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Elite: Dangerous Offline Mode Dropped, Hit With Community Backlash

It’s now just over a month until Frontier Developments launches the full version of Elite: Dangerous, the anticipated virtual reality (VR) compatible space simulation experience. The PC title has been subject to extensive Beta testing throughout 2014 in which fans have been able to sample large portions of the videogame ahead of its release to ensure that it is as feature-complete as promised in the title’s hugely successful Kickstarter campaign that ended last year. However it appears that one feature mentioned in that campaign that won’t be making it into the full title is an offline mode.


Frontier Developments founder David Braben first hinted that the offline mode was dropped in this week’s edition of the Elite: Dangerous newsletter: “Going forwards, being online lets us constantly both curate and evolve the galaxy, with stories unfolding according to the actions of commanders,” he said. “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.”

Braben’s comments have led to the creation of a new thread in the Elite: Dangerous forums that has amassed over 1,500 comments since its creation on 14th November 2014. As forum members point out, the original Kickstarter campaign that raised some £1,578,316 GBP towards the development of the title does mention that it will be possible to play the title without an online connection. “Update! The above is the intended single player experience,” the Kickstarter FAQ reads after describing a single-player mode that is still connected online. “However it will be possible to have a single player game without connecting to the galaxy server. You won’t get the features of the evolving galaxy (although we will investigate minimising those differences) and you probably won’t be able to sync between server and non-server (again we’ll investigate).”

Fans in the thread have suggested that Frontier Developments isn’t delivering on what it promised in that Kickstarter campaign, with some now asking for refunds. However executive producer Michael Brooke has been defending the company’s decision in the same thread: “As mentioned in the newsletter thread the game has changed a lot since the initial kickstarter,” Brooke said. “One of the biggest changes is the importance of the the offline component to manage the galaxy and interactions. This isn’t something we can translate into an offline experience as we’d effectively have to make a new game world – we couldn’t share the same world and that throws out the intent for a shared universe. [sic]”

He later added: “The problem is that the galaxy mechanics all sit on the online servers. The data set and processes are huge and not something that would translate offline without considerable compromise to the vision. Trust me we didn’t sit down and think what would annoy people the most! It’s a choice we’ve had to make and so we’ve taken it.”

Brookes explained that Elite: Dangerous needed to connect online whenever players need to carry out a ‘server moderated transaction’ such as trading. Without an online connection, features such as this would not be possible. As for the mention of an offline mode’s inclusion in the Kickstarter campaign, he explained, “At the time we didn’t think it would be a problem.”

Speaking in the general newsletter thread, Brooke noted: “It’s not a decision we took lightly. We would much rather keep everyone happy (if such a thing were possible), but trying to do an offline version compromises what we’re doing with the online version and we have said from the very beginning that is how we intended the game to be played. Of course some people are upset by the decision, we’re not happy with it either but it’s the decision we’ve had to make for the good of the game.

“We’d essentially have to make two games (with some commonality like graphics and assets),” he noted.

As Frontier Developments mentions in its newsletter, Elite: Dangerous is still delivering more than what had been promised in other parts of the Kickstarter campaign. For example, the title will eventually contain 30 ships for players to pilot, five more than had originally been promised. Players can use these ships to explore the title’s many star systems, some of which have been created using real-world astronomical data. The experience also features full support for the Oculus Rift head-mounted display (HMD). It is set to launch on PC on 16th December 2014 with a Mac version following next year.

VRFocus will continue to follow Elite: Dangerous in the run up to launch, reporting back with more on this story and any other updates.

  1. A small minority are complaining because of issues they have with Internet connections or have issues with online. I put my money down in the beta. So far I have been very satisfied with the process and what has been done with the game.

    I am looking forward to the gamma and the opening up if the galaxy.

    1. Consider this.
      For each member that express their disappointment in the forum there could be several that are not posting, because right now they don’t havd access to the internet. Your “vocal minority” may not be as minor as you think.

      The apologist army on the other hand are all connected. But for every person with the disgusting attitude of “It doesn’t affect me so you should quit whining” there is one that understands the outrage even if he himself can still play

      1. Yes maybe, but I can say that they are thousands who are playing and not posting that they don’t mind.

        The game has always been aimed as online and offline as an extra. Unfortunately circumstances have made frontier look at offline and they have decided to remove it. Maybe in hindsight they should have worded the kick starter differently.

        I do feel sympathy that you and others are upset. Hopefully frontier will release a statement later explaining the reasoning and when this decision was made.

