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Mobius

David
Braben
Q&A

CEO Frontier Developments plc.

Contents

Frontier Developments plc. All rights reserved, 2014


ELITE and the Elite and Frontier logos and Elite: Dangerous are
registered trademarks of Frontier Developments plc. All rights reserved.
Q&A.Elite.Dangerous was created using assets and imagery from Elite: Dangerous,
with the permission of Frontier Developments plc, for non-commercial purposes.
It is not endorsed by nor reflects the views or opinions of Frontier Developments
and no employee of Frontier Developments was involved in the making of it.
Kornelius, design and layout, 2014, contact: forger@inbox.lv, more ebooks

David Braben on Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter. If it fails, Ill be terribly upset................3


Credits, Cobras and Crowd-Funding: David Braben tells us about Elite: Dangerous....................................... 5
Elite: Dangerous David Braben Exclusive Interview.....................................................................................................................7
Alpha Papa Chat: Elite: Dangerous Alpha In December............................................................................................................ 9
Interview: David Braben, Elite. ......................................................................................................................................................................................................11
David Braben: A lot of confidence and a little bit of cash....................................................................................................... 12
The tech caught up to our ambition: David Braben on the return of Elite.....................................................14
David Braben. Q&A on frontier forum............................................................................................................................................................................ 16
The Elite: Dangerous Community Q&A, Frontiers David Braben Answers Your Questions. ..... 19
Live Chat at the register. ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 21
David Braben at Retro Gamer...........................................................................................................................................................................................26
Elite: Dangerous hands-on preview and interview the nearest game to Elite is GTA............. 28
David Braben on reddit.com.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... 32
Live chat David Braben on Frontier....................................................................................................................................................................................36
Braben On Elite, Oc Rift, Dodgy Gravity & Doing Space Right. ..............................................................................................38
Braben On Star Citizen, Elite 2 Bugs & Rude Planet Names.........................................................................................................41
On consoles, Steam, Oculus Rift and massive spaceships...........................................................................................................43
Q & A with David Braben on Frontier forum 2014.11.18..................................................................................................................... 46
Mostly Harmless Questions........................................................................................................................................................................................................... 49
FAQ......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... 55

David Braben. Interviews

David Braben on Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter.


IF IT FAILS, ILL BE TERRIBLY UPSET.

Elite: Dangerous is a new Elite game produced by David Brabens Frontier Developments. Its a long, long awaited
return to the space-faring and trading series that made Braben famous. But its not without controversy:
Brabenspitch on Kickstarter is extremely bare-bones. To find out more, we sat down with David to talk through the
Kickstarter, and the promise of a brand new Elite.
By Tim Edwards, 592 days ago, 0 Comments
Wednesday, 7 November 2012
PCGamesN: How much work has been done on Elite:
Dangerous then. What have you go so far?
David Braben: Weve been doing most of our
work on the technology behind it. so weve got
the networking layer, and weve been looking at
technology, and how things are rendered, and that
sort of thing, and weve already started looking and
working on the game, but obviously we need to be
confident that there is a market for it.
PCGN: So you dont have a demo or slice of the game
ready to go?
David Braben: not that were ready to show yet. the
thing with the game is that it takes a lot of art, and all
that takes a lot of time to make.
PCGN: You mentioned in the Kickstarter that youve
struggled to get this project o the ground. That its
been a battle. Can you give me a bit of background to
that? Whats been going on?

David Braben: the primary reason is that the project


has been done as a skunkworks project, the issue is
that because its not a project with an ocial release,
or that sort of thing, you end up pulling people away
to work on other projects. the advantage of this:
it becomes a proper ocial project and it gets the
priority.
PCGN: Theres always interest in Elite, and it seems
odd that its never got past the Skunkworks project.
Why hasnt it ever got o the ground?
David Braben: Well, we have confidence in the
design. Were happy that its something we can go
forward with. one option would have been for us to
go with a publisher. If you look at the original Elite,
if wed have listened to a publisher wed have had
three lives, wed have had a score, wed have had a
ten minute playtime. the fundamental problem is
that it wouldnt have been the game we wanted to
make.
PCGN: You havent been working in the PC space for
while and its a very dierent world now. How the
audience reacts, what they like or dislike is very, very
dierent... particularly around crowdsourced projects.
Are you ready?

David Braben: Well, theres only one way to find out,


right?
In terms of the PC space, its not hugely dierent...
I do appreciate what youre saying, I think there are
issues when it comes to DrM and that kind of thing...
which Ive always been dead against... but in terms of
interacting space were still selling lots of copies of
rollerCoaster tycoon 3. It hit the pC chart number 3
in summer of last year. I do take your point though...
its something well have to...
PCGN: I dont really mean about working on PC
hardware. The kickstarters and games that are
successful, and that people get behind are extremely
responsive and dynamic... thats a very dierent
environment to working on a product to spec...
David Braben: yeah, I understand that. to be honest,
thats actually a better match for how Id want to
develop games than what a traditional publisher
method. the problem is that a paper design doesnt
convert very well, you want to be able to tweak it,
you want to be able to change it. you want to be able
to spend time here, this bits much better than this,
lets work on it.
PCGN: Okay. Lets talk about your vision for the game.
We know its an Elite game and that youll be ying
between space stations... but what else. Whats
progressed...
David Braben: the obvious biggie: its multiplayer.
I think that makes a huge dierence to the game.
once youve got a multiplayer environment, it
completely changes the dynamic of the game. you
can co-operate, go on missions together, meeting
your friend in a certain place. that brings in so many
more game mechanics, I think its fascinating.
then of course, theres the way you can interact
with all those players, its so much deeper than when
youre just against a robot.

http://www.pcgamesn.com/interview-david-braben-elite-dangerous-kickstarter-if-it-fails-ill-be-terribly-upset

David Braben. Interviews


PCGN: How multiplayer are we talking? A few of your
friends, 10s of players? Hundreds?
David Braben: huge numbers. potentially. a galaxy
is almost perfect for this, in the sense youve already
got the world split into little areas. Each system,
youre talking about many tens of people. But that
doesnt mean there arent a lot more in the galaxy, if
you jump to meet them.
PCGN: Thats exactly how Eve works, where every
system is an instance.
David Braben: yes. and we can also shard the
instances.
PCGN: Youre talking about a persistent universe. Its
not a single player game.
David Braben: Id say a curious mix. youre right,
there is a degree of persistence.
PCGN: Theres a lot of space games in development
or published right now. Star Citizen is ying on
Kickstarter, Notch is working on 0x10C, and Eves
been around for years. Whats changed? Is this a
coincidence. Or has something changed?
David Braben: I think theres a strong latent demand
for space games, and to be honest, Kickstarter
has enabled it. I think that latent demand can be
satisfied. If you talk to publishers, theyre very cool
on anything thats dierent to what is already out
there. Because there hasnt been a big space game
for quite a while, they say oh, space games are very
passe. Its a self reinforcing thing. Its also a desire
from people within the business. the best games are
those that the developers want to make. Its like in
the film business the best films are the ones when
the director has always wanted to make that film. If
the people working on it really care about it, theyll
create something phenomenal.

PCGN: Okay, lets talk about the team. How many


people are working on the game right now?
David Braben: Its still at a skunkworks stage now,
and the plan is to increase it beyond that once weve
got the thumbs up from Kickstarter.
PCGN: What if it doesnt work? What if you dont get
the funds?
David Braben: It will be a tragic shame. But actually, it
will probably be for the best. If there isnt the interest
in the game, then its probably better to know sooner
rather than later. I mean, Ill be very upset about it, I
wont deny it, but its a sensible plan.
PCGN: Since the Kickstarter launched, theres been a
bit of chatter about how barebones the pitch is. Can
you see that?
David Braben: oh sure, and Im not saying there
wont be more content up on the site. I think the
other danger is, were saying here, this is what we
want to do, were laying out, and as we go, well
start laying it out to people.
PCGN: Have you ever backed any other Kickstarter
projects?
David Braben: no I havent, and I intend to do so.

http://www.pcgamesn.com/interview-david-braben-elite-dangerous-kickstarter-if-it-fails-ill-be-terribly-upset

David Braben. Interviews

Credits, Cobras and Crowd-Funding:


David Braben tells us about Elite: Dangerous

At the time of writing, Frontier Developments attempt to Kickstart a new entry in the venerable and classic Elite
series is heading towards 600,000 GBP of a 1.25 million GBP target. The original project page for Elite: Dangerous
was rather sparse, but the past few days have seen new concept art, information updates and videos released by the
development team.
I asked Elite co-creator David Braben about the groundbreaking original in the series, why Frontier has waited so
long to develop a new Elite title, the nature of the proposed multiplayer, and finding a delicate balance between
the wishes of backers and the vision of the development team.
30 Nov 2012 by Peter Parrish
IncGamers: Im going to assume most people reading
this interview are familiar with the original Elite,
but for those who may not be could you give a quick
synopsis for the game
David Braben: take 100 Credits and a basic space ship
to make money legally or illegally trade, bountyhunt, pirate, assassinate your way across the galaxy.
You y seat-of-the-pants style for your life as you
cross dangerous space routes to make your fortune.
Buy food cheaply at a poor agricultural world and
take it to an industrial power-house and make your
fortune. thats if you make it there. perhaps youd
prefer a life of piracy Pick o those juicy traders
arriving with cargo bays loaded with valuable food
instead and steal it, and deal with the police from
time to time or hunt those pirates for the bounty
IG: Elite is generally credited with being the rst open
world (or open space I suppose it should be!) game.
Was that intentional in your original design from the
very beginning, or something of a happy accident

David Braben: yes it was, or rather the freedom was


a key desire for the game. Most games of the time
were entirely prescriptive. Fight o one wave of
baddies, then deal with another wave, that were
slightly more challenging to beat, and keep doing
this until you lose. three times. or four times if you
manage to reach a score of 10,000. you certainly
couldnt run away or sneak past them!
We wrote the game primarily for ourselves ie
we were the judges of what the game should be, and
we wanted something very dierent from what had
gone before. that freedom was a big part of that, so
yes, the freedom was our intention from the start,
and the openness of the world was a key part of that.
IG: You say that Elite: Dangerous is the game you
have wanted Frontier to make for a very long time;
what has prevented you from doing this over the
years since the companys formation in 1994
David Braben: Working with publishers is great, but
as part of the process, inevitably the publisher will
want to steer the game in a particular direction.
It happened with Elite the game was rejected
by Thorne-EMI because it was so dierent to what
had gone before; to what they believed would

be successful because those sort of games were


successful before. they wanted three lives, a score
and a ten minute play time. that was because that
was the norm at the time. today, we would be
steered to make a game with cut-scenes that would
appeal to an imagined audience. that is not the game
I want to make.
publishers had then, and still have now, established
processes and a key part of that is the forecast roI or
return on investment. for that to work there has to
have been a suciently similar game in the near past
to base the forecast upon. the publisher will then try
to ensure those similarities remain. anything else will
be too risky. It is why we see so many sequels and
me too games.
IG: Youve just (at the time of writing) added
a pitch video and some artwork to the Elite:
Dangerous Kickstarter page. Was it a deliberate
decision to open the Kickstarter without those What
was the thinking there
David Braben: It was a matter of timing. We wanted
to go live as Kickstarter went live in the uK. We
actually thought that it would make sense to make
a second splash when we added more content to
the site we thought it would be a slow start. With
hindsight we were wrong particularly because of
the huge splash the BBC story made.
IG: It sounds like multiplayer will be a key part of this
entry in the series. If youre able to say at this point,
how will the multiplayer system work Is the intent a
persistent MMO style world where every player will
be present in the same universe, or more of a drop-in/
drop-out, invasion/co-op system like Dark Souls
David Braben: It has elements in common with both.
There will be significant elements of persistence
the world will gradually change, and everyone

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David Braben. Interviews


will eectively (in some respects) be in the same
universe, but you will also be able to select the
players that you can meet in the game perhaps
just your friends perhaps all-comers. you will also
be able to leave the game, and your commander will
be saved you will not be able to be robbed while
oine, for example.
IG: In the Kickstarter video, you refer to a hypothetical
situation where a player could call another player for
some co-op help with ferrying some cargo. Will co-op
be formalised in a situation like this, or would you
be aiming for more of a trust-based system where, in
theory, the person helping ferry the cargo could turn
on the rst player and steal the freight
David Braben: It will be a trust-based system. the
helper could indeed turn on you and steal the cargo
just as youre about to complete the journey. some
missions will be based around encounters things
like distress calls or stumbling upon a shipwreck.
they may be what they seem but they might not
be
IG: Are you able to expand on what you mean by
procedural generation techniques going further
than in previous games Does that mean more detail
with star systems, more procedural inuence on the
games economic/political models, or something else
entirely
David Braben: all of these things, and we have
procedural texturing, procedural cloudscapes and
other things too.
IG: With so many more games being developed and
published today, do you think its now much harder
for titles to make such a stylistic, revolutionary jump
as Elite did back in 1984

David Braben: It is certainly harder to make an


impression, and stylistically there is such a broad
range out there, it is hard for strong dierentiation,
but having said that, the best games still stand out.
IG: Space-based games seem to be cropping up a lot
on Kickstarter (Star Citizen and Strike Suit Zero to
name a couple). Is this simply down to a general
lack of publisher interest in the genre pushing
developers to Kickstarter, or is there more to it
than that
David Braben: that is a big part of it. I think the
assumption is that games set in space will not
succeed because there hasnt been a big success in
space for a long time. A sort of circular, self-fulfilling
argument!
IG: The rst Elite was the game you and Ian Bell
wanted to make; the vision of two men. With this
crowd-funded project, will you be relinquishing a little
of that development power to the players wholl be
funding the game (in the sense of beta feedback and
other suggestions)
David Braben: yes. It is important that we embrace
the desires of those backing the project. We all have
a similar goal already (which is part of the beauty of
Kickstarter in the first place), as we have all come
to Kickstarter with a very similar goal, and in the
few cases where the goals are slightly dierent (for
example emphasis of single player over multiplayer
or vice-versa) we should be able to find a solution
that accommodates both sides.
There can also be a huge benefit in having open
discussions about ideas and plans for a game. We
find it at Frontier with our Game of the Week
discussions more often than not the discussion
about what might be a tricky issue in a design yields a
solution that wasnt originally in the mix.

IG: Kickstarter campaigns seem to fall into two


categories; you have the projects launched by
established developers as a way of bypassing
publishers (yourself, Tim Schafer, Obsidian) and
those launched by smaller teams hoping to get their
rst game made. As the former type become more
numerous, is there a danger that they will begin to
dominate the media coverage, to the detriment of the
smaller projects
David Braben: not at all. In fact I believe these are
actually the same category both are looking at it
as a way of bypassing publishers. those trying to get
their first game made are doing it this way because
the publishers wont deal with them as they are
set in their ways. that exact same issue applies to
established developers too. the reasons are not too
dierent.
What Kickstarter gives is the opportunity for those
passionate about wanting to get something made
to connect directly with others that also want to get
that same thing made.
IG: Looking far, far ahead here, if Elite: Dangerous is
funded and proves to be a success, is there any chance
of The Outsider re-emerging as a Kickstarter project
David Braben: perhaps. It is a great concept, perhaps
a little before its time.

http://www.incgamers.com/2012/11/credits-cobras-and-crowd-funding-david-braben-tells-us-about-elite-dangerous

David Braben. Interviews

ELITE: DANGEROUS
David Braben Exclusive Interview

David Braben is one of the most important game developers of all time. He is the father of absolute masterpieces
like Elite and Frontier and hes finally back with an ambitious 1.5 million crowd fungind campaign on
Kickstarter for Elite: Dangerous.
Apr 03, 2013 Registil English, News 0
MMORPGITALIA: Oh my god! Oh my god! Oh My
god! Its David Braben! I played Elite for months and
Frontier for years! Youre my hero! Will you sign my
boobs while I cry and scream like an overexcited
little girl?
David Braben: I think its best not to answer that one!
MMORPGITALIA: All right, lets be serious: Frontier
was a coding miracle, in a time when resources were
scarce and true miracles were needed. No game
has ever reached its level of detail, of quality or of
quantity. Today we have much more calculating power
than we really need and gaming has been dumbed
down to press a button and something awesome
happens. Will the new Elite be a true successor to the
masterpiece Frontier is or are you too afraid to scare
the mass market o?
David Braben: following up from the previous games
is a big task, but we plan to do the best we can to
make it a true successor. I completely understand
the concern about the dumbing down something
that is all too common these days, and a reason we
wanted to make this game without a publisher; we
want to make this games for ourselves.

MMORPGITALIA: On a side note: have you tried Space


Engine (en.spaceengine.org)? Billions of billions of
billions of procedurally created star systems based on
real data. Wouldnt it be a dream come true adopting
something like that in a videogame about universe
exploration?
David Braben: frontier had 10 star systems back in
1993 as many as the real galaxy, and so will Elite:
Dangerous. We will also include the stars in the
immediate vicinity of the sun, so the night sky will be
accurate but you will be able to visit each one if you
choose.
MMORPGITALIA: Star Citizen is probably going to be
your main opponent, theres plenty of news about it
and everybody and their dogs speak about it, while
Elite: Dangerous is left in a dark and dusty corner.
Why is that? Do you have something extraordinary
in mind I hope youre willing to tell us right here,
right now, or are you still chosing on which tropical
island to run and hide with all the money from
Kickstarter?
David Braben: Star Citizen is a dierent type of game,
but I think people are talking about both. I see this
more as a return to space, and the presence of both
games will keep each of us on our toes. Competition
is a good thing!

MMORPGITALIA: History belongs to innovators.


Elite was the rst, one of a kind, something never
seen before. Frontier went where no man had gone
before. On the other hand, Kickstarter feels like a
fashion, massive social forced interactions mandatory
multiplaying feels like a fashion too. For whose traits
will Elite: Dangerous be remembered in twenty years?
David Braben: I would hope Elite: Dangerous
will still be being played in 20 years time, much as
Elite is/was 20 years after it was released. there
are many firsts I would hope Elite: Dangerous
will be remembered for including the approach to
multiplayer, and some other things we havent talked
about yet! We were the Kickstarter with the highest
target amount worldwide (so far) and we launched it
as soon as Kickstarter opened in the uK, so we were
not really following fashion but I dont expect that
will be what Elite: Dangerous will be remembered
for.
MMORPGITALIA: Speaking of fashions: will there be
any kind of skill tree, crafting system, unlockable stu
or anything like that?
David Braben: there will be stacks of things to
discover in the game, and some of the elements
will work a little like unlocks (for example trading in
illegal goods will require you to know who to go to
in order to do so, and you will need to build up trust
with them), but we do not see this as a traditional
rpg.
MMORPGITALIA: Excluding the blue skybox, Frontier
is being remembered for its exasperated, brutal
realism (which could be aorded on that times
computers, and was still a lot). Now I read that youre
not really fond of it, that Elite: Dangerous will contain
a lot of y-by-wire to lessen the impact of newtonian
physics and that therell be nebulas which, in reality,

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David Braben. Interviews


are less dense than on Earth mechanical produced
void. Every todays reboot, remake or sequel have
changed its predecessor ruleset, resulting in an
inferior product which alienated fans. Do you think its
due to societys decadence or is catering to the lowest
common denominator not only the present but the
future of humanity too?
David Braben: Most of the brutal realism of frontier
will continue. the real galaxy and so on. for the
combat model we are doing more y-by-wire than in
frontier, but this is to improve the feel of the game;
the realism is still there. Dont forget there was yby-wire in frontier too. In Elite: Dangerous space is
essentially black, just as in real life, with a rich stellar
backdrop. We are modelling real world nebulae,
but this is not the huge magenta and green clouds
you see in some representations of space this is
as accurate as we can make it. If you y to a nebula
you will indeed see it from inside, but it will have a
realistic, ethereal property, and you will be able to
see it from nearby systems.
MMORPGITALIA: I feel Im being unnecessarily
hostile, dont know why, maybe because one has huge
expectations from his heroes, so heres an easy and
accomodating question: you said planetary landing
and on foot movement will be expanded in future.
How?
David Braben: When the game ships, it will not have
the ability to explore on foot because it is a huge
undertaking to do well, and I dont want to include
it if we cant do it well. Each of these things will be
launched via updates after the first release of the
game.
MMORPGITALIA: Question on a FAQ: How many
craft types will you be able to y? At least 15 at launch,
and we plan to add more after launch.. What do you
mean with types? Like Interceptors, bombers,

freighters or 15 ships total? I strongly hope the


former, 15 ships seems very very little.
David Braben: We are planning to have 25 dierent
playable ship types at launch. some will have variant
versions, and each will have a huge range of dierent
equipment levels, so you could equip them as
freighters, attack ships, explorers, etc. It really is a
lot.
MMORPGITALIA: Balance. In a single player game
of this genre the pursuit for balance is just an
obstacle but in a multiplayer, PvP game its its very
essence. How dierent are going the ships to be? I
want, I need to be able to pilot one of those gigantic
superfreighters I saw parked beside orbital stations.
David Braben: Balance is important. It is why we are
having an alpha and Beta test period, but you are
right it also aects a great many design decisions.
the ships will range from the tiny sidewinder with
little more than the facilities for the pilot and a few
units of cargo to the giant anaconda and larger
with many decks, gun turrets, and a giant loading
bay. They will all y dierently, and have diereent
benefits. Some ships will be specialised for speed or
combat, others for carrying vast amounts of cargo.
MMORPGITALIA: In closing: maybe inspired by 2001:
A space odissey, those starships dancing on By the
beautiful blue Danube were a stroke of genius. As
a kid I could stare at them for a very long while and
from there my passion for classical music was born.
Can we expect the same kind of soundtrack or are we
going to get the latest dubstep crap?
David Braben: no we are going for a full classical
musical style, and it will include the Blue Danube!

http://www.mmorpgitalia.it/2013/04/03/6509-elite-dangerous-david-braben-exclusive-interview/?6509-Elite-Dangerous-David-Braben-Exclusive-Interview

David Braben. Interviews

ALPHA PAPA CHAT:


Elite: Dangerous Alpha In December

RPS: Any dicult decisions youve made? Cutting


something the fans of the previous games might
expect to be included? Will we all still be chatting on
an intergalactic BBS system?
David Braben: We make dicult decisions every day!
I think the most controversial is not to include
landing on planetary surfaces in the first release. This
The floating space head of David Orson Braben is transmitting more details about Elite: Dangerous. This is a
is because as a player you expect there to be so much
particularly important dev diary, because it announces the alpha stage of the game. The backers who pledged to
there; bustling cities, rich vistas, verdant forests full
be part of the alpha will be getting the first new taste of Elite in nearly two decades this December. Its not the
of exotic creatures, and so on. you expect to be able
whole game, though: the alpha will be a series of test segments, enabling Frontier to tune parts of their space epic
to get out and walk around. all of those things we
before the general public is allowed in. The first test will be of the combat systems. Being two months away from
want to, and plan to do with time. But not at first
new Elite got me a bit excited, so I asked a courier to deliver a package of questions to Brabens home system, and he
release.

delivered it on time. Brabens space responses, and the alpha dev diary, are below.
By Craig Pearson on October 18th, 2013 at 3:00 pm.
RPS: The alpha is the first time the public will be
playing a new Elite in nearly 20 years, which means
you have both a legacy to live up to and a clean
slate to start over with. How has that driven the
design?
David Braben: the main factor for me is creating
a compelling world ie a galaxy that I want to
explore and inhabit. the ambition for me is just as
it was with Elite and frontier, but now we have far
more capability to do things that we couldnt even
consider before.
fundamentally it has been a balance between
the clean slate and embracing the heritage.
the latter has provided a great framework, and
we have expanded this hugely with a very rich
tapestry to the world something we didnt have
before detailing everything from how food is
made, transported, consumed, how electoral
systems work, what is in peoples homes, who the
corporations are and what they do, in addition to
the obvious elements like what the spaceships look

like and what goes inside them, the technology


of the time and its underlying physics. this may
seem like superuous detail, but it helps provide
invaluable information for the associated fiction,
for the subject matter of missions, and also in the
whole immersion of the worlds.

RPS: And a sort of mirror of that question: with


your initial design goals, has any part of the game
expanded beyond how you initially envisioned it?
David Braben: yes. Just about everything has
expanded beyond our original design plan but that
is the process of making a rich game.

RPS: Actually, given how long ago it was, and how


the space genre waned over time, how many people
on the team have a grounding in Elite and space
games?

