Why I’ll be flying Solo in Elite: Dangerous

Posted by on Aug 12, 2014 in Progress Report

A bit simplistic, but previous experience is a good indicator.

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?

A lonely game of space exploration

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 like socialising, but I value time alone too.

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.

Elitist. 😉

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  1. Sir, with regards to your above article……..


    I embrace and wholeheartedly concur with every line…..I suspect my loner/autistic tendencies are further revealed by this but then if I check in my little box where I keep my ‘Give A Damn’ I think I will find it still completely empty 🙂

  2. For slightly different reasons, I agree with your intention. Actually, I wish the offline solo mode will have a ‘pause’ mode so that I can actually play it. Playing real-time games is next to impossible in my situation.

  3. I can identify with you here, Drew. For me, Elite was my escape after a brain-frazzling day of school and homework. The immersion was deep, and all the more rewarding for it. It was like being in your own movie, except you weren’t just the lead but the director and script writer, too.

    I’m going to experiment with the multi-player, but finding large enough blocks of time to complete missions and finish difficult trade runs could be difficult. At least going solo means you can integrate the game with your real world schedule a little more easily.

  4. Hey Drew – can you clarify – is there a specific point of ‘multiplayerness’ that breaks it for you? It sounds like you like the fact that the Universe will still have some dynamic updates ‘outside of the code’ by playing solo instead of fully offline, but i’m curious.. Does seeing other players with “open squares” in the radar put it over the edge? will it be the chat from other player — i.e. you don’t’ want to be spammed by other players? I’m just trying to understand a little more..

    I feel that Elite multiplayer still very much caters to the solo experience even with other players, but I’m also wondering if as features are added i’ll also lean more towards ‘solo’ instead of ‘multiplayer’ myself..

    • Differentiating between NPCs and humans breaks it to a degree, as I’ll be far more wary of human players and what they will do. Comms definitely breaks it as players will converse in a ‘matey’ 21st century fashion, whereas I’d want to see tone more in keeping with the game (Science fiction set in the 33rd century). Fighting other players invariably ends in a circling joust of ‘who has the tough ship’, or a ram, rather than the swooping chases you experience with NPCs. I guess, for me, NPCs really are in that universe (ie. fictional characters), whereas players are exactly that – ‘players’. For me multiplayer is a bit like watching a play that’s being made up on the spot. It’s not as good as a polished performance.

  5. I’ll be your wingman anytime buddy. Just… expect me to run at the first sign of trouble. So by wingman I mean… I’ll keep you company.

  6. Well said as always Drew. I’ve dabbled in multiplayer, and in private groups, but there’s certainly going to be some time spent by myself, enjoying Elite: Dangerous in a fabulously selfish way. 🙂

  7. I agree to some extent in that the solo game is far more stable at the moment. But whenever I go into the multiplayer version I feel a sense of excitement that I dont get from playing the solo game which always seems to be rather lonely, lifeless and ‘flat’. So no I will be playing in the multiplayer game probably most of the time when and if it gets to be a stable environment to play the game in. But at the moment its just too flaky.

  8. I am glad someone else shares my views. For a long time I have waited for this game yet I was fearful for not being as quick on the trigger or as nimble on the controls as other players. I feared my playing experience would be ruined to be honest. But now I found that their is a solo mode and even a limited multiplayer mode I am happy. I want to be the master of my destiny, not some 14 year old with the reflexes of a coked up tomcat.

  9. Same boat as you! Upon stumbling on this game, and being totally stunned, my first order of business was to see what type of game it is SP or MP. If it was MP/MMO/online only, I would most likely pass. Since there is an option for single player, I’m in! I share almost 100% of what your reasons and have a few extra of my own.

    • Justin – let me know what those are and I’ll add them to the list!

      • I am with you on the same boat Drew, full time job, family, and one thing you forgot to mention which drove myself away (far away) from playing MMOs in general… the Griefer, who is a loser in real life but the bully behind a 24′ screen and a ueber PC, who tries to kill the little guy to proof how powerful he is, that and also the fact that I loved the original Elite when it first came out. Now the Concept of MMO Elite is a ok thought but not my cup of tea… I hope we all have fun at the end

  10. Elitist in a community of 1, you.

    Go multiplayer and I’ll show you a real Elitist, no wait your worried about being left behind, no **** thats because your a CASUAL.

    Who thinks he’s an Elitist.

    • I am definitely a ‘casual’ (If by that you mean someone who only has very limited time to play the game – approx 1-2 hours per week max). Your point is?

    • That’s “you’re” and “you’re”, not so Elite now are we ? You are exactly the reason why some of us prefer to play solo, especially now with Powerplay to legitimise some of your bullish behaviour.

