The Act Structure Of Elite Dangerous

The above is my attempt to draw a screenshot of Elite: Dangerous.

Stories can be split into acts, with each act break marked by a moment of character growth. Games can be similarly segmented by the steps of growth players go through. A Platinum Games’ fighting system unfurls as players master the basics of timing and blocking; Diablo 3 swaps focus from click-happy monster mash to theorycrafting and character building; Counter-Strike trades the pure challenge of aim-and-shoot for more nuanced environmental awareness, forcing you to time routes and know the movements of enemies even before you’ve seen them.

You likely don’t need me to tell you this. The need for games to be not just long but deep, and to appeal simultaneously to new and inexperienced players as well as thousand-hour experts, has created a common language to explain these divisions: early game, late game, end game. Still, I think the ebbs and flows of player envelopment in a game account for a lot of differences in opinion over their quality, but are invisible enough that it’s not often clear.

Instead, I say I think that Elite feels empty and shallow and half a dozen people agree, while a half dozen others think we’re infuriatingly incorrect. It’s not necessarily that we’re all looking at the same picture in a museum and seeing something different; we might all enjoy lasers and spaceships and trading equally. It might instead be that me and people like me have fallen through the floor of the museum like Indy at the start of Fate of Atlantis, only the next floor hasn’t caught us yet. We’re still falling.

This is how I feel about Elite Dangerous, a game I have played and played but never fully enjoyed. I think it is empty and shallow, not all the time, but at certain points during the player’s progression through it. Especially if you’re interested in anything other than combat.

The idea of Elite, for me, has never been about fighting other ships. That’s what X-Wing or Tie Fighter was for. Elite was about forging your own path through a vast galaxy, and finding a role to play among it. I have a preference for trading games and driving games, and so Elite Dangerous’s seeming allowance for life as a trader seemed particularly well-suited to me. When I started it up over Christmas, then, I decided I wouldn’t kill anyone. No fighting, no firing, only freight, and long haul journeys to ferry goods wherever they needed to go.

As it turns out, the game doesn’t adequately support this in-game lifestyle at any stage. As a trader, you’ve two choices in activity: taking missions from the space stations you dock at, or playing the commodities market and trying to find profitable trade routes between systems.

The former is undercooked. When you begin, your ship has a cargo hold with four slots, which instantly makes most trading missions unavailable to you. That would be fine, if those small missions that your starter ship could complete were available from every station, but they’re not. It’s common to fly for long stretches and not find anything you can actually do. When a mission is available, it’ll sometimes still require you to first purchase goods you can’t yet afford (with no warning of this to new players), and will in any case only offer a pittance in return for hours of work.

The commodities market, meanwhile, is willfully obtuse. This is the way to make big, (moderately) quick money in the world of Elite, as the market swells and declines depending on the opaque machinations of the playerbase. If you can find a good trade route between single-jump systems, trading something high-value like rare goods, then you can make decent money even with small cargo holds. Unfortunately, the game makes it as hard as possible to find these routes. There is no way when at one station to check the prices of the commodities market of another station, even if you’ve just been there. Instead, your best bet is to either find routes by trawling Reddit or by trawling the galaxy map, following certain principles based on station types, and taking screenshots of each market screen you find.

Imagine making a game with as slick and impressive an interface as Elite, and then creating systems that all but require players to alt-tab over to a screenshot in order to play.

Glumly grinding out the funds to get a larger hauling ship – necessary if you’re going to make properly good money – is an exercise in grim frustration. It’ll take you hours just to assemble enough cash to to buy a 60,000 credit Zorgon Peterson Hauler. That doubles your hold capacity and gives you the space to buy the modules to carry more, but the next hauling ship up costs around 6 million credits.

With the in-game experience doing so little to support the fantasy of being a trader, the game then becomes about the few physical interactions you have as a non-combative ship pilot: lightspeed jumps, interdiction avoidance, and docking. The first is programmed via the galaxy map and requires you to rotate towards your destination, press a button, and throttle up; the middle means keeping your mouse pointer in the center of a moving HUD element, like a browser game that wouldn’t hold your attention for more than a minute; and the latter is a genuine thrill, a rare moment of grandness and scale in an otherwise empty universe, and difficult enough to make mastering it feel like an accomplishment.

Then once you’ve mastered it… Well, see the graph above. I now have enough credits that I could even automate the docking process, but if I do that it’s not clear what game I’d be playing. Now that I’ve become well-experienced at completing those early challenges, no floor of more complicated interactions with the game’s systems have come up to catch me. I’m still falling.

I could jack in the hauler for a life as a space pirate, since I hear that combat has similar problems but at least gives way to greater depth and excitement among its capital ships and PvP. I’d be a little sad, though, to not keep on truckin’.

Here is how I’d prefer my screenshot of Elite looked.

There, I fixed it for them.

This article was originally published as part of, and thanks to, the RPS Supporter Program.

71 Comments

  1. Cinek says:

    So… when you get the last & best ship it’s pretty much a gg…
    I feel like after the “me” point on your graph there’s no curve going up. Just a flat lowlands. I enjoyed my first week with Elite, but the further I go the lower that curve goes with no sign of ever going up again.

    I have an impression that modded X3:TC did a better job for people looking to play a trader as it gives a whole grand world after you get “the best ship” – you can build whole trade empire, affect development of systems, have an entire fleet of freighters, fighters covering them, factories, etc.
    You can become an industrialist, man behind the enormous economic power, something Elite doesn’t seem to be bothered about.

    • Continuity says:

      Yeah, X3:TC still holds the space sim top spot for me, ED isn’t even coming close, but hey, its a new Elite right, thats something.

    • Smoky_the_Bear says:

      I’ve upgraded my ship a bit, got some new weaponry and kitted it out. Now I just feel like the game has pretty much become a repetitive grind, there is nothing else to see atm because procedural generation means everything looks pretty similar. There isn’t much else to do either, I feel it’s just going through the motions over and over until I get my Anaconda.
      I’ve put it on the shelf for the time being, I sorely hope they fill out the game in the coming months because while it is limited at the moment, the core mechanics of the game are fantastic and blow previous stuff like X3 out of the water.

