Elite Dangerous’ David Braben on communities, MMOs, F2P, and the space game genre

    
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Elite Dangerous

Elite Dangerous’ David Braben has a big spread in Rolling Stone’s Glixel blog this week, and it’s a fun read as he zips around discussing Trappist-1, Roman slavery, Star Wars, ant society, Shakespeare, Ursula Le Guin, computer science jobs, and the future of humanity. It’s a whirlwind, but he does eventually get around to talking about Elite itself, admitting that while the game will never achieve “perfection,” it’s “definitely approaching” his ideal space game, as “accurate as we can possibly make it.”

“When we first greenlit Elite: Dangerous, there were no other major space games since Freelancer,” he says. “Now, there are dozens. So, I think we’ve succeeded. We’ve brought the genre back to life. And we’ve proven there’s quite a lot of demand for this sort of game. Yes, it’s niche, but it’s quite a big niche. And we’ve got [Star Citizen’s] Chris Roberts coming along now, and so many other games that look interesting. No Man’s Sky, even.”

He also argues that free-to-play is a “challenge” to online communities and instancing in MMOs.

“I’ve always been obsessed with the social aspects of communities working together. I think the challenges chiefly come from not having a subscription. Otherwise, when you have a central server, there are very significant costs, which means it’s very hard not to be subscription-based. I was convinced that we could have a hybrid server/peer-to-peer architecture. We had to do quite a lot of research on that. Most people don’t realize this, but a lot of MMOs are instanced. They just don’t call it instancing. I think there’s a lot of talk about that implying that a genuine MMO has no instancing, but we spent a lot of time getting that tech to work, because it’s way more complicated than a central server.”

The whole piece is over on Rolling Stone.

Source: Glixel
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Lord Zorvan

((Deleted by mod. Seriously, stop.))

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PhoenixDfire

really, comparing David Braben and Derek Smart?

Sorry Derek Smart is no way in the same league as David Braben as a game developer, the only thing Derek Smart is superior in is trash talking.

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Your Honor

It’s both games. ED and SC are both responsible for space games coming back that’s just obvious.

This feels like Braben is foreshadowing a subscription for ED though. Can’t be a mandatory subscription though.
Wondering what they’ll be offering for it though other than content. Paint jobs? Would be hard to justify a sub for ED.

kah_9
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kah_9

ED is so deeply broken both technically and financially that if Braben is going to try to save it, he’ll have to do something very major. His best best might be to can it and start again as Elite Deadly, which he’s already registered the trademark for. That would fit with Frontier ‘s evasive stalling on an answer to the questions of the lifetime pass buyers who paid £130 for all future seasons left in doubt by Braben saying he’s not doing any more seasons.

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Your Honor

Best thing would be just to do expansion packs, it would have worked fine with Horizons if they didn’t sum up the games into one pack, a lot of people felt ripped off. Sum up horizons into the main game now for $40 and sell the expansion pack for $40 – 50 and provide a decent amount of content at the very start as well as future updates for a year. I wouldn’t mind spending 50 every year for elite. What I do mind is that they are asking for money up front for future updates.

kah_9
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kah_9

> Sum up horizons into the main game now for $40

They already did. They call it the “CMDR DELUXE EDITION” selling at $35 in a sale else $60.

Virtually no-ones buying it though. I looked at the Steam charts all the way down to about #200 and its not there.

kah_9
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kah_9

Braben: “we spent a lot of time getting that tech to work”

But Braben, you didn’t get it to work. You left it half broken, like just about every other aspect of your game. Google “Elite dangerous instancing fail”

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Jay Power

EVE is a space game, STO it’s a space game. How can you ignore that? How can you say your game is approaching ideal when its content is so basic, like 2007 basic looking at static avatars and reading text on a screen? The game is ok for RPers and the like, but as an actual video game in 2017 it’s got a long long way to go.
My step dad was around and playing space games on PC long before me and he’s super geeky about space and sci-fi stuff and he thinks E:D is incredibly boring.

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Droniac

EVE predates Freelancer by two years, so that’s actually accurately ignored. It also seems like the article is just swapping in “space game” for “space-sim”. And space-sim is a genre neither STO or EVE belong in.

