No, Really. Elite IV “As Strong As Ever”

By Jim Rossignol on May 20th, 2010 at 2:06 pm.


This is a lovely bit of a non-story, via Eurogamer, but it amused me to see it. Of all the UK development teams we’d like to see something concrete from, top of the list has to be David Braben’s Frontier Developments. EG claim that Elite IV had been “put on hold”, but Braben says “our commitment to the game is as strong as ever.” Which is an interesting way of phrasing it. Of course Elite IV is actually second on the list after Frontier’s The Outsider, a political thriller that was announced years ago and has subsequently gone into stealth mode. Just to remind myself what was going on with that I dug up the 2007 trailer and posted it below.

Anyway, as is traditional with such things, I must ask you lot what you’d like to see in Elite IV? Full sandbox with some co-op, I’m guessing? You probably don’t want a planet-scanning mini-game… (And there are no prizes for saying “better graphics.”)

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98 Comments »

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  1. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    Could we get a NSFW warning on the top picture please? Geez.

  2. JellyfishGreen says:

    I’d like to see a post-Einsteinian explanation of galactic gravity warp that doesn’t involve dark matter.

  3. Javier-de-Ass says:

    I’d be happy if it could do as much as first encounters

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      I completely agree. FFE had the potential to be a fine game, and debugged with DX10 graphics and a proper ‘black’ colour for space it would suit me just fine :)

  4. ChaK_ says:

    better graphics

    In fact I just want X3 II

  5. Quasar says:

    Worse graphics.

  6. jsutcliffe says:

    Frontier with modern graphics would be enough for me.

  7. Tauers says:

    No graphics, just ascii art.

  8. Klaus says:

    Is it me, or can everyone run super-quick in that video. It’s almost like they’re sliding…

  9. Kazang says:

    That would be X4 then.

  10. Eamo says:

    It would be nice if it came with some Jameson.

  11. Sobric says:

    Being able to descend planetside (in the right ship ofc) in a manner similar to that video posted a whileback (i.e. seamlessly). I suppose that’s graphics though.

    Actually, here’s a spanner-in-the-works thought for you lot, as I’m sure many people here will mention procedural-generated stuff (also inspired by Jim in the last podcast):

    Pay-to-play single player content. As in, the base game comes with a nice universe that you can eke many hours out of, but if you want to pay a monthly fee the developers will constantly update the universe with events that keep your game fresh – maybe include several monthlong story arcs, in-game news reports, battles, technological advances, supernovas etc etc

    I’ll try an play devil’s advocate a bit if anyone replies, but this is pure game-theory so don’t go completely mental at me.

  12. terry says:

    I basically yearn for the randomization of Space Rangers, with the crazy sandbox mayhem of Just Cause 2 with the customization and tweaking of Gran Turismo, in a universe that feels crazy dangerous and enormous in the vein of EVE, in an engine that Pixar would be frightened of. Failing that, a version of Frontier with bells and whistles would do me, or even for David Braben to say anything other than “*twinkle of eyes, suggestive wiggle of eyebrows*” in PR statements

  13. riadsala says:

    A good single player experience.

  14. Curvespace says:

    Integration into a 1st person game, meaning that you might have to track individuals down on the planet surface. This would include additional modes of transport – subway etc.

    A way for user-generated mods to dovetail with this system, allowing for new storylines and quests to be added.

    Procedural architecture that allows for new designs via the community.

    ‘n stuff.

  15. Ovno says:

    Good god not X3 II, I wasnt a proper space game with physics orbiting planets, juump drives, hyperspace cloud analysers and all sorts of other cool stuff.

    Non inertial space games have been done to death bring back proper elite style newtonian physics and let me play with my friends.

    Also Thargoids and Hyperspace miss jumps

    And, bug in frontier where they used a 16 bit integer for the distance between stars in light years meaning you could jump your normal range or any multiple of 65535 light years in one jump, I used to have a program for my graphics calculator that could get you anywhere int he galaxy in two jumps using that =D

  16. Risingson says:

    Good background story that carried you somewhere before releasing you to the crude stars and market wars

  17. Ovno says:

    Posible repost damn spam filter….

    Good god not X3 II, I wasnt a proper space game with physics orbiting planets, juump drives, hyperspace cloud analysers and all sorts of other cool stuff.

