Braben On Elite, Oc Rift, Dodgy Gravity & Doing Space Right

At last week’s Develop conference in Brighton, I grabbed a half hour with Frontier Developments boss David Braben to talk about what’s going on with Elite Dangerous (fresh from my own wide-eyed experiences of it on a VR headset). Discussed: space, Oculus Rift, why FIFA games don’t sound right, how Star Trek doesn’t talk about gravity, developing in the public eye and publisher-free, and the resurgence of joysticks.

RPS: [forgets to turn on dictaphone initially, like a professional, but says something about how what most struck me about Elite: Dangerous is that the essential ‘being in a ship in space’ aspect feels so good, even before you get into any of the actual features, and that sound seems to play a big part in that.]

David Braben: [IIRC says something about how he’s pleased to hear that and that Frontier tried to]…be as accurate as we can. It’s not just the distances, but the way things look, the way things behave. The rules, if you like, of the game. You mentioned sound – the sound team at Frontier have done a really good job, led by Jim Croft, who put a really rich audioscape. But we played around with a lot things. People have said, y’know, there’s no audio in space, because space is a vacuum. But we know that, and that’s what we’re doing – what we’re assuming is that in the 33rd Century you can have a reasonable sound system.

I read a report about a crash in the Pacific, an Air France crash, and when the plane was coming down there would be a cacophony of different alarms and indicators going off, saying essentially very bad things. I think the way you would indicate a ship coming from the left is you do it with sound, and you would put it into a stereo soundscape or even 7.1. I think the point really is that we have thought of this, and that’s how we’re doing the sound. That’s why the sound changes when you go into a station. Then you can hear the echo and the ambience of the volume. One of the examples that people haven’t called out, for example, is games like FIFA. If you go to a real football match, it’s not just the roar of the stadium, but you see a footballer kick the ball and there is an appreciable delay before you hear it. In FIFA you don’t hear that delay. It’s what people expect as well, a degree of that.

RPS: I suppose in FIFA there’s an issue around who you are playing as. Are you the players, are you the manager, are you the audience, are you some floating god watching from above?

David Braben: I think that’s right. I think you’re some strange homunculus of all of the above. And also you’re a manager to an extent, because you’re choosing the allocations of the player.

RPS: You’ve got a great get-out in that argument that whatever you include in the game that might be scientifically dubious now might represent the technology of the future, hey?

David Braben: I know it’s a cop out, but it’s a cop out that we’ve thought about at least.

RPS: I guess you could say that in year x someone came up with a study saying that pilots flew better if there was a simulated engine noise…

David Braben: We did think about making it tinny and always the same, but there’s just no point. You wouldn’t do that, and it would spoil the experience.

RPS: What other aspects have you had to fudge, for the sake of a more engaging game?

David Braben: There is the one great… lie, if you like. Which is hyperspace. We know that’s not real, so what we’ve done is make sure that it works really well from a gameplay perspective. But all the rest we’ve made as physically accurate as we can. We are assuming that hyperspace is essentially some sort of dimensional shift, so that it’s contracting distances and you don’t have the inertia problems, you don’t have the fact that if you had that level of acceleration you’d be a small smear on the back of your cockpit. In fact, the cockpit itself would probably collapse.

RPS: What is the internal tug of war at Frontier between fantasy and reality like? Are there competing opinions?

David Braben: The gameplay has to come first, which is why we’ve made this hyperspace assumption. Generally, making science the way it is is a fairly arbitrary choice, really. It annoys me that in a lot of science fiction films they don’t bother. They just do it without really thinking about it. So, for example, having gravity in Star Trek. They all walk around and no-one really explains how they’re doing it. Same in so many games, like Mass Effect – you just assume ‘oh, there’s a gravity field’, a hand is waved slightly and then people forget about it. But I think it’s interesting – it brings a lot of gameplay interest and a lot of solidity to the game in doing that. We have the rotating spaceships that are novel, you look at it and you think ‘that’s from Elite: Dangerous.’ I think that is how it would be. That is a very good solution to the problem.

[editor’s note- I’m informed that Babylon 5 did shoot for a similar explanation. Star Trek seems to have settled on the ‘magic box under the floor/inside boots’ rationalisation, however.]

And actually, do you want gravity everywhere? You don’t actually. A little bit of gravity is nice, so that your sneeze lands on your tissue, or because eating with a knife and fork would become very difficult in zero-G. Loading cargo – it’s really great that cargo stays put when you it down, but in a tenth gravity you could pick it up and lift it over your head if you want.

