Elite Dangerous Pilots Find Alien Map Hidden In Probe

Pilots in Elite Dangerous [official site] have discovered a hidden map in an alien probe after scanning the probe and applying a spectral analysis to the sound it produced. Probes like this have been around for a while but it wasn’t until last week that a player, Cmdr Rizal, “honked” at one (commander slang for using your Discovery Scanner) and documented the “reply”. Worryingly, the probe first sent out an EMP blast, temporarily cutting off the ship’s power. But after that, it spoke.

Only last week players were reporting distress calls that suggested a return of the Thargoids, Elite’s original alien boogieman, with the power to pull you out of warp and destroy you in moments. Now, the hunt continues.

When another commander applied a spectral analysis to the fuzzy, clicking audio the alien probes produced, he found that an image clearly appeared. A circular globe with noticeable lines and symbols in the four corners.

Baring a resemblance to humanity’s own errant probe, Voyager 2, and its map of the cosmos, the image has fired the imaginations of pilots starved for content. The Elite Dangerous forums are now awash with competing theories about this message. Most believe it is a map of some description, or a compass, leading to a place of interest or an alien vessel.

Some have declared it to be a marker which, when placed with its centrepoint on Sagittarius A (the super-massive black hole at the centre of the galaxy), points to a region of space that is “permit locked”. These are systems where players cannot enter, hinting that this space has been reserved by Frontier for use in a future expansion. Perhaps, an alieny expansion.

Others say this is hogwash, and declare the image to be a map of the moon Merope 5c, where alien “structures” known as barnacles have already been discovered. Although many commanders are flying over this moon, scouring it for secrets, few have reported anything of note. At least two commanders have reported taking random damage above the planet’s surface in certain zones but many are dismissing this as heat damage from pilot error.

While the investigators march on with their work, they also have to deal with a huge amount of noise from one another. Many of the theories and posts are nothing more than the chaotic musings of those donning tin foil hats. Much of the conversation is spent trying to persuade people not to look for patterns in random data, where no patterns exist. There is still an entire bank of Soundcloud files from the time commanders tried to find a “voice” in the sound the alien barnacles made. In that instance, they failed to find anything beyond an indistinct murmuring.

The playerbase is convinced, however, of the Thargoids imminent return. And these events do seem to suggest Frontier has something planned. But perhaps the most salient point in the E:D hivemind comes from a commander called koop26:

“How much content is expected here? The devs are rumored to be making an alien expansion pack, so this is all lead-up. The question is, how much resolution are we expecting out of these hints? How much content is hidden under the surface for us to find and enable? Lots of players searching for something that isn’t implemented yet. I personally don’t know enough about what they’ve said to know if we’re going down a rabbit hole to finding another thing we can’t interact with yet.”

My favourite theory, however, is this one – that the players have simply found things in the wrong order than Frontier intended. The barnacles on Merope 5c are what the probe map points to. But the pilots of Elite Dangerous simply found these beings first, and only then thought to scan and analyse the probe.

Anyway, a good rundown of the whole thing can be found in this video. What about you? Have you got your own theories (beyond the obvious one of Frontier simply pulling the mystery lever)?


  1. Whippyice says:

    Were actually not sure if it’s a map no one knows what it is exactly

  2. Stone_Crow says:

    Wow, something happened in Elite Dangerous. I just lost £5.

    • 3000_Tonnen_Koala says:

      oh wow you mean as opposed to all the scripted explosions happening in Call of Duty? Real Players chasing after mysteries that let their fantasy run wild IS stuff thats happening. Scripted Cameraviews and Particle Effects are not.

  3. Kefren says:

    The top left “1” obviously states that a single-player offline mode will be released. The top right symbol is an alien RSS feed. So it will be announced on their website.

    [When you have a problem and no-one else can help, call on The A Team.]

  4. MajorLag says:

    I was under the impression, from previous articles on the subject, that the probes were already meticulously studied. How is it then that this is the first time someone thought to use something called “Discovery Scanner” on one of the things?

