Another year has gone in Elite Dangerous and we are mid way through Horizons with season 2.2 ‘The Guardians’. I had hoped that we would have all four of the season two updates by now and getting ready for Season Three, however it now looks like that won’t happen for another several months. As I have said before in earlier posts I would rather Frontier get it right and don’t rush rather than publish some broken buggy version, so this delay is fine. The good news is that the two point releases we have had delivered this year have been extremely good.
Early on in 2016 I grinded up in the Imperial and Federation Navy’s & eventually progressed to Duke & Rear Admiral respectively. This opened up all the ships to me which is what I was aiming for. I had my eye on the huge Imperial Cutter for a while as it had a potentially massive cargo capacity, depending on your build. So after ranking up I bought one and started trading with it shifting 700 units in one trip, not long after I made Elite in trader!
This was not my main goal in the game, that has always been to make Elite in combat, but this trade achievement was a great reward. It also gave me a shed load of credits to invest in my war Conda (Anaconda) to work on that primary goal.
2.1 ‘The Engineers’
This 2.1 update dropped late May. The Engineers are a group of mavericks who have set up ground bases dotted around the bubble and will upgrade your ships systems for various materials & data.
This feature added a lot more to do and see in the game and gave you an advantage against other players and NPCs with stock ships. Each engineer base, which is located on a planet or moon, is unique and quite different from the standard ground bases, so just for a bit of visual variety it’s most welcome.
One of the first upgrades I wanted for all the ships in my fleet was a better jump range and after ranking up with Farseer in the Deciat system I got my Asp Explorer up from around 30 to 41Ly. Not too shabby, and that’s just tier 4, Have yet to get a tier 5 upgrade.
Other engineers give upgrades to different systems such as weapons, shields, defences etc. This 2.2 point release also added crafting, loot and data. Blueprints for upgrades required various materials or data, some more rare than others. Initially it was a crap shoot as to where to find these items, however pretty soon the amazing Elite community figured out where to obtain them. Sites such as Inara were essential in pooling this information and making it easy for players to digest. This whole new mechanic gives for much more game-play and players who invest time in the engineers are rewarded with a pimped out ship to help in the quest for the elusive Elite status. At this time in May I was approx 50% Deadly, another 50% and I would make Elite in combat.
This update also gave us NPC faces, so now when taking a mission you get to see the person, not a great leap froward, but does add more immersion. I’m looking forward to the player creator that will enable us to style our own avatars, this feature should be out next in 2.3 ‘The Commanders’.
Around this time Frontier also added background radio chatter when docking and at stations. This small change in the soundscape made for a huge improvement in making the world seem alive. I think another update with 2.2 was much, much smarter AI. This certainly put the dangerous back into Elite Dangerous. It did however severely slow down my combat ranking progress as the NPCs were no longer the usual easy, dumb target.
Not Because It’s Easy…
Thanks to the engineers update on my jump drive I decided on a long voyage out to Jaques station. Jaques station is famous in the game as the only roaming station and is owned by a cyborg bartender. There have been a few canon stories involving Jaques in the past.
Jaques had attempted to get to Beagle Point on the very edge of the Galactic rim opposite the core. However, because of players UA bombing the station it fell short some 22,000ly from Sol. Now that I had a ship that could cross vast distances pretty easily, with a 41ly jump range, so I figured I should go take a look.
Apart from having never visited the famous Jaques I also needed to up my explorer status, one of the four main career rankings in Elite. So on Friday 1st July I set off into the black for the long trek to a famous station.
To relieve the routine of, jump, honk, scoop, I started watching old Babylon 5 episodes on my second monitor, I gave up watching this show somewhere in season 4 decades ago and decided this time was a good opportunity to finish this Sci-fi show.
By the 5th I was 11,000ly out, half way to my destination. On the 11th July, after 10 days of tedious jumping I arrived at Jaques. Along the way I had discovered some interesting systems with neutron stars and Earth likes, this was fun to see and good for my explorer status. I also came to the conclusion that Babylon Five is a big pile of shit.
