Elite: PowerPlay Review

Posted by on Jun 13, 2015 in Progress Report

I’ve held off on this one for a while to try and be as objective as possible about it. I’ll come true, my initial reaction was:

What the &^*% are they doing to the game? 🙁

Which, let’s be honest, isn’t very constructive or worthy of publishing online, at least, not on my blog.

PowerPlay has been controversial. Before we get to that, there are some excellent bits of the 1.3 (and subsequent minor updates) that are worth calling out. Reduced stuttering in-game (for most anyway), enhanced audio, new missions structure, ability to hunt missions targets in supercruise, new AI for the NPCs and new ships – even if the Imperial Courier isn’t an Imperial Courier ;).

So, given all that. What do we have?

PowerPlay is the first time that actual faces have been put into Elite (I know there were some generic ones in FE2/FFE, but they weren’t characters). We have ten individuals who have ‘power’ in the Elite universe and will doubtless shape the destiny of human controlled space in the game.

Power Play Characters

These are the Power Players at present, but who are they really?


They are a mixed bunch. Some have commented that they aren’t mixed enough. Diversity issues in the 21st century aside, we basically have mix of characters who players are encouraged to ‘pledge’ their allegiance to.

First reaction from me? Disappointing that they are all ‘in-house’ characters. There were plenty of larger than life characters produced by the writers of the official books and it’s shame that not a single one was included. Many fans were dismayed by this too. Another opportunity to embrace and re-enforce the existing lore was missed.

On the plus-side, as is usual with Frontier, the art work is excellent. The characters look interesting, different and are well portrayed, even if some of them do seem to bear a striking resemblance to other well known personalities.

Given that, we have individuals that represent the Empire, The Federation, the Alliance and some Independents who are strong enough to have a significant influence.

Unfortunately, we don’t have much of a backstory for these characters. Some have had a bit of an entrée from the GalNet articles, but really not very much. Thus they’ve all ‘appeared’ in the game with almost no preamble. We don’t really know how they came to ‘power’ or what their intentions are. To have got where they have, they’ve got to have been schemers and players, so we can’t judge them on what they say, only on what they do. Without a backstory we can’t really judge them. I haven’t pledged for this reason. I don’t have a reason to trust any of them.

There seems to be something of an intention to have ‘Game of Thrones’ in space. That could be fun, but Game of Thrones isn’t a fabulous franchise because it has a bunch of people in it, it is fabulous because of all the fascinating and believable characters who you either love to love or love to hate. The PowerPlay characters are currently completely flat and two dimensional. In short, there’s nothing much to care about at the moment.

These people we care about, they’ve got backstory…

On a positive side again, player groups are forming around the PowerPlay characters, as evidenced on many SubReddits that have formed to cater for them. I will watch that with interest to see how it develops. This fostering of player interaction is a great thing.

Once you’ve pledged for a power, you have to run missions for them. There is a lot of debate on this. Some liken it to yet another ‘grind’, or call it a ‘timesink’. You can find this endlessly debated for and against on the official forums, I’ll not repeat here.

I’m not a big gamer myself, but I can sympathise with painfully dull gameplay required to get to a certain point in game. From my own experience, it’s taken me six months to get a decent A-spec Cobra from what was quite a privileged kickstarter enhanced start position. I’m finally able to play Elite as I want to.

These missions influence (and I stress the word ‘influence’) what a power will do. It may prepare a system for invasion, conquer it or lose it to another power. This can be seen on the galactic map, changing week to week. The more time you have, the more influence you’ll be able to apply. It does favour those with more time to spend in-game. Powers basically just control territory and that territory will shrink or grow over time.

That’s all they actually do. There’s no other ‘colour’ to their actions, and no real purpose to their actions. Why are they trying to expand their influence? Characters with no motivation just aren’t realistic.

Systems grabbed by powers will alter their trading status, meaning that savvy traders (who aren’t pledged) will be able to take advantage of the flow of galactic politics.

Another problem. These ‘Powers’ are squabbling over a few dozen light years of space, ostensibly fighting for resources. Why? They are surrounded by an unpopulated galaxy utterly full of resources. With the new hyperdrives, even a 1,000 lightyear trip is little more daunting in 3301 than a trip around the M25 would be to us today. The powers should just expand outwards rather than wasting resources fighting each other. It’s plainly a mechanic to keep PvP players in the same area. It makes no sense as part of the lore… infact it tramples all over it: the original three superpowers, the old worlds, the books, the history…

Add to this the peculair way that the players decide the ‘powers’ actions at the end of each week. We’re supposed to pledge ourselves to leaders who aren’t actually ‘leading’, They’re just figureheads, the sum of players’ actions.. Amazing attention to detail has been lavished on many other parts of Elite and yet PowerPlay seems to lack internal consistency.

In-game, the interface is rather soulless. Pledge to this power, you get a perk. Earn enough merits and you’ll get a special power up. Secure enough ‘Command Capital’ and your power has a better chance of expanding its remit in the next ‘tick’ (a weekly review of the status of the Powers). It’s very much a game of ‘Risk’, just online and with the dice rolling replaced by in-game missions.