    • Premium User Badge

      Iamblichos says:

      I agree with this post; the author hit the problem spot-on as well. What finally killed the game for me, though, was the ridiculous fanboi cadre on the official forums. Questions were met with derision of the “l2p n00b” variety and any observation about the game short of full-throated approval was immediately shouted down by angry grognards.

      I like challenging games; for god’s sake, I play Dwarf Fortress. However, a helpful community can make the difference between wanting to play more and wanting to drop the game like hot metal.

  2. Time Bat says:

    As a minor note: I would argue determining to play Elite whilst aiming to not fire a shot is rather like booting up Deus Ex for the very first time and playing a zero detection, zero kill game and quick loading whenever you make a mistake. It’s a completely valid way to play, but it does mean you only see a particular subsection of the game and it does result in far more pronounced troughs in how much fun the game can be. (This is coming from someone who did just that the first couple of times I tried to play Deus Ex, before someone snapped me out of it).

    With that being said, as much as I’m personally enjoying Elite, I can’t help but feel the game is still in Beta at heart. I’ve seen the sentiment “Excellent framework but a lack of content” articulated a lot and it really does capture how it feels. You can see glimpses of how good Elite can (and, I hope, will) be, but right now because the game exists effectively as a manual courier sim with elements of MMO style mob farming (“I see an unidentified signal source! Let’s see if my bounty hunting seeds can be harvested!”) it turns into a repetitive grind as you work yourself towards a new ship tier.

    Funnily enough, I think one thing that will make a huge difference is when they introduce the Alliances system (Elite’s version of large organisations of players), as it lets people group up with their friends and act as a cohesive unit without the present limitations. When cohesive groups of players get together, there’s more opportunity for player held territories emerging and conflicts will naturally arise. Also when players get together, some of the bigger things you’re theoretically capable of in the current build, such as creating a civil war in the system, but are impractical due to the insane amount of grind work it requires become far more attainable. That could well make life more interesting and fill in the lull that exists in the mid game right now.

    Or maybe I’m just overwhelmed with idealism and a bias towards the game. Who can say?

    • Hebrind says:

      The issue with games nowadays [waving walking stick like Cranky Kong] is that they all but force you to take a combat-centric role, particularly in MMOs or games that have an online element. The only two MMOs that I know of that don’t force you to take up arms against other people are Ultima Online, and EVE Online. I understand that a good 90% or more of people will at some point want to blow someone away with Lasers O’ Doom™ but for those of us who would prefer a more sedate and subtle method of play, games focusing on combat disappoint us quite a lot. Developers at the moment seem to think that “Subtle” means giving a stealth option and two daggers. Not so.

      In Ultima Online, I could make a character, use my starter gold to buy a pack horse and a few mining picks or shovels, go mining, bang out some armour and weapons for players to use against each other (nothing quite like being an arms dealer in a war!) and make friends and contacts by having a reputation as a legendary smith. The only time I would ever see combat would be attempts on my life/muggings (which is why we hire bodyguards). Same with EVE Online – there’s people who mine ore and sell it for a living, fuelling the almost-entirely player-run economy. And that is utterly astonishing.

      Elite: Dangerous is a good game, I own it, I’ve played a fair few hours of it and I started trading, but it has absolutely nowhere near the depth, intrigue, freedom or social nuance that something like EVE or UO does. I hope someday for it to have that, but at the moment it’s the breadth of a lake, but the depth of a puddle. Very big – check. Very sleek – check. Loads of potential – check. Ace sound – check. Very pretty – check check check but the UI is a mystery, the social aspect of the game is an abortive mess of a token and the grind, dear God the grind.

      I would love to see a game where just as much time is put into the social, industry and profession side of things as the combat. And I don’t mean “social” like on Facebook where you have to visit other people’s farms or whatever, no, I mean “social” as in an adventurer thinking “I need a new shield. It’s time I visited the blacksmith.” and that blacksmith being an actual, real person at the forge working away amassing his fortune by providing a service to someone else. Not just a little dwarf you click twice.

      It was done nearly 15 years ago, why can it not be done again now in glorious 3D?

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Isn’t that pretty much EvE in a nutshell though? I think the developers wanted to get away from that, where players can make their own way in space without being impacted by other players. Don’t get me wrong, the game needs a lot of work, I don’t think everything needs to be player driven though. One thing EVE has demonstrated, for all it’s brilliant systems and all the intrigue, it’s basically turned into big groups of people trying to screw each other over, that’s just not something I’m interested in and I don’t want to see Elite go the same way. Give players too much control and that WILL happen.

        • Hebrind says:

          Yeah, EVE does get really territorial and it’s not for everyone – I think, really, I should draw more on the UO analogy; there was scope for an industrial way to play even in the purely PvE world of ‘Trammel’. PvP ganks weren’t a problem there and that’s where most of the above-board business took place. It’s the same in EVE really, now I think about it – a large population of miners just eat asteroid belts in high security space and earn from that.

          Giving the players power over everything is of course probably folly, but stuff like industry and professions go a long way to bringing you into a world, particularly if combat isn’t something you look forward to.

          In Elite: Dangerous, you can ferry all sorts of metals from station to station, but that’s where it stops – you buy it from the computer, you move it, and you sell it back to the computer for a slightly bigger number. That’s it, that’s the extent of that transaction. Where is the option to turn that metal into something else, or give/sell it to someone who can? Something with a story behind it?

          I remember once being given a sword on Ultima Online by a newbie, he said it had dropped off a dragon. It was, however, far too heavy for his dexterity character to use, but was made of a material (Valorite) he really liked for the blue tint on it. Just so happens it was pretty decent for a weapon’s stats too. So I smelted that sword down into ingots and made a dagger for him, which he could use. As we were roleplaying at the time, he gave it a name too. Or the time when I was asked to make a whole guild chain and plate mail for a tournament that was coming up, and was handsomely rewarded for it. It’s little things like that, little player-run, personal touches that help connect a player to a game, and connect them to other people through the game too. And I miss them a lot.

