by Marko Susimetsä
previewed on PC
In addition to following the same beloved formula of its predecessors, Elite: Dangerous will offer a completely new dimension: the option to participate in an online, living and developing universe where new star systems can be explored, new planets are settled and new orbital stations will be built. The developers promise that the players will be able to affect local politics and the outcomes of wars, especially if they work as a group to do so.
However, instead of a traditional MMO approach, you can pick the people you want to see in the multiplayer environment by creating or joining a separate group – thus you will get all the benefits of an open, developing universe, but can effectively ignore those gamers who do not fit your personal view of “having fun”. I can see separate groups being created for us old-timers wanting to just play our game and perhaps sometimes see other players in addition to the AI flown ships, and other groups for those who prefer a lot of human interaction. But even if you play fully online with everyone else, the vast universe with a hundred billion star systems to explore will ensure that you could easily ignore the civilized and more populated systems and find peace in the unexplored frontiers.
As a result of the multiplayer aspect, the universe will be very dynamic. It will not only change as a result of player actions (delivering food to a starving system or letting them suffer, finding new worlds to settle), but also as a result of a so-called Design Decision Forum. The developers have announced that the people who pledged at least £300 in the Kickstarter campaign will receive powers in overseeing the universe – they will see aggregated data about where piracy, player deaths and trade happens and they will sometimes be allowed to decide how the political situations on certain planets will evolve (relief forces sent by adjacent systems) or devolve (governments collapse). Overall, it will be an interesting new way of handling the constant development of a universe and will hopefully give it a more organic feel than automated decision-making would.
Of course, for those who abhor online gaming in all of its forms will have the option of playing single-player, but they will lose the aspect of an evolving universe. The better option, however, might be to set up an exclusive group of just some your friends and play online only with them.
The World is Changing
The Elite games have always been set on a specific timeline. Elite was set in the year 3200 and the third part in 3250. Elite: Dangerous will take place 50 years later again, in the year 3300. This will mean that technology will have advanced perhaps slightly but not tremendously. We’ll still have the traditional ships like Cobra Mk III, Viper Mk II, Sidewinder etc. to make the universe feel familiar, but there will certainly be some new things out there as well.
Some aspects of the technology in the Elite universe have been somewhat uncertain: the short stories and novellas that accompanied each instalment gave the impression that there was artificial gravity, for example, while the developers and manuals have usually insisted that there is not. With Elite: Dangerous the latter will hold true: the developers have promised to deliver a writers’ bible which will make certain that the fiction and the game universe remain true to each other.