It is hard to imagine what modern gaming would be like without Elite. Open-world and 3D games owe a lot to British developer David Braben’s work. Kickstarter success-in-progress Star Citizen aims to build off Wing Commander and Freelancer, both strongly influenced by the game. Certainly, it has had a strong impact on EVE Online’s massive, open universe.
The original Elite was released in 1984 for the BBC Micro. Long before procedural generation became a media buzzword, the pioneering space sim crammed eight galaxies with 256 stars apiece into a file around 50kb in size.
This provided the backdrop to a first-person space adventure full of trading, combat, piracy, and exploration. It wasn’t the first game to involve interstellar trade, but it laid down the blueprint for players working their way up to wealth, glory, and power from humble beginnings.
It spawned several direct sequels and has inspired countless more games over the years. Elite 4 was announced far back as 1998, and long after falling from the public eye development was quietly put on hold last year. Braben has been quite honest about Elite 4. Several false starts, small teams only working on it as their time permits, and the state of Britain’s banking system have not been kind to the project.
However, the technology already created for an Elite sequel and the success of crowdfunding this year have encouraged Braben to join in with a Kickstarter of his own. The Kickstarter is also intended to “validate that there is a market for this type of game” Braben notes in a BBC interview.
The community’s response is proving Braben’s caution unnecessary. Over five thousand people have already pledged money at the time of writing, which (anomalously enough for Kickstarter but expected for a British developer) is in Pounds Sterling. Considering how fast it is being funded, this figure will not remain current for long!
Elite: Dangerous has a funding goal of £1,250,000 (approximately two million USD), which Braben says is the bare necessity for the game’s completion. Given that over 20% of the funding goal has been achieved already, it is likely that Braben and the team at Frontier Developments will be able to reach even higher.
All the features that made the original games such a hit will make a return, but Dangerous ups the ante by aiming to bring multiplayer into the franchise. A “seamless, lobby-less” environment is planned, with a focus on bringing friends into the game. Of course, single-player will remain an option.
With 59 days to go at the time of writing, it's almost a foregone conclusion that Elite: Dangerous will receive its funding. Its projected release date is in March, 2014.
The Kickstarter page for Elite: Dangerous can be found here.