Is the Elite Reboot Starting to Look and Sound More Dangerous?
Frontier Developments has released new Elite: Dangerous video featuring the first in-game footage seen publicly since the end of its Kickstarter campaign in January this year.
The video begins with a first-person in-cockpit view as the pilot receives a 'mayday' from a Federal Battlecruiser Damocles. We then see the pilot respond by warping to the site of the stricken capital vessel and diving into a pitched space combat.
For fans eager to see new life breathed into the sci-fi franchise which launched 3D gaming, it features a several nods to the original, from the iconic console radar to a squadron of re-imagined Sidewinder ships. For newcomers to the Elite universe, it represents what seems to be a robust and competent space combat engine with the potential to deliver a thrilling game experience.
On the Frontier Developments forum, Senior Producer Michael Brookes responded to questions regarding whether the video was captured in-game or if it was pre-rendered:
“It's a mixture of both, it's all captured in game, but there is some post processing and the cockpit is a mock-up (we're implementing it in-game as we speak). We'll release a video in a few weeks that deconstructs the video from an art perspective so you'll get more details then.” - Michael Brookes
Shiny capital spaceship goodness aside, in this video, what we are hearing is as important as what we're looking at. The video played a key part in the selection of a composer for the Elite: Dangerous project, a position now filled by the amazingly named Erasmus Talbot on the strength of his score in this very sequence.
In the most recent Kickstarter update, Jim Croft, Frontier's Head of Audio, explains the selection process, the orchestral criteria and the high calibre of applicants:
“Erasmus was a favourite from quite early on. His music was extremely sympathetic to the changing action in the trailer and expressed what we thought were very strong thematic ideas. There was also an excellent sense of dynamism to his score; he seemed to know when to go full on and when to pull back and let the visuals do the talking. He let his score breathe.” - Jim Croft
Erasmus Talbot's portfolio includes worked as a sound designer at Avalanche Studios (Just Cause, Renegade Ops) and as a composer for Relentless Software and Boost Music. His evocative composition for the Elite: Dangerous video certainly takes a nod toward familiar territory – the use of stirring choral phrases and the string section undercurrent is reminiscent of John Williams' Duel of the Fates. Talbot explains this was by design:
“I stayed close to the musical language typically associated with the genre, drawing from scores of recent sci-fi blockbuster such as Star Trek, Oblivion, Star Wars I-III etc. while trying to find my own voice in the themes and use of synth... Creatively, stepping out of the shadows of Holst, Williams and co. will take quite some confidence and experimentation but it’s essential to reflect musically the unique character of Elite:Dangerous’ gameplay.” - Erasmus Talbot
On the Frontier
Elite: Dangerous development continues apace at Frontier's studio in Cambridge, UK and it's encouraging to see something more tangible than the talking heads and admittedly intriguing art and concept work that we've been seeing in updates so far.
The information flow from Frontier has been good, but it's a relief to see solid evidence of progress.
It will be interesting to hear how the creation of this video helped to drive forward "other aspects of the game such as ship materials, GUI layout and special effects," and David Braben's promised upcoming dev diary should shed further light on this process.