        1. Its not about being upset, for many who paid for this game, its about being unable to play it.

          And even for those who have interent, its a fragile, unreliable thing with an infinite number of things possible to go wrong.

          And what if Frontier runs out of cash… bye bye servers, bye bye game.

        2. “The game has always been aimed as online and offline as an extra.”

          Not exactly sure where you got that clanger from? But when they state on the KS campaign that the game *will have* both online and offline options then you’ve got to at least acknowledge that there’s no “extra” about offline mode.

          Also, the “small minority” which keeps getting thrown around is utter rubbish. Aside from the fact it only appears small because they probably ain’t online or following the forums. Has anyone making this claim considered that there will be a lot of people who backed the project and then just got on with their lives? They don’t sit on their computers watching the forums, they didn’t download the alpha/beta, they may even be a Mac user and can’t even use the bloody game until next year (or whenever).

          There is far too much “I’m alright” attitude being thrown around by the onliners and there really needs to be a whole lot more empathy for the offliners in this whole thing.

          Maybe your feelings would be a little different if the announcement had been that they were dropping the online mode?

    2. look the real issue is them going back on what some people may consider a core promise from their kickstarter and potentially the reason a lot of people backed the game.

  2. I’m awaiting refunds for three pre-orders I bought as Christmas presents for people who won’t be able to play them now. Frontier should have announced the lack of off-line play much earlier and properly.

    1. So the people you were buying it for could download the game but not play it online?! Makes no sense dude.

      1. Seriously… you can’t consider case where people download the game on their laptop at school or work and then would play it at home where they don’t have proper internet access? There are A LOT of countries where private home internet is either limited in transfers or way too slow for any online interaction.

    1. This is true.
      And it would not be such a big Thing if Frontier had just stated “we try to bring an offline version”,
      “we looking forward to, but we can’t promise it” or “they might be” on the Kickstarter Project.
      But they stated: “It will be possible to have a single player game without connecting to the galaxy server.”
      And other direct comments like this: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1461411552/elite-dangerous/posts/376335?cursor=1998331#comment-1998330

  3. According to developers Elite dangerous will be history when the servers go down.
    They said that offline mode today is almost impossible
    Does that mean that they will deliver the offline game when their project is finished ? I highly doubt.

  4. This is turning into a PR disaster for FDEV. Many backed them mainly due to the Offline Mode and the kickstarter package that included a boxed edition with a DRM free disc is a complete joke now. And Michael Brookes isn’t easing concerns. Everytime he posts in that thread, he just stokes the flames higher as he comes out with the same nonsense, saying that there’ll never be an online mode, or points people to a refund, which they may, or may not get.
    My advice to anyone who backed this game with the expectation of Offline Mode, is to demand a refund (even threaten legal action). The only way to deal with companies that do this is to hurt them financially. And I really do hope the gaming press crucify them over this, because it is a shitty thing to do to their backers.

    1. Really? Why are people getting so upset about the loss of offline mode? For those blaming their internet access tell me how you download the game inth is rubbish seeing you need the net to download the game in the first place? There’s too many people in this world that are throw thir toys out of the pram when things don’t go their own way, grow up and don’t drag ED name through the mud for your social boundaries, FD are making an amazing effort at bring the space sim back to life and doesn’t deserve a witch hunt against them pre launch!

      1. For us guys’n’gals in the forces or those working on rigs. We can download the game onto laptops at home but then we’ve no connection for extended periods.
        Elite Dangerous is / was a fantastic piece of escapism for our downtime.

        No more the case and that’s a big disappointment.

      2. Most people don’t got upset about the game has no offline mode
        rather then the Developers had promised there will be an offline mode
        and then don’t deliver it. It’s all about being lied by the Developers,
        and the sense of fraud which comes along such stories…

        1. The developers changed the parameters due to DB versioning constraints. I’d hardly call that “lying”, nor “fraud”.

          In game development, the parameters may shift from hour to hour – especially in pre-release states. If you put your money down during an alpha-build phase, don’t come crying if it isn’t _exactly_ as was described in that first instance.

          Get over yourself, ffs…

  5. The people responding all negatively are a very small minority (links to post numbers have been posted in the official thread).
    I’m also disappointed that there won’t be an offline mode but I’m still going to play and enjoy it because it’s an excellent game.
    The reasons behind the axe are logical and have been very well explained.
    Michael has been posting and explaining all day long.

  6. Disgusting behaviour by Frontier. Many backers were led to believe that there would be an offline mode. What stinks is that they leave it a month before launch to pull the plug. Shocking.

