Elite classic video games remake seeking backers

Rory Cellan-Jones talks to Elite co-creator David Braben in his Cambridge offices

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Classic video game Elite is getting a 21st Century makeover.

David Braben, one of the creators of the original, is seeking £1.25m ($2m) via Kickstarter to fund the updated version.

Called Elite: Dangerous it will involve the same mix of interstellar travel, trading, piracy and spaceships as the original 8-bit game.

Those who pledge cash to the project will also get a chance to shape the development of the updated version.

"Elite is a game that I've wanted to come back to for a very, very long time," Mr Braben told the BBC. "It's the sort of game that I would very much like to play today."

Funding squeeze

When Elite was first published in 1984 it instantly became a huge success. Its wire-frame 3D graphics and open-ended play across eight randomly generated galaxies was at odds with the narrow, 2D side-scrolling games that were the norm at the time.

"It changed the way that people looked at games very much for the better," said Mr Braben.

Screenshot from Sir, you are being hunted Sir, you are being hunted is also seeking cash via Kickstarter

The updated version will keep the open-ended, space trading setting and will make use of modern PC power to create a vast interstellar territory that players can explore. Ships will be fitted with hyperspace drives to enable them to get around and the planets, stars, asteroid belts and other things found in deep space will be procedurally generated.

However, said Mr Braben, its exact final form will be partly down to those that pledge cash.

"The people who are involved in Kickstarter can be involved in the game," he said.

The finished PC game should be ready in March 2014 although some of the early development work has already been done at Mr Braben's game studio Frontier.

The underlying network technology to support the multi-player version of the game is almost done and stress tests are being carried out to ensure it can support large numbers of players. A single player version will also be available.

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Elite Dangerous is the seminal game reimagined for the 21st Century - but it will only be built if it finds an audience first”

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When it appears the game will face competition from both new and established titles. Space trading and piracy sim Eve Online has a dedicated following and more recent titles, such as FTL and Pioneer, are winning fans. On Kickstarter, veteran game designer Chris Roberts is seeking cash for Star Citizen which shares many of the traits of Elite. Finally, by the time Elite appears Markus Persson, creator of Minecraft, may have finished work on his space simulation game 0x10c.

Audience

Mr Braben said he had turned to Kickstarter to fund Elite because it was the type of game that would be hard to persuade a publisher to back.

"Publishers want to see the end result before they move forward and with a lot of games like this it's very important to balance the design of the game as you are going," he said.

As well as providing funding, Kickstarter also helped to ensure that there was an audience interested in the game.

"It also helps us at Frontier to validate that there is a market for this type of game out there," he said. "We then have the confidence that we know who we are making the game for."

Kickstarter has become a firm favourite among game makers keen to get backing for their projects. The launch of a UK-focused Kickstarter has also provoked projects from British game studios.

Games including Kung Fu Superstar, mmoAsteroids and Sir, You Are Being Hunted are all looking for cash via the crowdfunding site.

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