RPS: I understand the design forum has seen a lot of


discussion between the team and the community.
How much information have you given them? How
have you been using their feedback?
David Braben: Its been incredibly useful. We have
changed features, reworked features, and tweaked
features. We have even added whole new sections
of the game. I called out super cruise in the latest
video where players want to be able to experience
travelling between planets in a similar way to the
way they could in frontier using fast forwarding of
time clearly something not possible in a multi-player
game but we have come up with a method where
it can work and this will now be in the game, as we
think it is a valuable addition but it has meant large
elements of the game have had to change as a result.
and it will be better for it.

David Braben: Many of the team have a grounding in


either Elite or frontier take a look at the Meet
the team interviews on our forums for more info,
and the few that didnt they do now!
RPS: What role do you play in all that?
David Braben: My role is to champion the game
as a whole. to look at individual design decisions,
and to try to make sure they are going to work well
together and that the eventual game will be one we
will all want to play.

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/10/18/alpha-papa-chat-elite-dangerous-alpha-in-december/

David Braben. Interviews


RPS: I think the most exciting thing for me is being
able to play the game with friends. Will the alpha have
multiplayer or co-op?
David Braben: The first combat test build will not,
as we want to test combat with AIs first, but multiplayer testing is a key priority for us so you can be
sure we will get onto that soon.
RPS: What sort of uptime can people in the alpha
expect? I understand youll be testing various
components. Will it allow people to keep playing
(through the alpha and beta) to launch?
David Braben: yes people should be able to play
pretty much throughout though through the
alpha a big portion of what we are planning are
stand-alone feature tests, and also there may not be
continuity of data structures across the alpha and
beta ie you will probably not be able to save data
from one and reload in the next for some stages at
least.
RPS: What about ships and customisation within the
alpha. Will people have the opportunity to choose
their ship and how itll be tted, or is that separate
component for testing at a later date?

David Braben: yes. It was always scheduled for


December 2013. thereafter we will take an its ready
when its ready approach. as weve seen with the
DDf input, its incredibly valuable to get feedback
from players, and we are trying to take full advantage
of the opportunity we have here to get the best
possible end result, so we want to have the exibility
to react to feedback for the overall good of the
game.
RPS: How playable is the game? Any interesting stories
from your time with it?
David Braben: as I said, its not a coherent whole
yet. Elements are playable, others are not. for me it is
a fantastic release to be able to start doing the things
I have wanted to do for a long time. one example
is improving on the planet generation in frontier
building a rich galaxy with an accurate night sky,
where you can visit every visible star in it. there are
already billions of stars in the game, created with
careful attention to detail so that they match real life
physics, including the approximately 120,000 stars
that comprise the night sky as seen from earth with
the naked eye and telescopes.

David Braben: to some extent more details to


follow.
RPS: Will it be available to all alpha-backers at the
same time?
David Braben: yes.
RPS: Was the alpha access always scheduled for a year
after the Kickstarter? Whats the projected timeline
for the beta and release date?

10

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2013/10/18/alpha-papa-chat-elite-dangerous-alpha-in-december/

David Braben. Interviews

Interview: David Braben, Elite

When you hear all the enthusiasm out in the gaming industry for Linux, its easy to forget that were very much in
a battle to prove our viability in so many areas, particularly to mainstream publishers. Do we need them though?
Well, initially at least. As in other markets, Linux needs the corporate giants to cosy up at least until the gaming
industry changes as its the quickest way to get Linux in front of the average gamer. Interest from the big players
has largely been muted, however. Unless, like Ubuntu, you count a couple of browser-based games from EA as a win.
For us thats too close to getting leftover scraps from the EAs table. No, thank you.
But its a dierent matter and a harder knock when our hero and gaming legend David Braben (co-creator of Elite)
says he has doubts too. As youll see in a short interview I managed to snag over email he admits theres no reason
why Cobra, Frontiers own game engine cant run on Linux.
Everyone has to earn a crust, and if youre a game developer the uniformity of, for instance, Apples iOS line-up also
makes the process much easier. He did give us a glimmer of hope, though, with one golden nugget of an answer.
Linux is something Frontier are seriously looking at supporting. Right now, its doubtful whether Elite: Dangerous
(Brabens follow-up to Elite) will support Linux from launch, but the alpha opened recently and the game will be out
this year.
Posted at 5:36pm on Monday January 20th 2014
Linux Format: Whats your position on Linux for
gaming?
David Braben: linux is great because it is a truly
open format. It is why we used it for raspberry pi. at
frontier we havent previously supported linux for
one main reason; historically games on linux do not
sell as well as on other platforms, though of course
figures are hard to come by.
It is not that they dont sell at all, it is just that the
other potential platforms sell more. My guess is that
there are a great deal more Xboxes, playstations,
Windows pC, and ios machines, than linux ones.
sadly, the openness of the platform, and the
variations between setups make it a challenging
platform too. piracy is much easier because of that
openness, but it is something we are seriously
looking at supporting.

11

LXF: I believe youre using your own game engine


COBRA? Does that open the door to a Linux version?
David Braben: there is no reason Cobra cannot run
on linux, running through opengl.
LXF: What do you think is currently preventing Linux
from being an unstoppable force for good in the
gaming industry?
David Braben: With this sort of thing, it comes down
to numbers. The fragmentation is an issue too (ie the
number of subtly dierent set ups and OSes making
even the Windows pC appear pretty uniform.
LXF: Whats your best guess as to the future for Linux
gaming? Or maybe just your best hope for it.
David Braben: a common platform would help
(and there are a number of these coming through,
including Raspberry Pi).

http://www.tuxradar.com/content/interview-david-braben-0

David Braben. Interviews

David Braben: A lot of condence


and a little bit of cash

David Braben: I think its really important for all of


us. What are the conversations you have over lunch,
over coee? What do people really care about? I
suppose part of it is why do people want to work at a
company like frontier, and not a giant company like
Electronic arts or Microsoft. Its wanting to have that
input, that indie feel where there is real likelihood
that a game idea, if its good enough, and by good
enough I mean judged by your peers as being good
enough, then theres a good chance that it will get
made.

Frontier has just signed a publishing deal for two new titles, but how key was its Game Of The Week process?
Frontier Developments is busy making Elite: Dangerous right now, but its also just announced a new publishing
deal for two unnamed titles. The new games will use the studios Cobra technology and were both products of a
Game Of The Week process, which allows members of sta to pitch their ideas.
Here David Braben, Frontier boss, explains why that process is still so important to the company, why the indie scene
is like 70s rock and how you get a studio to its twentieth anniversary and still maintain a lustrous head of hair.
Q: Would you encourage more companies to adopt it?
By Rachel Weber THU 27 FEB 2014 12:00PM
Q: Youre not talking about what the games are yet,
but what made them right for the deal?
David Braben: our game of the Week process, which
is what it came out of, has run for a quite a long time
now. The first game that came out of it was Lost
Winds and I think that created quite a buzz within
the company, and it also validated the process. so
weve been running game of the Week, but actually
the opportunity to do games on our own ticket in a
good way weve been in really high demand because
people have wanted to work with us. Kinectimals,
Disneyland adventures, Zoo tycoon, and obviously
doing Elite at the same time.
the game of the Week process is fantastic, we have
an internal forum where people suggest ideas and
other people essentially either shout them down or
praise them. and its quite clear that some ideas get
a lot of traction quite quickly, they capture peoples
imaginations. and weve been looking at them in a
very practical way, of the ideas that are good weve
got various filters is it a game that is novel in the
marketplace? Is it a game that theres a big market

12

for? so if you do a game for a platform which is not


necessarily very popular, and for an audience that
isnt very much on that platform clearly its not going
to do very well.
Weve had our own forecasting system internally
where weve been forecasting just about everybodys
games for a long time and its been very successful
for us because we forecast our own games as well
but its very easy to want to try and put a tilt on
them. But if you systematise it thats a good way
forward. If you add to that the energy behind people
saying oh this is a great idea, Id like to work on it
one of the things which is good is to work on a game
that you really care about and this is a very good way
of filtering for those kind of ideas.
so what we did is we have a top few games and its
quite clear which ones bubble to the top and clearly
the ones that weve chosen to go ahead with are
at the top of that list. The games are all dierent
styles as well so obviously theres been an element
of involving a partner on that, which games are most
suited to the platforms we want to target?
Q: Youre a busy studio, so why is Game Of The Week
something you invest time in?

David Braben: on a really small start-up you get


it implicitly because if there are just two or three
people you will make the ideas that those two or
three people want to make because thats all there
is. thats how these companies move forward. But
actually in practice these small start-ups tend to end
up working on work for hire because thats the one
that brings in the money. youve got to have quite a
lot of confidence and a little bit of cash behind you
to be able to do this kind of thing. youve got to be
able to work on the ideas before they ever generate
money.
having said that, yes, I think its a very very good
thing because its a way of slightly dispassionately
looking at what youre creating and saying is this
really going to work? Because some of the ideas that
come through are really lovely ideas but theyre so
ipping impossible to play that actually they wouldnt
necessarily do well in the market place. and then
there are others that have that quirky addiction,
I mean look at a game like flappy Bird. Imagine
a design document for that. Its so unbelievably
simple and I think it was only one or two days work, I
remember reading that somewhere. But its strangely
compelling.
Its coming up with a process to place that sort
of thing alongside a truly huge adventure. some

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-02-27-braben

David Braben. Interviews


of them would require really big teams to deliver,
others require really quite small teams so we can
also match the opportunities. If we can see in our
planning coming up theres an availability for 20
people to work on something for four months we
can fit that to that slot. And so actually it creates an
immense amount of exibility for us as well.
Were talking a hundred or more ideas here, were
not talking just a few.
Q: And I imagine some of the those ideas become part
of other projects?
David Braben: no question. some of those ideas
came through when we did a game called thrillville:
O The Rails which had 50-odd arcade games actually
embedded within it some of those came from
peoples own creativity within the company
Q: How does Frontier maintain that indie sensibility as
a 240 person studio?
David Braben: Its all of the people themselves who
are here and get involved. Its very easy to talk about
this sort of thing, its harder to deliver on it and its
taken a while for us to get to the sort of scale where
we can do this. Its in order to, and hopefully has,
kept the indie feel going. I think by many peoples
definitions were a bit big to be counted as an indie,
even though we are still an indie. I think its the
independent atmosphere thats important, the fact
that we do do the things, and in fact more so than
many indies because were less hand to mouth. We
can sensibly say actually this is a great idea, lets
pursue it.
and whats wonderful in the case of these two
projects is actually theyre a fantastic hybrid because
were working with an external partner.

13

Q: On the publishing side, its quite trendy to skip the


publisher partnerships these days and go it alone,
what value do publishers still hold for you?
David Braben: Well, the very fact that something
is trendy is often a bad sign in this sort of industry
because it means youre following the crowd. With a
lot of these things being dierent from other people
is a big advantage, not just in game design but in
business model and approach.
the point is frontier has been around now for more
than 20 years and Ive been doing this for more
than 30 years. Weve seen so many changes, but
what were always trying to be is in a place where
we can take advantage of that change. Whether its
the move in 2008 to mobile, then the consolidation
of the way console development is done, all these
changes are really important and I think weve been
on the leading edge of it. Weve been at the right
place at the right time but also weve been there and
weve taken advantage of it.
there are changes in the way people get their
content, I mean, how many games sold through
various online stores actually dont sell very many?
Its horrifying quite how many dont make a lot of
money. Its how do you get your game to be seen?
What weve managed to do is keep that visibility
of our titles going where we have have had many
millions of downloads for games that weve made.

Its really because it takes someone in that team to


move the company, or the band, into the public eye
somehow and to keep it there. and going back to the
sort of thing that were doing, working with partners,
is a good thing because it also means we can be in
the early stages of hardware. With Microsoft we
were a launch title on Kinect, weve been a launch
title on Xbox one and that means we get early access
to the hardware, we understand how its being
developed. and that gives us a big advantage and
and a lot of coverage.
Q: You celebrated your twentieth anniversary in
January, whats been the secret to that longevity?
David Braben: theres an element of luck in it, no
question. Its not standing still, is the other thing.
Every one of the 30 years Ive been in this business
theres been a dramatic change, every single year.
some more than one change in a year.
I think the key is trying to ride those changes and
anticipate them rather than reacting to them after
the event. Because they happen so quickly, and
games development is not a quick process. youve
got to be developing for where you think it will be
when the game ships, not where it is now.

Q: So the successes get all the press, but there are


plenty of games that struggle?
David Braben: the sad thing is that the life on an
indie is much more typical to have that sort of issue
than the stand out successes that we do see from
time to time. the parallel is in the 70s and 80s with
rock bands, for every rolling stones or pink floyd
there were probably a hundred bands that you
havent heard of that spent ten or 15 years touring
the pub circuit and then retired.

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-02-27-braben

David Braben. Interviews

The tech caught up to our ambition:


David Braben on the return of Elite

He defined bedroom coding, and now David Braben is pushing boundaries again with Elite: Dangerous
By Henry Winchester from PCFormat 291 May 12th
on its release in 1984, Elite was the pinnacle of bedroomprogrammed games. It was a title that had a vision beyond
the limitations of mere hardware, executed by a pair of
undergraduates who had barely escaped their teens. now
Elite: Dangerous brings the story full circle although its a
bigger game with bigger costs, its Kickstarter funding and
independent distribution give it a homespun feel.
David Braben and co-designer Ian Bell began work on
Elite while they were studying natural sciences and
mathematics respectively. Braben had an acorn atom
computer, Bell had a BBC Micro and both had tried
programming space simulations with varying degrees of
success. Elite initially took shape as a space combat title,
but it felt empty and unfocused. the pair then added the
trading system arguably Elites greatest asset.
In 1984, Elite was released on the BBC Micro and its budget
brother the acorn Electron. at the time there was nothing
else like it, and it was the games sense of freedom and
exploration that captured the publics attention. here, in a
mere 22 kilobytes of memory, was a game in which players
were able to set their own path through the universe and
make decisions about how they played.
We hope Elite: Dangerous includes a planet called arse in
tribute to the first game.
of course, a game of such vast scale inhabiting such
a small amount of memory meant some ingenious
cutbacks had to be made, including the development of
a procedural generation system for creating and naming
the games 2,000 systems and planets. It even caused
one of the galaxies to contain a planet amusingly called
arse, but fortunately Braben and Bell noticed before
the game was published with the bum word.

14

CUSTOM CODING
after its initial success, the game was ported to all the
platforms that mattered: the amiga, atari st, apple
II, amstrad CpC, Commodore 64 and even the thenupcoming IBM PC. Each game acted a little dierently
to the original. for example, the amstrad version had
fewer ships and the Commodore 64 version included a
reference to stanley Kubricks 2001: a space odyssey.
the fervent following that the game gathered led to fans
taking it apart and reassembling it. for example, angus
Duggans Elite a included more ship types and cargo
delivery missions. In 1993, frontier: Elite II was published.
the successor included full-colour graphics, curved
polygons and texture mapping, and Braben had managed
to get the entire thing to fit on a 3.5-inch oppy.
It also included some ridiculously cool sci-fi mechanics,
such as the ability to slingshot around stars and land on
planets. ultimately, though, the game divided players
between those who found it too boring, and those who
appreciated its dogged adherence to newtonian physics.
games have come in the last 30 years, but Elites core
ideas remain the same
Bolstered by Elites success, Braben set up his own
development studio frontier Developments in 1994.
the company created Elites second sequel, frontier:
first Encounters, in 1995. however, due to disagreements
between the studio and publisher gametek, the version
was full of bugs and it received
a lukewarm reception due to being half-finished. Braben
went on to sue gametek, and settled out-of-court four
years after the games release.
as well as developing Elite: Dangerous, frontier
Developments has also created some big games, including
rollercoaster tycoon, acclaimed WiiWare launch title

lostWinds, and cute Xbox animal simulator Kinectimals.


Were still waiting for the outsider, though. this technothriller game relocates Elites freedom into a real world
scenario. Its currently on hold, but we hope Braben turns
his attention to it once hes completed Elite: Dangerous. We
spoke to him about the return of Elite, pushing the bounds
of game development, and why space is back in style.

Why is Elite able to make a return now


when weve had so many false starts before?
David Braben: Elite is in our Dna, and we have
always had skunkworks development of relevant
technologies that we have been building upon over
the years. More recently, various things have come
together to help catalyse it: the technology has finally
caught up to our ambition, but Kickstarter has also
oered an excellent opportunity.
Has anything completely unexpected happened
during Elite: Dangerous alpha?
David Braben: yes already in the alpha 2x
multiplayer builds we have seen interesting player
behaviours emerging. a good example is the Ethics
and Credits scenario, which is really the first glimpse
of the exible second-by-second roles and choices
that the game will oer.
some players were patrolling in sidewinders
together. they were waiting for others to kill miners
and would then collect the bounty on their heads. Its
a great example of the value of having our backers
getting involved during development. Were able
to drill down into the balancing to maximise the
opportunity for such emerging behaviours.
Are we going to have the same sort of epically
accurate star map that we had in Frontier?
David Braben: of course! In Elite: Dangerous we
are going a lot further. We have some 150,000 star
systems visible from Earth in real life; in the game this

http://www.techradar.com/news/gaming/-the-tech-caught-up-to-our-ambition-david-braben-on-the-return-of-elite-1248142

David Braben. Interviews


will be backed up with some 100 billion more that will
be scientifically accurate in terms of how they formed
etc. They will be generated procedurally to fit the
observational data as best we can, as most of these
systems are not individually visible from Earth, even
with hubble.
Each of these will include stellar systems with
dierent types of planets, gas giants, rocky moons,
asteroid fields and so on. One great side eect of
this is the night sky is correct when viewed from
Earth and changes gradually as you travel to nearby
systems. the constellations gradually become
unrecognisable as you move further from Earth.
Why do you think that space games
have been unfashionable for so long?
David Braben: I think games set in space became
quite niche. they lost sight of what was the key
element of Elite and frontier freedom. the true
successors to Elite and frontier were the grand theft
auto games. for me, the setting is secondary to the
feeling of freedom.
the success of the Elite series has always been based
on the freedom that players are given. Its all about
individual choice in an open world you dont select
pirate or bounty hunter or trader from a list,
you simply do what you want and events will unfold
accordingly.
traditional publishers have always regimented games
into strict categories for forecasting and planning
reasons, and somehow space became a category in
itself including games like Dead Space, Mass Eect
and Halo, which are all quite dierent.
this screenshot weighs in at 535 kilobytes the
equivalent of 24 Elites
How much friendly competition is there between
you and Chris Roberts especially now youve got
the Elite: Dangerous alpha out before Star Citizens
dogghting module?

15

David Braben: Id place the emphasis on friendly


as we are both alpha backers of each others games,
and both want the other to succeed. the games
we are making are very dierent Star Citizen is
a handcrafted story-based game but there are
common elements, the most obvious being that they
are both set in space.
Many of you will have seen the discussion Chris and
I had during the Elite Kickstarter campaign, where
we discussed the return of the space game at length
with gary Whitta. If you havent seen it, you can
still check it out through our website or the Elite:
Dangerous Kickstarter site. Its also not just Elite:
Dangerous and star Citizen, there are others, too.
I think shows there is strong interest in this area,
which is a very good thing.
What are your plans for player created content,
such as companies or galactic organisations?
David Braben: to start with, players are just another
commander, trying to make their way in what is quite
a hostile galaxy. however, participants can form
alliances with other players, and we do have plans
down the line for building space stations and so on.
Is it generally easier or harder
to program a game now compared to the 1980s?
David Braben: there are several dimensions to it,
I think. put in todays language, Ian and I were a
micro-studio, and when youre in that environment,
communication is so much easier. the largest
game that frontier Developments has made to
date involved almost 400 people! While the Elite:
Dangerous team isnt quite that huge, between 70100 people are closely involved. Its still a dierent
world when it comes to communication and
getting a shared vision for all the dierent aspects
of the game. In modern game development, team
communication is probably the biggest challenge,
and this didnt really exist in the 1980s.

looking at just the programming, I think today it is a


lot simpler to do the same sort of thing. Debuggers
and the fancy programming aids we have nowadays
make it much easier, but the expectations are also
very much higher. the scope of what happens in a ship
in Elite: Dangerous, and hence the complexity of the
programming task, is far greater. this more than makes
up for all the fancy tools we have available now. With
the original Elite we literally used every byte of memory
the BBC Micro could oer. We are trying to make sure
we similarly push the boundaries of whats possible in
Elite: Dangerous using modern computer hardware.
Braben feels that sticking to his guns over Elite let to
more creativity in games
When you were developing the original,
was there a point when you realised you were
completely changing what games could do?
David Braben: With the original Elite, I think the
realisation came for me when we presented the
game to thorn-EMI in london. they wanted us to
completely change the game have three lives, a
score, a typical playtime of 10 minutes, and no saves.
they really didnt understand what we were trying to
do. I started to think that we had a real hill to climb,
to sell the idea to a publisher.
The fact that it was so dierent to any of the
competition at the time meant that after Elite
came out, publishers were much more prepared to
experiment with dierent types of computer games.
they were willing to look at ones that werent
derived from the arcades.
And have there been any similar moments while you
have been designing Elite: Dangerous?
David Braben: With Elite: Dangerous, it was the
realisation that we didnt have to follow publisher
constraints in what we could do. It has allowed us to
have a galaxy that continually changes based on player
actions. I think this will prove to be very significant.

http://www.techradar.com/news/gaming/-the-tech-caught-up-to-our-ambition-david-braben-on-the-return-of-elite-1248142

David Braben. Interviews

David Braben.
Q&A on frontier forum
Date: June 5, 2014
Daan, Vikinger, Sterlino: Why P2P and not central
server?
It is neither of these it is a hybrid. the important
elements are moderated by the server and are
slightly less time-critical, but much of the trac goes
peer to peer to reduce ping times. We will tune the
emphasis throughout beta.
Wolf: Do I code? When was the last game?
hi Wolf, sadly no, but I do miss it. I think there may
still be a little bit of code left in some of the Cobra
tool chain, but nothing for a good few years
Riedquat: Will I play E once released?
What aspect will I play?
absolutely! I think the exploration is probably the
biggest appeal to me.
Darkman: plans for the centre of the galaxy
the plan is to make it as realistic as we can. there is
still quite a lot of uncertainty, but the stellar density
is pretty well known, as is the evidence for a supermassive black hole the X ray source sagittarius a, so
we will implement that.
having said that, the galactic centre is not a very
interesting place as there will be very few (if any)
planets.

16

they are indeed and the DDf has been great!


I suspect this game will never be completely finished,
but that is a good thing. the world will continually
move on as we add new content.

Has any (more) thought been put into Crafting within


Elite Dangerous?
Id love to mine the required resources and then
deposit it them into a rented factory along with a
blueprint and make my own missiles etc
there is already a sort of crafting loop in premium
Beta 1 for example coltan is mined, then taken to
be refined into tantalum, then turned into high-tech
goods. Down the line mining machines (as featured in
Frontier) and similar elements will be introduced, but
that will most likely be after the first release.
Can I be found in the Premium Beta,
and what is my commander name?
My commander name is Commander Braben, and
yes I am there from time to time.
irrstern: Does the solution architecture of the game
as a whole take into account a later upgrade of parts
(e.g. the engine itself) to make use of the upcoming
new hardware/software possibilities?
yes we are planning for things that many dont
have yet oculus, 3D, 4k etc etc but yes we will
also build in exibility for the future too.
RobFisher: Some of the proposals on the DDF are just
awesome -- and very ambitious. But doesnt that mean
there is soooooo much still to do? Or have you got a
lot more in the bag that we havent seen yet? Can it
really be done?

