Rejoicing they flew: white lines, block-filled triangles, and shaded panes of colour; the sounds of the void beeping and burping in one ear before separating and enveloping them in textured audible reality.
But they were cast into the outer darkness – for years nothing but a blanket of false hope to shield them from the coldness of uncertainty. It could have ended there, their humanity leached into the uncaring nothingness around them. Broken, cold.
‘We cannot die,’ a voice inside them said, ‘for if we die then The Dream will die with us as our Messiah sleeps, dreaming of rails and screaming children throwing up Slushies on the crowds 50m below. So, while He dreams of ticket sales and ice cream, we will attempt our own resurrection.’
And Alpha was born. Alpha was silent, ugly, temperamental. Alpha was no fun to play.
So they emailed, forummed, read, and coded, and Beta was born. Beta was shiny! Beta was fun! Beta lured you in, then kicked you in the fork by dying on you just after that once-in-a-lifetime fight. Beta covered your palms with sweaty anticipation at the immense riches on offer as you docked at that Anarchy space station. Your docking was perfect, you didn’t crash. But Beta did.
But they wrestled with Beta and cast it, submissive, on the ground. Then they kicked it in the head until it agreed to play nicely from then on.
The Fan-Remake was born! Rejoicing they flew: secure in their bit-mapped polygonal ships. A Universe was theirs to explore and conquer, and they did. Some even got the t-shirt.
But, in the hearts of some, they wondered what would happen if their Messiah awoke… What would he think of their creations? Would He ever dream The Great Dream again? And, if so, would they be allowed back into paradise?
There was a long gap between the Elite games, and in the meantime the passion of its fans was channeled into lovingly crafted remakes of the original. Writers also followed in the tradition of the original games and wrote fiction to go with the remakes. For many years this was how many re-experienced the Elite universe. For some players and readers the fan-remakes and fan fiction became part of Elite, and their passions as strong for these new re-imaginings. Then the stars aligned, and the Messiah woke up. He came into the fullness of His godly powers on 4th January, 2013. The day of His birth. He was Dreaming again.
Now fans want to know what the Dream will be…
This was posted by one such dedicated fan, Gerrit, in a previous comments thread, but it represents the concerns of a number of Elite fans. Gerrit’s original comment:
“Well I think the problem here is that the fan-based live of the early Elite players continued in the long lasting time that David Braben let us down and made only crap games instead of Elite IV.
So there are some very good fan based games out there including very much background in form if fan made novels.
To be more concrete I think Drew Wager explored the Thargoids quite deeply in his 4 Oolite Saga novels. So we have a good image of the Thargoids already.
I hope you don’t define them in a totally new way now. At least Oolite has been our Elite IV for nearly a decade now ;)”
The Dream? I can’t tell you. It isn’t my Dream. David and Frontier will tell you when they are ready, and there is nothing you, or I, can do to hurry that process.
All I can tell you is what you already know from Frontier’s updates and videos – some things will be the same, but there are changes coming. David Braben’s design ethos permeates throughout Frontier’s decision making, and things will be no different with the Thargoids.
For my part, Frontier approached me to add what skills I have to the mix, but all I am doing is putting flesh on the bones of DB’s vision for the Thargoids. I completed a very rough draft of the Thargoid Guidebook on Friday and it’s now with Frontier for approval. They may decide they like everything I’ve suggested, some of it, or none at all. If they don’t like anything, then I hope it holds up a mirror to their own thoughts and ideas and brings sharper focus that way.
Remaking a game, or writing fan fiction can be tough. Even reading it can be tough. There can be years of work and an entire community that rallies around it, and then the Official Version comes along. Where creative control has been ours, it’s now back in the hands of the originator of it all. Where we’ve embraced one way of imagining the Elite universe, there’s a new way coming. Some things will remain the same, others changed. We can ask, suggest, and argue, even beg, but but in the end it was never our baby – it was just fostered for a while. The question we have to ask ourselves is, are we ready to embrace another child? They are related, sure, but any parent knows how different ‘identical’ twins can be, let alone cousins…
Personally I’m opening up to adopt whatever and whoever Frontier and DB throws out to us. Like you, I have my personal hopes as to what the little tyke will be like when he grows up, but just like the love in a family, there’s a certain amount that may need to be unconditional. Who knows, the things I start out disliking because it’s not the same may become his most endearing traits when he matures and I get to see who he is supposed to be.
I know his real parents are raising him with a lot of love and an immense amount of care. He won’t be everything he was. He won’t be one of the new kids we adopted when he didn’t want to come out and play anymore. He’ll be himself, and I’ll be loving him for that.
Every opinion expressed above is mine, and not that of Frontier Developments, David Braben, or any other member of the Frontier team. If you’re wondering how I can count myself as one of ‘you’ (a fan), and not one of ‘them’ (one of Frontier’s developers) it’s because, at this point, I know as little as you do about the final characteristics of the game and the Thargoids. Writing fiction for the Elite universe puts me in very much the same position as anyone who has done either a fan remake or written fan fiction – ultimate creative control does not belong to me. To be involved, to come along for the ride, I have to let certain things go. I have to travel light.
If I want to play with my old friends, in my old neighbourhood, then I can do that whenever I choose. When I ran my Kickstarter last year I chose not to. In the end, your choices are yours to make. Make them, and be happy.
Since starting research for Elite: Dangerous I have come across Drew’s Oolite novels online, but I’ve not read any of them. This isn’t because I don’t think they’ll be well written – I think Drew has clearly established his credentials as far as that goes with the positive feedback he has from fans. I’ve not read them because Frontier requested my input into their vision of what Thargoids are. If I read Drew’s vision of the Thargoids -being a bear of little brain – I’d mix it with David Braben’s. As, for all intents and purposes, you could say I’m working for Frontier (in actuality I’m neither paid nor on any form of contract – it’s more like volunteer work) I’ve deliberately kept my ‘inner screen’ clear for their picture of the aliens. When this is all over I may go back and read Drew’s books because I’m curious to see what another writer made of them.)
My personal opinions on, and some of my prejudices about, general fan fiction can be found on my personal blog: The Wordon the .Net
Top Images: Left and centre screenshots used as per fair use terms detailed on Wikipedia: taken by ThomasHarte and Malo respectively. Image on the right used with kind permission of Frontier Developments, all rights reserved.