Elite Dangerous is based on the classic Elite game and allows players to fly through an expansive universe killing their friends.Elite: Dangerous Online Only. How Bad Is It?

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).”

Elite Dangerous is based on the classic Elite game and allows players to fly through an expansive universe killing their friends.

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.

Elite Dangerous is based on the classic Elite game and allows players to fly through an expansive universe killing their friends.

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.

Elite Dangerous is based on the classic Elite game and allows players to fly through an expansive universe killing their friends.

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.

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(Editors Note: While we mention in the article that Elite: Dangerous is “out now”, it’s still the Beta version that’s available for purchase.  The full release is due in mid December 2014. Thanks Hardlydan!)

[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/marcus.jpg” ] Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. One day when he became fed up with the way sites would ignore niche titles he decided to start his own site by the name of Pixel Pacas. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come. Some of Marcus’s favorite games include Silent Hill 2, Killer7, and The Sims. [/author]

Marcus Estrada
Marcus is a fellow with a love for video games, horror, and Japanese food. When he’s not writing about games for a multitude of sites, he’s usually still playing one. Writing about video games is something he hopes to continue doing for many years to come.
Marcus Estrada

@BackerMarcus

Writer for @Cliqist - This is my new ''PROFESSIONAL'' account. Yay, crowdfunded video games!
Glad to see the BL visual novel Sentimental Trickster was funded. How about those #Kickstarter stretch goals? https://t.co/AEU8LaeD6M - 1 year ago
Marcus Estrada
  • Hardlydan

    Good article with only one problem. Unless I’ve been sleeping for too long again, the game isn’t out until December 16. What we have now is the Beta until 22nd November when the Gamma phase starts.

    • Good clarification Hardlydan! I’ll add a note at the indicating that while it’s available for purchase now, it’s not the full release build.

      By the way. Have you checked it out yet? I’m in the middle of the very slow process of updating with the new launcher. Might be a long night!

      • Hardlydan

        Sorry I took so long to reply. I’ve been playing far too much Elite Dangerous. I must be well over 400 hours now.

        • Nice! Loving it eh?

          • Hardlydan

            Oh yeah! I’ve had to restart thanks to some mission bugs that ruined my reputation but they seem to be sorted now. I just bought an Adder.

  • for me no offline is almost a deal breaker while my internet is ok having played diablo 3 i can just imagine server downtime with updates ddos attacks etc and lag.

    But for a developer i cannot see the financial reasoning with a offline game all you need is the first main download and then getting the odd update but having a always online would mean they would have to pay for a lot more servers

    I really feel sorry for people who have download caps though this gen the game sizes and updates are getting hughe

  • huxi

    The main problem with always-online requirement is that the game is gone once the servers are turned off – for whatever reason. This is DRM and I wouldn’t back a game without a DRM-free option.

    The issue of server shutdown has been addressed in the latest newsletter at http://eepurl.com/8SZrb where they promise to release the server code if they ever plan to turn the servers off.

    “Could the server code be released publicly some day when the servers are shut down?
    Yes. This is something we would do if for whatever reason we cannot keep the game going.”

    I have some doubts that the company would still care about this new promise if they are about to go bankrupt, for example.

    The FAQ on the Kickstarter page promises the following:

    “Will the game be DRM-free?

    Yes, the game code will not include DRM (Digital Rights Management),
    but there will be server authentication when you connect for multiplayer
    and/or updates and to synchronise with the server.”

    So they broke two promises so far: the offline mode promise and the DRM-free promise.

    • I will say that getting the game up and running is a bit annoying. I don’t really play any MMOs, so it may be standard, but registering, getting the downloader, logging in, having it send me an authentication code, and downloading/installing is tiresome for someone as lazy as me. Have to do the authentication code after every update, hopefully it won’t be that way with the full release.

      Tried playing just now in fact. Was in for about 5 minutes and I got a black screen with a message telling me the connection to the server was lost. Exited the game and the installer gave me a prompt to buy the game. Logged out completely and back in again (installer seemed fine and gave me the “play” message again). Got to the main menu of the game and the play option was red. After a minute I got a message saying there was no server connection.

      yay.

      • huxi

        Oh dear… ôO

        I’m in the “lucky” position that I couldn’t play the beta so far since I have to wait for the Mac version… yikes!