The fluid nature of game development means plans might change. Communicating those changes becomes really important with crowdfunded games, and Elite: Dangerous just messed that part up. The game's dropping its promised offline mode at the very last second.
Elite: Dangerous ships on December 16, but less than a month before launch, designer David Braben revealed offline play's been axed. When the game raised more than $2 million on Kickstarter, it said players would explore "online with your friends, or other 'Elite' pilots like yourself, or even alone."
The change was mentioned in the game's latest newsletter, which tries to spin the move as critical to maintaining the game's core focus on a connected online experience. Elite: Dangerous might very well benefit from an online-only experience, but that's not what the developers promised.
Here's what Braben wrote, related to the offline mode:
"We will continue to fully and openly engage with you.
Continuing to grow the game past the launch date as we plan would just not be possible at all with the constraints of physical disc manufacture and distribution, and is made possible only by the online nature of Elite: Dangerous.
When we set out on this journey, our ambition was to make Elite: Dangerous as large a technical step forward today as Elite and Frontier were in their time. The way the game embraces and pushes forward the online aspects of technology has been a particularly exciting aspect of that for me.
The basic fact of being able to interact online with our community during development has been tremendous. Just as in a film, based on feedback some of the things we originally thought would work have been left ‘on the cutting room floor’. We have also added unplanned features which I think are fundamentally key to the experience, and have made the game all the better. For example shifting design emphasis towards fantastic major new features such as supercruise, outposts and multiple ship ownership, to name just a few.
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."
A thread on the game's official message boards is not filled with some especially happy fans.