Canon in the Game
Canon in the Lore
IF we turn from the game to the lore, we find instead a sustained argument.
There have been at least three major schools of thought:
- The first school, the syncretists, seek to link in Classic Elite/Oolite with the Frontier family (which includes Elite Dangerous). It includes those working to incorporate elements of Frontier in Oolite either in the game itself (though writing OXPs) or in literature or writing background material - most notably Selezen and Drew Wagar. See Oolite timeline and GalCop for examples of this approach.
- Realistically, if you came into Oolite from having enjoyed Frontier or E:D then this approach may well exert an attraction.
- The second school, the purists, regards the entire exercise as a waste of effort! But they also wish to come up with an argument as to how things in Oolite evolved into what one finds in their Ooniverse. The main purist proponent is Cim, who created an entire history in his Ship's Manual.
- If you stumbled across Oolite before the later members of the Elite family of games but prefer a background with historical explanations, this approach may be your preference.
- The third school, the pragmatists, just want to enjoy the game without getting bogged down in endless detail or a need to force-fit this or that into a rigid history. See Disembodied's quote here. The Anglo-Saxon world, in particular, has often preferred a more pragmatic approach to understanding their Ooniverse!
Some of the keener exponents of the first school have since migrated to Elite Dangerous, whilst those of the second and third schools seem to have gotten lost in inter-galactic space.
Table of Contrasts between Elite/Oolite and FE2/FFE/ED
|Feature||Classic Elite||Oolite Vanilla game||Frontier/Elite 2||First Encounters/FFE||Elite: Dangerous|
|Number of "Universes"||8||8||1||1||1|
|Existence of GalCop||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Existence of Federation & Empire||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Non-human races: felines/lobstoids etc||Yes||Yes||No||No||No|
|Planet Earth on map?||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
For the Syncretists, there is a need to reconcile the gap between the two families of the games: how did the 8 "universes" disappear in the time gap between Elite/Oolite and Frontier? Where did the species go? How do Frontier's nascent Federation and Empire relate to GalCop (The Federation and the Empire are not mentioned in Elite/Oolite, and GalCop is not mentioned in Frontier)?
For the Purists, the need is rather to make sense of how there can be 8 "universes" and how the various species all fit together (were humans always there or did they arrive later?).
Elite's Core Lore
One Purist problem relates to how much material one has to work with. What is the core Lore?
- As regards Classic Elite, we have what we see in the game (see table above). There is also the material in the rest of the boxed game.
- Instruction Manual mostly written by Robert Holdstock.
- The Dark Wheel the novelette written by Robert Holdstock.
- Andy Redman's Imprint (part of the PC Elite Plus Elite game version of 1991) is also a significant source of lore.
- The Elite Player's Guide was written by Bell & Braben, but did not make it into the original boxed game.
- But Cody & Smivs, for example, do not see the Dark Wheel as canonical ("there are too many things that Holdstock got wrong" - see The Dark Wheel controversy section).
- The purist school is thus split between ultra-minimalist purists who pretty much reject everything apart from the games themselves (ie, the code!) and the moderate purists who accept the Manual and The Dark Wheel etc.
- User2357 on the other hand sees - not only the Dark Wheel & Imprint but - Dylan Smith's The Virtuous Misfortune as an essential part of the core lore (DS is this wikipedia's host).
- For an example of ultra-minimalist lore derived from the game code, see Her Imperial Majesty's Space Navy.
- In conclusion, our ultra-minimalists will accept Her Imperial Majesty's Space Navy, our moderates will add in Raxxla and our syncretists will be looking to further add in the nascent Federation and Empire from Frontier. Our pragmatists ... !
The relationship between ultra-minimalist purists and pragmatists is probably rather fuzzy!
Oolite's Core Lore
So what is core lore in Oolite?
- As regards Oolite there is the official Oolite anthology with a mix of short stories from adherents of both schools: Alien Items.
- Then there are Drew Wagar's well known novels and also Clym Angus's Chronicles of Shulth which are both syncretistic - but in very different ways - regarding Frontier. Drew combines early elements of Frontier into his descriptions of the Ooniverse. Clym portrays a Borgesian multiverse ("The Garden of Forking Paths": 1941) where the Ooniverse (similarly depicted to Drew's above) is purposely transmogrified into a lobstoid-free single EDverse by a mad scientist.
- Cody's novels are very different, as expected (no nascent Empire & Federation etc).
- Thus, while the official anthology may be called so, it is too confusing from a purist perspective to retain any canonicity.
- There are also a bevy of OXPs: The Tionisla Orbital Graveyard collection and the Tionisla Chronicle Array, the old Lave OXP and the newer Lave Academy OXP. There is also the Deep Space Dredger and the Generation Ships OXP. And then, various Empire elements have been added as OXPs - Selezen created Imperial Courier & Eagle Mk II ships for Oolite, and the mix has been further added to.
- But the very nature of OXPs is that they are optional. You decide what to include, and what to exclude, and what to experiment with. They cannot be core lore by their very nature.
Some thoughts about Frontier/FE2
- Dylan Smith wrote in his page on the Frontier game that "Many rumours abounded following the release of the game that Frontier was never intended to be a sequel to Elite, and was simply written as a new space simulation. The rumour states that someone suggested tacking the Elite ships onto the game, and the decision was eventually made to include the popular elements from Elite into the game, including Lave and the surrounding systems and the ships from the older game. This, although never confirmed to this author's knowledge, does explain why there are very few other elements of Elite present in the game other than the most well known systems and the ships".
- It should be mentioned that both Drew & Selezen now (in 2021) also see a lore-based disjunct between Elite Dangerous and its predecessors. Whilst in the early days they were trying to harmonise the lore in ED with the earlier variants (and inter-alia were campaigning for the Orbital Graveyard to be installed in ED's Tionisla), with ED game changes driving ED further away from its earlier versions, they have since thrown in the towel. See The calamitous consequences of corporate states for more on this.
We are all different. Some of us want Lore and explanation - we find it gives colour to our game. Others of us just want to get on with playing and not get bogged down in insignificant details. In Oolite, you decide what goes into your Ooniverse - and you decide how you wish to make sense of it. Enjoy!
The Lore (accumulated knowledge or beliefs held by a group about a subject) can be defined by the Canon. Thus arguments about Lore often end up as arguments about the Canon.
- 2014 Discussion of is there a canon?
- What is regarded as canonical in Oolite history?: 2012 Discussion
- "Not in the manual" - setting and canon in the eight charts: 2015 Discussion led by the 3rd Lead Developer, Cim
- Metafiction: Dialogues on the Lore of Xlite: 2020 discussion.
- Background story of the Elite universe - musings of a Frontier devotee back in 2006
- The Problem of the missing Earth for Selezen's syncretist solution (2010)