  7. I have had no issues with FD or Elite so far and I will be able to play online virtually all of the time.

    I cannot and will not defend FD over this decision.

    They marketed their fundraising at a group of middle aged men who had played FD games offline for 30 years or more . When challenged by the backers during the fundraising process about the availability of an offline version they assured them there would be one and updated their kickstarter page to confirm this.

    The studio owner and developers have repeatedly referred to the offline version since that time. Discussions have taken place about it on their own forums and in interviews.

    Then 1 week before gamma launch they casually toss into a newsletter the fact they are going to renege on this.

    Many people do not have constant internet connections. Salesmen, oilmen, sailors, soldiers, people who live in remote areas. These people are quite rightly upset about this u-turn

    I find it sad that people try and defend this behaviour. It is simply wrong and should not be stood for by anyone.

    I for one will not be spending a penny more with FD, I don’t buy EA games as I don’t tolerate their business practices. This is of a similar level of disrespect to people who helped fund their game when they asked.

    Of course, FD can always choose not to take the recently announced path.

    1. +1 for that post.

      If they can hold it, they should not promise it.
      If the development led them to a point where they found offline mode would be difficult to implement they should remember their promises and do it anyway. Even when this would take some more month after the release or when this whole offline mode is just a dead end and will not include things like planetary landings in the future. But they should stick to their promises and deliver!

      This whole behavior of FD had already taken all the Fun of that project for me.
      It is still a great game, but now it always will have this bad taste to it.
      At the moment i just not hyped anymore. Not for the 22nd nor for the 16th December release.
      This bitchmove has taken all the fun off me regarding Elite Dangerous.
      I Hope it will return, otherwise i will try a refund too.
      Because games i have no fun with i didn’t play anyway.
      This whole story is just so sad…

  8. Braben has always had a hard on for ‘piracy’. I remember losing the manual for frontier and not being able to play because you had to look up some word every time you loaded up. That said I’ll definitely be buying this game. All of the Elite series so far have been superb. Nothing even comes close to them these days.

  9. Who cares? You won’t meet anyone anyhow. There is no global chat and no one uses the local chat. It is really a lonely game ATM. Awesome graphics and stuff, by lonely.

  10. I couldn’t care less if I have to be connected to a server to play but I don’t want a game that forces me to play with other people. Sorry but I am an old fart from the days before the internet and that’s the way I prefer to play still..

    1. You can play alone! There was, is and will be the Solo Online mode.
      Online it is just for the reason you can switch to the multiplayer part if you want to,
      at the same point you are in solo mode. So every transaction and all the game saves
      will occur online, just as the prices and news on the stations. But no other player will be in your universe until you log out and log back again in the online multiplayer.

      1. Unfortunately other players will affect your galaxy while you are occupied with boring things like real life.
        So you found that nice trade route on the border of Federation space and have a good reputation with the feds.
        Now next weekend you get back… and suprise! The Empire is now in charge of the system, as you are a convicted criminal in the Empire you have to fight system security and bounty hunters to escape the system and finally the trade route is also history as all the other Solo players delivered thousands of tons of the precious good you planned on hauling there…
        Or you go out in the galaxy to explore new worlds, get into a new region of space to cartograph it, can’t play for some time and “woe, behold” hundreds of kids with no job after school decided to explore that region for you pushing the border of unexplored space some hundreds of light years out (meaning 3-4 days of playing for you to reach unexplored space again. Alas, the weekend just have 2 days).
        So exploring is spoiled for the “vocal minority”, trading means using trading tools to get at least a little orientation on markets, rather than relying on ever changing economics in real time, which leaves mining annd… wait a minute, if you mine an Asteroid field and find a good source and get back to it after some days, maybe it is already stripped bare by other players, so well, f…ed up mining also, which leaves: Right, fly around and shoot at NPCs or better join OpenPlay and right away kill “Onliners” as anti aggression therapy… as yopu get a free Sidewinder everytime, it would just require to learn how to inflict good damage with the standard rig…
        Nice! Not exactly what I expected from Elite.

        I’ll try my luck with online and hope it doesn’t get too much as I predicted, but whatever they deliver now, the circumstances of this desaster leave a very, very bad taste for my liking.

        If people opt for refund and get denied, they might revoke the payment issued by debit card… that could lead to legal issues FD need to fight, ultimately may even cost them dearly, so the future developpment is at risk.

        In the end it might have been the better decision to just hire some guys and finish the static, limited offline experience instead of whining about the lack of ressources to build two different games and that they want to build their vision.
        Given the fact that they stated offline will be a feature since the start of thje Kickstarter campaign, I always thought it WAS part of their vision?!

