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Elite Looks Set To Make a Comeback 113

Posted by timothy
from the kicking-and-alive dept.
realxmp writes "After many years in the wilderness, the BBC is reporting that the next sequel to Elite is in the works. After a long Kickstarter campaign, which squeaked through to its target in the last two days, the project was funded and soon many old gamers will be able to relive the joys of exploring the galaxy in what was one of the earliest space trading games."
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Elite Looks Set To Make a Comeback

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  • I presume that's just the startup costs. Otherwise, it seems a little low to me. I mean, if they're going to stay among the elite in the genre today, they're going to have to compete with EVE Online and X3.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You do not understand. You probably never played Elite. It's *nothing* like any "modern" space sim. Anyway, you could have a team of 20 people working full time for a year and buy some equipment to work on (which is all you need if you already have a company) and have no problems paying everything. Sounds enough to develop this game.

    • by Pecisk (688001) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @11:04AM (#42461855)

      Eve Online is click and point rolling dice game. In Elite and Elite: Dangerous you have actually to fly ship. There's actual collitions, you can damage many parts of the ship and it changes accordingly. Planets are real physical objects. In extenstions there's planned walking on planets and around space stations.

      Also there won't be lot of hand crafted things (thus costs will be smaller than imagined for scope of the game) - most of stuff will be proceduralrly generated. And as Elite first did use this concept to keep game's universe big in small memory, I trust David will pull this off again. See this update http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1461411552/elite-dangerous/posts/349783 [kickstarter.com] for more information.

      As for money - yes, it's just nominal startup costs for core game. Lot of stuff will be in updates (free for game owners) and extentions (those will be longer in development and will cost accordingly more).

      Still, it's biggest game Kickstarter for now, in goal and soon in total (for now it's still SC).

      • by lazarus (2879)

        Eve Online is click and point rolling dice game. In Elite and Elite: Dangerous you have actually to fly ship.

        Wow. Two comments about this.

        1. If you are saying they are two different games so they will appeal to different audiences I'm afraid you may be mistaken. Eve is very much based on the work that came before it (Elite, and Homeworld) and that particular genre of game is going to (and does) appeal to a very specific audience. Elite is going to be competing with Eve. If it can't, then it will die, and no amount of hoping it's something different will change that.

        2. Eve (if the developers are to be believe

        • Eve is very much based on the work that came before it (Elite, and Homeworld) and that particular genre of game is going to (and does) appeal to a very specific audience. Elite is going to be competing with Eve.

          That's not true. Having looked at Eve previously I have no desire to play it. I'm very keen to play Elite though. They are not the same audience.

          What Elite wants to do is allow you to fly the ship free-form. Fine, but that is a lot more information to transmit to each and every client on-grid (because you end up transmitting real-time coordinates). Good luck. Once Elite has 1000+ ship space battles

          None of the realtime MMORPGs are stopped by this challenge.

          • by horza (87255)

            That's not true. Having looked at Eve previously I have no desire to play it. I'm very keen to play Elite though. They are not the same audience.

            I briefly tried Eve but also found it uninteresting. However Vendetta Online looks fantastic. If I actually had time to play games, this is the one I would be sinking hours into. It looks remarkably similar to the proposed Elite. I cannot understand why no comparisons to Vendetta are being made?

            Phillip.

        • by KZigurs (638781)

          The whole concept of 1k v 1k battles is just one of the things that put me off eve outright. Sure, there will be gaming addicts happy to pay for subscription in exchange of grinding for 5 hours every night, but I guess I'm not the dollars these games will ever hope to get.

          • by lazarus (2879)

            So, I am not a big Eve fanboy (even though I do play), and I have criticized it publicly here on slashdot before (as SimCity in space (which has limited appeal)). And I would love to have good competition in the genre. But (and not to try to be an asshole here), your description of Eve misses the mark of what it is and if the concept you describe has put you off it may be you've misunderstood it from the outset.

