Elite Dangerous event sabotaged by boy wizard

Space trucking sim Elite Dangerous [official site] recently held one of its public events for players. This time a special NPC would be racing back to the “bubble” (the populated core worlds of the galactic frisbee) from a mysterious place known as the Formidine Rift. Her name was Salomé and she had “vital information.” I am using the past tense to describe her because – surprise surprise – she never reached her destination. She was murdered by a player called Harry Potter, a prolific troll who had somehow infiltrated the huge coalition of players who swore to protect her.

It’s worth reading the giant readup on Ars Technica if you want all the gory details, but the gist is this: the event was being put together partially by author Drew Wagar, who has written tie-in novels for the Elite universe. He was even personally in control of Salomé’s ship as she made her dash, making her a weird type of NPC which is actually piloted by a human. Players were told from the beginning that they could try to gun her down, or they could get her to safety. Whatever the result, his next tie-in novel would follow the events of those few hours.

The commanders of Elite, being gentle creatures with large teeth, began to form a huge group of protectors – all made up of smaller player groups. They called this the PAC (Premonition Allied Coalition). They wanted to see their fictional girl get to safety and even had someone fly a “decoy” ship in the sector of space where Salomé was due to pass through, sporting a player handle of “Salome”, without the accent. This group was itself the focus of some complaints after they began enthusiastically killing any player ship on sight within that area of space. In other words, they were taking no chances.

Except that they had already taken a big chance when they let Harry Potter, a well-known troll from a group of gankers called the Smiling Dog Crew, into the protector group. Exactly how he managed to get included on the friends list which allowed him to see Salomé’s whereabouts, we don’t know. He might have convinced the PAC that he was a reformed man, or it may have just been an oversight. Whatever the case, he zeroed in on the fictional messenger and quickly turned her into space dust. The author Drew Wagar now has the unenviable job of explaining how a boy wizard killed his story’s character (although Ars says that he already had plans in place if a player with an unusable name was involved in the killing).

Overall, another inky black day in the great void. It’s thought that the message the “NPC” was carrying might have had something to do with the Thargoids. And a giant vessel was recently discovered in that Rift, totally derelict, which might have something to do with it all. In the end, however, other “VIP” ships where included in the event – ships which did make it to safety – so there might be no real change to the game’s on-going story apart from a single character’s death, and the fact that an adolescent owl-lover was responsible for it all.

78 Comments

  1. Blowfeld81 says:

    That’s the kind of news why I love RPS….

  2. Chann3l says:

    I just got back into this game. Played for 240 hours then took a year break. Enjoying the new horizons stuff. Wish I knew about this event, would have been fun to join in. I love how much an impact the community has on the direction of the lore.

  3. geldonyetich says:

    Chalk up another narrative failure for brazenly open-PvP online virtual worlds as reality intervenes to remind us that, at the end of the day, most players are just there for shits and giggles.

    • Nelyeth says:

      In this case, most players were dreadfully serious. All it takes is one dedicated guy here for shit and giggles.

      Nothing to do with current politics, really.

    • inoramundi says:

      Hardly a failure. An inside job assassination was easily the smartest way to go about this. I’m also not sure what people are actually complaining about here except maybe the pilot’s name or their trolly history. If the assassin had some super serious in-character motivation, or if this had been a hard-coded result or in-game news event, I don’t see people calling it anything but interesting or exciting.

      • Archonsod says:

        There were probably as many pilots trying to shoot her down as there were protecting her. The Empire had a five million credit bounty on her head (and 2 million on each of her companions).

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        Phasma Felis says:

        “If the assassin had some super serious in-character motivation, or if this had been a hard-coded result or in-game news event, I don’t see people calling it anything but interesting or exciting.”

        Of course. That’s the point.

    • Asurmen says:

      How is it a narrative fail?

      • WdMeaun says:

        It does sound like an anti-climax. As if they didn’t count on a single player just going for himself and doing anything for it.
        No idea whether this was the case, or that the guy, with the original nickname, was actually ‘skilled’.

        Infiltrating into a group in order to assasinate someone sounds viable.

        • Asurmen says:

          It was absolutely set up in a way that she could die. The author took that into account, that she might live or die depending on player actions.

      • geldonyetich says:

        Because it’s not true this was a clever inside job assassination. That’s the fiction that keeps the EVE players logging in, but it’s not the reality.