        Bad people even discuss it could be forced by the wish to finance the game through dynamic in-game advertising and companies are reluctant to pay ads, which customers can avoid by simply playing offline. Just a rumour, but it made me think.
        What I’ll never understand is, why companies try to “force” people to watch their ads???
        Does anybody think it will help your sales to put a gun to somebodies head and make him watch your advertisement? Really? If you ask me, I would especially never buy stuff from a company that annoyed me with there offensive ads on the Internet.
        How many people do actually like these offensive, aggressive marketing stuff on the web?

  11. Yes I did promise the offline mode during the Kickstarter 2 years ago and I have now changed my mind.

    Those who have already pre-paid for the game based on this feature are entitled to seek a refund through the normal channels. Like the offline mode though, you won’t get that refund either.

    Have a nice day.

    1. Thanks for the update, David.

      I loved Elite & Virus, was stark-raving bonkers over Frontier on the Amiga &, knowing your track record, will have months (if not years) stolen from me in the E:D online universe.

      Now hurry up & take my money. Oh wait, you already _did!_


  12. my interest for this game went from 100 percent to 0 in a matter of reading this. This is exactly why i will never support kickstarter. I’d be furious if I supported the project and didn’t get a full refund.

  13. I bought the game for SP, but playing the beta, I found MP more interesting. Silly for folks to complain about this. There are plenty of SP games with dull AI and static universes to play. Fortunately ED will not be one of them.

  14. It’s a matter of honour. They should have been designing the game with offline in mind all the way through, even if the best experience was always going to be with online. Instead they’ve tried to cram it in at the last minute and decided that it’s too much effort (and ultimately too much expense). That’s not right – they’d announced the decision to make it happen already.

  15. I’m a big time proponent of modding. Sounds like modding support is out of the question now.

    And frankly, this whole idea of a curated and evolving galaxy … I honestly don’t care. I would much rather prefer an offline experience without the wildcard nature of other players. I wasn’t expecting an MMO…

    And my internet is usually pretty stable and fast. But during the winter time, it becomes intermittent at night. So that’ll be very annoying.

  16. Frontier have now closed the backlash thread on their forums. This is understandable it was getting repetitive. It is worth noting that it has the highest number of posts of any thread on the whole forum, and that is just in two days.
    Seems like this is important to a lot of people.

  17. I personally dont like online gaming myself, but in case of a constantly developing world this becomes neccessary. And i will certainly be around in the online game. And there is still a single player experience possible. Hopefully the created data traffic is small in size, so that people who like to play single player and have bad band width or connection troubles could have a smooth gaming experience as well.

  18. Whilst true JazHaz I had intended to pull my pledge I think that was just the rages hitting me and the mental pressure of feeling like I should do the right thing … I fought during the KS campaign to get this in place to support all the other offline-commanders and felt, wrongly, it was my place to do it again.

    Also, in doing so, I was hurting members of the community who were innocent in all this – Remember Jonty ? (“Do your Jonty!”) I had asked him to use up one of my +1s to the launch party .. If I go ahead with the refund then he loses out too.

    Bottom line – I am pissed at FD, but all this drama (some self inflicted) is making me ill. I am withdrawing from society for a while until this blow over so I requested FD just suspend my account for a few weeks: https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=58762&page=43&p=1009661&viewfull=1#post1009661

  19. I could understand if it was 2009 where only 70% of the US had broadband internet… but It’s 2014 and 92% of the country has always on internet now. That number is expected to surpass 96% in 2015 so there’s really no excuse considering how cheap and available it is to everyone.

    1. what about those people who work in remote areas which dont have a net connection with fifo work? or should we just forget about those people

      1. Who knew Elite/Frontier was the #1 pastime for all oil-riggers..? >.<

        (The VAST majority of E:D players will have some form of internet access. Stating otherwise is nothing but a deceitful ploy by the 'single-player only' misanthropes…)

  20. Well I’ve been playing beta for a few months now. Mostly in Solo online mode.

    If you press CTRL-B you’ll see how much bandwidth is used in that mode. Its measured in Bytes. Not kB or MB, bytes.

    So just tether it to your phone. It’s not rocket science.

    And its 2014, not 1984. If you haven’t got the internet by now, or the intelligence to find a cheap unlimited data phone contract (even giffgaff has unlimited data on PAYG), then you shouldn’t be trying to play games.

    FD tried, they couldn’t get it to work. Get over it.

