It’s not goodbye, just farewell for now

Jul 8, 2015

Halcyon days!

Those halcyon days!

All of you who’ve followed my blog, been part of my Kickstarter in 2012 or read my book will know that I’ve been a fan of Elite since 1984. I originally played the game on my trusty ZX Spectrum 48k (how enormous that memory seemed at the time!), that makes it 31 years that Elite has been part of my life, 2/3rds of my entire existence. To say it is, and has been, a massive influence on me is something of a severe understatement.

The original game was the perfect escape from my, so often miserable, school days in the mid-80s. It was something that elevated the imagination and gave me and my school friends endless topics to talk about; weapons, ships, locations… comparing our exploits in this imaginary universe. Oh, and the Thargoids, of course!

This started me on the path of writing…

The original novella “The Dark Wheel”, by the late great Robert Holdstock, was the story that first motivated me to put pen to paper, a path which resulted in me becoming a published author and finally writing my own officially endorsed tale in the Elite universe. Don’t give up on your dreams is the lesson here – you just never know.

It stayed with me through my adult years. I got involved with a fan-homage remake of the original game called ‘Oolite’, writing some fan-fiction for that game in the noughties. Elite had cast a spell that remained long after my ZX Spectrum had relegated to a dusty box lost in my attic.

After the breakneck events of the both the ED kickstarter and my own I made contact with hundreds of fans of all the original games and those same old conversations re-ignited. Many have become firm friends through the community events such as LaveCon and Fantasticon, and the online equivalents of facebook, twitter, twitch and the official forums representing fans all across the world. That’s been a source of enormous pleasure for me and hopefully I’ve made a few of you chuckle and nod knowingly along the way.

Taking part in some of the community’s utterly nutty but so compelling moments. The Mobra Mk3 crew, Lave Radio, Comms from the Frontier, Dockers (MUG! Slave!), yet another crazy Kickstarter… great times.

I get to meet David Braben. (Photo by Steve Jeyes)

I got to meet David Braben in 2014. (Photo by Steve Jeyes)

I’ve been privileged to meet many folk from Frontier themselves, including David Braben himself (a real honour). Without exception I’ve found them all enthusiastic, inspiring, utterly hardworking and passionate about what they’re creating.

Michael Brookes worked tirelessly on behalf of the authors, and I’m indebted to him for his efforts in making the in-game Prism system as close as possible to how I imagined it in my book, even to the point of changing orbital parameters. Huge care and attention to detail was present throughout. That my late father (who died in 2013) has a memorial in the Prism system (the main station – “Hiram’s Anchorage” is named after him) is down to that collaboration. Raise a glass of Lavian brandy if you ever happen to visit. Thanks for that, Michael.

My book, Elite: Reclamation, seems to have gone down well too, I’ve had a lot of feedback on it saying that it has captured the ‘essential Eliteness’ I was striving for. It was a privilege and pleasure to write it, and I’ll be forever in the debt of the fans who believed in me and allowed me to fund that Writer’s Pack pledge in January 2013. I can still hardly believe it.

The community is, without a doubt, the best part of Elite.

I’ve been able to get back in my trusty Cobra mk3 after all those years. I’ve flown no other ships in ED – it felt like a bit of a betrayal to use anything else. I’ve seen the galaxy, visited the stations, even tried the ‘open’ mode on occasion. The game looks and feels the very embodiment of what was in my head back in 1984. It’s a staggering achievement.

At every stage the scene got bigger and more fun, culminating in the Elite: Dangerous Premiere, which was the pinnacle of the story for me. To be present, along with hundreds of other fans, as the new game was launched was a moment I will savour for the rest of my life. To be part of it – I was there when it all happened. What memories.

After such a run, almost anything will be an anti-climax. Elite continues to evolve away from its original roots, reaching out to a new generation of fans who have very different needs and expectations to many of those from the 8-bit generation or those who have limited time available to play. Consoles, PvP and multi-player are all aspects of modern gaming which can’t be ignored.