Frank: <pu pu> Am I too late? The game is going to


be peppered with tributes. If you could pay homage to
only one person, who would it be?
Well, there is already a tribute that went into alpha 4
(and is in PB1 too), to the excellent late Colin Pillinger
and his Beagle 2 spacecraft with the station Beagle
2 landing.
In frontier there were plenty of tributes too for
example to the wonderful late richard feynman
the planet feynman as the nearest exoplanet to
Earth.
Ibastavd: Two Questions for you:
1. Will there be a rear view added to the game at any
point?
2. Will you consider adding a padlock view to the
game?
Keep up the fantastic work we love you! (but not in a
man sort of way!)
We are looking at how best to include a rear view,
and certainly it is being considered, especially for the
larger ships but we wanted to see how much it was
really needed (oh, and Im too stupid to know what
you mean by a padlock view...).
teamkill: Talking of exploration, do you envisage
nding a new system and instantly knowing what
planets/moons etc are there or will it remain dark
until someone nds them. Also will the discoverer
be known throughout the universe. (news feed
possibly)?

http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=20371

David Braben. Interviews


stellar systems that have not been explored will
simply show the star or star(s) that can be seen
there from a distance, and have a systematic name.
someone will have to explore them anD rEturn
for them to become more generally known. they
will also be able to stake a claim and name such a
system.
some dark systems will not be shown at all, until
someone actively scans that area of space, and
makes that information available and without that
information (which will be tradable) it will not be
possible to travel through hyperspace to it.
Sloma: Are you focused atm on Federal / Independent
side? Why are we not seeing any Imperial ship designs
or any content related to Imperial faction?
the area of space we chose happens to be a
long way from Imperial space, hence the focus
of PB1 etc. We have Imperial content too (as in
the Damocles video and the Imperial cruiser and
Imperial fighters), but that will come as we open up
space.
Colonel Kenney: One interesting question I have.
Much of the galaxy will take us a very long time to
get to. Are there any plans of implementing any sort
of shortcuts to dierent parts of the galaxy such
as wormholes? Like something extremely rare but
there are some hidden around for us to discover etc?
Like how can we explore the center of the galaxy if it
would take a year of gameplay to get there etc?
no, were not planning to implement shortcuts. for
me, one of the attractions is it Is a big achievement
to travel a long distance. I like the idea of the
occasional meeting of a player far far out in the
galaxy as a chance encounter. We do plan to seed
things of interest out there too.

17

Ben Ryder: Will there be a competition and a trophy


for the rst people to reach Elite?
nice idea! yes, we certainly should do something
though this would be post-release.
Brodie: Hello David, Walking around your ship and
stations is something many of us are eager to see,
but what practical in game function will the ability to
move around your ship add to the game (beyond, of
course, the awesome sense of immersion it will add).
I understand that Station & Ship exploration is
planned for an expansion, is this expansion a certainty
or is it dependant upon the protability of the initial
Elite Dangerous release?
You recently tweeted a picture of yourself playing
Elite: Dangerous whilst wearing the Oculus DK2,
can you please describe this experience, especially
in comparison to playing Elite: Dangerous using the
Oculus DK1.
Moving around your ship feels a little pointless on its
own, but when it comes to getting out of your ship,
boarding other ships, having other players on board
your ship, it becomes a lot more interesting and this
feeds in to station and ship exploration.
E on oculus DK2 is great. the resolution is a big step
to help with the immersion, as is the extra frame
rate. the head-tracking also gives that little extra
you can lean forwards and down to see around
the hull of your lakon type 9 for example, or lean
beyond your chair to look back into the giant
bridge deck.
Kroenen: David: Is there any timescale on when we
might start expanding past the 5 systems we have
now? Im sure many if not all are eager to start testing
more procedural generated aspects.

this expansion will be gradual. More are coming, but


we dont want to go too far too quickly, as we test
out the systems.
trying to answer all the questions is like drinking
form a fire hose...
on the padlock view no, I think it interferes with
too many things but thats not to say something
like it couldnt be on a sub-screen (which is how wed
do a rear view anyway).
I am very interested to hear more about the planetary
landing. What is planned?
How much detail will there be on the planets?
Are they going to be limited in any way?
planetary landings wont be a single thing. I think
Ive said before it is what is down there that
makes planetary landings compelling and please
remember all of this will be after first release of the
game.
I imagine we will start with landings on airless moons.
you would be able to see heavy industry, craters
up close, and ultimately be able to deposit things
on the surface (stash cargo or mining machines).
atmospheric worlds are a bigger challenge whether
rocky or gas giant in nature and a key element there
is the atmosphere. they should have rich cloudscapes
with lightning, turbulence etc.
the biggest challenge is with what we call outdoor
worlds. I would want rich and varied vegetation,
wildlife, and so on.
Hes there been any thought to having a loot system
similar to Diablos, where you can salvage guns of
varying stats from destroyed or abandoned ships?
So say some skilled mechanic has invested a lot
of time in improving their lasers and now they
have a slightly more ecient cooling system, but
consequently lower range (you get the point).

http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=20371

David Braben. Interviews


It does a lot of good for increasing the longevity of
a game by making the random generation slightly
more signicant, so I hope something like that is on
the cards?
Thanks for the great game though!
yes we have considered that. We are trying to
balance the game, and want to be careful about
introducing potentially destabilising elements, and
one problem is that weapons are very valuable. the
current plan is that damaged (and stolen) weaponry
would have a much lower resale value, but that once
we had that we could introduce such things into
debris from time to time.
David, I am lucky enough to have been able to pledge
at a level which gives me invites to the Launch Party,
I will need several months notice however in order to
book the time o work. Do you foresee that we will
get a rm date with sucient notice?
Oh and will you sign my wifes bo00bs? :P
yes that is a good point. We will make sure that we do.
Err and fortunately I missed that last bit... ;-)
Since there seems to be a big disinformation campaign
against Elite, claiming that Elite IV (Dangerous) has
been in development since 2005. Can we get, from the
horses mouth, the head honcho, the big kahoonah,
exactly what has been developed, when, and for
how long? My understanding is that most of the
development took place after the kickstarter and it
was only skunkworks up until then. Can you end the
debate, once and for all?
no problem!
I have wanted to do a sequel for a long time, and
there has been skunk-works development, on and
o for quite some time, but full on development is
mostly since (and somewhat during) the Kickstarter
campaign. so you are correct.

18

How much has the industry changed since, in your


opinion? Are we shifting that paradigm yet? Any
shining examples?
games are gradually changing from this. We are
starting to see some more thoughtful elements and
true emotion in story-based games. games like the
last of us for example. Construction games like
Minecraft are outside this too.
As its currently not noticable in premium beta, will
the gravity model in supercruise that allows things
like slingshot-maneuvers around massive bodies still
be implemented, as proposed in the DDF-thread on
In-System-Travel? That bit was what hooked me to
the game initially, and I would be kinda sad if thats
something you decided to throw out.
I think that feature could be key to make supercruise
more than the linear travel it kinda is right now,
assuming you dont turn ight assist o. I saw a
number of posts feeling bored when supercruising, I
guess those would be satised if you would elaborate
on gravity.
I also see this as huge potential towards immersion,
as many of us probably always feel somewhat
uncomfortable linearly traveling through space, when
all of todays space travel is nothing but using gravity
of our planets as eciently as possible. There just
needs to be one hint of it, nothing complicated, so we
dont accidentally scare o the other bigger part of
the community.
yes that was something I like too. I think it does do
this a little, but it needs to be accentuated.

http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=20371

David Braben. Interviews

The Elite: Dangerous Community Q&A,


Frontiers David Braben Answers
Your Questions
The Elite series is legendary. Father to the modern Space Exploration and Combat genre of games, it hailed a new
era of involved gameplay with adult themes and expansive universes to explore. Now, almost 30 years after the
release of the BBC-B original,Elite: Dangerous promises not only to bring the series back with a bang, but also to
allow you to explore its universe through the wonders of virtual reality.
Elite: Dangerous is one of the most promising titles yet to feature support for the Oculus Rift VR Headset and has
been warmly received by the community that backed the project during a hugely successful crowd funding project
last year. Frontier recently celebrated Elite: Dangerous Premium Beta release and you can still become a part of the
universe with early access here.
David Braben, one half of the original team behind Elite, is behind the new venture and we asked him if hed be
willing to take your questions on Elite: Dangerous as part of a community Q&A. Gladly, he agreed and we asked you
for your questions a couple of weeks ago via subreddit/r/oculus and this very website. The response was excellent
and the quality of questions high. A selection of the queries you sent us were sent on to David for his replied, and
here below are the responses.
June 6, 2014 by Paul James
John Horn (RtoVR): Youve mentioned that planets
within the Elite: Dangerous universe may feature
wildlife. Will those be hand-designed or might you
consider generating them procedurally?
David Braben: Weve not put a lot of thought into this
yet, but certainly some elements should be procedural.
monographix (RtoVR): Do you think that, once people
have spent signicant time experiencing games like
Elite: Dangerous in virtual reality, that it may alter our
perception of the real world?

19

David Braben: Just about any form of storytelling


(ie games, films books) alter our perceptions a
little. That is (partly) why we watch them. VR simply
accentuates the experience, and I think in that sense
it probably does accentuate the perception change a
little too.
Just about any formof storytelling (ie games,
films books) alter our perceptions a little.
That is (partly) why we watch them. VR simply
accentuates the experience, and I think in that
sense it probably does accentuate the perception
change a little too.
George (RtoVR): Will the Oculus Rift be listed under
Recommended System Requirements?

David Braben: We already support various add-ons


in the game like vr displays, 3D tvs, track Ir, a wide
range of joysticks, foot pedals, control pads etc. Elite:
Dangerous is a great game with or without these
add-ons, and the experience you get with them is
additive, certainly, but not essential. recommended
system requirements for any add-on is perhaps
taking it a little far, so no.
EdZ (RtoVR): In the beta of ED available to Kickstarter
Premium backers, HUD UI elements are rendered
inside the cockpit, causing convergence issues when
focussing on targets. Will this be changed to innitedepth rendering in the future?
David Braben: Were continually adjusting such
things, so yes, they will improve with time.
John Horn (RtoVR): Will the planets in ED be
procedurally generated using voxels, allowing terrain
deformation and digging for secrets?
David Braben: no, thats not the plan Im afraid. We
have considered surface damage to planets, but
there are some serious network issues when syncing
a whole planet full of voxels.
soap (RtoVR): Do you see many applications for virtual
reality outside of gaming? What might those be?
David Braben: yes. Many. Medical especially when
allowing a doctor to see inside a patient when doing
keyhole surgery, as a way of visualising information
from an ultrasound scanner. Firefighters or bomb
disposal or rescue or exploration similar techniques
using rovs are already used, but vr might help
improve this further. Military. architectural.
Espionage. virtual tourism.
I was interested to see the new parrot ar Drone
using an Oculus Rift to allow you to y virtually.

http://www.roadtovr.com/elite-dangerous-community-qa-frontiers-david-braben-answers-questions/

David Braben. Interviews


Appellono (reddit): Youve been involved in the
Raspberry Pi project and bringing the technology
into schools to enhance the teaching of Computer
Science. Do you see any place for virtual reality in the
classroom? If so, what?
David Braben: It can help students visualise many
things, so yes, I think there are many applications,
much like my answer to the previous question!
chuan (reddit): Given the unfortunate fate of the
shelved The Outsider project at Frontier, is is likely
that some of the ideas for the project might nd their
way into ED?
David Braben: like with all our games, the
technology is shared, so many elements have
already been re-used in other games, and in Elite:
Dangerous too, and perhaps more so, once you can
walk about.
chuan (reddit): The original Elite was notable for many
things, one of which being the longer simulation play
time you could clock up which at the time was brand
new. How do you feel VR might further alter players
engagement with games like Elite?
David Braben: It changes the depth of engagement
more so than the duration. Personally I find I cannot
play for so long with a vr headset, as I need to take
it o after a while. I suspect this is more of an issue
with the current generation than with the technology
in general.
I didnt like the way in most games in the early 1980s
that the odds were hopeless, and eventually you
were ground down in a war of attrition. It felt odd
you couldnt run away but then the games were not
designed to allow that.

20

chuan (reddit): I think it was David that came up with


the original demo of a spinning 3D spacehip which
lead to Elite being created. Can you briey chat the
conceptual leaps which lead from demo to full game?
David Braben: I put together a simple 3D game
shooting spaceships. It had four spaceships and
felt dull and repetitive. I didnt like the way in
most games in the early 1980s that the odds were
hopeless, and eventually you were ground down in
a war of attrition. It felt odd you couldnt run away
but then the games were not designed to allow that.
you got a smart bomb every 5,000 points and an
extra life every 10,000. It also felt odd you couldnt
choose. so these thoughts came together with the
idea of spending score. Brainstorming ways of
changing this pattern, Ian and I realised we needed
to make the player need to finish a mission even if
it meant running from the fight hence travel. Score
being money was not such a big stretch (especially in
Thatcherite Britain!), so trading seemed an obvious
choice though both Ian and I thought it might be a
bit dull.
Apellono (reddit): With a reported 400 billion (!) star
systems in the game, do these systems actually exist
on a hard-drive somewhere, or are they all contained
as possibilities within the procedural code? Does a star
system actually exist before someone visits it?
David Braben: they exist, in the same way
they existed in Elite and frontier. If you simply
consider procedural generation as a fancy form of
compression, then yes they do exist.

should be? If so, when did you realise this had become
the case?
David Braben: to be honest, I dont think vr is
essential to a game like Elite: Dangerous, but it is
brilliantly additive. the technology simply continues
to get better, so each year it is possible to fulfil more
of the vision, and we will continue to do so through
expansions and updates. nevertheless, vr is very
helpful in the immersion, especially the rapid spread
of oculus rift.
Apellono (reddit): At what stage of development
was Oculus/VR support included, and what design
decisions got shaped or altered by choosing to
support VR?
David Braben: We already had some thought about
vr, but it was the Elite: Dangerous backers asking
for it and us wanting it too and the fact we
were already well set up to support it through our
own engine that we added it to alpha 1 on 15th
December 2013 as a sort of Christmas present
to the backers, together with track Ir, 3D tv, and
anaglyph stereo.
RtoVR: Do you have plans to include support for the
Development Kit 2 and in particular positional tracking
once its available?
David Braben: Well, I did tweet an image of myself
playing Elite: Dangerous using an oculus DK2 so
yes, Elite: Dangerous already supports positional
tracking, and DK2.

beIIe-and-sebastien (reddit): Do you think gaming


technology (specically virtual reality) has now caught
up to allow the realisation of your vision of Elite

http://www.roadtovr.com/elite-dangerous-community-qa-frontiers-david-braben-answers-questions/

David Braben. Interviews

Live Chat at the register


2014-06-13
NeilF: Is David able to give us a hint if external views
will be oered to fully enjoy the Elite universe? And
what limitations they will have to ensure they do not
give any game play (combat) advantage?
David Braben: External views can be quite distancing
from the experience of being in a cockpit it also
begs the question as to where to display key ship
information. It is something we have been looking at,
though.
billyboblee: My brother and I are having loads of fun
with premium beta, how long will it be until we can
choose the same serve and go hunting together?
David Braben: you are all on the same servers now,
but the players get arbitrarily split into islands.
Matchmaking and friends lists are coming in the
summer.
Commander Brix: Will there be pirate hideout stations in
Elite Dangerous that are built from remains of old ships
(like Anacondas), maybe even anchored to asteroids?
David Braben: We do plan a 'bottom of the range'
station that is made from a melted-then-inated
asteroid (as featured on the recent cover of EDGE
magazine).
David Jones: For a multi-player game I nd it a bit odd
there are so many reported ways the game will oer

21

to hide players from one another. Are you concerned


the multi-player side of the game is going to end up
feeling like a singleplayer one?
David Braben: It is important that players enjoy the
experience. We are writing this game for ourselves,
and the fun of the game is the most important thing.
player-player encounters should be interesting, and
part of this is the ability to hide whether from other
players or aIs.
Most of the ships you encounter will be aIs and in
many cases you will kill them which is why we want
the majority to be aIs. generally speaking we expect
players, even beginners, to be more of a challenge
than an aI ship, and something that players will
tend not to attack, but more cooperate with, and
we are designing the bounty system (and others) to
discourage pvp and encourage player cooperation.
Matt F: Given the success of the elite kickstarter
would you consider something similar to allow you
to complete "The Outsider" or another crowd funded
game? (please nish elite rst ;)
David Braben: We will of course finish Elite:
Dangerous first, but crowd funding is something we
would consider doing again.
Slawkenbergius: Has being situated in 'Silicon Fen'
made any impact on Frontier as a games company, or
on your career in general?
David Braben: yes. Cambridge is a great place to both
live and work. there is a thriving games community
here, and of course the university. frontier is
hiring if you want to see what living and working in
Cambridge is like ;-)

Chris: If so, My question is... How many of the


features discussed in the original kickstarter videos
will be present / achievable in Elite:dangerous. And
which feature(s) are you and the team most looking
forward to?
David Braben: I haven't gone through them again
recently, but I think just about all of them will
be present at release, with the exception of the
elements we have called out for post release like
walking around ship interiors, landing on planet
surfaces, big-game hunting etc, which we do
intend to do, in time. I am most looking forwards
to exploration, and encountering another player a
thousand light years from Earth.
Toby: Will there be a Mac beta of Elite:Dangerous at all
and thanks for the original Elite t-shirts, mine arrived
today!
David Braben: there will be a beta at some point,
but it will be after the pC beta, probably after the pC
release.
Colonel Kenney: David thank you for rekindling our
passion! Has your team come up with any sort of
method to integrate the skybox into the galaxy map
so that we can maybe put our hud into a type of
"exploration mode" (Similar to supercruise)? SO we
could point at a star from our cockpit have a context
menu come up that will link us to the galaxy map
data? Then maybe an option if within range to set as
the current target?
David Braben: I'm not quite sure what you're asking
for, but you will be able to select stars to jump to
directly from the night sky.
Alexis: Any Information about the next patch? Thanks
and you and your team keep your good work!

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/13/live_chat_david_braben/

David Braben. Interviews


David Braben: yes. the date for the next update will
be announced announced shortly... ;-)
Guest: Congrats on the OBE, well deserverd!
David Braben: thanks! though it is really for
everyone here at frontier.
MikeSnos: Will the Sol System be in any of the Betas
or will it be one of the last to be implemented?
David Braben: It will be late on, but it should be in
there. (It is in now, just you cannot go there...)

been great for teaching the real fundamentals of


programmer and controlling IO.
David Braben: true. If that's what you want you can
boot into riscos, and run the excellent BBC BasIC.
John: Will the Thargoids make an appearance for the
comercial release of the game, or before.
David Braben: they will be in there. Whether anyone
finds them is another matter... ;-)
MikeSnos: Is Summer another word for 'soon' ;)
David Braben: ;-)

Guest: Are the current planets placeholder in some


way, the gas giants seem very bumpy.. is this because
they only have one LOD implemented right now or is
this meant to be like this?
David Braben: Planets (and other elements) have
been getting better continuously. loDs are getting
better too though the gas giants arE supposed
to be bumpy. those towering clouds are moving
(slowly), much as we think they do in real life.
Guest: How has choosing kickstarter as a fundraiser
altered the project and development?
David Braben: Developing in the public eye has been
interesting, but in many ways a helpful experience. It
helps us concentrate on the things that really matter
to people.
Frank Leonhardt: Raspberry PI why so complicated?
Something with embedded BASIC (like a PET, Atom,
Superboard, ZX-80 or BBC Micro) would have

22

LevP: Hi David, will we have possibility to ne-tune


ships? For example, maybe I want to sacrice some
speed for more cargo space.
David Braben: yes. that's coming. you can swap out
your drive for a smaller, less powerful, less capable
one, increasing cargo space, or perhaps a more
expensive more compact one of similar power or
sacrifice cargo and go for range and performance.
James Dean: What are the biggest changes you've
made so far due to player feedback?
David Braben: supercruise is probably the biggest
change
Cmdr Wires: In the premium beta I have found
smuggling of illegal goods surprisingly enjoyable, When
can I expect to see a wider range of illegal products?
David Braben: Early in the beta, probably Beta 2.

Peteris Krisjanis: We have rainy clouds out here so


question is this will systems have some kind of
space weather? Some freak solar storm which can
damage systems? Some unpredicted move from
universe you can't really prepare for? :) Also we will
see weather changes from space on planets (and later
on landings)? Thunder storms, ciclons? :) And thanks
David for making ED so amazing expierence.
David Braben: On planets (ie down the line) yes,
but not space weather (though who knows what
happens in hyperspace...) ;-)
Alexis: Are there going to be an assist system to avoid
kill-stealing?
David Braben: there is the concept of player alliances
that should help with this.
David Jones: Notwithstanding REAL grieng why does
the game design philosophy seem to biased against
any kind of PvP? I enjoy co-op like you but I also love
spontaneous sandbox PvP. Will this game be for me?
David Braben: yes you can pvp you can even excel
at it and become a notorious pirate, but bear in mind
everyone wants to be the person to kill (and get the
bounty for killing) a notorious pirate. Your location
will be reported from time to time in the news
feeds...
Alex Hamilton: Having seen my father play the original
Elite and having played the original a fair amount
now, how do you feel that players of the original
versions will translate onto Dangerous? Aspects such
as docking with the station and fuel scoops were quite
an art, and this may put o new players, I'm relatively
curious as to where the medium is set, thanks.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/13/live_chat_david_braben/

David Braben. Interviews


David Braben: there is plenty in there for players
of Elite (or Frontier or First Encounters) to get their
teeth into. Docking and fuel scoops are already in,
and are an acquired skill.
Martin Jenkins: Hello, no console war wanted! Original
Elite was eventually ported to all platforms. I am really
hoping that Elite: Dangerous will eventually make it
to PS4 etc. and if that happens I would like to use
my kickstarter 90 level to buy PS4 version (next
year, or year after, whatever) rather than needing to
buy a windows PC on which to play it. Is it possible to
provide some feedback?
David Braben: frontier has our own tools and
technology that covers pC, Mac, consoles and
mobile, so we would be foolish not to look at other
platforms. We haven't announced specific platforms
yet, but it is clearly something we will plan to do.
Steve T: Will the "matchmaking" process also
put people of similar internet speeds in the same
instances to avoid the current rubber banding issues?
David Braben: We are working to address those
issues already, and you should see improvements
throughout the beta. Matchmaking would be our
last line of defence, so we are considering it but we
want to make sure we do our best for those with low
bandwidth too and they will still want to play with
their friends.
James Dean: Several third-party tools have appeared
to help with trading in Elite Dangerous; are Frontier
happy for these to exist past release? Will the market
information be available via an API?

23

David Braben: a public apI is something we have


considered for post release, but we need to balance
this with the potential exploits.
Commander Sam: Will you be putting OBE on the end
of your commander name, in game?
(Congratulations BTW)
David Braben: no!
Cmdr. Kerrash: Hi David, I am really interested in what
you may be able to inject into the game in the future
to keep the procedurally generated content fresh and
varied?
David Braben: We will keep most such things
secret, but things like famines, rebellions, and
general progress (building new stations etc)
will be there.
Colonel Kenney: A similar shorter version of the
question would be I've always dreamed of being
able to look up at a star and instantly have all the
data available about it instantly. Will we have such a
feature in our HUD eventually?
David Braben: for the adjacent stars, you can
get most of the info from the galactic map. It
will become cumbersome to do it on the night
sky (though we will think about it), but the other
important thing is that many of those systems
are unexplored, so the data (ie details on planets
etc) will only available if an explorer has first gone
there, scanned the system, and returned safely to
register it.

Photosensitive: There have been a number of people


on the forums recently looking for the diculty of
elite to be tones down, and obviously a number of
people who like it exactly they way it is; how as a
developer do you go about balancing these 2 view
points?
PS: i like the almost dark souls in space aspect to the
game.
David Braben: there are some elements to the
diculty we will address. For example if you mess
up docking the damage is especially cruel as the
station slowly rotates back into your ship, doing
further damage. this is coming soon. trading is
also slowly being balanced to make it more cash
generative.
other elements are because of the choices you might
make so travelling through a busy anarchic system
will always be hard and dangerous. Core systems will
be a lot safer, and easier. fitting your ship with great
shields and powerful weapons will give you a major
edge too.
Tapout: Is the net code one of the largest challenges
facing the dev team?
David Braben: the network code is indeed a big
challenge, probably the largest, but that's not to say
the other challenges aren't pretty big!
Frank Leonhardt: Third try: Why was the Raspberry PI
so complicated, with Linux and X-Window? Something
with embedded BASIC would have been great for
teaching the real fundamentals of programming and
interfacing to external devices.
David Braben: yes, but you can boot the raspberry pi
into a special version of riscos and BBC BasIC.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/13/live_chat_david_braben/

David Braben. Interviews


Colonel Kenney: This doesn't need to be answered.
My point about information on stars in the hud is that
we would only be able to pull up data on stars that are
within an acceptable range and pull up info. It sort of
randomizes the "exploration spirit" of the game. Such
as I have a cargo full of food, I'm looking at the night
sky click on a star that is industrial lets go there. It is
an adventurer's spirit to just explore a random nearby
star. Or to just spend time in the hud alone looking
at the dierent stars. Trying to see where Earth is
right now is dicult to nd except from galaxy map.
Thanks for your time !
Never mind Star Citizen, Destiny and Eve, there's a
million space shooters all vying for our attention in
2014 / 2015. Was there some kind of zeitgeist, where
everyone got singularly sick and tired of COD / GTA
sequels? So how will DB ensure his latest oering
stays oat in this space barrage?
David Braben: Elite: Dangerous will, and I think does
already, stand out from those other games. It is an
open world space game. It is what we all want, and
I look forwards to playing them, but they are very
dierent. Notionally Mass Eect, Dead Space, Halo
etc etc could all be space shooters, but they are very
dierent.
James Dean: We've heard the 400 billion systems
gure a lot but how many populated systems will
there be in the initial release?
David Braben: human space is around 100,000
systems with a larger halo of relatively uninhabited
frontier systems around them and many of the
systems in human space without anything particularly
remarkable there. the 400 billion number is for the
immense galaxy.