      • Vvertigo says:

        You forgot the greatest one of all time (I may possibly be slightly biased) Star wars Galaxies. Prior to the horrible NGE update,that attempted to replicate WoW, Galaxies had an amazingly complex and interesting crafting system, and skill system I have ever experienced, similar to Eve, only in my opinion better.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Not to be a killjoy here, but I wouldn’t hold out too much hope for Alliances (now called “Wings”) for the kind of gameplay you’re describing.

      What little we know about Wings so far, is that it’s a coordination feature for small groups of 3 or 4 players flying together, not dozens or hundreds. The Wing feature is probably oriented as much for co-op play like traders with escorts, miners with fighters riding shotgun, etc. as it is for pure PvP, since the Wing size is so small.

      EvE-style territorial control doesn’t work in Elite anyway, due to the network and Galaxy design. There will be some group interaction — it’s already happening now in a few systems, where players are contesting each other to “flip” the local faction control. But there are limits to what can be done with huge groups, when they can only work collectively while fractured into relatively small, separate instances with P2P matchmaking. The game seems intentionally designed to limit large corporation or guild-style operations, which for some players is a good thing.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Yeah tbh Wings just seems like them adding basic co-op/group functionality that online games should have by default and was inexcusably missing from Elite at the start. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who has tried and been incredibly frustrated trying to go and do space stuff with a friend, I am looking forward to it, but it isn’t going to bring about the ability for people to create civil wars, control systems etc which the op is looking for.

  3. FriendlyFire says:

    I find the inability to check prices on remote stations to be a completely absurd notion which makes trading an exercise in frustration. That, right there, severely sapped any possible enjoyment I could’ve had from trading.

    • thedosbox says:

      The sad thing is that the original game allowed this. So someone actually decided that removing the ability to do so was a good idea.

      • LexxieJ says:

        No it didn’t. You work out trade routes now the same way as you did in the previous games. Look at the map and see what type of economy is in a system, then you supply what they need.

        It aint rocket science people.

        Personally I’m still really enjoying it, but that’s maybe because my goals in the game aren’t what I guess most people would call typical. I’m not bothered about getting the ‘best’ ship; I’m not bothered about getting the most money. Leave the grind mentality behind and the game becomes hugely more enjoyable.

        Saying all that, I can see why people would be frustrated and moan about the lack of ‘content’, but I do believe the game as-is is a hugely promising framework that lots of extra ‘stuff’ can be bolted onto.

        If they get the multiplayer working properly- for example- that will make a massive and almost instant difference.

        • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

          Yes, supply them what they need, but how much do they need it? No clue, and purcharsing trade data seems pretty useless in that regard, while it would seem pretty intuitive that it should give you such information. You also won’t find any info on that even if you check what they import, your best bet is just to consider the station with high influence and economic boom, but even then you don’t know much else.

          If for you there’s little difference between a 500cr per ton profit and a 1500+ one, that’s fine.

          For me, “trade data” would mean information such as the people’s and npc’s fixation to trade tea from A to B, which might give you the hint that you should try with coffee instead. Obviously this also mean that such data purchase shouldn’t be a meagre 100cr ( which is too much for starters and laughable for others ).

          What should instead remain obscure, in my opinion, is the whole illegal trading matter, but that would be even more fun if you had a chance a far worse losses but also incredible profits, with more market fluctuations so you just keep a small cargo of “high risk” stuff instead of optimizing always the same slave route with 400 tonnes of the poor lads.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          What I would love to see in game is some sort of a growable database where you scan the market at a system, retain that data for future reference, BUT have market fluctuations which mean that the high price you see at station X may or may not be entirely accurate. Also the ability to set up trade routes on the galactic map. At the moment the only way to do this is externally with spreadsheets and external tools etc, some of this functionality in game would be great.

          I don’t find external tools to be very compelling as it just tells you where to go without any real input from the player, very boring, hopefully they expand on the tools for trading in the future.

        • 0positivo says:

          It doesn’t work. The map lies more often than not. I have lost count of how many times I showed up at a station with exactly what the map was showing me (and the system map stated the station as “importing” those resources too!), and there was simply no demand whatsoever for whatever tea I was hauling at the time. Or, even better, the “find resource X and bring it to me in 20 minutes!”, except said resource is not only illegal, but not produced anywhere near 200+ly from the mission

          It ain’t rocket science, no. At least science follows certain rules, rather than deciding mid-way to change because it felt like it

          • Grovester says:

            The “Station Imports” data seems to be seriously broken – most only seem to import or export a few items (Palladium, anyone?) and ignores what you’ll actually make a profit on.

            Also yes, you should be able to keep track of data you’ve picked up yourself (with an age factor – eg “This data is x days old”.

            Successful trading is possible with pen and paper.

          • Josh W says:

            It probably doesn’t help that other players are in the same economy with you, and you can’t discern their influence; if a place is importing loads of one resource, but all the other players know it and are bringing that stuff, then that trade route has reached capacity, and you’ll never know.

            If the game was single player only, then you could interpret that information correctly. Alternatively, you could have a galactic traffic map, showing the flows of people in different directions, based on last station docked at, which could give you a clue of what kind of transfers were likely to be happening.

    • Evil Pancakes says:

      Some may consider this cheating, but to help you with profitable trade routes you could have a look at Thrudd’s Elite trading tool. (google-fu away)
      You can give it your cargo capacity, where you are, your spending money and search range and it will show you a bunch of systems where you can sell things from your current location for a nice profit.
      Yes, the game itself is pretty obtuse, and trading without such a trade tool will require you to either gamble a lot, or to keep track of an excel sheet where you take notes of all the sell prices for all the commodities in every station you visit. Which I’ve tried and is not something I enjoyed for more than 15 minutes.

      • Sorbicol says:

        I have to agree with that. Even some capacity to search prices, even if it’s only at stations you’ve been too, would just help the game flow much better than it does at times.

        I love it – I can’t really explain why I just do. I think knowing there is no end game helps me on a personal level, it doesn’t matter that the game is so directionless because there is no ultimate aim. Last nights activities can be summarised thus:

        1. ran into a wanted Elite Adaconda pirate at a Nav beacon. With the help Of local law enforcement We took him down and I netted £119k in bounty. However before I could cash that in, I ran into a Lakon 6 Hauler pirate, thought ‘a little extra easy money’ and promptly rammed him on a boost during the dogfight. Neither of us survived and I lost the bounty, £50k of cargo and £40k of cartographic data. Sometimes this game is unbearably harsh.

