The greatly anticipated sequel to Elite : Reclamation, an new epic space opera set in the universe of Elite Dangerous, by Frontier Developments…
This is one of a series of guides to the Elite Dangerous Universe. You can read the others here.
Welcome to the wonderful universe of Elite Dangerous, PS4 players!
I’m an official author for the game – as such I’ve done a bit of work on making the lore of Elite Dangerous accessible. When you’ve read what’s below, you can start to delve into my (work in progress!) lore pages too.
The Elite franchise has been around since 1984 and the Elite Dangerous game is the fourth in the series. As a result there is an abundance of background detail, thousands of websites and millions of forum and reddit threads discussing every detail. Trying to make sense of all this could well be overwhelming, so a summary may prove helpful.
Welcome to the universe and, as we say around these parts… Right on, Commanders!
The year is 3303.
After centuries of strife, humanity has hyperspace travel and has colonized an area perhaps 400 light years in radius beyond our Solar system. In these ‘core worlds’ (or the ‘bubble’ as many now refer to it) humanity carries on its business. There are stations, vessels, outposts and all that goes with them: politics, conflict, trade, piracy, bounty hunting and war. Beyond civilised space lies the ‘Frontier’, the largely unexplored vastness of the galaxy. Out there are far flung colonies, mysterious wrecks and astronomical sights to wonder at. There are rumours of aliens too.
The universe is a dangerous place. Humanity’s darker side is prevalent out in the void and justice is often dispensed by the business end of weaponry.
Spacecraft ownership is common. Millions of pilots have taken to the void, flying between systems in a bid to raise money to improve their lot. Money remains the primary means to barter across systems, with universally accepted ‘credits’ the medium of exchange. As you join the game you’ll find yourself in receipt of a handful of credits and a basic ‘Sidewinder’ vessel. (Many ships in the Elite Dangerous universe are named after snakes). It is not a bad little ship, but limited range, storage capacity and inability to defend itself against stronger foes will tempt you into a larger vessel before long.
To gain credits you need to work. Trading is a sensible way to start, buying low and selling high. Missions may be available too, but you’ll find that those who offer them require a certain reliability from you before they’ll entrust you with the more lucrative jobs. You may consider bounty hunting, but you’d be advised to wait for that more potent ship before you rely on your weapons…
Pilots are rated in a number of ways; their trading, exploration and combat prowess being assessed on a scale. In combat you start out as ‘Harmless’. If you survive your first few altercations you may achieve the moniker of ‘Mostly Harmless’. From there it’s a progression, perhaps one day you’ll reach the heady heights of the ‘Elite’. Some may decide that violence is not for them and pursue a more peaceful route to riches. You decide, no one is going to tell you what to do.
However, a little guidance might be helpful. If your desire is to blaze a trail through the shattered wrecks of your enemies, we might suggest the Vulture as a worthy ship. Subtle it is not, but it’s a fighter through and through. If exploration is your thing, you’ll be wanting the Asp (in its explorer form). If trading, start with a Hauler and work your way up to Type-6 transporter. Of course, it’s early days to be making such a choice of career. If you’re yet to decide perhaps a ship that can do a little of everything? You can’t do better than the Cobra Mk3.
Perhaps the definitive Elite Dangerous ship, the Cobra Mk3 combines speed, with enough firepower, storage and versatility to give flexibility in career choice. It’s not the best at anything, but it can do all of them well enough. It’s remarkable modular design makes it straightforward to fit out for any task. Many pilots, even with a surplus of credits, don’t fly anything else other than this iconic ship.
Ships have core componentry. Frameshift drives propel you across the light years. Lasers and kinetic weapons serve as offense. Shields and armour protect your vessel from hostile attack. Other equipment can supplement all this, making docking easier, or giving the ability to scoop fuel from stars. Bigger ships clearly have more space, but a smaller ship is quicker, more agile and less of a target. Many ships are optimised for certain tasks. Choose carefully.
Never forget the golden rule though. Accidents can happen, your ship can be destroyed in many ways. Insurance will cost you dear so… “Never fly without rebuy.”