There have been a reasonable number of space games since Freelancer, but barely any space-sims until crowdfunding exploded in 2012. The only notable space-sims in the 2003-2012 time span were X3, Evochron and Darkstar One. I think it’s fair to say that a total of three games released over 9 years time constitutes a dead genre. Every other genre that’s ever been called dead (adventures, platformers, turn-based strategy, cRPGs, arena FPS) hasn’t been anywhere near that dead. And this so shortly after space-sims being the dominant genre in the late 90s…

miol
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miol

They just don’t call it instancing. I think there’s a lot of talk about that implying that a genuine MMO has no instancing, but we spent a lot of time getting that tech to work, because it’s way more complicated than a central server.

He sounds almost proud about E:D’s instancing, just because most others try to hide it the same way!
And it still doesn’t mean instances are even a higher goal than central servers for MMOs in general!

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Melissa McDonald

Honestly if you don’t mention STO and SWTOR then you have blinders on. Space games never went away, they were just owned by 2 franchises.
But a resurgence? Public consciousness? No Man’s Sky gets credit to me, because it got a massive amount of publicity, sparked imaginations for what people believed / assumed it would be, although Elite predates it. I would warrant that Elite got a lot of new people who thought they wanted No Man’s Sky, but then ended up realizing Elite was a lot closer to what the thought they wanted. Just my opinion, I could be wrong.

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Tamanous

Swtor wouldn’t fit into his description of a space based game. He clearly means space ship simulation to a significant degree with at least a reasonable amount free space to navigate. STO barely fits as it doesn’t emulate full 3d movement in space and has limited play scapes.

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McGuffn

Upvoted, What he really means is games like Wing Commander or X Wing. Those games died long ago.

STO and SWTOR or EVE or Homeworld don’t qualify.

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zeko_rena

Could not agree more

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Michael18

I’d say SWTOR is about as much a space game as LOTRO is a survival shooter :-) TOR did not even have space flight at launch and Hoth was the only planet that remotely felt like an open environment.
STO I can see, when using a very broad definition of “space game”. Still STO and E:D/SC feel like belonging to different genres.

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Lethality

E:D is an amazing technical achievement (and released!), but I think credit for the genre coming back goes to Star Citizen, obviously. Not sure what Braben its smoking there.

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Rees Racer

I’m not going to disagree with you outright, because I’m not the sort to tussle over this matter. I did indeed pledge for 2 ships in Star Citizen several years ago, but the “game” has not been installed on any system I own for about 2 years, in which time I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Elite Dangerous (since launch). I think Chris Roberts might have started the hype-train, but it’s been the successful games (everything from Everspace to Ascent to Rebel Galaxy) that have actually been fully released since that have had more to do with the resurgence of this genre.

Really, I think it was simply time to once again tap into an unrealised area of gamer interest.

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BalsBigBrother

Um you are stating that a yet unreleased and unfinished game is shaping the space sim genre and solely responsible for its resurgence. Um ok I would ask you what you are smoking too but I am not really that interested.

Not that it matters to anyone but I don’t think it is as simple as one game or another being solely responsible by themselves. Each individual game offers something to different fans and the cumulative influx of positivity leads to the perception of a resurgence for a genre.

I could point out a similar thing happening with pvp games and sandbox games that have had a resurgence recently at the expense of the traditional theme park mmo (but they will come back round to being popular at some point too.)

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Lethality

These Braben’s words: “So, I think we’ve succeeded. We’ve brought the genre back to life.”

So, he seems to think one game has. And he thinks it’s his.

But… SC announced earlier, Chris is arguably the godfather of the space sim with Wing Commander and the mountains of cash raised made Star Citizen a mainstream news item.

All of that combines to mean to me that yes, Star Citizen has had more influence on the genre returning to glory than E:D.

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BalsBigBrother

See the thing is I also with respect disagree with Mr Braben.

A single game on its own doesn’t make for a resurgence of a genre, on its own it is just a popular game. The fact that we have Elite:Dangerous, Everspace, Rebel Galaxy plus the others that have launched and yes eventually Star Citizen when it manages to cross the launch line, which I am sure it will eventually. All those together cumulatively that makes for a genre resurgence.

