Elite: Dangerous Blog

News and events from the Elite Dangerous galaxy

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?"

Sandro-
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?"

Sandro-
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.

Sandro-
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.

Thargoids

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.