Two years on

Jun 4, 2016

Elite: Reclamation has been available for two years now.

Elite: Reclamation has been available for two years now.

Facebook does occasionally have its uses. Its ‘memories’ feature prompted this blog by reminding me that June 4th 2014 was the day that Elite: Reclamation was made available to the public. Yes, a whole two years has passed since then and it won’t be long before it is a full four years since that whole project kicked off.

For those who missed it, Elite: Reclamation was my response to the ‘Writer’s Pack’ pledge award on the original Elite:Dangerous kickstarter back in 2012. You can read that story here.

Since then, it’s had a hugely positive reception based on the reviews and countless emails I’ve had about it and the characters within. After all this time it would seem that there are only two novels, out of almost a dozen, that seem to have really resonated with fans long term and mine is one of them. (And the other is written by a lovely lady who is a lot more famous than me!). I set out to write a book ‘by a fan for the fans’ and it would seem the fans agree.

Fans of the original games have often commented that I nailed the essential atmosphere of Elite, FE2, FFE and brought it all bang up to date with Elite: Dangerous, smoothly seguing into the new games from the old. Even better, new players, some completely unaware of the background material, are finding my book (and its popular audiobook version) after having played Elite: Dangerous and enjoying the lore as a result.

I was delighted to find that some fans were so enamoured with the story that they wrote some follow on fan-fiction for it, not content to see the story stop where it did. That was quite fascinating for me to read.

Still the number one question I get asked is ‘When’s the sequel?’. I’m afraid the answer is still the same, it’s not my call! 🙂 I, alongside many others I assume, submitted an application for a licensed work at the end of 2015. I wrote up my ideas and sent them in, that was some months ago now. Frontier are busy with v2.1 and, at last update, dealing with npc ships that have gone rogue. I fell victim to one of those!

What do I think of the game at present?

My favourite recent addition was the docking approach comms, it’s something that is both a minor and major edition. Minor in the sense that it’s not really adding gameplay per se, but major in that it adds something that was sorely lacking – atmosphere (and no I don’t mean when landing on planets!). Elite: Dangerous had always seemed a little sterile, now it is beginning to feel like there is a little life outside of your own ship.

Do I play? Very little now. I have only a handful of hours a month to play and Elite: Dangerous never leant itself to casual gameplay in previous versions and it does even less now with the amount of time and dedication that is required to ingratiate yourself with the engineers and the powerplay characters. My love was always exploration and I find that SpaceEngine fulfills my needs rather better here (and it has way more astronomical realism at this time). Exploration is sorely unrewarding in Elite: Dangerous at present.

There’s also some other essential element of Elite that is missing for me in the current game. I’ve tried hard to figure out what this is. It may just be nostalgia for times past, and it’s possibly just that. How could anything today live up to the rose tinted experience of playing a game as a young teenager?

The emphasis on the development at the moment is very much on find, deliver, hope for an upgrade, get upgrade, repeat cycle. It found it rather tedious when it only required fish to be brought from the station in the beta, let alone searching for it for real. I just don’t have the time for that sort of game. It feels very similar to PowerPlay, which you know I wasn’t a big fan of. I suppose it feels a bit too ‘trivial’. That sort of game-play requires very little engagement of the brain, merely lots of time. Perhaps I’m just expecting too much.

That said, I would dearly love to see exploration given some real treatment. Corona samples, solar wind measurements, planet scanning (magnetic anomalies, core composition, terraforming candidates, isotope discovery or even just water searches). I think of what our probes within the solar system can do and wish I could go out and do something similar in Elite, perhaps that will happen at some point.

The endless tirade of certain PvPrs is also a major put off. According to a vociferous subset of players ‘anything goes’ in open mode, which merely means ‘griefing’ (the psychotic destruction of other players for no genuine game reason) is acceptable. And they wonder why so many people avoid this mode of the game! It’s a shame, because positive PvP could generate some excellent gameplay, but poor experiences have forced many to conclude it’s not for them, myself included.

Slightly worryingly, I spend more time on reddit/r/elitedangerous and watching Obsidian Ant’s excellent videos to keep informed, rather than actually playing.

So my feelings on the game are mixed. It still has massive potential and Frontier have indicated they have a decade long plan of which we’re only into the third year. Visually it’s almost perfect, except astronomical errors that most won’t notice. The sounds are, and always have been, wonderful. The flight model is good, despite the limitation of having having been dumbed down to cater for multi-player.

What does the game need in my humble opinion?

  • Less investment in pew pew and more focus on sophisticated content
  • A major investment in exploration (a real exploration ship would be a start)
  • More emphasis on the verisimilitude – the docking interaction was marvellous, more of that sort of thing (tankers, freight traffic, passenger liners, surface shuttles etc.)
  • More engaging storylines. I sigh everytime someone goes ‘missing’ and mysteriously ‘reappears’. They’ll be another one soon assuming Jacques’ station doesn’t appear at Beagle Point. This is an awful awful cliché. Maybe some more writers? 😉
  • An exploitation of the Elite background. Elite has a massively underused history with much mystery and enigma contained therein. It’s hardly been used at all as yet, Thargoids not withstanding.

However the game gets better in every single release. Pop back in another two years and we’ll see where we are. Until then? Right on, Commanders!

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