Elite: Dangerous Blog

News and events from the Elite Dangerous galaxy

The Space Madness Sets In

I've been jumping and scooping and honking.

A lot.

Yep, I'm onwards to Jacques station.

Thing is though, when you only play the game for a few hours a day, the trip takes a long time.

I've been leaving a trail of newly discovered worlds in my wake and haven't seen a soul in well over a week.

Lots of green dots on the galaxy map. There's more than a few CMDRs on their way out or back the the new bubble.

I'll get there eventually.

I plan to be back by GameCon, so watch this space for all the 2.2 (and other) Elite news as I get it!

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.

Atmosphere

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.

Weapons

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.

NPCs

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.

Missions

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.

Loot

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.

Career paths – Combat vs Mining vs Trade

I’ve been on holiday the last week, which is why no blog updates. What I have been doing is trying out mining for the first time since limpets were first added. Back then, limpets blew up 75% of the time, hitting the cargo hatch.

So, with some time on my hands, I equipped my Type-9 with a refinery and some collector/prospector limpet controllers and set out. Arriving at a HIGH resource extraction site, I started mining and within half an hour, I had a lot of minerals and trouble. A wing of pirates dropped in, scanned me and in very rapid order destroyed my ship. Ouch! 3.5M CR rebuy.

Lesson one. Don’t mine in Resource Extraction Sites!

For safe mining, you need to drop out in unmarked areas of the planetary rings at least 20km away or more from the RES sites. CMDR Ranualf has written an excellent guide to mining on the forums here.

Following Ranualf’s advice, I switch to my Anaconda (more guns made me feel better) and equipped it with a refinery and a prospector controller and two limpet controllers.

I found mining a bit like fishing. You blast the rock fragments from any given rock, then wait a short while for your limpets to hoover them up for you. The minerals and metals just fly in. You go through limpets in the ratio of around a third of the cargo you collect. I managed to fill my 284T hold using 100 limpets. An exchange of 10,000CR of limpets for 2.2M CR of metals and minerals.

As you can see from my income log on Inara.cz, trading gets me the most money, while mining and bounty hunting in a RES are fairly equal.

income

But here’s the critical difference. To get 10M CR in three loops of a trade run, you need a 200M CR Imperial Cutter (and the rank to buy one), but my "padawan learner" CMDR Awesome_Gamer was able to equip a Type-6 for mining and was making 1M CR per run to the RES area. That means he was making the basic value of his ship each trip. Furthermore, bounty hunting in his Vulture, CMDR Awesome_Gamer was making the same amount of bounty as my more expensive Federal Assault Ship.

While trading is the "licence to print money" at the top end of the scale, combat and mining are far better options for newer players, with mining offering the most reward for minimum risk.

Now that CMDR Awesome_Gamer has two ships, he can switch between mining and combat as the mood takes him (much as I do) so the game never makes you feel like you are grinding.

Currently I've parked my mining ship and I'm back in the FAS for the Hammer of Justice Community Goal in Phiagre (is that a blue planet?), so a few days of pew-pew before I decide what I'll be doing next.

Rank and circumstance

elite rank logo I made the Combat rank of Elite this week after 18 months and 15 weeks of play-time. Which goes to show it can be done without any grind.

I was helping a new player (Awesome_Gamer) and thought a bit of bounty-hunting combined with a Community Goal (The crime crackdown at Morrina) would be a good way to introduce him to the concept of community goals and do some pirate-hunting for cash in the process.

Over the week of the CG my young Padawan went from a Cobra Mk III to a Viper Mk IV and put several million credits in the bank. He’s current goal is to achieve enough rank with the Federation for a SOL permit.

On Monday night I pushed the combat rank from Deadly that last 1% into Elite. I’m now looking forward to seeing what missions that this new status unlocks!

Choose your weapon

For the most part in Elite, I tend to fly around in multi-role ships favouring light armour and good jump range over ships with heavy combat loadouts and short range.

I’ve owned an Anaconda since February of 2014, so a lot of smaller ships have simply passed me by, having been added later. Although I own a Federal Corvette (The "Kharon") which is a monster of a combat ship, I hadn’t really tried any others.

During this week’s CG though, I took out my Federal Assault Ship on CMDR Ranualf’s recommendation and loadout advice and found it an amazing ship. Agile, tough and very adept at bounty hunting. Having found the change rather satisfying, I dusted off my Vulture from storage and took “Toomes” out for flight last night (Spider-man fans will get the reference). Wow! The thing is a killer. A space-faring attack-dog! Equipped with a C3 Beam and E3 Pulse I was racking and stacking the kills, but the best part was how it sounded. The audio effects are pure artistry! If you haven’t tried these ships, do yourself a favour – you don’t know what you’re missing.

