Elite: Dangerous Blog

News and events from the Elite Dangerous galaxy

Tips for beginners: Engineers

Who are they?

There are currently thirty engineers to be found. Each one has a face and their own small biography. The upgrades they offer reflect their interests or former professions.

See HERE for up to date information.

Below is an example of the Engineers screen. It's accessed from the Status TAB on the Systems panel.

What do they do?

They trade materials and data and commodities for ship upgrades. These may be faster FSD drives, longer jump range, stronger shields, faster engines, etc.

Some of them also sell upgraded modules directly. Farseer Inc. is where you can buy racing thrusters.

Where do you find them?

On planets. Depending on your progress in the game (your combat, exploration, trade and CQC ranks) you will have "introductions" hit your mailbox. Once invited by an engineer, not before, you can visit their base and if you can meet their initial requirements, may begin a barter relationship where you trade materials for upgrades.

Each engineer base location will appear as a point on the Galaxy Map once you have that engineer "Unlocked".

As you progress with an engineer, they will introduce you to other engineers. Also, progress in different fields in the game will unlock more. I’ll try and get the unlock information as the full list develops.

Upgrades and unlocks

The upgrades offered by each engineer depend on their area of expertise. Initially you start at level one (very minor upgrades) and as you buy more upgrades, your business relationship with engineer improves and more upgrades unlock. Upgrades go up to level five. Each engineer’s "special interest" may allow a faster path to higher levels. For example Felicity Farseer was an explorer, so will accept exploration data and the more you give her, the higher the level of upgrades become unlocked.


Each upgrade has a blueprint, like the one above for increased FSD range. This tells you what the upgrade will do and what the pros and cons of the modification might be. It also tells you what data, materials and commodities are required. Once the upgrade is unlocked you can “pin" the blueprint to refer back to when away from the engineer’s base. You can only “pin" one blueprint per engineer.

Where do I find materials?

Everywhere! However to find the specific materials you need, look at the blueprint you pinned and selecting the material needed will display a clue as to where the item should be found. This is in the form of a general location such as “at navigation beacons" rather than a specific planet or system.

How do I find data?

Different types of data are gained from different types of scanning. Normal basic scanning of ships in super-cruise and normal space will collect data. Also some data (such as Atypical Wake Echoes) will require a Frame Shift Wake scanner, which is a utility slot item.

Do materials take up cargo space?

No. They list in your inventory panel and (we must assume) fit in your flight-suit pockets as they remain with you, even if you swap ships or are destroyed. You don’t need cargo racks for any materials, however some engineer modification blueprints do require commodities which will need to be stored in your ship’s cargo rack.

Where can I get blueprint commodities I can't buy?

These are only available as mission rewards. Again, the tooltip will give you clue as to the type of mission you'll need to take in order to obtain the rare item you seek. You could also ask other commanders. A lot of bartering has already begun. This will only increase with time.

A. I. feel your pain

Elite: Dangerous shipped version 1.6 and 2.1 last night and a massive update it was.

Following the launch (and a fair bit during the BETA as well) there have been complaints about changes to the A.I.


What’s that? Well, if you are not a ED forum regular or don’t know what I mean, what we refer to as the NPCs or A.I. are the Non Player Characters in the game – the spaceships you fight that are not other players and the A.I. being the combat logic program that controls them. Much of this written by Sarah Jane Avory at Frontier, who has been christened the “Mistress of Minions” by the community. She takes great delight in the achievements of her “children”.

Now to the controversy; one camp is complaining that the A.I is now impossible to beat. That all the NPCs use all the Horizons Engineer upgrades. That the NPCs don’t follow the same rules as players, such as having infinite ammo and being immune to heat build-up.

The other camp, is saying that the NPCs were harder in the first BETA of 2.1 and have been “dumbed down” because of complaining from players who just can’t hack combat. Their argument, is that the game is called Elite: Dangerous and combat should be life and death. Not a stroll in park picking daisies. Their response has been the phrase “GIT GUD” meaning learn to fight.

There’s also the group who are in the “goldilocks zone” who think Frontier have got it just right. They are currently the majority.

Where lies the truth of the matter?

The NPC behaviour was different in the first BETA of 2.1 and it did make it harder, because the moment a ship lost its shields, the NPC would flee beyond your range and return when their shields were back up. This might have been harder, but was it better? It made combat take a LOT longer, but it wasn’t very intense as a result. So Frontier changed that and NPCs don’t flee like that now.
Do NPCs use infinite ammo? Are they cheating? I’ve seen no evidence of this.

I asked Zac at Frontier:-

Does the AI cheat?
No, the AI ships work in the same way as any other ships. Anything an AI can do a Commander can do (with exception of one small point noted below in Q3… )
Do ALL NPCs have access to Engineer Mods?
No, NPCs of a higher rank, much like Commanders of a higher rank, will have explored and done far more in our vast Galaxy than lower ranked NPCs. The higher the rank, the more likely you are to see Engineers upgrades
Do NPCs have unlimited ammo?
No. HOWEVER, they do have unlimited multi-cannon ammo. This is a deliberate decision and is designed as such because the multi-cannon fire is made to miss far more and generally to improve the combat experience.
Are NPCs immune to heat build-up?
No, in fact there have been some interesting times when NPCs have blown themselves up from heat build-up. This is a common misconception but NPCs do definitely suffer from heat.

So the claims of cheating don’t really hold up to scrutiny. What I have observed, is that NPCs are vastly different to fight, depending on their rank and the likelihood of meeting high-ranked NPCs increases with your rank.

Harmless, Mostly Harmless, Novice, Competent, Expert, Master, Dangerous, Deadly, Elite.

You now need to check what the NPCs rank is, before biting off more than you can chew. I could swat a wing of three competent Eagles, but a Deadly Dropship took all I had to stay alive.

Whatever camp you are in, the days of NPCs barrel-rolling in a stationary position while you kill them is over. The minions are fighting back!

Engineers could do BETA

The latest addition to Elite Horizons is the 2.1 engineers update.

Having played with it for the last seven days, I’ve began to get a feel for what it brings to the game.

The engineers are a bunch of solitary individuals who camp out on remote planet bases. These bases are by invitation only. The engineers require an initial “offering” before they’ll deal with you. Once there you can opt to upgrade components of your ship, in exchange for combinations of materials and data. In simple terms, you collect loot to craft better ship components.

Each engineer has different specialties, so some can pimp your FSD while others make your pulse laser blue and "fizzy".

Materials and data

How do you get materials and data? When you destroy another ship, it will explode and eject parts that can be collected (via limpet or cargo scoop).

These can also be found in wreck sites, USS’s and other POI’s in space. They are stored, like materials and are not part of the cargo. Data is obtained whenever you scan an object in space, such as another ship or an FSD wake.


Once you’ve got your loot, you can proceed to the base of the engineer of your choice (shown on the new panel) and exchange them for a spin of the roulette wheel. What? Yep, when you pick your upgrade, there is a sizeable degree of randomness to the result. What’s more, is that any special effects (such as healing lasers or shock blast) is also random chance. Which means, like any fruit machine, you’re more likely to get mixed fruit rather than three cherries. This is why the forums have been up in arms about Random Number Generators (RNG).

Upgrades may go down as well as up

The upgrades you can purchase come in four levels, one being the lowest and four the highest. As you "buy" more upgrades from engineers, higher levels (and other engineers) unlock. You get “referrals” from one engineer to another, while other engineers are unlocked by actions within the game - such as visiting Sag A or getting friendly with a minor faction.

Bigger may not be better though. I applied a level 3 upgrade to my FSD and got a range of 42Lyr, but when I applied a level four upgrade once unlocked, the FSD range went down to 39Lyr! RNG strikes! If I had spent all week hunting materials for that upgrade, I'd be less than happy.

Living la Vida Piñata

Phase two of the beta has unlocked all engineer upgrades - you no longer need materials, just fish; so I have been able to try a number of them and experience the fickle RNG effects. Because the results can be less than great, it might take several attempts. When you only have to hand over a few ton of fish, like now, it’s mildly annoying. When you have to hunt for materials for days for each try, it's going to be at best very frustrating.

Here’s the problem. Materials are random. Data scans (as far as I can see) are also random. I flew around for a week and failed to find enough ingredients for a single engineer upgrade! With only two or three hours to play per evening, having to stop after every ship kill and at every USS to scoop for materials was a major chore. The alternative was to fit every ship with a collector limpet controller and cargo rack (to hold limpets) losing two internal slots. That still didn’t help the fact I couldn’t target the components I needed in any way. There is, as far as I can see, no logic that can be applied, other than collect everything all the time.

Easter egg hunt, or virtual housework?

At this point my feeling is that Engineers will be a lot of trawling around in the dark to get a single attempt at an upgrade with a dubious outcome. I've never needed or wanted to grind in Elite and I don't want to start now.

Either the resulting upgrades need to be less random, so that special effects are influenced by the amount or type of materials and data used, or the materials themselves need some logic to their acquisition. Two randoms don't make a right.

The Engineers is still in BETA and some of this is bound to change. I hope it does, because I want the game to be more of an easter egg hunt and less like doing housework.

Beta than before

The first thing I do with a new BETA of Elite, and I’m sure everyone does this, is to buy all the new ships and weapons. Then go crazy pew-pewing everything in sight. Then I go exploring a bit, then start looking at the mundane stuff.

So what is 2.1 like? Well, so much has changed it is difficult to point at one thing.


The graphics for planets, both from orbit and on the surface have been visually improved and the performance is better, giving much higher FPS on my GTX 970. Planets look so amazing from orbit, I doubt anyone could see better currently without joining NASA. Stations look a little different too; not sure if some fog has been added, but it looks better.

As you approach stations, traffic control hails you in a wide variety of voices (depending on system), with your ship designation – in my case “Core Dynamics Alpha Romeo India”. It is a small thing, but adds a huge level of immersion into the Elite universe. You feel like you’ve arrived at a space station. And if you cut throttle down and listen carefully, you can hear – very faintly – radio squelch in the background, inaudible conversations between the station and other ships.