24

Commander Brix: I had a lot of problems conguring


the game with all the buttons (hard to remember
them all) I even bought a HOTAS Joystick for it (still
having problems to map them all). In ight the game
seems to be heavily on the simulation side Will there
be simplications for the more casual gamer?
David Braben: yes many of the sub-systems are
only there for those who want that level of control
(like the power distribution) and work fine if you
don't use them.
Paul B: Hi David, SLI and Cross-Fire are mostly nonfunctional in ED at present, when could we realistically
expect to see this kind of code optimisation?
David Braben: you're correct. We are just starting
to look at optimisations now, and slI will come too,
but once we have the big performance wins first. For
performance increases 'soon', for slI, 'later'... sorry
to be vague.
CMDR Yan: When time for walking around comes,
have you a solution to the age old problem of the
boring conversation tree?
David Braben: yes, but we're not talking about it yet.
Commander Sam: Do you think you'll be able to
optimise the game to run faster with an Oculus Rift?
You mentioned that at E3 that you were using a titan
with a DK2, which is a pretty expensive bit of kit. Or
is VR just so demanding we're all going to need to
upgrade.
David Braben: the titan gets 75 fps on a dual 1080p
display on a DK2. further optimisations will come, so
yes that will help a good deal.

Athanasius: David, did you ever hear about some


research done at The University of Birmingham in the
early 90s to do with military cockpit layout/seating
that used the BBC Model B version of Elite? I took
part in it!
David Braben: Interesting. no. I did hear of a cockpit
study nasa did, where the controls were activated
by looking at them (VR style). Apparently it was very
stressful as pilots
tried very hard not to look at controls that might
have nasty consequences like the ejector seat!
Paul B: Is there a concern that the multiple ways of
experiencing ED (Single player, group play and all-in
MP) is going to fracture the player base, diluting the
MP experience?
David Braben: I hope not. I'd like it if everyone played
all-in.
Ben: Will there be area's such as low security star
systems to where you cannot hide from players
at will, and thus will be more "Dangerous" and
rewarding?
David Braben: those with no governments. We have
an anarchic system in the premium Beta already...
Philip: David, have you been surprised at the strength
and creativity of the Elite community? I'm thinking in
particular of things like Lavecon, Lave radio and all the
other stu that has sprung up since the kickstarter
nished.
David Braben: yes. It is great!

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/13/live_chat_david_braben/

David Braben. Interviews


Eric Doyle: How involved are you now with Raspberry
Pi and how important is it to get schools involved with
coding? What value does it bring beyond being a skill
David Braben: I am still regularly involved. I go to
board meetings every month, and communicate daily
via email.
In my opinion it is important to 'put something back'.
I was very lucky when I was a teenager that the
acorn atom, then BBC Micro were available. Without
them, learning to program would have been much
harder (and more expensive) and I doubt I would
have done it so early.
Pryrios: When you say we will walk inside ships and
stations, are you thinking in rst person view or third
person view over the shoulder? If it's third person
view, are you planning on doing some character
creator to make dierent characters for players?
David Braben: first person.
Springy: Hi David, I was wondering if the game will
work with TrackIR whilst we await consumer models
of the Oculus Rift?
David Braben: Yes. It already (since Alpha 1.2) works
with oculus rift, and track Ir.

25

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/06/13/live_chat_david_braben/

David Braben. Interviews

DAVID BRABEN at Retro Gamer

Its been 30 years since Elite blew BBC Micro owners away with its sheer scope and ambitious design. Three decades
on and Elite Dangerous is finally getting ready to dock after being successfully funded on Kickstarter. We speak to
David Braben about his first steps in the games industry and what led him to creating his original sci-fi epic.
by Retro Gamer Team, 18 June 2014
Let us start by going back to your days at school in the
late Sixties and Seventies. Computers and gaming didnt
really exist, so what were your aspirations back then?
at school I was very much into physics and that
was my major passion. I enjoyed seeing how
things worked and I also loved making things. I felt
fascinated by science, but at the same time, I enjoyed
unleashing my creativity.
Were you considering a career in science back then?
I liked the idea of being a research scientist. you know,
looking into well, lots of dierent things, I suppose.
It was very interesting. I have also been fascinated
with astronomy for a very long time. I am amazed at
how little we understand the whole shebang. I mean, I
look up into the sky today and I realise that it was only
quite recently in historical terms that we had any idea
of what kept the sun warm. and you know, we still
dont understand gravity.
Would it be fair to say that you have a natural instinct
to explore and discover?
I think so. there are a huge number of things that are
out there that we have almost no comprehension
of, you know? In fact, the things that we do have
comprehension of are a very small percentage of
what there is to understand.

26

How did you get into the development of games?


Well, I did sciences at university. I went to Cambridge
to study natural sciences, which is specialising in
physics, and in parallel I got a computer and started
playing around with it. and I was fascinated by 3D
graphics and put together various graphical things.
I wanted to make a game because that seemed the
best way to make use of graphics, if you see what I
mean. It sort of started life as a hobby.
But if gaming hadnt existed, do you think youd have
become an astronomer, perhaps?
Quite possibly, yes, but you never really know. you
know, if that hadnt If games hadnt taken my
fancy, maybe something else would. personally, that
was the path when I went to university that I was
imagining I was going to go down.
Can you remember the rst time you played a game?
Well it wasnt when I was a child because there were
no such things at that time. When I went into the
sixth form, games had just appeared in pubs and
arcades. there were some space Invaders cabinets
from taito you know, the original space Invaders.
and then when I went to university, or maybe it was
when I was still in the sixth form, I seem to recall
seeing galaxian and then pac-Man.
Did they fascinate you?
the games then were very much centred around
coin-operated machines. they werent in the home.

I remember a machine came out at the end of the


seventies, where you had these six games and a
machine that you plugged into the television. It
would just make bleeps and it had rip-os of Pong,
Breakout, those sort of things. But, to be honest,
computer games were just a hobby. they werent as
engaging as they are now, if that makes sense.
So games didnt particularly grab you right from the start?
these earlier games came along a bit late for me. I
was already moving on by then, if that makes sense.
I mean, we didnt have a computer at school until I
was in the sixth form. But I was always fascinated by
the sort of clever things that these machines could
potentially do.
It sounds as if you were more interested in how games
were constructed rather than the games themselves
yes. I quite enjoyed subjects like maths. I was a bit of
a saddo at heart [laughs] but I remember seeing an
advert for an acorn atom, and you had to buy it as a
kit and put it together. I remember being fascinated
by the idea that you could build a computer to do
things and I got very excited that using very, very
simple logical steps you could make something really
complicated.
Did this extend to your future in programming?
When I was a lot younger I had lego and the mindset
of making really complicated things out of things
that were quite simple was really exciting. I think
thats what got me interested. I mean, the lego had
gear wheels with it and you could make really quite
complicated machines out of what seemed quite
simple things. and its that same sort of fascination, I
think, with programming designing things that could
be exciting but at the same time a way of trying out
dierent sorts of technological solutions to things.

http://www.retrogamer.net/proles/developer/david-braben/

David Braben. Interviews


given your love of physics and astronomy, its little
wonder that you created Elite
One of the very first things I wrote on a computer
was an expanding star field. I wanted to actually
be able to y through a star field, and I remember
writing this in BasIC. I was really crestfallen because
I was expecting it to run really quickly because at
the time I thought, oh, its only drawing a few
dots. But you had to draw them again and again in
a moving perspective and it took 10 or 20 seconds
to draw them all up, so I was really disappointed. I
was expecting it to be magical, you know; something
really interesting to behold.
Did you give up on BASIC?
I started learning machine code. But I suppose the
link between astronomy and gaming was ironic
in that my very early program was driven by my
astronomical interest.
Was there something of a parallel between astronomy
and programming? Were they both appealing because
they allowed open-ended exploration and the pushing
of boundaries, or is that a bit of a strained comparison?
thats probably a bit strained. I think and its not just
astronomy but most science that there are actually
great vast areas that we know pretty well nothing
about or we have various sorts of understandings of
to some degree, but theyre not complete. and with
programming, theres just the fascination of what you
can do with it. Its like building a fantastic structure
from bricks. Bricks are very simple but you can make
amazingly complex structures, and I suppose one of
the things I learnt then was that by very, very simple
steps you can get things that appear to be extremely
complicated. I dont know if you know about
mathematic functions like the Mandelbrot set, but I
remember being amazed at how, with such a simple
equation, you can get such a complex outcome. I

27

think its a whole exciting, fascinating thing to do


from a programming point of view. and what Ill say is
that the things that I was fascinated with back in the
Eighties in terms of computing still exist. I suppose
all of this is whats behind the sort of things we know
with the Elite galaxy.
How did you get started on Elite?
Well, Id put a lot of time into playing around with 3D
graphics and 3D spaceships, and how to draw them,
and how to draw them very quickly, and then I met
Ian Bell at university and he was working on a game
called free fall with acornsoft, and I thought, oh,
it would be excellent to make a game from this and
publish it. I showed him my spaceships ying around
with sort of 3D star fields and things like that.
How receptive was he?
he was very receptive. But the problem we had was
that, fundamentally as a game, it would just be too
empty, so we just, you know, we talked about how
we could make it more interesting, have a galaxy to
y around trading and all that sort of thing, and thats
where Elite was born. I mean, trading came from the
need for an excuse, almost a justification for why the
player was doing what they were doing. We didnt
want a game that just took ten minutes to play.
Did you feel it would be a success from the start?
Well, we knew it wasnt similar to other games out
there at the time and so when we came to getting
the game to market, we started to struggle. Wed
already been turned down by publishers and I think
Ive said a lot publicly about thorn EMI rejecting
the game. I think the point was the game was very
dierent to what was out there and so we were
confident that it was going to do really well.

What was your biggest fear?


I think really, certainly my biggest fear was someone
else getting there first, doing a good 3D game before
we did, and I was obviously delighted that it didnt
happen. But its one of those things that once its
there, I thought other people would see it and go,
oh wow. I will do one like that, and we would just
be one of many. I think we were very lucky in that we
had the field to ourselves for quite a while.
Can you take us through how you went about
visualising Elite?
We didnt really have any doubts about what we
were doing because we were writing the game for
ourselves and we were just hoping that there would
be other people like us. that this was a game we
would have liked to play was the point. the bigger
doubts were either that we were going to get
somehow ripped o, or someone else would do a
similar game and come out before we did, you know,
because why were we in any way special? We were
lucky really. We thought maybe someone else had
started before us and kept it secretive.
Was it dicult juggling programming with your studies?
yes, it was a challenge because the masters for Elite
went o for duplication about a week before my
end of final exams. So that was dicult balancing
priorities.
How did your friends react to the game
and the time you spent on it?
they probably thought I was an idiot, but nothing
changes. Im sure they still do. [laughs] good friends
were supportive. they just thought it was a bit of
fun you know, a job on the side. I think they were
mostly critical actually, but in a good way.

http://www.retrogamer.net/proles/developer/david-braben/

David Braben. Interviews

Elite: Dangerous hands-on preview and


interview the nearest game to Elite is GTA

GameCentral gets to play the Oculus Rift version of Elite: Dangerous and talk to creator David Braben about the
ultimate Han Solo sim.
Thursday 19 Jun 2014 2:03 am
Weve been waiting to play this game for over 20 years.
although the series is not generally well known in the
us any British gamer in the 80s and early 90s will
have known Elite as one of the biggest franchises in
gaming. a space trading simulator so ahead of its time
that it was doing open world exploration and free form
gameplay of a style that would only return again with
the likes of grand theft auto and skyrim.
But because its only well known in the uK and Europe
many americans and younger games know only later
equivalents such as Wing Commander: privateer and
freelancer. there was a sequel, subtitled frontier, in
1993, and a quick follow-up in fronter: first Encounters
two years later, but since then nothing at all from
creator David Braben.
and until the advent of Kickstarter almost no big
budget, modern equivalents of any kind except EvE
online. But as we discussed with Braben the rise of
indie gaming, and the ability for fans to help fund
games themselves, has brought with it a whole host of
new space combat sims and space traders, from star
Citizen to no Mans sky.
Before we spoke to him though we got to play the game
itself, already in beta and available to backers of the
original Kickstarter campaign (a boxed product will be
released later this year). But if youre not familiar with
the series, or the concept, simply imagine skyrim but
with you playing a han solo type character exploring,
trading, and pirating your way across the galaxy.

28

We start the demo docked at a spacestation and are


immediately struck but how good the graphics are. the
Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter was successful, but it still
has a much lower budget than star Citizen. Even so,
the visuals are exactly what our young selves wouldve
imagined of a 21st century space trader, especially as
were viewing it all through an oculus rift headset.
Well have a separate feature soon on all the
Oculus Rift games we played at E3 (including fellow
space combat sim EVE Valkyrie) shortly but one
particularly cool feature was that glancing to the left
or right causes (currently non-interactive) menus to
automatically pop-up, which weve not seen before in a
vr game.
Its also the only vr title weve seen where moving
your hand on the joystick also sees your virtual hand
move as well, although admittedly thats easier in Elite
because were using a joystick throttle and so the
game already knows exactly where your hand is.
flying out of the spacestation the controls do feel
remarkably like the original Elite, and not the fussy,
unsatisfying set-up of frontier which was based on
accurately modelled newtonian physics. Its still not as
uid as something like X-Wing or Freespace, but then
its not meant to be. Elite is not pure fantasy and both
the movement of the ship and the map of the galaxy
are based on real science.
(In fact were told, before Braben turns up, that to
travel from the outer rim to the centre of the galaxy
would take several months in real-time; giving the
developer time to plan what will be there when players
finally arrive. Although they cant put o that decision

forever as some fans are already planning a great


Expedition.)
Since we only have 15 minutes or so to y around
theres no time to worry about cargo or missions,
so instead we just have fun shooting what we think
(but arent too worried about verifying) are pirates.
again the action is reminiscent of the original but
more nuanced, with the other pilots seeming to react
sensibly to our attacks and none of the simpler tricks of
the original games working for long.
Just like skyrim, Elite is a game to savour over hours,
not minutes; but despite the impossible weight of
anticipation this is already looking like it will fulfil many
of our childhood hopes for the game. and if all goes to
plan itll only get better with time
GC: I dont know what Im going to do about E3
previews now, if I cant warn people
that Elite IV wont be there.
David Braben: [laughs] I know, I know. Its taken a
long time for us to get to this stage.
GC: And yet its very strange that suddenly there are
all these other space combat simulators emerging at
the same time. The genres been dead for at least a
decade and now theyre arriving like overdue buses.
David Braben: I think its because Im trying to
think what the last one was, freelancer?
GC: Yeah, probably that was early 2000s. That was
the last big one for the PC. But it never did that well.
David Braben: Exactly, and one of the problems for
publisher-funded games is theres a lot of caution.
understandably and sensibly so. and what they look
at is what game will it be like? and they say, right,
okay return on investment will be comparable to
that.

http://metro.co.uk/2014/06/19/elite-dangerous-hands-on-preview-and-interview-the-nearest-game-to-elite-is-gta-4767378/

David Braben. Interviews


It might be 20 per cent better or 20 per cent worse
and they go, oh, thats not very good and Do we
really want to make another one of those or do we
want to make another Call of Duty or, you know
and so to them its an easy decision to say, no, we
dont want that. so theres been a real lack, for a
long time, of space games. I also think that the way
they categorise them is not very sensible.
GC: Space combat simulator is a horrible phrase.
David Braben: yeah, but its not I see Elite as an
open world game. I see Elite as similar to the the
nearest game to Elite is gta; and it just happens
to be in space. Because when Elite was originally
conceived I wanted to make a game that was free,
free to do whatever you like. and back in the 80s
space was the one thing that was easy to render.
[laughs] space, the clue is in the name.
And it fitted really, but actually Ive always been a huge
fan of astronomy anyway and hopefully youll see some
of that in this game. Weve gone a bit over the top in
the background, I dont deny it, but it makes the world
rich. I just love the idea that you can look back at
GC: I was talking to the Destiny guys before, I dont
know how much you know about that game?
David Braben: only a little bit.
GC: Theyve got things like Venus and Titan
represented fairly realistically, and its always
frustrated me that games and movies dont use real
planets as their settings. With lakes of methane and
sulphuric acid rain. That almost sounds too silly,
except its completely real.
David Braben: thats right. Well, its the star trek
rubber suits. theyre all basically the same shape as
people

29

GC: But with funny eyebrows.


David Braben: Exactly! funny eyebrows, funny ears
and thats it.
GC: You mustve been thinking about all this for
literally years.
David Braben: yeah.
GC: So Im curious, that golden era of space combat
simulators, that came after Frontier, have you taken
anything from that in this new game? Because the
uidity of combat in something like X-Wing is very
dierent to Frontier in particular, but does that mean
its just too fantastical to be of interest to you?
David Braben: Weve looked at many of them, but
Ive wanted to make this game for a long time and
its really trying to build out every part of the game in
a way
GC: Just now it still felt a lot like you were playing it on
the Amiga, which I assume is because its still based on
the same physics theories?
David Braben: ah no, its all new, everything in the
game is new. But we tried to get some of the similar
feel, and with all these the detail were putting in,
weve tried to work out how to best do the project
in a way that addresses each stage in a sensible
manner. The first one is the moment-to-moment
gameplay, which is the feel of the ship. and if we
cant get that right theres not a lot of point carry on!
So we put a lot of eort into the single-player
combat, which was the first alpha phase we released
and then we added things like oculus rift mainly as
a Christmas present to the backers, because they all
wanted it and 3Dtv. and then we followed on with
multiplayer, which is the next biggest risk.
and weve just followed on that sort of way,

addressing the list one at a time being quite


focused, quite narrow. But the way it feels is really
important, and whats great is dierent people say
it feels like dierent favourite games theyve played.
and what I mean is, I think they have in mind things
that they really liked; and it feels solid, it feels heavy,
it feels rich in terms of what you can do.
GC: Where exactly do you nd the balance between
realism and fantasy? Because I think trying to be too
realistic did hurt Frontier.
David Braben: Its about feel. and the sad thing is,
I think, if you go back to play Elite or frontier now
youll actually realise its quite simple. But your mind
was saying, Its a giant craft and youre pulling a
great heavy stick back, and youre jousting in space
with these other big ships! one of the things weve
had to address in this, which we didnt have to in Elite
or frontier, is the symmetry of the situation.
What I mean by that is that to make the game fun we
could adjust the aI to make it fun, with them tending
to come in front of you. But we cant do that now
because the other guy might be a player. so weve
got genuine symmetry, so weve done a lot of testing
of the control system against other players.
GC: The other thing about Elite is, you would play it for
a certain amount of time Im not going to say how
much
David Braben: [laughs]
GC: And you would learn the controls and the enemy
AI to such an accurate degree that it not only became
very easy but youd literally seen everything the game
could do. The combat wasnt one note per se, but it
was possible to have a plan for pretty much every
eventuality. A lot of that was just the limitations of the
time but how do you avoid that problem here?

http://metro.co.uk/2014/06/19/elite-dangerous-hands-on-preview-and-interview-the-nearest-game-to-elite-is-gta-4767378/

David Braben. Interviews


David Braben: oh yes, thats right. Well its the
amount of variation, it was very small in the originals.
the great thing with Elite: Dangerous of course, is
that weve introduced real players. so that introduces
infinite variation all by itself. And also, all the AI pilots
have dierent skill levels, so they do dierent things.
some of the aI pilots dont use a lot of the fancy
features in the ship, whereas others will use them to
really great eect.
Bizarrely its easy to write an aI thats utterly
unbeatable. the hard thing is to come up with aI
that feels about right. so we have to do things like
delaying all the decisions: they notice something
but they dont react instantly, just like a real person
doesnt. so building all that sort of thing, so you get
a good feel for how good a pilot the guy is youre
chasing, if its an aI, is very important.
GC: So how does the multiplayer work? Im guessing
thats not a separate option on the main menu or
something?
David Braben: no, its always multiplayer.
GC: So at any point a player could appear and do
whatever they do, and theres nothing you can do to
lter them out?
David Braben: Well, we do have the option this
is coming, but its not in yet where you can filter
whether its just your friends list that you see, or
whether actually its essentially a single-player
experience. still connected online but you wont see
anyone else. Which is a shame, and I hope people
wont do that
GC: Oh, sure. Im not suggesting its a good idea. Im
just curious if the option is there. But another great
thing about the original, and it seems odd to critique a
game thats 20 years old

30

David Braben: 30, this year. the original Elite is 30


this year.
GC: Dont say that! Well, the Amiga version mustve
been what, 25?
David Braben: [laughs] I guess so.
GC: And I suppose Frontier is what, 20? I remember
going to see that at ECTS during the school holidays or
something.
David Braben: ECts! I remember that.
GC: But one of the big dierences between the rst
one and the second one was the humour. The original
was very funny and very British and very obviously
inuenced by Hitchickers Guide to the Galaxy. The
second one though was a lot more dour, it took itself a
lot more seriously.
David Braben: Well I wanted to but yeah, youre
right. It probably was.
GC: So how are you going to handle that side of things
this time?
David Braben: Itll be something of its own. I think
each game
GC: Because a sense of humour is not what these sorts
of games, any game really, tend to be known for. And
its another way to dierentiate yourself from all
these American-made games.
David Braben: Indeed, theres a balance to be had
between sort of taking itself too seriously and just
being silly. there were some things where I think
the original Elite took it a bit far, because we had

the original planet descriptions. you had things like


edible mountain poets, which annoyed me most.
GC: [laughs] But couldnt you have that just
be a rumour and you get there and its just a
misunderstanding?
David Braben: yeah, you could but then thats
making it dour again. thats what Im saying: its a
balance.
GC: And in terms of balance, the trading again I
remember in Frontier Sorry, I dont like to complain
to you about 20-year-old video games.
David Braben: [laughs] no, go for it!
GC: But again, by taking itself that much more
seriously, it became a lot more complicated and
seemed to lose some of its accessibility. It forced
you to deal with things you didnt really care about.
I wanted to trade but I didnt want to get into that
much detail about it
David Braben: The first one was great because it
was very straightforward, but what I liked about the
second one is that it didnt have the symmetry of illegal
goods. In the first one illegal goods were always illegal,
whereas in the second one you could by something
legally, like firearms, and then take them somewhere
where they were illegal. I liked the asymmetry.
GC: No, that was better, I agree.
David Braben: the same with narcotics.
GC: I get the impression this is going to be an ongoing
game, essentially like a MMO?
David Braben: It is an MMo.

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David Braben. Interviews


GC: It is an MMO, okay. So youll be adding stu ad
inntium then by the sound of it.
David Braben: yeah.
GC: But is there an end goal at all? Or at least a point
where you say thats stage one complete?
David Braben: We have a first release. And then other
things will build on that first release. Well build all
sorts of additional functionality, like walking around
inside your spacecraft, landing on planets, all this sort
of thing

GC: Im glad you were actually thinking the same


things I assumed you were all those years ago.
David Braben: [laughs] It will take a while to get
there though.
GC: Oh, thats ne. But would you put a ballpark on
that? Two, three years?
David Braben: that sort of time scale.
GC: Thats great, thanks very much for your time.
David Braben: no problem, lovely talking to you.

