Hey everyone, and welcome to the March-April update for Elite Encounters.
I know, this is technically a late update, but I decided to wait until the start of the month and get these updats back to the original schedule. So now the monthly update will be back at the start of the month where it belongs.
Lots to cover in this update, so without further preamble, here we go!
Progress and Playtesting
The last month and a half have been a rollercoaster of rewrites. Firstly, following on from the last update, the entirety of the combat and damage systems have been rewritten. Pretty much from the ground up. The thing is (and this might slightly irritate some people) that an inspiration struck early last month for a method of calculating and showing damage that was so mind-numbingly obvious that I kicked myself for not seeing it earlier. The concept is this.
Neat, huh? No? OK, maybe I should explain. Previously, the personal damage system was a huge part of the Avatar Record File. It took up about a third of the back of the sheet and was complex and detailed. Playtesters came back at told me that it was overly complex and really took over the game in some places and was considered to be the most inaccessible part of the game to new players. Now EE is targetted at both casual tabletop gamers as well as experienced roleplayers, so with two separate pieces of feedback illustrating that the damage and armour systems were inaccessible, that was a bit of a blow. After a few sleepless nights, the tracker above popped into my head and it was, to be honest, a big lightbulb moment. This method is extensible and simple. Two stats are all that is needed to make the tracker work for a variety of different things in the game. “Hexes” denotes how many of the hexes are in play on the tracker and “Max Hits Per Hex” or MHPH tell everyone how many segments of the hex can be filled in. When that max number of segments is filled in, the player moves to the next hex.
In terms of bodily damage, one side represents Trauma and the other Blood Loss. In terms of armour, one side represents Head armour and the other represents Body armour. The same hex track system is also easily adaptable for ship or vehicle combat – one side of the tracker is the shield strength and the other is the hull integrity.
As a result of the new way to track armour, the armour itself has also been re-imagined. There were complaints from both inexperienced and experienced players that the granularity of the damage model was too much – having separate armour for bladed, kinetic and energy weapons was confusing. In order to simplify this, I’ve taken the liberty of inventing a new armour technology that is more appropriate for a far future environemnt and is (at the moment) exclusive to Elite Encounters! Will Frontier adopt it for the eventual day when people can walk (and shoot each other maybe) outside their ships? Time will tell – it will need to get past Frontier’s approval process first…
With that revision under my belt the rest of the progress was geared towards getting the new system ready to play in time for EliteMeet. The Avatar Record File was redesigned and a new, separate Vehicle Record File was created to give more attention to the vehicles – in particular the ships – that are an important part of the game.
I also spent some time in Elite Dangerous during the 1.2 Beta to make use of the new Debug Camera to take some spanking screenshots of the ships. In time these will become the basis for the ship statistic pages (the double-page spreads I’ve been promising) and other reference images.
Outside all that, the last couple of weeks have seen some important admin work being undertaken. My first tax returns are under my belt (thanks to the tax on eBooks) along with organising the finances and making sure that I have accurate of sales and pledges going into the new financial year. In addition the website has undergone a much needed redesign. The site’s look and feel have been revamped and the site is now mobile friendly. The next step there is to revamp the content and bring it up to date and hopefully become a little more professional.
One important event this last few weeks was the second EliteMeet! After a year’s absence, the EliteMeet convention was reinvented and held at the Westley Hotel in Birmingham. Around 50 die-hard Elite fans gathered to celebrate the game and its community. EliteMeet remains the most informal of the conventions that have sprung up over the last couple of years and is now the only one to remain solely focused on Elite.
In attendance were Ed Lewis (Frontier Commuinity Manager), Ben Moss-Woodward and Chris Jarvis of Lave Radio fame, Grant “Psykokow” Woollcott (Lave Radio and Abraka Drabble) and many other notable personalities from the Elite community. Elite Encounters were there as well, hogging a table for the day and providing RPG awesomeness to the masses.
Focusing on the RPG for a moment, this is where the “Great Experiment” of this update’s title comes from. For the first time, I was letting someone else GM the RPG sessions at a convention. Why? Because I need to evaluate how the game runs without me around. It’s an extension of the independent playtesting principle: I let someone else GM the sessions and then I can ask the players and GM how the session went and if there is any feedback on the system and the sessions. My brave son Derri stepped up to the plate and took on the GM role for the day. Doing this gave me two avenues of feedback. Firstly the players get a good idea of how the system runs (and thus I get the feedback from that side of it) and the novice GM also needs to deal with the system and how it’s played and I can poll him for feedback on holes or issues he has found that he had to fill in from the top of his head.
