Elite: Dangerous Blog

News and events from the Elite Dangerous galaxy

The Ship Backbone

Frontier have often referenced something they call the "Ship Backbone" a mythical construct where the ships from the game are placed. This backbone is supposed to have a complete and reasonably well distributed range of ships from least to best in all the various categories. But what does this backbone look like? Are there gaps? Does the game have a slight hunch?

I thought I would lay out the backbone to see. By rating the ships on various scales (max speed, best FSD range, max armour, max cargo) I would see the backbone visualised.

So here is the backbone of ships (2.2) by maximum speed (not boost and without any engineering).

Comparing max speed

What we see with max speed is a number of gaps and clusters. The max boost speed chart changes the layout a lot, with the Cobra Mk 3 jumping to top place. Interesting that the Clipper and Orca are the fastest of the large vessels.

Comparing max speed

In my next post, I'll look at jump range and cargo capacity.

Bringing back extinct ships

Being a fan (and Patron) of Chris Jarvis' amazing radio drama "Escape Velocity", I thought I would have a go at drawing a blueprint of some ships from Elite's earlier incarnations that have not made it into the latest game. Ships like the Krait, Moray Starboat, Osprey and from Frontier 2 and featured in the series, the Merlin fighter.

The thing is, the Merlin was very simplistic and there hasn't been much in the way of updated screen shots of late.

 The first thing I need to do is draw some basic elevations. A rough and ready update on the design.

From there, get started on a 3D model. Here we go.

Put the wings on more to match original ship configuration and added thrusters and heat vents. Drives and hardpoints next.



I have now completed both the model and the blueprint.

Where would the Merlin fit into Elite: Dangerous? Well, it would be a comparable ship to the Imperial Courier. Probably an Alliance ship. Not massive cargo space, but a good turn of speed and low radar image. A good light trader/fighter with excellent range and agility. The perfect smuggling ship.

What the PlayStation 4 Trailer let slip

Yesterday's trailer for the PlayStation 4 version of Elite: Dangerous was very cinematic, but hidden away in the folds of the advertising are gems of information on the next major Elite release.


Now the first scene here, show a CMDR standing behind the pilot's chair. The ship looks to be a Cobra. While the scene looks more CG than game rendered, it depicts a pilot moving around the ship. Is this poetic licence, or a hint of what's to come in season 3? Walking around our ships and stations maybe?  Personally it might just be fluff for the trailer - a bit of scene setting. BUT... it could be an element of multi-crew. Instead of a fade-to-black screen when moving between each other's ships and chairs, we might see our avatar walk to the cockpit and sit down.

Asteroid bases

Since the Kickstarter in 2012, we've been tantalised with concept art of asteroid space stations. Either pirate bases or mining bases, built into larger asteroids. These have been high on players request list and the image at 18 seconds clearly shows "Boweens Hollow" an asteroid base. Awesome sauce!

More furniture in the room

At 49 seconds, the trailer shows a new space structure, similar to the civilian outposts we've seen added since 2.1. Not earth shattering, but nice to see more life in the galaxy.

It's not a station, but damn it's big!

With a drive section as large as Jacques stations, the ship depicted at 50 seconds is too "primitive" to be a Capital ship and it sure doesn't look Thargoid. So what is it?

Well, for those unfamiliar with Elite lore, there were, hundreds of years ago in game-time, generational ships that launched into deep space from Sol without the benefit of FSD drives. These ships would take centuries to arrive at their destination, with the great grandchildren of the original crew at the helm. In the time between, human technology progressed and ships could fly such vast distances in minutes, so present-day ships have caught up with those early pioneers.

The ship shown here is almost certainly one of the fabled generational ships. Who's going to be the one to tell their crew they could take a modern ship and be back on Earth by tea-time?


Toward the end of the trailer we see a Cobra Mk III with a co-pilot. The real question here, is whether the person in the next seat is NPC crew or Human crew. We know 2.3 is multi-crew and we are going to have a commander avatar creator. Since the Cobra doesn't have a ship-launched-fighter, the other seat isn't occupied by the NPC drone pilot, so I'm fairly certain they are depicting human multi-crew.

Something fishy sneaked past at the end

Finally, in the last few seconds of the trailer, a little ship sneaks past (bottom left). It's not the Orca, even though it looks a lot like it. It's the Dolphin passenger craft. I would say that pretty much confirms the ship for version 2.3.


Empty blog means full game

Why no updates?

For the last few weeks I've been working on the ship blueprints to the exclusion of all else (pretty much). Corrections to the French editions today and finishing the German versions now I have more translations is keeping me busy and I may also have corrections to do to the Spanish editions as well, so the task is ongoing.

I bought CorelDRAW X8 with some birthday money, so the documents are being merged into single files with language layers.

What else?

In game, I made the trip out to the Formidine Rift and carried out some exploration towards the Community Goal. When I got back to the bubble last week, I took my Corvette out bounty hunting and let of some steam with my ship launched fighter using matching ship skins and weapon colours!

This week I have been running missions for the various factions at Jameson Memorial in Shinrarta Dezhra to raise my reputation to "allied" across the board, the reason being you only get the juicy passenger missions from factions your allied with. Since my ships are mostly parked at Jameson, it made sense to get all popular at my home base, so I can set out with my Beluga (it has blue paint, so does that make it a Blue-luga?) and get a few high-paying trips under my belt.

In other news...

Ah yes, also Frontier have just announced Elite: Dangerous for the PlayStation 4. So welcome to the Galaxy PlayStation gamers, we look forward to seeing you out there!

CMDR Cosmo on the Frontier Forums pointed out the following items of interest in the trailer:

- 0:08 the player character stands in the ship at 0:08. Spacelegs confirmed?
- 0:15 Asteroid base
- 0:46 New Capital Ship, maybe a Generation Ship
- 1:27 multi-crew with faces and rank customization on the spacesuit.