As for relative influence that is a different argument to the one I am making. I honestly don’t have the energy to waste on what is really only a wall pissing contest at this point in time. I may revisit it in the future assuming I am still around once SC is actually released and out in the wilds like its genre contemporaries so that we are actually comparing like for like.

kah_9
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kah_9

“on its own it is just a popular game.”

Elite Dangerous isn’t a popular game. See how few it sold and its low user scores on metacritic, steam. And player numbers are dying, down to about a third of the already poor peak two years back. Now Frontier are trying to scrape up money by cosmetic microtransactions, selling laser and exhaust coloration for $1. Sad.

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BalsBigBrother

Do you have access to sales and financial data, no didn’t think so and I don’t agree with your speculation. Not everyone uses steam I don’t and use the native launcher as an example. I am just going to laugh at you for using metacritic user scores hahahahaha

The game is successful enough that it can continue its development and keep operational which is good enough for me. Everything else is just noise in the dark. :-)

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thirtymil
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PhoenixDfire

According to Frontier’s Latest results, it’s over 2.2 million sales now and that’s not including the latest PS4 release.

As far as frontier’s finances are concerned, they are doing very well for a ‘small’ independent studio, so I think we’ll see at least another couple of big content updates after 2.4.

kah_9
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kah_9

> According to Frontier’s Latest results, it’s over 2.2 million sales now

Complete crap. Frontier stopped releasing games sales figures way back at the time they needed to cover up the poor sales of the Xbox port.

> and that’s not including the latest PS4 release.

The PS4 release bombed. Two weeks in the Top 20, then it sunk without trace.

> As far as frontier’s finances are concerned, they are doing very well

Frontier did very badly out of Elite Dangerous. They came very close to a cash crisis before their finances were rescued by Planet Coaster earnings. If you think they are going to put Planet Coaster money into propping up Elite Dangerous, a game with dead sales and a dying player base, then you’re going to be disappointed.

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PhoenixDfire

It’s pretty obvious that you want the game to fail and spoil the fun of people who still enjoy it. The results for Elite Dangerous were quite good in their last statement and you can see that in the latest release to the stockmarket.

In addition, you forget that E:D is David Braben’s pet project so that means that there will be more content updates after 2.4. I’m sorry that you feel the need to hate a game people still enjoy playing.

kah_9
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kah_9

> The results for Elite Dangerous were quite good in their last statement

Bullshit. There was no figures for game copies sold or earnings made by Elite Dangerous in Frontier’s last statement.

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PhoenixDfire

So you don’t believe the revenue figures which are require by Law for the stockmarket?

Cheer up Star Citizen 3.0 alpha will be along soon, you can go play that and leave the rest of us to continue to enjoy E:D.

kah_9
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kah_9

> So you don’t believe the revenue figures which are require by Law for the stockmarket?

Frontier have released no revenue figures for Elite Dangerous. And nor are they likely to, since by their own and industry figures for game copies sold, ED revenues are a long way below what they pitched to their investors at the start of the project.

And you’re wrong about the law. There is no law requiring companies to declare revenue to the junior london stock market on which Frontier is trading.

kah_9
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kah_9

> It sold 1.4 million copies as of December 2015:

No it didn’t. That Eurogamer article mismisreported the total franchise units (includes every DLC, microtransaction, t-shirt, key ring etc.) as game copies. Source https://www.investegate.co.uk/frontier-dev-plc–fdev-/rns/interim-results/201702090700083904W/

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Michael18

He said “when we first greenlit E:D”, referring to the point in time when the project got the go-ahead inside his company, I think. IIRC E:D started development much earlier than SC, it’s just that SC went public (mostly Kickstarter) before E:D.
Still, I think Braben’s wording is a bit unfortunate, here.

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Moolarurka .

I think Chris Roberts promise of Star Citizen got some people interested in the genre again but I think it is a little silly to give it credit when all we have still is the promise of a game which will probably not be released until 2019 at the earliest .