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Elite Dangerous: Home

Chillaxing on a pad.

Chillaxing on a pad.

It’s now been 10 months since I launched from Lave Station, and I’m finally back in the bubble of inhabited space and a bit richer than when I left. Having made it to Sagittarius A*, I kept on exploring a bit further out before doubling back and slowly getting back. Then, some time late october, the boredom hit and I went on a break from Elite, only coming back for a few hundreds of light-years every now and then. 7 months later, I felt like it was time to get back and finish what I started and finally get to explore planetary surfaces. Here I was, about 21k LYs away from human space, and I was going to make it back, and do it quick. It wasn’t the greatest part of the trip for sightseeing as I didn’t go out of my way much for picturesque settings, but a few more undiscovered Earth-like worlds were scanned in addition to the neutron stars that paved my way home.

Then, with about 8k LYs left to cover, the news came that the Terry Port station in the Garoku system was going to pay extra for the delivery of exploration logs. That was my cue for an extra push, and two days later I was staring at the mailslot entrance of Terry Port while listening to the (new to me) chatter of the traffic control channel.

Terry Port's mailslot. Crashing now would be a bit of a bother.

Terry Port’s mailslot. Crashing now would be a bit of a bother.

Now, docking has never bothered me, but having survived my way across around 3000 hyperspace jumps and collected a fortune in data, I  was a bit stressed during the entry. Thankfully, my luck held, and just as no madman had ambushed me on my way back to the bubble, there was no large ship racing through the mailslot as I made my way in slowly. I was soon in sight of my assigned landing pad.

Inside Terry Port, my landing pad in the distance.

Inside Terry Port, my landing pad in the distance.

And finally, here I was, safely landed. Back from the core 10 months after I left. After a major sigh of relief, it was time for the rest of the formalities. Having left the ship for some badly needed servicing, I registered to the local exploration data Community Goal before starting to sell my data. A little while and many ‘first to discover’ notices later, and my final tally was about 68m credits which will be more than enough for a good while. Among other things, that was 137 water worlds, 7 ammonia-based life worlds,  10 Earth-like worlds, 80 other colonisation candidate planets, 20 black holes, 247 neutron stars, 3 carbon stars and 1 Wolf-Rayet star. My explorer rank has now soared up to Pioneer, and a current Top 10 rank places me in line for at least 6m credits more from the Community Goal.

The final numbers.

The final numbers.

Job done. I could now relax and smile at the idea that I had done it: to Sagittarius A* and back in my little Cobra MkIII. The pressure of the fragile valuable data was gone and I could now go fooling around carelessly again. First things first: the ship got well deserved brand new coat of paint, with the Pioneer exploring rank badge sitting prominently at the front.

Fresh new paint.

Fresh new paint.

Then, I got rid of the automated repair unit which saved my bacon a few times out in the black, to make room for a surface vehicle bay. Not long after, I was driving on the barren surface of a random frozen rocky planet, basking in the view of distant sources. There’s plenty more to see, and though I need a break, I know I’ll be back out some day…

Looking up from the surface.

Looking up from the surface.

 

guac_titleAlmost three years late, I’ve discovered this little gem of a game called Guacamelee. The nice thing about being late to the party though, is that the game is now available in an extended “super turbo championship” edition with additional levels and mechanics.

At the heart of it, Guacamelee is a “metroidvania”. You’re thrown into an open world with a limited set of moves/powers, and soon notice that plenty of areas are blocked or unreachable. Then, as you progress through the game, new powers unlock access to these previously unreachable areas, expanding the places you had already visited and opening up new ones. By the standards of that gaming genre, Guacamelee is rather linear, with obvious guidance as to where you should go next. It also is very generous with death, with save points littering the world, and platforming areas simply sending you back to your last platform in case of a terminal fall. Together, this makes it short-ish, as it took me around 10h of game time to finish it. That’s however without discovering all secrets (something the game handily allows you to do after you win), and in normal mode (hard mode gets unlocked after a normal win).

