Elite Dangerous is a massively multiplayer space epic and fourth installment in the legendary Elite series, the longest running space simulation series in history. It's developed and published by Frontier Developments with David Braben as the director. The Windows PC version launched on December 16, 2014. It was partially funded via a Kickstarter campaign. The Mac version was released on May 12, 2015. The Xbox One version launched on October 6, 2015 and the PlayStation 4 version on June 27, 2017.
Elite Dangerous brings a modern look and new features to the Elite franchise. It is the first game in the series to feature online multiplayer in a vast 1:1 scale simulation of the Milky Way galaxy based on real scientific principles, current scientific data and theories. It's groundbreaking in that the galaxy is based on a lot of hard science with all sorts of star surveys that are fixed and merged to, for the first time in gaming history, compose a very consistent model of the Milky Way galaxy and it's rich enough to plot the night sky. It's also one of the first major titles to offer full virtual reality support with an exceptionally immersive experience in an all-encompassing universe, and every player on every platform affects the same shared galaxy with an interactive overarching narrative via the background simulation.
Iconic features of the classic Elite games have been updated for Elite Dangerous such as the Coriolis station and Cobra Mk III. The Coriolis was the first station updated for the game's modern visual character. Many ships are based on the classic, polygonal shapes of Elite. Thus Elite Dangerous continues the rich heritage of the Elite series.
Elite Dangerous, like the previous Elite games, takes place in the fictional Elite Universe. It's 50 years after the events of Frontier: First Encounters, starting in the year 3300 AD (which relates to 2014). The Thargoid species, introduced in Elite, have also returned.
- 1 Features
- 2 Multiplayer vs Solo
- 3 Evolving Universe
- 4 Player Roles
- 5 Codex
- 6 Space Travel
- 7 Landing on Planets
- 8 Customization
- 9 Vehicles
- 10 Realistic Astrophysics and Scale
- 11 Aliens
- 12 Story
- 13 Procedural Content
- 14 Flight Model
- 15 Virtual Reality
- 16 Sound and Music
- 17 Elite Dangerous Packaging
- 18 Behind the Name
- 19 Buy to Play
- 20 Development
- 21 ED anniversary
- 22 Development Team
- 23 Development Plans
- 24 Reception
- 25 Trivia
- 26 See also
- 27 Videos
- 28 Gallery
- 29 References
Elite Dangerous builds upon the legacy and foundations of the previous Elite games, and aims to expand it to a modern context while adding new features that have never before been seen in the Elite series. The Elite Dangerous FAQ has additional information.
- The vast 1:1 scale Milky Way galaxy is based on real scientific principles, current scientific data and theories. It's created using a mix of procedural generation and artist direction. There are around 400 billion star systems. More information in Realistic Astrophysics and Scale.
- An immersive, evolving galaxy with dynamic society, economy and stories, allowing pilots to join each other and together change the story of the Milky Way.
- Free-form play allows everyone to choose their own path, becoming an angry pirate, a spy, a peaceful trader, an explorer, a soldier, or a mix between these roles.
- Player actions can change the narrative and history of humankind. Such as battle pirates, participate in community events, leaving a mark in the galaxy.
- There are no classes or skill levels, strength is decided by ship equipment and player skill.
- More than 30 different and customizable ships.
- Surface vehicles such as the Scarab to explore planets and moons.
- Flight Model of Elite Dangerous has Newtonian physics with a fly-by-wire layer applied over the top to make the combat feel visceral and seat-of-the-pants, rather than Frontier's jousting at huge distances. Newtonian space combat (ships will continue to move unless intervened but without orbital mechanics)
- Freeform (manual yaw/pitch/roll) interplanetary flight allows to fly freely through star systems in realistic scale to get to a destination. Players can choose to travel wherever they want, including vista points to see Earth rise on the moon, the sun appearing behind Mars, or they could choose to explore the vast expanse of space and discover new points of interest in star systems.
- Multicrew adds the ability to join a seat of another commander's or let others join your ship.
- Holo-Me is the name of the character customization feature for the player's commander. It allows deep character customization.
- Camera Suite is a fully functional third-person camera suite.
- Players can choose between the following game modes: Solo (single player), Private Group (only with friends and invited people) or Open Play (multiplayer, play with everyone).
- The Background Simulation is dynamic, complex and reflects the evolution of the known galaxy with ever changing power and system influence of factions in response to player behavior. Every station has its own demands and supply that change dynamically. Players on different platforms cannot directly play with each other. However, every player on every platform affects the same shared galaxy, star systems, factions and the dynamic background simulation.
