“From the ruins of blasted Ushgarak, she pledged that the Moonprince’s triumph would be short lived!”
Here, in the depths of the cold, at the Winter Solstice itself, it gives me great pleasure to announce another book!
I will be writing an official book based on the second of Mike Singleton’s epic games – “Doomdark’s Revenge.”
Once again, Chris Wild and I will be collaborating on the story. Cover design will be by the same artist as before (the hugely talented Jurij Rogelj) with the book being published by Fantastic Books Publishing, initially in ebook and paperback, with an audible conversion following on afterwards.
The current plan is to have the draft completed by the end of July 2019, with the book available in early autumn of the same year.
To introduce it, here is the trailer.
This is a direct sequel to “Lords of Midnight” and, just like as in the original game, will pick up the story immediately after the point at which Lords of Midnight finishes. Doomdark has indeed been defeated, but his daughter, Shareth the Heartstealer, vows a terrible revenge…
Back in 1985, Doomdark’s Revenge swiftly followed the success of Lords of Midnight on the ZX Spectrum, introducing new innovations such as multiple races and characters who had their own agendas and wandered about the map. Despite all this, the map of the ‘Icemark’ (the land in which the adventure takes place) was even bigger than before.
Doomdark’s Revenge is quite a different proposition to Lords of Midnight. Firstly, there are even more characters than before – a total of 128 compared with the 32 in Lords of Midnight! Now, each character has traits, behaviours, loyalties and hatreds, meaning politics will play a huge role in this story. Both Luxor and Shareth vie to recruit armies to their banner. Figuring out how to portray all this in a book will be one of the early challenges.
Next, Lords of Midnight (the game) was entirely a male domain. We reviewed this as part of constructing the novel and introduced Shareth into Lords of Midnight from the second game (so readers would be aware she was there). Shareth is the daughter of Doomdark himself and is the main antagonist of this second story.
Tarithel (who wasn’t mentioned in the original game either, but would have been around at the time) is the daughter of the Lord of Dreams. We gave her a bigger role in Lords of Midnight, but she has a central role in the second book and becomes one of the major protagonists.
Morkin and Rorthron also reprise their roles, though Corleth is a noticeable absentee from the second game.
The book will, once again, be faithful to a play through of the game itself. I’ll admit, right now, I’m not as familiar with the game as I was with Lords of Midnight, so I’ll be playing it regular in the new year on my twitch channel – come along and find out what it’s about!
Lords of Midnight and Doomdark’s Revenge are the first two parts of a planned four piece series known as the “Midnight Chronicles”. Chris and I plan to continue our collaboration after Doomdark, and produce the “The Citadel” and the “Eye of the Moon” in due course.
Now I have both the time and the capability, I’ll also be working on the audio version of Lords of Midnight. This will be available via Audible (and via FBPs own store). The audible version of Lords of Midnight is expected to be available during the summer of 2019.
The first step will be to establish the lore of the upcoming book. This will be working with Chris and playing the game to refamiliarise myself with it. Writing is due to commence in April 2019 – you can follow progress here.
Dawn breaks… Join us as we venture into the Icemark, the frozen empire to the North of the land of Midnight. Time is of the essence, as Shareth has sworn… Doomdark’s Revenge!
I’ve been rather busy!
There’s a surprising amount of work involved in leaving work. I’ve had to write up a bunch of detailed handover notes for my successor at Lloyd’s, and it’s quite surprising how much you actually know and do, which all has to be documented and training provided. Still, I’m getting there – only another two and a half weeks to ago now before I’m ‘out of work’.
That is, in the traditional sense. I’ll be a freelancer, plying the uncharted waters of self-employment with only my own expertise to rely on. Gulp. 😉 Somehow I suspect I may be busier than I was before…
I do have a plan though, and that plan is full of books and audio. You can see the detail on my ‘Work In Progress‘ Page.
The first highlight though, is the long-awaited (and sorry about that!) 3rd installment in my ‘Shadeward’ series.
Set on the tidally locked exoplanet Esurio in the starsystem of Lacaille 9352, book 3 “Enervation” picks up the action right after we left our characters in book 2 “Exoneration”.
Zoella, Meru and the crew of the Mobilis have fled Drem just as the priestesses of Drayden have invaded it. Kiri has learnt many secrets and is plotting her own schemes. All the while the planet itself is becoming more and more unstable as Lacaille’s flares worsen.
In book 3 the situation deteriorates further, and the ambitions of the antagonists becoming even more conflicted. The major characters you know will grow in new (and sometimes surprising) directions. Major revelations about the strange past of the planet are revealed and the scene is set for book 4, which will close off this particular series, but open up even greater mysteries for the upcoming expanded Shadeward universe.
Contracts are signed up for book 3, so writing (which is already reasonably advanced) will build apace before long (pesky day job!). Book 3 is currently due in May 2019.
