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Teala's Wickedly Cool MMORPG.com Blog For The Masses

Just my thoughts on MMO's, roleplaying, game companies, and the people that play these games.

Author: Teala

Elite: Dangerous - It's the start of something big, bold and beautiful.

Posted by Teala Saturday January 3 2015 at 10:58PM
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In September 1984, little did a game publisher known as AcornSoft realize that they were about to change the fledgling computer gaming world forever.  They released a new game.  It was a space flight simulator/trading game set in an open ended gaming world.   It had state of the art wire frame graphics.  It had procedural content.  There really weren't many game like it on the market at the time .  The game was so revolutionary and daring that people would debate and discuss it years after its release.  It would go on to be named one of the most influential computer games by numerous gaming magazines, developers, and computer gaming enthusiast from around the world - that game was Elite.  

Oh yes, I played this game back in the day.  I played it for many hours.   It was one of my all time favorite games I have ever played.   It was twitched based space sim combat.  It had the trading aspect.  There were space pirates to deal with and alien invaders that were best avoided.   It truly was, for its time, a great game - and a blast to play.  

Over the years, various sequels would be released, which would update the game with better graphics and a variation on the game play - each great within its own right.    Again, these sequels would get played for hours and hours.   Even the games that came out later, whose game play was influenced by Elite: like Wing Commander, Privateer, Freelancer, and the online MMO EVE Online, would see many hours of game play, but in many ways the original Elite was still one of the single best games I have personally ever played.

Imagine my excitement when I heard that David Braben(one of the original developers of Elite and the owner to its copyright) had decided to make an up-to-date version Elite.   Just the thought of an updated version of the game using a modern gaming rig was enough to get me even more excited about computer gaming than ever before.  Then we were told it was going to be an online version...

...::faints::... THUD!  <<< That was me hitting the floor.  

Few moments later...after I compose myself.

OMG...oh my fricking God, are you serious?  Elite is going to be made to be played online with other people?  I can play with my friends?!  Elite...the space game from the 1980's, the space game that really got me into gaming in the first place?  That Elite?  

Again... THUD!!

LOL!  Yeah, I was that excited. 

Then I picked myself up again.   Not only is it going to be online, but they're expanding it beyond what we ever experienced in previous versions.  You'll not only land on stations and planets, but you will have an actual character, be able to walk around in stations, on planets, do EVA's, explore derelict ships...

THUD!!!

If any of you have been following my blog, back in 2009 I wrote about what my dream MMO would be like...it would be like Elite - a space based sci-fi, spaceship sim, FPS combat type combat, explore the galaxy, be a trader, a bounty hunter, a pirate...essentially Elite, but better because we'd do more than just fly ships...

...so, yeah...excited...oh hell yes!  This is the kind of computer game I have wanted for so long...and now, now...OH MY FRACKING GOD!    Guess what I have been doing the past 5+ months?   I'VE BEEN PLAYING AND TESTING ELITE!  ELITE ONLINE!!!

To say that I'm excited about computer gaming again is an under statement on the grandest scale.  Sure, there are other MMO games coming out in the near future that promise to deliver open worlds, and a more rounded RPG type experience, but even those are limited in scope.   Elite: Dangerous has the whole damn Milkyway Galaxy as its play ground - 400 billion(yes - that is 400 billion - billion with a B) star systems you'll be able to explore.    Even in your life time, you couldn't explore all the star systems this game has in it.   How fricking cool is that?!   I said, when I wrote about my dream MMO that it would have the whole galaxy for us to explore...guess what - Elite: Dangerous has the whole galaxy for us to explore!!!   Am I a happy gamer?  Am...I...a...happy....gamer?

Oh yes!  I am a happy gamer, I am smiling from ear-to-ear right now - and have been for months!  I'm playing my dream MMO!  Or at least the game what will eventually be my dream MMO.   It is awesome!

It has most everything the original had(sans the Thargoids - they are being added later to the game) and some.  We can do most everything we could do in the original: we can trade, we can collect bounties, take missions, smuggle goods, be a..."Space Pirate, scourge of the universe"(does her impression of the alien from the movie Explorers - hehehe...), explore and discover new things - and now we can even mine minerals from asteroids, and that is just for starters.   Yes, this is Elite...and yes, it is Elite Online! 

