Vapour Trail Ware – Generous Elite: Dangerous Footage

By Alec Meer on November 26th, 2012 at 11:00 am.

That the first three screenshots on RPS today all use the same colour scheme perhaps says something about our mood. It's blue Monday here.

Elite: Dangerous generated a fair bit of ill will when its Kickstarter first launched, so short on detail or assets was its initial appeal for alms. With Peter Molyneux’s similarly vague Project GODUS setting up its crowd-funded stall a few weeks later, we’re now in the midst of the first major Kickstarter backlash – concern that big developers who arguably might not struggle to get publishing deals might be milking their fans’ nostalgia with surprise resurrections of the series and concepts they’ve for various reasons left alone for decades. It’s not for me to judge whether Braben and Molyneux are truly earnest in their intentions for these games or have just spotted an opportunity to make a fast buck, but I am relieved to see people are voting with their feet – demanding more concrete evidence of what’s being promised before they’ll cough up the internet-bucks. So it is that Elite Dangerous isn’t even halfway to its absurd £1.25 million goal even after several weeks, while Project GODUS has brought in ‘only’ £125k so far.

Elite seems to be on the long road back to doing what it should have done in the first place at least, with a slow trickle of real information and brief glimpses rather than generalised promises – and now it’s got a significant amount of in-game footage too.

I suppose we can’t know for sure this HUD-free scene of two ships fighting in an asteroid field wasn’t hastily created from scratch once the Kickstarter seemd to be faltering, even though it’s fairly pretty and with lovely lighting, but in either case it’s a not a bad feeling to look at something in action and know that, impossibly, it’s yer actual Elite 4.

David Braben is your commentator, and as he points out there’s a lot of stuff either missing or using placeholder graphics. Even so, we’re not in wireframe Kansas anymore.

He also talks in fair detail about how multiplayer will work. That’s going to be a very popular version of the game, I imagine, but he reassures us that there’ll be a fully-fledged solo game too.

Also: this dude is Kickstarting his own Elite fan-fiction novel in the hope of being able to then afford the £4500 Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter tier which gets the backer the opportunity to write an official Elite: Dangerous story. Meta-funding! Is all this good for Britain’s ailing GDP? Or will it be the final straw that triggers us into a triple-dip recession? Are single mothers stealing migrant workers’ mortgages? Are leftist feminists something something conspiracy tax conspiracy the bible conspiracy? Do I know what I’m talking about even slightly? Of course I don’t. I’m tired.

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60 Comments »

  1. Ansob says:

    My God! Alec has been replaced by the entire staff of the Daily Mail!

    • gravity_spoon says:

      I guess he was tortured too before he divulged our secrets ?

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      Harlander says:

      Can’t be, he didn’t mention house prices

      • bill says:

        or asylum seekers. Or is that the Daily Express’ thing?

        • Kemipso says:

          And more importantly, do vapor trails cause or prevent cancer?
          http://kill-or-cure.herokuapp.com/
          (not a bot, not a bot! I’m not a bot! Please, someone, anyone, trust me!)

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            melnificent says:

            That’s actually pretty funny. I didn’t think the Daily Mail had had THAT many cancer stories

            is that your site or did you stumble across it?

          • mangrove says:

            Coffee : Simultaneously causing and curing cancer.

  2. Derppy says:

    I guess one of the reasons why so many games are rushed to Kickstarter with so little information and footage, is because the developers are afraid of the Kickstarter saturation and fatigue.

    The interest in Kickstarter game projects peaked and the number of projects is growing. Everybody want to throw their project in before it’s too late. If they work for a while to make some solid proof of the potential, they risk running into a situation where there’s 200 other promising projects, none of which get funded.

    In my opinion Kickstarter will be a very good crowd funding platform in the future as well, but getting successfully funded will be much more difficult. Currently there’s still a chance for “easy funding” by appealing to the nostalgic memories of gamers and promising the game they always dreamed about, but as the number of projects grows and the inevitable false promises start to surface, getting funded will take some serious proof of potential.

    • SurprisedMan says:

      I think there’s good evidence of this already happening. There’s that Old School RPG that was cancelled, Dizzy is going nowhere, Elite: Dangerous is faring better but success is by no means assured and even Godus with its more modest goal will not hit it at the current rate of pledges (despite what Kicktraq thinks). Maybe the latter 2 will make it, but not for sure, and the message is that simply appealing to the old days isn’t quite enough any more.