Footnote: In case you are wondering why I have ships I haven't flown, it's because I have every ship, but until this February I only had four. The rapidly acquired collection of ships are for my VR shipyard at LaveCon.

What have the Romans ever done for us?

Yesterday I received the most forum reputation I’ve ever had for any single post! People were complaining on the forums (shocker there) that 2.1 was over-hyped. I pointed out that, just like the militants in Monty Python’s Life of Brian in the "What have the Romans ever done for us?" sketch, that you can give someone everything or nothing or something in between and they will STILL be unhappy.

To make the point with a bit of satire, I whipped up a GIF file.

”what

The best bit (for me) was when someone reposted this on Reddit and people were making complaint posts underneath, about how it "..was outrageous for them to have to pay $60 for these fixes to be done when all the Horizons functionality should have been in the game at launch for free!"

Clearly the irony was lost. Everything mentioned (except skid marks) is free and available to everyone at the next release. My point made for me – you just can’t please some people.

So much to do, so little time!

jessies elite tipsI have been working on getting a Beginners Guide to the Galaxy Map written, but as CMDR Datum10 pointed out to me last night "It’s getting changed in a few weeks". So I have to consider if I want to finish anyway and then come back later to revise it. I think I will.

Anyway, my week has been fully occupied with moving my fleet of twenty six ships to another star system. Why? There is a hard-limit of 24 ships permitted in storage at one system, which means unless there are two stations with shipyards in the system, you cannot have more than 25 ships in total. This limitation is not going to be raised to 29 (the maximum number of ships you can buy) before version 2.1 - @FrontierHelp asked for me – bless ‘em!

I like to move it

So I am relocating from Jameson Memorial station in Shinrarta Dezhra to Mars High at Sol and also Daedelus Station at Sol. The reason I’m doing this is my plan to operate a VR shipyard at LaveCon again this year, where commanders can try the cockpit of any ship on my new Oculus Rift (which should ship next week). It just means a short jaunt in super cruise to see the remaining four ships.

Arithon's Stellar ShipyardThe thing is, to relocate a ship from one star system to another, you need a second "disposable" ship to use as a one-way taxi cab. So I need buy an Eagle at Mars High, fly it to Jameson, switch to my stored ship, sell the superfluous Eagle and then fly my ship back from Jameson to Mars High. Then rinse and repeat. Twenty. Five. Times. Sounds boring (in theory) but flying around in an unarmed and unshielded Eagle is exciting enough on its own and every trip has been slightly different. Also, I get distracted by other stuff...

To CG or not to GG?

This migration of hardware has been periodically interrupted by doing some CG’s. Last week it was blood crystals for Lave Radio and this week it has been taking shipments of Land Enrichment Systems from Alioth to Vennik for terraforming. Tier 4, will you EVER come? It's good fun to Wing up or just tag along with some of the Mobius guys although I've done nowhere near as much hauling as CMDRs Huntmedown, Ranualf, Datum10 and Sir Clip - they've got to be in the top five by now!

Moving is a killer

I also did some bounty hunting in a Vulture (I was moving it anyway, so what the hell? Right?) and found it is such an awesome ship. I’ve got a 7.1 headset and the ship sounds so amazing, I could listen to the engine all day long! I had to hunt down a Python wanted guy with an escort of a Cobra and Sidewinder. The Vulture chewed the escort ships up in a single pass each, while I evaded the Python then went in for the big kill. The Vulture lost two rings of shields.

Vulture 3 - Bad guys 0.

So you can expect my Beginners Galaxy Map article before the weekend and If you see a lowly Adder or Viper making its way to Sol this week, be careful because if attacked the pilot may come back in a Federal Corvette armed to the teeth and have words. Just sayin’

Anyone who says they're bored with Elite and there's nothing to do, is clearly a very dull monotonous person and anyone who calls Elite shallow has NEVER tried to document the game!

Rank Wars: Rise of the Imperial Duke

navy rankFollowing the release of 1.5, I have been beavering away at getting my Imperial rank to that of Duke, so I can buy an Imperial Cutter as a trade ship.

Gaining rank was easier in 1.4, but with the revised mission structure post 1.5, many of the previous “hot” locations are now no good for ranking up.

I had, in 1.4, been carrying out long-range trade missions from Fehu – these paid really well and gained me rank in the process. I had elevated myself from Viscount, to Count (the fangs chafed) and then Earl, then 1.5 was released and I stalled. The game now policed missions more carefully, which meant mission stacking was far less likely – no more two-of-the-same missions. The progress bar now spelled out how far I had progressed, but as they say “the watched pot never boils”.

