Online-Only Elite: Dangerous Sparks Refund Backlash

Beta testers denied refund; Game's creator says online single-player is a necessity.

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The team behind Elite: Dangerous has begun to offer refunds to those disappointed by its online-only requirements, but some backers are now complaining that refunds will be invalid for those who have even sampled the game.

A newsletter released last week confirmed that plans for an offline mode have been scrapped, which means an internet connection is necessary even for single-player.

While some fans dispute the controversy of such a decision, others say the online-only requirement is unreasonable. David Braben, the founder of Elite: Dangerous creator Frontier Developments, said scrapping offline functionality "is a creative decision, not wanting to produce an empty game."

He added that an offline mode is "technically possible", but says the extent that this would compromise the game's quality was too great.

"Offline support was not one of our original aims, though we did believe we could support it at the start of the project. We do a great deal of processing in the cloud, and this benefits everyone playing. We had considered that an online connection is a reasonable pre-requisite for a game delivered online. I am really sorry this has upset people, but we have a strong, consistent vision that we do not want to compromise."

Frontier Developments is now offering refunds, but with a caveat that has also sparked criticism: "Those who have already been playing the game online in the Alpha and/or Beta phases, regardless of whether they backed the project via Kickstarter or purchased access to Alpha and/or Beta through our online store, are not eligible for a refund."

Development of Elite: Dangerous was initially funded on Kickstarter, raising more than £1.5 million by January 2013. Those who pledged high amounts were rewarded with access to private betas.

Now, on the game's official forums, in a thread entitled "Goodbye," one user accuses Frontier of punishing its most loyal customers.

"The very people who have helped test this game, supported this game and paid way way over the mark to help fund, improve and finalise this game are the ones now being thrown to the wolves."

Others in the thread debate whether this is a fair analysis. One user writes: " I really don't understand at all how this is a game breaker for people." While another says: " The immorality of what has a become a stereo-typical example of soulless corporate dollar-whoring mentality is stark."

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