Elite: Dangerous Blog

News and events from the Elite Dangerous galaxy

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…

Taking a new player from zero to Python level in a week

dmw-logoLast week at EGX I met a lot of really great people. One person I met was new to Elite: Dangerous, although he knew of the Elite games of old.

CMDR Satvia bought the game at the show and made a note of my gaming community group (www.deadmen.co.uk) as the URL was on my hat.

He popped on our teamspeak channel the following week, after registering with the forums and we started to talk through how to play the game, solve issues with outfitting and where to find things in-game. With all the usual dMw banter!

During the conversation I explained what I had been doing with merits and bounty hunting for Arissa Lavigny-Duval (see my previous post) and Satvia, being more interested in combat, asked if a new pilot could achieve the rank 5 and associated riches with just a basic ship.
Why not?

Challenge accepted!

Satvia threw himself into the task with enormous enthusiasm - first we Winged up and went bounty hunting in a resource extraction site and raised some cash to furnish his ship.

On evening one, we had the Sidewinder fully decked out and ready for long travel. Evening two, Satvia had relocated his ship to ALD space and some more RES hunting brought over a million credits, plenty to upgrade to the slower but hardier Cobra Mk III.

Then the merit hunting began! Slow initially, but with help from CMDR SneakyTiger, CMDR Ranualf, CMDR AgentZigZag from dMw and miscellaneous like-minded commanders in OPEN play, we racked up merits for five days. By Tuesday evening, Satvia had over 8000 merits, with two evenings to go before the PowerPlay cycle, it was a cynch!

When I arrived home from work this evening, CMDR Satvia had posted that he had hit the magic 10,000 earlier in the day!

Here is his video showing him posting the final merits and telling it in his own words!

It came from EGX 2015

egx_thumbWell, this year’s EuroGamer exhibition is over and I sound, well quite sinister! Vocal cords are shot and I have a voice like two miles of rough gravel.

It was four long, but excellent days. We had the show itself, and afterwards a few nice meals out around Birmingham with the other Elite Ambassadors and a few guys and girls from Frontier.

At the show the stand was set up with two long tables with four Xbox One’s per side on one (8 in all) and ten PC’s on the second table – eight for players and two for streaming. All running CQCC.


I’m not a console fan. At all. I don’t get on with the controllers. I use the X52Pro joystick at home and I’d never played anything on an Xbox One, so when I was picked to operate the Xbox stations, I thought “this’ll be a challenge”. But after playing a few rounds of CQCC I got the hang of it and while nothing beats the X52, I found the Xbox conversion of Elite to be very good. Visually, it’s almost identical and plays very smoothly.

We had a separate queue for the Steam VR PC running an HTC Vive and this was always busy. The ambassadors showed players the controls and described the HUD functions and we kept the queues moving in batches of eight players for each match on both platforms. I have to say though, the PC was the most requested platform. The XBOXs weren’t idle by any means, the queue was just shorter. The Vive was amazing. I have a DK2 and while the resolution isn't that much higher on the SteamVR, it makes a big difference. No "screen door" at all.

On Friday we got to hear about the Q&A panel announcements a while after they happened and I will write another article on what came out about “season 2”. Exciting stuff.

Bobble. Heads. Confirmed. (I've pre-ordered my DB bobblehead)

Yogscast crashed James Vigor's livestream (see photos here) and LaveRadio's Ben was around the stand at different times interviewing the crowd (and having a few games of CQCC).

There was a prize raffle, which everyone that played entered. On Friday it was one lad who had been dragged along reluctantly by his friends. He liked the game so much, he kept coming back, then bought the game and won the Victors raffle going home with an XBOX One. The winner on Saturday had initially put his raffle entry into the wrong bucket, but someone spotted his mistake and he won an XBOX as well. The best one for me, was on Sunday, a young man who’d never played Elite on the XBOX had a try and won his first round, so he came back again and won his second game. On the third game, a few Elite Ambassadors had joined as well as Adam Woods, Elite Dangerous producer from Frontier. These guys are competitive. He beat Adam by 50 points! (Not that Adam would have gone in the raffle anyway) and an hour later his was name drawn from the Victors Raffle and went home with an XBOX one.

How can you top that? Elite at number 1 on the Steam charts of course!

Thanks to Zac, Rob, Aaron, Jess, Alison, Kenny, Rob and Robin from Frontier for taking care of us Ambassadors an keeping us fed and watered over the four days. A great bunch of people.

Getting to Rank 5 in PowerPlay in three days

powerplay_thumbSince PowerPlay was launched I haven't really enjoyed interacting with that aspect of the game. I tried when 1.3 was first released to pledge my allegiance to Edmund Mahon, because his faction primarily awarded people who traded and trading is my core game play style. So, after a brief stint with Aisling Duvall where I attained rank three, so that I could purchase Prismatic Shields, I have abstained from PowerPlay until now...

On Monday I went into the Mobius group team speak server and chatting with some of the friendly commanders there, I was advised that if I was pledged to Arissa Lavigny-Duval I could attain 10,000 merit points in one week and gain rank five easily. With her faction not only would rank five come with a 50 million credit weekly pay cheque, but it would also give me 100% additional bounties when bounty hunting!

To me this frankly sounded easy, but also impossible. A bit like saying "go to the moon it's only a two day drive (if you have a spaceship)". So can it be done? Well, PowerPlay cycles on Thursday, so I had Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday to attain 10,000 PowerPlay points from scratch. Now I'm in full-time work, so only have 3 to 4 hours in an evening to play Elite.

Challenge Accepted!

How does it work? Well, I signed up with Ms Duval’s faction, I then flew to one of the two systems in expansion from the Galactic Powers interface and found a contact in the system named “Crime Sweep”, which is like a combat zone, but the opposing side is always the local system defence who you are there to suppress on behalf of Ms Duval. You just fly around and kill every ship that's red on your radar - don't hit the green ones! Once you've finished in the zone, jump to a Controlled or Exploited system and hand in the combat merits to convert to PowerPlay points. You also get paid at this point, but the reward is 100CR per merit (I think) so it only covers ammo costs really.

One of the key elements to my success was being able to wing up with various commanders in the Mobius Group (too many to thank here) who helped me take down ships at a very rapid pace. Each ship you kill, regardless of size or difficulty, awards you 10 PowerPlay merits. It is therefore easy to wrack up between 1000 and 2000 merits per hour which meant that on my first day - Monday between 7pm and 10pm I gained 3,100 merits. By 11pm on Tuesday I had 6,910 merits and a little after 12pm last night I had managed to attain 10,030 merits! This meant I would have rank five today when PowerPlay does its weekly cycle; now I stand to gain a 50 million credit pay out at the end of the cycle! Not to mention of course double bounties in the coming week!!!

Can it be done? YES! Was it hard? NO. How long did it take you? A little over nine hours. Was it worth it? In my ‘Conda I can make millions per night trading, but not 50M in three days and on top of that I have the bounties I’ll make in the coming week doubled, so YES!

Even a player in a fairly basic Viper could have joined in over the last three days and be looking at a Python-sized payout by the end of the cycle. Now that’s cool.

Using the ED Tracker Pro with Elite

EDTrackerPro (200x150)While at LaveCon I had the chance to see the ED Tracker, a low budget motion controller for the PC that works with games like Project Cars, Eurotruck Simulator and of course, Elite: Dangerous.
“Why would you want one of those, you’ve got an Oculus?” I hear you ask. Well, firstly I cannot afford another DK2 for my children and my younger son plays a lot of EuroTruck and some Elite. Also, the hot summer weather in the UK has meant I haven’t been using the Oculus as much, to avoid having a stroke – yes, there are brief moments in the UK when it isn’t raining!

So, what is it like? What do you get for £45 ($70)? (Assuming you don’t build it yourself)

Firstly, I would like to say thanks to Dan and Becky at ED Tracker. At LaveCon I mistakenly picked up two ED Trackers instead of two ED Tracker Pros and didn’t spot my mistake until I got home. They shipped out replacements very rapidly, so kudos to them for excellent customer service.

The ED Tracker is a small black plastic box, the size of a matchbox, with a mini-USB socket on one side. To install it, I attached it to the top of my headphones headband with one of Mrs Arithon’s hair-ties (she’ll never miss it) and plugged in with the USB braided cable I bought from ED Tracker.

Windows 8 made the usual “boing” noise and listed “ED Tracker Pro” as a new joystick in my “Devices and Printers” list.

I then downloaded and ran the ED Tracker Pro software, which detected the device immediately and instructed me to calibrate it. This involves turning your headphones around on various axis.


Once that’s done, you find the 3D head model on the screen moves to mirror your own heads tilt and turn.

Getting it working with Elite: Dangerous

This was a little harder, as the instructions on ED Tracker’s website didn’t match the current version of the OpenTrack software used. I didn't get the joystick selection right and couldn't figure the OpenTrack setup. Never fear there’s loads of information on Forums everywhere! I got mine here. The OpenTrack software turns your virtual joystick into an emulated TrackIR.