        The reality is every player is Mister Mxyzplk. They don’t live in the Elite: Dangerous universe. Relative to that they’re just interdimensional entities who visit because they’re bored of their own universe and play this one as a game.

        To keep Mister Mxyzptlk from doing whatever he pleases, ruining the narrative of the universe like a horde of rock collecting tourists, rules go into place. But getting a player to say their nane backwards doesn’t do anything but get them to call you some thing unflattering. The game developer, the gods of thus universe, need to add rules to give Mister Mxyzplk context.

        The rules in Elite Dangerous are inadequate. Any spaz could gave slipped in there and popped a ship being piloted by a naive writer. This one merely social engineered his way around any and all steps any other being if his dimension could have done to stop him.

        • geldonyetich says:

          I had been doing some thinking on this before writing that, and I have to say the Mxyzplk analogy got old and crazier way faster than I imagined it would.

          Alright, drop the analogy. A compelling point in narratives is the characters need agency, motivations, and an overall context that lends credibility and poignance to the story being weaved.

          This assassin didn’t have any of that. He wasn’t hired to do a hit. He didn’t have some kind if vendetta against his target. He wasn’t looking to change the universe. He didn’t have agency, motivation, or context to pop that ship which belonged anywhere in the Elite: Dangerous universe.

          He was a player of a computer game who exploded another ship in the game. He did it by deceiving other players into thinking he wouldn’t. His motivation was probably to get the notoriety that he would earn outside the Elite:Dangerous universe.

          Thus, the entire act is largely invalidated in terms if its relevence in the game lore. It’s like if you’re filming a movie and some hired background actor decides to drop character and flip off the camera. Sure, it happened, it’s on film, but it is irrelevant as far as the story is concerned.

          And I say the game and the event could have been designed with this in mind.

          But, with a wave of the magic wand of, “Suspension of disbelief,” we could pretend this was actually an assassin with in-lore motivation who infiltrated some guards to perform an assassination. Fine.

          • Asurmen says:

            But that doesn’t prove a narrative fail. That actually proves a narrative win. The writer gets to write about the main character making all the way, just to be jumped at the last minute.

            The author isn’t naïve. One of the expected outcomes was that she would die. If he didn’t want her to die, it would have been very easy indeed to prevent it from happening.

            You couldn’t design the event in mind at all, if you wanted to include player agency, because all players have their own motivations.

          • geldonyetich says:

            I would call that “We had to do it wrong or we couldn’t do it at all,” a far cry from a narrative win.

          • Asurmen says:

            Who said anything about doing it wrong?

  4. CartonofMilk says:

    That’s all E:D deserves tbh.

    It was a sad day when i realised the reason E:D sucked so badly was that it should have never ever have been a MMO. Everything that is terrible in this game design wise is directly linked to it being a MMO. And a poor one at that.

    Its a weird situation to be in to have spent at least 200$ and over a 1000 hours on a game and want it to fail. I need lessons to be learned.

    • vahnn says:

      You’ve played that game longer than any two games I’ve played added together. I can understand you finding flaws in it after ask this time, but wishing it to fail?

    • rabidwombat says:

      I just… it took you 1000 hours to realize that you didn’t like the game?

      That’s generally considered an incredible success.

      • geldonyetich says:

        “I have invented an enjoyable activity wot this bloke played 1,000 hours!”

        “Incredible success!”

        “Afterwards, he told us he realized he had wasted his time and really wished he had used that 1,000 hours doing literally anything else because the whole thing fell apart like a spoggy house of cards.”

        “Silly man. 1,000 hours is an incredible success. He should feel lucky to have found the hole where missing endgame was going.”

        “Quite.”

        • tomimt says:

          He must have like enough to play to for 1000 hours. And to get bored with a game with a playtime like that, well that’s to be expected. Nobody wants to eat candy all the time.

          • CartonofMilk says:

            Actually i’m a peculiar individual who pretty much hate played it for that long.

            See i love Elite-like games. I really really do. And i need one in my life at all times. And this was the best i got and i tried to reason myself all this time that it was good. I WANT it to be good. I NEED IT to be good. But in its very best moments its just decent. And it’s horribly frustrating in so many ways. I want to love it but i would never recommend anyone buy the game. i just wouldn’t. It’s pretty terrible. The fundamentals are all great though. Graphics, flying, combat. And then everything around it that’s supposed to constitute gameplay is terrible. Because it’s all been put into a mediocre incredibly grindy mmo that does almost nothing to motivate you to do anything at all. It’s soulless. That’s the word. It’s a horribly soulless game. I’ve looked for its soul all these 1000 hours and have not found it. Just wasted time is what i found.