- A shared narrative which is influenced by players on all different platforms. This occurs with community events like Salomé, community goals and Powerplay activities. All of the meta data for the galaxy is shared between players. It's not traditional storytelling, rather an interactive, overarching narrative. Players have influenced and changed the course of events. The story unfolds in real time, in which players decide the outcomes and can be the stars. The latest information on in-game events and stories are reported on GalNet. See the Elite Dangerous Timeline for a chronological list of events.
Multiplayer vs Solo
Players can choose between the following game modes: Solo (single player), Private Group (only with friends and invited people) or Open Play (multiplayer, play with everyone). In open play, you may encounter any other player who is also in Open, instancing and matching players occurs via a complex system. Players on different platforms cannot directly play with each other. However, every player on every platform affects the same shared galaxy, star systems, factions and the dynamic Background Simulation.
Elite Dangerous has a seamless, lobby-less galaxy, with the ability to rendezvous with friends as the player chooses. People can play with up to four players in a Wing or join other people's ships via Multicrew. This was tested since the early betas, and uses a combination of peer-to-peer (to reduce lag) and server connections. Frontier spent a lot of time getting this tech to work, because it's way more complicated than a central server. The networking system has gradually improved and changed to accommodate new features like Multicrew.
Depending on the player's chosen game mode, some of the other ships they meet while traveling through space will be real players as opposed to computer-controlled ships (NPC). This could be a friend which a player has agreed to rendezvous with, or another real player that is encountered by chance.
Due to the gigantic size of the full-scale Milky Way galaxy, player encounters are very rare in deep space. Most players are found in the Bubble of inhabited space with around 20,000 systems including Sol.
All players are Commanders in the Pilots Federation – that is how they are distinguished from non-players. The prefix "CMDR" is visible before their names. The radar can also be used to distinguish a real player from AI controlled ships. A player shows as a hollow square or triangle (indicating stowed or deployed hardpoints) while an NPC ship appears as either a solid square or triangle.
Elite Dangerous has a vast 1:1 scale simulation of the Milky Way galaxy which evolves in real-time. The galaxy is based on real scientific principles, current scientific data and theories.
As players explore, different factions will spread to further star systems, colonize planets and build space stations. Players can participate in this process by completing missions for a particular minor faction to increase their influence in a particular system. This can eventually lead to wars. Players can continue to help their chosen faction by participating in them. In addition to war, players can also influence minor factions in star systems in other ways such as by causing an economic boom.
New stations are slowly built in real time. These events create opportunities for players like Community Goals. The resources and workers required for building need to be transported to the site, which becomes a prime target for piracy and increases the demand for bounty hunting. Additionally, the alien Thargoids have returned and secrets of the ancient Guardians are being discovered.
In the tradition of the original Elite and open-world games, there's no linear story: you can be a rich trader, a veteran bounty hunter, a feared pirate, a lonely miner, a notorious smuggler, or all of them, or something else entirely, based on your own actions.
Among the trillions of people in the galaxy - you start off as an insignificant new member of the Pilots Federation. You receive an indefinitely loaned and insured Sidewinder from a secret benefactor. You've got a ship and some spare credits to get started. One day, you might get fame, wealth or glory.
Unlike RPGs, players in Elite Dangerous do not choose their role by customizing stats and skills of their character. Instead, the player is free to assume any role. This is similar to how people choose roles in real-life.
The player can customize his or her character's physical characteristics with Holo-Me. It allows deep character customization which can be done at any time. For example, players can change their Remlok Suit, head and facial features, gender and other cosmetics. The Camera Suite is a fully functional third-person camera suite. It lets players take sophisticated screenshots, make cinematic videos and fly ships in third person.
The choice and customisation of a player's ship gears it towards specific role(s). Some examples are Trader, Miner, Explorer, Bounty Hunter, Smuggler, Courier, Mercenary, Assassin and Pirate. Hybrid roles are possible through emergent gameplay. For example defensive bounty hunting while trading in a multipurpose vessel, or taking long-range trade missions and exploring systems along the way.
In order to allow each player to explore each role they are able to own multiple ships. Every ship can be customised to fill a certain role. Unused ships are stored in station hangars and can be retrieved by returning to that station at any time. It can also be delivered to a station near your location, as long as it has a shipyard. Here are some examples:
Explorers have the opportunity to earn income and gain reputation by making pioneering jumps into unexplored star systems, and gathering data on planets, stars and other points of interest within systems. Exploration data can be sold at the Universal Cartographics tab of Starport Services. The first player who sells information about a celestial body will be credited in-game with a "Discovered By" tag on the Galaxy Map.
