Elite Dangerous Impressions Part 1 – Learning To Fly

*my* hands

Elite: Dangerous is out. Somehow that happened after all these years. Remarkable, really. As previously discussed, a full review/Wot I Think of the game we’re not supposed to call Elite 4 will arrive next year. It won’t be from me, as despite my fondest wishes otherwise I can’t spend the Christmas break in a Cobra, but what I can do is whip out my big joystick and give you some initial impressions over the next few days. You can call it a review diary if you like, but I’m more sharing what I think as I go along, not intending that it reach some final judgement. If you’d care to join me, SUIT UP.

Context, in case it matters: I spent quite a bit of time fiddling about with the initial backer alphas (disclaimer thingy: I didn’t back it but requested and was given media access), but it’s been a while. I was enormously impressed by how well it ‘did’ space, but decided I didn’t want to wear out that awe on something so early. So I left it alone for months, and have only now returned to my cockpit. Thus, much of what I might mention is scarcely going to be news to anybody who’s played earlier builds. I’m still learning all the terminology too, so some of that may be incorrect in this piece.

I’m around five hours in, and I haven’t fired a shot. Not in cold blood, not in hot blood, just not at all. As far as I’m concerned I’m still on a provisional pilot’s license, and until I feel completely comfortable with how to fly, navigate, dock and trade, I’m not prepared to risk even an inch of my skin.

Fortunately, I don’t have to. While Elite: Dangerous in all other respects rips away the training wheels before you’ve even started pedalling, it’s completely set up to allow one to play at one’s own pace. I could have gone out and started shooting up pirates or traders from minute one if I so desired, but instead I opted to keep my head down, explore a few local systems and earn a few pennies from courier missions and simple trading. Even that was just an excuse to travel.

Travel is what Elite, in all the builds I’ve played, does best. The core sensation of being in space is something I’ve written on before, and Elite does it so very well that it deserves any award going. ‘Best Sound’ especially – its combination of sciencey noises and Eno/Apollo-like celestial moans is comfortably the most affecting thing my headphones have done this year, if not longer. To focus solely on how good it feels to boost and pivot around an asteroid field, or the yawning immensity as you fly into the enormous metal cave of one of its stations, would be to overlook the pleasure of the long-haul voyage.

That’s what I’ve primarily been doing so far. Travelling between stars. It takes a long time to get from A to B, even comparatively short hops, and while sometimes that’s frustrating, it’s also the most perfect recreation I’ve ever experienced of real travel. Here’s how it works.

To jump to another system, you select it from your map – sometimes you can just see it there, because it’s proximate enough to where you are already, but sometimes you have to manually type in its name to find it. This is fiddly, especially if you’re playing on a flight stick and have to awkwardly reach across it to your keyboard, but already it feels like travel. Tapping the postcode into your GPS, or scouring the map for wherever Stow On The Wold is. You’re not just clicking on a thing, you’re actively making this happen yourself.

Next, you probably need to get clear of whatever station you’d been docked at. Docking I’ll talk about another time, but what I mean here is that your Frame Shift Drive – Elite’s hyperspace engine – won’t work unless you’re far enough away from a major body. So you boost away until the Mass Locked sign turns off, then align your view with roughly the direction your intended system is in. All this takes at least half a minute, but again, you’re preparing for the trip, making stuff happen yourself rather than having the game do it for you. The anticipation builds. The sense that all this really exists, that you can’t shortcut, that travelling through space at crazy speeds is not something you can treat lightly.

And then. And then. Oh boy. This is it. Hit the button.

(For me, it really is a button, or rather a chunky silver switch. I know it’s a huge additional expense, but I really do believe that a flight stick is essential for this game, that the game is a shadow without it. Elite has me so completely because I feel like I’m there, and that requires more tactile tools than a keyboard and mouse, something that makes me feel as though there is a direct link between me and my ship).

A few seconds to charge up. Then a Timer. 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Oh. My. God.

I mean, I’m sure this will become routine at some point. My twentieth hyperspace jump was as thrilling as the first, however. Everything dissolves, blurs, lurches, bends. It’s what we see in the movies but it’s happening to me. And when it ends, you’re not dumped neatly at your destination – you’re hurled out of whatever vortex you were in, straight in front of a burning star. Huge, almost painful to look at, filling the cockpit and… it’s getting bigger and bigger and oh God brake/turn/brake/turn/brake/turn.

I flew too close to a sun once, too drawn in by its gigantic majesty, and in panic I dropped out of Frame Shift speed. Standard engines couldn’t carry me away fast enough, and attempting to restart the supercruise drive when I was that close saw my ship’s heat go through the roof, immediately damaging the craft and dropping me back out again. It took 40% hull damage from repeated failed attempts and many, many long minutes to edge just far enough away, and finding a destination which angled me further rather than closer to the star during the first few precious seconds of high speed, but I made it.

