quartet tunes appear to be OK, so try deselecting all tunes which aren't credited to them.

How do I change resolution?

In all official versions of FFE, you can't. FFE, like many other DOS games of the period, will only run in one resolution. In case you're wondering how screenshots of FFE on the web appear to be hi-res, that's because the higher the resolution, the smaller each pixel is (and more can be displayed). Therefore the graphic appears to be smaller and sharper.

However, you can change the resolution in the Windows version of JJFFE (see the section )'The JJFFE Alternative' for more info) by editing the relevant bit of the file ffewin.cfg (see the readme file for instructions. While this does increase the resolution, it does nothing to the detail of the graphics. In higher resolutions, they might appear a little blurry. I prefer running the game in the original screen mode because it's sharper and low res modes don't bother me.

If you want to change the resolution in JJFFE, here's how to do it (instructions are for v2.1):-

  1. Open the file ffewin.cfg in Notepad. For convenience, right click on the file and chose the 'Open With' option. Scroll down the list of programs, select Notepad, and click OK. Now, whenever you double click on a .cfg file, it will be automatically opened in Notepad.
  2. Scroll down until you see the lines fswidth= and fsheight=
  3. Change these values to the height and width of the resolution you want (i.e. fswidth=640 and fsheight=480 gets you a resolution of 640x480).
  4. If you don't like the new resolution and want to go back to the old FFE resolution, set fswidth to 320 and fsheight to 200.

Does FFE support 3D hardware acceleration?

No, since FFE was written before there were any 3D cards on the market. All of the 3D is therefore rendered in software - although on today's systems there isn't actually a noticable performance hit because of the low resolution used and the speed of modern processors and graphics cards.

However, it is possible that FFE may be modified to use higher resolutions or 3D cards by members of the forthcoming Elite Club. See for more details.

Mission and military-specific bugs

I don't get some of the early medals

I'm not sure why this is happening, but it is likely to be a bug. This happens with both the Federal and Imperial militaries. Some medals just don't turn up. The bug appears in both v1.06 versions of FFE.

I don't see any military missions on the bulletin boards

That's either an old version you're using, or you have made the military your enemy. Try patching up to v1.06, and fly to Eta Cassiopeia and look on the bulletin board there. If you already use 1.06, go to Eta Cas anyway and see. Perhaps you can restart the game, to make sure the missions work. If you do too much work for the opposing force, the military may give you delivery missions only, for a while.

Another possibility, particularly for low-ranked pilots is that there just aren't any missions available from that port at the moment. Try another port in the system or skip a few days with stardreamer. If you're in an Alliance or Independent system, these powers don't offer military missions.

I've changed sides and promotion is taking a long time

As the manual hints, working for the other side isn't tolerated. Work done for an opposing side while ranked will result in you being penalized. Exactly how this is calculated isn't certain, but it seems that one employer will deduct a certain number of points from your 'rank score.' This may result in you getting demoted. At a guess, it seems that you are deducted half the points you would have gained from doing the mission.

To illustrate this, say you hold rank in both the Federal Military and the Imperial Navy. You've just taken a recon photo of the President of the Federation's secret love nest on Mars, and have managed to capture a shot of the President and the First Lady indulging in a spot of rumpy pumpy from a range of about 1KM (very long lenses in these military cameras!).

You arrive back at Facece and are rewarded for your audacity with a cool 20 rank points and a Legion of Honour medal (this being your first 'excellent' recon). Meanwhile in Eta Cassiopea, the Feds are understandably pissed off at what you've just done, and deduct you 10 points.

I've changed sides and my original employer won't give me some mission types anymore

As I mentioned in the previous section, it appears that the game penalizes you for being a turncoat. As your score declines due to your treachery it might mean that it drops below the threshold for doing certain missions. Serves you right for being traitorous scum :-P

My assassination target won't show up

It happens. You get information from someone that your target is going to leave at a certain time and place, but things can go different. In the usenet newsgroup we have a theory about this:

The target ship must appear somewhere at the starport in question. But what if the starport's full, and the target ship can't land there? We suspect FFE does not take this in account, and the target ship vanishes from the game. If you think about it, it's actually quite realistic. This can particularly be a problem with the smaller starports like Sirroco Station in Ross 154, which only has two landing pads.

As a player, you can bypass this by hyper-jumping into the system again, and see if the target has shown up this time. Every time a player jumps into a system, all the system's inhabitants and planetary positions are randomly different. So SAVE YOUR GAME BEFORE JUMPING IN!!

When on photograph missions, close to an installation on a planet or moon, some invisible force pushes me back FAST

I'm afraid so, and there's nothing to do about it at the moment. I'm currently trying to determine what kind of planet causes this, but you'll have to take your picture as quickly as possible, and jump out. Just photograph if you're within 100KM of the target. You might try to fly back again when you've been pushed back, but it might happen again.

