“Space Legs” Coming Soon To Elite: Dangerous
Gone are the days when a company released a video game and then immediately started work on a sequel. That’s the old way of doing things. Nowadays, it’s more common – not to mention more cost-efficient for the publisher – to release a game and carry on adding more content to it for several years. The most obvious example of this is Rockstar Games and Grand Theft Auto V. While most fans are chomping at the bit for news about Grand Theft Auto VI, the company is busy working on a next-gen version of the existing seven-year-old game. GTA V might get all the headlines, but there are other popular games using the same method.
One of them is Elite: Dangerous. It might not have sold hundreds of millions of copies when it was released in December 2014, but it’s built and maintained a steady player base. When you log on to play the game’s MMO mode, you can rest assured that there will be a few thousand players logged in at the same time as you, no matter what time of day it is and where you are in the world.
You might not necessarily see most (or even many) of those players given the fact that the game impressively simulates the entire Milky Way galaxy with accurate distances, star types, and even planets. The game is huge, and even after so many years of availability, less than ten percent of the galaxy has been explored by human players.
For those who haven’t come across it before, Elite: Dangerous is a game with an incredible legacy. It’s a sequel to the first Elite, which was released for platforms like the ZX Spectrum and BBC Micro in 1984. Back then, the entire game was coded by David Braben working alone. Braben still heads up the game’s development team now but has an entire company of people working around him.
He followed that up with Frontier: Elite II in 1993, which became one of the most popular PC and Amiga games of the early 1990s. Frontier: First Encounters followed in 1995, after which there was a near-twenty year wait for Elite: Dangerous, which was developed and released after a successful crowdfunding operation.
When Elite: Dangerous was first released, it was a “simple” space flight game. Players could fly anywhere in the universe they wished to go to, become traders or pirates, smuggle goods or act as an interstellar taxi service, and generally do as they pleased. They could not, however, land on planets. This was a bone of contention for some players, as planetary landings were possible in Frontier: Elite II, and so this felt like a big step back despite the enormous step up in terms of technology.
The developers corrected the issue with the release of an expansion pack called “Horizons” in late 2015, which introduced planetary landings and planetary rover vehicles, ground bases, multicrew support for large vessels, and a character-creator. Nobody knew it at the time, but the ability to create your own character was a precursor to another update that has finally entered Alpha testing in 2021.
In June 2020, the team behind Elite: Dangerous announced that a third expansion called “Odyssey” was in the pipeline, with a potential release date of spring 2021. We’re now into spring 2021, so it’s obvious that they’re a little behind schedule, but alpha testing is going well, and a full roll-out is expected in the near future. “Odyssey” will – at long last – allow players to climb out of their spaceships and take a look around. They can walk through starbases, spaceports, and planetary bases.
They can stretch their legs on the surface of a planet. More excitingly, they can take part in a whole new variety of trade, combat, espionage, and diplomatic missions on foot. The new “space legs” mode allows players to “meet” each other for the first time face to face (or rather avatar to avatar) rather than from behind the glass canopies of their cockpits. It adds a whole new dimension to Elite: Dangerous, with Call of Duty-style combat mechanics and a completely new way of seeing the game. The expansion pack will need to be paid for once it becomes available to the public and the price has not yet been decided, but based on the Alpha footage that’s already available online, there’s likely to be high demand.
The fact that there’s so much furore about this expansion of a seven-year-old game is a powerful reminder of how popular the science fiction genre is in general. It’s still sneered at for being “nerdy” in some corners, but one needs only look at the popularity of Star Trek and Doctor Who on television for evidence of how wrong that old cliche is. Science fiction is so popular that it can even draw money at online slots websites.
As amazing (and perhaps absurd) as this might sound, one of the most popular online slots in the world for the past ten years is a space-themed slot called Starburst. Think of all the different genres and types of online slots you might have seen in places like Rose Slots for Ireland over the years, from the traditional Irish theme to the classic fruit-and-jewels theme, and yet it’s a science-fiction themed slot that rules the roost in most places. Human beings have been gazing up at the stars in wonder since the day they first emerged on the planet. That fascination is hard-wired into all of us, and it’s a powerful lure when people are making games.
As of the time of writing, it appears that the “Odyssey” expansion pack will be released in a staggered fashion across different formats. Players on PC will get the update first and will probably be given the opportunity to pay for it within the next few weeks. Due to the complications that come with porting the format across from one platform to another, players on consoles will have to wait a little longer.
It’s currently estimated that the PS4 and Xbox One versions – both of which run fine on the newer PS5 and Xbox Series X – will become available in autumn 2021. If you’re an Elite: Dangerous player, stay tuned to the game’s official social media channels for more news. If you’re not an Elite: Dangerous player, this might be an excellent time to check the game out. Good luck, Commander!