    Non inertial space games have been done to death bring back proper elite style newtonian physics and let me play with my friends.

    Also Thargoids and Hyperspace miss jumps

    And, bug in frontier where they used a 16 bit integer for the distance between stars in light years meaning you could jump your normal range or any multiple of 65535 light years in one jump, I used to have a program for my graphics calculator that could get you anywhere int he galaxy in two jumps using that =D

    • frymaster says:

      “proper elite style newtonian physics”

      I know you probably just meant to type “frontier”, but you still broke my brain

    • DMcCool says:

      @Ovno

      I think I love you.

    • Ovno says:

      Sorry my mistake, frontier style proper newtonian physics.

      And thx :)

  18. Mr Bismarck says:

    ANSI Graphics. And an eyelid damage model. And space carp.

  19. Mario Figueiredo says:

    If you ever installed Celestia, that’s what I would like more or less for Elite IV.

    But instead of a near perfect emulation of space, a procedurally generated sandbox universe, with thousands, millions, of planets that tried to emulate real distances and the ability of players to play at their own pace. If I want it to take me 20 real-life years to travel to the next planet, I should be allowed to.

    I’d also want full free camera controls and the type of natural beauty our own universe already has to offer.

    As for multiplayer… no. Or rather, yes if that doesn’t mean single-player is going to be an afterthought. Because, quite frankly an Elite game that doesn’t put all its weight in single-player mode will never be an Elite game… just a mockery that shares a similar title.

  20. Paul says:

    “Of all the UK development teams we’d like to see something concrete from”
    Have you not played the two WiiWare Lost Winds Games, or are just referring to ‘on PC’? They’re really good, the second especially.

  21. Ginger Yellow says:

    “EG claim that Elite IV had been “put on hold”, but Braben says “our commitment to the game is as strong as ever.” ”

    Now that’s what I call a non-denial denial.

    • jonfitt says:

      They are committed to definitely leaving it on hold.

    • Adam Whitehead says:

      By Braben’s own admission, the game has never moved out of the pre-production phase. So “Our commitment to the game remains as strong as ever,” translates directly as, “We still talk about doing it down the pub every few months and someone doodles the hexagonal space station every now and then,”.

      Also, before THE OUTSIDER weren’t they saying that RAILROAD TYCOON 3 had a load of tech they were planning to use in ELITE 4 and they were going to get right on it once it had shipped?

  22. Nick says:

    Privateer 3 with the same voice actor from 1.

  23. Heliocentric says:

    3 tiered object orientated neural net based ai. I want groups and ships to make objective analysis of its environment and play by the same rules you do.

    Will never happen.

  24. jonfitt says:

    I want:
    -Single player, with coop as a minor option.
    -Space to ground like we saw in that tech video a few months ago.
    -Newtonian->relativistic physics.
    -Planets which orbit.
    -Planets with mega engineering like space elevators.
    -A graphical representation of each space port/station which creates the atmosphere of a living place but doesn’t require you to tediously walk around.
    -A atmosphere when in space of fragility and isolation.

  25. Cinnamon says:

    Frontier is one of my favourite games but at this moment I am not optimistic about remakes of complex games from the early nineties for some reason. Just can’t see anything I want from a sequel to Frontier surviving as a 360/PS3 title.

  26. cliffski says:

    Whether we like it or not Eve Online has Fucked over Elite. Eve online has the huge sprawling populated freeform world eve had, but it has it with real people, incredible graphics and vast complexity.
    People would compare Elite IV to Eve, even though one is singleplayer.
    And the money that Eve siphons in from space battle/trading players makes the commercial prospects of a true Elite IV very very unlikely.
    I’d buy it, but I doubt half a million people or more would, making it not viable in todays PC market.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      Well, that just depends how much it costs to make really.

    • Adam Whitehead says:

      The problem is that EVE Online still has, despite improvements, a forbidding and off-putting starting difficulty curve and no realistic way for newcomers to ever catch up with people who’ve been playing the game for years, making them feel redundant. In addition, sometimes simple trading, mining or combat missions still involve having an insane number of spreadsheet-like screens open all over the place. After a year of that, despite enjoying some aspects of the game, I got fed up with it and ditched it. If anything, since then EVE’s reputation as a pick-up-and-play game has really gone out of the window.

      So, ELITE 4 could do very well by having a direct-control flight model, a more streamlined UI and some kind of storyline or forgiving opening sequence of events that tells you how to play the game without boring the player to death. Also, that name is still important and influential for a lot of 30+ (i.e. more affluent) games players. If TOTAL WAR games can shift hundreds of thousands of copies on PC (they don’t even have lasers!), ELITE 4 seems a reasonable bet to me.

    • Nick says:

      Because no one bought the X games.

    • Ovno says:

      The problem with eve is its compelte lack of physics and twich based game play I want to fly ships arround solar systems not point and click my ship arround various sky boxes…

      And to the guy saying you can’t catch up, its just not true, but if you think like that you never will….

  27. Colthor says:

    Elite Forever?

    Actually, First Encounters with better graphics and the bugs fixed would probably do. Nobody’s done it better yet.

    If we get to be ambitious, then as above, but with more of a working, simulated world; if you go back to Frontier/First Encounters now you can see the game working beneath the illusion.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I really wanted to like the frontier games, but the various bugs just made it so difficult.

      Also, whilst real physics is admirable, it made combat insanely difficult for me. I preferred to get rich by trading instead.

  28. Cynic says:

    I want:
    -The same freedom as before.
    -LAN Co-op
    -Mod tools, or at least un-encrypted game files
    -Trumbles
    -No first/third-person out of ship segments.

    Please?

  29. dude says:

    god….Elite Frontier was the only game i ever wrote fanfiction for…still have the 24 pages printed with a needle printer in the days of yore…

    • Corporate Dog says:

      With a heavy heart, Commander Jameson saluted the field of tumbling polygons that floated outside his Cobra’s cockpit.

      “You were a worthy adversary, Commodore Monty. And you flew your Python into battle with the spirit of a warrior. May your defeat serve as inspiration to future generations of -”

      Jameson paused for a moment to let the words linger on his tongue. Slowly, a grimace replaced the look of sorrow that had previously clouded his visage, and he threw himself into his command chair with all the disgust he could muster.

      “I get it now….” he whispered under his breath, as he punched in the afterburners. “I get it. His name’s Monty. And he pilots a- Oh, man. That’s really fucking dumb.”

      Breathing a sigh, Jameson turned to his thinly-veiled stereotype/alien co-pilot, who was created solely for the sake of a clever denouement.

      “What say you, Bo’raakan Nogg’rath? Have we earned ourselves a little R&R?”

      Bo’raakan grinned with his third mouth. “Me dinna thinkee youse Elites gotta dee vay-cay-cay time!”

      Jameson laughed. “Vacation? Never. Raiding and ‘Roid Mining. I know this little pirate base in the Xerces Asteroid Belt, where we can kill a few birds with one stone, if we play our cards right….”

      THE END

    • terry says:

      To be fair they did package a book of fanfic in the box. It’s not entirely misty-eyed nostalgia that made it so awesome to finish up a night of jetissoning robots and fleeing in escape pods from tiny ships that made a mess of your monstrous transport with a story or two from that book.

    • Premium User Badge

      Stompywitch says:

      I wrote Frontier fanfic for my GCSE coursework.

      And passed quite well, actually.

    • Adam Whitehead says:

      The guy who wrote the novella that shipped with the original ELITE (‘The Dark Wheel’) was Robert Holdstock, who won a ton of awards for his MYTHAGO WOOD sequence of novels. I met him a couple of times and the last time we talked about ‘The Dark Wheel’ and how David Braben showed him the game and flipped on the cheats to get up to Elite and get the best equipment straight away. Sadly, Holdstock passed away a few weeks later :-(

      I remember the stories that accompanied FRONTIER weren’t as strong, but were still amusing, and helped flesh out the illusion of this vast, inhabited civilisation stretching over dozens of worlds.

  30. Corporate Dog says:

    But they FIXED the planet scanning mini-game in the last patch!

    It’s no longer boring and tedious and taking away from time that could be better spent shooting at things!

    Now it’s just boring!

  31. CdrJameson says:

    Pfft. Nobody remembers Elite.

  32. Bhazor says:

    Freelancer but more so.