This bug has been fixed on JJFFE 2.7 and above.

I want to get the 'Wiccan Ware' (the race) but the spaceport's busy

Patch to version 1.06, it's fixed there. If not, try this (and it goes for every 'spaceport busy' situation):

Buy a missile, combat-target the weakest ship that occupies the landing pad, and blast off into orbit (3KM away according to manual). Then face your red target, and fire the missile. Press SHIFT-F4 once to make your missile hit the target for certain, then wait a bit (SHIFT-F3 for a few seconds) and head back for the spaceport. Your target will be either destroyed, or he will have fled. Perhaps you'll have to wait until midnight to have the traffic controls 'reset'.

I killed Dentara Rast / Dr. Innitu but I'm not given credit

There are two possibilities for why this is happening. The first is the usual explanation for botched hits. In order to get credit for _any_ assassination, you must not kill the ship before it takes off. This is because the target only boards the ship just before takeoff, therefore blowing the ship up on the launch pad will only scare your target, not kill him.

Another possibility is that you let the target ship hyperspace and then followed it to it's destination by using the hyperspace cloud analyzer and killed him in deep space. For some reason, the game takes this as meaning that the target has escaped, even if you jump it and blow it away in it's destination system. Therefore you should take him out on launch, and get to 12,000 feet and hyperspace as quickly as possible once he's in little bits. As far as I am aware, this problem only happens with the 'scripted' assassination missions (the other one is 'Assassinate the Assassin of Dentara Rast')

The '5 Furies Statue' is impossible to complete, not enough time

There's an error in the mission-text regarding pickup time. I don't know the exact times (YET) but when you take the mission, you might want to fly to Arcturus immediately (with passenger cabin fitted) and dock there. You will be give the Statue, even if you've arrived before the set time. If you're there earlier, you are able to complete it easily. This is fixed in version 1.06

The person from 'Pickup hitch-hiker mission' doesn't show up

Yes she does, she just doesn't say she does.. ;-) Land at the starport a few days before pickup, wait a few days until the pickup must occur, and watch your cabin space. It should be occupied with 1 person after the pickup date. Blastoff immediately and search the map for a nice, nearby Federal sectors. You should be able to find 2 of them within 20 Light Years. If Ms. Thikka is not on board on the specific date, wait a few days longer, and press F2 again to see.

Pick up hitch-hiker mission not completed while I think I did!

I've run into this myself recently, while playing on JJFFE 2.8. For some reason, you get the congratulations message from Jan but a negative one from the Feds. I had thought that there was some sort of time issue involved, but when I encountered the problem most recently, I brought her back to Wafaphi (-6,-3) - which is the closest Federal system to Miargre.

Fortunatly, I had the save from before I took the mission, and just reloaded and tried again. This time I ensured that the passenger cabin remained installed and I didn't take any other taxi missions until the mission was complete. I also didn't enter Miargre until it was time to go for the pickup. I was able to get the proper recognition this way.

The hitch-hikers blow up my ship when I pick them up again

And does that trouble you?

Ok, seriously: In early versions of FFE, this is unavoidable. If you're playing v1.06, I suspect you didn't take off quickly enough. If the hitchhikers say "Let's go--NOW" I suggest you listen to them. Hyperspace as quickly as possible. You're probably best off taking off as soon as they board, so you should ensure you have enough fuel to make it to Edethex before actually arriving there.

I missile-bomb 'Rockforth Academy', but when I return I don't seem to have completed the mission

The missiles almost never really do any damage when you fire them from close range in real-time. A work around: Fire missiles from about 500KM away, and press SHIFT-F4 after they're away. This will enable the 'if- you-press-time-acceleration-when-fired-missile-at-something-it-will- always-hit-it' bug. Also, you might not be using a powerful enough missile. I'm performing tests of missiles, and the most powerful conventional (i.e. non-nuclear) one seems to be the MV2 Assault Missile.

What is the 'Journalists Welfare Fund'?

This is connected to the Thargoid mission series, and is there to give you a hint about the location of the 'hidden' system where Mic Turner got iced. All it gives you is one of the coordinates, and tells you about the defence satelite. Of course, since you've read this FAQ you already know that ;-) The message often stays on the boards for some time after you finish the missions. Despite what it says about them sending you more information when they get it you'll never hear from them again (other than the message showing up every so often, after it is no longer useful).

Thargoid mission-specific bugs

I land at Alioth after completing the first Argent's Quest mission, but nothing happens

There appears to be a time limit for completing this mission, although there is no mention of it in the briefing. You are not accused of being late when you arrive back at Alioth, so it looks like you're being ignored.