      One of the reasons I didn’t pledge for Star Citizen (which admittedly did brilliantly) despite being a Wing Commander fan, was that something felt a little arrogant about the pitch and the surrounding material, a sense of ‘hi, I made video games a while back and now I’m back to show you all how it’s done’ which didn’t quite sit right with me. I hope people grow a little more suspicious of that sort of thing.

      • Toberoth says:

        Man I didn’t even know about Dizzy until now, but £350,000?? They’re kidding themselves with that one. It’s another project where they’re like “well we’ve been trying to make this game for YEARS and we’d really LOVE to do it, but if it doesn’t get funded then oh well, fuck it, whatever, we’ll do something else.” If you’re that into it, guys, then make it anyway. Make it in your spare time if you’re so passionate about it.

        • SurprisedMan says:

          I don’t subscribe to the view that Kickstarter should be a last resort – it’s just another funding model, and anyone who wants to try it is welcome to do so as far as I’m concerned. But it is quite interesting that we weren’t (generally) hearing very much from these old developers about how passionate they were for these revivals, until a certain Double Fine project experienced huge success.

          That makes me look twice and wonder ‘are you really passionate about this idea or is this just opportunistic?’ I think you can tell the passionate ones because they’re not just about the ‘remember this old stuff?’ and they’re trying to do something new with it. So Double Fine had the whole open, documented development angle, Planetary Annihilation played on Total Annihilation nostalgia but the central idea of the pitch was novel, and so on. In comparison, a lot of these pitches have appeared lazy.

      • HexagonalBolts says:

        They’re only failing as much as they would have failed earlier on in kickstarter – Molyneux thinks he can just throw on an extremely vague pitch and the money will just come flowing in.

        There’s a danger of a self-fulfilling prophecy here, people get worried that kickstarter fatigue will happen so they rush out vague pitches, people get fatigued and put off by vague unbackable pitches, people get yet more worried kickstarter fatigue will occur, etc.

        I think the lesson is to only put out something that has an extremely thorough description of not just the raw concepts behind the game but also a details of at least what the gameplay mechanics could potentially be like.

        • mouton says:

          Thankfull,y this seems quite self-regulating – people’s skepticism will weed out the rush jobs and promote higher standards.

    • Entitled says:

      “Kickstarter fatigue” is the new piracy: Something for the less successful developers to blame for the fact that nat all game ideas are equally profitable.

    • mouton says:

      Rushed miscalculated projects are not eaxctly going to slow that “kickstarter fatigue”. We all knew from the beginning what dynamics kickstarter craze will have and I have no problem with a few high-profile failures raising the standards.

  3. Caiman says:

    Watching that footage, for the first time my wallet has stirred unnervingly. Could Frontier actually be on the verge of making their pitch compelling? That actually looks like it could turn into a proper game, and one that I want to play. Now, if only the UK Kickstarter wasn’t so ridiculously tied to one payment method…

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      Okami says:

      This video shows nothing that a handful of experienced game developers couldn’t have hacked together in a couple of days.

  4. Renegade says:

    Both this and Star Citizen look great though I’m a bit confused as to what the main differences are between the two. I started quite late getting into the whole space rpg genre so only really got my fill from Starlancer and Freelancer.

    I’m not that clear on the difference between Elite and Wing Commander/Privateer as from what It seems both games were open world space rpgs. Anybody able to share some insight?

    Edit: Cheers for the replys!

    • Caiman says:

      Elite and Frontier had a bigger focus on exploration, free-roaming gameplay, go anywhere in an infinite universe. Star Citizen’s heritage of Wing Commander, Privateer and Freelancer were more story-based, action-based in a hand-crafted universe (or a series of missions). Privateer was somewhat more Elite-like in its free-roaming ambitions. Star Citizen seems to be more… what’s the word… more epic, grandiose, extrovert, whereas Elite: Dangerous seems to be more introverted, more exploratory, more personal. You might even say Elite is more British, Star Citizen is more American (and I mean that in the best possible way). I can’t wait for either of them (or hopefully,both of them).

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      Oozo says:

      In a nutshell: Wing Commander was no open space RPG, it was very much on the action side of things. No vast procedurally generated explorable space, but “missions”, no trading, and so on. (And there was the narrative/movie-side of it, which was branching, but didn’t make it an RPG.)

      So, mainly, shooting things instead of exploring space. (Don’t mean that in a bad way, I really liked WC back in the day.)

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        Cinek says:

        Only star citizen now plans to offer a huge open world as well. Only actually: Designed, not randomly generated like in the Elite.

