Kickstarter is rapidly becoming a lifeline for developers of games that, while not particularly appealing to publishers, have an in-built audience ready and waiting to play. It helps if the people seeking to make a game using funding garnered from the "crowd" are already well-known to gamers. People like Tim Schafer (Grim Fandango, The Secret Of Monkey Island) who earlier this year raised over US$3 million for a new adventure game ... and David Braben, who has now turned his attention to Kickstarter in order to get the ball rolling on a new version of classic space-trading simulation Elite.
Elite was created by Braben and Ian Bell while they were students at Cambridge. It was published in 1984 on the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron computers, and was an immediate hit. This was something new and different in an 8-bit world where arcade-style games ruled. Elite was open-ended, featured an epic storyline, and was one of the first games to employ 3D (wire-frame) graphics. For these reasons the game became an instant classic, signposting a future for video games that went beyond merely controlling a sprite as it ran around endless levels.
Braben has been keen on making a modern version of Elite for some years now, his desire no doubt powered by fans urging him on. Unfortunately it has never happened, though a small team at Braben's company Frontier Developments has been working on the project in the background. Now, thanks to Kickstarter, Braben is aiming to finally bring his new vision for Elite to life – with the backing of fans eager to support the effort by donating money to the cause.
The new game is titled Elite: Dangerous, and Frontier is seeking funding of £1.25million (US$2million) on Kickstarter. Pledges start at £5 ($8), while £20 ($32) is needed to secure a digital copy of the game upon release. Those pledging £300 ($480) or more will get the chance to be involved in the design process, making decisions about how the finished game will look and play.
Elite: Dangerous is conceived as being a continuation of the Elite franchise. Essentially a space-trading simulation for the 21st century, Braben intends to take the essence of the original game and update it for modern times. At this early stage, Elite: Dangerous is being talked up as "an amazing space epic with stunning visuals, incredible gameplay and breath-taking scope." One new feature will be the multiplayer aspects of the game, with a "seamless, lobby-less" system using a "combination of peer-to-peer and server connections."
Should Elite: Dangerous be funded successfully, Braben and his team plan to release the game for PC in March 2014 – which will be almost 30 years after the original was launched. As yet, the only content coming out of Frontier is that single logo featured at the top of the article. However, the video below shows Braben and his team reminiscing about the original Elite.