Late 2016, the Elite Dangerous community was left scratching its collective head: the galaxy was turning beige, and no-one seemed to know why.
Elite Dangerous forum user Obsidian Ant uploaded a number of videos showing how planets had changed after the release of patch 2.2. It appeared a vast number of worlds throughout the galaxy were drained of their colour, with greys, whites and greens replaced by variations on the colour brown.
Players came to call this phenomenon "the beigeification of the galaxy".
The Elite Dangerous community, as it often does, got together to investigate. In a forum post, user Mengy launched Elite Expedition: The Search for Colour, its mission: "to boldly go forth into space and find colour in the galaxy again!"
Mengy turned this expedition into a bit of a role-playing exercise:
Recently the galaxy has been plagued by an unidentified phenomenon which has stolen the colour away from landable planet surfaces, leaving them completely beige!
Both high metal content (HMC) and metal rich (MR) worlds seem to be infected the most, while rocky worlds, rocky ice worlds and ice worlds appear to have not contracted the phenomenon (yet!).
Entire landable planets which were once interesting looking and colourful are now totally beige and boring in appearance. Explorers working for Stellar Cartography have sunken into a severe state of depression, which is quickly becoming as rampant as the unidentified phenomenon itself!
In light of this, the mission I am undertaking is to survey countless worlds, noting their planetary information as well as taking pictures of both their detail scan surface maps and from high orbit.
And so Mengy set off into deep space to survey as many worlds as possible in a bid to compare their appearances and colours.
A week or so later, Obsidian Ant returned with what looked like irrefutable proof of the beigeification of the galaxy, and called on Frontier to explain what had happened.
It turned out it wasn't just colour that had drained out of planets, but geometry, too. Obsidian Ant found evidence to suggest geology on metal worlds had been stripped away, possibly the result of a change in geometry. In short, planets looked a lot less interesting, for some reason.
Yesterday, the Cambridge developer offered an explanation, and it turns out it's all about science.
Executive producer Michael Brookes took to the Elite forum to say the colour change was an unintentional side effect of an attempt by the developers to make planets more realistic.
Here's the post:
The reason for the difference being observed on the rocky worlds is the change to the new material system - in theory this is more accurate as it uses the chemical properties to determine the colour (obviously I'm simplifying a bit here!), however the problem is that those colours were based on Earth standard colouration for those materials, and most of those are beige/brown rather than the colours you might observe in the myriad of other possible conditions.
Brookes added that Frontier is looking into making the material system more flexible, which would in theory return colour to the galaxy, but it doesn't sound like such a change will arrive any time soon.
We're currently working on a more flexible material system, and this will necessitate a fresh balance pass on these. That's not going to be in 2.3 though.
Until then, the beigeification of the Elite Dangerous galaxy continues.