Elite: Dangerous

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Elite: Dangerous
EliteDangerous Logo2.png
Developer(s) Frontier Developments
Publisher(s) Frontier Developments
Director(s) David Braben
Producer(s) Michael Brookes[1]
Designer(s) Sandro Sammarco
Dan Davies
Tom Kewell[1][2]
Programmer(s) Mark Allen
Igor Terentjev[1]
Artist(s) John Laws
Simon Brewer
John Roberts[1]
Composer(s) Erasmus Talbot[3]
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, OS X, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Release date(s) Microsoft Windows
6 December 2014[4]
OS X, Xbox One
6 October 2015[5]
PlayStation 4
Q2 2017[6]
Genre(s) Space trading and combat, first-person shooter
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

Elite: Dangerous is a space adventure, trading, and combat simulation video game developed and published by Frontier Developments. 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. Elite: Dangerous is the fourth game in the Elite video game series. It is the sequel to Frontier: First Encounters,[7] 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 in December 2014,[4] with the OS X version later released in May 2015. A "preview" version of the game for Xbox One was later released via the Xbox Game Preview Program in June 2015 during Microsoft's briefing at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2015,[8][9] and was fully released in October 2015,[10] with a PlayStation 4 version coming in the second quarter of 2017. Elite: Dangerous supports virtual reality devices, including the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift.[11][12] By the end of April 2015, Elite: Dangerous had sold over 500,000 copies, with Frontier Developments expected to generate £22 million from sales.[13]


Orbital station near a habitable planet; this image shows one of the many planets and solar system space stations, where the player can dock for ship upgrades, missions or trading; the image shows the player spaceship approaching the space station and starting communication to get docking permissions

Starting in the year 3300 in 2014, Elite: Dangerous is currently set in the year 3303 and has been running in sync with UTC +1286 years, around 45 years after Frontier: First Encounters, the previous game in the series.[7][14][15] 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, mining, bounty-hunting, piracy and assassination.[16]

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.[17] Open Play gameplay is similar to EvE Online in that many actions which would be considered griefing in other multiplayer games are generally permitted here, so long as a valid roleplaying reason is attached. Examples include (but are not limited to) stealing from other players, extortion, and blocking off star systems via blockade or similar means.[18] However, some actions, like "mob mentality" persecution, abusing exploits (such as "combat logging") and cursing are still not allowed,[19][20] and could eventually result in a shadow ban, meaning to lose access to the main server.[21]

The player is able to explore the game's galaxy of some 400 billion star systems,[22] complete with planets and moons that rotate and orbit in real-time, resulting in dynamic day/night cycles.[23] Around 150,000 of the game's star systems are taken from real-world astronomical data,[24] while the remainder are procedurally generated according to scientific models.[24] 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".[25] The player may also find cargo or encounter other ships while in flight by investigating 'Unidentified Signal Sources'.


There are three major factions, the Empire, the Federation, and the Alliance.[26] Patch 1.3, which launched in June 2015,[27] featured the Power Play extension, for competitive galaxy-wide faction challenges. Players can now pick from various in-game factions and contribute by completing mission goals and earn various rewards. The outcome determines faction powers, territorial control, and what each faction does next.[28]

Player status and rank[edit]

There are four player status levels, for combat, CQC Championship, exploration and trading, depending on accomplishments. On 15 March 2015, the first player reached triple elite status, the highest status, and won £10,000.[29] Certain status or rank can grant access to a number of systems which require a permit. Benefits of some systems include ship discount prices.[30]


Starting in 2012, Elite: Dangerous was developed using Frontier Development's own in-house COBRA game development engine.[31] Frontier had been working on the game as a "skunk-works" background activity for some time prior to its Kickstarter launch,[32] with other projects being prioritised.[33]

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.[34][35] The Windows version of the game was released on 16 December 2014.[4]

On 4 March 2015, Microsoft announced at the Game Developers Conference that Elite: Dangerous would be released on Xbox One[36] and was later launched in early access as part of Microsoft's Game Preview program during E3 in 2015.[37] A version is also planned for PlayStation 4.[38][39] On 2 April 2015, the game was made available on Steam with support for cross buy between the Windows version and the Mac version,[40] the latter being released in May 2015.[41] Although there are no plans for a Linux version of the game, Braben stated in 2014 that "There is no reason why COBRA cannot run on Linux, running through OpenGL."[42]

Braben has said that Thargoids, the warlike, insectoid aliens from the original games, would make an appearance in some capacity.[43] Mission objectives introduced in May 2015 about ancient specimens fueled speculation of the coming introduction of the Thargoid species.[44] On January 5th, 2017, the Thargoids were possibly encountered by a player. The ship encountered was alien in nature, but as of January 14th, 2017, no confirmation has been made that it was the Thargoids, as there have been no reports of violence from any of the players who have come across them.