I’ve also been working hard on prepping my audio rig. PC and all the associated hardware is now built, tested and working well. For the technical amongst you, this comprises a Win 10 PC with a low latency SSD, a phantom powered Audio Technics AT2020 microphone, sound baffle, a Sony amp and a pair of Tannoy bookshelf speakers (ideally these would be monitor speakers, but I had them spare and couldn’t really justify the extra expense at this point). An old Nexus tablet has been repurposed as a prompt, which avoids the ‘rustling paper’ problem.
The first audiobook out (April 2019) will be Shadeward 1 “Emanation”, quickly followed by the more recent “Lords of Midnight”.
Overall, my study is pretty much complete, I just need to clean it up a bit ensure everything is as quiet as possible. Fortunately the furniture is already pretty stable and solid, but it is a amazing how much noise you’re aware of when you try to record. My initial tests picked up the fridge in the kitchen below, the washing machine (on fast spin) in the utility room… and also a massive great helicopter that decided to fly overhead at exactly the wrong moment!
I am fortunate that I live in a cul-de-sac, so passing traffic noise is minimal, however people do seem to want to mow lawns and saw things in half at the most inconvenient times! 😉
In other news I’m prepping my next novel in collaboration with Chris Wild. Doomdark’s Revenge will be worked on immediately after Shadeward 3, and is currently due for launch around August 2019. I’m looking forward to this one immensely as it will be rather more ‘free’ in the lore sense than the original “Lords of Midnight” which was somewhat shackled to its origins as a Tolkien pastiche. With Doomdark’s Revenge we will pick up the story of Luxor, Morkin and Rorthron, but with an additional focus on Tarithel who has a much more significant role to play in this second story.
They all face off against the sorceress Shareth the Heartstealer, the ruler of the northern Icemark and daughter of Doomdark himself. All of which promises to be another excellent and exciting story!
I’m also going to be expanding my twitch streaming presence with the extra time I have. Just the other day I qualified for their ‘affiliate’ programme, and I’m planning some additional streams in and around the world of writing. I’ll also be doing some gaming too, as first I need to relearn Doomdark’s Revenge. There may be some other stuff in there too, so stay tuned over at twitch.tv/drewwagar.
There are also a few other irons in the fire, biding their time for now. More on those when I have some progress to report.
Don’t forget that you can also sign up my newsletter, which I plan to publish about once a month from next year.
So, a few more weeks and the new career will be full-time. Not long now!
If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know that I’ve always written my books and stories around, and often in spite of, my day job. I took the advice I was given at school… study, work hard and get a ‘proper’ job.
So I studied Computer Science at university and my career has exclusively been within the IT domain since – that’s 26 years of a quite traditional ‘career’ revolving around a 9-5 job Monday through Friday, though it was more like 7-7 with some weekends thrown in! I’ve worked out that unpaid overtime was probably something like an extra year or so over that period – so I’ve certainly ‘done my bit’.
This constricted the amount of time available to me for writing, and whilst I’ve managed to crank out quite a bit of work (6 full length novels and a few short stories) since I properly started back in 2011, time has always been the issue I couldn’t do a great deal about.
Any of you who work in corporate life will be very much aware of the soulless desks, office politics, downsizing/rightsizing/outsourcing, endless (and often pointless) meetings and paperwork, death-by-powerpoint, checkbox mentality and sheer stress involved. Add to that the increasingly heavy burden of compliance and regulation and the constant yearly mantra of “Do more with less!” (wouldn’t it be nice one year for top brass to say “You know what? This year how about we do less with more?” 😉 ). The higher in an organisation you go, the more all this compounds. Responsibility and accountability is a heavy burden.
I’m good at my job, and I have worked with some amazing people throughout my career. But it was sapping my strength, leaving me with less and less to offer to family, friends and fans. It’s not my passion – that lies elsewhere.
My passion, as you probably know, is writing. If I’m honest, it always has been – I was writing stories from childhood.
So it’s with the full support of my family, with great excitement, and a little trepidation, that today I’m announcing that I’m stepping out of the rat race. I’m working my notice at my current employer, and from January 2019 will be writing full-time.
There is clearly some risk involved in this, not least the finances – there’s still a mortgage and bills to pay. However, we’ve decided that life is simply too short not to chase your dreams. For a while now I’ve been asking myself “If not now, then when?”
My books clearly have a readership and I don’t think it’s too self-aggrandising to claim I have a fan-base out there waiting for my next book. Around me I have seen work colleagues, old friends and famous people in the media dropping dead at ages not far from (or in some cases younger than) mine. My life expectancy is around 80 years, give or take, so I mostly likely have 32 years to go. It’s impossible to predict what the future holds and I don’t want to put it off any longer – who knows how many years I actually have?
As the quote goes… nobody on their death-bed said “I wish I’d spent more time in the office!”
“If not now, then when?”
I will give this my all. Those of you who know me personally will be aware that I’m fairly tenacious. 😉 I’ll be blogging about the experience throughout – which may make for an interesting book in its own right at some point in the future.
What does this mean for you? Well, it mostly means more books and more often! I’ll maintain and improve my writing, the quality you’re used to; the characterisation, the dialogue and the description – everything that is a hallmark of a ‘Wagar’ book.
