Right now, Elite: Dangerous could effectively be renamed Space Trucking Simulator 3300. Yes, there's combat, but the beta's existing systems feel more suited to serenely travelling between the stars to profit from an incredibly basic economy. That's a consequence of the game's still-early development status, and, through Frontier's regular newsletter, they've been explaining what we can eventually expect. The latest update details interstellar exploration, and it sounds like a mighty fine career for adventurers and pirates alike.
There's a problem with the prevalence of YouTube videos and Twitch streams. Back before we had access to millennia worth of video footage, we could convince ourselves that we were competent at games—maybe even good. Now such pretence is inevitably blown away. I was pretty proud of my Elite: Dangerous docking prowess. Then I saw this: a story of smuggling, silent running, and an amazing flight assist-less docking.
If you have $75/£50 burning a hole in your pocket, and you're longing to try the belated sequel to a space simulation classic, today is the day your weirdly specific dream comes true. Elite: Dangerous has just entered its "standard beta" phase, which sees the price of entry lowered from an eye-watering $150 to a slightly less moist $75. This first standard phase comes with a clutch of updates and fixes, including "docking computer added" and "Gas giant features dervived from stellar forge data" and "I have no idea what any of this means". The patch list is below.
Hey, you! Space fan! Are you excited for Elite: Dangerous. Well stop it, there's no time for that—its creators are already looking toward Elite: Dangerous's expansions. Be excited for that instead.
Yes, despite the main game being in beta, the Frontier team are already planning ahead to Elite's post-launch future. In the latest news letter update, they've shared their vision for the game.
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.”
Okay, look, I've got a confession to make. We will get to all the newsy stuff about how Elite: Dangerous is entering a new alpha phase, thus bridging another of the many gaps between its inception and public release. But that's not really why I'm writing this. I'm writing this because of an excellent video that's surfaced showing the game's new hyperspace jumps. Let's ditch this paragraph of boring text, and get to the exciting space stuff...
I'm no expert on numbers, like the guy out of Numb-three-ers, but even I know that 400 billion is a really big number. Like, really big. In addition to being the number of The Beast's second cousin, Alan, 400bn is also the number of star systems that will feature in Elite Dangerous' final alpha phase. Alpha 4 "genuinely contains over 400 billion star systems,” Frontier Developments state in the most recent newsletter, star systems that will “[move] correctly; spinning, orbiting each other in an incredible astronomical ballet.” Alpha 4 will go live on May 15th, if Frontier can stop waxing poetic about the wonders of space in the meantime.
Andy's got you covered if you want to know about Elite: Dangerous's more exciting elements, like ship combat or Oculus implementation. But stick with me if you want juicy details about the real hot action. In a recent newsletter for the upcoming space sim, the development team have detailed the intricacies of trading. I'm breaking out into sweats just thinking about it.
Elite: Dangerous is an exciting prospect. It consumed Andy, who—since first experiencing its VR potential—has almost entirely abandoned reality. He was last spotted attempting a direct connection with Frontier's space sim, using a jury-rigged USB brain-jack and multiple tubes of pain relief cream.
Previously, the game was only available to those crowdfunding backers who'd parted with £200. Now things get a little more complicated. As of today, the Pre-Premium Beta has started, providing £100 backers access to a single player combat build. That runs until May 30th, when the game leaves alpha, and the full Premium Beta is shipped.
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.
Elite: Dangerous, the in-progress space sim from Frontier Developments, has released an alpha build to a group of especially-committed supporters of its Kickstarter project. The buy-in for participation in this phase of the alpha process was about $325, but that hasn't stopped the developer from releasing some new and intriguing footage to perhaps rustle up a few more potential pilots.
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.
Reinstall invites you to join us in revisiting classics of PC gaming days gone by. This week, Jon constructs some fine vomit comets and manages the mess in RollerCoaster Tycoon 3.
I am one very contented hour into Box Office, the fourth career-based scenario in RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, and my park rating is falling. I can see no immediate reason why until I zoom into a corner I’ve been neglecting for a while and see that it’s slick with vomit.
The Rotor I’ve placed there is obviously a bit too exciting for the ‘peeps’, as the game calls its park patrons, and many have lost their lunch. I locate and pick up one of my janitors, then drop him nearby where he dutifully starts to mop up, sending my park rating off in the right direction again. It’s this simple type of tinkering and troubleshooting that makes a construction and management sim like RCT3 such a satisfying alternative to games that are twitch-based or time-critical. So the peeps have had to wade through some puke for a little while; no biggie.
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 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.
Eurogamer are reporting that a number of staff have been made redundant at Frontier, the studio currently in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign for Elite: Dangerous.
Frontier's managing director David Walsh confirmed the news, saying "Frontier regretfully has given a total of 14 people (from a staff of 233) notice that their roles are redundant, across art (9), animation (3) and audio (2) disciplines."
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.