Braben’s Vision and It’s Implications

This weekend I had a chance to catch up with David Braben’s interview about Elite: Dangerous with Rolling Stone, as well as the community’s reactions.

The community has largely focused on his hopes that Elite will still be thriving a decade on. Some believe that is possible, while others say it is unlikely. The debate here, as ever, revolves around the viability of the game design. This is a legitimate topic of debate, but that is not my focus here.

Read in it’s entirety, the interview gives us something of Braben’s vision for Elite, which in turn has implications for its future.

The interview clarifies that Elite as not “just a game” to Braben. It is rather a hard science fiction simulation with gaming elements, a virtual world or cosmos. In this sense, Elite is akin to a cross between a narrative driven game like Star Citizen and a virtual world like Second Life.

For Braben, the gaming elements are not focused on linear storylines featuring individuals who play through from beginning to end. Instead he is creating an overarching narrative of humanity’s journey in the galaxy — Sol’s colonization, the out-migration of generation ships, the emergence of human civilizations and stellar politics, humanity’s encounter with the truly other (i.e. Thargoids), and so on.

This isn’t because Braben is hostile to games built around linear plots. It is because of his enthusiasm for using history as a source of inspiration and the galaxy as the focus of his creative energies. He is using historical periods and events as analogues from which to build a galactic context. For example, his interpretation of the dignity of Roman slavery inspires the institution of Elite’s imperial slaves. This slow-burn storyline of human development along with Elite’s gaming elements is intended to form the context for social interaction.

Elite is not meant to be a game that one finishes per se. It is rather a virtual world or cosmos that one inhabits. The gaming elements help make that possible, but they are the means and not the end.

So what are the implications of Braben’s vision for Elite? I’ll mention three and wrap it up. I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter.

The first is for our expectations , both with respect for development and content. In terms of development, it seems the lions share of effort is given over to the galaxy’s physical environment and its fidelity to science, visual beauty, and immersive audio. Perhaps understandably, the gaming elements and social tools are taking a tad longer to build out. It also means the gaming content is not likely to ever be comparable to linear, storyline games. Even so, Frontier has much more to do outside of combat (e.g. exploration, trading, mining, crafting) so that pilots with different interests can truly chart their own way.

The second is the importance of the community to developing an infrastructure for the social environment. One aspect of Elite that is heavily criticized is its absence of quality tools for organizing pilots and finding information. The community’s response has been to create a set of extraordinary “social tools” — think Coriolis, Elite Trade Net, EDDB, Inara, and the like. This is an opportunity for Frontier to build out its social environment in direct collaboration with the community. I hope the Third Party Strike is proving productive in this respect.

The third is the ethics that need to govern a cosmos. All virtual worlds have to grapple with this. Their open-ended sandbox environment combined with the maliciousness of some people can ruin one’s ability to thrive “in-game”. In Elite, this has been illustrated by the problem of griefing, something that should not be confused with regular pvp in Open. We should all be supportive, therefore, of Frontier creating strong mechanics to deal with griefers, and other mechanics as the need arises. The health of Elite as a whole — as a virtual world and as a business enterprise — is threatened by malicious actors.

All this does not negate legitimate critique for decisions about design and implementation that are not up to snuff. Still, the interview gave me hope that Elite will continue, and in ten years be a far more vibrant cosmos (virtual world) than it is today. It will likely take more time on Frontier’s part, and more patience on our own.
 
I like Braben's vision. The only issue I have ever had, is that this vision doesn't really seem to involve us.

Things happen around us, we can get involved with them to a degree. However, right now, Elite still plays a lot like the linear plots he apparently hates. We pilots don't get to make much of a difference in the game galaxy, and while some would argue that one person should not have that much of an influence - which I agree with -, one person should have an influence on their own immediate existence, with the ability to have more like a ripple effect on their immediate surroundings.

The insistence of players having absolutely no physical manifestation in the game, save the ships they fly - which don't really FEEL like belongs to them - is, IMO, hurting the long term prospects. The introduction of the Gnosis, while utterly cool, is just a symbol of a group, and is no different to any other space station. The issue, as it has always been (imo), is the lack of a proper player-driven economy. I'm not wanting, not expecting, Eve levels of depth, because that's just asking for trouble. But, the idea of mining minerals and metals, and simply selling them has never sat right with me. The idea of engineers having to exist as 'quest' rewards has again, never sounded quite right. It's almost as if FDev thought long and hard about how to introduce a form of crafting, that didn't result in anything that could be sold or actually created BY players.

