The Ubisoft conference has just ended and for me the highlight was Assasin’s Creed Syndicate. This really isn’t a surprise to anyone who has been following me over the years. I’m really excited to be playing a female assassin again. I loved playing Aveline in Liberation so much and I really want a full console AC game with a female. For now though I’ll just have to settle playing Evie.
So below is the AC section of the Ubisoft presentation, but also a new gameplay trailer. Enjoy.
I have waxed lyrically about the highlights for me from Bethesda, but there was so much more. There was Dishonoured 2, Elder Scrolls and Battlecry as well. So here’s the full Bethesda show for all your viewing pleasure.
I remember when the original DOOM game was released. It was a new and wonderful thing. id created a new and interesting genre of game and we all took to it like ducks to water. I spent so many hours playing it and later playing Quake. I fell in love with id as a developer and they still hold a special place in my heart. They made me fall in love with adventure and showed me a new perspective that has shaped gaming for over 20 years.
There have been misguided attempts at DOOM games in the past and we try to forget them. This time though it looks like id has decided to go back to the things we loved about DOOM and been very true to that creation so many years ago. Watching the extensive gameplay portion of the video we can see that the focus is clearly on killing and those awesome guns.
Of course there will be multi-player as one would expect. Judging from what they’ve shown us there will get both competitive and co-operative. This makes me very happy as I usually con’t enjoy the competitive multi-player modes in games. To go with this they are introducing a simple and easy way to build out own maps and even mix up the game modes. I remember struggling to make Quake levels back in the 90s, so this will be a welcome feature. I foresee a lot of fun levels in my building future.
Enough babbling though, have a look for yourself.
At E3 this year Bethesda have made their very first appearance. They had a lot to show us, but Fallout 4 was definitely the highlight for me.
This time we’ll likely be in Boston, as is evident by the statue of Paul Revere in the trailer. The character we see in the video is wearing a Vault 111 jumpsuit, so one must figure that we’re not too far from Vault 101 of Fallout 3. Still, you never know; it wouldn’t be the first time we were misled by a game developer just too fool us. They certainly didn’t confirm the location in the presentation.
Nothing in the presentation doesn’t excite me. A flash to what is and what was just sends my imagination sky rocketing. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that if Bethesda did nothing different other than the story, many of us would still be very happy. We know though that we get so much more to go with our story and adventure. There will not only be weapon and power armour crafting, but we get to build our own little town. I don’t know about anyone else, but I bet I lose whole days to the crafting in addition to the random wandering of the landscape.
We get a peak into the character creation as well. You do get to play as a male or female and you have complete control over your features to a level not seen before. This time your chosen sex seems to be less superficial so chosing your looks actually my have more use.
There’s a whole bunch of little goodies in the Fallout 4 presentation though, such as a peak at the collector’s edition.
It will come to no one’s surprise that I’ve been playing Destiny. I did play it for a while when it first came out, (as well as the PS4 Alpha & Beta), but then I put it aside for a couple months while I dove into the holiday games and became an assassin for a couple of months. Before I turn into a sackgirl I’ve been taking a break and playing Destiny. After the full on story of AC:Unity, I just wanted to play something that was simple for my brain to process; point and shoot.
Simple isn’t really something Destiny does. Gameplay-wise, yes it’s straight forward, but the story keeps confusing me. You would think by now, I’m level 26, I’d be able to remember which are the Cabal and which are the fallen, but I keep getting my bad guys mixed up. I don’t know why I keep doing it, but I do. It could be that all of the aliens aren’t very alien. The only aliens I can consistently remember the name of are the Vex, but they’re all robots. Still, all of our invading alien races are humanoid in shape. I think this is what keeps confusing my brain. I’m sure the confusion is just me, but that aside I do wish the aliens were more alien. There are a couple of exceptions, but on the whole they’re humanoid. For once I’d like to see aliens that really look alien. My own character’s race is an alien, but I’m looking rather human-like.
The human shaped aliens and my goober brain aside, I do really like the story and the world. I like that for once it isn’t just a single bad guy come to take over the Earth. The enemies in Destiny not only don’t like us, but they don’t like each other as well. There are many times in the game when you’ll come across them fighting each other and paying you little mind until you decide to shoot them in the head. This gives a new dynamic to the conflict. The Earth isn’t just being invaded; it’s become a battlefield for these other races as much as it’s an invasion. Obviously when it comes to the gameplay in a situation like this you get the chance to use this to your own advantage and play them off each other to your advantage. With all this conflict going on I’m really excited to see what comes next and how the story evolves.
Speaking of the gameplay, this isn’t rocket science. The controls aren’t hard to memorise and they do have several different button layouts to choose from. I stuck with the default layout though and found it worked fine. A good button layout is one of my top priorities in a game. If I can’t re-map keys then there had better be options. I have giving up on games where the layout just didn’t work for me. Dark Souls was such a game where this happened to me; the buttons just didn’t work for me and made it harder for me to play. No problem here though and the button combinations for specials are easy to handle as well.
This is an FPS, so no shock that you’re in first person perspective shooting at things. Now, I am utterly shit at aiming on a console in first person, but once I got used to it I was pretty much okay. I do use a big gun that shoots a lot of bullets, so I do manage to hit things. The closest I get to a sniper rifle is my rocket launcher; point and boom. Destiny is the polar opposite of Borderlands 2 in their approach to the gun types available. There is a small selection of gun types and the power differences are minor. The main differences in power are between the rarity types; basic, uncommon, rare, legendary and exotic. I’m sure you’re all smart enough to understand the rarity scale. You’re able to equip 3 weapon types for a variety of situations and preferences. You have your primary, special and heavy weapon. Basically it’s like this; kill, fucking kill, blow it the fuck up. One big perk with the weapons is that any weapon can be used by any class. So you truly get to use the type of weapon you like to use best. It’s the best approach a game can have to enable catering to different play styles. I personally favour the Auto Rifle for my primary, the Fusion Rifle for my Special and as mentioned the Rocket Launcher for my Heavy. If you shoot enough bullets fast enough you will eventually kill what you’re aiming at.
Combat can get a little frenzied at times and I must admit that after a couple of long intense missions my hands need to be pried off the PS4 controller. Some of the big strike missions feel like you never stop shooting and you’re always all tensed up shooting and running and shooting and hiding. Sometimes during these big fights I may scream, but they are really so much fun. The story missions are more paced and not the constant killing spree. The Strike missions are bigger and involve other players in co-op with yourself. These missions on average take around 30 minutes to complete and they are usually 2 or 3 stages of intense fighting. It’s in these that I get all amped up and clutch my controller rather tightly as I shoot everything in sight.
It could be that some of my tension comes from playing a Warlock. There are 3 classes; Titan, Hunter and Warlock. The Titan is the tank and big hitter, i.e., a fighter. The Hunter is the quick medium powered fighter, i.e., a rogue. The last is the Warlock which is the “magic” user, i.e., the weakling. During the alpha/beta I played a Hunter and I loved it a lot, but when I bought the game I went for the Warlock, because I didn’t want to be the fighter/tank class and I wanted something different. In my experience the Warlock is weaker in armour, but once you know that and adjust your play style you’re good to go. They have good ranged combat, such as awesome grenades, and you can get the ability to revive yourself. The Hunter is a very quick fighter with medium armour. Hunters are a good middle ground class. As mentioned, the Titans are the big bad fighters. They have good armour and can hit really hard. If you like running up and smacking the shit out of your enemies then you might want to play a Titan.
Destiny is a MMO though which means there are other people around, but the game mechanics allow for this and work well. You can choose to play through the main story with friends or on your own. When you’re out in the world you will see other players but you don’t have to talk to them. Same goes for the PUG Strike missions that require 3 players to play; you don’t have to talk to them if you don’t want to. Sometimes you get good random groups and sometimes you don’t, it’s always luck of the draw. The console servers are split, so Playstation and XBox. The Playstation servers aren’t region split, e.g., UK can play with Canada. Most likely the XBox servers aren’t region split either, but as I don’t own the game on the XBox I couldn’t tell you for sure.
As you go through the game you get 2 transport modes. First is your ship that you go between planets in and the other is your Sparrow. The sparrow is kind of like the speeders in Star Wars. You use the Sparrows for zipping around on the planets’ surfaces. They’re great little things for getting places fast and they’re a lot of fun to ride. The big spaceship you have for going between planets is just cosmetic unfortunately. You can find or buy different ones, but currently they don’t do anything. It would be fun if Bungie created space skirmishes to use the spaceships in. I would suck fighting in space, but I think a lot of people would enjoy it and it’d be another game aspect to broaden the appeal. On some planets and in the PvP there are temporary vehicles you can use that also have weapons on them. Always be careful on any vehicle. You never want to be on it when it explodes; it hurts a lot.