Just need some Cobra Mk3 pewter models and we’re set! 😉

Is this good or bad? It depends on whether you like risk or not. I quite enjoyed Risk, but a turn-based, merit based, multiplayer game of risk, placed on-top of a sort of MMO which allows single player mode is a very odd and confusing thing. I’m not convinced it’s ‘Elite’ at all.

At its heart Elite is a single player game, or at least it was. You, the Commander, against a galaxy. Do what you want, go where you want to go. “Take a ship… seek your fortune…” etc. PowerPlay makes you a cog in someone else’s mission.

It also feels like Elite is being prepped for consoles. The UI in particular is big and bold with a very ‘console’ feel. Merits, command capital, special upgrades reached at particular points are all ‘unlock achievements’ and ‘open up the next level’ dynamics as far as I can see. They don’t have a place in my understanding of ‘Elite’. They are far too limiting.

I fear Elite is heading in a direction that I don’t personally want to go. This may be for sound economic reasons. There are only so many original 84-er players about, we have limited time and we’re probably no longer the target demographic. Compromises will have to made to bring Elite to the XBox and the PS4 and Frontier would be mad not to do that.

Whatever we think of consoles and Elite, they can’t be ignored.

The end result may not be what I want and that may be just tough, but I’ll be frank. ‘PowerPlay’ isn’t what I was hoping from from Elite at this time. It doesn’t have the ‘heart and soul’ of Elite contained within it. Without knowing what else is on the roadmap (and David Braben has said he’s not sharing that), I don’t know whether to just ignore PowerPlay and enjoy the rest of the game, or hope that something else is coming.

It is worth pointing out that nowhere in the DDF, (which had some fabulous ideas yet to be realised) did anyone, as far as I know, ask for anything resembling ‘PowerPlay’.

It’s not fair to criticise without offering my view on what I think could be improved and should be in Elite.

Powerplay could be enhanced quickly by some in-game character bios. Flesh out these people for us. Are they trustworthy? Are they maniacs? Are they depressives? Are they naive, hyper-intelligent, brutal? We don’t know. Reward us with something more than a ‘special upgrade’. Medals, mentions, exclusive ranks, insider information… there are all sorts of possibilities. Allow players to collaborate effectively on tactical decisions rather than just push systems into a ‘top five’ by voting, in-game faction specific message boards, comms. There’s lots that could be done.

I still won’t like it though. 😉

It just isn’t Elite. Elite is about space, about staying alive in an implacably hostile universe. We can fly ships. We want to be out there doing the whole “Where no one has gone before…” thing. Exploration needs content – lots of it. That’s where I’d like to see the investment of time and energy. Fill those 400 billion stars with wonder, excitement and mystery. Fill it with the genuinely unknown, rather than just (admittedly pretty) procedurally generated stars and planets.

The best thing that happened recently was the bizarre unidentified artefacts. Unfortunately it seemed like that story went nowhere. Leading to speculation it was just dropped into the game as an aside. That there, precisely that – just more – is what I think Elite needs right now.

A little more of this type of story, and less ‘grind’ …

We need mysterious wrecks, hard to find signals, distress calls, odd bits of space that you can’t navigate or that screw up your instruments, more weird artefacts and clues that when you put them together… ?

Powerplay just *isn’t* Elite in any way shape or form. It’s constrictive, it’s regimented, it’s closeting, it’s turn-based, it’s artificial, it’s levelling-up with progress indicators and rewards… what next? Three lives and a high-score?  The Galnet articles, which were providing a bit of story (even it if was patchy) have now dried up in favour of dull statistics based on the ‘actions’ of these powers. Sorry, this isn’t what I was hoping for and I’ll admit to being very dismayed with the direction the devs have taken.

Give us adventure, Frontier, not a online board game. That’s the essence of Elite.

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  1. I am still at the “what the @@@@ have they done with my game”stage.
    I hate PP, it ruins the game. There was a point where FD wouldn’t include an external camera for the sake of realism. I respected that because, I could see what they were aiming for.

    How the hell does collecting CC and earning merits fit within that real life sim. It totally breaks the immersion factor for me. PP could have been implemented in a more life like way rather than turn a sim into half a board game.

    Unfortunantly FD’s problem is they are no longer building the game they want to build, but are listening to people moaning about the lack of content and trying to please them. Ultimately this will ruin the game and take it to places where neither the community or developers want to go.

    So, FD if you read this. It’s your game. Build the game you want not the game you think people want. You’ll have more passion for the game if you are building your vision not someone else’s.

    Anyway Drew, you have earned 20 CC and 1 merit from me. Please redeem them before they decay.

    • “Unfortunantly FD’s problem is they are no longer building the game they want to build, but are listening to people moaning about the lack of content and trying to please them. Ultimately this will ruin the game and take it to places where neither the community or developers want to go.”

      This is exactly the problem, the developers have gone, worrying about the whiny care bears. They got massive support from the Elite community during kick starter, “the older real elite players”… They need to go back to some what, and the younger new generation of game players need to grow a pair of balls.

