Elite: Dangerous Blog

News and events from the Elite Dangerous galaxy

Ship Personalisation

It’s been a while since I wrote my article on outfitting your ship. While the majority of the detail holds true, it is missing anything about ships skins or decals and a lot of recently added personalisation features.

There are now a number of things you can do to customise your ship to change its weapon and engine colours, exterior appearance, interior decor and even the ships Cockpit Voice Activated System (COVAS).

Another element that can be personalised for players with Horizons is the Holo-Me. This sets your in-cockpit player model and avatar that's visible to other players.

Note: Most of the cosmetic items in Elite: Dangerous are purchased DLC. In order to keep the game a level playing field and avoid any chance of “pay to win” Frontier chose to make all their DLC cosmetic and therefore have zero effect on the game-play.

It neither makes you better or tougher, it’s just darn sexy to look at.

But, unless you’ve bought one of the Editions of Elite that included decals and paint packs, then most of the items in this article would need to be purchased in the Frontier Store or whatever purchase vehicle is used for your platform, before you can use them.

You can live a happy life in the Elite: Dangerous universe without ever buying a single cosmetic. But if you have some pennies spare and want to pimp your ride, then read on...


Ship customisation is done through the Livery option on either the Station Services menu or the Livery option in the Ship Outfitting screen. Both choices take you to a “select vehicle menu” this will be for your main ship and up to two ship launched fighters and two Surface Recon Vehicles (as both can have a double bay).

Picking the primary ship will take you to a menu which allows you to view and choose a number of items, the first being the ships’ voice.

Vessel Voice (two free)

There are three ships voices which are available currently in Elite, “Verity” (the original female ship voice) and “Victor” both of which are free. The third is a female voice called “Celeste” which must be purchased. These can be selected for ships, fighters and SRVs. It’s quite nice to jump between a ship and the fighter with a difference computer voice.

These can be bought once and applied to all your ships.

Paint Job

When you buy your ship, even the free Sidewinder, it is possible to change it’s appearance to use a new ship exterior paint, so all those “ship in front of..” screenshots look all the more special.

All the paints available can be previewed, but only those you own can be selected. Your currently selected paint job is indicated with a tick.

A word of caution - only buy paint jobs for ships you plan to use a lot or hold on to for a while.

 These can only be applied to one ship.

Ship Name (free)

Ship name can be set and will be visible to other players that scan you as well as being shown in the Ship panel. The first three letters or numbers can be used as your callsign.

Each time you choose to set the name, a dialogue box opens blank, so you have to re-enter the name; it can’t be edited.

Ship ID (free)

The ship ID is a six-character alpha-numeric tag for your ship. It can be displayed on the hull with a purchased decal or used as your callsign by traffic control.

To set your name, ship name or ship ID as call sign, go to Options for Audio settings and choose which to use.

Name Plate 1 & 2

The name plates are decals which can be purchased that will display your chosen ship name on the outer hull. This is visible to you in the external camera and to other players that see your ship. These decals (unlike paint jobs) are usable on ALL your ships, so any nameplate purchased can be used for all of your fleet.

These can be bought once and applied to all your ships.

Ship ID 1 & 2

You can choose to have your ship ID displayed on the hull using a purchased ID plate.

Currently there's only one ID plate in the Frontier store, so choice is limited.

These can be bought once and applied to all your ships.

Front, Right & Left Decal

These allow decals to be applied over your paint job on the front, left & right of the ships hull. There are a number of community decals that are given away free and you unlock rank decals for combat, exploration and trade as you progress, which are also free. Any other decals must be purchased from the store, on their own or as part of a ship paint job (for example "Onionhead" which comes with skins & decals).

Currently the "Powerplay" decal pack (seen below) is free in the store.

These can be bought once and applied to all your ships.