I’m currently working on the precise schedule, but I can confirm Shadeward 3 : Enervation will be next! Right now the rest of the Shadeward Saga and a complete set of Midnight novels (with Doomdark’s Revenge being the first) are in the process of being confirmed and planned.
It will also give me the chance to respond to any left field opportunities that come my way; tv, film, writing commissions, contributions to game narrative, lore, rather like the Elite Dangerous Kickstarter back in 2012. So if that’s of interest to you or your company, please get in touch. You can see my portfolio for details of what I’ve done before.
I believe that I can punch out 3, perhaps even 4 books a year now and I’ll be hitting the ground running on Jan 1st. My plans also include more audiobooks being provided as well – I have the equipment to do all of this. I’ll also have the time to promote myself and my books at conventions and events throughout the year. Make sure you sign up to my newsletter in order to be amongst the first to be informed of the latest happenings and releases!
Time has been the limiting factor – not anymore. I should be able to do more streaming as well, more than once a week.
I want to write books for you all to read. That’s my passion, that’s my ambition. That you’ve supported me this far has spurred me onto greater things. Now it’s up to me to rise to the challenge of going full time with all the risks and opportunities that affords.
That’s my news – hoping to have you all along for the ride. 2019 is going to be an interesting year!
With the imminent official launch of “The Lords of Midnight” just a few weeks away at Fantasticon 2018, it gives me great pleasure to let you all know that you can now get your paperback copies of the book from Amazon.
It’s quite a different experience from the ebook! The paperback version is 533 pages long, so quite a tome, even for a fantasy novel. You get the same front cover as the ebook, but you also gain the rear and spine covers too. Inside there is a map of Midnight across two pages.
There certainly is something very satisfying about holding the finished work in your hands after all this time. If you’ve been holding out for a physical copy, now is your chance. 🙂
I’ll be signing copies of the book at Fantasticon if you planning on attending, there’ll also be another opportunity, in Kent, for a book signing later in September. If neither of those work for you, please reference my ‘Signed Copies‘ page for details of how you can get your copy signed by me.
A week and a bit on from the launch of “The Lords of Midnight” and the first reviews are in (beware – minor spoilers if you haven’t read the book). It’s with a little bit of relief, and big dollops of appreciation, that I’m able to report that the book has, so far, been well received!
It’s tempting to say that I had no doubts whatsoever that I’d done a good job, but that simply isn’t the case. “Pride cometh before a fall” is a familiar cliché, but it’s often true. You can think you’ve done a great job only to discover that folks didn’t like what you created. I’m always nervous before I launch a book, and this one was no different. Rather like my original Elite story ‘Reclamation’, there was an awareness that I was dealing with a venerable and very well-established franchise with a long history dating back 34 years. You muck these things up at your peril, the weight of fan expectation is significant.
Chris and I had long discussions about how we could deal with the overly Tolkienesque background to the story, the complete lack (by 21st century standards) of diversity in the original game, how to adapt the lore to cater for the inconsistencies between games and potential future novels, how to expand on the lore without writing ourselves into a corner, how to deal with the vast number of characters and do justice to them all. This was tricky stuff, particularly when a change to that lore could upset fans who are particular on a given point. Folks, particularly after thirty four years, have very concrete expectations and understandings of how things work.
All that said, it seems we have navigated those rapids and stayed afloat. At the time of writing a full 10 5 star reviews have been submitted to Amazon, many of which have praised the work Chris and I undertook on the lore and design of the story. That’s come as a welcome relief and a growing sense of achievement over the last week or so. It seems we pulled off a successful novelisation of Mike Singleton’s seminal adventure game, which bodes well for the future.
It’s also been heartening for me to see that I’m bringing new readers to my work, and that many are transitioning from my Elite books, to Shadeward and now onto (what I hope will be) the Midnight Chronicles. It means I’m not a ‘one trick pony’. Like an actor who doesn’t want to get typecast into a particular role, I was keen not to be just ‘that guy who wrote stuff for Elite’ either. The Midnight Chronicles and my Shadeward series are showing me that I can tell stories that folks want to read outside of the cockpit of a Cobra Mk3.
I’ve also transitioned from pure SF to pure Fantasy in terms of a move of genres. I’m not a big fan of genres per se, as I feel they may artificially constrain story-telling. However, there are differences between SF and Fantasy and having now done both I’ll say that I find fantasy is easier overall in terms of having less constrictions on what you can do. SF is much more rigorous, particularly ‘hard’ SF. That said, my approach has been the same, concentrate on the characters and the adventure and don’t ‘try to be clever’ – my stories are designed to be very accessible, readable in straightforward chronological order and don’t employ clever literary slights of hand. It’s a combination that seems to work.
