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RPGWatch Forums » Games » General Non-RPG » Elite Dangerous - storm in a teacup

Default Elite Dangerous - storm in a teacup

December 25th, 2014, 14:01
Elite Dangerous, funded on Kickstarter (£1.5m) just released on 16th Dec. They have (IMHOP!?) made a really incredible sandbox game (possibly the best sandbox & space game yet), which goes way beyond what I was expecting, especially given that the kickstarter was only 2 years ago and £1.5m probably wouldn't fund EA or Ubisoft's bill for corporate lunches over the same period.

Unfortunately though, instead of jumping about in ecstatic glee, a whole bunch of "backers" have taken umbrage, because Frontier didn't manage to include an offline mode in the game, which they had intended to do originally. And incidentally that *doesn't* mean that you can't play solo in a universe with no human players - you can, just that you still need an online connection, since the universe events, markets and missions are generated dynamically on Frontier's servers.

I don't think that most people here will need reminding that Kickstarter is not a shop - it is a place where you back people's visions and in software development, particularly, those can change as the project develops. I think that when Frontier planned the Kickstarter they really did intend to develop something that was mostly offline, but with a few features for cooperative play. But as the project progressed they realised that the game would be a lot better with a more dynamic universe that evolves from a combination of player and NPC actions. And I reckon they are dead right about that.

…And merry Xmas everyone! just off to have some really serious Xmas food…
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December 25th, 2014, 15:05
I haven't followed this at all - I played Elite briefly decades ago, and wasn't a fan. But..what happens when their servers go offline? If they're a small company how are they going to host their server infrastructure? EC2 or similar? A few blades in their offices? I'm just curious.
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December 25th, 2014, 17:54
Originally Posted by booboo View Post
I haven't followed this at all - I played Elite briefly decades ago, and wasn't a fan. But..what happens when their servers go offline? If they're a small company how are they going to host their server infrastructure? EC2 or similar? A few blades in their offices? I'm just curious.
I didn't mean to give the impression that Frontier was a one man and a dog outfit operating from their garage . They are actually a medium sized company with 200 or so employees in Cambridge UK… But that is still tiny compared to the big outfits, such as EA, Ubi, Activision. And they also have a pretty good track record of previous games for various publishers. But, this project was done independently. Anyway I don't think they have a problem finding somewhere to host the servers and probably they'll be around for a while - it is difficult to imagine that this game won't be successful enough to support servers, even if it doesn't appeal to everyone.

I think, if you didn't like the original Elite, then you probably won't like Elite Dangerous either. It is still a space trading game and the core gameplay is quite similar, although massively upgraded in terms of graphics, animation, scale and the ship flight models. It is also much more of a sandbox than any game I've seen from the big publishers (they tend to be linear progression with cut scenes and lantern jawed heros), with the exception of Microsoft Flight Simulator (which it resembles in some respects - such as attention to the flight modelling). And that will likely put many off. They've also tried to include as much hard science (such as accurately modelling the whole galaxy - 400 billion star systems!) into the game as possible, given that some compromises need to be made for gameplay reasons - in space nobody can hear you scream!
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December 25th, 2014, 19:53
Originally Posted by booboo View Post
I haven't followed this at all - I played Elite briefly decades ago, and wasn't a fan. But..what happens when their servers go offline? If they're a small company how are they going to host their server infrastructure? EC2 or similar? A few blades in their offices? I'm just curious.
Those questions have been addressed (scroll down a little for the offline mode Q&A) by Frontier, which by the way is not such a small company. Sure, they're no EA or no Ubi, but at 270+ employees and their shares being publicly traded at the London Stock Exchange, they're a reasonably sizable small cap with a market capitalization of about £80 million (just the stock market capitalization and not the gross value of the company!).
They must be quite solvent. They have fully bought back the Elite IP in April this year for £5 million alone.

