In 2017 I bought Elite Dangerous on PS4. It was on sale and I had heard about the game beforehand. I’d actually played and completed a similar game called Rebel Galaxy the year before (Free on PSN the first month I got my PS4), a much smaller scale single player space-adventure and trading game. I really enjoyed that game. It was 40 hours or so to get the end-credits and had a western-theme to it. Believe it or not I played this game before I watched Firefly, something I only watched last year as a recommendation after watching Picard season 1.

I downloaded the game and proceeded to not play a single second of it. Instead I played Driveclub, Doom and Final Fantasy 15. I’ve noticed I’ve had this habit whereby I’ll read a review of a game, consider it to be something I want to play and then months or years later I’ll see the game on ebay or PSN for a price I can’t refuse. Thanks to CEX (A second hand DVD and Games entertainment chain store in UK) I now have a whole shelf of PS3 and PS4 games that I have barely played, but still plan to get round to one day.

Currently under the TV are some recent purchases, Yakuza 0, Rage 2, The Division 2, Dragon Quest 11 and Final Fantasy 7 Remake. I’m currently playing Yakuza 0 and Elite Dangerous only.

Possibly the reason I never got round to Elite was that I read online that the game required a huge tutorial to get through before being able to play the game, and that there wasn’t really a storyline per say, like in Rebel Galaxy. These were detractors enough for me to put off starting to play the game, over other games that have come and gone over the years.

It wasn’t until I realised that a new Rebel Galaxy game was released (Rebel Galaxy Outlaw) on PS4 that I thought about getting that one, and then I remembered that I still had Elite to play first.

Starting up was a frustrating experience. After the tutorial level there were no real directions. Getting out of the first station was an exercise in frustration and landing again was a pain. To land in a station you have to request to dock, which means knowing how to navigate through the menus to get to the station name in Contacts, and then request. If you are more than 7.5km away, they will refuse. If you try to land with no approval then they’ll shoot you down.

After figuring out the hard way they tell you a pad number to land on, which requires searching for until you find it. Then you have to land on the pad. With landing gear down. In the right orientation. Within the time limit. As I discovered, if you don’t land within the time limit, they shoot you down.

After a number of attempts I managed the huge accomplishment of landing in a space station. To then realise I had not collected the cargo I needed from the original station to drop off at the new one. I had accepted the mission, but not picked up the cargo, which is a separate step. My sense of accomplishment was utterly dashed when I realised I could never complete this mission.

Another tribulation was the Frame Shift Drive (FSD). The distances in the game are vast. Measuring up to Light Years away. The default ship (SideWinder) comes equipped with a FSD so you can go travel to adjacent systems by selecting them in the Galaxy map, then use the FSD to travel between planets and varying speeds measured in km/s, to Mm/s then C. The fastest I ever got to was 1,100C. Switching between the different modes requires a checklist of closing Hardpoints, Landing gear, Scoops and also being far enough from a planet or station to not be ‘Land Locked’, All of which show up as errors when you try to engage FSD, but trying to work out how to solve each one requires knowing which key combination to press. Square opens/closes hard points, Circle + Down toggles landing gear, Circle + Up toggles the Scoop. And there is a light at the bottom right to tell you if you are too close to a station.

Each new step felt like a blockade with no straightforward directions to inform you what the solution to each step was. More than a few times I gave up in frustration to come back to it later on. Each of these steps felt like they should have been simple steps to accomplish (and they were, so long as you know what the key combination or step required is)

Over time I got into the process of doing the right steps to achieve the desired outcomes and finally, after maybe 10 hours of in-game play, I was able to take off and land, select missions that I had the slightest chance of being able to do, and upgrade my ship. Auto Landing module being one of the first purchases.

I’m probably about 40 hours in, and I’m doing various missions like cargo deliveries and killing pirates. I can navigate the menus to discover where I can buy items to complete missions and can outfit my ship with the correct modules to do things like landing rover missions or large cargo, or have the extra shield to protect against attacks when it will be needed. So I guess I’m more or less indoctrinated into the games core mechanics now. I still need to do things like work out how to do mining, as well as certain attack missions. And I haven’t sold anything on the black markets, so there’s still scope for new things to do. It has grown to be an enjoyable experience, befitting of playing an actual video game.

In many ways I’d liken this game to my career as a programmer. Recently I learned up Ionic + Vue development for cross platform development on Android and iOS. To start up is easy enough because you can just follow the basic tutorials from the Ionic website, but to start making reasonable apps it does require learning different features such as NPM, what files interact with it, the folders that get committed in to the repo and what shouldn’t be. But going back a few years I remember learning git to be a frustrating experience. Some files not showing up (thanks, .gitignore), branches, remotes. There are always tutorials for each of these individual components, but the moment you start using these things for your own project or as part of a team, I always felt a bit derp because the specific nuances required to solve the problem in real life were never quite specified in the tutorials or manuals. Even asking for help is difficult because trying to explain the problem requires knowledge of keywords or a way to adequately describe the situation that, if you could do so, would probably mean you could get to the solution by yourself in any case. In the end, it’s just a case of plodding through, searching for other people’s similar solutions, modifying them to your own case and then over time you build muscle memory for those kinds of problems in the future.

I’d say that for anyone learning programming, they’ll likely be facing a similar set of constant barriers, roadblocks and frustrations. However, it has been my experience that, like my time with Elite Dangerous, as you improve you do start to feel a sense of accomplishment and even start to enjoy the process. The added advantage of programming is that it is an extremely in-demand skill that pays well. Well enough for me to ‘retire by 35’

I realised that I actually mentioned 2 recommended apps yesterday, instead of 1 app and 1 youtube channel. Not sure how I managed to miss this mistake, but today I’ll do 2 youtube channels to even it out.

I currently maintain a spreadsheet of apps and youtube channel recommendations. These are entirely ones I already use or watch myself, I currently have about 20 of each that I just pick for each day, but I will run out pretty soon so part of this challenge I’ve set myself to showcase an app and youtube video will require finding new channels and apps to talk about. Truth be told I’m not sure how this is going to go, but because I’ve got so much time and I spend so much time on my phone and watching youtube, I figured it might be an interesting challenge. Lets just see how badly this goes…


Jim Sterling –

British Game Reviewer, Games News and General News covering the state of the Games Industry. Every week he has the ‘JimQuisition’ show where he lambasts current issues with the games industry. It’s entertaining in a dry-humour sort of way, which I love. Issues such as excessive overtime, poor company management, exploitative monetisation, poor gameplay and bugs are covered. As someone who once worked in a games company, some of the stories do ring true, and stories from friends who have worked in AAA companies do correlate. The games industry does appear to be very competitive and it’s definitely not for everyone.


Mentour Pilot –

A veteran pilot gives frequent blogs about his life as a pilot, explaining various different facts and stories about the aviation industry. To a regular flyer in commercial airlines, there is always a sense of mystique about the whole process of flying. As a passenger I am very familiar with the steps required, like packing my bags correctly (under the required weight), finding the right tickets, preparing for the trip and then doing check-in and navigating the airport. But there is so much behind the scenes that occasionally I get glimpses of, but never a full explanation. Such as where does the luggage go when I hand them over, what do all the strange looking vehicles do on the runway, what are the controls on the aeroplane, what’s it like to fly a plane. What is the lifestyle of a pilot like? What about other crew?

Also, when major aeroplane related news events occur, this channel often chimes in with a pilot’s opinion of what’s happened.

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