Elite: Dangerous Part 1

When I was at school, one computer game took over the playground like no other - Elite. Each day, we would proudly share our exploits of the night before. Tales of lucrative cargo runs, brutal fights, ship upgrades and even trips into Witch Space would be traded like currency. Heated discussions would take place over the merits of the various computers you could play it on - largely BBC Micro vs Spectrum*.

I can remember the shop assistant at Esdevium Games asking me what I thought my ultimate game would be. I replied "Elite but multiplayer". He said that was impossible.

Of course, this was all a long time ago. A very long time ago.

Fast forward to today. Okay, you can fast forward to a few months ago, but I only have a Mac, which means I've had to wait until today. Years and years of waiting, of pretenders to the throne, of false dawns, pleasant distractions and, most recently, an unhealthy obsession with Let's Play videos on YouTube have finally brought me to this place.

Actually hands-on with Elite:Dangerous.


6:40

I should be leaving the house, but I'm hitting up the website to see if it's available for download yet. It is not. I am sad. I leave the house and head to work. I contemplate bringing a wired gamepad to the office, but that might mean leaving my sandwiches at home.

9:30

It is still not available, but a tweet suggests that it'll be up in an hour or so, once the server downtime has been completed. I download the wallpaper pack that came with my purchase and set up my desktop to change every half an hour. It is my intention to install it on my work machine as it's an identical spec to my home machine**.

12:00

It's available! Well, that's what the tweet said, but I can't find a download link anywhere. I nip to the forums to find most people in the same boat. I tweet @EliteDangerous to see what the deal is.
No reply, but someone on the forums has managed to find a link to the installer.
Despite my scepticism of the link validity, I install the installer. It sits there, filling in a small blue bar.

13:00

It's ready! It's ready!
I fire it up.
Hmm. I thought I'd bought a version that gave me the option of an Eagle as a starting ship? Maybe not. Not to worry - it's not as if I'm going to be giving combat a go just yet. Tutorial? Pah!
Start Game.
Ew - it looks a bit blocky.
A quick tinker with the graphics setting and I've upped the resolution to 1920 x 1080 with everything else dropped from High to Medium. Looks crisper. Now, let's take this baby out for a spin...

...

