Elite: Dangerous Blog

News and events from the Elite Dangerous galaxy

The Road Map

This year’s roadmap: There’s no major update to Elite: Dangerous until 2020…

*pause for gasp of horror* 

But can we expect crickets chirping until October 2020, while the Thargoids burn human civilisation to the ground and the player-base are mostly racing to beagle point on Distant Worlds 2? Probably not.

There are several schools of thought on what the 2020 road map might be. Reading the forums recently, I can summarise these into three general categories of commander or viewpoint.

The first sign that we won’t be hearing crickets and watching tumbleweed for a year or two, has already been detailed in an interview on Lave Radio.

Will Flanagan, Frontier’s community manager, has announced that there are going to be some developer managed events in game over the coming months. Citing the Salomé event – where commanders escorted a VIP from game fiction to a new location in-game, but were betrayed by the notorious CMDR Harry Potter and the VIP was slain. These will replace the Community Goals for a time and will be on a larger scale.

While we can expect the odd bug-fix, there is also the possibility of other content as well. On a number of occasions, it has been discovered that content (such as the Type-10) was already in the current game, waiting for a switch to be thrown to reveal it. Adding new items on planets or even new ships could be done without a major release, so mother-hubbard’s cupboard isn’t bare - we are just eating out of the freezer until the new fridge is delivered!

My own view, is that Frontier have hit the limits of what the original Elite: Dangerous game engine & network code can accomplish and need to reboot the whole thing. With six years hindsight. How ambitious their new content will be (or not) may just be wishful thinking on my part. Clearly the addition of squadron carriers was not possible, or the possible implementation wasn't good enough (in Frontier's view) without modifying the game engine. The Ice Worlds also got held back, most likely because a newer generation of the graphics engine was required for the desirable results. So it is not inconceivable to speculate that the "new era" of Elite will bring an updated graphics engine and a new model for object persistence in the game.

The coming two years of updates will probably end in something major, but what will come before then?

What could we expect?

New ships

There are a few ships that never made it past concept art or early render stages. Such as The Hunter, the Type-2, the Panther LX (heavy trader) and the Imperial Explorer. There are also many ships from the previous Elite titles going back to 1984 that are not (yet) in the game.


Pie in the sky you say?

We went from CMDRs pranking ED Lewis (below) with a paper Krait in 2016 to flying one in game in 2018. 

So a new ship and maybe a couple of variants are not beyond the realm of possibility.

Ice Planets and Squadron Carriers

These two are "big ticket" items, which are unlikely to appear until the "major" release. Because the squadron carriers would need some kind of alteration to the Background Simulation (BGS) to allow them to relocate more than once a week (like megaships currently do) then they just are not possible in the current game - hence the removal from Beyond. Also, stations are heavily scripted and complex options in the game, which would mean for carriers to be something more than a modified outpost or megaship model, the game needs new features.

Ice planets were first announced at Frontier Expo in October 2017 and were due for release in the Beyond Q4 update. Frontier showed off some early in-game renders at LaveCon 2018. Sadly this feature didn't surface (pardon the pun) and was pulled from Beyond to be added at a later update (as of August 2018).

Why? Probably because the physics of icy surfaces, the way snow and ice behave and the inclusion of frozen fog required a new set of features for the Elite: Dangerous graphics engine. Hence the delay.

What other features are on the table?

Powerplay is overdue some fixes and Frontier might be able to make changes without doing anything they would deem "major". 

Space lifeforms are still being discovered. What percentage have been found and if any more are up Frontier's sleeve remains to be seen. There could also be planetary lifeforms and structures yet to be revealed.

Permit locked systems. There are (if you've not seen one) something like 60-70 star systems that commanders cannot visit due to permit locks. Around half can be unlocked with in-game actions. The rest are a mystery. Frontier could be holding these systems and (in some cases) whole sectors locked for use at a later date. Could that date be now? Could we gain access to a few new systems that might, for example contain Thargoid home planets?

Engineers could have new upgrades added to their list and indeed we could see more engineers added in Colonia.

With the "developer led community events" we might see a new megaship set up a third "bubble" somewhere the other side of Saggitarius A. The addition of stations and altering their state seems to be an existing function of the background simulation (BGS) so would you choose to live of "the far side" of the galaxy?

What won't we see?

