Interview: David Braben On Fan Anger And Expectations

Actual size.

Elite: Dangerous [official site] is that rare thing: a Kickstarter-funded game that came out when its developers said that it would. Less rare is the response it inspired when it turned out that the planned offline mode had been scrapped, leaving a game that required an internet connection and backers struggling to receive refunds.

Despite this, the game has considerable merits. I spoke to David Braben at GDC 2015 about whether player’s anger is fair, whether the tone of responses has changed over the course of his career, and whether Elite is designed for those who play for five hours or a thousand.

RPS: Whenever we write about Elite on our site, there’s a portion of commenters who are angry about the condition the game was released in, the absence of offline mode, the problems with refunds. Is that anger fair, and does it feel different to when you were making games twenty years ago?

Braben: It’s a difficult one. There are certain people who will never be happy, and there are certain people where– It’s a shame, but I’m always saddened when people are upset about something. For the whole time that I’ve been in the games business, there’s always been things where people have got angry about something. I remember with RollerCoaster Tycoon, [adopts gruff, angry voice], ‘This game doesn’t work on my PC! It’s disgraceful!’ and all this thing. And we’ve engaged with them and it turns out there’s a problem with their driver and then often afterwards they say, ‘Oh that’s great, I can also play these other two games that weren’t working.’ [laughs] If you’d have said that earlier we would have been able to get to the bottom of the problem more quickly.

It’s that sort of thing. You can understand, people get very angry if something isn’t what they expect. For whatever reason. But that’s not necessarily to say that you’ve done– you’ve certainly not set out to annoy that person. We’re trying to make the game as good as we can make it, and to do interactive stories, making it great fun to play with your friends, those kinds of things, and there will always be a portion of people which, [angry voice] ‘Oh I don’t want that, I want this.’ And we’re doing our best to make as many people as we can happy.

RPS: As a developer, do you simply have to make peace with the anger? I know devs who say that they don’t go on their Steam forums anymore because they’re just full of anger and there’s sometimes nothing the developer can do to help.

Braben: I do still look at it, but every time I see something negative I do get slightly saddened. If it’s a reasonable point, we’ll do our best to address it, and hopefully people see that I’ve been taking the problems on squarely and said, this is what we’re doing, this is why whatever it is people are asking for, but you try to do your best, that’s the important thing. And you also have a regard for whether it makes the game better or not.

RPS: It was a remarkable thing when you committed to releasing the game before the end of last year and then actually did it. Was that release date a thing you did because it was important for the Kickstarter project to work, or was it a budget constraint?

Braben: No. The issue with the game is… In my experience, there’s always something more you want to do with the game. If you’re a perfectionist, it’s never perfect. But having said that, we released a game that was a complete game. That’s not to say that there wasn’t things we wanted to do with it, I’m still proud of the game we released. It worked as a holistic whole, and we’ve had a lot of people commenting who’ve played the game for more than a thousand hours. Saying, oh, they feel they’ve seen everything. And they probably have.

But they haven’t actually, they’ve seen everything that’s in at that point. We’re continuing to add more content. People say there isn’t enough variation in the missions. I’m inclined to agree and we’re increasing that variation. There’s some variation coming in the Wings update for example, and coming forward there will be in future ones as well, and the point is that we’re making it as good as we can and we’re making it better. We haven’t let go of it. We’re continuing to do that. As we go forward, we will keep doing that. Eventually we’ll bring in a big upgrade, a paid update, which we said we’d do right at the start, and then there would still be support for the game and free updates as well going forward from that.

RPS: Those larger updates are things like landing on planet surfaces?

Braben: Yeah. We’ve said things like going down to planet surfaces, walking around inside your spaceship, getting out of your ship, all of those things would be part of paid updates. And we would phase it, we wouldn’t necessarily do them as part of one big thing, there would be multiple over time. Cause each of those, if you think of the work to do each one, it’s a major new-game-level of content. And so we’re just trying to take that seriously. We don’t want to do half-baked solutions.

RPS: How do you stop that from splitting the community in a multiplayer game, between those who do buy those updates and those who don’t? To avoid the problem of a new player joining and everyone else is in a galaxy far, far away, tooling around on planet surfaces.

Braben: So we’ve done two updates with new features already and they’re free, which means everyone gets them. So that doesn’t divide the community. When a paid update comes, for example that allows going down to planet surfaces, it would be great if people did that. Because we’ve got to keep funding the development which is what hope people will do, but they don’t have to do that, and you may find a group of friends will eventually do it. In the same way Call of Duty fans will eventually move to the later version of Call of Duty. If you think of Call of Duty doing a paid update as being the next version of the game, you have to buy the whole thing or you can’t play.

RPS: But does the game depend upon a constant influx of new players buying the base game in order to keep those areas populated?

Braben: Don’t forget, we’ve also got the skins and stuff like that. We’ve not done pay-to-win but we have done things that make your ship shinier, and obviously as that becomes richer, as you can walk around inside your ships, things like leather upholstery are also things that we can do. It’s not a pay-to-win thing but actually makes your ship more shiny.

RPS: Are you still playing the game yourself?

Braben: When I can. I’ve been playing on beta, so people won’t see me for a while unless you’re in. But to be honest, this is the trouble, coming to shows like this [GDC 2015], it seriously eats in to the time when I can play the game.

RPS: When you play the game, how do you play it? Are you a pirate, a trader, do you like space truckin’?

Braben: I love the exploration thing. I love heading out into the unknown. I love meeting a player in the middle of nowhere. And it’s a sort of Dr. Livingstone I presume moment, when you’re a long way away. I like that sort of thing.It feels like quite a fresh experience to me. I suppose I haven’t had a time to play the playing-in-system, you know, doing the trading. I did earlier on in the project, and I remember I’ve seen myself die a few times on YouTube – and I didn’t do the YouTubing!

RPS: It’s a demanding game in terms of the time investment required to get anywhere with it. Do you hope to add activities to it that can be accomplished in shorter spells of time, so that people who are time poor like yourself can find quicker satisfaction?

Braben: Yes, that’s something that – and the learning curve side of it – that we can improve. We will look at doing that. You can play the game for a short period of time. People say that about Skyrim, which I thought was a really good game. I played that for a few tens of hours, which was a lot for me, but I felt like there was still so much more to do. And it feels like that; you can go in, you can do a few missions, you won’t necessarily progress all the way up to Elite, but having said that, have you had a good time doing it? That’s the ultimate test.

RPS: I guess it feels to me though, that even if you’re hopping in and doing a few missions, that’s going to take you a few hours to do those missions. There’s not much that you can get done in a lunch break.

Braben: I reckon you can do a mission or two in a lunch break. Depends how long your lunch break is.

RPS: That’s true.

Braben: It’s a balance. And if that’s something that we need to look at, then we can. The beauty is, I don’t want people to feel compelled to have played for a thousand hours in only three months or whatever, which is actually a whopping amount of time that people have dedicated.

RPS: I’m assuming that you’ve got player metrics about what activities people are doing and how much time they’re spending on things. What is the – presumably you don’t want to go into too much detail – but what is the breakdown in terms of percentage of players who play for 50 hours versus 1000 hours versus 5 hours? And do you feel like it’s your job as the creator of the game to get people to keep coming back?

Braben: The goal for me is to make the game enjoyable for everbody. To be honest, most disc-based games’ campaigns are only 5-10 hours anyway, generally. I’m not being negative about them, that’s great, and then there are side quests or whatever on some of them that can go on forever. I think it’s horses for courses. As a player of this sort of game, I couldn’t dedicate a huge amount of time to it, but I would like to. And it’s that feeling, that feeling of enjoyment that you want to dedicate a lot of time to it. So I don’t feel bad if people have only played for five or ten hours. I think that’s actually a long time. As long as that time has been enjoyable, and that’s where I think my job is. To make that time enjoyable.

I’m less worried between hours 1000 and 1005, that they see new stuff, because I think that is quite a tall order. But that’s why we’re doing these updates; so that they will. So that even the people who have played for a thousand hours and now seeing new stuff today because of the Wings update, and as we go forward with future updates, with the community goals, they saw lots of new things, and they have those and now they’ve probably played those for a hundred hours or so. But I’m also conscious of the person whose played for nought to five hours, that they get a good feeling, and I think there’s things we can do to make that better.

So as a game developer, I have never felt a game we’ve shipped is perfect. I’ve always felt, we should do this, we should do that. But the beauty now is, we can be doing that. We can now say, right, we need to concentrate on this, that’s our next target, and that’s what we’re doing. It’s wonderful.