Ships are also provided in very basic spec. You may wish to ensure you have sufficient credits to upgrade them effectively prior to launching from the dock.
Once you’ve established yourself you’ll begin to wonder about the politics of the universe you’re in. For the most part you can ignore this if you wish, but a brief overview may serve to ground you. You can undertake missions for political powers, and thus gain their affection. Working for one may make you less welcome in the others, so make your choice carefully.
The Federation is the oldest superpower, centred around Sol (our original home, where Earth still orbits). It is a vast conglomeration of corporations. Capitalism reigns here, excessive consumption, greed and materialism remain the underpinnings of this society. There is boundless wealth and crushing poverty, often side-by-side. Presidential in style, the Federation is the largest human power in the galaxy.
Its ancient rival, of a thousand years, is the Empire centred around the Achenar system. Founded in controversy it is a radically different society, with rank and role being extremely stratified. Above all the Emperor rules; below her are the Senators, the Patrons, the Clients and the Citizens. Finally there are slaves, they that work to keep the economies of the Empire afloat. Imperial design is suave and impressive. Society is flamboyant. Who you know matters more than anything. Bloodlines and breeding count for more than credits.
The Alliance is the third, formed in the last century or so, mostly out of resistance to the other two. Its authority is based out of the Alioth system and offers an alternative to the capitalism of the Federation or the hegemony of the Empire. They claim freedom and self-determination as their founding principles.
Certain vessels may required you to offer service to these superpowers and to gain rank with them. You may be called upon to actively undermine the others in pursuit of such a rank, so your decisions may have future ramifications.
You can also pledge allegiance to their representatives and join the play for power. Such choices will bring you rewards, but highlighting your political opinions in this manner will make you a target for others who do not share your views…
You may find it easier to keep your politics at a local level. In every system there are the so-called ‘minor factions’ who vie for control of the local space stations within a system. Many of your fellow pilots will be members of these and co-ordinate their actions to attempt to leverage the economy. Work for them and you’ll receive preferential treatment and exclusive missions. As ever, aligning yourself with one faction may make you an enemy in the eyes of others.
The further you go the more you’ll encounter. After a while you may receive invitations from other inhabitants of the void. The ‘Engineers’ are one such group, who offer bespoke upgrades to your vessel in exchange for materials and credits. If you want your ship to be the best at what it does, you’ll need to visit these intriguing folk.
If trading and fighting do not appeal, perhaps the void itself will call. Explorers have ventured across the galaxy, but only the tiniest percentage of the galaxy has been explored. Out there lies the unknown; billions of planets, countless nebulae, and all manner of astonishing sights. There is danger too, neutron stars and black-holes are the obvious ones, but the lone explorer, far from help is especially vulnerable. If you go far from home, make sure your ship is ready for the long haul. A breakdown that would be trivial close to the repair yards of a station might prove fatal a thousand light years out into the blackness. Return your exploration data and you will be paid, handsomely if you discover an Earth-like world, plus there’s a chance to get your name upon the galactic map if you’re the first to discover something new.
And, just maybe, you’ll uncover the mysteries that haunt the darkness. For hundreds of years there have been rumours filtering back from the depths of space. Raxxla, perhaps a planet lost in the void with hidden treasures. Generation ships that left Earth long ago. An alleged conspiracy regarding the activities of the superpowers was recently exposed, resulting in the death of a infamous young woman. Beyond all this are rumours of alien vessels that roam the void, ambushing commanders.
What you will do remains your choice. You blaze your own trail. Take risks or play it safe. There’s no right or wrong.
We’re looking forward to seeing you in the void on June 27th, PS4 commanders.
Fly safe… and if you can’t… fly dangerous!
- Obsidian Ant’s Lore Videos – Obsidian’s videos are a must watch for all Elite Dangerous players
- The Brocast – Weekly Live Youtube stream of Elite Dangerous by CMDR Josh Hawkins and team
- Frontier’s own Youtube Channel – From the devs!