    • the wiseass says:

      This, I want Freelancer with better graphics, the same handling and better planet exploration. I’d take Freelancer over EvE and X3 any day, t’is a shame that there will never be a sequel. Alas, I’m not holding my breath for David Braben either, as he does seem to go nowhere with his games. It boggles my mind, that it is so hard to do a proper Elite sequel. I mean the brand recognition is there, most Elite fans are still alive and would certainly buy a new Elite game. He should hurry up, before this game becomes a saga of the past.

      By the way, that Outsider thingie looked pretty cool, I’d love to play a real political thriller as a game. It’s something that hasn’t been properly explored by the gaming industry.

    • terry says:

      I remember this chiefly through using OCP (not the Robocop lot) art studio. I got through the Lenslok so infrequently I wrote it to Microdrive through a Multiface 1 so I would never have to do the rotten thing again.

      DRM… DRM never changes.

  33. glowingslab says:

    Traveller RPG.

    • Dan says:

      I remember playing the MegaTraveller game on the Atari/ Amiga. That kind of a game could be done rather well, fallout with space travel and trading almost.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      There are in fact two Traveller CRPGs, Megatraveller: The Zhodani Conspiracy and Megatraveller 2: Quest of the Ancients.

      http://www.mobygames.com/game-group/megatraveller-series

      The first one is rather good, although I tried playing it more recently and I can’t get used to the system at all. I used to be more patient I guess… Never really played the second.

  34. JoeDuck says:

    Want Elite IV should be is simple: Eve Online
    Instead of starting in Elite and trying to add the thousands of things Eve has already, it would probably be more sensible to just start from Eve, add a cockpit view and joystick control… to be used as an option.
    All the rest that defines Elite is there already… and better.

  35. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    I want cats in spaceships, awful FMV sequences, Mark Hamill and mouse control.

    So FreeWinglance Commander.

  36. Dan says:

    -Autosave
    -organisations (governments, corporations, criminal factions)
    -News / Politics
    -Some sort of crew member interaction on larger ships (i.e. hiring, firing, loyalty), the feeling that you’re assembling a squad
    -Contacts (rather than accepting missions from complete randoms, you build up trust with individuals)
    -Walking about on planets would be awesome, but it’d have to be done right, and if that’s not a possibility it should just be excluded.
    -Not as much clunky UI as modern space games.
    -Localised technology/ upgrades (i.e. stations/ planets under the rule of certain governments have unique technology), the feeling of exploration yeilding results.

  37. westyfield says:

    Proper physics.
    An option to turn the sound off like in Shattered Horizon (please don’t be snarky and tell me to mute my headphones, k?).
    Good voice acting (I haven’t played Elite but I’m gonna hazard a guess at it either having no voice acting or terrible voice acting).

    • Dan says:

      In 1986 personal computers could only beep, they couldn’t make voice sounds.

    • westyfield says:

      1986? Woah, I though Elite was late ’90s. I feel terribly young now.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      @Dan

      Well, they could actually through sampling. And it also had speech synthesis. But your point still holds. The Z80 sound capabilities were of course very limited. And while voice could be achieved it only supported up to 8 1-bit channels. So, while voice was possible, asking for voice acting is stretching it too far.

      Not that Elite was an exclusive of the ZX Spectrum. But that’s my comparison argument because it’s where I played the game and the Z80 was one of the most advanced chips out there capabale of also dealing with sound without the need of another chip.

      Anyways, go here for an explanation of the Z80 chip capabilities. And here to hear it. Remember, this was also a CPU. It’s no wonder that the Z80 is still widely produced today, 34 years after the first one.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      The spectrum version of Elite had no voice acting at all, though the Spectrum could, just about, play samples.

      The Z80 processor was a great chip, but the original 48k Spectrum only had a single-channel beeper thing in it (though clever assembly programming with interrupts could give the illusion of multi-channel sound, for example in the sountracks to Sidewize, Heartland, Chronos, Uridium etc.). The 128k Spectrums and onwards had a 3-channel Yamaha AY 8910 chip, the same as the one in the Atari ST!

      It’s difficult to appreciate just how primitive these little machines were I guess, but when you really appreciate how simple they are many of the games of the time seem all the more impressive.

    • terry says:

      The ZX Spectrum, circa 2007 – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHMhsAxYKBs

    • Adam Whitehead says:

      The original ELITE came out in 1984 on the BBC Micro, with its mighty and fear-inducing 32K of memory. You had to load it from cassette tape and it took seven minutes to load. And, no matter how good you were at trading and space combat, you would still invariably die every time you tried to dock with a space station*.