        2. With £20k of funds left after rebuying my ship I did some donkey work trading up to £100k. I took about £65k worth of cargo to an anarchy system and got interdicted. By another player. I wasn’t best please about this (first time it’s happened to me) and tried to fight it out. I quickly learned how little I know about combat in this game and how futile it is to take on someone much better armed than you are. At least I had the satisfaction of ramming the bugger before I died. No idea if he died or not.

        3. Back to square 1 again.

        It’s a game that will be whatever you want to make of it. I wish the map was easier to navigate, I really wish that better trading tools were available (even if it meant having to buy a trading computer) and I wish that better missions were available more readily. But all in all it works. Ultimately I intended to kit out an Asp and go exploring to the further reaches. At least until you hit the sectors that haven’t been made ready yet. I’d love to find a black hole.

        • Smoky_the_Bear says:

          Yeah the game can be incredibly cruel at times. I had a situation where I took a 60k bounty from an Anaconda (like yourself, with the help of the ever present feds), however just before he died he took out my windscreen. 5 minutes of oxygen and a mad dash to the nearest station between me and the bounty. I made the station in time, then heard “docking request denied” 5 times in a row. After getting clearance I was about 30 seconds short of docking before my air ran out.

          I’m wondering if Frontier have a secret deal with Saitek and Thrustmaster because this game definitely has the potential for someone to break an expensive flightstick!. The other side of the coin is of course an exhilarating moment when you are seconds from death and manage to pull it off.

          • Blackrook says:

            The harshest oh my god moment I had was.

            Going into a new space station and noting on the way in the huge out rigged arms like huge hammers from the central part of it, and thinking the speed of those I bet those would hurt if they hit you….
            Lands, loads up a £100 worth of cargo – most I’d dare to carry before.
            Exits space station.
            Lines up on next jump… without noticing it takes me back through the swing of the arm.
            Looks away from screen for 2 seconds.
            *BOOOOOM*
            *Lots of swearing*

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        Slopey’s Trading Tool is another similar thing you can use. I’m fully with you, it just feels a little uninvolved and boring to use, it’s also very immersion breaking to tab out and look up where you need to go to trade stuff on Windows 7, when you should be in the year 3300. Immersion is one of the things that Elite does brilliantly, I want this stuff in my ships computer, not a comprehensive database, but something I can build up myself, similar to exploration data, that would let me feel like I’m doing the work myself (see my comment just above for my description of this).
        Everybody seems to be of the same opinion, the game is great, it needs more depth.

    • dsch says:

      It’s probably a design feature resulting from the decision to go compulsory MMO for the economy. If it’s too easy to find the best trade routes, the prices will tend to even out quickly if there are many players.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        That hasn’t happened in EVE though and Elite’s significantly larger in the number of systems it has. The more likely reason is that the original Elite did it this way and the original Elite is gospel.

    • Underwhelmed says:

      I’m sorry, but how is the internet supposed to function over the inky blackness of space? Please try and remember that this is a realistic game.

      • SuicideKing says:

        Indeed, having just returned to earth from Capella the other day, I can attest to the realism of the interstellar light speed jumps portrayed in ED.

        Though of course, since I’m from the FreeSpace camp, I used a jump node and Command could talk to me everywhere.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        If you want to be really pedantic, I’d take prices delayed by 5-15 mins to model the time it takes to send probes between stations.

        You know, a bit of imagination helps when you’re talking about something which doesn’t actually exist and cannot, to the best of our knowledge, exist.

      • Boosh says:

        you don’t need ‘interstellar internet’ to be able to take a copy of trade prices for each station you visit.
        That kind of deficiency is partly a result of listening to the ‘nostalgia’ crowd who want to relive the experience of writing everything down. Hence FD’s decision.
        Moreover, in an entirely artificial economy, you have to introduce arbitrary barriers/hindrances like this to try and stall trade route discovery.

        There are fundamental design issues that need addressing, trade being one of them, but it’s a long list.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    You don’t have to jump directly from the Hauler to the Lakon series to get a cargo hold increase.

    The Cobra starts with the same cargo storage as the Hauler IIRC and has potential for substantially increased capacity by upgrading and adding extra cargo modules.

  5. Chaz says:

    The next smallest trader up from the Hauler is the Lakon Type 6 which is just a shade over 1 million creds and not 6 million. However even so it is still a massive grind from Hauler to a million cred Type 6, as realistically you’ll need about 1.5 – 2 million when you buy it to get it up to scratch.

    One thing about the the trading though is that it has a tendency to snowball as you gain more funds and increase your ship size. Once you hit about 600 thousand and can get a reasonably up-rated Cobra, then the grind to a Lakon type 6 becomes that much smaller. It’s just getting all that tedious initial scut work under your belt in the Sidewinder and Hauler that is a real drag.

    Once you have a reasonably upgraded Hauler and about 30k-50k in the bank going spare, try this rare goods route as it will substantially increase your earnings in much less time than regular trade runs.

    link to docs.google.com

    A couple of trips round it will see you in a Cobra and then 2 more in the Cobra and you’ll be in a Lakon Type 6. Once in the Type 6 you’ll be raking it in. The distance between some of the systems is over 100ly so it’ll get you out and about too. Worth doing if only to spread your wings and get out of the nest of your starting systems and see a bit more of the galaxy.

    On the whole though I’m in agreement with most of what Graham has written. The game is a bit empty and pointless right now. Sure you can get a better bigger ship and earn millions, but for what purpose if all you can do with it is just buy a bigger ship?

    • Grovester says:

      Why thank you, sir.

      I’m going to take my Viper, head over that way, see if I can make enough from bounty hunting to buy me a Cobra, then make me some goddamn money.

      Getting to “Mostly Harmless” is the high point of my year so far.

