If you’ve come from the 1980s, congratulations, you’re old. If you haven’t seen the 1980s yet can access a time travel machine, you may want to hone in on 1984 to play Elite. It was a remarkable game at the time, and with an upgradeable ship and an explorable universe full of trading and combat (albeit in monochrome wireframe 3D), it’s the granddaddy of games like EVE Online…as well as every other space sim. And thanks to a successful Kickstarter project, we’re getting a sequel.
David Braben, founder of Frontier Developments, who co-created the original game, asked backers for a jaw-dropping sum of £1.25 million ($2.03 million) and recently received it. Although this isn’t the most highly funded Kickstarter project—that would be the $10 million+ raised by Pebble smartwatch–according to a spokesperson for Kickstarter this is the project with the highest goal and that successfully raised its goal. A number of projects have requested more money (one asked for $3.5 million), however none of those were successfully funded.
When I saw that Frontier Developments had asked for $2 million, my first reaction was, “What the what?” But after my initial shock, I realized it makes sense. This is not a $10,000 startup project. Braben has a track record in the games industry, with Frontier Developments producing titles like Kinect Disneyland Adventures. Braben wants to make a 21st century sequel to Elite that is worthy of the name: a high quality production with the resources and people that a game of that ambition requires behind it.
Braben wrote on the Kickstarter page,
“Elite: Dangerous is the game I have wanted Frontier to make for a very long time. The next game in the Elite series – an amazing space epic with stunning visuals, incredible gameplay and breath-taking scope, but this time you can play with your friends too. I want a game that feels more like the original “Elite” to fly, and with more rapid travel (to allow for the multi-player nature of the game) – so you travel quickly using local ‘hyperspace’ travel rather than by fast-forwarding time – but with the rich galaxy of Frontier – and more, so much more.
I’ll be frank – we have had a couple of false starts on this over the years, where progress wasn’t as good as I wanted. Also, understandably, other projects have been prioritised – projects with announced dates or other commitments. Up to now “Elite” has been worked upon by a small team as a ‘skunk-works’ activity in the background as availability permits. Nevertheless, we have been preparing; laying the technology and design foundations for when the time is right. And that time is now.”
With less than two days to go, Elite: Dangerous has set a new stretch goal as the time counts down to the end of the funding period: If funding reaches £1.4 million Frontier will release a version for the Mac; after £1.5 million, Frontier will add ten more playable ships. (The only playable vessel in the original Elite was the Cobra MkIII. While you could upgrade lasers and expand your cargo bay, you couldn’t change your ship.)
But no matter what happens, space sim fans can get their engines started.
Trivia note: For those curious about the name of the sequel, veterans will know that “Dangerous” is the sixth rating of pilot ability. Players had to rise through the ranks from Harmless, Mostly Harmless, Poor, Average, Competent, Dangerous, Deadly, and ultimately Elite.
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(Thanks to Peter Wainwright.)