Meet the team: Steve Kirby

Steve Kirby
Lead Games Designer

What does an average day at work look like for you?

I’m happy to say I don’t have many average days. I work as a lead designer under Sandro and Laurence on multiple areas of Elite. That means what I do from day to day changes and there is always something interesting to work on.

One day I could be adding a new type of in space scenario or adding dialogue for NPCs and another I will be working on a treasure hunt or community created CGs (All hail Nebula Goat!) or adding hazardous res sites and compromised beacons, another I’ll be adding gameplay to planets and the next I’ll be working out new mechanics with the other members of the design team. 

We’re a close team and it’s great when you need to bounce ideas around. That’s one of the best things about being a designer on Elite, to quote Forrest Gump, it’s like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get. You get to work on multiple areas of the game and work with a great team to make the vision we have for the game a reality. 

On a more personal level, I’m particularly interested in adding more and more content to the game, so in addition to the content I add during the day, I also spend any spare minutes I find in the day trying to squeeze a new scenario here or there to add some more colour to the galaxy.  After all we have a lot of space to fill and you can never have enough content.

I have to say I love my job, even on the days where we’re all stressed and nothing is working as it should and a deadline is looming. To work on a game you’ve loved since you were a kid and with a great team, I don’t think you can ask for more than that.

What aspect of the game have you worked on that you are most proud of?

I never really know what to point to when I’m asked what I like from my own work or what I’m most proud of that I’ve made. I’m proud to be part of the team that made this great game and that’s all I can say. I’m proud of Elite as a whole, because that is how I see it. We have achieved what many said can’t be done, but we still have a long way to go and a short time to get there, so let’s get east bound and down.

What's your favourite thing about Elite Dangerous?

So many favourite things, I’d have to take my shoes and socks off to be able to count them all.

But really there are so many favourite things, how I answer such a difficult question? I know let’s try the medium of song (Interpretive dance doesn’t work well in text):


Driving on planets and shooting at skimmers,

Hazardous res sites and dog fighting vipers, 

Hyperspace jumping and flying in wings,

These are a few of my favourite things.


Meeting commanders and successful docking, 

Mining for Painite and Rare item Trading,

Finding Unknown Artifacts that go bing, 

These are a few of my favourite things.


Exploring Nebulas and fuel scooping stars, 

Bounties, combat zones and compromised beacons,

Discovering things first with scanners that go ping,

These are a few of my favourite things.


When the Greeble bites, when the Thargoids sting, 

When I’m feeling sad,

I get in my Asp and fly into the black,

And then I don’t feel so bad.


I also like the feeling of how small I am in the galaxy and doing my own thing in the game. It really makes me feel like I’m out there in the black.

The game’s audio. Have you heard it? Enough said. Seriously those guys are magicians, which explains Jim Croft’s pointy hat. 

And last be not least the Team here at Frontier. They are awesome and it’s great to work with all of them. 

What was the biggest challenge you came up against during game development?

I think the one of the biggest challenges I’ve come up against on Elite is getting my head around the sheer scale of it all. How everything is connected and feeds off each other to create a living breathing galaxy is just mind blowing.

From a design side of things, making gameplay and mechanics that are accessible to new players but deep enough for the veterans; encounters that are engaging and yet able to work with procedural systems and understanding how our players interact with our game and each other are the key challenges. These are things that interest most games designers I know and they are things that can be constantly be analysed and improved on and are different for each project you work on. 

Making our gameplay work in multiplayer situations is also a big challenge. It’s relatively simple to create gameplay that will work for a single player as you can centre everything round them and their actions can be predicted to a certain extent. But throw several other players into the mix and you have a totally different ball game where it’s virtually impossible to say what players will do. While a big challenge, it’s a good one to have and leads to some very interesting player on player encounters that we enjoy reading about in the forums.

I think I have learnt a lot on Elite and will continue to learn more even after several years in the industry, as a designer you never stop learning and always try to make things better than you did before.

But if you think those are big challenges they pale into insignificance compare to getting to the fig rolls before the gameplay code team or winning a pun off with Dom “The Beautiful Corner” Corner.

What have you learned from working on Elite Dangerous?

I learned a lot working on Elite but the main thing is you can’t please everyone.

Everyone (even us here at Frontier) wants something different from the game and they are mostly correct in their desires. This creates a vibrant, passionate and energetic work environment where we can debate all the ideas we have and throw them all in the melting pot and come up with the best outcome.

We are all in this thing together with our awesome passionate community. If we all work together we can make Elite the game we all want it to be. That is what we are attempting to do and it’s great that we can engage with our community with things like the upcoming Nebula Station CG, the treasure hunts and the recent Mayhem Events (thanks Ed and Zac for that one). 

Also Michael Brookes sees and knows all. 

Federation, Empire, or Alliance? And why?

Alliance all the way. I love to support the underdog and I think there is a lot we can do with the Alliance. All I can say is if I get my grubby paws on them (in a game dev situation), then the Alliance is getting the special Steve love.

Tell the community a fun fact about yourself.

I’ll tell them a couple if that’s ok?

Fact 1:

Elite is strong in my family. My Dad has it, I have it and my brothers have it. This can create interesting, or if you ask my mum, very boring conversations as we compare notes and I say no comment a lot. For instance, my older brother and my dad have had an ongoing issue about who reached Elite first back in 1984. According to my brother, Dad pulled rank on “his” BBC Micro in order to reach Elite before him. My dad denies this. I was too young to really compete and just liked shooting the space ships a bit. Now they can finally solve the “who can get to elite first” discussion and lay it to rest. 

Fact 2:

Some of the design team, I won’t name names (cough Jim, Dan G) took away my man card because I like to bake, make soft toys and know how to do the wrapping a towel around your head thing after washing your hair. Apparently I’m not getting it back any time soon, even if I bribe them with banana bread.

If you could ask the community one question, what would it be?

As I mentioned I make soft toys in my spare time and can often be seen sewing in the office at lunch. I like to give them away to family, friends and colleagues, it seems to make them happy and that makes me happy.

What have you made recently that made someone else happy?

Answer Steve's delightful question in the forum thread here.