      • I fear you are right. Perhaps listening to the players is where the money is at? Ok, so the kickstarter donations were gladly accepted but that was years ago. It’s not relevant now, simply because most of those who donated their money towards the game no longer matter. Those people are mostly freeloaders anyway because they won’t be purchasing upgrades – a large majority will get them for ‘free’. No, the only people who matter now are the new players who will spend money on merchandising and in-game extras. They are the type who will spend £5 on a vibrant skin this week and another £5 on a tactical skin next week (if the skins are released rarely enough, thus not giving people much choice, they will become impatient and buy crap they don’t need – because they love the game s much they feel the need to spend money on it regardless). This is what Frontier seem to be modelling their ideas on. It seems to be working for them, so I guess they will continue. Whether or not it’s heading in the direction they want it to go… I rather think it is. Or else they would change the current state of affairs and stop favouring Imperial carebears, and the like.

    • I doubt it’s because of people moaning about lack of content, the only time Frontier listen to the forums seems to be regarding balancing and bugs. PowerPlay in my opinion is the result of Frontier creating a ‘carrot on a stick’ for the upcoming console release and has little to do with forum moaning. Maybe Frontier are struggling financially, I don’t know. The future doesn’t look bright for the game so I’m reluctant to invest any more time into it.

    • “Unfortunantly FD’s problem is they are no longer building the game they want to build, but are listening to people moaning about the lack of content and trying to please them. Ultimately this will ruin the game and take it to places where neither the community or developers want to go.”

      I’m afraid I don’t agree with that and I honestly think that if FD had decided to pander to the “whining console kids”, PP is just about the last concept they would have come up with.

      I believe PP is heading in exactly the direction FD want the game to go, and that is what worries me personally.

  2. Interesting point of view. One the one hand I d love to see and play those “mysterious wrecks, hard to find signals, distress calls, odd bits of space that you can’t navigate or that screw up your instruments, more weird artefacts and clues that when you put them together”… But, how many of them you think you d need to go trhough before they all start to become seriously repetitive. How many times before you relaize that thousands of other players are also playing the same “unique” events?

    No. No matter how many resources you throw at it for this kind of content this kind is of a finite nature and more suited to Single Player scripted campaign games where most elements can be tailored and hand made. The price to pay is that it has to be finite.

    If Elite is to live long term, if it is to endure the pass of time, the core of the gameplay needs to come from the players themselves, emergent content. And I can tell you right now, I will never be able to create a misterious wreck for you, but I can certainly help you refuel your ship if you get stranded in a white dwarf system while on your way in a wing to stop Hudson´s expansion attempts towards Eothienses.

    • I would totally be willing to help create Mysterious Wrecks for people, use my credits to create unique artifacts, add cool multi-mission storylets to the mission boards.

      I’m not sure you’re right in saying that Frontier can’t create everything by themselves – maybe not enough to satisfy the people who play 50 hours a week, but surely enough that a casual player could never complete it all! And they’ve clearly got a player base that would absolutely love to push things forward lore-wise if only they were allowed to.

  3. Excellent appraisal.

    I have deliberately positioned myself at the edge of human space. Thought that might make things more interesting for me in an MMO, single-player’ish game.

    I, too, expect a content emphasis on those “400 billion stars with wonder, excitement and mystery.”

    So, no, I have not committed to allegiance with a Powerplay persona. That would drag me into the populated center and turn me into just another shooter / shooter avoider.

  4. I can’t disagree with anything you’ve said.

    I will say that my experience is slightly different though. As a writer myself, I’ve very much got into Powerplay. That’s because in my mind – and on my page – it’s become a glorious cast of characters with parallel or contra motivations, working together or finding themselves at odds, each and every action having consequences, each character having agency. For me these characters live and breathe and have personality. I can go and meet them and fight for or against them – I can heckle them and demand they tell me why I should fight for them… and get escorted off by Senatorial security for my trouble, admittedly, but in my mind I can do that.

    If I were to make just ONE suggestion to improve the two-dimensional feel of the Powers, it would be this: Give them something else to do. They have manifestos, yes, with tactics that have been prearranged by their individual styles of doing things and personal ethos. But now they’re fixed into doing those things ALL THE TIME. Whereas in reality, these experienced players of the political game woudl adapt their tactics as needed to changing situations and circumstances. Heck, even I can think of a three-way peace proposal, right now, that could seriously turn around the situation in the Empire. I even thought about floating it to the appropriate commanders and trying to reach a player-agreement just to see if FD would make it in-game accepted by the leaders. But that’s not the point. The point is these leaders are individuals and don’t just do the same thing over and over. It feels two-dimensional and yes it will get dull. I would like the leaders to stand up and speak again (haven’t heard anything from them in a long time – I want quotes, interviews!), to do varying things not just one method of doing things, and yes I want an even deeper, thicker plot. My brain is already bursting with ideas, and I’ll work for free. FD, you know where to find me.

  5. I haven’t played ED for a couple of months now.

    With each passing update I like where the game is going less and less.

    I hate the name calling of solo players on the forums which has now spread to the various FB groups and I hate the delight some take in killing other players (because they can) under the thin pretence that they’re ‘role playing’ being a pirate (which they’re not).

    ED has become, in very short order, pretty much everything I hated about my other MMO experiences.

