I recently saw a tweet about a dead horse getting beaten up one more time.
Only just read this, and it's a couple of months old now, but it expresses the concerns and fears of many about the future of #EliteDangerous and #elitedangerousodyssey worth a read. https://t.co/eikrb2KF31— Drew Wagar (@drewwagar) October 12, 2021
I am on a holiday right now so I have plenty of time to rage about people on the internet sharing their negative opinion on something I am positive about and writing a 2200 word blog post on why I think they are wrong. So here goes. I will first dissect the above blog post and then provide my own opinion on Elite Dangerous.
Before that, let me introduce myself. I am a long time Elite Dangerous player and go by CMDR Garud in game. I decided to put this out in my personal blog as these thoughts are not a great fit for my RP blog. Moreover, it involves discussion of other games which I wouldn't do role playing as CMDR Garud. Consider these thoughts to be from Sayak and not from Garud.
The Appeal of Elite Dangerous
Here the writer is pretty much spot on. The fact that you can do pretty much whatever you want, go wherever you want with your ship in Elite Dangerous is a core appeal of the game. But the writer makes some assumptions about Elite Dangerous that is just not true.
In Elite Dangerous you are not truly alone. Sure, if you want to be alone, there is a whole galaxy out there to be away from everybody. But you need not be. Elite Dangerous is a multiplayer game too. You can easily group up with people and can do the same stuff that you would do alone, with a group. Elite Dangerous not only shines by hitting home the loneliness and the vastness of the galaxy but also the joys of social interactions.
And although Elite Dangerous falls in the same genre as No Man's Sky and Star Citizen, its very difficult to compare them. The comparison is not like all the generic AAA First Person Shooters available. The above 3 games have their focus and is not trying to be like the other and this is something gamers need to understand.
Where's the flaw?
It has been said time and again that Elite Dangerous is repetitive and grindy. Has those people seen the gaming market? Do they think that playing the same game with different guns and maps is not repetitive? COD is not repetitive? Rocket League is not repetitive? I know I will get hundreds of people saying they are not but what is the difference?
Let me tell you an experience I had with another MMO. Elder Scrolls Online. Initially I was having a great experience, doing quests and playing the story. Some people asked me if I actually read through NPC dialogues and I said "Yes, of course!". Then once the story finished, I decided to complete the maps. This started a grind of me all side quests and dungeon running, and this made me realize what those people were talking about. So, I will change my style. I will stop trying to complete the map and take on the story more.
Honestly, if someone says that a game was repetitive after playing it for over 1500 hours, I would suggest to take that opinion with a pinch of salt.
Nothing, except self motivation
I almost have no problem in this segment although it is written in a negative tone. So, let me reiterate it in a positive one.
Elite Dangerous is a Galaxy sized sandbox where the game doesn't railroad you in playing the way it wants. You play the game you want with the tools available to you. It focuses on realism and like any realistic scenario, you are not the Hero. You are nothing in the beginning. Your purpose in Elite Dangerous is to create your own path, blaze your own trail and have a journey from nothing to influencing your own region of space and even the future of the galaxy!
What keeps Elite Dangerous running
I agree that the community plays a big part in shaping Elite Dangerous. The tools developed by the community has become an indispensable part of the playing experience (I am one of them so I know). So, has the many community groups focused on a particular activity like the Fuel Rats. For that matter, I would like to see a game which doesn't require a community to survive.
The community is a huge part of the Elite Dangerous experience. You might be a solo player but being a part of the community can greatly increase the satisfaction that you can draw from the game.
At this stage I would like to stress the fact that it would be unfair to compare Elite Dangerous to any random game which doesn't need a player to be a part of the community to enjoy it. If you don't want to be a part of the community, you will probably not enjoy Elite Dangerous for long. And that is fine! Just like if you don't like horror, you won't enjoy a horror game for long no matter how well it is made!
Elite Dangerous' demise
Demise? Seriously? The author makes some pretty wild and incorrect claims in this part. Let me go through them. EVA repairs in spacesuits, ship interiors, landable atmospheric planets and capturing other ships were ideas. They were never promised as such. They were discussed as part of their vision and visions are never promises, because visions change over the course of time.
Moreover ship interiors were never cancelled. They weren't promised in the first place!
Half-baked deliveries everywhere
This is a frequent complain. And this I kind of agree with. Elite Dangerous has the tendency to release a core gameplay loop first and then improve upon it later. Would it have been better to release things a gameplay loop fully finished? Maybe? But there is a risk that the community won't like the loop and it will be a lot of wasted effort so the developers will double down and so on. I don't see a great outcome from this.
