Elite: Dangerous Blog

News and events from the Elite Dangerous galaxy

If I ruled the (Elite) Galaxy

How I’d change Elite Dangerous

This article is not about new stuff; I’m not calling for atmospheric landing or EVA from ships. Nor is it a demand to Frontier to do things differently. It is just an opinion piece on how I would alter the current features of the game for “season 3” to make them more accessible if these decisions were mine to make.

Close Quarters Combat Arena

CQC was the arena-based PvP vehicle for the game, launched alongside the XBOX release of ED. It has, I think it is fair to say, flopped totally. Nobody plays CQC. It’s very hard to find a game.

How would I change it?

I would move the CQC system into the main game. Arenas would be large stations located in systems around the galaxy. You would fly your main ship to their location and dock to play. Human players would join the arena they dock at in their instance.

There would be AI opponents (bots) that would be hot-swapped with human players as they join and leave. This would then offer CQC in solo and all other modes of play, making it feel part of the game, rather than a bolt-on. By using the existing instancing, the matchmaking would no longer been needed.

Arenas would offer cash rewards and these would vary, depending on system state and faction. For example, a system in boom might hold a “championship” with larger rewards.

Players could also opt to watch competitions from an “observation room” in the arena station. Initially this would be a variation of the ship cockpit with player-controller view screens and a window onto the arena play area – basically overview + one or more controlled cameras.

CQC rank would be removed and instead players would be rated on a dynamic league table. Players would be invited to systems to play, based on their current rank.

Engineering materials

Currently (and I know this from bitter experience) finding materials and data for engineers can be a mind-numbing trudge through endless USS points looking for a single material or data item, waiting for the great god of random numbers to grant you those three cherries in a line. I hate random number generators.

Without excellent tools like EDEngineer, Inara and Eddb I’d have given up all together!

How would I change it?

Commanders would be able to pin multiple engineer blueprints for a “shopping list”. This would highlight the data and materials you have in your inventory as “required” or “not required”, so you can discard unnecessary cargo.

Your shopping list would then become a trigger for the game. Now, at the next USS or Nav Beacon or Station, you might be approached by an AI who would offer a mission with an item on your shopping list as a reward or as the mission itself.

“Go to system X and return with Y and I will give you data A”

“There’s a trader outside station X in system Y that will exchange data/material A for commodity B”

By doing this, the materials and data are then made part of the existing mission system and you would feel like you are playing the game, rather than wandering aimlessly waiting for a random timer to complete. Also, station missions would offer cash or the choice of a pinned material for reward.

Surface prospecting suffers from randomness the same way, even when you know there is 75% chance of arsenic on the surface, you can be driving in circles shooting rocks for hours and find none. It’s not fun.

Instead ships would have an “advanced surface scanner” and you would fly around in orbital cruise to map near-surface locations of elements; iron ore, sulphur deposits. Only impact craters would be a pick-n-mix like the current state of affairs. With the surfaced mapped, you would set surface waypoints and take the mining SRV to drill for the required elements or materials. The map would only be held while in orbit. After that, you’d rely on the waypoints you added entirely.

This leads into exploration.


Currently there are three system scanners (useless, next to useless and infinite honk). And a detailed surface scanner that can see the far side of planet, when your SRV can’t manage more than a burst of static for radar, not consistent or helpful.

How would I change it?

The basic and intermediate system scanners would detect planets and moons in their range and all stars in the system, but would also display “estimated” orbit lines for objects not in range, but detected through gravitational lensing and radial velocity. Explorers would have to search the orbits for the planetary bodies causing the effect.

Planet scanning would be carried out by orbiting the planet - three types of surface scanner (basic, intermediate and advanced) – these would set the width of area scanned and you would need to scan the whole planet. The GUI would show a 3D graphic of the planet as you scan. This scan would detect the presence of elements.

Detailed surface scans would be carried out using the same scanners in orbital cruise. These scans would detect the location of material deposits on the surface. It would also spot extra-terrestrial objects on the surface.

System bookmarks in the galaxy map would have groups (folders) and surface way points could be bookmarked and used for a heading in SRV and ship Heads Up Display.

The Scarab SRV is fine for pew-pew, but we need purpose-built SRV types for exploration and mining.

