Elite: Dangerous Diaries

The other day I picked up Elite:Dangerous. I’d been keeping half an eye on the game since its beginning but back then it was Star Citizen that caught my attention more and that’s the one I supported in its kickstarter phase. Now though E:D is a full game, released and completely playable whereas SC has some ways to go yet. Anyhow, when I saw Elite in a steamsale I knew the time had come to get my space on. Doing absolutely no previous research of any kind I loaded up the game and hopped in. Fifteen minutes later I knew I was hooked and thirty minutes in I knew I had to start this diary at some point. So here goes, a diary of a spaceman in the universe of Elite:Dangerous.

First flight

Starting out in Trevitha Dock, ostensibly a space station, I took stock of my surroundings. I appeared to be inhabiting a fairly nondescript body garbed in basic clothing. More importantly I found myself to be in the pilot seat of a Sidewinder spaceship! Pressing a few buttons at random first rumbled the ship a bit and then brought up a menu detailing my current assets. Apart from the Sidewinder spaceship I had 1000 credits (CR) to my name. Eager to spend all of that in one place I went on over to the ship outfitting area of Trevitha Dock. Upon browsing his wares the stationmaster gruffly informed me that my meager balance would afford me exactly diddly squat and to get on out of there. Before hightailing it I did notice that all of the equipment I had on my ship was in fact ‘loaned’ to me. By whom I had no idea and I wasn’t eager to find out.

It was clear that I had to make some cash, and a good first step would be to find out exactly how shoddy all my loaned equipment was. While discovering that I could probably work out what all these buttons did. Aimless and optimistic I signaled the docking robot that I was ready to head out into space, and just before airlock depress I remembered to close up and seal my cockpit canopy, so far so good and all was well. It wouldn’t be for much longer.

Outside on the landing pad I had no idea. Just none. I hit forward thrust. I then hit the station. Things screeched and scraped. Then the station ledge ended and I was in space. Yes! I was a space pilot, don’t you believe it! I swooped and soared and flew a few kilometers away from the station. All was well, but now I had to go do some stuff.  Comparing the distance I’d flown so far (10km) with anything that could be called a destination (many, many millions of kilometers) it was clear I had to use a bigger engine to get anywhere that wouldn’t be classified as ‘right here’. I found a nice big button labeled ‘SuperCruise’ right in front of me. Super sounds fast so I punched it.

After a brief spool-up and following surge of acceleration I was indeed going fast. Faster than light! But I had no idea where I was going so I decided to stop. Pressing the button again made a sign light up saying ‘Too fast for safe exit. Press again for an emergency exit’. Let’s see. I’m in a spaceship hurtling at nothing in particular at an ever accelerating faster than light velocity, does that count as an emergency? In my book it did. I pushed the button a second time. For a few moments I was jostled violently while the engine made worrying sounds (reminiscent of an exploding forest) which nicely harmonized with the blaring alarms.  Crashing and tumbling back into normal space I could tell my ship was upset. It groaned, creaked and the cold voice of the ship computer told me something about damage and hull fractures. Oh well, all this stuff isn’t really mine anyway (‘loaned’) and it appeared I would live. I quieted the alarm and began to take stock.

I was nowhere. Nothing but inky blackness devoid of life, geology, anything. My brief FTL journey had taken me out of radio range of the station I departed and I wasn’t picking up anything on close-range sensors. I hadn’t told anyone where I was going, didn’t even know anyone in the whole wide universe in fact. I looked around for a while and decided I wasn’t going to get rescued, I had to get out of here myself. It dawned on me that thoughts of rescue were premature at best. As far as I could tell, the ship worked fine. I got back behind the controls and set about trying some buttons I hadn’t used yet. After a few laser bursts, a dump of emergency oxygen (oops) and a full reset of the ship systems (it gets cold FAST without the heaters) I brought up the navigation interface. In its intuitive interface I select the closest star and as soon as I did a prompt appeared: ‘Engage Hyperdrive?’. Well, hyper sounds even faster than super so YES PLEASE. Once more the drive spooled up, a forest exploded and I was thrown into what is known in academic circles as ‘witch space’. I closed my eyes and screamed.

What every space pilot knows (or learns VERY quickly) is that a hyperspace journey to a star system always emerges very close to the most massive object in that star system. Usually it’s no contest what that object is going to be (for example in the sol system the sun accounts for approximately 99,9% of all mass). So a hyperspace transit by definition (it’s a physics thing, apparently) chucks you out right on the doorstep of the biggest nuclear furnace in town and –get this- the ship retains enough speed from hyperdrive that immediate pilot intervention is required to prevent from getting thoroughly baked (by fire, not grass). I learned of these piloting essentials the hard way by coming out of hyperspace with a bang, goggling at the magnificent star whilst not steering and being rudely awakened by yet more ship alarms blaring, this time quickly accompanied by sparking flames and smoldering dashboard. More punching of the buttons and steering controls eventually allowed me to leave the stars corona behind. Being engulfed by the different sirens of the overheat alert, unsafe hyperdrive warning, structural integrity alarm along with the groaning hull and crackling cockpit fire I knew two things: One, I had some way yet to go in my career as glamorous space devil and Two; I was utterly hooked.