Elite Dumps Offline Mode, Starts Issuing Refunds To Disgruntled Players

Elite Dumps Offline Mode, Starts Issuing Refunds To Disgruntled Players

Over the course of its development, Frontier’s Elite: Dangerous has had mostly positive press and for some it’s served as a tighter and focused foil to the larger, more ambitious Star Citizen. Recently though, the David Braben-led space sim has endured a staggering level of backlash from its impassioned fans, after it was announced that the promised “offline” mode would not make it to the final release.

The dumping of the offline mode is exactly what it sounds like — players will need a persistent internet connection in order to enjoy Elite‘s procedurally-generated cosmic fruits. This tidbit of info was talked about at length by Braben in the game’s weekly newsletter:

We have also been able to create a connected experience which lets you play your own story whilst in a dynamic, ever unfolding galaxy that is constantly reacting to what you and every other player is doing, be that trading, combat, exploration or missions. This has become fundamental to the whole experience.

Going forwards, being online lets us constantly both curate and evolve the galaxy, with stories unfolding according to the actions of commanders. Exploration is also a key factor, too, and it is important that what a single player explores matches what other players explore whether single or multiplayer – a complex, coherent world – something we have achieved. Galaxy, story, missions, have to match, and it does mean the single player has to connect to the server from time to time, but this has the added advantage that everyone can participate in the activities that can happen in the galaxy. A fully offline experience would be unacceptably limited and static compared to the dynamic, ever unfolding experience we are delivering.

Even highlighting the benefits of an online connection, the response from backers and beta testers was fierce. The most common reaction was the demand of a refund and enough people must have made such a request as Frontier had to do a follow-up outlining refund conditions:

Those who have pre-ordered an Elite: Dangerous release version from our online store and have therefore not yet played the game are eligible for a refund. Those who have already been playing the game online in the Alpha and/or Beta phases, regardless of whether they backed the project via Kickstarter or purchased access to Alpha and/or Beta through our online store, are not eligible for a refund.

As you might have guessed, this did not go down well either.

Eventually, Frontier relented on its above stance, with Braben himself stating the developer will provide more leeway when it comes to issuing refunds, as well as reconsidering some previously declined requests:

Hi All,

I want to keep you all updated.

We initially declined some people’s request for refund as our records showed they have already played Elite: Dangerous online. After listening to many of the comments I received after my AMA here, we have since re-opened these requests and informed those people that we will be contacting them so that we can fully understand their individual situation before making a more informed decision.

It’s terrifying how quickly the goodwill the game fostered from its regular updates, fast-paced development and polished betas evaporated with what seems like a simple change. But if you’re a fan of space sims and in particular, the Elite flavour of space sim, having to be online is a monumental change.

No Single Player Offline Mode then? [Frontier, via RPS]


  • Well, I went for the refund. I mainly want to play this offline in the Rift, I have poor internet and am not interested in an always online model.
    Honestly can’t understand the decision.

  • I don’t understand the surprise here? Someone didn’t deliver and what was advertised. Who cares if they can explain the benefits, changes were made that the people paying for the game didn’t pay for but they were made to anyway.

    • I don’t understand the surprise here either. An idea was proposed on kickstarter and changes were made to it because that they originally proposed turned out to not be feasible. Something that happens all the time when products are being developed, they’re never going to be exactly what was shown at the beginning.

      The amount of foot-stomping that’s come up over this is completely ridiculous.

      • In my eyes, this is ok namely for the fact they identified an issue, were open and honest about it and declared their actions. Too many early access games have gone the opposite way, merely going silent (Towns, Stomping Lands etc) instead of being open and honest regarding difficulties.

        Add to that, I actually thought that this was solely online anyhow???

      • Absolutely agree. The amount of anger people hold when it comes to stuff like this is so wrong. In the end, it’s all just video games – it’s not like it affects their ability to live and breathe.

