Why I’ll be flying Solo in Elite: Dangerous
This started out as a Frontier Forum post, but I thought it was likely to be easily misinterpreted by the influx of new folks who are less familiar with my ramblings, so I thought I’d post it up here instead.
Of much heated discussion has been the topic of multiplayer versus solo modes of play. This takes a moment to set the scene…
First off, there are two versions of multiplayer. The first is the ‘All’ mode, whereby you take part in a universe where you might encounter anyone else who is using the ‘All’ mode. The second is a ‘Private Group’ mode whereby you pretty much only meet other players within that group, and you have the option to include or exclude individuals by the manipulation of various lists. I expect to be joining some kind of ‘Old Codgers’ group imminently.
Solo mode is, naturally, pretty much a single player experience. You’ll encounter only computer generated individuals (NPC or non-player characters to use the vernacular) within the game. In a slight twist, events that are triggers in the multiplayer game may still affect the solo player, as it’s Frontier’s intention to have a single coherent universe in terms of the overall background. i.e. If a planet goes to war, it goes to war in everyone’s universe simultaneously.
There’s also a completely offline mode in there somewhere too. (Edit – no there’s not! 😉 )
How do I intend to play?
Almost exclusively solo.
I will dabble with multiplayer for a bit of fun, particularly with the ability to join groups of likeminded individuals. I’ve met some fantastic folks through Elite: Dangerous and hanging out with them in virtual spaceships will be awesome. I can’t see it happening that often, as trying to organise a gaming session with a bunch of equally busy individuals will be a major exercise in diary co-ordination for us folks with limited time on their hands.
I’ll give the ‘all’ group a go too and try to keep an open mind., though I suspect it will quickly become untenable. I will have limited time, so my ability to keep pace with others in the multiplayer environment will likely render the experience of little enjoyment unless I stay away from other players, which makes it all rather moot.
But actually, this isn’t the real reason I want to play solo.
So what is it then?
It’s this. Elite always was a solo game first and foremost. I still want that experience, untainted by the concessions to multiplayer whims and mores. I’d much rather Frontier sunk the vast majority of its time into rich in-game content rather than developing solutions to all the issues that can’t be avoided the moment you embrace the multiplayer concept. I fear a rather homogenous universe despite its vast scope. Hopefully I’ll be proved wrong.
At a simple technical level, multiplayer causes jolts, lag, frame-rate stutter and so on which simply isn’t present in the ‘solo’ mode. It’s adding vast complexity to the overall game itself and the networking has been one of the hardest things to get right. It’s still a work in progress and may well be for some time to come. This will hopefully be fixed in the not too distant future though. (Update as of beta 3, 5/11/2014 – still not much better 🙁 )
Many game mechanics, notably the top speed of ships and the exit from supercruise/hyperspace are compromised due to the need to support a multiplayer infrastructure. They would be far more realistic if Elite: Dangerous was exclusively a single player game.
But it’s more profound than that.
You see, I’ve been living in the universe of Elite since 1984. In that time I’ve come up with a very clear and very strict idea of what that universe is like, how things work and how people should act – so much so that even some of the official fiction (despite the awesome efforts by Michael et al to make it consistent) rankles with my sense of ‘immersion’. The only book, in my very humble opinion, that really fits – is mine, quelle surprise. That may sound rather arrogant and snobby. I suppose it is. Sorry about that, but it is also very honest.
When I was playing the original game, and even when researching FE2 and FFE, I invented the backstory for what was happening in those other ships that flew past me on the scanner. I filled in the gaps using my imagination. I want to do that again. The last thing I need in ‘my’ game experience is other players bringing their immersion breaking behaviour into my game. Why? Because they won’t behave the way I want them too. They’ll act out of character for the role they have in ‘my’ Elite universe.
I’ve always been a loner at heart with mild autistic tendencies. Hey, nobody’s perfect. Maybe that explains a lot about my response to this choice. I don’t think I’m alone in my wish to simply be left … alone.
Playing games is all about escapism and fun. For some the competitive edge is what it’s all about, for them multiplayer will be perfect. For people like me it’s all about the story. For me it’s the tale that unfolds in my head when I play the game, a crystallised sample of which you have in Elite: Reclamation.
I generally dislike books by multiple authors (by which I very much don’t mean anthologies, which are obviously collections of individual stories!). Co-authored books are a compromise of styles and quality, far less appealing than a work by a talented solo author.
And when I play Elite: Dangerous I want to be the author of the story – of my adventure. I don’t want other ‘authors’ coming in and, quite frankly, mucking up the plot.
Won’t I be missing out on some amazing opportunities that multiplayer mode can offer? Quite possibly. As I’ve said, I won’t be totally exclusive. I will give it a decent try – but I can’t help thinking that that experience will be just an awesome ‘Multiplayer Space Sim Game’ to me. Fun yes, but not ‘Elite’.
There’s a word for people like me you see.