  6. gorgonaut says:

    I was, initially, extremely excited about E:D. In a way, I still am.
    I’ve been with it since the Beta, and frequent the E:D forums quite often.
    Haven’t gotten the hang of trading, as I’m not an spreadsheet-kind-of-person, but I do ok in my Viper, hanging around nav beacons and resource extraction sites, hunting the Wanted.

    I know a great part of Elite is making your own story, and I love space ships more than some people love their pets.
    Elite, is it is now, is making role playing difficult, as it still has not much of a personality.
    If you don’t pay attention too closely, it’s hard to see the difference between the galaxy-spanning factions, and hard to assign any sort of feeling towards them.
    I think E:D might prove to be a terrific game- when a few updates and additions are launched. But as it is now, it feels sort of featureless.
    I’ve had fun- I still do- but it feels like there’s a big part lacking.

  7. TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

    The next hauling ship actually costs 1 million, but i get your point.

    I lasted a bit more mostly because in the early game i remained loyal to my Viper and made several millions out of bounty hunting ( 50-90k for an Anaconda and then back to kill 5-10k cobras, 20+k Asp and so on ), and some smuggling of the stuff that was dropped. It all was extremely fun and it’s nice to play Tokio Drift on asteroid fields with a ship actually made for combat.

    Then it was all about rare goods until my Asp is more or less 5 times the initial cost, and i’m enjoying doing pretty much everything and i have good ranks in all the cathegories, doing such a thing might probably help you enjoying the whole game a bit more.

    My next goal is just going straight to that big red cloud and see how the sky looks, and maybe find a blackhole somewhere. You probably need to find something that will help you be happier with the game, but i can understand if it’s starting to crumble for you as it is for me aswell, especially after i found how dull it is to try and follow the GalNet hints hoping to find something more “epic” and just getting random conflict zones and poor money.

  8. Shockeh says:

    I’m dearly, dearly hoping an early balance pass is made to make the various ‘roles’ Frontier proposes equally viable. It’s possible to reach a Cobra doing Missions/Combat/Discovery, but from there, trying to obtain an Asp without resorting to hauling is practically Sisyphean, and once you’re in an Asp finding a good (Read: at least 1.2k per tonne each way) trading route is mandatory for anything resembling progress.

    But then, I’m also hoping they don’t make it a direct ‘progression’ – Frontier and First Encounters both had reasons (Courier missions with strict time limits that paid based on being quick) to stay in smaller ships, whilst E:D currently is just Bigger = Better.

    • J-Force says:

      I could have got an Asp from doing bounty hunting with a Viper in the He Bo system, only took me about 20 in game hours. Though that is because the bounty on the pirate faction there is almost double that of anywhere neaby. I spent the money on a kitted out Lakon-6 instead for trade hauling should I get bored.

      And bigger is only better in relation to trading. In other roles, the progression is a lot better than in trading with a lot more freedom to choose what I do. There is no ‘progress’ from an Eagle to a Viper in bounty hunting, the Eagle has a turning circle that makes it an outstanding fighter. The Viper has speed and hull strength. It comes down to preference. In combat roles progression does not come from the ship, but with customising the ship to be the most badass thing it can be.

      Just my opinion – trading can be boring as hell – and don’t get me started on that buggy, dull, waste of code that is mining.

      • TacticalNuclearPenguin says:

        Aye, the Viper especially has both more shields and agility than a Cobra, you can bounty hunt with it all you want without depleting your shields and you wouldn’t care about the hull difference, especially with a shield cell bank.

        But if we think of a Cobra like a multirole ship then yes, i guess the Asp is probably an obvious upgrade on all fronts except for close dogfighting, which is still bearable since it’s flight system allows you a lot of “drifting” as it wouldn’t “turn” that well if it had to closely follow it’s vector.

        I have to agree on mining though, i forced myself to keep doing it because i wouldn’t believe a lot of “pristine” systems would still suck, it took me two full cargo ( around 100-ish ) trips to understand the obvious fact that i could just as well give up with that bore.

  9. J-Force says:

    Big thing you got wrong, article writer:

    The next freighter up from the hauler is the Lakon Type-6, which is 1 million credits, not the 6 million that you claim in the article.

    Also the Cobra has larger freight capacity (once cusomised) than the hauler, I honestly think you’ve been progressing by jumping steps that make the next one easier. Simply put you’ve been progressing wrong. Though your other criticisms still stand as correct from my experience, though I am no seasoned trader – I bounty hunt.

    • Retorrent says:

      You can also go with an Adder as a almost hauler 2.0 upgrade from until you can get your hands on a Type 6. The Adder is nice because it has a bigger fuel tank and a better FSD than a hauler.

  10. tankacealpha says:

    I am continuously baffled by people who use tools or screen shots to trade, it is just not that hard. Once you understand the economic relations between each station type.

    If anything trading is far to easy, finding a lucrative trade run should be harder than does this place make gold in reasonable quantity, prices should degrade and flux and player input should change the market, this should be the content of trading, not just milk running from A to B. Its pretty easy to find those runs once you know what to look for and when you do, they stay static for far to long, I would like some sense of feedback, of demand actually being met.

    Obviously not being able to see trade data remote from the station seems unrealistic, but the whole premise trading is built on is completely unrealistic, no business would trust its supply chain to ad hoc traders just happening to turn up with tens or hundreds of tons of cargo, that stuff would be nailed down tighter than a gnats chuff and opportunities for lone traders to beat the market would be very rare. The game has to emulate some risk and denying remote trade data seems like a good enough way to do that. If “realistically” the market had access to real time information, this would realistically remove any chance of profit for solo ad hoc traders. as the market would reach equilbrium, probably via infinty+1 capacity mega tankers.

    If anything I would prefer it if the trade element was more ad hoc missiony type stuff, similar to the kind of odd jobs tramp steamers and indivual merchant coastal vessels used to do back in the day, where the owner of the vessel is not buying the stock he is carrying, but being paid purely to move stuff from A to B.

    • Sorbicol says:

      Just because you haul something from one base to another you know imports it (having checked the in game system map) does not mean you are making a meaningful profit. The bigger ships have big fuel costs for example (I know a fuel scoop eliminates that but still) and if your commodity is in low demand you might only pocket about 50 credits profit per tonne. That’s peanuts. Knowing its in high demand before you go isn’t beyond the bounds of knowledge available within the game, and makes a huge difference on profitability. I don’t see it is game breaking or anything at all and would be a lot more immersive than having to alt-tab all the time!

