The best laid plans

Posted by on Feb 16, 2013 in Progress Report

It's a tough universe out there,...

It’s a tough universe out there…

Hi Folks, back with this weeks update.

Something of an interesting week all things considered. As I mentioned last week, I’d submitted my synopsis and detailed plans across to Frontier for approval. Having kept them in the loop as to my intentions through the Kickstarter and knowing they were aware, at a broad-brush level, of where I was going, I wasn’t really expecting much in the way of problems getting approval for the plot.

So, it was a bit of a deflating moment when I got an email on the 12th of Feb with the word “Problematic” not very far from the top. A glass of sherry was required.

The good news is that the basic plot is sound, they seem to approve of the ‘Political Intrique’ direction I’ve taken and the robustness of the plot hasn’t really been challenged at all – yet. 😉 That means that all my work on characters, arcs, events, scenes and so on is all intact.

The bad news is that the locations need to be changed.

There are three reasons for this.

First, whilst I’d been given tacit approval in the form of a “should be ok” for the locations I’d selected and the changes I wanted, the stories are being approved at multiple levels inside Frontier, with (unsurprisingly) final sign off going to David himself. In short Wolf 630 is not an option as the current history of that system is set to be preserved for Elite : Dangerous. That means Wolf 630, Landfall and all those locations are gone.

Second, there are some major structural changes in both game dynamics and technology (particularly the operation of the hyperdrive systems in Elite : Dangerous compared with previous games) which also breaks my plot. I can’t reveal exactly what these are yet because a) I’m not allowed to and b) they haven’t been finalised yet. The official canon timelines and political structures for Elite : Dangerous are also works-in-progress at this point.

Third, it turns out that the FFE map of stars system is badly flawed. Some real systems are in completely the wrong place, (Achernar for example, the seat of the Empire, is 4x further away in real life than portrayed in FFE). Thus the location of the border between the Federation and the Empire is anybody’s guess right now.

Given I like my plot baked, locked down and sorted before I start writing, this is a level of complexity and uncertainty I hadn’t anticipated so I’ve had to adjust my approach to compensate.

What I’ve done is abstract up the location detail and made some suggestions (based on the admirable ‘SpaceEngine’) as to where the action takes place. It will still be a series of locations you’ll be able to visit in game, I just can’t tell you precisely where it will be yet.

This may sound a bit negative, and, if I’m honest, my initial reaction was “Ye Gods!”. Having thought about it a bit more I think, on balance, it’s all positive. Wolf 630 had a history and a future, what I’m now doing is creating a new world with a comprehensive history which is an addition to Elite Lore. This will be baked into the Elite canon – this is a good thing.

Also, David and team are taking a very finely detailed look at the plots, use of technology, overall shape and structure for all the books (mine wasn’t the only one to be rejected on Draft 1) and that attention to detail bodes well for consistency and quality. What it means for the writers is our task of writing and redrafting will be more complex and iterative. (Read time-consuming!)

Frontier are currently undertaking a lot of work on behalf of the writers; the timelines are well researched and the backdrop material (whilst still in draft) is of good quality and wide scope. Adherence to this is very important to gain approval for the plot.

As such I submitted a revised ‘Draft 2’ on Thursday evening which they are perusing as we blog.

So where will Elite : Reclamation be set? Can’t tell you precisely, but it will be in a disputed zone on the border of the Federation and the Empire and it may look something like this…

Somewhere out there is a place we can call home.

Somewhere out there is a place we can call home.

See you next week!

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  1. Yup, that first email from Frontier giving the thumbs down is quite a hard pill to swallow.

    But on reflection its actually a good thing as you mentioned. We both thought we would be clever by tying into existing canon, but when that gets rejected and we can start from scratch it actually removes any limits and inhibitions and allows you to de exactly what you want.

    Although painful at the time, I’m actually really glad that Frontier required I change a few settings. It is going to make the story so much better. I know Reclamation will be stronger as a result too. Don’t despair Drew!

  2. Sounds more like one step back, one step forward, but that’s ok – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

    It is a shame however after the excellent blog post and video recently, where you laid out the Wolf 360 and Landfall planning with great passion and detail … I’m sure you’ll find a way forward that is equally good, if not better (it might take you longer also, but at least you’re spending more time on something that you love doing)

  3. Aieee! Agree that this is mostly positive in all kinds of ways, not least that it seems the QA over at FD is pretty tight, and that can only be good. On the other hand it looks like getting final approval will be non-trivial 🙂

  4. It must be as hard a blow to take as an author, as those unexpected meteorites crashing in Russia a few days ago – literally a bombshell. I would like to encourage you to work on your book with renewed zeal and enthusiasm. Regards, Joe

  5. Chin up, keep smiling. The effort you’re putting in Drew is fantastic – you too John.

  6. Thanks for the kind words folks, much appreciated. Not dispirited, though perhaps a little bemused. 🙂 The plan has me starting writing on March the 4th, so there is still time to remain on schedule. Did I mention I like to plan things out? 😉

  7. I do hope that FD will give us details of the change to hyperspace soon. This has been a subject of considerable circular conversations in the Design Decision Forum this week. We have been asking for background stuff that is known, to aid our discussions, but I suspect that FD are more than happy for us to go round in circles, as it may throw up some interesting thoughts in the discussions.

  8. Indeed, battle on Drew!

    I’m sure the forums are a great pool of inspiration for the designers pulling together those last threads! After all, connecting with a passionate and involved community can only help make the game, and the books, the best that they can be.

    Ok, so Wolf 630 seemed perfect but surely what needs to be done now is extract all the reasons it was perfect (excluding the position, obviously) and use them to help create a new, deeper, more ‘Drew’ world.

    I think the ED team are very clever in this respect. Having told Drew not to use Wolf 630, they are having him design a whole new world which, given the level of detail and planning Drew will obviously put into the creation of it, will no doubt be a welcome addition in the next Elite game.

    March 4th huh? It seemed so far away when the project started! Enjoy Drew, I hope the planning goes well.


  9. Your writing project is the one I have the least concern about Drew. I am sorry to read of any major or minor roadblocks to your progress but you are not new to planning a project and I would be surprised if you haven’t built in some contingency for such unforeseen events.

    • Contingency is built into the plan Victor, rest assured, I just don’t want to be using it all up early on. I could start writing some aspects of the story now, but I’m wary of doing so before my plot is approved for obvious reasons – hacking things about to match a revised plot is messy and very error prone in my experience, often generating continuity problems and such like.

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