So, having got it working, what was it like?

Well, it isn’t an Oculus, since you don’t have 3D vision and for 18% of the cost, I wouldn’t have expected that. But it is pretty damn good! You move you head left or right slightly and the screen turns to match your head movements. In combat you can look around to follow the action (very useful when pulling up and banking to follow a target) – you can look up and down and tilt your head and Elite’s display matches.

It is very good for viewing side panels too. All in all a very cool solution for anyone who doesn’t fancy the Oculus or cannot afford one (or is just waiting for the CV1) and a much cooler option for the hotter weather.

I will set up my second unit on my sons PC for him to play EuroTruck and get his input – saving it for the dull end of the school holidays!

I know what you did last weekend

i_know_what_you_didNo, I didn’t run down a homicidal spaceman while at the wheel of my Anaconda and stash his lifeless body in a resource extraction site, only to be stalked and killed along with my implausibly attractive female friends at a later date. The truth is worse….

On Sunday CMDR Albert and myself were all Winged-up and patrolling Tau Bootis for enemies of the Edward Mahon faction in Super-cruise. We’d been lapping the system for a couple of hours. Albert in his Anaconda and me in my “Combat” Python – my Anaconda is set for trade, so while armed, it doesn’t have the extreme shielding and various scanners and shield cells needed for a good scrap.

We’d been knocking anyone marked as “enemy” out of super-cruise with my FSI, scanning them and if they held a bounty, collecting it. With extreme prejudice. Now Powerplay is far less rewarding than real bounty hunting, because killing a faction enemy only gets you 200CR and 15 merits if you are in the right system and they are carrying faction goods and the moon is full etc. Which is why we were scanning for bounty, making sure any combat paid for the ammo and fuel at least.

The odd NPC Asp or Python showed up and they went down easy (the bigger they are the harder they fall) but the real challenge were Wings of small ships, such as a Vulture and three Cobras. A challenge to take down a ship with two or three others pounding your shields. The AI ships are determined little buggers in the latest release.

Time flies when you’re having fun, so before long CMDR Albert had to sign off, European time being an hour ahead and I was left patrolling alone.
It was at this point that the first non-faction human CMDR showed up. After a quick scan in super-cruise, it became obvious that the CMDR in the Fer-de-Lance was pledged to Zachary Hudson, the very enemy we were here to oppose!! After a few maneuverers in super-cruise to get behind the ship, I fired my FSI. The FDL struggled and fish-tailed, but I’d been doing this for hours, so getting the fish landed was a forgone conclusion.

BOOM! Dropped to normal space and the FDL took off away from me like a startled hare! I fired up the KWS and scanned the ship for bounty, by which time it had left me way, way behind. Finally with more than 5km between us, the FDL jumped back to super-cruise, so I span up my FSD and jumped back after it.
The Fer-De-Lance was still in the system and not far ahead, so I got into FSI range and tried again.
BOOM! Back into normal space and this time the FDL turned to fight. I opened up briefly with all lasers then switched to KWS while my turrets continued to fire at the FDL while he tried to get behind me and out of range. However, my Python has Class 6A Thrusters, so I could keep turning fast enough to keep my guns and scanners on the FDL.
After the first pass, the Fer-De-Lance’s shields are down to one ring, but clearly firing a shield cell or two, as they returned quickly to three rings. On the second pass, the FDL’s shields are down to one ring again and then I realise my shields are also down to one ring, so I fired a shield cell.
Sadly, too late as on the third pass, as the FDL’s shields collapse, mine quickly follow.
By this point my grip on the stick of my X52 is leaving finger marks and the adrenaline is really pumping. The FDL’s hull is at 20% when my cockpit blows! Shhhhh out goes the atmosphere and a muted ships computer tells me I will shortly be screwed.
The FDL has realised this is not one it can win, as despite taking damage, my ship is still at 60% hull and firing continually with two sets of pulse-lasers and a C3 cannon, so the ship turns to make a run for FSD and safety.
It’s now or never to finish the FDL off! Boosting like mad to keep up, I keep firing relentlessly... 8%.. 5%, “Frameshift charge detected..”, 3%, 1%, 0% BOOM!

Is this how Luke Skywalker felt killing his first Tie Fighter? Probably.

The bounty? 742,000CR - to quote Monty Python, “He’s a very naughty boy”. So I’ve killed another CMDR. Do I feel bad? A little. Did I enjoy it? Hell yeah!