The mining SRV “Cicada” (a beetle that digs) would be the mining SRV for extracting minerals, liquids and gases from the ground in areas discovered using surface scanning. This would follow the same method as space mining. Refinery and cargo, but the Cicada would be larger than the Scarab and require cargo transferred to the ship before it could fold for transport. I can also deploy ground-mining limpets (already seen in game) which can be harvested later.

The survey SRV “Coleoptera” scans the surface in a large radius for mineral deposits. This could be used instead of the surface scanner in orbital cruise. Because it is used on the surface, it can detect gas, water and oil deposits under the surface as well.

Explorers would find a planetary body, survey the surface from orbit, provide a detailed survey from low orbit (orbital cruise) and geological surveys from SRV. All saleable information, scaling in value.

The same information then could be bought in Universal Cartographic by miners, so they can get straight to the drilling. The game should treat the data as a commodity. i.e. if nobody has surveyed Moon 3C then the data won’t be available. First survey gets biggest pay out. Repeat surveys get general fee.

Crime and punishment

2.4 is seeking to improve the current lawless nature of the open game. It’s currently a case of “play in private/solo or accept you will be griefed”. Not ideal. Great news for the tiny minority, but bad news for the majority of players and the game itself. After all, how many griefed players, especially new players, never come back to the game? Only takes one rotten apple to spoil the whole barrel.

How would I change it?

In the original Elite, if you murdered someone, the police were on you like flies on dung, so being wanted meant retreating to an anarchy system, or get killed in short order.

I see no reason not to go back to that. Trade should pay more in lawless systems, so players have an incentive to go there. Risk plus reward.

“Report crimes” would be a setting made on the options menu which cannot be altered during play. So no changing your mind about a PvP fight when you start losing and getting the cops to fight for you.

In secured systems, if a commander attacks another (CMDR with report crimes on) or an AI and they are not wanted/in a powerplay faction/in a combat zone (i.e. no in-game reason for an attack), then a police response should be immediate.

What’s more if you are wanted, the police would interdict you in the same way that the powerplay AIs already do when you join a PP faction.

The police response would be proportional to your bounty and ship size, so if you accidentally shot a ship in a Nav beacon and you are in a Sidewinder, then an Eagle or Viper would chase you after a minute or two.
If you have been murdering other ships and you are in a Fer-De-Lance or Corvette, then the police response would be much faster and the ships chasing you would be Anaconda and Vulture wings, dispatched within a minute or less of you leaving super cruise.

Basically, you’d be looking at an escalating response to wanted status, as you commit more crimes. First system wide, then faction wide.

The only way to not be constantly harassed is to pay your bounty or leave for a lawless system.

The only way to kill ships and not get dead yourself at the hands of the feds, is if they are PvP willing with Report Crimes off (which would show on your scanner) or if they are in an Anarchy system.

With the balance redressed, Open would have a lot more players. Players should be choosing which systems to avoid, not which play mode.

I would also add a fine for “ungraceful exit” of the game during combat (terminating Elite.EXE or ALT-F4) – so called “combat logging”. The fine would last seven days before you could pay it off. A second offense extends the period to two weeks. A third will carry a wanted bounty for a month “FOR ILLEGAL USE OF TELEPORTATION TECHNOLOGY”. If your PC crashes or your network fails, you will have to avoid all combat in the game until your fine clears, or face the same consequences as if you committed murder.

Piracy tools

Currently to be Robin Hood (or robin’ anyone) you need an interdictor, a manifest scanner and a hatch breaker controller.

What we don’t have is any tools to disable a ship without destroying it.

How would I change it?

I posted about piracy before, as I think (far more than CQC) it should be a recognised career with a rank.

The key element is, while victims are threatened with destruction, a good pirate would rarely have to follow through on the threat. A successful pirate gets their booty without killing the traders.

Currently that is very hard to do, as nearly every weapon available will destroy a ship long before any module is disabled, so any attempt to knock out the targets FSD will likely kill them instead.

What is needed is a “FSD hack” utility module that can be used to “reboot” an FSD on a target ship once their shields are down.

Yes, these could be abused by griefers, but the revised karma system would make their life impossible after a handful of murders by using these, just as any other weapons.

