David Braben, co-creator of seminal Eighties space fighting sim Elite has revealed the future of the much-loved franchise to CVG in an exclusive interview earlier this week.
Braben, whose Frontier Developments has just completed Thrillville before moving on to work on next-gen political thriller The Outsider, has told CVG that a modern remake of the classic is still very much in his thoughts and that not one, but two versions of Elite for the Noughties are planned.
However gamers shouldn't be holding their breath as these new Elites will follow after The Outsider has been completed and will indeed depend on some of The Outsider's technology.
Braben told us, "There are two project designs that we've got now. One is a multiplayer game, the other is a single-player, still allowing multiplayer, but not massive multiplayer, which we do plan to do and that will follow on from The Outsider and use some of the technologies that that employs. That's the way they fit together."
Braben continued, "Certainly the first Elite incarnation will be a single player game, that supports multiplayer, but we're not talking thousands, we're talking tens of players."
While an Elite MMO still remains the ultimate dream (coincidentally as we argued for recently in our Bring It Back! feature,) Braben is under no illusions that it will be a simple task: "Although I think it's a long way off, one thing I'm wary of is that it's a very difficult game to provide for well. There will be groups of fans who will be very critical of what happens, that's true of every game really, but it's a lot of work to keep that going for a long time."
Perhaps most interestingly Braben also gave us some insights into the original spec for the game as it was being developed in 2000 and some of the reasons Elite slipped off the radar. "What happened is that we started the Elite sequel back in 2000, and that was structured as a mass multiplayer game. In doing our research and at the planning stage of how all the network infrastructure would work we found the network was nowhere near as sophisticated as people were saying and by that I mean the companies.
"I was very wary that we would be trailblazing and one of the ways we were planning to do it was to put a piece of hardware in every single phone exchange, so it was a much wider plan to achieve the very short ping times that you need to play the game we wanted to do. So we put that essentially on indefinite hold at that point because I knew it wasn't going to work well. And I'd rather not do it, than do something that didn't work well."
Concluding our chat, Braben also revealed that far from seeing the original Elite as a kind of millstone still hanging around his neck, he still had very positive memories of its original development.
"I was very lucky to be part of that when Ian and I did it in the Eighties, it was great fun to have done and from a nostalgia point of view. For me, looking back on it, it was a very very good time. Writing games was quite different then, because to be honest we wrote Elite for ourselves, basically. Yes it was meant to be commercial, but the point is there was none of this 'who will this appeal to?'. It was a case of 'yes it's great, let's do it!' You can make something absolutely spot on in that way, [even] given the constraints that you have."
So it's all around excellent news for Elite fans, but we'll just have to wait for Frontier to complete The Outsider before we can venture forth in a Cobra Mark III all over again.