Jaques is located in a nebula, the view is great at this location as it’s so close to the core there are stars everywhere. When I arrived most of the stations systems were offline, about the only thing that worked was docking and refuel/repair. No commodity market, shipyard, missions and most annoyingly Cartography. Without that I could not sell any of my lovely scans from the voyage. If I were to crash and burn all that data would be lost. The forums were saying this service would be repaired, but no date given. The only game play I had was exploration and after 10 days of that I was not keen to do more, so took a break from Elite for a bit.
At some point, days later, the station was still in it’s broken state, so I took this opportunity for a trip out to the galactic core, Sagittarius A, which was only approx 6,000ly away. The trip there was pretty quick and I arrived the 19th August.
Sag A is a pretty empty system consisting of one large white star and a super-massive black hole. I had only seen a couple of black holes before and the gravitational lens effect on this one was impressive, warping space and time round it in a very similar visual to the black hole in the film Interstellar. This was, on the whole, a pretty nerve wracking experience as I was not sure how close I could get without being destroyed and I certainly did not want to lose my wealth of exploration data. Because of this I did not stray too close, almost certainly a good call.
On Friday, 27th August I arrived back at Jaques. Thankfully the station was now operational and I could sell all my exploration data. I found I was first to discover quite a few systems and stellar bodies, because of this I get a big finders fee and my name next to the discovery in the games database. Fame & fortune.
2.2 “The Guardians”
October gave us The Guardians. This update had passenger missions, NPC fighter crewmen, new Beluga cruise ship and most importantly ship launched fighters. There were also some very nice quality of life improvements such as prettier witch space jumps, module storage & much improved variety for the inside of stations.
Ship & module transfers is also now possible which is a great addition to the game. You can now pay, with in game money, to have your ship delivered to the station you are at. There was a massive debate on the forums as to whether the transfers should be instant or take time. I was strongly in the latter camp. Having instant ship transfer is great for game play but breaks the reality of the Elite universe. Also people would probably end up mostly flying an Asp Explorer to get from A to B, because of its impressive jump range, then just instant transfer the required ship to the destination. It would have shrunk the game. So I was very pleased when most people voted for a delay.
Exploration got a couple of buffs with the Neutron stars both visually and with the associated game play whereby you can scoop the magnetic cones and boots you jump drive temporarily. Players started mapping out ‘Neutron Highways’ which can make long voyages less tiresome.
I was still at Jaques, this area of space was now renamed Colonia, so it was good to be there for this historic moment in the game and having helped out with the expansion, however there was nothing much to do here and all the improvements with 2.2 were not really available out there. Colonia was very much the frontier, you could not even trade with anyone because Jaques was the only station for 22,000ly.
I did join a community goal to expand Colonia and a few weeks later it successfully completed and we had a ground base built called Colonia Hub. So could now trade but not really worth it as profit was so low and it was just between two very similar markets. I was all explored out and decided that as the stations shipyard was now working I would buy a Type 6 and fit it out as a mining ship.
Mining is something I was never interested in trying, however it was the only other thing to do out there. I could have flown back to the bubble but there was talk of Thargoids entering the game and as Jaques had been torn out of hyperspace into a nebula, this could have been work of the aliens. In the original game Thargoids did indeed pull you out of hyperspace and all the barnacles, which appeared to be Thargoid related, appeared to be in nebula’s. Therefore I was hanging around convinced this is where the first encounter would be.
Mining was every bit as boring as I imagined it to be (pun intended), at least it was different and I could check that activity off my things to try list. After this brief career change I got back into my Asp and spent another month exploring around Colonia which was all very virgin territory. No alien invasion came, not even a distant sighting.
I started to feel I was missing out on time that could be spent better by ranking up with the engineers back in the bubble. Also more alien crash sites were being discovered near home, or just outside it. So on the on the 4th November I set off for home and arrived at Shinrarta Dezhra, my adopted home system, on the 11th November.
This was the end of a four month deep space voyage on Elite. On the way back I had stopped at a couple of the new outposts that had been built in the last month to help resupply commanders making the voyage from the bubble to Colonia. Made for a safer return trip.