RPS: You were open even before the game came out about what updates you had planned. Have you been surprised after the release of the game on what things people want?

Braben: People have very high expectations and that’s fair. And that’s part down to the fact we raised those expectations. But I think we have been delivering on them. And I am proud actually, even looking at what we said during the Kickstarter, we have done very close to what we said we would do. Overall. In terms of people, I think most people are delighted. They’re afraid of saying, ‘oh yes’, because then we might stop. I think that’s at the back of their mind. But we are continuing and we are hitting those things, and if there is a feature that people really care about, talk about it on the forums – people do – and we do look and we do listen. And we do try to say, if a lot of people saying, well, we’ll change the priority. It’s not that we’re not working on it, it’s just that we believe, just for genuine reasons, are more important because more people will get enjoyment from them.

RPS: Do you feel like there’s more need to raise expectations nowadays than there used to be? It’s obviously always been part of marketing, but in an age of Kickstarter, do you have to do that more?

Braben: I think, if you didn’t have high expectations of what you were doing, why are you doing it? We’re doing it because it’s something that we want to do and we’re excited about doing it. Part of that process inevitably raises expectations.

193 Comments

  1. AbsoluteShower says:

    That man has an amazing jawline! It’s like a meat shovel.

    • misterT0AST says:

      He looks a bit like young Gaddafi

    • Distec says:

      He looks like a Rob Lowe doppelganger from the DirecTV commercials.

    • alinadecosta59 says:

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    • erln says:

      raham Smith the interviewer wrote: “Elite: Dangerous is that rare thing: a Kickstarter-funded game that came out when its developers said that it would. ”

      Graham, you’re wrong. I’m surprised you didn’t check your facts.

      The Elite Dangerous delivery date given by the developer David Braben to Kickstarter backers was March 2014. Delivery was to include an off-line version of the game and a boxed edition. This is a matter of public record on the KS project page.

      In September 2014, Braben delivered only a cut-down, online-only, download version of the game, missing many of the advertised features, depiste that Braben claimed it was the “full release”. Even now, in March 2015 one year after the target date, Braben has still not delivered the boxed edition for which backers paid about one million pounds. Backers complaining in the support forums have been censored and/or banned.

      Braben has made no update to the Kickstarter project page link to kickstarter.com for nearly a year. I guess he’s just hoping backers will forget that they are still owed a game.

      • erln says:

        I wrote “In September 2014, Braben delivered only a cut-down, online-only, download version”

        That should read “In December 2014…”.

  2. morbiusnl says:

    so he isnt a habitual liar? dissapointing.

    • rexx.sabotage says:

      heh naw, Graham did this one, not John.

      • Synesthesia says:

        Maybe he was at the back throwing popcorn at them, to rile them up.

    • welverin says:

      Pathological, not habitual.

    • Alien426 says:

      I was waiting for that (actually “pathological”) line, too. It needs to be standard in interviews with developers (of crowdfunded games), it seems.

    • Darious says:

      I really wish I came up with this… I’m just surprised that King5ton on the Elite Forums managed to avoid the moderator ban-stick for this:

      ———-

      In summary he says.

      I’m sad some people are sad/angry, it’s your own fault really though for setting your expectations on what I said I’d do. I’m trying my best though to fix stuff based on the sad things you say in forums in order to make you happy.

      The game was released because it was ready to be released but we’re busy still making it so don’t worry.

      The expansions won’t split the community because people buy the newest call of duty due to peer pressure so it will just work the same here.

      We don’t need new players really we’re just going to sell more cosmetic stuff,

      I hardly play the game myself.

      We still need to balance the game

      If you’ve played a thousand hours like some players then you’ve had enough game, stop moaning.

      Most games on discs are only 5 hours long and that’s great

      We’ve delivered on everything we promised except some of the things in kickstarter.

      Most people don’t praise the game that much as negative commentators are the only thing keeping us from just abandoning the game.

      We did kinda lie in kickstarter.

      • KING5TON says:

        Upsetting the fanboys isn’t a breach of the rules else I’d have been banned months ago :)

  3. badmothergamer says:

    As someone who loved the first 10 hours then was completely bored and over it after about 15 hours and hasn’t logged in since, the idea of paying to walk around my ship or land on a planet isn’t going to be enough to draw me back in.

    • SaintAn says:

      Too bad the game wasn’t sigleplayer because the modders could have expanded and improved it greatly like what was done with Skyrim. Another modless disappointment like Diablo 3.

      • Ashrand says:

        modless wonder has to be my name for a project that looks good, but pales to it’s predecessor because “no mods”

        see also sim city (2013)

      • pepperfez says:

        What do you mean? It’s totally single player; you can play without encountering another player at all. ALTERNATELY: It’s totally impossible for anything like this to be single player; it was always an MMO just like the previous Elites. (Repeat until interlocutor is frustrated enough to be dismissed as irrationally angry.)

        • frightlever says:

          You misunderstood. He’s saying if it was a single-player game, or even an open multiplayer game, then people would be able to make their own mods to add content, etc. Because you’re version-controlled and tied to Frontier’s servers no such facility exists.

        • Cinek says:

          ” It’s totally impossible for anything like this to be single player;” – What is this nonsense?! There are multiple similar games that were fully single player – look: X series or heck, even previous Elite games which did not require internet connection nor any influence from other players.

          “It’s totally single player;” – more of this nonsense. Elite: Dangerous is not fully single player game, regardless of the mode. Even in so-called “single player” you still have other gamers affecting your game world – even if solely by changing prices.

    • Rindan says:

      I’m with you. I read this with some sense of hope that maybe Frontier was going to announce that they understand the problem and are going to fix it. The very clearly don’t understand the problem. The universe already has infinity randomly generated very boring content. Telling me that they are going to add infinity TIMES TWO more content makes it crystal clear they have absolutely no fucking clue what they are doing.

      I don’t want to land on a fucking planet. I don’t want to walk around my ship.

      I want interesting content. The most obvious way to add content is to make it an actual multiplayer game, rather than one that simply demands an internet connection to play single player. Player corporations, property ownership, industry, and all sort of other good stuff could make the game make its own content. Everyone keeps saying “just wait!” like time is all it needs. It needs more than fucking time. It needs a developer that wants to make those things, and Frontier’s deafening silence about actual content and babble about being able to walk around ships and planets makes it crystal clear they have an entirely different vision than those who crave content. There vision is a randomly generated universe with ever more randomly generated crap that doesn’t interact or make any sort of coherent conflict. The fact that out of the gate they are working on more randomly generated contentless shit instead of getting elbow deep in content building tells me all I need to know about their priorities. Hell, they are fucking patching in now the ability to even play with friends in their supposedly multi-player game. Their priorities are so fucked I don’t even know where to begin.

      I’m done. I have given up. Frontier is going to take the awesome flight model they have and squander it. E:D has all the system in place for you and bunch of your friends to power down your ships and hide in asteroid field, only revealing yourself at the last moment when the rival corporation’s mining ship gets close and suddenly their screens go from an empty asteroid field to a full on ambush. E:D can technically do this, but they are steadfast in their utter refusal to make a game where something as exciting as a couple dozen ships blasting through an asteroid field will ever happen. There will never be mobile pirate guilds, there will never be player factions claiming a system or two, there will never be ANY player economy where you actually pay someone to escort you, supply and demand will never mean anything, you will never trade with other people in any meaningful way, and the factions will always just me numbers and a once a week text blurb.

      In short, E:D is always going to be boring to anyone doesn’t love to grind for the sake of grinding. I can accept that E:D’s vision is on the other side of the solar system as mine, but what kills me is that the game has so much fucking potential. E:D isn’t X:Rebirth, which was shit through and through with no hope of redemption E:D could be something awesome if the developers had any vision. They don’t. They made a beautiful flight model and then proceeded to make randomly generated pictures of suns and planets and call it content.,

      Oh well. I have hope for Star Citizen. It has made a lot of promises, but at least it has the right promises. If it fails, it won’t be for a lack of vision.

      • dorobo says:

        go try eve online :p

      • Synesthesia says:

        I’m very close to where you are standing, I feel you. I haven’t given up yet, but i have little hope. Their priorities are indeed FUBAR.

      • Premium User Badge

        Iamblichos says:

        ^^^ This. A thousand, thousand times this. Couldn’t have said it better myself. OP summed up my objection all along… it’s a very pretty empty room. Also, the “community” on the official boards is a bunch of angry grognards who greet every polite objection to their Chosen Game Of All Time with gamergate-level rage.

      • vlonk says:

        Rindan you hit it on the spot. User generated content should be the goal to spice it up. If you already ruled out mod support what will make the experience diverse and lasting? Right now they build an MMO and left out every concept of user generated content developed by their competitor CCP AND they skip the credentials that Blizzard and Co developed for a theme park MMO. Their user retention must be horrendous. GL selling those features if the game remains a teasing beautiful shell of its possibilities in the meantime.

  4. ThatFuzzyTiger says:

    So how does that square with the fact multiple people have had to issue “Letters before action” (that’s a legal thing by the way in the UK) before they got their refunds? How does his statement of :

    You can understand, people get very angry if something isn’t what they expect. For whatever reason. But that’s not necessarily to say that you’ve done– you’ve certainly not set out to annoy that person.

    Fit with the fact that multiple people had to threaten actual, real, legal action with actual, real, court case consequences before Frontier gave in and issued the refunds that were owed to them? Frontier most definitely annoyed people, and then compounded it by forcing people to go the legal route.

    • ThatFuzzyTiger says:

      Seriously, this lack of an edit function is annoying

      • Horg says:

        Did anyone from RPS ever say why that was disabled? As someone with moderate dyslexia, I kinda need that to fix my typos : |

        • Premium User Badge

          Graham Smith says:

          The old comment editing function created performance issues that were causing the website to go down. We had to strip it out for that reason, and we’re looking for something new that will provide the same functionality. Apols for how long this stuff takes.

          • airmikee says:

            Strange, I can’t remember a time when RPS wasn’t available to view.

          • mechabuddha says:

            That’s cause they disabled the editing function. =P

          • Neurotic says:

            Disqus please!

          • OmNomNom says:

            If its .net / mssql I’ll fix it for free

          • qrter says:

            Oh for the love of God, please not Disqus!

          • Premium User Badge

            phuzz says:

            The thing I like about disqus is that you can go to one place and see all the replies to your comments. So even if not disqus, it would be nice to have a page where I can see all the replies to my comments.

          • Cinek says:

            No no no no… absolutely, unconditionally, NO Disqus. That thing is horrible. I’d much rather have no edit option that suffer Disqus.

          • elderman says:

            I agree please no Disqus. I don’t want an account with that company.

          • Premium User Badge

            Grizzly says:

            How about tying the comment sections back into the forum?

          • Synesthesia says:

            The thing boingboing uses is pretty cool, and it encourages things to be a discussion about the article, not just reactions to it. Maybe that!

          • Universal Quitter says:

            I always love when people reject an idea but don’t bother to give a reason. I, for one, would love Disqus on RPS, but it’s not a deal breaker either way.

            Centralization of comments without Facebook integration is great.

          • El Mariachi says:

            Discourse > Disqust. In every way.

        • James says:

          By the fact is has not been fixed, I’m beginning to think that the problem is cash related.

      • Pazguato says:

        Indeed

    • melnificent says:

      Don’t forget they’ve had two people actually file the court paperwork after Frontier refused to bend on the LBA. Then when the court paperwork was served, they suddenly changed their minds.

      Frontier have been desperate to cling onto peoples money, ignore the law and when they do finally cave to consumer protection laws take their own fees from the money returned.

      And lets not forget the refund game ;) link to theregister.co.uk

      Very disappointed that RPS did such a soft interview with Braben on the refund and offline front.

      • frightlever says:

        Probably a little nervous that any heavyweight devs would ever talk to them after John’s meticulous de-construction of Molyneux.

        • Shadowcat says:

          I thought Molyneux’s big problem in that earlier interview was that he failed to adopt a gruff, angry voice as he responded. I feel that if only he had done that, things would have gone a lot better for him. He really must be kicking himself.

          • chargen says:

            Molyneaux’s big problem is that he didn’t respond to “Are you a pathological liar?” by chuckling then getting up and leaving the interview.

            Anyway, the difference is that RPS wanted more info about Elite, so they softied on the scam then asked positive, easy questions. They didn’t give a crap about Godus, as no one did at that point, so the whole story was Molyneaux. When Moly overpromises and underdelivers, it’s funny because it’s been happening repeatedly for many years and everyone expects it, or should. Elite’s kickstarter fraud seems like more of a betrayal to me, unexpected as it was.

          • Shadowcat says:

            David Braben hasn’t exactly been a paragon of good behaviour in the past, though, has he?

  5. khomotso says:

    One of the stories told about crowdfunded things is disintermediation: get the publisher suits out of the way, and set up a direct relationship between developers and fans. Developers crowed about this, and it continues to be boilerplate for the video pitches.

    But if we’re past the honeymoon period for kickstarter, and from the players side it looks like disillusionment with false promises, I wonder if from the developer side it looks like: “You know? Maybe publishers aren’t so bad.”

    • ThatFuzzyTiger says:

      Oddly, publishers who come through on their promises have no issues with their fans. It’s only ones who decide to screw their kickstarters over who end up in this position, whoda thunk it eh?

      • khomotso says:

        I just don’t think that’s the case.

        Managing a fan community has proved to be a new level of effort I think developers have been ill prepared for, or which had been easier to shrug past before. The obligations to publishers have now been swapped for a new level of engagement with a more invested player herd. And my observation is that it has been frustrating, and the benefits mixed – even for those games which deliver on promises.

        This is not a comment on particular complaints about Frontier, but rather the messiness of the tradeoff of publishers for a crowdfunding community in general. The story about being accountable directly to the fans, and this setting up a healthier dynamic, seems like it could just be more wishful thinking.

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          I don’t agree at all, look at Harebrained studios for example – personally I think the difference is between those that under-promise and over deliver on their kickstarter pitches and those who seem to think its just another marketing thing where they have to boast and exaggerate and lie to sell the game – the big change now is that rather than selling something broken to a few people and having the reviews warn everyone else its rubbish they’re taking big money up front without setting realistic expectations.

        • Ashrand says:

          I think that the reality is more like there’s benefit for both sides, for the fans they do get ‘closer to the metal’ of development and there is something said for being able to have your own say about a project you are excited for.

          For the developer…. well Fronteir is doing better than Maxis right now, and over the same core problems, what does that tell you?

        • Josh W says:

          My feeling is that it’s a bit like classic group dynamics; there’s a cliche about how groups go through conflict as they combine together, as they overcome conflicts of style or interest and start building shared norms.

          In the time that publishers have sat between game developers and players, there’s been a lot of differences building up, particularly on things that make it easier to get money from people and not particularly improve the experience. Things like DRM, always on multiplayer, play to win, pay to avoid frustration, mandatory expansions etc.

          When people like Braben come back in contact with players, they think that they are the ones who understand the real nature of games, because they have been making them, and they have to politely hold their ground against unreasonable expectations. But you could equally say that people who’ve been charging around making games have been too close to the detail to get the larger picture, and the people who really understand games are the ones who play them, and see what effects these kinds of strategy have, the compromises made in vision to make them fit within that kind of business model.

          Elite is balanced awkwardly between multiplayer and singleplayer, because it has to be just multiplayer enough to justify the server infrastructure that ties people to them, that gives them their analytics and generally gives them longer term control of the game.

          This means that market forces drive every mission’s reward down to the bare minimum of enjoyment and risk/reward, because this is a game where NPC’s require services and players require progression and immediate enjoyment. In a single player game, markets can be designed inefficiently, (and generally will be, given the complexity of the problem for AI trading strategies) such that gaming them is automatically interesting, and in a full multiplayer game, the market can be full of more complex fluctuations based on players. In fact, you might expect Elite to exist in a stabilising equilibrium of minimum fun, such that as the player count decreases, and the “labour supply” of players drops, progression in the game will improve automatically!

          • Josh W says:

            Heh, accidentally combined “pay to win”, and “free to play” into “play to win”, if only they were so compatible in real life!

  6. daver4470 says:

    “Thanks, fan anger. Thfanger.”

  7. The_Ramen_Within says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if there was something to actually do in Elite? After you’ve hunted a pirate, traded something and explored a star system you’ve literally done everything there is to do except grind. If they don’t patch in some actual content in then Elite is going to bomb hard the second Star Citizen comes out.

    • Synesthesia says:

      I think it all comes down to mission design, and proper incentives for the player to keep motivated inside the loops you describe. So far, everything you do has the exact same payout. More money, bigger ship. Nothing else.

      I believe they should add something like faction specific (unbuyable if you are not with the faction) ships, and weapons. That already skews some players toward some places of the galaxy, and pitches them against each other if they find each other on an anarchy system, for example. Organic pvp! Who would’ve thought.
      Special tools for dedicated miners, special underground black markets, etc.

      Mission design is a different beast, and needs to be seriously overhauled. They still feel like computer generated noise. I keep mentioning FTL as a good touching stone for pseudo-procedural missions.

      The game seriously needs to move organically, without those boring galnet updates. Roleplaying is good and all, but the game should be able to be interesting on its own two feet.

      I love it, but it can be so, so much better.

      • James says:

        They already have faction specific missions required to trade certain items, go to certain planets and own certain ships. However these missions are not in abaundance.

      • The_Ramen_Within says:

        Yes, specialization and a sense of progress beyond “my wallet is bigger”. Not to mention guilds. I mean, why is that not a thing? Really? You force people to play online but don’t allow them to communicate effectively, organize or pursue wider goals that meaningful to a group of friends?

    • fredc says:

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the mechanics of the game as they’re available to players right now. Sid Meier’s Pirates is a classic and highly entertaining game basically composed of a a number of simple sub-games. I don’t think most people’s response to it was “once you’ve done dancing, sword fighting and blown up a pirate ship there’s nothing else to do.

      The issue is how you link the player’s interactions with the universe, procedural elements and some overarching sense of narrative development (or the sense of a real and evolving socio-political “world”, if you don’t want narrative in your procedurally driven space game).

      They’ve obviously built a great engine first and only then moved on to thinking about how you create a immersive world beyond the cockpit. But it’s not an impossible task, and they have clearly been taking steps to get us there with the community goals and increasing the sophistication of the faction and mission systems.

    • Cinek says:

      Wouldn’t it be nice if there was something to actually do in Elite?” – oh yea, it would. Sadly they are not too concerned about it and instead go for Xbox One release. Cause, you know…. getting your priorities straight is important. *eyerolls*

  8. ikanreed says:

    You know what?

    That was a bog-standard non-pology right there. “I”m sorry people were sad” kinda stuff. He took a decision that was based on advancing a developer’s interest above the player’s and his response is “Oh, I can’t help it that sometimes people get angry.”

    Screw him, he deserves the anger.

    • hotmaildidntwork says:

      The way that he follows his “non-pology” by subtly blaming the entire fiasco on customer incompetence is masterful doublespeak.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I’m disappointed RPS softballed that.

        • commentingaccount says:

          They didn’t just softball it, they let him get away with it.

          Guys, I get you got a lot of hell from the Molyneux fiasco, but there IS a middle ground, you know. You don’t have to literally become every other friggin’ gaming site.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ericusson says:

            I have been a long time anonymous reader fro RPS but registered to say I couldn’t agree more about how full of s**t this interview is.
            Take the first question, already really carefully asked. The guy doesn’t even begin to answer the crucial point of offline. The whole thing feels like it was made so casually and unimportantly towards the readers on his side and just a content filler on your side.
            Be careful what you become, I noticed loads of advertisement now which means revenue streams susceptible to pressure. Don’t you go flaccid on us RPS !

          • Sin Vega says:

            Context is key here. While Elite: Subtitle has been controversial, and (as I understand it – not at all bothered about the game myself) a lot of players or potential players have been quite understandably pissed off, nothing Braben has done or said is really comparable to what went on (or rather, didn’t) at 22 Cans, or through Molyneux for the preceding 10-15 years.

        • P.Funk says:

          Yea thats exactly it, this interview was anemic and basically a commercial for whatever Braben felt like saying. very bland and I frankly didn’t read most of it when I realized the questions weren’t pushing at all. It was “read question… softie… answer is meandering doublespeak… skim ahead”.

          Pretty much a non interview.

      • balinor says:

        Yups. DB can go take a long walk off a short pier as far as I am concerned. I don’t like the way he and his company have treated people.

    • GiantPotato says:

      Promising something, not delivering it, and then saying “I’m sorry you’re unhappy” is a great way to create an angry community that you then have to “make peace with” (i.e. ignore).

      What Braben isn’t acknowledging here (and what I wish RPS had pressed him on), is that he had a very simple way to avoid the grumbling of offline players: He could have not asked us for money on Kickstarter.

      • joa says:

        While it may seem like a shady tactic – a promise is not binding in any way. If a business determines some promise they’ve made is not in their shareholders’ interests, then it is there legal and moral prerogative to disregard the promise they’ve made. People had no right to ask for refunds – as all they basically did was donate money, as one would to a charity.

        • zarniwoop says:

          “a promise is not binding in any way”.

          This is definitely and completely untrue. Please stop spreading such utter bollocks. If you make a promise in order to get people to give you money, it absolutely can be binding.

          Anyway, want to chime in and say very disappointed with the complete free pass RPS gave to his utter non-answer and victim blaming response to the first question. Letting him tell his side of the story is fine. Letting him portray it in such a one sided manner is not.

        • GiantPotato says:

          1. If something seems like a shady tactic then it affects your reputation, whether or not it’s “binding”.

          2. I’ve never, ever heard before that any company has a moral prerogative to disregard promises so that they can better service their shareholders. That’s a new one for me.

          3. There is no such thing as a for-profit charity. If I give money to a charity, then they’re not allowed to make a profit from it. So given that Frontier is not a charity (in any “binding” sense), investors have every right to demand refunds.

        • Josh W says:

          Contract law was originally based on the giving of promises, if there is any moral duty to shareholders, it is based on the same principle. A contract is just a document agreed by two people, and the only argument in favour of treating kickstarter promises less strictly is convention; “this is a kind of funding that people would assume to be less weighty and serious than a formalised agreement of becoming a shareholder”.

          In other words, by acting to try to dilute the reasonable moral reaction to this kind of dishonest behaviour, you are encouraging dishonesty.

          Kickstarter’s code sets the bare minimum that kickstarter will enforce, it does not set the law, we decide how we treat these people, and if we build precedent in the right way, it makes it easier to argue in court.

        • erln says:

          “People had no right to ask for refunds – as all they basically did was donate money, as one would to a charity.”

          This is entirely untrue. Braben agreed a legal contract with the Kickstarter backers that funded his game and one of the terms of that contract is:

          “Project Creators are required to fulfill all rewards of their successful fundraising campaigns or refund any Backer whose reward they do not or cannot fulfill.”

          Braben failed to deliver the rewards and falsely claimed that backers were not entitled to refunds. Hi refusal to give the refunds to which backers were entitled is what lead to backers taken legal action against him.

          Braben settled out of court, paid the refunds, and was forced to pay the court costs.

      • pepperfez says:

        Well, no, that wouldn’t work, because they had to give him their money. Otherwise he wouldn’t have their money. It seems like the easier, fairer approach is for those people to just change their preferences and give him the money he needs. That will have the added advantage of keeping those people from becoming irrational trolls by liking the wrong things and expecting to be able to receive them in exchange for money.

    • Asurmen says:

      Sounds like a perfectly valid response. He made the game he wanted to. All he can be is sorry some people were angry.

      • zarniwoop says:

        As I understand it he started by making the game he wanted. Then he realised not enough people were backing it on Kickstarter. Some people wanted it to be offline before they would part with their money. So he told them it would be.

        He made a promise in order to get people’s money and then broke it.

        If that version of events is false, the he should tell his side of it. As it is he’s been allowed to get away without even addressing it.

        • montorsi says:

          Sounds like game development to me. The amusing thing is how angry people get that he doesn’t shovel the standard PR apology into their laps, opting to tell them how it is instead.

          • pepperfez says:

            I suppose an honest apology was never up for consideration, then? It’s either non-apology or straight forward “Fuck off” and nobody has a right to expect any more? Late capitalism sure is grand.

        • Uncompetative says:

          I totally agree with you. I’m very disappointed with this soft interview, but as far as I can ascertain Frontier only had to ensure that they satisfied their Kickstarter pledges (which does not include specific mention of an offline mode):

          link to kickstarter.com

          Looking at the FAQ lower down this page it is understandable that so many backers were enraged by the lack of an originally stated ‘aim’. However, I think it is only a matter of keeping customer good will that led to any compensation for the feature failing to materialise as David Braben decided to take the game’s design in another direction:

          > How will single player work? Will I need to connect to a server to play?

          > The galaxy for Elite: Dangerous is a shared universe maintained by a central server. All of the meta data for the galaxy is shared between players. This includes the galaxy itself as well as transient information like economies. The aim here is that a player’s actions will influence the development of the galaxy, without necessarily having to play multiplayer. The other important aspect for us is that we can seed the galaxy with events, often these events will be triggered by player actions. With a living breathing galaxy players can discover new and interesting things long after they have started playing. Update! The above is the intended single player experience. However it will be possible to have a single player game without connecting to the galaxy server. You won’t get the features of the evolving galaxy (although we will investigate minimising those differences) and you probably won’t be able to sync between server and non-server (again we’ll investigate).

          What I can’t comprehend is why Braben would antagonise his burgeoning community and draw negative PR just prior to release. Rockstar has no difficulty in making GTA Online and GTA V offline reuse the same assets, so I do not understand what the difficulty was for Frontier doing the same and giving backers the option of having a second offline commander profile and ship run in parallel with any adventures they took on in the online dynamic galaxy. If the cost of having offline was to miss out on political intrigues and assassinations being carried out by other players (as there were no other players) then I’m sure that they would have accepted an upgraded Elite.

          Actually, the way to do all of this is to have asynchronous multiplayer as with Forza Motorsport 5. This only has to be connected once to download the AI mimics of absent players (or Drivatars) which form your in-game racing rivals. If you then yank out your Ethernet cable it all still works and you can have hours of enjoyment. Indeed, I would argue it is superior to online multiplayer as that can be marred by fishtailing jerks and you lose the ability to Rewind play. It is odd given the size of the Milky Way as rendered in Elite: Dangerous that it doesn’t adopt this same technology to populate its vacuum with NPCs that don’t suck (because they realistically imitate the behaviour of real players).

          Unfortunately, I can no longer trust RPS to stand up for consumer’s rights and won’t be visiting here in future.

          • pepperfez says:

            Unfortunately, I can no longer trust RPS to stand up for consumer’s rights and won’t be visiting here in future. Is there a gaming website that’s better on consumer advocacy? I’m sincerely curious, because I’ve been disappointed in RPS far less often than in most publications (And this is certainly one of those disappointments, I agree).

    • rabbit says:

      I’m glad to have found other people saying this – it’s exactly what I was thinking as I read the interview. Saw the headline and was excited that there might be something of worth here … there isn’t.

      ”I’m sorry you’re not happy” is not an apology. He wasted no energy addressing even one of the *actual* problems people care about.

    • fredc says:

      I don’t see anything wrong with his attitude personally.

      If you’re actually so incandescent with rage that you are genuinely issuing a letter before action over the £20 or whatever you forked out to Kickstarter for a game that was substantially delivered, you have serious emotional problems and probably need to get some exercise/a hobby/get laid.

      A rational person wouldn’t bother; a slightly less rational person might take the time to drop the developers an e-mail explaining that they were disappointed with the direction the project has taken and thus won’t be putting any more time or money into the project.

      Reading the comments people leave on facebook, the backer forums and on RPS pretty much demonstrates Braben’s correct that these people will never be happy, whatever the dev team produces. Unfortunately for the developers, the Kickstarter route has tempted these these very special individuals to leave the murkiest depths of 4chan and venture out into the wider internet.

      I say this as someone who was fully intending to play in solo mode and chipped in my own money partially on that premise.

      • rabbit says:

        I think that’s a pretty … I think you’re missing the point , really. Even aside from the obvious answer that ‘just’ £20 / 40 / whatever could be eight, sixteen, forty hours work for some people, the principle of it I think is the problem. If I recall correctly, single player was not on there for along time, right up until they realised ‘oh , we might not make our kickstarter goals’ at which point they tacked it on. Cue influx of cash, with DB giggling all the way to the bank. And then they cut the feature.

        Whatever happened, they sold a product to people on one premise and then not only did the product fail to deliver as promised, but they have repeatedly ignored or refused to address or meaningfully apologise for their actions. David Braben has thrown up straw man arguments left and right , addressed points nobody was making, and basically just dodged every single difficult question. I can’t speak for others but personally, a meaningful admission of guilt and a non-BS apology would go a hell of a long way towards getting the bad taste out of my mouth.
        So far however he’s just put his fingers in his ears and LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU’d over what are very understandable concerns from a community of people who are paying for his dinners.

      • Cinek says:

        for a game that was substantially delivered” – no, it wasn’t. I pledged for single player offline DRM-free game that I can play whenever I’m away from home. Instead I got none of it, but rather crippled always-online game that got next to no content and gigantic void, bland, empty universe. If I’d want 3D Benchmark – I would pay for 3D Mark… and still would be ahead cause 3D Mark doesn’t require online connection to play.

      • erln says:

        “If you’re actually so incandescent with rage that you are genuinely issuing a letter before action over the £20 or whatever you forked out to Kickstarter”

        Actually many players forked out £300 and some as much as £5000.

  9. JD Ogre says:

    Was so much hoping for what would effectively be Frontier 2: Elite IV. All we got, however, is a small-scale EVE Online with dogfighting. :(

    • Cinek says:

      Don’t you dare to insult EVE-online like that. EVE got world full of… things! There’s nearly everything there, thousands of different resources, objects, weapons, dozens of ships, reach community, fun gameplay with friends, etc. etc. E:D is mostly just flying through void worlds from one station to another.

      • knowles2 says:

        Eve been under development for 10 years, E:D for 2.
        Let see where E:D is in 10 years times.

  10. Joote says:

    Personally I was looking forward to a modern day OFFLINE elite, I didn’t expect what we ended up with. A online bore fest.

    I don’t like it’s few parts, they don’t feel immersive or gripping. It’s a mmo grind and that’s about it, no room for the casual player. Pretty graphics though.

    • fredc says:

      I do agree that it has swung worryingly towards MMO territory. And the console release news did make my face fall a bit for that reason.

      But you’re simply wrong about the casual player thing. I played Beta 2, Gamma and most of my time in 1.1 casually, much of it in a basic Sidewinder. There’s absolutely no meaningful obstacle to exploring, trading and fighting like that. I’ve only bought one ship since Gamma and that was an Adder and I’ve only just moved up from “mostly harmless”. I have been killed exactly zero times since beta 1.

  11. airmikee says:

    “I remember with RollerCoaster Tycoon, [adopts gruff, angry voice], ‘This game doesn’t work on my PC! It’s disgraceful!’ and all this thing. And we’ve engaged with them and it turns out there’s a problem with their driver and then often afterwards they say, ‘Oh that’s great, I can also play these other two games that weren’t working.’ [laughs] If you’d have said that earlier we would have been able to get to the bottom of the problem more quickly.”

    Oh, so the lack of offline play in Elite is because my drivers are out of date?

    What a fucking moron.

    • James says:

      What you are seeing there is someone dodging the question. It is a shame that Braben has not owned the mistake of promising something they had doubts about, that said – Elite in its current form is a very praiseworthy game regardless of the slightly messy journey it took to get there.

    • fredc says:

      If you paid any attention to comments on facebook and the backer forums, as Braben evidently has, you would be aware that there are regularly people posting versions of “Braben you piece of shit the game crashes constantly it’s broken you have defraudulated me I demand justice”.

      Which clearly it isn’t, given that 99% of us don’t have any issues with stability. Those would be the people trying to run it on a 386 or who have outdated or obscure drivers.

      • Cinek says:

        That is NOT what the question was about.

        I don’t care what Braben does in his free time on a forum. If I read a question in an interview I expect it being answered.

  12. Synesthesia says:

    Jesus, what the fuck is up with all the hate here. Go hug your cats or something.

    • Baggypants says:

      I can’t hug my cat because it’s not got singleplayer drivers you moron.

    • Kempston Wiggler says:

      …says he, adding to it.

    • Premium User Badge

      oggnogg says:

      I don’t have a cat ;(

    • airmikee says:

      Only after you send us a screenshot of your mom hugging you, because you’ve clearly got anger issues if you’re upset that other people are upset about being lied to by a company and then reading another article by said companies top liar.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gnarl says:

      My cat just scratched me. You bastard.

      • Synesthesia says:

        Damn, I really didn’t think that one through.

        Or did I? My shilling is uncovered oh god no

    • pepperfez says:

      The very most effective way to move an otherwise calm person to blind rage is to tell them to stop being so angry.