Interplanetary Bounty Hunting

Currently you get bounty missions, assassination missions and can trawl Navigation Beacons and Resource Sites for NPCs to kill for cash.

But there is no mechanism for hunting criminals directly.

How would I change it?

Players and NPCs in the “most wanted” list in any system would be traceable. You would have to sign on at the station they’re wanted by to hunt them (through the mission board). You would then get updates on your transaction panel every time they are scanned by feds in space or super cruise in any system, or dock at any station. For human players, this would cover all game modes and state which mode they were playing in on the updates.

“CMDR Harry Potter just docked at Guest City in Zeta Trianguli Australis OPEN”

“Mrs Trellis of North Wales was spotted near the Nav Beacon in Eravate”

Private Groups

Currently private groups are a nightmare to administer (just ask the guys at MobiusPvE) and the GUI isn’t very helpful when you want to know which one friends are in. And if you want to name an Elite Private Group you have to buy an extra copy of the game, just to create the group name you want.

How would I change it?

The group member list needs a filter. Really. How hard can a text filter be to implement?

The GUI should display the name of the Private Group your friends are playing in, so the friends list says "Private Group (Dead Men Walking)".

Private groups need the ability to nominate more than one admin and name the group. So player Jameson can create a private group and while they remain the owner of the account, other nominated CMDRs can administer the group. The group should also be re-nameable. So it can be "Jameson's Eagles" instead of "Jameson".

Admins of the private group should be able to send group messages (like server messages appear currently).

Ship Transfer

Moving ships between stations was a feature that was offered as a choice between instant or delayed transfer and the community voted for delayed transfer "for thar immershun".
But it costs a fortune to move ships and takes an age. For example a move between two systems 41Ly apart that takes (at most) two jumps and pad to pad takes a CMDR 8 minutes, will take 24minutes for ship transfer and cost 500,000CR for my Anaconda (which makes that in a single jump). It's slow AND expensive. Disproportionately so.

How would I change it?

The ship transfer menu should offer TWO options. Delayed ship transfer which will put your ship on a transport that calls on the hour every hour, or 3D printed ship transfer which is instant. The instant transfer should cost the same as the current process, while the delayed transfer should be a low fee based on pad size (small = 1,000CR, medium = 5,000CR, large = 100,000CR).
The instant transfer will take a minute while your ship is printed. The delayed transfer would be view-able in game.

When the feature was first confirmed, I suggested that a mega-ship would hyper-space in (like capital ships do) at regular intervals outside major stations and your ships would be transported from there into the station, so you would call (or send) a ship, and on the hour, a mega-ship would take/deliver your ship. You'd see the mega-ship jump in. You'd see it unload and you'd be notified your ship had arrived.

There's nothing about either option that does anything the game does not already do. It does more for "mah immurshun" on both counts than the current method.

Opening another possible avenue here, if the mega-supply-ship had tugs with cargo as well and dropped in outside the 10km zone to unload, there would be the option to add cargo piracy and ship theft to the piracy career path.


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.

1.4 Close Quarters Combat Championship Update


cqcc_smallAfter the various announcements so far at GamesCom 2015 we know a lot more about the forthcoming CQCC add-on to Elite: Dangerous and the other content being added.

We've heard a lot about it and that it will be a (short) Xbox One exclusive.

When is being released?

September, first on the Xbox and then on the PC a day or two later. The Beta for 1.4 has been confirmed for September 1st!


What else is in the update?

  • Player factions are being added to the game. Groups of players can have their own faction and homeworld and (if they want) work up influence to make themselves a Power.
  • The mission system is getting some love.
  • Legal salvage missions are coming, so you can grab booty on the right side of the law.
  • Delivery, courier and smuggling will gain long range variants that can set destinations from tens to hundreds of light years away for long haul missions.
  • A new variant on the massacre mission will have higher numbers and greater time for a more sustained strike against the mission target.
  • An even more hazardous extraction site has been added to provide a more dangerous environment.
  • Changes to the background simulation are being made around systems changing from war / civil war states and also around population and political stability based on population size.
  • Frontier has confirmed that assets from CQC will be included in the main game.

What new ships will there be?