Regarding the servers, they have signed up with Amazon Cloud services so they are using a very powerful and scalable backbone.
If they should ever have to cancel the game, they have said that they would be able and willing to release the source to the public so people can continue playing.
I would assume that they would only pull that option, however, after every other option has been exhausted. In reality, if the shit ever hits the fan hard enough to force them to drop the game, I'd expect them to sell off the game and IP. Hopefully to a serious bidder, but if that fails, it would probably all go to one of those F2P/P2W (Korean) MMO companies that would exploit the brand popularity for profits (see something like Wizardry Online).
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December 25th, 2014, 22:07
Originally Posted by Moriendor View Post
They must be quite solvent. They have fully bought back the Elite IP in April this year for £5 million alone.
I didn't know that. Looking at the game as well, I guess they can't really have done all of that with just the £1.5m from Kickstarter as a budget and I do know that David Braben has been itching to do a follow up in the Elite franchise for a very long time. But, whatever way you look at it, it is impressive. And it is great to see that a lot of people appear to like the in depth (and totally geek out) stuff you can do in the game.

It will be fascinating to see what they can do with planet landings and spaceport visualisation and I hope it is better than what CCP (Eve) have been capable of (after over a decade of development you can only walk down a gangplank to a small room, unless things have radically changed since last I looked).
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December 25th, 2014, 23:01
I generally agree, though I would personally prefer if they would focus on fleshing out the space parts more. I could do without planetary landings or walking around starports. Those are nice to have at best and very low priority in my book.
I would wish that Frontier first focus on making the existing gameplay systems more interesting. Trade, exploration, smuggling, bounty hunting, mining etc. could all use a lot more work to make them more fun and diverse.
And it would be really nice if they would add a little more story-driven context to the universe, i.e. make the factions and the political conflicts more tangible. It all seems very meta game-y right now. When you're playing the game you don't really get a feel for all that stuff. It should probably be made more present.

I would prefer if they would strongly prioritize working on such space content. I'm not sure why they feel a need to have planetary stuff and being able to walk around stations in the game ASAP. Maybe to be able to sell an expansion? But they could also sell space DLC (at least to new gamers who don't have the backer/preorder privileges of getting some of the expansions for free).
I don't quite get it. They've laid a great foundation with ED 1.0. They should focus on adding the "interior", the details, the tapestry and the paint now. Instead they seem to plan to trim the hedge in the front yard before the house is even anywhere near finished. Odd.

Well, let's hope they know what they're doing and get it right. Don't get me wrong. I'd definitely love to have atmospheric flight in the game at some point or planetary landings etc. but right now it just seems to me like there are still many, many bigger fish to fry first.
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December 25th, 2014, 23:36
Originally Posted by Moriendor View Post
Well, let's hope they know what they're doing and get it right. Don't get me wrong. I'd definitely love to have atmospheric flight in the game at some point or planetary landings etc. but right now it just seems to me like there are still many, many bigger fish to fry first.

I agree with your points - they might concentrate first on improving existing stuff and making more ways that you can create your own stories in space such as (as you say) making factional allegiances & politics more meaningful, so that one can connect the gameplay experience to what is happening in the galaxy. And I hope that is what they are doing… One of the big advantages of online games is that they should be able to monitor what is happening in real time.

But I don't think you could sell an expansion, just based on incremental improvements and I reckon their funding model might be not unlike Arenanet's original funding model for Guild Wars 1 i.e. sell some additional expansions - since they are not charging monthly subscription fees. So, if they do that, they need to put in some major new area of functionality (after all additional areas such as another 400 billion stars isn't going to help at this stage). I'm not, yet, particularly sold on the idea of landing on planets, because once you are out of your ship that is really a completely new game (hunting stuff on remote planets sounds kind of fun though ), but I'd certainly like to look over my ship in the hangar and maybe go into some area where you can talk to other pilots, show off etc. like an MMO city hub.

One of the reasons I find the game so intriguing is just because it suggests so many more things that you can do within it's model and I'm pretty sure that that isn't lost on the devs. Just hope they get a commercial model that makes it all possible.
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