  6. Bang on the money.

  7. Hi Drew,

    I think we’re pretty much aligned on this one, tbh. PP caters for a certain player type (nothing disparaging meant by that at all) who is looking for the kind of gratification offered by more procedural, less open, game experiences.

    Like you say, the whole language surrounding it is far more gamer-y than anything else in the game. Is it a bad thing? I don’t think inherently so, no – space os big and needs every type of player to inhabit it. It does more to bring to life the political machinations within the galaxy than anything else so far, and it certainly offers a brilliant mechanism for introducing new characters to it all in the future. It does also mean that players can influence the galaxy in a more direct way than we could before.

    But is it for me? No. I like the community elements in the game right now – jumping into a system with a few CMDRs and shouting out via the text channel – although touch-typing with the Rift strapped to my head can be tricky if I don’t locate my fingers properly – is great fun.

    But I’m a natural hermit, or, at least, a natural free-agent. I don’t want to tie myself to a particular group – and I certainly don’t want to feel coerced to do so by the promise of special toys I can’t get any other way.

    I’ve done my trading to get my Cobra up-specced; then did a bit more trading and a lot of bounty hunting to get a top-end Asp for exploring. Trading gets dull quickly, but then it *is* – a self-employed trader and haulier goes from A to B and back again, the financial reward is what it’s all about. Bounty hunting I enjoy, moreso as my skills (and hardware) improve, and some of the backdrops offered in-game for this are just stunning. E.g. I jumped into the dark side of a planet’s ring system to hunt in a RES site, and while there, the planet moved on its orbit enough for the star to rise, the myriad rocks gradually lit as the planetary occlusion ended – so I could switch my ship lights off. My joy was unbounded.

    Now? I’m exploring – 3.4Kly out in the Asp, and loving every minute. The vistas are stunning, and the sense of achievement is palpable.

    But – exploration needs more content, or at least more readily available content, to make explorers feel more like pioneers. If I saw a USS in the next system I jumped into, so far out of civ space, I’d think twice about jumping into it – but I inevitably would, because my curiosity *alone* would force me to investigate.

    I’d fly around the next water world or earth-like I see, to see if there were satellites or other extraterrestrial artefacts to find and bring back (hopefully for lots of money!).

    There’s nothing like that now – and it’s what we need to take the galaxy, ahem, to the next level 😉

  8. PS I think I agree with almost everything you’ve said. The power play ‘characters’ (I use the word loosely) are a contrived waste of the rich tapestry of content created by the official authors. It must feel like somewhat of a snub, given how closely you must have felt you got to the FD creative process. It would have been fine/acceptable had they done it well, but it is clear it hasn’t been done thoughtfully (or in the spirit of Elite) at all.

  9. Great post Drew. Agree with every point. I pledged to a leader (won’t say who), flew one delivery mission, said to myself “This doesn’t feel like Elite”, and then immediately ‘unpledged’ (yes, I know that’s not actually a word).

    Still having fun in 1.3 though. Like you, my ship (my only ship) is Cobra, A-fitted for trade and bounty hunting. For me it’s really “one pilot and his/her ship against the galaxy”, as you alluded to in your post.

    I really liked ‘Reclamation’, by the way. Best of the few Elite books I’ve read so far.


  10. Like you, I played Elite in 85, and I agree, this just doesn’t feel like “Elite”. The Game Of Thrones comparison isn’t exactly fair, GoT has had 5 books, 5 TV seasons over (something like) 4 years to develop their characters. PowerPlay is no further developed than Season 1 Episode 1 of GoT.

    Otherwise a very fair assessment of PowerPlay.

  11. I think a fair assessment over all.

    I’m not sure that the current implementation of Power Play is good enough for those who wish to play power broker or influence powers, especially as it merely about reaching trigger levels which then latch next week’s turn outcome with no way of pushing it in another direction. It’s very superficial.

    The other problem with it is the total disconnect between Power Play and minor factions.

    It *IS* nice to have images and characters to help as a political backdrop for the human space and, as you said, back stories and a greater story behind would be most helpful. They are, as you hinted, merely pieces on a chess board at the moment.

    I agree with you over exploration. This is one of the two Cinderella parts of the game, the other being mining. (Don’t get me started on only a few chunks of useful material on a Km wide object, of that chunks of metal magically evaporate after a couple of minutes.)

    As for all the effort put into Power Play. In my opinion it could have been better spent upon working on the background simulation, allowing minor faction events to happen without developer interaction, e.g. a system going into civil war automatically spawning conflict zones and check points. Also, allowing systems to change ownership without having to have a new version of the client released.

    1.3 has brought some nice audio improvements and sometimes less stuttering (but not for SLI graphics card users). However, one change to the bounties system will possibly make griefing worse. This is the localisation and automatic expiry of bounties. Practically the opposite of the conclusion of the very well reasoned discussion by the DDF and very different even from Sandro’s original proposal.

    I don’t expect to see any further DDF derived material in the game to be honest.

