Dave Hughes is the creator of Elite Encounters, a "traditional Roleplaying Game (RPG) set in the universe of Frontier Developments' ELITE and its sequels Frontier: Elite II, Frontier: First Encounters and the forthcoming Elite: Dangerous." Community Manager Edward Lewis was lucky enough to experience Encounters with the creator himself as DM, and thouroughly recommends checking the RPG out if you ever get the chance!
In this interview, Dave tells us about the challenges he's faced when putting together an RPG with a dense rule set and complicated mecahnics, and explains exactly why he loves Elite Dangerous and the game's community. Don't miss out getting involved with Dave's amazing charity work here. Dave will also be at Fantasticon this week, so if you like the sound of an Elite Dangerous RPG, and you live in the area, don't miss out!
What exactly are you involved in with Elite: Dangerous?
I am writing the Elite Encounters Roleplaying Game as of one of the writers packs from the Elite Dangerous Kickstarter.
What inspired you to make Encounters? Why Elite-themed particularly?
Elite was the first thing in my life to awaken that need to write something. My first ever "fan fiction" (although it wasn't called that back then before the internet came out) was written to explain why my Elite commander had been busted back to Harmless between playing the Spectrum and Amiga versions. From there Elite was my main science-fiction "universe" to live in, so to speak. When I got into roleplaying games and a group of us wanted to play a sci-fi game, I suggested an Elite-based one since some of us were fans of the game, and we decided to give it a go - I wrote up a system that evolved for a couple of years before university ended. When the writer's packs came up in the ED Kickstarter all that came back to me and I jumped at the chance to be able to do an official RPG set in the Elite universe.
What's your favourite thing about Elite Dangerous?
There are so many things to choose from! The audio is very very good, but what blows me out of the water is the graphics engine and the visual design. Every hyperjump is awe-inspiring, and the stars and stations rushing towards you as you exit is breathtaking. The diversity in the ship designs and the detail inside the cockpits is incredible. I don't have to use my imagination any more to fill in those polygons from the original Elite. I can't speak for everyone, but it's all just like I imagined it. :-)
How did you first get encounters off the ground?
I remember when the writer's packs became available in the ED Kickstarter. I thought "I wish I could put together a 70,000 word story and do a writer's pack. Then as the KS drew to a close I suddenly remembered the RPG I did at uni and almost kicked myself for missing the chance. I had a long chat with Michael Brookes, where we discussed the RPG and what it would contain and although he was concerned that it was stepping a bit close to the line of what a "novel" was, he graciously allowed me to go ahead with it. Following in the footsteps of so many others (and with lots of advice from Michael), I did a Kickstarter to get the funding for the pledge and have been lucky enough to have some great supporters. I got funded, made the pledge, rolled up my sleeves and started writing. OK, it's rolled on a bit longer than expected, but it's getting there!
What else are you involved in?
I have a couple of Elite websites - one for the RPG and one that tries to tie together the very disparate universes of the original Elite and Frontier: Elite 2. I also do a live stream every Monday on Twitch where I play Elite Dangerous. I dabble in a bit of fan fiction and graphic design when no-one's looking as well. Just after the ED kickstarter finished, I was honoured to be invited to be part of the team creating the background information about the Elite Universe for the fiction authors. That was a surreal, rewarding experience.
You must have had some fun playtest sessions, what have been some highlights?
Definitely! I've managed to organise games at all of the conventions over the last couple of years, and the Lave Radio guys participate in an audio-based gaming session. We (Anthony Olver, James Vigor, Dan Grubb, Ben Moss-Woodward and myself) also did a live video session for the 30th Anniversary that hasn't finished yet! There are other groups testing the system as well, and the 24 hour stream I did recently featured a few games that helped with testing - including guest players from Frontier Developments!
Dave Hughes in his Captain garb
Where are you up to with development?
I've finished the background sections and the main character based rules and systems. Pretty much all that's left is the ship combat, miniatures system and some polish to the commodities lists. I'd say about 80% there if I can just get past this bout of writer's block!
How hard is it to develop something like this?
It's definitely harder than I first thought. I underestimated the amount of work that goes into developing an RPG. Writting a novel is about 70,000 to 100,000 words - The RPG currently stands at just shy of 200,000 words, and there's added complications of tables, statistics, graphics and so on to worry about. The game system itself was relatively easy, but trying to develop a miniatures combat system that is faithful to the computer game whilst not being too complex is a real challenge.
What's your favourite thing about the Elite: Dangerous community?
I love how supportive and generous the Elite community is. For many many years I've said that Elite fans are the most genuine and caring people on the planet, and for the most part that has remained true through a huge period of expansion. I couldn't wish to be part of a nicer, better community. Of course, having an amazing community management team helps too. ;-)
How long have you been playing Elite for?
I started playing Elite in 1985 on the Sinclair Spectrum. That's about 30 years now on and off. Community projects and fan-created media like Frontier Astro, the Elite BBS and, most importantly, Oolite have played a big part in keeping Elite at the forefront of my consciousness until the long wait for Elite IV was over.
What can we expect from you in future?
Once the RPG has been completed and published I'd love to actually write that novel I've been trying to do for nearly 20 years. I'm also hoping to do more livestreaming of Elite Dangerous (as well as other games) because I've found it really enjoyable.
Thanks Frontier and the Elite community for the support and advice over the last few years with the RPG and other little projects. My main website is at daftworks.co.uk and has links to the RPG website and the Elite website. I do the social media thing too, and all the links to that are on the EliteRPG wesbite.
Also, remember that it's not too late to donate to the Great Dave Shave at justgiving.com/selezen!