The Imperial Eagle

A variant of the Eagle with a larger power generator, higher straight line speed, a medium hard-point on top and a less agile flight model.

Federal Dropship Mark II "Federal Assault Ship"

An improved combat model of it's predecessor. A more agile flight model and two medium plus two large hard-points (instead of four medium and one large) this is at the expense of some internals space.

Federal Gunship

And finally the Federal Gunship which will have two small hard-points, four medium hard-points and one large hard-point. This will be a large ship and with those seven weapon hard-points, will be the second best armed ship in the game after the Anaconda. While similar to the dropship in shape, it has delta wings at the back, more like a Vulture and what appear to be folding fins at the front. Much has been made of the large hatch visible on the underside. It looks like the Anaconda's landing bay hatch.


Elite for the XBOX is good news, right?

funny_gif_collection_19What’s the fuss about? We’ve known for a long, long time (since March) that a console version of Elite would surface, since there’s a market there and Frontier are not a registered charity, so why the vitriol and outrage?

Well, probably for the same reason a parent gets angry when they see their child is playing on a console when their homework isn’t finished.
Elite: Dangerous isn’t finished yet, but Frontier appear to have moved on to platforms new. For some people, that’s a signal that they've been forgotten. They feel like Frontier have walked away without finishing the game.

I don’t think that’s the case, but because Frontier have been very tight-lipped about their future plans, people fear the meaning of this announcement. To misquote some green bloke:-

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to questionable forum posting..

What do we really know? Not much. Which is the problem.

Well, as I’ve said above, Elite isn’t finished. I’m not talking about the Planetary Landings or Ship Exploration expansions which we know we won't be seeing "SoonTM", but the core game.

  • Ships previously promised and teased are still missing (Panther, Dolphin, Corvette, Beluga, etc.).
  • PowerPlay is (IMO) at a “first draft” state and needs some work.
  • Elements of the game are unbalanced and need review (i.e. Wing combat bounty).
  • Elements are totally missing, such as passengers; without which what is the point of the Orca?.
  • Exploration needs love, mining still has kinks. Private groups are dead if the player who created them stops playing (no way to set another commander as a group admin).
  • Variety is missing. With procedural generation I expected to see not just a different collection of planets in each system, but a variation in station exteriors and interiors everywhere I went. Currently we see generic station 1 or white station with pink holographics on very rare occasions – and that’s it; beautiful, but the same. I had hoped to see stations with dirt, damage and junk outside. I expected to see rich wealthy systems with more neon, bright, tidy interiors with lots of Orcas running VIPs around and in poor systems or mining colonies, I would expect to see dark and dirty interiors with variations in litter, graffiti, faulty pads etc. with lots of type-6’s and type-9’s ferrying goods.
    If I drive 25 miles, I’m in France where they speak another language, drive on the other side of the road and drink coffee so strong you get heart palpitations drinking it. In Elite, I fly 240 light years and the only difference between the interior of the Coriolis I left and the Orbis I arrive at, is the name-plate. Even the pads are the same uniform blue-green colour!
    We need variety. The promise of procedural generation fulfilled.
  • There is no group identity – Wings are transitory and there are no clan tags or playing in Open Play under a group name; you cannot even name your private group (why?). These are elements present in most multiplayer games, and have been for a very long time, so are not unreasonable to expect.

Anyone who’s ever watched any sci-fi like Firefly or Star Trek would expect to see certain elements in a space game that are currently not present in Elite. In 1984 we had Thargoids aplenty, but in 2015 we have three types of signal source, with very predictable content. Where are the salvageable wrecks? Where are the comets? Where are the abandoned ships? Where are the flotillas? Unmapped outposts? Pirate outposts in asteroids like those teased long ago? So much possibility as yet gone unrealised.
We have USS’s but they are random, not procedural so if I find canisters floating near Leesti, I cannot direct my friend with a cargo scoop to go there, because they are not really there, being entirely transient within a single player instance.

You could argue that none of this is essential, but the lack of these things shows.

I have a lot of faith in Frontier and I believe that we will see a lot of these things. When though, is the million dollar question?

So if people get riled at “Call of Spaceship Duty” for XBOX, while I’m not one of them, I sympathise with their frustration rather than ridicule it.