I really didn’t think I would. I thought I’d be stuck there, orbiting a celestial body until I expired or gave up and aimed straight for it. I paid for my carelessness, but I also fought my way out of it. This is travel, not fast travel. This is a voyage through an uncaring universe. Can’t take my hand off the till.

Even when I don’t go Full Icarus, getting to a new system’s star is only stage one of a long journey. Next, I need to find the particular station or planet I’m bound for, and at a reduced but nonetheless impossible speed manually steer myself towards it. There’s usually a long wait, as the light years count down slowly, slowly. I can’t see my destination yet, just a dot on my HUD with its approximate location.

As the distance drops to mere millions of kilometres, I need to slow down. If I don’t slow down early enough, I’ll shoot straight past it and end up perhaps billions of miles on the other side of it. Conversely, if I drop out of supercruise too early, I could end up spending twenty real-time minutes edging to my goal. This is exiting the motorway, switching from a high speed straight line into slow precision, and the major shift in state of mind that entails.

I’m still learning quite how it works, but when it does work, when I shift back to normal speeds and normal space at the right moment, I’m just a few kilometres from where I want to be, and I breathe a sigh of relief and accomplishment. The lonely hotel at the end of a long night’s drive. The sense of an ending, the need to stand up and shake out the cramp, that dim awareness that I’ve survived something ostensibly routine but in which any number of things could have gone disastrously wrong. I’m here. It’s not home, but it’s here. I did it.

It’s a journey every time. It exhausts me. I love that. Elite: Dangerous treats every little thing as a big thing. It’s a huge time and effort investment, a world away from the ADHD instant gratification and anytime teleportation of this year’s icon-strewn big action games.

Still ahead of me is docking. Again, I’ll probably talk about that another time, because it really needs videos, but it’s a point where I want to frown at rather than praise the game. Initially, I was playing in the MMO-like fully online mode, because I felt the dynmically shifting economy and factional conflict was the true experience. Now I’m playing solo (which, infamously, is not an offline mode, even though I am the only live mind in it), purely because of docking.

No shortcuts, remember? So you can’t dock at a station if all the docking bays are already in use. Makes sense, adds life, builds anticipation if you have to wait a couple of minutes to get the all-clear to land. And you can’t land without the station explicitly giving you permission to – no shortcuts, air traffic control. Trouble is, now the game has its mass release, it seems many players are taking up the same missions, and heading to the same destinations.

Many of the stations I’ve fetched up at have been like a supermarket car park at 5pm on Christmas eve. It’s a mad bundle of ships hanging around, trying to dart into apparent spaces before someone else does, all of them grimly and repeatedly requesting docking permission just as I am, and the ones who have landed seem to stay there for an eternity. There’s no queuing system – it’s first come, first served, desperately hoping that your next docking request comes in a split-second before the other three people who are trying same. I had a mission expire on me – costing me $10k – because I spent forty full minutes doing this, in vain.

Docking request denied. Docking request denied. Docking request denied. Docking request deni…

So I switched to solo mode, where this problem doesn’t exist. In time, it won’t exist in multiplayer either – players will scatter further across the universe, and there’ll be less pressure on starting area stations. I suspect I’ll be able to go back into the fray in a few days myself, once I’ve ventured further out. Really though, the game badly needs to implement a queuing system – take a ticket, have an ETA, know that you’re definitely going to get in.

Flying and docking: that’s what I’ve done so far, simply getting my head around travel, and other than the queues for the car park, I’ve adored every moment of it. The look and sound of this game is, if you’ll forgive quite so much melodrama, second to nothing else this year, and probably the next. Maybe my feelings will change once I get into the combat side of things, and into long-term investment in better ships and factional alliances. I’ll let you know about that in a couple of days.

97 Comments

  1. JS says:

    Is there a setting to change that awful orange UI look to something more tolerable? If so, I might consider taking a look at this, otherwise, forget it.

    • Diziet Sma says:

      Hahahahahahahahahaa..

    • Synesthesia says:

      Yep, there are some pretty cool ones, too. I tried a few, but went back to good ol’ orange for galaxy map readability.

      link to reddit.com

    • Danorz says:

      That’s coming, but it requires a full redraw of all the HUD elements and the director was not down for dropping that on the UI team so close to launch. There’s an unofficial semi-supported experimental way of doing it but it requires you to edit an ini file and as it’s basically a pallete rotation of the HUD it can take a bit of relearning. There’s a tool for picking/fiddling with your colours here. link to arkku.com Green works best on an oculus rift DK2 because the DK2 screen has more green subpixels

    • Eggman says:

      I remember the days when people played games and didn’t care whether the UI was orange or blue.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        I used to feel the same way, then I booted up New Vegas and the Pipboy display defaulted to orange instead of green. I was not pleased.

    • Uncertain says:

      You can recolour the HUD almost entirely by editing three lines in a text file. Synesthesia’s link is useful, but here’s the original HUD colour tweaking thread from the Frontier forums too, full of custom colour schemes from enthusiastic players. link to forums.frontier.co.uk

      Not all of the thread’s submissions were edited into the OP, so scan its every page for screenshots if you’d like a thorough catalogue.