            You've probably heard it described as a sandbox. That is what it is. I've never seen a 1k x 1

        • by PhilHibbs (4537)

          ... And I sincerely hope to play Elite: Dangerous. But Elite will be competing with Eve for my monthly dollars, and they have some serious architectural challenges ahead of them.

          No it won't. There won't be any monthly fees for Elite: Dangerous.

        • But Elite will be competing with Eve for my monthly dollars, and they have some serious architectural challenges ahead of them.
          It wont compete for me. Ofc I will play Elite. And after a time I will see if it is worth it or not and perhaps switch back to Eve.

          Eve is unfortunately in its game mechanics just like WoW. Everything you do is covered by some "magic". None of the attributes your ships or your weapons have make any sense (in terms of physic laws). I personally find it incredible hard to play, I can

        • by Pecisk (688001)

          "I used to play Elite. I used to play Homeworld. I play Eve. And I sincerely hope to play Elite: Dangerous. But Elite will be competing with Eve for my monthly dollars, and they have some serious architectural challenges ahead of them."

          You do know that Elite: Dangerous isn't subscription based? :) Also audience could be the same, but games are so far and different in their execution that I won't even start to talk about it.

          Of course EVE is rolling dice, because otherwise you can't do a MMO in scale they wan

      • by zlives (2009072)

        Star citizen i think made it to over 7million dollars...
        i funded both
        go games :)

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by clark0r (925569)
      If you read the BBC article you will see that development has already started. The funding is to complete the development.
      "Although some early work on the multiplayer title had been done at Mr Braben's game studio Frontier Developments, but needed the cash to turn the code into a finished playable product. If the game did not hit its funding target then development work would stop."
    • by slim (1652)

      £1.3M is what they've got in Kickstarter pledges. I'm sure that won't be their only source of investment.

      Now they can go to a publisher, an angel investor, or a business bank and say '22,500 people were excited enough to back us on Kickstarter, to the tune of almost £60/head on average . Give us an advance and you can be our publisher. Invest some money and you can be a shareholder. Lend us some money and you can have some confidence we'll be good for it."

    • Sins of a Solar Empire was made for less than 1 million dollars and was DRM free-ish.

      http://www.gamasutra.com/php-bin/news_index.php?story=20026 [gamasutra.com]

  • by InspectorGadget (149784) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @10:57AM (#42461773)

    So you can still jump on board if you want to.
    There are (as of right now) 33 hours left to go.
    And I wouldn't say squeaked through - people are still funding the project, and there is a healthy overshoot of the funding goal.

  • I played the original Elite on the BBC Micro and the Amstrad CPC 464/6128. I absolutely loved it. The only thing that was missing for me was an online mode where you could do battle against your friends, or team up and kick some Thargoid ass in witch space. I can't wait.
  • as long as I don't have to break out that little red prism thing you held up to the screen to unlock the game (C64 version, dunno if the others had something similar), I'm all in. I lost that thing about 3 months after I had the game, and I only ever got to jump galaxies once.

  • by Pecisk (688001) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @11:06AM (#42461877)

    For people with lot of questions and doubts about this game, check out reddit AMA, he is already there and gives answers http://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/15od2s/i_am_david_braben_cocreator_of_elite_creator_of/ [reddit.com]

    Also check out updates section on Kickstarter which has lots of videos, dev diaries, concept arts, renders http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1461411552/elite-dangerous/posts [kickstarter.com]

    • I just have to ask; How is the new Elite going to be significantly different from a game like X3 Terran Conflict? It might be easier and faster for him to just license and reskin the X3 engine.

      http://www.egosoft.com/games/x3tc/screenshots_en.php [egosoft.com]

      • X3 player here. I think the X series is great but has its own engine limits. For instance, no procedural generation and weak AI. Also, some people on the modding forums claim that the architecture is a bit convoluted ;-)

        Egosoft (the development studio behind X3) has spent much of the time since X3 Terran Conflict on building a new engine for the successor to X3. Maybe that would be an interesting starting point - after the game is released and works well.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 03, 2013 @11:12AM (#42461931)

    You can play the FOSS version right now OOLITE [oolite.org]
    Have fun, it is an awesome game.

