For more than two decades, MMOG developers have known that completely open-ended games without strict community guard rails guiding and limiting behavior and player interactions bring out both the best and worst in people. More often than not the veil of anonymity that some choose to hide behind while online reveals an unfortunate lack of character. In such environments, one bad apple can degrade the enjoyment of many others.
As a result, given the massive expense associated with creating online games, very few game developers will risk letting the players interact as they will within that virtual space. But Frontier Development did with their game, “Elite: Dangerous” (“E:D”).
The reward for giving players complete freedom to spend their time as they will is that such lack of constraints enables people to surprise and delight you with their inventiveness, their creativity, and the communities they create. In E:D’s full scale recreation of our 400-billion star galaxy, many people spend their time exploring distant worlds and sharing the magnificent views they’ve found there.
Flying around our solar system in virtual reality, and then the myriad worlds within several hundred light years of our sun, Sol, has provided me with uncounted breathtaking views. The level of immersion is incredible.
But I’m just an amateur in-game “photographer.” Thousands of E:D community members are both farther ranging and more talented at capturing their in-game experiences. So I wanted to share some of the experiences they’ve had, captured through the windows of their cockpit or via the in-game camera.
All of these images are taken from within the game as it exists today. If you were inclined, you could outfit a spacecraft, visit these locations, see these sights, dock at these space stations, perhaps fly with some of these pilots.
In an update due this spring, Frontier has promised that these environments will gain more fidelity, more beauty! That’s something to look forward to. Until then, I hope you enjoy this brief taste and that it stirs whatever latent Walter Mitty you have within. Did you dream of being an astronaut, or exploring the vastness of space, being the first to cast eyes on the startling beauty of far worlds? I still do.
With a little searching via Google or Youtube, you can find thousands more of these screenshots. I use them as fuel for the imagination during the cold winter days and long nights here on Earth. …when I’m not flying around the galaxy myself, of course.
Dateline: The Galactic Enquirer. January 4th, 3304. Agricola’s Ascent, Pleiades Sector DL-Y d65.
Galactic Enquirer sources have revealed that the “Thargoid Threat” is a manufactured one, created in a cooperative effort by the embattled executives at Lakon Spaceways and the cash-strapped Alliance.
The Agricola’s Ascent orbital is crowded these days. One can’t walk anywhere without bumping into packs of feral billionaires who have flocked to the Pleiades region pursuing the latest topPercenter and Trustafarian pastime: “Hunting Thargoids.” Hundreds, perhaps thousands of these nouveau riche thrill seekers have left humanity’s boring bubble hoping to join the “elite” club of those who’ve successfully ambushed one of the peaceful alien space flowers in hopes of securing its heart for their trophy case.
Agricola’s Ascent’s corridors and brandy lounges are filled with the swaggering machismo and raucous flamboyance these billionaires flaunt like a million-credit cloak. Ask them why they’re here and to their credit some will honestly reply it’s strictly for the thrill of the kill. But eight times out of ten the response will be some variant of “To save humanity from the growing xeno threat.” Those respondents are convinced their mission is truly that noble, that the reason they’re willing to sacrifice their billion-credit ships (if not their lives) is this “defense of humanity.”
But The Galactic Enquirer has uncovered highly placed sources that suggest the threat to humanity is a manufactured one. That makes many of these Dudley Do-Rights unfortunate sheeple, herded by a heretofore unimaginable galaxy-wide conspiracy.
Investigators at the Galactic Enquirer have sifted through thousands of pages of documents provided by the shadowy hackers famous for populating the GalactiLeaks Galnet site. Our intrepid journalists have uncovered secret emails documenting the manufacture of an interstellar, possibly criminal manipulation of public sentiment. And the conspirators? None other than officials at the highest levels of the Alliance, working in conjunction with Lakon Spaceways! Together they’ve seeded a campaign through the media channels of hundreds of worlds that goes far beyond the normal underhanded but legal persuasion techniques employed by common, high-value marketing campaigns.
Like with most crimes, all investigation takes is following the money.
Hundreds of the GalactiLeaks documents reveal increasingly frantic correspondence over the last eighteen months between Lakon Spaceways product development, financial, and marketing departments. These documents reveal C-level panic throughout Lakon’s highest executives. From the documents, it’s clear that early leaks citing underwhelming flight performance figures for Lakon’s massively hyped new Type-10 “Defender” resulted in an almost total evaporation of military demand for the heavy ship. Coming at a time when rumors of major market share lost to both Faulcon DeLacy and Core Dynamics for the fourth straight quarter shook investor confidence, the leaks triggered a catastrophic plunge in Lakon’s stock value. Lakon executives needed a miracle.