Truth be told, some of the recent additions haven’t grabbed my attention and, as a casual, time-poor “lone-wolf” player, they’re not what I want to play. Yes – hands up – I don’t like PowerPlay at all. I think it’s a big mistake. I’m an explorer at heart and want to ‘go where no one has gone before’. I don’t think the game is fleshed out enough in this respect. It’s pretty out there, but it’s too homogeneous, a known problem with procedural generation and something we saw even with the original game.

My contribution to the game is small, but I hope I did it justice.

My contribution to the game is small, but I hope I did it justice.

I’m a natural story teller too, and right now, the universe in ED doesn’t have the backstory I think it needs, or the large or small scale narratives I think it deserves. I’m not looking for an overriding beginning to end mission/quest, but more a reason to care about the NPCs, stations, planets and stars; something to engage the emotions or a moral dilemma or two rather than the deadly dull statistics we’re getting out of PowerPlay.

I’ve made some suggestions and volunteered some ideas as to what could be done in this area, but I understand that there are other priorities which must be addressed at this time. It’s not my game. I get that. Frontier are developing the continuing story and lore in-house. I’m not a custodian of the game, just another fan who has been generously allowed to add my own small bit of colour to the lore. I’ve had my contribution and I’m grateful for it.

Hundreds of copies of my book, Elite: Reclamation, sit (hopefully proudly!) on bookshelves and ebook readers all around the world. Not many people get to realise a dream like that. All the hard work was worth it, every email or text I received about my story a small piece of joy. Thanks for those folks.

Lady Kahina has been a favourite character from my book

Lady Kahina has been the favourite character from my book, but as for what happens to her next…

That my characters and their adventures have excited and enthralled folks is very heart-warming to me. For example, many players have expressed their wish for Lady Kahina’s story to be continued in the game in forum posts and countless emails. That shows that they cared about her enough. I did something right (or write!)

I would dearly love to continue her adventures (and those of the other characters from Elite: Reclamation), either in-game or in a new sequel.

Edit 30/09/2015 – Lady Kahina now continues in-game as the faction leader of the Children of Raxxla, and you can find out how that occurred in this piece of fan-fiction that has my blessing.

Edit 27/10/2015 – It appears that new licenses are being actively pursued – we’re back in the game, CMDRs! Thanks to the efforts of Michael Brookes, Ed Lewis and Zac Antonaci.

As per my FAQ, feel free to lobby them on behalf of myself and the other authors…

…and they do say “Quit while you’re ahead.”

Elite is back and it’s now evolving into something new for the 21st century – that’s awesome. I’m glad to have been a part of that process, but my work here is done. I can’t do anything more for the game at present. I don’t want to sour my experience by over-playing in the little time I have. Right now ED doesn’t quite have what I’m looking for at the moment, so it’s time to take a break. (And <he whispers> … there are other games out there …)

So it’s not ‘Goodbye’, but it is ‘farewell’, at least for now. I have other projects that I need to plough my limited time into – not least my new SF series. I’ll still be about online (feel free to say hello!) and at the conventions. The blog will continue…

My ship ‘Eurydice’ is safely docked at Hiram’s Anchorage, in the Prism system.

So I have parked my trusty Cobra at Hiram’s Anchorage and pulled over a dust cover to keep it clean and fresh. The frame shift drive is powered down and the beam lasers are stored away. I’m sure I’ll take it out again in due course, when I hope those 400 billion stars out there fulfil their promise of adventure and storytelling; the game I want to play. Whether that six months away, or six years away, or never… I don’t know. I hope it’s… er… soon™. EDIT 27/10/2015 – Well, it was about 4 months! Horizons and the promise of new books looks set to change things, CMDRs.

Good luck with the continued development of Elite: Dangerous

I wish Frontier and all their staff, success in pushing forward the art of the possible with Elite: Dangerous and would like to thank them for all the efforts they have made on my behalf throughout the last two and a half years. I am truly grateful. It’s a fabulous game and it deserves to succeed.

I wish the players well out there in the black… fly safe. It’s dangerous out there…

…and to the fans… you amazing, crazy, mad, insane, just plain odd, annoying, lovable, weird, enthusiastic and passionate fans – thank you for all your support in so many different ways, online and in person. You’re the best online community bar none. I hope to see as many of you as possible at the various conventions.

It’s been an honour and privilege – but for now, adieu.

Right on, Commanders.

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