I’ve never been to a game launch before, or come to that, a ‘Premiere’ of anything, the nearest comparable event for me was when I was a guest on ‘Top Gear’ back in 2003 (Series 3, Episode 8 to be precise!) – mine’s the old Red Golf in the ‘new cars vs old cars’ piece.
Like many events in the world of Elite activity started long before with a bit of planning on behalf of the Fantastic Authors as we’d been invited to give a small set of readings. Before long the #EliteDangerousPremiere hashtag was showing up on the twitter feeds, the official forum thread was buzzing… folks were excited. It was clear this was going to be a big deal.
Many people arrived in fancy dress (apparently it’s called ‘Cosplay’ nowadays). My wife and I travelled in as Lady and Senator, a bit of fun. There were pirates, bounty hunters, assassins, traders, I even spotted a Thargoid on the way in.
The queue stretched for quite some way. I’m not good at estimating numbers, but there were clearly several hundred people ahead of us. Upon entering and being given some ‘Golden Wristbands’ (I think for KickStarter backers) we were ushered into an enormous hangar crammed with aircraft. A huge turbo-fan jet engine was the first thing I came face to face with. It’s quite intimidating at close range – though you get a sense of awe at the engineering that goes into something that we all take for granted when we jet off on our holidays.
The venue itself was fantastic and a fitting place for a game that is pushing the Frontiers (sorry!) of technology. Walking past an Avro Lancaster (with bouncing bomb alongside) and under the flanks of Concorde (which has a comparable wingspan to a Cobra Mk3) totally changes your perspective on these planes. They are grand and impressive, but there is a strange beauty and elegance here too, so much more than the sum of their parts.
More drinks and a rendezvous with familiar CMDRs from the game and the forum. Before long a thunderous noise echoed across the halls. It sounded like a ship approaching. Sure enough, a familiar female voice announced that we were clear for docking. Queue Strauss’ Sprach Zarathustra (Most familiar from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey) and the hangar doors pulled back to reveal…
A real life Cobra Mk3. Beautifully crafted with enormous attention to detail, fully illuminated thrusters and engines in one sixth scale. Beyond, a stage, a lighting rig and another huge hall. The Premiere had begun!
From there it was a whirlwind of joyous meetings, hugs, handshakes, with the occasional “Right On!” thrown in. The community embraced all with warmth, fun, excitement and a celebration of all things Elite. I would dearly love to mention all by name, but I simply cannot recall them all, so rather than miss one out I will just say it was an honour and a privilege to meet all of you and talk about the game and the books – and special thanks to those who backed my own Kickstarter back in 2012.
The Frontier team were out in force. It was a pleasure to make the acquaintance of David Braben and David Walsh once again, and then meet Selena and Ed and the rest of the crew. Throughout the evening shot snippets of film from the game were displayed on the enormous projection screen in glorious 4k resolution, it was a grand showcase.
Lave Radio were out in force, corralling people for interviews and lapping up the atmosphere. “You’re coming to LaveCon 2015?'” – O’ naturellement! Much gratitude to John Stabler who got me a beer early on!
Jessica Chobot and Andy Akinwolere ably hosted the event, talking to the Frontier folks. The twitch livestream kicked off at 8pm. Cameras seemed to be everywhere, one was on a huge crane. Twitch viewers got the better deal here – it was impossible to hear most of the interviews ‘on the floor’ and the crowd was several people deep.
On behalf of the community we were able to present David Braben with a plaque, a memory book and two cheques for charity (all raised by the fans) for the sum of £1104.92 – which if you add them up … 😉
Hours few past in what seemed to be minutes. The Fantastic authors were ushered off to one side and then filmed talking about their books, followed by more interviews, a QA session with the Devs and Andy ventured forth to get some live gameplay footage from players around the two massive ‘scanner’ tables equipped with state of the art PCs, controllers and displays.
There was a funny unscripted moment when an Oculus user was asked what he thought and replied with “It’s a bit crap really.” – I think he meant it constructively 😉
There was a strange moment too, reports came in of a strange grey-haired individual lowering his glasses and asking random people “Do you know who I am?” and “I was at the original launch.” leaving people distinctly bemused. We tried to track him down, but he was elusive and ephemeral. Some have speculated it was Ian Bell, but who’s to say? It remains a mystery even now…
There was a VIP area where you could stand and look down across the hall, it was a welcome few minutes relief from the crush for my wife and I.
John Virgo, with two companions, launched an outrageous and unprovoked attack on a newly minted Imperial Flagship to great applause from the Federation fans in the room, demonstrating the multiplayer and teaming abilities of the Gamma release, which became ‘live’ during the evening. The Senator will be dealing with him in due course… 😉
There was a long Q&A session with David Braben and the games developers, the authors were invited on stage one at a time to give short readings from their books (thanks Frontier!)
Much thanks has to be directed to the crew who were running the show on the evening, those involved in setting up and breaking down the rigs, the people managing the equipment and AV, the people running the merchandise store. They all worked tirelessly and are often unsung – well done guys.
Also to Frontier for funding and promoting this event, providing a free bar (how often does that happen?). This did result in a few CMDRs being somewhat the worse for wear as the evening progressed, but everyone still had a great time. Frontier have, of course, made a stonking game too and it looked fabulous on the evening, with everyone so excited to get home and try the gamma version.
But also to the fans. Well behaved, fun loving and above all, welcoming. My wife was so impressed how welcoming and accommodating the community was, how down to earth the Frontier crew were and how everyone mixed and enjoyed themselves together. It was a fabulous evening.
It was wonderful to meet old friends and make new ones, a wonderful constellation of names and faces. Bravo to the organisers, bravo to Frontier and bravo to the fans. It was absolutely right on, Commanders!
**All photos here by Rob Fisher and used by kind permission. If you’d like to see the hi-res versions they are here. **