To wrap up all this meandering through Destiny I’d like to touch on the PvP. As a general rule I don’t do PvP, but I have dabbled a little. There are 4 types of PvP so you should be able to find your favourite kind here. The one I usually opt for is Control and this is a 6 person per team based capture the flag type of scenario only there are multiple flags to capture and the other team can take them back and vice versa. You also have Clash; 2 teams of 6 competing for the most kills. Similarly you have Rumble which is a 6 player free for all everyone kills everyone scenario. The last is Skirmish and involves 2 teams of 3 players in a variation of team deathmatch. I don’t really enjoy PvP and prefer the co-op Strike missions, but the option is there for those who enjoy it. You can enjoy without ever touching the PvP and not be missing out.
Overall I am very happy with the game. Great action and story thrown into some beautiful environments. The videos and screenshots above are mine and I loved making them. If someone like me who is terrible at FPS games on the console can get to grips with it and enjoy it, then I think others will as well. Sure there is some grinding for gear, but that’s hardly unexpected for an MMO. For me even the grinding is fun though as I get to go through the bounties and revisit areas I barely survived through the first time. The first DLC, The Dark Below, is already out and the next should be coming soon. I only get time to play on the weekends really, but feel free to add me if you’re playing on the PS3 or 4; just mention the site so I know how you found me.
Note: Distortion and blur in the screenshots is a side effect of the Oculus Rift display mode, it doesent look like that in actual play!
Finding myself to be a “VR enthusiast” having obtained an Oculus Rift via Mysterious Circumstances™ I’m doing that thing of downloading absolutely everything (within the realms of non-WTFGTFOeww) I can find for it to experience. That inexorably led me to finding Pixel Rift – an absolute delight of an indie project by the immensely talented Ana Ribeiro and her team. The game is still very much in early development, but the premise is not only clever and original, but also hugely appeals to the RetroGaming fan that I am too. It also contributes to Donna’s and my own love of indie Kickstarter projects 🙂
The game is played from a first-person view, from the perspective of Nicola, a gamer who’s a huge fan of the fictional game “Pixel Rift”. What follows is a progression for both Nicola and the “game within a game” as she gets older, and the game “upgrades” through generational hardware changes… e.g. Atari console, to Gameboy, to SNES, and beyond. The clever framing mechanism for this is the virtual representation of the environment, and Nicola’s “growing up”
In the alpha demo, the menu screen sees you as a baby toddler, sat on the floor, with an old telly looming in front of you in an appropriately “giant” living-room. There’s an advert in creaky old 70’s style on the tv for Pixel Rift – watch it long enough and you get a pseudo-augmented-reality explosion of colour from it, delighting both you, and your virtual infant representation. In front of you are the various consoles, delineated by year, with their representation of the virtual Pixel Rift game. In the demo, you can only play the 1989 “Gamegirl” version, the others are “locked out”.
Selecting the Gameboy… er, Gamegirl, you find yourself in a primary-school classroom, sat at a desk covered in paraphernalia relating to Nicola’s Pixel Rift obsession. Your classmates surround you, fooling around, whispering at you and each other. At the front, next to the blackboard, your very hoary strict school teacher/school mistress (a la “Misty” comic, those of you old enough to know what I’m talking about) talks at the class in a very thick Northern accent, dryly talking about the subject (Biology, I think!) and –depending on you, and the class’s behaviour – either turning her back to write on the blackboard, or shouting/being exasperated at you and the other children. With her back turned, you can look down to sneak your Gameboy out from under the desk, using the gamepad to control the virtual game, within the game.
Pixel Rift for the “Gameboy” – is a mono platform game, the objective being to get to the end and fight the end-of-level boss. Play is interrupted by having to drop the Gameboy back under the desk when the teacher turns around, or risk her wrath. However – there is MUCH more to explore beyond playing the game-within-a-game. You’re also armed with a paper spitball launcher, which you can use to torment classmates, the teacher, or somewhat more modestly fire into the bin in the corner – the results of which are somewhat fantastical, but hilarious.
