On Friday Frontier, for the first time it should be noted, laid out a general plan for most of the coming season of expansions to Elite: Dangerous Horizons. Giving us an outline for what content was coming and when. So what are we getting? Well the first instalment is soon, probably next month, and is titled “The Engineers”
2.1 – The Engineers - Coming Spring 2016
"Everything changes. Introducing an expanded mission system and game-changing loot. Craft exotic weapons and modules for your spacecraft and build a ship unlike any other."
It is confirmed that we’ll have around 30 persistent NPC characters to interact with. These characters will process loot into crafted weapons and modules for you from blueprints. The toys on offer will depend on your pilot and federation, or empire, rank. Using the character creator, Frontier will give these engineers a face to see.
We can speculate that these characters, called Engineers, will abide on the surface of planets at certain locations, which makes them by default, a Horizons-specific feature. Since they require loot to work, you will have to bring them materials(?) to work with in order to make your green beam laser (or more useful), a longer range FSD drive. They also require blueprints. How will these be acquired? Stolen? Found? Clearly a new avenue to explore. You can’t just grind 30T of hand-wavium and have the best ship in the galaxy; you are going to have to find, steal, trade or buy the means to make these upgrades.
Over the last year Frontier had expanded the bulletin-board missions, but as they’ve done so, the basic framework has started to creak under the load. In 2.1 we’re getting a total replacement of the mission system, incorporating these talking head NPC characters which will also be persistent, depending on your pilot rank, faction rank and possibly location. I would love to speculate that these characters will speak (audio? Text to speech?), but in all likelihood they will simply be the face of your mission-brief text, much the same as the characters were in Elite Frontier (shown above). The good news for players without the Horizons expansion is that this element of the game is generic to all, so it is highly likely that the new NPCs will be seen by players of the core game as well as Horizons players.
The new "mission givers" might look something like this:-