I was disappointed to learn that Elite: Dangerous won't support offline play, both as a matter of principle and practicality: My rural lifestyle has gifted me with internet access that's slow on good days, and non-existent on bad ones. But Frontier Developments founder David Braben said the single-player mode will work fine even on a wonky connection, and the studio has a contingency plan for the day the servers are taken down.
Elite: Dangerous will still offer a single-player mode, Braben recently clarified, just one that requires a constant connection to the net. "As we have developed the game and released Alpha and Beta versions, the work needed to deliver a rich online nature of the game diverged from the requirements of a fully offline game. In retrospect we should have shared the fact that we were struggling with this aspect with the community, but we were still trying to find a solution," he explained.
"As features were implemented, for the best results we chose to prioritize delivery of the online single and multiplayer experiences, with a view to providing the offline version later in development. We had to make a decision for the good of the game, and that is what we did."
The reaction to the decision was stronger than the studio expected, he said, since there's been little discussion about offline play until now, and the game has thus far been deployed entirely online. But he also noted that the single-player mode doesn't put a great strain on a connection, saying that he's played the game on a train, using his laptop tethered to his phone.
As for concerns that it will be unplayable if and when the servers are shut down, Braben said in a forum Q&A that Frontier plans to archive the state of the game "from time to time," and will release the archive if they're ever taken offline.
Elite: Dangerous comes out on December 16.