In previous Elite games trading was limited to a relatively small number of different commodities such as hydrogen fuel, precious metals, computers etc. Traders in Elite Dangerous have access to a vast number of commodities, both legal and illegal. There's also rare commodities which are unique to a specific star system. These increase in value the further from their origin they're sold.
Instead of static prices per star system, markets respond to events going on in the vicinity such as war, famine, blockades etc. This creates the opportunity for players to "game" the markets by manipulating supply and demand.
Players are also able to smuggle goods by moving fast or use precise management of ship heat in order to slip past station security forces.
Players can be pirates and steal cargo from other ships by using a variety of means. They can employ hatch-breaker limpets which, when fired at an un-shielded target, will latch onto the cargo hatch and extract cargo canisters from it. In addition, once shields have been dropped a player can shoot the cargo hatch manually to damage it which has the same effect, but requires more skill in most cases. Once stolen cargo has been scooped, it can be smuggled and sold at stations and outposts with black markets. The Crime & Punishment system affects PVP and piracy.
Various combat events (e.g. performing tight turns, firing weapons) heat up a ship's hull, which makes the ship easier to be spotted on scanners. This in turn makes it easier for pirates and bounty hunters to locate such ships. This helps players detect on-going battles and join in.
Throughout the galaxy players may encounter NPC ships, which are controlled by AI, and real players who have taken a life of crime. Once scanned, a player can see the current bounty issued against that pilot. As a bounty hunter you can destroy them in combat to receive a bounty voucher. It can be redeemed at a starport controlled by the faction that issued the bounty to receive a reward.
Consequently, many criminals seek refuge in systems with an anarchy status. Anarchy systems are ruled by a faction that doesn't enforce the rule of law. However, players are able to scan other ships in these systems with a kill warrant scanner in order to see if they are wanted in any other systems. Upon destroying a wanted ship the player can travel to the system the bounty was issued and claim it.
Players can mine a plethora of materials from planetary ring systems and asteroid belts that orbit around stars. When a mining laser and refinery module are equipped to a ship, the player can fire at suitable asteroids and use the cargo scoop to collect asteroid chunks. The pieces are refined onboard the ship.
Refineries have temporary bins that will store a refined product (after you've scooped it). Once each respective bin reaches 100%, the bin contents will then be automatically transferred to your cargo hold as a unit of 1, at which point it can be sold at a station.
The Codex shows your findings and progress in the galaxy. It has personal stats, session logs, discoveries in both a collaborative and individual way. It also provides encyclopedia-style information about lore topics and the latest news.
Previous Elite games tried to obey the laws of physics to a certain extent. This meant conventional thrusters were limited by the laws of relativity i.e. players couldn't travel faster than light within a star system. Frontier: Elite II used the Stardreamer feature (perceived time dilation by slowing the pilot's bodily functions) as a realism/gameplay trade-off.
However, such a mechanism doesn't work in a multiplayer game. Thus Elite Dangerous features faster-than-light travel called Supercruise. Each ship comes equipped with a Frame Shift Drive (FSD) which allows it to travel faster than light within a star system, or to other star systems via a Hyperspace jump. A FSD can be upgraded to increase its range, enabling faster travel around the galaxy and long-range exploration. The Hyperspace range of a FSD is decreased by the ship's mass. So if your ship is outfitted with heavier ship components (hardpoints, internal modules, etc) your jump distance will be reduced. The mass of any carried cargo or fuel reduces it too. This is referred to as the laden and unladen jump range.
Landing on Planets
Planetary Landing on realistic, full-sized, airless planets and moons is possible since the release of the season of updates called Elite Dangerous: Horizons. You can land, visit outposts, starports, use a SRV to drive and explore the surface for materials, alien and fungal lifeforms etc.
Atmospheric Landings will be added with a series of major updates in the future.
Ships can be customized and outfitted. This gives the player control over its strengths and weaknesses. Modules within each ship affect how it performs and functions. Thrusters, Sensors, Frame Shift Drives, Power Plants and more can all be swapped out to customise a ship. Livery - paintjobs and decals - are customizable too. All ship customization takes place in the outfitting screen when docked at a station, outpost or starport.
A wide variety of energy, projectile and missile-based weapons are available for ships. These are thermal, kinetic, thermal kinetic, explosive and defensive weapons. There are also mining lasers.
The hardpoints on a ship can be stowed or deployed. Other players in your vicinity who have their weapons stowed will show up on your scanner with a square symbol. This changes to a triangle when their weapons are deployed. NPC ships have solid squares/triangles. Real players (CMDRs) symbols are hollow.
The first available vehicle is the SRV Scarab. It allows pilots to drive on planetary surfaces. It's also used for mining materials. The Planetary Vehicle Hangar module provides a hangar space on-board a ship to carry and repair an SRV. It's equipped with a Wave Scanner which is an unidirectional long-range forward facing scanner that detects a variety of vehicles and points of interest.
Realistic Astrophysics and Scale
Elite Dangerous features realistic astrophysics, with bodies in star systems at the correct distances, scale, and move along their orbital paths in real time. Planets orbit and rotate around stars in 1:1 scale and real-time. The universe is modeled based on authentic and current galactic charts. New features will be added iteratively over time. David Braben confirmed the inclusion of new encounters with e.g. comets, black holes and quasars.
Elite Dangerous is set in a procedurally generated Milky Way galaxy with approximately 400 billion star systems.
- The vast 1:1 scale Milky Way galaxy is based on real scientific principles, scientific data, star catalogues and theories. It's created using a mix of procedural generation and artist direction.
- Around 400 billion star systems according to current scientific theories of star system formation with planets and moons that orbit and rotate. It includes well known systems like Sol and Alpha Centauri. Some systems have multiple stars.
- Groundbreaking in that it's based on a lot of hard science with all sorts of star surveys that are fixed and merged to for the first time in gaming history compose a very consistent model of the Milky Way galaxy and it's rich enough to plot the night sky.
- Cosmic phenomena, all different kinds of stars, star systems, black holes, detailed planets, moons, mountains, canyons, craters, planetary ring systems, star rise etc.
- Specially handcrafted overrides for 160,000 known stars in the night sky and planetary objects that we know and love. For example, our solar system Sol with Earth, the Moon and Mars. There are systems with recently discovered planets such as Trappist-1.
- Alien life such as fungal life.
- 141 nebula in the Milky Way galaxy.
- Star Clusters with rich survey data opportunities.
- 32 other galaxies are visible from the Milky Way.
- Several sentient species in the galaxy. The most notable are Humans, Thargoids and Guardians. More species are yet to be discovered.
- 57 Galactic Regions, 9 major galactic arms and the Galactic Plane.
- Constellations can be seen from Sol.
The Thargoids are an intelligent, highly advanced insectoid species that have existed for millions of years. They are highly territorial and seemingly rebuff all diplomatic overtures with unmitigated hostility, but are also known to be extremely slow to adapt.
The Guardians are an alien humanoid species. They became extinct 1 to 2 million years ago. Their Ancient Ruins were first discovered in the Synuefe XR-H D11-102 system on October 27, 3302. The decrypted data from the ruins, as well as from Structures discovered the following year, provided significant insights into the history and culture of the Guardians.
Elite Dangerous features a shared narrative which is influenced by players on all platforms. This occurs with community events like Salomé, community goals and Powerplay activities. All of the meta data for the galaxy is shared between players. It's not traditional storytelling, rather an interactive, overarching narrative. Players have influenced and changed the course of events. The story unfolds in real time, in which players decide the outcomes and can be the stars. The latest information on in-game events and stories are reported on GalNet. See the Elite Dangerous Timeline for a chronological list of events.
Braben explained: "We're bringing in a story that embraces all the players. People have said that Elite doesn't have a story. It does have a story, it just not a rescue the princess style single-player threaded story. What we have is the story of your life through the game, your progression. What we will have is things that happen to you as you reach certain stages of the game, you'll get invited to join things."
"But those are stories that work for all the players. You know, if you get invited to join a secret organisation, that can happen to lots of people. And the great thing is, if it doesn't happen to you you'll go "oh, why have they not invited me?" But then that's exciting, you'll think "oh well, ok, I did kill that policeman the other day, maybe I need to get my reputation a bit higher."
Here's a summary from EDPRG: Cheap and faster than light travel has enabled humanity to expand across the stars. This led to the rise of the Federation, Empire and Alliance. These major factions attract powerful people who scheme to gain more power.
The middle-classes of the galaxy can afford spaceships like cars in the 20th century. People who own spaceships gain tremendous freedom. They're encouraged to do all kinds of jobs such as delivering goods and supplies to stations. For people in the bottom of society, little has changed. Space trade is seldom hampered by politics. The planet-spanning mega corporations employ entire nations and rule unchecked over vast sections of the galaxy. There's a laissez faire attitude towards weapon ownership and people are inclined to shoot first. The general lawlessness of space, navigational hazards and fierce creatures on planets make it a dangerous place.