One possible factor that triggers this is if you spent a long time waiting for a classified mission to get the nuke after you accepted the Quest. As a precaution, you should make sure that you don't arrive back at Alioth any later than the 30th of December 3252. If you saved the game before the Requiem, go back to that save and try again. If you didn't do this, then your only way to continue with the Thargoid missions is to start a new game.

I'm on the Thargoid mission, and I get harassed by far too many ships - even after the missions they keep bothering me

That's because you didn't blow up the satellite in the first mission. In that first mission, you are NOT given the tools to do this, and you must take on a "CLASSIFIED MISSION" from the military to get them yourself. You won't be completing this classified mission, but you snatch the Transmission Jammer and Nuclear Missile and use 'em for your own purpose: the Thargoid systems. Seek out and destroy that satellite on Pleione, or you're going to be a busy commander. Don't worry about not being able to complete that military mission you took to get the Jammer and Missile - your rank points go down, but they're up in no time.

Another thing that can cause some trouble is that the satelite in Polaris orbits a different planet to the shuttle - Polaris 3d.

Also, if you LIKE living on the edge, and plan to keep on playing even with INRA on your tail, you might make a forced hyperspace misjump at times. This will confuse lots of INRA ships, and the game may run some- what faster.

When leaving the station at Polaris, I'm no longer in Polaris!

That's correct. It's a little unexpected for Commanders who didn't bring enough FUEL WITH THEM, LIKE ME !! :-(

But the Polaris system is (was?) just a base for the Thargoids, and their home planet is located far more to the north. When you dock at the shuttle (which turns out to be a transporter) it hyperspaces a long way to Miackce [37,144]. And you have to be able to return this distance.

When leaving the station at Polaris, a lot of Thargoids fly around me, but nothing happens.

Not yet anyway. Just be patient... they're as curious about you as you are about them. Just wait a bit (perhaps you can use SHIFT-F2 or F3) until you receive a message from the Thargoids to dock with their really BIG station. If you dock with the big station without having received this message, chances are that you won't receive any Thargoid- communications there.

Nothing happens when I click YES/NO in a Thargoid ship

This might be caused by the use of accelerated time during Thargoid communications inside a space station. Use time control only when the Thargoids say so. The solution is non-existent at this time. Restore your game before you entered the station. Version 1.06 is more friendly about this, it never happened to me anymore.

Thargoid shuttle is always busy

Don't know what causes this, it's probably a bug, although it seems to happen less frequently with version 1.06. You'll have a decent chance if you restore your game, and hyperspace in again. Otherwise, you can try floating just before the Thargoid shuttle's entrance, and wait until the occupying starship crashes into your Quest ship. This can take a lot of game saving and restoring to figure out just when the ship leaves the Thargoid shuttle.

When I'm done, I land at Alioth, they take my Thargoid away!

Happens sometimes, don't know why. It might have something to do with the fact that you dock/land at planets before you go to Alioth, but I recommend you restoring your game after you left the Thargoid station in your new Thargoid ship, and hyperspace to Alioth again. must be something you did wrong, but I haven't figured out just yet what this might be.

6. Tips & tricks


When you buy a Fuel Scoop tractor beam, you don't need a Fuel Scoop and a Fuel Scoop cargo bay converter - or, indeed, an actual fuel scoop mounting. So all you actually need to make full use of a cargo scoop is that 1 ton Tractor Beam! However, it doesn't scoop fuel...


To reach your destination more quickly, use this method: Hyperspace into a system. Set your autopilot target, and allow it to fly straight towards it (press SHIFT-F3 for faster movement). When this is done, switch your engines to 'Off' and go into the fastest time-skip mode (SHIFT-F5). Then keep the [Enter] key pressed until you are at a distance of 4 to 2 AU. Then press [Tab] once, and your ship will immediately stop and dock/land at your destination. So with this method, you can effectively bypass the 'braking' pro- cess! Think of it as the space station's tractor beams pulling you to a halt..:-)


If your Naval ECM doesn't kill an incoming missile, just try again a couple of times. When you quickly press [E] 5 times, all incoming missiles should be gone. If they're not, read the second tip.

If missiles are immune to your ECM waves, do the following:

During battle, you may have found out which of the attacking ships have ECM capability. Keep a combat-lock on that ship, and when some ship fires a missile at you, press M to fire a missile at the ECMming ship. He will activate ECM shortly to destroy your, and every other missile! I call this the "poor man's missile jammer".

