Star Citizen vs. Elite: Dangerous

Star Citizen vs. Elite: Dangerous

I love Spaceship Games. I really do.

When Star Citizen (The heir of wing commander) came on Kickstarter i had to back It.

Basically at the same time there was Elite: Dangerous on Kickstarter as well – something i didn’t know about, because it was not hyped as much. So i didn’t manage to back it that early there.

During the course of last year I raised my pledge to Star Citizen (considerably), as i was reading a lot of the marketing stuff CIG did publish. Then shortly before Christmas, when ED published their first Alpha Release (and announced Oculus Support in Alpha 1.1) i bought the alpha package of Elite: Dangerous as well. Both have been about the same amount of money for me in total. Now – half a year later ED has left alpha phase and entered Beta (friday last week) and Star Citizen has published their so called Dog Fighting Module (or “Arena Commander” how they have started calling it.

I have played ED in Alpha a bit, and last weekend quite some amount of time more the Beta. Star Citizen: Arena Commander was released today, and i’ve spend about 1 1/2 hours playing it now. Since it doesn’t come with much functionality i feel like now is a good time to write a few words in comparison.

Also, let me mention what i’ve been playing those two games on:
Gaming Laptop, Core i7 with an nvidia GTX 660M graphics card and plenty of RAM, and a X52 HOTAS Setup as a controller.

When reading this, please keep in mind, Star Citizen is in… alpha/pre-alpha/whaterver, Elite: Dangerous has reached Beta.

Elite: Dangerous

The Beta of Elite: Dangerous is all that i expected it to be. While it still has a lot of bugs, and the content sounds more than it is, it is already a game which i can enjoy playing, especially with its multiplayer mode, and non-consentual PvP.

So what is playing Elite Dangerous like? It feels like an old friend (and i didn’t play much of the original Elite – i know it, i liked it but i spend a lot more time with games like wing commander or freelancer). You have a world you can freely travel in, with the most beautiful star systems i’ve seen in a game. While the ships are model wise quite simple models, the environment is just gorgeous. You can just fly around, you can hop on supercruise to go faster than light within a system (the closer you are to gravity wells the slower you’ll go though), and you can use the hyperdrive to jump to other systems. And if you want to dock at a station, say you need ammo, want to repair, or you want to buy a better ship, you actually have to dock (match the rotation speed of the airlock, enter the station, and then land on a landing pad).

There are currently 5 playable ships in the Beta, that you can gain access to by actually playing the game and buying them for ingame currency.

The Dogfighting is fun, even if it at times feels a bit too slow paced. Flying a curve seems sometimes to take ages.

The NPC’s aren’t the smartest ones, but they have a selection of tactics that they use against you (Some attack Close Quarters, others will try Boom ‘n’ Zoom attacks, others will attack 3 at once, and sometimes when its looking bad for them they will try to run away)

The game can completely be controlled by my HOTAS setup, and feels like it is made for such (Mouse+Keyboard or Gamepad just don’t work that well).

Graphics: the graphics run absolutely fluent on my setup. The ship graphics sometimes seem a bit low detail, which probably is because the ships in the end are trying to resemble the simple geometry from the original elite game. I mentioned the environment before, its gorgeous.

Performance: i already mentioned, its running quite fluent, however sometimes you will have rubberbanding and lag issues when other players are in the same instance that you are in.

A few of the main issues of the current status of Elite Dangerous (keep in mind thats ok for a beta):

  • It currently lacks any sort of Community feature – while i can play with other people, i can not team up or communicate
  • There are *many* Bugs, you wont be able to play for an hour without hitting one.
  • While there is 5 Star Systems to travel through, and you can literaly spend hours traveling around, the content itself is not-that-much. You end up with a hand full of random events (interdiction) and a hard set of instances you can fly to and run for farming some money and/or kills

Star Citizen

With its big hype this game has already created a myth that it will have a hard time to live up to. Personally my confidence in this game was slowly drained over the last 12 month. The hangar module was the first, lets call it shock, since as an EVE Player i don’t react to well on anouncements that they spend their development resources on Walking in Stations, rather than flying in space. I was surprised that a lot of people on the Star Citizen forums actually got even more excited by this overglorified model viewer.