According to documents we discovered, company executives responded to their company’s Edsel moment by manufacturing a threat so serious, so existential, that the galaxy would become desperate for an answer. Enter the Alliance, whose own influence has steadily waned from its recent peak in 3300. As the major power driving Lakon to produce the Type-10 Defender before canceling half their contracts last year, the cash-strapped Alliance needed to cooperate with Lakon to avoid ruinous lawsuits.
For people who believe one should never let a good crisis go to waste, the sudden return of Thargoids was a godsend for Lakon. Although big, beautiful, and not hostile unless threatened or attacked, the lumbering space leviathans’ utter alien-ness made them the perfect foil for Lakon executives desperate to create a new market for their heavily armed and armored, 2250-ton, 500MM* Cr recycled space barge. [* Weight and value figures common for a Defender minimally outfitted for Thargoid hunting. –Ed.]
In the words of one Lakon Executive, from one of the discovered interoffice memos, “We need to make those weird-looking space daisies evil and threatening. There’s no other way we’ll unload all these flying pigs- er, “Defenders” [poop emoji] the damned Alliance decided not to buy! Ha! Coming up with a campaign to make floating daffodils reek of evil — that oughta keep those marketing weasels in PR busy for the holidays!”
But the Lakon PR folks seem to have done the impossible. They’ve painted the Thargoid presence as a looming menace to our civilization. Despite resembling nothing so much as a giant flower and possessing a nature that seems nothing if not benignly inquisitive toward anything man-made, the Thargoids’ very otherness works against them. They’re so alien to us that even their sentience (and thus any possible guilt at even being able to form the hostile intentions accorded to them by Lakon Spaceway’s guerilla marketing) is still very much in question. What is known is that they’ve never initiated an attack on a human ship without that ship either firing first or at the very least aggressively infringing on the Thargoid’s immediate space.
But you don’t have to take this reporter at face value, gentle readers. Use your Randomius-given powers of logic. Ask yourself: If these aliens really posed an existential threat to humanity – or even to humans that didn’t provoke them first – would the Alliance, in conjunction with the Pilots Federation and other major powers, only award a measly two million credits as a Thargoid bounty? That’s a mere 2M credits for a kill, when defeating one involves the following hurdles and risks:
Pilots must foot the bill to buy and/or outfit a ship (ideally the Defender, of course!) that costs at least 500-million credits and be willing to risk the associated 25-million credit insurance deductible if they lose the ship in combat. (And note, the Thargoid hunting builds that improve one’s chances run closer to 750M or even a cool 1B credits!)
Pilots must foot the bill in hiring and paying a ship-launched fighter operator, without whom that pilot’s chances of survival, let alone victory, became low indeed – and pilots must do this understanding that even if they themselves make it to an escape pod, their hirelings will DIE if the pilot fails and loses his ship to the Thargoid;
Pilots go into their hunting knowing that even if they succeed – which most will not do at first, if ever – their ship restock and repair will almost certainly cost almost half-a-million credits (and that’s for a solo fight against the weakest of the Thargoids!).
If you’re doing the math, you’re realizing that hunting one of these dangers to humanity virtually requires a multi-billionaire to put a billion in assets (and his life) on the line, and then offers him a net profit of …about a million credits. It’s a laughable amount in a galactic economy that provides entrepreneurial pilots with profits that are literally fifty times that (or more), in the same amount of time, with a lot less investment, simply for ferrying passengers to remote starports (with little or no risk).
Your realization, gentle citizens, must be: That doesn’t add up! And Lakon’s marketing slogan, developed to rally humanity’s xeno hunters (and, coincidentally, sell lots of Type-10 Defenders!) waives all that financial consideration with a simple slogan: “You don’t do it for the money; you do it for humanity.”
There’s only one solution to this puzzle: Lakon Spaceways has convinced thousands of pilots to conduct genocide against the first and only alien megafauna we’ve ever encountered, for the sole reason of selling a ship that would otherwise be a market flop.
This must not go unanswered! Humanity is better than that!
[Submitted to the Jan 6th edition of the Galactic Enquirer by Cmdr Talion Camisade]