Get to the end-of-level-boss on the Gameboy, however, and you are treated to an explosion of virtual augmented reality, as the boss and your player avatar leap out of the confines of the game, out in front of you, as the reality of the classroom fade into the background. Its gorgeous as the characters appear as their 2D chunky pixelized selves, but huge, capering and clambering about in front of you and over your books and desk, whilst the 3D world of the classroom still resides hazily in the background. Defeating the boss requires a blend of the 2D play mechanics, and the “real” world.
The potential for this game is HUGE, and I *love* its quirky fun little nature. The promise of going through different ages and years, Nicola growing up, the games becoming more advanced just really appeals to me. I really like the pseudo-personal nature of the premise, but also how it appeals to my nostalgia. However… I don’t know how much the game will appeal when played in a purely 2D non-VR realm , and VR is the only way to play it at the moment. Suffice to say it is very much a niche product at present. I think there might be an audience for Ana’s game were she to make it 2D compatible too, but the game most definitely achieves the wow-factor when played with an Oculus Rift.
It’s got some glitches, some oddities, and some of the animation is buggy, or at least unfinished – but for a prototype game for a prototype device, it’s immensely entertaining, and has a lot of potential. It might be a bit of a British gamer thing in particular, but I’d love to see posters and assorted other paraphernalia of the eras shown in the various scenes, e.g. movie posters, “Look-in!” pinups, etc. From the screen shots on their page, it seems that there might be some other expanded stuff beyond the classroom/living room environments, so maybe we’ll see that kind of stuff later.
With a relatively small audience available for VR projects at the moment, I hope it is successful in its bid for Steam Green Lighting, or if they decide to kickstart it, though again I think they could help themselves a bit by making a non-VR play option too, it would certainly appeal to the RetroGamers out there.
Scottish Highlands. Christmas. 1984.
Bemused parents indulge a child in her somewhat atypical (or so was believed for the time) interest in both Outer-Space and “Computer Games” – a fairly natural progression from the previous year’s SuperGirl costume request. For a computer game of the time it seemed to be absurdly expensive – £12.99. Previous parental protestations of “but you’ve enough games!” – surely an impossibility when the family computer is a BBC Micro (Dad had aspirations of poshness) – are put aside, and there was always the hope that at least one of the children might become a “Computer Expert” in the future, and allow aforementioned parents to retire early.
Hopes, alas, STILL not fulfilled!
The game was “Elite” – now of course so well known (or not?) as the defining sandbox game (in SPACE!)
I must admit to not being very good at the game – I don’t think I ever really made it much past “Mostly Harmless” – the game’s stat tracker for your spaceship killing prowess, “Elite” being the pinnacle. But being 10 years old, I had a blast trying to dock my spaceship, and jumping onto my escape-pod (bed) when I thought I was about to fail. Nevertheless, I knew a good game when I saw one, and enjoyed much play with it before a rogue coffee killed the computer. It would be replaced by a C64, and arcade games.
However, a soft spot was kept for Elite, and I would look in on the various ports as I got older and watched 16-bit come and go, space games go Epic (Wing Commander) and then die a near total death but for wee stalwart indie coders. Then David Braben came along with a Kickstarter, and promise of a 21st Century relaunch of Elite with ALL THE GRAPHICS, and lo, my long dormant space-heart gave a flutter.
Here then, is my preview of Elite: Dangerous (Beta V1):
As I write this, the next release of the beta is due for release, and promises much more content and an increase from 50 or so systems to explore/trade in/fight in/get lost in to a somewhat more sizeable 500 odd. We’re now approaching a decent sized gameworld to explore, but still only the merest fraction of what will be available at final release (due this year) – a procedurally generated 400 billion.
However, I’ve got ahead of myself – let me explain what Elite: Dangerous is, should you not be familiar with this great-grandparent of the open world sandbox game genre.
Elite is a first-person sci-fi space-based pseudo-GTA. That little soundbite is misleading, but mostly accurate aside from the car-jacking, violence, and “of the moment” bangin’ soundtrack. By first-person, I mean that the game world is viewed from your – as yet non-customizable aside from gender – in-game avatar’s viewpoint, exclusively from the cockpit seat of your spaceship. Planned post-release DLC will have you wandering about your ship and space-stations, but for now you are a somewhat alarmingly headless body sat in a seat, and invisible to other players.