    1. No, they didn’t try.
      They built it as an mmo without a care for offline for a long time.
      The real decision to drop this came a long time ago, even though you can still see the “save and exit” menu choices that are clearly only useful for an offline game.

      And its NOT all about people who don’t have internet:

      1) You can’t have your own save games to go back to in an online game
      2) You always have to pay somebody for internet
      3) You can’t save the game before spending a lot of money on a ship you don’t know if you’ll like yet.
      4) You are out for every server maintenance or other outage they have.
      5) You are out for every internet hickup there is.
      6) You don’t own the game, you just have a client to log into for as long as they let you.
      7) in an offline game, they can’t just change it to subscription fees or increase losses to encourage real money flow to recover from in-game losses (like CCP does)
      8) You cannot mod a multiplayer game (some would much prefer free choice of mods to FD’s mods only)
      9) Whenever FD feels the game doesn’t server their business interests anymore, they will turn off the servers and you will be arsed. Do you really think when they decide to turn off the servers, they will suddenly rouse themselves to then put out the single player game for people, like Braben said, if its too much effort for him now, that he still sees a future in it?

      1. “6) You don’t own the game, you just have a client to log into for as long as they let you.”

        You have never owned ANY video game you’ve ever played; you simply own a license to play the thing.

  21. Shame. I for one will no longer be buying this despite the fact that I know I’d love it because, well, i got kids, a life, stuff going on. In fact, for all the original fan base that played this on the BBC, Commodore 64 and Spectrum 48k, i should imagine they would be in a similar predicament. When you can’t switch off, you need to be able to pause a game and look after the ones you love. Can’t do that in the middle of an online firefight. On the one hand I’m gutted; on the other hand I’m glad to take what i got over a life with nothing more important than a video game.

  22. One big consequence of this decision is that when the servers are shutdown, the game goes down with them. Unlike all the other games in the series where you can still play them today, ED going online only means that there is a limited life.

    This game’s galaxy is so big (400 billion stars) that it will take many years to explore. It will take a long time to reach the galaxy centre for example. I was looking for this to be the game I would play for the next 20 years. Looks like thats shot down in flames.

    The main issue I have with Frontier Developments is their serious lack of communication and disrespect to us, the backers.

  23. I was one of the original backers on the £200 tier when the kick-starter campaign began.
    I put my money forward for emotional reasons; I wanted to see the game remade with the advances in technology that we have now.

    The fact that not all promises have been met are a part of life I’m afraid. Remembering the size of FD compared to the huge companies out there and what they currently offer I think they FD is doing a great job.
    I found Eve too complicated to enjoy when only playing it now again, Star Trek online was too repetitive with same old battles going on.

    We as a community are so good at shooting ourselves in the foot.
    I’m very impressed with what FD have managed to do and am looking forward to see how the game evolves. If you waited 30 years fore Elite to be remade then one should have a very long term philosophy on when things are going to be available.

    One very obvious thing is that most posts come people who want to complain because they want to have their point known, but it’s a well known fact that those that are happy tend not to post anything.

    I understand the grievance but seriously do you think FD did this to personally upset you?

    For what it’s worth I’m absolutely looking forward to this game being released and have enjoyed playing the Alphas and betas.

    If it fails now because of lots of short term negative posts picked up by potential new players then what was it all for.

    For once lets get behind the team and see what can be offered in the future.

    One last thing, the internet is becoming the lifeblood of communication For everyone.. Whether it’s Elite Dangerous or something else, you need to get up to speed otherwise you are going to lose out.


  24. I get the disappointment of those affected. I hope those who backed and truly can no longer play get some form of reimbursement.
    I also understand the reasons for the decision. It has to be said that this will affect a minority of players – the affect on those players is drastic – but the numbers are smaller. Tough decision but there it is.

    If you have an internet connection (of almost any sort) you can enjoy (on your own if you want) a brilliant, groundbreaking and intelligent game unlike any other.

    Proof is the pain expressed by those unlucky enough to be denied it. I’d be gutted too.

  25. It seems Frontier are being very restrictive on who they do refund. Judging by those that have sought them, if you paid but didn’t download the game, then you might be lucky enough to get that refund. However if you’ve downloaded the beta (like many have), you WILL NOT get any refund, regardless of any preference or expectation for offline play. This is what claimants are being told in a rather generic and dismissive refusal email from Frontier. In other words, they’re giving you the finger and saying “tough shit, you’re stuck with it!”

    Not very nice 🙁

    Kickstarter pledgers probably have even less less chance of gaining refunds, due to the kickstarter clause of projects changing during development. But then, it’s always a dodgy risk backing anything on kickstarter.

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