Spoiler, Wings, Tail & Bumper – The Ship Kit

Ship kits are a purchased cosmetic and come in the form of four elements that can be added to the ship. Each kit contains four variants of each element, so you can have 16 different applications of each kit. Not all ships have ship kits available. So far there are two types. The wings & bumpers kits which allow you to give that "boy racer" look to your ship. The second kind is the "Raider" kits, which also have four elements, but these consist of spikes and wire and are accompanied by four rusty and corroded paint jobs, the applied effect of which is a "Max Max" look to your ship (or "Reaver" if you're a FireFly fan). Still no skeletons on the spikes though...
Once purchased the elements of the kit can be applied to the Spoiler, Wings, Tail and Bumper sections (where the kit contains these).

It tends to change the profile of your ship making it less "factory bought" in appearance. The bolt-on wings and spoilers do not change your "hit box" (the area where weaponry hits are detected on your ship) so these additions do not make you a bigger target.

These can only be applied to one ship.

Weapon Detailing

Whether you're Mace Windu, Darth Vader or Yoda, everyone knows the colour of your light sabre and with weapon detailing you can pick your colour (for a price).

There is a downside to this. While your lasers and bullets will now all flash green (or whatever colour you chose) they can only be set to one colour across the board. No red lasers with green rails and blue plasma! Also, where beforehand your Engineering special effects changed some weapon colours green or red and your point defence ammo was white, now everything will be green. Mono-colour once chosen.

Maybe at some point in the future Frontier will allow per hard-point colours, but for now it's "one shade fits all".

These can be bought once and applied to all your ships.

Engine Detailing

Engine colour is another purchased cosmetic that will change the colour of your thrusters and engines. It also colours your engine vapour trail - which is far more noticeable than normal.

Obviously all the cool kids co-ordinate their paint jobs with lasers and engines to create a distinct look!

These can be bought once and applied to all your ships.

Dashboard 1-10

Your ships dashboard can be covered in bobble-heads. These can be purchased and added to the ten available "dashboard" slots. I purchased the alphabet bobble-head kit back before ship name plates were in the game and put my ship names on the dash. This is something I still do now.

What do they do? They wobble about on your cockpit dashboard and nod along while you talk to them in the grip of space-madness! Also, they react to g-forces when your ship accelerates, pitches, rolls and jumps to super-cruise.

These can be bought once and applied to all your ships.

String Lights

A recent addition at Christmas 2017, the string lights are a set of fairy lights draped on the cockpit of your ship. The coloured "Christmas" version was a seasonal item, but the plain white string lights are still available.

These can be bought once and applied to all your ships.

Surface Recon Vehicles and Ship Launcher Fighters

The other vehicles from the livery menu offer a smaller subset of customisation options, so you can bling your SRV or colour co-ordinate your ship launched fighter with your main ship.

Holo Me

The Holo-Me is accessed from the Ship Panel and allows you to design your commander's appearance. I'm not going to do a full-blown Holo-Me tutorial here as I'm not very good at it. Mine looks like "Mr Potato Head", so as you can see you can achieve a pretty lifelike facsimile.

The Holo-Me is accessed from the ship panel.

It takes you into the Holo-Me editor. There are seven sections for the customisation of your avatar. Body, Complexion, Hair, Face, Head, Accessories & Cosmetics. The Body suits & outfits are DLC and the Accessories and Cosmetics are also DLC, but the other options are native with Horizons and free.

Since it's release in version 2.3 the editor has been updated and now allows you to save multiple avatars and clone existing avatars, so you can experiment with your current Holo-Me without losing the original.

When you've made your Holo-Me the game takes a "passport photo" of it, which is used as an avatar when other commanders scan your ship. The Holo-Me is also used when you join another commander in multi-crew, so your commander appears on their ship as your avatar design.

Ships Skins and Thargoids

Ship skins

At the Frontier Expo on Saturday October 8th I got to chat with Sandro Sammarco, Frontier's Lead Designer, about paint jobs.