    • The disconnect between minor factions and PowerPlay is not total, but they are loosely coupled, and the duplication of the territory control mechanism in PowerPlay is both inelegant and confusing game design, IMHO. The explanation that Power represents soft control of a system and complex relationships are realistic is not sufficient. I was hoping PP would be built in terms of minor factions and not in parallel to them.

  12. To quote: “I still won’t like it though. It just isn’t Elite.”

    This sums it up pretty well. I have to say my fingers itched when i read about trading opportunities with PP and I got somewhat excited about this, thinking “Heck, more money for me!” But then again, and after leaning back, reading PP content descriptions, fumbling around with the PP UI and having a night’s nap, I decided to get out of there, heading out for the stars again.

    I don’t want “31st Century Politics Online” with console-style achievement ladders and stuff. I just want to play “Internet Spaceships” the way ELITE was meant to be: Just you and the galaxy on your doorstep.

    FD can mothball Power Play for all I care. I want to explore space, see wondrous places and find mysterious, unsettling stuff. I can’t really be bothered with who undermines who and for what reason. If I wanted that, I’d play Birthright or some other game.

  13. Someone made a great point on the Forum that Powers are more or less Tier 1 NPCs which were talk about in the DDF. Some of the game play mechanics that surround them wasn’t talk about, Merits, expansions, earning CC but then that was always going to be difficult thing to do and balance and it certainly need a few more passes to tie it into the rest of the game an make it less like a board game.

    Powerplay is completely optional. You don’t have to join a power and become a cog in their machinations, which I hope will be more story led in the future.

    I think Powers could do with more character as well, Alliance should be fully democratic with players voting on every actions, Federation Powers should have a veneer of democracy whilst Empire powers should be dictatorships with the leaders much more controlling and prescriptive of what they want to happen and where to expand.

  14. I think you have described the thoughts of a number of the “Class of ’84”.

    Have I personally taken part in PowerPlay? No, I haven’t. My favoured region of the galaxy is just outside the spheres of influence and I’m content to be blazing my own trail.

    Do I violently object to PowerPlay and feel that it is “un-Elite”? No, not really. While it doesn’t fit into the “have ship, blaze trail” ethos that was Elite-84, I can also see that Frontier have a number of areas to address for today’s gamer.

    Community Goals, Wings, PowerPlay. There is a constant theme here of bringing people to the same areas of space. Bringing the galaxy to life with players. It was a concern during development that millions of systems may mean that players never see another player.

    While that was fine in 1984, times and expectations have changed. I don’t do the “multi-player thing” myself – and that’s fine. I can play Elite the way that I want to play it, no problem.

    I agree with your and Allen’s comments about characters “springing up from nowhere” and also the, so far, lost opportunity of the official fiction…

    … but perhaps therein lies a chance for a second set of licences. Bring these people (and others as yet unknown) to life! It could be awkward to do so since they are already “half-created”, so to speak, but the hurdles are not insurmountable I would have thought?

  15. Always thought that the key to the long term growth and survival of the Elite franchise is evolving, player-generated emergent game-play, not collecting meaningless gongs, ‘gear’ willy waving and box-ticking “unlockables” and ‘achievements’.

    The game franchise is one in which the player grows along with, and has no finish line of gameplay. If gamers like this, the audience that does will invest in it, or not.

    You cannot please everyone, Frontier Developments’ error may be trying to attempt just that, while appealing to the lowest common denominator, thus eviscerating the ‘soul’ of the franchise.

  16. I agree with you completely about the lack of background on the PP characters. It should be considered an atrocious crime that Kahina was not one of the powers, or any of the other authors’ main characters as well. I also agree about the grindiness aspect of it, and the need for more space mysteries but in my opinion, something that you missed is the need for ED to be dynamic and evolving based on player actions. While it pains me to say this EVE did an excellent job of this with the way they structured their economy. The raw materials you mine and sell are ALWAYS sold to a player (or group of players) who is manufacturing anything from ammunition to frigates to Titans or Player Owned Stations. The manufacturer in turn sells his component (say the part for a POS) at a location where there is demand, but let’s say he doesn’t have a large enough ship, he creates a contract for a PLAYER to transport it at a reasonable fee to the location of demand. Once there, the new station is built offering services to capsuleers (CMDRs) in that new region of space. The region will grow and expand creating new demands for the cycle to start all over again and the players want to make money so if there is a demand with a satisfactory risk to reward ratio it almost always gets filled. This is emergent content created by the players that is always changing and the niche that PP is, IMO, a poor atrempt to fill. I think a reason a lot of us feel jilted is we’re not attached to the characters, or we enjoy the single player aspect so much that we are frustrated there was little to expand our single player experience in PP. I hope FD addresses this in the future. So why did I stop playing EVE? I didn’t like the gameplay. Watching my ship orbit a battleship for hours while repeating the same firing animation is dull. Taking a large insurance policy out that only covers the hull of the ship and not the components creates a HUGE financial setback when you die and was not conducive to my family life. I love Elite’s gameplay, but I feel it should take a play from EVE’s book and have a player based economy / expansion that maintains itself. For those who will knock EVE – it’s been around for more than 10 years and still has a strong player base so they’re doing something right. As for the single player exploration aspect, EVE did that too and with better rewards. You can specialize in discovery scanning where you can find wormholes that have strange, aliens and other structures in them. These rewards are high risk as the aliens are very strong but their components hold a high monetary value in normal space. These wormholes also connect to other sections in space that can be hundreds or thousands of lightyears from where you entered. They play a strategic role for multiplayer groups since you can build outposts in them and assault from them while remaining hidden until another group scans down the wormhole and finds you, but only so much can pass through the wormhole at a time giving you an advantage if you play your cards right… I would pay large amounts of money to see the Elite Dangerous gameplay combined with EVE’s player based sandbox / economy.

