Elite Dangerous: A Burro muses on crime and punishment (aka “Won’t somebody think of the children?!”)

When I was a student I lived on a borderland street in Cheetham Hill in Manchester. For those of you who don’t know Cheetham Hill simply think of Coronation Street but real and more violent. For those of you who don’t know Coronation Street then imagine Cheetham Hill to be the place the Fresh Prince was sent away from rather than away to. Then add rain. And grim Northern poverty. And drugs. I’ll wait while you stitch it all together. Here’s some music while we wait…

So, there I was, 21 and living on my own for the first time and in Cheetham Hill, a place where all of the following happened in my two years there:

  • The road behind me had a huge police drugs bust with more cops than you’d see at a football match swarming all over an entire row of houses.
  • The local hard man had his freshly macheted attack-dog’s presented to him on the pool table of the local where I’d taken my parents for a drink after I moved in. This resulted in many beatings and stabbings. The dog’s head, not my mum & dad having a drink there.
  • A house across from me was burgled and had everything including the cooper water pipes and water heating tank stolen, seemingly to order.
  • A sweet old lady down the road baked me a hash cake without telling me it was a hash cake and I spent a large part of a weekend off my tits.
  • I took a fancy to a young lady of the neighbourhood and when I got back to her house I found the entire bathroom, bar the sink and toilet bowl, covered in rat cages with many a squeaking vermin beadily looking out at me. It smelt very, very bad.
  • A long running neighbourly internecine war flared up again resulting in the house two doors away being repeated rammed by a transit van until the said van died and the driver staggered off.
  • A young lady of the neighbourhood (she of the rats) decided to tell me at what I considered to be a rather inopportune moment that her brother was currently serving a lengthy prison sentence for deliberately burning someone’s face off with acid.
  • I tried to get the whole house to visit a pub a few streets away in order to get drunk and watch what I shall call here ‘exotic dancers’. Unsurprisingly enough no one wanted to go which turned out to be a rather good thing as two people were shot dead at the pub that night.
  • Another pub we were in was surrounded by a local youth/drug gang who had been banned by the landlord and the whole thing became like a rain-sodden recreation of “Straw dogs” until the police arrived to save us.

And yet, despite all this violence and misery, only three streets away was a sweet little park, more like a communal garden really, that remained untouched by vandals and drunks. It was in the middle of an oasis of houses owned by a tight-knit orthodox Jewish community and the transition from unkempt, often boarded up houses in some streets to mirror images of the same houses but loved and treasured the crossing of a street was profoundly moving for the 21 year old me. I’d come from surburbia where everything was more or less nice for miles around, and to find places where the delineation between lawful and lawless ways of life was so clearly marked that crossing from one street to another seemed like moving from one country to another was one of the most shocking things I’d come across*.

What, dear Burro face, has this got to do with Elite Dangerous? It had better have some connection otherwise I shall read no further and instead email you a slap! (I assume this is what you are thinking at this point as opposed to “I wonder what old Burro is wearing?”. Weirdos.**). Well let me tell you…

Frontier Development’s new Powerplay update (1.3 if you are counting) is going to bring in some serious changes to how miscreants are punished and to say I’ve been struggling to understand how is to say that I was missing the point of banning public nudity***. But then Lave Radio #61 came to my rescue! At about 20mins in (give or give a couple of minutes) they start discussing it and it all becomes clear and it now seems like genius to me! So here’s what I think will happen, although the final details have not been released and of course can change after release based on player feedback/goat bombardment.

  • You do something naughty and receive a fine – you will have 7 days to pay that fine off. Pay it off and all is well with your world. Don’t pay it off and…
  • The fine becomes a bounty and you can not pay that off for 7 days (a counter that resets to 7 days with each bounty).
  • In these 7 days you are fair-game for bounty hunters so you may well want to keep your head down.
  • After these 7 days you can pay off the bounty and you’ll no longer be wanted BUUUUT…
  • The paid bounties are the added to the re-buy cost of your ship in the system you accrued them in therefore making any death in that system more expensive than somewhere else.

The sum total of this is:

  1. If you are law abiding but get a small fine, pay it off and all will be well.
  2. If you are RPing a pirate, using hatch poppers and letting both NPCs and players live, you will accrue fines and bounties but this will be on a (hopefully) manageable risk-reward basis and gently move you out to less risky systems such as anarchies, which is where pirates should be operating because the risk of punishment, and therefore the cost of re-buying your ship in that lawless system will be less.
  3. If you are saying you are a pirate but really you’re a dickhead just shooting NPCs and players because you have poor social skills, low empathy for others and are too lazy to play in any other way than negatively then you’ll soon find that racking up huge bounties across many systems will mean you simply can’t afford to re-buy your ship and you’ll be back in the starter Sidewinder. Hopefully you will then modify your playstyle to consider the feelings of others or, and this is my preferred option for you, fuck off out of the game forever.

All of this, plus the inevitable tweaks and expansions (possibly to include bounties that stretch across the whole of human space rather than local systems) should mean that the ridiculous spectacle of a few players driving off a capital ship in Earth orbit never happens again because the core systems should be the equivalent of that wee park in Cheetham Hill, peaceful and safe, whereas the frontier systems should be like the road I lived on, exciting and dangerous.

You see, I don’t want to get rid of the player groups currently roaming the game making a name for themselves by alternating between generating gameplay opportunities and just out-and-out griefing people. No, I actually now see these as being central to the Elite Dangerous game as they do drive forward interesting storylines and system-wide changes, but I do not want to see them running things in system where a huge, powerful, organised security force would be in place to stop them. They should be ‘driven’ back to the fringes of society, the strip clubs and boozers where shootings and severed dog heads are the norm, and there they should be the ultimate powers. Until a power-mad, expansionist head of a Faction decides otherwise of course…

Cmdr Gearwright out.
************************

* I’m older and wiser now and have visited Darwen so such things no longer hold any shock for me.

** This, of course!

*** Yes you can pretend it’s to maintain public decency but really it’s to avoid fielding awkward questions from your kids, you can’t fool me!

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