    • You, sir, are a clown shoe.
      Drew made his reasons clear and they did NOT centre around any perceived lack of ability in dealing with other peoples’ combat prowess.
      Your post may well have articulated better than any other post all that the rest of us despise in MP. it’s your attitude that’s off-putting not the alleged size of your gun. Innuendo fully intended.
      Also, hear, hear, Cmdr Proletariat.

  11. Just wanted to pass the word that today Frontier’s latest newsletter has stated (and producer Michael Brookes confirmed in the forums) that Elite Dangerous will have no offline mode now.

    • Yes, quite the scandal I hear. It’s a genuine let down for those folks who need/want an offline mode. However, in the 21st century, with state of the art PCs required to play, my view is that I’d not want the main game compromised by what is rapidly shrinking sector of the audience who either don’t want or don’t have an internet connection. In this day and age not having an internet connection isn’t far from not having an electrical connection. This is a state of the art game, it’s reasonable for it to be built with modern infrastructure as a working assumption.

      • I think much of the furore is about the fact that offline mode was all but guaranteed from the Kickstarter, and the problem is not internet luddites who refuse to get connected, but those in places with poor connection or no connection through not fault of their own. And I think those complaints are entirely justified. Off-topic, I bought your book Drew – and from what you said in your article above I am really looking forward to reading it once I’ve finished John Harper’s “And Here the Wheel”. Cheers 🙂

        • Hmmm. There really isn’t such a thing as a ‘Kickstarter Promise’. Your pledge supports a project aiming for some goals, if it turns out those goals aren’t attainable, that’s not great, but that’s the risk you carry as a pledger. However if people have bought an advance copy from FD’s store with the understanding of completely offline mode, that’s a different issue.

          • It may not be any sort of legal promise, but morally it’s a pretty strong thing IMO. Especially when it was repeated in interviews with magazines and on reddit subsequently.

          • Morally I think you have a point. Certainly a detailed explanation of ‘why’ would be a good place to start.

  12. With multiplayer comes organized groups. So I’m a working stiff and lack the time for that kind of commitment.
    Now one can share the spoils of piracy (ships drop several cargo cannisters), but there is no way for traders to exchange money or pay bounty hunters. Good commodities are scarce, resources cannot be shared in game, why form trading convoys? So I think the pirates will carry the game.
    In the limited time I do have, I want to trade and explore and not be stopped from play some evenings by blockades.

    • Looks like we’ll be in the same boat! Single player all the way! 🙂

  13. Drew, I would love to be in a private game with you and anyone else who shares the “story unfolding in the ‘verse” kind of view.

    I’ve been playing multi-player so far, but would really like the idea of a private game where like minded people can play together.

    An example of why multi-player may not work for me:

    I was making a trade run. No bounty. Nothing of any real value in my stock Sidewinder’s cargo hold, when suddenly I was interdicted by a player with a ship far-and-away better than mine. No contact. No demands. Just blasting me to bits, just because he could. I jumped away with 2% hull. There was some minor justice, because he wasted a missile that didn’t reach me in time.

    I would have been okay with this encounter if their would have been some reasonable motive for it. But, not when it is just to ruin someone’s game “just because you can”. This kind of behavior is immersion breaking, in my opinion.

    Thanks for your thoughts.


  14. You could just try to get better if it’s such a problem getting killed in mulitplayer games.

    Other players is the fun part, the fact that there’s always a god-like challenge out there prevents games from getting stale fast, but I get that a lot of gamers likes to be like kings in their own realm, however useless they might be in reality. For other players that is not rewarding at all, and prefer the added challenge even if they aren’t pros themselves.

    I’ll be playing solo to grind up a huge amount of credits safely and easily, then switch to open play to burn off the cash on learning PVP.

    • I do completely agree with the first part of your text. However, you completely lost me in the second and I think you are contradicting yourself right there.

      • Forgot to add: It is so much more worth getting finally in the ship you’ve always wanted, if you remember the trouble getting there. And yes, this includes other players, being shot down for no reason, being pirated, being shot by federal agents (I joined the ranks of the empire right back when I still was in my sidewinder). At least, for me.

        The problem I have with solo play is, that it completely ruins multiplayer. How am I supposed to be a pirate if all the traders prefer going solo? How am I supposed to be some sort of private security guy for traders, if all of them play solo? If everybody would be forced in multiplayer, the problems open play has rightnow would settle themselves. Afraid of being pirated whilst trading? Go form a trading treck, or hire someone to protect you. Bunch of idiots hanging around the statio where youre docked, shoting you down the moment you try to exit? Go call the bounty hunters.