    • ollieclark says:

      Yes there is but after having played with it for a few days I went back to orange. It might not look that great but it’s easier to see than anything else.

    • zarnywoop says:

      You can drop the brightness of the UI/HUD right down, so its not so bright. Looks fine.

    • Smashbox says:

      Amazing that such a late entrant could take away the prize this year!

      Lamest comment of 2014!

  2. Premium User Badge

    Qazinsky says:

    I am wearing a T-shirt and some jeans, will this be appropiate attire for this… “space” place we are going?

    • Horg says:

      If Star Trek has taught me anything, it’s that the correct attire for deep space exploration is a pajama one piece.

    • vlonk says:

      It will probably do, but do not forget your towel while space traveling!

      • Rich says:

        Hey, you sass that hoopy vlonk? There’s a frood who really knows where his towel is!

    • StickyLlama says:

      Just make sure your T-Shirt isn’t red

  3. jasta85 says:

    I’m having quite a bit of fun with it. Tricked out my sidewinder with some gimbal weapons and a few minor upgrades and started making a lot of money bounty hunting. nothing like seeing an anaconda with a 50,000 credit bounty, call in the authorities to attack it and then steal the kill from them to get the bounty :)

  4. Keiggo says:

    I own this but I’m slightly apprehensive of starting it!

    • Lead Sponge says:

      Don’t be… just jump in. You’ll screw up. That’s part of the fun with a game like this.

    • Perjoss says:

      Nothing to be afraid of, just stick to the old EVE rule of don’t undock with anything you cannot afford to lose and you will be fine. Your starting ship and installed modules are replaced practically for free if you get blown up.

  5. Danorz says:

    I’m glad everyone’s picking up on the sound in this game, it is legitimately amazing. When you get a feel for your ship you can practically fly it blindfolded just from listening to the engine note and the subtle rumbling of encroaching mass.

    • Lead Sponge says:

      The thing I love is each ship feels a bit different because of the sounds. The Hauler flies and sounds like a mini-van. It has odd knocking sounds along with whines and thumps. The sound is very immersive.

    • K_Sezegedin says:

      Yeah the sound is incredible, –

      The only misstep is the silent running sound effects…not even sure what that’s supposed to be representing. I drift along in near complete silence with all my modules turned off, but flipping on Silent Running fills the pit with … is that music? … some sort of looping mechanical sound? What is it?

      Just the subtle notes of your ship’s metals popping and pinging as they heat up with retained emmissions would be much better!

    • Zenicetus says:

      Different ship types have different engine sounds too, which is very cool, and helps give each ship a personality.

    • Rolento says:

      The ship sound is indeed awesome. The sounds my Adder makes when I’m powering up freaks me out!

    • Synesthesia says:

      Oh my, yes. The sounds in this game take the cake.

  6. unangbangkay says:

    I need help making a decision, folks:

    – Buy this now and play it on an Xbox gamepad.

    or:

    – Wait 3 months for a HOTAS I’m thinking of ordering to come in the post and then buy it.

    • PoulWrist says:

      Waiting means it’ll have been patched heavily. Probably worth it if you’re not all itchy.

      • iainl says:

        Sadly, however, this is an MMO, and not the single-player focussed game I wanted. Doesn’t waiting mean that we’re going to face a dead market for exploration bounties, even in “single-player” online mode?

        But I really do kind of want to wait until I can get a stick first.

        • Gremlin says:

          Exploration bonuses are mostly per-player, so there will still be tons of cash to be made from exploring for quite some time. Plus, lots of systems are only partially surveyed, even fairly close to the middle of human space.

          • iainl says:

            Thanks. I think I’ll hold off until I can get a stick, then. Probably the T.16000M, as it’s a bit difficult flying a HOTAS when I’m left-handed.

          • Perjoss says:

            The T16000 looks like it might be a bit lacking in terms of buttons as it doesn’t have the throttle part, but recently I’ve gotten into using VoiceAttack and now I hardly use most of the buttons on my flight stick, so much stuff can be nicely bound to voice activation. VA takes a bit of time to set up but its so good to use.

          • iainl says:

            It’s only a small one, so fine control could be a bit fiddly. But there’s a throttle on the base, in front of the stick itself. It’s got twist-to-yaw as well.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            To the OP, my very limited experience with flight controls has been really good. I know for a long time people have said that docking is a difficult business, but with rudder pedals (mapped yaw to rudder and side thrust to toe brakes) and HOTAS I was able to dock smoothly first time, every time. A good analogue joystick will let you match the station’s rotation very easily, and then the other controls give you fine adjustment.

            I was also using the Oculus, and had some experience with Oculus space games using a similar control scheme, but I think being able to use hands and feet together makes for a great experience

          • Premium User Badge

            Grizzly says:

            @aiainl.

            If it’s any consolation, actual military left-handed pilots also have to deal with all the control systems being built for right handed people in mind.