The other thing I like is, in some value, maybe .3 or .4 G, a human can still fly. Isn’t that amazing? You could strap on wings and fly. But you don’t see that.

RPS: I suppose you’re fortunate in that, despite the game covering such an immense amount of space, it has a much narrower focus than a lot of other sci-fi. This is primarily about getting spaceships right, whereas something like Mass Effect has to do stories and cultures and characters on a much bigger level as well.

David Braben: That will come to us as well. We have said that this is just the beginning. We’ve shown inside the ships already, we will have those things with time and for the release. Walking around, ultimately landing on the surfaces of the planets. All of those things, whether it’s talking to people or big game hunting will come.

RPS: And you’ll be looking more closely at how the individual civilisations and cultures work?

David Braben: Yes, we’ve already got that. We have piles, pages, hundreds of pages of that sort of thing, because we’ve created fiction bibles for just about every element of civilisation. What is the law, who is the president through time, who is the emperor, were they deposed? I’m sure you know [I did! – Ed],there have been quite a few books now based in our world, so in order to be consistent they have to follow these fiction bibles.

RPS: The long term plan you have now, how much was it planned already, what you expected to have when you launched that Kickstarter?

David Braben: It’s certainly where I’d hoped we’d be by now. All of these things, you do your absolute best to deliver the best thing you can, and I think we have. I’m very proud. There are lot of very, very dedicated people at Frontier, putting in many, many hours – I mean man-years – to make the game very beautiful, and I get to take credit for it [ laughs], which of course is great. The point is that there are so many moving parts to it, and I think that… Well, I hope that the backers are pleased with what we’ve done so far, and what we’re continuing to do. I believe we have delivered what we said we’d do, and are continuing to, but that’s not to say we should get complacent. I am absolutely hopeful and expect that, in the same way looking where we are now and back at a few months’ earlier and thinking ‘I thought that was good, this is better’, I hope by the time we get to release we will have continued that rate of improvement.

RPS: You mentioned about the other people involved, and how Jim Croft was heading up audio – I’m really interested to know who the other driving forces are on this game.

David Braben: Johnny Watts is the producer, he makes it happen, he’s doing really well… Y’know, there are so many people, and the danger when you start naming individuals is you leave someone out. That would be my fear. The reason I mentioned Jim is because you called out audio, but again he has a whole team, and they’re doing a great job. Every ship sounds different, every component of the ship has a sound, whether it’s a little relay switching because you’re lowering the undercarriage… All of these things have a sound, it’s the solidity of feeling you’re involved. They’re all placed in a proper 3D soundscape, so whether you’re listening on 5.1 or 7.1 or just stereo, you’re embedded in the world.

RPS: I noticed when I was fiddling with the Oculus Rift settings that you can either have ‘Oculus Rift – headphones’ or ‘Oculus Rift – speakers’, which is impressively specific.

David Braben: Oh, I know! Absolutely. It’s one of the things that’s funny, because one of the things we found at Frontier was that playing Oculus Rift with headphones was excluding, particularly if you’re talking to people. We’ve actually got a room set up with 7.1 and it’s nice, and we actually play the Oculus Rift without headphones, but we noticed you need the soundscape to stay with the headphones.

RPS: Will you be tracking the depth motion tracking aspect of the Rift DK2?

David Braben: We support that. If it’s on your Oculus Rift, we support it. We support DK1, we support Oculus HD and we support DK2. It’s actually quite nice, you can see some things around the cockpits, you can look out and lean around, particularly on the Type IX, you can actually see down to the weapons.

RPS: You’ve got that modeled pilot body with the moving fingers in there already – are you going to see that leaning forwards and craning around?

David Braben: ….Yes? Although it’s quite hard to see, so yes and no, I’d say in quite a weasely developer way. I’m trying to think, actually, the last time played on the Rift… I think it moves, it can’t track your body fully but it can try to. It’s funny, if you take your real hands off the joystick then look down, you’re ‘woah, why’s my hand still on the joystick?’ [Laughs] That’s the sort of thing that, with devices, if we wanted to explore we could. Whether it’s Kinect on PC or whatever, but I don’t think that adds a huge amount.

RPS: I guess you can give a ‘well, we’ll see’ answer to everything now, as there’s no-one above you to say what you can and can’t do now.

David Braben: Well, even when we shipped Alpha 1, we weren’t expecting to support things like Oculus until a lot further down the line. We had it in mind, we’d thought about head-mounted displays, but the Alpha backers said they really wanted it. So we said ‘actually it’s not that hard to do’, did a quick investigation, we showed it worked, and then actually the rest of the work was probably a total of three days’ work for one guy. So we got it in there and we did it as a Christmas present to the backers. We did it as an update to a patch for the alpha build.

