"For me, the biggest risk with the game is the moment to moment gameplay fun, because if that's not fun, the game's rubbish," David Braben told us when we were discussing the ongoing development of Elite: Dangerous in our recent interview.
"It would be very, very hard to claw your way back from that. It's like building - using the house analogy - building it on sand; you've got to make sure that the foundations are right. Which is why, what we did, we got the single-player combat working. Then we built out multiplayer, because we'd have been in big trouble had that not worked.
"Now we've got the beta, we've got the house now, except it feels a bit empty, so what we're doing now is we're putting in all the story, all the furniture, all the exciting stuff that makes the game a really rich game. But having said that it's still a playable game; you can make money, you can fly around. I'm very pleased with where we are. We're on track. Essentially we've got the game, we're just putting in more missions, more richness, more story. We're already starting to see the early parts of the story."
The Elite series is most famous for offering unparalleled freedom to those who want to explore their surroundings, offering a degree of agency that allows players to behave as they see fit in the game space. That freedom, Braben says, doesn't come at the detriment of narrative.
"We're bringing in a story that embraces all the players. People have said that Elite doesn't have a story. It does have a story, it just not a rescue the princess style single-player threaded story. What we have is the story of your life through the game, your progression. What we will have is things that happen to you as you reach certain stages of the game, you'll get invited to join things."
"But those are stories that work for all the players. You know, if you get invited to join a secret organisation, that can happen to lots of people. And the great thing is, if it doesn't happen to you you'll go "oh, why have they not invited me?" But then that's exciting, you'll think "oh well, ok, I did kill that policeman the other day, maybe I need to get my reputation a bit higher."
Watch the rest of the interview for more on how Frontier are future-proofing Elite: Dangerous, and what their plans are for the game once it exits beta (which should be before the end of this year).