- Prominent Twitch Streamers – DJTruthSayer, MissPsyche, CMDR Hughmann, CMDR Malic
- The unofficial Elite Dangerous Wiki – Everything you want to know about the game in a handy wiki.
- Official Forums – Frontier’s own forums for discussing the game
- Reddit Page – Fiercely independent discussions on the game
Recommended official books set in the Elite Dangerous universe that give a flavour to the game environment:
- Elite : Reclamation – Space Opera meets politics as a young idealistic woman fans the flames of war between the Empire and the Federation
- Elite Dangerous : Premonition – Upcoming sequel to Reclamation and based on in-game events in 3302-3303.
- Elite : Mostly Harmless – A comedy adventure following the antics of Angel Rose, the galaxy’s worst bounty hunter
- Elite : Out of the Darkness – High drama across the core worlds and an encounter with aliens in the darkness
- Elite: And here the Wheel – A gung-ho space adventure on the edges of inhabited space
- Elite: Legacy – Nefarious goings on at an asteroid base.
- Elite: Tales from the Frontier – An anthology of short stories from community members.
Can’t get enough of the game, try out the official upcoming RPGs:
- Elite Encounters – Role playing in the Elite Dangerous Universe
- Elite Dangerous Role Playing Game – A role playing game in the Elite Dangerous galaxy
Another big hurdle out of the way. Today I put the finishing touches to the narrative edit of Elite Dangerous Premonition!
This means we’re now at a third draft (Draft one was the rough story, draft two was my own personal edit) and the book is in really good shape. Lots of plot holes and inconsistencies have been worked out, extraneous text has been axed, prose has been tightened, POV and pace has been enhanced. That all goes to making it better to read and more enjoyable.
In total there were 734 changes made based on suggestions by my ever so talented editor, Mae. Word count remains a chunky 153,086 words!
Next up is the copyedit. The manuscript now goes for a professional ‘spit and polish’, looking for errant typos, grammar and other inconsistencies. Once that’s done it will be ready for typesetting, the actual process of turning it into a book.
Having read it all through again it’s already much better than it was. I’m now really confident I have a solid, exciting and quality story that’s a worthy sequel to my original book, but will also stand on its own for Elite Dangerous aficionados and new readers alike. More importantly I’m confident it captures what’s been happening in the game and gives the reader the chance to experience all those events over again from a different, and more in depth, perspective. I’m hopeful it will also stand as an SF novel in its own right.
I’m really looking forward to what people make of it. Production time lines look encouraging. Once I have more news on that I’ll let you know straight away.
I’ll sign off with Mae’s last comments to me – “You’ve done an incredible job with it. It’s a great book.”
A major milestone for me today. The second draft of Elite Dangerous Premonition was finished and sent to the editors. 151,354 words in total.
I have incorporated all the details from the event that happened on the 29th of April into the closing chapters of the book. The overall story has had a ‘lore consistency check’ from Frontier Developments and the manuscript is now in the hands of the editors for fettling.
The second draft is complete!
At this point the story is told, it ‘makes sense’ from beginning to end. Hopefully most of the major plot-holes are filled in. (A couple of howlers were spotted en-route!). The overall story has been approved by Frontier in its close to final form.
So it’s ready then?
No. There will still be a lot of problems with the book at this stage. Typos for sure, POV inconsistencies, character dialogue which isn’t quite right. Descriptions that are too long or too short, pacing that doesn’t suit the scene… this is all stuff that needs to be fixed and authors aren’t always great at it.
I’m happy the story is a good one, but to turn this into a book requires a different kind of magic now… the editor. These wonderful folks turn a good yarn into a proper readable form. They dramatically improve the text, tightening passages, cutting out the flabby words, firming the tone, sharpening the words and dealing with the dross. What comes out is the same story, but punchier, harder, more compelling, more exciting and, well, just better!
I’m lucky enough to be using the same one who worked on Elite: Reclamation all those years ago. An SF specialist and someone who already knows the ins and outs of the Elite Dangerous universe. We’re in safe hands, Commanders.