    Power Play is FDs step toward emergent content and I appreciate that. I wish they had included the author’s content in it as well instead of just ignoring it and put more single player content in it. This was a major expansion for them and a lot of work, so I’m not ruling out the possibility that they may yet do that in the future.

  17. Were the news releases about Kahina and her decision not to be a power a joint effort between you and FD, and what are your thoughts on the matter please?

    • I submitted a variety of articles about Kahina. Some of them were published, but not all.

      • I’d be having mixed feelings about my literary “daughter” taking steps out into a big and hostile universe that I didn’t control… and she’d certainly not be getting involved with that “powerplay” travesty young lady…!

  18. I definitely agree with where you’re coming from, and for me its an issue of scale. There’s really not very much of Power Play which feels like it’s on a human level. The power leaders seem distant, intangible and shallow. You’re right about a lack of back story, or any reason to root for one specific choice out of the 10 other than their picture and some vague functional differentiation. This one supports bounty hunters, this one supports pirates.

    After having played during the fist week, and contributed to the frantic turf war between the groups, there’s really nothing happening during the next week that I feel excited about. It’s just more of the same, and purely a numbers game. The modules are not enough, and I challenge anybody to tell the difference between a system owned by one specific power vs another. A black market opening up is not useful or interesting in any way.

    What I want to see more of is an expansion where you feel a sense of attachment to specific systems. Why can’t I be a hero in 79 Ursae Majoris? Invert the Power Play factionalisation, and make the relationships between commanders and the systems they frequent important. Give us some RPG-style character development mechanics, ownership and relationships with other humans.

    Anyway, thanks for writing this up Drew. I’m taking a break from ED for the time being, and I hope to return when the next expansion lands.

  19. I agree with the “what have they done with my game?!” perspective, but there’s a few redeeming factors at play here:

    – one doesn’t necessarily need to fully participate in PP; one can still play the game as before, and let others be involved in PP, around you

    – PP potentially opens up some really nice opportunities to further develop the game – perhaps there will be a way to allow players to develop characters in the game; maybe through that, or via licenses issued by FD, authors will be able to get their characters to become part of PP (perhaps not all of them competing for power; perhaps some are just cameo roles, etc.)

    – as the game is further developed, it might be possible to build out the PP characters with much deeper histories, back stories, depth, integration into the simulation model, bulletin boards, missions, etc.

  20. Hello Drew,

    I have to admit having the same concerns and doubts like you about the actual direction of Elite. I had the feeling already with the wings update and the max. wing size of 4 that Elite was prepared for the console market. Few weeks later FD made the announcement. With latest powerplay update FD has moved Elite in direction which has nothing to do with the original. Might be FD is looking for greater market in future with consoles like Xbox and PS but as a huge fan and backer starting from the beginning I am actually very worried about the path of ED. I fear that the E3 will be used as big announcement for consoles only. If this will be case I have real doubts about the future of ED and the vision of DB and FD. By the way its truly a shame by FD not to include none of the stories from the ED backer books in the power play udpdate.

    So far my thoughts,

  21. Right, powerplay in Elite… This game is about you as a pilot and your ship. Supposedly that is why we have to have the cockpit on our screen the whole time. Which is fine by me. I like it. A lot. Powerplay has a lot of potential, because it could add some background flavour to the game. But the way it is now, it seems as if it has been slapped on top of the current faction system of small factions within systems.

    For now I will not pledge allegiance to any major power and will just watch and learn. Perhaps once I find a nice group to fly with I will pledge to the same power as they do.

    But at the moment it is just background noise and not background story for me.

  22. First of all, adding politics seems very natural extension of factional gameplay FD has hinted for months. As gameplay element on it’s own, it’s good foundation, but needs to be extended if they want people to pledge to power. I like CG and PP – but I haven’t taken part of it – and I am not forced to!

    For characters – they are alright for me for starters. Would like to see them extended of course.

    I will disagree that this isn’t Elite though. For people inclined to play single player game this might be something not be interested in, but PP changes single player experience in so many ways – and this is what I was looking after when I backed the game.

    Game is meant to play over very long time (yes, that means Anaconda in more than six months). I think you understood that when backing game, don’t you.

  23. I agree with Drew the most excitement was stirred by (using his own words) the bizarre unidentified artefacts. That made a lot of people sit up, take notice and hunt them down then spent untold hundred of hours trying to figure out the meaning and the cryptic listen to them generated hundreds of hours of more study that led nowhere as far as I can tell currently.

    Image someone posts a picture of an abandoned Outpost or space station far out in space. You can land but it is deserted, and words scrawled to read. Danger. Get away while you can. Warn people……. the words that were to follow never finished.