Following my article last week, the FD Power Survey, I thought I would go to the source and ask Frontier how they decide which ships get paint jobs and ship kits, and what - if any - criteria was used to make this decision.

Sandro is a very approachable person and offered to talk to me any time I wanted during the Expo. So, between presentations I put on my "Journalist" hat (or Elite: Dangerous cap at least) and asked the question.

"How do you decide which ships get paints in the store?"

The paint jobs, ship kits and other DLC are all managed by the marketing department. The development team are not directly involved in the selection process.

"From the numbers I've gathered from Inara, the most popular ships are the Asp Explorer and Anaconda, but the store mostly has Viper and Cobra paints; do marketing not look at ownership stats?"

Marketing choose what skins they want to sell based on their own research of player purchases, but they do approach the developers for numbers of ships owned.

So that answered my question.

Sandro had a bit of chat with me; he's a very amiable and we spoke about ship roles and where different ships fit in, with the popularity of the Anaconda.

The Anaconda is a bit of an overpowered ship, but we can't change it now, as it is very popular. Players wouldn't like us changing their favourite ship.

Our conversation tool place before the presentation, so he couldn't say anything without spoilers, but he did say there were ships coming to the game that would make some exciting changes.
Looking at the Krait, Type-10 and Chieftain, I can see what he means, as these are the first wave of a number of ships to come in 2.4 and Beyond.


On an unrelated topic, I drew a new blueprint on Friday of a Thargoid Interceptor; leaked from an undisclosed source in the Federation here is the Cyclops!



FD Power Survey

Last May I published an article on what ships players owned. I got my data from the Inara website because while it couldn’t cover everyone, it has large enough numbers to be representative.

Last year the most popular ship in terms of ownership numbers and as a first-choice primary vessel was the Asp Explorer.

Have the 2.1, 2.2, 2.3 and 2.4 updates and the addition of two new passenger vessels changed that?

Short answer is “yes”. The Asp Explorer while still the most popular ship to own, has fallen 0.66% from 12.92% to 12.26% and has been supplanted as the most popular primary vessel by the Anaconda. This would appear to show that the player-base has become more affluent over the last year and a half.

Here is the division of ship ownership as 2.4 has launched.

The least popular ship last year was the Orca, but following the addition of passenger missions in the game, that has changed. Now the least popular ship is the Asp Scout, meaning Asps occupy top and bottom place! The Orca is now more popular than the Asp Scout, Federal Dropship and Federal Gunship. The most popular passenger vessel is the recently added Dolphin. This would appear to show most players are only putting a toe in the passenger mission waters.

Clearly the addition of content has shifted the dynamic.

Thargoids might shift them again. With the requirement for four Class 2 hard-points for AX Missiles and space required for “standard” weaponry as well, will the changes brought by 2.4 cause a resurgence in the popularity of the Federal Dropship? We shall see. Let’s face it, nobody is going to make war on the Thargoids in a Beluga Liner!

Top of the Pops

Well, ship-pickers, who are the winners and losers in our chart? Where have the biggest gains and losses been seen?

The top 5 winners are the Anaconda, who has jumped a whopping 2.21%. The Dolphin which has gone from nowhere to 1.29%, making it more popular than the Type-9 was last year. The Imperial Cutter has gone up 1.11% to 3.10% showing the player-base are getting rank as well as credits in game. Then the Beluga line takes the number four spot from nowhere with 1.08% and finally at number five, the Federal Corvette with 3.10% rising 0.80% from last year.

Last year the most popular ships were the Sidewinder, Anaconda, Python and Cobra Mk 3 – all multi-role – with the two exceptions of the Vulture (a pure combat vessel) and the Asp Explorer which is primarily an explorer.

This year we’re seeing that the Fer-de-Lance has crept up to push the Sidewinder out of that group, indicating that the player-base is not only wealthier, but more inclined toward combat.

Who are the biggest losers?