            Crafting is terrible, missions is terrible, all multiplayer aspects are terrible, community events are terrible, playing the background sim is terrible.

            It’s a game made by anoraks for anoraks AND I WAS PRETTY DAMN SURE I WAS ONE OF THOSE.

          • Unclepauly says:

            CartonofMilk that post actually had a sadness to it. From now on please do me a favor and use the steam refund 2hr thingamajoob. Has a plaesant dai!

          • nim.was.taken says:

            I suppose I should feel blessed that it only took me 300 hours to realize that ED was never going to be the game that I wanted it to be. There are plenty of other titles on the horizon, and who knows, maybe someday ED will reach a place where I’ll want to invest my time in it again.

            I’m a little unsure why none of the coverage I’ve seen mentions the technically flawed nature of this whole event. We’re talking about a game that had severe limitations on the number of players that can be in an instance, and the “NPC” in this event was actually a regular player account so even if you were able to track down her location you might still get stonewalled by instancing problems. It’s just shockingly misaligned with what the game is actually capable of.

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            MajorLag says:

            Actually no. That isn’t how people are wired. People don’t enjoy their time in Skinner boxes, though they sometimes convince themselves they do as a form of rationalization.

          • geldonyetich says:

            It’s a popular sophomore point on the Internet to say that, if you pay a game you paid $60 for for 1000 hours you have no reason to complain because you got your money’s worth. But it’s wrong.

            The thing is, the player gets invested. It’s not just about money, it’s about how the player put a lot of time into the game and expects to get something back. If that something is lots of fun, then that’s great. But where skinner’s boxes and grinds come in, the player is mostly playing because they have been deliberately lead to believe that the “fun” exists after they attain some item in the game. Then they get the item and… no, the game isn’t actually fun because there was nothing worth getting after that and suddenly this virtual universe has no point.

            That’s the problem with Elite: Dangerous right now. Lots of really cool ships and weapon upgrades to be had. Those ships and weapon upgrades exist… to get ships and weapon upgrades.

            There is no greater context to them than that. You can use your upgraded ships to blow up players, if you’re desperately bored enough to resort to misanthropy. You can use your upgraded ship to earn credits, but if your ship is already upgraded and you can afford to insurance to replace them then you don’t need credits anymore.

            About all you can do is roleplay, try desperately to pretend there’s something greater to the game. It’s an immersive game, that works pretty well for awhile… but then you hit an absolute lack of unique activities to perform after you’ve already done the major staples. There’s maybe as much as 20-30 hours of quality gameplay here and 500 hours of grind before you reach the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and realize it’s made of plastic.

            Now, I don’t want Elite: Dangerous to fail. I am not vengeful for the time I spent in it only to discover the end game is missing. But if I can’t point out that’s a problem that needs to be solved, I can’t see how anyone’s going to get around to doing it. I am really hoping they get around to adding it, and disappointed they’ve been wasting their time adding features like multi-crewed ships instead of a POINT.

      • zero signal says:

        It’s possible to find yourself hooked to a skinner box reward cycle without really enjoying yourself moment to moment – I had a similar outcome with EVE, as it happens. It took a couple of months to realise that each moment of unambiguous fun was punctuated by much longer periods of tedious activity that I wouldn’t usually perform even if people were paying me real money. But I was doing them anyway, for the incremental rewards and the associated discovery and understanding of game mechanics. Once that sense of discovery was gone, so was I.

        In that case I’ve been told I was just playing the game wrong and should have been better at “finding my fun”, usually by dropping more real money to skip the grinding. I mostly accept that, but game developers are getting really, really good at hooking you for long hours now. Even more so if they want to sell you things in-game.

    • Asurmen says:

      It deserves one of the expected results? I don’t get your point.

    • Caiman says:

      In other news, man spends 23 hours a day wanking, after three years his dick falls off and he declares he hates wanking and wishes he’d never heard of it.

  5. Orchids says:

    He was on her friends list because anyone who asked (however obnoxious) was added to it in the spirit of keeping the event open.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Captain Narol says:

    Can someone point me in the direction of a MMO with interesting gameplay and no silly gankers, please ?