    • plugmonkey says:

      Elite was the original sandbox. You were given a spaceship and a universe, and off you went. There was no mission structure or narrative at all and it was entirely up to you what you did – explore, trade, pirate, bounty hunt.

      Wing Commander, by contrast, was much more structured. You were cast as a rookie pilot on a carrier ship, and went on a series of mission that determined the outcome of humanity’s war with the Kilrathi, an alien race of cat people.

      Privateer was then Elite set in the Wing Commander universe. You were free to explore and generally do as you liked, but there was also a main narrative thread that you could pick up and follow as and when you wanted – making it much more of an RPG in the Elder Scrolls sense. That was followed by Privateer 2, which features Clive Owen being awesome.

      From what I can tell, Star Citizen starts out like Wing Commander, with you working through a bunch of missions in the military, and then you get demobbed and it switches over to being Privateer. Elite Dangerous I expect to be more open all the way through.

      I don’t quite understand why Meer has to be so bloody snarky about these games. If people didn’t want them, they wouldn’t be pledging for them. Nobody is putting a gun to anyone’s head. And if it was so damn easy to raise funding for these ‘dead’ genres, I can’t help suspecting they probably would have done already.

      If people want to pledge, what exactly is the problem? I pledge to RPS every month. I don’t have to. It is, in truth, a total waste of my money. I get precisely nothing in return, except the warm fuzzy feeling of lending my support to something I would like to see continue.

  5. Njordsk says:

    Tough guy to shoot at it seems.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Would have been easier to hit if he had a laser equipped like in Elite instead of whatever that glowy glob weapon he was using is.

    • DiamondDog says:

      All he had to do was hit the brakes and he’d fly right by.

    • adonf says:

      I’m not sure they even had collisions in this demo. Not even ships against scenery. Braben could have just pretended he hit an asteroid while he just pressed ‘X for explode’. I see nothing here that proves they didn’t put this demo together in the last 2 weeks.

  6. MeestaNob says:

    Glad to see they saw sense and pushed out a bit of work in progress footage to inspire the punters – a few bit of concept art and a pleasant man saying “I’m going to make another Elite, eventually, but really this time” wasn’t really enough to earn OVER A MILLION POUNDS. If they thought that was going to be enough to get it over the line, they were delusional.

    Also, is it just me, or does Peter Molyneux at 22 Cans feel like the gaming equivalent of Paul McCartney and Wings?

  7. Lemming says:

    I never understood why people thought there wouldn’t be a single player experience. From the off it seemed implied that the single player would be the main part of the game without having to spell it out, but they wanted to talk about new features.

    I have to say, listening to how the multiplayer works sounds ideal for an anti-internet socialite like myself. The idea of selecting only a few close friends that could ever possibly be in my game, is marvellous.

  8. Geofferic says:

    The thing with the Molyneaux title is that they don’t really tell us a damned thing about. There’s not so much as a piece of concept art.

    They sound as pompous as they can possibly be, they tell us nothing at all about the title, they discuss their success with titles that are not related in any way, and they want our money.

    Money for what, exactly? If there was some indication of what the game would look like, play like, etc, I’d be more interested.

    It’s not to do with them being a major developer, it’s to do with them arrogantly assuming that they can get our money by saying “give us your money”. It feels like a mugging.

    • S Jay says:

      They told they will release updates, but guess what? In his project updates are only available if you are a backer.

      Such a bastard move.

      • The First Door says:

        Ugh, that is rather annoying. Still, it is only one update so hopefully they’ll see sense.

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    Lars Westergren says:

    Not as convinced that this will be a great game as I’ve been for other Kickstarters, but good enough. I’ll pledge, especially since I pirated the first one when I was a kid. If this doesn’t turn out well, they still deserve some money retroactively for making one of my favourite games ever.

  10. Tridae says:

    This looks like nothing more than a “me too!” kickstarter. RSI did it and now Elite wants in. The game footage hold absolutely no promise – it looks like nothing more than a simple unity tutorial someone completed. I keep getting the feeling that they posted the kickstarter first before even writing a single idea down for the game and now they’re playing catchup. Look at how much work has gone into Star Citizen whilst this is absolutely nowhere.

    Most kickstarters have a passionate drive behind them whilst this is just “ah. . I guess we might as well make something . . .lets just do the bare minimum to get by”

  11. Everyone says:

    Wow … it looks as if there is nothing Newtonian about those flight physics, which makes me a very happy person indeed!