Now for me, I am in gamers nirvana.   This game as is, is one of the best games I have ever played.   That is just me.  Elite was one of the first computer games I ever played.   It was the computer game that got me hooked on computers and gaming when I was younger.   With that said...

...Elite: Dangerous is not a game for everyone.   It is not the holy grail of gaming.  It is not greatest game ever made.  It is Elite, and if you've never played the original or any of its sequels you might be sorely disappointed.  Elite is an open ended game.  There is no hand holding(the game telling you what to do and how to progress), it is an open world game.  You get to decide what you are going to do, and where you are going to go - the game does none of that for you, unlike most MMO games where you are out to become the hero.   Most MMO's there are story arcs you must follow, and certain task to perform as you play the game and progress - Elite does none of that.

Another thing - Elite is twitch based.   There is no click on target and then spam hotkeys to defeat your enemy.  Elite is llike a first person shooter - align the targeting pip on your enemy and fire.   You can opt to use a joystick, a gamepad, or keyboard and mouse to play.   It is not very forgiving if you are not into twitch type game play.

You must also learn to pilot your ship.   That means fly it, control its power systems and modules, how to land on stations, and how to avoid getting caught in a stars gravity well(which can test your ability to think and react quickly), or be interdicted by a space pirate or the police(if you're wanted by them).  Of all these, landing on stations has quite a learning curve.   Trust me, the first few times is a very nail biting experience.    You'll think to yourself that it cannot be done.   However, once you've done it a few dozen times it becomes second nature and it isn't such a problem any more.   For those that never quite get the hang of it, or for those that find landing boring after a bit, you can opt to install a docking assist computer.   The computer handles docking for you and you'll never have to worry about how you're going to fly your ship through that narrow slot of a station opening again.  

The good thing about all the things I have mentioned - Elite has a great tutorial system that allows you to practice everything I have mentioned and more.  You can practice everything as many times as you want without actually being in the game world itself.   There are also videos available on the main website that will walk you through most aspects of this game.   Once you get comfortable with the games workings and how to pilot and land your ship, you can jump into the main game and be ready to go.  

As I mentioned earlier, Elite is far from being the greatest game ever made, if people have hyped it up as such - don't listen to them - Elite is not going to be a game that fits every gamers needs, and in its current state it is basically the original game with a few bells and whistles added; it is not finished.

What Elite is however, as it is right now, is the foundation for a better game.  The basics are in place, it is up to the developers to expand upon what they have began to create and to take the game to the next level.  Right now, we can fly spaceships, fight, pirate, scavenge, explore, trade, mine, smuggle, do missions, and have some influence(not a whole lot) on how the game world itself progresses: in that players can have a minimal effect on market prices for goods, players can influence star systems political behaviors(like start wars or end them - change sides to different states of power) - but not a whole lot.   We're told this will be expanded upon in future updates as the game is updated and other game play mechanics are added.

Right now there are three main political factions - Federation, Empire, and the Alliance, with many smaller independent political factions tossed in among the those three major powers.

Elite, though it is called an MMO sometimes doesn't feel like one.  There are a few reasons it is like this.  For instance, one of the biggest things missing that we have in most MMO's is global chat.  Elite doesn't have this.   You can chat(voice or text) with a person if you have them targeted, or if you have them in a 3rd party app with you like Vent or Skype.   This I feel, is one of the most important social tools Frontier needs to add to the game to help make it feel more like a true MMO.    What I'd love to see is a comm system like EVE Online.   You have local system chat.  You also have a myriad of channels you can get into like trade chat, mining chat, etc, etc, - Elite needs this.   Some people will disagree, that's OK...they don't have to use it.   Those of us that are MMO junkies like the option to be able to chat and talk with lots of people in game - and no MMO, in my opinion is complete without it.

Then there is the ability to actually play with friends.  This can be done, but right now it isn't implemented as well as it should have been.   You might find it a little frustrating to get together with friends in game at times.   Good news is, there are work arounds to get together.   On the main games forums and Youtube, you'll find all the information you need to meet up with friends in game.    Frontier needs to fix this and make it better.    We also need to be able to come together to form groups, call them guilds, corps, or clans, whatever - but this definitely needs added.   We're told it will be in the near future.  This is good.    Again, without it, Elite is missing a key element of what makes an MMO and MMO.  

