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Goodbye, Beagle Point

The expedition is officially over. I arrived almost three weeks ago (on the 2st March 2016) and I’ve spent the last week at Beagle Point sitting around watching people arrive, chatting and taking part in the weeks events, though the events weren’t fully compatible with Elite’s instancing system.

The expedition has been great, probably one of a number of great gaming experiences that stick in the memory: initially playing Tomb Raider, my pre-Burning Crusade Warcraft journey, Mass Effect (yes, just Mass Effect) and now Distant Worlds. It’s sad to set off back to occupied space, but it’s in recognition of good times.

It’s going to be a long journey.

Arrivals at Beagle Point

I enjoyed the week at Beagle Point. There are going to be some negatives here, but I need to make it clear this is purely to show some of the limits of Elite, it hasn’t at all diminished the Distant Worlds experience.

Arriving early was good. It was good because I could log on before the arrival date and just sit and watch people arrive. This was brilliant. Ships arriving for the first time having made it 65K LY from Sol (quite a few more light years travelled). You got to experience that moment as they arrived, chatting with them, both people I’d not met before, and people I’d talked to at numerous other way points. Great stuff. It really helped enforce again the feeling of a shared fleet experience. I arrived early to reduce the risk of work getting in the way of the effort, but it was well worth doing just for this.

Now let’s get a fact in: over 400 ships arrived at Beagle Point during the arrival week. Beagle Point, one of the furthest reachable points in the open world galaxy, was probably the system with the most players hitting it at once in the game. That is crazy. This is before the second fleet arrives taking more time to explore as they travel. It’s quite conceivable the final statistics will be going on 600. I’m surprised and amazed. I fully expected a ridiculous drop off. I expected only a small percentage of the fleet to actually set off, but this is a 50% success rate (I think).

Considering the time, effort and risks that is an amazing achievement.

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I also got to see the fleets flag ship (pictured above), which I’d been wanting to do all through the journey. It took me until one evening on Beagle Point to randomly pop into the same instance as the T9. Another expedition achievement ticked off the list.

Events, Instances and Fragmentation

The events during the week at Beagle Point were a strange experience. Strange because the architecture of Elite doesn’t really allow for them to work too well. The instances mean you’re only ever with 30 other pilots at most, yet over 400 arrived at Beagle Point.

The impact of this is obvious. Any event isn’t just on organised event but an event that needs duplicating to equal quality across all the instances. Your organising a game where ships hunt down escaping buggies? Very clever, but each instance has to organise their own and their isn’t necessarily the leaders or organisational skills to do it, the required number of vessels, people willing to take part and so on. If you organise a destruction derby race on a different planet in the system anyone taking part has to arrive in the same instance for it. It just proved awkward, resulting in some people experiencing events and others not.

While it didn’t feel this way for me, it could be argued the extended stay at Beagle Point started to show that the fleet didn’t all get the same experience. It also meant the better connected players often got into the instances, not a problem, you put in the social effort you get the reward, but I could see how it could be seen as multi-tiered. This did mean some people left earlier, not in disappointment, they just realised the practicality of the experience compared to starting the journey home.

Effectively, the way points worked as fleeting meeting points before moving on, but as a week long location with planned events the cracks started to show.

The Polygon Video Interview

One thing Distant Worlds has done is raise the profile of Elite. The last I heard is they’d have eight serious editorial pieces with different major gaming magazines and website. One of those editorial pieces was Polygon covering the arrival at Beagle Point.

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I watched the video and suddenly realised I was probably in it! If you look at the image above that was taken while I was parked on Beagle Point on 31st March 2016. We’d circled the ‘banana-Conda’ and I had the pink federal vessel on my right. I’m the white Asp.

Now watch the Polygon video above, it’s the exact same instance. The interviewer circles the ‘Banana-Conda’ and my ship comes into shot at about 20 minutes in and he circles right by it and even mentions it Pretty cool.

The Frontier Forum Stream

Well, it was on their YouTube channel, not sure if that counts as a stream, but you get the idea. Basically, Educating Ed, one of the community managers (the one I tend to see on the few Frontier YouTube videos I’ve seen) was arriving at Beagle Point to talk to the public face of the organisers.