What sets the game apart however are two things. The first one is the combat. Your character is a wrestler, and you get to beat up the hordes of bad guys with a neat range of punches, kicks, grappling and throwing moves. The attack moves can also be chained up for surprisingly large combos, and a series of quests showcases the kind of sequences you can land on the opposition. Punching a skeleton into the air before grabbing it on the way down to pile-drive it to the ground never gets old. And you get to do it often as in addition to the open world monsters, you regularly get ‘trapped’ into arenas which you can only exit after having beating up all the foes. Where it gets better is that the combat moves you get to unlock through the game double up as movement skills, granting you additional vertical or horizontal range mid-air. This gets put to good use by the level design with many small platforming puzzles.

These piñatas are your reward after clearing an arena. I simply love the colours in this game...

These piñatas are your reward after clearing an arena. I simply love the colours in this game…

The other thing setting the game apart is its mexican-inspired theme. It is a silly magic-infused clichéed take over various bits of mexican culture, with a fair amount of gaming culture references to make it a rather unique setting. This makes for a nice change of atmosphere from medieval european clichés or generic medieval fantasy fare. If the story is a rather standard save the princess tale, the overall theme gives it that bit more life, and an atmosphere. You play as a luchador (hence the wrestling combat moves) across a lovely landscape in saturated warm colours. The art style is rather unique and goes very well with the game design: the welcoming warm colours go hand-in-hand with the generous respawn on death. The game is there to be enjoyed, not to frustrate or depress through a sinister dark atmosphere. A lovely soundtrack plays its part too.

Boss fights come up with full-screen match posters.

Boss fights come up with full-screen match posters.

And as if the game hadn’t caught me enough just yet, it pulled the food card with a side-quest that has you rounding up the ingredients for a world-record enchilada. As I ran around looking for that elusive perfect chili pepper, I could already feel that this was going to go beyond the realm of gaming. And so, at the weekend, I prepared some enchiladas for the family lunch. With no mexican cuisine knowledge and limited to easily sourced ingredients in Ireland, this has of course zero authenticity. The result was however exactly what I was after and the kids loved it which marks it as a household success. In order to mark the complete lack of authenticity and taking a leaf from a Guacamelee special power then, I’ll name these the Enchiladas Derp Derp.

Enchiladas Derp Derp

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Ingredients (makes 8 enchiladas):

– 8 wheat tortillas
– 400g chicken breast
– 200g mature cheddar, grated
– 400g red kidney beans
– 400ml passata (or 400g chopped tomatoes)
– 1 tomato or a handful cherry tomatoes
– 1 onion
– 3 garlic cloves
– 1 red pepper
– 1 small chili pepper

Preparation:
Chop the onion and start frying it in olive oil for about 5 minutes in olive oil. Remove the seeds from the pepper and chop it, as well as the garlic and chili, and add them to the onion. Chop the tomato and add it to the mix after the pepper has started to go soft (the tomato is only there for the texture, so you can skip it if you’re using a can of chopped tomatoes).

While the vegetable are cooking, chop the chicken into small bits and fry it in olive oil until it starts getting brown on all sides. About half-way through the chicken cooking, add the beans to the vegetable mix and fry for a few minutes before adding the passata, saving just a bit in a large bowl. Add a bit of water to the sauce if needed, and finally, add the chicken to the mix and season to taste.

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Add some water to dilute further the saved up passata and use a bit of it to coat the bottom of an over dish. Use the rest to colour up a bit and rehydrate the tortillas one at a time by dipping the tortilla into the diluted tomato then spreading it to the rest of the surface with your hands. This helps the tortillas to bake nicely rather than dry up into burnt wheat crisps.

Put the tortilla in the dish and fill up the middle with a helping of sauce and top up with grated cheese before rolling and pushing it to the side of the dish. Repeat until all enchiladas are rolled up and top them with a bit more cheese. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 200°C.

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Elite Dangerous: Sagittarius A*

 

This is it... The final jump...

