It’s been two-and-a-half years because Frontier Developments first announced it was dealing with the mysterious “next period” of Elite Dangerous – one which would, it promised, provide a “specifying moment” in the history of the video game. That, we ‘d eventually discover, meant the development of possibly one of the most asked for features in the seminal space sim series’ near-four-decade-long presence – the ability for gamers to leave their ships and stomp throughout the galaxy in first-person – and today marks the day this once-enigmatic brand-new growth, now formally entitled Odyssey, lastly appears.But how did the journey towards Odyssey’s PC release start? As Piers Jackson, game director on Elite Dangerous, discusses, “You probably need to wind all the way back someplace into the ’80s and truly look at [original co-creator David Braben’s] vision for this. I think it’s constantly been the case that, eventually, he wished to get out of ships and walk on worlds. So this is a long burn, will we say, to get to that point.”
It’s a dream that numerous Elite Dangerous gamers have actually shared over the years, and it’s difficult to overemphasize the thrill of lastly, after four years of cockpit confinement, having the ability to plant your feet on solid ground. “The thing that truly took my breath away,” remembers lead designer Gareth Hughes of his first time outside his vessel in Odyssey, “was just the sense of scale when you go out on foot. You got a bit of that feeling when the SRV gameplay was added with Horizons however having the ability to see the scale of the ships, the scale of the settlements that we’ve made in Odyssey, the pre-existing settlements and ports, it’s remarkable simply to look around and absorb precisely how huge all this stuff is.”
Odyssey’s brand-new planetary tech, which can creating some sensational alien vistas, is definitely striking, however it’s perhaps the expansion of the video game’s existing places – such as the enforcing, oft-visited spaceport station – that truly underscores just how much of an attitude move the modification to first-person exploration brings. “It gives a somewhat more human feel to it,” believes Hughes. “You have a different connection, from being a pilot to being a human in this place”.
“All the important things you would have experienced at some level outside the station are now taking place at ground level,” Jackson concurs, “which’s one of the real magic minutes for me. When you’re in multiplayer and you walk to the window, and you watch out into the vastness of the hangar, and you view your buddy’s ship come through the letterbox and dock, and in fact descend into it, and then they pop out of the elevator at the other end and walk towards you.”
There’s more to Odyssey than the possibility to ogle its magnificent sights from a brand-new perspective, naturally. It likewise weaves first-person fight, non-combat objectives, and expanded expedition into its on-foot gameplay, enabling gamers to experience a few of Elite Dangerous’ core tenets in entire brand-new methods. “We needed to make certain we were developing something for everyone,” describes Jackson. “Our gamers are quite diverse, [as are] the activities they desire to undertake in Elite, so we required to make sure we were developing experiences in each of the locations”.
“It was also important for us that the Odyssey material didn’t feel separate from the video game Elite is,” adds Hughes. “It had to feel blended in, so there were significant connections between what you were doing in Elite Dangerous and what you’re doing in the Odyssey expansion, so it seems like a natural progression rather than a completely different layer of activity.”
“There’s a lot of systems in Elite up to the point of Odyssey that worked remarkably well,” continues Jackson, “and our function as designers was to develop upon that, to develop brand-new experiences that complement that. We now have new planets we can explore, we’re out of an SRV or out of the ship and on foot, so there are new locations for us to layer. The challenge truly for us has always been ensuring these game systems in fact link cohesively with each other.”
“It likewise produces truly great chances to broaden on some of the systems that are already in the game,” includes Hughes. “So, for instance, you can now fly down to our planetary settlements in a ship, dock with the landing pad, and you can trade with those men. Because these are smaller sized settlements, rather than big ports, they frequently have medium or little landing pads which constrains the size of ship you can land with. We’re embracing the trade aspects a little bit from the existing game, but then we’re feeding back into it by motivating players to really use a larger variety of ships than perhaps they are at the minute. It’s those type of connections we’ve actually worked on to make certain that synergy is there … There’s so numerous excellent and soaking up elements that are currently there, it’s actually like, well, how can we take what is fantastic about this and shift it into this on-foot experience?”