RPS: That’s fascinating in terms of the demographics for those high-level backers. Are they developers too? Are they just rich?

David Braben: Ten percent played on Oculus Rift.

RPS: That’s huge, my goodness.

David Braben: Some of them probably are developers, some of them they probably do a bit of tinkering at home… There’s no harm or shame in that. I think that now we’ve got, in round figures, 30,000 people playing, I don’t expect 10 percent of them to be playing on Oculus RIfts. There will be a significant number, as DK2s roll out maybe a lot more, and it’s not just Oculus RIft. There are also other head-mounted displays coming up, some from Kickstarter, Sony’s Morpheus… I think what we’ll see is a much more populated field anyway, and it’ll be like TV sets. “What about Oculus, ooh, what about this other one?”, all different in some way.

RPS: It’s fascinating that, for so long, as press and developers we’ve talked about which games sell hardware, but we’ve always meant graphics cards and processors and consoles. Now we’re beginning to talk about it in terms of joysticks and headsets. You and Star Citizen are now the figureheads for a completely different form of hardware.

David Braben: Yeah. Well, actually what’s happened is that the industry has turned on its head a lot. Developers are now saying ‘we will do this’, whereas five years ago it was publishers. Publishers would come to developers, saying ‘we want you to work with this…’ It’s meant a lot more freedom. There’s no way if we were with a publisher that we could just support Oculus Rift like that. There would always be a deal in place – ‘what do Oculus get out of it?’ All of that side of things.

RPS: And presumably it wouldn’t be something you could just turn around in three days, because you’d have all these levels of approval to meet.

David Braben: Absolutely, you’d find it was way more work, all these prototypes. And that’s the difference. I suppose we are a publisher, but in a different way, with a different mindset. Our allegiance is to the game, and if a particular piece of hardware – I like the X52 for example [me too! – ed], it works really well and that’s the one I’ve been playing with. Having said that, I still like playing on a console pad. It works well, and actually on Oculus, an X52 takes a bit of getting used to because you have to work out where all the switches are [laughs]. You have to memorise them. With a controller, I’ve played games with those for so long that I know exactly where all the buttons are, so it’s not a problem.

RPS: Clearly you’re very much an advocate of developing in the public eye like this, but I do wonder how much that’s because it’s gone so well for you so far. Just as a thought experiment, did you are can you think about how you be feeling about being this open if the reception to Dangerous had been more negative, and you were on the back foot, having to defend yourself all the time?

David Braben: Yeah, you are right. It’s something that, before we went for Kickstarter, I did agonise either. But I actually thought ‘well, I’d rather know sooner than later if someone hated what we are doing.’ You know, while there was still a chance to rectify it. People have said ‘oh, I don’t like this feature or that feature’ or ‘your game runs rubbishly on my hardware’, and we’ve looked at it and tried to fix it. It’s actually been very helpful having such a big test bed so soon. We say there are ‘only’ 200 people playing alpha 1, but actually that’s still a very big test set, and we found all sorts of obscure graphics cards combinations and things that weren’t in our normal test set. So we were able to fix things.

RPS: It’s free QA!

David Braben: Yes, they were fantastically helpful. There were a few guys who we said ‘actually we can’t find out why this isn’t working, because we haven’t been able to source the graphics card that you’ve got. Well, we have one, but it works!’ So we tried to figure out why his different, and eventually we sent him a really simple test program, he ran it and we found it was to do with the way the driver worked. So we’ve now got the bottom of it – we said ‘it is a problem, here is a temporary fix and we’ll solve it properly next.’

Other obscure problems we’ve found in the wild, is that people love upgrading their machines and they love upgrading their network connections, to get fast connections. But they will have a network hub or a switch somewhere that they’ve not touched for ten years, and it doesn’t support a lot of the modern protocols. So we have to write a different codepath that copes with the older hubs. It’s things like that that were flushed out ,that we hadn’t found at work because we were working on a fairly straightforward and very clean LAN that doesn’t have these things.

Next – questions for Mr Braben from Twitter. CROWDSOURCING. Yes.


  1. Kapouille says:

    Of course the scientific inaccuracies may be a source of concern for the hardcore fan.. But, provided the game is indeed set in our 33rd century future, the whole “ships with human pilots” premise doesn’t make much sense in the first place.
    So we might as well accept the fact that it’s just scifi and science is just an element of inspiration.

    • rexx.sabotage says:

      Ya know, I couldn’t even finish the article.

      they put so much emphasis on the minutia of some arbitrary cockpit aesthetic and totally ignore how wrong spaceflight simulators have been since their conception.