    • Whippyice says:

      what you say is correct but there are different types of UA’s out there prob’s and alike barnacles loads of things that look the same on the surface but have different functions, what them functions are is the big question

      This particular one seemed to react to being honked, what that means is charging a discovery scanner and letting out a huge blast of sound which traditionally returns information about your local system.

      think of Dolphin ECO location

      it just so happened that this one reacted to the honk.

    • Anti-Skub says:

      Because the devs are trying to make it seem like the players are slowly uncovering a secret that is just waiting for someone to find it.

      Spoilers…it isn’t. The devs are simply adding things to try and keep interest up, to give the illusion that there is actually something in the game world to discover. I guarantee you the reason this wasn’t found before is because you couldn’t find it before, and the reason no one has discovered where the map is pointing is because the thing it’s pointing to isn’t there yet. It’s just a cheap way to make it appear like the game has depth when it doesn’t.

      • Asurmen says:

        Good old baseless speculation.

        • Anti-Skub says:

          Speculation yes, baseless no. People datamine the game files, you can see when stuff gets added. Things like the barnacles and the unknown probe didn’t have models or textures before people started finding them. They weren’t out there waiting to be discovered, they were patched in.

          I would be very surprised if the theory about the map pointing to the locked region of space didn’t turn out to be true. It’s not a puzzle that the players can work out to find the aliens, it’s just a hype machine for the upcoming DLC that will add them.

          • Asurmen says:

            Baseless yes actually and quite clearly illogical. For starters, in a computer game something must always be patched in before it can be found. It obviously cannot be found before it’s actually released, can it?

            Barnacles were there from the moment Horizons were released. Probes have been able to be found since 2.1 patch.

            Your previous point that where the map points to doesn’t exist is completely baseless, as A) the sound was only discovered a few days ago and B) it’s a puzzle that needs to be understood. We don’t know where it leads yet, as it’s still being deciphered. People were saying the same, that the Unknown Probe doesn’t do anything, until actually it turns out it does, and we simply hadn’t discovered what it did. The same thing happened with the morse code buried in the Unknown Artifact. It was there from the start, it just needed to be figured out.

            There’s also another mystery in the game called the Formidine Rift. That’s been in the game and discoverable since Gamma.

          • hippy says:

            Barnacles is a particular case in point. After delivery, they didn’t appear at all until a player’s forum report of finding the typo “barnicles” in a game code filename… whereupon they magically did appear. Absolutely classic Frontier incompetence.

          • Asurmen says:

            hippy, except that isn’t the case at all. FD confirmed the misspelling did nothing to stop them for spawning.

            Seriously, all you’re doing is showing your ignorance and bias here.

  5. Anti-Skub says:

    I love the fact that someone finding a single note in Elite is cause for an entire article. It’s testament to how little goes on in the game.

    • Arithon says:

      It’s a testament to the ingenuity of the players. Could you have decoded that sound into a diagram? I couldn’t. It wouldn’t even have occurred to me.
      I just putter around with cargo and blow stuff up.

      • hippy says:

        “It’s a testament to the ingenuity of the players. Could you have decoded that sound into a diagram? I couldn’t.”

        Anyone whose audio player has a spectrogram display e.g. foobar2000 sees this diagram without ingenuity or even effort.

        • Asurmen says:

          And would have required the idea to even check in the first place. Most people don’t throw sounds through spectrograms as ordinary practice.

  6. renzollama says:

    It leads to some placeholder art with a caption “Coming Soon”

    • Anti-Skub says:

      “Preorder now for just $49.99 and we’ll release it in unsatisfyingly small chunks over the next 18 months.”

