Sci-fi Sandbox Showdown Contender – Elite: Dangerous

Can the second coming of the original open-world space-sim claim its birth-right back?

Contender: Elite: Dangerous

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Developer: Frontier Developments

Current Status: Kickstarter project of royal pedigree.

Release Date (proposed): March 2014

Key Facts:

  • The proposed re-imagining of the seminal classic that inspired a generation.
  • Despite over 15,000 backers on Kickstarter, the funding target of £1.25m (US$2m) has not yet been met.

Background

No one can dispute that Elite was the game that created the space-sim genre. In 1984, David Braben and Ian Bell changed the digital entertainment world forever with their visionary space trading and combat simulator which practically invented 3D graphics and persistent world gaming. Braben built on this success with a more realistic approach in the sequels Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters.

Then, the Elite franchise fell silent for decades, with occasional rumblings of a sequel never quite materialising. Other franchises picked up the space simulator baton and Elite became a fondly remembered legend of gaming antiquity.

However, the announcement of Elite: Dangerous on Kickstarter and the release of subsequent gameplay footage has given real credibility to the return of the space king. Although still in relatively early development, Braben has stated his studio, Frontier Developments, has been working on Elite: Dangerous as a background “skunkworks project” for some years. His aim is to take the concepts of the original Elite and use modern technology to deliver a freeform multiplayer sci-fi experience.

Strengths

  • The Elite brand has an almost biblical cache in sci-fi video game circles.
  • The unusual approach to multiplayer will give the player control over who shares the universe.
  • Procedurally generated, evolving galaxy of potentially infinite depth.

Weaknesses

  • How can a new Elite possibly live up to its own legend? Has it got anything left in the cargo bay?
  • The modest Kickstarter campaign will see development begin with only $2m (if the goal is reached before 4 Jan 2013 – currently only $1.2m has been pledged).

Summary

As the grandfather of space sims, no game has a finer pedigree than Elite: Dangerous. The original phenomenon re-imagined with modern technology is a sci-fi video game enthusiast’s wet dream. This deserves to be made. 

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Article Index

Page 1: Sci-Fi Sandbox Showdown: The Battle for the Stars
Page 2: Contender – EVE Online
Page 3: Contender – Elite: Dangerous
Page 4: Contender – Star Citizen

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Page 5: Conclusions

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Author
Mat Westhorpe
Broken paramedic and coffee-drinking Englishman whose favourite dumb animal is an oxymoron. After over a decade of humping and dumping the fat and the dead, my lower spine did things normally reserved for Rubik's cubes, bringing my career as a medical clinician to an unexpectedly early end. Fortunately, my real passion is in writing and given that I'm now highly qualified in the art of sitting down, I have the time to pursue it. Having blogged about video games (well, mostly EVE Online) for years, I hope to channel my enjoyment of wordcraft and my hobby of gaming into one handy new career that doesn't involve other people's vomit.