At the start of the game, You – The Plucky Player – are a spacefaring person, gifted with a basic starship of modest capabilities. By modest I mean that it has 4 tonnes cargo capacity, 2 gun mounts, and a couple of spare utility mounts. These are used for some purchasable (using earned in-game credits) additional upgrades. For example – a “Heat Sink” a deployable dump of your ship’s waste heat produce, used both as a decoy, and a way to vastly reduce your visible radar signature – which when used in conjunction with “silent running” mode, essentially making you temporarily invisible, complete with neat slow frosting of your canopy glass.
Later upgrades include missiles, beam weapons, and Battlestar Galactica-style projectile cannons, but also non-combat upgrades like a docking-computer.
Docking computer you say? Yes, one of Elite’s notorious legacies is the fact that when docking your ship with the giant space-stations which in order to generate gravity… rotate. You have to navigate your suddenly giant-feeling spacecraft through the most apparently narrowest of letterboxes to enter the safety of the station’s landing pads. It’s deceptive in that the entrances are actually pretty large, but you get the distinct feeling of little headroom until you get a feel for your ship’s physical dimensions – no exterior views yet.
Back in the original 8 and 16-bit incarnations of the game this was especially difficult as there were few analogue control surfaces to use. For my part I used to point at the entrance, put the engines on minimum, and hope for the best – inevitably jumping in to my aforementioned escape pod (bed) when things went disastrously wrong. (You could actually buy an escape pod, but I never made that much money!) Today, things are different, we all have mice, gamepads, and even Flight-sticks that allow much more precise control of rotation and whatnot.
Speaking of rotation – the flight model is a curious one, in that it’s a blend of super-fun-sci-fi Star Wars type jet-fighter style, with bonus Physics™ – but with the option to switch off (and on, at a whim) “Flight Assist” – which basically makes the control system entirely “Newtonian Physics” – requiring you to apply reverse thrust to bring your craft to a halt, and apply inverse directional thrusters to counteract the proportional amount of… look, just watch 2001: A space odyssey, or GRAVITY, then you’ll know what I’m talking about 😉 I find it horribly complicated to fly the ship with Flight-Assist off, others love it (mostly those who grew up with Elite’s 16-bit sequels: Frontier and First Encounters) – but it does have its uses. Fancy pulling off Babylon 5 and BSG style flip-around whilst still moving in the same direction, allowing you to fire at a chasing attacker whilst still moving away from them? Flight assist off… just remember to correct your spin with your thrusters!
So, what’s the plot? There isn’t one, at least not yet anyway. You’re basically plonked into your ship with no direction. At the beginning, the point is pretty much to Make Money. Money = ship upgrades. More Money= better ships. That’s largely it for the moment, in the beta anyway. In the beta money is earned from various activities, more of which will be available as the game develops. For now, here’s a few examples:
Trading products between planetary systems – a full commerce system is in place in the game, fluid and dynamic. One system might have high demand for farming equipment, and pay a high price to buy from anyone able to transport them in. The player might find a system whereby Farming equipment is cheap-as-chips, buy as many as they can afford and their ship’s cargo-bay hold, travel to the high-demand system, and make considerable profit. Whilst there, they might find something sold there that is in low-demand, ergo cheap, which they can sell back at another system for a higher-price. Trading like this can be slow-work, but it’s a good safe way to make money. There’s also the possibility of buying something legal in one system, but illegal in another, sold to the black market at considerable profit. That runs the risk however of the Space-Cops scanning your ship for contraband, and a: fining you or b: not asking questions and just blowing you away.
Bounty Hunter is another money-making method, though is obviously quite a bit more dangerous than being a Space-Trucker. Check the local station bulletin boards for jobs, then head off to look for The Mark(s) – earning cash for their destruction. There’s also considerably less legal assassination jobs to be had, though these can render you a wanted renegade in certain regions of space. You can also fly out to some notable pilot hangouts – e.g. “Resource Gathering Sites” – where player’s go to mine for minerals etc – spot someone with a “Wanted” tag? Take them out, earn some bucks.
Mining – take an appropriately configured vessel to mine materials from asteroids in the aforementioned Resource areas. Watch out for thieves and bandits tho.
Courier missions – similar to trading, but often you’ll be given cargo directly to deliver to some other location. The fee paid will be affected by how far it has to go, and whether or not you might have to avoid any “Imperial entanglements” to deal with… or Federation, for that matter. The Imps and the Feds are the two primary factions in our Sci-Fi world here.