I’m also conscious of the community of readers who’ve got me to this point. I’ve been thinking of ways to ‘give things back’ to the folks who’ve read my books and supported me along the way. One of these is my upcoming Twitch stream. I’m planning to answer questions regarding the ‘craft’ of writing and something of an insiders view of what it’s all about. I’m by no means an expert, in fact my highest academic qualification is a ‘C’ Grade O-Level in English Literature from 1986. However, writing a book that people enjoy reading isn’t the same as passing an exam, and I have now published 6 full length books which folks have enjoyed. That’s given me a certain experience of what works and what doesn’t and I’m looking forward sharing that and comparing notes with other people. If you want to join that you can follow me here > https://www.twitch.tv/drewwagar on Mondays at 8pm UK time.
So, many thanks to all of who have read Lords of Midnight, and particularly to those if you who have reviewed it! Reviews really do make a massive difference to the book’s visibility, so please review if at all possible. In this case, the success of Lords of Midnight will have a direct bearing on the likelihood of being able to write the second one, Doomdark’s Revenge. If you want to see the ongoing story, please, please review the current one! 🙂
The ebook is now available for general release. Folks who have pre-ordered should be getting their copies imminently. I hope you all enjoy it – certainly Chris, Dan and I had a lot of fun putting it all together. We hope we’ve done Mike Singleton proud.
Arise, Midnight! Arise the Free! Peril and doom lie at our gates. Waken your valour, arm yourselves with courage! We ride to conquer Doomdark forever! Arise Midnight, arise!
See you at the Tower of the Moon!
Amazon Kindle – http://getbook.at/TheLordsOfMidnight
Non DRM formats (Epub, Mobi and PDF) – https://www.fantasticbooksstore.com/lords-of-midnight-all-formats.html
I’ve been thinking quite a bit recently about a couple of things; fan interaction and giving something back to the community of folks who’ve followed me on and off through the years.
I’ve had quite a bit of email and twitter interactions with folks regarding my books, about the stories, the background lore, characters and so on. There have also been quite a few queries on the ‘art’ of writing, or basically ‘how do you go about it?’ It seems there are plenty of folks out there interested in what it takes to write a book. I can’t claim to be an expert, but I have “been there and done that” to an extent.
Emails are slow and ponderous, twitter is quick and fun, but rather limiting and it’s also hard to ‘store’ for reference in any meaningful way. Facebook is somewhere in between. Youtube is full of guides of course, but there’s not much opportunity to interact with an offline video. A few people have suggested Twitch.
Twitch has, up until recently, been almost 100% about gaming. Streamers will play a game and folks will watch, comment and interact. I’ve avoided this up until now because: a) I’ve never had the time to play games to the degree that some folks can and b) there are so many streamers already talking about the games I do play that I didn’t really think I could add much.
However, Twitch themselves are in the process of opening up their environment beyond games. They have a new ‘Creative’ category where people ‘make stuff’. That could be anything from Origami to Welding, as long as you have a webcam, a microphone and a topic of interest, you’re set.
So… I’m going to start my own Twitch stream and focus on writing. I’ll be recording the streams and making them available via Twitch, YouTube and, hopefully, a podcast too.
So how’s this going to work then?
I’m going to try to keep it short and sweet, and hour at a time, once a week on Monday evening (8-9 pm UK time). I’m working on the topics, but here’s an early list of things I’m likely to cover:
- So you want to be writer? (What does it take? How much time do you need? What tools, equipment? How do I start?)
- World Building (How do I construct something from scratch? What do I need? How much is enough?)
- Writing Clichés debunked/explained (“Write what you know”, “Show don’t tell”, “Why most of what you were taught at school was wrong”)
- Fatal flaws (The things everyone does at the start which you need to not do)
- Characters (How do you make an interesting character, what must you avoid,
- Points of View (How to ensure you don’t confuse the reader and make a mess of your story)
- Description (How do you bring the environment to life, how far to go and knowing when to stop)
- Polishing your writing (Review, editing, word choice, finding your style)
- Getting the book out there (typesetting, covers, ebooks, formating, paperbacks, hardbacks)
- Publishing options (Self, Direct, via Agent)
- How much money can you actually make? (Costs, time and expectations)
- Writing for Games (How does it differ from a book, how’s it done, challenges and difficulties)
- Writing in someone else’s universe (The good, the bad and the ugly!)
Wherever possible I’ll use actual examples, so you can see the difference as we go. Rather than a game being in the window, they’ll likely be a copy of Word instead! I’ll be showing some behind the scenes stuff from my own books so you can see the process for yourself. Of particular interest will be the background doc for Elite: Reclamation, which will allow you to see the creative process behind the construction and writing of that novel. I’ve also kept all the previous drafts and the editing notes, so you can see how rough the early work is and the difference between those and the finished work.
Along with all that I’ll do ‘request’ type shows if viewers have particular preferences for things.
I’m also planning to do provide some sneak peeks of my upcoming books and discuss plot points and content of my books if there’s interest in delving into those as part of the discussions.
So… that’s the plan! The stream will be at 8-9 pm on Mondays, probably from July. If you have suggestions for other topics to cover I’d love to hear them, please comment below, tweet or facebook them to me. Look forward to seeing you all on Twitch!
It gives me enormous pleasure to bring you some great news about the official Lords of Midnight novel, now two years in the making!