Live service gaming is here to stay and I personally don't hate this system. It keeps things fresh or keeps our hopes for fresh things in the future.
My feelings end at "something is missing" and I can't make a cohesive argument as to exactly what it is. I have heard people say that Elite Dangerous lacks "inter-connectivity" between different parts of the gameplay. But if someone asks me to explain I won't be able to. As such, I keep my opinions my own. Cause its possible that this "feeling" is just a result of the community repeating a sentiment and me subconsciously echoing it. Maybe majority of the community just echoes this sentiment without understanding where it comes from.
You wouldn't talk, you wouldn't listen
Ahh! The age old "no communication" argument. This is a rhetoric not only from the Elite Dangerous community but in all major gaming communities. It seems like every individual wants to be heard. They argue that since they have bought a game, they have the right to be heard. But guess what? Over the years I have seen people on both sides of an argument. Almost every time a new feature is released, people get divided on either side. This means that the side whose arguments are not implemented, they will feel that they have not been heard.
The author talks about the developer's not playing the game. Well, they certainly don't play it for 10 hours a week cause they are working on making it. But do they not play it at all? Do people really want me to believe that a developer doesn't use the software they have developed?
Since we are talking from a developer's perspective, let me put in another revelation. A developer need not be using the software they built regularly. That includes games. I might be developing a CRM suite but at the end of the day, I have no need to use one for my day to day life.
Also, gamers need to understand that games are just software. Gamers are just another consumer of a software.
Sigh, I got sidetracked. As you might know this part is a personal pet peeve of mine. Having the perfect amount of communication is next to impossible. The more you communicate, the more communication will be demanded. And any discussion of future ideas will immediately be converted as a promise. Case in point, the blog in question, as pointed earlier.
I am not the kind of person who complains without knowing a way to fix the thing I am complaining about. If I don't know how to fix, I get someone who knows how to fix. The community managers of Elite Dangerous are doing more than ever to keep the community updated with the latest happenings and honestly I don't see what better could be done.
Can Elite Dangerous be saved?
It doesn't need saving in the first place. Elite Dangerous was always a niche game. NMS and Star Citizen always got more hype and as much I would like to see Elite Dangerous become more popular, I can understand that the huge learning curve it has can be a struggle to some. Hence, Elite Dangerous has perpetually been a low traffic (comparatively) game.
The Odyssey was disastrous. Nobody disagrees on that. But is that enough to kill the game? Not really. Player numbers have certainly dwindled but that should not be a death blow. More games have gone through rough patches and up until Odyssey, the game was improving in many ways, networking being one of the major ones. I am pretty sure that Odyssey has left its worst days behind and the latest updates have been promising. But I am not holding this to the author as the blog post in question was posted a couple of months ago.
As to the things the developers needs to do. I cannot recollect anything that they have promised and not delivered. Its a very different thing if the author and the community assumes some ideas to be promises and if they do so, its none of the developers fault. And if I understand this right, if the developers don't deliver these made up promises, they won't gain any trust. Well, that's a strange situation to be in.
Now, regarding the technicalities. I don't know how the author assumes anything about the COBRA engine and its capabilities but its correct that bad tools can cause severe headache for the developers. But can developers just ignore a requirement because it would be a pain to develop? I don't understand how the author makes this assumption. Since the author calls themselves a computer scientist, I presume that wherever they work they get this kind of flexibility. I have not seen something like that happen in my immediate work network.
Regarding the concept of generating a minimum viable product (MVP). Honestly, it seems like people have not seen what a MVP looks like. This is much more complete that any MVP will ever be. I just wish people would stop echoing the same rhetoric without having any understanding of MVP.
Also, a note to the author. Elite Dangerous is not your game. In this "purely capitalist" world, it is the game of Frontier Development. And no manager would want to lose out on a profit margin because no one likes to lose their job.
My personal thoughts on Elite Dangerous
I started playing Elite Dangerous in summer 2016. Till date, I have around 1850 hours in it. Its a small number considering I have played over 5 years. The major reason being that I took things slow. I didn't rush to my Anaconda. I got my Imperial Clipper and Federal Corvette a few months back. I didn't play Elite Dangerous like my life depended on it. Sometimes I would play it a lot and get close to a burn out and every time I would take breaks. The author mentions about the love-hate relationship with Elite Dangerous. For me, my relationship with Elite Dangerous has been more of a healthy one. I gave the game space and in return the game stayed enjoyable.
Elite Dangerous is not your average FPS and it is best to not treat it as such. Get engaged with the community, take breaks regularly and try to do the various things that the game has to offer.
I don't consider myself as a gamer. And if I can enjoy Elite Dangerous, so can you.
Fly safe. o7