Elite: Dangerous logo
|Genre(s)||Space trading and combat, MMO, first-person shooter in a later expansion|
|Mode(s)||Online multiplayer, online single-player|
Elite: Dangerous is a space adventure, trading, and combat simulator that is the fourth release in the Elite video game series. Piloting a spaceship, the player explores a realistic 1:1 scale open world galaxy based on the real Milky Way, with the gameplay being open-ended. The game is the first in the series to attempt to feature massively multiplayer gameplay, with players' actions affecting the narrative story of the game's persistent universe, while also retaining single player options. It is the sequel to Frontier: First Encounters, the third game in the Elite series, released in 1995.
Having been unable to agree to a funding deal with a publisher for many years, the developer began its Kickstarter campaign in November 2012. Pre-release test versions of the game had been available to backers since December 2013, and the final game was released for Windows on 16 December 2014.
Elite: Dangerous retains the basic premise of previous games - players start with a spaceship and a small amount of money and have to make their own way in an open galaxy, furthering themselves either legally or illegally, through trading, bounty-hunting, piracy and assassination. The game is the first in the series to feature online multiplayer, with players having access to a massively multiplayer persistent world, as well as an online-only single player mode.
The player is able to explore the game's galaxy of some 400 billion star systems, complete with planets and moons that rotate and orbit in real-time, resulting in dynamic day/night cycles. Around 150,000 of the game's star systems are taken from real-world astronomical data, while the remainder are procedurally generated according to scientific models. Throughout the galaxy, the player is able to dock with space stations and outposts to trade goods, purchase new spacecraft, re-arm their ship, effect repairs and to seek or complete missions from text-based station "bulletin boards". The player may also encounter new missions while in flight by investigating 'Unidentified Signal Sources'.
At the 2011 Game Developers Conference, following a presentation on the development of the original Elite, Braben was asked in a Q&A session if Elite 4 was still on the drawing board. He replied "yes, it would be a tragedy for it not to be." The project had difficulty in attracting sufficient funding, which Braben had attributed to the traditional publishing model, which he saw as being biased against games with no recent comparable predecessors.
Braben had previously discussed crowdfunding as a possible solution in April 2012. Public fundraising commenced in November 2012 using the Kickstarter website, the campaign lasting 60 days, with the aim being to raise £1.25m and deliver a finished game by March 2014. Following the end of the Kickstarter, further public funding was sought through the developer's UK website, via PayPal. By April 2014, £1.7m had been raised, and Braben had reacquired the legal rights to the Elite franchise. Although the game's original total development budget had been £8 million, by September 2014 this had, in Braben's words, "grown by quite a lot".
A playable alpha version of the game was released to certain Kickstarter backers in December 2013. In May 2014, the game entered the first phase of its beta test, focusing primarily on testing the systems and servers with a greater number of players. A pre-release "gamma" build was released to backers three weeks before launch, to give them a head start on other players. On 14 November 2014, one month before launch, David Braben announced the removal of the game's offline single player mode, the developers having decided that they could not deliver an acceptable offline-only experience based on the original design. The Windows version of the game was released on the 16 December 2014.
Chris Thursten of PC Gamer rated the game 86/100, considering it to be "potentially a classic", depending on Frontier's ability to build on the "broad but somewhat shallow foundations" of the released version. Thursten described the gameplay experience as "exhilarating excitement, matched by nothing else this year, contrasted with moments of emptiness, frustration, and boredom". Dan Whitehead of Eurogamer gave the game 8/10 and considered it to be "probably the most immersive and compelling recreation of deep space ever seen in gaming", while finding some of the gameplay repetitious. Andy Kelly of GamesRadar gave the game 4/5, calling it a "compelling space sandbox" and a "welcome return" of the Elite franchise, but felt that the game at launch was "missing a lot of important features, especially when it comes to multiplayer". Roger Hargreaves of the Metro gave it 7/10, describing the game as a "solid start" that had yet to fulfil its potential. Reviewing the game for IGN, Rob Zacny called it "one of the most enthralling and evocative space combat and trade sim games I've ever played" and "also one of the most boring", seeing the balance of "brief, intense emotional peaks and long, shallow valleys of boredom" as "fundamental to Elite's identity".
Removal of the offline mode
The announcement of the removal of the offline mode on 14 November 2014 was met by a significant number of complaints from customers, many saying they had backed the game on the understanding that it would feature offline play and others that there had been no prior warning of removal during the whole of the preceding development period.
Frontier offered refunds to disappointed customers who had pre-ordered the game without playing it, and said that those who had already played the game, in alpha or beta form, would not be eligible for refunds. Later, Braben speaking for the company announced that refunds would be judged on a "case-by-case" basis.
Frustration over the perceived reluctance of Frontier Developments to willingly issue refunds led to the creation of an online text game Refund Quest, a parody of the company's refund process.
Early server problems
Two weeks after the relatively smooth launch, problems were encountered by what Frontier called a "relatively small" number of players. These had a major impact on most key gameplay mechanics, with problems including multiple server disconnections, entire cargos being lost, large amounts of money being deleted, goods unable to be sold, scans not functioning, ship customisations and upgrades being deleted, and missing recently purchased ships.
A native Mac OS X version is planned for release in early 2015, three months after the initial PC version launch. Although there are no plans for a Linux version of the game, Braben has stated, "There is no reason why COBRA cannot run on Linux, running through OpenGL. Asked about the possibility of a PlayStation 4 and Xbox One release, Braben said that Frontier Developments "would be stupid not to support other platforms, including console."
Planned updates to gameplay include seamless planetary landing, and first person perspective exploration outside of the player's ship, including walking around space stations, walking around ships, spacewalking, and boarding other ships. Multi-crew ships  have also been mentioned by the developers as desirable.
- No Man's Sky - an upcoming space exploration and open universe adventure game by Hello Games
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- Star Citizen – an upcoming space trading and combat MMO game by Chris Roberts
- List of space flight simulator games
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