After more than two years of exploration, the pilots of Elite: Dangerous made a chilling discovery: There are aliens out there and we may be powerless against them.
Elite: Dangerous is the latest game in a line of space-combat flight simulators that stretch back to practically the dawn of gaming itself. The Elite series, which began with the original Elite published in 1984, gives players the freedom to chart huge galaxies as a trader, mercenary, pirate or explorer while piloting their custom spacecraft.
Most of this is done in first-person view as you stare out the cockpit window of your starfighter or freighter. Nowadays, you can even play Elite: Dangerous in VR using the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. Just imagine being in virtual reality and seeing this:
Elite: Dangerous aliens grab and render powerless a human spacecraft
In the two years since Elite: Dangerous was released in December 2014 and humans began exploring the galaxy, the only other form of sentient life they met were other players. That changed forever when a pilot named DP Sayre went through what must have been a horrifying experience.
In Elite: Dangerous, pilots use hyperspace conduits to travel faster than light and navigate the tremendous distances between stars. Sayre's spacecraft lost power when it was yanked out of a hyperspace conduit, which is scary in and of itself when staring into the vastness of space through which you're helplessly floating.
But things got so much worse when the aliens showed up.
YouTuber MrSenseofReason has published a compilation of video clips shared by Elite: Dangerous Xbox One player DP Sayre. In the video, DP Sayre's ship exits hyperspace unexpectedly before the alien spacecraft responsible floats into view.
The aliens scan DP Sayre's ship and render it powerless. DP Sayre regains power in time to give chase, but the alien ship outruns him by what appears to be its own hyperspace jump.
While DP Sayre's close encounter was peaceful, if a video uploaded by YouTuber DaveTE15 is any indication, it is possible for Elite: Dangerous pilots to target and engage the aliens that have already been dubbed "Thargoids."
Elite: Dangerous aliens first encounter: Why it's a big deal
This Thargoid sighting is a big deal for the veteran players of Elite: Dangerous who may have spent hundreds of hours in the void of space, making money, fighting and just plain socializing with friends. Cooperative efforts in the game can form real social bonds, with wingmates jawing over the radio just for the hell of it.
It's precisely that kind of alternate reality vibe that makes Elite: Dangerous so wildly appropriate for virtual reality. And when that reality is interrupted by a giant alien starfish who renders your ship dead in space, it can be terrifying. The world of Elite: Dangerous is so enthralling, even the BBC is reporting this extraterrestrial encounter.
"For people who don't play Elite," writes Redditor Ludwig_Van_gogh, "being pulled out of 'hyperspace' like this has literally never happened. I've been playing since beta and let me tell you, this would be a truly pants-filling experience in game."
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