A bunch of maps and tools for space sim Elite: Dangerous [official site] were shut down today by their creators as part of a protest over what they called a “lack of consistency from Frontier in effectively fostering third-party development”. The picket line of third-party tools was set to last until Sunday and included some very useful stuff for pilots like maps, trading databases and ship designers. The main complaint these folks had is that Frontier was not communicating with them well when it comes to updates (when a patch comes out the tools are often thrown into disarray without much warning, introducing new bugs and problems for the toolfolk). But spacetalks have already been held and most of the sites will be back up tonight, leaving me in the lurch with absolutely no drama. Disgraceful.
The list of sites that went offline is pretty extensive, including Captain’s Log, which keeps a record of all the systems you’ve been to (kind of like internet browsing history but for black holes) as well as other useful features. ED Shipyard is another of the downed sites, which normally lets you design a wee ship using various menus, adding and removing shiny parts to see if your ideal murderboat works as expected before investing in those lovely machine guns in-game. Here, you can see a full list of the tools that went on strike, along with some of the reasoning behind this move, and the history leading up to it.
“We believe that our tools greatly enhance the game playing experience,” read the statement from the collective, “and yet we often feel that Frontier does not actively encourage the effort that goes into supporting their game with these tools. We believe they can and should improve on this situation by maintaining clear and open communication with the third-party developer community.”
But what were their demands? Well, they suggested that Frontier appoint a liaison for third-party peeps, implement better bug tracking, and put their full weight behind an external API. In other words, a less leaky and rusty pipe for pumping out up-to-date game data about star systems, trading goods and the like.
In the end, it wasn’t long before Frontier got in touch with the collective and, although it isn't clear if the above suggestions have been agreed-upon, the third-party strikers seem to have left satisfied and are restoring their tools in time for the bank holiday weekend, putting many of the websites back up tonight.
“After a very fast approach from Frontier... we in the EDCD [Elite Dangerous Community of Developers] feel that Frontier have been earnest in their positive response to the third-party developer community today,” they said in a forum post. “As such, and so as to not cause further disruption to the playerbase or upcoming game events, we thought it would be a good idea to reopen our web sites in good faith of their announced commitment.”
So there we go. In the six hours it took us to notice that there was a strike and to begin writing about the fracas, it had already been resolved, leaving me as the rabid journalist snapping my pen and looking miserable. No union bashing, no scabs on buses, no Pinkerton agents standing around with shotguns. Very unsporting, everyone.
But it’s a good thing for players. As an old and terrible pilot I know that many of these tools can be extremely helpful, sometimes moreso than the in-game menus, especially when it comes to finding decent trade routes. So the removal of them for the weekend would have been a burden, especially to hardcore spacers like the Fuel Rats (a group of players who will come to your aid if you get stranded in space without jump fuel) and other space whiskey traders. Anyway, all in all, a complete non-story. Thanks a lot, amicable negotiation.