Elite: Dangerous Blog

News and events from the Elite Dangerous galaxy

Unlocking engineers

The Thargoids are coming! The Thargoids are coming!

Okay, so that’s probably an overreaction, or maybe it isn’t. It could be a race of peaceful fish. We don’t know. But just in case…

…I need to unlock the Engineers. All the Engineers. Since many of these esteemed individuals require an introduction from each other, you need to unlock Engineers you might not want to deal with in order to gain access to the ones you do want interact with.

Some Engineers have short-cuts, but to unlock levels by building reputation with them, you need to upgrade modules. In many cases the higher level upgrades require rare commodities and materials and data, but the level 1 upgrades don't, so...

A fast way to do to this is to repeatedly generate a low-cost level 1 upgrade that requires an abundant material, such as carbon.

If the Engineer is a prerequisite to another Engineers introduction, then your introduction message will be sent to you when you have unlocked the first Engineer to level 3 and 33% (to level 4).

I've managed to upgrade my primary ships to all have level 5 FSD upgrades, which means my Anaconda now jumps over 40Lyr unladen!

However, if I am going to have super-dooper shields and kill-em-dead lasers, I need to unlock a few other Engineers first.

Who are the Engineers and what do they do?

Here’s a quick list of the fifteen Engineers discovered so far. The numbers indicate the level of upgrade they provide. Each Engineer is discovered an unlocked by a variety of criteria. Thanks to CMDRs Huntemdown and Sir Clip for providing some of the information here.

Broo Tarquin

Muang  Muang 5A Broo's legacy
Learn about: reach level 3 and 33% reputation with Hera Tani.
Gain access: when you reach Competent or higher combat rank.
Initial contract: 50T of Fujin Tea - obtain this from Futen Spaceport at Fujin.
Modules / maximum level: Beam lasers , Burst lasers , Pulse lasers
Short-cut to reputation: none.

Colonel Bris Dekker

Sol Iaptus Dekker's yard
Learn about: reach level 3 and 33% reputation with Juri Ishmaak.
Gain access: reach Friendly status with the Federation.
Initial contract: 10,000,000CR of Combat Bonds (double-ouch!).
Modules / maximum level: Frame Shift Drives , Frame shift drive interdictors
Short-cut to reputation: none.

NOTE: Sol is a permit-only system so you will also need to earn a Sol permit by doing missions for the Federation and attaining the rank of Petty Officer (rank 4) in the Federal Navy.

Didi Vatermann

Leesti Leesti 3A Vatermann LLC
Learn about: reach level 3 and 33% reputation with Selene Jean.
Gain access: reach the rank of Merchant or higher.
Initial contract: 50T of Lavian Brandy - this is a rare commodity purchased at Lave Station in Lave, but can only be bought in volumes of 3-6T, so you'll have to make multiple trips.
Modules / maximum level: Shield boosters , Shield Generators 
Short-cut to reputation: Sell goods at Vatermann LLC station.

Elvria Martuk

Khun Khun 5 Long sight base
Learn about: revealed by default.
Gain access: travel at least 300lyr away from your start system.
Initial contract: 3T of Sooltil relics - obtain from Soontil at Cheranovsky City station in Ngurii.
Modules / maximum level: Frame Shift Drives , Shield Generators , Thrusters , Shield Cell Banks
Short-cut to reputation: Sell her cartographic data.

Felicity Farseer

Deciat Deciat 6A Farsee Inc
Learn about: revealed by default.
Gain access: reach the rank of Scout in Exploration.
Initial contract: 1T of Meta-Alloys - obtain from Darnielle's Progress planetary base in Maia.
Modules / maximum level: Frame Shift Drives , Frame shift drive interdictors , Power generators , Shield boosters , Thrusters
Short-cut to reputation: Sell her cartographic data.

NOTE: Farseer Inc also sells Enhanced Performance Thrusters at the station outfitting. These can be bought regardless of the Engineer unlock state. EPT's come in Class 2A and Class 3A only.

