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/$335. Now things get a little more complicated. As of today, the Pre-Premium Beta has started, providing £100 (approx. $168) 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.
Before that, the alpha build will receive a fourth major module. The final phase, due sometime in May, will introduce trading and travel across a a 200 cubic light year volume of the Milky Way. It's a significant milestone for the game, introducing some of the economic systems that round out the space sandbox.
"Alpha phase 4 expands significantly," explains a press release sent out by Frontier, "with two modes of faster than light travel - in-system 'super-cruise' and between-system 'hyperspace'. The full Milky Way galactic map, containing some 400,000,000,000 star systems, will be present." Blimey.
If all this seems like an overly confusing way of doling out early access to a game, that's because of the strange organisational complications of multi-tiered crowdfunding. I do wonder the extent to which these staggered beta and alpha access phases are necessary. Is the draw of early exclusivity the prize that persuades people to spend big money on projects, or is it an extraneous reward next to the feeling of having secured the existence of the game in the first place?
Those of us who didn't spring for Elite: Dangerous higher tiers, the full release of the game is due sometime around the end of the year.