Tales of the Rampant Coyote

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Elite: Dangerous Demonstrates Some Dangers of Crowdfunding

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 20, 2014

EliteDangerousAs “failures” go, it’s fairly minor. Elite: Dangerous is nearing completion, and will be shipping next month. YAY!

Or not.

It will be shipping without offline support. Which to many people (including me) is kinda head-scratching. It’s not an MMO – at least I never thought of it as an MMO and kinda missed the part where they said it was an MMO, but now suddenly they are saying, according to the latest newsletter, that they always considered it to be an MMO.

I actively avoid MMOs these days. Oh, I still take occasional excursions from time to time, but for me, MMOs have become synonymous with time-wasting (to slow the consumption of content by the most dedicated players) and getting annoyed by strangers (either because they are deliberate douchebags, way more skilled than you, or way less skilled than you and kinda clueless). So… calling a game “multiplayer only” causes me to immediately lose interest.

That’s not exactly what’s going on here, I don’t think. Which is why I haven’t canceled my pre-order yet. There’s still a single-player mode, apparently, but you still have to be online. It sounds like it is more of a case that the awesome dynamic procedurally-generated universe of the game needs an actual human staff at the helm to keep it working. Or something.

To me, that means that when the game quits making them money or they lose interest, the game disappears. Literally. Sure, they can make promises about releasing the server code to the public, and they probably will, but just like promises of an offline mode, those are not guarantees. I can go back and play the original game today, 30 years later. I have doubts I’ll be able to say the same about Elite: Dangerous even 10 years from now. Maybe it doesn’t matter, but considering how many games I am playing now that are several years old, it’s an issue I consider. And I also don’t like the idea of not being able to play when my Internet is down. That’s what I *do* when my connection is down.  I play games.

And I just don’t like having my ownership and use of a game being so totally dependent on a third party being there and willing / able to “approve” of my playing.

Of course, there’s a little bit of a crapstorm going on now from people who backed what they thought was a true sequel to the old games – an offline, single-player sandbox experience in a procedurally-generated universe. The Kickstarter money is already spent. Pre-orders are another story altogether. And the refund policy has been… hazy, and not necessarily fair.

Now, overall… I’ll say it again, as “failures” go, this is pretty minor. We’ll see what the final product is like. If it’s a buggy unplayable mess (like I remember Frontier: First Encounters to be, way back in the day…), then that’s bad. But while the online requirement sucks, this would still be a pretty successful project. Game development is not an exact science, and things change. It’s more a PR disaster than a project disaster. They should have managed expectations better.

But as I have also often said – even as someone who might try to take advantage of crowd-funding in the future – beware! Seriously. There are no guarantees. It’s not just pre-ordering with extra bennies. Back it because you believe in the vision and the team behind it, and be willing to suck it up if the end result isn’t what you’d hoped for (or is nothing at all).

As for me – I’m gonna go dream of the game that I thought Elite: Dangerous might be, that I no longer hope Star Citizen could be, and that X: Rebirth was supposed to be. And I’ll go back to playing X3: Albion Prelude and maybe dust off my copy of Evochron Mercenary. And who knows? If I don’t cancel my pre-order, I may have a lot of fun with Elite: Dangerous until they turn the lights off on it.


Filed Under: General - Comments: 7 Comments to Read

  • Andy_Panthro said,

    I’m also a backer, and was very disappointed by the news. I had intended to play mainly offline, with perhaps some use of the online single player mode.

    The dynamic universe does really interest me, but I don’t want an MMO experience.

  • Noumenon72 said,

    I picked up X-3 this year and loved it, blogged about it, will anyone who was a few years late for this Kickstarter ever be able to discover and play the game? Maybe, maybe not.

  • jwmeep said,

    The talk about a heavy online presence is why I didn’t back. Looks like it was a wise decision.

    As for single player space sandboxes, I hope Limit Theory turns out


  • Surloc said,

    The question will be how playable is the game if your connection is down for a few days/hours?

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Based on what was said, I think the answer is “not at all.” You need a minimal constant connection even to play single-player. I guess critical data is kept on their servers, even if you aren’t playing with other human players.

  • Tesh said,

    Blah. I almost backed this one, but now I’m happy that I didn’t.

    …it’s not like I have time to play and relive my Privateer glory days anyway, I suppose.

  • Reed said,

    I discovered “Elite: Dangerous” relatively recently, and went through all the stages of Elite grief in a relatively compressed time period.

    1) Holy shit! They’re making a new Elite!
    2) Wow, they’re serious, look at the size of this thing!
    3) MMO?!? Ugh. Well, at least they’re offering single player too…
    4) Ummm, guys, Elite WAS a single-player game, remember? Guys?
    5) *SIGH* Never mind…

    So yeah. I have no need to spend that kind of money on a giant freaking MMO. I’ve got a huge backlog of GOG games (bought on sale) waiting for me. Some are even space sims…