    • GentleRealSailor says:

      Dragon Age: Inquisition. I’m not sure about interesting gameplay, though.

      • TheDyingScotsman says:

        errrr I don’t think you understand what an MMO is. DA:I is not an MMO in any shape or form. It is a single player RPG.

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      particlese says:

      Devil Daggers. I’m not sure about no gankers, though. The wandering skulls always pop out of nowhere and GETCHA. Keep on top of ’em, though, and you’ll be fine for minutes.

  7. GenialityOfEvil says:

    And this is why I play solo. I’ve only tried open play twice, got interdicted and destroyed within minutes. What’s the point? I’m meant to be having fun, not target practice for mouthbreathers with too much time on their hands.

    • Scurra says:

      Same here. I genuinely love so much about the game, but I just don’t find going online remotely pleasant. And yes, I might have been unlucky enough to have had a series of bad experiences, but that’s really not encouraging me to go back.

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      fegbarr says:

      I’m surprised by that – I only ever play open, and my interactions with other plays have mostly been polite. A few pirates have pulled me over and let me go when they learned I had no cargo, and when I did have it they’ve demanded I drop x tonnes rather then going straight to the shooting option.

      The bad types do seem to hang around the starter system and wherever the current community goals are. Outside of that people are generally polite and rare, and especially when out exploring it’s nice to run into someone in the inky black humpty billion miles from home.

      It’s sad to learn my experience isn’t universal, because there really is something great about meeting a fellow explorer in the wilds or having a polite chat with a pirate before you leg it / fight / drop cargo.

    • Jane Doe says:

      Zero death penalty breeds mindless deathmatch.

    • Furiant says:

      This is why, despite preordering specifically because they advertised an offline mode, the day they announced that said mode would be abandoned, I uninstalled it from my drive and have never played it again. I occasionally pick up an update announcement or an article like this and each time my decision seems vindicated. They got my money, so good for them. But if I ever want to get ganked and trolled I’ll just go back to EVE.

  8. Synesthesia says:

    I have a question for players still playing this one: Are all missions still fetch quests?

  9. Foosnark says:

    There’s nothing at all weird about NPCs controlled by staff members. It’s how things used to be done. It’s how things are done in tabletop RPGs.

    I controlled an NPC for an event in a small MMO once. Sort of a lieutenant of an invading army, who had a “spell” that protected him from player attacks so he could negotiate their surrender. Except I screwed up on his badass (computer-controlled NPC) bodyguard, and when I unleashed him to lash out at some foolish humans, he immediately ganked my NPC instead.

    Thinking quickly (but almost not quickly enough), I took over the traitor, had him grumble something about “not what I signed up for,” kick the corpse of my villain, snort at the bemused players, and leave. And that was the end of that plotline. ::cough::

  10. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    This generally speaking sounds like par-for-the-course of MMO events.

    But the comments (in the Ars Technica article) from the writer made me a bit sad.

    He mentioned hoping she would survive, because she had a speech planned, and because she liked speeches. All spoken in past tense about ‘she’, meaning Salomé.

    It sorta… humanizes the fictional character a bit, and now ‘she’ is dead, and won’t be making any speeches. She just dies, unceremoniously, in space.

    Kinda sad.

    • Orchids says:

      The Ars Technica article talks about trolling, but I don’t think they quite understood that it was their reporter being trolled…

  11. Doomlord says:

    Glad I only play that game in SP mode. Zero interest in MP due to gankers and idiots like them.

  12. Kuipo says:

    What have we all learned before?

    Don’t. Feed. The Trolls.

  13. Baton says:

    Brendan, unfortunately what you wrote is based on rumors and half-truths and does great injustice to people who prepared for months to protect Salomé. Shame you did not try to speak to them or somebody who actually knows what was going on. Not only did they loose her, but now they have to read this… shame.
    There is Salomé special on Laveradio aired on 1st of May, you may want to listen to find out how it really went.

    o7 commander :)

    • Premium User Badge

      teije says:

      Instead of tut-tutting on Brendan so much, you could tell us other folks what you think really happened. That would be helpful.

  14. SebfromMTL says:

    Two things I saw in all articles that make no sense to me:
    1- How is it trolling if it was in the spirit of the game? Honestly the PAC were the ones trolling since they prevented legit users from participating in a public event. I get that some people are not happy that the character died but her survival was never guaranteed.
    2- Harry Potter is NOT an unusable name, it is a common name, he just needs to make no reference whatsoever to the other Harry Potters (the wizard one and the guy from Trolls 2!).

