Elite: Dangerous

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Elite: Dangerous
Elite Dangerous artwork.jpg
Artwork for Elite: Dangerous
Developer(s) Frontier Developments
Designer(s) David Braben
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, OS X
Release date(s)
  • WW 2014 (2014)
Genre(s) Space trading and combat
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer

Elite: Dangerous is a forthcoming space trading and combat simulator that represents the fourth installment in the Elite video game series. Having been unable to agree to a funding deal with a publisher for many years,[1] the developers crowdfunded the project through a Kickstarter campaign. The Windows version is due to be released at the end of 2014, with a Mac OS version three months later. On the 10th October 2013, it was announced that the game will officially support the Oculus Rift VR headset.[2]

Gameplay[edit]

Elite: Dangerous retains the basic premise of previous games - players start with a spaceship and a small amount of money and make their own way in an open galaxy. Players will choose how much they interact with others,[3] from completely offline play to something approaching an MMO.[4][5] The extensively procedurally generated universe is expected to be vast both in scope and detail, perhaps allowing players to fly down into a unique cloudscape for every planet of every size in a universe containing hundreds of billions stars.[6][7] Unlike previous games in the series, procedural generation of economic and political aspects of the universe will be based largely on player input, so for example a concerted campaign by players against a star system could destabilise the local government, turning it from a stable system into an anarchic one.[8]

Many elements of previous games will be retained, with the most playable parts taken from each.[9] For example, space flight will be more like the original Elite,[10][11] whereas players will be able to buy and customise ships like in the Frontier games.[12][13] The creators have often noted how the previous games lend themselves naturally to modern online gaming - for example, destroying an innocent ship has always led to a criminal record and to police attention in systems rich enough to afford law enforcement, which would provide a powerful anti-griefing mechanism in a multiplayer game.[14]

Twenty-five ships will be available at launch, including the Eagle Mk II Fighter, Sidewinder, Cobra Mk III and Anaconda.[15][16] Despite showing significant design work for the Viper Mk II and concept art for the Krait, it has not been officially confirmed whether these will be part of the initial twenty-five.[17][18]

Player roles[edit]

Instead of being asked to pick a character class at the start of the game, players will gradually optimise their ship to serve a role they enjoy.[19] Roles are purely descriptive - to switch roles or create a hybrid role, a player need only replace their ship with one optimised for a different role.

The main roles envisaged by the developers are "trader", "explorer", "bounty hunter" and "pirate", but players will be encouraged to create hybrid roles.[20][21] For example, a player might explore systems at the frontier of known space, find mineral-rich planets or asteroids, then mine the raw materials and trade them.[22] Players might not even think in terms of roles - for example, a player might see themselves as a fearsome warrior, but happen across a stranded ship and acquire its goods by bartering for fuel instead of destroying it.

Setting[edit]

Elite: Dangerous will be set around 50 years after the events of Frontier: First Encounters, and it's been implied the Thargoids will at some point threaten humanity again after apparently making peace at the end of that game.[23][24][25] The settled regions of the galaxy will still be run by the Federation, Empire and independent worlds, although the developers have expressed a desire to do more with exploration than the previous games.[26][27]

Some little story vignettes will be scattered around the galaxy by the development team, but the overarching storyline will be controlled by the players.[28] Systems that become rich from trade will grow, systems that become powerful from mercenaries will annex their neighbours, and systems with significant unrest will experience assassinations and piracy.[29] This aspect of Elite: Dangerous can be seen as a massively multiplayer online simulation game.

Funding[edit]

The project, referred to as Elite 4, languished for over a decade, which designer David Braben has said is due to the traditional publishing model.[1] Publishers are required to manage business risks in an evidence-based way, which makes it hard to fund a game that can't be modelled on a sufficiently similar game in the near past. The recent emergence of crowdfunding has provided a more hospitable channel, as individuals are more willing to gamble a small sum of their own money on a compelling vision and more motivated by intangible rewards like having their name immortalised in a game's NPC database.

