Players find themselves in an open-world futuristic Milky Way with just a small starship and a handful of credits. To survive, they must improve their skills, gain knowledge, increase their wealth and rise through the ranks of the iconic Elite. The world of Elite: Dangerous may be dominated by the galactic superpowers and scarred by the effects of an interstellar war, but your story will shape the galaxy's future.
Frontier Developments' world has data on over 100,000 stars -- the world really is massive. Of course, a world this big offers players many different opportunities. You can play alone or you can play with your friends. Increase your credit balance by taking mercenary contracts, hunting bounties, exploring and mapping the galaxy, trading or through the cutthroat worlds of piracy. However, where there is money to be made, there are also unscrupolous people trying to take your slice of the profits.
When the latest in the Elite franchise hits the Xbox One and Windows 10, it will arrive with all of the content from the PC version, including the Wings update that was released last week. This update introduced new co-op features and shared bounties. Players can now protect their friends on a trade run, map systems together, or join forces to hunt down an enemy. While the trailer shows the update working in the PC version of the title, you'll get the general idea.
To try and get you some more details on the upcoming title, Xbox Wire sat down with the game's creator David Braben to fire some questions at him.
Let’s talk first about Elite: Dangerous’ origins. Tell us a little about the original Elite, and how Elite: Dangerous grew out of that.Elite: Dangerous will be released on Xbox One sometime this year. We don't yet have a release window for the Windows 10 version.
Elite was the first open-world game ever, released back in 1984. Ian Bell and myself wrote the game while we were at university, as a reaction to the games that were around at the time. In Elite, as opposed to what was out there then, players had freedom.
So, winding forward to Elite: Dangerous, it’s the third sequel to Elite – and it’s a game I’m very, very proud of and have wanted to make for a long time. In Elite: Dangerous, you take control of a spaceship and then go and do whatever you like. You can be a pirate, join the military, all sorts of things – it’s a one-to-one, real galaxy. Every single star in the night sky is there, and you can visit it, and you can have exciting adventures there, with your friends.
The other great thing is that Elite: Dangerous is a connected world. You can adventure with your friends, or you can go against other players. But most of the ships you’ll meet are actually non-players; they’re controlled by the computer, so you can blast away with moderate impunity. But what works best – and what the game is designed around – is cooperating with your friends.
So is Elite: Dangerous a massively multiplayer online role-playing game?
Well, it’s some of the things in that acronym. It is massively multiplayer. But you can cooperate with just your friends, or with very, very large groups – it’s up to you. And you can even do things such as overthrow governments... which, actually, has already happened in the game.
There was a system called Lugh, where players worked against the government there, because they wanted to support a minority party. And a big part of it was that players actually wanted to test our system. They wanted to say: “Hey, if we actually do this, will it work?” And it did work. They were able to overthrow the government and install their own favorites.
As awesome as that sounds, overthrowing whole governments sounds like it might be a tall task for a new player. Let’s say I pop the game into my Xbox One, and have never played before. What does my life look like then?
Your life can be anything you want to make of it. You’re given a small amount of money and a not-terribly-good spaceship, and you can get on with it. You can go out, do missions for people, trade, work with other players, etc. The richness of the world – and it’s becoming richer and richer with time – comes in large part from interactions with other players.
Some of the things players do in Elite: Dangerous just amaze me. For example, your ships are all fly-by-wire, but you can turn off a lot of those automations and aids if you want. Seeing some of the things players have gotten up to with even small details like that is just amazing.
“Fly-by-Wire” sounds fancy! Will we need some kind of extra controller for Elite: Dangerous?
Not at all! In fact, when we were developing Elite: Dangerous, I played on an Xbox controller, mostly. And even now, I still do. I mean, I do play on the big hands-on-throttle-and-stick (HOTAS) controllers from time to time as well, but to be honest, they’re hard to take around – and the Xbox controller is already a great experience. So there’s no need for anything else, and the game plays wonderfully with it. It feels natural to me to hold a controller and play the game, even on PC.
Awesome! In that case, how will the Xbox One experience of Elite: Dangerous be different from the experience on Windows 10, if at all?
Apart from the controller aspect, it won’t be much different. We’re very excited to be able to play the game on the Xbox One. I can tell you that Xbox One players will be getting the complete and unabridged Elite: Dangerous experience.
You’re connected to the cloud, whether it’s via Xbox One or anywhere else, so it’s the same galaxy on any platform. And we’re offering great new features right out of the box for the Xbox One version. “Wings,” the latest update for the PC version, will be on the Xbox One version of Elite: Dangerous right out of the gate. We’re also announcing that the third free update, called “Power Play,” will be coming to the Xbox One version, as well.
See, what a lot of people don’t realize is that the Xbox One is a wonderful platform to write for. With a PC, there are so many configurations, so many graphics cards... it’s a big challenge. The experience of Elite: Dangerous is subtly different from one PC to the next. With the Xbox One, everyone has the same setup, so we can tune it precisely to how we want the game to look and play.
Tell us a little about the updates you mentioned. What kinds of stuff do they contain? How are they different from the original release?
These updates contain things like community events, where we allow the entire Elite: Dangerous player base to get together and work on a single goal – doing things like, for example, building a space station to move the borders of a country further out, or building a capital ship to help protect the frontier. These projects require huge amounts of resources to complete, and so it takes many, many players over a long period to make them happen. And there are rewards here, too. So, on the capital-ship community event, for example: The person who contributed the most to the project’s success gets to name the ship. Others are financially rewarded for taking part, but there will be that one person who gets the very best, top reward.
Now, the new update “Wings,” which just went into beta, will contain updates for cooperative play. Players will be able to see the status of their friends’ ships, and you can share bounties and rewards from joint missions with your friends.
We can’t think of too many games like this on any system. If someone were new to Elite: Dangerous, what might you say are some games that share similarities with it?
Well, the real truth is, there’s nothing out there quite like Elite: Dangerous. You might take the expansiveness of something like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – but obviously in a totally different setting – and combine that with some of the freedom you can get in the world of Grand Theft Auto, but in a truly, truly giant world.
So what’s going on in the world when we join the story of Elite: Dangerous?
Well, there are two major factions at work when you join up: There’s the Federation, which is what might occur if you were just to wind forward from present-day America and make that into a space empire. They’re a big superpower.
Then, there’s another group that set off a thousand years before the events of the game in a space-age wagon train, to go as far as they could from the Federation, because they didn’t like it. They then settled on a star system called Achernar, more than 100 light years away. Then they developed an empire themselves – based not on capitalism, but on patronage, which is the system that the Roman Empire was built on. These are very, very different from the values of the Federation. And this new society grew; over the centuries, the space they occupied increased until they rubbed up against the Federation.
So you have this state of cold war between these two superpowers, and cold wars are great from an individual player perspective. You don’t have to believe in the politics of either side; it just creates a lot of friction that an individual person can manipulate.
What’s the one thing you’d say to potential players to tell them “Hey, this, above all, is why you should try Elite: Dangerous”?
This is another step in gaming, in a completely new direction – and one that is completely its own. It’s a game I’m very proud of, and one that I think you’ll enjoy, and won’t find anywhere else.
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