I believe, apart from the other issues surrounding C&P (which this ultimately would affect also), that the inability for players to directly influence the game, outside of CG's which only affect the BGS, which by it's very definition, is not something that directly affects players, and whom cannot BE directly involved with, is causing the boredom threads that we see weekly.

Having a sense of living history is great. But by not being directly involved in the creation of that history is making this game no different to a long winded book.
 
I think that Braben's ideas may be better than his game.
This.

The Problem with Elite, is that there's a game Braben BELIEVES he has made...the one he waxes on interviews, full of social interaction, choices and consequences and a thriving, dynamic galaxy.

Then, there's the game Frontier has ACTUALLY made. Which has none of those things, at least visibly, and instead is just a free to play mobile game RNG grind with a side flight model.

As long as Braben continues to delude himself into this king that the latter really IS the former, this game is Dead Man walking in the long run.
 
Well, the vision is certainly ambitious and it doesn't seem clear at the moment what that ultimate realization of Elite Dangerous would actualy look like, or what the strategy is to get there.

Frankly, I'm all about big visions, especially the ones that are uncomfortable to say out loud for fear of ridicule or self doubt. I would be disappointed with anything less, and am along for the ride as long as I am able.

Thanks!
 
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I like his idea of storytelling. I hope to enjoy more of the story as it progresses.
However I feel the implementation for storytelling could have been done better.

Current mechanisms and some of it's problems:
- Galnet in general is 'polluted' with unrelated articles left & right. While P&P/System Statistics are important and relevant for a lot of people it also breaks the flow of the major developments for the stories.
It's hard to follow 'the common thread' for the storylines since the design & layout of all the articles are the same.
There should be different views / filtering / sections so one could follow the stories in a more user-friendly way.
- Using the station news-feed (GUI) is rather clunky and not well designed for consuming news or stories.
- Galent web and third party web's offer searchability, but the format is still lacking the capability to convey a story.
Where are the images, videos, voice-overs? Am I expecting too much from major plots?
- Lack of 'news-flash' or video clips to convey important happening within the galaxy. Popup newsflash in the cockpit?
- Lack of a live response from characters & inhabitants reacting to events (except in written form on galnet). Perhaps a media-snippet from a relevant NPC you know conveying some news to you personally?

There are probably other improvements that could be done with designing and implementing tools to convey the story better.
But personally I'd like to have better ways to experience the stories unfolding in the game.
 
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The thing that sets ED apart from many other games is that very sandboxy, nerdy, hard sci-fi approach, and as much I would have wanted to meet the Thargoids a little sooner, it's my own story I can play and develop inside the game. That alone has kept me going for 2000+ hrs already, with no end in sight. For me, ED can still deliver experiences no other game can, in particular when combined with VR which takes it to yet another level. Sometimes, I just fly out and marvel at the stars. Sure, many things still seem like placeholders, and there's a lot of improvement to be wished for, but I'm confident that all will come over time. In 10 years, the technology will evolve, AI will become mainstream and so on. But for me, they got the core basics right, and that's the most important thing of all.

YMMV, of course. For me, it's like comparing Elite to Wing Commander back in the day. Wing Commander (in particular 1 and 2) were great with all their eye candy and stuff, but once you finished the story, there was nothing else to do, and you didn't really want to play them again, actually. Elite, on the other hand, kept me going for months and months, and ED even more so. And as I see it, even if SC should come out one day, it will target a different audience (does it run in VR, btw?) than mine, possibly.

O7,
[noob]
 
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There's very little to interact with for a 'virual world'. Which is a problem.

It's a sterile environment. BGS notwithstanding.

Braben's vision is waaaay off what ED is currently.

But here's hoping!
 
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The community has largely focused on his hopes that Elite will still be thriving a decade on. Some believe that is possible, while others say it is unlikely. The debate here, as ever, revolves around the viability of the game design. This is a legitimate topic of debate, but that is not my focus here.
It is possible for Elite Dangerous and the community to grow and thrive for another 5 to 10 years. This is ONLY possible if Frontier adds Space Legs (EVA), Atmospheric Landings and sandbox features to improve the core-game (in-game socialization, emergent gameplay, player groups such as guilds).

Without deeper sandbox and social tools the community will stagnate. People will complain or stop playing due to a lack of depth.

Space Legs is a new level of immersion and promised during the Kickstarter. It is like putting a game within a game, but absolutely necessary to attract new people to buy ED. These are gamers who play first-person shooters and survival games. Most of them haven't yet gotten into Elite Dangerous due to the lack of EVA.

Atmospheric landings is also a kickstarter promise. These are massive additions to the game, so Frontier should add it gradually with several major updates. Many people will buy EVA and Atmospheric Landings for sure.