The two things we've been waiting for since Horizons dropped in 2015, although truth be told - we've been waiting for these since the KickStarter in 2012. Extra Vehicular Activity (EVA) walking or floating around ships and stations - what Lave Radio and others have christened "space legs". Also we won't see atmospheric planets (water worlds, gas giants & earth-like planets). We're also unlikely to see heavily populated planets without atmospheres either (no cities).

The initial release of Elite: Dangerous doesn't mark the end of development. We intend to continue expanding the game both with new content and new features. A good example of this is planetary landings. We have an ambitious goal for landings to include new gameplay and a rich variety of worlds to explore. To achieve our goal we want the planets to come to life. We also want to add leaving the ships so you can explore space stations or board enemy vessels or even just to look around your own.

-- Elite: Dangerous KickStarter 2012

Basically anything that requires a new game mechanic or changes to the graphics engine is not going to show up until mid-to-late 2020.

Is this good or bad?

Well, for anyone hoping for more content this year, probably bad. At best we'll have a slow drip of new items in the game. Just the Thargoid and Guardian content tailing off and maybe some new items added.

If we get something truly impressive in 2020, then very good. But technically impressive and impressive to play are not the same. Currently planets in Horizons have tectonic plates which is how the mountains and valleys are calculated. While scientifically and technically amazing as that is, from the perspective of a player it doesn't really matter. They are more concerned as to why all the boulders are floating a metre above the surface.

If Frontier simply deliver the minimum features required to inject Squadron Carriers and Ice Worlds into the game, I think the player-base will be very unhappy. After four years of Horizons (and seven years of game development) if we don't see the addition of a significant new feature to the game, such as EVA or Atmospheric Worlds, then Frontier's credibility with the community will suffer. Frontier have called it a "major" release and "a new era". Since CMDRs paid £80 to £120 for the "Lifetime Expansion Pass" we've seen only one paid expansion in four years, so the major update needs to be something that lives up to a four year wait.

That's a big bowl of hype to fill and a lot of hungry CMDRs waiting...

Why is a Type-7 Transporter not able to use a medium pad?

I’m glad you asked!

The landing pads in Elite dangerous come in three flavours. Small (66m x 55m), Medium (150m x 90m) and Large (213m x 128m) and these are rotating tables that sink into a shaft and rotate 180 degrees before reversing your ship into the hangar below.

See this early render of the Panther LX.

So far so good.

Now a Lakon Type-7 Transporter is (according to my blueprints) 56.1m wide by 81.6m long and 25.4m high. Which means the Type-7 sits well within the maximum size of the pad.

It’s not so big


Compared to the more expensive multi-role Python, the Type-7 is both shorter and narrower despite having similar cargo sizes and yet the Python is Medium ship. So, what’s the problem?

Height. That pesky 3rd dimension is raining on our Medium pad parade!

The highest Medium pad ship is the Federal Assault Ship which is 49.5m wide by 73.8m long and 22.8m high. That means the maximum headroom for a Medium hangar is somewhere between 22.8m and 25.4m, the average of which is a few centimetres short of 24m, so it’s safe to assume that the ceiling is 24m for a ship with gear deployed.

Which, for the Type-7, is a problem because without gear out, it’s already more than 25m high – closer to 27m with feet on the ground.

Like really tall men and women everywhere the poor Type-7 just has to shop elsewhere for hangars big enough, because what fits all those other Medium ships just isn’t tall enough for the Type-7.


And that's why the Type-7 Transporter cannot land on Medium pads. Not because the ship is too big for the pad, but because the ship is too high for the medium hangar.

Ship Size Chart "3305 Edition"

Having added a number of new ships, I thought I'd revisit an old concept.

The size comparison chart that got me started on the blueprint project. I wanted something for the LaveCon raffle this year, so a poster is most likely going to be the thing. Below is a 4K bitmap of what will be an A0 poster.


The poster is done and will be in the LaveCon raffle this year.


Weekend codex patch

Over this weekend I fixed some missing ship views pointed out on the Frontier forums - the Type-9 and Mamba were "bottom"-less.

People seemed a bit confused by the ships being sorted by manufacturer, then ship name - so I've added a sorting menu, so the user can re-order the vehicles in a variety of ways.

I've modified the menu a bit, to accommodate the sort button and I've moved the language selection to button dropdown.

