Elite: Dangerous

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Elite: Dangerous
EliteDangerous Logo2.png
Elite: Dangerous logo
Developer(s) Frontier Developments
Designer(s) David Braben
Engine COBRA[1]
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, OS X
Release date(s)
  • WW December 16, 2014[2]
Genre(s) Space trading and combat, MMO,[3] first-person shooter in a later expansion[4]
Mode(s) Online multiplayer, online single-player

Elite: Dangerous is a space adventure, trading, and combat simulator that is the fourth installment 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, and the gameplay is open-ended. The game is the first in the series 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,[5] 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 versions of the game have been playable by backers since December 2013, and the game was released for Windows on 16 December 2014.[2]


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 world, furthering themselves either legally or illegally, through trading, bounty-hunting, piracy and assassination.[6] Braben has described the game as in some ways a mix of the original Elite and the sequels Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters,[7] describing it as closer to the sequels in terms of the way that the galaxy is as scientifically accurate as possible[8] but with the "visceral and seat-of-the-pants" combat of the original Elite[7] in a realistic Newtonian model.[9] Braben has said that most of the "brutal realism" of Frontier will continue: "The real galaxy and so on. For the combat model we are doing more fly-by-wire than in Frontier, but this is to improve the feel of the game; the realism is still there. Don’t forget there was fly-by-wire in Frontier too."[7][9] Braben also added: "The game design is a lot richer than it's ever been, building on where we were with Frontier and First Encounters."[10]

In Elite: Dangerous, the player will be able to explore a 1:1 scale Milky Way galaxy of around 400 billion star systems,[11] complete with 1:1 scale planets and moons that rotate and orbit in real-time, resulting in dynamic day/night cycles,[12] based on procedural generation according to real scientific models,[8] of which around 150,000 star systems are taken from real-world astronomical data.[8] The developer stated: "It’s quite common in space games to fudge the scale to make things look good and work, however this results in spatial locations being condensed. In Elite everything is the scale it should be, so the planets are the correct size and distances between objects are also correct. Using the Cobra engine means that we can tailor our solutions to fit the game rather than the other way round."[13]

Planned updates to the game include allowing the player to seamlessly freeform land on 1:1 scale planets[12] with cityscapes,[14] as in the last two Elite games Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters,[15][16][17] and walk around in first person perspective[4][18] on entire surfaces of populated, living planets,[17][19][20][21] with wildlife and go big-game hunting,[17][22] with Braben wanting the ability to chase "big dinosaurs around".[23] Updates are expected to allow the player to drive vehicles around on the "huge great surfaces" of planets, and stash materials such as cargo there.[15][16][17][21][23] Other planned updates will allow Zero-G first-person shooter combat,[4] multi-crew boarding, the theft of other ships and other interactions with other players and NPCs inside ships[19] and the internal areas of space stations,[24] and space-walk around the exterior of ships to effect repairs.[24] Other planned updates will allow players to operate ships with multiple players,[17][23] and make available giant "executive control" capital ships to players.[16]

Elite: Dangerous features a Massively multiplayer online game, persistent world, with an online-only single player mode.[3] The actions of players will affect the narrative story[25] of the wider galaxy within the game, such as the type of missions and quests that will be generated by the event system.[26][27][28][29] The developers 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.[30] The developers have also considered allowing players to play within small, trusted groups, so that any in-game encounters are only drawn from that group.[6]

Elite: Dangerous will be set in the year 3300, around 45 years after the events of Frontier: First Encounters, the previous game in the series.[5][10][31] The Thargoids, the warlike, insectoid aliens from the original game, are due to make an appearance.[7][31]


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. At the 2011 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."[32]

The project, referred to as Elite 4, had difficulty in finding funds, which Braben has attributed to the traditional publishing model, which he sees as being biased against games which have no recent predecessors.[33] Discussing crowdfunding in April 2012, Braben said he had considered doing "something along those lines".[34] In November 2012, a few days after Kickstarter went live in the UK,[35] Frontier Developments announced that the game was now named Elite: Dangerous, and would be funded on that site, aiming to raise £1.25m and deliver a game in 18 months,[36] by March 2014.[37] 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 was also made possible through the game's website, via PayPal.[36] By April 2014, the campaign had raised £1.7m,[38] and Braben had reacquired the rights to the Elite franchise.[39]

Elite: Dangerous was developed using Frontier Development's own in-house COBRA game development engine.[40] The developer stated: "As a developer we’ve used our own game engine throughout the company’s history so we have considerable experience in our own technology. For Elite: Dangerous the game presents a number of challenges that we have to solve. The first (and most obvious) is the scale of the game, putting aside the requirements of procedural generation for a moment the spatial size of the game’s locations are an immense (pun intended!) problem. It’s quite common in space games to fudge the scale to make things look good and work, however this results in spatial locations being condensed. In Elite everything is the scale it should be, so the planets are the correct size and distances between objects are also correct. Using the Cobra engine means that we can tailor our solutions to fit the game rather than the other way round."[13] In October 2013, it was announced that the game would officially support the Oculus Rift VR headset.[41][42] The game's original budget was £8 million and by September 2014 this had, in Braben's words, "grown by quite a lot".[43]