The poor Vulture, despite hanging on in the top five most popular ships, lost the most players with a 2.12% loss. Have players moved to the FDL to avoid the Vulture’s weak cockpit? Or did they just get rich enough to buy the combat ship they wanted all along?

At number two on the “loser list” is the Cobra Mk III! Yep, the iconic ship is falling out of fashion. It lost 1.75% of the player-base in the last 18 months.

The third ship we’re learning not to love is the Imperial Clipper, with ownership falling by 1.24%. That means more people have ditched their Clippers than the total number of players who own Keelbacks!

Our fourth biggest looser is the Federal Assault Ship. This craft has lost 1.20% of the player-base. Why? This ship was popular as a combat vessel with PvP and PvE alike, but it looks like those players are moving on to vessels new.

The fifth biggest loser was the Diamondback Scout dropping 0.84% from 2.32% to only 1.48%. Why? As a small combat ship, it just doesn’t seem to compete with the cheaper Cobra and Vipers.

Some worthy changes to note. The Orca, Keelback and Gunship have all doubled in popularity. The Keelback has clearly benefitted from being the smallest vessel to have Ship Launched Fighters. The Orca has seen a surge due to passenger missions. Why has the Gunship gained? I can only speculate that it’s combat role is raising its profile.

Have ship paint jobs kept up with what's popular in-game? Last year there was a disconnect between what was owned and what paints you could buy in the store.

The short answer here is "no". There are disproportionate amounts of paints available for the Eagle and Viper, while the popular Asp Explorer has far fewer paints, especially considering it's the number one ship in the game for the last two years! Now, as I said at the start, Inara numbers are only representative of a selected portion of the player base - all be it as big portion. Does Frontier check their own numbers before prioritising paints for one ship over another? I'd hope so, but the current numbers don't seem to bear that out.

Better luck next year!

Beauty is (ship) skin deep

ship skinsShip skins are a cosmetic item in Elite: Dangerous, but until ship names or more decals arrive, they are currently the only way to personalise your space craft.

The paint job of your ship is a way to express your personality and your ships function.

With the last update our XBOX players got the chance to start skinning their ships and last night Frontier added a new batch of “squadron” skins to the store. Then promptly removed them due to a problem – the life of Frontier support is always an eventful one!

But do the skins we have meet demand? Why aren’t there skins for every ship? This is something Frontier can sell, so why are they so slow to bring out skins for ships?

Using Inara.cz ship ownership statistics, I put together a graph (approximate) of what ships players own out there. It may come as a shock to some, but the Asp Explorer is the most popular ship! Combat ships are low on the list, with the multi-role ships and trade ships being the most loved.

ships owned

Now if you compare that to the ships that have been granted paint skins in the store (I cannot count the special edition skins, including the Black Friday paint, as you cannot buy these) you’ll see the proportion of skins offered for some ships (Cobra) is HUGE, while other ships still have no skins at all. In fact, apart from the Cobra Mk IV, all the ships added since 1.4 don’t have any skins available in the store.

skins in store

So, last night a new batch was added and aside from a single skin pack for the Viper Mk IV, all the other “Squadron” skins packs were for the usual suspects – Anaconda, Python, Asp Explorer, Cobra Mk III, Sidewinder and Type-9??!

Inara.cz also has data on which ship pilots choose at their “main ship”. This is more interesting, because it shows what ships pilots are selecting for every-day use. Now while these numbers are taken from a snapshot, Inara has over 13,000 commanders’ information, so I would think it represents an accurate picture of the game.

main ships used

You can see here the Federal Corvette and Federal Assault Ship are both popular, but neither have any skins in the store. Comparing use to ownership, the Anaconda leaps out as a very popular main ship. Same goes for the Vulture.

So if Frontier are reading this, can we have skins for the post 1.4 ships? It’s in your financial interest. Concentrate on FAS, Corvette and Cutter as these have had the least love. Please.