The live video was a strange experience. It did get off to a bad start as he wasn’t able to land in the private group of the expedition due to some idiot trying to ruin it by ramming the fleets ‘PR’ person. The incident is still being investigated but it’s the first time someone in the ‘fleet group’ has done anything odd so it may well have been an accident and an over reaction.

The best bits were Ed arriving and what he thought of the expedition. He’d made the trip in Asp Scout, badly kitted out for exploration and his hand was actually shaking as he arrived at Beagle Point. If he’d crashed it would have been pretty embarrassing. The rest of the video was mixed. A lot of the answers to Ed’s questions had been said numerous times. There was also a surreal, stilted and pretty superfluous and weird role-play ‘event’. Not sure what was going on there. It all seemed a bit forced, silly and indulgent on behalf of someone who was attempting to create some sort of transmedia ‘thing’ between something in the game and the ‘on-going’ fiction. Like it was a private thing only a few people were interested in or understood. The ‘uncomfortable incident’ starts at 46:50.

The Best News?

Ever since I realised Distant Worlds was going to pretty much being everything I hoped it would be and a bit more I’ve been hoping Frontier would do something to allow the fleet to commemorate the experience. After all, it has been one big, three month publicity exercise for them, all of it free!

People have mentioned all sorts of things, such as allowing us to encounter the supposed arrival of Thargoids, the Elite aliens, or allowing for some sort of station to be placed at Beagle Point. I wanted a decal (effectively a bade) you can put on your ship. They’ve done this and made a great looking decal that is actually the logo of the expedition.

What’s great about this is it should be limited to around 500 players. Frontier has helped the fleet organisers confirm fleet arrivals using actual, logged data. As soon as it became clear they were doing this I was pretty convinced they were organising something. I hope they keep decal strictly to those who arrived with the fleet, as it’s supposed to commemorate the experience not just anyone choosing to turn up to Beagle Point ‘to get a rare decal’ after the event.

The Frontier stream already seemed to suggest Frontier are suggesting it being more ‘inclusive’, but that just seems to defeat the point for me. It should be limited to the main fleet and the slower, exploration fleet that followed behind and that is it. It’s a fleet badge, not a I reached Beagle Point at some random point in the future for a decal badge.

These things don’t usually bother me, but this does a bit so hopefully they’ll make a sensible decision.

The Journey Home

As you would imagine, Distant Worlds has made expeditions a thing in Elite. None of them are really going as far as Distant Worlds on an organisational scale. The key to Distant Worlds was the fact the concept of a ‘fleet’ actually worked and this was primarily down to the structure of the journey around scheduled way points. All the expeditions kicking off currently are essentially: here is some vague route, essentially to give a sense of direction, off you go. It’s not that much more than exploring on your own, really.

One of those expeditions is the Sagittarius-Carina Mission, which essentially circumvents the Milky Way galaxy. Beagle Point is pretty much the halfway point for people doing the full route, so the Distant World pilots have the option or setting off clockwise or anti-clockwise on that missions route.

I’m currently getting to the entry point to cross the gap between the outermost spiral arm and the rest of the galaxy. At this point I’m going to make a choice: keep going and follow that outer spiral arm around to occupied space or jump across the gap and then use the anti-clockwise route. I’m not sure why but I’m feeling the need to go anti-clockwise. The reason being there seems to be some better points of interest and the promise of the neutron fields, etc. In truth, if I do head anti-clockwise I should have tried to cross the gap between arms directly south from Beagle Point, but I haven’t figured out the magic of doing that and I don’t want endless backtracking till I find the way across.

So, What Next?

I have to get home, that’s the main thing. This could take a while, though we already have the hardcore who have already almost made it in 24-hours. Then I’m not sure. I may trade may way to Elite status as I’m not far away from it, after that I’m not sure. Missions come as part of 2.1, so depending on what that looks like it may give me purpose.

I’m certainly looking forward to launched ships, which I’m hoping changes the options in exploration a bit and isn’t just a combat thing.

Beyond that I’m waiting for the next expedition, it looks like there is going to be one, and some early announcements are going to be made soon. I’ll certainly be joining.

About Ian O'Rourke

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