Kickstarter can be a very potent tool for developers looking to resurrect a dormant franchise, but we've seen a great many lofty pitch promises withdrawn once the realities of development sink in. Now, a similar situation has arisen a few weeks ahead of the release of Elite: Dangerous.
The game — the eighth most successful crowdfunding project of all-time, having raised in excess of $5 million — was intended to be playable offline, but lead designer David Braben admitted in this week's edition of the game's newsletter that that would not be the case.
Braben cites the enormous scope of the game for this change, calling it 'almost certainly the largest game ever created'. According to him, an always-online set-up is essential to making sure that the game's exploration is as good as it can be, and taking advantage of the benefits that constant connectivity can offer will help make Dangerous 'as large a technical step forward today as Elite and Frontier were in their time'.
Last year, the latest installment in the venerable SimCity series was met with fan backlash after it adopted a similar need for an internet connection. These complaints were upon the game's release, when many found that they couldn't even play the game due to a host of network issues.
While a game requiring an internet connection is always going to garner some detractors, in this day and age it's something of a non-issue for most — as long as it works. Technical difficulties can mar even the biggest game launch, so it's crucial that this decision proves to be a benefit to Elite: Dangerous when it's released, rather than causing a headache for players.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the Elite fanbase react to this news. While there's certainly a comparison to be drawn with SimCity in the way that a classic PC series is being impeded by a much-maligned trope of modern gaming, the idea of a persistent universe in a space sim is perhaps more intriguing than in a city builder.
What really hamstrung SimCity is that even given its online requirements, the game felt smaller and more constricted than previous titles in the series. From what we've seen of Elite: Dangerous thus far, that certainly doesn't seem to be the case — this is a game that is attempting to push the limits of what is possible for a modern day attempt at the genre.
As with all crowdfunded projects, we won't really know whether Elite: Dangerous is worth the millions of dollars backers have put down until it releases. If it can live up to its ambition, though, fans of the undernourished space sim genre will be very happy with their investment.
Note: We've attempted to preview Elite: Dangerous but have yet to get the game to work. We're stuck on the infamous and all-too-common black screen.
Elite: Dangerous is set to release on PC on December 16, with an OS X release following in 2015.
Source: Elite: Dangerous Newsletter