Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

A New Entry in the “Elite” Genre: Elite?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 6, 2012

Dave Braben is kickstarting a new Elite game, entitled Elite: Dangerous.

The original Elite was not available on my Commodore 64 for a long time, so I never ended up playing it until it was old, old news. However, when Frontier: Elite II came out, I was a hardcore addict.  For two or three months, I didn’t play computer games so much as I played Frontier. My neighbor was also hooked, and we’d swap information and trade routes. The game was “sandbox” writ large. I did about everything I could figure out to do in that game. I tried (successfully) to make money scooping fuel from a gas giant. I had a bad hyperdrive throw me into the far-flung reaches of the galaxy, and tried (unsuccessfully) to make my way back to civilized space before my ship’s engines gave out entirely for lack of maintenance. I battled pirates (and some of the worst, most annoyingly suicidal AI ever) to achieve an “Elite” rating. I became a pirate myself at one point. I owned every ship in the game (and there were dozens).

I was super-excited about “Frontier: First Encounters,” the sequel a couple of years later, but it was a horrendous, buggy mess that I didn’t have fun playing and never played for long.

Later, I played many of its spiritual descendents – and enjoyed some of them quite a bit. Wing Commander: Privateer was a favorite, though far too short and limited by comparison (but at least the combat sucked a lot less). The “X” series was a lot of fun, and pretty dang amazing in its scope. I played Freelancer through to completion twice, plus some heavily modded games.  And I’ve played a bit of several open source space mercenary sims, and though I haven’t played much of ’em, Star Wraith’s Evochron Mercenary and other games are pretty dang impressive indie titles. The list goes on, with many games (primarily indie) that I haven’t played.

And then there’s the weird cult phenomenon that is Eve Online.

So I guess this brings me to the big question: Is there room in the “Elite” space-mercenary genre for a literal Elite sequel?

I’ve frequently considered revisiting the whole space-sim genre as a developer. But each time I do, I look at how the genre has progressed since the glory days of Wing Commander, Freespace, Tie Fighter, Frontier, and the like… and I think, “Holy crap. What could I possibly add to the genre today, as a largely lone-wolf indie?”  Guys like Star Wraith are already doing that. And EgoSoft, 3000 AD, and others are really kicking some serious butt on the whole sci-fi sandbox thing. I’m sure if I were to really dwell on it, I’d come up with something (like the recent awesome indie space-combat roguelike FTL did), but right now it feels like anything I’d do would be really be more of a “me, too” effort. And I’ve got very strong feelings about that. I had some interesting ideas I explored with Void War, but that’s done.

And that’s what I’m wondering about the proposal for Elite: Dangerous, now, too. I mean, he’s looking for about $2 million in funding (exchanging British pounds to U.S. dollars) for… what? The fact that it’s created by the guy who started it all? That’s nice, but… I’m still not seeing the vision. I’m not sure what Braben really wants to bring to the genre in 2014 that’s not already being served by these other games and developers.  I mean, a more realistic universe – as existed in the earlier games – does make an interesting variation, but based on the pitch, that’s all I’m really seeing.

Is that enough? Is there room in the “Elite” genre for another Elite? Or have we already moved way past that by now?


Filed Under: Flight Sims - Comments: 7 Comments to Read

  • Acrin1 said,

    My son mentioned a new Kickstarter when I came home tonight and I worked out it was probably a David Braben Elite he was describing. I played Elite for hours and hours (on the C64) and it remains one of my favourite games but I know what you mean – it’s a very saturated genre these days.

    I was never a great fan of Frontier (though I bought it for the Amiga) as the combat was no fun and I never played First Encounters until much later. I do hope that despite the odds this Kickstarter manages to capture some of the original fun and excitement I had playing Elite all those years ago – only time will tell I guess.

  • Andy_Panthro said,

    I played “Elite Plus” way back when, and loved it.

    Never really got into Frontier or First Encounters, despite many attempts. I never really liked the “more realistic” space flight/combat.

    Not really sure I can justify backing his kickstarter though, since I’m not entirely sure what sort of game it will end up being. I guess I was never a huge space games fan, but liked games like TIE Fighter more.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    It’s a toss-up for me. But I’ve had both X3 (and Evochron Mercenary) sitting on my hard drive for over a year and haven’t spent more than an hour playing them. So I don’t know if it’s just a time issue, or that I no longer love the genre as much as I once did.

    But I played FTL for hours…

  • Felix said,

    Not to me, there isn’t. I loved the original, and tried to like Frontier. But when I tried Oolite not long ago, it was just too frustrating to my 35-year-old self. This is no game (genre) for an adult with limited time and patience. Oolite is great, but nostalgia just isn’t enough.

    Now, something like EVE, where (if I understand correctly) you don’t rely on your reflexes for piloting and shooting, might just work. But I’m not especially interested.

  • Tom H. said,

    From the little I’ve seen of them, more recent games in the Elite genre have gone the route of adding complexity, making flying the ship a good deal more complex than it was in the old day. I’m hoping somebody finds a spot on the continuum somewhere between SPAZ and X3.

    I’d shill out for a single-player EVE with a mix of storyline and sandbox. But then again, I’m a recovering EVE player.

  • GhanBuriGhan said,

    The question, in this case is not what he can bring to the table, but: “Will everyone throw money at me, just for mentioning the word “Elite”?
    The answer to that, unfortunately, is probably “YES!”. I mean considering they didn’t even bother to make a pitch video it’s super succesful. He already made about 200£ per word written in that pitch.

  • Mak said,

    I’m not sure if this is a suitable place to drop a shameless plug – so feel free to delete it! But I wanted to get your collective take on our dip into the yet-another-space-combat-trading game pool which we’ve recently put onto Kickstarter : http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/maksw/dominion-episode-1

    I share many of the concerns mentioned in the comments above – as such, we’re very keen to take them on board
    (and others!) as part of our dev process if we get underway. Would Dominion tickle your fancy?

    (Again, apologies if this is not the place to “plug”, but it seems a fairly open site so I’m hoping I haven’t caused offence!)