    • Geebs says:

      I wonder, do you think the plural of butthurt is “buttherd”?

    • Morcane says:

      It’s the Molyneux Effect.

    • Emeraude says:

      True story: people call me in the middle of the night when they have kittens they want drowned.

      You don’t want a cat near me.

      • Premium User Badge

        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        Wouldn’t it be hilarious if this person rolled their car into a lake one day.

        • Emeraude says:

          Poetic, maybe ? As in poetic justice ?

          Hilarious I don’t know. AS much as I rage at the thought that this is what people seem to think of me, that’s not worth dying for.

          Still don’t like cats.

          • alms says:

            There is nothing poetic and nothing just about a guy wishing a random stranger would have a rather awful crash simply because they posted some random snark that contained the word cat.

  13. DOHrps2015 says:

    I have not nor do I intend to play this game. That said, the people who work at this company should never let this guy say anything to anyone, ever. He may not be a fatuous asshole. But man he sure come across that way. “You fucked up. You trusted us. Now calm down. Thanks for the money.”

  14. Kefren says:

    I’ve got no anger about the lack of offline single player at all. In fact, I’m kind of pleased, since it saves me money and I can play my other games. I found it really interesting that when the news broke about it being online only my enthusiasm just deflated, and I went from excited wait to total lack of interest. I hadn’t realised it was so important to me, which taught me something about myself. (Off to play FTL for the thousandth time).

  15. bduddy says:

    Before I read this I honestly wasn’t too worried about the online issue. But the first answer, in which Mr. Braben blames his customers for being so stupid that they actually believed what he promised, and then having the sheer gall to actually complain about it, has certainly changed my mind. I will make sure to stay far away from this game.

    • Colwolf77 says:

      I’m not usually one to cast judgement off of a couple of comments but David Braben’s responses in this interview have really disappointed me. I’m a huge fan of the original Elite and had high hopes for this but the way he subtlely dodged every important question makes me feel like the future of this game is not going to be bright at all. I think he’d be better suited in politics than game design.

    • James says:

      The game is good on its own merits. I woudn’t punish Frontier for the blunder of its manager. Depends if you have time to spare, if you do, great. If not – Elite is not for you.

      • James says:

        I will say that you could build skate parks for all of London with the grinds and learning curves.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        He owns 53% of it.

    • pepperfez says:

      I think in general capitalism needs distance between producers and consumers so the latter don’t realize that the former almost always hold them in contempt.

      • DOHrps2015 says:

        Not the ones that last. Good companies make their customers partners. That Business 101. I have noticed that tech seems to make people smug. Which is odd because I can say without hesitation that some the stupidest people I have ever met were in high level tech.

  16. aircool says:

    I’m glad I waited until the game was released before I played it. I can enjoy it for what it is, not what it was supposed to be.

    • jrodman says:

      Welll… So long as you don’t buy into all the stuff “they are going to add”.

  17. Joote says:

    I think it’s a thing with these old developers, they think themselves some form of gaming God, when in truth they are just obnoxious and conceited AO’s, thinking that gamer’s are stupid money cows, Peter Molyneux come’s to mind.

  18. shitflap says:

    That interview was shite

  19. AlienMind says:

    This is the ordeal happening to another poor soul besides me wanting his kickstarter money back due to fraud (promising DRM and then doing DRM):

    “I just received the full £105 refund. No PayPal fees for me.
    This is the mail I sent them yesterday:
    “Would you care to send me the £109.20(*) that you still owe me or is it really necessary to activate my lawyer?
    I’m not sure about the rationale of your stalling since
    a) you already agreed to a full refund in your mail from 2015-01-30
    b) you agreed to a 2% interest rate per anno in the ticket
    c) you did not deliver what was promised in your campaign. And you did so for “creative reasons”, i.e. voluntarily.
    You are aware that getting a lawyer involved will only increase your costs, not mine?
    (*) £105 + £4.20 interest as agreed in [link to ticket]”
    I think I won’t push for those £4.20 of interest. :p
    It only took them 85 days to sort this out and they only moved after threatening them with legal action multiple times.”

    If this is “doing your best”, Mr Braben, then your best is very, very, very bad.
    85 days, and then only when they had no choice because somebody knew what he was doing and wasn’t let go. Hundreds of people DID LET GO because they did not have the nerve to walk the 85 days ping-ping-ping-noreply-ping-ping-ping mail-game. Believe me, hundreds, I had the same experience with my refund ordeal.

  20. ThomasHL says:

    Is it me or did he never answer a single question you asked?

    I’m not hating on the guy, I’ve never played Elite Dangerous, but just look at his questions. He talks a lot after everyone, but he never answers the actual question. “How many people are playing 5-10 hours and how many are playing 1000”

    “Disc based games are only 5-10 hours, I’m not so concerned about providing the 1050th hour of content for the people who’ve played 1000 hours”

    “What do you think about your game not having content people can do in small chunks?”

    “I’ve played the game for tens of hours and I like that, but you can definitely play for way more, but if you can’t it’s about the fun you’ve had. ”

    “No I mean, you can’t really do a mission in a lunchbreak”

    “You can play 1-2 missions in a lunchbreak if you’re lunchbreak is long enough”

    It’s all that kind of thing

  21. Billzor says:

    Guy knows how to dodge a question. Not well, but he does do it.

    • Uncompetative says:

      Educated at Cambridge University in advanced misdirection like all of our cuntrys politicians.

  22. schlusenbach says:

    After their ‘no offline singleplayer’-announcement I was disappointed by the way they handled that situation. I still wanted to play ED, but decided to wait for several months and see how the game evolves. Now, after reading this interview the chance that I buy Elite has gone to zero. I really don’t want to give my money to people with his business ethics.

    As a contrast to this: I like how Colossal Order handle the Cities Skylines development: fantastic game, fair price, offline, the game invites modders, no multiplayer and the devs listen to the community. So good to see that they are successful!

  23. Axyl says:

    Eesh. That was a pretty weak interview, Graham. You didn’t press him on any of his obviously question-dodging answers.

    I’m not saying you should have gone full-Walker on his ass, but this was pretty cringe worthy, man. Sorry. :(

  24. wyrm4701 says:

    You can understand, people get very angry if something isn’t what they expect

    Actually, I get angry when the developer promises a certain feature and then much later claims it isn’t possible and likely never was. The anger is because the feature was crucial to my purchase of the game – it’s not that I expected it independent of that promise, after all. Fortunately, I get over it quickly and remember that the developer and his company should never be trusted with money again.

    • montorsi says:

      So don’t preorder or kickstart projects. Games notoriously change significantly over the duration of their development. This is news to no one but the uninformed gamer.

      • pepperfez says:

        Why should we establish the norm that lying in your pitch is to be expected and anyone who gets deceived deserves it? That benefits no one but the most dishonest marketers. And, I guess, smug bystanders who love seeing other people cheated for some reason.

  25. rocketman71 says:

    Question: “hey, what do you think about people getting angry about things like you promising offline support and then flipping the finger to your backers?”
    Answer: “you know, sometimes people complain a lot, and then it’s their problem because they were not using the right driver”.

    FUCK YOU, BRABEN.

    And you, RPS: one decent question, no follow up to the pityful non-answer, and then plenty of slowballs. This interview needed to be more Molyneuxy. You had another pathological liar here, for fuck’s sake.

    • Artist says:

      It doesnt need more “Molyneuxy” – its needs actual journalism!

  26. eggy toast says:

    This is the pitch video: link to youtube.com
    from the KS link to kickstarter.com

    He mentions very clearly that it’s a multi player game and a mltiplayer focus, he spends tons of time talking about how that’s the core of the idea. Why are people surprised that it turned out as an MMO?

    • hotmaildidntwork says:

      Possibly because this is from a few questions into the FAQ:

      Update! The above is the intended single player experience. However it will be possible to have a single player game without connecting to the galaxy server. You won’t get the features of the evolving galaxy (although we will investigate minimising those differences) and you probably won’t be able to sync between server and non-server (again we’ll investigate).

      Last updated: Tue, Dec 11 2012 3:56 AM CDT

      • Orffen says:

        The part that really pissed me off, was that they announced offline was dropped just a month out of release, and then tried to claim they’d been working on it really hard for the entire time and it only just became clear they weren’t going to be able to ship it due to the background simulation on their servers.

        Then the game released and we found out there was no background simulation; all NPCs are generated locally and the market numbers were all fudged and completely unaffected by players trading.