Commander Salomé, ex-Senator and disgraced lady Kahina Tijani Loren of the empire, is dead.
She was confirmed killed at 20:49 gametime on 29th April, 3303, succumbing to hostile fire from Commander Harry Potter.
Some will accuse me of having scripted this event. Some will accuse me of seeding factions and sowing discord on the ..er.. discord. I would love to accept such a compliment, but I’m not that good. I can write a plot, but I cannot manipulate an entire playerbase to my whim.
Salomé’s death was the result of you, the Elite Dangerous community, what you did and didn’t do. I set out to write your story. For good or for ill, for heroes and villains, for Elitists and for compatriots, for factions and lone-wolves, for griefers and carebears – this is the universe of Elite Dangerous and the book will be true to that zeitgeist.
She survived, in open mode, being assailed by hostile commanders almost immediately, for 1 hour and 45 minutes due to a combination of strategy, practice and a measure of luck. She even had our start location advertised. I’ll agree, the odds were against her.
Salomé got within 6 systems of our target, having fought her way across 600 lightyears of space. Her ship was battered and damaged. At the point Salomé was finally interdicted her hull was holding up well, but the modules within were shot. The FSD drive was failing to engage. Chaff and weapons were offline. We had an AFMU – we’d already used it completely – twice. We prioritised repairs to the FSD
hull (not the hull as you can’t repair it! – my bad), shields and thrusters, hoping to limp on. We had stocked up on jumponium, but we had used it all in our flight. We suffered some client disconnects, but we never combat logged.
She didn’t make it. Harry Potter dealt the death blow, but she was already dying by that point due to other interdictions by hostile players and our attempts to escape using emergency FSD drops. Contrary to rumours circulating, Commander Potter wasn’t part of Salomé’s wing at any point. A valiant proactive, reactive and strategic defense was managed by allied forces in an attempt to keep her alive. You can read about that here.
When news of her death was confirmed there was silence. Deep meaningful silence. Then sobs and cries. Anger, vengeance and retribution followed. This was humanity – this was the aim.
Yes, I had anticipated her death. Clearly that was a highly probable outcome. Personally I was hoping she would make it. She had a speech all ready to go – she liked speeches. That will never see the light of day now because you changed the story. But this wasn’t scripted, there was only preparation for as many eventualities as we could foresee. The logs in the Teorge system were revealed by the three protagonists that did make the flight.
The Elite Dangerous universe goes a different way, a page is turned. This chapter is at an end.
There was a lot that went wrong (some of it in our control, some of it not), much that could be improved. I will review it and learn from it, as will others. Rest assured, those behind their scenes did their utmost best to make this work. They deserve your praise regardless of how you view the outcome.
I would like to thank everyone who contributed, in any way. The sheer hard work and dedication of my team of conspirators in planning the event, the military precision of the private discord channel attempting to plot a path through the madness. The wider community discords attempting to bring some organisation to the chaos, those who did what the hell they liked. The streamers, the viewers, the forum and reddit denizens, the tinfoilers. For Frontier in creating this amazing game and working with me to build this story. Even Harry Potter. You all played a part.
Edit – Lave Radio has published an interview with the Children of Raxxla and the PAC. It is a good guide to what really occurred on the 29th.
Edit – More details can also be gained by listening to the BroCast Podcast on the event.
Edit – An extremely well-written article on the events of the 29th, by Polygon.
With a lot of healthy speculation around the 29th event, some press coverage, various stream interviews and with the help of my fellow conspirators, I thought I’d provide a little more background to the structure of the event. Many thanks to CMDR Erimus in particular for his help here.
The original event that we envisioned many months ago was a chase from A to B, across the frontier worlds and into the bubble. We looked to see if this was feasible and interesting enough given the game limitations and instancing mechanics.
We came to the view that it wasn’t, at least not in such a simplistic manner. One of three things would occur with that scenario:
- All the protagonists would die in the first 5 minutes
- All of the protagonists would leave everyone in their wake and be gone in a flash
- The servers would melt with having so many people gathered in one location at one specific time (the Distant Worlds Sag-A* showed that is one scenario FD won’t appreciate!).