GC: This is really surreal for me because now Im going


to talk to you about rumours I read in C&VG when I
was in English class back in the 90s. And the next Elite
was going to have all this amazing stu, the things
youve just spoken about so all that was true? You
are planning to put it in?
David Braben: We intend to do it, yes.
GC: So in the end it will become my dream game is a
Han Solo simulator. I cant believe human society has
advanced to this point and such a thing still doesnt
exist.
David Braben: [laughs] I agree! I know exactly what
you mean.
GC: I dont mean necessarily in terms of an ocial
Star Wars game, although thatd be nice, but just a
game that lets you do all the things you imagined him
getting up to.
David Braben: no question, absolutely. Doing dodgy
deals and all that stu.

31

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David Braben. Interviews

David Braben on reddit.com


2013
One of the greatest joys in Frontier was the physics.
Slingshotting, manual landing, manual docking... this
was the core experience for me. Will these continue to
be part of the game mechanic? For those that you plan
to release later, such as planetary landings, might they
be some of the expansions (DLC) mentioned on the
Kickstarter page?
overall yes, but slingshotting was always a little hit
and miss, and without ffwding of time will be hard to
achieve in ED, I'm afraid, so probably will not feature.
After my Amiga days, I became loyal to the Microsoft
camp starting with Windows 95. Now, however, I am
on the verge of jumping ship to Apple. Many games
are released on OSX via a Wine wrapper it works,
but not an ideal solution rather than as native apps.
What are your plans for OSX?
We plan to support osX natively, as a stretch goal.
I love modding games, despite rarely releasing
anything. I particularly enjoy tweaking game
mechanics, and writing custom scripts which I did for
Civ4 and Egosoft's X-Tension game. What modding
support do you plan on providing? If you are, will they
be cosmetic (textures, models, et al) or more in-depth
with scripting and parameter modications? If you
are NOT, would you at least provide easy access to the
game's data les?
I want us to provide modding support, but it will not
be there at day 1

32

After numerous mishaps and false starts, I have


grown extremely averse to multiplayer as a whole,
outside of a private LAN. In my current situation,
such LAN parties are out of the question, unless it's
Starcraft... which I detest. I realize that Multiplayer
is a big nancial incentive, but do you intend to
apply the same amount of eort and energy into the
Singleplayer experience?
a hard one to answer. almost all of the game
world work applies to both single and multiplayer.
Exploration is very nearly a single player experience,
though much of the fun comes from the fact of the
multiplayer world. We do not see these as separate
experiences.
In most open world games I like to occasionally sit
back and go wild, by antagonizing the police just
to see how long I would last. Games like GTA will
magically teleport fresh troops and send them in
with no sense of self preservation. How realistic will
the police presence be? Will they be nite, and can a
system run out of military might?
police presence is also there to ensure people
behave, so I suspect it will be infinite
Crime rarely pays in games because the moment you
do something wrong, everyone knows about it. How
will notoriety and crime be handled? Will each system
have their own records? Will there be a galactic
record, which might take time to access after you
enter a system?
police records will largely be system by system.

Regarding Q&A 6 Do you see (at least) two levels of


system policing ie police records local to a system
(so there is a low overall penalty from the "county
cops" if on a multi-hop delivery run and you just
fancy causing havoc in a place you won't return to
on the way through) and a federal level (for all the
systems aligned to particular power blocs) so that the
persistently anti-social have a hostile welcome from
the Feds wherever they go in the space controlled by
the block?
Yes, certainly dierent grades of crimes will be
treated dierently. Don't forget the bounty (for
player kills) are provided by the pilot's federation so
that will be near universal...
Are you considering multiple in game currency or
the ubiquitous all encompassing Credits?
yes. It also has interesting gameplay opportunities
when it comes to rigging stock markets, though
having too many currencies will be annoying for the
player. so we are considering it, but have not decided
how many to have (if any other than credits).
Why is Jameson so important ? Who thought up the
name and why ? Will David be Jameson ingame ?
Jameson wasn't all that important at the start,
but has become so as he has become part of the
Elite lore. the initial reason was I wanted a 7 letter
commander name that would work as a filename
on both the BBC micro and acorn atom. Ian an I
discussed a few possible names. I liked Jameson as it
is one of the best blended whiskys!
I plan to be pretty anonymous, as otherwise people
won't be able to resist killing me! (though I may try
going as Commander Braben in the Betas)

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David Braben. Interviews


Kickstarter backers vs traditional consumers: Are
you expecting the 20,000 or so Kickstarter backers to
be a signicant percentage of the players when the
game is nally nished, or do you think many more
will join in once it's released? Will the Kickstarter
pledges continue to be available once the goal is met,
or will you be selling the completed game by more
traditional methods by then?
I hope we will have very many more than 20,000
players. all frontier's released games from the last
few years have exceeded 2M players (Coaster Crazy
has had over 500,000 users on our servers at the
same time).
non player / Computer generated Characters:
Will the NPCs develop (like human players) as
individuals / groups and be involved in shaping the
universe? Will the NPCs be consistent, playing while
we all sleep (not that I'll get any sleep once the game's
released!) Would that give them an unfair advantage?
Will NPCs also have "Harmless" to "Elite" levels like
human players, and if so, will that already vary from
NPC to NPC from the start, as if we're all joining a
long established Universe, or will there be a "Big
Bang" start where NPCs and human players alike have
to build up their reputations, skills and credits from
scratch?
npCs will be inferior and not members of the pilots
federation. this means the game will not react so
strongly to the killing of such a non-member. Jury is
out as to whether they will have ratings. probably
not.
Space is big: Due to the size of the Elite: Dangerous
Universe, isn't there a danger of playing for weeks and
not seeing another soul (except for NPCs)? Perhaps
that's not necessarily a bad thing?

33

you will tend to see other players in the central


systems. If you go out exploring, I suspect it will
indeed be pretty rare but the lack of law will also
bring a frisson of danger!
Persistent Universe: With a game that can be shaped
so much by the players, if you haven't played for a
while, might things be very dierent when you return
("go to sleep" in a space station in a friendly system
and "wake up" in an anarchy!)?
galaxy will only change slowly, and the changes will
tend to be additive. But yes, it can change under your
feet.
Music: Can we have a full blown orchestral version
of The Blue Danube for docking? Or perhaps we
can rename our own MP3 to "docking-music.mp3"
(bypassing royalty issues!) The old (perhaps remixed
or even orchestral) version of the Frontier music
might be good for ght scenes?
yes I would hope for the former. the music for
the Blue Danube is out of copyright, so it is only the
performance that is an issue. I would hope to get it
re-performed, budgets permitting.
What features are you most looking forward to that
perhaps haven't had the airtime yet? Also, what
aspects of the two Frontier games were you most
disappointed with and how will these be overcome in
E:D?
I was most disappointed by the loss of immediacy
in the combat it just wasn't much fun (eectively
jousting).
I am most looking forward to the social aspects of
the game, and ways people find to 'game' some of
the systems. I find that sort of thing intriguing.

Will you be using procedural generation in any


interesting ways not yet discussed?
yes. We are already using procedurally generated
textures. aging and dirtying up of surfaces will also
help make a new ship look shiny and an older ship
look travel-worn. I like the idea of being able to
get an idea by looking at a landed ship how much
experience the pilot is likely to have. I love the idea
that a battered ship is a sort of 'badge of oce'.
How much interaction will players be able to have
with NPC ships? Will we be able to hail them, ask
where they're going, what they're carrying?
We will have some way of doing this as npC ships
should feel like they blend in but details need to be
decided.
Will NPC ships have their own purposes? Will we
be able to follow NPC ships to their destinations?
Will their cargo and destinations "make sense" (i.e.,
carrying cargo that would make a prot)?
at a simplistic level, yes.
Will NPC ships ght among themselves (as in
ArcElite)?
yes we will have encounters between npCs that
you may come across (and of course NPC vs player)
and you can choose to get involved (or not) however
you like.
An oddball question to David. In the mid 80's (I gure
it could have been mid 85 or 86). My father had to visit
and speak to the house at the house's of parliament (I
said this was an odd one); due to the rst buy out of a
publicly owned bus company of all things. I remember
waiting in the corridors as a kid and looking through

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David Braben. Interviews


a door that had glass panes. I distinctively remember
there being several machines (can't remember if BBC
or C64) playing Elite. I knew as soon as I saw them,
that it was Elite. Can you conrm whether all our
government were playing the game or did you have
some presentation or something more sinister go
on?? I do recall there were some disputes/problems
with getting the game onto other systems. I've always
been curious as to what I had seen that day (or am I
just making it up)?? I'd love to know if this jogs your
memory and whether you knew what I refer to???
I don't think it was particularly sinister (though the
C64 version was published by a public company
British telecom just before it was privatised so in
eect it WAS published by the government). It may
have been a demonstration of British games at the
time.
alternatively it was simply that a great deal of
computing in the early 1980s was done on BBC
Micros and they were being used to play Elite in
their down time. people may not realise but the BBC
was the only machine at that time that supported
networked data.
Ian and I appeared on Itn news in the uK in
november 1984 because John taplin, the the editor,
was amazed that all his journalists in the newsroom
were playing Elite, so decided to make a story of it!
Astrophysics question. We know you are modelling
various star types, planets, moons, asteroid belts and
rings. Will you also be modelling any of the following?
Comets yes
Kuiper belt yes, to some extent ( though a bit far
out to be compelling)
Oort cloud (just an extension of the Kuiper Belt,
really)
Quasars no. These are almost certainly (yes, I know
what Harlton Aarp said...) very much extra-galactic
bodies, so modelling them within our galaxy would

34

not make sense.


Black holes yes
protoplanets and protosystems yes, ideally.
Active binary star systems where one star is pulling
hot gasses of the other into an accretion disc? yes, as
it is a graphical spectacular. I think the nearest is Beta
Lyrae (wanted to include this in Frontier, but time ran
away with me...)
Pulsars yes I hope so as these can aect gameplay
too, but there is not one terribly nearby...
With all of these, some may or may not make first
release, but I want to see most at some stage...
I've always thought the Elite logo was a Phoenix but
have since been informed its a Grin. Is that the case
and can you tell us why that design?
the Elite logo took a while to get right. the
inspiration was a mix of pilot's wings and logo. the
Grin thing was Philip Castle's idea.
What part of E:D are you personally most looking
forward to creating/playing? (Suggest you don't say
planetary landings:-)
the emergent social aspects that will come out of
multiplayer. I am really not sure what to expect but
that is why it is exciting.
Could you give us some examples of how you would
like to see the Design decision Forum working during
development?
We will openly discuss design issues we need to
address, and the options of how to do so. DDf
members may well suggest other options. this will
continue beyond the release of the game, as design
issues will continue to come up. pre-release examples

might include how we deal with ships in dock. Can


they use their guns on other ships while landed?
should there be an automatic interlock, or do we rely
on penalties to discourage? post release examples
might include how we change a system through time.
Will permits be required to enter certain systems, like
Van Maanen's star, in Elite: Dangerous? I seem to recall
you could obtain these by carrying certain parcels or
passengers. Presumably this taxi-driver profession will
still be a viable option in Elite: Dangerous?
yes, we will have something similar. We will also
reserve areas for future elements.
Hi David / Michael. Just wanted conrmation on the
ship recognition chart and star map not being in the
premium box. If this is the case would it be possible
to have them as digital add-on's for those of us who
live outside the UK? I think it would be very helpful
to the game play. In addition, is there a manual that
comes with the game, or do we need to purchase that
as a digital add on as well? Thank you so much your
game looks fantastic and I am really looking forward
to playing it and will see you in the Alpha !
the star chart is included in the premium boxset, that
and the ship chart are also available as concept art
in the pledge add ons. We'll look into making digital
versions available.
there will be a manual, but you won't have to pay for
it, it willcome with the game.
Do you think we will be able to have a seamless
transition from Single Player to Multiplayer? Or are
the diculties too great and you will have to keep
SP & MP distinct. Issues like hacking of SP save les.
Mining and traveling in SP mode, then switching to
MP to sell goods.

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David Braben. Interviews


I expect it to be seamless, But the issue, as you
say, is resuming Mp after a long sp session, and the
problem with cheating. It is a thorny one. Worst case,
once you go sp you will not be able to play with that
save on Mp.
Hi David. Will the docking computer/Blue Danube be
making a reappearance in Dangerous? Will we get the
original BBC laser sounds?
yes. the Blue Danube has already made a very minor
appearance, at the end of the teaser-trailer...
I like the idea of the laser sounds sounding like the
BBC Micro version... I'm sure our sound guys will not
though.. hmmm....
Hi David, sorry if this has already been asked, I haven't
had time to read through all the questions yet. Will
there still be 'buyers' on the bulletin boards that pay
over average for products or would this unbalance
the economy too much? I am sure most players will
remember that satisfying feeling when you land and
see a buyer for the goods you have on board!
It will work in a dierent way, but the spirit will be
there. you should certainly be able to 'game' the
stockmarkets, and missions will be part of that (and
indeed triggered by wild stock market excursions)
Can you give us a little detail on how you structure a
development project like this? Are you using a RAD/
Agile development methodology? How do you QA,
test and manage change?
We use a combination of agile and waterfall. We have
our own Qa department, and we regularly test builds
against test plans so we can spot failures or issues as
they come up. We have a version control database
where changes are stored (and can be rolled back),
just like any software development.

35

The only "disappointment" I had with previous Elites


was the lack of police support when I, an innocent
trader ("Honestly, your Honour!") was being attacked
by thieving pirates in a supposedly civilized and well
policed system. It would have been nice for the boys
in blue to appear and shoot the bejasus out of the
pirates before the pirates did it to me?
local police will be responsive according to the
capabilities of the local system. piracy in a core
system may get a military response.
A question regarding procedural generation. I
understand that it will be used in the generation of
planetary environments (land masses, clouds etc.) but
now I understand that the galaxy itself will be crafted
to accurately represent the milky way as far as our
science can perceive it. Will there be any content
on a solar system/galactic scale that will receive the
procedural treatment?
yes, most of the galaxy will be procedurally
generated, but the mechanism used will create a
galaxy similar to our own. Where needed we can
override this to handcraft systems and worlds.

all round view. I would like it in the first release, but


we need to consider priorities, but I imagine it would
be on the list to do, and would not be too hard.
Hi Michael, Can you give us some information about
the musics and sounds in the game? Who is going
to compose? How the music or sound ambiance
will changer over the actions of the users (landing,
ghting, etc). Is the universe will look like more like
the Civilization books of Isaaz Asimov or something
like the Terran Trade Authority (http://en.wikipedia.
org/wiki/Terran_Trade_Authority)? Can you describe
what a Design Decision Forum Member will have to do
with the team? Thanks!
We have our own in-house audio team that will be
responsible for the music and audio design. We
would expect that to reect what the player is doing
at any given time.
you can see what look we are using in the cocept art
we've released, but the major factions will have their
own styles.
on the design forum you will be helping us shape
the game, provide input on design decisions and be
closer to the game's development.

When the game comes out, and it will, I would like


to rebuild my old Cobra III cockpit (pilot's seat with
joystick and control panel, forward view-screen, etc.
This time, however, I would like to have two extra
monitors, one each side of the forward screen, to act
as side screens. Will it be possible to have forward,
left and right views simultaneously, given such a
hardware conguration? ... and if so, how about
installing a rear-view sub-screen (like a rear view
mirror) on the main screen, as well?
this is something we have been asked a few times. as
long as your hardware supports it at a good enough
frame rate, it would be a good thing to oer not
just for side views, but for 45 degrees etc, to get an

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David Braben. Interviews

Live chat David Braben on Frontier


2014.07.17.
So, the ability to hack the game could threaten to
signicantly impact peoples' enjoyment of the game
and the credibility of the game itself. How dicult do
you think it is to combat, and how is this to be done in
ED?
this is always a problem. server moderation is our
first line of defence, but sadly some hacking will
inevitably go on. some hacks are easy to detect,
some much harder. Deciding what to do is also
tricky too either forcing single player, or ultimately
banning depending on what it is seem like sensible
options.
You've talked before about how "great hero" type
stories don't work in a MMO environment, but will
there be galaxy-wide events that are triggered/
altered by single players discovering the right
artefact/completing particularly important missions/
barging into the Thargoid homeworld and blowing up
everything they see?
yes, there will. We have already discussed gold
rushes those will be triggered by specific players.
other events too.
Certain notorious players may get named on the
news feeds if they have particularly high bounties
too!
How will nding friends work with the multiple
server connections we have at present? Will we have
to just reconnect and track what server we are on or
what?

36

It should be automatic. If your friends are on your


friends list, then you should meet them. this is one of
the features coming for Beta 1 on 29th July.
How will procedural generation manage to create a
1:1 Earth, populated by billions of people and animals,
with huge urban cities in many dierent styles, and all
this meanwhile being believable, immersive and high
quality? In many ways, i would nd such a 1:1 seamless
recreation of Earth where we can walk around an
even bigger achievement than a 1:1 galaxy.
true. that's one of the reasons we want to phase
the deliveries of such things. having said that we
also have quite a few things working in our favour. In
the fiction we already have the Earth of 3300 having
changed quite significantly just imagine travelling
back to the year 700 ie the 'Dark ages' that is the
same distance away in time...
The coastlines will be similar, but significantly
changed due to rising sea levels. Many coastal cities
will have long gone and some new cities with similar
names (in Frontier "New San Francisco" was a few
hundred miles inland of where san francisco is
today) popped up on the higher land nearby.
so we will not recreate today's cities or today's Earth,
but something that might be possible in 1300 years
time.
Will there be a "Solar Radiation" mechanic? e.g. Losing
your shields close to a high radiation star could kill
the human occupant. The canopy doesn't look like it
would oer much protection!
your shields should stop such radiation but it may
well drain them...

Do you think that the game will require in game player


admins to be a source of help and support. or would
you prefer to avoid this scenario.
We may well do this as a way to police griefing.
I backed to the Imperial Bounty Hunter level starting
with the Imperial Eagle Mk2. Just wondering what
ship I'll be likely starting with since it seems the Eagle
is now a Federation ship?
the Eagle was a ship that was made by both the
federation and Empire in frontier: Elite 2 and it is the
same with the Mk 2. We haven't shown the Imperial
variant yet.
Will people who have named stations, planets and
systems have a way of nding them? In particular will
stations and planets be searchable in the galaxy map?
that's a good point. system names are currently
searchable, but this doesn't cover stations or planets.
We'll work out a way.
Will there be star systems where the stars radiation
perhaps interferes with the ship radar and
communication systems?
yes I think I mentioned this during the Kickstarter
including the results of weather in the atmosphere of
gas giants.
Will unidentied signal sources be permanent
locations as they are in the current version, or will
they be randomly generated in some way?
they will come and go, and each will have a ministory or mission behind them. What we have now is
static to test the system.

http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=26275

David Braben. Interviews


The ships Huds layout will we see other layouts of
huds?
We wanted to standardise the huD layout for ease
of switching between ships, but this is something we
will look at for the much larger ships.
Hyper jumping will we see the approach to a system
like in the battle video? Instead of just going through
hyperspace.. Then just appearing in a system without
seeing it in the distance.. Then it getting closer.. Etc..
Would be better if this was put in later..
there are changes being made to this, but it will be
dierent to that. The eect in the video at the time
was a prototype.
Is there any chance of larger ships swapping out
cargo space for some 'ghter bays' which small ships
could dock at and be launched from? This would be
especially interesting when we get multi crew ships as
well as having NPC pilots... Not only this but will there
be add ons to the ships like in frontier which take up
cargo space such as better shield generators, engines
ect ect so making your load out a decision and leading
to 100's of individual styled ships?
yes. the very large ships will be able to carry the
smaller ships in the game, by sacrificing cargo
space. Similarly we will have the ability to fit shield
generators, larger engines etc out of cargo space.
this should indeed lead to a good deal of variation.
Their has been debate on whether ED will be on a
single shard or multiple shards/instances. Are you able
to conrm if ED will be on single shard or multiple.
there is a single world all trade data, world changes
etc aect everyone. Some of the more crowded
areas of the game are split into islands, where only

37

a subset of players can see each other. for Beta 1


we have friends lists coming, which will mean that
friends get to go into the same island.
As a clan /Guild leader what scope will their be for
groups like us in ED as a number of us like to play in
groups from your original concept?

Inevitable question has to be then: what about turret


control? Gunner control was done really well in
Rowan's Battle of Britain game...
not seen that. We have auto-turrets in the game
now, but manual turret control only really makes
sense on the larger ships.

That is coming soon (ie friend's groups)... ;-)


Will people that play in single player and private
groups be able to inuence the world in the same way
as people in the all group? For example, a blockade in
the all group could stop players delivering goods, but
the blockade could be avoided by going into a private
group.
they are all working together. the blockades will be
largely aIs, and that will still exist.
There's been a lot of discussion regarding the
eectiveness of gimballed weapons on the forum,
with some players wanting them less eective, and
others saying they preferred the way they worked in
the rst beta 2.00 What's your own view on this, and
do you use them ?
gimballed weapons are great I think but mustn't
unbalance the game. I think their powers were too
high, but the principle is sound trading some power
for those who don't have quite the same pin-sharp
aiming ability.
What's your favourite ship in ED? (Bonus points if it's
one we haven't seen yet!)
I'm afraid it has to be the Cobra...

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David Braben. Interviews

Braben On Elite, Oc Rift,


Dodgy Gravity & Doing Space Right
By Alec Meer on July 16th, 2014 at 5:00 pm.

At last weeks Develop conference in Brighton, I


grabbed a half hour with Frontier Developments
boss David Braben to talk about whats going on
with Elite Dangerous (fresh from my own wide-eyed
experiences of it on a VR headset). Discussed: space,
Oculus Rift, why FIFA games dont sound right, how Star
Trek doesnt talk about gravity, developing in the public
eye and publisher-free, and the resurgence of joysticks.
RPS: [forgets to turn on dictaphone initially, like a
professional, but says something about how what
most struck me about Elite: Dangerous is that the
essential being in a ship in space aspect feels so
good, even before you get into any of the actual
features, and that sound seems to play a big part in
that.]
David Braben: [IIrC says something about how hes
pleased to hear that and that frontier tried to]
be as accurate as we can. Its not just the distances,
but the way things look, the way things behave.
the rules, if you like, of the game. you mentioned
sound the sound team at frontier have done a
really good job, led by Jim Croft, who put a really rich
audioscape. But we played around with a lot things.
people have said, yknow, theres no audio in space,
because space is a vacuum. But we know that, and
thats what were doing what were assuming is
that in the 33rd Century you can have a reasonable
sound system.
I read a report about a crash in the Pacific, an Air
france crash, and when the plane was coming down

38

there would be a cacophony of dierent alarms


and indicators going o, saying essentially very bad
things. I think the way you would indicate a ship
coming from the left is you do it with sound, and
you would put it into a stereo soundscape or even
7.1. I think the point really is that we have thought of
this, and thats how were doing the sound. thats
why the sound changes when you go into a station.
then you can hear the echo and the ambience of the
volume. one of the examples that people havent
called out, for example, is games like fIfa. If you
go to a real football match, its not just the roar of
the stadium, but you see a footballer kick the ball
and there is an appreciable delay before you hear it.
In fIfa you dont hear that delay. Its what people
expect as well, a degree of that.
RPS: I suppose in FIFA theres an issue around who
you are playing as. Are you the players, are you the
manager, are you the audience, are you some oating
god watching from above?
David Braben: I think thats right. I think youre
some strange homunculus of all of the above. and
also youre a manager to an extent, because youre
choosing the allocations of the player.
RPS: Youve got a great get-out in that argument
that whatever you include in the game that might
be scientically dubious now might represent the
technology of the future, hey?
David Braben: I know its a cop out, but its a cop out
that weve thought about at least.

RPS: I guess you could say that in year x someone


came up with a study saying that pilots ew better if
there was a simulated engine noise
David Braben: We did think about making it tinny
and always the same, but theres just no point. you
wouldnt do that, and it would spoil the experience.
RPS: What other aspects have you had to fudge, for
the sake of a more engaging game?
David Braben: there is the one great lie, if you
like. Which is hyperspace. We know thats not real,
so what weve done is make sure that it works really
well from a gameplay perspective. But all the rest
weve made as physically accurate as we can. We are
assuming that hyperspace is essentially some sort of
dimensional shift, so that its contracting distances
and you dont have the inertia problems, you dont
have the fact that if you had that level of acceleration
youd be a small smear on the back of your cockpit. In
fact, the cockpit itself would probably collapse.
RPS: What is the internal tug of war at Frontier between
fantasy and reality like? Are there competing opinions?
David Braben: The gameplay has to come first, which
is why weve made this hyperspace assumption.
generally, making science the way it is is a fairly
arbitrary choice, really. It annoys me that in a lot of
science fiction films they dont bother. They just do it
without really thinking about it. so, for example, having
gravity in star trek. they all walk around and no-one
really explains how theyre doing it. same in so many
games, like Mass Eect you just assume oh, theres a
gravity field, a hand is waved slightly and then people
forget about it. But I think its interesting it brings
a lot of gameplay interest and a lot of solidity to the
game in doing that. We have the rotating spaceships
that are novel, you look at it and you think thats from
Elite: Dangerous. I think that is how it would be. that is
a very good solution to the problem.

