So to expand a little bit on the game opening experience, it went something like this.
What shall I do? Well, I can increase my standing and money by combat, let's try that. [Launches, seeks a fight]
[3 minutes and a quick spanking later] Obviously I'm too weak to attempt combat yet. What else? Mining... can't afford a mining laser. Passengers? Can't afford a berth. Packet deliveries? Yes, I can do that. Pays less than the cost of refuel but at least I can do it. Take the package. [Launches again, jumps to destination system]
Great, I'm at the destination. Those 17 credits are nearly mine! Now I just have to get to the station. Engage hyperspeed!... mass lock!... that's OK, I'll go this way and avoid them... mass lock!... there's some more over here... mass lock!
Well I'll just have to sail through the traffic. Here we go
[15 uneventful minutes later] Gotta go to the peepee place. Pause it? Nah.. if I leave it running I might arrive some time today. Make some toast and a coffee while I'm gone, since nothing is happening here.
[Returns] Dead... press space commander. Wonder what happened? Never mind start again.
[Restart] Rinse and repeat. More crawling through crowded traffic. Quickly losing interest... Someone comes flying into me without warning and I die. And I just spent 28 minutes arriving there.
[Lightbulb] CHEAT! If I cheat I can enjoy myself. But I feel bad if I cheat. But I feel worse if I'm bored. Search for cheat addon. Bless you Thargoid.
[Cheat spamming for 10 minutes] Now I'm ready. I can travel without falling asleep, I can get some idea of what's around, I can get some info on the map. I'm now at what would be considered the start of most games, but which has taken me two hours of trial, error and cheating to achieve.
From this point onwards everything was fandabidosie and groovtastic. But I think that games in general shouldn't front-load the difficulty so that the beginner level is overwhelming and should avoid putting the player through tedium as an obligatory introduction to the playing experience.
That is almost pardonable for a fan-based game like Oolite where a lot of enthusiasts and veterans are the main base, but as I've discovered that some of you plan to make a commercial version of Elite in the near future, please heed my warnings, Elite 4 developers. If you structure the game in any way like the present version, it will fail dismally on the marketplace and get the worst reviews ever.
Players today aren't like the BBC and Speccy crowd of old. They crave excitement, not ridiculously difficult challenge resembling the RL frustration of being unable to progress because you don't have the resources to progress, while you don't have resources because you can't progress. They feel they have the right to understand what's happening from the start. And they hate being cast as a schlub without any distinction, just a joe schmo trawling the space lanes. They need to *be somebody* from the start. Cruising through empty space trying to avoid traffic is gameplay death.
I imagine the E:D developers are thinking seriously about these issues, and recently I've been studying the structure of narrative-gameplay following my experience in the poor dynamic of Mass Effect 3, a game which has simultaneously alienated its fan base while at the same time offering nothing but bewilderment to new players. Researching what made it fail so badly despite its promising aspects, I came across some interesting articles out there about "ludonarrative" as they call it now. I'll be happy to reference them to anyone who's interested.
What I'm saying really is that the world of gameplaying has moved on quite a lot in recent years, propelled mainly by the masterwork of Rockstar Games and its seamless fusion of gameplay and character/story. Mass Effect 3 (to name one example) failed to keep up with that and was disastrous in all respects. Elite: Dangerous 4 could go the same way if it remains too Old School.
All remarks made in the spirit of constructive criticism. Please remember I love playing this, just I fear it will go the way of - say- Lucas Arts Games if it doesn't keep up with the market's preference for crafted play dynamic, characterisation and immersive worlds.