    • Danorz says:

      I couldn’t go back from my X-55 but it is surprisingly playable on a 360 pad, hell even M+KB is fine if you swap roll and yaw in the options. Roll on the mouse is barf city

      • Caiman says:

        Yaw turns for shit, though, roll and bank is the only way, and in that regard mouse & keyboard works just fine. I started using it while waiting to buy a HOTAS, but got so good with it (and so comfortable) that I decided to stick with it. Like anything, it just needs practice.

        • bobbobob says:

          I’m so glad you’ve said this. If I couldn’t go solely mouse and keyb, well, I think I might very well kick my PC into space.

    • Premium User Badge

      Sleepymatt says:

      Heathens! Classic ASX .,/ and (spacebar) is the way to go!!

      Well, perhaps not if you own a decent stick, but I was amazed how the intervening 25 years hadn’t eroded those old hard-wired controls from my brain, and how viable they are in today’s game. Admittedly docking on to the pad is far easier with some vertical and lateral thrusters bound, but still – screaming in to the station at full tilt hasn’t really changed that much!! I’ll give the Xbox controller a go at some point but so far classic keyboard is much easier for me than keyboard & mouse.

    • fredc says:

      Neither, just buy any cheap 3-axis USB stick with a throttle. E.g. Saitek AV8R.

    • Hunchback says:

      If you have to wait for HOTAS for financial reasons, consider the Thrustmster Flight HOTAS X, they go for 50 bucks and everyone online has said they are excellent for the price. Can’t compare to the monsters that cost 120-200 or more, but largely good enough for play. I myself ordered it and received it yesterday, will try it tonight with X:R and E:D after i get the game on Xmas… (Could get E:D right now, but i’d rather wait a few days and have an actual Xmas gift)

  7. Asurmen says:

    For the first time, not only am I having buyers remorse but it’s the first game that’s made me hate always online. Bloody well can’t play the thing due to transaction server issues dumping me to menu every few minutes.

    Doesn’t help that Frontier haven’t responded to anyone to acknowledge the problem and either apologise, state it’s bring looked into or explain the problem isn’t with them and offer solutions.

    • Lead Sponge says:

      I haven’t had that problem at all. The servers seem very stable, even in open play. It might be something up with your internet connection, because I never get kicked.

      • Asurmen says:

        Issue with that is there isn’t any problem that I can see. Other games run fine, downloads are fine and other people with my ISP are playing the game.

        • ollieclark says:

          Could be your router. During the beta I started having real problems connecting. Tried all sorts of things. Everything else internet related was fine but I could barely play E:D. In the end my ISP diagnosed it to be my router, I switched it for a new one and after that it was fine.

          • Asurmen says:

            I’m going to prod Virgin Media to do some tests on my connection. I have noticed that my upload speed is non existent. On speedtest I’m getting about 0.05Mb/sec upload. Not sure if that will kill Elite gaming and not anything else.

          • Caiman says:

            I’m playing this on a terrible and very flaky internet connection, it’s still perfectly playable even though I get the occasional hitch while local data streams in. Much better than I expected, certainly far more forgiving than something like Diablo 3. I’d prefer that an offline version was available, but it hasn’t stopped me playing it. So yeah, I would definitely investigate further.

  8. Hideous says:

    “because I felt the dynmically shifting economy and factional conflict was the true experience.”

    These also exist in Solo mode. You affect the economy just as much as any one player in multiplayer mode, because it is all online, and you’re all playing the same universe – just not occupying the same physical space.

  9. Awesomeclaw says:

    I appreciate that this probably won’t be a popular opinion, but I really didn’t enjoy the time I spent with E:D. While I agree that they really do absolutely nail the feeling of being in space in terms of the sound, graphics, most of the interface etc. (and I really must emphasize that it’s probably the best ‘feeling’ space game I’ve ever played), once the novelty wore off I felt that the actual game portion of the game was lacking. Trading was a chore, and I found myself fighting against both the trading interface screen and galaxy map. There’s no in-game way of assessing exactly how profitable a trade route might be (the trade route view of the galaxy map helps but is nothing compared to the trade computers in X3 or the market screen in EVE) so you’re constantly bouncing between the galaxy map, the market screen, and a source of external data (either any notes you’ve taken or an external market data website).

    I also found combat pretty uninspiring. I tried both bounty hunting missions and the combat ‘warzones’ dotted around. Bounty hunting seemed to consist mostly of flying randomly through space, hoping to bump in to my target, while the warzones typically seemed to involve 5-10 minutes of travel, 30 seconds of action before being blown up, then another 5-10 minutes of travel. I imagine that flying a better/better equipped ship would help with the being blown up thing, but that seems to rely on spending a lot of time with the tedious trading. The few upgrades which I did try out seemed to make absolutely no difference to my survivability.

