Well, funded! and well funded. Apparently one of the largest succesful Kickstarters, certainly in the UK.
You might want to read this whole post… The take-home is: Elite:Dangerous will be worth a look! To get a smidgin of an idea of how, try Pioneer.
So the game is now being made. When I say game, it will also be a spaceflight simulation and a simulation of our galaxy. Yep, galaxy. 100 billion stars plus. Not sure what those numbers mean? This atlas does a good job of explaining it.
Frontier will use the latest evidence to model the galaxy as well as they can, but of course aside from a few large exoplanets everything extrasolar smaller than the level of a star will be ‘invented’. The trick they will use to do this on a galactic scale will be the same trick they used in 1984 for the original Elite on the BBC Micro, procedural generation.
This uses a series of pseudo-random (but repeatable) numbers to create ‘variation’ and apply these to a set of rules (from the best science we have) about how ‘things’ [planets, weather, cities, economies, prices, asteroids, people, names, rewards, chance of meeting aliens (!), back holes, supernovae] should be [placed, named, sized, occur et]. Thus, VAST amounts of detail can be ‘generated’ from simple ‘seeds’ and rules.
The other approach is to craft complexity. This is what probably the best ‘open world’ game so far, Skyrim, does. And I do love that game. However, its niggling. Its clear that the sheer scale of the world they have created means that so many ways of interacting just can’t feasibly be tested. That means ‘bugs’. Lots of bugs. These are essentially when the player does something ‘unexpected’ – e.g getting to a location via an odd route. Because of that one of the most popular resources for Skyrim is a wiki where you can find console commands to ‘reset’ quite a few missions to make the game playable. Skyrim is pretty immersive but this issue shows the limitations of ‘crafting’. This is also why another ‘space sim’ kickstarter ‘Star Citizen’ will not be ‘open’ – its will take the ‘crafting’ approach and slowly grow over time.
One of the main reasons for using this generation technique back in the eighties was to save memory. Although memory is no longer such an issue, its still the only process that can generate stuff on such a vast scale. It has to be said that the memory limitation of the time also meant that developers needed to focus on exactly what made a game work. This is a Good Thing and why so many ‘8-bit’ games are still seen as ‘better’ than modern computer games. Elite did this but was also for the time fantastically complex and difficult to master. All this feeds in to the reboot. I have ‘pledged’ for this and along with 20 odd thousand others have funded the development of this monster. Fingers are very much crossed.
So many of my generation felt that Elite was unique, never to be repeated and I think this is why its generating such a huge ‘cult’ following among my generation. I never really looked at the 2 later Elite games as I was using Macs at the time, but that of course has also brought in a large 30-something bunch of evangelists in too.
Elite 2 simulated the entire galaxy. In 1993, on one floppy disk.
Even more impressive than the original feat. I kind of new this, but never really appreciated it until reading round the Kickstarter. Of course the new version of Elite won’t be like the original, it will use the best of all 3 games. A major addition will be optional multiplayer / consensual universe. This will then be an ‘MMO’. However, it looks (gladly IMO) like it won’t be another ‘MMORPG’ (role playing game) – where individual real people and groups can influence and dominate the whole game (and to be honest – spoil it), though avoiding the pitfalls of multiplayer will probably be the biggest challenge for Frontier as they have not had much MMO experience. Luckily a lot of dedicated fans HAVE that experience playing things like EVE and will be actively advising Frontier.
So this interest in the Kickstarter campaign over the Christmas period got me all nostalgic. Elite itself has been recreated for PC a number of times but probably the leading one is the freeware Oolite. So, yep, I’ve been playing it and managing to dock, usually. Its still a pretty good game.
I then found out that Elite 2 has also been recreated. It is possible to play Elite 2 itself but is not for the lazy/busy, requiring emulation software and various bits of config fiddling. Instead, there is Pioneer, and again its free. It is still recreating a mid Nineties game, so don’t expect EVE graphics, but fundamentally it does model *the galaxy*.
And that’s it really. I’ve only just started to play around with Pioneer, but the scale is truly staggering. Zoom out to see a truly mind boggling scale of star systems, and every one can be visited. Eventually. If you want to get an inkling of what Elite:Dangerous might be based on, try Pioneer. Where are we headed? Out there. Thataway.