Hera Tani

Kuwemaki  Kuwemaki A 3A The jet's hole
Learn about: reach level 3 and 33% reputation with Liz Ryder.
Gain access: reach an Imperial Navy rank of Outsider or higher.
Initial contract: 50T of Kamitra Cigars - obtain these at Hammel Terminal in Kamitra.
Modules / maximum level: Power distributors , Power Generators
Short-cut to reputation: Sell goods at The Jet's Hole station.

Juri Ishmaak

Giryak Giryak 2A Pater's memorial
Learn about: reach level 3 and 33% reputation with Felicity Farseer.
Gain access: when you have earned more than fifty combat bonds.
Initial contract: 1,000,000CR of combat bonds (ouch!).
Modules / maximum level: Mine launchers , Missile racks , Torpedo pylons 
Short-cut to reputation: Handing in combat bonds at Pater's Memorial station.

Lei Cheung

Laksak Laksak A1 Trader's rest
Learn about: reach level 3 and 33% reputation with The Dweller.
Gain access: when you have bought or sold goods at fifty different stations.
Initial contract: 200T of gold, which can be bought in system from Laumer City or West City stations.
Modules / maximum level: Shield boosters , Shield Generators
Short-cut to reputation: Sell goods at Trader's Rest station.

Liz Ryder

Eurybia  Makalu Demolition unlimited
Learn about: revealed by default.
Gain access:
take missions for or trade with Eurybia Blue Mafia in the Eurybia system until you reach a Cordial state with the faction.
Initial contract: 200T of Landmines, which can only be bought at planet bases (such as Leonov Depot in Alpha Caeli, Eckford Survey in LHS 1651 or Dedekind Bastion in Njojujil).
Modules / maximum level: Armour , Hull reinforcement packages , Mine lauchers , Missile racks , Torpedo pylons
Short-cut to reputation: Sell goods at Demolition Unlimited base.

Marco Qwent

Sirius Lucifer Qwent research base
Learn about: reach level 3 and 33% with Elvira Martuuk.
Gain access: by invitation from Sirius Corporation - this is obtained by taking mission for the faction at Sirius until you reach Allied status with Sirius Corporation.
Initial contract: 25T of Modular Terminals - obtain these from missions for Sirius Corporation at Efremov Plant planetary base, close to Qwent Research base.
Modules / maximum level: Power distributors , Power Generators
Short-cut to reputation: Sell her cartographic data.

NOTE: The Sirius system is a permit-only system and can only be accessed by completing missions for Sirius Corporation until you reach Allied status with the faction. Procyon is a system where your can find Sirius Corporation missions.

Professor Palin

Maia  Maia A 3A Palin research centre
Learn about: reach level 3 at 33% reputation with Marco Qwent.
Gain access: when you have visited a system at least 5,000Lyr from your original start system.
Initial contract: 25T of Unknown Fragments - these are found by visiting HIP 14479 and looking for Signal Sources called "Anomaly Detected [Threat 4]". In these you will find an Unknown Artifact floating in space. You need to carefully shoot this object so it shatters and collect the fragments. Each bit you collect contains 3 Unknown Fragments.
Modules / maximum level: Frame Shift Drives , Thrusters
Short-cut to reputation: Sell him cartographic data.

Selene Jean

Kuk Kuk 3B Prospector's rest
Learn about: reach level 3 and 33% with Tod McQuinn.
Gain access: when you have mined 500T or more.
Initial contract: 10T of Painite - this can only be obtain from mining.
Modules / maximum level: Armour , Hull reinforement packages
Short-cut to reputation: Sell her cartographic data and sell goods at Prospector's Rest station.

The Dweller

Wyrd  Wyrd A2 Black hide
Learn about: revealed by default.
Gain access: You must do business at at least five black markets before he will see you.
Initial contract: 500,000 CR donation.
Modules / maximum level: Beam lasers , Power distributors , Pulse lasers
Short-cut to reputation: Sell goods at Black hide base.

