Friday, November 20, 2020

Spaced Out


After twenty years and what must be close to a couple of hundred mmo(rpg)s, I still can't resist the lure of something new. Even when I know for absolute certain I'm not going to enjoy it.

It used to be a lot easier back in the days when subscriptions were the norm. I'd apply for just about any beta I heard about but I often wouldn't get in. If I didn't, I'd have to wait for release to decide whether to risk my money. There weren't too many open betas or free trials in the first few years. 

Once World of Warcraft took off and more and more companies clambered onto the bandwagon, or at least chased despairingly after it as it disappeared over the horizon, it started to get easier and easier to try before you buyed. Bought. Damn these irregular past particples.

Even before the free to play revolution got going there was an ever-increasing range of options to satisfy your idle curiosity. Most live games added some kind of trial, usually a couple of weeks, which was plenty long enough to make your mind up whether to pay or walk. 


Pre-launch trials of some kind or other became the standard means of promotion. There were beta key giveaways, competitions, trial weekends, open betas. Then before long we were into the era of Kickstarter launches and Early Access, where somehow companies managed to convince us all to pay to test their unfinished games or to give them money before they'd even started making them.

Meanwhile, subscriptions were dying out. Former sub games were converting to hybrid or free to play and almost all new games, no matter their origin, required no more than a registration and a download to play. If you wanted to take a game for a drive around the block you were more than welcome.

Now even that seems old hat. As megacorps compete to control not only the product but the supply chain the battle of the platforms sees triple-A games being handed out like candy at a children's party, with similarly satisfying results.

I have never had even the slightest interest in trying Elite: Dangerous. I already know I cannot stand flight simulators, regardless of the skin. Air, space, water, I don't care. I can't even drive an imaginary car (never could finish the tutorial in The Crew) so what are the chances of me flying a spaceship?


Added to that, even if I could manage the controls, computerized space is really boring. Seriously, come on, it is. Does it ever look like anything but a bunch of glowing dots on a computer monitor? I'm a huge advocate of real-life space exploration but no-one ever claimed the bit where you get from one solar system to another would be fun

In space it's the objects that are interesting, not the emptiness they float in. All those great screenshots from EVE Online have planets and stars and spaceships in them, not blackness and a few, distant, barely-twinkling points of light.

So, naturally, as soon as I read that Epic were giving the game away for free I had to try it. I knew I wouldn't like it. I knew I'd never play it. But I had to have it!


Okay, it wasn't such a ridiculous idea. I thought much the same about Star Citizen but then I did try it and I liked it. I somehow got to grips with the basic controls. The space station and planet environments were genuinely immersive. Even flying the ship was fun, for a while.

I'd read that E:D has some ground-based content. I thought maybe that at least might be worth a look. Of course, first I'd have to get there...

I'm not going to try and  build up any suspense. I didn't get there. Not even close. And this time it very much was for the want of trying. I had a rush of good sense after a couple of hours and logged out before I could drive myself completely insane.

Those two hours I did spend with the game, they were all in the tutorial. I didn't finish it. 

I nearly did, which surprised me. I got to the very last part. I know that because the annoyingly patronizing examiner, who kept telling me it wasn't a race and I could take as long as I wanted, then nagged at me to go faster every time I slowed down, he told me I was on the final test. 

All he wanted me to do before he'd pass me was blow up an armed drone that could fight back. I'd managed to fly the ship through a twenty-one stage obstacle course, engage the ftl drive, target and destroy some barrels on a space-hulk and even chase down and explode an unarmed drone but I fell at the last hurdle. I couldn't prove I could defend myself.

Technically I didn't fail the tutorial. I just declined to finish it. Unlike The Crew, which I paid money for and still have never played, because completing the tutorial is mandatory and I can't do it, in Elite:Dangerous you do at least get the option to Skip Tutorial.

I took that option gladly but it was pretty obvious to me that if I couldn't even finish the kindergarten stage I wouldn't be getting much further. I was hoping at least to see the E:D version of Star Citizen's very impressive space station but no such luck. There doesn't seem to be one. It looks as though everything happens in the UI. 


I got as far as accepting a mission and auto-launching my ship. There I was, staring itno the black, speckled depths of flat, two-dimensional, monitor-space, when I had something of an epiphany: this is not for me.

I'd still like to see the planet-based part of the game, if indeed there is one, but not so much that I'm prepared to learn how fly a spaceship to get there. It's a bit much to ask, isn't it? I mean, when I go on holiday, no-one asks me to fly the plane. 

I guess that's why the game's called Elite:Dangerous not Space Tourist. Shame. Space Tourist sounds like a game I might even pay money for.


  1. I think I made it past that part of the tutorial, but failed miserably when it came to docking. I had hoped to try some of the space things that the game offered, but if you cannot dock up you are somewhat out of luck. So I spent a few hours feeling like an incompetent before I put the game down and went on to things more my speed.

    1. The main reason I declined to finish the last part of the tutorial was the total lack of feedback on how I was doing. As far as I could see, I was hitting the target fairly often but the game gives no indication of whether you're hitting or doing any damage until the thing actually blows up. Without knowing that, I couldn't tell if I just needed to keep doing the same for longer or whether I needed to do something different.

  2. This post did me a huge service, I had no idea it was on sale for free in the Epic store.
    I love the elite games back in the early 90s. Even with that, all I managed this time was to add it to my library. I paused to admire it and the other fives games in my library I also got for free and have no intention of installing, and then headed back to my decade+ old MMO of current choice.

  3. I played the hell out of Elite when I was in high school, and was super excited to back Elite: Dangerous on Kickstarter.

    And.. yeah.. I couldn't finish the tutorial either.

    I wrote off my £42 investment as penance for pirating the original Elite when I was a kid. :-D


Wider Two Column Modification courtesy of The Blogger Guide