    • plugmonkey says:

      You and me both, brother!

    • Vorphalack says:

      And yet the motion sickness feels realistic : |

    • derbefrier says:

      pffft! Newtonian Physics are best physics.

      seriously since I started playing Evochron Mercenary (my first space ship game with this physics model) I have fallen in love with it. The degree of control you have once you get used to it is awesome.

    • Guvornator says:

      He says something about “firing retros” which does rather suggest there will be some sort of Newtonian Physics going on.

      • plugmonkey says:

        Or that it handles exactly like a Spitfire, but you have little booster rockets flaring when you turn instead of the flaps tilting, just so you can see what an enemy is doing.

        I don’t think you can read anything into that, to be honest.

  12. S Jay says:

    Molineux Godus is such a cash milking strategy that the updates are only available for backers.

    Give me a break.

  13. lizzardborn says:

    I think that is is healthy that these projects are struggling. After all Tim Shaffer and the black isle shards, cashed not on nostalgia, but on a long track record of excellent although commercially not profitable enough projects.

  14. Loque says:

    > It’s not for me to judge whether [any old-school guy] are truly earnest in
    > their intentions for these games or have just spotted an opportunity
    > to make a fast buck

    This. Now everyone and their dog is jumping on the crowdfunding train,

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    corinoco says:

    The footage actually turned me right off. It has nothing of the feel of either the 8 bit original or the 16bit sequels. It looks a lot like a 3ds max demo knocked up in an afternoon.

    What is with the blobby spit-gun? That’s not Elite! Elite is real lasers that have a beam.
    What is with the steam-trail spaceship? That’s not Elite! Elite 8 bit was looping curves, Frontier / FFE was frightening high-g fly pasts with precise timing of missiles, vernier engines flaring.
    What is with the Star Wars / Wing Commander asteroids? That’s not Elite! Space us big, really huge. You just won’t believe how mind-boggling.y big it is… You know the rest…
    What is with the ship design? That’s not Elite! It is not based on a snakes head!
    MMO? No thanks. Online? Optional, please!
    To be honest I would settle for a lovely port of FFE for my iPad, with properly finished story, black holes, a thargoid invasion and trumbles.

    The perfect Elite remains in my mind – a blend of FFE, iwar2, homeworld, X3TC and Kerbal Space Program

    • Premium User Badge

      Lars Westergren says:

      > What is with the Star Wars / Wing Commander asteroids? That’s not Elite! Space us big, really huge. You just won’t believe how mind-boggling.y big it is…

      Also empty. But empty is a bit boring, as it means all dogfights would start and proceed rather similarly – distance between ships shortening until firing distance reached, and then a chaotic circling around each other at close range until one side is dead. Having asteroids means more varied fights – hiding and ambushes, small ships escaping into astroid fields to escape pursuers that are bigger and faster but less manouverable, and so on.

      > What is with the ship design? That’s not Elite! It is not based on a snakes head!

      Oh come on, why limit the design of all ships that way? That is hardly a core mechanic of the old game.

      >MMO? No thanks.

      Multiplayer is optional.

      > Online? Optional, please!

      That is a bit more unclear, if you need an online connection, or if the game can start “single player server” behind the scenes for you on your local computer. I hope for the latter.

      • Cinnamon says:

        >Also empty. But empty is a bit boring, as it means all dogfights would start and proceed rather similarly – distance between ships shortening until firing distance reached, and then a chaotic circling around each other at close range until one side is dead.

        At long range you would have a unique and weird high stakes battles that has never been seen before in a video game. Speed of light limit and relativistic speeds would make it very challenging and would require weapons systems with AI assistance or huge areas of effect. Stealth and counter measures would be critical.

        All of this sounds way more interesting to me than close range ww1 dog fights with no floor and crappy weapons that fire blobs of goo.

        >Having asteroids means more varied fights – hiding and ambushes, small ships escaping into astroid fields to escape pursuers that are bigger and faster but less manouverable, and so on.

        Yeah this was fun in the early nineties with wing commander I suppose.

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          Lars Westergren says:

          >At long range you would have a unique and weird high stakes battles that has never been seen before in a video game. Speed of light limit and relativistic speeds would make it very challenging and would require weapons systems with AI assistance or huge areas of effect. Stealth and counter measures would be critical.

          Fair enough, if you can come up with a system that allows for player skill rather than who has the most expensive upgrades, then I’m up for some “Fire Upon the Deep” style space battles.