After getting some more upgrades with the engineers, trying out one passenger mission and employing a harmless fighter pilot, a rather odd looking lady called Preslie Buckner, to fly my new ship launched fighter, on the 12th November I set off with Chris (CMDR Chrispybacon70) to locate the newly discovered alien ruins. Another player had worked out where it was located by looking at the star-field of a teaser trailer from Frontier, truly amazing work.
We knew from him exactly what system and body it was on and even the exact co-ordinates. However even armed with this level of detail it took us a long while to find it as can be seen from the video below. The recording begins rather abruptly as I was attacked by an NPC, something which I was not used too after my time in the quiet frontier of Colonia.
System Synuefe XR-H D11-102 Body 1 B Co-Ords -31.7877 -128.9711
I’ve Seen Things You People Wouldn’t Believe…
After scoping out the base, which did not appear to me to be of Thargoid origin, I set off to visit the three crash sites, which did look very Thargoidy. Each site was interesting and fun to explore, it certainly looked like the same class of ship had crashed, a ship people were classing as a scout.
System Pleiades Sector AB-W B2-4 Body 9 A Co-ords -26.37, 97.70
System HIP 17403 Body A 4 A (Rocky Body) Co-ords -34.98, -141.38
System HIP 17862 Body 6 C A (Rocky Body) Co-ords 30.3398, -98.5876
The Alien Race
In December the Buckyball Racing club in Elite Dangerous set a challenge for the fastest time in an SRV from a ground research facility to a nearby crashed alien ship at Pleiades Sector AB-W B2-4 planet 9A, this race was named ‘Kick the Alien, and run like hell’. Being in the neighbourhood I decided to enter. The round trip, as the crow flies, if it could in a vacuum, was approx 26km. On my first attempt I took around 28 minutes at an average speed of 55kph, pretty bad. I got an email from the organiser saying I was second to last out of about 25 people, was like sports day at school all over again. Four attempts later and I managed to get it down to 16:30, 94.5kph. That placed me at 22 out of 34, the top time was an amazing 6:43 232kph!!!.
In early January 2017 videos appeared on the internet of commanders being pulled out of hyperspace by a very alien looking ship. It looks like the same ship as the three crash sites I visited, however this one was flying about in space and interdicting, or hyperdicting people. It’s the same MO as the Thargoids from the original Elite games from decades ago. There were patterns to people being hyperdicted, mostly they were in the Pleiades Sector and were carrying an Unknown Artefact.
Armed with this information Chris and I headed out to HIP 17403 where I knew there were some UAs by the crash site. After loading up with a UA each we winged up and started jumping around the Pleiades Sector waiting for an encounter. Nothing happened. After a while we decided to sever the wing in case the aliens were only targeting single ships.
About half an hour later at 13:54 on the 16th January 2017 I was in the Asterope system and plotted a route to Pleiades Sector HR-W D1-65, I never made it. The jump drive spooled up and the jump began then I got a warning and was dragged out into normal space and found myself back in the outskirts of Asterope. It can all be seen in the video below, jump to 6:50 for the start of the encounter. That same evening I watched the film Arrival, it seemed fitting.
This next part may be a spoiler if you are not familiar with the Alien Ruins.
In mid January 2017 I found that there is a mission by an engineer called Ram Tah who was offering a 100 million credit reward for some work in the Alien Ruins back in Synuefe XR-H D11-102. I think The highest payout for any mission I have seen before this was around 3-5 million and involved many hours of hard combat. This new Ram Tah deal like an offer I could not refuse. I flew to Felice Dock in the Meene system and accepted the challenge.
It turns out that the engineer Ram is attempting to decode the obelisks at this site and wants my help to do so. The obelisks are the triangular stone objects dotted around the site, some power up when you get close. Ram uploaded some decryption software to my Anaconda and I landed it at the ruins. I was in open and there must have been about 15 other real players there, busiest place I have ever seen, even at various community goals.
I had no idea how to proceed, so scanned a few of the active obelisks, as I have done many times before on my last visit. This time I got a message from Ram saying I may need a combination of various artefacts in the SRV hold to unlock them. So I picked up some of the various artefacts lying around and continued scanning. No joy.
