I suddenly remember the fine

I’ve never been great at not being able to do stuff.

That… sounded wrong. It sounded like I probably meant that I was really good at everything: that I had terrible trouble trying to be average at something. That’s not it. No, it’s more that I’m really bad at dealing with failure. Whether in life or in gaming, I get very frustrated very easily when things don’t go swimmingly.

An old friend of mine – a friend from long ago, not a friend that’s old – used to love him some computer gaming, up to the point where he got blown up, at which point he’d throw the joystick down and shout, “This game’s boring!”

He was half kidding. Mostly.

But in that respect we’re two of a kind – Jake when young and me now – because after a few unsuccessful sessions of Elite: Dangerous since I picked it up again last week I can already feel my renewed enthusiasm for the game starting to waver.

I’d made a couple of mistakes. The first being to think that you could play ED and make reasonable headway without a combat focus. You generally can’t. Mining requires being able to defend yourself in a combat zone; salvaging is still, for the most part, illegal; missions will sooner or later drop pirates on you however carefully you select couriering jobs.

You’d think I’d be getting better at the game by now

In the end I compromised and fitted some mine launchers: since my approach to combat was generally to run away, dropping a few caltrops in my wake seemed a good way to delay my pursuers. Flinging jam jars at the enemy would be marginally more effective. Similarly, heat sinks and chaff launchers do very little in actual combat, for all they might be frustratingly effective when used against you.

(“This game’s boring!”, shouts the Jake in my memory.)

My second mistake was, pure and simple, my mistake. Actually it was two mistakes. No, three. But two of them are related. The first being when I was concentrating so hard on sneaking into a station and avoiding detection (I had cargo aboard that that station’s ruling authority had asked me to collect, but which was nevertheless illegal at that station). I got in without being scanned – but realised too late I’d forgotten to ask docking permission. A 200-credit fine later, I managed to get things back on track… And then forgot to pay.

So I departed on my second mission – again, for the ruling body at the station – to go collect some drifting data in a neighbouring system. A mission I’d already done about five or six of, so it was extremely tedi… easy.


Jumping into the system, I was immediately told which planet to go to to find the material, went to that planet, dropped to minimum supercruise speed of 30 km/s, and waited.

And waited.

Waited some more.

And eventually – seriously eventually – the signal source appeared in front of me. I dropped from supercruise and found the canister, lined up and began my capture approach. That was when the enemy ships suddenly powered up and started driving at me, lasers flashing. All very exciting, of course – but with shields gone and hull down to 50% I decided there wasn’t much chance of turning things around, so I boosted as clear as I could get and low-waked out.

More waiting before another mission signal source appeared. Expecting the same thing, I dropped in, opened the cargo scoop, flicked through the debris in front of me to locate the data, drove straight at the can, grabbed it, closed cargo scoop, boosted clear and jumped straight back into supercruise as the first laser shots flickered around me.

I was quite proud of that. Can’t catch sneaky, speedy me!

And then I returned to the station, docked up, strode gleefully into the agent’s office to be reminded that they wanted two canisters. Not one. Two.

Balls to it.

I abandoned the mission, because I couldn’t be bastard bothered, and set course for Vequess, my theoretical ‘home’ system in the game (despite that every time I start a new save I’m a zillion light years from there, because gods forbid any player character should be born or start their spacing career in the Empire).

Four jumps in towards Vequess… and I suddenly remember the fine. The freaking fine for ‘trespass’. 200 creds. Which I need to either trek back and pay, thus rendering my play session today completely unproductive (no money, no experience, no faction standing and not even any progress towards Vequess), or I can ignore until, inevitably, I need to return to that station by which time the fine’s festered and become a bounty and I get attacked and blown up.

Or, I could just clear my save and start again.



So I did. But honestly, my heart’s not as in it as it was last week.

And the planetary surface terrain texture is still bloody awful (plasticky and fake-looking) and the game physics is still distractingly stupid and shoot-’em-up-y.



  1. Here's a trick for you. When entering a debris field with a lot of canisters go to your contacts panel and pick the one you need. No more wasting time and giving the pirates a chance to get you.


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