    I also briefly tried out mining. Once I understood what I was meant to do (the game doesn’t provide any explanation, and I couldn’t find any tutorials at the time I tried it) I found it was too boring to enjoy but too interactive to do idly. Compared with the X series (a similar mining system but more profitable) and EVE (mining less interactive but easier to idle) E:D seems to have picked the worst of both worlds. I didn’t try exploration but I understand that it involves travelling long distances and hoping that no-one else has scanned the stuff that you’re scanning. I feel like this could be interesting if there were ways of finding valuable planet data beyond luck, but right now it seems that you could fly halfway across the galaxy, scan a rare planet, then find out once you sell the data that it’s worthless because someone beat you to it, with no indication of this in game.

    TLDR: Nailed the feeling of flying a spaceship but I still did not find it a fun experience.

    • ollieclark says:

      Trading – fair enough, it’s not my cup of tea either. I like that you have to actually travel before you know how profitable a trip’s going to be and the people with better info will make more money.

      You might enjoy combat zones more when you’re better at combat. That’s not a dig – combat is really quite complex in Elite and it takes time to master. During Alpha and the early Betas there was nothing at all to do /except/ combat.so I ended up spending hundreds of hours doing nothing else. A combat zone for me now (even in the starter ship) would mean 5-10 minutes of travel followed by as long as I want blowing things up and then another 5-10 minutes travel.

      I don’t think you’re getting the most out of bounty hunting either. I’ve chased high bounty ships across several systems and it’s great fun. I’ve spent hours hunting criminals in asteroid belts (look for Resource Extraction Zones). If you’re spending ages randomly flying around, you’re missing several tricks.

      Mining, couldn’t agree more. Dull as dish water. But some people really like it and who are we to argue with them. Let them shoot rocks out of other rocks whilst I do something more interesting.

      Exploring is probably my favourite part of the game at the moment. I combine it trading rare goods over long distances and a bit of bounty hunting along the way to keep my trigger finger happy. If you want to get a bit more hardcore about it, pick an interesting star from one of the star catalogues and fly to it. there’ll be loads of unexplored systems along the way. You can make an educated guess about whether a system is likely to be interesting (valuable) from the type of star(s).

      Anyway, it’s probably not for everyone and it’s definitely not for anyone who doesn’t like travelling through space. If you give up on it after a few hours though you’re not really doing justice to it. And if I’m honest it probably is fairly boring for the first few hours for someone new to the series.

  10. Cut says:

    “No shortcuts, remember? So you can’t dock at a station if all the docking bays are already in use.”

    If you wish to help alleviate this problem for others, make sure you always enter your hangar after landing… :)

  11. roethle says:

    Alec if you Jump out a ways to more distant systems the player count drops dramatically. I am about 60ly from where I started and I only see other players occasionally. I have yet to wait in line for docking.

  12. jinglin_geordie says:

    It captures the feel of Elite. The problem is, it was a grind in 1983. However, when you were 12, grinding through a game was ok, and was part of the fun. Now? – not so much.

    Somehow, they have got to get characters and meta plots into this to help you weave your story into the fabric – a touch of CK2. At the moment, it feels a bit soulless.

    • morbiusnl says:

      elite doesnt need a story. One of the good things about it, its a large universe and you can simply jump into it. No need to worry about story or plot. And it absolutly nails the feeling of space, of being in a large universe. If that feeling alone doesnt grab you then this isnt a game for you.

    • fredc says:

      I don’t think it has to be treated as a grind, it’s just it has attracted a certain contingent of EVE and other MMO type players, so they are all like “I MUST GRIND FOR A LAAKON TYPE 9!!!”. During the Gamma, I actually just stuck to the Sidewinder. Hey presto, no grind.

      I do agree that more story elements, e.g. a better realised version of the stuff Braben did with Frontier, in addition to the “procedural story” elements involving system control being affected by aggregate player decision making, would make it more fun for the rest of us. I also think that will be forthcoming. Add in the atmospheric flight stuff – again already done by Braben in Frontier – with 2015 technology and it will be genuinely amazing.

    • Synesthesia says:

      I thought it was a grind too, but I was surprised that at least in the early game, it isn’t so much. My freeagle carried me through several bounty hunting missions, and i got a kickass FSdrive and a fixed cannon that destroyed pirates. I now have my first adder, and are firmly on my way to a viper or a cobra, in less than 5 gaming sessions.

    • ollieclark says:

      There is a story now – if you’ve got the game, check out the Galnet news to find out about slave rebellions, drug prohibitions (and all the gameplay that presents) and rumours about the Imperial Emperor’s health. You’ve got to go and find the action or you can create your own stories. A bunch of players are close to destabilising a whole system by helping a rebel faction.

      • Walsh says:

        That’s awesome except for the fact you can start out a million light years from where their ‘story’ takes place and possibly in a ship that isn’t jump capable to make it to where ever it is.

        So then you have to grind to get what you need to get out there.

        It seems like the only way to get one of the larger ships is by trading, which is a grind and as much fun as watching paint dry.