  • Procedural Magick (Score:5, Informative)

    by dryriver (1010635) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @11:13AM (#42461943)
    The brilliant thing about Braben's original ELITE was that he managed to squeeze a huge, open, varied, explorable 3D universe into 32/48/64 Kb of RAM on early 8-bit computers. He also had to publish the game himself - the big game publishers of the time wanted ELITE to have "waves of enemies, short levels, collectable powerups, 3 player lives", because that was the formula popular side-scrolling space games like R-TYPE used. Braben refused to do that - it flew in the face of the 3D space sim he was building - and thus ELITE became the first space game to feature realtime 3D wireframe graphics and break the "R-TYPE" space-game formula. Many people consider David Braben to be something of a gamedesign pioneer and genius. If Braben hasn't lost his touch, the new ELITE: DANGEROUS should wind up being a seriously impressive Space Trading/Exploration/Combat game. ---- For those who prefer action to trading and exploration, there is always "Star Citizen", a Wing Commander sequel made by Chris Roberts. That game will feature high-end CryEngine 3 graphics, and will be all about space combat.
    • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @11:20AM (#42462021)

      To be fair, a decent number of the "big game publishers of the time" were just guys like him who had been sufficiently successful selling their own games to publish those of others. It wasn't a David-and-Goliath scenario: the world of mainstream gaming at that time had more in common with today's indie gaming.

      Which is, of course, the great thing about indie gaming today.

    • by slim (1652)

      He didn't publish it himself. Acornsoft licensed the original BBC Micro version, and after that was successful, Firebird picked up the ports to other platforms.

      The procedural map generation is a cool hack to get over the lack of memory, but far from the most technically difficult thing they did. It'd make a somewhat interesting homework project for a beginner programmer -- write a small, fast PRNG and massage the output into pronounceable planet names and attributes.

      The 3D wireframe graphics were the more

    • by Joehonkie (665142) on Thursday January 03, 2013 @12:12PM (#42462801) Homepage
      Are you trying to say R-Type, which came out in 1987 in the arcade, was the model that Elite, which came out in 1984 for a home computer, had to compete with?
      • by Rogerborg (306625)
        Now now, it's rather churlish to insist on remembering history the way it actually happened, rather than the way that it should have happened.
      • To be fair, the OP said "games _like_ R-TYPE," probably because this might be a more familiar title to a broader audience, which makes it easier and faster to explain the OP's point. If you prefer, you can mentally substitute Acornsoft's Rocket Raid, which came out in about 1982, and ran on the BBC32, just like Elite.

    • The brilliant thing about Braben's original ELITE was that he managed to squeeze a huge, open, varied, explorable 3D universe into 32/48/64 Kb of RAM on early 8-bit computers. He also had to publish the game himself - the big game publishers of the time wanted ELITE to have "waves of enemies, short levels, collectable powerups, 3 player lives", because that was the formula popular side-scrolling space games like R-TYPE used. Braben refused to do that - it flew in the face of the 3D space sim he was building - and thus ELITE became the first space game to feature realtime 3D wireframe graphics and break the "R-TYPE" space-game formula.

      Remember that on the BBC at any rate that 32K included the screen memory. There were some beautifully subtle tricks played with the BBC video system to get the game to run. The original BBC 6502 version of Elite must be about the tightest and most elegant piece of code out there anywhere, and it is in thankful memory of the months of enjoyment I got out of that game that I contributed to the Kickstarter. If the new version is no better than the original, it will still be an exceptionally good game.

      • The original game is no longer compelling and doesn't really stand up well against games from systems with more capacity.

