GalNet connection set up. Source system: Skaudai CH-B d14-34. Recipient system: Sol. Ready to transmit. Timestamp 07:05 Nov 6 3302.
The game is called Elite: Dangerous. Sure, it’s a ranking in the combat hierarchy (for those wondering, my rank along the combat track is “Mostly Harmless”), but it’s also a philosophy. Do anything at your own risk. Exploration is no exception, and aside from actual combat is probably the riskiest thing there is. Take damage at a combat zone, sure, you can go back and repair. Take damage by flying through a star exiting hyperspace and you’ve still got 4,000 light years to go until your next repair stop.
I have three weeks to bring a passenger 22,000 light years away and then back again. I have next to no long distance experience and don’t have a good ship for it. This is an Elite: Dangerous adventure.
I was disappointed on my approach to the Eagle Nebula to find that it doesn’t look at all like it does in real life. Some of this is due to the visible spectrum – when we see gorgeous pictures of nebulae, they’re always in false color, meaning that the images are taken in infrared and then approximated onto the visual spectrum. (Oh yeah, hold on tight folks, we’re doing some astronomy today.) But past the color not looking nearly as nice, the shape just wasn’t on. It feels like Elite: Dangerous has a generic nebula shape that’s played with a bit but aren’t necessarily hand-crafted. I would have liked some more attention to nebula detail, but at the same time appreciate the attempt at realism. I wonder if professional astronomers play the game and critique its approach to their discipline.
Of course, the most recognizable part of the Eagle Nebula is the Pillars of Creation. Game rendering aside I didn’t expect to see those anyway; they were destroyed approximately 6,000 years ago, and by the time Elite: Dangerous takes place in 3302, the light from that event may have even reached Earth.
Definitely visible, though, is a stellar nursery – a tiny smear of stars in the photo above and much clearer here. I decided to take a short detour and head in.
Screenshots don’t capture how it felt. These bright blue stars surrounded me in every direction, wreathed by pinkish wisps, no light at all from the galaxy core making its way in. A hundred baby stars, waking up in the galaxy for the first time. Hello, children. Right now your mother nebula is blocking out light from outside the galaxy – you have each other, and for the barest of moments I have you. Someday the nebula will dissipate and you will take your place in this great galaxy we call the Milky Way.
I got a little misty, then plotted a course for Eagle’s Landing. Situated on the edge of the nebula, the settlement is in orbit around a secondary star, so it took a few minutes to get there from the system’s main star. And on the way… so colorful. Even coming in for a landing on the planet was breathtaking. The nebula splashed paint across the sky like Bob Ross on a fresh canvas and the stellar nursery was clearly visible. Though space dust and time had taken nicks out of my paint job, it still glowed, pearlescent under the sky on fire. This is a sight I could see myself living with in retirement.
Despite the beauty of the place, I again tried to make the layover as quick as possible. I sold off 1,838,582 Cr of exploration data (total: just shy of 5 million credits) and again took to the stars, ready for the longest trip in my voyage: the Skaudai nebula, five thousand light-years distant.
In the words of the wise man, “Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dustin’ crops, boy. Without precise calculations we could fly right through a star or bounce too close to a supernova and that’d end your trip real quick, wouldn’t it?”
Amazingly astute, Mr. Solo sir; and though I was careful, sometimes you can’t help but do both.
A mere 900 light years from Eagle, the exit from hyperspace pulled one of those weird flukes of bad luck on me. See, when exiting, you rush in towards the most massive star in the system from a short distance out, which gives you the appearance of braking hard from the immense speed of hyperspace.
And sometimes, on that hyperspace decceleration, you find yourself flung through a partner star and then caught in between, your heat spiking and your very continued existence in danger.
I pulled up and quickly found the most direct route away from the two stars. My heat spiked to at least 125% (it wasn’t until it started cooling down again that I felt comfortable enough to take my hand off the throttle and grab a screenshot at 115% maximum tolerance and my dashboard sparking).