This is it… The final jump…

This is it… The target of my journey is in sight, just one final jump away… It’s so close now but has felt so far in the past few days. The Elite Dangerous 1.4 update has been rolled out earlier in the week, temporarily wiping recent exploration records, in my case the Great Annihilator and some 60-odd neutron stars. Then, it turned out that in addition to those 3 days of lost records, the scans done after the update were not stored properly either, finally pushing Frontier Developments to call a temporary halt to exploration activities. With less than a thousand light years to go, it was a very unwelcome delay… But things got fixed at the weekend, my old scans are back up, and in the worse case scenario i’ve only lost some 400 light-years of data, with pretty much nothing of note. With things back to normal, i got to cross the little distance left to my destination, and watch the countdown to the hyperspace jump. 4… 3… 2… 1…

Sagittarius A*, with the galactic plane as a backdrop for pretty lensing effect.

Sagittarius A*, with the galactic plane as a backdrop for pretty lensing effect.

And here i am, facing the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. The gravitational lensing is impressive and i spent ages playing with it, using the galactic plane as a backdrop while thinking about my departure, almost two months ago. It’s been a while, and i look at the current numbers on my ship’s records: 1770 systems explored so far, of which about 100 were before i left civilisation, 1874 hyperspace jumps, 25843 light-years away from my starting system.

My statistics on arrival. I had about 100 systems visited before this trip.

My statistics on arrival. I had about 100 systems visited before this trip.

I navigate a bit more around the black hole, and to my horror, a sinister eye appears inside and a giant mouth opens up to devour me. My psychiatrist back in Lave won’t ever believe me, but I KNOW WHAT I SAW! I’M NOT MAD! IT WAS TRYING TO EAT ME!

OMG! It's trying to eat me! Boost away!

OMG! It’s trying to eat me! Boost away!

After that narrow escape, i try to settle my nerves with a gentle hypercruise towards “Source 2”, the big blue companion star in the system, scooping up some fuel and tinning up a jar of it for memories.

Source 2, the big blue star companion of the black hole. Also: the petrol station at the centre of the galaxy.

Source 2, the big blue star companion of the black hole. Also: the petrol station at the centre of the galaxy.

And so, this is it. I’ve been there. I made it… Oh, it’s not over and i’ve still got to make it back to sell my scans, and discover some more sights on the way, but hey, no matter what happens now, it’s ok, because i’ve been there. And aboard my trusty Cobra Mk. III, the “I’m Only Doing This So You Don’t Have To”.

It feels like the end of a pilgrimage, and i find myself looking back while powering away. It’s not looking at me anymore… i think… and maybe it was just a big misunderstanding, who knows… Fare thee well Sagittarius A*, i may be back, some day, but it probably won’t be for a while…

Saying goodbye...

Saying goodbye…

 

Final jump to the Great Annihilator system.

Final jump to the Great Annihilator system.

I finally reached my penultimate target: the Great Annihilator system. The GA system works as a handy as a nav beacon towards Sagittarius A*, being about 3k light-years away, which really feels like a tiny distance after making it so far.

After that final jump, the empty view in the cockpit has that typical neutron star/black hole feel, but soon enough the Great Annihilator black hole is visible through the optical distortion it causes. As the scanner got hold of it, it labeled it as Great Annihilator A, meaning that it was at least a binary system. A full system scan later, I found out that the binary companion was another black hole: Great Annihilator B.

Sadly but predictably, the source isn’t particularly impressive. Once you’ve seen your first black hole in the game, you’ve pretty much seen them all. So unless you’ve got a pretty nebula as a background to play with, it’s a bit of an underwhelming sight.

Great Annihilator A, one of a binary black holes system.

Great Annihilator A, one of a binary black holes system.

The second source was quite far away, but having made it that far, and in a system with such a cool name, I couldn’t leave without visiting it too, aligning it onto the galactic plane in an attempt to make it slightly more interesting in the picture book.

Great Annihilator B, the binary companion.

Great Annihilator B, the binary companion.

And so I’m off, onto my final stretch. It looks like it’s going to be fast as I seem to be out of the dense blue and neutron star cluster, so the navigation should be close to a straight line.

Transluscent rings in the dense star fields of the core.

