back to article Elite:Dangerous goes TITSUP

Eight-bit classic space trading game revival Elite:Dangerous, has hit further strife after its servers experienced total inability to support usual performance over the holiday period. Elite:Dangerous has proven controversial since its makers decided not to offer an offline mode, as was promised in the Kickstarter campaign …

  1. aleeivel

    Elite has so far never worked for me

    Has been a complete waste of time and money so far. Missed the whole NY mess as have never got past an error on logging on!!!

    Posted on the forum and mailed, never had a reply from them. Useless con artists.

  2. RoninRodent

    Re: Elite has so far never worked for me

    Support are absolutely flooded in the wake of offlinegate + launch + holidays. Something like 18k tickets have been logged in 3 weeks and by the time they realised they had a problem it was too close to the holidays to recruit new support staff. Many of us think the offlinegate lot are intentionally flooding support to try and ruin the game. They are certainly griefing new players.

    If you have posted in the support forums several players (myself included) are doing their best to help but obviously there are some things we can't fix.

  3. Fading Silver badge

    Re: Elite has so far never worked for me

    If that's the error from the launcher have you tried adding a rule to your firewall to allow the launcher .exe through?

  4. Max Normal
    Gimp

    Re: Elite has so far never worked for me

    Paranoia factor 9 captain?

    Support are probably flooded because hundreds/thousands of genuinely aggrieved players are, you know, submitting problems.

    That, and it was only the janitor manning the phone post launch.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    not standing up for the game but

    "Elite:Dangerous has proven controversial since its makers decided not to offer a single-player mode, "

    This is not true. The, not offering single player mode, not controversy.

    There is clearly a single player mode - it is called "Solo" what there is not is an always offline single player mode.

    Now the reasons they give are bullshit - it is always on drm and the excuse is the same shitty excuse we heard from EA about Simcity, and no doubt 2 years down the line it will suddenly become possible to get all the universe updates without the always on drm.

  6. Flatpackhamster

    Re: not standing up for the game but

    Well, quite, but ISTM that Simon Sharwood had his nose put out of joint by the removal of the Offline mode and have gone Full Hate. Not even an article on here saying the game had been released, just articles about how awful it all is and how unhappy everyone is. When the reality is that about 100 whiny manbabies are filling the forum with complaints about the lack of offline mode - no doubt Mr Sharwood was one of them.

  7. h4rm0ny Silver badge

    Re: not standing up for the game but

    >>"There is clearly a single player mode - it is called "Solo" what there is not is an always offline single player mode."

    It's only named "Solo" though, in fact the differences between it and actual single-player are quite long and surprising. You're still affected by other player's actions, you just can't see those players. So they take missions you might take, they affect prices, the unknown systems around you suddenly become known because other players have explored them... and more significantly there are a lot of design decisions based around it being online that are different with true single-player - there's no true pause, missions expire in real time making it very difficult for many to play that aspect of the game, you're locked to a single commander so no trying out different ways of playing with different characters, you can never really restart a game because you can never get back to the starting conditions of the galaxy, never save a position and go back to it. Six months from now it's going to be a very different galaxy with much more explored - and exploration is one part of the game (you gather and sell map data). The impact is actually pretty big and "Solo" really isn't the same as actual single-player.

  8. RoninRodent

    Re: not standing up for the game but

    You are badly misinformed. The removal of offline has nothing to do with DRM. Everything in the game is controlled by the servers right down to the market prices and availability. Without the server nothing works. They could have bodged some code in for commodities, ship and module availability but it would be very static and bland compared to the online version.

    They have said that if they ever have to shut the servers down they would release the server-end daemons and databases so you aren't cut off from the game. They announced this before release and I can only think of one other game company that did that (and that was well after they shut down).

    If you are going to spread information at least fact-check it first eh?

  9. Bod

    Re: not standing up for the game but

    "They have said that if they ever have to shut the servers down they would release the server-end daemons and databases so you aren't cut off from the game. They announced this before release and I can only think of one other game company that did that (and that was well after they shut down)."

    If there's no DRM aspect involved, then why not offer a local server download option now so people can run the game privately, solo and/or just with their own friends?

    The very fact you cannot play it without the server active, under Braben's control, makes it by definition DRM. Anyway I'm sure there's a licence check involved in communicating to the server.

    "They could have bodged some code in for commodities, ship and module availability but it would be very static and bland compared to the online version."