      • renzollama says:

        “Oops, sorry, this comes out next year so you’ll have to buy the new expansion to play it even though we advertised it heavily in the package you originally purchased”

      • hippy says:

        Except then having shipped the first part full of bugs, we’ll ship the second two months late with even more bugs and only half the number of Engineers we said, then we’ll scratch the release dates for the remain three parts as we move our programmers over to a roller coaster game, hoping you’ll forget that ever we took your money. :-)

  7. Det. Bullock says:

    “Baring a resemblance to humanity’s own errant probe, Voyager 2, ”

    Don’t you mean “bEaring”?

  8. Strawb77 says:

    it`s taken them this long to get anything even vaguely thargoid going on?
    i though it was just me not finding them.
    in space no one can hear you yawn..

    • hippy says:

      Thargoids was something Frontier told backers would be in the game at start … in a galaxy big enough to ensure no-one could be sure they were missing. :-)

      • Strawb77 says:

        @hippy, great answer- i suspect that no-one else has seen any aliens or we would have heard about it by now.

        i was a backer and expected the game to develop into a humans/aliens war, but it`s just three factions squabbling amongst themselves.

        sort of war that would unite humanity to fight the common foe?

        perhaps this is the start of that- fighting other people because their ideology differs from mine….

        well, you can see where i`m going with that..

      • Asurmen says:

        Care to back that up? Because I’m pretty damn sure they never said any such thing.

  9. LimaBravo says:

    People still play this empty nostalgia …. how quaint.

    • 3000_Tonnen_Koala says:

      people are still complaining about others having the fun they can’t have… how quaint

  10. gpown says:

    The title should be “After two years, Elite Dangerous pilots find an actual piece of authored content”.

  11. AlianAnt says:

    Reading through the comments and some of the steam reviews, my buddy and I have observed the incredible phenomenon with Elite. Interesting articles will come out, and more content is patched into the game, and while this would normally result in positive sentiment for any other game ever, Elite gets shit on.

    Looking through steam reviews, I see people with 1000 hours not recommend the game. Because there’s no “depth” they say. When I play garbage games, I attempt to return them, not “grind it out” for 1000 hours to see if I can find some fun somewhere. I have never and will never grind out more than one second of time with a game I don’t enjoy, and I damn well know no one else would, either.

    And yet, elite gets shit on. Despite its technical miracles, despite its incredibly tight flight system, it’s award-winning sound, it’s top-tier graphics, myriad of ships, 1-to-1 scale planetary landings, and frequent and constant developer interaction with player requests actually implemented as fast as possible, elite still gets shit on.

    Any other game would be herald as one of the best games of all time, AT LEAST one the best best turnarounds for a game (it’s changed a lot since initial release) of all time but, not for elite. It’s a “yawn fest” and “a mile wide but an inch deep.” 1000 hours and not recommended. It even has cool narratives like this article points put and a stroll through the comments has someone shitting on the developer for even bothering.

    I’ll probably never get to see this happen to a game again but while Euro Truck Simulator 2, a fantastic game about driving trucks from point A to point B gets a free pass to gaming glory, and then an astounding game like Elite with all its features and freedom gets the “WAIT UNTIL STAR CITIZEN COMES OUT” treatment.

    • TehK says:

      Brilliant! Your post wasn’t there when I wrote mine and now I’m basically repeating it :D

      Glad to see I’m not the only one getting that impression from the game’s community.

    • aircool says:

      It’s a space sim… but it’s a bit too realistic in the fact that you spend most of your time using the FSD (or whatever it’s called) to fly from star to space station or whatever.

      I found it a bit boring at first… then I thought I could see what the game was really about, that I’d just scratched the surface. Unfortunately there was nothing there; it’s like selling google maps as a racing game.

    • 3000_Tonnen_Koala says:

      exactly and to the point :D

      Just wait when all those uninspired and imagination lacking folks are kind of dissapointed about No Man’s Sky and are rambling about its lack of content and their rage about people DARING to have fun with the game ;)

    • hippy says:

      “Looking through steam reviews, I see people with 1000 hours not recommend the game. Because there’s no “depth” they say.”