Elite Dangerous uses Procedural generation. It's a technique where content is generated from rules. It abstracts repetitive or arbitrary elements of content creation in a very efficient way.
Imagine a medieval landscape. Laying out towns, roads, castles, farm land, forests and so on can be done by a system of rules – putting castles widely spaced out on vantage points, towns near rivers but under the protection of such a castle, roads between them, then farm land to support them all. An artist can still design the castle, the houses in the towns, but this approach greatly magnifies the content that can be created. Frontier: Elite II did this for star systems and planets. Frontier Developments will go much further with this technique in Elite Dangerous.
The flight model of Elite Dangerous has Newtonian physics with a fly-by-wire layer applied over the top to make the combat feel visceral and seat-of-the-pants, rather than Frontier's jousting at huge distances.
The fly-by-wire system of Flight Assist is a ship computer which keeps the ship within flight parameters, constrains the angular and linear velocity and makes it easier to pilot. It can be turned off so you have to manually adjust the thruster forcers, but Flight Assist and fly-by-wire is always partially on to keep the ship movement in specified limits overlayed on a Newtonian mechanics model.
Elite Dangerous is a groundbreaking title for virtual reality gaming, because its one of the first major titles to offer full VR support with an exceptionally immersive experience in an all-encompassing universe. It was the go to game for many VR headset demos before the devices were commercially available. From a technical standpoint, Elite Dangerous is one of the PC’s most high-end VR titles, pushing even very powerful PCs to their limit. Elite Dangerous is designed from the ground up to support Virtual Reality and 4K Ultra HD display technology. It has Cutting-edge visual quality and performance enabled by Frontier's COBRA engine. It supports the latest displays at 4K resolution, and is built for the future with full 8K and 16K support. It's compatible with Oculus Rift, SteamVR and Vive headsets.
In March 2015, David Braben said supporting the Oculus Rift right from the start was possible, because Elite Dangerous is self-published by Frontier Developments rather than a publisher. With a publisher they'd have to make a business case for it and it would end up being pushed out into the future.
Sound and Music
The Elite Dangerous Music was made by composer Erasmus Talbot and Frontier Head of Audio, Jim Croft. The Elite Dangerous Original Soundtrack has over 2 hours of music content to immerse yourself in the Elite Dangerous universe.
Erasmus Talbot and Jim Croft developed the dynamic music system that allows the score to ‘breathe’ and reflect gameplay. Croft managed a team of talented individuals who also worked on audio such as ship engine sound and the ship's voice. Croft said it's been an absolute honor and privilege to be involved with Elite Dangerous.
Whether Elite Dangerous is the most complex project he's worked on in his career, Jim Croft answered "I would say so, yes. It’s a bit like Alice. It’s a small rabbit hole initially but once you’ve started down it, one thing tends to lead to another and before you know it you are lost in labyrinthine complexity."
Regarding the backer response to the audio Jim Croft said "The response to Alpha 1.0 has been overwhelmingly positive. We were really glad to hear that people were in general enjoying our approach, particularly with respect to ship engines. One of our biggest challenges is in attempting to make space flight feel enjoyable, dynamic and non-fatiguing, while adhering to a plausible physical flight model as much as we can. It’s very tough to keep all parties happy; some like a light touch or no sound at all, whereas others want the full ‘Hollywood’ treatment. We want to give players what they want. Our aim is making as much of the audio in the game as customisable as possible in the audio options. So players can pick and choose the elements they prefer to hear and which elements they do not." 
Senior Audio Designer Matthew Florianz held a presentation giving an in-depth look into the making of the audio for Elite Dangerous with in-game examples. Pertaining the science approach with the way Frontier creates the universe, a question they often get is "why didn't you go for no sound in space? The game has sound." Jim Croft answered that question "In the vast and often empty blackness of space, audio fulfills the crucial role of communicating a compelling sense of speed, acceleration and mass to the player."
Elite Dangerous Packaging
Elite Dangerous was delivered to most people digitally. There was a special boxed edition and a Limited Edition Box Set for certain Kickstarter backers and the Frontier Store. Some backers received an official star map poster.