Whilst paperbacks are still scheduled for September, Fantastic Books Publishing have been able to bring the publication of the ebook version forward.
- The ebook is going to be available from the 21st June.
The eagle-eyed amongst will immediately spot the significance of the date. This is the Summer Solstice itself, furthest point from the Witchking’s height of power in the depths of Winter, an auspicious moment upon which to launch the book and also the two year anniversary of the moment when the book was announced. Paperbacks will follow in September as previously mentioned, hopefully with a pre-order option in August.
- The ebook is now available to pre-order via Amazon, so you can be first in the queue when it is released.
With all that happening there is one more thing to reveal. We’ve been working very hard on the cover design for the book in the last month. The artwork is by Jurij Rogelj, the same artist who created the graphics for Chris’ remade version of Mike Singleton’s original 1984 ZX Spectrum game. We’ve worked hard to capture the essential ‘Midnight-ness’ in the design, introducing bits and pieces from the game that should be instantly recognisable to existing fans, but in such a way that newcomers to Midnight will be enticed in as well. The bloody sword of battle hangs poised across the lands of Midnight, night fell and the Foul were abroad. But now, dawn breaks!
- Here is the cover of the official Lords of Midnight novel, the first of the “Midnight Chronicles”
Yes, that’s right – the first of the “Midnight Chronicles.” Chris and I very much hope to continue on to Doomdark’s Revenge, the Citadel and the Eye of the Moon too given a positive reception to how we’ve treated Mike Singleton’s legacy in this first book. Everyone has worked very hard to get this book to this point and we’re confident we’ve done a great job, combining writing, lore, research, editing, typesetting, cover design and promotion. Now it’s heading your way wonderful readers. We all hope you love it!
The ice-bound landscape of Midnight is waiting for you to explore it once more…
Folks, I know that you’ve been eagerly awaiting the debut of my first fantasy novel, The Lords of Midnight. I’m afraid I’ve got to announce a further delay. We’re now looking at the beginning of September this year for release.
We’ve been working hard on prepping the novel – it’s a chunky 150,000+ words. Editing, typesetting and all the other prep for publishing is well underway and in good shape – the book itself is done.
We had some issues getting the cover ready in time and these have now been sorted, but unfortunately not in time for the publishing slot we were aiming for in May.
Publishing slots are time-bound (each book is lined up and has its place in the queue), if you miss your slot you have to wait for the next available one. Unfortunately we’ve missed our assigned slot. It wouldn’t be fair to other authors to jeopardise their go live dates. The next available slot for us is September.
We could have squeezed things for May, but that would result in a potential compromise of quality, something that we weren’t prepared to do. It’s never good to rush things unnecessarily. We’ve been waiting for this particular book since 1984 – I hope 3-4 months further delay won’t be received too badly. We’ve only got one chance to relaunch this and we want to ensure it’s the best we can do.
In the next few weeks we will be able to reveal the cover for the book, so stay tuned for that and we’ll be able to bring you some more concrete info about pre-release and formats.
Apologies for this additional delay, but we’re confident the final product will be worthy of the wait!
We’ll be able to launch at the Fantasticon convention, where (other than book launches) you’ll be able to avail yourself of traders, tabletop games, livestreaming, video games (modern and retro), virtual reality, musicians and special guests.
Any questions, please tweet or ask below in the comments!
A year ago today one of the characters I created in my book Elite: Reclamation was ‘killed’.
Kahina Tijani Loren, or Salomé, the erstwhile Senator of the Prism system, was assassinated when trying to reach the Tionisla system.
Either a spoilt brat, an explorer, a war criminal, a heroine, a terrorist, a freedom fighter or a mad woman with a fondness for oratory – depending on your outlook – her story came to an end on the 29th April, 3303 (2017). She aimed to expose the actions of and incite a revolt against shadowy powers that she claimed were manipulating humanity.
At least, that was the narrative. I’m grateful for those who have catalogued her life and put it all together on the Elite Dangerous Wiki for folks to review.
Authors have always killed favoured characters off, either as part of the plot, or even vindictively, citing the “kill your darlings” advice (sometimes attributed to G.K. Chesterton). This can generate shock, upset and outrage in the reader. It depends very much on what the author intended. Others might ask why the ‘death’ of a fictional character matters anyway.
But Salomé’s death was different. It wasn’t the author who killed her, but a player of the game the novel was based upon during an in-game event.
That in-game event, and the notoriety that surrounds it, remains a moment of note in the history of the Elite Dangerous game. Some say it was a triumph, that it showed the possibilities of community generated content, player group interaction and involvement. Others consider it a disaster, a foregone conclusion, a confused mess, an event that should have never taken place, a publicity stunt or shameless self-promotion. Many will subscribe to aspects of both views.
I’m grateful to Frontier Developments for covering the event on their livestream, newsletter and the in-game aspects. Also to Obsidian Ant, who interviewed me beforehand, the streamers who attempted to cover the event live, to Lave Radio, who covered the aftermath of the event, those who worked so hard with me on the event and those who took part.
