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Players could explore Elite: Dangerous for thousands of generations and not see it all

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

When Elite: Dangerous launched in December it was the end of a long journey for David Braben and his development team. More than 30 years after its original release, the modern installment is finally in players' hands. But for those players, the journey has only just begun.

Elite is an online spaceflight simulation that takes place in a one-to-one recreation of our Milky Way galaxy. That means there are more than 400 billion star systems for players to explore, trade and fight across.

Part of the leveling mechanic in the game includes incentivising players to explore unknown systems, and the community is moving at a fantastic rate. But our galaxy, as you may already be aware of, is so very, very big that it's going to take them a while.

At the current rate of exploration, Elite's playerbase is visiting 17,585 new systems every day. That's 732 per hour, or 12 per minute.

At that rate it will take players 150,895 years to map the entire galaxy.

Frontier Developments are running a contest where the first player to reach Elite status in exploration will receive a $1,500 prize. Same goes for the first player to reach Elite in combat and exploration. The first player to reach Elite status in all three will walk away with $15,000. It's unknown how close we are to seeing a winner.

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