The Elite Dangerous Limited Edition Box Set was part of certain Kickstarter rewards which backers received. The Limited Edition Box Set contained an Elite branded polo shirt with the correct shirt size, a limited edition game pack (copy of the game), a paperback novel of Elite: Legacy, the original soundtrack, an Elite pin badge which worked as a fastener and a personalized letter written by David Braben OBE for each of the 7,000 recipients. It all fit into a bespoke shipping carton and was distributed to 7,000 individuals worldwide. It was designed so that owners felt like they received something special. This boxed set was nominated and ‘Highly Commended’ in the 2015 British Luxury Packaging Design Awards.
Behind the Name
David Braben explained the story behind the name "This is Elite 4, but I wanted something that was a fresh start. We looked at the story behind the other names. So Frontier is because the key thing with Frontier versus Elite is the action takes place on the periphery, on the frontier. Because logically from a story perspective if you imagine sort of cowboy semi lawless worlds they will tend to be on the frontier of human space. The core systems will be a lot more secure. You wouldn't get unruly systems so close."
"Elite: Dangerous is where you are part of the Federation of Pilots and you're offered to be admitted to it and you'll be able to do this within the game, but you're still at a lesser rank so it's a bit like the British Navy for example where you had the concept of a defaced ensign. Those who may not know British military ships can fly a different flag and people can also fly that privately, but it's defaced to say that this isn't the full military ship. So it's the same sort of principle as that. Anyway that is why this is the title of the game, because it's so key to all the way the multiplayer plugs together."
Dangerous is the third best rank for members of the Pilots Federation and the galaxy is dangerous. Here's related lore "Relentless, increasingly well organized piracy and the need to maintain their reputation and influence as the best of the best caused the Elite Pilots Federation to start opening its membership to candidates from the Deadly rank who were able to pass a rigorous test and then, as demand continued to soar, to those from the Dangerous rank."
Buy to Play
Elite Dangerous has a fixed, one-time purchase price, and no subscription fees or free-to-play fees. After purchasing the game, it can be played at any time provided that the owner has an adequate internet connection and the servers are online. Only one player profile is permitted per account, however, and players who wish to have multiple profiles must purchase multiple accounts.
Expansions such as Elite Dangerous: Horizons and Elite Dangerous: Odyssey must be purchased separately in order to access their features, and also have fixed, one-time purchase prices. Some expansions may include multiple content seasons at no additional cost, such Horizons including Elite Dangerous: Beyond.
There are no pay-to-win microtransactions in Elite Dangerous whatsoever. All microtransactions are cosmetic only. In order to purchase cosmetics, players must first purchase a denomination of the microtransaction currency ARX; players can also earn up to 400 ARX per week through normal gameplay.
At the 2011 Game Developers Conference, David Braben gave the presentation Classic Game Postmortem - ELITE. During the Q&A an audience member asked "Is Elite 4 still on the drawing board?" Braben answered ,"Yes it would be a tragedy for it not to be."
In 2012 space sims were unpopular among publishers so it was difficult to attract funding for such a project. Due to the financial failure of Freelancer in the early 2000's publishers were skeptical of space games in general. Publishers would want to steer the game in a particular direction which was unacceptable for David Braben. In an interview he said "Working with publishers is great, but as part of the process, inevitably the publisher will want to steer the game in a particular direction. It happened with “Elite” – the game was rejected by Thorne-EMI because it was so different to what had gone before; to what they believed would be successful because those sort of games were successful before. They wanted three lives, a score and a ten minute play time. That was because that was the norm at the time. Today, we would be steered to make a game with cut-scenes that would appeal to an imagined audience. That is not the game I want to make."
David Braben said "When we first greenlit Elite: Dangerous, there were no other major space games since Freelancer. Now, there are dozens. So, I think we've succeeded. We've brought the genre back to life. And we've proven there's quite a lot of demand for this sort of game. Yes, it's niche, but it's quite a big niche."
Frontier had been working on the game as a "skunk-works" background activity for some time prior to its Kickstarter launch. Other projects were prioritized. “... has been worked upon by a small team as a ‘skunk-works’ activity in the background as availability permits” Elite Dangerous uses Frontier's own state-of-the-art in-house COBRA Engine tools and technology. COBRA has been carefully planned, developed and evolved since 1988.
Elite Dangerous was first announced to the public on November 5, 2012. Over a quarter of a century after the original, David Braben of Frontier Developments launched a successful Kickstarter campaign in November 2012. The purpose was to test-market the concept, verify whether there's broader interest in a fourth game and to raise funds to help make the game.