        People need to get their priorities sorted.

    • I think that, as consumers/’investors’, we do have a right to have our money back if we don’t like the direction that the product has taken; given the offers of refund, it appears that the developers do too.

      That said, I think that the reaction of people to ‘always online’ experiences is a bit ridiculous. We don’t live in the stone age anymore, and the overwhelming majority of consumers have access to a decent internet connection. I do feel for those that don’t, but this is the way that the gaming experience is heading. Having heard the explanation, the devs are pretty clear that this is in the best interests of the gameplay. If that’s not your cup of tea, thats cool, take your money back and go.

  • But isn’t this game all about the online? What’s the point in building up at empire with no one to rule over? I’m just not sure why people would want an offline mode for this game. I may have a misunderstanding about the actual game, but as far as I’m aware, it’s an open galaxy with trade routes and ships to buy, money to make and solar systems to concur. Is there a story? Quest NPCs? Narrative of any kind that doesn’t involve player input?

    • There was an offline mode that worked like the original Elite, which was more the game I wanted to play.
      I also use it as an introduction to the Oculus Rift with a traveling ‘VR Show’ and having to dick with internet is not worth the hassle.

      What has gotten people angry is the response from the developers as much as the withdrawl of the feature.

      • I understand that. But as a developer, shouldn’t they be able to make the game that they want without having people cracking it? I mean it’s their work of art so…?

        • One of the problems with the new funding model is that instead of the dev being accountable to a big, mean publisher, they’re accountable to a mass of anonymous average people. Some funded this with the understanding that there would be an offline mode, they’re not getting that, and now they’re pissed off.

          This new funding model in now way has freed devs from the shackles of oversight or accountability – they’ve just swapped from publishers to gamers, and the latter can be a hell of a lot more fickle and unforgiving when things change.

        • The problem is that it’s a case of buying something then having it changed to something you wouldn’t have bought. Imagine buying a hybrid but then a couple of weeks later they send someone out to remove support for using batteries.

          But since you specifically said art, another good example would be ordering a painting, but then the artist goes and changes the painting while he’s working on it, as helpfully demonstrated here.

          • The thing is though, you’re not buying a product. There is no product yet, you’re funding the creation of a product. If it were the end product and they advertised it as having an offline mode, only for you to buy it and open it up and have no offline mode available? Sure, get angry. You’ve bought something that doesn’t do what it was advertised to do. That is not the case here, not until the “full version” is released on the 16th. Which is why they’re getting the “there is no offline mode” thing out of the way now, so that nobody will be buying it for the offline mode when the 16th hits.

          • Totalbiscuit said it best with kick starter and crowd funding. If you’re not prepared to lose that money, don’t back a project. If you back something, consider it money you donated away. Because that’s ultimately the funding model.

  • I’ve been playing the beta, and I don’t mind this move. The reason they gave for it makes a lot of sense when you consider the way saving and such works in ED. You can take your single-player save and then switch to playing online with everyone else, so there needs to be consistency across all players, and the only way to make sure that’s the case is to have occasional check-ins with the servers (at the very least).

    I understand the annoyance amongst people who wanted to be able to play without having an internet connection, but that’s got to be a pretty small minority of people for a PC game. Surely 95% of people are going to be playing on a home computer with an internet connection.

    I also don’t think that they need to offer refunds to backers/beta players (although it is nice of them). That’s the risk you take when you buy something in a pre-release state. The game may change drastically. The game may never be finished. It sucks to get burned that way but people should understand that it might happen going in.

  • Well- as a beta 2 backer of this game I’m appalled that people are behaving as they are.
    I feel frontier have exceeded expectations.
    I believe that trying to make this offline and work is likely to be a massive and unrealistic undertaking and I don’t miss it.
    Solo (online) works fine for me and the data overhead is minimal.
    I feel like it is a whole bunch of people taking advantage of the good will and it harms crowdfunding in general 🙁

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