        It was groundbreaking and amazing at the time, from a 9 year old child's eyes. But even then the combat became laughably simple after you upgraded your ship.

        • It was groundbreaking and amazing at the time, from a 9 year old child's eyes.

          I was 19 at the time, and it was groundbreaking and amazing to my eyes too. And the eyes of every computer geek at the time that saw it. No need to limit it to 9 year olds.

          But yes, it's no longer rewarding to play today, with eyes that have seen more modern games.

      • Yes, they changed screen more 3/4 way down the screen, from monochrome square pixels for the wireframe, to oblong pixels with 4 colours for the dashboard.

        They hung a routine off the VSync interrupt, that changed the screen to mode 4, and set up a timer in the 6522 VIA chip. When the timer expired, it kicked off another interrupt service routine that changed the screen mode to mode 5.

        Clever stuff for the time. I wonder if Acorn helped them with that, as no one had done it before.

        • by PhilHibbs (4537)

          They hung a routine off the VSync interrupt, that changed the screen to mode 4, and set up a timer in the 6522 VIA chip. When the timer expired, it kicked off another interrupt service routine that changed the screen mode to mode 5.

          Clever stuff for the time. I wonder if Acorn helped them with that, as no one had done it before.

          Revs did a very similar thing, but I don't know which was released first, they were both in 1984. Revs stored some data in the top quarter of the screen buffer and did a timer interrupt to redefine all the colours to blue in the top quarter and then back to their proper colours in the remainder so that you wouldn't see the data as pixels.

    • by Rary (566291)
      As I understand it, the way he got the huge universe into such a small space was by not actually storing it at all. The universe was randomly generated, but it used a hardcoded seed value so that it always generated the same universe. Pretty cool if you ask me.
  • They will do a Mac/Linux port if they reach £1,400,000. I never played the original Elite, and I'm really curious as to how the procedurally generated stuff mixes with the ability of players to affect the game universe.

    • by slim (1652)

      I never played the original Elite, and I'm really curious as to how the procedurally generated stuff mixes with the ability of players to affect the game universe.

      I did play it, a lot. My guess is that the procedural generation produced the starting state, and it stored a delta. The only thing you could affect was your own status (criminal/clean, and number of kills, your cargo and your armoury) and market prices on the planets where you traded. It definitely felt as if you could skew a market by buying or selling in quantity, repeatedly.

      Everything else is happens dynamically based on that. If you're a criminal, you'll get cops and bounty hunters coming for you. If y

      • It definitely felt as if you could skew a market by buying or selling in quantity, repeatedly.

        Wishful thinking is all. Once you hyperspaced on, all market prices were forgotten. There wasn't memory available to remember them.

    • by daveywest (937112)
      Elite Plus plays quite well on my Mac in DosBox.
    • by PhilHibbs (4537)

      Not Mac/Linux, just Mac.

      • Oh, oops, you're right. *sigh* Well, that's something of a disappointment. Oh, well.

      • by phaunt (1079975) *
        Yes, GP confused me for a moment there. I decided to gave it a miss because I felt the sum was a bit large for a game quite likely not available on my platform. I almost thought I'd missed something.
  • It was the best space game, particularly for its time. I just wish it wasn't so dated, If they do even a half decent job at capturing the original and maybe putting in a half-decent story then I'll be more than happy to throw my money at them. I firmly believe though, that they should shun multiplayer until they have at least developed the graphics engine. I would much prefer to see an GREAT single player space game like freelancer than something that turns out more like Eve (says the guy with two eve a
    • The graphics engine seems to be done, as there are some demo videos on the website of Frontier Development (http://elite.frontier.co.uk/ [frontier.co.uk]). My impression is that the graphics quality does not quite reach that of an AAA game, but is good enough.

      • by MROD (101561)
        Of course, it's still pre-alpha quality, so you can't judge the final game from the Skunk Works developed initial test system.
    • by PhilHibbs (4537)

      If they do even a half decent job at capturing the original and maybe putting in a half-decent story then I'll be more than happy to throw my money at them.