After a long while I decided to search the internet for a clue and found a list of obelisks and what objects you need to unlock them. There did not seem to be any logic to it which was a shame. It would have been more fun if there was some system you could work out in game. Perhaps there is a system and it’s not just random, but it eludes me. So now I knew what I had to have in the SRV hold and what obelisk to use it with. Now when I scanned one I got a decoded message about a race of aliens called the Guardians!
So the guardians update was not to do with ship launched fighters as we all thought, it was another alien race in the game. As I decoded other obelisks I got more information on them. It sounds like the obelisks are relays in a galactic Guardian internet, they even had smaller versions implanted in them. Perhaps the most interesting bit of information I found was that they created biological weapons. Was this the Thargoids? Was it a weapon against the Thargoids? Reminded me of ‘The Doomsday Machine’ episode from Star Trek TOS. Very intriguing indeed.
I continued decoding messages and used my ships store to hold all the possible artefacts I would need as I could only carry a maximum of two on the small SRV. If a obelisk needed an urn and tablet to decode then I would transfer these from the conda to the SRV, scan, find another obelisk, swap out the objects for whatever I needed and scan again.
I had successfully decoded about 11 messages and had 11 million for my efforts, not too shabby. From the forums it looked like there were only 22 different messages to decode at this site and that there were calculated to be 101 in total. So there must be another few sites somewhere with the remaining data. I’m guessing these will appear within the one month window before the mission timer ends.
Whilst I was exploring and decoding in the SRV some real player, probably a child, attacked and destroyed my parked and unmanned Anaconda. Rather expensive for me at about 28 million for rebuy and I lost a lot of cargo and bounties. So well done that player for destroying a parked, unmanned ship. I guess you will always have griefers in any game. At least there is the option to play in solo option in Elite, but it’s a shame to be forced to use that option by some prepubescent fetus. After all, it was a very cool scene to see so many real players in one small area scouting around to resolve this mystery.
So this little puzzle of the alien ruins appears to be well on the way to being solved, it was a fun experience. Frontier need to make more in game missions like this to help keep people coming back the the universe and to break up the combat, trading and mining etc. Looking forward to where this story takes us. There is another big mystery in Elite called the Formidine Rift, perhaps I need to explore that next.
The Grid. One Day I Got In…
Although there are now a couple of very viable virtual reality rigs available to buy, I was not tempted. The only real experience I have of VR is with Google Cardboard and I’m not sure I’m ready to spend £600 on a VR headset plus I would have to massively upgrade my PC, or buy a new one, just to play in VR. I’m pretty sure it would be an amazing experience, however I’m concerned about the fatigue factor and always a bit wary of buying first generation products.
Perhaps 3 monitors would be better? Therefore 2016 was not, for me, the year of VR. Perhaps 2017. The head-tracking unit I bought from EDTracker works extremely well for free look and is much cheaper. Obviously no 3D effect to be had from this setup, but does make the game immersive and is a massive improvement over the freebie head-trackers that use webcams.
I have still to visit Sol. I do now have the required permit but have been putting it off. The reason is that as each release of ED comes out there are graphic improvements and I want to see Sol in the best light possible. Therefore I keep avoiding it till the next update. One day I will get round to the grand tour.
Ship kits were introduced in season two, they enable you to mod your ship with ad on wings and extensions. Small thing but does make for more variety and customisation. I have been very tempted to purchase some myself, but have resisted so far, however I did buy some reduced paint packs during special deals. It’s good the way Frontier only sell cosmetic things for the game, nothing serious, this to me is extremely important for reasons I explained in my original Elite blog. More of these please Frontier.
I would like to see more life in Elite. Currently the only things moving when you visit a station or base are the trucks on the orbital road or skimmers. There are no NPC scarabs driving about, cranes moving, people, nothing. When you visit a city there is no movement except for ships landing and taking off. This addition of life would be great and help sell a real universe of people going about their business.
We have yet to get landable worlds with atmospheres. I understand this is a huge undertaking for Frontier to put in the game, however I’m really excited to get this update.
The walking about, AKA Elite feet, has yet to be delivered. At least we can now see our pilots now in the seats of our ships. We also have the avatar engine running and can see NPC characters, indeed the next release will have the commander creator which will enable us to model our own character. There has been talk of movement limited just to your ship which would be fantastic. Perhaps this will be in 2.4 which we still know nothing about.
