This year, in lieu of any kind of holiday, I spent my week off attending a couple of gaming events. On Friday I went to EGX Rezzed which was pretty good, but on Saturday I spent the day at ECM 2018 in the St. Anne’s Hotel in Wokingham.
The event started at 10am and the school holidays plus pleasant weather conspired to make the drive up from Kent fairly easy going, which meant I managed to arrive fifteen minutes before the doors officially opened with no stress at all.
The Elite Community Meet had a large conference room just off the main reception with an anteroom between, where the check-in desk and the all-important coffee & tea supplies were provided. Also, in the anteroom was docking darts (large, medium and small dart with pads as targets arranged like a dart board). I failed to beat my LaveCon 2017 score!
Table-top RPG games were being played and demonstrated on various tables, with CMDRs playing Zombicide and EDRPG as well as sitting and chatting.
Six degrees of motion sickness
Down in the back corner of the room there was CMDR Blastard, who had brought an extraordinary contraption; a full motion simulator chair of his own construction (complete with working scale prototype model) which allowed him to play Elite and other games in VR with the extra element of motion.
Pirates; is that spelt with one ARRR or two?
You always meet colourful characters at these events. Saturday was no exception. I met CMDRs Squid and Defoe Smith (who were having a coffee at the time) and were most noticeable for their Pirate Cosplay. They have been playing Elite: Dangerous since last year and I asked them if they played the game as pirates, but it turns out they are traders and explorers only, preferring the piracy to remain in costume only! Thanks to https://www.hcsvoicepacks.com/ for the photo.
I managed to jump in a game of Artemis set up in a small conference room further back in the hotel. The principle of the game is that you have five players who get a screen each; Science, Helm, Tactical, Communications, Engineering and a sixth player, the Captain, who has a viewscreen but no control. This means the captain has to yell orders and rely on the other five players to (a) communicate and (b) do as they are told, not just what they want. The end result is either amazing teamwork or farcical comedy!
Our first obstacle was our captain (who had signed up to play) didn’t show. However, Ben Moss-Woodward of LaveRadio fame, who had been manning the event check-in, took the big chair.
In the game, the space map shows a sector divided up by asteroid belts and mine-fields with a handful of star-bases we should protect and roaming groups of hostile ships to fight.
Whilst we got to grips with playing the game, the roaming bad-guys blew up the star-bases while we watched, helpless, from the wrong side of the sector to do anything about it. Having engaged some ships in battle, successfully I might add, we had run out of missiles etc. and with no star-bases left to restock, we resorted to what is known as “the Drew Wagar manoeuvre” and flew circles around a black hole, causing the hapless bad-guys to fly into it and die. The final score was we lasted the full 40 minutes without getting killed, but the star-bases were a total loss.
The end of the room furthest from the “stage” had a couple of virtual reality rigs set up for CMDRs to have a try. The Vive rig being used belonged to Lave Radio’s Grant “PsychoKow” Wilcott and had one of the TP Cast wireless sets fitted. I was interested to see that while it means you are no longer tethered to the PC, it isn’t really wireless, since in addition to the transmitter that sits on the top of your head, there is a chunky cable to the fairly sizeable battery pack. Still, not having a long and trip-worthy cable attached to you must be an advantage.
I sat down at the back of the room and managed to have a game of Space Invaders on one of the original 1980s Atari TV game consoles. Where you’d find a CRT television that still works these days boggles the mind, but it definitely took me back to my misspent youth!
CMDR Bulletford, Stephen Usher (above) had his BBC Micro on display and was busy playing Arcadians – a game dear to my heart – while the Commodore next to him was running another game from my youth; also a game from David Braben, “Zarch” on the Acorn Archimedes which was known as “Virus” on other platforms. A 3D lander combat game.
There was a projector set up with “Gang Beasts” a physics-based wrestling game for 2-4 players with what I can only describe as jelly babies in fancy dress as combatants. It’s as funny as hell to play. I bought it myself after playing it at LaveCon in 2016.
Seeing your work out there
One thing I found really strange was seeing another PC with one of my ship blueprints in as the desktop background. It is one thing to know people download your work, but to see your creations set in pride of place on somebody else’s computer is an odd experience.
After a lunch of sandwiches and chips (yeah, I know, right?) which I assume the hotel thought was nerd-fuel, the event continued with a quiz. Two teams, Frontier Vs the Hammers of Slough played “Universally Challenged” in several rounds of questions about the game, the galaxy and general knowledge (with more than a couple of Hitch Hiker’s Guide questions).
These guys were good. I have no idea off the top of my head what the distance from Colonia to Beagle Point might be! But the teams did.
Down by the corner next to the simulator chair, was CMDR Evenstar who was engraving Elite: Dangerous dog tags for CMDRs who had made donations to the www.specialeffect.org.uk and www.hearingdogs.org.uk charities that the event was supporting. I got myself a Coriolis tag and an Alliance Chieftain tag for my son who plays Elite.
The guys from Special Effect were there to show off the great work they do and I watched a young CMDR playing Rocket League using a chin controller. Raising money for the charity enables people with physical impairements to play PC and console games the same as everyone else.
Frontier were there
Ed, Paige and Will from Frontier had come along to the event and were mixing with all the CMDRs. I managed to collar poor Ed and confront him with my “Who makes the Nav Beacon” question. Ed also acted as compare for some of the “Universally Challenged” quiz rounds.
Prizes for all, but mostly for CMDR Jester!
The finale of the event was a prize raffle, with nearly 250 prizes (see amazing swag below).
The raffle sold over 3,000 tickets at a pound a ticket, some serious money was raised for charity. One CMDR had purchased (it is rumoured) 500 tickets. As a result, a great number of the prizes were drawn for CMDR Jester but being a fairly typical member of the Elite community, more than a few of the prizes drawn for him were returned to the raffle to be re-drawn for another winner. He wasn’t the only CMDR who won a great prize, then passed it back to be redrawn, either. The Elite community are a generous lot.
The first prize drawn, was a Hutton Orbital Mug won by John, the CMDR I was sitting with. He then won a second prize a few minutes later, you guessed it – a second mug!
Our announcer for the raffle, Steph, did an amazing job, despite her voice going toward the end – it took over an hour to announce all the prizes drawn!
It was a great day and it went so fast. Thanks to CMDR Zulu Romeo, Dan from Fantastic Books publishing, Kate Russell for being her amazing self, Paige Harvey from Frontier with whom I had a lovely chat, Baz from Special Effect, Amy and Kerrash (much love to you two), Jon Lunn of EDRPG, Stephen Usher, the pirates Squid and Defoe, John & Mia, Dave Pearson and Mike Snoswell for organising the blueprints raffle prize booklet, turning my lunchtime hobby into a collectable - I apologise to anyone I didn’t mention, I met so many lovely people on Saturday and I probably should have photographed name badges.
I would say if you can make it to an Elite Meet event, it is well worth making it a date in your calendar.