Technology

Elite fans protest over losing offline mode

Screenshot from Elite Dangerous Image copyright Frontier Developments
Image caption Elite is all about trading, fighting and surviving in outer space

Fans of forthcoming space-trading game Elite Dangerous are up-in-arms over plans to drop an offline version of the title.

Hundreds of comments have been posted to Elite's forums saying its creator has "broken" promises made by the firm.

Many say they only backed Elite on Kickstarter because of the plan to let people play even if they were offline.

Elite developer Frontier said the way it had chosen to represent the galaxy made an offline version "impractical".

Unacceptable limits

The news about the offline mode being dropped came in a regular weekly update sent to those who have paid to play the game as it is being developed.

The revelation sparked a huge debate in Frontier's support forums and prompted Michael Brooks, executive producer of Elite at Frontier, to visit the forums to answer the huge number of questions being asked. Currently the row about the decision fills more than 480 pages on the Frontier support forums.

Asked if offline mode would ever be implemented, Mr Brookes replied: "Probably not."

He said Frontier had not taken the decision "lightly" and added: "Having to hamper the game to work offline would have meant that we couldn't deliver the game we're making."

Mr Brookes said the mechanics of the galaxy which players explore, trade and fight in, sit on servers that are online.

"The data set and processes are huge and not something that would translate offline without considerable compromise to the vision," he said.

"A fully offline experience would be unacceptably limited and static compared to the dynamic, ever-unfolding experience we are delivering," said Mr Brookes, adding: "Trust me we didn't sit down and think, What would annoy people the most?'"

Image copyright Other
Image caption The first version of Elite was published on a cassette tape

He said Frontier had only made the announcement now because it had been looking at ways to make a workable offline version. However, he said, it had now become clear that it did not have the resources to produce what would be, in effect, two separate versions of the same game.

Frontier raised more than £1.5m via its Kickstarter campaign and since then, has raised £7.5m from more than 140,000 people who have been playing the various beta or test versions of Elite as it is being developed.

Alec Meer from game news site Rock Paper Shotgun said Frontier was "playing with fire" by deciding to drop the offline version.

"This is a game that's gone a long way on goodwill so far, and endangering that is a high-stakes game," he said.

Elite had its origins as an offline, entirely single-player game, he said, and many people were expecting to see something similar in the 2014 version.

"The dynamic universe features may be impressive but some players prefer to not have their game-world even slightly affected by others," he said, adding that the pressure was now on Frontier to amply demonstrate that those server-side features did produce a better game.

Mr Meer added that in many countries the kind of stable, fast internet connection the game will require is not available.

"Elite's exactly the kind of game that someone bored out of their mind in the back of beyond would want to disappear into for hours at a time, and perhaps now they won't be able to," he said.

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