      • tankacealpha says:

        Yea but there are several commodity types that are reliably in demand at other stations and if not its pretty trivial to find routes where even if you sell the commodity at medium/medium you still will pull in 500 or so on a bad day. There is absolutely no need to ever alt tab.

    • foop says:

      The economic relations between station types are all fine and dandy in theory, but in practice they always conspire to screw me over.

      For example, I’m at a refinery station with a high supply of all metals. There’s an industrial system nearby that, in theory, will have a high or medium demand for all metals. I carefully choose a metal that I know should give a good profit and that, more importantly, I can fill my hold with. I fly to the prospective buyer. They have a high to medium demand for all metals except the one I have a hold full of, which they inexplicably have a high supply of. This is just bad luck, of course, but I’m particularly prone to bad luck so I have to fly the galaxy with a notebook full of scribbled commodity prices.

      I’m still playing the game, of course, but like many people here I’m disappointed that it’s not all I hoped it would be.

      And don’t get me started on mining.

  11. jaklar says:

    The game isn’t good, simple as that. I’ve been playing since early alpha. Hell, I still play. But the game isn’t good.

    It’s the Destiny of space combat-explore-trade games. All potential. No delivery. All promise. No results.

    A hollow shell. A skeleton missing critical bones let alone any semblance of muscle.

    Most of the game is a mirage. An illusion that something works, when, in fact, it doesn’t.

    Game design decisions riddled with little foresight or logic, like insta-bounties for some stray shot or every item floating in space tagging you as a smuggler.

    Soulless universe with zero character.

    Cookie-cutter space stations.

    Cut and paste galaxy.

    Billions of stars may be a great bullet point, but you need twice that many players to make the galaxy lived in.

    Combat against AI is stupid-easy.

    Woeful multiplayer options.

    Planetary graphics are flat and uninteresting. Starpoint Gemeni 2 has some very nice planetary graphics with depth between cloud layer and terrain, nice.

    Oh look, another USS to fly towards…again….and again….and again.

    But hey, the sound effects are great, easily the best feature.

    Just seems to be a lot of emptiness in the design.

    “We’re working on paid expansions.” You’d think this would come much later, say, when you have a game whose underlying mechanics are all fleshed out.

    Here, buy some ship skins for $15 and enjoy them with the non-existent external view.

    So, now all the apologists and excuse-makers will hold out hope that Braben, who, let’s face facts, has never designed a game anywhere near this scope (especially with multiplayer aspects) will somehow deliver the game we all want. I’m suspect.

    But it’s this desire for a better game that stupidly keeps me playing, just like that garbage Destiny. It’s all hope and wishes….you just want it to be so much better than it is, maybe if I play it enough it will spontaneously evolve into something good.

    I’ve had this uneasy sense from the get-go that Elite Dangerous is a cash grab, from pointless ship skins, paid betas, broken promise of offline play, to now paid DLC for a game that is years away from actually feeling like version 1.0.

    My two-cents, probably worth half that much.

    • Asurmen says:

      The bit about the paid expansions; they’re doing free content patches as well.

      • Rindan says:

        Yes, but they have promised no content to actually fix the problem of the game being empty. That is the saddest part of all. I don’t think they know they have a problem. Of all the stuff they have promised, only shitty co-op comes even anywhere near addressing the fundamental problems.

        • Continuity says:

          You’re not wrong but to be fair ED isn’t more empty than the previous Elite games, I’d argue it misses some of the key elements of the Elite series but then its online multiplayer, changes were inevitable.
          What they’ve done essentially is taken the original formula (space sim roguelike) and stripped out the key roguelike elements without adding anything significant in terms of challenge, so all you’ve left with is wide shallow game with no hook.

          • Cinek says:

            Only we’re not in 1984 any more.

          • Continuity says:

            True, they have made serious design mistakes, and that’s a shame because they clearly have the skill necessary to make a great game.

  12. Phier says:

    Trading is slow to start and then gets you filthy rich.
    Bounty hunting is fast to start but you “max out” in how much you can make pretty early on.
    Exploration is a thing unto itself.

    I went from bounty hunting to trading and it was all pretty painless.

    Elite IS lacking a lot of content, it needs better missions, more missions, and a few dozen other things to be awesome, but…

    “The idea of Elite, for me, has never been about fighting other ships. That’s what X-Wing or Tie Fighter was for. Elite was about forging your own path through a vast galaxy, and finding a role to play among it. I have a preference for trading games and driving games, and so Elite Dangerous’s seeming allowance for life as a trader seemed particularly well-suited to me. When I started it up over Christmas, then, I decided I wouldn’t kill anyone. No fighting, no firing, only freight, and long haul journeys to ferry goods wherever they needed to go.”

    You picked your path, you picked the slowest start one, congratulations ;)

    Really I gotta say your graph for most players is pretty off, Elite is great early game, still very good mid game, and has pretty much nothing late game.

    Which is why I’m going pirate hunter in open, anti-yarr!

  13. Retorrent says:

    Hopefully this dose not get buried in the comments but for traders I can recommend a nice little tool that a one of our fellow Elite Dangerous players made called : Slopey’s BPC market tool it will help you immensely to get the ball rolling in trade. Other than that you will have to trudge it out the hard way until frontier comes up with its own market tool in game.

  14. 8080 says:

    And that’s why I haven’t purchased the game. While I love the genre (Xwing vs Tie Fighter and Freelancer are in my all time top 5 list) for me this game is a $250+ investment. It’s been so long I’d have to buy a flight stick and if I’m going to spend money on it, it’s going to be a good one. So when I read these articles, and there are many like it, I never can get to the place where I’d feel confident dropping that kind of money on it. Hopefully, after they work some more on it, that’ll change!

    • fredc says:

      I’m sorry, but that’s just silly. I’ve been playing since the beta with a used £15 Saitek AV8R. It’s more than adequate for everything.

      A better reason would be “I want to trade but there’s not actually much to do other than choose goods, hyperspace, dock at generic station”.

