Elite: Dangerous Blog

News and events from the Elite Dangerous galaxy

Hail Hydra!

I have made some updates to the ship codex site today. I have added the new class 1 optional module slots to all ships (x2 for small, x1 for the rest). Also added is the Thargoid Hydra Interceptor. All the known stats are in place and I have added the ship blueprint for download in all four languages in HD and 4k. See it on the codex here.

The Hydra is the largest Thargoid vessel encountered to date.

It came from LaveCon 2019

I made it to LaveCon again this year with my two sons. Like going to a reunion party of strangers you've known for years, LaveCon is an event like no other.

Please accept my sincere apologies if I forgot your name or didn't post your photo. So much happend Saturday, that it's a whirlwind. I didn't take nearly enough photos or talk to nearly enough people. 

Docking permission granted

We drove up to Northampton on Friday afternoon and rolled up at the hotel in the early evening. After check-in and a bit of unpacking we went to the bar lounge, which is the social hub of LaveCon and got some food!

In the bar, John Stabler (Lave Radio presenter retired) was setting up a projector, so my son Alistair and his friend Sam helped get the projection going with the miniature SNES, while John put up the screen. We then had a few games of Street Fighter (which I lost) and then the boys played Mario Kart - to test things were all working you understand.

My sons dispersed to the LAN room and bar, respectively, so I sat down with Colin Ford & Grant Wilcott of Lave Radio and a group of half a dozen others in the bar lounge and joined in a bonkers card game of something (not sure if this is correct) named "We didn't play-test this game". It made no sense even after a few vodkas! Anyway it was a lot of laughs and I turned in around 1am.

No loitering!

I had set an alarm for 8am on Friday night. But after taking off my glasses (and possibly the drinks my son insisted I have) I managed to see a "Weekday" alarm. So I woke up to sound of housekeeping checking rooms! Eeek! Time? 9am! Damn. Washed & dressed as fast as possible and headed for the restaurant, luckily breakfast was served until 9.30 at least, so I got myself a full English. The three boys William, Alistair & finally Sam, joined me before the restaurant closed and all were fed.

Docking is dangerous

After breakfast we went for a walk in the hotel grounds and just enjoyed the air for a bit, before trying some "Hutton Orbital Docking Darts". This is a game some of us had played before. You have three coloured darts a "small", "medium" and "large" dart. The idea is a small dart can "land" on any pad, a medium can use a medium or large pad, and the large dart can only "land" on a large "pad". Hitting the wrong pad gets a penalty, the correct pad a score and a miss gets nothing (sorry if I've got any of the rules wrong).

Will didn't score too well, neither did I, but Alistair scored 1300 points, which was the days best score at that early point.

Just inside from the darts was the games room. Inside (which I stupidly didn't take any photos of) people were playing board games and miniatures. William was rather taken with a Fallout based game as this is a subject he is really interested in. 
Colin Ford from Lave Radio had his Elite miniatures game out and the tiny painted scale models of Elite: Dangerous ships were a sight in themselves.

Because we were only staying the one night, we had to check out of our rooms, putting everything back in the car, except I had a couple of things for the charity raffle. One was a ship scale chart (A0) and an A2 blueprint poster. I dropped off the poster with Karen Fishwick (the awesome lady who organises the LaveCon event every year) and attempted to put the large poster on display - unfortunately the hotel didn't have any string and I'd not been able to bring any - in the end we improvised a hanger from three lanyards and put the poster on display in the bar's conservatory for all to see.

My raffle contribution wasn't the only community effort hanging on the walls. CMDR BeetleJude (Jude Walker) had an amazing array of hand-painted illustrations on display. Below is a photo of just a few of them. 

Jude donated her works to charity and they were auctioned off over the weekend raising over £750 for the Special Effect charity. 

During the morning we had the LaveCon welcome from Lave Radio in the hall and after that had finished the Frontier team started to arrive. Paige, Sally, Zac & Will from the community team as well as a contingent of "behind the scenes" staff.

The hotel was laid out as below (from memory):

Going old school

Our next stop was the retro gaming room, run by the most excellent Stephen Usher. We had a crack at getting high scores on Arcadians as there was a competition to win a space invader plushy and I had a go at Asteroids while the boys tried out some Acorn Archimedes games & Atari titles.

Not bad getting 3rd after 35 years without practice!

The morning was going fast and with an Artemis session booked for 1pm, we headed to the restaurant for lunch.

We come in peace, shoot to kill!

Artemis. How do you describe it? It's a PC game for up to six players. A captain who gives all the orders, but has no control. Then five computer stations: helm, engineering, communications, science & tactical. The various stations report to the captain & do what he says (mostly) but cannot see what any of the other stations see. Only the captain has the whole picture.

The result? Star Trek: Incompetent Pure comedy and tremendous fun. On our 10 minute test run our ship was attacked, dragged away by and destroyed by a space dragon! A space dragon for Kirk's sake!

Our live attempt ended when we (after a successful run of combat) finally took the "mission" from DS3 to collect a message from a ship in far flung sector, however planted on the the ship with the message was a booby trap, which exploded as we approached, taking our ship out in the process. BOOM! Game over man, game over!

The LAN room & VR

Not very visible in my plan and at the end of the hotel complex, was the LAN room. There was supposed to be a VR room (near the panel room) but to be honest there was such a large VR headset contingent in the LAN room, the VR room was somewhat redundant this year.