Transluscent rings in the dense star fields of the core.

Over a week of travel since the last entry now, and I finally reached the galactic core. The star density is noticeably higher, with some large clusters of bright blue stars among other things. I’ve been making my way there fast-ish, only stopping for blue worlds (water worlds and Earth-like worlds), or for ringed gas-giant sightseeing here and there. Another undiscovered Earth-like was scanned on the way, making it four so far.

Then, while using the galactic map to plan an evening’s trip in the OGAIRY sector, I found a tiny blue planetary nebula, with a black hole at its centre. The course was plotted, and a couple dozen jumps later, the nebula was in sight: an incongruous bright blue cloud in the dotted black sky.

A blue planetary nebula in the distance.

A blue planetary nebula in the distance.

The view from inside was extremely pretty, the dreamlike blue making it a nice change from the red nebulas I visited so far.

Inside the planetary nebula of the OGAIRY sector.

Inside the planetary nebula of the OGAIRY sector.

And at the centre of it, I got close enough to the small black hole to play with the gravitational lensing to capture some photographic memories. I was dropped out of supercruise when getting too close, but without damage thanks to the low speed, and there’s not much more danger than that due to the invisible wall that prevents you from going too far. Temperature is pretty much the only thing that can kill you while exploring, and small black holes like this one don’t cause much heating.

The black hole at the centre of the nebula.

The black hole at the centre of the nebula.

What *does* cause heating however are stars that you get too close to. This was the case of a close binary pair when a jump had me pop out just in-between. The companion star wheezed by my canopy as I made entry and stopped in front of the main star, and straight away I could see the ship temperature rising fast, too fast. Taking a quick vector out between the two, I managed to get out quickly without incurring any damage to the equipment, with a maximum temparature level of 89%. That’s a reminder that even though exploration in Elite is a fairly peaceful and straightforward affair, a small lapse of concentration can be deadly when fooling around stars. I got lucky there since I was watching everything and reacted instantly, but had I been watching something else, a few more seconds would have been enough to start frying up the equipment.

This binary system caught me by surprise: the jump had me out between the pair and quickly overheating.

This binary system caught me by surprise: the jump had me out between the pair and quickly overheating.

I’ve since been following a trail of neutron stars with occasional black holes, and my scans, to which a fifth undiscovered Earth-like world was added, should now be worth something when (if?) I make it back. I’m now into the core proper, and less than a thousand light-years away from the Great Annihilator which is my last planned target before Sagittarius A* itself.

Elite Dangerous: Past the halfway point

A small planet, rather close to its sun. A close binary companion not visible on the screenshot means that it's even hotter than it looks here.

A small planet, rather close to its sun. A close binary companion not visible on the screenshot means that it’s even hotter than it looks here.

It took a while, but i’ve now passed the halway point on my way towards the galactic core. While approaching that mark, i came across my first neutron star, an incredibly dense collection of matter whose screenshot would be unimpressive as it’d only show a small dot. These are serious navigational hazards in E:D, being capable of frying up your ship while being almost invisible. They’re worth a good few credits though. A few more jumps corewards, and i came across the closest planet i’ve seen so far to a star. A small charred planet with lava trails, orbiting close to one of two close binary stars.

A major landmark on my way then was the large procedurally generated nebula in the FROARKS sector. The clouds here have more of an orange hue than in the previous one, with some purple-blue tint at the edges. It made for some pretty views inside, particularly around purple-looking brown dwarfs. My random traversal of the nebula didn’t get me to discover anything exotic though, just an assortment of water worlds, lots of high metal content planets including terraforming candidates, and plenty of gas giants, a good few of them life-bearing (both water-based and ammonia-based lifeforms, which is quite common in the E:D galaxy).

The FROARKS procedural nebula.

The FROARKS procedural nebula.

While jumping away from the nebula and looking behind me, i passed my halfway point and decided to go for some speed for a while, only scanning high-value worlds for a while. I ended up making an exception a few thousands light-years later though, lucking out on a giant S Type star. It’s tiny compared to some other known giants, but it’s the biggest i’ve come across and it was yet undiscovered.

