The Slow Burn

Posted by on Sep 25, 2015 in Editorial, Gaming

EDLogo_PNGYou may recall my prior obsession with Elite: Dangerous. You may also have noted how Elite: Dangerous posts vanished with the speed of a Mafia informant. Like most games, I got sidetracked for a while, and never really made it back. I’ve tried recently to get into the swing of things again, but it’s just not happening.

I’ve not been so far from the source that I’m behind on news, though, and the announcement of Horizons has interested me from an academic perspective. Landing on planets is certainly a massive addition to the game, but what’s the purpose behind building that kind of gameplay? When I was playing regularly, I would defend Elite: Dangerous as a game where you made your own goals, much like it’s distant cousin EVE Online. But unlike the older relative, Elite has a lot of “things to do”, but absolutely no reason to do them that isn’t “earning money”. There was very little advancement beyond achieving new ranks or buying new ships, and not even the Powerplay update really solved that issue. Hopefully I don’t have to draw a diagram to show that adding planetary landings to a game which currently lacks purpose looks really good on paper, but I can’t see it as a driving reason to get me excited to play again.

Of course, I keep getting their newsletter, and each issue reveals more about Horizons and the plan for moving forward, and inch by inch, I start to pay more attention. In newsletter #91, they briefly mentioned that Horizons “will include an all-new game-changing loot and crafting system“. I don’t know what the loot system is about, but crafting? I’m a crafting fan, and crafting is one of the things that I do wish that Elite had. You can mine asteroids, but again, no reason aside from selling or fulfilling mission requirements. I’d assume that mining will play into crafting, and with the addition of mining drones in Powerplay, mining starts to sound like a really viable and purposeful game mechanic [Note: Check out the video below for more word on crafting].

Today’s newsletter (#92) mentioned a whole lot of new things coming with Horizons: 1:1 scale for planets and moons (and that alone should blow your mind, with the largest being “7 times the size of Earth”), the ability to carry and launch and even directly control fighters from your ship to aid in combat, multi-crew for ships including ship stations that can be manned by other players, and an avatar system that’s teased as the “first step” in future plans (of course, it’s worth noting that EVE’s Incarna update really turned off a lot of players, so we’ll see how this goes for Frontier).

David Braben and other Frontier staff were interviewed during EGX and talk a little bit about how Horizons will work, including how you’ll land on planets from space (without loading screens!)

Of course, there was a lot about Powerplay that I thought would be exciting, and which turned out to be kind of meh, and there’s also the fact that Elite: Dangerous still feels like a game developed by a group with OCD. A lot of things seem to be started and chock-full of a lot of promise, but many of them seem to be lacking in depth and even left for dead while the team keeps announcing and pushing new features. I’m hoping that Frontier either pulls up on the reigns at some point and back-fills those elements that are more anemic than their promise currently allows, or has a “master plan” that is slowly tying together seemingly disparate, almost incomplete systems by introducing new features.