      Why does it need a story?

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmai l . c om> on Thursday January 03, 2013 @11:51AM (#42462441) Homepage

    soon many old gamers will be able to relive the joys of exploring the galaxy in what was one of the earliest space trading games

    And people wonder why Hollywood sticks with sequels, prequels, re-makes, and re-imaginings. They shouldn't - it's where the money is.

  • For those of us who aren't familiar with the original Elite (and can't check it out on Kickstarter because we're lazy or at work) what kind of game is it exactly?

    Is it a turn based game like Tradewars 2002? Or is it a real time flight sim like Wing Commander or X-Wing with economics and upgradeable ships?

    If it's the former i'll definitely jump in at the last minute. I loved TW2002 in high school. If it's the later... well i liked X-Wing, but i'm not convinced about the marriage of that type of game to a
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Turn in your geek card RIGHT NOW

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Daetrin (576516)

        "Turn in your geek card RIGHT NOW"

        Ahh yes, it's not enough to have played Tradewars 2002, SRE, BRE, Legend of the Red Dragon, Star Control 2, SimCity, Civilization, MoO, MoM, X-Wing, Ultima, Bard's Tale, Might and Magic, Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, Seiken Densetsu, and more other series than i care to list at this point (or can even really remember.) The fact that i haven't played this one single 20+ year old game means that i have irretrievably lost all geek credibility. And having publicly admitted to the lack, instead of encouraging

    • by 91degrees (207121)
      It's a flight sim type game. Trading is an aspect and the most effective way to make money and buy upgrades but there's also plenty of space combat, and the option to go into piracy.
    • by johnjaydk (584895)

      For those of us who aren't familiar with the original Elite (and can't check it out on Kickstarter because we're lazy or at work) what kind of game is it exactly?

      Have a look at oolite.org [oolite.org] for an updated, open-source version of the original. Works for Mac, Linux and Windoze.

    • by slim (1652) <john@h[ ]nup.net ['art' in gap]> on Thursday January 03, 2013 @12:30PM (#42463085) Homepage

      The original Elite is a trading game in which you run goods between planets. Buy low, sell high. The journey between planets involves realtime 3D space flight and, potentially, realtime space combat. Going to planets with unstable governments, dealing in illegal goods, bounty hunting, are all ways to make more money, while attracting more badass enemies.

      Ostensibly the aim of the game is to achieve 'Elite' ranking, which involves shooting lots of enemy ships -- and looking for fights is necessary if you want to do that. But, you could if you wanted, shuttle back and forth between peaceful planets making money.

      The disk version included missions.

      Elite: Dangerous, of course, adds loads of intricacies. Braben says things like: there's abandoned wrecks floating around in space ripe to be scavenged for cargo. Of course they might not be as abandoned as they appear... Or you might take payment to carry a valuable cargo - but you can't hope to get through without an escort, so you'll pay some other players for their services.

    • by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Thursday January 03, 2013 @12:56PM (#42463485) Homepage Journal

      For those of us who aren't familiar with the original Elite (and can't check it out on Kickstarter because we're lazy or at work) what kind of game is it exactly?

      Is it a turn based game like Tradewars 2002? Or is it a real time flight sim like Wing Commander or X-Wing with economics and upgradeable ships?

      If it's the former i'll definitely jump in at the last minute. I loved TW2002 in high school. If it's the later... well i liked X-Wing, but i'm not convinced about the marriage of that type of game to an economic sim. (I've tried out the X series and some similar games on Steam, but the controls kind of sucked and i never got into them at all.)

      You fly a space ship in mostly-real-time (you can do 'hyperspace jumps' which cover distance more or less instantly) through a very large galaxy. There are many (~2000 on the original 6502 version) civilised planets, with different levels of technical sophistication and different levels of government control. Some are safe and wealthy, some very dangerous, and a haven to pirates and other criminals. In your travels you encounter many different types of space ships, each of which have different appearance and properties, from fast manoeuvrable fighting ships to big lumbering freighters.