      It’s great the the buttons have a real tactile clunky feel when you activate them but, SPACESHIPS DON’T FLY LIKE AIRPLANES! they don’t even fly at all, they don’t utilize lift in any fashion but, add stupid little wings anyways because, Battlestar!

      Both Elite and Star Citizen are really primed to cast aside these tired tropes and actually progress the genre. Who knows, maybe educate their players with facts instead of lazy game design.

      “But, hard Science is boring” No it’s not, you simply are lacking the talent and creativity to make it fun. Heck, the crutch that carries these games along is based on the hard science of aeronautics.

      C’mon it’s the freaking twenty first century, let’s get space right.

      • Asurmen says:

        To be fair, Vipers in Battlestar fly in atmosphere :P I really think you’re pressing a bit too hard on the realism aspect here. It’s called suspension of disbelief for a reason.

        Basically gameplay + aesthetic quality > realism for realism sake. I wouldn’t want every space sim to have semi realistic physics just like I wouldn’t want every FPS to be Arma. There’s room for both.

      • MrUnimport says:

        So, what, you want pure missile bus combat, computer-controlled everything, fights won by whoever has the most missiles/fastest missiles/countermeasures/enough battery in the point-defence laser? That’s going to be fun, yes sir.

        • arisian says:

          They pretty much already tried this. For everyone who asks for more realistic spacefighter sims, I always tell them to go play XF5700 Mantis (link to Then come back and tell me how much realism you *really* want.

      • Premium User Badge

        phuzz says:

        I don’t have a problem with a certain amount of “magic” in my science fiction, the key word there being ‘fiction’.
        If I want some SCIENCE! then there’s always KSP, which hits the upper limit for realism vs fun for me. If it was much more realistic (ie I uninstalled MechJeb and installed Deadly Reentry and FAR) I wouldn’t have as much fun. YMMV.

        • Harlander says:

          It’s arguable that MechJeb makes KSP more realistic, not less. Even on manned spaceflights in real life, there’s long stretches where the vehicle’s controlled remotely.

      • rexx.sabotage says:

        What they’re doing here is equalievent to me setting out to make the most refined AAA formula one racing game ever but, instead of having F1 racers, I used horses because people find them more visually appealing and relatable.

        I am not pressing for realism for realism’s sake, I am weeping at this tragic missed opportunity. There are so many cool and interesting things that only happen out in space and it’s all being blatantly ignored so people can fly space airplanes like they’re used to doing.

        There are countless aeronautical dogfighting games that are simply amazing, fun feats of technology to enjoy. Are we so hung up on nostalgia and schlock tropes that we can never just let space be space?

        • Reapy says:

          How would you do one that conforms to real space? I don’t really know enough about the cool things that happen in space to know what it should look like. I have always heard the thought to stop doing airplanes in space, but haven’t seen any suggestions, so am interested in what a more accurate portrayal might be?

        • Lemming says:

          They had the ‘real space’ in Frontier: Elite 2, and that was extremely balls combat. I understand it’s not what you want, but you can’t say they didn’t give the hard-nosed science way a chance.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          Give us an idea of what you want to see then, don’t just go “I don’t like this, must be different” then give no indication of what different entails. As it’s been said several times, “proper space physics” would mean never passing remotely close to anything, all combat done by a computer and a couple of button clicks and then a radar blip disappears. This sounds INCREDIBLY BORING compared to “flying planes around in space” as you put it. Taking 30 minutes to manoeuvre 90 degrees is the reality of the situation, again, it would make for a boring game.
          Seems to me you have an obsession with realism and the fact that flying planes in space isn’t realistic but you haven’t actually considered what the game would be like if they did make things realistic.

      • Muttley says:

        If they were to get it right there would be no human input at all, all combat would be purely by AI drones (because humans would not be able to do the maths required fast enough) at distances of 100s if not 1000s of kilometers.

        Sounds like a very dull game to me…

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Then lets not have any smaller manned ships at all? Why would you? It takes so long to manoeuvre in zero G that the reactions and decision making of a pilot are pretty much entirely useless. The money required to develop and build life support systems in small craft is a total waste, when you get the exact same result from just piloting a drone missile from a capital ship instead.
        The other big one obviously is that space combat in games is modelled on WW2 dogfighting, why? BECAUSE ITS FUN. The reality is that you’d never get close enough to see an enemy in a scientifically accurate space battle, you would be firing missiles from miles away.
        Even looking at combat flight simulators, the F22 games and such from the 90s, you never saw the enemy, it was a blip on the radar, then you fired a missile, then the blip disappeared. You know what? Those games sucked.
        Fun + Realism, great, Realism at the cost of fun, no thanks.

