Once something becomes a memory, very little distinguishes game memories from real memories […]
Into the Black with CMDR Dr. Kaii
In 3302, the Elite: Dangerous community undertook its first major expedition—Distant Worlds. Together with the help of a great many volunteers, CMDR Erimus and CMDR Dr. Kaii were able to synchronize over a thousand ships and launch a voyage that would change the game’s community forever.
Now, in 3305, a follow-up called Distant Worlds II is being planned. Set to launch on the 13th of January, this expedition boasts over 5,000 sign-ups and requires far greater fleet logistics than its predecessor. The 20 week outbound trip to Beagle Point will take thousands of commanders 65,000ly away from Sol in hopes of, among other things, constructing a Starport in Sagittarius A*. With the sheer number of commanders and Frontier’s official support, there’s no reason to believe that DW2 won’t be the game’s most memorable journey to date.
Of course, the grand-scale of the DW2 team’s plans is garnering the attention of various media outlets, including ours, which is why we’re excited to bring you Vox Groovy’s exclusive interview with CMDR Dr. Kaii, who is in charge of PR as well as being a project leader. If you, too, are interested in uncovering the mysteries of the universe, why not sign up and make the trip to Sag A* yourself? But hey, if you’re still not convinced, stay tuned for the interview. CMDR Dr. Kaii’s vision may just be enough to change your mind!
Could you please introduce yourself and tell us a bit about the person behind the project?
I would start by saying that the “the” article there is misplaced. I am a person behind the project, along with Erimus. And this time around our organization team has put in just as much effort as us if not more, so it’s getting harder to hold on to any kind of title like that hehe. I am not sure what you would like to know so I will give a general singles ad type response.
I am 33, born and bred in the UK, initially London but attended uni and eventually moved to Manchester with my wife 5 years ago. I have a great interest in Physics and studied it for a while – I generally like big, deep ideas and physics is full of them. Gaming and virtual reality are big hobbies of mine and it seems I have a tendency to try and organize big things in the games I play, like Distant Worlds. I have a 4 month old son and love him to bits. I currently work in IT but hate it and am switching to full-time programming in March, but I am the type of person who would really ideally like to invent or create something and pay my bills that way, so one day I hope to make a game or something similar.
Elon Musk, if you are reading this, please be in touch. I have a great game idea that I think you’ll love and be happy to invest in haha. Personality-wise, I am extroverted, open, generally non-serious when I don’t have to be, extremely positive and optimistic, happy-go-lucky and adventurous. Also, feeling a bit weird talking about myself so much so I hope that’s enough!
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First things first, how did you get into Elite Dangerous and when exactly did it all “click” for you? When I first looked it up, I saw a myriad of reviewers saying things like, “the game is very hostile to new players […]” And it may well be, but you and the other DW2 organizers went the extra mile and then some! So, I guess I just want to know how it all happened.
It was clearly worth the effort since what I’m seeing now is one of the most positive communities I’ve come across thus far.
That’s an awesome question. Actually, I remember reading about Elite Dangerous a few times in PC Gamer. I remember thinking, “Oh no, if I buy that, I will need lots of time to get into it and I just don’t have that.” So I kind of ignored the articles with cognitive dissonance as it were. Then at some point two things happened: first I read somewhere that it had a 1:1 scale representation of the Milky Way with 400 billion star systems, which really tickled my fancy, and second, my wife had some extra money and said she wanted to get me a game the same week. So I thought, “Why not, it’s in VR and I don’t really have any good VR games for my DK2, let’s get it.” And that’s how I got into Elite.
I never found it hostile at all. I found it quite hard to figure out initially but after watching the tutorials and spending lots of time in it, I got up to being interested in and then buying an Asp, and heading out on my first expedition. I was also making YouTube tutorial videos. Getting involved heavily in the forums. The whole thing became quite big for me quite quickly. I guess I was right, it has taken an unholy amount of hours out of my life, but it has really been one of the best things to happen to me.
For the uninitiated, could you please walk us through the planning process for expeditions like DW2 and tell us a little bit about the ins and outs of it?
Well, DW2’s planning has been a big team effort. When Beyond was announced, Erimus and I figured it sounded good enough to base an expedition around (oh boy it turned out to be way better than we even thought then) so we announced it, over a year ago. Then things slowly started picking up pace. What needs to be sorted for something this big first and foremost is a good team. So Erimus started recruiting a lot of volunteers from the get-go and they’ve been chatting about ideas for the better part of a year. The next big thing was to open the roster and design some roles people can sign up for, to give the expedition structure. That was taken care of last March, the earlier the better as we are now approaching 6,700 CMDRs.
For the past 3-4 months we’ve been holding regular meetings, discussing our departments, what needs to be done and basically planning. Things like when and how to announce, the CG, talking with Frontier about their involvement, how things will proceed, what the departments will do and how they will connect, what to do about discoveries, how to do the waypoints, how to make things accessible to all. Making the Discord channels so people can chat, working out how squadrons will work, doing things like memorabilia for those that want it. It goes on and on. It’s hundreds of hours of work and everyone has put in a gargantuan effort but the goal is that things should just be able to proceed by themselves.
We can point in a direction and tell everyone to go, and they will know what to do and we will have just the fun of being with everyone, organizing the things that happen, writing the newsletters, attending and live-streaming the meetings. To be honest, just thinking about the sheer amount of work that has gone into it and how big and important it all is (6,700 people!) is a bit daunting!
