by Marcus Estrada[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n 1984 the space game Elite hit the computer gaming world with some serious force. Over the years it inspired many other series and also received some official sequels of its own. The latest, Elite: Dangerous, was Frontier Development’s first foray onto Kickstarter. By the end of the campaign in 2013 they had raised over £1.5 million (about $2.3 million). The massive fanbase of Elite demonstrated they were still hungry for more.
Among many promised features was one in particular that might not even seem like a big deal to many gamers. This simple feature was offline single player mode. Initially, Elite: Dangerous’s Kickstarter FAQ waved away any notion of one. However, after fan response, they updated their FAQ with the following statement: “However it will be possible to have a single player game without connecting to the galaxy server. You won’t get the features of the evolving galaxy (although we will investigate minimising those differences) and you probably won’t be able to sync between server and non-server (again we’ll investigate).”
Why was this simple feature change important to some of the community? It’s simple – not everyone has a reliable, fast internet connection. Just because “you” (used in the general sense here) are fortunate enough to afford a fancy superfast speed doesn’t mean everyone else has the spending money to do so. Moreover, even if someone does have the funds their area may not provide speedy internet for them to purchase! If you live in a big to mid size city then you’re probably okay, but much of the United States is still lagging sorely behind other countries with creating an internet infrastructure from coast to coast. It may be nearly 2015 but there are still a lot of people in this country without “good” internet – not to mention other countries with similar or worse issues!
So, yes, it is definitely the case that some people excitedly backed Elite: Dangerous after being promised an offline single player mode. It must have been especially heartening considering the current gaming climate where more and more games require online connections (even for single player titles). Unfortunately, just weeks before the games impending launch came the news that an offline mode had been nixed from the plans. Their reasoning was boiled down into the following statement: “A fully offline experience would be unacceptably limited and static compared to the dynamic, ever unfolding experience we are delivering.”
It’s as simple as that. Offering up an offline single player mode would mean they were providing an inferior version of their product to some players. As proud developers, they found that an unacceptable compromise which is why it had to be removed. Some members of the Elite: Dangerous community disagree. They have every right to feel spurned or upset over this reversal. Not only did it invalidate promises made during the campaign but it also came very close to the actual launch. As it turns out, Frontier Developments wrestled with an offline mode throughout development and only recently came to the realization it wouldn’t work with their aims.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the development team wanted to make good on their promise and only removed it out of what they felt to be necessity. This choice has caused a lot of anger and confusion – enough so that some pre-purchasers have even requested refunds. Unfortunately, the current PR statement about refunds sounds a bit dodgy, stated as: “Refund requests are evaluated on an individual basis against the applicable terms and conditions of sale.” It sounds a bit like they don’t feel such complaints about offline single player are valid enough for a refund. Considering how important this is to some people hopefully this statement is just a bluff to dissuade some customers to file for a refund.
There are a few aspects to point out which show that maybe this isn’t as completely unbearable a removal as it could be. For one, single player itself still exists but will require an online connection. It will be used to facilitate parity with the multiplayer world which is regularly growing and changing. Frontier Developments chief David Braben has also since said that the game’s single player mode will not require fast speeds. They’ve also pledged to work toward making it playable even on “spotty” connections.
Will these promises hold and prove to be true? Well, the game’s out now and people are already beginning to report their experiences. As we move beyond launch it’ll be possible to appraise Frontier Developments on their commitment to allowing players with slow, finicky internet connections still enjoy their product. If you’re someone who actually has no home internet on your computer at all, well, unfortunately it looks like you’re going to have to find something else to satiate your gaming itch.[divider]