A giant S Type star, from 300 light seconds away.

A giant S Type star, from 300 light seconds away.

It was so startling to see the size of the star from a distance at which most stars show up as tiny circles that i went to scan the full system, and see what the star looked like from the furthest planet out. Well, it was still humongous compared to the few pixels every other star i’ve seen so far would have been.

A giant S Type star, from 3000 light seconds away. Most stars in game would be a dot at that distance.

A giant S Type star, from 3000 light seconds away. Most stars in game would be a dot at that distance.

Finally, about a thousand light-years further corewards, scanning a blue dot revealed an Earth-like world, the fourth of my trip so far, and the third that was yet undiscovered.

Another newly discovered Earth-like world, yay.

Another newly discovered Earth-like world, yay.

I’m now some 5 thousand light-years from the Great Annihilator system, which should be my last big landmark before Sagittarius A*.

Approaching the BLEAE AEWSY nebula.

Approaching the BLEAE AEWSY nebula.

Another week of slow cruising has gone by, with a lot of random system scanning. I lucked out on a second undiscovered Earth-like world, a few ammonia worlds, and lots of water worlds and life-bearing gas giants. I’m now about half-way between Lave and the Great Annihilator, a black hole inside the core not too far from Sagittarius A* that i will be aiming for on the way.

Very noticeable since i left NGC6357, the BLEAE AEWSY nebula felt like a convenient general direction for my next stint, and so i’ve been watching it grow ever larger day after day, jump after jump. Yesterday, i finally reached it and crossed it slowly through ‘economical route’ navigation mode. That’s a neat tip i found on the Frontier forums: rather than manually pick close systems every time when you are in an area you would like to explore a bit more, simply switch the navigation computer to economical routing and simply plot a route across the area. The amount of small low-fuel jumps will ensure that you get to visit a good few systems as you travel.

The first striking impression of this nebula is its ominous dark colours. Very little light makes it through the gas clouds, making the inside sky an intimidating black and red landscape with little visible stars.

Inside the ominous red clouds.

Inside the ominous red clouds.

To ease the mind, i found myself drifting into illuminated ice rings, the blue haze soothingly contrasting the red skies.

Blue rings, red sky.

Blue rings, red sky.

A nice surprise in my traversal was an Earth-like world, already discovered of course as close nebulas have already been scanned by explorers for months. The night sky must be rather impressive from the ground.

Alien sun in a red sky above an Earth-like world.

Alien sun in a red sky above an Earth-like world.

Finally, on my way out of the nebula, i watched a sun rise over a planet, between the galactic plane and the red clouds.

Red sky sunrise.

Red sky sunrise.

Time to leave the beaten track again, and head through the undiscovered systems that populate the dark between the clouds. As dark and ominous as some of these landscapes were, i have to say all those “First discovered by” tags on the system map screen made the place feel positively crowded

Ice cap, water, land, breathable atmosphere... My first Earth-like world discovery.

Ice cap, water, land, breathable atmosphere… My first Earth-like world discovery.

I’d been waiting for this moment, and two weeks into my slow journey towards the galactic core, it finally happened… While scanning a binary system, i found myself looking at a number of very blue-looking planets. Two around the primary A class star, locked to each other in orbital embrace, and one more around the distant second star. A short cruise later and the surface scanner results were in: i was facing my first Earth-like world, yet undiscovered. Oceans, land, ice, breathable atmosphere, human-friendly surface gravity and temperature (though on the cold side), everything checked… Even more beautiful was how it was orbitally locked with a companion water world of equivalent size which qualified as a terraforming candidate. Twin blue worlds.

Closeup, watching the orbital companion water world in the distance.

Closeup, watching the orbital companion water world in the distance.

I spent a while cruising above the surface, wishing i could land. Atmospheric landing can’t come soon enough… Failing that then, i went to drift above the dark side, and watch the sun rise above the surface of my new world.

Sunrise on the new world.

Sunrise on the new world.

Then glided further to watch the gradually illuminated oceans.