      • P.Funk says:

        Your entire argument makes no sense. I seriously doubt that in the far flung future we’ll see combat that remotely resembles fighter vs fighter. There would be no game. Your notion of realism is so arbitrary that its hardly definitive. That you stopped reading out of frustration is also laughable.

        Harp on dear friend, nobody will take you seriously.

      • blacksun_redux says:

        I have to disagree with you there. The eventual outcome of space military superiority would be unmanned drones pulling crazy G’s at 6dof, while targeting and shooting enemies from vast distances away, (much too far away to actually SEE then enemy), with energy or laser weapons that would probably kill in one shot.

        That might make a fun RTS or something, but that’s not a good formula for a 1st/3rd person ship flyer space sim.

        Smart minds have already thought this through ya know! ;)

      • GallonOfAlan says:

        If space was got right in these games they would be insanely difficult and boring as fuck, as others have pointed out. Same as getting it right in an FPS. You have to have a degree of poetic licence.

      • Brownie-UK7 says:

        turn off Flight Assist. Done

      • goettel says:

        Space Engine is this way.

      • Archang3ll says:

        @rexx.sabotage –
        Dude – Hard science is VERY boring. Why is it his job to make it exciting? It’s either exciting or it isn’t. And if you ACTUALLY knew anything about Star Citizen, you would know they aren’t using an atmospheric based flight model in that game. They are using a completely never-before “real” physics based flight model. That being said – 1. It’s a GAME. 2. Having Sci-Fi elements in a Sci-Fi GAME is not that much of a stretch. Here’s an idea – Don’t play it if it’s that much of a turn off to you. Jeeesh!!

    • Zenicetus says:

      Combat spaceships with human pilots, fixed non-turreted guns etc. are silly if we make a straight-line assumption about progress, yes. But it’s possible to explain it away, as several sci-fi authors have done in the past. One classic scenario is that humanity survives (barely) a nanotech plague, and to prevent it happening again, technology is intentionally limited at a certain level.

      • Kapouille says:

        Sure, I was just pointing out that the “Y NO REALISM” question is moot in the first place.
        As others pointed out, dogfighting is a concept that really makes sense in airplanes from the 1920s to the 1970s, but it’s fun, and games should be fun!
        There is certainly an alternative to “dogfighting in space”, but it would probably require:
        – imagination
        – taking design risks
        – scraping assumptions about how the game should play.
        Furthermore, in Elite’s context, people do expect dogfighting.

    • SuicideKing says:

      Yeah same for sound. I’d not want to play a silent game. That’s just it.

  2. aperson4321 says:

    Elite played on a 28 inch 4k monitor with track ir on medium high (40 fps) on a nvidia “EVGA 780 classified” with a gamepad was such a utterly amazing experience, looking to the side to interact with the in game computer interface was so wonderfully natural. The 4k gave a view distance and crispness of the beautiful GUI a feeling of immersion that was utterly surreal.

    Elite in 4k is one of the most memoraible gaming experiences I have had, and I totally sucked at the tutorial mission but god what an experience.

    God I love track ir

    (PS Thanks to rossingol/team robot for adding track ir in siryouarebeingHunted)

    • Perjoss says:

      have you tried it with the voice attack too? here’s a pretty cool video of it in action:

      • aperson4321 says:

        Nice! Thanks, will check out VoiceAttack.

        Finally I can set the damn speed at the right number without paying attention to the speed dial all the time :p (I mash the buttons at stressfull times and end up max speeding suicidally into stuff).

  3. LionsPhil says:

    We have the rotating spaceships that are novel, you look at it and you think ‘that’s from Elite: Dangerous.’

    Aside from the mentioned Babylon 5, which was pretty good at trying hard to not gratuitously violate science in general (Starfuries!), try 2001. “Novel”‘s not the right word to be using there.

    • frymaster says:

      for that matter, X:Beyond the Frontier had ships in the intro sequence that were blatantly inspired by Babylon 5, so there’s precedence in gaming

      X:BTF’s rotating space stations were probably inspired by Elite/Frontier, mind…

    • Taidan says:

      To be fair, Elite 2 came out at around the time that Babylon 5 premiered, and that had ships that could rotate and fly backwards too.

      In fact, it was so enamored with realism, the most efficient way to get anywhere involved you having to fly backwards for exactly 50% of your journey, with constant acceleration up to that point and constant deceleration until you arrived.