Braben wrote "We’re using Kickstarter both as a means of test-marketing the concept to verify there is still interest in such a game that extends beyond the individuals who regularly contact me about the game, and raising the funds to do so. There is also the fact that as long as we hit the threshold, it commits us to making the game." By April 2014, £1.7m had been raised. This was a fraction of the total budget for developing the base-game, Elite Dangerous (1.0). At Gamescom 2014 Braben said "The original budget, because we put a lot of our money towards it, was £8m," "it's grown by quite a lot".
Design Decision Forum
People who pledged £300 or more in the Elite Dangerous Kickstarter were invited to take part in the Design Decision Forum (DDF), a private section of the Frontier forums, giving them an unusually high level of access to and input in the development of the game.
Discussion in the DDF was closely focused on proposal documents written by Frontier staff as part of the game development process, which were then posted for discussion. Frontier have stated that all posts in the DDF were read by the development team, and developers frequently engaged in discussions and dialogue on the forum, sometimes starting polls to gauge community feeling. However, the final decision on all aspects of development remained with Frontier.
DDF members received no in-game privileges, but David Braben suggested during the Kickstarter that DDF members would collectively have "god-like powers" to help shape the evolving galaxy, making meta-game decisions like how NPCs would respond to player behaviour, e.g. by a faction sending a capital ship to deal with an upsurge of piracy.
All discussion in the DDF, including developer posts, have been made public in the Design Discussion Archive.
Those who pledged big during the Kickstarter got beta-access. People also bought beta access at £50 a pop. This included the full game. In mid-August 2014, more than 75,000 people were playing the Elite: Dangerous beta, providing "more and more money that moves ever closer to the game breaking even in a really good way."
Frontier had also reacquired the rights to the Elite franchise. Frontier purchased the software and IT consultancy company Professional Practice Automation in a £5.09m deal on Tuesday April 15, 2014. This included the royalty rights to the Elite video game franchise which was held by PPA.
In December 2013, a playable alpha version of the game was released to Kickstarter backers who pledged pledged £200. In May 2014, the game entered the first phase of beta testing. The focus was primarily on testing the systems and servers with a greater number of players. A pre-release "gamma" build was released to backers three weeks before launch to give them a head start.
Elite Dangerous (1.0) was developed and published by Frontier Developments and the Windows PC version launched on December 16, 2014. Since then it has had many updates and launched on multiple platforms.
The Apple Mac version was released on May 12, 2015. It doesn't have Elite Dangerous: Horizons due to the lack of high-performance Compute Shaders in the graphics API's supported by OS X. As of the Q4 update of Elite Dangerous: Beyond, the Mac version of Elite Dangerous will no longer be playable due to technical barriers.
Post-launch it can be estimated that the development budget for Elite Dangerous is in the tens of millions of pounds or more when major updates and expansions are included such as Elite Dangerous Horizons and Elite Dangerous: Beyond.
To celebrate the 5th Anniversary of Elite Dangerous since it launched on 16 December 2014, Frontier Developments compiled an infographic illustrating various player milestones and accomplishments.
- The 3 most popular ships are the Cobra MKIII, Asp Explorer and Python.
- 4,788,600 Thargoids eliminated for the safety of the galaxy
- 0.042% of the galaxy explored
- Over 200 million used limpets left in space in 1 year
- Missions completed in 2019: 66,647,459
- More than 4.9 trillion credits donated in charity missions
- Minor factions with the most presence in the galaxy: Wolf 406 Transport & Co: 240 in-game assets. SSl Interstellar PLC: 4,304,906,581,993 Milky Way residents.
- Longest distance traveled in a Sidewinder: CMDR Rincewindcymru 167,277 light years.
- 20,919 squadrons created
- 6.6 trillion total galaxy population.
- Total rebuy cost for commanders: 6,979,089,133,261 credits
On May 26 2017, the producer for the Elite Dangerous PS4 version Lloyd Morgan-Moore said “The Elite Dangerous team is over a hundred people strong, and while we have a dedicated PS4 team to handle things like PSN infrastructure, everyone is working on content which will appear simultaneously on all platforms. We don’t regard platforms separately when it comes to content." The team size was confirmed by a few people who visited the Frontier offices during the week of June 9, 2017.
Frontier uses an iterative approach with development. They gradually build upon features to expand and improve them. Expansions and major updates will bring various new features to Elite Dangerous. Some of these were available in previous Elite games and some are completely new to the Elite series. Horizons is the first expansion which consists of a season with major updates that add many new features, content and improvements to the Milky Way galaxy. Beyond is the third season of expansions which will add 2 major updates and 2 content updates through 2018.