So the event is designed to transpire as follows:
The protagonists will leave 46 Eridani and attempt to reach their destinations somewhere central within in the core worlds (bubble), and those aligned to them, or opposed to them, are encouraged to spread out across the frontier and deploy fleets to areas that the protagonists will attempt to run through.
People who want to help and be involved them can fight for superiority in those areas and prevent blockades and camps from forming, while those who are opposed to the protagonists can attempt to chase down and outmanoeuvre the fugitives, or gain control of the hotspot regions that allies will be patrolling.
This allows several things. Firstly if players follow these guidelines, the event will be spread out over a larger area so the whole thing isn’t based on one single focal point and stressing the servers.
It allows players on both sides to use some tactics and strategy to out manoeuvre each other, they can deploy scouts and use intel to spy on each other (which is already happening), they have an opportunity to use tactics, deception, and put some thought into ship loadouts other than simply taking the fastest thing they have.
Rather than a simple chase, we have a series of factions, fleets and ships jockeying for position between 46 Eridani and the core.
Groups and alliances have been forming for the last few weeks, on both sides. Individuals and lonewolf players are taking part and finding roles for themselves, be it scouting for either side, or infiltrating the various discords to gather intel that suits them if they’re an opportunist bounty hunter.
Instancing remains an issue, but we can’t do anything about it on the technical level – hence the guidance here. Anything on this scale will always be at the mercy of that.
In saying all that, there’s a chance that all the protagonists will die in the first 5 minutes, but there’s also a chance one or two of them could make it to their destinations too.
Whatever happens people need to understand that nothing of this type or scale has been tried before (that we’re aware of) so there is no blueprint to work from.
We don’t know how it’ll pan out – Regardless, not everyone will be happy. That’s the only thing we’re 100% sure of! We’re appealing to the community to get stuck in and make it the best it can be. You all get to write on, Commanders.
Those who want to see the protagonists fail, please feel free to open your own servers and get organized, there’s still time. Or seek out players that have already done that for you.
In the early hours of this morning, the combined efforts of uncounted numbers of Elite Dangerous players came to a head with the discovery of an abandoned ‘mega’ ship far out in the depths of the galactic void.
Clues to this discovery date back to January 2014 when I put the finishing touches to my original Elite Dangerous book “Reclamation“. Now, through a series of unravelled clues, player investigations, long searches and sheer hard work by the player community, the mystery alluded to within has unravelled.
First it was an off-hand conversation, a passing mention of something called the “Formidine Rift” by an old lady in a hospital. Later a vague trajectory plot found in secret Imperial data banks. “Take a line from Reorte to Riedquat to the edge of the arm … and keep going.”
Players went looking, triangulating the course as they uncovered other clues. Beacons, bases, puzzles, obfuscation and misdirection… 3 years have passed. Players also changed the outcome, and have yet to decide the resolution of this particular premonition.
I may have written this story, but it was brought to life by the incredible development team at Frontier Developments. Voice acting (provided by the amazing Amelia Tyler and Jay Britton), music, sound effects and the amazing ship model itself were created to bring the story to life in such a grander way than mere text can convey.
Spoilers ahead then, so avoid if you want to visit the ship yourself. Video courtesy of CMDR Shabooka of the Brocast.
Something of a milestone today.
Having pledged to complete the first draft of Elite Dangerous Premonition this week, I have in fact completed it today. A big push over lunch-time was sufficient to finish off the last remaining scenes, details and some of the major glaring inconsistencies I knew were lurking in the manuscript.
The novel stands at 140,707 words. It took 236 days (7 months, 24 days) to get to this point.
So the book’s ready then?
Not so fast!
What happens next is that I need to re-read the entire story from beginning to end, tweaking and adjusting pace, dialogue, tense, viewpoints, making sure characters ‘pop’ and keep on looking for typos, mistakes, continuity errors and so on. Right now, the book is not even close to ‘ready’, there is still a lot of work to do…
…Not to mention that last chapter that you will all be writing on the 29th of April!
However a first draft is a significant point in the creation of a book. It means there is definitely something very tangible already in existence, the overall story is told and it’s now a case of polishing, refining, tweaking and adjusting.
The second and third drafts will follow in due course, but we are getting close. Many names will be immortalised in the canon, lore will be established and many mysteries revealed.
For now, I write on, Commanders.
This is one of a series of guides to the Elite Dangerous Universe. You can read the others here.
The Federation is the oldest and largest of the ‘Big Three’ super powers in the human occupied universe of Elite: Dangerous. It has been in existence for over a thousand years. The Federation can trace its origins back to the year 2060.
Even as far back as the early years of the 21st century, many large corporations controlled financial and human resources on a scale far bigger than some countries. In the years following the devastation of World War III in the 2040s, the influence of corporations increased dramatically into the 2050s onwards.
After the war, the dominant power was the United States of the Americas, and as the remaining other countries joined it over the next few decades, it was renamed the Federation of the United States and later “The Federation” as the implied reference to one of the pre-war powers was a block to the remaining countries joining it. It had a constitution and laws derived from the earlier powers, but much simplified.
Industrial activity led the way and ultimately became a founding ethos of the Federation. A base on Mars was constructed and the moon was heavily industrialised by 2080. This activity was primarily driven by the need to rebuild the shattered economy and ecology of the Earth after the depredations of war. Industrial activity quickly spread through the solar system. The stage was set for the purest interpretation of capitalism that humanity has ever known.
Interstellar probes were launched and the remarkable discovery of life in the Tau Ceti system spurred humanity to reach for the stars. A colony was set up thirty years later. Colonies were quickly set up in other locales in close proximity to Sol. Life was also discovered in the Delta Pavonis system, but almost immediately was made extinct by the actions of colonists there.
Similar problems were noted in Beta Hydri and Altair. Humanity began to spread unchecked, in an echo of the problems experienced in the previous century. Tau Ceti was warned by Sol to ensure the preservation of local lifeforms, but silence was the only response. Reports conflict, but independent records of the time (which generally favoured the Tau Cetians) indicate that the colony suffered under very harsh conditions and was simply unable to comply with Sol’s excessive demands. Over the next decade various ultimatums were sent, but they were all ignored. Sol’s patience eventually ran out.
The situation culminated in the first ever interstellar battle in the year 2241 between the forces of Sol, having endured a long voyage to reach the Tau Ceti system, and the rebels of Tau Ceti. The battle was inconclusive, forcing the Sol system to accept an unwelcome agreement to form a union of systems with a common agenda and independent rights – thus was the Federation born. Sol would dominate the affairs of the Federation for centuries, but the founding members were systems in their own right: Sol, Tau Ceti, Delta Pavonis, Altair and Beta Hydri.
Further systems were colonised in short order as humanity spread out amongst the stars. A notable colonisation target was the Achenar system in 2310. A leadership coup resulted in Achenar refusing to join the Federation and this defiance led to the birth of the Empire, during a series of wars that started in 2330 and lasted 50 years between the Federation and the colonists of Achenar. A treaty was signed in 2380, but was largely ignored hereafter.
The Federation ceded several systems to religious groups, notably Van Maanen’s Star, which was given to the ‘Guardians of the Free Spirit’ in 2480. The system remains permit locked even today. The years between 2500-2900 were marked by the increasing dominance of the corporations and the commercial and industrial exploitation of systems increasingly further from Sol. Many colonies were established for the purposes of mining and extraction, remaining major profit and loss centres even now.
In 2994 another conflict broke out between the Federation and the Empire in the Alioth system. The destruction wrought by this conflict, which raged off and on for over 200 years, resulted in the birth of the Alliance, when the residents of Alioth revolted against both super powers and pushed them out of their system.
By 3300 the Federation remains the largest power, holding sway over dozens of star systems within the ‘bubble’ of space known as the core worlds. It maintains a significant military force in its navy, the pinnacle of which is the ‘Farragut’ Class battlecruiser, a vessel some 2 kilometres long. A deployment of this vessel tends to quickly end anything other than a very major military engagement.
The Federation remains driven by the corporations. Some of the most famous of them have histories entwined with the Federation. The Sirius corporation, perhaps the biggest of them all, operating out of the Sirius system, has a virtual monopoly on power generators and hyperdrive technology. Other manufacturers are famed throughout space; with names such as Core Dynamics, Lakon Spaceways, Whatt and Pritney, Durn and Resner, Faulcon DeLacy, Zorgon Peterson and Saud Kruger. These so called ‘mega-corporations’ control the birth, lives and deaths of their employees, providing for their every need and expecting absolute loyalty in return.
Technology is a major part of any federation citizen’s life, and the economy is driven by quite conspicuous (and often compulsory) consumption of new and exciting mod cons, luxuries and consumables. The society is very much ‘throwaway’ with the new and exciting replacing the ‘old and outdated’ often within months of acquisition. This drives a constant demand and supply culture, with employees spending the money they earn, further driving the success of the corporations. Strictly speaking the Federation is composed of ‘States’, in a similar manner to the U.S.A. of 21st century Earth, but on a much bigger scale. States can still be countries, but they could be entire systems. The Federation retains a presidential electoral system, but corporations influence this dramatically, expecting their employees to vote according to the corporation’s wishes. Corruption, bribery and underhanded influence are rife. Individual freedoms are suppressed in favour of profit. Greed is good.
The Federation’s capitalist model retains the economic advantages and disadvantages of its predecessors. There are many rich people, but there are many people in grinding poverty too, in such debt to the corporations that they can be regarded as wage-slaves.
The current president of the Federation, Zachary Hudson, was not elected by popular vote, but rather by a vote of no confidence in the liberal leadership under the then missing former president Halsey, prompting observers to postulate that the corporations are likely to be driving the agenda under a thin pretense of democracy.
Regardless, the Federation will continue to have a dramatic, and arguably the most significant, effect on the future of human inhabited space.
This is one of a series of guides to the Elite Dangerous Universe. You can read the others here.
In this second of series of history articles, I take a look at the second game in the Elite series. Frontier Elite 2, commonly abbreviated to ‘FE2’, came along almost ten years after the original game, being published by Konami in 1993 (rights later sold to GameTek) and primarily written by David Braben, although Ian Bell provided some algorithms for drawing planets and design work on control methods.
Some work on ‘Elite 2’ had started long before this, with both Ian Bell and David Braben involved in creating a possible sequel to the original game on the BBC and C64 microcomputers in the late 1980s.
Reports differ on why this didn’t come to fruition, though it seems that the 8-bit hardware was too limited and enthusiasm for the project, with other interests taking their toll on time, ultimately put paid to the work.
When FE2, the second game, finally did appear, it was exclusively a 16-bit affair, being made available for the major platforms of the time, the PC, the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST.
It also featured one of the most cinematic game intros that had been seen up until that point. It’s still worth watching today, to get a feel of how the game introduced itself.
Some original music, particularly the intro theme tune featured above, was composed by David Lowe. For many this is still the definitive ‘Elite’ theme. Other classical works featured in the game too.
The game featured considerable advances and changes over the original. Gone were the simplistic wireframe vector graphics, replaced by fully filled polygonal spacecraft with moving parts and articulated undercarriages.
The universe was now semi-realistic, with ‘real’ stars, orbited in real-time by multiple planets simulated with real astronomical detail and a nascent 1:1 scale galaxy convincingly represented – although space had turned ‘blue’ for some reason.
A political background was introduced, with the game having a particular date it was set in, the year 3200 (the original game had no fixed date but has been assumed to have been set in the year 3125. In FE2 you played a great-grandchild of the original player). The Federation and the Empire appeared as two galactic superpowers vying for territory, the player able to rank up with them. This was a significant departure from the original game which appeared to be set in an imaginary series of ‘galaxies’ controlled by the mysterious Galactic Cooperative or ‘Galcop’. This was, perhaps, the first major ‘retcon’ of the Elite universe.
