Just As Fun To Go Back

I had a thought this morning, and then another different thought, and then I think a third one came along and I realised actually they were all basically the same thought from different angles and that it was New Year.

Let me start again.

Actually, yes: “start again”. That was essentially all the thoughts. I had thoughts about starting again, and what better time to be thinking them than this, the first day of the new year AUC2773, and only days before the Agonalia, the festival of Janus, the god of thresholds, boundaries, transitions and new beginnings, on the Nones of January.

A coin showing Janus, the god who is the face of past and present, looking forwards and backwards.

In Elite Dangerous, which celebrates the beginning of the year 3306 today, a noble member of the Truckers of Hutton Orbital has suggested that others may wish to join him in a restart: he intends to clear his saved game (of which an ED account will allow only one), resetting all his progress, and start the game anew. I can see the appeal in this even for normal people: when you’ve been doing a single thing for a long time, especially when it’s something you do for fun, shaking things up occasionally can be enjoyable. And plus, while progressing in Elite is often a case of setting your own bars to clear and milestones to reach, those challenges are not lessened by having achieved them. It can, if you’ve a mind to do it, be just as fun to go back and do them again; maybe approaching them in a slightly different way or under different conditions.

So I can see the point. And I am sorely tempted. I’ve been running my character for quite a while – she’s achieved the main goal I’d set for her right at the start, which was to acquire the Imperial title of Duke (the Empire doesn’t use sex-indicative titles: Arissa Lavigny-Duval is its Emperor, not its Empress) and buy a Cutter, one of the biggest ships, and undoubtedly the shiniest, in the game.

And definitely the most covered in neon. Just look at it. Yum.

But having achieved my nice shiny ship and my rather meaningless title (Federation ranks and Imperial titles don’t actually let you do anything very much – at certain rungs up the ladder you get access to otherwise restricted ships and star systems but nothing much else), the idea of restarting isn’t particularly daunting. I’ve done it many times already.

There’s a particular play style in Elite, and other games with a comparable save mechanic, called – rather unfortunately – ‘iron man mode’. This is where especially hardcore players will set a rule for themselves: any time their character is killed, even if the game would otherwise simply respawn the character with maybe some penalty applied (loss of gear or progress or experience are common examples), the ‘iron man’ player will delete the character and start again.

Most players who do it do it for the challenge. For a long time, I did it because there’s something wrong with me. As I touched on in my last post, I do seem to have this pathological need to make sure that I’m not having any fun with stuff I do that’s supposed to be fun. So for a long time I made little progress in Elite – or much less than I might have – because I had a tendency, any time my character was killed, or (I’m big enough to admit it) I got stroppy and let her be killed, or even on occasion killed her myself, to wipe my saved game and start all. over. again.

But I am doing better this time. I haven’t actually reset my ED game in quite a while – and I’ve been blown up several times since I last did it. So that’s progress, of a sort.

Also this blog. All right, it’s not exactly a significant achievement; it’s by no means important – but it is a blog that I’ve kept running now for a good couple of years, have posted to infrequently but throughout that time, and haven’t deleted: I’ve started so many previous blogs I can’t tell you – each one abandoned; either shut down out of fear someone might be reading it, or just simply because I’d started off all wrong and wanted to, again, reroll and begin again.

Also Diablo III, which to my appropriately modest pride I managed to complete last night: that is, I ran through to the end of the main storyline and defeated – eventually – the Big Bad End Boss Angel Guy, and got showered with coins and jewels and fine weaponry and armour and all manner of pretty things so I can take it all with me to a) start the game again but with bags of kit, or b) carry on and play the endless, randomly generated rifts and challenge levels. But, again, in Diablo as in most other roleplay games I’ve played, like Everquest, Star Wars Galaxies or Guild Wars, there’d have been a time where I could only have gone so far through the game as one character before I convinced myself I just had to start a new one. No choice. I’d made all the wrong choices and just had to do it over again. And even if I didn’t delete the old, it’d still mean trying to progress two characters, and thus slower advancement through the game. And that’s assuming I stopped at two.

So, I considered my fellow commander’s suggestion. And in the end, I told him I’d happily join him in a restart – but I’d be using a secondary account. I picked it up for a few quid a year or two back and never really used it. It may not be fully in the spirit of his endeavour – it’s not a sacrifice of my previous character; but I think she’s been sacrificed more than often enough at this point.

Not doing too bad, though, for someone so often blown up.

She can amuse herself in the galaxy while I concentrate for a time on the new one – and, unlike a game like Diablo, there really isn’t a structure in ED to progress through, so And it is a new start to the game which I think probably still qualifies – and should be enough to make Janus happy, too, if He were even slightly bothered about the stuff people do in videogames.

Do gods even play videogames?

Anyway, maybe if I were someone else I’d be criticising myself for my reluctance to participate properly in the undertaking. But I’m not. I’m me, and just now, I’m actually quite proud that this time, even with what have been a more legitimate reason, I decided not to go the whole hog and scrub my primary character.


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