      Elite Dangerous cheats the Steam playtime meter by up to x100. link to archive.is

      • Asurmen says:

        If by cheats you mean a pretty standard thing Steam does, sure. It’s Steam misreporting, not ED.

    • hippy says:

      “award-winning sound”

      I call bullsh*t. Elite Dangerous sound has not won any award of which I have heard.

      “Despite its technical miracles, despite its incredibly tight flight system, it’s award-winning sound, it’s top-tier graphics, myriad of ships, 1-to-1 scale planetary landings…”

      Despite all that, the game for which Kickstarter backers paid never appeared, and instead two years on still the cut-down substitute that Frontier shipped is riddled with bugs, boring and empty … and trying to charge a second time for ‘expansion’ features that were advertised as in the base game.

      One audio-encoded picture that goes nowhere doesn’t change that.

      • Asurmen says:

        Features from Horizons were never said to be included in the base game.

        And how exactly do you know this picture goes nowhere? That’s right, you don’t.

        Troll somewhere else.

      • CartonofMilk says:

        It did get nominated for a golden joystick for sound but i dont think it won. Which is bs. Because honestly i cannot think of a game i played in the past decade that has better sound design. There might be many flaws in the game but in the sound department, it shines.

    • Anti-Skub says:

      I think the cause of the people with long play times that seem to hate the game thing is that Elite really takes a while to expose it’s flaws. So much of the early enjoyment is based on promise and expectation.

      It starts off slow but with a solid core and you kind of expect it to pick up, for the gameplay to open up as you progress. Except it does the opposite, it narrows, and gets even slower.

      It’s like playing a game of Civ 5 against the AI. You spend hours building up your Civ, preparing to fight the AI. You have fun not because of what’s happening moment to moment but because you are anticipating what’s going to happen, until after you’ve been playing all day you’re finally ready and you start rolling out your tanks only to find that the AI has 2 weak ass cities defended with one knight and a gatling gun. What you’ve been looking forward to as an epic battle for supremacy turns out to be a boring steamroll of you just occupying cities with no resistance and your left with an overwhelming feeling of “What the hell did I just spend all that time playing this for?”

      That’s the Elite experience in a nutshell. It’s a game that seems to promise so much that people will play it for 100 hours because it feels like it’s going to get good any time now…and when they finally concede that it’s never going to get good, all of that time they put into it becomes tainted. The enjoyment they were getting out of “This is going to be so great once it gets going” leaves nothing but a bitter taste.

  12. TehK says:

    There’s nothing like an (M)MO to get people into the complaint-loop, where nothing good is allowed to happen:

    “The devs are not doing anything, it’s all boring, nothing happens, there’s no content…. yeah, gonna play some more… why is this feature not in the game yet? they should do X first, but not before they’ve implemented Y; all their announcements are bad… yeah, gonna play some more”

    Seriously… I’m only playing the game for 3 weeks, so everything’s new and shiny and easy for me to talk (that probably won’t last – I’m someone who switches games quite a lot anyway), but this community is impossible to satisfy. :)

    I love things like that. Loved them in games like Oxenfree or Secret World and am loving them here. The amount of work and the ideas and theories that players come up with is amazing. Although I’m not involved in any way, it’s great to just read about it and know it’s happening.

  13. aircool says:

    It will be a new release for Christmas ED: Some Thargoids £50

    Current users can update for £49.95

    Spend 50% of your playtime pointed at a distant space station and adjusting your throttle.

  14. Hadyn says:

    My theory: link to imgur.com

  15. Pogs says:

    In space no-one can hear you honk…

  16. Titler says:

    I honestly HATE “content” like this, because it encourages the absolute worst of geek culture; endless naval gazing about one’s own oh-so-clever theories; ridiculous self identification with a back story that is often entirely imaginary, but which drags the wider player base off into the obsessions of the people who put patting themselves on the head above actual gameplay; because no one really knows where the actual content really is so rather than miss out they have to listen to the hyper-obsessed… and it almost always has absolutely no pay off what so ever. Case in point, carrying Meta Alloys to Jaques Station. Bear in mind that’s a 40 hour round trip or so. And had nothing to do with the plot or gameplay at all. Just people getting carried away with their own imagination and creating an entire alternate reality. Frontier gave a little text nod to the effort, but that’s all.