      Oh, we’re about centrifugal force, my bad. Yeah, 2001 for an internal drum, and the classic Alexei Leonov from the screen version of 2010, which was a definite forerunner of the Babylon 5 Earthforce ships.

  4. spacedyemeerkat says:

    What a fabulous interview. Thank you.

    Proud to have been one of the backers in on the first alpha and part of the design decision group. Although no Oculus Rift here, alas.

  5. rexx.sabotage says:

    Man, the years have been rough on Jimmy Fallon

  6. Lemming says:

    Ah, Braben. Just as we’re reeling from Roberts’ monorail sales pitch, you swoop in like a cool but sensible breeze and rescue us all.

    • gou says:

      whilst reading this interview my most prominent thought was “thank fuck this isn’t Molyneux”

    • Emeraude says:

      Yeah, as someone who isn’t involved with either projects in any way, it often strikes me how grounded/focused the Braben interviews seem in comparison to the Chris Roberts ones.

      It does inspire me more confidence in the former.

  7. SuicideKing says:

    The other thing I like is, in some value, maybe .3 or .4 G, a human can still fly. Isn’t that amazing? You could strap on wings and fly.

    Wouldn’t the atmosphere be too thin, though?

    • Darloth says:

      Air density is not related to gravity, and in this case (where the station is spinning) the axis/spindle of the station is at zero G (making it much easier to dock – though giving it a rectangular door is just mean *grin*) and the edge is at some arbitrary gravity set by spin speed. Assuming you have forcefields keeping the air in, the air density will be the same all the way through, so at some altitude away from the central axis the gravity will be lower, and THAT’s where you build your cargo deck.

      We could build one today if we were okay giving up the force-fields and having a zero-atmosphere docking spire at the end. It might take several thousand StarCitizens worth of funding (an amount so large I can’t even conceive of it in peggles) but there are concepts which are very plausible using normal modern materials – go look up o’neill cylinders and stanford toruses.

      (If you build a really big one, you don’t even NEED forcefields, the centripetal force keeps the air in. Sadly, this probably requires materials stronger than we can currently produce.)

      • SuicideKing says:

        I meant on a planet, and on a planet air density does indeed relate to the strength of the gravitational field.

      • Asurmen says:

        I think you mean inertia or centrifugal force not centripetal force.

  8. Stellar Duck says:

    I really should get round to getting a proper stick. They’re somewhat expensive though. :(

    Oh, but for being able to fly the A-10c and not need my PS3 pad for slew control. :D

    • P.Funk says:

      X52, its the classic and it works. I use it. I may buy the insanely expensive Warthog HOTAS but until then I am perfectly satisfied with my 6 year old X52. I got it on craigslist too, so maybe look for a second hand one there. I got mine for $30. I also bought a back up (yes they are pants and get old) for $50, brand new in box. :P

    • Love Albatross says:

      You don’t need to spend loads. Second hand Saitek X52’s can be had for under £100, though personally I’m not keen on the feel (or look) of those sticks and they’ve had issues in the past with the sensors.

      Probably the best bang for buck is the Thrustmaster T16000M or T-Flight HOTAS. Both about £40 and have throttle controls and a good range of buttons. The T-Flight is a more complete setup as it’s got plenty of switches, and the throttle is sizeable with a variety of controls including a handy rocker that’s useful for yaw. However, the T16000M uses the same sensors as the HOTAS Warthog joystick, so for the money it’s incredibly precise and durable. It does have just a tiny throttle though.

      If you wanted something a bit more serious but keeping the price down, the T16000M plus any of the separate throttle peripherals (Ebay has X52/Pro and Warthog throttles for sale by themselves) is a really nice setup.

      Saitek X55, assuming they iron out the Q&A problems, is real nice for under £200. The TM Warthog is beautiful but if you don’t play DCS A10 quite seriously it would be a waste of money.

      • Professor Paul1290 says:

        I’ll throw in another recommendation for the Thrustmaster T16000M if you’re on a budget.

        The buttons are cheap, the throttle is small, it’s not the most comfortable flight stick ergonomics-wise, and it looks generic as heck, but the sensors (the part of the flight stick that makes it a flight stick) are fantastic for the price.

        It’s far more precise and accurate most other sticks in its price range and it’s also tight enough that you can often use it with no dead-zone at all. I’ve had one for quite a long while and it’s lasted longer than any of the cheap Logitechs I’ve had and is still just as precise as it was when I bought it.

        Even if you move on and eventually buy a more expensive HOTAS setup you’ll probably still want keep the T16000M around as a backup.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        I got the T-Flight HOTAS but the lack of hats on the throttle is killing me.