None of Odyssey’s brand-new systems lack precedent obviously – even within the progressively busy field of space sims, video games like No Man’s Sky and Star Citizen have already considerably pipped Elite Dangerous to the post with features like planetary landings, or first-person expedition and combat – but Jackson and Hughes think the expansion successfully manages to provide these familiar components a distinct, clearly Elite spin.
Odyssey’s combat – which comes into play throughout objectives, emerging encounters, and competitive team-based Conflict Zones – is, reckons Hughes, a great example of this. “What we wished to do was make a first-person combat experience that felt right for Elite,” he describes, “so a great deal of our inspiration in fact originated from the ship battle, the type of technology and weapon types and ammunition types we use there.”
” [There’s also] a little bit of respectfulness about the kind of gamer we have who plays Elite,” continues Hughes. “Not to be too general, but maybe they do not want a severe twitch-based shooter that’s really going to tax them … something slightly slower-paced, or what we think about to be more tactical, more tactical, felt like a better suitable for us.”
“That was crucial from my point of view,” Jackson agrees, “to produce a thinking guy’s shooter. You can enter into a great deal of trouble in Odyssey quite rapidly by simply strolling into a settlement, pulling your guns out, and shooting. However if you are more thought about in the method you approach the video game, you can be somewhat slower, more methodical. Or if you’re really smart, you meet up with your pals and in fact take missions on together.”
“I believe it opens even more when we start discussing group play,” continues Hughes. “If you’ve got gamers in a group on foot, you can definitely handle various functions. That expands out even more if you’ve got a player [ whose] choice is for ship gameplay, state, and they’ve got a friend who they’ve encouraged to come in and delight in Odyssey with them. That friend can be the on-foot man, and they can be the ship man, the getaway motorist for that brand-new gamer, and they can collaborate … We’ve certainly seen that in a great deal of our playtesting and in the alpha.”
While fight unquestionably plays a considerable role within Odyssey, however, the team, conscious of the variety of Elite’s gamer base, was keen to make sure the growth mirrored the core video game’s basic sandbox principles – “The galaxy is yours, do what you desire with it”, as Jackson puts it – never ever forcing gamers toward one specific design of play. “Outside of the Conflict Zones, which are devoted combat spaces,” Hughes elaborates, “we do not force fight on the player. It’s practically a player’s choice to desire to fight or to do things that are going to make them need to combat … That was a conscious option on our part … because [although fight is] A pillar of the video game, it’s not about it taking place 100 percent”.
“We required to ensure that was shown in the sort of missions we’re providing,” includes Jackson, “so we have some quite lightweight entry objectives, which are simply a simple case of going someplace and collecting something, and there’s extremely little threat and really little friction associated with that. You can likewise handle some of our reboot objectives – some of the most atmospheric ones we’ve got – where you go to power down settlements, perhaps in the evening and it’s pitch black, and you can be totally on your own, working more like an area mechanic … So there are activities that can happen at settlements that don’t necessarily need to include battle. But they can constantly degrade into fight, if that’s how it unfolds.”
Unsurprisingly, offered Odyssey’s focus on planetary enhancements and on-foot ambling, Jackson believes expedition is one non-combat area that particularly advantages from the growth. “We’re producing new worlds – truly, actually pretty gorgeous planets – for [players] to check out and go, to get out and walk about in, to go and sample brand-new organic life kinds. There’s a big set of new things for our explorers to see in the galaxy. A great deal of them will spend huge quantities of time taking a trip the black, looking at what they can learn there. They’ll find things we’ve not seen [due to the fact that of the game’s procedural nature] which’s part of the marvel of expedition, you can actually discover things that are brand-new and nobody’s seen before.”
The hope is these additions, whether combat-focussed or otherwise, will act as jumping-off points for whole brand-new emerging adventures each time gamers endeavor out into the galaxy. “If they’re going to this system, this port,” states Hughes, “they can go and take a mission to that neighboring planet. And while they’re there, they could do a little bit of trading, and they’ll do their objective at the settlement, perhaps they’ll do a little bit of looting. And it’s that chain of gameplay opportunity that creates a brand-new story players have not truly knowledgeable before.
