Elite Dangerous Soars Into Its Starry Future

Elite Dangerous was released back in December, but released isn’t the same thing as done. There’s a game you can buy, not in Early Access, alpha, beta, or any other state of incompleteness, but just because it’s a full game doesn’t mean the thing it is today is the thing it will eventually be. There’s a giant universe of quests, tasks, jobs, sightseeing, combat and general screwing around in a spaceship waiting for the self-directed gamer, and because of this there’s a million different ways it can change and evolve. I had a nice talk with Frontier over their plans about the future of Elite Dangerous, and while some questions couldn’t be answered, it was still an interesting look at the state of the game.

The first part of my appointment with Frontier was to finally get to sit down with Elite Dangerous inside the expansive view of the Oculus Rift. This has been covered extensively by many, many other people and web sites, but the short version for me is that it was love at first sight. Being able to look around the cockpit to highlight the console functions felt much more natural than using the flight stick’s hat switch to move between them, and finding my opponent by a combination of radar and looking up through the cockpit glass was quick and felt perfect. I didn’t feel like a dork looking about at things only I could see, but the pilot of a fighter ship with all its systems at my command. Admitted, the enemy AI was set to just a bit above nothing, so it wasn’t much of a victory, but I still felt like I could spend hours flying through the asteroid field simply sightseeing. It’s the difference between looking at a lovely view on a monitor and being there, and it’s hard to overstate what a change that makes.

After the demo I was able to have a nice talk with a friendly Frontier rep about the future of the game. Elite Dangerous is a living project, so the idea of “done” isn’t going to be relevant for a very long time. The current plans for the PC version revolve around the recently-added cooperative mode, allowing up to four players to team together as each other’s wingmen. The reason for the team being limited to four was to prevent mobs of players mounting an unstoppable force to sweep across a solar system, because this is Elite Dangerous and not Eve Online. The update also brought some price tweaks and bounty adjustments, which are part of what will be a neverending adjustment to the in-game economy.

Having just played the Rift version of Elite Dangrous, most of my questions were VR focused. A common refrain I’ve heard from VR enthusiasts is that the best, possibly only “real” way, to play Elite is inside the headset, but the rep I spoke to explained that he preferred the classic monitor view. The DK2 gets heavy after extended use, and the functions built into a flightstick make navigation easy once you learn where everything is. Several of the demo displays were also three monitors wide running at very high resolution, so it makes sense the DK2’s more limited pixel capacity wouldn’t be quite so appealing in comparison.

The other big question was about the recent announcement of an Xbox One version of Elite Dangerous.  If a game is coming to one console it didn’t seem unreasonable to ask about the other, but I can’t say I expected to find out anything about a potential PS4 version with Morpheus support.  (Also, if Sony doesn’t revive Colony Wars for Morpheus I’m going to be very disappointed, but that didn’t have anything to do with Elite.)  Maybe there will be and maybe there won’t, but the news that’s out there is the news Frontier is willing to talk about and at least an official response of “…” is better than “No.”

Elite Dangerous is going to grow and evolve over time, and the game that exists this time next year, or even the year after, is going to be very different from today.  Each new tweak and addition is being designed to expand the possibilities of making your own way in the galaxy, either as a solo player pursuing whichever job you like or as part of a crew working towards a common goal.  There are literally hundreds of billions of suns in Elite Dangerous’ sky, 56 per person if every man, woman and child on earth played the game.  It’s a huge galaxy getting richer with each update, and whatever platform or method of viewing you choose there’s bound to be something worth seeing in its endless sky.

Head over to the official site for more on the game.