Ready For My Closeup: Cockpits And VR In Elite: Dangerous

By Nathan Grayson on November 28th, 2013 at 11:00 am.

Cockpits. On their own, they’re either boring or phonetically hilarious to 12 year-olds (and maybe John), but attached to spaceships they’re the all-too-thin line between life and death. Space is so cold that no mortal hoodie can stave off its creeping permafrost (also, there is no air), so your on-board base of operations also represents sweet, sweet life itself. The downside? You’re going to be staring at it a whole, whole lot. Frontier’s goal with Elite: Dangerous, then, is to make your cockpit as detailed and functional as possible *cue laughter*. It’ll also be Oculus-Rift-friendly, because it is a game with a first-person viewpoint developed during or after the year 2013.

It looks quite nice, no? A lot of this is in-engine concept work (read: not footage taken from actual player-driven battles), but the UI is looking appropriately functional. That said, if zero-g fluffy dice don’t make the final cut, Elite: Dangerous is dead to me.

I also found it interesting that Frontier mentioned internal damage and the need to manually take care of repairs. Here’s hoping that feature ends up increasing immersion and not just pretzel-fying hands with micromanagement. Amusing as it’d be for the first 15 minutes, I don’t really want to drive the car from Night Rider Turbo through space.

Elite: Dangerous will be out sometime next year. Now that it’s nearly December, I’m realizing that “next year” is just a stone’s throw away from becoming this year, from being able to barrage us with birthdays and new adolescent pop stars and other cackling reminders that time never stops. I am terrified. More pertinently, however, I can’t help but wonder how Elite’s coming along as a complete package. It only pulled in full funding at the start of Soon To Be Ye Olde Year of 2013, and it’s a massively ambitious project. Alpha is apparently kicking off in December. For comparison’s sake, Star Citizen is planning to launch an alpha at the end of next year – and that’s only after assembling individually released components into a greater whole.

So many colossal space games. So much room for doubt. But hey, at least odds are on our side, right? I mean, new ones are popping up every day. Surely at least one of them has to get it right?

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56 Comments »

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  1. trueplayer says:

    This looks great and I’m really glad I backed E:D.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Cinek says:

    “For comparison’s sake, Star Citizen is planning to launch an alpha at the end of next year” – not really. First single player dogfighting module will be available in just a few weeks (think: end of December). Multiplayer will be out in first half of next year.
    End of 2014 is a beta test – with Persistent Universe being implemented.
    (That’s an info confirmed in most recent live stream)

    • BurningPet says:

      “…and that’s only after assembling individually released components into a greater whole.”

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        Cinek says:

        …aaaaand? Still doesn’t change the fact that Alpha beings as soon as in few weeks. Alpha is alpha. If Nathan wanted to create some new criteria when alpha becomes more alpha than alpha – he shouldn’t have said that “Star Citizen is planning to launch an alpha at the end of next year” which clearly isn’t true.

      • Bull0 says:

        Yeah, but Nathan specifically said it was by way of comparison.

        There’s also no way in hell Elite: Dangerous will be out next year.

    • 2late2die says:

      To be fair though the dogfighting module isn’t Alpha, the true Alpha is scheduled for, I believe the summer of next year. With that being said, it does look like we’ll be getting to experience at least some form of gameplay in SC rather soon, and that’s awesome.

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        Cinek says:

        Dogfighting module will expand and grow into the game. It’s not really a completely separate thing out of nowhere. It’s just how they manage development – first build game core – dogfighting – than add planet-side and social stuff, than add FPS, than add SQ42, and when this is all done – move to beta test of the whole experience with Persistent Universe infrastructure up and running.
        So – yes, the DFM will be an alpha version.

  3. 2late2die says:

    Elite is looking pretty decent I must say, though I gotta admin it’s not as exiting as Star Citizen. What’s kinda interesting about all this is that with SC coming out way after Elite and X Rebirth, there are a lot of lessons that Chris Roberts can take from those games, like how not to do stilted and useless crew members. Mind you, I’m not saying Elite is going to be bad, but it’s probably not going to be perfect either and I’m sure CR is watching. In other words, I have every reason to believe SC will be the best of the bunch… but as always, time will tell.

    P.S. The cockpit UI is looking very good and at least in comparison to some SC ships the view outside is much less obstructed, I really appreciate that.

    • frightlever says:

      No guarantee when either game will come out based on a few (a lot of) Youtube videos. Elite:Dangerous looks to be at a pretty early stage still and Star Citizen has made so many promises there’s no telling when it’ll be ready.

      Star Citizen appears to be making a lot more promises so if Elite comes out after it they might struggle for attention.

      However they say you can learn best from your mistakes and if that includes other people’s mistakes then X:Rebirth is a goldmine of knowledge.

    • aldo_14 says:

      I’ve bitched about this previously, but I do think the Star Citizen artwork is vastly overcomplicated; technically excellent, but artistically messy like when my my toddler finds highlighters to play with. So i’m leaning more towards Elite, more than I would have a year or so ago.

      Eye of beholder and all that, of course.