Many people pledged and bought the game solely for these things that were promised. So Frontier must deliver it to retain their reputation. If Frontier doesn't add Space Legs and Atmospheric Landings then the backlash will be immense. Frontier would lose loyal fans, customers and players would leave for other space sims.

If Frontier has financial issues with Elite Dangerous they must use new strategies to generate revenue like in-game advertising, more cosmetics to customize ship interiors, personalized hangars (player housing), maybe premium membership.

Other space-sims that are coming (such as SC) should not be underestimated. Elite Dangerous must be able to hold its own ground to retain fans and the player base. Therefore EVA and atmospheric landings are vital for Elite Dangerous to survive and thrive.

In this official video The Future of Elite Dangerous (7 November 2014), 9 out of 15 developers say they want to walk around, move in zero gravity. Even Braben says he loves the idea to walk around inside the ship and space stations. :p

[video=youtube;8yd-m9AR7mY]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yd-m9AR7mY[/video]
 
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our expectations , both with respect for development and content. In terms of development, it seems the lions share of effort is given over to the galaxy’s physical environment and its fidelity to science, visual beauty, and immersive audio.
One year ago, I would have defended Elite with passion. I would have argued that the game's foundations are so strong, that it doesn't matter that content is lacking. That this is enough for this to be considered a great game, because it can only get better than that.

Then we got hit with RNGinners, smellypresence, skittles MTX, healing lasers and whatnot. Take that for fidelity to science and visual beauty. Sure there were some rotten apples before, but those were understandable because of abstractisation, and the line into incoherence had not yet been crossed.

We should all be supportive, therefore, of Frontier creating strong mechanics to deal with griefers, and other mechanics as the need arises. The health of Elite as a whole — as a virtual world and as a business enterprise — is threatened by malicious actors.
I can only be supportive for so long. It's really hard to agree anymore when your naughty players literally own billions and you insist a 6k bounty is needed because of balance.


It may look like I disagree with your conclusions, but in fact I am not. Your train of thought is solid. What I am disagreeing with is your premise. Which is Braben's "vision".


To me this vision at this point is nothing more than a marketing trick intended for those who's purchase decisions are heavily influenced by the dreams they build in their heads (as opposed to, for example, people who are in it for the competitive PvP). Am I taking it a step to far stating that these were the kind of people buying the game early? All I see at this time is a game being made to sell, "looting and crafting" because every other online game does it, porting to consoles because sales, feature X and feature Y which needs to be about "quick fun" because you need to attract your average consumer who can only spend so much playing these days etc. etc. etc.

There's nothing wrong with a game built to sell, game development is a business after all. But I don't see the need to build shrines to it either. Paying the retail price is all the support a business needs. Critical acclaim, fandom, these are reserved for those who go beyond the line of duty and create a work of art.
 
Without deeper sandbox and social tools the community will stagnate and people will complain or stop playing due to lack of depth.
I have far fewer issues with this perceived lack of depth or content than I do with how broke and haphazard what we already have is.

I'd rather see actual economic and population models before any of the features you mention, as well as bug fixes and a C&P overhaul.
 
This.

The Problem with Elite, is that there's a game Braben BELIEVES he has made...the one he waxes on interviews, full of social interaction, choices and consequences and a thriving, dynamic galaxy.

Then, there's the game Frontier has ACTUALLY made. Which has none of those things, at least visibly, and instead is just a free to play mobile game RNG grind with a side flight model.

As long as Braben continues to delude himself into this king that the latter really IS the former, this game is Dead Man walking in the long run.
While i agree that there is this feeling of disconnect between their ideas and the actual game. I do like FD's recent decision to work on core elements of the game. That alone has given me more hope for the future of the game than anything they've done since release.

If things are still borked after the 2.5 release, then i'll probably be moving on to other games.
 
Why is it that a reasonable reflection by the OP does nothing but draw out all the malcontents?

Elite is a better game, much better, for me than it was in 2015. Development could be faster, but it is all too human to want it all NOW, patience is a virtue that seems much more prevalent in the SC universe. :p

Let's see where the next 12 months will take us.
 
I think you need to separate Vision vs. Gameplay Experience (UX), two very different things that developers and publishers love to merge together

I like Elite Dangerous to me though Horizons was always the entrance point the minimal game experience and not the game itself.... Lets see what happens.
 
I have far fewer issues with this perceived lack of depth or content than I do with how broke and haphazard what we already have is.

I'd rather see actual economic and population models before any of the features you mention, as well as bug fixes and a C&P overhaul.
Yes, the core-game must be improved, but at the same time, they should also work towards adding initial (basic) versions of EVA and Atmospheric landings. These things can be paid major updates during season 3.
 
