As ill-conceived plans often will, Frontier's refund criteria for Elite: Dangerous have changed. When Frontier announcement last week that their open-world space sim wouldn't have the offline single-player mode billed since its Kickstarter, only multiplayer and an online singleplayer mode that requires a net connection and is affected by other players, some folks wanted a refund. Frontier's response was a little hazy, but clear on one point: if they'd paid for alpha or beta access and played it online, they couldn't get a refund. They're rethinking that now.
Elite creator David Braben explained in a forum post yesterday:
We initially declined some people's request for refund as our records showed they have already played Elite: Dangerous online. After listening to many of the comments I received after my AMA here, we have since re-opened these requests and informed those people that we will be contacting them so that we can fully understand their individual situation before making a more informed decision.
We will be contacting them each in the next few working days.
Which sounds like a sensible change. I still think they really need a clear and publicly-stated refund policy which covers everyone - pre-orderers and Kickstarter backers of all sorts - but rethinking this is a good start.
To recap, Elite: Dangerous has ended up built so much around a connected universe where players influence everything from prices to available missions that an offline version without that would be both a load of work and a design contrary to the game Frontier want to make. Whether you think it's a big deal or not, it's a feature they listed on the Kickstarter and have spoken about since. Braben said this week, "In retrospect we should have shared the fact that we were struggling with this aspect with the community, but we were still trying to find a solution."
To me, one response that'd be both reasonable and crowd-pleasing is: if someone considers the cutting of a feature they were promised a dealbreaker, Frontier should offer them a refund. Some folks might use this to get a refund on a game they've decided they don't want for other reasons, but them's the breaks.