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:
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.