        I actually preferred it when the galaxy map wasn’t opened up because at least then there’s more stuff going on then flying to systems with the same types of space stations and ships.

      • Shadow says:

        Yeah, it sounds like there’s still issues with progression and profitability of things. Worse, some people are enshrining the critical flaw that is the grind saying “that’s Elite, that’s how it always was”, as if it were something that should be preserved. Worst, this might all be intended.

        My gaming time is limited nowadays and I have several games to play. I don’t have any problem with a single game taking up all my time, but only as long as there’s actual content justifying that. It seems Elite Dangerous is infected with the MMO syndrome, and I can’t religiously play an artificially stretched-out game with little content for the substantial time investment it demands.

        The game’s gimped by such a syndrome. All for what? Player influence on the economy and exploration and whatever? It’s the MMO paradox: as a player, you don’t mean the smallest thing unless you make it your life’s mission (and have piles of free time you’re willing to invest). I’d rather have a more reasonable, properly single-player game.

        • P.Funk says:

          Its a multi player game. I dunno how you want them to design a multi player game where everyone gets to be Han Solo or Boba Fett on a limited schedule.

        • Shadow says:

          It’s not just a multiplayer game. The singleplayer side was also strongly advertised, and you’d think that would work, you know, like a singleplayer game. But no, it’s slaved to all the systems (and especially the grind) the MMO side requires to be what it is, so you just end up playing an MMO by yourself. Which is what you can generally do in MMOs without it being called “singleplayer”, with all the connotations such a claim has. Fantastic.

          I guess Star Citizen is the last hope for an actual singleplayer space simulator experience like Privateer or Freelancer. They’re also planning for a “persistent universe” as well, but with any luck, they’ll handle it better than E:D does.

          • Cockie says:

            Have you not heard of our Lord and saviour Limit Theory?
            It’s a single player, offline and completely moddable spiritual successor to freelancer!

          • Shadow says:

            That’s true.

            I’ll have to keep an eye out for that as well.

          • Llewyn says:

            Limit Theory is my one big case of Kickstarter regret. I didn’t back it and regret it immensely.

            That said, I’m expecting something very different from that than I’d have hoped for from a Frontier successor – despite the apparent resurgence of space games there’s still room for more.

  13. Chaz says:

    I don’t really understand the decision behind having you come out of a hyperspace jump right in front of that systems sun, going suicidally full pelt towards it in super cruise. Can’t they have you jump in on the edge of the system instead as in the original Elite? That way you won’t have to be ready to swerve out of the way of a great big ball of fire every time you leave hyperspace.

    • fredc says:

      Hint: once the countdown to hyperspace is done, retard your throttle all the way.

    • Buuurr says:

      I think it is in part because of some theory about wormholes, space portals and large solar masses. Generally it is theorized that Earth and its magnetic fields are not just for keeping us safe but that they could be the key to creating gateways to other similar places as long as there is a magnetic field connection between the two.

      The sun has a massive magnetic field – any star does really, when you think about it. It really just makes sense to have a sun or star be the start and end to a portal in space because when exploring you don’t really know that there is a planet with a strong enough magnetic field to enable the continuation or elimination of the space portal. Flying from star to star is really the only halfway sure way to say where you will end up because we can detect them even with todays tech let alone well into the future.

      I would assume the devs have some basic knowledge of space and its workings due to the love and feel that has been put into this game.

      I could be wrong but it seems correct to me when it happens.

      • tatties says:

        That sounds plausible, I thought it was so that you had to pay attention. I’ve been almost crispy fried a few times when activating hyperspace and then going to put the kettle on.

        Reminded me that a friend of mine said he has been sling-shotting round the sun for an FSD speed boost when he exits hyperspace, off to give it a go!

      • SuicideKing says:

        I dunno. I mean, between Star Wars, Star Trek, FreeSpace and this, I think it’s pretty safe to say that trying to validate and debate how “realistic” subspace/hyperspace/FTL travel is, is a waste of time.

        It’s a better idea to look at how that integrates into the game’s mechanics, because no one at the moment can offer a verifiable model or theory for such phenomena.

        Current interplanetary travel is basically “hey use a gravitational slingshot and ion thrusters, gain speed and keep going till you can gravitationally latch on to the next object”. Viable interstellar travel is mostly outside the realm of modern day science and squarely in the region of science fiction.

        • Buuurr says:

          I agree. This, unlike Star Trek or Star Wars is actually based on a theory that NASA is currently studying right now and have had some break through from theory to testing. So, it isn’t really debatable unless me and you are astro physicists really…

          The most prominent theory is the Star Gate theory for wormhole travel (star to star) using magnetics around an interstellar body.

          I am not saying that they used this or that. What I am saying is that the way it looks in hyperspace is how it looks in theory model of travel through a wormhole using magnetic transmission.

  14. arti110 says:

    I own this but I’m slightly apprehensive of starting it! tribal wars 2 hack

  15. tatties says:

    Implement a queuing system instead of “docking request denied, please follow docking protocols” you could have “Please wait for an available bay, you are position 12 in the queue.” That’s what real space-airports would do wouldn’t they? (No need for holding patterns I guess since you can just stop dead and wait.. )

    • P.Funk says:

      Wouldn’t it be awesome if they acted like real ATC and gave you one of several static waypoints around the base for you to wait in so that you could actually be in a queue and you could count the number of ships in front?

      Ah well, nerd simulation crap at it finest. Most people probably want the docking to go away entirely.

  16. Shadowcat says:

    Aw, the in-game keyboard has bright red BBC Micro function keys :)

    • thekelvingreen says:

      That is wonderful.

    • Shadowcat says:

      In fact, it is a BBC Micro keyboard! It’s not just the function keys; it’s the whole layout. (Somehow I’d forgotten that was the position of the arrow keys, and so I didn’t think to compare them fully the first time.)

      So many awesome nostalgic touches in this game.

  17. neotribe says:

    Lets talk about flight controls. It looks like I’m finally going to be replacing my barely functioing saitek X-36/X-35. I’ll miss HazardScript (not that I’ve used it recently).

    What do people like these days? The RPS article from earlier this year wasn’t that helpful. I’m aware of the X-52 Pro, which was the only serious kit that was reviewed . But what about the X-55? It’s $20-$30 more, and seems to have a lot more to offer. As long as the controls can be usefully mapped.

    Then there’s still CH, which is less economical than Saitek (about $350 for stick, throttle, and pedals) and then Thrustmaster, which is not economical at all. The Warthog is kinda insane at $415 for stick and throttle. (I might consider a used Cougar, although it was always a mixed bag.)

    Curious to hear what others are using or considering.

    • Smegheid says:

      Heh – Hazardscript. There aren’t many left that remember about that. It definitely gained more fame than my abortive attempt at a GUI for Hazardscript (SMEGUP), which I abandoned when Saitek finally released their tools for XP.

      Anyway, I dumped my tired old X36 for a Warthog as my Christmas pressie. Was it expensive? You betcha. Thanks to camelcamelcamel, I did catch it at sub-$400 pricing, but it was still approaching double what another Saitek would cost.

      I justified it to myself on a couple of levels. First, I managed to eke out over a decade of use from my X36. If I even manage half that from the Warthog, the per-year cost is reasonable. Next, I very rarely get luxury items for myself; it’s usually the kids that get the attention. Given this was a pressie from the missus, I was OK with splurging a little, especially as she’d received a new iPhone eariler in the year.

      It really is a thing of beauty. The feel of the stick is great, especially when you first touch the cold metal. The hats are all placed well and it’s amazing how much the different texture on each makes a difference to knowing where your thumb is. The grey trim hat is a bit of a stretch, and the thumb button to the left isn’t something you’d want to use too often, but the 2-stage trigger makes up for that a lot.

      There’s a little bit of stiction in the stick itself when moving from centred, but nothing compared to my old Saitek. It moves very smoothly otherwise.

      I just wish Frontier would sort out their controls to meet modern HOTAS rigs more in the middle. There are still too many stateless toggle controls (gear, headlights, etc.) that really want individual on/off actions. That way you could program some of the throttle switches such that the state of the switch is the state of the equipment it’s controlling, with no sync issues. Some of the important ones are OK with their “hold” functionality – flight assist and the cargo scoop can be explicitly set by the state of a switch.

      Moving to a Warthog lost me the X36’s rudder axis. It’s been, what? 17 years or so since the first incarnation of the X36 introduced the rudder bar? Nothing has equalled it since as a standin for pedals. The sticks with a twist axis are horrible, IMHO. Me, I’m filling in for that by using ujr & vjoy to combine the clutch & accelerator pedals of my G27 wheel into a single rudder axis, so I’m fine in that respect.

      It actually took me a couple of days to unlearn that the rudder is controlled by my left hand and start using my feet. I’ve had an X36 in one form or another since late 1997 (the gameport version was the first toy I bought after getting my first job out of Uni) and it was a habit that took a lot of breaking. I’m mostly comfortable with using pedals now, though.

      For me, the biggest disappointment with the Warthog is the analogue hat on the throttle. It has next to no physical resistance to it whatsoever, and I’m completely unable to move one axis without also changing the other. I had big plans to use it for the lateral and vertical thrust controls, but it’s nearly unusable in that respect. Using it for landing was an embarrassment; trying to thrust down towards the pad would also result in me scooting left or right at a fair old rate of knots. After a couple of days of trying, I went back to the digital hat right next to it. That’s the same as the hat on the backside of the X36’s throttle, so it doesn’t matter too much.

      I haven’t actually tried IL-2 or any other serious flight sims with the Warthog yet. I’ve been so enamoured of E:D that pretty much nothing else has gotten a look in. I went on a sightseeing trip to the Sol system a couple of days ago, and I really tripped out. The Earth looks nice, but what really made me do a double-take was that with an in-game galaxy of several hundred billion stars, the guys at Frontier modelled things to the level that when in orbit around Earth, the damn constellations are correct. It’s not a static skymap – they’re doing something during the jump animation to render the background stars correctly.

      My mind was well and truly blown when I was able to select Betelgeuse with the nav computer to get my bearings, then to be able to pick out Orion, then Taurus, then the Pleiades cluster. The same feat was doable with a few other constellations that I tried.

  18. amateurviking says:

    I am conflicted. As with similar posts above I want to give this a whirl but that means xbox pad in the short term. I’m not even sure I’m willing to spend on a joystick that I will realistically only use for one game.

    But…Elite!

    I played Frontier using M+Kb mind…

    • Premium User Badge

      steves says:

      Let me make it easy for you – if you want to explore SPACE, see amazing sights, and have some amusing adventures, you can probably get away with just a keyboard like back in the 80’s (what’s a mouse?).

      If you’re good with an X-box controller for 3D flight, you can play just fine, and probably even win fights…unless you meet another player who really knows what they are doing with a joystick.

      And you don’t even have to play with other humans, there’s a solo mode. Don’t be conflicted. – it is very much Elite

    • Buuurr says:

      Its true… its a great game. Highly recommend.

    • Eredu says:

      Yes, the game works just fine with a keyboard and mouse. Had to exchange the controls for roll and yaw though, rolling with the mouse led to somewhat drunken flying.

      Using a high quality HOTAS may enhance the experience and give players a slight edge but I wouldn’t say it’s required.

  19. thekelvingreen says:

    The lonely hotel at the end of a long night’s drive.

    I’m now imagining a mundane version where you play some sort of travelling salesman driving across a rainy and dark country, stopping at travel inns now and then.

    There would have to be something else to do, I suppose. Maybe some Deadly Premonition type weird intrigue.

  20. TheGroovyMule says:

    Wait, it has British developers but there’s no queue for docking!? I thought that was your thing!

  21. Supahewok says:

    How long, on average, do you stay in the equivalent of hyperspace? If it’s more than a minute than it seems to be a wonderful game for catching up on my reading list.

  22. JohnnyPanzer says:

    One or two months ago I tried it and got the hang of basic flight, docking, picking up courier missions. Stuff like that. I enjoyed it a lot, the feeling of “being there” is superb and I was very fond of the way everything takes a bit of time and attention, even docking, so I figured I’d try it again now that the game has launched for real.

    And I’m confused. How am I supposed to make money as a start-up pilot? So far I’ve visited 15-20 stations in several different systems, and I have yet to come across a single mission I can take. Most stations have between one and three available missions, all of them requiring much more cargo space than I have on my sidewinder. Several stations had no missions at all. It got to the point where I traveled to a asteroid field in search of wanted criminals, but that just led to me being shot to pieces in less than ten seconds and at that point I lost interest in the game.

    What’s up with the scarsity of available missions?

  23. cylentstorm says:

    So–Elitecraft is out?

  24. neofit says:

    So you have to constantly micro-manage trivial tasks like coming out of warp and docking? Nowadays planes have an autopilot to travel and land even on aircraft carriers. But in the future, when we master interstellar flight, all this Knowledge of the Ancients will be lost? I imagine myself in that cockpit and cannot see how this would add anything to the feeling of “being there”.

    Anyway, the multi-player interactions seem to be very poorly thought out, I have absolutely zero interest in joining in right now. Eagerly awaiting a review of single-player gameplay, but am expecting the worst.

    • SKapsniak says:

      In the future if we master interstellar flight, there will be no point in having human pilots, everything will be done by drones, robots, and automatic systems, with those squishy fragile human meatbags kept as far away from the thing as much as possible. Cargo only, ideally in some sort of suspended animation so they can’t whine about how long its taking, die of old age or screw stuff up.

      And for a game that would mean you make it a turn based 4X (MOO2), or at the most action orientated end an RTS (Homeworld).

      So quite simply the whole Space-Sim genre makes a massive compromise right in the versimillitudes as part of its fundamental premise.

      Having made that initial compromise for the sake of the moment to moment play of ‘be a space fighter pilot!’, the designer then has to decide how much of that moment to moment gameplay to then remove again by adding automation, for the sake of suspending peoples disbelief

      Elite: Dangerous takes the design decision to be very hard-assed about limiting that automation (yes way below what you’d see in any airliner today) in order to provide actual things for the player to do and be engaged by.

      We can argue about whether it is too hard line for us as individually to suspend our disbelief, or whether the activities that provides are interesting enough, but I think you have to recognise that automating the of flying of space ships, in a game that is fundamentally about the player flying their ships, is always going be an ingredient a game designer is going to be very wary of.

      The same would go for adding FTL comms of market prices — A thing some people also find a plausibility deal breaker — in a game which has trading between many thousands of different markets across known space as a core feature.

      Different space-sims have made and will make different compromises. But a huge level of compromise is baked into the genre from the start.