Are you the type of person who, on first starting a game, immediately heads to the options to max out every graphical setting? Do you get physically excited by the knowledge that your rig can smoothly run the latest games at their highest settings? Well that's a shame because, with Elite: Dangerous, David Braben would like to target its most advanced graphical effects at PCs that don't even exist yet.
When I was a youngster, beta testing was something game developers did to ensure their creations functioned correctly before they were unleashed on the public. In more recent years, the term has become almost synonymous with "demo," but Elite: Dangerous takes it a step further by charging $150 for the privilege.
“There are over 100 billion star systems,” Elite creator David Braben tells me when I ask if that number could possibly be true. “In fact, it’s closer to 400 billion. It’s a very silly number anyway.” Elite: Dangerous is the modernised sequel to the classic freeform space sim, and there’s no faulting developer Frontier’s ambition. The game sees you, a rookie pilot, set loose in a vast celestial sandbox with 100 credits in your space-wallet and dreams of achieving the ultimate pilot rating: elite. How you do this is up to you, whether you become a trader, a pirate, a smuggler, and many more jobs besides.
Braben compares his vision of the Milky Way to the California gold rush of the 1800s. “When there was a gold rush in San Francisco in 1849, many of the people who made money didn't mine a single piece of gold. What they did was take a cargo of spades and things like that, and sold them at stupidly inflated prices. Our galaxy will be continuously evolving. You might get the occasional gold rush, which changes the status of a particular place. Players will be running in to try and get some of the gold that’s been discovered in some outlying system. But what else will happen is that a whole raft of other things will be in demand. The need for food and equipment will skyrocket.”
Docking at space stations is the spaceship equivalent of parallel parking, which is another way of saying that it fills me with terror, and I generally end up gouging my ship a little as a result. Despite that, I much prefer the ludicrous tension and precision of manual docking - a tension that appears to be alive and well in Elite: Dangerous. Alpha 3.0 has just been released to backers, accompanied by a fancy docking tutorial video in which a classy robot lady tells you how to insert your spaceship. It's a surprisingly elegant process, at least when I'm not behind the space-wheel. See it for yourself after the break.
We've managed to sneak into the £200 Elite: Dangerous alpha, which supports flight sticks and the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, both of which we have in our office. We took it in turns to stick our heads into the virtual reality cockpit, ooh-ing and ah-ing and occasionally swearing as we collided with a space rock and span off into the void. Andy has played it the most out of all of us. You wouldn't believe the things he's seen. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. C-beams glittering at the Tanhauser Ga-LOOK OUT ANDY A SPACE ROCK.
Here is a video of Andy giving his thoughts on Elite Dangerous and how well it works in virtual reality. Warning: the video contains lasers, dramatic music, and dangerous levels of cool space biz.
The year is 2015. The twin capital ship combo of Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous have warped on our hard drives and PC gamers now live almost exclusively in virtual cockpits, trading and killing one another in an era of interstellar gaming bliss. Star Citizen now has a bigger budget than the British government and Elite: Dangerous is being used to train a future generation of space pilots. The space games have arrived.
Sorry, drifted off a bit there. I can't help but imagine a time when these crowdfunded monsters are finally finished and we'll be free from the teasing feed of trailers. Elite: Dangerous' latest example covers a recent multiplayer test that had backers defending capital ship from waves of enemies, and mugging asteroid harvesters in space. Mmmm, that's good space.
In the latest Elite: Dangerous dev diary, David Braben has revealed the date of the Kickstarted space sim's alpha launch. Well, he's revealed the month at least, casually uttering the word 'December' while sitting in front of the entirety of space wearing a lovely salmon shirt. It won't be the full game, but rather several discreet segments - still, getting our hands on at least part of a new Elite is something to be excited about.
Elite: Dangerous may not have the stellar crowdfunding cashflow enjoyed by rival sandbox space sim Star Citizen, but the £1,802,698 raised for David Braben's series revival is enough to keep him earnestly talking to camera about the team's progress. Now, Frontier are giving us a further hint as to what the game will look like, with a selection of screenshots of their Sidewinder ship.
Elite: Dangerous' David Braben on crowdfunding challenges: "People took a lack of material for a lack of faith"
The Kickstarter campaign for designer David Braben's spacefaring trade sim Elite: Dangerous handily met its $2,011,625/£1,250,000 goal with two days to spare, promising a universe of "over 100 billion" star systems and a relieving lack of William Shatner. In an interview with Gamasutra, Braben admitted he felt "a little nervous" halfway through the campaign and talked about the pitfalls of pitching an idea without enough solid material to show off.
Elite: Dangerous project head David Braben has spoken before about procedural generation in the upcoming space trading sim, describing how the computer's roll of the dice creates whole star systems and majestic nebulae on the fly as you, er, fly. Before the depths of space overwhelms your consciousness, know that Braben claimed (via PCGamesN) "over 100 billion" star systems will exist as navigable destinations.
Frontier's November reveal of Elite: Dangerous' multiplayer gameplay wasn't terribly inspiring with a rather circular chase in an asteroid field. But in a new developer diary video released yesterday, Lead Designer David Braben explained how players can assume various roles during multiplayer lightfights and demonstrated via a sample convoy ambush shown from the spinning first-person viewpoint of a fighter pilot. This is more like space combat—now I need a space barf bag.
The new Elite game that's currently looking for funding on Kickstarter has made a shy first appearance behind the back of creator David Braben's head. Hello there, Elite! Come on out, we won't hurt you. Look I have half a cup of cold Friday afternoon coffee if you want to - oh nevermind.
Nope, it's a no go. Still, we get to hear David Braben chatting about how procedural generation will let the team quickly create varied planetoids and gas giants. The most impressive moment arrives 4:44 in when the background transforms to show some nice procedural cloud generation tech that will be used to make gas giants ultra-pretty, though watching it feels as though I've died and gone to a special game development heaven where famous devs lecture souls on number strings until the end of time.
When Elite: Dangerous appeared on Kickstarter the other day, it was like being given a box of delicious chocolates, only to find that someone had forgotten to put any fillings inside. Where there should have been praline (a video pitch) there was only a hollow void; where there should have been caramel or toffee (gameplay footage or images) there was only that icky strawberry filling that everybody hates. Well, we have two bits of good news for you: we're ending this torturous analogy right now, and Frontier Developments have updated their Kickstarter page.
The cycle is complete: A brand new Elite game has just materialised on Kickstarter, with David 'Don't mention The Outsider' Braben behind the wheel/at the bridge/making the damn game with his company Frontier Developments. He's asking for £1.25 million (around $2 million) to make Elite: Dangerous, the fourth in the series, happen, and- hang on, you've already backed it, haven't you? Well fine. As for the rest of you, prepare to somewhat cumbersomely dock after the break for more information.