First Encounters: Working with Frontier’s Indigenous Life Forms


Frontier Indigenous Life Forms (FILFs) about to be beamed to the cafeteria.

Frontier’s Indigenous Life Forms (FILFs) about to be beamed to their cafeteria. Another example of game developers working too hard and not eating properly. Their mums will have given them each a thick ear by Monday. They’re not wearing their vests either.

Over the last couple of weeks there has been a flurry of emails winging their way through the ether (sorry, that’s steampunk, wrong genre) discussing Out of the Darkness and how it fits into the Elite: Dangerous universe. One unforeseen, and very positive, outcome was that the lovely Frontier indigenous life forms (FILFs) have asked me to contribute some ideas for the game universe by compiling one of the E: D writer’s guides. Developers and writers will use the guides when creating content for the game and the fiction that goes with it. Of course, I jumped at the chance!

Being given the opportunity to work with these talented FILFs is a privilege, but I imagine you are sitting there thinking, Why should I care? Well, it was the ideas for the backstory and setting for the book that they liked which means I seem to be on the right track, and so you get a book you will, hopefully, enjoy. The guides also mean that the Elite game universe and its fiction will form a cohesive, well thought out whole.

With such a large community of developers and writers contributing, Elite: Dangerous should be an awesome game: an epic space action/adventure with a setting and backstory as deep as that of any novel, film, or roleplaying game.

Will doing the writer’s guide slow the writing of the book? Possibly, but not significantly. Also the time spent fleshing out the background to the story by doing the guide will result in a better book. We writers – puffed up with our own self-importance – like to call it research. Whether you call it that, or messing about thinking up cool stuff while seasoning it with a little pinch of science, it will be time well spent.

Oh, I didn’t mention what the guide was about, and so what’s in the story, did I? Thargoids.

I know that’s not much to go on, but I can tell you Frontier have some very cool plans ahead that they made me promise to keep schtum about for the time being. As I’m not entirely sure about the limits of their technology at The Towers, I will hold my peace rather than end up in pieces.

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick at

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12 Responses to First Encounters: Working with Frontier’s Indigenous Life Forms

  1. Allen Stroud says:

    Nice update TJ, hope you got today’s email?

  2. James Lealan says:

    I’m pleased to hear the FILFs are being so amenable. It makes a great deal of sense to align with certain themes, hopefully offering you, as the writer, the opportunity to flourish with creative flair. It’s very exciting to consider the new game, and the construction of the Elite universe. I wish you all of the very best of luck in your contribution towards that and I’m sure that your book will form a significant slice of the ‘unobservable’ universe. To quote a favourite author of mine:
    “Faith in faith’ he answered himself. ‘It isn’t necessary to have something to believe in. It’s only necessary to believe that somewhere there’s something worthy of belief”
    ― Alfred Bester, The Stars My Destination

    • TJames says:

      Thanks, James.

      The FILFs have been great to work with. This is my first collaborative writing project and, although there is lots of discussion that invariably leads to a few ideas being dropped because they don’t fit into the project, the ability to feed each others creativity more than makes up for that. The FILFs simply ooze* direction and vision, and that can only be good for the game, the fans, and the fiction.

      Great quote by the way. So far, there has been no mention of spiritual matters in the game, but perhaps a Higher Beings add-on pack should be considered. Maybe players could summon avatars to aid them in combat for 200,000 credits? How about the Jameson Guardian Spirit: about the size of Jupiter with glowing eyes that double as military laser banks, or maybe An Infinite Cloud of Tharglets which infests up to three hundred ships, filling them with enough biomass to instantly crush the crew?**

      * – Note: In order to avoid offense I must state that oozing is used as a metaphor. I have never witnessed any of the Frontier team leaking in any way.
      ** – Note2: Now you can see why Frontier has creative control. They know what they’re about…

  3. James Lealan says:

    You’re welcome.

    – excellent!

    I’m particularly enjoying the idea of putting a price on divine intervention, but I’m not so sure the space Gods will be so eager. Also, the “Infinite Cloud of Tharglets” is particularly unnerving. If such an idea gets traction, any insight into the their galactic location will be hugely appreciated. (i.e. I, for one, will be piloting my Cobra in the opposite direction!)

    Yours faithfully,

    Brother Lealan

    • TJames says:

      Brother Lealan,

      As your Abbot, I must protest at your categorical betrayal of our faith and principals when you sided with this reprobate, this self-styled builder-of-worlds, who goes by the moniker of one, T. James.

      You are hereby ordered to take the nearest shuttle to the most remote asteroid, in the furthest field, of the most lonely star system in the galaxy. You are banished to The Concrete Roundabout in Milton Keynes.

      Despite how you so falsely signed your comment, I know our Entity will be merciful.

      Now go, even my patience wears thin.

      Abbot N. Costello.

      • James Lealan says:


        Clearly, the galaxies are not as expansive as I had once presumed.

        Humbled by my sentencing, I will go … although I know not where. Perhaps around and around until I figure out ‘Who’s on First!’

        The real humiliation is the suggestion of a shuttle! Pah, to be flown by ‘an’other. I will leave my prayers behind me, and only the stars will know my thoughts.

        Signing out … to return on the next rotation.

        • TJames says:

          May your journey bring you great wisdom, and within orbit of a planet with decent beer and pub food. Of course, you won’t be able to land on the planet just yet, but when you do it’ll be awesome.

  4. Bloocheez says:

    I’m so pleased that the recent medical emergency has left your creative powers unscathed although I fear the method of infection may have been digital as, within a couple of days of your last update, I too had what seemed like an ocean mucus evacuating my sinuses per hour . . . anyhoo. . . .
    The fact that you have been asked to contribute to a writers guide speaks volumes (see what I did there?!!) for your abilities and I am sure that the extra workload will not impact negatively on the novel itself.

    You are doing a great job so far of keeping us up to date with your progress and it only serves to keep my appetite whetted for the novel itself


    • TJames says:

      Thank you, Mr. Cheez.

      Your appreciation for finely crafted literature does you credit. I hope I can live up to your expectations.

      However, despite your kind words, I still utterly refuse to accept any liability, responsibility or culpability for the biological state of your sinuses. You are Bloo, and a cheez, and so are already a walking breeding ground for microbes, germs, and lengths of hair that have inexplicably found themselves embedded in your soft, runny exterior. I feel your ‘infection’ could be cured by spending a little more time in your rightful home: safely tucked up in a plastic box in the fridge.

      I hope you return to your correct consistency soon.

      I must now say goodbye as it is time for me to consume one of your yellower cousins, with Branston Pickle on a warm plateau of partially burnt bread.

      Nom, nom, nom.

  5. Selezen says:

    Does that make me a “FILF by association” too? ;-)

    Congratulations, Tj! Getting to expand and develop the Thargoids will be a great challenge.

    • TJames says:

      Hi Dave, thanks for dropping by.

      ***Developing the Thargoids is going to be a challenge, but not one I’m taking on alone: the Thargoids are fundamentally David B’s vision. Andy, Michael and Allen are all having significant input too. My job, if I do it right, is just to bring them into sharper focus and pull together all the ideas into a cohesive whole, adding a little of my own special sauce on the way. Frontier will have the final say. (Dave already knows this. This is an info-bite for anyone else who is wondering how this works.)***

      We are now both FILFBAs – our lives reduced to an acronym for the sake of our art, our readers, and the greater good that is the communal creation of Elite: Dangerous. There, that’s better. It’s always good to release the pompousness first thing in the morning, before it builds to an unhealthy level.

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