Tod "The Blaster" McQuinn

Wolf 397 Trus Madi Trophy camp
Learn about: revealed by default.
Gain access: hand in fifteen or more bounties.
Initial contract: Bring him 100,000CR worth of bounty.
Modules / maximum level: Cannons , Fragment cannons , Multi-cannons , Rail guns
Short-cut to reputation: Hand in bounty for Alliance systems at Trophy Camp station.

Zachariah Nemo

Yoru  Yoru 4 Nemo cyber party base
Learn about: reach level 3 and 33% reputation with Elivira Martuuk.
Gain access: You must then do missions for Party of Yoru in the Yoru system. Once allied with the faction, you will receive an invitation to the Engineer.
Initial contract: Zachariah requires a donation of 25T of Xihe Biomorphic Companions - get these from Xihe at Zhen Dock.
Modules / maximum level: Fragment cannons , Multi-cannons , Plasma accelerators 
Short-cut to reputation: Sell goods at Nemo Cyber Party base.

 

2.2 Guardians in mid-October

Frontier had a busy week at GamesCom and made a lot of announcements about the coming features of 2.2 and revealed a lot more detail.

Tourst destinations

No ships for ages, then two come along at once

The 2.2 update will bring a new ship; the Beluga Liner, which as its name suggests, is a vast passenger liner. Somewhere between an Anaconda and Corvette in size, this large ship is aimed at servicing the new passenger missions.

Beluga Taipan

Also added is a new fighter craft, the Taipan; this joins the F63 Condor and Imperial Fighter as ship-launch-able fighters. The Taipan is the “tank” of the three. With the fighters added to the main game, along with the Beluga, there are now 33 ships in game.

Guardians Guardian; singular

The reveal of the ship launched fighters show video of a BattleStar Galacica-esque ship launch and the power, speed and manoeuvrability of the new fighters – much more so than their CQC versions – we saw a Condor smack down a Python in very short order. But it was stated that we’d only be able to hold one fighter per ship. A Keelback was used for the demo and it was confirmed that Anaconda, Beluga Liner, Federal Corvette, Federal Gunship, Imperial Cutter, and Type-9 would all be fighter-bay capable mother-ships. You will be able to “hot swap” between your fighter and main ship.

Launching fighter

F63 Condor Imperial Fighter

NPC Crew

Before you deploy your fighter without flying it yourself, you need to hire crew to fly them. You can hire 3 crew and their skill level has a cost attached, although you can rank up your employees as they fly, so fighter pilot apprenticeships are going to be a thing. There is now a “crew lounge” in stations where candidates can be recruited. While you may have three crew employed, you can only take one of them with you.

The Crew Lounge

Station variety, capital ship docks and military bases

Stations will now have very distinct interiors, denoted by their economy so we now have refinery, high tech, tourism and agricultural stations in addition to the plain and palm tree versions.
Frontier are also adding a bit more space furniture in the form of capital ship docks and military bases. They have also promised other unique sights including a ship graveyard from Elite lore.

Tourist station   Agricultural station   Refinery station   High tech station

Captial ship dock

Galaxy maps and surface maps

The galaxy map now has an amazing new feature that allows you to filter routes. Why is that great? Because now you can plot routes that only include scoop-able stars or via high security (safe) systems. Looking in the system map now shows the planet surface in exact miniature, displaying the terrain.

Galaxy map route filters

Stored ship relocation

Why couldn’t we have had this when I needed to move 29 ships to SOL from Shinrarta? Well, now you can select a ship in storage in any station shipyard and for a small fee, relocate it instantly to your present location. What will the transfer fees be to Jacques I wonder?
You could therefore fly to a remote location in your DBX with a high jump range, and then summon your Vulture. You can also remotely sell your stored ships.

Ship relocation

Skins and ship kits

There will be a number of ship skins being added to 2.2 as well as (for the first time) SRV skins and skins for the new fighter-class ships. In addition, there are ship kits (wings and spoilers) for the Vulture, Asp Explorer, Viper Mk 3 and Python.

