Keeping the romance alive
Updated: Feb 15, 2021
So - you think this is a blog-post about my personal life? A deep insight into my marriage? Eh, no. Get a grip.
I'm going to talk about my dark and seductive mistress who lurks in darkened corners and elbows their way in front of all other distractions - housework, study, making decent food. I am, of course, talking about... Elite:Dangerous. There are many other games I play but since it's launch in 2014, E:D has been my mainstay game that I keep returning to - so, what is its appeal? For those who might be thinking of getting the game, these are the reasons I have identified for it getting its hooks into me. The game can become a serious time-sink - forewarned is forearmed...
Beautiful - space is just sooo fracking gorgeous
Speak to anyone who has played the game, from the n00b to most jaded PvP player and one thing that can be generally agreed on is that the game excels at galactic beauty. You don't have to travel to Beagle Point and look back at the galaxy spread out behind you to be affected (though I recommend you do.. and jumnp on to Ishums Reach a few stars beyond). The internet is awash with beautiful shots taken by CMDRs as they travel the stars from distant Earth-like worlds to neutron stars and alien molluscs or spikey-bois hanging enigmatically in the void.
Alien structures, abandoned settlements or long abandoned Generation Ships - the game has inspired art, music and fiction, not to mention the plethora of content-creators on Twitch, YouTube, Instagram, podcasting platforms... the list is seemingly endless. It's going to be the game that keeps on giving from a creative point of view with the upcoming release of the big DLC release of Odyssey (slated for 'early 2021' on PC) which will players the ability to walk on alien worlds as well as a re-working of atmospherics and planet surfaces. Odyssey will also bring FPS style combat, the ability to collect samples of galactic flora and fauna and scavenging crashed ships. Linking players together on foot, in SRVs, fighters and ships for ground-based missions sounds fantastic but Odyssey strikes me as a platform for even more interesting things to come with new content allowing a focus on the CMDR and not just the ship as players wander the galaxy.
It's easy to get lost in the 400 billion, procedurally generated, star-systems the game presents you with- some players have been exploring for years, only very occasionally appearing in occupied space, wild-eyed and gibbering, before disappearing as soon as their battered FSD has been repaired. Always remember to check the gravity of any planet you decide to land on as you are out wandering - nothing makes your sphincter twitch like realising you have started to land on a 9G+ planet with C rated thrusters. Oh, and White Dwarf stars are just evil.
Community - fiery death with friends is more satisfying
At the moment I am taking part in the latest CG (fighting against Rochester and his goons) and my combat ineptitude makes having friends present who have bothered their butts to have massively engineered, tanky ships a necessity. Elite:Dangerous can be played in highly organised groups or, if you are like me, turn up in voice comms or throw a post into Discord to see who fancies "doing some pew pew". Whether it be PvE or PvP, combat with friends is good fun. You'll soon identify who is the one with no spatial awareness and tends to crash into you, taking your shields down to half-health as you all focus on the called target. Incidentally, they are usually the ones with the engineered 'healy-beams' so you can't stay mad at them...especially if you haven't bothered to master shield-cell banks.
PvP combat is a completely different beast to PvE - if you have not studied the latest meta and engineered your ship accordingly, you're toast. However, there are plenty of PvP pilots in the game that are willing to teach would be master-murderers to fine tune their art. The one thing that has struck me about the PvP community is they are extremely dedicated to the game mode, seemingly to the exclusion of everything else and this seems to have had somewhat of a divisional, factional effect on attempts to organise PvP events for like-minded players- there's always a PvP'er looking to prove they are the best and set themselves up as the "ganker of all gankers". Saying that, the best current places to look for like-minded killers (as far as this non-PvP'er can make out) is in the Galactic Combat Initiative and PvP Hub on Discord. Just make sure you have plenty of re-buys and excellent engineer access.
But if combat is far from your thing, PvP or otherwise, Elite:Dangerous provides plenty of other opportunities to kill or be killed. Whether it's racing with friends along the ridges of Pomeche 2C and not keeping a close eye on your SRV hull integrity or base jumping your SRV from a recently climbed mountain without nailing the landing- it's easy enough to get friends in on the action. There was a time when instancing made meeting up a royal pain (and it still rears its head occasionally) however the networking code has improved greatly in the last couple of years and it's rarely a problem to all meet up. Many impromptu games have sprung up out of collaborative play such as Thargolf, Guardian Football and Sidewinder Demo Derby (to name a few) as well as the excellent racing communities such as Elite Racers and Buckyball Racers.