It is possible for Elite Dangerous and the community to grow and thrive for another 5 to 10 years. This is ONLY possible if Frontier adds Space Legs (EVA), Atmospheric Landings and more sandbox features to improve the core-game (in-game socialization, emergent gameplay, player groups such as guilds).

Without deeper sandbox and social tools the community will stagnate. People will complain or stop playing due to a lack of depth.

Space Legs is a new level of immersion and promised during the Kickstarter. It is like putting a game within a game, but absolutely necessary to attract new people to buy ED. These are gamers who play first-person shooters and survival games. Most of them haven't yet gotten into Elite Dangerous due to the lack of EVA.

Atmospheric landings is also a kickstarter promise. These are massive additions to the game, so Frontier should add it gradually with several major updates. Many people will buy EVA and Atmospheric Landings for sure.

Many people pledged and bought the game solely for these things that were promised. So Frontier must deliver it to retain their reputation. If Frontier doesn't add Space Legs and Atmospheric Landings then the backlash will be immense. Frontier would lose loyal fans, customers and players will leave for other space sims.

If Frontier has financial issues with Elite Dangerous they must use new strategies to generate revenue like in-game advertising, more cosmetics to customize ship interiors, hangars, maybe premium membership etc.

Other space-sims that are coming (such as SC) should not be underestimated. Elite Dangerous must be able to hold its own ground to retain fans and the player base. Therefore EVA and atmospheric landings are vital for Elite Dangerous to survive and thrive.
Atmo planets, legs (EVA) and depth that comes with it is what 99.9% of playerbase wants. Guaranteed success!
And yet they experiment with things like multicrew and powerplay (wasted resources), seems Brabens interviews has nothing to do with ED!
 
It is possible for Elite Dangerous and the community to grow and thrive for another 5 to 10 years. This is ONLY possible if Frontier adds Space Legs (EVA), Atmospheric Landings and more sandbox features to improve the core-game (in-game socialization, emergent gameplay, player groups such as guilds).

Without deeper sandbox and social tools the community will stagnate. People will complain or stop playing due to a lack of depth.
Cosmo, you old space plague, you must be a parasite - 'cuz you're in my mind! :)
Elite Dangerous has excellent short term motivators, some good mid-term motivators, but very few long-term motivators.
What are those, you ask?

Short term motivators are things that are immediately gratifying, i.e. an enemy ship going poof after a satisfying and visceral fight.

Mid term motivators are the next big ship and the next engineer upgrade. They're the result of many short term motivated actions via credits and materials. (Note that credits are no motivation by themselves)

Long term motivators are things you can do as a result of and using the assets you gained via mid-term motivated actions. So you got that Anaconda, what do you do with it? Right now, not much. You can try Powerplay but that's not something you own so the personal motivation is low. What can be a motivator are player groups, but also things that you could build that are bigger than any single player's ship. Right now, such features are ultimately lacking in ED, which is what people generally perceive as "an inch deep". It's an inch deep because while you can always fly a spaceship, you can never own a self-constructed mining rig or outpost on a planet or in orbit somewhere. The best you can do is be a youtuber and have a station named after you - which doesn't change much because your interaction with the station never changes. These long-term motivators are what some people call "metagame" - essentially what powerplay tried to achieve but failed so far, because there's no ownership of anything and the activities in powerplay are the same as outside powerplay. If powerplay involved other activities such as spying missions, special vehicles, capital ship control or other things you can't do as an independent pilot, that would help a lot with getting people to play it. Unique gameplay can be its own reward.

Some people say that you can't ever have player owned bases or stations in ED because that would somehow bring about the end of the game, but that's just wrong. Owning a station doesn't have to mean being able to lock out other players. It means being able to affect the station's layout and features, or in the case of small surface outposts to place buildings and/or install automated mining equipment. Yes it's all instanced, but there's way to make that work.

As for the other features such as Atmospheric Landings and Space Legs, those are welcome additions to the repertoire of short term motivators. They can enrich the game, and even open up new actual gameplay mechanics (such as fps combat or even being able to repair your own ship from inside or via EVA), but they're no long term motivator.

This is by the way why I expect Star Citizen to not have much of a lasting appeal when it's "done", because while there's a variety of smaller activities and features, they haven't even realized that they completely lack any metagame whatsoever.

The thing is, powerplay can be fixed. Multicrew can be improved. Mission variety can be improved. However I do think that we'll also need something to the effect of being able to build your own little outpost. Even if it's just for practical reasons such as surface mining. Or being able to hire NPC ships for trading, escorts and the likes.
 
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