Funding for the initial development was organised through a Kickstarter campaign, which aimed to raise £1.25m and deliver a game in 18 months.[30] The Kickstarter campaign raised over £1.5m. Existing and new backers were able to continue funding via a dedicated website,[31] that finally closed on the 9th December 2013.[32] At the time the "Elite: Dangerous Backers" website closed, crowd-raised funds stood at £2,148,592 with the total number of individual backers approaching 41,000.[33][34][35] Ongoing costs are planned to be funded by charging for future expansions and selling in-game credits for real-world money.[36] For example, one of the first expansions is likely to extend the game to planetary surfaces - landing at starports, flying past scenery, and possibly even hunting big game from your ship.[37]

While crowdfunding has given Elite: Dangerous new freedoms, it has created new problems and required the developers to solve old problems in new ways. For example, free updates have been promised to backers at about half the value they would demand at retail[38] and the questions that would traditionally come from investors are now fielded in busy public forums.[39]

Funders are also a partner in solidifying the design of a game throughout the development process,[40] but the developers felt a traditional publisher would just steer them to make a game with cut-scenes that would appeal to an imagined audience.[1] Instead they decided to open a design discussion forum to higher-level backers, hoping to also gain a focus group that better represents ordinary fans.[40]

Details are gradually emerging about how the design discussion forum will work. Forum membership isn't likely to require a non-disclosure agreement, but members will be expected to act responsibly both with information to be kept confidential and decisions to be evangelised.[41][42][43] The forum will be used for discussion (e.g. rankings for players with less combat-oriented play[44]), for gauging priorities (e.g. content in the "planetary surfaces" expansion[45]), and for shaping the game's history (e.g. the galaxy's response to outbreaks of piracy[46]). But the final decision will always rest with the developers.[47]

Possible expansions[edit]

David Braben has indicated a desire to expand the game gradually instead of producing sequels, as this is a better model for a crowdfunded project.[48] Expansions that have been discussed include:

Surface Planetary Landings[37][49]
This frequently-requested expansion is in the developers' plan, once they have the content to do it well - for example, producing believable tree cover on planets with different atmospheres and gravities.
Leaving The Cockpit[37]
Ship designs include details such as interior modelling and cargo unloading, to provide content for an expansion that will let players walk out on to planets, around space stations, and into people's ships.
More types of ships[50][51][52]
Frontier Developments plan to release more ships after the initial launch, including ships optimised for specific roles and possibly ships like the Lynx Bulk Carrier that were not flyable in previous games.
Localisation[53][54]
Frontier Developments tend to localise their games, and expect to localise into English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Brazilian Portuguese at or soon after the time of the initial release.
Other platforms[55][56]
The developers have repeatedly expressed interest in supporting other platforms if funding allows - as a co-founder of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, David Braben has a track record of interest in alternative hardware and software platforms.
Web API[57][58]
Although not planned, the developers have expressed approval when asked about making information from the game accessible online so long as it doesn't encourage cheating.
Modding[59]
The developers have expressed interest in allowing 3rd party add-ons, but the tools would be too expensive to create in the initial release.
Further levels of play[60][61]
Although there are no current plans, developers have responded positively when asked about some day including expansions such as player-owned space stations or multiple players operating a single ship.

Earlier development[edit]

Elite 4 was to be the third sequel to 1984's Elite, a game that David Braben and his former associate, Ian Bell, wrote for the BBC Micro computer, and ported to most other platforms of the day. The first two sequels, Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters, were released in the 1990s, the second of which led to an acrimonious falling out of Braben and Bell over use of copyright and royalties.[62] David Braben had stated production of Elite 4 was ready to begin after the release of The Outsider. During a lecture in June, 2009, Braben confirmed that Elite 4 would be available on multiple console platforms, as well as on PC.[63]

In November 2006, GameSpot conducted an interview with Braben, where the subject of Elite 4 arose. Braben revealed that Elite 4 began and ceased development as an MMORPG in 2000, abandoned due to the immaturity of technology for online play. When asked if the game would ever be released, Braben responded "We will do Elite 4 after Outsider, so it will benefit from everything we've done in Outsider."[64] Braben repeated this claim in a Game Theory Show podcast in August 2007.[65]

