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I fell asleep at my computer and almost missed the bus across the Milky Way

Life on board Elite: Dangerous’ new Fleet Carriers has been rough

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An Asp Explorer, Evelynne Christine tail number 256-DW, outside the Fleet Carrier DSSA Sleeper Service. Image: Commander TheWanderer
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.

I nodded off at my computer last night, lulled to sleep by the sound of my engines roaring through deep space. When I came to, I looked at the clock: 1:45 a.m. CDT. That’s when the panic set in.

I had less than 15 minutes before the servers in Elite: Dangerous shut down for maintenance. I had to make it back to the DSSA Callisto, a massive new Fleet Carrier I’d hitched a ride on the day before. Otherwise I might be left behind, literally lost in space.

I pulled back on the throttle, glancing quickly at my engineering board. All of the systems on the Evelynne Christine, my Asp Explorer rigged for exploration, were up and running. Looking at the navigation panel, I realized that the Callisto wasn’t even in this system. I was lucky that I hadn’t run into a star, but not so lucky that I hadn’t gotten myself good and truly lost.

Blood pounding in my ears, I quickly opened up the star chart to get my bearings.

Three other commanders had gone overboard the day before, getting themselves left behind when the big starship fired up its hyperspace drive. The Callisto, like the other Fleet Carriers that were added to the game on Tuesday, has a jump range of 500 light-years. That’s easily 10 times further than most other high-end ships in the game. Making matters worse, the big girl can make that jump every 20 minutes. Catching up would be nearly impossible.

The U-turn to pick up those stranded players had taken more than an hour.

My biggest fear was that I’d be struck by one of the bizarre bugs that have plagued Fleet Carriers for the last 48 hours. Several commanders reported that they couldn’t hail the Callisto while trying to dock on Wednesday. Others found that she was moving too fast for them to catch up, once they dropped out of hyperspace. If that happened to me, it would be another hour until the servers came back online.

The DSSA Calisto making a hyperspace jump. Captured in-game by Commander kyleMcGriffin.

Switching between screens, I realized that I’d lost track of the spreadsheet that noted the timing of Callisto’s jumps. I didn’t even know where she was. It was possible that I’d already been abandoned.

Just the day before, I’d prevailed upon the crew of the Callisto — more than 40 other players from all around the world — to slow down and let me transfer over. I’d spent Tuesday on the DSSA Sleeper Service, another Fleet Carrier and the leader of the Aphelion Expedition. But that ship’s commander, Qohen Leth, had some personal matters to attend to, and wasn’t able to keep pace with the rest of the fleet.

The 10 Fleet Carriers taking part in the Aphelion Expedition are currently planning to rendezvous in the center of the Milky Way for refueling on Saturday. A huge flotilla of miners from the distant outpost of Colonia were already on their way with thousands of tons of Tritium. I wanted to be there to cover the story, and thankfully the Callisto opted to alter course to meet my needs, but at the cost of a full day of travel time.

The Evelynne Christine transits from DSSA Sleeper Service to DSSA Calisto on June 10.

Letting myself fall overboard would be an insult when they’d already changed course to accommodate me.

Finally inside the correct spreadsheet, I found the Callisto’s last noted location. Dipping into the detailed system map, I found her parked right where she should be. Thankfully, it was just a quick jump and a short cruise to within hailing range. Nothing bugged out on me, and I put my ship down with less than a minute to spare. Switching to the outfitting screen, I noted that the ship’s integrity was down to 0%. I was lucky to even make it back alive.

Just as the servers went dark, I stood up from the chair, went downstairs, and poured myself a drink. My hands were shaking. Commander Gnauty Gnate says we should reach our destination by tomorrow. I don’t think I’ll be leaving my hangar anytime soon.

Expect more reports from the Aphelion Expedition early next week.

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