When 2.3 ‘Multi-Crew’ lands you will be able to see other players on your ship so most of the mechanics for avatars should be in place that should make Elite feet much closer. I believe that this addition of player avatars moving around the world will improve the game immensely and make it much more complete.
Aliens are obviously going to be a big part of the near future. David Braben did say the words ‘Winter is coming’ and with the appearance of the Alien probe ship, which pretty much everyone agrees is a Thargoid scout ship, it looks like winter is indeed coming.
Exploration still needs improving. As well as the Neutron stars we did get some planetary bodies with geysers of varying types. However not much else, it’s still pretty much seen one system you’ve seen them all.
Instancing is still a huge disappointment and horribly, horribly broken. It simply fails to work a lot of the time and is a great shame. Can’t imagine how the next season with Multi-Crew will work if you have huge issues getting everyone on your ship in the same instance.
There have been occasions when I have wanted to play CQC, or as it now appears to be known , Arena. However I have waited several minutes to join a game to no avail. Arena is designed to be a quick bit of fun with friends and is terribly broken if you have to wait huge amounts of time to get into a game. In all of 2016 I only played Arena for approx 30 minutes.
Missions still seem somewhat broken. I have taken a few assassination jobs and have been unable to find the target. Possibly it’s something I’m doing wrong, but it has got to the point where I no longer take them as I just spend hours flying round a system trying to find that one target. Also the kill the skimmer missions have been buggy where you arrive at the target base and there are no skimmers. This needs fixing and Frontier have acknowledged it’s a bug.
It looks like asteroid bases are going to be a thing soon. I think in the beta there was talk about you being able to hollow out an asteroid and make it you own personal base. I’m not sure if that’s what is coming or if it will just be another station, but again, any variety is a much coveted thing for me in Elite..
I truly thought I would have made Elite in combat by the end of 2016. Perhaps it’s because of the NPC buff or my vacation to Colonia that scuppered that plan, or both. Almost there, just another 27% to go. Pretty sure I will get to that goal in 2017, especially as I now have my NPC wing-man to help out, she is climbing the ranks nicely.
This last year has been a very alien orientated story and can only assume much more will come. As the Thargoids in the earlier Elite games were extremely aggressive and extremely advanced this next year should be very interesting.
As of the 16th December 2016 my stats were:
GENERAL Combat Rank Deadly: 73%. Trade Rank Elite 100%. Explorer Rank Ranger: 80%. CQC: Mostly Helpless 64%. Federal Naval Rank: Rear Admiral 8%. Imperial Naval Rank: Duke 10%
BALANCE Current Balance: 324,507,063. Current Assets: 1,279,777,470. Insurance Claims: 27. Total Claim Costs: 82,322,953
COMBAT Bounties Claimed: 5,867. Profit from Bounties: 224,259,292. Combat Bonds: 2,865. Profit from Combat Bonds: 82,542,010. Skimmers killed: 49
CRIME Fines Issued: 242. Lifetime Fines: 1,139,074. Highest Bounty Issued: 12,000
SMUGGLING Black Market Profit: 5,278,689. Commodities Smuggled: 5,745
TRADING Trading Profit: 983,406,890. Commodities Traded: 690,435
MINING Profit from Mining: 14,315,183. Materials Collected: 3,330
EXPLORATION Systems Visited: 5,282. Profit from Exploration: 48,358,793. Level 2 Scans: 896. Level 3 Scans: 66,501. Total Hyperspace Distance: 177,313. Jumps: 11,134. Max Distance from Start: 25,848. Time Played 6W 2D 17H 45M. SRV Distance Traveled: 665KM
PASSENGERS Missions Accepted: 1. Tourists: 2. Total Delivered: 2. Total Ejected 0
CRAFTING Number of engineers used 6. Upgrades Generated 121.
CREW Credits earned: 925,251. Hired 1. Fired 0. Lost 0.
CQC STATISTICS Profit from CQC: 18,305. Time Played: 4H 7MIN. Kill/Death Ratio: 0.652. Kills: 58. Win/Loss Ratio: 0.263
Right on Commander!