During an interview with Computer and Video Games in September 2007, Braben revealed that Frontier Developments was working on new technologies required to deliver the game, and had been for two years.[66] At the Gamecity International Interactive Entertainment Festival 2007 event in Nottingham UK, it was revealed that Braben and Frontier Developments were aiming to have Elite 4 released for the current generation of gaming consoles and PC.[67] Also at the event, Braben, during an interview about courses teaching game development in the UK, revealed that Frontier Developments were recruiting staff to work on projects including Elite 4.[68]

At the 2008 Game Developers Conference in Germany, David Braben hinted that an announcement regarding the game's release would come in 2008. Braben stated that the new version "would certainly need a better interface, or at least one which is easier to use for modern gamers."[69]

In 2009, the game was said to be under development.[70] In an interview with the BBC to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the original game, Braben confirmed that the game was still in development, saying, "We'd be mad not to go back to the world of Elite and I'm very excited about it," and adding that it would be released only "when it's ready."[71] Supposed platforms were the PC, PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.[63][67]

In May 2010, Braben told Eurogamer that there had been staff changes, but that "our commitment to the game is as strong as ever."[72]

However, Elite 4 had been removed from the 'in-development' section of Frontier Developments — making the status of its development unclear. In addition, Frontier Developments no longer had any links to the website for the game.[73]

At the twenty-fifth annual Game Developers Conference, Braben presented a post-mortem discussing the development of Elite. The final question in the Q&A section asked if Elite 4 was still on the drawing board and he replied "yes, it would be a tragedy for it not to be."[74]

In November 2012, Frontier Developments announced that the game was now named Elite: Dangerous, and would be funded via Kickstarter. The Kickstarter project remained open for 60 days, and rewards included a digital copy of the game, standard and premium boxed copies, a T-shirt, and access to alpha and beta test versions of the game. Funding is still available through the Elite website, via PayPal.[30]

Elite: Dangerous is being developed using Frontier Development's own in-house "Cobra" game development engine.[75]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "David Braben: Publisher model prevented development of new Elite". incgamers.com. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  2. ^ "Elite: Dangerous will support Oculus Rift". Official Frontier Developments announcement. 
  3. ^ "Elite: Dangerous Dev Diary 1- Multiplayer and Ships". youtube.com. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  4. ^ "Comment by Michael Brookes on Dec. 12, 2012". kickstarter.com. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
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  6. ^ "Elite: Dangerous - procedural generation". youtube.com. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  7. ^ "Comment by David Braben on Nov. 19, 2012". kickstarter.com. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  8. ^ "Comment by Michael Brookes on Dec. 15, 2012". kickstarter.com. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
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  12. ^ "Comment by Michael Brookes on Dec. 10, 2012". kickstarter.com. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
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  14. ^ "Interview with Kate Russel". The Pod Delusion. Retrieved 2012-12-21. 
  15. ^ "Update #19 - New Pledge Tiers". kickstarter.com. Retrieved 2012-12-29. 
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  59. ^ "Comment by Michael Brookes on Dec. 27, 2012". kickstarter.com. Retrieved 2012-12-28. 
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  67. ^ a b Bramwell, Tom (2007-10-26). "Elite IV in this generation?". Eurogamer. Retrieved 2007-10-27. 
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  69. ^ "GDC 08: David Braben to announce new Elite in 2008". Gamers Global. 2008-02-20. 
  70. ^ "Braben Quiet On Elite 4 & The Outsider". ve3d.ign.com. 
  71. ^ "Gaming milestone for Elite game". BBC. 2009-09-21. 
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  73. ^ "Games". Frontier Developments. 2012. Retrieved 2012-11-09. 
  74. ^ Braben, David (2011). "Classic game postmortem". GDC Vault. Retrieved 2011-11-09. 
  75. ^ "Cobra game engine". Cobra game engine. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]