A playable alpha version of the game was released to certain Kickstarter backers in December 2013.[44][45] In May 2014, Frontier Developments announced the fourth phase of Alpha testing was underway for the game. The latest Alpha build offered players a more expanded game world with more scale, scope and depth.[46] On 30 May 2014, Frontier Developments officially launched the "Premium Beta" phase of Elite Dangerous. It incorporated all major features added during the alpha phase and focused primarily on testing the systems and servers with a greater number of players.[47] The game entered its Beta 1 phase in July 2014[48] and its Beta 2 phase launched on 30 September 2014.[49] Beta 3 commenced on 27 October 2014.[50]

The Windows version of the game was released on 16 December 2014,[2] with a Mac OS X version expected to follow by three months.[51]

Removal of the offline mode[edit]

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.[52][53] There had been no prior warning of removal during the whole of the proceeding development period, which led to a considerable number of complaints from customers, with many saying they had backed the game on the understanding that it would feature offline play.[54][55][56]

Frontier Developments offered refunds to disappointed customers who had pre-ordered the game without playing it,[57] and later extended the offer to those who had already played the game during its alpha or beta testing phases, judging the latter applications on a "case-by-case" basis.[58][59]

Frustration over the perceived reluctance of Frontier Developments to willingly issue refunds led to the creation of an online text game Refund Quest,[60][61] a parody of the company's refund process.

Releases to other platforms[edit]

During the Kickstarter, Frontier Developments was asked a lot about potential releases on other platforms, which resulted in them answering that they are interested in porting the game to other platforms, but that the PC version is priority. During Kickstarter they also added a stretch goal for the Mac OS X version which was reached. Later when asked about availability, they have responded that the OS X version will be released in about three months time after the retail release of the Windows version, and that work has been started on porting the game using their COBRA framework to OS X.[51]

David Braben has also answered questions about a potential Linux port to Tux Radar, Linux Format magazine web portal. In an interview, while not confirming a Linux port, he said that the Linux platform is something they are seriously looking at to support and that there is no reason why COBRA, Frontier Developments' own game engine, can’t run on Linux, running through OpenGL.[62]