Python ship kit Vulture ship kit Viper Mk 3 ship kit Asp Explorer ship kit

Fighter paint options

Passengers

So finally (big sigh) the Orca has a point to its existence! And with the new Beluga Liner (whatever that will cost) you can ferry bulk passengers around the galaxy, take passengers on luxury tours and visit the colourful corners of the galaxy and get paid.

First class passengers

Passengers can travel in economy, first class or (with passenger vessels) Luxury suites. You’ll need the passenger ships specifically to carry VIPs around in first class and luxury cabins. Standard ships will take passengers but only in economy cabins.

Beluga Liner

Volcanism (not Mister Spock, volcanoes!)

With 2.2 will come Volcanism, that means geysers, fumaroles and (hopefully full-blown volcanoes) and I hope, the ability to land on lava worlds.

Volcanic world Geysers and fumaroles

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.

NPC

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!

Ship Size Comparison with real-world objects for scale

freighter_concept_thumbSince the weekend I have had the chance to add a better graphic of the Imperial Majestic Class Interdictor.

I have also had the time to lay out the ships by their category of combat, freighter, passenger or multi-purpose.

On request I have included the Scarab SRV (which is a measly 4.7m). Also on the revised diagram is a Boeing 777, because it's something large that most people have seen. The "Oasis of the Seas" which at 362m long is the world's largest cruise ship and carries 6,296 passengers, is probably the largest thing anyone may have seen and shows just how massive the larger Elite ships really are.

Place holders for the coming Elite: Dangerous ships; the Dolphin, the Beluga Liner and the Panther LX have been added with estimated sizes.

I have added the pad sizes and colour-coded ship names by pad size. There is also a scale representation of the station access corridor.

UPDATE: I've re-drawn the whole thing from scratch as vectors, so no bitmaps at all! This means I can re-draw at any resolution, so see the 4K edition of the chart below.

ship size comparison

Click HERE for full size 4096x2896 (4K) image.

ship size comparison

Click HERE for full size 2560x1440 image.

Elite ship sizes to scale for all ships post Horizons launch

conda_blueprintWith the release of the 1.5 Ships update, Elite has had an additional five ships added to the game and the previous scale diagram I'd done was was both outdated and missing several keys ships - so especially for you, I have re-drawn the whole thing using all new graphics and the most up-to-date size information.

The diagram uses a scale of 1 pixel to 1 metre.

Credit goes to Mat Ricardo (Prefim on Reddit) for creating the ship renders.

UPDATE: Now with more capital ship goodness! Thanks to ElitePvE group Mobius for helping me hunt down the Imperial Capital Ship.

Ship sizes to scale

The ship sizes are taken from here

Ship sizes table

Very large trading ships in Elite Dangerous

panther_dockingSource? Newsletter #92

Multi-Crew lets you fly in the same ship with friends, which will up the intensity and camaraderie levels of a joint mission even further! You’ll be able to share and alternate control of weapons systems, turrets and flight duties to multiply your effectiveness. Even to the extent of piloting a ship-launched fighter and working in combination with the mothership. It’ll be especially useful in some of the very large trading ships coming in season two.

Now the original Elite, way back in 1984 didn’t have any really big trade ships – the Anaconda was the largest, with the smaller Boa and Python in the mix, but there were some super-massive traders in Frontier and Frontier First Encounters. What were they?

Well, between Elite 1 and 3 the roles of these ships juggled somewhat. In Elite the Boa was smaller than the Anaconda, but by Frontier First Encounters (Elite 3) the Boa was the bigger ship.

The Panther Clipper; described as a “behemoth” in Elite 2 wasn’t the biggest in Elite 3 – that was the Lynx Bulk Carrier. How big was that? Well the Panther had a 2100T cargo capacity compare to the Lynx’s eye-watering 6000T cargo hold. A monster!

So what will the “very large trading ships” coming to Elite: Dangerous be?