With Odyssey, there will no doubt be new and interesting ways to use the game for purposes that were not intended - try an idea out with friends and see if it snowballs. I have made many friends through the game and there are not many bits of software out there I can say that about. No, I have never used Tinder.
Lore - otherwise known as tin-foil hattery
As you would expect of any sci-fi game universe that has been around since the 1980's, there is a lot of 'lore' under-pinning the universe of Elite:Dangerous, though you'd be forgiven for not finding it through casual gameplay. From Robert Holdstock's early writings under the pseudonym Steven Eisler to his memorable novella "The Dark Wheel" that accompanied the original Elite game; through the intervening years of fan-fiction that kept the Elite universe bubbling along till Elite:Dangerous' emergence- there is a lot of writing out there to sink your teeth into and get a feel for the 3300's that you fly your way through. At the launch of E:D there was a series of books produced by various authors under license, the most well know probably being Drew Wagar who still streams Elite (classic and modern) on Twitch today. The novels quite often introduced elements that could be found in game such as the rare commodity, Soontil Relics (don't get me started..) and ultimately culminated in the Salomé event that capped off the use of books alongside the game universe. Drew is no stranger to writing stories based in the Elite universe and wrote his Oolite Saga between 2011 and 2016, keeping the universe alive before we were given the 3300's to play with. Along with the Oolite game developed by Giles Williams, Jens Ayton and others, it kept that flame flickering that so many of us were touched by in the 80's.
As well as the books produced, there are an official Elite Dangerous RPG as well as the excellent Elite Encounters RPG produced by Dave "Selezen" Hughes. Although Elite Encounters is independently produced, it has been through Frontier Developments and has had a significant amount of lore cut from it in order to gain recognition and publication. EDRPG is beautifully produced and has all the stats, tables and colour images you would want in a physical book however Encounters offers a broader look into what the 3300's feels like with descriptions of how everything from society and religion works in the different sections of the galaxy to hyperdrives and Thargoid encounters.
And here is where lore becomes tinfoil-hattery.
The connections between past Elite canon and the new Elite:Dangerous universe can lead to interesting nuggets of 'history' and flavour but also to wild interpretation by the player base, hungry for grand, galaxy-wide plotlines to get themselves involved in. Personally, I base my decisions in the game based on what information is available in Elite:Dangerous itself. If you are like me, open sand-box type games like Elite:Dangerous are wonderful playgrounds for the imagination and I do play it with a certain character type in mind- roleplay-lite, I guess. There are a lot of people that base their in-game actions around their interpretation of lore, sometimes feeding on those sources outwith the game, created in the original game or intervening years. This leads to discrepancies, debate, denouncements and, sometimes, toxicity. The biggest cause of debate has been "Thargoids: Friend or foe?" which, based on the Elite:Dangerous codex (for me) is a resounding "foe". However, previous incarnations of the game left players with the choice to either deliver the Mycoid virus as a payload to kill the Thargoids or hand it over to them, leading to a peaceful conclusion to the conflict. The ending was bugged, however and you always ended up wiping them out, so I am told. Delivering the virus has now become official canon for Elite:Dangerous but you can't help feeling that the bugged ending and lack of a peaceful conclusion still rankles with some and perhaps drives the benevolent murder-flowers cult, er, belief, in game today.
The lore of the game is rich but perhaps doesn't affect the game universe as much as it should but just be wary of what tinfoil plated wagon you hitch yourself to as a CMDR and always keep in mind - it's just a game.
There are aspects to this post that need to be fleshed out and be a series of posts in their own right so, stay tuned and even let me know with a comment below what aspect of the game you'd like to see more written about. Ultimately, the sand-box playground with friends that is Elite:Dangerous keeps drawing me back in and I will never grow tired of exploring the stars.
o7 (to n00bs, that's a head and saluting hand - took me a while to ask what it meant as well... you're welcome)
Elite Universe timeline
Classic Elite (1984)
Frontier Elite 2 (1993)
Frontier First Encounters (1995)
Oolite (fan made)(2004)