With the 5 minutes of oxygen I had left I jumped to super-cruise to get urgent repairs. As anyone who has flown with a blown-out cockpit knows, flying without the HUD takes a bit of concentration. But I got there with three minutes of oxygen to spare.

Now you know what I did last weekend.

Elite Dangerous Ship Sizes to scale (updated)

ship_size_smallSome updated ship size data started floating around on reddit yesterday, along with some awesome 3D renders of ships. Thanks to Prefim/Mat Recardo for these.
So I updated the pixel-to-metre scaled ships chart and here it is. Sizes are based on the table below.


It's not the size of your ship, it's what you do with it!

Ship Dimensions (in metres)

Ship Length Width Height
Adder 31.5 28.8 9.6
Anaconda 152.4 61.8 31.0
Asp 56.5 51.3 19.7
Cobra 27.1 44.0 7.9
Eagle 31.2 29.7 7.1
Federal Dropship 73.9 52.3 21.7
Fer de Lance 73.6 51.6 15.4
Hauler 28.6 26.2 10.4
Imperial Clipper 106.7 103.7 24.8
Lakon Type 6 48.4 27.2 15.0
Lakon Type 7 81.6 56.1 25.4
Lakon Type 9 Heavy 117.4 115.3 33.2
Orca 130.4 50.8 22.7
Python 87.9 58.1 18.0
Sidewinder 14.9 21.3 5.4
Viper 29.8 24.0 8.6
Vulture 43.1 34.7 12.3


There's also a really cool video render of the ships to scale as well

3-2-1, and you are back in the room. Have 5M CR!

Just an update from yesterday; after putting a long 4,500 light years under my belt last night (from 6pm) at just before 10pm I touched down at Zeta Trianguli Australis, by adopted home world, and cashed up my Cartographic exploration data.

A cash payout of 5.5M CR was a nice end to the evening.

I'm going to do a bit of trading now until I feel the pull of deep space once more!

So I'll go no more a roaming!

exploring_hyper-space-smallI've been out of it this week. Well, several thousand light years out anyway.

I popped into my Stealth-fighter-skinned exploration Asp and headed out for parts unknown on Friday of last week. The idea was to head into the centre of the galaxy, as all my previous explorations had been outward rather than inward. The furthest I had been previously was 2,000 Light Years, making a total round trip of over 4,000Lyrs.

Initially I found all the systems I visited had been previously explored, but by the time I was out of inhabited space by around 500 Light Years, I started to find the odd unexplored planet – usually 100,000Ls distant from the hyperspace exit point! Gradually it became every third jump that I found a system unexplored, then every other jump, then I was in uncharted space.

This system was the largest I found, with 70 astronomical objects.

Just to say a little bit about my ship. My Asp is equipped with two heat sinks, no weapons (weight) and two auto-repair modules as well as a class 6 Fuel Scoop. When out in the deeps of space, scooping takes up a lot of time, so if you’re going out there, buy the biggest one you possibly can. My Asp has a jump-range of 34.16 Light Years. Something that sets it above the capability of most non-explorer ships. Only an Anaconda can jump further (so far).

After two days of jumping, scooping and scanning systems I had reached 8,000 Light Years from home. Nearly there right? Wrong! 18,000 Light Years still to go. Plus, due to a couple of sun-related collisions my hull was at 96% and my power plant was damaged.
Now, while auto-repair can fix most systems, it cannot fix hull damage and it can’t fix the power plant, because you can’t take it offline. With the damage to the power plant, I couldn’t raise the MW to run my heat-sinks, so I had to shut them down. With such a large distance still to go, I had to make a decision whether to forge on and hope for the best or turn back and return (alive) with all the massive amounts of scanning data I had amassed.

So last night, I turned my Asp around and headed back. Buy only stopping for fuel every third jump and scanning the star while my ship slurp hydrogen from the star, I made much faster time. I managed to put 4,000 Light Years under my belt in the course of three and a half hours.

Ironically after coming so far, it wasn’t until I had turned back, I found my first undiscovered earth-like world. I shall call this planet “Muffet” after my childhood pet guinea-pig which itself was named after the robot dog in BattleStar Galactica.


Within another thousand light years I had discovered a second. I haven’t thought of name for that one yet. I’ve found more than a few Water-World’s, but as my fellow CMDR Kalen said, “No sign of Kevin Costner anywhere!”.

When I finally parked up my ship last night, I was still around 4,500 Light years from my home system.


I have to get back to Quivira to collect my 6,000,000CR payout from the last community goal!