We have been teased 3D renders of the Panther Clipper (called Panther LX in this incarnation) very early on during the Elite: Dangerous KickStarter, but it has been radio silence since.

Currently the biggest trade ship in ED is the Imperial Cutter which can carry (with shields) 728T of cargo. That’s only 35% of the original Panther’s capacity. Could it fit on the pad and carry that much cargo in ED? Well, no.

Panther LX

Based on the maximum dimensions of all ships, the Panther LX could be up to 192.6m L x 115.3m W x 33.4 m H and fit through the access corridor and land on a large pad. That is around 4% larger overall volume than the Imperial Cutter and would (at a 4% increase) give the Panther a 1540T hull. That would give an approximate cargo capacity of between 670 to 1104T – estimating a make-up of three Class 8, one Class 7, two Class 6, two Class 5 and one Class 4 internals. Huge.

Something we’ve not seen, even hinted at, is the return of the Boa. If based on Elite 3 this would be double the size of the Anaconda (in capacity) so would carry 936T of cargo (3 x C8, 1 x C7, 1 x C5, 1 x C3) not to be sniffed at! Based purely on volume, it could be smaller than the Corvette, say 160x114x32m and be twice an Anaconda’s capacity.

ship dimensions

Frontier could also pull something out of the bag we have not seen before. But we'll know soon, because they are coming this year to a game near you.

Avatars, crowded cockpits and zero-g cats

buggyThe third and fourth quarter of the year are set to bring us the most anticipated features of Horizons and some mystery as well.

 

2.3 – The Commanders - Coming Fall 2016

“Team up and stand together. Forge your own identity with the new Commander Creator, then share your bridge with Multi-Crew and fly with friends.”

We’ll be able to fly with up to three other human commanders aboard our ship, operating different stations – weapons, navigation, the pilot’s controls and ... what else? It has been said that a single ship with multiple crew-members would be “as formidable” as the same number of ships in a wing. How that could manifest will be interesting to see.
This update will bring us the commander editor, allowing us to make our own avatars with beards and big noses and with multi-crew, we’ll be able to show them off to our wing-mates.

I pause to wonder if features are gender locked; could I have a bearded lady avatar? Give me something to “hang on to” as Lord Flashheart would say. Lipstick and eyeshadow for the gents? Oh, eighties glam in the 34th century!

At this point we cannot even guess how things like ship rebuy, or trade profits are handled when playing with multiple commanders on a single ship. How will the “guest” commanders get on board? Will we see them dock and walk into the cockpit, or will they just “pop” into existence? What do they see when boarding?

2.4 – ????

“A secret to be revealed in Elite Dangerous: Horizons’ final expansion!”

So, no idea on what the end-of-year update will bring. Sandro shirts for your Avatars? A bobble-head of your own ship? Tractor beams? Weather on planets? A ships cat? Zero-G cat litter. Maybe not.

What would I like to see? Ship-to-ship docking; not boarding at this point, just docking. Why? Mega-ships, too large for stations could be docked with, to exchange cargo/passengers. This would make the “seeking goods” ships more hands on. We could take guests to that wedding we keep hearing about. Explorers could dock with mega ships that are “mobile outposts”.

I guess we'll have to wait until November to find out!

 

Guardians of the galaxy

buggyThe second announced expansion to Elite: Dangerous in Horizons is titled “Guardians”.

2.2 – Guardians - Coming Summer 2016

“Take what comes and strike back with double. Bring a second ship to every combat encounter with Ship-Launched Fighters and defend your passengers against the deadliest threats in the galaxy.”


Picking the text apart for the language used, reveals more detail.
What is said is “a second ship”.

One.

Not ship-launcher fighter(s) plural, but instead a single deployable fighter or drone, depending on if you or the A.I. are flying it.

So my hopes for a “Type-9 Galactica” with half-a-dozen hangar bays are dashed! And I had a "launch fighters" voice-attack command all ready to go!