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        Napalm Sushi says:

        I’ve always leaned more towards Elite for similarly aesthetic reasons. I’ve long tired of the “World War II in space” trope (unless it’s done in a really tongue-in-cheek fashion) and while Elite doesn’t entirely escape it, Star Citizen seems to so actively embrace it that I wonder if they wouldn’t be happier working with a dieselpunk setting.

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      El_MUERkO says:

      For me the procedural generated nature of Elite and it’s galaxy spanning map makes it the more technically daring project.

      • Janichsan says:

        If anyone can pull that off, it’s David Braben. Frontier: Elite II had roughly the same scope in 1993.

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        Cinek says:

        And for me it’s most discouraging part of Elite. I’d eat it whole if not procedural generation, cause all the other aspects look really encouraging.

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        FriendlyFire says:

        I’d probably call Limit Theory more daring than either. Takes Elite’s procedural universe claims, does it with a one-man-team and adds full universe simulation (including the simulation of history) into the mix, which I don’t think Elite does.

        It’s tremendously ambitious and I hope LT succeeds because it’s higher on my radar than both SC and Elite.

    • SuicideKing says:

      Well the capital ship battle video is far more exciting than anything that i’ve seen from the SC camp in terms of space fights in general and dogfights in particular.

    • rgb_astronaut says:

      There’s so much more in ED store — watch previous dev diaries. It’s the whole universe!..oh wait, no, not the whole universe — “just” our milky way galaxy with _correctly_ placed known stars. I mean what other game can beat that?!

      • Urthman says:

        Well, correctly placed when you look at them from Earth orbit, maybe. Once you start using FTL to visit them, it all becomes fantasy, unless they think they can re-model the rest of the galaxy so that when you visit a star a thousand light years away you’re seeing the view as it would have been a thousand years ago at that point, complete with all the light-speed delay differences from all the other stars in the galaxy.

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          JamesTheNumberless says:

          Based on Elite 2, what they mean is that you can visit known systems and find them to be of the types we know they are and contain any planets we know about… they have their work cut out for them this time considering all the exoplanets we now know about :)

          But in Elite 2 you couldn’t identify a star in the sky as being the one you were about to travel to, the stars you could see from any given system were just a backdrop.

          Within a system, it worked exactly as you’ve described, you set your target and your computer works out exactly where you should fly to in order to meet where the planet will be according to its orbit – actual vs apparent position is less of a factor though since from the position of the sun, the light reflected by pluto is only about 5 hours old. Simulating that would make as much sense as simulating the expansion of the universe. Also, if this is anything like elite you won’t be able to jump 1,000 lightyears in one move ;)

    • paterah says:

      “I have every reason to believe”: You did not say any reason other than SC will come out later so it will be better, which I must say is not a very good reason.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I hope both games are good and worth playing, but I’m getting a much better vibe from Elite:D lately.

      Part of my hesitation in backing SC is the heavy focus on multiplayer, which I’m not at all interested in. I know there’s a singleplayer game as well, but so far, it sounds a lot like Roberts is just re-doing Wing Commander since it’s a linear scripted story in a military setting, and you don’t even get to fly the ships that are in the MP version of the game. Many of the cooler ships, and the entire open universe concept is only available in MP, which is a turn-off. That, and the clunky cockpit designs. I think Roberts is still in that tired George Lucas space game mode, endlessly recreating WW2 piston plane combat in space.

      To me, it seems that Braben “gets” what makes space games different. The only other time I’ve had that feeling was with the team that developed the I-War series. But it’s still too early to tell if Elite:D will live up to the promise.

    • Sharlie Shaplin says:

      My two favourite games from the 90’s. Frontier and Wing Commander, I am looking forward greatly to both and it’s about damn time. We just need Freespace to make an appearance now!

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    Cinek says:

    Lots of talking about UI :) What a coincidence – just when Star Citizen released video on a same topic: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/transmission/13402-Inside-CIG-Developing-The-HUD
    They got a guy who made Iron Man 3 HUDs. You just can’t beat that ^_^. Though it’s one of a clear examples how these two games differ – Star Citizen looks jaw-dropping, Elite is more clean (empty) and utilitarian.

    • rgb_astronaut says:

      Oh haha, dude, step of fantasy movie world. UI must be functional, not busy movie nonse type.

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        Cinek says:

        Yep. What the clip released, that’s exactly what they’re doing. Focus on having everything functional and meaningful.

    • CptPlanet says:

      You seem hellbent to advertise that game as much as possible.

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      Stellar Duck says:

      I… I really am not a fan of that UI. It’s too busy and filled with Hollywood nonsense to my taste.

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        JamesTheNumberless says:

        I think the SC UI is great, in the tradition it’s following on from it’s perfect. I want to feel as though I’m in the cockpit of a starfighter from a space adventure movie.

        But Elite is from another tradition entirely. I just can’t compare the two UIs because I want them to do completely different things for me. In Elite I want to be abstracted from the hull of my ship – and I don’t want VR immersion either. I want to believe my house is the spaceship and my PC monitor the viewscreen. I loved the ship interior background art in Elite 2 for this reason.