Then when the DFM module was not released (as they announced before) around christmas last year, and Chris Roberts posted it would be a bit longer because they didn’t want to crunch over xmas, i started to actually lower my expectations. It was obvious (to me) that the “no crunch” excuse was just an excuse, and not really honest – if you are just a crunch away you don’t need several month more if you don’t crunch. Well anyways, enough of that rant. The DFM Module got pushed a few more times & during that renamed to Arena Commander and released yesterday. And as much as i’m trying to be objective, and as much as i’m trying to like this game, keep in mind that my first impression might already have been influenced by some disappointment before. In sincerely hope it isn’t, but it wouldn’t be honest to not mention it.

So what is it like to play Star Citizen? Well you start in the Hangar Module, where you can hop in your ship (either one of the ships you own, or if you don’t have any eligeble ship the one that they give you). In my case i do own a variant of the Hornet, but they have given me another Variant for Arena Command. Then you can chose between two game modes (free flight / Vanduul Swarm) and two maps. In freeflight you can just zoom around a bit on the maps, and in vanduul swarm several waves of vanduul ships will come and attack you (and some of your wing buddies)

A lot less crashes than in ED.. which uhm.. well they kinda over optimized for an alpha

Supposedly there is a multiplayer mode as well, however that one has not been enabled yet, and apparently they plan on enabling it step by step, Gold Card owners first, then backers by oldest backer id first, and once those are all enabled they want to allow those who bought an arena commander pass

In the vanduul swarm mode you will “dogfight” against npc controlled ships, where the npc don’t really seem to be too smart, they mostly try to circle around you and every now and then shoot at you. The same goes for your wingbuddies, they don’t seem to behave that much smarter. The controls seem more sensitive than the ones of elite dangerous, and the ships will feel faster and more agile. That said, they have a tendency to tumble, and with being so sensitive that makes aiming hard. The field of view is a lot smaller in SC’s Hornet, compared to all ships i’ve tried in Elite Dangerous. It is improved a bit by the lock-symbols not being projected on your ships screen, but on your characters helmet, so you will see the lock at least when a ship is behind one of the non-transparent parts of your cockpit.

What is really amazing and great is the damage model, if your shields go down and you take hits, its not just removing a hull counter as on ED, no, it actually starts destroying parts of your ship – and your ship will lose functionalities. And it is pretty cool that after battleing 6 or 7 vanduul fighters you are mostly a tumbling wreck with guns.

Controller wise, i tried with my beloved HOTAS setup, which didn’t work out too well. only the smallest amount of functions is mapped to the x52, and i could not find a menu where i can map the other functions to the buttons, axis and switches that i have left and while the pinkie switch annoyingly switched to a set of.. lets call it screenshot-making-views, i had no buttons for strafing or using my lateral thrusters in any other way, no headlook mode and could not use any of the HUD items.

The Xbox Controller i tried actually worked better, because here where more controls mapped. I did not try Mouse+Keyboard, but apparently by looking at the help, thats the only way how you can use all functions.

Graphics: Star citizens strong suite? *maybe* The Ships are looking amazing. They look like.. well i’d expect such ships to look, they really really did a good job there. BUT.. Basically the game has 3 maps right now, a hangar map, and two arena maps. And those maps are.. not so nice. The hangar looks ok, but with the ships showing *all* details it gets quite low in framerate with my setup and feels quite sluggish. The Arena Maps both have a nice skybox, and the asteroids look almost as good as Elite: Dangerous ones. The ships seem to be tuned down a bit on detail here (which to me is good), but still even with low details it just feels like you have a low framerate.

And then there is this thing (maybe i should have mentioned that under gameplay) that this is just maps. While in ED even the first maps felt gigantic (i’ve not once hit a wall) Arena Commander seems extremly small. You are basically in a sphere, and as soon as you get to the borders (Which happened to me constantly) you will first get a warning, and then see your ship drift away and get the option to respawn. This is visualised with something thats probably best described as a spherical holo grid. And it really breaks immersion.

Then the weapons firing. Uhm lasers shoot some sort of laser projectile, that travels slow enough that when you are turning your ship fast enough, you can actually see it from the side. At those distances a laser should be an instant hit.

Performance: i didn’t get to test any netcode yet, but as i mentioned under graphics, it is a bit slow AND as i havent mentioned yet, you have huge loading times for the game and for the maps.