Have the fighters been limited to one-per-commander due to constraints of A.I.? The Mistress of Minions would probably disagree that her children of chaos are in ANY way limited, so I suspect that the limitation is to prevent richer commanders becoming one-man-armies of unstoppable A.I. fleets.

On the one hand, having three or four deployable Condors would not make me unbeatable, but having been on the wrong end of a Python with two Eagles attacking my rear, I can appreciate why it might be overkill. Still, a Wing of four pilots with deployable fighters becomes a Wing of eight. Ouch.

Something else mentioned, is the phrase “defend your passengers”. A similar wording slipped out of Ed during the recent live-stream from PAX and was thought to be the result of jet-lag, but the clear mention of passengers here would imply we are going to get the long-awaited passenger missions. This opens up more career paths to players and makes the likelihood of the Dolphin passenger vessel and the Beluga Liner making an appearance in Elite at long last a distinct possibility. No more sad little Orca. Friends at last! And hopefully a career path that warrants a 44M credit price-tag.

R24WSTe
Continued...

Horizons speculation alert!

buggyOn Friday Frontier, for the first time it should be noted, laid out a general plan for most of the coming season of expansions to Elite: Dangerous Horizons. Giving us an outline for what content was coming and when. So what are we getting? Well the first instalment is soon, probably next month, and is titled “The Engineers”

2.1 – The Engineers - Coming Spring 2016

"Everything changes. Introducing an expanded mission system and game-changing loot. Craft exotic weapons and modules for your spacecraft and build a ship unlike any other."

It is confirmed that we’ll have around 30 persistent NPC characters to interact with. These characters will process loot into crafted weapons and modules for you from blueprints. The toys on offer will depend on your pilot and federation, or empire, rank. Using the character creator, Frontier will give these engineers a face to see.

elite_frontier


We can speculate that these characters, called Engineers, will abide on the surface of planets at certain locations, which makes them by default, a Horizons-specific feature. Since they require loot to work, you will have to bring them materials(?) to work with in order to make your green beam laser (or more useful), a longer range FSD drive. They also require blueprints. How will these be acquired? Stolen? Found? Clearly a new avenue to explore. You can’t just grind 30T of hand-wavium and have the best ship in the galaxy; you are going to have to find, steal, trade or buy the means to make these upgrades.

Over the last year Frontier had expanded the bulletin-board missions, but as they’ve done so, the basic framework has started to creak under the load. In 2.1 we’re getting a total replacement of the mission system, incorporating these talking head NPC characters which will also be persistent, depending on your pilot rank, faction rank and possibly location. I would love to speculate that these characters will speak (audio? Text to speech?), but in all likelihood they will simply be the face of your mission-brief text, much the same as the characters were in Elite Frontier (shown above). The good news for players without the Horizons expansion is that this element of the game is generic to all, so it is highly likely that the new NPCs will be seen by players of the core game as well as Horizons players.

The new "mission givers" might look something like this:-

mission_face Continued..

Elite: Dangerous Horizons First Impressions

buggyBefore I get started, I’ve posted an album of screen shots here for you to look at.

So, Horizons.

I thought space was big (not down to the chemists big, but really, really, big) however, planets are bigger.

But I race ahead. First, I started where I’d left off the 1.5 beta in my Imperial Cutter at Founders World. Okay, not the wisest choice for planetary landing ship, but hey, it had just been washed and was good to go! I went into Outfitting and selected “Planetary landing suite”. So far so good. No SRV. What else have they got? SRV transport bay. One of them. Ah, but many Classes of bay with different capacity. Mmm. Okay, grab a basic one and equip SRV. Purchase one shiny new Scarab. And I’m off.

Launching from Shinrarta Dezra, I needed to look for a moon or planet to land on. Open the system map and planets now have a blue crescent icon over the ones I can land on. Nice. Shinrarta A1 it is!