Regarding the potential of porting the game to the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, David Braben has said in an interview to Eurogamer that they will evaluate releases to other platforms, including consoles and it would be "stupid not to", citing Frontier Developments' experience with developing games for various platforms.[63]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Frontier Developments". Frontier.co.uk. Retrieved 21 September 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c "Elite: Dangerous release date set for next month". PC Gamer. 7 November 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Royce, Brianna (16 December 2014). "Elite: Dangerous' launch-day roundup". Joystick. Retrieved 17 December 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c PC Games (18 August 2014). "Elite: Dangerous | Gameplay + David Braben interview". YouTube. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "Elite: Dangerous Gameplay Demo - IGN Live: Gamescom 2014 - Sequel". 
  6. ^ a b Cook, Dave (23 November 2012). "Elite Dangerous: Braben’s square peg". VG247. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Elite: Dangerous will have 100 billion star systems, plus Thargoids — Braben reveals what's next". pcgamesn.com. Retrieved 10 January 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c Parkin, Simon (9 July 2014). "The Video Game That Maps the Galaxy". The New Yorker. Retrieved 10 July 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "Elite Dangerous: David Braben Exclusive Interview". 3 April 2013. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "Elite: Dangerous: the David Braben interview". 26 September 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  11. ^ "Elite: Dangerous Newsletter #36". Frontier Developments. 15 August 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "GameStar - Elite: Dangerous - Gameplay + David Braben interview - 1:1 scale". 
  13. ^ a b "Newsletter #17". 
  14. ^ Cardy, Elisabeth (14 December 2012). "Elite: Dangerous dev diary talks about plans for development | Massively". Massively.joystiq.com. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  15. ^ a b "Elite: Dangerous Newsletter 32". Frontier Developments. 14 July 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  16. ^ a b c Wilson, Nick (27 July 2014). "Elite: Dangerous standard beta begins next week; last chance to grab lifetime expansion pack". PCGamesN. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  17. ^ a b c d e IGN (15 August 2014). "Elite Dangerous Gameplay Demo - IGN Live: Gamescom 2014". YouTube. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  18. ^ "Live Chat: Elite brains David Braben OBE answers YOUR Qs". The Register. 13 June 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  19. ^ a b GameCentral (19 June 2014). "Elite: Dangerous hands-on preview and interview – 'the nearest game to Elite is GTA' | Metro News". Metro.co.uk. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  20. ^ Graves, Stephen (22 January 2014). "David Braben talks Kickstarter, Raspberry Pi – and Elite: Dangerous | Stuff". Stuff.tv. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  21. ^ a b "Feature Requests Update #8- To Infinity, and Beyond! - Frontier Forums". Forums.frontier.co.uk. 4 April 2013. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  22. ^ Meer, Alec (16 July 2014). "Braben On Elite, Oc Rift, Dodgy Gravity & Doing Space Right". Rock Paper Shotgun. Retrieved 22 August 2014. 
  23. ^ a b c GameSpot (12 June 2014). "Elite: Dangerous Stage Demo - E3 2014". YouTube. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  24. ^ a b "Frontier Developments' Elite: Dangerous – the rebirth of a legend | Features". Edge Online. 10 March 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  25. ^ IGN (15 August 2014). "Elite Dangerous Gameplay Demo - IGN Live: Gamescom 2014". YouTube. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  26. ^ "New Elite: Dangerous dev diary shows off galaxy evolution". PC Gamer. 3 December 2012. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  27. ^ "Elite Dangerous: Im Gespräch mit David Braben - Interview-Video". Pcgames.de. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  28. ^ "Elite: Dangerous preview - chasing a deep space goldrush in Frontier's dynamic galaxy". PC Gamer. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  29. ^ "Elite: Dangerous Newsletter #28". Frontier Developments. 13 June 2014. Retrieved 21 August 2014. 
  30. ^ "Interview with Kate Russel". The Pod Delusion. Retrieved 21 December 2012. 
  31. ^ a b "Fiction Diary #5". 
  32. ^ Braben, David (2011). "Classic game postmortem". GDC Vault. Retrieved 2011-11-09. 
  33. ^ "David Braben: Publisher model prevented development of new Elite". incgamers.com. 2012-12-20. 
  34. ^ "BAFTA Games Question Time: Crowdfunding". 2012-04-16. Retrieved 2014-07-20. 
  35. ^ "Kickstarter in the UK". 2012-10-10. 
  36. ^ a b Cellan-Jones, Rory (2012-11-06). "Elite reborn". BBC News (BBC). Retrieved 2012-11-06. 
  37. ^ Makuch, Eddie (6 November 2012). "Elite returns on Kickstarter". Gamespot. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  38. ^ Stoke Sentinel. "David Elks: Gaming industry is worth the investment". Stoke Sentinel. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  39. ^ games.on.net. "Elite rights now with David Braben, Frontier Developments shares up for grabs". games.on.net. Retrieved 25 April 2014. 
  40. ^ "Cobra game engine". forums.frontier.co.uk. 
  41. ^ "Elite: Dangerous Alpha Phase 1.1 released today - Oculus Rift, 3D TV and Track IR support". Official Frontier Developments announcement. 
  42. ^ "Elite: Dangerous Website". Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  43. ^ Purchese, Robert (12 September 2014). "Elite: Dangerous' original budget was £8m". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Retrieved 12 September 2014. 
  44. ^ Ivan, Tom (10 April 2014). "Elite Dangerous premium beta costs £100". CVG. Retrieved 9 July 2014. 
  45. ^ Phillips, Tom (12 December 2013). "Elite: Dangerous combat now playable if you're a £200 alpha backer". Eurogamer. Retrieved 8 July 2014. 
  46. ^ "Elite: Dangerous Alpha Testing 2 Underway". MMO Attack. 16 May 2014. Retrieved 20 May 2014. 
  47. ^ "Elite: Dangerous "Premium Beta" now available at a $150 price tag". PC Gamer. 2014-05-30. Retrieved 2014-06-20. 
  48. ^ "Elite: Dangerous Beta 1 Released". Frontier Developments. Retrieved 2014-08-21. 
  49. ^ Connor Sheridan (2014-09-19). "Elite Dangerous Beta 2 arrives on Sept. 30". CVG. Retrieved 2014-09-19. 
  50. ^ Andy Chalk (27 October 2014). "Elite: Dangerous beta 3.0 goes live today". PCGamer. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  51. ^ a b "Elite: Dangerous Newsletter #25 - Mostly Harmless Questions". Frontier Developments. 6 June 2014. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  52. ^ "Elite: Dangerous enrages its players and backers with the elimination of offline play". Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  53. ^ "Elite: Dangerous single-player offline mode officially ditched". Hexus.net. Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  54. ^ "Elite fans protest over losing offline mode". Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  55. ^ "Elite: Dangerous enrages its players and backers with the elimination of offline play". Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  56. ^ "Elite: Dangerous Dumps Offline Single-Player". Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  57. ^ "Elite: Dangerous, David Braben and a scale model Cobra MK III". Eurogamer.net. Retrieved 21 December 2014. 
  58. ^ "Frontier Developments Details Who Can Get a Refund for 'Elite Dangerous'". GamePolitics.com. 
  59. ^ Grayson, Nathan (9 December 2014). "Despite Player Outcry, Elite: Dangerous Will Remain Always Online". Kotaku. Retrieved 19 December 2014. 
  60. ^ "Frustration with Elite:Dangerous boils over into 'Refund Quest' >> You are trying to secure a refund from an unscrupulous developer". http://www.theregister.co.uk/. The Register. Retrieved 23 December 2014. 
  61. ^ "Refund Quest". 
  62. ^ "Interview: David Braben, Elite". Tux Radar. 20 January 2014. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 
  63. ^ Yin-Poole, Wesley (14 July 2014). "How about Elite: Dangerous on PS4 and Xbox One?". Eurogamer. Retrieved 18 August 2014. 

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