When Frontier took to Kickstarter to fund Elite: Dangerous in 2012, netting £1,578,316, they said folks would be able to play an offline singleplayer mode. They weren't entirely sure how it'd work, given that many of their space sim plans involved an online and interconnected galaxy, but they said it'd be in there. With Elite's official launch less than a month away, Frontier have now said that won't happen. It'll have an online singleplayer mode, as always planned, but no offline support.
"A fully offline experience would be unacceptably limited and static compared to the dynamic, ever unfolding experience we are delivering," creator David Braben said in last Friday's Elite newsletter. Naturally, players wanted to know what exactly that meant, so executive producer Michael Brookes took to the forums to answer loads of questions.
Offline singleplayer will "probably not" ever get added, Brookes said. "We have put considerable time and effort to try and make this happen, but we've had to make this decision to make the game we set out to do. We would happily support offline play if it were possible for us to do so."
An offline mode "is impractical rather than impossible, but circumstances mean that it cannot be done," he explained. They can't simply release a separate version without universe syncing, he explained, as so much of the game is server-side. "To make that happen we'd essentially have to create two games. The servers handle more than just the data, they handle all the key processes for interaction in the game, so trading, mission generation and background simulation to name a few." And they don't want to release server code to folks "as it contains the secrets of the galaxy."
As for why Frontier have let people believe for so long that offline was coming, Brookes said "Because we wanted to be certain before announcing." Reading his responses and Braben's statement, though, it seems they've been fairly clear for a while about the game they've wanted to make - which, as they say, doesn't really allow for offline singleplayer.
If you're unhappy with this, Brookes pointed out that they offer refunds. They don't have a firm policy in place for backer refunds, as everything is dealt with on a case-by-case basis. They should probably be a bit more proactive about that.