Alistair scared the snot out of himself playing a haunted mine train VR game (girly squeals of fright!), while Will sat down with the Tenth Doctor to discuss their shared interest in Cities Skylines.
A number of commanders had their - fairly awesome looking - PC's set up around the LAN room and more of them seemed to have Virtual Reality setups than didn't. In the corner a CMDR from Canonn research, wearing a burn-spotted lab coat (whose name I should have written down *kicks self*) was running a 3D printer making Canonn Research key-rings and demonstrating VR on a headset not available in the UK - he'd imported it from the USA.



The CMDR also showed me a two part Asp Explorer model around 25cm long assembled, which tool 40 hours to print! One day my blueprints will be 3D prints!!

He is the one who knocks writes..

Drew Wegar was set up with a small bookstore in the conservatory below the lounge bar and was signing and selling his books Elite: Reclamation, Elite: Premonition & The Shadeward Saga. My personal favourite is Reclamation because the opening chapter is pure cinema in your mind. Drew told me that he found Reclamation the easiest to write. I sat down with Drew and had a nice chat. I've met him at a number of Elite events over the years and he is a really nice guy.

The Frontier Panel

In past years Frontier has mostly presented some new feature of the game, but this year was slightly unusual in that the first presentation was a special edition of "Discovery Scanner" from Dav Stott which delved into the details of the changes made to the game last year in the Beyond update. What Frontier were trying to achieve in changing the BGS to use six factors of influence instead of three while retaining a similar end result, what came out of the changes and the modifications they had to make in order to get the desired results in a live environment, which included new factors added in the Q4 update. It was a fascinating peek behind the curtain of Frontier into Elite's ongoing evolution.

September update (Q3)

Frontier outlined the content of the next minor update in September which will contain a voiced tutorial (guided missions) for new players in the game, including flight course, navigating & using super-cruise (faster than light travel), some combat tutorials at a derelict mega-ship and finally a tutorial on interstellar travel in hyperspace.

Frontier then announced that the PC version of the game would be getting a new way of purchasing in-game cosmetics. The console platforms will also be changed to come into line with the same thing. The game will have an in-game currency called "Arx" which can be purchased in the Frontier store or, critically different, earned in game. This Arx credit can then be used to buy skins, decals, bobble heads etc. in the game within the cockpit UI. Whats more, the appearance of your ship will be possible to modify when in flight, so explorers won't have to return to a station to change that dull old skin, but instead can buy and apply the newest paints at Beagle Point!

The currency was named "Arcs" at concept, but then it was discovered Star Trek online already used "Arc Points", so there was a long discussion with many different names examined and discard before returning to the original name, with a different spelling. Arx is not an acronym and doesn't stand for anything. I did ask, but apparently "Space Wonga" wasn't considered. Maybe next time. Also worth noting is that I believe Frontier said the Arx points in the screenshot were not necessarily what the items featured will cost when it all goes live in September.

December update (Q4)

Frontier ended their presentation with "before we go, here's a little something from our December update" and showed this video.

"Massive frame shift disturbance detected!"

It features a short teaser of the squadron fleet carriers delayed from last year's Q4 Beyond update showing them in game. Frontier gave no more details than this. 

All details of Frontier's announcement have been posted on the Frontier forums here.

Group photo

After the Frontier panel finished their Q&A session a little after 3.30pm, everyone filed outside for the annual attendee photo. This year I was better prepared and was outside and ready with my drone in the air waiting when everyone came out into the hotel gardens.

The photo from my drone here is full size, so you can download it. Feel free to spot the top of my shiny head or see what facial expression of your I managed to capture if you were in the photo.

My favourite picture was the one I took to include our "official" LaveCon photographer, Oliver - who never gets to be in the photo at these events - and even Chris "Fozza" Forrester's Mavic Pro drone is seen flying though the picture. We had a pre-agreed height restriction so there was no danger of mid air incidents, so the UK drone air-safety record remains spotless! (suck on that BBC/Horizon)

William went back to the LAN room, as Alistair & Sam had taken advantage of the rush to the Frontier Panel to get another cheeky game of Artemis in at 3pm, so they were still busy doing their own thing.

Cards on the table

William had brought his "Cards Against Humanity" game with us and I had promised Adam Woods a game, so getting on for 5.30pm we started a game with my three reprobates, Adam, a chap from the LAN room William had made friends with (and his son) and a young lady also from the LAN room. 
Cards Against Humanity is a game where you have 7 white cards filled with bizarre and sometimes highly inappropriate statements. Each turn a new player draws a black card from the deck and reads aloud the question or statement on the card - a bit like Blankety-blank - "My father has a smile when he returns from the shed with *blank*" Answers could then range from "Tomato sauce" to "The perfect plan for child murder". You get the idea. The player whose turn it is to deal, judges the winner on which answer (no matter how morally wrong or weird) made them laugh or caused the most outrage.
Adam Woods was not there in an official capacity and if anyone asks, he wasn't there. You didn't see him, right? Sally? Zac? You saw NOTHING. 'kay?

Something to do until next year

So there's not a lot going on in the galaxy, so while you're waiting for the end of 2020. What to do? How about some paper craft. Here's a Coriolis station, the Sidewinder & a Cobra Mk III.

Update: On request, I've added a small landing pad for the Sidewinder and Cobra.

Port Zelada was published in Newsletter #18 circa April 1st 2014.

 

 

 

All credit to whoever created these (they've been on IMGUR and Reddit for years).

Taking a break

I've not posted for a while. Issues in real life weighing on my mind. I haven't played Elite for some time. The site isn't dead, but I might be a while before I post some more new content.

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.

Aww.

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.

UPDATE

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

poster

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