The expedition has Frontier’s official support this time around, any idea on how that might pan out?
Yes, well, even DW1 had their official support, but it took more convincing back then. This time around they’ve been involved from the get-go. I can’t really discuss everything or go into detail, but one big thing they are doing is the CGs. We have two CGs with the goal of building a station in the galactic core region, very close to Sag A*. This is amazing, a huge privilege that we are extremely grateful for – adding new stations, especially one in such an awesome location (it’s the furthest from the bubble so far!) is something very rare indeed. They are also doing a lot of coverage, with live-streams and whatnot…
Speaking of DW1, how did the community change after you guys organized the first major expedition? I’m guessing it spurred everyone on to try and make lots of smaller voyages.
Exactly that. We weren’t the first expedition, that credit can be given to Corbin Moran’s First Galactic Expedition which made the press and of course inspired Distant Worlds. Distant Worlds however was a lot bigger, and I would say more successful (the game was in a better state for it too), and made a big mood shift in the exploration community. Lots of expeditions have arisen, with very creative styles (the Small Ships Expedition for example), and lots of community efforts.
A lot of friendships were made in Distant Worlds, a lot of committed gamers came out of it, with things they learned from Distant Worlds, like how to play together, how to squeeze as much fun and enjoyment and wonder out of the game, and lots of new ideas too. I would also say the wider Elite community got more respect for explorers, many of them deciding to dabble in exploration themselves as a result.
This is just the tip of the ice berg on how big an impact Distant Worlds had, to this day something I am immensely blown away by and proud of.
I’m curious about some of the categories the DW2 team came up with for those involved. I saw that there’s even artists, cartographers (?), tour guides, etc. But most of all, I was very interested when I read about the Distant Worlds Radio.
Vox Groovy actually has a radio of its own so I’m super curious about how your guys’ radio works and what we can expect from it.
Well, it’s quite simple, they will be podcasting a radio service 24/7, a bit like the other Elite Dangerous radios (Radio Sidewinder). They will be playing great exploration music, doing parody and real adverts, doing interviews with lots of big stars like Obsidian Ant, the organizers, hopefully some FDev staff. The theme is them broadcasting from a ship in the fleet!
As for the roles, the goal is to give plenty to do. We have 6,700 players so far, so 6,700 different playstyles! We need to make sure that nobody can say that, “this is boring.” That may be impossible, but so long as we have enough things to do, and a structure for doing them, whether it be photography, giving tours to people still in the bubble, helping with the galactic mapping project (hence the cartographers), doing science, or just plain old exploring for new awesome things to make you famous, we hope we’ve got it covered.
what language you speak. The team at Vox Groovy will make it so that everyone can hear your interview on the radio.
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So, let’s say one of our readers wants to join in on the expedition, how would they go about it, and what could they expect to gain by taking part?
Well, they need the game. That’s a good start. Then they really should sign up, which can be done via a Google form supplied on the Roster thread and perhaps pick a few roles that sound interesting. Then they should join the discord and follow me on Twitter so they can stay up to date with what’s going on and get involved in the conversation. Then all they need to do is show up to as many waypoints as possible and try and make it all the way to Beagle Point by May!
We set out from a system called Pallaeni next Sunday (the 13th of January)! What to expect by taking part? I can’t tell you. Everyone has their own experience. I can tell you this though: Elite Dangerous, being such an awesome project (the Milky frigging Way man), has a massively passionate fanbase, and as a result garners a LOT of negativity. Frontier can’t sneeze without someone writing a bile-filled angry post about it somewhere. Everyone is very invested in the game and take it as part of themselves and thus can be very opinionated about it. Why do I mention this?
To contrast. Distant Worlds nay had a negative thing said about it. Not once that I saw. Every article, every forum thread, every word typed about it anywhere on the Internet seems to be something along the lines of, “Oh wow, that sounds so cool!” Or even “This was the best thing I ever did in a video game, period.” Distant Worlds is going to be 4 months of your life that will really make a great impact, this is all but guaranteed. It will challenge you, it will startle you, you will make new friends for life.
You will see things you will never forget. You will have unfathomable fun that will stay burned in your memory forever. And please bear in mind, once something becomes a memory, very little distinguishes game memories from real memories. They feel the same. So you will be telling your grandkids how you crossed the galaxy with thousands of other brave pilots, you saw aliens, you nearly exploded, but you made it to the other side and partied like you were in the event horizon of a black hole, until the end of time.
What’s next for DW2’s team and what do you all expect to see in the game’s future?
Well, to be honest, thinking about what’s AFTER DW2 is something I am not doing right now, although I know the answer. The reason I am not thinking about it is because this kind of thing really burns you out. It took me like 2 years before I could even think about doing DW2 after the first one! Not only that, Distant Worlds by definition breaks new ground so we have to really wait for another big reason to head out.
This time, it was the Codex, what will spur on the next foray into the black? We can’t know. Perhaps space legs, perhaps Earth-like world landings with life to discover. Who knows? A new galaxy unlocked by the developers? Distant Galaxies could be next. David Braben and Michael Brookes have given us an awesome roadmap for Elite, with ideas many years down the line that I cannot wait for. When space legs and procedural life are added to the game, I might just check out of reality altogether and live with an IV in my VR headset, exploring the stars, and maybe still organizing big expeditions.
By Vox Groovy staff writer;
All images used with permission by the artist.
© Frontier Developments
© CMDR Dr. Kaii or respective copyright holders.
Article in Slovak language;