        I make do with using my PS3 pad for slew control, china hat and coolie switches but it’s not optimal and it does require me to remove my hand from the throttle, making it all a but less HOTAS. :)

        Edit: on the point of the X52, I’ve hovered my mouse over the buy button many times, but it’s just really expensive here in Denmark. :(

    • goettel says:

      The Thrustmaster Hotas X is quite decent and has a nice big, detachable throtle, although it’s easy to overshoot the wanted speed setting because it has a short travel.

      Still, for less then 40 bucks it’s a bargain IMO.

      link to

  9. WrenBoy says:

    Nice interview.

    Surely its “agonise over” and not “agonise either” though.

  10. CookPassBabtridge says:

    I just bought a Thrustmaster HOTAS Warthog Joystick, in order to (eventually) play this, but firstly, DCS A-10C Warthog. I just needed to tell someone :) Wheeee

    • P.Funk says:

      I envy you.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        You wont when I drop it on my foot. It weighs a ton

    • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

      I appreciate how much you hate yourself for wanting to dig into that 700 pages manual ( or something?? ).

      I’d love to try actually, as soon as i find where the old hardcore-me is hiding.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Its funny you should say that – finding my own Hardcore Me was one of the reasons for wanting to play it. I also bought Assetto Corsa and am trying to learn Monza in the Zonda (*is coming down the staaiiirrs*) with no driving aids, especially as I have a racing wheel whose only work out is ETS2. I also realised all the games I was playing were about instant gratification, and that I was becoming more and more easily frustrated and impatient as a result, like Wheatley. So I thought I would stop with the easy stuff and see what happens with something I need a bit of investment in, and A-10C was impressive enough to make me want to commit.

        So far the sim looks amazing. Just getting in the cockpit and twizzling about gave me a little squee, its so well modelled. But the HOTAS is so deeply worked into the design of the aircraft it just felt wrong to be using the keyboard, and some small 10 year old part of me was going “THAT LOOKS LIKE THE JOYSTICK FROM AIRWOLF WHICH I ALWAYS WANTED”. So that was it. I am only going to go to the manual when I need to – there are tutorials and many many YT vids (which actually convinced me to buy the game in the first place).

        Its coming tomorrow. I cannot concentrate at work why must I work go away go away just give me my warthog

    • Zenicetus says:

      Congrats! And you can use it on other things besides DCS too, ‘ya know. I use my Warthog for flying X-Plane (civilian), Rise of Flight (WW1 biplanes), Freespace 2 Open for old school space combat, and eventually IL-2 Battle of Stalingrad (WW2) when it’s finished.

      If you need a break from the modern complex stuff in DCS, try Rise of Flight. It’s a blast.

      And while you’re spending money, if you don’t already have them, get rudder pedals (Saitek Combat Pro) and TrackIR too! Rudder pedals may not be essential in Elite:D. but they’ll help in DCS sims and they’re almost mandatory (if you don’t have a rotating joystick) for Rise of Flight.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Hi thanks for the recommendations! Im pretty new to simming and am quite excited by the possibilities. I plan to build a new rig and have an oculus rift on the way. Whether this is a good alternative to a 3 screen setup and TrackIR remains to be seen. I quite fancy a bash at rise of flight and the upcoming IL Sturmovik jobbie.

        Does the warthog have twist rudder? I have been eyeing up those saitek rudder pedals but am not sure if A-10C justifies them at this time. What do you think?

        • Love Albatross says:

          I’m jealous you bought a Warthog, but did you not check for rudder twist before dropping £300-ish?

          It does not have twist on the stick, since the hardcore will have pedals. If you’ve serious enough to buy a Warthog you’ll want pedals too.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Heh I did but kept getting mixed messages. I’ve decided I want a killer sim rig and am not that fussed about cost, so if I need pedals thats all good. I may look into a home cockpit thing too :D

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          No twist rudder on the HOTAS Warthog, it’s designed as a replica of the A10-Warthog control system which uses pedals for rudder.
          Saitek pedals are good, if you really want to splurge though get these
          link to

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Thanks Smoky. I’m getting mah COVET on

          • Zenicetus says:

            Oooh…. those MFG pedals look sweet. Haven’t seen those before. I’ve also had my eye on Cirrus pedals for a while (the General Aviation set, I think), but went for the Saiteks for now:

            link to

            @ CookPassBabtridge:
            Don’t sweat the lack of a twist rudder on the Warthog. That’s really just a compromise for those who don’t want to invest in rudder pedals. It’s much more intuitive (once you get used to it) to use your feet for rudder control in a flight sim, or roll control in something like Elite.