          The presence of astroids doesn’t make this style of combat impossible, however. It could be complementary.

    • Guvornator says:

      >What is with the blobby spit-gun? That’s not Elite! Elite is real lasers that have a beam.

      He says there will be many different types of weapons. The one he has chosen is a projectile weapon (i.e. firing bullets) and not a laser. I’m sure beam weapons will be in there somewhere.

      • Odeskypher says:

        Braben actually says in the video that they will be there, because they have to put them in, or something along those lines.

        • Cinnamon says:

          But the close range snot cannon is is core to the vision of how combat works in the game and lasers will not be as effective?

  16. DanielSF says:

    I was less than impressed by the scarcity of details in the Elite kickstarter – however, the fact that it’s been on the backburner for years while they make stuff to pay the bills was a tipping point. I’ve pledged mainly so that the damn thing (hopefully) finally gets made & we can all move on.
    Molyneux’s little project has not paid its dues, done its time and otherwise convinced that it is a thing worth backing. I will not be *happy* to see it fail, but I’ll shed no tears if Molyneux’s history of overpromising and underdelivering finally catches up to him.

  17. Uncompetative says:

    Nice to see some early footage. I’m really quite optimistic about this now. I’d like to see those asteroids bouncing off each other so that they become more unpredictable hazards.

  18. Morcane says:

    ZOMG Elite 4 footage. I cannot believe this.

    Well, I pledged primarily because this is David Braben and Elite and all, even if it doesnt work out, having an actual Elite to look forward to makes it all good, childhood memories of me and my dad (God bless his soul) playing together.

    And I hope that pompous ass Chris Roberts falls of a cliff.

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      Cinek says:

      lol. Dude, little bit of a distance, please.
      At least Chris tries to design stuff instead of relaying on RNG. ;)

      • Morcane says:

        Distance? lol…dude? I’m not your pal.

        I just have great memories of the original game, and am rooting for E4 to be a great game.

        Oh, Chris ‘designed’ games?

    • sneetch says:

      Funny how one man’s pompous ass is someone else’s hero.

      Now Chris Roberts is neither to me, I’ve backed both games because of happy memories not because of perceived personality virtues or flaws.

  19. sophof says:

    No Newtonian physics makes me sad :(
    I really just want to play Frontier in a new graphics suit with bug fixes tbh. Although combat could use a overhaul I guess, but surely this can be done without breaking the laws of physics?

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    melnificent says:

    Here’s the new gameplay video for Elite.
    So 200+ employees focused on a single game and…… a unity demo.
    Didn’t the BBC interview have the hud and everything running in the background? Which was genuine, and the reason they used the original to show the new game, honest O_o

    Godus is Molyneux being cautious for once and not risking his own money. I remember something about him starting up last time using his last few million. But the epic payout from Lionhead couldn’t even stretch to £450k. I guess he doesn’t even believe in himself anymore.

    What is with studios asking for grossly inflated amounts on KS?
    Project Godus (£450k) vs Maia (£100k)
    Elite (£1.25m) vs Limit theory ($50k)

  21. PedroBraz says:

    My problem with Molyneux is that I simply do not trust the man. “Look I broke out from the EVIL leashes of Lionhead with ma new compny!”. Oh yeah like you didnt break out of Bullfrog to create Lionhead before.
    I have pledged solely because I still am dumb enough to belive that somehow the Lionhead games development where decided and manipulated by EA, and that if truly free in earnest…there might just be a good game to be made. The difference with Schafer, Fargo and the rest is that, they have proven they can make excellent games. Molyneux however, have only managed to make half arsed attempts. He has talked alot about it, but he is yet to prove it. Still, I want to give him a chance to redeem himself.

  22. HighHill says:

    I can to a certain degree understand people’s reservations to having big name, big budget games on Kickstarter.
    However, Frontier Development’s webpage has had mentions of Elite 4 for many years. My guess is that Braben has been pitching the game to publishers for just as long, but it seems pretty clear to me that no major publisher of the last 10 years would have ever touched such a game even with a proverbial pole of any length.
    Personally, I’ve been waiting for this game since I was a young teen. My hopes are that enough people share my desire to play another Elite so that Braben’s kickstarter will succeed.

  23. fish99 says:

    I don’t agree with your assessment that Braben would have no problem getting publisher backing for this game, the space sim genre is largely dead and Braben hasn’t released a game in a long time now. I’ve also seen RPS encourage people to back other kickstarters that had equally little to show initially.