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There’s a gold rush going on in Elite: Dangerous, here’s how to get paid (update)

Amateur archeology on a galactic scale

An SRV on the surface of a rocky planet in Elite: Dangerous.
Elite: Dangerous/Frontier Developments
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.

The beautiful, massive and at times tedious spacefaring game Elite: Dangerous is experiencing an unprecedented flurry of in-game activity. A new quest, open to anyone willing to visit a particular star system, offers a payout of up to 100 million in-game credits. That’s more than enough cash to buy yourself some of the best gear in the game.

Here’s how to get yours, and details on where the mysterious quest is headed next.

Guardians of the Galaxy

It all started earlier this month when players began to encounter mysterious alien vessels that were able to pull them out of hyperspace, kill their systems ship-wide and leave them drifting in the void. Players whom we spoke with, including the well-regarded Commander Dr. Kaii, described it as a “truly terrifying experience,” especially in virtual reality.

Shortly thereafter, one of the game’s non-player characters, Ram Tah, began offering a quest on an open channel to anyone who visited Felice Dock, near the star called Meene. The stated reward is 100 million in-game credits.

In a game where mid-range and even some top-of-the-line ships run around 50 million credits, it’s an absolute fortune.

Things sounded simple enough at first. Tah sent players to a recently discovered set of alien ruins, which he claimed were built by a precursor race called the Guardians. The mission said players needed to help him decode the data embedded inside. But, when they arrived, players found that the ruins had suddenly become active, at times glowing and even sending structures rising into the air when they came near.

Since then, the Elite community has been working together to figure out how to get the ruins to give up their data. One forum thread in particular is being used to share tips and tricks on how to get the most credits possible.

Digging in the dirt

Late last week, I took a trip out to the system where players are gathering in-game, called Synuefe XR-H D11-102. I landed on Planet 1 B, near the appropriate coordinates and started driving around.

The amount of activity there at the ruins was simply incredible. I’ve never seen so many players congregate together in the game before. It was like an intergalactic block party, with massive ships doing acrobatics over the site and individual daredevils in rovers leaping around like they were at a motocross rally. My first night there, however, Frontier’s servers began to show the strain. I was booted off several times, and decided to pack it in before I was able to do any real exploring.

The next night, I logged into the game’s solo mode. It was just me and the ruins... and a detailed set of maps from the community to tell me how to get started.

Just one of dozens of player-made guides to the ruins on Syneufe XR-H D11-102 in Elite: Dangerous.
Commander Rabbit-HH

Before long I had unlocked about 10 million credits, which I’ll be able to claim once I return to the Meene system to cash them all in. I plan to spend a few more days mining the site before I move on.

But here’s the thing: Not all of the obelisks, as they’re called, scattered among the ruins are giving up data. So that’s led the community to start doing some real detective work.

Virtual archeology

In order to make sense of the site, players are gathering all kinds of information.

There’s a satellite photograph for starters showing the layout of the place.

A grayscale rendering of the alien ruins from orbit shows the obelisks and other structures in stark relief.
Commander Olivia Vespera

There’s a 3D rendering of the space, so players can inspect it offline.

piranha9/Frontier Developments

A 3D rendering of the alien ruins, created by Commander piranha9.

One clever player has even gone so far as to create an online navigational aid called the “ED bearing calculator” that can also be used to conduct rudimentary surveys at the site.

The quest continues

Seeing the community come together like this is a testament to how dedicated the game’s fan base is. Even so, no one has been able to accumulate anywhere near the total 100 million credit purse the quest is offering.

Some contend that players have yet to unlock all the secrets at on Synuefe XR-H D11-102, while others say there must be other alien ruins that have not yet been discovered.

That’s led to today’s scramble. Some on the forums reason that alien ruins must only appear on worlds that spin counter-clockwise relative to their star. They’ve narrowed down the hunt to just four potential planets near stars in the Syneufe cluster. Now, the call is out for volunteers to visually scan the surface of these planets, at an altitude of just a few kilometers above the surface, looking for new sites.

The community is literally scouring four planet-sized worlds, essentially by hand, looking for alien ruins. It’s the equivalent of searching for a needle in four haystacks, when you’re not even sure if there’s a needle in there at all.

Only one thing is for certain: The clock is ticking. My quest shows that it expires in less than three weeks. Given the amount of time I have to spend in-game, I’m going to dedicate myself to gobbling up as much cash as I can. I recommend you do the same.

But if you have the time, and you’re interested in the work, you could be one of the lucky few to discover an alien ruin for the first time. Where the quest goes from there is anyone’s guess.

Update: It looks like the original quest giver, Ram Tah, has confirmed those additional planets as the site of potential alien ruins. Players are searching them right now, and everyone is welcome to join in the hunt. Hat tip to PhoenixBlue in the comments below.

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