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.