Yeah, I'm still on the landing pad. Not entirely sure how to navigate the menus... ah, WASD and space. Launching!
Woah, these mouse controls are going to take a bit of getting used to - I so should have brought my gamepad in. Also, back to the config menu to turn ON inverted Y. A little better, but I can see the sensitivity may have to be tweaked later. It's a little disconcerting, knowing that messing around in the menus doesn't pause the game and I'm drifting through space. I'm kinda relying on the fact that there should be a whole bunch of new noobs today doing exactly the same thing.
Right, let's go somewhere and see what it's all about. Console, navigation... um... navigation? No, not the system map. Or the galaxy one. Ah, wait, there we go - Q and R to step through tabs. Okay - asteroid belt - that sounds fun. Target locked and Frame Shift...
...not engaged. Ah - hardpoints. I think I pressed the fire button and they deployed. How do I get them to, er... undeploy?
...
The U key, of course. Frame shift ti... oh. Landing gear. L perhaps? Yes! Ooh - I'm going much faster now - good to know. Frame shift time! Jumping!
Now I'm hammering through space at Ludicrous Speed, heading for the asteroid belt and adventure. It's really chugging a bit now - a combination of the massive sun in front of me and the scanner being rather filled with a load of contacts. I weather the storm and drop into the belt. Much calmer. Not as asteroid-y as I was thinking it was going to be, but still.
Contact in the distance. I line up and give it the beans. He's shooting an asteroid - must be a miner. He's spinning erratically - must be a player. Target him... yup, CMDR IForgotHisName. Harmless and Clean. Probably a HOMO***
He's chipped off a few chunks of Palladium - perhaps I can scoop that lot up? Back to the key config to find out how to open the Cargo Scoop - Home key... I have no Home key. Arsebiscuits. In to the right console and doing it the hard way... opened. Hey, why does it say Refinery Required? Ah well, perhaps I shouldn't nick this guy's stuff after all. In fact, let's find somewhere else to go.
I think a new system. There's one that has a name and isn't just a series of letters and numbers. Goodbye CMDR WhoeverYouAre - happy mining. Jumping!
In system and facing a big sun. Pull back on the stick so I'm not just going to ram the thing. Then find a station - a proper one, with docking and everything. There we go.
7 seconds seems to be significant. If you modulate your throttle, you seem to spend a disproportionate amount of time 7 seconds away from wherever it is you actually want to go. Bollocks to that - let's give it som... woah - too far. Never mind, I'll swing back around like it was all planned.
Dropping out of frame shift drive and there's the station. That's more like it. Now for the postal slot. Memories of the original come flooding back as I line everything up. Having a bit of issue with roll being on the mouse and getting mixed up between yaw and thrust left / right which causes some problems. Still, docking request has been accepted and I'm through. Landing Pad 36... there it is - below and left. A deft roll. Some vertical thrust and we're nicely lined up...
Except we're not. We're too far left. And back. Throttle up and a bit of lateral thrust... nope - that's yaw... lateral thrust and... brakes! Brakes! For God's sake man, slow down. Not that much! Now we're too far back again. Throttle up - slowly. Lateral thrust. Correct the roll drift. Aaaaannd... oh, shit. Landing Gear. Right - everything's lined up - vertical thrust and bring us in... bosh!
Landed!
Bring up the station interface and... holy crap, it runs like a dog. Perhaps it doesn't like the interior and a full screen overdraw? Back out and select the hangar instead. That's a bit better, but let's try dropping it to 1280 x 720. Now, missions.
Hmm, a bounty hunting one - shoot four guys by the looks of it. I don't fancy combat without some kind of joystick - I'll come back to that one. 900 credits for four units of Hydrogen fuel at a nearby station? Could be doable. Check the market - 85 credits a pop? Okay, trading it is. Load up, accept the mission and let's get out of here.
Ready to launch. Vertical thrust to clear the pad and tower and retract the landing gear in one fluid mo... bounce off the other side of the bay, albeit with landing gear retracted. Note to self: don't hold down the thruster buttons for prolonged periods of time. Line up with the green side of the slot and throttle up. Realise we're heading for the wall. Throttle back down and line everything up again. Painfully aware that there's a timer ticking down for me to get out of this place. Throttle up. Hold breath. Clear!
Right, where's that station? Target locked, frame shift coming online. Jumping!
It's by the sun. And look at all of those trails. It's okay, I've seen enough Let's Plays to know that they're all ships in frame shift mode. It's like commander soup. I hope they all ignore me on this vital and incredibly lucrative cargo run. The sun's getting quite big in the window now. Never mind - I'm nearly there.
Oops! No, I'm not. It's on the other side of the sun. Perhaps I should go around?
Small detour, but everything's okay now. Lined up with the target and not a celestial body in sight. 7 seconds. 7 seconds. 7 seconds. Safe disengage. Drop back to real space.
The lining up process is a lot easier this time. I get through the mailbox almost on my first attempt. Landing Pad 06 is right there and I glide in like a pro. A pro who occasionally still messes up yaw and lateral thrust, but a pro nevertheless. Landed!
Into the hangar and off to the bulletin board. Mission complete! Riches beyond measure! Lunchtime done.

17:00

Wouldn't it be a good idea to write this stuff up somewhere? Might make an interesting read for someone... And the boss has just cracked open a bottle of wine.

17:30

Considering heading home and trying it on a joypad or, at the very least, a keyboard with a Home key. Also considering calling up Leanne and getting her to install the installer and start downloading everything so it's ready for me when I get there.

I can't see that going down too well.

Next

*Spectrum was superior - it had Missions. You can take your swift loading times and station interiors and stick them up your arse.
** Mid 2011, 27" iMac, 8GB RAM, 512MB video card (512MB lower than the min spec would suggest)
*** Honourable Order of Macintosh Owners.

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