      If you want a huge emergent universe to fly space fighters in, it’s actually quite cool. Unfortunately I want trading and exploration!

    • hateElee says:

      As I’ve stated below, I’m even flying it using kb + mouse and having switched FA off constantly. Not that I wouldn’t like it more to fly it with my new Thrustmaster Warthog, but they didn’t deliver it yet. Flying FA off means constant fun and no boredom at all. No real need for new content, here. I’m flying a spacecraft through open space like real men would do. What fun is it flying an airplane if you have switched the autopilot on. Or driving in a modern day Porsche with all assist on along a straight road.

  15. B0GiE-uk- says:

    I think the flight mechanics are great. SO are the sounds and graphics. Content is bare though and needs to be fleshed out some more.

    Would be great if players could make big alliances and start to take over areas of the galaxy just like eve. Or you could have clans controlling smaller areas of space. Forging alliances between all these groups woul flesh out the game a hell of a lot.

    I am currently maxing out an ASP and I don’t intend to go onto bigger ships as I think the ASP is the sweet spot between hauling, fighting and range for exploring.

    Cant wait for more multiplayer support with the wings update.

    Also an external view is really needed ASAP and the ability to view around your ship in the hanger to see where you are placing equipment on mounts.

    Also need more interesting things within the galaxy like anomalies – take a leaf out of star trek?!

    I think the core of the game is here and I am happy to wait for more content. FIngers crossed they will be putting a lot of content into this game and it becomes a AAA game.

  16. SmokeyJoeWood says:

    The low point for me was when you accumulate around 1 million credits. You’ve had some fun with fighting, trading, exploring, and now you realize that you can afford a small but defenseless freighter, basically the space equivalent of a Ford Econoline. The next tier of ships would require dozens of hours of grinding, with missions identical to the countless you’ve already completed. There’s no incentive to continue.

    The size of the in-game galaxy, while impressive and realistic, is probably the source of Elite’s fatal flaw. That sort of environment is only possible with lots of repetition.

    • mohfuu says:

      I mined my way into a Hauler, I then explored my way into the cockpit of an Adder, I then did some missions, bounty hunting, trading, pirating until I could afford a Cobra. Once I got the Cobra I traded rare goods between the Lave region and the Achenar region, I kind of felt like Han Solo/Mal from Firefly when I was smuggling the rarest narcotics in the universe several lightyears across the galaxy and into federation systems no-less.

      I genuinely enjoyed exploring in Elite, and it’s been a catalyst for my opportunistic ventures in the game so far, I just want to get enough cash to afford an Asp, I feel like if I only had that ship, I would be complete. I’ve decided to settle with the Type 6 for now which only cost me a million (which I mostly gained from trading rare commodities with my Cobra for about 6-7 hours playtime in-game) I’m pretty close to having the Type 6 optimized for exploration. It can jump 30 lightyears now, I only need to buy an advanced scanner+detailed surface scanner and it will be my space exploration vessel until I get the rough 13 million I would need to kit out an Asp for the same purpose, whereas the Type 6 can more or less do the same job for almost ten million credits less.

      I feel like I can do everything in the game now, I just can’t do those things in a much more expensive ship which honestly doesn’t bother me that much.

  17. B0GiE-uk- says:

    For getting credits fast you have to grab a type 6 and trade rare goods.

    I top up with
    STAR STATION RARE GOODS MAX

    1. Momus Reach Tartarus Port Momus Bog Spaniel x7
    2. Wolf 1301 Saunders Dive Wolf Fesh x13
    3. Witchhaul Hornby Terminal Witchhaul Kobe Beef x9
    4. Fujin Futen Spaceport Fujin Tea x10
    5. 39 Tauri Porta Tauri Chimes x17

    6. Leesti George Lucas Azure Milk x7
    Leestian Evil Juice x14
    7. Lave Lave Station Lavian Brandy x7
    8. Diso Schifnalport Diso Ma Corn x15
    9. Uszaa Guest Installation Uszaian Tree Grub x14
    10. Orrere Sharon Lee Free Market Orrenian Vicious Brew x16

    I sell all the first five at Leesti and all the second 5 at Momus Reach.
    Yields about 1 million cr per run.

    Also for newbies the first thing you want to upgrade is your frame shift drive.

    • SuicideKing says:

      All you need is a cleverly disguised hyperlink and I’ll believe that you’re a spam bot.

    • Chaz says:

      Cheers for that, looks a bit easier to manage than my current rare goods route. Just need to grab myself a Type 6 first, which hopefully shouldn’t be long now as I’m up to about 1.25 million and my Cobra is probably worth about 800k. Just want to make sure I can max all the cargo holds and get a real beefy FSD when I get one.

  18. SuicideKing says:

    Well, I’m happy I’ve held off. I knew this was no FreeSpace 3, but I thought it would provide me with the space to make it FreeSpace 3.

    I guess Squadron 42 it is, unless they fix E:D. I hope SC’s MMO component is more complete than E:D but more forgiving (and more real-time) than EVE Online.

    Damn you, Volition. :(

  19. Morcane says:

    I can remember slogging through a few beta versions of EVE Online back in 2003, and those betas (and the release version) were as barren as the Sahara. You could mine, kill dumb NPC pirates and upgrade your ships. They fleshed out tons more after release and I ended up playing EVE Online for like 6 years religiously. This reminds me a ton of that slow start in EVE Online. It’s going to be magnificent.

    If not, I can die in peace knowing I actually played a new Elite in my lifetime, even though I know the current game has flaws and I was wearing my rose-tinted glasses. I don’t mind, I just take a sip, power up my engines and deliver that cargo run — just one more.

    • Boosh says:

      I also slogged through those Eve days, and I don;t think you;re right. Eve also had manufacturing, and an actual market driven by player interaction, supply/demand, skills and player progression etc.

      Your argument comes up frequently on the Elite forums, fact is, Eve not only had vastly more content on release than Elite did, it more importantly planted the seeds of player generated content in a true online sandbox.

      link to eveonline.com

  20. mohfuu says:

    This article is really only talking about trading, and to be fair, early on in the game it is much more profitable to scavenge, pirate and bountyhunt or simply do missions. Doing missions might also help you find a path in the game that you enjoy more. You don’t need a fancy ship to do combat with, the sidewinder will do the job until you get a viper, and once you get a handle of the viper you’ll be able to take down pretty much any ship with just a little practice.