    And what depresses me the most is that it’s clearly a quick and cheap way to stall for time; if they’d not been doing this for months with the probes already, if the solution to the last mystery WASN’T ALSO ANALYZING THE SOUND WAVES TOO (it turned out to just be wireframes of your own ship) and if the industry hadn’t been using ARGs to get nerds to be free advertising for their game for nearly a decade, I might be more sympathetic. I wouldn’t mind that some people clearly far to invested in imagining what the game might be, rather than admitting what it really was were getting some fun out of their daydreams. Knock yourself out otherwise…

    But I’m currently making my way back from a massive exploration trip to the Core, then Jaques, then home which will be around 60ly (70 hours flight) and it’s so, so predictable that there’s nothing out there that I didn’t bother bringing weapons, and I often idle for around an hour in game because I KNOW there’s no content surprises out there that means I’m suddenly going to lose all this data to insectoid death. I marked around 40 stars near Jaques and never once bothered looking at the radar or worrying what star systems I should avoid, because there’s really not anything out there.

    No, there isn’t. It doesn’t matter how real your dreams feel to you. The galaxy is empty. It honestly is. Stop it. Just… stop it.

    I don’t regret my exploration trip; it’s a huge amount of time in real terms, but it’s been good the last few weeks to just listen to music or watch movies whilst flying from nebula to nebula leaving my name here and yon. I should hit Elite and unlock 2 Engineers if I get back safely. But it’s literally been 60 hours of “Honk, jump, Honk, Jump” and nothing more.

    Don’t be fooled by the hype. And be sure to drink your Ovaltine.

    • Asurmen says:

      Other people find fun in different ways. More news on this breaking story at 9.

      Also, Jacques is having its systems repaired by the MA without FD opening a community goal. Bit more than just some text.

  17. Pharithos says:

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned what I think is actually happening here. I thought it was cool and obvious the first time I saw it happening (the space station building in the Pleiades) and I think content like this just illustrates the point further – yet no one that I’ve ever seen in a single forum or review has mentioned this.

    Frontier is allowing fans to drive content.

    They may not being going as fast as you want, and they may not have been able to code everything that they thought they could, but they’re reading forums, they’re watching player concentrations, and they’re seeing what people want to do and trying to make it happen. Even if they don’t have the answer to the riddle decoded yet, it doesn’t mean that they cannot expound upon some of the best ideas found in forums.

  18. CartonofMilk says:

    I kinda hope season 3 isnt thargoids….. Or if it is, it better change the game drastically and in interesting ways for me to buy it. Like just adding alien npcs in’t enough content for a full expansion. There’s gonna have to be a lot more.

    I do agree with the comment that said the community of this game is weird with people having sunk 1000+ hours not recommending the game. i am one of those people. well i wouldn’t say i don’t recommend it, but, it’s hard for me despite all the time played which one can assume was probably fun in some ways, to give this game more than maybe a 7. I think what you have here is a game that could be so much more and i think a lot of us are still playing it because we have hope that someday this will be the game we really know it can be. It’s fun at times and yet so frustrating to in so many ways. Frustrating because i keep playing this game and saying to myself “why don’t they do this? why doesn’t this work like this instead? why isn’t that in the game? why why why” So many obvious little improvements would make this game so much better.

    And i think personally it’s cool the way they’re bringing in the aliens. By just putting the stuff out there and not telling us about it. It feels kinda real. It feels like how it would be if mankind discovered alien life. I like that it can be just the one commander finding something. Instead of the whole player base just suddenly coming across probes.