Another clever tactic which seems to work is selecting the missile as a target and launching a missile of your own. If you're lucky your missile should destroy the enemy missile before it hits you. Of course, you could always try to be flash and shoot the incoming missile out of the sky :-D

Slingshot around big planets

If you haven't already done so, or don't know how, here's how you sling- shot around a planet. Hey, every commander must do this at least once..:) Look up a big gas giant, similar to Jupiter or Saturn. Aim a few centi- meters above the edge, and fly towards it with a speed of 90.000 km/s. Then activate time-skip to 4 or 5 and look at your speed. It'll increase by the planet's gravity. For maximum effect, face the planet at all times.

Asteroid landing

Some bigger, fast-spinning, spherical asteroids can be landed on. When you're close enough to one of these, your 'mass-lock' will indicate you're in orbit to the asteroidal body, and you'll receive an altitude reading when you're close enough. Lower your landing gear, and take your ship VERY close to the surface and try to match the speed of the asteroid. When you can almost touch down (< 100M) set speed to zero and try to keep the horizon in your sights. You might make it..:) If you do, take an external view, and watch your landed ship floating a couple of meters above the surface. Then deploy MB4 mining machine, use escape pod, and take a picture..;-)

The ghost ship escape pod trick

Go to an orbital space station. Buy an escape pod, and leave the station. When the doors open, fly a little bit outside (so that your ship keeps spinning in sync with the station) and eject. Request docking permission and fly back in the space station. You'll get a new ship. Launch again, and you can fly THROUGH your old ship..:) case you ever wanted to see the insides of a Panther..:)

Flying through a planet

Insane as it may sound, this trick actually works with certain planets in the game. The best one to try it with is Canopus 1. Simply select the planet as your autopilot destination and fly towards it. Once you're close to it, point your ship at it and set for maximum power. Unless you are very unlucky you will fly straight through, with the accompanying odd visual effects.

The reason why you can get away with this seems to be due to the game's selection of reference points. If the planet is near to a very large body it might not be selected as the reference point. It appears that the game calculates your altitude relative to the reference body. The collision detection on planets appears to be a bit kludged,so you flying into the planet isn't picked up if the program isn't keeping track of how high you are due to the planet not being the reference point. In the case of Canopus 1, it is just over 1AU away from the bright giant star.

How to maximize your criminal record.

I'm certain that there are Elite fans out there who want to be the bad boys of the galaxy and have their criminal records as long and ugly as possible. There are a total of ten offenses:

Remember that there are separate criminal records for Alliance, Federal, Imperial and Independent systems (apparently you can't get a permit violation for Imperial or Alliance record).

Having a long and ugly criminal record doesn't seem to affect getting missions, how often you are attacked or actually anything else in the game (provided you pay your fines)!

This section was contributed by Timo Takalo.

7. Interesting Systems

Here are some interesting systems because of fame, strange bugs, illegal- to-visit, and generally weird systems.

Hadar -6,-40
Antares -39,-34
Dumbell -72,40 Nebula, but no special system found
Polaris 0,76
Beta Lyrae -146,85 Contact Binary. System crashes if jumped into
Betelgeuse 59,14 I could fly into the atmosphere of betelgeuse B
Pleiades 32,32 Lots of systems with nice looking stars
Rigel 92,6 Supergiant star

8.Customising and messing about with the components of FFE

Fun with music

This can be done. FFE's programmers left the sound and graphics files separately, 'un-grouped', and unpacked on the CD. The music files are to be found in FFE CD:\MUSIC\*.HMP If you want to convert them to some other, more compatible format like MIDI, you should get the program HMP2MID.EXE The address is:-

Fun with sound effects

The sound effects are in a somewhat raw format, and can be found in FFECD:\FX\*.RAW You should be able to load the samples into the software that came with your soundcard. In the case of (AFAIK) most of Creative Labs' soundcards, this program will be called WaveStudio. When you load the samples into 'your favourite sound package' (as they say in the trade), you'll need to use these settings:-

Channels: Mono

Sampling Rate: 22,050 Hz

Sampling Size: 16 Bit

I'm not sure if it's possible to replace the original sound samples, I'm currently messing about with any samples I can find lying around. Watch this space!!

Fun with graphics

The graphics files reside in the root \ of your FFE CD-ROM or in the main FFE directory on your hard drive if you have the 3.5" version, and are called CABIN?.BMP (?=0 to 5, according to ship size. 5=Thargoid). These can be used directly in any Windows environment. You might even want to create your own Frontier desktop-theme.

Robin Zlatic has given me some info on adding your own background pictures to the game. They need to be 320x158 and in original FFE colour palette. This could be done with Paint Shop Pro where you could open original .BMP file and save its palette to file. Later you create an image an apply palette to it. Otherwise it won't work properly (it will work but will be VERY ugly).