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/07/16/elite-oculus-rift/

David Braben. Interviews


[editors note- Im informed that Babylon 5 did shoot
for a similar explanation. Star Trek seems to have
settled on the magic box under the oor/inside boots
rationalisation, however.]
and actually, do you want gravity everywhere? you
dont actually. a little bit of gravity is nice, so that your
sneeze lands on your tissue, or because eating with a
knife and fork would become very dicult in zero-G.
loading cargo its really great that cargo stays put
when you it down, but in a tenth gravity you could
pick it up and lift it over your head if you want.
the other thing I like is, in some value, maybe .3 or .4
G, a human can still y. Isnt that amazing? You could
strap on wings and y. But you dont see that.
RPS: I suppose youre fortunate in that, despite the
game covering such an immense amount of space, it
has a much narrower focus than a lot of other sci-. This
is primarily about getting spaceships right, whereas
something like Mass Eect has to do stories and
cultures and characters on a much bigger level as well.
David Braben: that will come to us as well. We have said
that this is just the beginning. Weve shown inside the
ships already, we will have those things with time and
for the release. Walking around, ultimately landing on
the surfaces of the planets. all of those things, whether
its talking to people or big game hunting will come.
RPS: And youll be looking more closely at how the
individual civilisations and cultures work?
David Braben: yes, weve already got that. We have
piles, pages, hundreds of pages of that sort of thing,
because weve created fiction bibles for just about
every element of civilisation. What is the law, who
is the president through time, who is the emperor,
were they deposed? Im sure you know [I did! Ed],there have been quite a few books now based in
our world, so in order to be consistent they have to
follow these fiction bibles.

39

RPS: The long term plan you have now, how much was
it planned already, what you expected to have when
you launched that Kickstarter?
David Braben: Its certainly where Id hoped wed be
by now. all of these things, you do your absolute best
to deliver the best thing you can, and I think we have.
Im very proud. there are lot of very, very dedicated
people at frontier, putting in many, many hours I
mean man-years to make the game very beautiful,
and I get to take credit for it [ laughs], which of
course is great. the point is that there are so many
moving parts to it, and I think that Well, I hope that
the backers are pleased with what weve done so far,
and what were continuing to do. I believe we have
delivered what we said wed do, and are continuing
to, but thats not to say we should get complacent. I
am absolutely hopeful and expect that, in the same
way looking where we are now and back at a few
months earlier and thinking I thought that was good,
this is better, I hope by the time we get to release we
will have continued that rate of improvement.
RPS: You mentioned about the other people involved,
and how Jim Croft was heading up audio Im really
interested to know who the other driving forces are
on this game.
David Braben: Johnny Watts is the producer, he
makes it happen, hes doing really well yknow,
there are so many people, and the danger when you
start naming individuals is you leave someone out.
that would be my fear. the reason I mentioned Jim
is because you called out audio, but again he has a
whole team, and theyre doing a great job. Every
ship sounds dierent, every component of the ship
has a sound, whether its a little relay switching
because youre lowering the undercarriage all of
these things have a sound, its the solidity of feeling
youre involved. theyre all placed in a proper 3D
soundscape, so whether youre listening on 5.1 or 7.1
or just stereo, youre embedded in the world.

RPS: I noticed when I was ddling with the Oculus


Rift settings that you can either have Oculus Rift
headphones or Oculus Rift speakers, which is
impressively specic.
David Braben: oh, I know! absolutely. Its one of
the things thats funny, because one of the things
we found at frontier was that playing oculus
rift with headphones was excluding, particularly
if youre talking to people. Weve actually got a
room set up with 7.1 and its nice, and we actually
play the oculus rift without headphones, but we
noticed you need the soundscape to stay with the
headphones.
RPS: Will you be tracking the depth motion tracking
aspect of the Rift DK2?
David Braben: We support that. If its on your oculus
rift, we support it. We support DK1, we support
oculus hD and we support DK2. Its actually quite
nice, you can see some things around the cockpits,
you can look out and lean around, particularly on the
type IX, you can actually see down to the weapons.
RPS: Youve got that modeled pilot body with the
moving ngers in there already are you going to see
that leaning forwards and craning around?
David Braben: .yes? although its quite hard
to see, so yes and no, Id say in quite a weasely
developer way. Im trying to think, actually, the last
time played on the rift I think it moves, it cant
track your body fully but it can try to. Its funny, if
you take your real hands o the joystick then look
down, youre woah, whys my hand still on the
joystick? [laughs] thats the sort of thing that, with
devices, if we wanted to explore we could. Whether
its Kinect on pC or whatever, but I dont think that
adds a huge amount.

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/07/16/elite-oculus-rift/

David Braben. Interviews


RPS: I guess you can give a well, well see answer to
everything now, as theres no-one above you to say
what you can and cant do now.
David Braben: Well, even when we shipped alpha 1,
we werent expecting to support things like oculus
until a lot further down the line. We had it in mind,
wed thought about head-mounted displays, but
the alpha backers said they really wanted it. so we
said actually its not that hard to do, did a quick
investigation, we showed it worked, and then
actually the rest of the work was probably a total of
three days work for one guy. so we got it in there
and we did it as a Christmas present to the backers.
We did it as an update to a patch for the alpha build.

processors and consoles. Now were beginning to talk


about it in terms of joysticks and headsets. You and
Star Citizen are now the gureheads for a completely
dierent form of hardware.
David Braben: yeah. Well, actually whats happened
is that the industry has turned on its head a lot.
Developers are now saying we will do this, whereas
five years ago it was publishers. Publishers would
come to developers, saying we want you to work
with this Its meant a lot more freedom. theres
no way if we were with a publisher that we could just
support oculus rift like that. there would always be
a deal in place what do oculus get out of it? all of
that side of things.

RPS: Thats fascinating in terms of the demographics


for those high-level backers. Are they developers too?
Are they just rich?
David Braben: ten percent played on oculus rift.

RPS: And presumably it wouldnt be something you


could just turn around in three days, because youd
have all these levels of approval to meet.
David Braben: Absolutely, youd find it was way more
work, all these prototypes. And thats the dierence.
I suppose we are a publisher, but in a dierent way,
with a dierent mindset. Our allegiance is to the
game, and if a particular piece of hardware I like the
X52 for example [me too! - ed], it works really well
and thats the one Ive been playing with. having said
that, I still like playing on a console pad. It works well,
and actually on oculus, an X52 takes a bit of getting
used to because you have to work out where all the
switches are [laughs]. you have to memorise them.
With a controller, Ive played games with those for so
long that I know exactly where all the buttons are, so
its not a problem.

RPS: Thats huge, my goodness.


David Braben: some of them probably are
developers, some of them they probably do a bit of
tinkering at home theres no harm or shame in
that. I think that now weve got, in round figures,
30,000 people playing, I dont expect 10 percent of
them to be playing on oculus rIfts. there will be
a significant number, as DK2s roll out maybe a lot
more, and its not just oculus rIft. there are also
other head-mounted displays coming up, some from
Kickstarter, sonys Morpheus I think what well see
is a much more populated field anyway, and itll be
like tv sets. What about oculus, ooh, what about
this other one?, all dierent in some way.
RPS: Its fascinating that, for so long, as press and
developers weve talked about which games sell
hardware, but weve always meant graphics cards and

40

RPS: Clearly youre very much an advocate of


developing in the public eye like this, but I do wonder
how much thats because its gone so well for you
so far. Just as a thought experiment, did you are can
you think about how you be feeling about being this
open if the reception to Dangerous had been more

negative, and you were on the back foot, having to


defend yourself all the time?
David Braben: yeah, you are right. Its something
that, before we went for Kickstarter, I did agonise
either. But I actually thought well, Id rather know
sooner than later if someone hated what we are
doing. you know, while there was still a chance to
rectify it. people have said oh, I dont like this feature
or that feature or your game runs rubbishly on my
hardware, and weve looked at it and tried to fix
it. Its actually been very helpful having such a big
test bed so soon. We say there are only 200 people
playing alpha 1, but actually thats still a very big test
set, and we found all sorts of obscure graphics cards
combinations and things that werent in our normal
test set. So we were able to fix things.
RPS: Its free QA!
David Braben: yes, they were fantastically helpful.
there were a few guys who we said actually we cant
find out why this isnt working, because we havent
been able to source the graphics card that youve
got. Well, we have one, but it works! so we tried to
figure out why his dierent, and eventually we sent
him a really simple test program, he ran it and we
found it was to do with the way the driver worked.
so weve now got the bottom of it we said it is a
problem, here is a temporary fix and well solve it
properly next.
other obscure problems weve found in the wild, is
that people love upgrading their machines and they
love upgrading their network connections, to get
fast connections. But they will have a network hub
or a switch somewhere that theyve not touched for
ten years, and it doesnt support a lot of the modern
protocols. so we have to write a dierent codepath
that copes with the older hubs. Its things like that
that were ushed out ,that we hadnt found at work
because we were working on a fairly straightforward
and very clean lan that doesnt have these things.

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/07/16/elite-oculus-rift/

David Braben. Interviews

Braben On Star Citizen,


Elite 2 Bugs & Rude Planet Names
By Alec Meer on July 24th, 2014 at 2:00 pm.

A short while ago I ran the first part of my recent


interview with Elite co-creator David Braben about space,
VR and other Dangerous-related topics; heres part two,
in which I mutter questions from RPS readers at him, on
topics ranging from Wallace and Gromit to obscure Elite 2
bugs, before posing my own questions about his take on
Star Citizen, and exactly who all these people throwing
shedloads of money at space games are.
RPS: @badgercommander says Any chance of a sequel
to Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit?
David Braben: I loved working with aardman and nick
park. obviously its aardmans property not ours, but
I would love to do that, or even to bring that game up
to date for modern machines, but its unlikely.
RPS: Wallace and Gromit on Oculus Rift?
David Braben: Well, you never know [laughs].
RPS: @edwardo_ka says Ask him what the plan was
for the contact binary star (Beta Lyrae [-146,85]) in
Frontier: Elite 2 that would crash the computer. Does
that mean anything to you?
David Braben: yes, it does. so it was a special shape, a
contact binary, which we are doing in Elite Dangerous,
and due to a bug when Id done some optimisation
stu, the shape it got wasnt in the resource set, so
it crashed when you went to it. and that was just so
frustrating and so upsetting these days you could

41

just very easily patch it, and most people wouldnt


even know it wasnt there. I think the problem is that,
in those days, Qaing something, especially in frontier
with so many systems, you couldnt visit every system
and check. Because that one was a special case we
should have done, but didnt.
Beta lyrae conceptual image from Wikipedia.
RPS: Is it too late? You could push out a shock Frontier
patch. That would make a lot of peoples day.
David Braben: It would take me such a long time to
even work out which version of the code was the
latest, and work out how best to patch it.
RPS: @sombrero_kid says Im looking forward to the
sandbox, I expect I will need a campaign to frame it,
what ratio of development is sandbox to campaign?
David Braben: Well, we dont have a campaign as
such. the game is the game. your campaign is your
story. so the two are the same. so 100%.
RPS: @glowingslab asks How much was Elite
inuenced by the Traveller RPG?
David Braben: Not at all. It was inuenced by RPGs,
because there were quite a few around and I had
played a few, but not inuenced at all by Traveller.
I think Ian played traveller a little bit, but Id played
fantasy trip which is essentially men in tights fantasy,
there was space opera, there were lots around. they
from people like steve Jackson, who went on to do
gurps, although that wasnt released at that time,
and all sorts of others.

RPS: @touzimsky asks Will the physical addons from


the Kickstarter campaign be made available at some
point?
David Braben: Well, the ones that are specifically
available for Kickstarter are specifically available for
Kickstarter. there are some things on our website
that are available now, like badges, keyrings, mugs,
and there will be more available in time. hopefully
things that people will like. things that I love too.
RPS: Our own John Walker asks do you ever boot up
First Encounters for a quick game?
David Braben: yes although it doesnt work any
more, because one of the Windows updates seems
to have broken it. It says this application isnt 64bit or some such.
RPS: Theres probably a x for it.
David Braben: there probably is, but I havent had
the time to rathole finding out why its not working
anymore. I wish I hadnt taken that update.
RPS: @andrewdoull asks How are they checking for
swear words in the planet names for the new version
of Elite? (they did it by hand in the original)
David Braben: Were less worried now, because
were independent [giggles]. the way weve
generated them is very dierent, its much more
systematic, so its obvious what is a procedurallygenerated world. also, dont forget that people
will name worlds, and someone will look at those
names just to check that it isnt obscene, but they
come in as people discover and name new worlds.
We also oered that to backers, so if anything was
particularly rude we wouldnt have allowed that
through already. some of them are strange, but none
of them are obscene.

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/07/24/braben-on-star-citizen-elite-2-bugs-and-obscene-planet-names/

David Braben. Interviews


RPS: @WTFMiles asks you hop between dogghting
velocity range, supersonic, interplanetary. Will there
be hot locations that feel like a Warhawk (ps3) map?
David Braben: Well, there are already combat zones
that you can jump into and participate in on either
side. thats the nearest, I wouldnt call it a Warhawk
map, though. usually its some disputed ship under
attack or something.
RPS: @Shivoa asks Those LostWinds games seemed
to review well. Theyve started to come out on phones
but still nothing on PC. Chances of a port?
David Braben: [long pause, smile] It would be good,
wouldnt it?
RPS: A good answer. A few last questions from me,
then. What can you tell us that we dont already know
about future update plans for Elite Dangerous?
David Braben: Well, there are some things already
mentioned in the newsletters [some of which have
been released subsequent to this interview], so audio
comms are coming in the next update. Matchmaking
and friends list. theres so much, and obviously at
the same time were updating the sheer content of
the game. therell be more and more things in the
game, and lots of small things that you might not
immediately notice, but will over time theyre just
getting better.
RPS: How do you choose what to prioritise in a game
of this scale?
David Braben: We have a huge list of content,
features, and then its a case of which feature goes
into the next update. Were trying to make sure that
the features are largely there, or at least some part
of them, so weve got a cadence where we add this
thing, then we add to it, then it adds on to this other

42

thing. also, what weve tried to do we saw this with


the alpha is tried to address the biggest risks first.
at the start of the alpha, we needed the moment
to moment gameplay, and the ying the ship, that
sort of thing, to feel good, otherwise we wouldnt
have a game. so we did that for alpha 1. alpha 2 was
multiplayer, a big risk.
RPS: You said earlier about how the Rift support
came about in 3 days is that sort of quickie random
inclusion happening a lot?
David Braben: not really. some things its ooh, we
can make that better by doing this, so well just go
and do it. But with all of those things it was a priority
anyway, to have in there early, to make us think
about interfaces and things like that.
RPS: How much do you feel youre in competition
with Star Citizen? To what extent do you watch it and
respond to what its doing?
David Braben: Im a big fan of space games. I think
thats a great thing. Were seperated in time by quite
a lot, well see how far apart it ends up. Were in a
similar field but theyre making a very dierent game.
theirs is a very story-based game and all those other
things. I think its important that we do the best that
we can, and Im sure that they will do the same. Im a
backer of star Citizen.
RPS: What about their business model? Will you seek
to emulate any of that?
David Braben: Were focused on our own thing, we
will deliver our own thing and were confident it will
be really good. Well make sure its good, well make
it stand out, and Im sure they will do the same. But it
will feel very dierent. It already does. Whats great,
actually, is that the more good games come out

especially in this were moving the focus of the


industry. If you look at the focus of our industry five
years ago, it was on first-person shooters. Because
there was conspicuous success from Call of Duty, we
got Battlefield, loads of others, some of which were
good, some of which were less good, and two of
them have won out really strongly. I think what this
now is doing is showing that theres a latent demand
for space games, and the more the merrier. theyll
all look at slightly dierent aspects, theyll all feel
dierent.
RPS: This huge audience for them were these people
waiting out there all along, or is it new people whore
enjoying discovering something new to them?
David Braben: I was certainly waiting. I think thats
the point -we were writing this for ourselves, we said
this is the game we want to make. the people who
thought yes, thats what I want too signed up to it,
so we are necessarily strongly aligned. I think what
has happened is the whole return on investment
spreadsheet that publishers use, there hadnt been
any conspicuous successes in this area. the one
game, freelancer, didnt do particularly big numbers,
and that was from a publisher point of view it was
if we did those numbers wed make a loss therefore
were not going to do it. I think thats really what
preceded us, whereas with this weve gone in, shown
high quality, shown that weve got a long track
record, and hopefully what people have seen is we
keep hitting our dates and saying what were doing.
Im really pleased with what the team has done,
theyve done a phenomenal job and are continuing
to do. look how many hours of youtube videos and
twitch streams are on the game already.
RPS: Thanks for your time.

http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2014/07/24/braben-on-star-citizen-elite-2-bugs-and-obscene-planet-names/

David Braben. Interviews

On consoles, Steam, Oculus Rift


and massive spaceships.
By Wesley Yin-Poole Published 26/09/2014

At EGX yesterday Frontier boss David Braben delivered a developer session on Elite: Dangerous, the space game
currently in beta and due out before the end of 2014. In it he talked passionately about spaceships, player politics and
a virtual galaxy packed with billions of stars.
This morning I sat down with Braben in the relative peace and quiet of the calm before the EGX storm to follow
up on a few of his points. He reckons gaming has gone stale, so will Elite: Dangerous have the same eect as the
original, released a sobering 30 years ago, and freshen things up? And what about those console versions? And pesky
publishers surely a few have been in touch, right? And what's the vision for Oculus Rift support?
Oh, and of course I put a few of your questions (thank you dear Eurogamer readers, you're the best) to the man
in the hotseat. Want to know what the biggest ship in Elite: Dangerous will be? Strap yourself in it's time for
forward thrust.
Based on your developer session, I get a sense you're
motivated by a feeling that gaming has gone stale. Was
that the main reason you wanted to return to Elite, or is
there more to it than that?
David Braben: I'd wanted to go back to Elite
for a long time, and I wanted to be able to do it
properly. I suppose, with first-person shooters,
they're beautifully executed games, they're just all
very similar, very samey, they're not breaking new
ground. our kids weren't that bothered by the new
Call of Duty. they said they'd rather have something
dierent. I felt the same. I felt with the previous one,
does this really add a lot?

David Braben: to a small extent we've helped blaze a


trail, but we're not the only ones. What's happened
now, ironically, publishers have looked and thought,
oh, maybe these games are quite popular. Maybe we
should do something dierent. Which is great.
Way back in the 80s, Elite showed that, actually,
they don't have to be arcade game clones to do well.
that was the staleness that happened in the 80s.
and suddenly we saw a burgeoning of new genres,
and that was brilliant. I'm not saying that was solely
Elite, but there was a mindset change when Elite
was solidly number one in the charts for a long time.
publishers can't help but notice that.

Is there evidence of a trend, though? Are you


responding to this perception that gaming has gone
stale on your own? Or is there a movement happening?

Do you envisage Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen


causing a similar mindset change, or will it be a more of
a modest change this time around?

43

David Braben: I hope so. But part of the mindset


change has come because of the democratisation
through ios. We've seen a lot of indie games a
term I find kind irritating now. Really what it means
is smaller dev budget games trying out interesting
ideas. that's great, because it's already bringing a
lot of new blood in and a lot of new ideas, and it's
forcing the older, publisher-based outlook to change
as well, and to freshen it up. that is positive.
You talk about publishers perhaps taking notice of Elite
and games of its kind now they've gone through the
crowdfunding system and have an audience. Have any
been in touch with you about picking up the game?
David Braben: Don't forget we talk to publishers all
the time. We're doing screamride. We've got other
games coming with another publisher, which we
haven't announced yet. obviously we talk about it.
they're not blind to it. But I can't say any details.
the real point is, it's an exciting time for the industry,
and for publishers as well I suppose. We've got
the new consoles coming through. We've got the
resurgence of the pC, which is a great thing. as we
see those changes, we see new types of game being
enabled by it, and new approaches to games.
Could you imagine a publisher publishing papers,
Please? It's a very dierent take. Look at something
like Minecraft. that's a complete antithesis to a
publisher game, when it first started blocky and
what was called at the time retro, but actually
innovative in the way it puts things together. and
look now. Coming late to the party sounds like it's
very expensive.
I wonder whether big publishers will create their own
space games, now Elite and Star Citizen are doing well.
David Braben: We've got a good lead here, and we're
not going to stop. We're going to keep adding things,
making it richer, building a wonderful community.

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-09-26-elite-dangerous-the-david-braben-interview

David Braben. Interviews


distracted yet. and we will look at other platforms
once we've got this. obviously there are a lot of
other possible platforms we can support, including
linux and console. Depending on console choices,
linux may be easier or harder as well. so we want
to try and do a proper, sensible roadmap than a
kneejerk. It would be easy for me to say, oh yes,
we'll do that. I want to do that, but I can't say
we're doing that on this date. We need to plan it
sensibly. and so we will.
With raspberry pi we chose linux. I am aware there
are a lot of big linux communities. But we've got to
be sensible about it.

And by self-publishing Elite you're in control of your


own destiny. Any money made by the game is yours
to do with as you see t. You're not beholden to a
publisher who might stick its oar in development.
David Braben: that's right. right from the start we
planned to support head-mounted displays, but I
didn't expect to do it until a lot later. I fancied it,
because I thought, oh, that's cool. I wonder what it
looks like on that. and so many of our team thought
that. We talked with the backers, who also said,
this has to be on oculus rift. DK1 was just out for
developers then. It was still a bit niche at that time.
I said, look, I'd really like to do this. how long will
it take? the team said, oh, three days. I said, let's
give it a go. then we released it at Christmas. now,
with a publisher, we would have had a conversation:
we'd like to add this support. We would go through
a whole, well, how many people have it? We need to
see the results. actually, you end up spending more
time on that than implementing the thing. so we
just said, right, let's do it. and the response has been
amazing.
looking at our stats in December 2013, nearly 10 per
cent of the backers were playing with oculus rift.

Are you any closer to deciding whether you're doing a


console version?
David Braben: We are, because we're getting closer
to release. We've said we will make a decision, but
we don't want to get sidetracked. We don't want
to get distracted. obviously it is something we're
seriously internally looking at.
Have Sony and Microsoft been in touch?

Is it more now?
David Braben: It's more people, but probably a lower
percentage. Don't forget, the alpha backers have
already paid quite a lot for the game and that you
very much to all of them! so it's a self-selecting group
who are much less price selective. as we moved to
premium beta and then beta, and the price came
down, we saw a lower percentage.
I've got some reader questions. One asks, you've talked
about PC and Mac. What about Linux?
David Braben: I'm a big fan of linux. We want
to get the pC version right. We're not being

44

David Braben: We're doing a first-party game with


Microsoft. We talk about all sorts of things. and
obviously we talk to sony as well. But I'm not saying
anything about it.
Another reader question: what's the largest type of
ship you're planning on introducing into the game?
David Braben: Initially there will be non-playable
ships, like the big cruisers. We've seen a federal
cruiser already the Impeccable you defend and
Damocles in the video we originally released. there's
also an Imperial cruiser, which you've probably also
seen in the videos. those are the biggest ships. But

there are also the ocellus stations, which move


around very slowly. they're sort of ships. and giant
freighters based on those. the biggest ship in the
game is going to be the panther Clipper.
Will there be an option for multiplayer when it comes
to the ships? For example, a pilot with a couple of
gunners.
David Braben: that is something I want us to do. It's
on the roadmap for after release. It's not for release.
as a lot of people have noticed, ships like the Cobra
has two seats. type-9 has three seats. the anaconda
has three seats. that's exactly what they're for.
Another reader question: have any games released in
the past few years changed your original ideas for Elite:
Dangerous? FTL, perhaps. Or have you stayed true to
the original vision you had all those years ago?
David Braben: We've stayed pretty true to the
original vision. a lot of the changes are enabled by
underlying changes in technology, particularly online.
performance has enabled a lot of beauty on the
screen. the game design is a lot richer than it's ever
been, building on where we were with frontier and
first Encounters.
this whole infrastructure for having stories roll
out I'll give you an exclusive tip: it looks like Eranin
is going to war with the rebels. Civil war is starting
today. that is unfolding. It's very interesting looking
at the social side of it. When we had the leader of
the government of Eranin addressing people as
comrades, it's amazing to see how many players then
started siding with the rebels and the federation,
particularly in america.
anyway, the balance has been tipped, so the rebels
are on the ascendancy.

