9 Things We Need in Elite: Dangerous
With the promising start of Elite: Dangerous on Kickstarter, we thought it was time to take a look at the legacy of the series and what the new entry should offer to make it interesting to modern audiences and still be attractive to the old fans at the same time.
Any old timer spacer will be able to tell grand stories of a game called Elite, which presented space goers with limitless adventures as a trader, a pirate or a bounty hunter. The trusty Cobra Mk III was the ship of choice for whichever trade you might prefer. The same old spacers may even tell stories of the sequels to that game: Frontier: Elite II and Frontier First Encounters, which expanded upon the original idea and allowed you to buy new ships, land on planets, destroy military bases, play postman, build careers in trading and military and much more.
What set Elite and its sequels apart from other space sims of the era, was that the universe was more or less limitless. Procedurally generated, the games had more star systems and planets to explore than any other title, allowing you to pick a direction and just go find out what lay there. You were assured to find systems and planets that no other players had visited as every star system was different and – within the technical limits of the time - every planet was unique.
It is no wonder that those who experienced Elite have been eagerly awaiting a sequel for the past two decades. But as games and gaming changed, expectations have increased and dreams have had time to grow. What, then, will be needed to set Elite: Dangerous apart from today's competition and make it – the - space sim to have? The obvious better graphics and a humongous procedurally generated universe are a given, so we racked our brains and came up with nine ideas that go a bit deeper than those.
1. Relativistic Newtonian Physics
Physics in the original Elite were not Newtonian, but both sequels had proper physics to play with. Granted, they were perhaps not implemented in the most fun-to-play way, but they made the space experience much more realistic than many of the other space games of the era where you had space ships that basically handled like fighter planes in. The Frontier games made a mistake in promoting the kind of playing style where you had to accelerate to relativistic speeds to approach the inner system (jumping to a new system took you to the outskirts of the star system, a long way from any inhabited planets) and then turn the ship around to try to decelerate in time to catch up with the planet's speed as it orbited the local star. Realistic, for sure, but too difficult for more casual players to enjoy.
In Elite: Dangerous, we would like to see the same Newtonian flight physics, but with less need to accelerate to those ludicrous speeds. Either have the ships jump closer to inhabited worlds or introduce some other jump speed methodology for in-system travel. You could also introduce speed limiters on the ships for traffic safety reasons (GalCop legislation).
2. Keep the difficulty
Games are getting easier and easier every year to cater to the casual gamers. While this may be a good thing in some respects, it takes away from the feeling of achievement that you feel when you play a game for weeks, trying to balance your income and spending to afford that slightly better laser system for your ship. Or to manually land you ship onto a moon that orbits its planet at high speed, or perhaps to land your ship when half of your manoeuvring thrusters and the docking computer are offline.
This also applies to the anarchy systems. Nothing was more nerve-wracking in the original Elite than trying to fly a cargo load of narcotics to an anarchy system where dozens of pirates would swoop down to try and take that cargo for free. Let the more casual players have their safe, democratic systems, but let the rest of us have some excitement in civil war torn systems, or systems infested with piracy.
3. Multiple career paths with their own stories
The one thing that was lacking in the previous instalments was a strong story. Certainly, Frontier: First Encounters made a great effort into this direction by featuring a loose main story and allowing you to gain ranks in militaries and gain renown as a trustworthy cargo hauler, but it still lacked strong stories to go with those mission strings. In a game where you can choose to be a pirate, a trader, an explorer or a freelance military operative and what-not, you need to have stories to back those career choices up. Also, you should not be able to “fight for both sides” without repercussions should your double-dealing be found out.
Along the same vein, explorers should have lots of exciting stuff to do. An infinite procedurally generated universe is all well and good, but sprinkle some ancient ruins and other surprises out there for explorers to find and report back to their employers or other interested parties. How about interesting new life forms to collect and analyse? Fill the cracks with some more mundane missions, such as searching for new exploitable gas giants by scooping samples of their atmospheres, or searching for inhabitable worlds in similar manner. Let the infinite universe really feel like an infinite universe with history and alien worlds.