So – already there’s a fair bit to do, much more is planned closer to and post-release, including World Events. There’s already been a couple of these with a civil war breaking out between two systems, precipitated by nefarious underhand guerilla warfare missions offered to the player, and pleas for certain items of produce to be smuggled in and out.
Now here’s the interesting bit with this new generation of Elite as a game. It’s multiplayer. Also, it’s optionally singleplayer… but with the repercussions of the events in the multiplayer. How so?
Well, you can choose to play the game in full multiplayer – Open Play – out there with all the other players. That means all the usual caveats.. Trolls, Griefers, heroic saviours, co-op wingpersons, trading buddies, Clumsy docking, rage-quits et all.
Or…. You can play solo in an NPC-AI populated universe, but with the same world-state (politically and economically) as the multiplayer, but without the human player element. This is actually a great idea, and especially useful at the start of play when you’re getting to grips with the game mechanics and trying to earn a bit of money to get going. Penalties are the same as multiplayer, however – you earn enough cash to buy that big new fancy Lakon-9 hauler freighter, but accidentally push the booster button and crash headlong in to the side of a station… you lose the ship, and any cargo aboard and have to restart over with any remaining cash with the default freebie ship… unless you had enough spare cash left over to cover the insurance cost of the replacement ship!
You can also currently bounce between solo and open-play multiplayer modes, which could be perceived to be a bit of a cheat. Build up to awesomeness in solo, pwn in multiplayer. Except you wouldn’t be alone in doing that. Stuff gets too heavy in multi? Back off in to solo.
For now, however, multiplayer in terms of co-operative player interaction is still very much in its infancy. The developers recently added inter-player text and voice comms, but it still needs a bit of work, as well as willing players. Getting together with one or more friends though seems like a really exciting way to plunder the depths and wealth of the game, especially as the content increases in the run-up to release with options like actual recognized deep-space exploration being a career! Of course there will be “EVE-online” faction wars and such like, which could have huge potential for multiplayer… but you might be an everyman/everywoman who just wants to get on and stay out of the war.
Planned DLC for the game post-release includes adding features like player avatar movement within your own ship and stations, planetary surfaces (including obviously landing on said surfaces with your ship), multiplayer crewing of your vessel, and more. That complete set of features would be beyond even the imagination of my 7 year old would-be astronaut self – and I used my imagination A LOT to greatly expand what was on screen with those black and white vectors, I really can’t wait.
However, it’s not all joy and happiness. You’ll either love or loathe the control systems. It will very much depend on what you decide to use. Elite is definitely targeted in the main towards using a flight stick/throttle controller. After that there’s options for gamepads, and good old mouse+keyboard. I’ve tried mouse control. It didn’t end well. Or start well, for that matter. Yet others thrive using it.
The Head-up-Display (HUD) in-game can cause consternation. Its meant to be a holographic display whereby you turn to look at the relevant area for it to appear, using your controller to select options therein. I found this quite cumbersome until you’ve customized your controller of choice to quick-switch between the three primary menus.
And….. multiplayer. Like anywhere else, players can and will piss you off. Not all the mechanics for literal policing of player behaviour is in place. E.g. you’ll enter a system with police patrols, but they won’t always help you in time if you’re attacked by another player or NPC. But hey, maybe that’s realistic!
Also… It’s a beta at the moment, so it *will* crash, sooner or later, and stuff will be buggy, or act strange. I’ve been in my ship, happily parked on a landing pad only to have the station literally disappear out from under me, like Babylon 4 😉 But there’s also stuff that happens where you think… hmmm.. that’s cool.. I might be able to use that… like bringing yourself out of “Supercruise” too close to your destination only to find yourself INSIDE the station.. with only a few seconds before the intruder alarm goes off, and the cops blast you into oblivion.
Speaking of “Supercruise” – some of the game mechanics might cause consternation too. Hyperspace is the method used to travel vast distances between systems, fuel allowing. Once arrived, you are stopped in the system by the largest planetary body, still very far away from your actual desired destination – usually a space station. So, to speed up the travel to your “Final Destination” your ship has a mode called “Supercruise” a sort of very high speed but not quite hyperspace mode, where you designate your target destination from your HUD, and engage the drive. What you then have is a manually controlled acceleration and steering to your target requiring you to slow down as you close distance, disengaging the drive at a point of your choosing. Where this can frustrate is that it’s very easy to get impatient and over accelerate, causing you to be unable to slow down in time, therefore overshooting the target, meaning you have to pull a big turn to bring you back around, hopefully slowing down this time. A lot people are NOT happy about supercruise, they want some form of autopilot. I think this comes from the pseudo-MMO nature of the game. In many other MMO’s there’s auto-run options that mean you can effectively distract yourself with something else whilst still keeping one eye on the game. Not so in Elite. Look away at your peril. I suspect, however, that the Devs may make a purchasable auto-cruise system, as it could actually add to the immersion. Think Star Wars and the Millennium Falcon crew dossing about in the lounge, but getting a warning to tell them that they’re approaching destination/under attack/out of hydrospanners.
So much is forgivable however, whilst the game is in Beta. It’s certainly nearly cooked, but it is most definitely still in the oven. Visually it’s a treat, and pretty scalable in terms of performance. Aurally it’s an absolute stunner. The sound design is utterly amazing, hugely putting you “in the picture” – the music is a bit generic Space-Opera at the moment, but hopefully will improve… or you can do what I do… put on an ambient/spacemusic radio stream!
You have to pay a bit of a premium to get on board this currently PC-only spaceparty at the moment. £50 at present, final release will be £35 for the game and then more for the proposed DLC. I hope that we can have a few more women to play the game, as Space feels very much a bro-verse so far, and I hope to have a full gender spectrum conglomerate to fly with post-release. As release gets nearer though, I can already feel The Shape of Things To Come in the imagined vibration of the ship’s hull, and my inner 10-year old astronaut self is getting very excited indeed about her childhood dreams becoming virtually realized! 🙂 Speaking of which…
Addendum: VR – THE GAME CHANGER
Elite: Dangerous as it stands is a hugely promising sci-fi space game, built on a prominent legacy, and coming at a time where the combined genres of Spaceship and Flight-Sim games are enjoying a bit of a renaissance. Elite is certainly a hugely enjoyable game already, promising much more at release. However, everything changes when the game is experienced via a Virtual Reality Head-Mounted Display. I’m lucky enough to have obtained an Oculus Rift Development Kit 2, and I knew that Elite had been given optional configuration for play on these devices. It’s a bit clunky, a bit buggy, and plays sheer hell with even high-spec gaming PCs…. But… never before have I *ever* experienced anything like it. It is a completely different experience playing the game in VR. Background starfields and planets are no longer just background. They are there. Right there, outside your suddenly very real feeling ship’s canopy. The canopy complete with the handles you feel you must be able to reach out and touch. The glass of the canopy feels like it’s mere inches away from your head, and whilst the planet beyond the canopy is probably millions of miles away.. it is most definitely OUTSIDE your canopy, millions of miles away and huge. Huge beyond your normal comprehension of the definition of the term.
This is because everything is rendered to scale in the VR incarnation of Elite. I look down and see arms, and hands gripping controls just like mine. I’m completely bamboozled when I raise a hand to scratch my nose… but my virtual hands remain in place. I’ve emerged from a space-station in my ship innumerable times playing on the monitor to the same scene.. only to come to a dead halt in the same location when playing in VR, agog at the awe-inspiring majesty of the apparent infinity of space, and the sight of a sun emerging behind a Saturn-like planetary body surrounded by a ring of debris. In combat, rather than wrestling with mouselook controls to try and get a bead on a ship I’m pursuing, I merely follow its progress with my head and eyes, craning over my shoulder as I bring the ship into a steep turn to follow it, my head turning as I bring the enemy back towards the front of my ship as I open fire to finish it, then ducking instinctively as a piece of the ship debris bounces off the top of my canopy.
And those HUD nuisances I mentioned earlier? Rendered moot when you simply look to your left or right to activate them!
This time around, I think VR is going to be huge, and I think it will be accessible, especially if Sony can bring their “Project Morpheus” VR headset to fruition for PS4 players, where hopefully players will be able to join in the Elite: Dangerous world (as project leader David Braben has hinted as an option) –but also most especially as the Oculus Rift matures for PC owners. Like Morpheus said about “The Matrix”… “no one can be told what (VR) is, you have to see it.”