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."[45] 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.[46]

Braben had previously discussed crowdfunding as a possible solution in April 2012.[47] Public fundraising commenced in November 2012 using the Kickstarter website,[48] the campaign lasting 60 days, with the aim being to raise £1.25m[49] and deliver a finished game by March 2014.[50] Braben described the campaign as a way of "test-marketing the concept to verify there is broader interest in such a game", in addition to raising the funds.[33]

Following the end of the Kickstarter, further public funding was sought through the developer's UK website, via PayPal.[49] By April 2014, £1.7m had been raised,[51] and Braben had reacquired the legal rights to the Elite franchise.[52] 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".[53]

Testing phase[edit]

A playable alpha version of the game was released to certain Kickstarter backers in December 2013.[54][55] 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.[56] A pre-release "gamma" build was released to backers three weeks before launch, to give them a head start on other players.[57] On 2 April 2015, the beta Mac version went live, accessible to all backers.[58]

Horizons season of expansions[edit]

The first "season" of expansions for Elite: Dangerous, named Horizons, was announced on 5 August 2015 at Gamescom, entered beta on 30 November 2015 and was released on 15 December 2015 for PC,[59] followed by a 3 June 2016 release for Xbox One.[60] Frontier Developments currently has no plans to release the expansion for Mac OS X unless Apple provides support for compute shaders, which Frontier believes are required to render planet surfaces and other objects.[61] Elite Dangerous Horizons is a separately priced product. Original customers who also purchased Horizons received exclusive access to the Cobra Mk4 ship.[62]

Horizons adds planetary landings, ground vehicles and bases, synthesis, looting and crafting, ship launched fighters, passenger missions, and coop multicrew support for larger ships.[63][64] Planetary landings feature procedurally generated planets, initially supporting only airless worlds. Players can choose to set down at planetary bases or at any point of their choosing, and can deploy a new six-wheeled ground vehicle called the SRV. This vehicle is equipped with weapons, a special "wave scanner" for finding resources and shipwrecks, a datalink system for hacking into bases, as well as special thrusters that can lift the vehicle up into the air for short periods of time. Thrusters in the wheels can be used to affix it to the ground on low-gravity worlds. Materials found on planets can be combined to boost ship jump range, synthesize repair materials, or upgrade weapons.[citation needed]

Horizons is billed as a season of five expansions, starting with planetary landings and then followed with a more comprehensive looting and crafting system released in May 2016,[65] ship launched fighters and passenger missions released in October 2016,[66] as well as support for multiple players working cooperatively on the same ship planned for a future expansion within the first half of 2017 ahead of Playstation 4 release[67] and with a 5th expansion to follow after that. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th expansions were announced originally for Spring, Summer and Fall 2016 respectively. But the 5th expansion had no reference to "Winter", it was not time scheduled and had no content description, only stating a cryptic "soon" reference.[68][69] The ability to walk around and the types of worlds players can land on is expected to be expanded during upcoming seasons, with landing on planets with atmospheres or earthlike worlds not being part of the Horizons season,[70] but due at a later stage.

Elite Dangerous: Arena[edit]

Simultaneously announced and launched on 16 February 2016[71] Elite Dangerous: Arena is a low entry priced standalone version of the CQC (Closed Quarters Combat) arena mode from Elite: Dangerous allowing newcomers and those who already have Elite: Dangerous to compete against each other. The corresponding game mode in Elite: Dangerous was also renamed from "CQC" to "Arena" on the same day.

From 7 to 11 July 2016, the game was offered for free on Steam.[72]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings (XONE) 79.5%[75]
Metacritic (PC) 80/100[73]
(XONE) 80/100[74]
Review scores
Publication Score
Eurogamer 8/10[76]
GamesRadar 4/5 stars[78]
IGN 7.4/10[80]
PC Gamer (UK) 86/100[77]
Metro 7/10[79]

Elite: Dangerous received an aggregated score of 80/100 on Metacritic based on 52 critics, indicating that the game received "generally positive reviews" from critics.[73]

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".[77] 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 repetitive.[76] 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".[78] Roger Hargreaves of the Metro gave it 7/10, describing the game as a "solid start" that had yet to fulfil its potential.[79] 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".[81] Reviewing a later version of the game in April 2015, after playing the game since launch, Lee Hutchinson from Ars Technica described Dangerous as "so damn good that it transcends its problems".[82]

The announcement of the removal of the offline mode on 14 November 2014 was met by a number of complaints from customers, with some 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.[34][83] Frontier offered refunds to customers who had pre-ordered the game without playing it,[84] and said that those who had already played the game, in alpha or beta form, would not be eligible for refunds.[85][86] Later, Braben, speaking for the company, announced that refunds would be judged on a "case-by-case" basis.[84][87][88]

The game had sold around 1.7 million units by the end of May 2016.[89]

Elite: Dangerous won the Game Developers Choice Award 2015 for best audience.[90]

See also[edit]

  • List of space flight simulator games
  • Eve Online – a space trading and combat MMORPG by CCP Games
  • No Man's Sky – a space exploration and open universe adventure game by Hello Games
  • SpaceEngine – a space exploration and open universe simulation engine by Russian programmer and astronomer Vladmir Romanyuk
  • Space Engineers – a space building/engineering game in Beta stage by Keen Software House
  • Star Citizen – an upcoming space trading and combat MMO game by Chris Roberts


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External links[edit]