  5. Bull0 says:

    They’re getting a ton of mileage out of that one video.

  6. Janichsan says:

    Honestly? Screw X – Rebirth (even if it weren’t broken), screw Star Citizen. *This* is the game I’m stoked for. Frontier – Elite II is probably the game I put the most hours into and I have been waiting for a true Elite sequel literally for decades.

    • Dys Does Dakka says:

      Frontier/FFE fans unite!

      -ED is my major Do Want as well. I just hope Braben holds true to his promise of including planetary flight after release. Being able to approach and land on all planets, everywhere, was a major attraction for me in FFE, and ED just won’t have that same go-anywhere feel without it.

      • Zenicetus says:

        I’ve progressed from the “it would be cool!” to the “nah, not important” phase of wanting to land on planets, in games like this.

        What killed it for me was the Evochron series, which isn’t bad for a one-man operation, but it shows the limits of allowing planet landing without the resources to create an entire second game based on what’s happening on the planet surface. The first time I saw the atmospheric entry sequence I thought it was cool, but it gets old fast, and there are very limited things to do near the surface.

        It would be a massive budget and resource sink to do it right, and the upcoming games like Elite:D and SC have enough on their plates already. Make it a much later expansion DLC if it’s done at all.

        • Janichsan says:

          The ability to land on planets will actually only be added in the first expansion of E:D.

  7. hurrakan says:

    I will probably back this, but I also want more ships in Star Citizen (only pledged for one so far). Bah!

  8. Ross Angus says:

    Day one fluffy dice DLC.

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    Gap Gen says:

    Hehe.

    Cockpit.

  10. preip says:

    I must say I’m really looking forward to this, especially after the huge disappointment that X-Rebirth was.
    While the video was mainly about the UI, I think X-Rebirth showed how a messy UI can really ruin your game experience. An this one looks so much better.

    What excites me the most is that damageable cockpit part. I think it was Mech-Warrior 3 where the glass of the cockpit would shatter if you got hit in the head of your Mech and I found it was an amazing feature. You really felt immersed in the game and a sense of pressure to act was upon you, because you could feel the damage.
    In a space game, this is even more important. You’re basically sitting in a little bubble of air in the vast emptiness of space. So it should be frightening for the player if that bubble gets damaged and he might be sucked into said emptiness.

    • Stardreamer says:

      “…blown into said emptiness”.

      Yours sincerely,
      Space Pedant.

      But yeah, I’ve been absolutely stoked for this since it successfully Kickstarted. What space game fan could not be thrilled by the [co]inventor of the genre coming back to have another go?

  11. SuicideKing says:

    Thanks for destroying the word “cockpit” for me.

  12. SuicideKing says:

    If the final game looks and plays anything like that video suggests, i’ll be throwing money at it in no time (after i read the reviews).

    Not sure i like the idea of bombers carrying mini beam turrets, though.

  13. Morcane says:

    Cocky.

    So glad I backed this, it’s starting to look fantastic.

  14. theleif says:

    I was somewhat hesitant to back Elite, but this looks fantastic.

  15. Grinless says:

    I backed neither Elite or SC but between the 2 UI video the Elite devs are clealy the ones who knows their craft.

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      JamesTheNumberless says:

      I’m getting fed up with this sort of thing. Neither of them are designing a UI for a space shuttle but SC are designing a UI that makes you feel you’re flying something like an F15 in space, a UI and cockpit that make you want to run around chasing the cat with a toy spaceship making “pew pew!” noises. Elite needs a “cockpit” and UI that makes you want to go and make a coffee, get out your star charts, and start planning your next trade route while anxiously hoping you don’t run into any pirates.

  16. Mittens89 says:

    Like i said before X:Rebirth came out, please be good, please be good, please be good!

    Seriously, i just want one decent space game. I dont care if its this, Star Citizen, Limit Theory, X:Rebirth in 10 patches time. Just one that absolutely nails it, please.

  17. Pecisk says:

    This video made me think to shell out for descent PC to run this game. After all, so long wait for this. So long. And it looks more amazing with each dev diary.

    Loving bridges of big ships showed in concept art, and already working on pilot’s avatar and how he moves and looks into cockpit. Awesome.

  18. Iskariot says:

    This is going to be sooooo good.
    I have been following this game closely and David Braben an his team seem to do everything right. Every newsletter and every diary gives me goosebumps. Every concern I had in the beginning is washed away by the excellence I see.
    Mr. Braben I want to marry you.

  19. bstard says:

    Hypehypehype-pre-order… crap! Just spend that budget on the game and not on bs video’s plz, and wait for the game to be ready.

  20. sophof says:

    It looks really good, but gameplay-wise I’m worried. First of all, the combat looks definately non-newtonian, did I miss something or is this game using movie physics now?

    Secondly, I’m pretty sure that a futuristic cockpit would basically be a VR helmet that lets you free look all around you , not this thin slice of what is in front of you (that would be the analog backup ;-)). Although that sure wouldn’t look as exciting I guess.