Founder and CEO of Frontier Developments, David Braben, had a busy GDC, picking up awards and announcing the release of massive space MMO Elite: Dangerous (opens in new tab) on Xbox One later this year. Initially revealed as an Xbox exclusive, Braben later admitted on Twitter that PlayStation owners will just have to be patient. Why? It's a timed deal, which means PS4 owners can hold onto their free time for a little longer.
GamesRadar+ catches up with Braben for his opinion on the difference between traditional, AAA blockbusters compared to the world of Elite: Dangerous: “The industry is branching... the five to ten hour experience is still a great thing, but you look at some of our players. We’ve had players playing for significantly more than 1000 hours.”
“It’s interesting - how can they see new things after 1000 hours? But the great thing is we’ve been continuing to update the game,” he explains. “We brought out community challenges about three or four weeks ago which went down well. I remember being impressed when people were saying Skyrim was 100 hours... The beauty is that even though people have been playing for more than 1000 hours, we’ll have new content. This is the pace that we expect to keep up.”
The world of Elite: Dangerous on PC is overwhelmingly expansive and constant updates across the galaxy such as Wings (out now) and Powerplay (an expected update for later this year) will make the world even bigger. Expansions bleed into the main game, making the universe endless and that’s what Braben feels is key to its success.
“I don’t quite see it as core game vs expansions because that’s a mindset of the past. The way I see it is that the world is continuing to get better,” he explains. "Because we’ve also been doing daily updates in the story. News items come out, they affect the world. Also there is the great evolving storyline created by players. We’ve had players overthrowing governments - those sort of things are dynamic and happen moment to moment.”
Braben ties this freedom for players to do what they want into the freedom given to Frontier as developers. The result of an ultra-successful Kickstarter project in 2012 with over a quarter of a million pounds over their target £1.25 million, Elite: Dangerous has always been fiercely independent.
“The great thing about having that independence - that’s been created by all those people who backed us - has enabled us to almost go back to gaming where there is much more freedom in terms of what you do but also in terms of it not being dumbed down in anyway. And that’s great,” enthuses Braben.
“Whether it applies to how the game plays or how it controls, that sort of thing. And that’s not to say everyone has to play like that. That’s the beauty of it. I’m very very excited about where we are with gaming. It feels in the past year or so, gaming has started to get its own identity in the way it’s getting to tell stories and we have that opportunity.”
It’s when asked about his ideal game, Braben reveals his thoughts on the future of Elite: Dangerous and it’s tantalisingly exciting; “I’d like to think that we’re working towards it. My ambition is that the game doesn’t get in the way, that you genuinely can do whatever you want to do. I’ve said that in the future, via paid updates, that there will be lots of things coming.”
“The scope for that is very nearly endless. Whether it’s big game hunting on alien worlds, cities on planets, that sort of thing. It could be truly amazing, but also each one of those is a major game in its own right, so the scope of all of those things beautifully integrated together for me is The Ideal Game.”
“The thing that matters to me with Elite - because we have a real galaxy with real distances - you can look up and see the whole night’s sky and you can say ‘I can see that, I’ve been there’. That means a lot to me. I’ve always been a great science fiction fan so the more games that fulfil that feel. I love open worlds. I love science fiction. It’s that inception that’s particularly a sweet spot.”
It sounds like the kind of sweet spot that could make life exceptionally more, err, dangerously unproductive when Elite reaches Xbox One later this year.