” [They may think] ‘When I did the scan of the world before I flew down, I saw a huge patch of organics a couple of miles away. I’m going to hop over there and scan them all and then I can sell my genetic data for additional cash’. However while I’m on my method to that natural field, I’ve discovered a crashed ship, so I’m going to dip down and see if there’s a scavenging opportunity. We’re trying to create these links, opportunities for players they’re never forced to do. However if they wish to, one thing results in another and prior to they realise it they’ve done a little journey from ship gameplay, possibly through to SRV, to on-foot, back into ship, and after that back to port. It’s that kind of circular nature we’re injecting more things into that people can take pleasure in.”
Of course, many Elite Dangerous fans have actually currently had a chance to put Odyssey’s new systems to the test, thanks to Frontier’s current paid alpha. It was a procedure pitched as a chance to play the expansion early and provide meaningful feedback, however with simply a couple of weeks between the alpha’s conclusion and today’s launch, was it – as some have posited – more of a marketing opportunity than one that could potentially ever want to help with significant modification?
“This was not a marketing tool,” firmly insists Jackson. “Certainly, from our point of view, we’ve utilized the alpha enormously, we’ve had a really big amount of feedback from our players, we’ve responded to a lot of it too.” Hughes agrees, describing, “From a design viewpoint, the data around the economy, combat balancing, AI behaviours, there was some wonderful insight we managed to get from the alpha and we’ve responded to for launch. So I’m hoping the gamers who played and took pleasure in the alpha are going to see some really substantial enhancements in the areas they’ve highlighted, that they felt required them.”
“And it does not stop there,” Jackson adds. “We continue to listen to our gamers … Elite’s a living, breathing game, it doesn’t stop at release, we will continue to establish it.”
One notable area of enhancement Odyssey gamers will see at launch, incomplete during the alpha, is the growth’s brand-new planetary generation technology. “We now have a far more diverse variety of atmospheres with [variable] density to them,” explains Jackson, “and the actual surface areas have had a massive amount of improvement. We didn’t have numerous things like canyons in the alpha, but we’ve spent a great deal of time making certain they’re in there for people who wish to do canyon runs, and the geology is simply normally speaking considerably enhanced. It’s like an enormous lick of paint across the entire lot, and it already had been an action up from the worlds that were in Horizons.”
As for what may be in store for Elite Dangerous beyond today’s launch, Frontier isn’t stating. “I don’t think we’re in a position where we’re all set to discuss what follows Odyssey,” Jackson states. “You understand, there are a variety of concepts floating around however we’re extremely, extremely concentrated on launch right now. We will get released, take a breath, see what follows.” As Jackson sees it though, Odyssey’s new on-foot gameplay will continue to be a core part of the Elite Dangerous vision in the future. “In the exact same way ships are very important to Elite,” he validates, “it’s now essential to Elite as well.”
That, we ‘d ultimately discover, suggested the development of possibly one of the most requested features in the influential area sim series’ near-four-decade-long existence – the ability for players to leave their ships and stomp across the galaxy in first-person – and today marks the day this once-enigmatic brand-new expansion, now officially titled Odyssey, lastly appears.But how did the journey towards Odyssey’s PC release begin?”There’s a lot of systems in Elite up to the point of Odyssey that worked fantastically well,” continues Jackson, “and our function as designers was to develop upon that, to create brand-new experiences that match that.”
While combat undoubtedly plays a substantial role within Odyssey, nevertheless, the team, mindful of the variety of Elite’s player base, was eager to guarantee the expansion mirrored the core video game’s essential sandbox ethos – “The galaxy is yours, do what you want with it”, as Jackson puts it – never requiring gamers toward one particular style of play.”
Of course, numerous Elite Dangerous fans have already had an opportunity to put Odyssey’s brand-new systems to the test, thanks to Frontier’s current paid alpha. As Jackson sees it however, Odyssey’s new on-foot gameplay will continue to be a core part of the Elite Dangerous vision in the future.