There are many many articles online about it. This one from Polygon is by far the most accurate, as Charlie Hall was the only journalist who had the courtesy to check facts with me. Other online material ranges from the poorly researched or one-sided, through to the credulity straining (but of course, oh so compelling!) conspiracy theories. What you consider to be the ‘truth’ of the matter is entirely up to you.
What actually surprises me is how many people are still talking about it, even after all this time – but here is my reflection on it, a year to the day.
First, I’ll try to explain what I intended.
The original objective, looking at it now, seems quite pedestrian. All I really wanted was for players to determine the ‘lore’ fate of a character by means of the game, so I could finish a book. That book (Elite Dangerous : Premonition) was a chronicle, of sorts, of player actions in the game. The set up was as simple as it could be yet still be meaningful; a “Catch me if you can” chase from one point to another, a “Trench Run” win or lose scenario – but with “Iron Man” rules – if Salomé was killed, she was killed – no escape pods, no rescue. Death. A finale for the book. That was all it was.
Even that was problematic. I wanted it in “open”, so as to be as inclusive as possible. Folks were quick to point out that no one, absolutely no one ever in the history of the game, had survived in “open” with a target on their back for more than a few minutes. I was “signing her death warrant” by even considering it. Cue the accusations that I did ‘kill’ her, if indirectly. I did consider a private “Lore” group for the event, but that would have opened me up to two more problems – 1. Managing the group and any possible infiltration of it (Mobius has had a lot of problems here) and 2. Deliberately excluding a lot of the player base by an active choice. Decision to run in “open” made.
There was the PC and Xbox issue (The PS4 version had yet to be released at the time). The two universes were parallel, the same in detail but not in instancing. Should there be a “PC Salomé” and an “Xbox Salomé”? What if one survived and the other didn’t – what was the actual outcome? I decided there “could be only one.” PC had the biggest user base and I didn’t (and still don’t) have an Xbox One. Multiple characters under the control of other players was the answer to that one so the Xbox community could be involved.
Then there was the issue of the “Friends list” and somehow balancing the event so it would be worth people taking part. Salomé’s account had been accepting all friend requests since it was created many years before, without any discrimination. On the days leading up to the event hundreds of players requested to be friends. At the time (and I’m not aware this has changed since), the in-game mechanisms were insufficient for any given player to pursue another with the hope of being able to overtake and interdict them. We couldn’t advertise the destination without the danger of ‘base camping’. With a sufficiently fast ship and a long jump range, you had total immunity from any form of danger if you had no “Friends”. The “Friends list” gave away Salomé’s location, thus levelling the playing field. If you lost her, you had a way to find her again. Did it give too much of an advantage to those seeking to kill her? Another decision to be made. Friends list was to be non-selective.
Ditto the loadout of the ship. To ensure maximum chance of success, Salomé should have had a lightweight engineered Anaconda or Asp optimised for jump range and refueling – but no hardened PvP build could have kept up – result? No gameplay. Canonically, Salomé flew an Imperial Clipper optimised for exploration (during the event it was engineered for shields, jump range and speed). She couldn’t (in the lore) suddenly conjure up an uber ship out of nowhere. Imperial Clipper it was, with all the limitations that brings.
For the advantage, we should have used the best PvP pilot we could find, but again canonically, Salomé was not that pilot. She was a snooty Imperial who had flown a star-ship a handful of times, not a seasoned spacer. I choose to fly her in character, not because I was under the impression that I was a brilliant PvP pilot (as many have pointed out – I’m not) but more because I needed to ensure that she would respond to whatever happened on the fly and in character to make the lore consistent. Decisions, decisions.
None of these decisions (and there were many others besides) were taken without rationale, but crucially, none were taken with a specific outcome in mind, or to provide favour to any particular faction or player group. They were taken with the aim of making a scenario that would actually work in practice. I was attempting to create an event that had a level of tension, where the outcome was uncertain and not a foregone conclusion. That really was the only objective.
Ironically, the biggest risk I thought we had at the start was that no one would turn up and it would be a non-event due to indifference. That didn’t turn out to be a problem. The event was accused of being both over-hyped and under-advertised.
There was no conspiracy, at least, not one instigated by me. Salomé was to be protected by the Children of Raxxla and Loren’s Legion, the members of which had proven their loyalty over years of faithful service. There was no compromise of either of these factions, despite claims to the contrary by many sources. SDC were never remotely trusted by Salomé’s core group at all. PAC was permitted to organise itself around information that CoR and LL ‘declassified’. The machinations that resulted were truly emergent gameplay of a type, whether in-game or meta game. The CoR and LL mission objective was simple. Get Salomé safely to Tionisla, regardless of what else was going on. Scenarios were trialled, tactics worked through, mock battles rehearsed in advance. We were prepared.
The outcome needs little explanation. We all know the result.
So, secondly, what is my stance on the event now, a year later?
