Where does Elite Dan­ger­ous: Arena fit into your plans? It gives play­ers a very ap­proach­able ex­pe­ri­ence of Elite. Arena got a life of its own be­cause it feels like a dif­fer­ent, but very re­ward­ing, ex­pe­ri­ence that gives you a skillset that’s trans­fer­able to the [main] game. But es­sen­tially it’s some­thing you might want to just play a ses­sion of in the evening in­stead of play­ing an­other mul­ti­player game.

What sort of sur­prises came out of the al­pha and beta re­leases?

One of the rea­sons they were so use­ful is we got re­ally good sta­tis­tics and cop­ing mech­a­nisms for [poor con­nec­tions]. It was bet­ter than I thought it was go­ing to be, be­cause we’d done tests in­ter­nally with peo­ple tak­ing ma­chines home. I re­mem­ber one prob­lem that came up dur­ing the Kick­starter cam­paign was peo­ple would upgrade their com­puter and their net­work con­nec­tions, but quite of­ten there will be a £10 hub sit­ting un­der their TV like a glo­ri­fied ex­ten­sion board, which is how peo­ple re­gard them. But they’re not be­cause they’re pro­cess­ing the data and, more im­por­tantly, they’re gate­keep­ers that don’t let cer­tain things through.

Did adding plan­e­tary land­ings present any prob­lems you weren’t ex­pect­ing?

We knew tech­ni­cally there was so much work be­hind that to get it to work well, par­tic­u­larly in a mul­ti­player world. The prob­lem is when you think about how many stupid num­ber of poly­gons there are on a planet’s sur­face – just how phys­i­cally big it is. Given that we’ve got en­vi­ron­ments that are much big­ger than the sur­face of the Earth, that makes for hor­ren­dous draw dis­tances. And you’ve got to make sure the tech can cope with that. I don’t mean just the draw dis­tances out to the sun or other stars in the galaxy, I mean even just draw dis­tances across a hu­man scale – to the next moun­tain.

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