Elite: Dangerous Community Media fills the void of space


Frontier has never been quite up front about the creation of content outside of the game itself, which may be for the best.  Frontier’s plots are revealed at a glacial pace through in-game community goals, and the few times Frontier has attempted to encourage community engagement through events has been a disaster.  Still, perhaps it is this vast void of space that has allowed players to create content and media outside of the game which can fill the blanks for tuned-in players.  Like a blank canvas with only the vaguest implications of an idea, media-savvy players have created beautiful works about Elite: Dangerous, in part providing a reason to keep coming back to Elite despite occasionally slow official developments.

A recent example of this would be the storyline with Salome which unfolded this last weekend.  Officially, this was not a Frontier event, but was rather an in game event facilitated by Frontier for the benefit of Drew Wagar, one of the authors of the official Elite tie in novels commissioned in the kickstarter.  The event itself was unique in that it involved single, important NPC pilots having to travel from one point to another.  It was a VIP protection gig, but this is not something Frontier usually does. Instead, it usually prompts community goals which require simply hauling cargo, collecting bounties or bonds, or pirating goods; grinding to unlock various reward tiers until the victory is secured or the time runs out.

In this event, however, Frontier told the community the basic ideas ahead of time and let the community get to work.  It was not Frontier’s scriptwriters or Drew’s plot that would take precedence, but it was the players’ own organization and actions that provided the content.  Had Frontier written the plot, they could not have done something so nefarious as Smiling Dog Crew’s infiltration of Salome’s defenders, the predictable betrayal, and so on.  With this event, as with many others, it was not Frontier, but the community, that provided the content.

Such has been the case with other events as well.  The Dangerous Games, late last summer, were a disaster by any standards of community management, but still there were diamonds in that rough. Recruitment videos to motivate the community were created by several organizations, notably the Border Coalition and GalCop.  These videos aimed to gain support from the community for the various competing sides, as well as, in the case of the GalCop videos, to release and tease plot and storyline elements.

Some organizations even take this a step further, producing content for their day to day operations.  Diamond Frogs have been creating operational briefings in video format for years as a way of encouraging the troops and keeping people motivated and on the same page. They also provide engaging content in a game in which neither the journey nor the destination are often distinguishable or unique.  During the various stages of the Xihe Wars, Frogs were kept abreast and hyped on various operational stages through the use of mission briefings that inspired and informed, effectively creating a game within a game out of the liberation of Xihe.

While the game itself sometimes delivers a void of engaging content, instead providing only the same experiences time and time again, the community of Elite: Dangerous continues to find ways to draw milk from a stone, providing content to fill that void.  In this way, Elite’s organization management meta-game remains a true exercise in the sandbox experience.  Following the success of the 3rd Party Developer’s Strike last week, Frontier may finally deliver on usable API tools that will support and promote even more community creation.  We may even hope that someday Frontier creates tools to allow the creations of players outside of the game to be reflected in engine through more than just player injected factions and slow community goals.

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  • its impressive what the community has shoe-horned into Elite for content. Its also amazing how Frontier managed to build a game like this without a persistent database – thats what really seperates it from EVE. the (quite literally magic, in its time 15 years ago) method with which EVE does its 24-hour downtime to reindex and optimize its data for worldwide real-time modification is some of the best ever written, in my qualified opinion. its what Elite just couldnt pay for, so they made up for it with a glorious front-end game engine and physics/controls interface. really nice work , but still empty inside. its like a scarecrow with no brain, constantly labotomized with each new ‘node instance’ created in its engine. its like EVE 2005 but with graphics. thats why StarCitizen is actually so unobtainable. its not the graphics or the ships, its the big-data. only a few in the world know how to write that from scratch.
    still impressive smoke and mirrors though.

    May 3, 2017 at 2:51 PM
    • Alot Guido

      While I agree with the difference between the two, I’m not sure its fair, or even useful, to constantly compare a 10+ year old space mmo (in which you vaguely direct the velocity of a chess piece in 3D space) to a new age space shooter featuring the actual flying of space ships in a vaguely mmo universe.

      The Eve around today is somewhat different from the Eve released at launch. While new games have a higher release standard these days, I’m more interested in the speed of Elite development, and the speed of Elite feature development as opposed to Eve feature development, then I am to a snot-balling contest between what they both currently offer – though it does amuse me that while this Author seems fond of constantly comparing Elite’s under-developed community features to the over-a-decade-in-development community features of Eve, he seems to have forgotten to compare Rifts community events to Eve’s comparable Drifter storyline -.-

      May 4, 2017 at 1:43 PM
  • Caleb Ayrania

    More and more games are beginning to “depend on” player created content, I just fail to see many that succeed in doing so convincingly. It feels akward, and patched on to fix a lack of purpose.

    May 4, 2017 at 5:46 PM