    No bodge, just code AI for computer generated players that does the same job instead of real players. Playing solo you don't see the players anyway so it makes crap all difference who's generating the "dynamic" data.

    Besides that, the original Elite was static and bland, but didn't stop it becoming a massive success and highly fun to play. That said though, kids today who know nothing about the original Elite or the satisfaction of the effort you had to put in to play it, demand games more suited for their short attention spans so that style of game is of no interest to them. The backers though wearing rose tinted glasses expected Elite in the style than Bell & Braben. What they've got is another solo Braben mess. Albeit nice looking.

  10. RoninRodent

    Re: not standing up for the game but

    > If there's no DRM aspect involved, then why not offer a local server download option now so people can run the game privately, solo and/or just with their own friends?

    Because they would like you to keep playing their version as the more players on their servers the more these players influence the ongoing story. As there is no subscription model they want you buying paint jobs and other such fluff to help keep the lights on.

    > No bodge, just code AI for computer generated players that does the same job instead of real players. Playing solo you don't see the players anyway so it makes crap all difference who's generating the "dynamic" data.

    They would have to do it for a lot more than just commodities but it would be possible with some work. That leaves you with fairly static trading, combat against AI only and a fairly bland selection of pre-baked missions. There would be no story and nothing in the universe would ever change. I admit that the universe is a little empty right now since things are just beginning but the offline mode would have been much emptier.

    > The backers though wearing rose tinted glasses expected Elite in the style than Bell & Braben. What they've got is another solo Braben mess.

    What many of the naysayers seem to want is the same exact game they had 30 years ago with some flashy new graphics. There are other games that have delivered that style of experience many times over the years and adding another one to the pile wouldn't really be an achievement. What backers wanted was an evolution of Elite taking it to the next level and most of the players feel they have mostly done that. Almost all of the reviews I have read are positive too (though they all admit there are issues that need working on).

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: not standing up for the game but

    @RoninRodent

    "The removal of offline has nothing to do with DRM. Everything in the game is controlled by the servers right down to the market prices and availability. Without the server nothing works. They could have bodged some code in for commodities, ship and module availability but it would be very static and bland compared to the online version."

    I've heard that one before. What was it called Simcity? Oh yes - apparently that needed all the simulations done on the corporate servers too...

    There's little that couldn't of been done with one off xml downloads of the information - no need for always on drm.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: not standing up for the game but

    Well, if FD actually refunded the people after the offline bait and switch and not try every trick in the book to stall/refuse/partially settle then there would be less unhappy people complaining.

  13. RoninRodent

    Re: not standing up for the game but

    Have you actually played the game? I have been playing since beta and I have seen them manipulate the universe right down to commodity prices in realtime with my own eyes so yes it is run on the server. At one point an exploit was found with a specific mission type and that mission type vanished from the bulletin boards within the hour. There is a very good reason why it is always online and part of that reason is security/anti-hacking.

    XML downloads? Well, I guess it could be done but what happens when 1 client doesn't get that download and becomes out of sync with the rest of the universe? No way that could go wrong.

  14. Paul Shirley

    Re: not standing up for the game but

    "There is a very good reason why it is always online and part of that reason is security/anti-hacking."

    A genuine solo game doesn't need that security or anti-hacking protection. That justification doesn't fly.

  15. P. Lee Silver badge

    Re: not standing up for the game but

    My guess would be that they don't want to code a special "server" for stand-alone use and neither do they want other people hosting multi-player ED clouds and fragmenting a small community.

  16. MrDamage

    Re: not standing up for the game but

    I only have one question.

    How can a universe, which is vastly affected by the online activities of thousands, if not millions of other players, be called "Single Player Mode"?

    Thats right, it can't. If other players are affecting your gameplay, you arent playing by yourself.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: not standing up for the game but

    Oh yeah. "They will release the server code if they ever go down". With their credibility and way of handing refunds I don't see them doing this. If, hypothetically, they were going under they would most likely keep the code as it would be one of the main assets.

  18. TheProf
    Meh

    I'm not a programmer.

    I watched a video on YouTube of a real human player in a life-or-death tussle with another real human player. It was interesting to the point of me almost signing up for the game. It's just the £40 price tag. I've never paid that much for a game. I'm the wait 6 months and get it for a tenner type. Yep, a cheapskate.

    As I said I don't programme but how difficult could it be to 'snapshot' the initial starting conditions and let players fly around in their own private universe? They managed to squeeze the original game into a BBC micro so I can't understand the reluctance of Frontier to offer an 'arcade' version.

  19. Jim 59

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    It's just the £40 price tag. I've never paid that much for a game.

    Think I paid more than that for Pac-man on the Atari 2600, adjusting for inflation.

  20. h4rm0ny Silver badge

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    >>"As I said I don't programme but how difficult could it be to 'snapshot' the initial starting conditions and let players fly around in their own private universe? They managed to squeeze the original game into a BBC micro so I can't understand the reluctance of Frontier to offer an 'arcade' version."

    Potentially pretty difficult. If they've coded it with a lot of server side stuff then whilst it would be easier than starting from scratch to put that code in the client-side code, it could still be difficult. Suppose they had everything based on SQL Server or Postgres at the back-end. Now you need to either re-write it or the customer needs to install and run this database on their PC. Possible but problematic with Postgres, difficult with SQL server due to licences (though there's a free version, so maybe). But you see the problem. Something like this really needs to be decided on in the design phase. (That's what has angered many - because they must have decided to abandon single-player quite a while ago but tried to sneak the announcement out quietly late in the process).

    However, it could be possible. You'd probably have fairly high hardware requirements because realistically, to port this to single player with a "snapshot" as you say, would mean changing as little code as possible and getting the client PC to be the "server" as well and keep the PC talking to itself the same way it would talk to the server. Playing both halves of the conversation if you will. And I suspect that means running a full database on the client PC amongst other things.

    Talking from a position of not knowing how they implemented this, the best one can say is that it might be possible to do this within an acceptable amount of work, but it would not be trivial and would likely put some significant demands on the client's PC both hardware and software-wise (imagine if you had to enable IIS on the customer's PC to run the game! That's actually possible but would you want the security nightmare you'd be inflicting on customers who didn't know anything about administering IIS?).

    TL;DR: Possible - probably. Small amount of work - probably not. Could have unexpected restrictions that make this very difficult: might do.

  21. Dave W

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    The "snapshot" idea is initially feasible, but would require some dev time that I (personally) would argue is better spent elsewhere.

    The biggest issue with doing this however is in ongoing maintenence and expansion. ED is at present merely a foundation upon which Frontier are planning to grow (think how Eve Online has evolved over the past 10 years). Having to then back-port all of these changes into everybody's own unique offline version and check for potential issues/conflicts would slow development far too much.

    I'm impatient for the multiplayer code improvements and the ability to walk around my ship (Eve:Incarna anyone?), so I'm against anything that gets in the way of this dev timeline.

  22. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    Really? You can get quite fancy open source implementations of SQLite these days. It's much harder to do the graphics, at least from my point of view.

  23. h4rm0ny Silver badge

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    >>"Really? You can get quite fancy open source implementations of SQLite these days. It's much harder to do the graphics, at least from my point of view."

    SQLite is great. At what it does. However, we're talking not just a simple database here (conceivably it could handle what was necessary for ED's universe, *just* possibly), but a lot of code built on it and around it. How would you port all the stored procedures and advanced features that were being made use of. Swapping a back-end from something like Postgres or SQL Server (I don't know what they actually use or how they do it) to SQLite isn't going to work.

    The graphics is actually the least problematic part of moving ED to being a complete client-side game because the graphics are already generated on the client side (unless they're doing some lightmaps server side which is possible but I think highly unlikely with them). The server isn't sending a picture of a ship down the wire to client which would both be unusably slow and send bandwidth requirements through the roof. It instead sends a small bit of data saying "draw ship X here at angle Y" and the client loads the appropriate textures et al. which it already has from the game install, and draws as instructed. Graphics is actually the easy part of porting it.

  24. localzuk

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    Its quite funny that some of you think its easy to have a database containing 400,000,000,000 star systems and their associated celestial bodies on a home PC. If each system contains 10Kb of data, that's potentially 372.5TB of data. Yeah, SQLite can handle that. Add in market data etc... and your game database is gonna be pretty huge!

  25. Bod

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    "Its quite funny that some of you think its easy to have a database containing 400,000,000,000 star systems and their associated celestial bodies on a home PC. If each system contains 10Kb of data, that's potentially 372.5TB of data. Yeah, SQLite can handle that. Add in market data etc... and your game database is gonna be pretty huge!"

    Bell & Braben got the BBC Micro version procedurally generating a huge (for the time) universe and crammed it into 32K with a fun space trading arcade style game. Braben went his own way with the sequels and tried to create a space simulator and slap the name Elite on it. The results weren't great. Now he's done the same and wants to simulate the entire universe rather than make a fun game. The backers want to play an updated Elite like they remembered as kids. A copy of the real universe is nice, but it's nothing to do with Elite. Had he continued to do a wholly procedural generated universe he could have 400,000,000,000 star systems and their associated celestial bodies on a home PC in very little space. They just wouldn't map to real stars in the universe, but the game would still be fun to play.

  26. localzuk

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    Ah, so you are dictating how the game should be created too then? There's many of us who love that it is a realistic implementation of the universe. Are our views not important too, or do you get to dictate the entire game - limiting it down to what the old Elite was. In fact, why bother with a new game, everything was done in the original, let's just use that...

    Its a new game. It has new things in it - one of those things is the expansive universe, another is the server based architecture to allow continual updates and changes to be made. A sequel is not just a like for like copy with new graphics. This isn't COD.

  27. mythicalduck

    Re: I'm not a programmer. @localzuk

    "Its quite funny that some of you think its easy to have a database containing 400,000,000,000 star systems"

    I agree with what you said here... however... Would a single player really visit 400 billion systems? Doubtful. So what you could always do is create a universe with something like 250,000 systems. In my entire time of playing Elite 2: Frontier, I don't think I ever visited more than a couple of hundred systems, so you'd save a tonne of space, and still get more systems than you'd probably actually visit

  28. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    I imagine that Fronter's server is probably REST based and it's not beyond the wit of man to provide the same API on a daemon running on the client PC answering localhost connections. Stored procedures are moved into the daemon itself, the SQLite engine provides SQL services and nobody, not even Frontier at the moment, is running a backend with 400 billion star systems and 375 TB of data.

    Remember they thought they could do offline mode until they decided to make it online only and more fancy. Nobody is going to explore the entire galaxy, just a small part of it.

  29. TheProf
    Meh

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    Thanks for the comments. I think I have a better understanding of the 'game' now. Big universe, big graphics and real-time interactions.

    As I said it was the up-front cost that stopped me buying in. That said wasn't the BBC game £14.99 in the late 80's. That's about £44 now and the game looks so much better.

    Another point: why did I get down votes on my original post?

  30. RoninRodent

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    This is El Reg. You can get downvotes for just turning up!

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    "Thanks for the comments. I think I have a better understanding of the 'game' now. Big universe, big graphics and real-time interactions.

    As I said it was the up-front cost that stopped me buying in. That said wasn't the BBC game £14.99 in the late 80's. That's about £44 now and the game looks so much better.

    Another point: why did I get down votes on my original post?"

    'Cos the crazies have come-a-knocking, and you is teh heritcssss! Die!!!!!

  32. h4rm0ny Silver badge

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    "Its quite funny that some of you think its easy to have a database containing 400,000,000,000 star systems and their associated celestial bodies on a home PC. If each system contains 10Kb of data, that's potentially 372.5TB of data. Yeah, SQLite can handle that. Add in market data etc... and your game database is gonna be pretty huge!"

    I guarantee you that ED is not using a 370TB+ database for its backend. Both financial cost of storage and searches on such a monstrosity would be prohibitive. I think you go wrong right at the start with plucking a figure per system from nowhere and using it to extrapolate. Whatever they are doing, the conclusion to the argument is unrealistic so there must be a flaw in it somewhere.

    Now if I were implementing such a thing client-side, which is what we're discussing the feasibility of, I would generate the systems procedurally as needed and only store those that had been discovered as and when the player reached them. Unless the player is going to explore all 400,000,000 systems, I'll be fine.

    Note, because there is an argument going on here and it's easy to read my post as being on one side of this, I think it would actually be quite a lot of work to port it to run on a PC. But for reasons other than what you give above, which I posted earlier. What would be feasible would be to allow people to set up their own smaller groups. Maybe forty people club together and get a small server on Azure or whatever and install the Elite package - now that would be a lot more realistic at this late stage in the development process.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    I too do not see any problem in holding the 4E11 star systems local to the client. Given that we know virtually nothing about any of the star systems in this galaxy, it would be quite safe to generate them procedurally in the client as needed (that is, in a single-player mode).

    I wonder if the real reason for requiring a server connection is that their idea of a constantly changing galaxy requires some quite sophisticated AI that they just do not have yet (or is not amenable to being supported on a single client machine)? In this early phase of the game they are then forced to rely on real human intelligences tweaking things behind the scenes.

