Despite being largely empty, outer space is just full of distress. Distress signals here, distress signals there—it all gets to be old hat after a little while. Today, though, the developers of Elite: Dangerous buried an extremely cool storyline about a ship from the distant past in what appeared to be just an ever-so-slightly anomalous call for supplies.
It began with one of the game’s in-character news reports: an apology from the fictional Rockforth Corporation, which played a role in spreading a blight pathogen that wreaked havoc on countless space crops. At the very end was a brief aside about detecting areas in need of crop aid that included a line about an “anomaly” that took the form of an “unexpected call for supplies from the Upaniklis system.”
This could have just been to provide the faux-report with some additional colour, but one player, streamer Malic_VR (via Polygon), decided to follow the signal to its origin. There, he found a colossal “generation” ship—a vessel meant to ferry literal generations of human beings across vast portions of space at sub-light speeds. In Elite’s lore, they were rendered obsolete long before the current timeline, in which everyone can exceed the speed of light with hyper drives. Over the years, players have uncovered 15 of these ships drifting among the stars. None of them have contained any survivors. Until now.
The Golconda, as this ship is known, left Earth more than a thousand years ago and has slowly but surely travelled 172 light years. Upon interacting with the ship, Malic_VR discovered a series of voice logs from still-living characters explaining their plight: On one hand, they need help. There’s a plague ravaging their populace, and without rations and supplies, they’re doomed. But on the other, they don’t want to foster any sort of cultural exchange for fear of having thousands of years of their own unique progress tainted.
“We’re more than just a colony, you see,” says a character named Erin Grey in one of the voice logs. “We’re a family. Whenever a challenge is put in front of us, we resolve it together. When success is achieved, we celebrate collectively. It’s hard to put into words. Our ancestors chose to remain on this vessel centuries ago, and leave our original destination behind. They did so because they had grown to love what they achieved. Logs from that period show their anxiety at the prospect of leaving the Golconda. The generation ships were designed to keep colonists healthy, happy, and entertained. Somewhere in our journey, we came to feel love, too.”
This storyline may or may not build to anything bigger, but it’s quite a thing to just attach to an otherwise nondescript news post in hopes that enterprising space truckers will go have a quick look. Major updates haven’t exactly been soaring into Elite: Dangerous’ hull at faster-than-light speeds lately, so this has been a welcome injection of intrigue while players wait for the delayed launch of massive fleet carrier ships and the long-awaited release of a new expansion, which won’t land until sometime later next year.