One of the things I like about the Orca is fantastic heat management. I managed to get away with less than 5% damage to most systems, with only my cargo hatch taking more. On a normal system I can start warming up the frame-shift drive before I’m even done scooping fuel out of a star’s corona; other ships would take damage nearly every time if I did that. This was the first time I started to really appreciate the ship I’d brought for the trip. I scanned the stars while I sat there taking screenshots (which nets you a few hundred extra credits when turning in data, but takes too much time to be worth it) and then continued on my way, shaken.
It’d be a fabrication for the sake of drama to suggest that I limped my way over 4,000 light years to Skaudai, or that my life was hanging by a thread, but the encounter in Nyeajeau LF-L d9-49 reminded me that this is a dangerous occupation. With this in mind, and a few words exchanged with my explorer passenger, I again set back off.
As we continued closer toward the core, there was a general increase in the number of bluer, hotter stars; I wonder if it’s because of this being a region with generally younger stars (I’d once heard that a lot of star birth occurs near the core, though in doing research that appear to be wrong) or just a general increase in star density. There’s a lot more stuff closer together out here. Out in the bubble there’s smatterings of stars and a distant smudge of the galactic core; in here, the sky is alive.
While plotting my route in the Galaxy Map I saw something interesting – a nebula that couldn’t be more than a light year wide. Most are twenty, thirty or more. It’s on the way; I decided to take my second exploratory diversion.
Astronomers might be cringing now; people well-versed in Elite: Dangerous exploration certainly are. You see, nebulae are formed by stars that go supernova. When a star goes supernova, it leaves behind a tiny yet massive remnant known as a neutron star. And a smaller nebula means a more recent supernova.
All of which is to say, when I exited hyperspace I found myself on the fringe of the jet cone on a neutron star.
I quickly got away, no worse for wear, but it’s one of the new features in 2.2. By riding the jets while leaving a system, and risking damage, you can increase your frame-shift drive jump distance – 50% increase from white dwarves and a whopping 300% increase in neutron stars. Interesting but way too involved for me – and anyway, there’s another, main-sequence star towards the outer reaches of the system with a couple of water worlds that I wanted to scan. (My explorer friend, Virgil Kyle, asked me to be on the lookout for Earth-like worlds, so I dutifully scanned them before heading out on my way). Again, gorgeous sky from the densely packed dust of this recent supernova – and not a whole lot of light from outside it. If any life on these worlds survived the death throes of the partner star, they’ll have quite the view to grow up with. I snapped a couple of Polaroids and moved on.
The last 1,500 light years of the trip to Skaudai were blissfully uneventful. I made it to the system – nondescript and again with a smattering of NPCs. Oh, one wants to interdict me, that’s cute, but I’ll be – wait Skype what are you NO IT IS NOT [censored]OKAY TO [censored]STEAL FOCUS FROM THE GAME AND [censored]ASK ME TO [censored]UPDATE YOU [censored][cens[censored]ored] [censored]!!!!?!
I managed to get back in-game as the interdiction succeeded; I then lay on the boost and sustained over 400 m/s, losing the pursuer with only a couple hits on my shields. For the second time, I was happy for the Orca – the fastest ship I’ve ever owned and one of the fastest available. Remember when I said in Log 2 that normal space speed wasn’t important on a trip like this? Never mind. It was awesome.
I made it to the planet at the second 01:57 local time. Daylight Saving Time having ended that night, but since the game works off of UTC it didn’t also switch, meaning it was an hour I had to keep working at or lose the time. Or something, it gets kind of fuzzy. I sold off another 3,322,386 Cr of exploration data, bringing my total up to over eight million. And would you look at that – I was the first person to give a detailed scan of a few stars! Which were those again? Oh yeah, the ones that tried to kill me. And whose damage repair costs only totaled around three thousand credits – less than I’m spending topping off the fuel tank at outposts on this trip. This is the point where I taunt the star system but frankly I don’t want to tempt fate any more than I have already. We’ll call it a wash.
I’m more than halfway to Colonia now with just a few relatively short-distance signposts left. I have a bit over two weeks left to do this. This is going to be down to the wire.
Check out a video I took on the way to Skaudai here: