Obsidian Ant is to Elite Dangerous what BoredGamer is to Star Citizen. His videos are always on the leading edge of what’s going on with Elite, so I was very happy to see this update on Frontier’s upcoming “walking in stations” expansion, Odyssey.
Although Mr. Ant is only speculating based on publicly available information, the videos he cuts to showcases a lot of work in progress and I couldn’t help but envision where in Star Citizen an analogue might lie. The stations look somewhat similar, and the outside environment look somewhat similar, but I guess there’s only so much variation we can expect from far-future space-based games.
It’s interesting to see the parallels and divergence between Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous at this point. Although Elite is a “finished product” that’s been available for some time now, what it offers is significantly less than what we currently have in Star Citizen’s present state of development. In Elite, all we can do is sit in our ships (or teleport to a friend’s ship) and interact with the world through menus. Star Citizen allows us to get up, move around our ships, leave them, and walk through stations and on planets.
Odyssey will bring a little more parity in that regard, although it’s still unknown exactly how much parity we can expect. Walking around where we can land is fine, but without a good reason…well, we all remember EVE Online’s infamous attempt to add “walking in stations”, right? It was significantly less walking and more like “menus, but in a different environment”. Based on the videos, though, it seems that Odyssey is going to offer a better experience than EVE did. In fact, it might even sidle up to Star Citizen’s experience, which means that walking around isn’t going to be the only thing Odyssey brings to Elite.
The video shows a bunch of locations whose purpose is currently pretty vague, although walking into a shop whose walls are covered with firearms is about as unambiguous as you can get. That means Odyssey will bring ground-based PvP for those playing in public. Will we get some kind of ground-based PvE as well? We have pirates in space, so will certain outposts be bastions of illegal activity we can shoot our way through? I hope so. ObsidianAnt touches on some other potential features that Odyssey might bring, such as scavenging wrecks, upgrading out environmental suits, and ground-based mining.
What we should expect, though, is what — once again — EVE tried, which is referred to in the video as “combined arms” combat. Elite already has ships in space and on the ground, and has the SRVs which are ground-rovers with scanners and guns. When players are able to mass on-world on foot, then we might expect to see armies of players, supported by SRVs on the ground and ships in atmosphere providing ground cover, effectively giving us what DUST 514 couldn’t: seamless integration between a space-based game and a ground-based game. Hell, if Frontier’s back-end servers can handle it, we could be looking at a spiritual Planetside 3 as large player groups duke it out on foot, wheel, and in the air.
These are the kinds of things that Star Citizen allows already, albeit in a completely unfinished state and limited to only 50 people maximum at a time. Star Citizen has always had its eye on integrated space-ground gameplay, and seems to spend as much time working on one aspect as it does the other. We’ve gotten new space stations, new ships, and new flight mechanics, but have also gotten caves, biomes, and on-foot additions like “escape from prison”. There are plans to allow players to claim land and set up buildings — eventually — which is not something Odyssey has on it’s proposed feature list, although were Frontier to add that sometime in the future it would be mind-blowing.
My absolute dream would be that the presence of Odyssey exerts pressure on Star Citizen to lay off the feature creep and stop with the incessant iterations and just nail down what’s already on paper. While Star Citizen is more of a “simulation” than Elite is currently, Odyssey seems to be dipping the game’s toes into Citizen’s waters. Odyssey will most certainly arrive before Star Citizen launches, which would make Elite a far more attractive proposition for folks interested in Star Citizen’s roadmap but who are turned off by the perpetual alpha-ness of the game’s current state. The key will be exactly what “walking in stations” means for Elite players. If it offers a whole new set of gameplay options that can stand alone as well as augment the existing loops provided by the in-ship gameplay then it should convert Elite into a whole new game. If it’s just a different way to do the same things we’ve been doing while locked in the pilot’s chair, though, it’ll be a lot of unnecessary weight around the neck of a game that is already pretty limited in scope. What I want most from Odyssey, however, is for CIG to look in their feature rearview mirror and see Elite screaming up behind them so that Star Citizen focuses even more on taking care of business.