Elite: Dangerous Blog

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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.


The Criminal Elite

ranksThis is an opinion piece, so nothing in it is official, confirmed or in any design documents – it’s just a culmination of ideas.

Currently if you want to be bad in Elite: Dangerous, you kill people. Players or NPCs. Currently there is no recognition for being good at it, or consequences for being too bad.

Piracy and/or smuggling is supposed to be a career path in Elite, so I would like to see some changes on how this path is presented in the game.

Firstly, successful criminal behaviour should gain status. If we can have a rank for CQC then we sure as heck can have a “Criminal Rank”.



Okay, that sounds cool, but how would it work?

Other career paths grade you on how much you trade, or how much exploration data you collect, or how much kill-bounty you amass. The criminal career path would take into account the quantity of smuggled, stolen and black market goods, weighted by the security of the system they are sold at (high security systems score more than low security systems).

This would be augmented by the bounty on your head, which adds to the total, however if you are killed this goes down, so you could lose criminal rank. Only the most hardened and dangerous pirates and killers would make Elite.

That’s where consequences come into play.

A cargo scanner should add a “demand cargo” function to the communications panel, so pirates can easily send a message to prospective marks. This is something that should be key-bound. That way getting this message the victims know how to respond.

“A pirate is demanding you drop some of your cargo. Failure to do so will result in your ship being attacked”

If you kill someone currently, you get a 6,000CR fine and wanted status in just the local system for a period of six days, after which you can pay it off. You can kill ships (human or NPC) then avoid the “scene of the crime” and unless you get scanned with a Kill Warrant Scanner, you’re home free.

To change this, I would propose that if you kill someone the first time, the same mechanic is employed, but if you kill a second person while you have an outstanding warrant, then the outstanding fine becomes a permanent bounty and cannot be paid off. This would be repeated for each subsequent kill.

Any permanent bounty is attached to your rebuy, so if your ship is destroyed you have to pay your own bounty plus the normal rebuy to get the ship back. This means being killed as a bad guy carries a lot more risk, but it doesn’t mean you can’t still be a bad guy.

Once the local plus permanent bounty reaches a threshold value (1M CR), if you are in a Federation or Empire system the warrant would then go Federation or Empire wide.

High security systems should become just that. Any interdictions or attacks should attract an immediate and robust security response in seconds. This will push piracy into low security systems where the response is minutes, and killers into anarchy systems where they can kill pilots without any bounty on their head. Making anarchy systems dangerous and shady places.

I would at the same time, raise the value of legitimate goods (by 10% and 20%) in those systems. Best commodities markets are also in the most dangerous systems. Don’t want danger? Stay away.

Rather than a list of bad guys in stations that tells you nothing, bounty hunters should get a live feed in GalNet of the top five criminals in the area online in the same game mode - including NPC bad guys where no humans are around.

“CMDR Braben has been spotted leaving White City at Zeta Trianguli Australis eight minutes ago”

The game should generate a few persistent NPC pirates and griefers that are each local to a handful of systems. So you know if you visit the Leesti area you may well run into the mad-dog killer “Captain Ed Lewis” who’ll blow you away for kicks. Or the dread pirate “Don Antonaci” who’ll take 20T of whatever you’re carrying or else!

Finally the game needs NPC Wing Men and a method of hiring wingmen (human or NPC) at stations for a fixed fee (hourly rate) with human CMDRs getting their rebuy discounted by 25% if they die during a contract. NPC Wingmen cannot differ greatly from whatever AI is being written for ship launched fighters, so I see no insurmountable obstacles to getting this added.