UFO: Enemy Octagonal
November 1, 2016 6:35 PM   Subscribe

Still no Mac version? Okkie, I'll just sit here and watch.

Damn it.
posted by Leon at 6:54 PM on November 1, 2016

The part about figuring out the location of the ruins from the position of the stars in the sky is amazing—first, that the game is accurate to that level of detail, and second, that someone actually did it.

(And kind of philosophically interesting to think about the out-of-universe trailer being harnessed by the players as a sort of in-game scrying tool, a meta take on the classic "Our scientists analyzed the stars visible through the portal and determined that the view must be from a planet orbiting HD 203857 in the Cygnus constellation" thing.)
posted by No-sword at 9:16 PM on November 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah - lack of Mac support is killing me. I was a HUGE Elite fan starting from the original, and I bought the new one because I could play it on my Mac, but now I'm locked out of the expansions, and I'm so sad.

I remember the thrill of discovering the Thargoids in the original - it was really well done, introducing the story at the point where you might be getting bored with the game. Glad to see others getting a way more sophisticated version of that now.
posted by bashos_frog at 9:28 PM on November 1, 2016

This was a neat thing to read. Thanks for posting it, Sebmojo.

I've got nothing clever to add here.
posted by egypturnash at 11:39 PM on November 1, 2016

Yeah - lack of Mac support is killing me. I was a HUGE Elite fan starting from the original

As a person of the Linux persuasion, every time this current incarnation of Elite comes up I get ridiculously excited, and then immediately frustrated.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:24 AM on November 2, 2016

Some of it is doable in the Mac version. Not all though. It's unfortunately really down to Apple not providing sufficiently good versions of OpenGL or OpenCL to run the compute shaders needed.
posted by edd at 4:38 AM on November 2, 2016

I study astronomy and do a lot of outreach work. It's mostly with children, but several months ago at an alumni event I ended up chatting to David Braben. He's mentioned in the article as "Frontier boss" but this doesn't really do him justice - he's the one who is largely responsible for several generations of Elite, one of the more influential video game series out there. (I'd never actually heard of it before, so he gave me a few codes to try out the game - thanks David!)

I was very impressed by the depth of his interest and knowledge in astrophysics. He was intensely interested in *every* aspect of our research - how do planets form? how do their solar systems behave? how do they evolve? what do we know about habitability, about structure, about atmospheres?

What I'm saying is that it surprises me not one bit that "the game is accurate to that level of detail". I got the impression that Elite is a universe simulator that just so happens to include spaceships, lasers, and mining.
posted by dashdotdot dash at 5:10 AM on November 2, 2016 [5 favorites]

Hey, good news. I just spent the last six hours reading about Elite Dangerous. I had never heard of the game before and yet here we are now. I am an expert and I have never even seen a screenshot.

Actually, all I know is that people refuse to compare the game to Eve, saying they are completely different aside from being massive online space sims that revolve around clans and trading. Which is weird because that makes them sound exactly the same, but I guess Elite has in cockpit view, so they are totally different? Ok, I am going to read more about it. Be back in another six hours.
posted by Literaryhero at 6:44 AM on November 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

This article just reminds me how empty Elite Dangerous is as a game. You've got a whole group of people chasing game content that literally does not exist. I give them credit for making their own fun in the game with the memories of what the original Elite was and a few whispers and clues planted by the devs. But it begs the question.

Also what a weird situation for Mac support. Even though I'm a Mac-only gamer I'm usually the last one to complain about Mac support; we're a minority platform, and a shitty one for gaming at that. But Elite Dangerous does support the Mac. Or at least it did at launch, which got me and others to buy it. But now they're not supporting Mac on the content expansions? That's really weak.

OTOH it's hard to over-state how bad the Mac is at gaming. OpenGL was way, way behind for years. Apple finally sort of fixed that just in time to introduce Metal, some MacOS-only accelerated API that very few game companies are going to bother targeting. I'm also feeling bitter because while Civilization VI does run on the Mac (thank you, Aspyr), it also runs at about 2/3 the FPS of the Windows version on the exact same hardware. Presumably because of the need to emulate DirectX. Ugh.
posted by Nelson at 7:30 AM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

The dynamics for Elite and Eve are very different.