Lots of things went wrong:
- A player discovered the end-event content (the Teorge logs) before the event started. Limitations on how to insert them into the universe meant they had to be there in advance. That was an interesting one to explain in the book. 🙂
- I caused excessive damage to Salomé’s ship evading interdiction throughout the chase, I didn’t have time to rehearse all the heat management expertise I needed. We had AFMUs aboard, but they were exhausted by the end. This was why we ‘slowed down’ – for repairs.
- The game did conspire against us with the usual issues – CTDs, wing connections failing, instancing issues, blue-tunneling etc. These were expected, but did contribute to the final result.
- The amount of communication required was enormous. I had hopes of being able to issue some instructions on the way, but the reality of being hunted in “open” mode during the event rendered that impossible. That meant there was more confusion, which was actually completely authentic. That did make things hard for folks joining the event and trying to figure out what was going on, and it made life very hard for the streamers who were trying to cover the event. It’s true that “no plans survives contact with the enemy.”
- Very shortly prior to the event Frontier had to patch the game to remove an “infinite packhound missile” bug.
- It was alleged, after the event, that some of the antagonists had exploited a bug in the game to make their ships engineered beyond reasonable expectations. I didn’t know about this in advance and have never seen a definitive statement from Frontier about it.
I hadn’t foreseen a number things:
- I wanted an in-game event to conclude the book. The game mechanics were (are still?) borderline unsuitable for carrying this out. I pressed on when, arguably, I should have stopped after a more sober analysis. In my defence, this wasn’t the first time a lore related event in “open” had been attempted. I’d watched others run previous events (including those run by Frontier themselves), analysed them and thought I’d mitigated their failings in the design of this one.
- I understood the limitations of the game in theory, but not in wide-scale practice. I underestimated the emergent complexity of trying to organise even such a simple event within the context of Elite Dangerous. I opened myself up to accusations of engineering the outcome by having to make decisions that certainly influenced the outcome in an honest attempt to provide a level playing field.
- The sheer number of players who wanted to take part and their wildly different motivations for taking part. I had originally thought that only players who had some sort of interest in the ‘lore’ of the game would take part, this was not the case. I had anticipated hostile players of course, in fact I welcomed it – it made the event actually ‘dangerous’, what was the point if there were no stakes, no risk? That was the ‘lore’ reason for the bounties. Salomé and Co were wanted. I don’t know what the player count was, but I’m informed it was in the thousands.
- I failed to appreciate the wider agendas of player groups beyond my immediate horizons. The meta politics of SDC and PAC are worthy of a story in themselves. This was behaviour that I had not expected, or anticipated and certainly hadn’t instigated. I hoped that player groups would be “For” and “Against” (in fact Frontier put that option in the communication menu specifically for the event), but I hadn’t expected the tangled twists, infiltration of Discord, the ‘no fire/unarmed’ order directives and the other machinations that emerged. I knew of SDC by reputation (and had a brief interaction with them earlier on during one of the exploration CGs I ran). PAC’s arrival, behaviour and subsequent departure really was emergent ‘meta’ content. More occurred than I could actually keep track of.
- The backlash against me as the organiser of the event. Writers have to have tough hides, but let’s just say “Shields failed”, “Module damage” and “Emergency Low Wake.” I won’t be venturing into that conflict zone again. The level of opprobrium I received (‘salt’ in the gaming vernacular) was extreme. I’m not saying, necessarily, that it wasn’t warranted, nor would I say that folks aren’t entitled to their opinions – but when that level of vitriol is fired at a content creator, the community should not be surprised when that content creator looks at that response and decides to no longer provide content for them.
Had I known before what I know now I’m not sure I would have undertaken it. I would probably have decided Salomé’s fate myself and just written it down, though perhaps I’d have got into trouble for that too. That is the most obvious rebuttal of the ‘I scripted it’ accusation – I was at liberty to just write Salomé’s fate myself at any point because I was the author and she was my character. It would have been far easier to do so but I choose to give her fate to the community. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and, as my dad was fond of saying, ‘experience is one of those things you get just after you need it.’
I did have a number of possible outcomes pencilled in. I had, briefly, considered that Salomé would commit suicide, (certainly ‘lore-wise’ she was mentally unstable towards the end after what had happened to her) but that was rejected for being too ‘Deus Ex Machina’, taking the decision out of the hands of players and invalidating all the efforts of those players and factions who worked so hard in following and protecting her. If she died, she had accomplices that would hopefully make the run and her ‘requiem’ could be activated in game (as indeed it was). If she survived she had a speech to give and I had a plot for her to retreat to Colonia in exile (she had received an invitation to go there) and continue her insurrection from there – it was not to be.
As far as I am aware nothing similar has been attempted since, perhaps it never will be based on what happened. I certainly wouldn’t recommend organising an event of that nature to anyone. Naturally, many people were wise after the event. Truth be told, some genuinely were wise prior to the event, but none of those had visibility of the meticulous planning and preparation that had taken place. I thank the many people who did appreciate what I tried to do and have told me so. Once again, huge thanks must go to the faction members of the Children of Raxxla and Loren’s Legion who did vast amounts of organising to create the event and to the extended groups beyond that, each organising their own contributions.