    You can’t tell me if something like that was found that about the entire Dangerous Forum wouldn’t explode in a frenzy, speculation raft about who or what, and how did it get there.

    The mystery is needed and sadly currently lacking, but I hold out hope this happens. I know if it does my ASP would head out there as fast as I could and it would not be stripped for distance but ready for combat.

    We can only hope.


  24. I love the political aspects of the Elite universe, but then i’ve always been a big fan of space strategy games so I’m naturally drawn to this sort of thing and I quite appreciate what Frontier have attempted to do here.

    There are three problems in my opinion.
    The first is that they have made the whole powerplay thing a complete grind. Repeatedly transporting ‘trade agreements’ or whatever between two systems is neither realistic nor fun.

    Secondly the ridiculous mishmash of solo and multiplayer modes operating alongside completely undermines the multiplayer mechanics. You can spend several hours ‘defending’ a system against takeover only to realise that it is completely futile when all the opposing players are working away in solo mode, that one thing is reason enough not to bother in the first place.

    Thirdly, there is no option for player to create their own faction. I created the GalNET group (now renamed to ‘The Edge Syndicate’ for obvious reasons) in 2001 and our group had always hoped to be able to register as an in-game faction. but that option has not been implemented, and with little reason to follow any of the ‘scripted’ factions there seems little point in any of it.

    As I said, I like the ‘idea’ of power play, but the implementation and the ‘solo mode’ issue renders it pointless.

  25. I like PP. I won’t play it though. I like what it does for us unpledged players. It makes a more variable gameworld for us without Frontier having to tweak stuff themselves; they basically outsourced the strategy AI of powers to the masses of gamers that love stats and points and unlocks and other soulless things like that. As a result, we who play less often get a background that fluctuates and influences situations that might lead to emergent gameplay which ironically won’t be available to those who actually pledge their gametime to a cardboard figure with a nice portrait.

  26. Drew, One area where Powerplay can add to the ‘dangerous’ element of the game is through the impact of traveling through ‘hostile’ systems. Picture doing trading to/from systems that aren’t part of your power, and now you have extra hostiles to deal with; or play it safe and trade only within your controlled space.

    Maybe it’s not pure Elite.. but I do like the idea of the game potentially being even more challenging when NPCs identify you as ‘not one of them’..

    • A good point, but it’s currently (may not be in the future) to bypass the other powers by going around the outside. 😉

  27. I agree with you as far as the character depths are concerned, but that’s about as far as I go.

    PowerPlay is already causing interesting player interactions. There are already groups forming strategies and priorities – if you’re a lone wolf you’re not going to see these things of course, but if you’re a lone wolf you can play the game while completely ignoring Power Play. Power Play is already causing Elite Dangerous to be more “dangerous”. On Saturday evening, while trying to make money to help us achieve a strategic goal, I ended up on a trade route that was profitable but very high risk. I ended up having an opposition player chasing me in my Type-7 all over the outside of the station. I got away by the skin of my teeth. Since I use the Rift, it was actually quite terrifying (not just the 6 million credits in cargo I would have lost had I not succeeded in losing the Archon Delaine operative who had taken a rather close interest in murdering me).

    It’s early days yet.

    The politics of Power Play will give ample opportunity for new player stories to emerge.

  28. Hi Drew! Why didn’t I get an email about this blog post? I thought I had signed up for update notifications!

    Anyhoo, I take the same standpoint as you here. My opinions on this are watered down on the twitch streams where I discuss the Powerplay content but I think I’m pretty clean on where I stand regarding powerplay. As soon as it was implemented I went exploring to get away from it.

    I’ve had a few instances where you have essentially posted something I’ve been thinking, and this is another one. Powerplay isn’t Elite. Powerplay is politics in space. It’s one step closer to turning Elite into an RTS. As you say, catering more for the console crowd by supporting achievements and the like. My favourite cry during the last couple of weeks has been “not my cup of tea”.

    I want to see exploration made interesting. I want to see the galaxy brought to life and not just the same star system with “numPlanets = RND(32)+1” to scan from the safety of supercruise. I want to see the inside of the ships. I want to get off my sticky pilot seat and see what the Elite universe actually looks like. We were told that players would make a difference but with powerplay we can made a difference IF enough other players join us in the effort, and even then only until a weekly update resets everything.

    During the Beta the only thing that aligning with a power meant was that every system that was hostile to that power became interdiction heavy. Federal Security or Local Security dragging me out of supercruise to attack me maybe 10 times per system. I’m a trader. My ships aren’t armed, and even if they were, I don’t want a bounty for protecting myself because my character has a certain “political belief”. It’s ludicrous! #refund 😉

    It’s “quick result” gaming and it belongs in EVE Online. Not Elite. But then given the obvious direction FE2 and FFE took with the “franchise” it’s no surprise that the politics are taking centre stage.

    • Dave, you’re right, I also didn’t receive a notification on this blog entry being published.

  29. A glaring problem is also that they could have used a bulleting board for faction missions which is already in place.