Under the hood, I've changed all the numeric stats from strings to numbers, as they were causing odd behaviours when trying to sort with them. This is now done. If you want additional sort orders, as usual all requests written in pencil on a ten pound note.

I've also changed the release version dates so that JavaScript can understand them. This was so I could use date locales instead of trying a more clumsy month-name translation. The date is suffixed with the vehicle age in years.


Codex updates for Friday

Today I've added in some additional Spanish translations to the codex, a sub-set of "trivia" elements for any ships that require it (mainly NPCs) and added a ship "slug" to the page URL. This means you can bookmark you favourite ship.

Someone on Facebook asked "why not just use Coriolis.io"? And I agree that Coriolis and others are excellent, but the Codex isn't meant to be a ship outfitting app, it's intended as an interactive illustrated datasheet with statistics, but also scaled size comparisons and a window into all the data that exists about each ship. Not just outfitting.

I've added a few new data fields including the release version and date of each ship/vehicle. That took a fair bit of research re-reading all the patch notes to ensure the dates I had were correct (many weren't). I'll probably add a birthday cake for ship birthdays later :).

Vehicle Codex now has ship to ship comparison

After spending the evening exporting bitmaps of all the ships at the exact same scale (2.9 pixels per metre) I have been able to add the “comparison” TAB to the Codex.

You can now pick any vehicle and compare it to any other in both scale and statistics. So if you want to see if your Beluga is an upgrade from an Imperial Fighter, now you can!

here: http://codex.elite-dangerous-blog.co.uk 

For the mugs

No, not that mug. These mugs.

Since I posted these on Twitter, I guess I should post them here.

Different photo merchandise sites use different dimensions. The Krait template was used with a site called www.vistaprint.co.uk The other two (Cobra & Vulture) were created for www.snapfish.co.uk  / www.truprint.co.uk

So check the size ratio and use the right layout or your design will get truncated in a bad way. Download the bitmaps, upload the one you want to whatever local printing service there is and presto! Blueprint mug.

Translations are live

I've now applied most of the translated texts from my blueprints to the vehicle codex. While there's a bunch of "new" labels that are not translated, I have been adding in all data I can.
I will over the coming days get the remaining text translated. I've just got to modify the site to link to the correct language blueprints.

All the work I started at the end of last year is at last coming together.

Vehicle Codex Re-imagined

When I started my vehicle codex, the idea was to have a complete set of all in-game vehicles with all the viewpoints and data statistics viewable, so that players could reference their ships to compare and contrast. I could then include a downloadable datasheet (a new version of the blueprint).

What happened was the blog engine didn’t really give enough flexibility to present the information and hand typing all those stats was a nightmare to create and worse to maintain. Over time the data became obsolete and maintaining the datasheets (alongside the blueprints) was a lot of effort. Especially with constraints on my time.

Then Frontier changed all the ship data for Beyond by removing the basic discovery scanner (which was installed by default), so I was basically at a “start again from scratch” position at the end of last year and looked at how I could “fix” it.

I created a spreadsheet of all my data and then painstakingly checked and corrected everything and added in all the new vehicles. Somewhere along the line I also updated and expanded all the language translations as well with a tremendous amount of help from the ED community. Using a (sort of) mail-merge, I created a new template for the vehicle blueprints and merged the data from my spreadsheet into this, then imported the ship schematic drawings on top. The process took around five hours, including three hours to export the bitmaps of each blueprint. But the results were a consistent set of blueprints with the most up to date information.

Having finished that task, I revisited the vehicle codex. As I said, the process of making individual pages with tons of stats was inefficient and error-prone. To combat this and give a better user experience I decided to make new website that would be a data-driven user interface. First step, I took my updated spreadsheet and converted that into a JSON file and restructured the data. That took a while..

Once I had the data ready, I chose a couple of vehicles with different types of data (big ship, small ship, fighter and NPC) and exported all the bitmaps needed to design the interface. Over the weekend I have continued to refine the interface and as I do, add in more of the vehicles, as and when I finish exporting all the bitmaps required.

Here is the result (so far): http://codex.elite-dangerous-blog.co.uk

I hope you like what I’ve done and find it useful. I will be adding in the language translated texts once the whole thing is complete. An advantage of being data-driven is I can swap languages on the underlying database.