Frontier Developments

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Frontier Developments is the company headed by David Braben. The company was the developer of Frontier: Elite II, Frontier: First Encounters and Elite: Dangerous. The company headquarters are at Science Park, Milton Road, Cambridge, having moved from Saxon Farm, Cambridge, in 2005. The company is registered as a private limited company.

The Elite community generally has a bit of a "love-hate" relationship with Frontier Developments. Many felt betrayed over the broken promises about the First Encounters source code release and the Elite Club (whose web site has now disappeared) in general, and the Great TNK smackdown of early 2003. On the other hand, many in the community recognise that Frontier Developments have indeed legitimised the distribution of the games with an official release, and also recognise that the company has been turning a blind eye to JJFFE which infringes on their copyright.

Games

Apart from Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters, Frontier Developments has developed the following games:

  • Virus - a game that followed on from Zarch on the Archimedes
  • Darxide - a space combat game for Sega consoles
  • Darxide EMP - a space combat game for handhelds
  • v2000 - a successor to Virus
  • Infestation - a vehicle based game
  • Wallace & Gromit - based on the stop-motion animation of the same name
  • The Roller Coaster Tycoon series with Chris Sawyer

The Outsider is currently under development. It is likely that this game will lay some of the groundwork for the eventual Elite 4 - the Outsider is intended to be an open-ended game, and Frontier Developments are attempting to design an advanced game engine that allows a player to complete a goal by whatever means they choose, rather than by a strict linear progression (as most games - including the FFE missions - have required).

Legal battles

Like many companies, Frontier Developments has been the initiator of several legal battles. The most famous of these is Frontier's battle with Gametek over the release of Frontier First Encounters. The game's release was rushed and buggy, damaging Frontier Developments reputation and David Braben's in particular (it was common to see articles such as 'Now we know it was Ian Bell who was the genius behind Elite', disparaging Braben). Frontier Developments won their legal action against Gametek in 2000, and this paved the way for the anticipated development of Elite: Dangerous. It is understandable why Frontier Developments generally don't talk about game releases until they are close to completion after being burned by missed deadlines in the past.

The legal controversy between Bell and Braben was personal, and did not involve Frontier Developments directly.

Financial

Since Frontier Developments is a private limited company, and not publicly traded, there is very little information on the company's financial performance (which will in turn suggest how likely it is that Elite 4 will be developed). However, publicly available information suggests that the company is rapidly expanding in both numbers of staff and the scope of its work. It also seems likely that games are not the sole source of the company's income - they also appear to sell tools to other companies. There has been speculation in alt.fan.elite by Frontier's detractors that the company is not on a sound financial footing; fortunately this opinion is entirely incorrect.

Information that the company must file by law with the UK's Companies House indicates that as of May 2005, the company has net assets of £2.4 million, up from the 2004 figure of £1.6 million. The company had tangible assets (buildings, vehicles, computers etc.) of £230,000 in 2005, up from £144,000 in 2004. The limited information available indicates that the company is in a good state of financial health with just over £2 million available in the bank - a doubling compared to 2004, and liabilities falling within the year of only quarter of that amount.

David Braben retains overall control of the company.