            The problem with twist sticks is that you’re trying to control three axes at once with a single hand, which is difficult for tricky maneuvers like staying on the edge of a stall when turning in Rise of Flight, or fine-tuning your cannon aim in a ground strafing run in A-10, or holding the centerline in a cross-wind landing in X-Plane. And forget about it with helicopters. The “balancing on top of a big rubber ball” act when flying a realistic helicopter like the BK-117 in X-Plane really needs pedals for the tail rotor, not a twist joystick. At least I’ve never been able to do it.

            Anyway, for now I’m okay with the Saitek Combat rudder pedals, the ones with the metal parts. The less expensive Saitek Rudder Pedals with the black plastic pedals probably work just as well. My only complaint about these (and also the CH pedals) is that there is a small detent in the center position that you can feel as you move through the center point.. .sort of a soft “clunk.” That’s okay for a combat sim, it doesn’t spoil aim or control, but I don’t like it for flying helicopters where you need seamless control of the tail rotor. That’s the main reason I’ll probably pick up a higher-end pedal set like the Cirrus pedals one of these days.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Hi Zenicetus, looks like I will go for the Saitek combats then. Cheers for all the input and explanations :)

  11. stkaye says:

    I’ve not been following closely enough, and so this was the first time I’ve seen that ‘Orbis starport’ video. Gave me freaking chills. With the music, and that glimpse of the superstructure’s shadows creeping over the parks they have on the inside of the gravity ring… wow.

    It’s really, really something, isn’t it. This game is going to be special.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      The video was cool but I want to know which idiot decided to use the most cliche music possible for a video about stuff moving slowly through space.

      • Muttley says:

        You need to learn your history.

        The Blue Danube was played by the docking computer in the original Elite (C64 version at least) back in the early 80s as a homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

  12. Spongbo says:

    Yay, he mentioned Kinect! I’m hoping for Kinect 2 head tracking support in Near Mode, please, especially with Frontier’s history with the tech.
    I haven’t used my TrackIR for a while; I’d love a no-hat-required solution.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I don’t like having to wear a hat either, but since I usually have headphones on for late-night flying anyway, the clip-on LED thingie for TrackIR 5 isn’t very obtrusive when clipped to the headset. I just coil the extra cord around the headphone cable.

  13. WJonathan says:

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah! Staring jowels!

  14. Jimman says:

    David Braben says “I believe we have delivered what we said we’d do”. No David Braben, you haven’t. You said you’d deliver the finished game by March. Then June, Then Sep. Now it is Late Q4. Every three months your delivery date goes back by three months.

    • Archang3ll says:

      @Jimman – Considering that he’s delivered on EVERY other thing they’ve wanted to deliver on before launch, I’d say not meeting a few launch-windows is not that big of a deal. Do you want the game to release in an unfinished state so you can have something else to bitch about? Personally, I’d rather they get it right than try to appease a few impatient idiots. You’re essentially complaining because the game hasn’t rushed to market like every other unfinished crap-fest out there.

      No game (NO GAME) has EVER released by it’s initial launch-window estimate. ANY kind of development takes time. Development of a brand spanking new IP takes a lot of time. Man, you complainers are like pimples on a virgin. Pop one and another shows up in its place.

      • Jimman says:

        “Considering that he’s delivered on EVERY other thing they’ve wanted to deliver on before launch” If they’d done that, the game would be ready for launch wouldn’t it?

        “You’re essentially complaining because the game hasn’t rushed to market ” What makes you think Mr Braben would need to rush his game to get it to market by the date HE set when taking everyone’s money?

        • Archang3ll says:

          @Jimman – Release dates change. That’s the point genius. You’re whining because the date David said the game would be released has come and come (more than once). Boo frickin’ Hoo. You’re basically attacking David and by proxy, the game because he/it didn’t meet a deadline? Hahahahahahahaha… Yeah, you’re special. #GetALife

    • f4f4f4 says:

      Braben has treated his backers with contempt.

      His standard response now to the many complaints is ‘it will be ready when it is ready‘.

      If he’d been honest about that during fundraising, the response of backers would have been ‘we’ll pay you when it’s ready‘.

      Now that he’s got people’s money, he’s giving no credible explanation for his failure to deliver the goods..

      Let us not forget that Braben’s last space game was a train wreck that bankrupted his publisher and landed him with a one million dollar lawsuit. No wonder he couldn’t find a publisher for this latest one. And the last non-space Braben game crashed and burned, losing the company around $5m. Only this kickstarter and the unseemingly hasty stock-market beg kept them from bankruptcy.

      If Braben ever delivers this game, I’ll be amazed.