We must also be able to fly in unison at times.   For instance, because the way the game is set up, only 32 people at a time can be in the same instance at any one time.   That means you can get separated from people you are teamed up with from time to time.   The game has one big Universe, everyone plays in it, no different servers or shards(think Elder Scrolls Online) but since the game can only handle 32 people per instance it requires the game to create multiple instances of the same instance.   When this happens, you might find yourself in a different instance than one of your friends is in.  Again, this is an issue, just as it was in Elder Scrolls Online) and hopefully Frontier will find a way to fix this.  

Another huge issue, one that the game simply cannot overcome is the lack of players.  I say it cannot overcome it for two reasons.    One, the game world is so huge, it wouldn't matter if all the people on the planet Earth played Elite: Dangerous(all 7+ billion of us) we'd eventually get so spread thinly across the 400 billion star systems - you'd be lucky to come across another player in your life time of playing the game.   Think about that for one second...there are 400 billion star systems in this game...and the Earth has just 7 billion people.  If each of those 7 billion people were in a separate star system - that means there are 393 billion(that is 393 billion with a B), star systems that have no human player in them.   As the game is right now, we know that not all 7 billion people are playing, in fact due to the fact that the game is the type of game it is I would suspect that there are maybe, at most, at any one given moment around 20k to 40k people playing Elite at any one time, and that is being generous.   It is very easy to see how defused the player base can get with so few players and such a large gaming area.   This will happen as players move away from the main starter systems and begin to explore.  The further they travel, the more defuse they'll become.   It's going to happen.    There is really no way for this to be fixed and I myself do not want Frontier to change it.  Let the game develop on its own and let's see what happens.   Maybe little pockets of player populations will spring up in various regions of the Milkyway, maybe they won't.   Just don't manipulate the sandbox and make us have to stay together.   Let us decide how the game develops.

The second issue this game cannot overcome, and I mentioned it earlier,  is that Elite: Dangerous is a niche' type game.  Only a certain type of gamer will be drawn to it.   Not even your average MMO player is going to find Elite attractive.   It is FPS based.   That is one thing that turns a lot of MMO players off.  It is sci-fi, a genre that hasn't done all that well in the MMO gaming world.   It has a fairly steep learning curve - another turn-off.  It is an open world, with no set rules of progression.   There is no preconceived story arc that players are involved in that evolves into a main story arc that they participate in.  All these things will turn a large portion of the gaming community off from ever playing Elite.   Just like EVE Online, Elite will have a player base that doesn't need those aspects to make the game enjoyable and that is the reason games like EVE Online are niche' games - they appeal to only a certain type of gamer.   Elite will never have players that number into the millions as World of Warcraft or even the hundreds of thousands that some MMO's have.    This is something Elite will probably never overcome - and this will add to the sense that there are not a lot of people playing.   I'm personally OK with that.   Others will find it a turn off.    It is what it is and I do not believe there is any solution that Frontier can come up with that can alleviate these two problems without shrinking the playing area of the game. 

There is one interesting aspect of this game I find interesting.   You are playing the game online, but there is a twist.  You can decide to play in the open world with other people or play in the same world without all the other players - play it solo, or play it with friends or groups, again all in the same game world.   In all these versions your actions can influence the game - the difference being that in the solo version - you see no other players, just NPC's - but you can see the markets change, and the star systems politics change as if you're playing in the open world game.  That is quite cool.  Not sure I like it, but it is very cool.   It means if you're a little intimidated by the  thought of encountering another player in game - play Solo and still enjoy all the game has to offer minus the actually in your face PvP the open game world offers.  

There are currently a total of 14 flyable ships players can pilot and more to come.   Not sure how many they have planned for the game, but it is a good start.

Combat in Elite: Dangerous is like most other space type sims.  There isn't a whole lot that makes it stand out really.   If you've played any type of computer space fighter sim you'd probably notice that Elite pretty much is what it is.   You can make it a bit more exciting and challenging by turning off flight assist.  This allows for Newtons laws of physics to be used to some degree and you can pull off some pretty screwy maneuvers.   But, to be honest, it really doesn't bring anything new to the table...and you know what, that is OK.  No need to re-invent the wheel or try to be something more, that will just turn people off.   The space combat is engaging enough that it doesn't stress you out to no end - OK, maybe a little, when you're zipping around inside a asteroid field with 20+ other ships - that can get hairy and require a little white knuckle flying, then again a little excitement now and then is a good thing. 