So I relocated to another system I had visited by chance, CD-41 359. There is only an outpost there, but the Bulletin Board had a rich mix of short-distance courier missions and more critically, high reputation donation opportunities. So loading up my Asp “The Cousteau” with missions I set off and got delivering. This meant in the hour or two I had each evening, I could push my rank up another 1 or 2 percent.

Two medium reputation missions seem to give around 1.5% (estimated) so any high reputation smuggling (don't get scanned) missions were a bonus.

It took several weeks to make the next rank, Marquis – although I had other problems which impacted my time. This contrasted sharply with my efforts to make Baron early last year, when I loaded up my Cobra, flew down to Iota Hydri and made that rank in two days!

During the period November to January, I had a faulty power supply on my PC which caused a shutdown under load, so I replaced that in early December and I also had been experiencing communication errors with Elite servers, which meant I never got more than a couple of hours play before being thrown out of the game. These have been resolved just this week, by changing the MTU setting of my network card to prevent the game straining my BT Home Hub beyond its capabilities.

So I finally got the oh-so-precious "Naval Ascension Opportunity" and made the rank of Duke on Sunday and as I returned to my current home base at Shinrarta Dezhra, it felt like I had run the proverbial marathon. But it was worth it.

Imperial Cutter

What has Elite Dangerous ever done for me?

Back in 2012 I heard through the internet press that there was a Kickstarter for a new Elite game. Elite was the most influential game of my teens on the BBC Micro, a computer that shaped my childhood and indirectly changed the world. No? Every iPhone, DVD player and smart TV uses ARM chips, the great grandchildren of Acorn’s BBC Micro (Acorn later became ARM).
How do I described to someone who grew up with consoles and amazing PC graphics what the first Elite was like? Have you seen Frogger, Pac-man and Space Invaders? Well, along comes a game with 3D for the first time ever in hi-res AND colour (not possible on the BBC Micro before) which was a space combat game like Star Wars and BattleStar Galactica (new and on TV at the time) and also a trade game with actual progression instead of a high score sheet. It was like going from playing noughts and crosses on paper, to being given a full set of Warhammer!
Having put £30 to the Kickstarter project in 2012 - what I would have paid for a new game at the time - I promptly forgot all about it for year and a half. Then at the beginning of 2014, the Frontier newsletters started talking about a Beta release – not news to me in itself, but they announced that I could “upgrade” my Kickstarter pledge to obtain Beta access, for just £15. Take my money!!!
I started playing the game in July and found it amazing, way beyond my expectations and graphically it looked exactly as everything I had imagined when I was 15.

In August of 2014 Frontier put out a request on the forums for volunteers to be Ambassadors for the game at the September EuroGamer Exhibition at Earls Court in London, so I applied. I was selected along with 15 others and for five days we demonstrated Elite: Dangerous to the public. I met some amazing people, not least of which were the other Ambassadors; many visitors had never heard of Elite, while others were backers or lifelong fans including a few household names like Jason Bradbury. I also had the chance to meet David Braben, who gave me a few minutes of his time and chatted about the BBC micro days and the influence of Elite on games since. He was a very down to earth man, quiet spoken but full of enthusiasm, for Elite and gaming in general.
I had the chance to demonstrate and use the Oculus Rift DK2 for the first time and play Elite on a set of X52 joysticks. Ah, once tried you can’t go back! Luckily my birthday was in October, so guess what I got for my birthday? Yep. X52’s!
After five days of fun and long hours, I thought that was it, but Frontier had other ideas. As a big thank you to the Elite Ambassadors for our hard work, Frontier invited us to the Premiere Event at RAF Duxford in December. I took my youngest son with me and we had an amazing time. William (my son) had the chance to talk to David Braben about the game (children are ruthless interrogators) and quizzed him about EVA, ship capture and piracy. Mr Braben – much in demand at the event – gave William his time and answered all his questions in some detail. It was a real experience. The last time I’d been to an event like that was the Channel Tunnel Breakthrough party at Dover Castle in 1991. elite_ambassador_avatar
Fast forward to 2015 and after months of listening to Lave Radio, I decided to attend this year’s LaveCon and as a number of my fellow Ambassadors (Kerrash, El Tel, Surreth) were going to be there, I was looking forward to it in June.
A weekend of Elite, cos-play, sci-fi authors and role play games, LaveCon was my first convention and a really great to see so many friendly people, even random locals dressed as Doctor Who that just turned up on spec! I took my PC and Oculus with me and operated a Virtual Reality shipyard where everyone could have a go in the cockpit of their favourite ship. I will definitely attend next year’s event.
This year I once again took up the Ambassador’s mantle at the relocated EuroGamer at the Birmingham NEC and with some new and old faces, demonstrated Elite to the public on both the PC and XBOX, with more than a little time spent showing off the newest VR technology, the HTC Vive.
Three years after my initial Kickstarter donation, Elite has had a major impact; expanding my social life and pretty much taking over my gaming time – with what must be well in excess of 1,000 hours spent playing – not giving other games much of a look-in. I’m the member of two Elite game groups as well as a long standing member of Dead Men Walking gaming community and, of course, an Elite Ambassador.
Currently I am working on my Imperial Rank to make Duke this week, so I can purchase an Imperial Cutter once 1.5 / 2.0 is released. Not there yet, but the fun is in the journey, not the destination. Evenings spent helping out new commanders or trading banter with Mobius pilots on TeamSpeak. Rescuing dMw Wingmates from pirates or Wing trading with four Anacondas to make that extra million or two. So much to do, so little time.
Best money I ever spent.