Obviously there are the new engineer modifications (I’ll get to those) but the main change for both 1.6 and 2.1 are the addition of large multi-cannons and huge multi-cannons, beam lasers and pulse lasers. I fitted my FAS with large multi-cannons and medium pulse lasers, then took it for spin. The multi-cannon performed very well on the ship, but it didn’t feel like it was an overpowered mega-weapon, it just inflicted more damage than the smaller class version. Overall, very satisfactory. Gratifying audio too.

So following that, I switched to my Corvette and tried the huge beams, multi-cannons and pulse lasers. The beams looked damn sexy, but I found the pulse lasers have the most effective results. Mainly because of the new NPC AI.


While people on the forums were raging about the NPCs running away, I found that some had a low “cowardice” threshold while others stuck around a little longer before bugging out, but overall, they displayed human-player-like behaviour. When their shields were down, once damage was done, they would run to 6-7km distance and wait for shields to come back up before returning to the fight. If damage got really low, they’d high-wake.

How did this affect combat? Well, my Corvette in the weapon configuration I started with was useless against small ships. As soon as they took damage, they’d run and a Corvette is not a ship you can chase anyone with. The FAS was far more successful, as I could keep ships in range long enough for a clean kill. With this in mind, I changed the Corvette’s weapons for short-burst high-damage weapons and had far more success. So the dynamic is moving towards that you'd see in PvP.


I have only tried one mission and due to time constraints, I failed it (had to log off and sleep). Yeah, I’m rubbish, I know. The missions are defined far better than ever before, with a detailed overview and list of required equipment. The mission giver was rather obsequious towards me (an Elite pilot) basically being a kiss arse. All this makes the mission feel more tangible.

The job was to kill 7 smugglers, some not-so-wanted mission targets amassed a bounty on my head in Nuenets. So yesterday, I logged on for a bit of bounty hunting in a RES site on the new ice ring RES at Fong Wang and I was interdicted by a bounty hunter NPC – an Elite Anaconda – so I let him shoot first, making HIM wanted and began to fire back. The NPC flew the HELL out of that ship, using shield cells, chaff, missiles, flight assist off. My Corvette had the advantage in both weapon and manoeuvrability, but it was still a battle royale; this guy was my match.
Then security turned up and it was over for him. By then he was on 10% hull anyway and the Viper that showed up distracted the Anaconda enough for me to make the kill.

So if you do something illegal, expect trouble to follow you.


Now when a ship is destroyed, it isn't just cargo and scrap left floating, but also components which can be traded with Engineers for upgrades. Basically, every enemy is now a Pinata. This means most people are going to want a collector limpet controller on combat ships and the cargo rack for limpets.

Good or bad?

I'd say this is good. With ship AI changes, my game had to adapt. I'd pick an NPC and do enough to make him flee. Then I'd hit another, the finish off NPC 1 while NPC 2 licked his wounds. Overall my kill rate didn't suffer any. While the Corvette lost some of it's effectiveness on small ships, with the right load-out I was okay. Big ships however, took more effort - especially if they had high rank. But that, in my opinion, is how it should be.

In my next post, I'll talk about enhanced thrusters, meeting Engineers and what to do with the loot.

Beauty is (ship) skin deep

ship skinsShip skins are a cosmetic item in Elite: Dangerous, but until ship names or more decals arrive, they are currently the only way to personalise your space craft.

The paint job of your ship is a way to express your personality and your ships function.

With the last update our XBOX players got the chance to start skinning their ships and last night Frontier added a new batch of “squadron” skins to the store. Then promptly removed them due to a problem – the life of Frontier support is always an eventful one!

But do the skins we have meet demand? Why aren’t there skins for every ship? This is something Frontier can sell, so why are they so slow to bring out skins for ships?

Using Inara.cz ship ownership statistics, I put together a graph (approximate) of what ships players own out there. It may come as a shock to some, but the Asp Explorer is the most popular ship! Combat ships are low on the list, with the multi-role ships and trade ships being the most loved.

ships owned

Now if you compare that to the ships that have been granted paint skins in the store (I cannot count the special edition skins, including the Black Friday paint, as you cannot buy these) you’ll see the proportion of skins offered for some ships (Cobra) is HUGE, while other ships still have no skins at all. In fact, apart from the Cobra Mk IV, all the ships added since 1.4 don’t have any skins available in the store.

skins in store

So, last night a new batch was added and aside from a single skin pack for the Viper Mk IV, all the other “Squadron” skins packs were for the usual suspects – Anaconda, Python, Asp Explorer, Cobra Mk III, Sidewinder and Type-9??!

Inara.cz also has data on which ship pilots choose at their “main ship”. This is more interesting, because it shows what ships pilots are selecting for every-day use. Now while these numbers are taken from a snapshot, Inara has over 13,000 commanders’ information, so I would think it represents an accurate picture of the game.

main ships used

You can see here the Federal Corvette and Federal Assault Ship are both popular, but neither have any skins in the store. Comparing use to ownership, the Anaconda leaps out as a very popular main ship. Same goes for the Vulture.

So if Frontier are reading this, can we have skins for the post 1.4 ships? It’s in your financial interest. Concentrate on FAS, Corvette and Cutter as these have had the least love. Please.