Then I Sold My Cutter

I’m honestly finding it increasingly difficult to stay interested in Elite Dangerous for long periods now. I mean I’ve played pretty much constantly for… holy beans, what, six years now? Five and a bit? Since Beta, anyway.

I’ve never been the best, most capable or committed player. I’m pretty rubbish at anything more complex than going from A to B – though once I picked up Flight Assist Off, that was a new lease of fun because I’ve always liked the simulation parts of ED and, honestly, I’ve never really been able to shake the faint sense of disappointment that it wasn’t more of a simulator. I’ve always put it that I wanted Elite 4; but what I got, while it is very good and has been great fun for a long time, was Elite 1.5.

When I joined the Beta I was part of a player group called Good Guys Gaming, that had formed on Google+. They’re what are now the NULL player faction based in LTT 4961. And then I kind of drifted away from the game for a bit and when I came back I fell in with the Hutton Truckers. But in all honesty I never really joined HOT. I never really became part of the community, though I would love to have been – I just didn’t have the personality for it, I guess. I’m too content to just skulk around the sidelines. Kind of like my short-lived career as a Fuel Rat: figured that might be a good thing to do; get me active in the game, talking to people, etc. So I read the rules, signed up for their IRC chat, and then never asked anyone to train or certify me. Too much exposure. I think I’d have been quite good at that, though, especially having worked in a coordination and dispatch centre IRL, back when my brain worked passably well.

But in the end I couldn’t clear the first hurdle, and never certified as a Fuel Rat. I could’ve, doubtless, but I have long-standing self-sabotaging tendencies that get the better of me whenever something goes wrong in the game, or outside of it, or even if I’m just in the wrong mood. For the longest time my go-to response to getting my ship blown up was to clear my save. I did that so many times. That’s probably one reason I never got anywhere near Elite in any rating, and it took me years to afford a Clipper.

No, I know I’ve used this as the feature image and it isn’t a Cutter. It’s near enough.

It also makes me sabotage chances at being part of a community: I can be very up and down, and when I’m down – whether it’s anything to do with the game or not – I’ll often break things. Things like connections. More than once I withdrew from Good Guys Gaming and had to ask them if I could rejoin when my mood picked up a few days later. I have this urge, this compulsion, to just vanish. To walk away and disappear. And I did it several times with GGG, and I’ve done it several times with the Hutton Truckers, and it doesn’t benefit anyone. It just puts them to the hassle of having to re-accept my most recent join request – for the Facebook group and for the in-game squadron – when, again, there’s an uptick in mood.

Ultimately, though, like Simon (though I suspect for quite different reasons), I’ve just recently become more and more sharply aware of the fact that I have no direction in ED, and that I never really did. The only in-game goal I’ve ever really had was quite early on, and it was a two-parter: get promoted to Baron and buy a Clipper; then get Duke and buy a Cutter. And I did them both. Eventually. Over an agonisingly long time. And then I sold my Cutter and I’ve never been able to afford a new one.

I just don’t feel I have anything much to strive for in ED; no particular motivation to find any such thing.. I do wonder if sooner or later I’m going to have to admit that I’m really only playing it out of habit. It isn’t really tailored for me. I’m not that interested in combat, but the trading side of things has always been a bit basic considering I used to play EVE Online where there’s a whole complex player-driven economy and the ability to play the commodity market using orders and so on. Trading in Elite is fun, but for it to be the entire mainstay of your gameplay, you really need it to have more character. Exploration improved for me with the addition of the much-reviled FSS – but most other players hate it and besides, exploration lost most of its lustre before then anyway, since you can’t land on anything with an atmosphere, there’s no mapping, no gathering specimens, no… well, no Star Trek, is probably the best way to describe it.

I’m being unreasonable. ED isn’t Star Trek and was never meant to be. But I think for me the point is that while in combat there is a way to get better – you can keep practising until you’re better at combat – there’s no equivalent improvement avenue in exploration or trading. You just do them. Over and over. And your success is measured in effect by how much money you make, which is itself a function of how long you can be bothered to do the things.

And through several expansions and updates ED has added this feature or that – but it’s never really gripped me. Like I said, the FSS was an improvement in my eyes since it at least put a veneer of ‘science’ over the exploration mechanic that had been there before. But I wasn’t and am not interested in Thargoids. I just don’t care and never have. I’m not saying that to be hostile or entitled: it’s just that for me, the Thargoids were far more interesting as mere rumour and half-myth. Once they arrived in game and started being ED’s ‘space invaders’ for players to shoot down in massive numbers, they lost all my interest.

As for carriers, due to be or having been rolled out in the current update, these are massive ships that groups can buy, dock player ships into like a giant moving space station and then, like a giant moving space station, move.

They don’t interest me in the slightest.

It’s becoming ever clearer that, well, it’s not you, Elite; it’s me. There’s nothing wrong with the game. There’s nothing wrong with the people who play the game – except maybe one.

I said in a Facebook comment to the Hutton group that I want for community. It’s been true for a while and is especially so now, as literally the entire world sits in varying degrees of lockdown due to a global disease outbreak. And I find myself wishing that I’d nurtured these connections a little bit more; that I’d made more of the games I played as multiplayer group and community experiences than remaining so determinedly on the sidelines for years on end.

I’m not quitting Elite Dangerous. There’s no reason to. Hell, I’ll probably be playing it tomorrow. It’s Sunday, I’m confined to my house and the only other alternative is to boot up my work laptop and start processing reports out of hours.

But that’s the thing. That’s what ED seems to be for me now: something I’d rather do than process reports.

There’s no need to formally give the game up. But it certainly may well be the case that, like Simon, I’ll find myself playing it less and less, and maybe some day I’ll check myself after a while and realise I just never loaded it up again.

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