A year in Elite Dangerous

ships_thumbWell that went quick. This time last year I was driving up the motorway to RAF Duxford with my youngest son to attend the Elite Dangerous launch event. A year a lot has changed, not counting protest goats and bobbleheads.
In January we had the 1.1 update which added some of the elements missing from the launched game (like decals) along with additions to GalNet and the new feature of Community Goals. We also saw the introduction of the sexy Imperial Clipper and the not-so-sexy Federal Dropship.
In March we had 1.2 “Wings” update which added the PvP’ers favourite Fer-de-Lance and the bulldog of space, the Vulture. As the name suggested, this update added the ability to join three friends in a group with a means of finding each other and travelling as a group. This had more than its fair share of troubles due to instancing. While mostly behind us, instancing still occasionally rears its invisible head and blocks us from seeing each other. 1.2 also added shield boosters & cell banks, changing the combat mechanic. The price of fuel levelled out, rather than scaling up with the value of your ship – previously a ton of fuel would cost 100’s of times as much for a Type 9 as it did for a Viper.

Between these updates Elite hit the Steam sales platform for the first time, bring the game to a wider audience, followed by its first release on the Apple Mac in May.

Not until June did the next major update for the PC surface and this one, the 1.3 “PowerPlay” proved controversial. Many couldn’t see what it was for. Basically Frontier’s version of space power struggle & politics got, at best, a lukewarm reception. Since its launch PowerPlay has proved to be Marmite - with some people loving its benefits, while others ignoring it totally, or railing against it in the forums. On a positive note, 1.3 brought two new ships – the DiamondBack in Scout and Explorer flavours and the Imperial Courier; a long-range combat ship. I was indifferent to PowerPlay, but have since changed my stance and think it has its place.
In September we got the 1.4 “Close Quarters Combat” as did the Xbox one, taking the game to its third platform. With 1.4 we had a new arena combat mini game added. Personally I have found CQC fun in short bursts, but lacking any lasting appeal; I just want to get back to my “real” spaceship. In the core game, 1.4 added a greater variety to missions, including the new salvage mission type and new types of extraction site for mining and bounty hunting. The Imperial Eagle (the poor man’s Clipper) was added to the game, along with the Federal Assault Ship and the Federal Gun Ship.
And so, on to today and the next update – 1.5 “Ships” which brings us an extra ship for CQC (The Imperial Fighter). It also adds the Asp Scout, Viper Mk IV and Keelback, plus the Imperial Cutter; the largest ship in the game so far and the Federal Corvette a hardened battleship with everything, except half-decent jump range (12Lyr) which is it’s Achilles heel. The Cutter is fast and sexy, but turns like an oil tanker. Also these ships both require the 12th naval rank in the Federation and Empire, so not just any riff-raff can buy them (me included right now!). The core game has been given a lot of polish and missions have expanded again in number and type. Integration with version 2.0 have been added to the game, so what I would describe as “feature bleed” is taking place, giving core players access to some of the goodies Horizons players will see.
Now Elite is about to launch into its second year or Season, and we’re starting with Horizons, the biggest update yet! My X52 pro shows no signs of dust and I haven’t played more than a couple of hours on any other game all year. My main concern now being that I have the cash for a headset and the graphics card needed to play Elite in VR next year.

Multi-crew, player avatars, maybe even a PS4 version of Elite? Prepare 2016 for launch…