My son and I travelled up to Duxford and arrived in the area around 2.40pm. When we got to the Travelodge, we found another of the EGX ambassadors (Liam) standing outside with his wingman. Since check-in was 3pm and you have to pay £10 to check in early, we went next door to the Little Chef for a coffee to kill some time and keep warm.
We got sorted out at the hotel and had around an hour before setting out to a Pub/Hotel called “The Red Lion” that was half-way to Duxford from where we were staying.
The pub was wall-to-wall Elite backers. There was at least 120 people there all for the event. I had arranged to meet up with the other Elite Ambassadors in the pub, who were staying at the hotel to hand out the badges I’d created. People were in a mix of T-shirts, suits, kilts, dinner jackets and fancy dress. It was something to see!
I found the other Ambassadors in a corner of the back room and made introductions and had a small drink (non alcoholic). We didn’t have long before it was time to head over to the Imperial War Museum. Edward Lewis the Frontier community manager had asked us to come early "for a surprise".
When we got there, some VIP backers were already queuing outside. We were waved through and joined the Frontier guys inside the lobby of the museum. They ushered us inside the side hall of hangar 1 where the event was being held. Inside the LAVE Radio guys were setting up on a little table to plug their show. Two circular Elite: Dangerous gaming tables had been set up with 12 PCs a piece (EGX x 2) Mid hall, there was a stage a large projection screen with a roped off area with seats for around fifty people. Directly opposite this in front of the main hangar doors was a 1/3 replica of a Cobra Mk II mounted in the same fashion as one of the museum exhibits, complete with Duxford plaque describing the ships history and statistics!
At the far end of the hangar was a roped off "studio" area (a bit like Top Gear) with two sofas and a coffee table on a stage. This backed onto the main hall and beside it were tables and stools with a FREE open bar. Beyond this was a small "souvenir" stand, selling T-Shirts, pins, books and other Elite: Dangerous related merchandise – they were also giving away Elite coasters, pens, stickers and cardboard-cut-out Corolis station models.
My son had a chat with the BBC’s Kate Russell and posed for a couple of photos with her. She was very down to earth and a big fan of Elite and computer gaming in general.
We were then asked to vacate the hall to the lobby again and had our wrist-bands issued. What I failed to realise at first, was that these were VIP invites, not just standard admission.
By this time, guests were shuffling in to the hall and being given champagne (or orange juice) so we mingled and looked at the aircraft in hangar 1. The route around the hangar led to the far side where a large buffet had been set up. They had paper cones with scampi and chips, mini burgers as well as sliced wraps with different fillings and sausage rolls. A very tasty spread!
Ed Lewis (Frontier’s community manager) was up by the big doors that led from the main hangar to the side-area we had first seen when we arrived. He waved us over and said "stay put, this is where the best seats are!", so myself and my son and half-a-dozen of the Ambassadors and their plus ones gathered by the left of the big doors and waited for a few minutes. Then a pre-recorded voice (the Elite computer voice actress actually) announced "Please gather at the hanger doors, the event is about to begin". We then had a countdown with lots of Elite in-game sound effects which culminated here:
A lot of the rest is on the Twitch Stream recorded by Frontier.
The usual "money for pizza for the developers" raised by the community for release nights was instead presented to David Braben as two cheques for over 1,000 pounds each for children’s gaming charities which was a nice touch. The total raised was 2,209.84 pounds (22-09-84 Elite’s release date).
Because we’d been given a VIP pass, we were able to go upstairs and mingle with the hob-nobs, sit on some very comfy leather sofas and take a load off! I met "Mobius" a prolific forum poster at Frontier’s forums, an Alpha backer and an illustrator. He’s 6ft 7 so hard to miss! Some of the people there had flown in from overseas (California, Abu Dabi as well as Germany and all across Europe!).
My son William had a go on the game on both a standard workstation and also a couple of sessions on the Oculus rift DK2. While he played the rift, Jason Bradbury from the Gadget show was giving his kids a go on the DK2 on the other side of the table, so Will went and said "hi" and shook his hand. He was really nice, considering he was "off duty".
I was chatting to one Elite Ambassador (Dr Wookie) who was from the USA, which when he spoke with an English accent threw me a little. Turns out he was a big Elite fan from 1984 and got into space in a big way and was recruited by NASA and now spends his time hunting for black holes.
Once all the presentations etc. were over and the Live Stream finished, we got a chance to go and chat with David Braben. William had some ideas for elements to add to the game and David listened to him babble enthusiastically and explained his idea (claiming conquered ships) was something they wanted to do, but ship boarding would need to be made, so probably after ship FPS and crew was developed. Considering the amount of people wanting to see him, he was very generous with his time spent with William. He also confirmed with me that player to player bartering and hard-point swapping were in the Gamma (since confirmed in game).
By 11.30pm Will was tired (he’s only 12) and getting bored - he’d played all the tutorials on Rift and normal PCs - so I thought it time to say my goodbyes. I bumped into Alison (Frontier’s events manager) and asked if she’d seen Ed Lewis, when he walked up behind her. I told him I was off and he said "hang on because I’ve got something for you". He led us to the back of the hangar where Frontier had set up their "staff room" and dug out a large picture frame 30" x 12" and said "this is for you as a thanks for your help" – it was a limited edition print of Elite: Dangerous artwork, signed "To Anthony Hunt thanks for all your help, David Braben". All the ED Ambassadors got one, personally dedicated. A nice touch. Ed said that they had planned a goody bag as well, but time and events had left them running around too much with too little time, so they are going to post us a t-shirt, mug and other goodies too, later this week.
We had a really good time and mainly were blown away by the people we met. I met Hugh, who codes the network systems for Elite and Anthony the graphics engine coder and another guy who modelled the Cobra for the game and who was really choked up by seeing the huge model of his "baby". A massive amount of enthusiasm for the game and the players.