    And tying weapon modules to these factions was a mistake. Instead of following an ideeal a lot of players will skip around just to get the modules of their choice.

    And what happens when a faction is wiped out? Are the modules impossible to gain then?

    They should have tied new modules to a “variant” system and tied them to the several minor corporations instead. It’s silly to think that no other super power has had the needed spies to STEAL said module plans and building them themselves.

  30. I wanted to play Elite, not “Great Britain Limited”! (look it up if you’re under 40)

    I couldn’t give a hoot for politics – even if that’s what PowerPlay was, but it isn’t. With three modes of play, no real interaction is possible, such as blockades or battles, since any player faction can slip through in solo mode or a private group, PowerPlay boils down to courier missions to decide which group of players can grind vouchers the most. That’s not fun.

    All the Powerplay factions offer weapons as perks. What a disappointing lack of imagination! Why are they not offering thermal cloaks, FSD boosters, cargo doublers? Surely different factions with different ethos and goals would lean towards trade tools, scientific advancements or aids to exploration, rather than just guns.

    I expected to see greater variety; variety of ships (to fly and to see), of stations, of systems and missions. Procedural generation has been massively underused. The universe feels like a copy & paste experience. When was the last time you arrived at ANY station or system and thought “wow this is different!”?

    Where are the Panther and Corvette? Where are the Beluga and Dolphin and critically, the passengers to go in them?

    We have private groups, but with no identity and no means to manage them beyond a single person. Nobody can be designated group administrator beyond the group’s creator. No players have clan tags (or whatever name you’d give them) so there can be no group identity in open play. The spoils of combat are divided instead of shared, so co-operative combat is actively discouraged.

    The group of regular players from my community has dwindled from thirty nine to three or four. Nothing in 1.3 is dragging them back.

    From my current perspective, Frontier’s vision seems clouded, or obscured by consoles.

  31. Drew, can I just say that the image above, which includes the Powers’ names and logos, is one of the most useful things I’ve seen for a while. It’s nowhere to be found on the ED website.

    I really don’t understand why Frontier haven’t fleshed out the bios for these characters on their site. They obviously have got back-stories which are known in-house. It would be nice to read up on them without having to trawl through the GalNet archives.

    • I’m not convinced they have backstories. They’ve had only the most rudimentary development via GalNet thus far, and there is no other material I have seen. They have just ‘appeared’ on stage.

  32. Drew, you nailed it. I’m currently out in the black, some thousands light years from Sol, and I haven’t had the opportunity to try Powerplay yet, but it seems to me alien to Elite (pun intended). The new CQC recently anounced that is coming in the next months also run in the same direction: away from the soul of Elite. When I can make back to civilisation in a couple of weeks I’ll give a try to Powerplay faction wars in order to make a well informed and definitive opinion of this new feature, but I’m afraid that being a casual player (IT manager job, father of two, husband, friend of my friends, social person) I’ll stick with my current opinion of an old Elite-84 veteran.

    What I am looking forward right now is to your recently submitted proposal to Frontier. I hope that by the end of this month we’ll have some feedback from them. Keeping my fingers crossed…

    Right on Commander!

  33. I still havent even played the game since Powerplay came out, it just doesn’t interest me at all. I love strategy games but this is the worst thing to add to an Elite survival/exploration type game IMO. I don’t know what they are doing or where David’s head is at the moment but he’s losing the plot. I want to experience some fun in the game. It’s just getting a bit dull really. As if it is being made by a boring man in a suit who has no imagination. Maybe it is….

  34. You know, I read this post months ago and at the time I lacked the context to understand it. When Powerplay was released, I had been playing Elite Dangerous for a grand total of 2 weeks. I had watched it through the Kickstarter process, but had no idea there was any history behind Elite. I had heard it tied into an older series of games, but that was all the more context I had.

    When Powerplay was released, I embraced it as a new part of the game. I aligned with Arissa, because justice was her schitck, and I was growing interested in the Empire as a result of reading the Elite wiki. I flew my shiny new Cobra MkIII on the longest journey I’d undertaken by that date, and parked in Kamadhenu. Then I started a Reddit account and jumped right in… to a mess…

    My first post? Trying to get fellow Imperials to chill out and treat one another like allies. Somehow, overnight, Imperials were at one another’s throats. Some clever clogs invited me to join a player group and I ended up in “leadership” in that group.

    After months of running on the Powerplay treadmill, ultimately becoming a digital Sisyphus of sorts, I finally found time to get into the official literature and read “Elite: Reclamation.” And my eyes were opened. It turned out there was more to Elite than Powerplay.

    Eventually, the comments you made in this post were finally read in a context similar to that in which they were written. Were it not for Powerplay, I don’t think I would have ever “joined the Elite community.” It sucked me in when I was developing a case of buyers remorse. The player organization and interaction is the best thing I can credit Powerplay with. The player interaction is in fact the only thing keeping me participating in Powerplay, though the time is soon approaching that other things in Elite will finally peel me away entirely. Things like the quest for the Formidine Rift mysteries, the cloak and dagger GalNet mysteries, fan fiction writing, and many other things…

    Anyway, I would like to thank you for your part in making Elite something special for me. Thanks Drew.

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