Ship control and combat: Elite goes for a first-person flight-sim like experience. Eve is closer to RTS in space. The skillsets are very different.

Economics: Elite economics is entirely an AI model. Except for mining and salvage, there are very few player-produced commodities, and no real market for trading them with other players. Crafting is extremely rudimentary at this point in time. In contrast, the economy of Eve is almost entirely player-driven.

PvP: Entirely optional in Elite. Between a third to a half of Elite players operate in solo mode. PvP of some sort is nearly unavoidable in Eve, although your active involvement in PvP may just be buying goods from the market. Above a certain scale, PvP in Eve also demands role specialization.

Skill Progression: Nonexistent in Elite. Character skill progression is everything in Eve.

Wings vs. Corporations: Wings in Elite tend to be smaller groups. There's no mechanic for wings to occupy or control territory. Eve has largely evolved into a system of relatively static large-scale power blocks in nullsec controlling almost all of the territory.

Scale: The scale of the galaxy model in Elite is really massive. It takes about 8 hours of real-time gameplay just to travel one-quarter of the way across the galaxy from Sol to Sagittarius A*, and that's min-maxing travel time without doing any exploration. I just lost two weeks of exploration due to a connection glitch (re-logging dropped me into a neutron star jet) covering about 14,000 lightyears, mostly through systems that had not previously been explored. Eve, in contrast, felt almost entirely colonized. There's few places in Eve you can go that's not controlled by a player corporation or NPC faction. Uncontrolled systems usually have at least one pirate cartel looking for a fight.

Elite is a space where I can just go off on my own and find stuff to see (although I have to skip over dozens of procedurally generated homogenous systems to find it). In Eve, dealing with player-generated drama of some sort is nearly unavoidable.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 7:32 AM on November 2, 2016 [7 favorites]

But they're both space sims, right? So basically, it's the same game. That's what I'm taking from this...
posted by Naberius at 8:55 AM on November 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

But they're both space sims, right? So basically, it's the same game.

Doom, Half Life, Portal are first-person shooters set in futuristic laboratories with things trying to kill you. So basically, they're the same game.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 8:59 AM on November 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Two minutes playing either game with a joystick will clear up any misconceptions quickly.
posted by vanar sena at 9:07 AM on November 2, 2016

One area where they're similar is that they are both relatively low-narrative sandbox games. If you don't find the dynamics inherently fun, they probably won't hold your attention long. My prior big game was Euro Truck Simulator, so obviously travel and exploration dynamics are satisfying for me.

Eve's space simulation is so abstract under the graphics that it could be rewritten for the tabletop with a few modifications. Perfect spheres battle perfect spheres using a random number generator. The best feature of Eve is the player-driven market where almost everything in the game is created via player labor in some form.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:54 AM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

*Dons tinfoil hat, hands out biscuits*

It's been a long road. I've been working on these mysteries on-and-off for a while, it's an incredibly deep rabbit hole of breadcrumbs, with long periods of nothing followed by short ones of excitement. We're on the second at the moment - just 30 minutes ago someone found a crashed alien ship and everyone's charging off to have a look.

Nelson: There's a lot more in the game than there was at launch. My impression was that the game was pushed to hit the December 2014 target release date on an early access-lite model where we got a basically working but pretty content-light game on time, and they've been fleshing it out ever since. There are now loads more ships, planetary landings, a ton of crafting shenanigans, and... more mysteries.
posted by Urtylug at 10:30 AM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

I've been really enjoying E:D. It is sort of crucial to retain a meditative mindset-- there's a whole lot of 'empty' to it.

I found the first two or three dozen hours just dazzling, and then you realize that the next dozen procedurally generated 'HAUL 50 UNITS OF X TO Y OVER Z JUMPS' are going to be the same as the last dozen.

That said, if you can hold on to what a real achievement it is, in terms of scope and ambition, it really is a singular experience.