        • Uncompetative says:

          GTA V supports entirely different characters, clothes, bank accounts, property holdings, vehicles and weapons offline to what it lets you create for GTA Online (which is a parallel universe in which you never encounter Michael, Franklin or Trevor). It would have been totally possible to do that and reuse the inital state of the Milky Way and just not propagate all the changes out to those unconnected to it, there are no technical impossibilities preventing this, just a design choice – most likely motivated by the desire to get players online to fill up that boring vacuum and get money out of them for ship insurance as offline players would likely learn how to out fox the AI of any offline NPCs.

        • malkav11 says:

          It’s certainly not the first game to claim spurious technical necessity for forcing server requirements.

          • pepperfez says:

            After SimCity Online got so thoroughly and humiliatingly chewed up, I really expected less bullshitting about magical server-side calculations too complex for PCs. I guess it never pays to bet against industry getting more cynical.

  27. ThatFuzzyTiger says:

    This interview was, in comparison to the one on Peter Molyneux – a joke, and Elite : Dangerous has just as many tangible issues as Godus, just as many design issues that could, and should have been taken up with David Braben, who has been selling a pup under the guise of nostalgia, and with the whole “Flogging it to consoles” is likely to divert resources away from what is still fundamentally barely even a beta product at this stage.

    Honestly, you shouldn’t have let David off the hook, side note – it’s not an MMO, it sure as hell doesn’t work like one.

    • Cinek says:

      RPS were fans of Elite: Dangerous for a long while before the release. Just look at this – 5 pages of news including detailed tutorials, adventures they had in a game, etc. with Graham Smith – the interviewer in this interview – next two Brendan Caldwell being two most active players from RPS.

      This time investment they put into the game really skewed the objectivity, so I wasn’t expecting much, but still… one would expect better from RPS. That said though: Elite isn’t as bad as Godus. Though to say something positive about Godus – at least they offer offline gameplay.

  28. Artist says:

    Sorry, but lackluster interview! Like 2 old men playin ping pong.
    They released finished game? Yes, they did? Pfff. Doubt “Elite: Dangerous Boredom” or “Elite: Boring Space Trucker” was the design goal..
    More meat on the table next time, Mr. Graham!

  29. Person of Interest says:

    The interview was fine. It’s not Graham’s fault that David didn’t want to give interesting, substantive, or topical answers. I’m not sure what Graham would have accomplished by belaboring the point.

    Or do readers want a repeat of Nathan’s interview with Blizzard? (Reading that one was a guilty pleasure for me.)

    • Artist says:

      Sorry, but if I get only sustanceless answers in an interview I ask more, indeep questions. Thats what interviews are about, right? Not padding each others back. Right? (however, thats not a request for Mr. Walkers impoliteness)

      • Cinek says:

        Even more so as RPS crew does have an active E:D players, so they are competent enough to know what questions should be answered and what community wants to know.

  30. Furiant says:

    It’s good to know that when I bought the deluxe Beta access specifically because they advertised a true offline single player mode, and then a week later they announced that this feature was being scrapped, that my feeling ripped off was really my fault because I’m an angry, terrible internet troll.

  31. malkav11 says:

    I’m sorry, but when you specifically promise something and then renege on it, that is not an issue with player expectations. And it’s not just “look, this one feature of many didn’t turn out to be practical”, which is sometimes understandable even if it can render a purchase worthless if that feature was why you bought it. There is a fundamental bedrock difference between a game that you can play as an offline singleplayer game, and one that is always running on your servers. Maybe the game you want to make really can’t be delivered as the former. There are games that really do need that approach, even if not every game that’s used it does. (coughDiablocoughSimCitycough) But you don’t sell it as an offline game and then expect to keep the money when it turns out it isn’t.

  32. Orffen says:

    I knew it was gonna go bad when you started the article with “Kickstarter-funded game that came out when its developers said that it would.”

    The Kickstarter page itself says “Estimated delivery: Mar 2014”, the game was released in December 2014.

    Then we get down to this gem:

    RPS: There’s not much that you can get done in a lunch break.
    Braben: I think there is, if your lunch break is long enough.
    RPS: That’s true.

    What the hell?

    • GiantPotato says:

      I have to ask a point-blank question to RPS here: After the Molyneux interview, did you make an editorial decision to be COMPLETELY uncritical in the future? I understand the desire to back off a bit, but with this one you seem to have thanked him for answering 0 questions. There’s a LOT of ground uncovered at the end of this one.

    • Synesthesia says:

      LIES ABOUT LUNCH BREAKS GRAB THE PITCHFORKS

      seriously, what the fuck.

  33. Premium User Badge

    JiminyJickers says:

    I updated my drivers and it doesn’t appear to have produced an offline mode for Elite. I must be doing something wrong.

  34. pepperfez says:

    It constantly baffles me that gamers get so personally committed to defending the companies that sell them shit. Gamer culture: It’s not even culture. It’s buying things.

  35. Gorthan says:

    Registered just to post my displeasure at this pretty terrible interview. You’re better than this RPS.

    I bought ED based on reviews here. I think since I bought it I’ve put less than 10 hours in it. And I’ve seen everything there is to see in the game (excluding pointless grinds for bigger crap). Now he tells us there will be more, in the form of paid updates? Get f***ed!

    How much do we need to spend to make this game fun?

    • pepperfez says:

      They would have been able to make it much better had they not absorbed all the negative energy from crazy people who thought they had a right to get what they paid for. So you should blame everyone who didn’t buy the game and love it, not the people making money off of it.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      Credit where credit’s due, the idea that some bits were going to be in paid expansions was one of the things from the Kickstarter that didn’t get dropped…

  36. alms says:

    They dumped a feature like offline SP, so late in the development cycle, and then he argues life’s tough, everyone’s always going to be disappointed? drivers and stuff?

    That was entirely deliberate, thanks for all the fish, that’s where I stop reading, GL with E:D and so long.

  37. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    RPS: Do the players have a right to be angry about unfulfilled promises?
    Braben: Players often screw up and then cry about it.

    RPS: How do you deal with the anger, then?
    Braben: I feel I am the victim here.

    RPS: It is remarkable you committed to releasing the game before the end of the century and then actually did. How good do you feel about yourself now?
    Braben: Pretty damn good and also people should pay us for patches.

    RPS: The larger ones, right?
    Braben: Yep.

    RPS: How do you stop that from splitting the community?
    Braben: We don’t worry about it.

    RPS: Don’t you need an influx of new players to keep this online-only game alive?
    Braben: Sorry, I don’t understand the question.

    RPS: Do you even play the game?
    Braben: Not much.

    RPS: How do you play the game?
    Braben: Just explore a bit. Died quite a few times.

    RPS: Yeah, you need to put in the time to avoid dying. Will you provide an alternative?
    Braben: It’s not impossible.

    RPS: You can’t just play the game on a lunch break.
    Braben: Depends how long your lunch break is.

    RPS: That’s true.
    Braben: Yeah.

    RPS: What is the breakdown in terms of percetnage of players who play for 50 hours versus 1000 hours versus 5 hours?
    Braben: Huh?

    RPS: Were you surprised about players’ expectations?
    Braben: I think most players were delighted, but just coy about it.

    RPS: Do you feel you need to exaggerate to get funding?
    Braben: We are an ambitious bunch.

    • Artist says:

      *claps hands* Well done summary of a boring slowball game!

    • nuukee says:

      Your awesome comment made my day and made me register to this site.
      Your version was more accurate, funnier and less time consuming to read.

    • icarussc says:

      Haven’t played the game and don’t have any strong thoughts about the interview, but this comment made me laugh out loud at my desk.

    • emotionengine says:

      Pretty much this. It’s pretty sad.

    • DXN says:

      Heh! Yeah, pretty much. Now admittedly I really liked the Molyneux interview and thought it was a much-needed and bold move, but still I can see why it was controversial. This, though, reads to me like a conscious backpedalling from that that goes too far in the opposite direction. Maybe they feel this is needed to maintain their access to big-shot developers, and if it is, well… *shrug* there we go I guess. But still, not the kind of thing I expect from RPS.

  38. Havalynii says:

    “In terms of people, I think most people are delighted. They’re afraid of saying, ‘oh yes’, because then we might stop.”

    That’s so messed up, and yet so true.

  39. Elusiv3Pastry says:

    The Molyneux interview made me want to renew my Supporter status. This interview had the opposite effect.

