Post Script

In­ter­view: David Braben, founder and CEO, Fron­tier De­vel­op­ments

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Fron­tier De­vel­op­ments founder and Elite co-cre­ator David Braben is a happy man when we sit down to chat about Danger­ous’s launch. His re­lief at the suc­cess­ful re­birth of the defin­ing space trad­ing se­ries is clear, but it’s matched by his ob­vi­ous en­thu­si­asm for what is to come, too. Those 400 bil­lion ex­plorable star sys­tems are, af­ter all, just the be­gin­ning. Though the game is out, it’s far from fin­ished. Are you view­ing Danger­ous dif­fer­ently now, or does it sim­ply feel like an on­go­ing project? You’re right, there has been a change, but what’s re­ally im­por­tant is that the re­lease game is a great, solid ex­pe­ri­ence. For any­thing where that might not be the case, we’re look­ing at separately beta testing. For things where there is some­thing that we need to test, we’ll do that and then we’ll make it avail­able to every­body. I think that if you sign up for a game, you don’t want to be beta testing it, but if you signed up as a beta tester, you’ll then have a choice to ei­ther down­load the beta of the next thing, or stick with the game and wait un­til you get the new con­tent a week or two later. It’s a new way of do­ing things, but I’m hop­ing it’s an ex­cit­ing way. One of the big forth­com­ing up­dates in­volves player wings. How will that work? Wings is where smaller groups of play­ers can play in the game to­gether, and do mis­sions to­gether. In many ways, it’s a lot of the dream of [ Elite’s] co-op game­play, where per­haps some­one es­corts a friend, or a group co­op­er­ates on a mission and can share the spoils of that. You can al­ready do that to an ex­tent, be­cause you can trans­fer cargo, but if a third party comes along they can go, “Oh, I’ll have that!” so it doesn’t quite work as well. But there’s this whole eti­quette that’s built up around that tech­nique where peo­ple drop their shields be­fore they do the ex­change just to show mu­tual trust. It’s in­ter­est­ing that you men­tion player eti­quette – dur­ing our time with the game, we never en­coun­tered a player who wasn’t in char­ac­ter. I love it. I think that’s fan­tas­tic! I re­ally hoped it would hap­pen, but you can never be 100 per cent sure. Grief­ing of­ten spoils games, but I’ve been de­lighted with how well peo­ple have be­haved gen­er­ally. You have to seek out your own ad­ven­tures, which is the sort of game I re­ally like, and I think it may be that the sort of peo­ple who love that love play­ing a char­ac­ter as well. The very fact that you’ve got to a lo­ca­tion where you’re meet­ing peo­ple sug­gests that you do un­der­stand the game, and there­fore have a feel for it. And you are in your own won­der­ful world; you have a role for your­self. Some peo­ple have taken the role of try­ing to get the high­est bounty they can by be­hav­ing ob­nox­iously, but there’s then been re­sponses to it in game where [other play­ers are] say­ing, “Right, let’s all go af­ter this guy.” There are quite a few oc­ca­sions where that’s hap­pened and they’ve got them. New play­ers have quite a grind ahead of them be­fore reach­ing that point, though. I think it works, but you’re right, it is a bit too grindy at the start. And I think there are things that we can do, and are do­ing, that will im­prove that – and it will con­tinue to get bet­ter. That’s the beauty of this way of de­liv­er­ing a game: we can see where peo­ple are get­ting stuck. It was very clear dur­ing the beta that we needed more tu­to­ri­als, and so we spent a lot of ef­fort do­ing those, and that was more than we orig­i­nally planned be­cause we thought [the me­chan­ics] would be more ob­vi­ous to peo­ple. We’re get­ting bet­ter, but we’re not yet the best we can be, and we’re ad­just­ing that. There are other things that we will add over time to make it eas­ier and more di­rected. An­other as­pect that some play­ers would like to see up­dated is the va­ri­ety of space sta­tion han­gar in­te­ri­ors. Any word on that? Yes, there are al­ready some vari­a­tions, but I would like to see a lot more of those. And the same with ships, too – there are more of those com­ing. I want to see vari­a­tions in sta­tions and things like that where you can recog­nise it more, be­cause you do spend quite a lot of time go­ing in and out of sta­tions, and you see the in­side more than you see the out­side. Be­cause it doesn’t dramatically af­fect the game­play, it’s not a top pri­or­ity, but I would def­i­nitely like to see it. On the topic of recog­nis­ing lo­ca­tions, will you be keep­ing Elite: Danger­ous’s galaxy up­dated ac­cord­ing to new sci­en­tific dis­cov­er­ies? You prob­a­bly saw the re­cent an­nounce­ment of Ke­pler’s dis­cov­ery of two Earth-like worlds. Now both of them, in­ter­est­ingly, were al­ready in the game, but I think we had to tweak one of the de­tails be­cause we got the mass slightly wrong. It was only a small ad­just­ment, but it’s just nice for it to be spot on. Hope­fully, peo­ple won’t mind the world slightly chang­ing un­der their feet! I think what will hap­pen is that we’ll make a judge­ment call, and if there is some­thing dis­cov­ered where it com­pletely clashes with what’s al­ready there, we’ll be open about it and dis­cuss it. There will be some dis­cov­er­ies that aren’t in the game, but the sad thing is there are prob­a­bly ones in the game that aren’t out there! But we’ve put a lot of ef­fort into the science, and we be­lieve it’s very ac­cu­rate.

“You’re right, it is a bit grindy at the start. And I think there are things that we can do, and are do­ing, that will im­prove that”

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