    • AngoraFish says:

      Harry Potter isn’t unusable for legal reasons. It’s unusable because it’s so closely associated with the fictional boy wizard in the real world that its use would be cringe worthy and immersion breaking. It would be exactly the same if the fictional space pilot happened to be called James Bond or Donald Trump.

      • Jane Doe says:

        I’m sure there are lots of Donald Trumps in every multiplayer game by now.

      • SebfromMTL says:

        Better Harry Potter than Assy McCheeks, no?

        • Chann3l says:

          Or Darth Labia…yes that’s right, I am Commander Darth Labia.

      • aepervius says:

        I am relatively certain that it is actually usable as long as you don’t reference the wizard novel. See there is two type of IP protecting the name : copyright when it comes from excerpt or the full novels, and trademark. Copyright does not apply here as only a name is used. That leaves trademark. Trademark can be defended against dilution, certainly, but arguably a non commercial usage, in domain which have nothing to do with the origiunal trademark cannot be fought against. IANAL.

        • plugmonkey says:

          How is including a character called Harry Potter in a novel available for sale a “non commercial usage”?

          • aepervius says:

            For the simple reason it is quite a common name, and if there is no reference to it beside citing as a common name. That is why you can have a character named james bond, if it has no reference whatsoever to the super spy. Again ianal but that is my understanding on trade mark pertaining to characcter names.

          • plugmonkey says:

            That doesn’t make it a non commercial usage. Or a domain that has nothing to do with the original trademark, for that matter.

            I believe it comes down to how likely a layperson is to be confused if they read the back of the book, see a character called Harry Potter and mistakenly think it is Rowling’s Harry Potter rather than, say, a crane supplier from Nottingham. Which I would think is quite likely, given how pan dimensionally ubiquitous Rowling’s Harry Potter is. But then, IAANAL.

            The fact that the player in question almost certainly named his Commander after Rowling’s character probably doesn’t help either.

            All in all, probably not work the risk, considering that most readers will be utterly unable to break the link between the player’s Commander name and the boy wizard he is named after, to the detriment of the overall story. And I’ll stop now because I’m even boring myself, which is never a good sign.

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      MajorLag says:

      Actually you’re thinking of Troll, a forgettable movie with absolutely no relation to Troll 2, a movie famous for being so bad it’s good.

  15. Wulfram says:

    Are we sure it wasn’t John the Baptist out for revenge?

    Maybe we should draw a veil over the matter…

  16. Kitano1314 says:

    when are frontier going to give us a decent main story/quest to get stuck into ?

  17. ironman Tetsuo says:

    I’d heard getting on Salome’s friends list was as easy as just sending a request. In a game with 400 billion systems and no way to track non-friends beyond your current system, having the friends list open to all was the only way to guarantee at least some resistance.

  18. racccoon says:

    Loved it, nice review :)

  19. Outsour says:

    To be honest, I kind of want to see this whole thing integrated into the novel.

    Yeah, it sucks that the NPC was killed before she could make planetfall, but isn’t this kind of a great story too? Hundreds of players going balls out to protect this one ship, only for a group of deep cover pirates, who possibly had been planning this for months, to swoop out and blast her? Doesn’t that sound pretty baller?

  20. nottorp says:

    This sounds like an article about Eve Online if you erase the title. Is the market large enough to support to space griefing based mmos?

    • nottorp says:

      *two* space griefing mmos. Incidentally, the edit post function doesn’t work. It lets me edit but when I press save it says you can no longer edit this post, in spite of the timer saying i had more than 4 out of the 5 minutes left.

  21. Asurmen says:

    All the salt in this thread makes zero sense. One of the possible outcomes was that she died. Who it was done by is entirely irrelevant.

  22. hfm says:

    I’m going to throw on my tin foil hat and say this was all planned as a way to get some press for the game.

  23. PancakeWizard says:

    Sounds like the writer got more than he hoped for, IMO.

    A mission is formed to get her to safety, even using decoys, but they were infiltrated and she was assassinated.

    Am I the only one who thinks that’s more interesting?

  24. Frank_K says:

    Hmmm, Smiling Dog Crew? I always though SDC stood for Super Douche Club, go figure.