\o my mefite commander colleagues.
posted by mrdaneri at 11:00 AM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

And let's be clear that very repetitive jumping, docking and trading is inherent to the Elite franchise. It is, and always has been, a roleplaying game where a good chunk of the content is generated by the player's imagination.
posted by howfar at 11:50 AM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

OK, here's a question: how much of the game is space battle? I understand the resource generation/management aspect, but would also like a little spacewar. Is it actually necessary to get a joystick, and if so, is it more like a flight simulator stick? (I'm a big Mass Effect fan, but was always a bit disappointed that they didn't really go for spaceship combat of any sort.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:53 AM on November 2, 2016

OK, here's a question: how much of the game is space battle?

As much as you want. Many systems will have zones for PVE bounty hunting, and NPC pirates will sometimes try to grab you (they're easy to outrun though). PVP piracy, combat, and griefing are possible in Open Play. High-traffic systems and alien artifact locations are hotspots for PVP in Open Play.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 12:08 PM on November 2, 2016 [2 favorites]

Halloween Jack - it depends if you're actually looking for, and are geared up for, space combat. Yes, subject to in-game funds you can tool up your favourite combat ship with better thrusters, weapons, shields, etc. and either go off to bounty hunt, pirate, join in faction battles, and so on - and you will greatly benefit from using a flight sim kind of stick (doesn't have to be too expensive or complicated). Of course, having the ship, the upgrades and the controller isn't going to do much good if you can't fly - check out some of the videos out there that refer to 'flight assist off' to get a feel for the space combat and freedom of movement that's available.

Of course, whilst you're trying to accumulate said in-game funds, you will be trading using an underpowered, under-defended trading hog... so rather than space battle, you'll be doing more of the space-run-for-your life (or as it's sometimes described, performing the 'Brave Sir Robin' manoeuvre). It's pretty adrenalin-inducing trying to dodge/outrun a pirate (NPC or player) and just about making it back to the safety of a station with a tiny sliver of hull left keeping you alive...
posted by Chunder at 12:09 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

Halloween Jack The closest analogue I found was Bethesda's Open World franchises a la Skyrim, in terms of player engagement and activities.

If you're expecting gripping narrative and classic story-driven arcs, you may be disappointed.

If the idea of self-directed exploration and progression appeals to you, it's 100 % in that niche.
posted by mrdaneri at 12:17 PM on November 2, 2016 [1 favorite]

I play Elite for about an hour every night as a kind of meditative after-work decompression. I think of it as Euro Truck Simulator 3302. I like its little procedural elements, requesting permission to dock, firing off prospecting and retrieval drones, plotting trade routes.

There's a really interesting tension among players about quality of life vs. quality of simulation. Part of what makes the game compelling and unique are details like acceleration and deceleration when moving at relativistic speeds. The end result of that particular consideration is that it can take several minutes of flying in a straight line to get to your port in a given system, with nothing much in the way of stimulation besides occasional passing celestial bodies. Whether mechanics of that kind are "fun" is a subject of considerable debate. It's been an interesting through line to keep in mind while watching the game's development and expansion.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 1:37 PM on November 2, 2016 [3 favorites]

Elite Dangerous is stuck in a place where it can't decide whether it wants to be a single-player game or an MMO, and consequently does neither especially well. So you see this tension in the community that basically comes down to one camp wants a single-player focused game with rapid advancement (i.e., that you should reach 'endgame' in 10-30 hours) and the other camp wants a sandbox MMO with slow advancement (i.e., that it should take months to advance your character to endgame).
posted by Pyry at 5:39 PM on November 2, 2016

I don't see that divide at all. There's certainly those that want faster progression, and those wanting slower, but it doesn't correlate with those wanting to play solo and those wanting to play open particularly well, and it doesn't correlate well with those wanting to reach an 'endgame' or not. And I'd argue there isn't an endgame anyway, not in the usual sense.
posted by edd at 7:14 AM on November 3, 2016

Well this thread has been more informative than the dozens of others I have read about the game, and I really would like to check it out firsthand. Unfortunately I have 3 young kids and haven't played an actual computer game since January 27, 2012, the birth date of the first. Give me a moment to cry silently, please.
posted by Literaryhero at 5:52 AM on November 5, 2016

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