Frontier Developments has created a Kickstarter project for Elite: Dangerous, a sequel to the hugely successful and genre-defining 1980's space simulation game, Elite.
"Take a ship and 100 credits to make money legally or illegally - trade, bounty-hunt, pirate, assassinate your way across the galaxy," proclaims the Kickstarter page.
The project is fronted by David Braben, co-creator of the original Elite, who founded studio Frontier Developments in 1994. In recent years the developer has worked on hit titles including Disneyland Adventures, Kinectimals and RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, but has long wanted to return to Elite.
"Elite: Dangerous is the game I have wanted Frontier to make for a very long time," writes Braben. "The next game in the Elite series - an amazing space epic with stunning visuals, incredible gameplay and breath-taking scope, but this time you can play with your friends too."
Technological limitations played a large part in the development of previous games in the series, says Braben, with the first Elite having to fit into just 22 kilobytes of memory on the BBC Micro Model B computer. Technology has come a long way since then, which will enable the new game to incorporate features like multiplayer that could not have been considered previously.
"Imagine what is now possible, squeezing the last drop of performance from modern computers in the way 'Elite' and 'Frontier' did in their days? It is not just a question of raw performance (though of course these elements will make it look gorgeous), but we can push the way the networking works too – something very few people had access to in the days of Frontier."
The last Elite game was Frontier: First Encounters released in 1995. Since then there have been persistent reports that Braben and his team were working on an Elite 4, but until now nothing had materialised. "I’ll be frank", admits Braben, "we have had a couple of false starts on this over the years, where progress wasn’t as good as I wanted.
"Also, understandably, other projects have been prioritised – projects with announced dates or other commitments. Up to now 'Elite' has been worked upon by a small team as a ‘skunk-works’ activity in the background as availability permits. Nevertheless, we have been preparing; laying the technology and design foundations for when the time is right. And that time is now."
By taking the project to Kickstarter, Frontier will be able to test-market the concept to ensure there is still sufficient interest in a game like this before committing to further development. Braben believes it's not a game that could be produced today under the conventional publisher model.
"We will rely heavily on artist-directed procedural generation, using techniques that are a logical expansion of what was done in the previous 'Elite' and 'Frontier' games. This will greatly reduce the required budget – bringing it to within reach of Kickstarter," claims Braben. "It also means it becomes a viable project to avoid the conventional publishing route – something that I don’t believe can deliver a game like this successfully."
The project has a minimum goal of £1.25 million (NZ$2.5 million) which must be reached before 4th January. If funded, the game is planned for release in March 2014.
At time of publication it had raised over £384,000 from 8,526 backers in the five days since it launched.
Watch the project's Kickstarter video below: