Dock For Tender: Peer At Elite: Dangerous’ New Stations

By Graham Smith on March 20th, 2014 at 6:00 pm.

If it doesn't work at first, try blowing in the slot to clear the dust out.

Craig is a vagabond journalist, a nomad who cannot be contained, and he wanders the land like Caine from Kung Fu, writing posts about videogames wherever he pleases. He’s the Snufkin of RPS, is what I’m saying, which is why we don’t always get to enjoy his company, and why we’re sometimes slow to post space sim news when he’s not around. News like the Elite: Dangerous alpha now has space station docking, there’s a video of it below, and my it looks beautiful.

The previous alpha builds of Elite: Dangerous had a series of individual combat scenarios and a little touch of multiplayer, but this newest version starts to piece together a more congruent universe with points you can warp between.

Most of my memories of Frontier: Elite II focus upon the docking procedure. I’m not sure I ever once accomplished it successfully – I was wee and rubbish, instead of big and rubbish like now – but I did like the graceful spinning of my intended target. I liked the precision required. I liked the way the complexity of it fixed the universe in your head as a real place.

I think I’ll like it this time even more, especially given the vastly expanded scale of space stations, and the fact one of them looks like a big digital watch.

Two images? In one post? I'm really spoiling you.

I want to slide in there like interstellar bread into an orbital toaster. I want to float snugly inside like Snufkin into his sleeping bag. I’ll hopefully get a chance to do that – with the Rift! the virtual reality Rift! – shortly after GDC, but for now it’s only available to those top tier backers of Elite: Dangerous’ crowdfunding campaign.

You know that Elite: Dangerous is Frontier Developments’ and David Braben’s crowdfunded successor to the famed space sim, right? That it has a dynamic galaxy of realistically modelled planets to explore, that it’s both single- and multiplayer, and that it’ll grow towards more public releases over the course of 2014? Sorry, I’d normally put more context in the first paragraph, but it’s almost the end of the week and I can already see Craig packing up his bindle…

Here is another video of a player having a go at the hyperspace and the docking. What is it with us Scots and space simulators?

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70 Comments »

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  1. Lemming says:

    It is truly gorgeous while instantly being recognisable as Elite. I didn’t back this, but I can’t wait to drop £30-£40 on the full game.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      I really hope they get to Beta soon because every time I see any video of the game my mind immediately wants to go and buy it. Beta should be cheaper, hopefully.

      Goddamn, that video is doing it again!

    • Shadowcat says:

      Oh my god, that looks incredible. This could turn out to be the best reinvention of an old game that’s ever been made.

    • Blue_Lemming says:

      I am with the Lemming on this one. Plus I am starting to wonder if its coincidence we have very similar likes..

  2. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Thank you Mr Smith, you are a very nice young man and this video game looks very nice. Will I be able to afford it on a state pension, as I wish to buy it for my grandson who is 36.

    • kael13 says:

      With the new budget, you’ll be able to buy ALL the copies of Elite Dangerous.

      On another note, Scott Manley, yay! That fellow has such an awesomely presentable voice.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Don’t mention the budget and that awful George Osborne man. He smirked at the Queen.

        Well actually I can’t prove that, but he is always smirking and he must have met the Queen at some point, so it stands to reason that he must have smirked at Her Majesty. I miss Ted Heath. And urinating voluntarily,

      • LionsPhil says:

        Scott Manley is also somewhat legendarily good at Kerbal Space Program, and has produced a frankly terrifying number of videos about it.

  3. Premium User Badge

    RedViv says:

    Does that mean Jim is Moominpappa, being all settled down now and creating and only occasionally popping out to philosophise for a while? (Also: Hat.)

    • Premium User Badge

      DrScuttles says:

      I can’t help but heartily endorse all Moomin related RPS comparisons. Adam strikes me as a Hemulen.

    • Graham Smith says:

      Yes, Jim is Moominpapa, sequestered away in his study to write his memoirs/make his game, dreaming of the voyages he took in his youth.

      John is Moominmamma. Alec is a Hemulen. Adam is Moomintroll. Tim Stone is Too-Ticky.

      And Kieron is the Groke.

  4. Scurra says:

    I thought pretty much the only memories anyone had of Elite was of trying to dock (to the tune of the Blue Danube, a la 2001.) Indeed, I can still conjure up memories of slowly rotating white rectangles and learning a lot of new words when I fail to match and splat against the outside, again. I mean, it was one of the first games to teach you that just because you now had the funds for an automatic docking computer, you didn’t actually need one because you could dock in your sleep by now.

    • Zafman says:

      In the amiga version of the original Elite, the blue danube would only be playing when the docking computer was doing its work. You could sit back and watch your ship docking itself, smoother than you could ever do using keyboard and digital joystick. The inside of the station would also be shown with a randomized number of other ships already docked. Of course during the course of the game that got a little boring and time consuming, so you could just turn all those features off. As soon as you enter the safe zone around the planet you’d activate the docking computer to immediately get to the buy/sell and upgrades menus. Without docking computer, well……you spent a lot of time just GETTING to the station before you could actually dock, that’s why it was such a useful upgrade!

    • Barberetti says:

      I don’t remember the Blue Danube ( or any music for that matter ) playing when I used the docking computers in Elite. Maybe it wasn’t on the BBC B or Master version? I could dock way faster manually anyway, so I hardly used them. Just fly over the station from behind. Stop and do a 180, then punch it straight into the slot.

      What I do remember is that moment, 99 days after I’d started playing. I was fighting in an anarchy system, and saw the “Right on commander” message flash on the bottom of the screen for the umpteenth time. I checked the status page, expecting to see the “Deadly” rank there as per usual. Instead, I saw

      E-L-I-T-E

      The next 20 minutes or so seemed like the slowest 20 minutes I’ve ever experienced, as I battled my way to the station (no fuel for jump) so that I could save my game. Once saved, I leaped out of my chair, fist raised, strutting round like I was the champion of the fucking galaxy.

      One of my best gaming moments ever.

      • Lemming says:

        For many of us, our Elite experience started (and ended) with Elite 2: Frontier on the Amiga/Atari ST/PC. That had all the classical music options, which was pretty genius as it’s public domain music. Even the non-atmospheric planet landing pads were straight from 2001:A Space Odyssey, so doing that to Blue Danube was just great.

      • Werthead says:

        We didn’t have it on the BBC versions (which struggled to fit even the game’s sound effects into 32k) but the 16-bit and later versions certainly put it on there.

    • Stardreamer says:

      I could quite happily live the rest of my life without hearing the Blue Danube ever again. I’m sorry, Elite, but I really am sick to death of that goddam tune and that’s entirely your doing.

  5. MrNash says:

    Wow, this looks amazing. Usually I’m not all that into space games, but I could see myself playing this.

  6. schlusenbach says:

    They even got a station of the old C64-elite on the holo display!

    I played that 28 years ago.

    Oh god.

    • Chorltonwheelie says:

      This is what I thought. Masterstroke featuring our Elite memories on the the cockpit we used to imagine.
      Hard for this game.

    • Shadowcat says:

      That little wireframe made me ridiculously happy.

  7. BTAxis says:

    Proper in-station docking? Hurrah!

    I don’t think Elite is supposed to feature exiting your ship though, is it?

    • Premium User Badge

      Lobster9 says:

      Not at launch, but walking on planets and stations is something they are hoping to do later.

      • Lemming says:

        I wasn’t aware of that. Are you sure you aren’t thinking of the atmospheric landing/flight? That’s not going be in at launch either, but was a main part of the old Elite games. You still never left your ship, though.

        • Premium User Badge

          Lobster9 says:

          We’re talking distant future here, but one thing they have been saying since the kickstarter first began is that they see this as being a long term project for themselves as much as anyone else. They have spoken about all kinds of crazy concepts they want to do in Elite Dangerous, including being able to leave the ship and walk around. They often talk of things like hunting animal life, and selling resources gathered by hand on planet surfaces. Even bonkers stuff like stowing away in another persons ship..

          No one should make a purchase based on wild dreams of the future of course. Personally I will be happy just getting the things from Elite with tasty new graphics, but it’s cool that they have grand ambitions.

          • dreamscape says:

            Within a year is not distant future.

          • Stardreamer says:

            “Within a year” is the launch of the core game. “Distant future” refers to everything Frontier want to do to Elite AFTER the game is out. Have a look at the Kickstarter page – E:D is a long-term project.

        • Werthead says:

          Planetary landings were in Frontier and First Encounters, but not the original Elite (which Dangerous seems to be harking back to).

          • Lemming says:

            What? No it’s very much going to be a continuation of Frontier. ‘Elite’ is just a catch-all for the series at this point. Everything I’ve seen of the game so far is built on the back of what Frontier added, not Elite directly.

          • Werthead says:

            The scale, space travel, different controllable ships etc is all very much Frontier but the actual flight model is much more influenced by Elite, in particular combat. Combat in Frontier was frustrating, annoying and almost impossible to control, whilst the combat in Elite (and apparently Dangerous) is more straightforward and elegant, with some options for doing Newtonian stuff.

            The intra-system jump drive is also back from Elite, having been absent from Frontier and First Encounters.

  8. CookPassBabtridge says:

    There’s something missing from the back of that station. Ah yes hang on:
    http://img3.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20110804142105/headhuntersholosuite/images/6/6c/Spaceball_One_001.jpg

  9. CookPassBabtridge says:

    Does he get blown up by another player … inside the station? If so, this is kind of what puts me off the whole “sharing the universe with spewman beings” thing. Even if you aren’t obliged to interact with them, they have a habit of deciding to interact with you whether you like it or not. I will happily be corrected and find out that you can choose to have an entirely AI populated universe though, I don’t know a massive amount about it.

    • Fox89 says:

      I believe he was being shot at for entering the station without permission. Notice the message at the top: “Tresspass violation. Lethal response authorised.”

    • Cockie says:

      If you mean around 1:25; no, he gets shot by the automatic station security because he didn’t ask docking permission before flying in.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      Ah ok thanks. I thought I heard him say “hey another player” and then bad things happened.
      Anyone know how truly singleplayer you will be able to make this?

      • BTAxis says:

        An internet connection is listed as one of the minimum requirements, so I’m guessing not too much.

      • Fox89 says:

        You will be able to configure it so that no other ships ever show up, or only your ‘friends’. You will be able to get updates from the server to experience the ‘shared universe’ regardless (so economy changes, things like that) but can turn off this synchronisation as well.

        It’s possible some of that might get descoped at some point, but I read that was the plan.

        • TechnicalBen says:

          If true this is great. A true offline mode would be better. But hey, it’s better than other game devs who have gon somewhat bat crazy in their old age…

          • Aiken Drum says:

            There are four different options. First is free for all multiplayer, second is instanced multiplayer with only invited friends sharing your universe and third is online single player, no other players visible at any point.. All these options use the persistent changing galaxy (changed by player actions, guided events, random inter-faction gubbins)

            The fourth and final option is offline singleplayer. No internet connection required to play the game. Also a static unchanging galaxy. Though DLC/expansions will still make changes.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Thanks chaps.

        • Lemming says:

          tbh, normally I’d be right there with you in terms of wanting the classic single player gameplay back, but Elite’s universe was traditionally so vast, and interactions with other ships usually limited to having them in your gun sights, I wouldn’t mind the MMO aspect of this at all. I think just turning off any voice/global chat options would be sufficient.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lobster9 says:

      A few things to answer your question.

      The alpha hasn’t yet implemented any of the -planned- areas of protected and unprotected space. Right now the only AI punishable crimes are fighting directly outside of the station, and attempting to enter the docking bay without clearance. In the full game combat inside high security stations will lead to an automatic response from the internal lasers.

      There should be plenty of options eventually to avoid direct confrontation if you don’t want it. It’s going to be a big galaxy with plenty of room for people to spread out, and with plenty of different types of star system to suit people’s desired environment .

      Aside from the above, the game IS going to include an offline mode that will synchronize with “live” space whenever you choose to play online.

      • Cockie says:

        Great, now I want to buy this even more.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        Ah great. A true offline mode would be wonderful… now if it would work on the laptop. :(

  10. Ridolfo says:

    It would not be Elite without the station docking dance. I will probably buy this just to re-live those memories before my crotchety old muscle memory decays into dust.

  11. tomimt says:

    I really like how this looks. I remember trying to dock the ship on the original Elite, I think I even managed to pull it off. This is definetely on my buy list.

  12. Grovester says:

    I never understood how, in the Elite universe, they could develop hyperspace technology, but not develop a docking computer as standard. Used to wind me up no end, and probably will wind me up in E:D too.

    • Zafman says:

      In Frontier the autopilot was also the docking computer. Any ship larger than 80t capacity (Cobra Mk III and upwards) would get some major hull damage if you didn’t have at least one shield generator fitted though, thanks to the autopilot being so darn slow on approach. Better use fast forward if you’re docking a large ship. :)

    • Chorltonwheelie says:

      It’s a capitalist universe. If you can’t afford it you’re not going to get it ’till you can.

    • Lemming says:

      What Zafman said – the (optional) autopilot did everything. When you’ve landed on a station manually once or twice, it can get a little tiresome if you are just trying to get on with your jobs, so autopilot is how I imagine most people landed, most of the time. Not an option if you were landing on barren planets for mining, though.

    • Mu77ley says:

      I’ve found the docking in Elite: Dangerous is much easier than in the original, and also more interesting as there’s a bit more too it. I imagine I’ll always docking manually with smaller ships, just to save time over a docking computer which will probably a bit slower.

      From video I’ve seen, getting an Anaconda into the station is a bit of a tight squeeze, so I may use a docking computer for that if/when I get one.

  13. Synesthesia says:

    Scott manley does the best kerbal videos.

  14. Axess Denyd says:

    I think I’ll like it this time even more, especially given the vastly expanded scale of space stations, and the fact one of them looks like a big digital watch.

    Apparently Graham still thinks digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

  15. Barberetti says:

    Please let there be an option to turn off the dust particles or whatever they are. Apart from that, looking great!

  16. derbefrier says:

    Beta can’t come fast enough. Would buy it now but having never played the elite games I don’t have that nostalgia to convince me to spend that much money.

  17. Iskariot says:

    I have watched several station Zelada videos dozens of times. It is so beautiful and so incredibly Elite while at the same time so infinitely more beautiful, infinitely more awesome, infinitely enhanced and upscaled that it brings tears to my old eyes of pure joy. I have been waiting for this for so long. And now the moment is upon us. Elite is back.

  18. jinglin_geordie says:

    Docking a Cobra Mk III was a damned sight easier than using the Lenslok on a 26″ telly, I remember that much.

    Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lenslok , for the younger reader.

  19. Armante says:

    Gaaaah that looks properly amazing; all those small details, blinking lights, other ships.. just awesome.

    Excuse me while I go into suspended animation until the game comes out, and enough money accrues in my bank account to upgrade my pc and get the consumer Oculus Rift. Which had better be out by then!

  20. Stardreamer says:

    What is it with us Scots and space simulators?

    It is because us Scots is awesome. AWESOME, I tells you!

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      Harlander says:

      Also, when you’ve experienced Scotland’s weather for a while, the vacuum of space starts to seem appealing…

  21. Premium User Badge

    Matt says:

    Amiga Elite docking sequence with music

    This is how I remember it. Can we have an option for the music in the new version as well? :)

  22. Premium User Badge

    Zunt says:

    The hyperspace voice countdown is wrong! It’s doing what that bloody woman does on that bloody million pound drop show! You don’t say ‘5’ when 5 first appears in the countdown because that’s 5.999. You say 5 when 4 appears! THIS REALLY GETS MY CAPRINE..

    • Mu77ley says:

      You’ll be pleased to know I’ve already raised that as a bug

  23. SuicideKing says:

    GLaDOS in SPAAAAAACCE!

    Looks beautiful. Want to play. I hope some manager at Volition is slapping themselves.

    EDIT: My first space games, X-Wing vs Tie Fighter and FreeSpace 2, were played in Scotland.

  24. Niko says:

    The Rectangle of Doom!

  25. Premium User Badge

    JiminyJickers says:

    I never thought they would pull it off, so I didn’t back the kickstarter. I’m regretting that decision now. Looking forward to this releasing so that I can throw some money at it.

    Edit: Just saw that it is GPB 200 to join the alpha. I guess I’m happy to wait then, haha. Looking forward to playing it much later then.