How did that work? Well, it was a mixed success. Derri was reported as being a fair-to-middling GM but his young age and his inexperience were noted as the prime cause of that – otherwise he did a good job directing the story and involving the players. He also had the somewhat daunting task of running the first session with Frontier’s Ed Lewis as a player! No pressure there then!
In all, three sessions were run. The first was a success, with the feedback coming back as mostly positive. The second session was less positive, as some of Derri’s inexperience apparently led to an abortive ending to the game and some hard lessons to learn. The third late night session was again a reported success (and again featured Ed Lewis as a player) with a mixed bag of feedback. Common in all the feedback was that the rules and system themselves held up well to a very wide range of players and scenarios. It wasn’t all positive, with some more focus needed on equipment lists and how to highlight the appropriate Vital Stats and Traits to use in a scenario. To be honest, the main criticism was that there weren’t enough copies of the book to go around. My fault, following a printer breakdown…
The rest of EliteMeet was awesome. Iain McNeill brought a dartboard with a “Docking Bay” overlay and held a fun tournament to see who could dock their darts in the correct docking bays. People brought copies of Elite on their gaming PCs to play, along with Oculus Rifts and gaming chairs. Ed Lewis ran a quiz at the end of the main evening events with questions on everything from Sports to Elite Dangerous ships! Colin Ford brought his brilliant Elite Dangerous themed copu of the Star Wars X-Wing miniatures game and held two battles between Sidewinders and Cobras – I was lucky enough to be in the second game and thoroughly enjoyed it. Grant brought along Cards Against Humanity and a thoroughly hilarious time was had by all playing that.
All in all another very successful convention. Well done and thanks to Mike Snoswell and Ben Moss-Woodward for organising it at a very nice venue.
I didn’t take many photos at the event, but what I did take can be found by clicking here. We did well enough to be mentioned in last week’s Elite Dangerous Newsletter, where Ed has kindly linked the Elite RPG site and Mike Snoswell’s blog post about the day. Thanks Ed and Mike!
Pilgrimage – Saturday 18th April
March saw the sad loss of Terry Pratchett, who succumbed to his much-publicised Alzheimer’s disease (or “embuggerment”, as he called it) at the age of 66. I’m greatly saddened by this, as Terry was a great man and a wonderful author who brought joy and laughter to so many people during his life.
I have been a fan of Terry since I was 12, and have read and re-read his books so many times I have lost count. His death was a surprisingly hard blow to me, and it made me realise exactly how much time I have spent in his worlds and how much I will miss his continued works. I also deeply regret never taking the chance to meet the man: the closest I came was missing, by one day, a book signing in Nottingham whilst I was at university there.
“Mahddogg” set up a charity drive in honour and remembrance of Terry Pratchett. All of his twitch streams between whatever day it started and the 22nd April are in memory of Terry, and he has set up a donation page at https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/mahddoggtv for followers, watchers or tourists (Luggage not essential) to donate to the Alzheimer’s Society.
In support of this, I’m hosting an Elite Dangerous stream in memory of Terry on Saturday 18th April starting at midday BST. During that stream I’ll be travelling from the Morten-Marte system (the home of the RPG) to Pratchett’s Disk – the world named in honour of Terry.
I’m hoping some of you will stop by and watch for a while and really hope that some of you will donate whatever you can to the Alzheimer’s Society whilst you’re there. Hey, even if you can’t make it to the stream, please donate to the cause – Alzheimer’s is a horrible HORRIBLE disease that takes away too many of us. To be honest, it’s something I fear more than death itself, and I saw that same fear in Terry during his broadcast programmes about it.
So. Saturday 18th April. 12:00 midday BST. Tune in at http://www.twitch.tv/selezen. If you want to join me in-game I’ve set up a private group for the pilgrimage – just look for “Selezen Lake” in the groups list and join up. Keep an eye on Twitter (hdSelezen) and Facebook (Selezen Lake) for updates. I’ll also post in the Frontier Forums about it, in the Elite Encounters thread of the Official Fiction forum.
That’s about it for this update. As usual, if you have any questions, then please let me know by comment or by using the Contact Us link on this site. See you again next month for another update!
Dave “Selezen” Hughes