Weapons are the standard fair for a space sim, bullets, lasers, rail guns, missiles...nothing over the top.   It makes for what you'd expect in a sci-fi type shoot-em up space sim.

Graphics are really good, some are great, and some are jaw dropping.   You can play the game in 4k.  It is fully Oculus Rift supported(this is by far the best way to play it right now and will be even better with the release of consumer version of Oculus Rift).   I can put up screen shots, but they'll never give you the same effect or do this game justice - this is one game you'll have to experience yourself.

Sounds in game are very well done.    I love the little sounds your ship makes, especially when you flight through a dust cloud from an exploding ship.  You can hear the small pieces of debris plinking on the hull and canopy.   It always reminds me of what Admiral Adama of Battlestar Galactica asked Starbuck when she was in a dogfight, "Tell me what you hear Starbuck."   She'd reply, "Nothing but the rain."   Another sound that I love is a few of the ships make the same noise as some of the ships in Star Wars.   Remember when Obi Wan was chasing Jango Fett through the asteroids.   Yeah, there are a couple of ships that sound just like that.   So when you're flying through the asteroids and you hear that sound, you'll probably think - Star Wars!  Cool!

(the picture above is from Star Wars)

(this is from Elite: Dangerous)

Elite is what it is.  If you are thinking that it is going to be World of Warcraft in space...you're going to be sorely disappointed for sure. 

Things I think need added to the game to make it better than what it is.   Well for starters, a wider variety of station types - this would be cool.  Right now there are just a few, but I think Frontier has plans to add more types and this will help make this game more immersive.

I'd also like to see a lot more different types of ships added in the future.   Different combat specialized ships, mining ships, trading ships, large capital ships...just more ship types and lot's of them.

Of course since they have said we're going to have characters, I hope we have a good character creation system in game.  Not too fancy, just something that can allow us to make a fairly unique character.   Then add lots of different clothing options(this is what will help make our characters unique even more).

Give us things to do when we can in stations.   Gamble, socialize, make deals, assassinate people, explore derelict ships, explore worlds, etc, etc.   There really is so many things they could add it would be hard to go over all of them.  Two that would be cool is to be able to land on a planet and capture flora/fauna that can be sold on the market.   Another is to be able to go on planets to scan for mineral deposits, then set up automated mining equipment to mine ores and minerals.   Then when the hoppers are full we simply transfer the goods to our ships and take them to a refinery and or market to be sold.

There are all ready plenty of things we can do in game, some just need tweaked and others need tweaked and added to that would make them more engaging or fun.   As I mentioned we can mine in the game(asteroids - right now).  This is one thing that needs tweaked a bit and added to.   Mining is a bit of a mini game in how it is implemented - right now - however, I think in its current form people might get a little bored.  So Frontier should add different ways to mine asteroids.  For instance using drones, and a tractor beam for pulling in the chunks of rock you knock off asteroids - just as an example.

For ships that can have a crew, I hope we can hire NPC crew members and or have player friends fly in our ships with us.  It would be so cool to have a player co-pilot or maybe a rear turret gunner.   That would be awesome.  Just examples.

We definitely need to be able to go 3rd person view in this game(which currently we cannot do).  Not for combat - that is a no brainer.  No, the reason we need to be able to go 3rd person is for taking screenshots of our ships!   Right now we can buy and put new paint jobs on our ship, but what fun is it if we cannot see them(not talking about the static image in the outfitting window - that doesn't count).   I'd like emblems and stickers, too.   We also need to be able to name our ships.  As of right now we cannot name them.   They said it would be in at release, but it wasn't there.   No word on when it would be added either.   I hope it is soon.

As I have stated, Elite is not finished, there is still lots of work the developers need to do.  They've given us the basic original Elite right now, with the promise of more and better things to come.  For a game that only just started major development 2 years ago, I'm amazed it is as far along as it is and it has come a long ways.   If Braben and his team of fantastic developers can keep up the pace of deliver on these things they are planning to add - I suspect this game will grow very quickly over the next year.   I for one cannot wait to take that trip with them.  Just as EVE Online was a mere shell of a game compared to what it is today, Elite has the beginnings and ability to be what I will consider the single best persistent online world sandbox game.    The foundation is set - now Frontier just needs to add more toys to their sandbox.  Elite:Dangerous - It's the start of something big, bold, and beautiful.