    Maybe there's an old ex-government bunker in the south of England which is now home to a server, a live galactic feed and a band of Elite Gnomes toiling away to provide intelligent changes to the galactic environment.

  34. P. Lee Silver badge

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    >I too do not see any problem in holding the 4E11 star systems local to the client.

    Apart from the fact that everyone would be playing alone?

    I used to play MMPORPG and the world was large but not that large. However, the designers created "choke-points" of desirable places to force people to interact. Otherwise everyone would just wonder off and do their own thing.

  35. Dan 55 Silver badge
    WTF?

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    Well that was what we were talking about wasn't it, the feasibility of setting up a backend on the client so the game could connect to it instead of Frontier's servers and that way people could have the option of running a truly offline solo mode so they would be playing alone?

  36. Vanir

    Re: I'm not a programmer. @h4rm0ny

    >Unless the player is going to explore all 400,000,000 systems, I'll be fine

    I'm going to give it a go! I'm checking me tyres and oil right now.

    Say, I remember reports of gamers dying at their keyboards. Well, got to go someway and somewhere.

    See ya!

  37. Spoonpoodle

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    Procedural generation.

  38. Vic

    Re: I'm not a programmer.

    Its quite funny that some of you think its easy to have a database containing 400,000,000,000 star systems and their associated celestial bodies on a home PC.

    Why on earth[1] would you want that much data for a single-player game?

    Cutting it down by 6 or 7 orders of magnitude would be just fine. And that leaVes you - according to your calculations - with a database of a few tens or hundreds of MB. And I don't believe your calculations[2].

    Viuc.

    [1] Or anywhere else, for that matter...

    [2] Are you really trying to claim that they've generated nearly 400TB of data, and have it sat in a server farm? That's remarkably unlikely.

  39. ChrisCabbage

    The only problem I've had (along with a fair few others), is an inability to get the game to launch. It locks up at a black screen.

    I've been using the beta for several months and this has only been an issue since the gamma and release version.

    I have eventually found a work-around, but considering I'm relatively tech-savvy, it must be extremely frustrating for many a would-be player.

    Release just before the Christmas break might not have been the best plan.

  40. Lionel Baden

    Mate of mine has this issue, what was your workaround ?

  41. RoninRodent

    If it is the one I think it is you have to use process explorer to capture the launch string and put it in a batch file. Not looked into it too far as I have never had issues but it is posted in the support forums.

  42. aleeivel

    don't even get as far as a blank screen :-( just comes up with an error message

  43. ChrisCabbage

    I used the nVidia app to set the graphics mode to "windowed".

    I then pull it to fore-ground and push it to background a few times and it starts.

    You get a blank white window bar at the top, with the window-close icon on it, but at least it plays.

    I tried all the other known work-arounds, but none of them worked.

  44. localzuk

    Only had a single problem myself...

    In the 50 hours+ I've played it so far, I've had a single issue - I got stuck in hyper-space for 5 minutes randomly. That's it. Other than that, its worked perfectly.

  45. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
    Coat

    Re: Only had a single problem myself...

    and you weren't attacked by Thargoids? Were they off-line at the time or something?

  46. Graham Triggs

    I wonder why I - and many others - were so peeved about there not being an offline mode?

    What they are doing online adds *nothing* to the game as far as I'm concerned. In fact, many reviews have pointed out problems with trading which are likely linked to the online nature, so even when it works, it is - unless you actively want to participate with others - detrimental. And then there is the fact that it just doesn't work when their servers - so very, very unsurprisingly - go tits up.

    How about you start working on that offline mode now Braben, you arrogant tit?

  47. Barticus

    'arrogant tit'...hey Mr Pot, this is Mr Kettle, you're looking a little dirty.

  48. RoninRodent

    The reason is because FD can continually tweak the game by seeding events and storylines whenever they want to as well as adding new story/mission types over time that can involve many players at once. Without that everybody is in their own hermetically sealed bubble of pre-made events and the only combat you would ever get is against AI. Personally I think online was the right way to go as dogfighting other players is infinitely better than dogfighting AI.

    If you want that bubble there are other games that give you an Elite-style experience but FD are trying to evolve the game not just regurgitate a HD remake of the original.

  49. aleeivel

    I probably wouldn't have joined the kickstarter if it hadn't said there would be an offline version.

    as it is I've never got past an error at start up!!!

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you haven't been able to play, get your money back while you still can.

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