Drifting to the day side.

Drifting to the day side.

Finally, i went to see what the new world was like seen from its twin.

The companion water world, with the Earth-like world visible in the distance.

The companion water world, with the Earth-like world visible in the distance.

The third blue planet, around the second star, turned out to be another water world, to add to the two high-metal content planets qualifying as terraforming candidates. This is a gorgeous system.  And only some ~10k light years from civilisation!🙂

 

The main star at Pismis 24-1 and its companion in the distance.

The main star at Pismis 24-1 and its companion in the distance.

First major stop on my way to the galactic core, NGC 6357 is a nebula in the constellation Scorpius where many stars are forming. It is also the host of a large number of massive blue stars, including the extremely bright Pismis 24-1 later found out to be not a single source but multiple stars in close orbit. The open cluster Pismis 24 was therefore on my list of places to visit in there, and it did not disappoint, with a beautiful pair of bright blue stars.

The screenshots don’t do these justice though, as the distance to the stars don’t let one appreciate their size. Much smaller but more visually impressive were a pair of red stars in very close orbit.

Close red binaries.

Close red binaries.

Further exploration of the nebula led me to scan my first few black holes and play with the gravitational lensing effect that the game implements.

Gravitational lensing around a black hole in Pismis 19.

Gravitational lensing around a black hole in Pismis 19.

Some random exploring later took me down into the rings of a beautiful brown dwarf, possibly one of the most eerie places i’ve been to so far in this game.

Diving in the rings of a brown dwarf.

Diving in the rings of a brown dwarf.

It was then time to head out again towards the core after a last goodbye…

Cruising in NGC 6357.

Cruising in NGC 6357.

Just another gas giant.

Just another gas giant.

I’m now a week into my first Elite Dangerous exploration trip and enjoying it quite a lot. There’s something relaxing about plotting a route to “somewhere far ahead in deep space” and jumping from system to system enjoying the sights.

Since any first sold scan of a body from a player gets this player name on the system map, one knows straight away which places have been visited before, and which ones are being explored for the first time. With this system in place, it is striking how many players have gone through the bubble of space around the human-populated systems. Until at least 1000 light-years away, most systems i went through were thoroughly scanned. I knew some additional distance would get me into yet-undiscovered territory though. Some more jumps finally presented me with my first discovery: a boring icy planet far away from its star, that nobody had ever bothered scanning.

Not much to look at, but this icy planet was my first undiscovered sight.

Not much to look at, but this icy planet was my first undiscovered sight.

From there, the further I went, the less player’s names I met. Yet, every now and then, in the middle of nowhere, a player name pops out on the system map, briefly disrupting my peaceful isolation. Far away into deep space though, it’s only a matter of a single jump to get back to uncharted territory.

Landed on an asteroid in an ice ring.

Landed on an asteroid in an ice ring.

With my ship setup, a full fuel load carries me roughly over 250 light-years. I always stop a bit before that for refuelling though, so as to avoid any nasty surprise like being caught in a field of unscoopable stars with not enough fuel left to jump to safety. The best fuel scoop available on the Cobra being quite small, it takes me a few minutes to fill up the 32t hydrogen tank from a star.

Refuelling from a white star.

Refuelling from a white star.

Among the vast amount of lookalike planets, every now and then one comes up with a bit more personality. That was the case of a small high-metal content planet about 6500 light-years away from Lave, whose features made it look like it was crying. It came up as quite a startling sight after my time alone, and I went to fly as close to the surface as possible to watch the mountain ranges and the enclosed sea that formed the ‘mouth’. I have now this planet’s location marked down for a return trip when Horizons comes up, for a drive down the surface.

The crying planet, 6500 light-years away from Lave.

The “crying planet”, 6500 light-years away from Lave.

Being the closest nebula on my path to the core, I’m now just about entering the NGC 6357 nebula. I’ve been watching grow ever larger across my jumps, just below the galactic plane. I’m looking forward to the sights.

NGC 6357, only 100 LY away now.

NGC 6357, only 100 LY away now.

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