        Frontier should have left us with only one gaming mode whatsoever, either solo or open. But what we have right now is just tons of empty space.

  15. And I thought it’s just me who favors single-player games over MMORPGs. In fact I learned about the Solo mode after having bought the game and I was instantly delighted with it.

    A while ago I was invited as a newbie to a WoW session and although my team (who was there in the same room) was very kind and friendly I could not get myself into the actual “world” of Warcraft. It was an environment that struggled to be authentic but was ruined again and again by immature kids (of all ages) who wanted to feed their ego instead of just having fun.

    Today I read about the “become the first with triple Elite status” contest. Oh, come on. Why should I not just enjoy the environment, cruise my ship across the galaxies and not measure myself with other people who seem to accomplish nothing else in their life and seem to seek refuge in alter ego games?

    Dear game developers. There are apparently considerable amounts of people who want to have fun and not play kids games. And it’s not anti-social to play solo. We are still free to meet real actual breathing people and then again just have fun at the computer without having to coordinate our little spare time with others just to get disappointed by the experience.

    Long live the NPCs! They really keep the games atmospheric. Maybe I should invite one of them for dinner. 🙂

  16. I agree completely – solo all the way. I too have been eliting since 1984 along with a host of other games in the meantime. With the exception of the Quake franchise (which was mindless death hunts) , I haven’t enjoyed the online experience – too many people with repressed, pent-up hostility acting like a-holz to each other. It’s just simply not fun.

    If you ever put together The Old Codgers group and don’t mind one more, drop me an email.

  17. After playing over xmas I’ve encounter other players 4 times, every time they have attacked and destroyed me as not good at combat.
    Like all Multiplayer game most PVP just enjoy attacking other players which is fine if the cost to rebuild your ship was not so high for the loosing player, I never really got anywhere in the open game as lost CR faster that could make due to PVPers that thought it fun to attack newcomers.
    so im now playing solo play as can learn slowly to attack NPCs.
    I feel newcomers ( those not played Alpha/Beta ) will loose faith and either quit or just play solo
    these are my thoughts and I hope im wrong as I loved to original elite

  18. Just reread this after looking at your Shadeward post (I’ll watch the video tonight).

    Now the game’s released, are you still sticking to mainly single player or have you tried Open and found you like it?

    I only play Open and whilst I’ve had a few immersion breaking experiences with other humans, the vast majority act as I’d expect a 34th century space pilot to act. Mainly they ignore me, most of the rest are either friendly and helpful, or piratey and mean (but still in character).

    A couple have talked about game mechanics which is definitely immersion breaking for me but understandable.

    Probably my best experience of the game so far was being pirated by another human: http://ollieclark.com/cmdrol/?p=73

    • I can now agree with you completely, sir… Having just been brutally ejected from my Type-6, stuffed full of cargo, by someone as I come out of my jump and attempt supercruise to station… Won’t happen to me in solo… and I like the thought of the story coming together in my head as I go. 🙂

  19. I too am one of the original Elite Commanders and I too will be playing solo and for the same reasons.

    Additionally I play behind a satellite connection with a 750mS latency. Just imagine playing in a multi-player universe with player interactions delayed by 1.5 seconds. I’d be slaughtered every time.

    Still, even when I get my shiny new fibre-based Internet connection I’ll still be playing solo.

    Stay safe Commander.

    CMDR Austen

  20. I couldn’t agree more. Playing Elite since ’87. Played in a different universe in the last 15 years or so with the X series games (XBTF-X3 Albion Prelude), until it got silly. I have not seriously played ED yet, first I have to figure out the Solo mode.

    Elite Commander Styx on CPC6128.

  21. I realise it’s been sometime since you wrote this post, but I’ve never had a PC capable of running ED. But I do have an Xbox One and am now thoroughly immersed in the ED universe once more (Like you I have spent the past 32 years plying the spaceways).
    I do play other MP games (Halo being a favourite) but in those competitive arenas there is no break in the fiction.
    I agree entirely with your reasons for wanting to play ED solo. Perhaps some of that need comes from having played the original Elite which required much more from our imaginations, amazing though it was.
    I’m finding with ED that Frontier seem to have the solo experience more ‘right’ that E, FE2, or FFE.
    Anyway, I’m back to ‘drinking the ink’, as the inhabitants of MY ED universe colloquially refer to travelling the depths of space.

  22. Well said – I prefer Solo as well. Been “gaming” since “Pong” first appeared and got into the IT world while continuously gaming across multiple platforms. Loved Descent when it came out.
    Good for you!

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