After seeing a post on the Steam forums, and reading the various responses, I was prompted to write why I think there are such wildly different viewpoints on Elite: Dangerous. The gist of it is that it’s a matter of experience in previous games and expectations. For the long winded response, read the rest.
Even though I have played this on and off, I currently still play it. Why do I play it? And why do I not play it when I don’t?
Reason why I play: immersion and interest.
“Interest in astronomy is not enough” is the counterargument in the Steam thread. Well it isn’t enough for you with the counterargument. It is enough for those who put that argument forward.
I travelled to Sol yesterday for the first time. Then it occurred to me that in some email newsletter the devs said some player had found one the Vouyager probes. And I really wanted to figure out where it could be “now” in 3300. It’s obviously not in the Solar system anymore (hell it already left it!) So I might set off to find the Voyager probe.
Now that scientific interest is compelling me to go find the Voyager probe, therefore it’s compelling me to play the game.
I can’t do that in Eve. And in Eve I can’t play in a cockpit. Actually, Eve is not a sim, despite people calling it that way. Eve is a sci-fi game set in space, yes, but it is not really a sim. I understand that the flight model in Elite isn’t accurate, but it’s still more of a sim. There are a lot of games out there with space ships which are called sims by people. But they are not sims. Eve is no more a sim than Star Trek Online.
In ED I feel almost like a Battlestar Galactica viper pilot with a Mass Effect-like HUD and that is just amazing.
To make you understand this even more, my other half has played/plays simulators. Hence I bought her a Track IR for her birthday. Said simulators are Euro Truck Simulator 2 and Microsoft Flight Simulator.
I would say that in Euro Truck Simulator 2 (which I played) more input is required from the player to get from A to B than in Elite, but that’s when you strip Elite to “just” exploring. If you start fighting than the statement is not true. Trading requires more brains in Elite, but once you have set out from your station, then again ETS 2 requires more player input as you don’t go mostly on a straight line, you have gears to think of (if you are driving manual), indicators, other traffic, etc.
Now Microsoft Flight Simulator. That is terribly close to Elite: Dangerous, but there is a lot less for you to do than in ED. You take off, set it on auto pilot, leave the computer for 4 hours, come back and land. Landing can be done with auto pilot as well (actually it SHOULD, but my other half likes to do it manually for the fun of it). Also in real life pilots are trained to fly through their instruments and NOT to pilot by looking outside the window.
There is nothing else for you to do in MFS. You just fly from A to B. You don’t even do the trading bits that you do in ED. But people play it because they like the sim. Some people build entire cockpits (literally) to operate the game.
Now let’s compare this to Kerbal Space Program. That is more of a simulation than Eve or other “space sims”. The flight model of KSP is totally different, and it’s close to what our space vehicles use now. I found I had to drop all preconceptions I had about flying in space to understand how to fly in KSP.
So here we come to the reason why I don’t play ED when I decide not to play it:
Lack of immersion and interest.
“WHAT? You are contraddicting yourself.”
Hold your horses, already.
Remember what I just said about ETS 2 and KPS especially. There is more input from the user than there is in ED. Finding the Voyager probe will be interesting, but it won’t keep me hooked forever. So I will go do something else. Play another space game maybe, or go play a shooter. Do you see what I am getting at? I am supplementing my more… “arcady” needs, for lack of a better word, with other games. And some of the things I go do in other games are things that are promised as features in Elite, and that is where people are complaining that the features should be there.
That’s where you get the people who abor the idea of “use your imagination”. ED is a simulator, but for some not a deep enough simulator to keep you hooked just as a simulator. And it also lets you do other things, but it isn’t in-depth enough to keep you hooked by those other things.
You get a huge galaxy, but it’s procedurally generated. So it attempts to simulate the HUGENESS of the galaxy, but due to the logistics involved in something like this, you also don’t get a huge variety (plus who can say for certain how much variety there is in space?) so again it doesn’t simulate enough.
There is one thing that all other sims have in common: mods. ED doesn’t have any. This is yet another thing that makes this a sim, but not quite like other game sims.
But it’s way more spectacular than other games. And you are in the cockpit and feel like that is you in there, and that is amazing.
I could carry on with examples like these for ages, but I hope this gets the point across of what I am trying to say. That is why you get people who are so completely addicted and people who feel there is nothing for them to do.