And here a list of my main issues with SC/AC

    • Controller: i want to configure mine. and i want it to work properly, i want more than 9 of the keys/functions mapped to my 32key times 3modes Hotas Setup. I don’t need a picture showing me on a graphic screen what key is what, if most keys aren’t in use.
    • Tumbling: it would be nice if while staying as sensitive as it is now, the inertia that causes the tumbling could be adjusted just so you can actually aim with a joystick.
    • The Walls: running into an wall of a map in space.. get rid of it. even if you don’t have content to fill the rest of space around it with anything, let us just fly in nothing then.
    • The Performance: please a) performance tune the cry engine better, i know it can run much faster from other games.


For now Elite: Dangerous seems far ahead of Star Citizen. Lets hope that CIG manages to get back on track and improve the gameplay, rather than adding even more detailed ships, and fishes for your in-hangar-aquarium (wtf).

PS: i will post a bit more once i had the chance to try Star Citizen Multiplayer


15 thoughts on “Star Citizen vs. Elite: Dangerous

  1. Nice post overall!
    I’m a bit stunned that Arena Commander isn’t performing well on your laptop… I used about 800-900€ on my gaming rig (which is next to nothing by today’s standards) and I get solid 60 fps on very high quality. I’ve always had a negative feeling what comes to laptops meant for gaming but I’m not going to draw any conclusions here.

    My interest towards E:D increased thanks to this post and I might look into it once it is released. Feel’s like SC has more to give though, more aspects like exploring, trading, smuggling, pirating and multi-crew ships etc. Could be that I’m wrong though as I haven’t really looked into it as I mentioned earlier.

    Fly safe!

    1. Uhm, OK maybe I should have highlighted ed’s core features even more. With elite being the original space exploration / trading / piracy / smuggling / bounty hunting game those are all features which you can expect in ed as well. About multi person ships, let me put it this way three out of the 5 current ships have multiple seats in cockpit. I don’t know how multi crew game play will come, but I guess they at least have the option open.

      Btw, trading, smuggling are already in the beta, bounty hunting an piracy both against npc work already If you are in an instance with players / nice that fit this game style. Since interdiction hasn’t been released yet you however can’t force people out of supercruise into such instance.
      Exploration – at the moment you can explore 5 systems, but the in game starmap already shows you the enormous complete galaxy that they will open. Yes, you did read right. A. Complete. Galaxy.

      I probably should have mentioned that in the post, but I’m a bit reluctant to go that much in detail on ED while I can’t say anything about SC in that regard.

      1. I see your point, but Star Citizen is also aiming to have the same features – a whole galaxy (at least) and a full trading and economy system. To me, I’m not too bothered when the games are done, as long as they’re done well and polished. Star Citizen so far is done well and looks good. The gameplay is actually a lot better than my expectations.
        Hopefully with its longer dev cycle, Star Citizen can be tested and polished more. Fingers crossed!

  2. First of all, thanks for the nice read!

    I do have some comments regarding Star Citizens, even though I myself am rather new to this, just started to back it a few weeks ago. However, I have read lots of the material that is available, and I have been following things in detail for a while.

    One of the biggest misconceptions (no doubt at least partially caused by communication failure from the developers) is that the DFM was delayed for half a year because of incompetence or misjudging effort or similar reasons. In fact, the delay was mostly caused by the overwhelming funding and scaling up the project much faster and to a much bigger thing than anticipated – new people, more studios, more things going into development in parallel because now they could. The major reason for the delay, however, was that it would not have made much sense to develop something on top of the CryEngine netcode just to throw it away later. There’s a nice summary here:

    So, yeah, seeing how much things are coming together in parallel to the DFM, and the really polished state of the alpha, I haven’t lost faith in the team to deliver. We got way more than was expected and promised in December, most of which useful for the main game going forward (such as the damage models and PBR, and, of course, the netcode). And, by the way, maybe it was too much polishing, but considering the hype and media attention, releasing a buggy crashing mess would’ve been really bad for the project… Of course, that’s just my personal opinion.

    Some comments regarding some of your other points… first of all, surprisingly the game runs buttersmooth for me on an i7-3770 and a GTX 660, in 1920×1200 and max details. I didn’t experience a single lag spike in several hours of play. So, for me performance is much better than I expected. YMMV, of course…

    Then, controllers. Yes, it’s a mess. I can’t rebind keys, and I can’t fire missiles because my mouse’s scrollwheel doesn’t seem to be mapped correctly. The forum is full of people complaining, so I hope this gets fixed soonish. However, the dev team has provided some .xml files for properly supporting HOTAS setups; so far I’ve seen X55 and Warthog support, but maybe there’s also something for the X52. So may be worth looking for those.