As I approached the planet in super-cruise I thought “What do I do now?” when my HUD changed and an altimeter appeared and subtle beeping noises kicked in. Ooh, shiny! So I get closer, and closer and closer. These planet things are friggin’ big! Dipping my nose made the lower part of the altimeter shade in red. Red looks bad. Don’t do that then.

Now the HUD changes again and I have a vertical descent meter with “OC” and “DROP” on it. When I hit the OC level the ship entered Orbital Cruise – slowing down and the flight model changing. So far, so good. No super-cruise-style dropout loading screen. Then as I hit DROP level, the sound of massive deceleration and the blue shimmer of super-cruise dropout. BANG. And then… nothing, I continue to fly down to the surface. Seamlessly. No jarring load screen. Awesome. Hats off to FD.

It’s at this point, finally paying attention to the increasing number of panicked beeping that my ship is going down much, much faster than it was going forward. Ah, poop. Gravity has me by the HOTAS.

A word of advice here. Cutting throttle works better than desperately mashing thrusters. Just saying. Also, remembering to deploy landing gear is also a wise move.

It was bumpy. But I was down.

As you approach the surface, the radar become a topographical map and it advises you when your ship is over a viable landing spot. Not easy to find in some rougher areas.

I then selected the new lower middle ship panel and selected Deploy from the SRV menu. A rapid switch to the SRV cockpit with a quick fade-to-back-and-back and I’m lowered all Thunderbirds style to the surface. And go.. nowhere; keys don’t work. Time to map those SRV controls to my stick! That done, I’m off and crikey; the Imperial Cutter is huge from the outside!

Driving the SRV is exactly what you would expect driving a dune buggy around Mars would be like.

Getting back in the ship is a process of driving back to the loading bay and positioning your SRV roughly under the orange hologram and clicking “Board Ship” on the lap menu. I decided to take off and fly to the nearest settlement and see what was occurring there.

I set course for Nixon Outpost and landed practically on top of the place. The second landing was less bumpy. Driving my SRV up to the structure it was little more than a tin hut, patrolled by Terminator-style HK drones. I got a 200CR fine for trespass. Oops.

By this time the BETA was buzzing and by virtue of the fact this was the closest planet to Founders World, ships were landing all over the place at my location. It was like a sci-fi alien invasion film! SRV’s everywhere!

I was joined for a while by CMDR SneakTiger from DeadMenWalking, who landed his Federal Corvette far more gracefully than my rocky first attempt. We proceeded to race around the settlement getting the hang of SRV motoring.

I took the opportunity to try SRV jumping and managed to mount a Viper Mk IV (see screenshots).

Damn! This is fun!

At this point I was hailed by Kerrash and after a brief chat, he suggested we try another system where there were rings and other sights to view from a planet. Winged up, I was off again!

Wing beacons work for planets well enough to find your wingmate on the surface and after catching up with Kerrash we landed our craft in a giant crater and went exploring. You can see the breath-taking view in the screenshot that shows the planet’s ring on the horizon, while Kerrash’s SRV races off in the distance. While I was taking photos, Kerrash managed to locate some Materials. As you can see in the cargo-panel screenshot, there are some interesting things you can do with materials, which I hope to try soon.

One thing I did do for the first time was dismiss my ship. As your ship lifts off majestically and tears off into the heavens leaving you behind, you feel very small. And very lonely.

After some exploring for a while, Kerrash suggested finding a station, so we summoned our ships. Again this is a sight to behold, especially with an Imperial Cutter flying itself. First you hear the bang of the ships dropping from super-cruise and then it roars overhead, finding a place to land.

We then took off and headed for a planet-based station – Antonelli Vision – for a second I thought it was Antonachi Vision! Zac almost had a station there!

The station was located on the dark side of the planet so I attempted a night landing. This was the smoothest by far and the view of space across the horizon as I touched down was truly amazing. It brought to mind scenes of Space 1999 from my childhood, Eagles landing on Moonbase Alpha!

My impression of Horizons is that I’ve stuck my head in the water next to the iceberg and realised just how little I have actually seen. This is going to take days just to explore the basics.