FE2 did include a small subset of the original game systems, collectively known as the ‘Old Worlds’. Players will still be familiar with Lave, Diso, Riedquat, Reorte and Tionisla. There are a number of others from the original game still featured in Elite Dangerous even now. This led to the lore that marked the demise of ‘GalCop’ itself, which was explained as a socio-economic collapse of that political entity sometime prior to 3200. Players had the option to start in the Lave system as in the original game, but had to pay a fine if they wanted to enter the territories of the Federation or the Empire. Another option was to start on Mars. Most players would start the game on the ice-moon Merlin in the Ross 154 system, with a basic Mk1 Eagle.
FE2 also featured a game engine capable of rendering travel through astronomically accurate and realistically sized space and down to a 1:1 scale planetary surface which, though sparse in detail by today’s standards, was convincingly represented with billboards, roads, houses, mountains, clouds, craters and rivers. You could land on all planets with solid surfaces, regardless of whether they had an atmosphere or not.
Various planetary and stellar types were represented, with different effects being applied to atmospheres, gas giants, and even planetary rings. The same engine was able to render a clock tower (with a working clock) at point blank range. The game also featured a sophisticated external camera.
Most controversially of all, the flight mechanics of the game were based upon newtonian physics rather than the traditional ‘airplanes in space’ trope common to most space flight games. This certainly gave a sense of realism, but was a controversial choice for game-play, often leading to a ‘jousting’ style of combat and a certain difficulty in flying your ship, necessitating the almost mandatory use of an autopilot for navigation and docking for most players. Alas, the autopilot was not all that reliable, meaning that a fiery death dive into a star or planet was a frequent occurrence.
The mechanics of space travel were also quite different. Gone was the space-skip or Torus drive featured in the earlier versions. Ships in FE2 travelled through space in real-time, taking days or weeks to reach their destinations. This was rendered playable by use of the ‘Stardreamer’ which accelerated time from the perspective of the player. Ships travelled in hyperspace or traditional space using their engines, accelerating and decelerating to their destination by use of their main thrusters.
The player could now change their ship and many of the ships from the original game were featured, along with new ones, though only one ship could be owned at a time.
Remarkably, and once again due to the magic of procedural generation, all of this was contained on a single floppy disk (around 720 kilobytes on the PC version). The game originally being written in 250,000 lines of 68000 assembly code (native for the Amiga and ST) and ported to the 80286 processor for the PC by Chris Sawyer (Anyone familiar with these two processor architectures will appreciate the herculean task involved!). The game taxed those early machines, with performance being quite poor on the early iterations, particularly on the Amiga and ST, though later editions of the hardware solved this successfully. The Amiga version had the virtue of the best music rendition and sound effects.
Once again the game was accompanied by works of fiction, a collection of short works entitled “Stories of life on the Frontier.” and a gazetteer of particular worlds.
There was also an interesting flaw, the so-called ‘wormhole’ bug. Due to a miscalculation of jump range, the player could jump multiples of 655.35 lightyears without using additional fuel. By clever triangulation, vast distances could be covered by judicious plotting.
There were some curious omissions too. The ubiquitous bad guys, the Thargoids, were almost totally absent from the game and none of the original mysteries such as Raxxla and the Dark Wheel were expanded upon.
Whilst the open ended nature of the game was true to the original, there were no obvious scripted missions present in the game, though there were various simple missions ranging from assassination contracts, passenger missions, to military photographic reconnaissance.
These missions were given by ‘photofit’ style individuals, and the player had a series of prompted responses they could give to queries. Also introduced were new bits of technology such as the ‘hyperspace analyser’ allowing you to track ships and intercept them at their destinations.
Most reviews of the game were positive, with many citing the scale, realistic physics and sheer ambition of the game. A few commented to the effect that gameplay was ‘boring’ as a result of the newtonian mechanics. Certainly some of the visceral nature of the combat from the original game was missing, though it definitely has its loyal fans. Somewhere near 500,000 copies were sold. For many players this was their ‘first’ Elite.
It would be followed by another sequel within two years…