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Spaced out

Earlier, whilst playing Elite: Dangerous, I got to enjoy one of the most surreal gaming experiences I’ve ever had, courtesy of a Red Cross chugger knocking the door in the early stages of an epic 28 jump journey.

When I got back to the controls, I activated the frame shift drive countdown to jump to the next system on the route and just as it engaged I looked at the fuel gauge in horror. I was supposed to stop in the current system to refuel and just had gone one more jump than I meant to.

As soon as I completed the jump I dropped out of super cruise and scanned the system. Yep, it was an empty, unpopulated system and I was kind of boned.

Checking the galaxy map, although I had enough fuel to jump to a couple of neighbouring systems I was so far off the beaten path I had no data for them, so it was pointlessly risky to do so.

Bringing my ship to a stop I jumped to the PC to search and see if there was anything I could do. I had switched out a refinery for a passenger cabin earlier in the week and I had no fuel scoop, so I ignored suggestions along those lines.

Then I saw someone suggesting pilots in this situation could contact “The Fuel Rats.”

Intrigued I checked out the website and, at first glance, it seemed preposterous that there would be a network of pilots rescuing unfortunate commanders in the same predicament. However, my disbelief faded as I was efficiently talked through the rescue preparation on a chat channel. It seemed even more unlikely that I could be rescued on PS4 (I didn’t think this would work outside of the PC gaming community), yet I was instructed to shut down everything but life support, send a friend request to a name I was given, and sit tight.

Within ten minutes another ship appeared in front of me as I hung motionless above a frozen planet. My rescuer, Commander Stinja, talked me through the process and helped find a station about 21 light years away that I could reach with the fuel he’d given me. I thanked him for his time and patience and he waited with me until I made the first of 5 jumps to salvation.

When I eventually put my ship on the pad at the remote outpost I felt an amazingly tangible sense of relief that I had made it. Hours later I still can’t believe that The Fuel Rats are a thing. An actual real thing in a pretend universe that somehow added more immersion and realism to the game-play experience than I thought possible.

Elite: Dangerous is so cool – it’s essentially the version of Elite I’ve waited for since I was a kid but, as with many modern games, it’s the online community that makes it even cooler than I could have hoped for. 🙂

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