E3 2015: David Braben on Elite: Dangerous

    
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How does the guy who got motion sickness from Kirby’s Air Ride get assigned to the flight simulators every year? Yes, at this year’s E3, with my guns functioning and my ship mostly flying in an upright position, I checked out Elite: Dangerous with a few tips from the game’s director, David Braben.

Braben is interesting because he’s an old school developer from the times when PCs were certainly king and consoles were on the edge of disaster. He says he enjoys both platforms equally, though. In fact, he prefers using a controller to mouse and keyboard (at least for Elite). While you may play games in a slightly different way, Braben believes the type of game you play doesn’t change with the platform, which is precisely why he wanted to bring Elite to the Xbox One.

cqc1

It needs a bit of scaffolding, though. Close Quarter Combat is Elite‘s answer to this, bridging the gap between the simple instanced tutorials and the… well, everything of the open world of everything Elite. It is, in essence, a battleground — a lobby shooter in space. That’s why it’s on Xbox One first, but still coming to the PC. The idea is that console gamers are more used to these small, jump-in-and-fight-type games with little to no permanent punishment. The weaponry is all for CQC only and cannot be brought out into the game world (though the same ships can be bought and used in the persistent world).

Note that CQC isn’t meant to pave Elite’s way into e-sports (though Braben is fine with that potentially happening). While the game’s tutorial system is interesting enough, it isn’t PvP, and CQC is meant to help get your feet wet before moving on, if you move on. Braben acknowledges that some people may stick with CQC alone; however, you can use the knowledge and skills gained from CQC and apply them to the larger game, which is something I really wish I could say about other games’ instanced combat in persistent worlds. If you want to be a pirate or bounty hunter, you’ll need those combat skills, and while you can earn them out in the “real world,” having a safe place to experiment with different ships and loadouts saves you both time and resources.

The game isn’t all combat, though. I’d heard the Power Play update also shook up the mining scene a bit, adding drones to make it more enjoyable (and profitable). The response has been quite good. But something that keeps bothering me about Elite is that it’s the same universe but separate servers. There’s no direct cross platform, which certainly saves Frontier some headaches. The studio would have to coordinate between PC and Xbox One updates to make sure neither platform had an advantage over the other, and that’s difficult to pull off.

But not impossible. For the immediate future, Brabem says, we shouldn’t expect cross platform play. The Xbox version of the game is in the Game Preview Program (GPP) at the moment, and there’s no current word on releasing the game on other consoles. After the GPP, there may be some testing, but nothing’s certain.

During my demo, I had the option to use “flight assist,” which apparently is used by players regularly, though they’ll turn it off to execute complex moves. It reminded me of Star Citizen’s tiered controls option, which allows a player to control more and more fine details. Elite in general felt a bit less daunting in terms of potential openness of control, but it also didn’t have that slippery feeling to its ships. Both games both offer quite large, expansive settings to explore with multiple options on how to play the game. I think SC is larger, but as Braben noted, one thing that sets the two games apart is that Elite is out now and SC isn’t. That was all I was able to get out of him, though. He does follow the game and knows SC‘s Chris Roberts but feels that the two games will simply have their own way of doing things, and players will choose whichever they prefer.

cqc2

Braben also praised the existence of competition for its inspirational qualities. One thing Braben noted is that Frontier has had about 18 months to work on the game’s controls, which is a good point. It may be why I felt like I was able to control my ship better during this preview. If this is Braben telling Roberts to maybe feel free to take a page from Elite’s control tuning, it’s certainly something to keep an open mind about.

For my demo, Braben advised that I start from the base basics and just “stick with it” when it came to the joystick/throttle combo. Though I did try the Xbox controller a bit during my SC demo last year, the intimidating combo from Elite combined with some tips actually made my demo quite comfortable. Even for a space sim rookie, the demo made for an enjoyable experience. The throttle in particular made the “simulator” part of my experience more realistic. As much as I prefer simple controls, the challenge in the tutorials was enough to distract to the point that I literally had to tear myself away from Elite to make my next appointment. I can’t say I’m going to rush out to pick the title up right now, but if I were going to recommend a space sim, Elite would top off the list.

Massively Overpowered is on the ground in Los Angeles, California, for E3 2015, bringing you expert MMO coverage from NCsoft, Blizzard, Ubisoft, BioWare, and everything else on display at the expo!
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ernie the bernie
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PhoenixDfire ernie the bernie Vikingr Armsbend
The Kickstarter backers amount of £1.5 was for all of the development. Braben said it was sufficient to complete the game, As it happened, that was only about a fifth of what the game consumed by release, because Braben was wrong, overspending by a factor of five whilst still underdelivering. 

Single player mode is not in there. “Solo” is not single player.  Good to hear the stretch goal ships are coming. Better a year and half overdue than not at all :-)

Your reasons for the drop of offline are not the reasons Braben gave. Braben cited a “creative decision”. Well, you shouldn’t just decide not to deliver the good people paid for and call it a “creative decision”. And you shouldn’t claim people are not entitled to refunds when you agreed at the time of taking their money that they would all get refunds in event of non-delivery. 

On that word ‘finished’. It isn’t my word. Braben said the game would be finished by the end of last year. His word. Then when he deliver a game that fell far short of what he promised, he called it ‘complete’. His word. In interviews.

And since you mention First Encounters, let’s not forget that was also a pile of bug-infested turd that lost a tons of money for its backers and for which Braben failed to make the refund he’d promised.  PC Zone articlecomment image Lawsuit against Braben http://www.webcitation.org/6aIEvc2db .
In ED, what you got may have been more than enough for you but you ought  to respect the fact that it is enough for many backers who want the game for which they paid. Braben will be remembered as someone who took money for goods he failed to deliver, reneged on his refund promise, and betrayed the trust which backers put in him. Twice.  The test is whether he could ever get away with it again. I don’t anyone sane thinks he would stand a chance in another Kickstarter project. Unless he finishes ED and delivers it. A year or two late is better than not at all.