  40. milton says:

    I feel like people who are complaining about helping to back a game on kickstarter simply do not understand the risks that they take when they give money to someone based on some promises or potentials.

    Is it some level of unethical that they are taking your money and delivering or underdelivering something to you? Most likely, however it is your own responsibility to manage the risks that you take when you ‘invest’ into these startup ventures.

    Even before kickstarter, devs have been promising and under-delivering since who knows how long. If we saw that the devs didn’t live up to their promises, we simply didn’t buy the game. Just see Kickstarter as the dangers of a guaranteed pre-order.

    Sure the devs may deserve the hate that they receive due to going back on their word, but people who back these devs in the first place on meager promises need to understand that devs will unavoidably under-deliver in some way. It’s simply the risk you take when you give ANYTHING a dollar.

    • Premium User Badge

      Don Reba says:

      A risk we backers accept is that a developer tries to deliver on his promises and fails. But he has to make his best effort to fulfill his mandate — taking the money and deciding to do something else is unacceptable.

  41. hollowroom says:

    My real beef with the lack of Offline mode is that the online mode doesn’t work very well.

    Even months after release I’m STILL getting kicked at least once an hour, usually right in the middle of something exciting / profitable.

    This has been a constant since the beta, and all I get from Frontier is that my internet connection is to blame.

    I have no problem with any other online game.

    • jrodman says:

      You clearly need to update your drivers and stop complaining.

    • spacejumbo says:

      I have put well over a hundred hours into Elite and don’t have this problem. The only time I’ve had a problem was one evening when everyone had connection problems. Even the launch was smooth, which I wasn’t expecting. So sounds like you need to investigate your end – raise this on the bug forum and hopefully they’ll help you do that.

      • hollowroom says:

        Unfortunately I’ve been through this with frontier, and got nowhere other than I have an “unreliable” internet connection.

        I’m not dissing the support totally, they helped me when I couldn’t download an update, and they were fast and courteous. I just don’t think they know what the issue is.

  42. melnificent says:

    I understand wanting to not nail the guy to a cross like Molyneux as that got a lot of heat on RPS. Even though it was a fantastic interview and a great insight into the Madness.

    This is the complete opposite. Even getting a true answer to questions instead of the PR and non-answers would have been a great middle line.
    Why did you make getting refunds hard?
    Well it’s the players fault. – Then you left it instead of pressing them on ignoring the question. Come on RPS, don’t let the huge amount of awesomeness that was the Molyneux interview be the one shining spark in your interviews.

    I’d love to know why Graham felt that Braben wandering into his own world and not answering questions was good. I’m failing to see it myself.

    • Cinek says:

      Aye. It’s sad just how many important questions weren’t pushed and just how much of a PR escapade this interview was for Braben. It was almost like reading an interview with a politician.

  43. Neutrino says:

    I backed this but (and it saddens me to say it) I haven’t seen anything in it interesting enough to make me want to download and play it, even though I’ve already paid for it. It certainly doesn’t strike me as a spiritual successor to the original Elite.

    The last real Elite, Frontier First Encounters (FFE) was groundbreaking. It was huge, had innovative realistic flight mechanics, planetary interaction, wide mission variety and even a compelling storyline.

    All Elite Dangerous had to do was build on that. They could have just recoded FFE with some spanking new graphics and a new storyline in 12 months flat and most people would have been happy. If they’d have added the ability to switch to ‘aeroplane style’ flight mechanics too then I think absolutely everyone would have been perfectly happy.

    As it is they’ve dropped the ball so badly that I (and a load of other backers too appearently) haven’t even bothered to download it. There’s a handful of repetative missions, no storyline, no planetary interaction, out-dated flight model, online requirement when the sharded server infrastructure and little significant content makes it a terrible MMO. There aren’t even any damn Thargoids and there’s talk that any significant update is going to be a paid expansion. After having completed all the legacy versions of Elite, Elite without Thargoids is a concept I genuinely struggle to get my head around, and is part of the reason why, for me at least, this just isn’t Elite at all, in the same way that the 3 prequel films just weren’t Star Wars.

    It’s trying to be Eve instead of an improved Elite, when I suspect most of the people that backed it have already played Eve for years and wanted something more reminiscient of the original Elite but with modern graphics. If I want to play a space MMORPG with a huge community where you can have a meaningful impact on the world I’ll play Eve (as I have for years), I wanted Elite to enjoy offline pretty planetary eyecandy with dogfighting and a storyline, and this isn’t even close.

    • Kempston Wiggler says:

      So to get a decent interview around here, hard enough to get straight answers from slippery customers (Braben) but respectful enough to avoid burning your interviewee at the stake (Molyneux), we need John Walker and Graham to breed.

      Must Try Harder, Graham.

      And Braben? I’m done with you and your output.

  44. Hitchslapped says:

    I actually thing this interview pretty much explains everything. Obviously Frontier has a strict 6 hours of lunchbreak policy and that’s why there wasn’t enough time to make actual content.

  45. DarkWalker says:

    So, a non-interview that avoids any hard hitting questions and lets the interviewee get away with non-answers. Reminds me of politicians pretending to investigate corruption in my own country, so much blatant misdirection.

    A hint to DB: people aren’t angry over how the game ended. They are angry over your outright lies about which features the game would have and the completely unethical way your company handled refund requests. When I explain what happened to people I know, even those that would never think about playing the game offline get disgusted at how disrespectful DB and Frontier were with their own player base.

    In the end, DB got my money; kinda hard for me to recover a KS pledge when Frontier has no assets, at all, in the country where I live, and thus I can’t use the threat of litigation to push them. But at least I have the satisfaction of having already cost them over twice what I paid in lost sales, and I will keep doing my best to direct players away from any Frontier game, and any game DB is ever related to, for at least one more decade.

  46. Unholymess says:

    Good grief, does Braben ever actually answer a question directly? His responses are for the most part only tangentially related to the question at hand, or completely ignore the question in favour of marketing spiel. I know Frontier have been bitten in the ass over things that have been said before but he’s like a bloody politician in this interview!

  47. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    Obligatory request for a staring eyes tag.

  48. Laurentius says:

    What a horrible hollow interview. I mean what’s the point ? Don Reba up here summed it pretty well. So Braben can dodge question and give non-answers. Seriously you could just write a summary of the interview you’ve had. It would have been better.

  49. xfrog says:

    What always didn’t feel right to me was that the fans were begging him to make a new Elite in their forums forever and he was ignoring them. After the Star Citizen success on the Kickstarter campaign he jumped on the wagon and said that he was workning on it and blah blah blah. That is how I see it. And that is why I did not backed the game, even though I consider Elite to be one of the best games I ever played and I would like to play a new version of it. But then I saw the progress of the game and bought it through their site. I think they did the fundamental things right, controls are very enjoyable, but I got bored very quickly. I do not plan to buy any DLC for this game in the future, unless it is something amazing.
    PS. The interview felt like he bought some space and time on the site to apologise, although he didn’t.

  50. MJones says:

    I’ve read RPS daily for years and I registered to comment on this interview.

    Of all the gaming websites that ought to be asking tough questions of David Braben right now, I thought RPS would be the first to do it – with their trademark style and with balls.

    The online multiplayer part of this game is a car crash. It is a mess. It is an incoherent, poorly planned disaster with huge gaping obvious holes in some basic, fundamental mechanics. Into those gaping holes has poured the worst type of online gamer, and they have now become the game’s core audience.

    I wasn’t enraged at the loss of offline play, I truly wanted an online Elite – and for a short while, during the early beta period, it seemed like the game was going to be an amazing online experience.

    It’s self evident to myself and others like me who have quietly stuck with the game through all the drama, that Frontier are steadily and exclusively catering to an instant gratification, instant action, casual audience. All of the things that previous Elite games were the antithesis of.

    * The game is hemorrhaging players, evidenced by the emptiness of the game compared to the beta periods.

    * Frontier aren’t dedicating the resources it needs, evidenced by the poor writing quality in-game and in marketing materials, broken online mechanics not addressed, prevalence of hacks, lack of content, lack of communication, absence of community engagement.

    * Frontier have abandoned their core fanbase, the people who funded the game, evidenced by the movement toward a very basic online team deathmatch in space.

    The one single question I would have for David Braben, who was my hero, is this:
    .
    .
    “David Braben, do you think it is OK to crowdfund for one type of game, and then make a completely different type of game with the money?”

    Clearly, he does think this is OK, and it’s probably time the gaming journo sites at the very least started asking the question.