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-09-26-elite-dangerous-the-david-braben-interview

David Braben. Interviews


David Braben: yes, that's true. It's something we
would look at, but it would have to then interface
with what we're doing, and the two would
potentially conict. We have to provide the back end.

What's your take on the latest version of Oculus Rift


and how you might use it in the game?
David Braben: oculus rift keeps getting better. It's
a really good experience. We're showing DK2 here.
My personal feeling is, it's fantastic, but I would like
more resolution. I would like 4K.

Thank you for your time.

I'm not sure they'll hit that for the consumer version.
David Braben: they will one day. In the same way
we're supporting 4K and 8K, it will come. that's
when it will properly arrive. Don't get me wrong, at
the moment it's a fantastic experience. and DK2 is
great. the improvements they're doing with the new
one are all fantastic. they're all towards that goal.
You've committed to a 2014 release. Are you 100 per
cent sure Elite: Dangerous is coming out in 2014?
David Braben: yep. It's exciting. the more we do
the more we realise there is to do. We don't stop
at release. We will keep adding to it and improving.
there's so much richness to come. there is so much
there today particularly when people see beta 2
how much gameplay there is there. the game is
already playable from start to finish. We're just
making it richer and richer. It's exciting. that's why
I'm confident.
Will you launch the game on Steam?
David Braben: no. We've got to support the game
with our own back end anyway, so I don't see the
benefit of it.
Well, I would suggest the benet is 100m users, which is
a huge potential audience.

45

http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-09-26-elite-dangerous-the-david-braben-interview

David Braben. Interviews

Q & A with David Braben


on Frontier forum 2014.11.18

Will be there major changes between GAMMA and


Final, or Gamma will be an "add features - testing stability" excercise until Final arrives?
Gamma will mostly (!) be about stability, compatibility
and performance, not features, but there are more
features to come from now...

experience would be empty at best, and even that


would take a lot of extra work.
It is not to enforce DrM or advertising as you
suggest. We will be judged on quality, and the quality
of that game experience would be poor, and we
don't want to deliver a poor game. to make a richer
oine single player experience has always been
possible (and still is) but would be a separate game
with its own story content. a huge slice of separate
work. We have developed a multi-player game with
an unfolding story involving the players, and groups
collaborating with specific objectives and taking
account of all players behaviour. this is what the
game is about. Without this it would not be the rich
gaming experience that we will deliver, and would be
a great disappointment to all players.
I don't pretend it was an easy decision, but it was
done to benefit the game as a whole. One thing we
have looked at carefully is our requirements of the
network connection. for the single player game they
are pretty light. I myself have played the game fine
on the train using a laptop on a tethered connection
over my phone. given that this is a game which is
only available online, this was the decision we took. I
am sorry that people are so upset about it, but it was
the right decision.

Would you like to explain in some detail why the


decision to pull oine mode was only announced a
few days ago, and what the reasons for doing so were.
Many people are under the impression this was done to
enforce DRM and in game advertising.
Back during the Kickstarter, we were clear about
the vision, to make a phenomenal new sequel to
Elite in an online world, which we believe we are
about to deliver. at the time we believed we could
also oer a good single player experience, and
base an acceptable oine-only experience o that.
as development has progressed, it has become
clear that this last assumption is not the case. that

I appear to have been sold a game you now can't


deliver - can you please conrm an unequivocal full
refund will be forthcoming due to the lack of oine
mode?
I'm sorry you're upset. We do have a refunds policy,
so you should get in touch. please consider that
we have been backed to make the game we were
backed to make as best we could. this includes hard
decisions (and many easy ones too), but those hard
ones are inevitably balancing one thing with another.
for me, quality wins, and that is what happened with
this decision. not everyone may agree with every
decision.

David Braben will answer your questions at 4PM GMT/UTC


Will we ever see the Krait in game?
sadly it is not on our current list. that's not to say it
couldn't be added in the future. I liked it too, even
though it is quite a simple shape.
Will Frontier be carrying on with the newsletters after
release, hopefully with upcoming details for further
releases and expansions?
yes, there will be newsletters in the future, but I
suspect we will drop their frequency.
I have a few friends that have Kickstarter up to the full
game pledge but not beta access. They they be able to
play on 22nd or do they have to wait until December.
they will be able to play the single player combat
test shortly after the Premiere event (ie during the
following week), then the full game at release.
Apologies for replying to myself (!) but I mis-read the
question. yes. Kickstarter backers will be able to play
on the 22nd. I was talking about people who have
pre-ordered on the store.
What was the hardest part of getting this game to
where it is now?
When developing a game there are endless decisions to
be made. The current "Oine" issues are a case in point.
We make these decisions to get the best end result frequently leaving ideas on the proverbial cutting room
oor. Sometimes these decisions are hard ones.

46

How much of a technical challenge do you think


planetary landings will be, in comparison to the
technical challenges of the game so far developed?
the landings themselves are not the technical
issue, it is the vast size of planets, and the
prodigious amount of content required to make
them interesting. We can generate the landscapes
procedurally, but you need interesting things there
to make them compelling.

https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=60284

David Braben. Interviews


Did the ED team uncover any amusing or amazing
'bugs' or outcomes in the creation and processing of
Stellar Forge? Any examples? Do the team try and keep
the output of Stellar Forge as close to known reality
as possible, or do the team stretch the parameters/
bounderies somewhat to generate greater ranges of
interesting environments etc?
We stuck with reality, but the reality is pretty
amazing. the frequency of binary planets was one
thing that surprised me.
I like to play the old Elite games from time to time,
and I was hoping I could do the same with E for years
to come even after eventually the servers go down by
whatever reason. Even if FD could make a statement
promising to release the server code (or even a binary)
to the public in the event of the servers going down
indenitely for any reason, that would be good enough
for many of us! Is that even worth hoping for? Having
said all this, thanks for taking the time to talk to us and
thanks for making the game possible at all!
We have no intention of taking the servers down,
but I understand what you are getting at. We plan
to archive the game from time to time (ie matching
client and servers and game world state), and would
release such an archive if the servers were to come
down. that would also address the issue of how you
preserve an online game for the future, from the
whole 'retro' perspective.
When you played Elite on the train did you use a HOTAS
and if you haven't done so can you do it and take a
picture? Can i have a signed copy of it?
no. I used an Xbox controller...
Early on it was communicated that one of the aspects
of Elite Dangerous that would be executed would
be the instant familiarity and recognize ability of

47

each system (02:30). When entering a system we will


instantly know where we are. From the color of the
sun, the ambiance coming from the host planet itself,
obviously there is the stations' design which is modular
and should contribute to the uniqueness of every
system according to the video. There are dierent types
of thrusters that also look dierent when installed
making ships even of the same type dierent from the
next in the video (04:12). The damage model where you
can see the insides of ships through holes in the hull
looks very very immersive (04:17). Also scavenging in
space graveyards looks very exciting in this video!!!!
These things are still in right? or have they ended up on
the cutting room oor? How many of the features from
the DDF percentage wise have been implemented?
the features you mention are there - modular station
design, dierent engines, coming across shipwrecks.
Being able to y massively damaged ships only really
applied to the bigger ships, but it is still planned
(though may be post release).
As Oine mode is out (thank god!), does this mean we
will see more co-op features deployed into the game?
yes. absolutely.
Hi David, great work on the game to you and your
team (as other people have mentioned - I too am very
disappointed that there will no longer be an oine
version. That's really not good). My question is, if we
can buy multiple ships - will there be any possibility of
crewing those ships with computer generated people
so you could send ships out to trade on their own.
Additionally, if you have enough money, any chance you
could actually build a base, buy ships for police duties
and such?
this is the sort of thing we will look at down the line.
WE want to avoid the game feeling like 'playing a
spreadsheet' though, but these features are certainly
on our radar.

As I remember the Panther Clipper from Elite Frontiers


and so enjoyed it's use; how will the new version of the
Panther Clipper measure up compared to old version
and when will it be available. We've heard little about
it and I do wonder which roleplay it would cover best.
Your thoughts on this would be appreciated. Thankyou.
the panther Clipper is coming. It is a big trading ship a bit like the lakon type 9's big brother.
From Gamma/Preview onwards will the locations of
ship equipment stay random in Stations or will they be
xed ?
high tech systems will always be the best place
to get the top-end ships, with particular systems
specialising in particular ship types.
Do you intend to do anything to improve the tutorialswhich are not currently very welcoming/user friendly,
lacking as they do a lot of essential information for
newbies, like basic control keys, for example! Newbies
should not have to search the internet to nd out this
information.
We are improving them all the time, but I appreciate
we are still not there..
I am worried about multiplayer, will I be able to connect
to a server and nd my friends in the same server every
time?
It should be much better in Beta 3.9.
I pirated the original Elite. I wasn't even a teenager but
still, do you forgive me? I think more pirated it than
bought it!
But yes, I forgive you (but please buy Elite:
Dangerous! ;-) )

https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=60284

David Braben. Interviews


I am often becoming wanted because of a player or
NPC getting in my line of Fire (sometimes intentionally
to attack me in the case of players)... Is there any plans
to incorporate a friendly ACCIDENTAL re solution
(such as small shield percentage but no hull or major
dmg)? I understand how a team could exploit it but a
couple errant bullets or strang laser shouldn't cause
issues I would think?
yes - this is a tuning issue we need to look at. thanks.

Will we ever be able to y the federal ghter at some


point? it looks like a fun ship to own.
Yes, that will come with time (even though it is not
hyperspace-capable).
The thing I love most about E: D is the attempt to
realistically depict our galaxy. Being able to visit star
systems I can see in the sky and being able to explore
places scientists have only just begun to explore with
remote sensing techniques lls me with a sense of
wonder. How will you (or will you) keep the E: D galaxy
synced with our rapidly expanding knowledge of
what real star systems are actually like? What if a star
systems at release has not been studied and so has
several procedurally generated planets but a few years
later it is discovered that it has no detectable planets?
no detectable planets does not mean no planets...
the main methods for detection at the moment
are Doppler movements of the parent star and
occultation. Both of these fail if a system is 'at on'
to us - ie if the planets orbit in a plane perpendicular
to our viewing direction. so in that case we would
be OK leaving them (though we may have to tweak
the system axis...). Less ippantly we will look at
each one as it is discovered. I hope the discoveries
will already be there, in which case we just make an
addition to the text box, but in others it may mean
adjusting an orbit.

48

Could you please tell us if military missions and ranks


(Federal Military etc) like previous elite titles (First
Encounters and Frontier II) are in game ?
yes... soon.
Have you seen Hello Games' No Mans Sky yet, it's clear
there's inuence there from the Elite series - do you
ever stop and think about your inuence on the games
industry with your games?
I haven't seen No Man's Sky 'in the esh', but know
one of the people involved. I have also (of course)
kept an eye on star Citizen and know Chris roberts
reasonably well.
I love science fiction, and I think it is a good thing
it is coming back to gaming. If anything it is pretty
shocking that it left, so I wish them luck. for players
of course, it is a good thing too as competition keeps
us all on our toes!
How much more detail can the Cobra engine deliver
Graphically? i.e. if I have the GPU(s) to handle it could it
deliver 8k/16k images with the level of clarity required?
(I'm just about to upgrade to a 4k Monitor)
In theory, yes. But the gpus don't yet exist that can
handle 16K - or at least I haven't seen one...
My biggest question, sorry if it's been asked already:
What prompted the decision to release the game now?
Many feel/felt it's too early and panicked thinking this
is the "end". Can we have some idea of the continued
developement of ED in the future? Like, are there plans
to continue aggressive development past the Dec.
release?
We planned the release date long ago, and have
been working towards it. Development will continue
past the December release. Currently the plan is
to continue indefinitely - a game like this is never

'finished' - there is always something we can add or


improve, but this date is a reasonable measure of
what we think will be a great game.
My question is about the status of the Mac version of
ED. Are you still feeling that three months after the PC
release looks realistic for a Mac release? And as far as
the Mac beta is concerned, do you have any idea yet as
to how closely that might follow on the heels of the PC
release? See, I only have Macs, won't use Bootcamp,
and as such it is driving me a bit batty not being able to
experience this game yet.
our plan is to look at this in detail after we have
shipped pC, so I'm afraid I don't have any dates for
you. Why are you against Bootcamp? I use it all the
time on my laptop.
Do you play the game often and do you plan to play
often once released? How will I know if I meet you out
there in space, Whats your Commander name?
yes I do. I am Comander Braben. I have seen myself
on youtube a few times...
Will there be a new way to nd about commodity prices
at a target location in addition to actually go there (as it
is now)?
yes - this is something we have been looking at.

https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=60284

Elite: Dangerous newsletters

Mostly Harmless Questions


Newsletters 1-31
Cathy: Are there any secret societies, chivalric orders
or the like planned for the Elite universe?
Yes, secretive, certainly (which includes the Pilots
Federation), and some only known to their members.
there will be all sorts of illegal activities even
trading in illegal goods will require you to know
someone who you can deal with, who is prepared to
trust you accessed through the mission structure.
Slawkenbergius: What will the political map of the
galaxy look like?
Most (ie more than 99%) of the galaxy is unexplored
at the start of the game. that is not to say that there
is no politics there human politics is dominated
by the three main powers. the federation, based in
the solar system, the Empire, based in the achenar
system, and the alliance, based in the alioth system.
In addition there are numerous independent worlds,
and many powerful corporations, which are far more
powerful than any single independent world, and a
few might even challenge the big powers.
Andrew Sayers: The Outer Space Treaty declares space
to be part of the common heritage of mankind. How
did that treaty break down? Did the Americans decide
the ag on the moon was a land claim after all? Did kids
run o with it and cause an interplanetary incident?
the treaty didnt so much break down; it was simply
ignored. as industry moved into space and started

49

manufacturing there, people started living there,


people started misbehaving up there, and pretty
quickly jurisdictions began to be established. Initially
using extensions of the laws of the sea for ships
or planes in international waters/air space (where
the jurisdiction that applies is the jurisdiction of the
registered ag of a ship/plane), but pretty soon people
started laying claim to asteroids, and then claims
to land on planets and moons, or more particularly
to their mineral rights, as ever more sophisticated
automated mining techniques emerged.
bedroc: Hi, If you explore far out, will there still be
stations and an ability to trade?
there will be some isolated stations and bases for
trading, repair and re-supply. these will be more
infrequent the further you travel, although there
will be some surprises for you to discover. special
equipment and supplies can be purchased to allow
ships to travel further without support, but we also
expect players to co-operate so that they can reach
even further.
one of the key features for the evolving galaxy is that
new stations (or suitable ships) can be deployed to
extend humanitys reach even further into the galaxy.
Duncan147: How will you manage and prioritise the
scope of this work to ensure that you maximise the
value delivered at the initial release?
There are a number of core features that defines the
game as Elite (these are defined by David and the
development team), the alpha test process we are
currently undertaking takes each of the core features
(like combat, trading, docking and travel to name a

few) in isolation to ensure that each of these features


achieves what we want from them. features that
are not deemed core will either be included in the
beta, or in the case of significant new additions (like
spaceship boarding and planetary landings) will be
tackled in expansions after the games initial release.
Lestat: Will there be technology that you can
purchase that can slowly repair damage to your ship
automatically?
some self repair systems will be available, although
they will be quite specialised so will require
investment from the player. the same technology
can also be used to reduce wear and tear on your
ship's systems. serious damage will still need to be
repaired in a traditional shipyard.
Rollo: Is the Sirius Corporation a signicant player in
Elite: Dangerous?
Yes, the Sirius Corporation (and its plethora of
divisions) are the biggest corporation in human
existence, as well as owning several systems outright
they are also the dominating player in fuel and power
technology, their products can be found throughout
human space.
Moriarte: Star Citizen is using cry engine, while Elite is
using an unique engine of its own. What advantages
and disadvantages do you have, when using a
homemade engine, while making the space simulator?
as a developer weve used our own game engine
throughout the companys history so we have
considerable experience in our own technology.
for Elite: Dangerous the game presents a number
of challenges that we have to solve. The first (and
most obvious) is the scale of the game, putting
aside the requirements of procedural generation for

http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/home/?u=dcbf6b86b4b0c7d1c21b73b1e&id=eb767c006f

Elite: Dangerous newsletters


a moment the spatial size of the games locations
are an immense (pun intended!) problem. Its quite
common in space games to fudge the scale to make
things look good and work, however this results in
spatial locations being condensed. In Elite everything
is the scale it should be, so the planets are the correct
size and distances between objects are also correct.
using the Cobra engine means that we can tailor our
solutions to fit the game rather than the other way
round.
Luniticisi: Is Elite: Dangerous a sequel to Elite,
or a sequel to Frontier, or a mix of both?
Elite: Dangerous is a game in its own right. In terms of
the game history it follows on from frontier and first
Encounters, with Elite before that, but it has been
such a long gap since the previous games (Frontier
was released over 20 years ago) that the breadth of
what we can do now is breathtaking. the term Elite
4 was used for a while internally, but we are not fans
of numeric sequels, especially given the elapsed time
and the fact that what we have feels all new.
Slawkenbergius: Will planets and stars
be to actual scale?
yes, celestial bodies and the distances between
them will be correctly scaled, wherever possible
real astronomical data is being used. to give you an
idea we're currently at 116,000 stars from various
catalogues and includes pulsars and black holes as
well as main sequence stars. Exo-planets are the
other big import which we're about to start working
on!
Scot: Will the old design of the PYTHON
be in the game?
the python will be in the game.

50

Le-Betz: Will there be ships without hyperspace


capability in the game?
yes, some ships are too small to have hyperdrives
(such as the small fighters and some shuttles).
Perrie67: How will E:D make travelling the insane
distances for exploring the galaxy without making it
too easy to travel around the populated systems?
There are two modes of super luminal (faster than
light) travel.
Super cruise (or frame shifting) is used for travel
inside systems. It was originally conceived as
a sub-luminal drive, but based on the fantastic
collaboration we have been having with our Design
Decision forum backers it was re-worked and is now
itself a super luminal system to allow relatively rapid
travel within systems.
hyperspace drives are used to travel between star
systems. Hyperdrives with dierent ranges, charge
up times and fuel consumption parameters are
available, and so your particular model of hyperdrive
governs your specific ability to move around the
galaxy.
Both will make their debut in Alpha 4 (not counting
the early version of hyperspace in Alpha 3).
bedroc: Hi, If you explore far out, will there still be
stations and an ability to trade?
Most of humanity inhabits a few hundred light year
bubble around sol, achenar and alioth. Beyond this
are a lower density of isolated systems with small
communities on them that can be used by explorers
to resupply, with small/basic orbital stations. these
are the frontier systems. Beyond this, you will still
encounter occasional ships (including other players),
but no stations; not to start with at least. there will
be ship-ship docking though too, so it will still be

possible to resupply. the ships suited for long range


exploration will require a greater degree of selfsustainability, for example fuel scoops and repair and
maintenance equipment, and we expect players to
cooperate to meet the challenge!
Wreckage: Is the Kepler data for planets being gured
into the galaxy map?
Were striving to make the Elite: Dangerous Milky
Way as accurate as possible. as part of this we are
using a variety of sources for the celestial bodies
data, and that includes confirmed exoplanets from
the Kepler data and many other sources.
JohnStabler: Are we going to see the return of the
Imperial Trader and Courier?
the Imperial Courier is planned for initial release,
the Imperial trader isnt, although may make a later
expansion.
bsivko: I would like to ask a question about support
of reality in E:D Universe. As you mentioned, you
will include into release all of possible data of real
Universe. But what will be after release? For example,
if humanity discover thousand planets more, or nd
new objects like wandering planets between stars. Do
you plan to change the E:D Universe according to that
kind of events or not?
yes, we will be changing the galaxy to keep up to
date with the latest discoveries and observations its
one of the benefits of the connected world we now
live in that we can update the game as needed! But
hopefully, we won't need to update things *too*
often; we think the physics we have used to predict
new exo-planets is pretty good it'll be fascinating to
see how close we are!

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Elite: Dangerous newsletters


Slawkenbergius: Will Elite: Dangerous use a physicallybased shading/rendering system?
short answer: yes it does.
Elite: Dangerous adopted a physically-based
rendering (PBR) model right from the start we
want it to look as good as possible under a variety
of lighting conditions (and space certainly gives
you that!). We expect the visual quality of Elite:
Dangerous will continue to improve as we progress
through development.
It's worth mentioning though that pBr isn't a onesize-fits-all solution as much as it's the start of a
discussion that could probably occupy someone
for their entire career kind of like the way "High
Dynamic Range" was quickly adopted by everyone
years ago but people are still arguing over the fine
details!
SzaryWilk: How many commodities will be in Elite
Dangerous ??
Were still refining the design, at the moment were
testing with around 100 dierent core commodities,
with other specialised ones based o them. Such
spaecialist or rares are a separate type of tradable
item (Lavian Brandy for example). Weve seen the
recent plea for tea and it looks like we might be
adding that to the list.
Brodie: Apart from freight and possibly ammo will
ship components such as rare weapons or engines
drop or be salvageable from destroyed NPC ships?
Currently the design is that you can salvage raw
materials and data from derelict ships. an idea
were considering is that enhancement technology
from specific weapons and modules can provide
temporary augmentations for your equipment.

51

Jant: How much freedom will there be to customise


our ships from a purely aesthetic standpoint (like
dierent cockpits, paint jobs, etc)?
the intention is to support as wide a range of
customisation as possible, were still working out
some of the details but support for skins and decals
is certain, ways to customise your cockpit are also
something were interested in. this can be expanded
further when we expand the game to allow walking
around ships and stations, not only with the ship
but the players avatar as well. In other words yes,
leather upholstery is on the cards!
FS3DPete: Will explorers be able to receive
recognition and a nders fee for discovering new
bodies, such as planets?
Exploration is a form of data trading, discovering new
systems and celestial bodies generates data that can
then be traded for credits. Significant finds could also
be reported in the newsfeeds and will also help guide
the expansion of human space.
Patrick_68000: When we y over planets, what
minimum altitude will be allowed?
We will allow fuel skimming on gas giants and make
sure that starports can be placed in suitable orbits.
throughout beta there will be an ongoing process
to optimise and improve our already cool looking
planets at ever closer distances.
Le-Betz: Will there be Generation Ships?
It would be fun to have them, certainly!
Kerrash: What is the smallest detail of the procedural
content that is being considered? and will we be able
to customize it or will it be engine controlled?

Dust particles are probably as small as it goes or


perhaps details on procedural textures. alpha
backers will already have own over ring systems
at super-luminal speeds and then looked down and
seen the billions of individual rocks hurtling by below,
perhaps heading down in to them.
Listeri69: What benets can we expect to see from
becoming an explorer?
the excitement of discovering something unusual
and perhaps even staking a claim (though this has
to be registered). Finding a metal-rich system that is
untouched for example would be a great find and
lucrative too.
Philip Coutts: Why did you pick the Sidewinder for the
basic starting ship?
It is to give us more headroom in the ship
progression. the sidewinder is much smaller than
say, the Cobra. for much the same reason the Eagle
was the default starting ship in frontier: Elite 2.
insanephoton: Seeing as there should be some
amazing visuals, will there be any in game screen grab
/screen shot manager?
the game already supports screen capture, just press
the f10 and its saved to your local hard drive. Its
unlikely that well provide a game-specific screenshot
manager, there are already plenty of image library
apps available for this purpose.
Cathy: Will there be hidden societies such as secret
orders to encounter in Elite: Dangerous?
yes, therell be a range of characters representing
a number of organisations ranging from the major
power blocs, to crime syndicates and organisations

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with hidden agendas. part of the appeal of the
Elite: Dangerous galaxy is the breadth of human
interaction that you can become involved in. the
primary vehicle for this interaction will be the
missions, and of course its something we will build
on as we further expand the game, notably when
youre able to get out of the cockpit.
tluamiani: Will guilds/clans be supported and how?
Everyone is enrolled as a member of the pilots
federation, and within that there will be groups
functionality that allows people to form organic
associations. there are also the three major
power blocs of federation, Empire and alliance
of Independents that you can cosy up to (or act
against) as you wish. Specifically created clans are
something we will investigate after the first release
of the game.
Davidtq: Will we be able to customise the appearance
of ship interiors and exteriors?
Yes! We plan to oer extensive customization
options please watch this space for details as we
release them; youll hear it here first.
Arn: Will it be possible to upgrade modules
such as the engine, shield and power plant?
absolutely in premium Beta ships and weapons
are upgradable; as we progress you will get
increasing choice of which system components
to use, each having dierent strengths and
weaknesses and suitability for a particular role. you
will be able to switch systems such that you can
downgrade your ship if you want to, too whether
to free up some cash, or outfit your ship for a
particular job.

