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.