November Update

Firstly, apologies for the late update. The turn of the month was a difficult one, with many things outside the insular reality of the Elite RPG all coming to a head at roughly the same time. Suffice to say that my attention has not really been on the project for about half of the last six-week period, and for that I apologise. Progress is slow, but still moves forward.

So what has actually been achieved this last month? Well, the concept for the spacecraft and related equipment section has developed somewhat. The release of Beta 3 has again shaken up the Elite Dangerous universe, and this has had a small effect on the development of the troublesome space-related content.

In a nutshell, the prices for everything have again been knocked all over the place. I’ve decided that rather than scrupulously transcribe everything from Elite Dangerous into the RPG, creating a faithful representation of the equipment prices and so on, it would be a much more flexible idea to introduce a price range concept based on the current location’s technical, economic, political and sociological “type” as well as the complexity, “quality” and rarity of the item being purchased. it’s proving to be a complicated task to re-calculate the various different influences on a price, but it should (hopefully) present a simple interface to the players and GMs who will use the “matrix”, giving a “realistic” representation of how local variables can affect the price and availability of an item of equipment. For the moment the concept is limited to spacecraft and their component parts, but I’m hoping that the concept will be flexible enough to be applied to other vehicle and equipment types as well.

The down side of this is the amount of time it is taking to get it right. It’s in an early state at the moment and is still too complex to manage easily. I like things to be simple during play – I don’t want the GM and players to have to leaf through a hundred pages of tables just to buy a heat sink, for example and I want to avoid the need for a calculator to be required roleplaying kit alongside the pencil and dice. At the same time I pledged to deliver a game that was as tied into the Elite Dangerous game as I could manage. Hopefully the effort here will make sure that both can be achieved, but the balance has to be right.

Other progress includes completion of the bionics and cloned body part list and the expansion of the “adventures in space” section, which outlines the general technology and civilisation of ther spacefaring humans up to 3300. This has proved to be a complex beast to write, as I try and expand on the day-to-day living experiences of members of this society without duplicating things that have been written in the background section of the book. I’m also trying to make sure that I include enough information about the technology being used to make it easy for players and GMs to be aware of how things work without the whole thing becoming the “Elite Technobabble Manual”.

More recently I’ve been troubled by the vital statistics being used for characters. I’ve worried that there are too many of them and that some of them are quite redundant. Nociception, for example, is a great concept for a defining characteristic of a character (basically it represents the pain threshold) but it’s very specific – it can only be used for one thing. What’s needed is a refinement of the vital stats to make them more user-friendly and relevant to the tasks that will be relying on them. I’ve had a great idea to improve the whole stat system and make it much more logical, and I’ll be running that past the Game Development pledgers very soon before making the change.

That’s it for the RPG update. There have been some other things in the Elite news this last few weeks though.

As noted already, Beta 3 was released. Once again Frontier Developments have gone above and beyond the call of duty dealing with the inevitable issues being discovered by the legion of beta testers and fans. Some are saying that the level of problems being found are more than should be at this stage of development but I think that the bugs aren’t anything to worry about, and are par for the course for a game of this magnitude. The fact that Frontier are dealing with the issues quickly and effectively tells me everything I need to know.

As well as the Beta 3 release, Frontier have also stated that a final beta will be released on Thursday 20th, and that this will be the last big update before the full release, which has been revealed to be the 16th December – the day before my birthday!

Frontier’s big Launch Event will be on the 22nd – this Saturday, and as a fiction writer I’ve received my tickets to the event, to be held at Duxford Air Museum. I’m looking forward to it, and I’m even getting into the spirit of it all by going in costume! I’m taking leaflets and business cards to the event, and will hopefully be doing some advertising for the RPG whilst I’m there. Mainly, though, I’ll be having the night off from book writing, and will enjoy the company of the lovely Mrs Selezen. The high point will be finally being able to meet the man who (along with Ian Bell) shaped a good portion of my adult life.

I want to quickly say WELL DONE to Anthony “Ozoli” Olver on his successful Kickstarter for the Elite Archives book, and shout out to Dan and the Fantastic Elite Fiction authors, whose audio novels are stampeding over the horizon. I think the “Tales From The Frontier” audio set is out already.

Lastly, I want to quickly mention the issue that has apparently caused a bit of a stir amongst the Elite community. I don’t frequent the forums much at the moment, so the first I heard about it was on Drew Wagar’s blog. I am referring to the cunningly concealed announcement in Newsletter 49 that Elite Dangerous will not have the offline single-player mode that was promised during the Kickstarter. Do I have an opinion on it? Yes I do. Do you want to hear it?

Yes? Read on.

I’m a little gutted, to be honest. The ability to play the game without having to worry about an internet connection would have been cool. Ultimately, in the short term I don’t think I’m really bothered about it, since my internet connection is farly reliable and I can play the solo mode easily enough. My only worry is the long term security of the game if Frontier decide at some point to stop supporting the game. Maybe a new sequel to Elite will come along in ten years or so, and Elite Dangerous will be dropped for the “new hotness”. I think I’d still be keen to play Elite Dangerous, in much the same way that I will still want to play Elite, Oolite and (maybe) Frontier even when Elite Dangerous is in full swing. What will Frontier do if they decide to pull the plug on the ED servers? What if they go bust? Will the server code be made available to others to host? Who knows…?

Anyway. Yeah I’m disappointed. But apparently there’s been a HUGE amount of kicking off about this. I think that’s too much. I re-read the newsletter and the statement made was that Frontier feel that the game experience loses too much if the online updates and changes to the dynamic universe are lost. You know what? That’s good enough reason for me. Throwing our toys out of the pram isn’t going to make a lot of difference, and I think we’re better than that. The game’s good. Bloody good. I’m willing to maintain an internet connection if it lets me play Elite. 🙂