PhoenixDfire
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PhoenixDfire

ernie the bernie Yeah, I was a little bit ‘Meh’ about powerplay. I don’t think they’ve given the powers as much background as they need to have. I don’t have the time or the in game funds to be able to properly have a go at powerplay. I’ll kind of consider it when I run out of other things to do. It might be considered more like the end game for E : D. 

The other things in 1.3 I was happy with. Really want an imperial courier,

PhoenixDfire
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PhoenixDfire

Vikingr Cotic_OP The thing was, we kind of had the PVP Arena thing in Alpha 2, which was great fun. If CQC is going to be anything like that, I’m all for it.

PhoenixDfire
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PhoenixDfire

ernie the bernie Vikingr Armsbend

OK Here we go again.

As a Backer at one of the highest levels, I’ve got to say your putting a lot of words into our mouths there. We were told very early on in the process that the game was going to have on-going development, like any other MMO. We knew that we were going to have a gamma release of the very basic game at the end of the beta, and that release would be built on as the game progress.
The ‘Release’ hasn’t really been a release in the old fashion box on a shelf type of way. These days all games are patched and enhanced as they go along.

The backers amount only paid for about a fifth of the development, (small point; the backers did raise a lot more than £1.5m BTW). AS far as your other points;- Single Player mode or Solo is in there. The stretch goal ships are coming in now in 1.3 and 1.4.. The evolving galaxy is in the game (just look at the galaxy news and the community goals to see that there’s a plague slowly spreading across the galaxy) 

The offline mode being dropped was a pain in the backside and was handled very badly IMO but I understand the reasons why it was dropped (Hacking, stealing of intellectual property, discovering game spoilers) and as long as when the game is ‘Sunset’, they release the backend galaxy code to the community as they promised, that’s when you can have your offline mode and mod the game to your heart’s content. The problem is when the servers are down or they can’t be reached, there were a small amount of backers who couldn’t connect to the game (because of bad or restricted internet) and I’ve always sympathy for them. However, the accusations that it was a deliberate Bait and Switch are unfounded. I think they should have discussed that with the community a lot earlier on and then given the people with ‘genuine’ connectivity problems their money back (IMO).

This seems to be all in your definition of the Word ‘Finished’. We all new we weren’t getting the full game, what we got was more then enough as we had been waiting on a follow up from First Encounters for more than 20 years and I like the fact that there’s still more to come. It shows that this game is still ongoing and supported and not left on the shelf to rot like some games.

AS far as Braben being quiet, well there’s the other game frontier has been working on but the main reason will probably be announced at GAMESCON in a few days time.

ernie the bernie
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ernie the bernie

Vikingr ernie the bernie Armsbend
” DB delivered the initial game as promised on the PC platform first. No promise broken there.”

Wrong, wrong. DB has not delivered the initial game as promised. The game he promised had many features he’s not yet delivered. These include offline mode, single player
mode, freedom from DRM, install from disc, passengers, thargoids, shipyards,
ship-to-ship docking, stretch-goal ships, evolving galaxy etc. that are still not in the game. Just check his Kickstarter advertising like this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uKD1ap5hsI . He fessed up that he dropped offline mode. Backers are still hoping that the other features will arrive but given  Braben has been almost completely silent on this for months, hope is fading.

“BTW, the game will never be “finished”.”
The initial game should be finished by now. Braben said it would be finished by the end of last year. His words. “Finished”. Expanding and evolving beyond that is a completely different matter. Braben should finish the game he was paid for. Then he can evolve it if he likes. Without the £1.5m that the backers paid him for the inital game, he wouldn’t have any game to expand.

Vikingr
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Vikingr

ernie the bernie Armsbend 
It’s a difference between the initial game and a finished game. You must realize that? DB delivered the initial game as promised on the PC platform first. No promise broken there.

BTW, the game will never be “finished”. As long as it exists as a MMO it will evolve and be expanded in features and gameplay. That is the nature of all MMOs.

ernie the bernie
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ernie the bernie

Vikingr Armsbend “Frontier isn’t abandoning PC players, they’ve said it’ll come to PC later this year.” 

Problem with that is Braben is reneging on what he promised originally on Kickstarter. 

“Only once the initial game is done will we start to look at other platforms.Only once the initial game is done will we start to look at other platforms.”

PC players paid him millions to produce this game, and it is far from finished on PC. Braben should at least fix the bugs and add the missing features he promised on PC before he tries to move it to console.

ernie the bernie
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ernie the bernie

Response to PowerPlay “quite good”?? That couldn’t be further from the truth. PowerPlay added a ton of new bugs to the game, downgraded the graphics quality and has been rejected by 80% of players  https://archive.is/0u9Qw .

Vikingr
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Vikingr

Cotic_OP 
“I like the idea of a quick PvP arena because PvP in Elite can be difficult to find or finds you when you don’t want it, […]”

Yes, I agree, but wasn’t there a special system in E: D where PvP players gathers to PvP? I saw someone mention that in a video on YouTube but I didn’t catch the name of the system.

Vikingr
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Vikingr

Armsbend 
But Frontier isn’t abandoning PC players, they’ve said it’ll come to PC later this year. They just want to get the console version done properly first.

I think we can’t expect all platforms – PC, Mac, consoles – to receive every new content pack always at the same time. There’ll naturally be one platform they’re developing the new content on first before porting it to the other platforms. This time it’s the consoles which get the news first and that’s natural since it’s a new platform. The next time it’ll be PC or Mac. Or perhaps Playstation.