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…

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.