52

Serge: Can you talk about the expectations


of the Mac version?
We have said that the Mac version will follow around
3 months after the pC version. Currently we have
been focusing on building the fundamentals of Elite:
Dangerous on pC. now we have got to premium Beta
we have enough of the game present that it makes
sense for us to start focusing on Mac specific porting
and optimization tasks using our cross-platform
Cobra game engine software. We have been
laying the groundwork for the Mac version in the
background for a while now, and have just started
to ramp up the activity. Well keep you posted as we
have progress to share!
Sloma: "Are you focused atm on Federal / Independent
side? Why are we not seeing any Imperial ship designs
or any content related to Imperial faction?"
the area of space we chose happens to be a long way
from Imperial space, hence the focus of pB1 etc. We
have Imperial content too (as in the 'Damocles' video
and the Imperial cruiser and Imperial fighters), but
that will come as we open up space.
Colonel Kenney: "One interesting question I have.
Much of the galaxy will take us a very long time to
get to. Are there any plans of implementing any sort
of "shortcuts" to different parts of the galaxy such
as wormholes? Like something extremely rare but
there are some hidden around for us to discover etc?
Like how can we explore the center of the galaxy if it
would take a year of gameplay to get there etc?"
no, we're not planning to implement shortcuts. for
me, one of the attractions is it Is a big achievement
to travel a long distance. I like the idea of the
occasional meeting of a player far far out in the
galaxy as a chance encounter. We do plan to seed
things of interest out there too.

Brodie: Has any (more) thought been put into Crafting


within Elite Dangerous?
I'd love to mine the required resources and then
deposit it them into a rented factory along with a
blueprint and make my own missiles etc"
there is already a sort of crafting loop in premium
Beta 1 for example coltan is mined, then taken to
be refined into tantalum, then turned into high-tech
goods. Down the line mining machines (as featured in
Frontier) and similar elements will be introduced, but
that will most likely be after the first release.
"Can I be found in the Premium Beta,
and what is my commander name?"
My commander name is Commander Braben, and
yes I am there from time to time.
Dinbar: Will you be building any specic "role play"
emotes, tools etc.
We arent looking at using emotes as they dont
really fit the communications system (which is one
of the features were currently working on). Beyond
the text and voice communications we are looking
at there will be pre-defined messages that have
additional game play eects, such as the ability
to declare piracy an act that can aect your
reputation and trigger specific AI responses.
Steve Taylor: Will it be possible to nd our NPCs
in the nished game?
Players will be able to find starports and systems that
they have named by exploring the galaxy! named
npCs will be encountered randomly during game
play.

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Duvand: I really like to explore in games, will there be
rewards in the game for doing this and what form will
they take?
We are looking at having a variety of rewards
for exploration including straightforward credit
payments, access to rare or restricted ship modules,
and increases in reputation which open up new
mission and event possibilities, as well as increase the
likelihood of favourable outcomes when dealing with
npCs and factions.
Caribou: Will there be long range scanners, or some
kind of small robot scanner that can hyperspace to a
distant system and return some basic info on it?
one of the aspects of exploration we are working
towards does indeed have hyperspace-capable
probes that gather and transmit useful information
back to the ship.
Veep: Which ships will get multiple independent
shield sections?
ships roughly the size of the Cobra or larger will have
multiple shield zones, and the ability to push shield
power between them.
Kipper: Little has been said about the mission system
as yet, what can you reveal?
Missions fall into several types, but what I suspect
you mean is the sort you actively engage in through a
contract. these are coming in the Beta, and can earn
you both credits and status within the organisation
you are working for, whether it is a disreputable
criminal group or the federation or Empire
themselves. Initially these will be arranged either
through direct messages or on a common message
board. More details to follow.

53

Slawkenberguis: During the Kickstarter we were


shown images of ships that were heavily damaged,
but still yable. Is that kind of damage model still
something that's still being worked on? If so, have
there been any further developments you can share
with us?
yes, it is still being worked on. Major damage, like we
showed on the anaconda in the Kickstarter is coming
in Beta. smaller ships will not survive anything other
than minor damage, but the larger ships should still
be able to y (albeit with a limp) as long as the
damage is not to a critical system.
SzaryWilk: Is there a possibility of hiring warehouse
space on space stations?
We are taking care of elements that could unbalance
the game. We do plan to allow you to store ships
(rather than sell or trade them in), but we want to
avoid people playing the markets with vast amounts
of cargo and the danger is it could become the
fastest way of making money, so not at first, at least.
Arn: Will the game include detailed technical
breakdowns for ships, weapons, modules and other
equipment?
yes. We will be providing more information than
is there now, and also more variants on each type.
Most elements of your ship will also have the ability
to be tuned up to get extra performance/eciency/
weight reduction as appropriate.
Shadowcat: Will it be possible for a player to head
towards a sun to temporarily blind an attacker
following behind them?
That is not planned (but it is an interesting idea).
We have tried to avoid things like this that could
work for aIs but might be frustrating for players. We

intentionally darken stars so that you can see them,


and if looking towards or ying towards the sun
blinded a player, that would spoil the game.
insanephoton: Will NPC ships be generated on the
y each time you enter a new system or will they be
persistent objects that you could follow on their trade
routes etc?
there are a mix. some will be persistent, some
triggered by circumstances. following an aI is
something that should be possible, once we have
tracking through supercruise and hyperspace.
Gimi: We already know that there will be area of
the galaxy cut o for later use and no planetary
landings at launch. Will these sort of limitations be
incorporated into current Elite lore and ction, and
given plausible in game explanations?
Yes, to an extent. For the areas cut o, you will
be prevented from going there the drive will
simply not lock on. We may add a message if we
feel we need it like unable to lock on or similar.
for planetary landings, there may be a piece of
equipment you will need to purchase, that will only
become available later.
Nomadski: Will there be missions that ask questions
of a pilot's ying skills that dont necessarily revolve
around combat?
there will be missions that require quick transits. I
like the idea of ones that amount to races between
players not unlike the old tea Clipper races from
China back to Imperial Britain in the 19th century. In
Elite Dangerous, it might be the first to get the latest
harvest of Lavian Tree Grubs back to Earth (this way
all players would start at the same time) but I think
there will be tricky issues with this sort of thing

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people playing in dierent countries meaning the
start time is at an awkward time of day.
SzarWilk: Will dierent types of ammunition be
available for dierent weapons?
yes. Many weapons like lasers dont use ammunition,
but we have already planned a wide range of missile
types. It should also be possible to get ammo for
other projectile weapons that is a little better, for
significant extra cost.
Ben Ryder: Will we be able to buy books like the Art
work of Elite and sketch books?
yes, that would be a great thing to do, though such a
book is not yet planned.
Rog: Will auto-generated missions involve interaction
with, or even the destruction of actual *human*
players?
generally no, but there are some special cases.
for example if a player defaults on a deal with a
particularly dangerous npC, he or she may put a
contract on that players head. there is no reason
that contract might not be taken by a player
Mysturji: What mechanisms/procedures will there be
for avoiding & reversing oender/fugitive status?
avoiding such status comes from being careful
basically dont be seen to break the law in the areas
controlled by the regime(s) you wish to stay clean
with. reversing them is harder. they do decay with
time, but the unscrupulous will find ways to buy o
their ratings, for the right price!

54

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FAQ

FAQ
IS THERE A GAME MANUAL?
a WIp game manual can be downloaded here:
http://elite.frontier.co.uk/downloads/sidewinder_owners_Manual_WIp.pdf

I'M NEW TO THE FORUMS, SO WHAT THREADS


SHOULD I READ FIRST?
Before posting we recommend that you search
for exisiting threads on the topic you wish to post.
there's also some useful threads for getting started
with the main discussions on the boards.
Yae's list of common topics is an excellent place to
start:
http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=18606
WHERE CAN I FIND IN-SYSTEM MAPS FOR THE
SYSTEMS?
You can find concept for the available systems in
premium Beta 1.0 here:
http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=16655
I'M POSTING A NEW TOPIC SO WHICH FORUM
SHOULD I POST IN?
for general beta discussion post in the Beta
Discussion forum:
http://forums.frontier.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=52
for bugs and technical support for the beta post in
the Beta support forum:
http://forums.frontier.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=53
for general Elite: Dangerous discussion post in the
Elite: Dangerous general forum:
http://forums.frontier.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=30
for gameplay ideas and discussion post in the Elite:

55

Dangerous gameplay and features forum:


http://forums.frontier.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=32
For ocial Elite fiction post in the Elite Fiction forum:
http://forums.frontier.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=45
for Elite fan creations and discussion post in the Elite:
Dangerous fan Creations forum:
http://forums.frontier.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=31
for general technical support and discussion post in
the Elite: Dangerous support forum:
http://forums.frontier.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=50
WHERE WILL I FIND THE FORUM RULES?
the forum rules, which we expect all members to
follow can be found here:
http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=18103
HOW CAN I EARN MONEY AT A CONFLICT ZONE OR
DISTRESS CALL?
open the right panel, navigate to the last tab*, open
the entry "faction" and select your faction there. You
cannot change the faction unless you leave the area
(with supercruise or by leaving the game) and join
again. When you have joined a faction, the opposing
side will be displayed red on the scanner, for every
enemy ship you kill you will be paid some money
(usually 500cr).
HOW DO BOUNTIES WORK?
When you target a ship and the automatic scan has
completed, along with the pilot's name you will see
either the mark "Clean" or "Wanted". "Wanted"
means they have a bounty on their head, if you
manage to kill them, you will paid a sum of money
that dependings on the crimes the target has
committed. you can view the amount that a target is
worth in the contact list on the left panel.
When you shoot at a ship that you haven't scanned

yet or is marked as "Clean", you will get a bounty on


yourself, and other pilots may hunt you for money.
HOW IS A KILL COUNTED FOR BOUNTIES OR
CONFLICT ZONE PAYMENT?
Whoever scores the last hit before the ship reaches
zero health gets paid. hits after it is already at zero
health but tumbling for a few seconds do not count.
HOW DOES SHIP INSURANCE WORK?
When your ship is destroyed, you can choose to
receive a free sidewinder identical to what you
started with the first time (with light armor and one
pulse laser). You will keep all your money and can get
a free sidewinder as often as you like.
If you choose to receive your old loadout again,
the sum of money displayed will be removed from
your account, and you will respawn with a ship and
equipment identical to what you had before it was
destroyed, fully repaired. If you don't have enough
money, you can only receive the free sidewinder
(later you will be able to loan money in order to keep
your old loadout when you are broke).
regardless of your choice, you will respawn at the
last station where you have docked.
WHY DO I NOT SEE ANY PLANETS?
You probably have turned on the "AMD crash fix"
in the graphics options. this option should not be
needed any more, it is a left over from earlier stages
of the game.
HOW DO I USE SUPERCRUISE?
take a look at fangrim's excellent guide to
supercruise:
http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=18617

http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=20322

FAQ
HOW DO I GET PERMISSION FOR DOCKING?
Bring up the interface and select the left hand panel.
select Contacts and if you're close enough you
should see Coriolis station or something like that or
maybe the name of the station. select the station and
you should get a choice of lock target or request
Docking permission. select the request Docking
permission option and you should get a message on
the centre of your hud just above the scanner.
WHY DOES MY NEW WEAPON NOT FIRE?
You need to set them up in a fire group using the fire
groups panel on the right of the cockpit. Weapons
within the fire group can be set as the primary or
secondary weapons so that they are fired by their
respective controls.
HOW DO I FIND THE DOCKING PORT
FOR A SPACEPORT?
It is always positioned on an 'end' that is spinning
anti-clockwise. looking for the advertising holograms
often helps.
WHY HAVE I RECEIVED A BOUNTY?
Probably because you fired on a ship. If you did that
deliberately, then be aware that to be legal you
must be in a 'warzone' or the other ship must have
a bounty. To find it it has a bounty in the current
faction, target and point at the ship to perform a
scan. It will show as 'wanted' or 'clean' in the target
box on your HUD. To find if it has a bounty outside
the current faction, see Kill Warrant scanner. If you
did not fire deliberately, then be aware that a stray
bullet or laser that hits a 'bystander' when you are
fighting another ship, is enough for you to get a
bounty for attacking them: the game does not know
your intent!

56

you can also receive a bounty if you are scanned


carrying stolen items or items that are illegal in the
current faction.
HOW DO I CLEAR A BOUNTY?
visit Contacts/pilot's federation when Docked, and
pay the fine. The fine is a bit more than the bounty.
HOW DO I SEE THE CARGO OF ANOTHER SHIP?
you need to have a cargo scanner installed on your
ship and then when you are in range scan the ship for
the required length of time.
HOW DO I SEE THE CURRENT FRAME RATE?
press Ctrl+f to bring up the frame rate counter.
HOW DO I FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE CURRENT
GAME DESIGN?
Much of the game's design was discussed in detail in
the DDF, you can find an archive of those discussions
here:
http://forums.frontier.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=36
HOW DO I SET MY COMMANDER NAME?
use the following process to set or change your
commander name:
1. login at: https://support.orerve.net/
2. navigate to the CoMManDEr profIlE tab
3. Enter your desired new commander name in the
Request a New Name field and press the Request
name Change button.
4. If this is approved it will update the commander
name at the top of the page.
5. If it is automatically denied a red message will appear
above the field, stating the reason for the rejection.

6. If it is manually denied the player will receive an


email telling them that their name has been rejected,
once the batch update is complete.
note that changing your name will make your
previous name available for others to use.
also note that approvals and import into the game
can take a few days.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT WAYS
I CAN MAKE MONEY?
you can:
buy and sell commodities in the hope of turning a
profit
take part in the ongoing conict between Dahan and
Eranin (remember: choose a faction when you arrive
at a conict zone location in these systems!)
hunt pirates and collect their bounties (from
interdictions and at various locations)
pirate ships to steal their cargo and sell on the
starport black market (remember: not every starport
has a black market); the best pirates target their
victims cargo hatch, causing malfunctions that eject
multiple cargo canisters
Visit unidentified signal sources in the hope of
locating and stealing unattended cargo drops
run into mobile traders looking to buy resources
(just y near to them with the correct cargo to make
the sale)
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES
BETWEEN WEAPONS?
There are many dierences between weapons,
some subtle others not so. as a general rule, laserbased weapons are more eective against shields,
explosives are the most eective against hull, and
projectile weapons oer the best penetration to
reach subsystems. laser weapons tend to put the
most pressure on the ships weapon cooling system
and projectiles and explosives require ammunition.

http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=20322

FAQ
as well as the weapon types, the mounting platform
also plays a significant role: gimballed weapons have
limited motion, allowing them to track and hit targets
that are not directly in front, whilst turrets have full
motion and can attack hostiles independently of the
commanders main target. such advanced mounts
have their downsides though, tending to be more
expensive and less powerful than their fixed bore
counterparts.
WHY DO SHIPS SOMETIMES DISAPPEAR
WHEN ATTACKED?
this can be caused by a number of issues. the main
one is that there is a bug in the code that determines
if and when ships should ee to super cruise, causing
them to ee almost all the time. This, coupled with
the fact that there is currently no feedback for such a
manoeuvre manifests as a disappearing ship event.
other, less frequent causes can be loss of network
communication between human commanders. It
goes without saying that were looking at fixes for
these issues (and others as they are discovered).
HOW DO I USE THE AUTO FIELD MAINTENANCE
UNIT?
Once this kit is fitted, when you view your module
list (its one of the tabs on the right hand side multifunction displays), you can highlight a module and
select it: instead of toggling the module on/o, you
will now be cycling it between on/o/repair if it is
damaged. remember: the afM uses resources to
repair and can be restocked by using the munitions
option when docked at a starport.
WHAT DOES THE KILL WARRANT SCANNER DO?
the Kill Warrant scanner is a specialised piece of
bounty hunting equipment. When you target and

57

face a vessel, your ship will perform a quick basic


scan, revealing the ships/commanders name, hull
and shield strength and the presence of a local
bounty if present. performing a Kill Warrant scan
(remember: assign the Kill Warrant Scanner to a
fire group and fire it like a gun at the target)
cross references the target ship with all known
jurisdictions, revealing all bounties associated with
it, not just the bounty from the current jurisdiction.
When you destroy a ship, you are only awarded
bounties that you know about, so this scanner allows
you to maximise your profits when bounty hunting.
remember: the Kill Warrant scanner *does not*
give you free range to attack; if you open up on a
target who is clean in the local jurisdiction you will be
committing a crime.
HOW DO I TAKE SCREENSHOTS?
press f10. the images are saved in:
"your name"\Saved Games\Frontier Developments\
Elite Dangerous\Screenshots
I KEEP GETTING INTERDICTED BY PIRATES AND
KILLED, WHAT SHOULD I DO?
If you don't want to stand your ground, run! full
power distribution to engines, full thrust away from
the radar contacts, and use engine boost 2 or 3 times
until you can hit 'C' to supercruise away.
I'VE JUST STARTED AND KEEP GETTING KILLED,
WHAT SHOULD I DO?
Discretion is the better part of valour, especially in an
unmodified starter Sidewinder. Choose your area of
operations and targets wisely tackling an anaconda
in a basic sidewinder may not end well. Being too
ambitious, too soon, is a common way of requiring
an escape pod trip back to the station.... running

away is a perfectly valid course of action in combat


deciding when it is necessary takes some experience.
Combat is not the only option trading can be a
useful way of earning credits to allow ship upgrades
(making your Sidewinder less puny).
n.B.: If you upgrade your ship you must pay a 5%
insurance excess to receive a direct replacement in
the event of a total loss. remember, the 5% applies
to the ship and any weapons and other equipment
modifications.
HOW DO I SURVIVE AND THRIVE AT A CONFLICT
ZONE/DISTRESS CALL?
If you seen any *hollow* triangles/boxes on radar,
those are other human players. Be very careful. see
who they are attacking, then join the other faction,
or you may face a dicult foe!
select the faction you want to assist using the
functions tab of the right cockpit uI
look for isolated red radar blips away from the main
fight and target them.
npC enemies usually won't attack you unless you get
close, so maneuvre into a good firing position behind
them. Commence combat.
Congratulations, you've earned 4/500Cr!
Keep an eye out for hollow red triangles (human
players) joining the other side.
If your shields are damaged, retreat in normal ight a
few km away from the combat zone to recharge
If you have hull damage, consider returning to a
station to get your ship repaired.
repeat the above as long as you want.
WHAT IS FLIGHT ASSIST ? HOW DO I USE IT ?
flight assist helps stabilize your ship's maneuvers.
Whit it activated, all you have to do to stop the ship
from turning/rolling is let go of the commands, the
ight computer will activate the thrusters in the
appropriate way so it goes back to straight ight.

http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=20322

FAQ
there's a penalty in maneuverability, this can make it
harder to keep an enemy ship in your aim reticle.
With FA o, the ship behaves according to Newton's
law of inertia. this means any movement you start,
will continue unless you counter-act. so, if you start
a roll maneuver, the ship will keep rolling until you
command another roll in the opposing direction.
With FA o, you ship is more maneuverable, very
useful for combat if used correctly. used incorrectly,
it can be disorienting and get you killed.
HOW DO I FIND MY ALLOCATED
PAD/NAVIGATION TARGET?
the ship's compass to the right of the scanner points
towards the currently allocated docking pad and
navigation target. the indicator will be smaller if the
target is behind you.
HOW DO I READ THE SCANNER?
the scanner is the circle in the centre of your console
(bottom centre of your screen.
objects are shown as a vertical stick with either a
triangle or square at the end of them. the other end
shows where the object is on the horizontal plane
of your ship and their length shows how far above
or below you they are. the scanner is logarithmic
by default (so a distance at the edge of the scanner
represents further than the same distance at the
centre). You can change this in the functions on the
right hand panel.
friendly ships are shown green.
Enemy ships are shown red.
neutral ships are shown yellow.
Other objects (missiles, cannisters, nav beacons) are
shown white.
Ships firing at you ash white.
In an asteroid field the larger asteroids are shown as
a hollow depiction of an asteroid.

58

npCs are shown as a solid marker, players are shown


with a hollow marker.
ship contacts which appear with a square have their
hardpoints retracted, whereas those with a triangle
have their hardpoints deployed.
WHAT DOES A POINT DEFENCE TURRET DO AND
HOW DO I USE IT?
point defence turrets attempt to shoot down
incoming missiles. they are not infallible though,
and they require ammunition. Currently they must
be assigned to a fire group, though this is likely to
change.
WHY IS SIDE-TO-SIDE MOVEMENT (YAW) SLOW?
this is one of several design decisions to improve the
feel of gameplay. to quickly target an enemy to one
side, roll your ship until your target is above you then
pitch up.
HOW DO I INSTALL THE GAME ON A DRIVE OTHER
THAN THE C DRIVE?
Currently the installer doesn't support install
directory selection altough this functionality is
planned. In the meantime you can workaround this
with the following procedure:
run the Client-Installer.exe
Choose the drive and or folder you wish to use. In my
case D:\Elite
Let the launcher install finish, if it is running, close the
launcher window, do not login
navigate to where you installed the launcher, in my
case D:\Elite, and create a folder called Products in
the launcher folder. EG: D:\Elite\Products
now start the launcher again, log in and install the
client.

When the download is complete you should see


the install as automatically installed the client in the
folder you created called product.
If the \Products folder is not in the root of the
launcher folder it will default to your boot drive.
HOW DO I LEARN THE COCKPIT LAYOUT?
you can see Keeval's excellent cockpit guide here:
http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=10215
WHAT DO THE MARKS UNDERNEATH THE
SCANNER INDICATE?
the show the current range of the scanner, it can be
increased or decreased by default on the page up
and page Down keys.
I WAS ABOUT TO DOCK AND THE STATION
DISAPPEARED, WHAT DO I DO?
If this happens then save and quit the game to the
main menu. Close the game and the launcher and
restart both and then resume your game.
Michael
I PICKED UP A CARGO CONTAINER, AND I SEE IT IN
MY HOLD, BUT I CAN'T SELL IT! WHY?
It's marked as "Stolen". You'll need to sell it on the
Black Market. (Located under "Station Contacts").
WHAT'S THE BLUE GLOW ON MY SPEED SETTINGS?
The "Sweet Spot" for maneuvering. If you keep your
speed in the blue zone, your ship will maneuver
better.

http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=20322

FAQ
I AM AT THE RIGHT LANDING PAD WITH THE
LANDING GEAR DOWN BUT STILL IT WON'T ALLOW
ME TO DOCK? WHAT AM I DOING WRONG?
you are possibly facing the wrong way. Make sure
you are facing the control tower with the spinning
radar dish to successfully dock.
I CAN USE MY THRUSTERS TO MANOEUVRE WHEN
LANDING BUT NOT IN SPACE. WHY?
Check the options to see which controls are set
for using the thrusters, there is also an override so
dierent controls can be used when your landing
gear is deployed.
I AM UNABLE TO COME OUT OF SUPERCRUISE
EXCEPT AS AN EMERGENCY. WHY?
your speed needs to be less than 200km/s in order to
successfully exit supercruise.
HOW DO I SCOOP CARGO?
To deploy the cargo scoop go to the right (systems)
menu, then in the functions sub-menu select "cargo
scoop" and it will change to "deployed".
When you select a cargo cannister on the left radar,
rather than seeing a representation of the cannister,
a blue square with crosshairs in will appear. In this is
a representation of a cannister.
this is like a mini-game. you now need to use that
to keep the representation of the cannister in the
crosshairs until it's picked up by the scoop. Don't y
too fast, it will bounce o and take damage.

59

http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=20322