- It is possible to survive in “open”. Salomé managed one hour and forty five minutes under constant attack by experienced PvPrs (and one very determined NPC) with her location being advertised, whilst being valiantly defended, primarily, by the Children of Raxxla and Loren’s Legion in-game factions operating against a very well prepared and practised plan (subject to the limitations I had put upon them). Game issues contributed to her demise (the infamous blue-tunnelling and instancing issues). I believe that implies that I did, pretty much, balance the event about right. Salomé could have, against the odds, made it.
- Elite Dangerous can host a multi-player event, but there are severe limitations in the P2P architecture that constrain the type and conduct of such an event.
- There is a hunger for that type of game play, which remains largely unsatisfied. If someone can learn from this experience and generate an event that overcomes its shortcomings, they will have something quite amazing on their hands.
- Many players really do care about the lore. I was privileged to work with some truly amazing and hard working people in the course of the event.
- It’s very difficult to manage the ‘scope’ of an event. If you want it in “open” anything goes – roleplay and non-roleplay activity gets mixed. If you want it in a “private” group, you have to manage that group and all the issues that go with that management.
- Even a very simple event (in concept) is laced with vast complexity and needs a huge amount of work to execute; underestimate that at your peril.
- The Elite Dangerous community is, very much, a complex multifaceted thing. Generally, it has been very supportive to me over the years, but there are some less salubrious sides to it as well.
I remain undecided whether running a “lore” event in “open” is a good or bad thing. On the good side it allows maximum participation without barriers, on the flip-side, anyone can take part and influence the outcome. In this case, the outcome was determined by a player who (as far as I can tell) has little to no interest in the lore of the game. He did from my perspective, as far as I was aware at the time, get the ‘kill’ fair and square, unpopular though that was. As I’ve mentioned, I did consider a “lore” private group – but how to police that? How could I practically vet the credentials of thousands of players? It would have been infiltrated regardless and thus the same outcome possible. Maybe having such a diverse community prevents the possibility of “lore” events entirely, perhaps they only belong in single player games with pre-programmed outcomes.
But that seems defeatist to me. I tried something, it was controversial, it didn’t turn out how I expected. Maybe I shouldn’t have done it at all, but that’s not my way. Those of you who followed me from the Kickstarter back in 2012 know that I push and cajol things, try to make them better, work around problems and don’t take no for an answer. Lots of folks told me my Kickstarter wouldn’t work. It did. Lots of folks told me I couldn’t write a book where the players set the agenda. I did. Lots of people told me that I couldn’t survive in “open” mode for more than a few minutes. I did.
With this event I didn’t want the expected. I wanted the community to do its thing and it did; good, bad, roleplay or non-roleplay. No it wasn’t perfect, no it had major flaws, but… there was high drama, tension, adventure, confusion, conflict, infiltration, intrigue, uncertainty, betrayal, subterfuge, heroics and, ultimately, tragedy. Isn’t that what we want at least some of our “content” to be like?
After 5 years, it was time for me to move on from ED. Yes, this event and the response to it contributed to my decision on that score, but it wasn’t the sole consideration. I only tried to provide some of that elusive “content”, the lack of which was a constant refrain on the forums and on reddit. Thanks to those who have contacted me in appreciation of the story elements I provided.
As for the story itself, the outline plot of Premonition and all the detail within was approved by Frontier. Much of what is in there is their lore construct and, as such, it is up to them to progress (or not) those myriad threads. My last GalNet article was published in May 2017, since then I’ve had no involvement. Michael Brookes, who was the main custodian of the lore at Frontier during my tenure, moved on from Elite Dangerous to work on Jurassic World Evolution shortly afterwards. I do not know who is curating the overall story and lore now.
I am currently working in other fictional universes and aim to create other characters as equably memorable my infamous ex-Senator – but strictly in the safe confines of static novels! I am, first and foremost, a writer, an author… that’s what I do.
Book wise, Reclamation had the advantage that the game world didn’t exist beyond concept-art and previous lore. Premonition was constrained by the game itself, the lore changes that had occurred since, and the need to incorporate player actions (and some interesting names!) into a cohesive story.
As for Salomé, as an author I am gratified that I generated a character in the game lore that folks still talk about. I tried to codify the events that transpired in Elite Dangerous: Premonition as best I could. That was a risk I took knowing the community would probably throw me a curved ball in terms of the outcome as they had done before. I did want that curved ball – that was the point! This was a book about player actions in the game, for good or for ill.
Salomé wasn’t a cookie-cutter stooge, a one-dimensional good (or bad!) guy/girl, or a nondescript face with no backstory. She was complex and nuanced; some regarded her as a heroine, others loved to hate her. When she died there was a genuine outpouring of grief from some quarters. That a fictional game character can generate such an impact implies that I did something right in her creation. You can find her last message, in-game, in the Panacea Medical Centre, an installation orbiting planet A 1 in the HIP 17519 system. But she is dead now. She’s not coming back, and this is my last word on the subject.
Whether you recall her for who she was, or the event which bears her name, she got her wish…