      You start with a minimally equipped ship and a small account of credits. You proceed through the game initially by trading between planets to build up your credits, but sooner or later you're going to be attacked by pirates and will have to learn to fight. As you get richer you can equip your ship with extra weapons, engine enhancements, a docking computer (of which more later). You can choose to become a bounty hunter, hunting down pirates for reward; to become an asteroid miner, mining asteroids for minerals; to become a pirate yourself; or continue to trade and explore. You can also take on special missions. In trading, you can manipulate markets. You can sell your initial, general purpose ship and buy a ship more suitable to your needs.

      Docking with space stations is almost a mini-game in itself. They rotate - obviously, to generate simulated gravity. To dock successfully you must approach on the axis, slowly, and exactly match the roll. One of the ship enhancements you could buy was a docking computer, but the docking computer wasn't completely reliable (don't know whether this was deliberate or a bug) so it paid to learn to dock manually. Also, of course, if you got badly mauled by pirates your docking computer might be one of the things destroyed.

      For sheer playability Elite was, in my opinion, the best video game of all time.

    • by jeff4747 (256583)

      It's a little like the games in the Privateer series, without the over-arching story and far more options in how to play the game.

  • I look at the production history of the company and I wonder if they can pull of an A game of significant scope after having so many previous false starts, and a history of producing buggy games, only a few popular titles and failing to complete products.

    To make a comparison, 3D Realms/Apogee put out more than three times the number of games Frontier Developments was working on in the same time period, and many of them enjoyed impressive sales and popularity, even compared to reasonably popular Frontier Dev

    • by Bieeanda (961632)
      I'm glad someone said it before I did, because while I love the idea behind crowdfunding and would certainly like to see a new Elite, Braben and his company have had serious, serious trouble producing anything worthwhile in the last decade. A million bucks isn't going to magically make that malaise go away.

      I wouldn't hold my breath about Star Citizen, either: Roberts has been out of the business for a while, and most of his promises have ranged from the bizarre to the truly unlikely.

      • Perhaps I'm an optimist, but I think Roberts has demonstrated that he has the know-how and ability to produce this game. The information available about the game, the time table, the apparent openness and speed at which questions have been tackled make me believe that the game is being well thought out. Not just the design and gameplay, but the entire lifecycle. The hefty 7.2 million war fund helps too.

        I've got doubts and questions, but they're mostly about the multiplayer experience. If they can delive

  • Let's just be clear, there's a teensy little step between "getting Kickstarter funding target" and "people playing Elite again".

    Just sayin'.

    • by slim (1652)

      I've seen videos of "people playing Elite again".

      Admittedly it's pre-alpha code, and the "people" were developers. But nonetheless, it was a group of blokes engaging in a cool looking space battle.

      • by zlives (2009072)

        ditto, its always a good sign if they are actually playing an alpha build so you know its not all smoke and mirrors.

  • I think Elite was "of its time" - and if you want a nostalgia trip there is always Oolite. I'm not sure that even a good modernised version will re-capture the magic.

    There were several grounddbreaking aspects of the original Elite:

    (1) the 3D graphics. They look so rubbish now, and even Oolite is nothing to write home about by modern graphical standards, its hard to convey how amazingly jaw-droppingly good they looked back in the 80s. On the original BBC Micro version they'd even done s hack to switch di

    • by zlives (2009072)

      1. Graphics wise it will have good competition and because of budget it probably won't stand out.
      2. The details and the rhetoric seem to indicate that expansive universe with unique locals will be a design goal.
      3. this part is actually the driving force for most. For me having faith in the designer to keep true to the original ideology, which made the game as enjoyable, is the primary reason to take a risk in funding a project that may fizzle out.
      4. This seems to be part of the game design as well.

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