    The NPC AI supposedly was dumbed down (a lot) to make it more fun for players; so NPCs turn in a way that gives players a chance to shoot at them. Personally I can’t complain about the difficulty (my record is surviving 8 waves before getting shot to bits, but I’m not very experienced…). I guess this will be balanced going forward.

    Maps? Yeah, they’re too small now. I don’t think it breaks immersion though, considering that AC is supposed to be a simulation-game-in-the-game :) For all I know, there won’t be such a thing in the “real” game however. They’re currently working on modifying CryEngine to stream in more content seamlessly, and if you really reach the edge of an instance, you’re supposed to be able to fly into the black void in the future.

    Ah yes, and the fishtank and towel and other useless junk for your hangar – gotta give them subscribers some perks, and I don’t think much developer time was wasted for those :)

    See you in the ‘verse!

    ~ Sput

    1. I’m aware of that post, in fact that post is what i’m refering to whenever i say hes not being honest. I’m sorry but the stuff you repeated are excuses, and the part “So rather than force the team to crunch through the holidays chasing something ‘good enough,’ I am going to make the tough choice to delay the dogfighting module for a couple of months to allow us to take our time and deliver something special.” is the worst part about it. If you need a couple of month (and half a year is more than “a couple”) then you couldn’t have possibly brought out anything after crunching for about a week.
      I’m not saying they should have crunched, i’m not saying they should have published earlier (infact after seeing it, they shouldn’t have published now). All i’m saying is, if they are behind schedule, they should be honest about why, and not make up excuses that don’t hold up. Having more money -> no excuse why it takes longer. Scaling it up earlier -> not a smart move, and in this case a good sign of feature creep. New People, more studios, parallellization of additional features shouldn’t hold up your main project – infact it should boost it.
      The Damage Model was announced and shown before that post, the netcode… well that is probably an in detail discussion that you can fight a holy war about.
      And looking at what was released, i’m sorry, i don’t see “too much polishing”, i feel more inclined to wonder what was polished.

      Well, other games than SC that use the same engine can run on full details on my machine, so i really have no clue whats going wrong there. But i might like to add, in the hangar module its even worse than in the DFM.

      I’m still looking for the x52, and if i wasn’t busy with other stuff i might even take the time to build one on my own. But for a PC game, and a simulation on that, not supporting the hardware that is build for simulations like that, while having an xbox gamepad being the most polished controls – i don’t even know how to describe how much fail that is.

      CryEngine Streaming is a feature of that engine since years, but i can see how they probably have some challenges with integrating their home-cooked netcode, positioning etc. with it. If the simulation-within-the simulation breaking immersion is or is not breaking immersion for the simulation around the simulation is a meta discussion that i really don’t want to do. The moment i see that grid in space, i don’t feel like being in space anymore. No matter what the lore says.

      I’ve clocked in a bit more time playing with the module, and the plus points are that i had very little crashes, and that the damage model is quite awesome, besides that, i’ll stick with what i said. And i have the firm believe that it is better to point out whats wrong now, so they can fix it, rather than stroking their ego by telling them how awesome everything is.

  3. been playing a few hours of ED and i have yet to see a crash, i haven’t visited the asteroid belts yet though, also i once returned at my computer knowing my ship was was docked, but ultimately finding it destroyed, not sure what’s up with that, maybe the station computer forgot about afk me in the hangar and threw a ship at me or something haha!

    1. Hello “Tim” with your temporary 10 minute email address.
      congratulations on finding this capital mistake in my non-native English abilities.

      I am very glad I could give you the entertainment of telling a foreigner to “go back to school”.

      However, after making the effort of trying to fulfill your wishes about my capitalization of the word I, at least within this response,
      please accept my humble suggestion and read this article and then try the experiment mentioned at the end of it. It might at first be strange to you, but I am sure it would have a positive effect on your social behavior on the Internet.

      best regards,

    2. Please don’t be like that, some people are not American or English. From my country for example, it is not “I” but “jeg” wich has no capital letters, so please just let people write the way they write and accept the mistakes :)

  4. Thank you for sharing your view on this. Like you, I backed both games.
    In many ways I’m dissapointed in SC and think their stretchgoals are a bit… Crazy at the time. 1 million USD more and we get a plant for the hangar. Yes I know the 1 million dollars is not spent on a plant. Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward to play the full version, I am worried, that SC won’t be able to catch up with ED.
    When I got SC, I went in every day to see if a update changed something. Not much happening. Then I tjecked each week… The each month. The last time I tjecked, I saw that I could use the toilet in my freelancer… Still haven’t tried it. Way too busy playing ED!
    Best Regards from Denmark
    Ps. Like others have pointed out. The damage model in SC is awesome!