Elite Dangerous has a truly huge scope and Frontier has ambitious development plans.
During an interview at Lavecon 2015, Frontier stated to have a clear intention of a 10 year development plan. It's confirmed by David Braben during a charity livestream in December 2016. In an interview with the Rolling Stone, Braben said "It's down to fans engaging with it, to be honest. But I would very much like to see it still going in 10-plus years. We might change things but, we'd like to keep the same basic idea."
This includes small free updates and paid major updates. Check the Development Plans page for an overview of planned updates and expansions.
- Landing / driving / prospecting on airless rocky planets, moons & asteroids - Elite Dangerous: Horizons - see Planetary Landings.
- Walking around interiors and combative boarding of other ships. - see Space Legs.
- Combat and other interactions with other players and AIs in the internal areas of star ports
- Accessing richly detailed planetary surfaces - see Atmospheric Landings and Procedural Cities.
- Availability of giant ‘executive control’ ships to players. - see Capital Ships.
Check the Elite Dangerous Reception and Awards page for information about the reception by the press and awards.
The game had sold around 1.7 million units by the end of May 2016. By the end of December 2016 a total of over 2.1 million paid franchise units of Elite: Dangerous had been sold. On 31 December 2017 cumulative sales of Elite Dangerous had exceeded 3.25 million franchise units. As of 15 January 2019, cumulative sales of Elite Dangerous exceeded 4.3 million franchise units. That's 3 million base game units.
In 2019, Elite Dangerous made more than £100 million ($133m) in revenue. This is a traders quote from the investment firm Liberum in 2019 "The company is working on a number of exciting updates for both franchies and our expectation is that we could see a big refresh release of ED in FY20, five years after launch (we expect Elite Dangerous to be closing in on £100m of life-time revenue by the end of this financial year)."
Steam concurrent players
The table below lists the 10 highest records for concurrent Elite Dangerous players on the Steam platform according to Steam Database.
|#1||June 14, 2020||21,734|
|#2||June 15, 2020||19,671|
|#3||June 13, 2020||19,125|
|#4||June 16, 2020||18,251|
|#5||November 29, 2015||18,073|
|#6||June 17, 2020||17,226|
|#7||June 21, 2020||17,205|
|#8||June 20, 2020||16,823|
|#9||June 18, 2020||16,486|
|#10||June 12, 2020||16,121|
- Elite Dangerous takes place in a 1:1 scale recreation of the Milky Way. The play space is so vast it will take players more than 30,000 years to chart the entire galaxy.
- https://twitter.com/gwr/status/611537566299463681?lang=en Guinness World Records, 18 June 2015
- Chalk, Andy. "Elite: Dangerous Creator Says Crowdfunding Covered Less than One-quarter of Its Total Cost." PC Gamer, 11 Sept. 2014. Web. 14 Jan. 2015.
- Hussain, Tamoor. "Elite: Dangerous Xbox One Release Date Revealed." GameSpot, 8 Sept. 2015.
- Official The Art of Elite Dangerous art book, August 17 2016
- Interview with David Braben - PAX East 2017 - Elite Dangerous
- Elite Dangerous Role Playing Game - Kickstarter
- Elite: Dangerous will have 100 billion star systems, plus Thargoids — Braben reveals what's next
- Elite: Dangerous - David Braben Interview with Gamereactor, Mar 20, 2015.
- Meet the Team #12- Jim Croft (Head of Audio)
- http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=dcbf6b86b4b0c7d1c21b73b1e&id=f72c0f91b2#Badge%20of%20Honour Elite: Dangerous Newsletter #22
- Elite Dangerous - Digital Art Book
- Hussain, Tamoor. "Elite: Dangerous Xbox One Release Date Revealed." GameSpot, 8 Sept. 2015.
- Answer From The Devs 15/10/15 - ED Forums
- Frontier Forums: Celebrating 5 years of Elite Dangerous!
- Important Community Update (01/03)
- Elite Dangerous 24 Hour Charity Livestream! Part 1! 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KS33cyq6Z_A&t=21m00s
- Elite Dangerous Newsletter #29 http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=dcbf6b86b4b0c7d1c21b73b1e&id=1824c0b05a#Lifetime%20Exp
- Frontier Developments PLC Trading Update
- Frontier Dev PLC (FDEV) - 06 February 2018
- Frontier Developments plc - Notice of Results and Trading update
- Frontier's Financial Position and the Future of Elite Dangerous
- SElite Dangerous (Steam) just set a new 4½ year record for concurrent CMDRs - the highest since Nov 2015's ATH