A few days ago, in their most recent newsletter, the folks at Frontier basically announced they’re killing the offline portion of Elite: Dangerous. This means even if you want to play the game solely with AI pilots, you still need an online connection (If you want more coverage, PC Gamer and Eurogamer are great bets).
Now, to be honest, when I first heard this news, I thought to myself, “Oh, they planned an offline mode?” Seriously, I had no idea. Seriously, no idea at all that one was even mentioned in their Kickstarter a while back, since I came on board to the whole Elite train much later. I figured the “single player” mode they were offering was the Solo Mode already present in the game, which is the mode I mentioned above with the AI pilots. To me personally, this didn’t seem like a big deal at all because it granted, I thought, the same experience as only playing with the AI regardless of the connection. This is, however, coming from a mindset wherein I have a very fast and stable Internet connection with (thankfully) no caps on bandwidth usage. It only took talking to some folks on some forums I frequent (as well as glancing at the behemoth of a thread over on Frontier’s forums) to realize that this was a much bigger issue than I first realized.
Before I even thought to write this piece, I read David Braben’s reasoned reply on to the ongoing fervor of these recent developments on Eurogamer, and was gladdened to see that he admitted the folks at Frontier could’ve done a better job at keeping the community apprised as to the status of offline play (no kidding!). Then reader John Oreilly contacted me and asked to post what I thought of the whole kerfuffle (my word, not his ;). I had a hard time even thinking of a way to say no to such a polite and direct request. ;)
So here’s my thought: It’s unfortunate that some folks won’t be able to either play or get the full experience that was mentioned in the Kickstarter. It’s also unfortunate that, as Braben admitted, they waited so long to effectively dump this news on people. A lot of folks were excited about this game in the last several months, but recently I’ve seen the tide turn, and much of the talk is how flawed the game is or how it’s going to fail or what have you (hell, it almost sounds like Star Citizen talk in some places). I’m not sure it calls for the outright outrage I’ve been seeing on forums of late, however, as I’m not fully convinced this will prevent folks from playing the game outright, even with spotty or limited connections. Braben himself said when playing in Solo Mode, the game doesn’t need a fast Internet connection, which leads me to believe that for portions of the game that need a connection, like market updates and the like, they don’t need to be constantly updated. This could allow folks with slower or limited connections to still play, one would hope.
Therefore, to the folks demanding refunds for no offline mode at all, I say wait until the game is fully released next month, test it out, and see if it works okay for you in Solo Mode. If you find it works within the limitations of your current Internet connection, why not continue to play it? If it doesn’t, THEN demand your refund. I mean, why jump to conclusions without even TRYING to see if the game works for you?
Again, I’m likely biased/privileged/what have you, but honestly this seems much more molehilly than mountainous. I mean, as loathe as I hate to admit it, more and more games will likely be online only in the future, if for nothing else than anti-piracy concerns. Hopefully this won’t leave too many people who enjoy playing video games behind, but with all the choice now not just in gaming but in space gaming, I have a feeling it’ll all balance out in the end. I mean look at Enemy Starfighter and Rebel Galaxy. Both are solely single player and offer plenty of shooty, tradey, explorey fun, so even if you can’t play online, you’ll still be able to play awesome games. :)
What do you folks think? Let’s chat in the comments, because this is a topic worthy of further discussion.