  5. Hi,

    Great write-up. I have backed both Star Citizen and Elite Dangerous also, my expectations were actually higher on SC but it has reversed completely.

    Now playing the ED Standard Beta, and it’s great fun and feels right. Runs very well on my laptop which is a low-end gfx card GTX460

    On my desktop, I run 3 1080p screens but ED runs well as well, unfortunately SC runs quite laggy on this, and …. it’s not fun. Feels like a shoot-em-up currently.

    I hope SC will surprise me some day, but my bets are on ED for the time being.

  6. I know some time has gone by, but you should re-visit these games now.

    You gotta set some settings in a user.cfg file (you can search Google/forums) and you can really tune things down so Star Citizen runs just fine. They did go overboard with the textures and such…But it can be tuned. The game uses the Cryengine (Crysis 3), so I honestly wouldn’t expect many severe bugs because they didn’t build the engine from scratch (something that costs ~$2-3 million at least…which they actually had). Good though too because despite overkill textures we can more easily spec a computer build for playing Star Citizen — all it must do is also play Crysis 3, right? Cool.

    More than the bugs in ED (which have really been worked on hard by Frontier), the game is just empty. It has no content and no real multiplayer. There’s a lot of issues with joining a friend because of how their server code works. I could only imagine the mess that their server code is (being a developer myself). It’s a shared world, not an MMO, and that’s cool…But it’s extremely buggy.

    I thought ED had the edge of SC myself at first to be honest. The reason was because ED is a “sandbox” style game where things are procedurally generated. More stars than can be visited in a lifetime of playing the game is very exciting…But honestly, they’re pretty empty. You can’t even reach them all anyway (with the current ships/equipment in the game plus time in your life). So you can’t always just point to one and get there. I still think it has massive potential. I like how the ships fly in Elite Dangerous…Perhaps better than Star Citizen at this point (but that could be due to an over sensitive 360 controller).

    Elite Dangerous is being released in a week now and, honestly, unless they surprise us…It’s going to be a flop. They released too soon and all that’s going to do is succeed in earning them bad enough reviews that it’ll keep new players away from the game. It’ll push people toward Star Citizen. Frontier essentially gave it away to SC. Sad…Because all they had to do was wait a little longer before launch (it’s all about perception). Elite Dangerous is going to come to us in phases and that’s fine. I think people understand that, but they are also flat out lying about the features at launch too. They have dropped so many plans so far and have gone back on their word enough times that most people simply don’t believe them now. They are losing credibility FAST. They also don’t communicate to their community well at all (something Star Citizen also does better).

    Honestly, it’s a coin flip still…But I’m thinking Star Citizen will be the game. It of course is releasing later on though, so we’ll just have to wait for that perfect space game.

    1. i’ve been watching SC for quite a while closely, but the more i’ve watched the more i disliked what i saw, and once they added “space racing” as a game mode, right after the world-of-starcitizen-ships gamemode, i decided I’m done, So recently i sold all my ships with infinite insurance, and moved on.

      ED on the other hand, while i agree its missing some of the features that could make it fantastic, delivers a solid gameplay already.

      as for the communication, Frontier is not great at it, as in they do it to little, while Roberts seems to try to drown you in pettiness, the value of information ain’t any better, and as i mentioned before, I did not feel as if RSI is treating their customers honest.

  7. What a waste of time. No i didn’t bother entering a real email, because I’m not going to bother reading this blog again. Do the homework next time before bothering to attempt a piece of journalism.

    1. so, you are probably not going to read this, but, well I decided to approve and answer to your comment anyways.

      One: criticism only works if you explain what you think is wrong, simply claiming someone did not do his homework, without any pointer on why you feel that way, is a pretty useless comment.

      As for “attempt a piece of journalism”, you seem to be confusing something there.

      “Journalism is gathering, processing, and dissemination of news and information related to the news to an audience”

      A blog post like this is not a news piece, nor is it reporting in anyway. This post is the expression of an opinion, and by that does not follow the Journalist Kodex nor raise the claim to do so, meaning, this in no way is an attempt on a piece of journalism.

      A good pointer on the difference is that i repeatedly and excessively reference myself and use phrases such as “all that i expected it to be”.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s