      It was still utterly awesome though.

      * There’s actually an incredibly easy way of docking. If you line up with the station and then fly towards it at high speed – basically exactly what the manual tells you NOT to do – with the joystick pushed to match the direction of the station’s rotation , you usually dock absolutely fine. Of course, I wished I’d known this for the first six or seven years I spent playing the game before I read it in a magazine ;-)

  38. Don says:

    I want the new Elite game’s hero to be Duke Nukem as I hear he’s at a loose end these days. And maybe Braben could bring in the DNF developers, also at a loose end, to help out. They’re as good at delivering games as he is after all.

  39. LionsPhil says:

    Yeah, they’re all moving too quick. It’s pretty terrible.

    You’d think if there were snipers covering the area stopping to hold someone at gunpoint would be a death sentence too.

  40. Nikolaj says:

    I’m hoping Elite IV will have boobies. That’s the one thing that was missing from the others.

  41. Maxheadroom says:

    Christopher Walken!!!

  42. Ozzie says:

    A kitchen sink!

  43. Robsoie says:

    My dreamed Elite 4 would be :
    as a base Orbiter, must be the base.
    ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbiter_%28simulator%29 )
    + AI doing their own things in the universe
    + Interactions with other players and AI
    + Space trading with dynamic economy
    + Possibility to build your own faction with fleets and all
    + Combat between factions, empires, planets, pirates, fleets players etc..

  44. Ergates says:

    You see the picture at the top? (that says “Front View” at the top), thats an actual screenshot of Elite.

    So no, it didn’t have voice acting…

  45. terry says:

    I’ve revised my opinion to a single player game with physics and tits and Christopher Walken.

  46. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    The problem with everyone crying out for physics is that, well, they tried accurate space physics in Elite 2 and 3 and get generally slammed for making it inaccessible.

    Now, I have no doubt that the hardcore here want that but I’d be surprised if that kind of implementation ended up being especially popular.

  47. dogsolitude_uk says:

    EVE isn’t really Elite – flying the ships in Elite took a fair whack of skill, and piloting a ship safely down to a planet’s surface in Frontier was always very satisfying. I loved the management side of EVE though, and it looked gorgeous when I last played it. But it’s not Elite.

    X3, X2 and X:Beyond the Frontier were good fun, but again, I just ended up running a business not flying and exploring. The devs of the X games just hacked the universe up into roughly cubic regions of space, gave spacecraft travelling through a vacuum a top speed (which went down as your hull got more damaged). Ultimately the lack of ‘real space’ miffed me, and I just felt as if I was moving a camera round lots of pretty ‘rooms’. Slowly.

    TBH I’d be more than happy with an update of FFE with modern graphics! I don’t have a massive urge to walk round space stations or anything, but the following are very important to me:

    – A massive, procedurally-generated universe. Makes me feel like I’m really exploring something vast and unknown

    – Freedom to play the game how I see fit

    – A sense of scale, and a proper respect for the size of the universe. I’m sick of games where every single system is in the middle of a nebula, or all the planets are so damned close together like snookerballs (I’m looking at *you* Haegemonia)

    – Proper flight mechanics should be implemented to a degree, but not to the extent that they are in Orbiter

    – Extensive upgrade options and goods inventories

    As in real life, I like to be left alone to get on with my own thing, so a scripted story will be a bit of a turn-off. I just want to be dumped in the universe and left to fathom things out on my own and get on with it!

  48. Lobotomist says:

    Everything that other people said.

    Plus:

    Dynamic (randomly generated) intergalactic politics. Avatar animations, and out of ship spaces like Freelancer.

    Actually. Make it love child of Freelancer and Elite :)

  49. Ravenger says:

    The thing that ruined Frontier for me was the ultra-realistic physics. The whole point of Elite was that the combat wasn’t realistic – it was fun and challenging, but not realistic.
    Dumping that flight model for a realistic one was a massive mistake because dogfights turned into super high velocity jousts where you were shooting at a tiny dot. You might if you were lucky get close enough to make out the shape of the ship, but that was generally just before they suicide rammed you and you blew up.
    So for a sequel, let’s have the old flight mode back. Suitably updated for modern machines of course.