Pros: 

  • Plays a lot like the original Elite right now.
  • Great graphics.
  • Great Sound.
  • Makes great use of current tech, is Oculus Rift compatible, voice commands.
Cons:
  • Needs more social and community tools in game.
  • Is not very forgiving - you can loose ships and money - worth millions of credits if you're not really careful.
  • Steep learning curve.
  • Players need to have more influence and impact on the games direction and game play - within the game.
Available On: PC
 
If I rated Elite: Dangerous on a score from 1 to 10, 10 being the best - I'd rate it a 7 right now.  It isn't bad, it is a little above average.  Frontier needs to fill it out more to rate it a higher score.  Maybe in another year I'll re-evaluate my score - but for now it gets a 7. 

For those that are more interested in what Elite: Dangerous has to offer you can always go check out the main website.   Link provided below.

Elite: Dangerous Official Website

 

 

Erillion writes:

Nice review.

One thing needs to be mentioned. Besides a few tutorials, the game does not explain much. You learn through making mistakes. You learn through dying and/or loss of money.  If you expect a red line and holding hands ... don't.

E.g. Don't buy a new better weapon first. Buy the best life support system money can buy (and its comparatvely cheap). When you are flying with a broken canopy, the clock is ticking on your remaining oxygen, you cannot see the HUD anymore (because you don't have any cockpit glass left, remember ?) and you are stuck in a gravity well - you want to have more than 5 min of your life left. Thank me later ;-)

 

Have fun

Mon Jan 05 2015 6:45AM Report
Vonatar writes:

Nice review and nice enthusiasm. I am coming from very much the same place as you, remembering stolen evenings with parents unaware huddled at my BBC Micro making just one more trade run...

But, you say this:

"Or at least the game what will eventually be my dream MMO."

And it's oh so true of Elite right now. It's Elite and it's fun and it has all the right building blocks to be amazing. But it's not amazing yet. The bit where it becomes amazing is still the dream. I hope beyond hope that this game, where so many others have failed to deliver on their promises, will get where it needs to be and wear the crown of fully-realised space sim.

Mon Jan 05 2015 9:27AM Report
Tethered writes:

Hi Teala, Thanks for reviewing this. I have yet to jump on Star Citizen or Elite:D band wagons yet but I have watch them as they progress.

I am curious if you know - are they going to have the ability to exit the ship and interact with others on planets / hangers or in large ships? 

I am sort of waiting to see if that comes around. Spent too many years sitting around in my pod in EVE to enjoy it much. I wanted a more social interface other than mumble =).

Saico

Sun Jan 11 2015 10:24AM Report
Teala writes: @Tethered  Braben has said repeatedly that being able to leave the ship and walk around and do things outside it with a character has always been a part of the games over all development plan.   There is a video that was released just after the launch of the game where he and some of the developers spoke of their plans to add walking in stations, planetside landings(and walk around on them), do EVA's on derelict space ships...so yes, I expect this to be added.   Tue Jan 13 2015 2:01PM Report
stevebombsquad writes: Great review. You convinced me to buy it. You get a bump from me! Thu Jan 29 2015 9:03PM Report
Eridanix writes:

I  am an EVE happy player. You must take this in account. EVE is now what it was not 9 years ago when I began playing it. A lot of changes (for the best) and some minor problems, and all the grief, troll and drama you know. Well, if Elite is what you say it will be, none who loves space-sims will be able to avoid to play or try this game hard, and it means some thousands of serious players who are perfectly able to pay a sub if they find it worth. Yes, the same who plays EVE can play Elite, without letting the EVE ship. Many of us are poly-gamers (I have invented the word just right now) but many of EVE players play different games, even when we are totally focused on EVE and its politicis and all the harshest things it has to offer. We play other games. We can play Elite if it fullfils what they say they are going to do. 

It's only my opinion and I am not an Ayatollah. But I think Elite will be a good game in 1 year or 2 that would be in the niche competition of the space-sims, which is where I am. 

Great review. Many times I discover these jewels because you write about them. 

Fri Feb 20 2015 11:15PM Report
Kyleran writes: so, 6 months later, where's the follow up?  Making any good progress yet? Thu Aug 20 2015 2:38PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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