    And the next trading vessel or “hauler” would be the Cobra (you could get the Adder but it isn’t that big an upgrade from the Hauler) which is a sizeable upgrade in terms of cargo capacity, which can be bought for around 300k credits, after that you have the Type 6 which costs about 1 million, and after that you have the Asp which costs 6 million and then the Type 7 which is 14 million and the list goes on.

    What this article is really telling me is that Elite Dangerous is hard to learn.
    If you have to resort to trawling reddit for trade routes, maybe trading just isn’t for you. Yes, there is considerable effort that has to be put into milking the most profitable late-game moneymaking role, but it isn’t the only path and it really isn’t that hard. I will agree that taking screenshots of commodity markets sounds pretty arduous, I would much rather prefer the ability to scrawl down notes in-game, or maybe in the galaxy-map UI for each solar system.

    I feel like the player should themselves have to take notes on interesting things about the locations in the universe instead of getting some arbitrary list of commodities from the last time you visited said system. Maybe I would rather scribble down a note about how in Ross 780 a gas giant is being swallowed by a star, or how HIP 63835 has not one, not two, but three black holes.

    I would probably find E:D to be lacking in “interesting challenges” if I shared your mindset and played the game with blinders on, just sticking to the narrow well-travelled path, then again, I’ve heard of people that absolutely hate exploring, and would much rather be trading because that nets them more credits-per-hour, and when they’re pirating or bounty hunting they always talk about getting the same nagging feeling that they could be off trading in their Type 6 and getting marginally more credits-per-hour. It’s like people just want to trade and trade and trade, so that they can trade some more later on with bigger ships.

    I don’t know what you’re expecting from E:D but I’m certainly not surprised if you find it lacking in interesting challenges if all you’re doing is trading.

    • Chaz says:

      That’s just it though isn’t it. Elite is supposed to be a game that allows for different types of roles. Some folks love the idea of being big fat cat commodity market traders, others notorious pirates or deadly bounty hunters and others still, love the idea of being like a sort of galactic Christopher Columbus. For the most part the majority will try their hand at all of it at various points. The point of a game like this is that you should be able to play the game the way you want and still be able to enjoy it. Currently all the systems in the game are so bare bones that it’s more or less impossible to do that right now, regardless of whether you want to be a trader, pirate, bounty hunter or explorer, and you may as well forget being a miner.

      What if combat was boring and trading and exploring was where the game was at. Would it be fair of me to say, “no wonder you don’t like the game if all you want to do is shoot things”?

      As for players having to sit at their desks and make notes, that’s pretty ridiculous given the size of the game. Besides what real difference is there from me alt tabbing to look at an app or screen shots, to me having to look away from the screen to consult my note book? Some systems can have as many as 8 or more stations in them with boards listing over 40 commodities, and that’s not including the outfitters. Am I really expected to make notes on all of that, for every station I visit in every system? Why can’t I just go to the system view for a system I have already visited and then click on a station I have already docked at previously to view the commodities information for it? Making people look in a note book they have had to tediously fill out to get that same information is just an unnecessary obstacle.

      Anyway, I’m sat in a dark room at my desk. My keyboard and joystick takes up all the space on my desk. I’m trying to immerse myself in the game and pretend I’m a pilot navigating the stars. Only now I have to switch on the lights, turn around grab my pad and spend 5-10 minutes scribbling down notes on my lap. If that’s how you like to immerse yourself in a game, fine. But I think you’ll find that it’s not most other peoples idea of losing yourself in a game.

  21. alphax1983 says:

    “It’ll take you hours just to assemble enough cash to to buy a 60,000 credit Zorgon Peterson Hauler. That doubles your hold capacity and gives you the space to buy the modules to carry more, but the next hauling ship up costs around 6 million credits.”

    That’s not true. The next one after Hauler is a Cobra which costs 300k and can be upgraded to carry 60 tonnes of cargo . After that we got Lakon Type 6. I bought mine in imperial space and it costs around 1,2 million and can be upgraded to hold 118 tons of cargo which is quite a lot. One system jump with cargo full of palladium can get around 200k pure profit.
    I love jumping systems and trading just like I love driving an HGV irl.

  22. hateElee says:

    For all of you that are complaining about the so called repetitiveness of the game, I wonder if you are flying with FA on? For me at least the game will never get boring by flying having FA off all the time. Every landing at an outpost, every ‘start out of’/ ‘flight in to’ a station is a new experience all the time. Boring hyperjumps? You have to adjust your flight vector in free space to your target before you can start your jump. Boring bounty hunting? Try to do it FA off in a belt cluster. After being crashed into a rock for the second time just before you finish of your foe, you will never again blame the game for being boring. Would I like more content? Yes for sure. Do I really need it to have fun? Not at all. Every different ship behaves totally different, every addition like better thrusters will improve the handling, but you have to adjust your routines to it another time. Bigger ships, more cash, but you have to fly it through the needle eye every time again. For me even the trade grinding in my type 7 right now promises endless fun. I even do it with kb + mouse at the moment, because unfortunately I got my TrackIR and the rudder pedals by now, but the warthog is not being delivered, yet.

  23. Sunjammer says:

    Elite is indeed a good companion piece to destiny. Games when incredible fundamentals buried in a desert of ui issues. I’m currently at my own personal endgame of elite, having a fully upgraded Viper, haunting systems for bounties. I tried my hands at trading and exploring but the grind was too real. Looking forward to the inevitable myriads of updates that might bring this thing up to Elite 3 standards, perhaps possibly even IWar2. It’s a weird game to sell at retail with so many gaping holes, so hard to recommend. But I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had fun equal to or exceeding what I paid for.

  24. fredc says:

    I think the complaints about and focus on “grind” are misconceived and unfair.

    You absolutely are not forced to grind. You can fly around doing whatever the fuck you like in your sidewinder. Which is what I did in the final beta and gamma, having spent too much time previously space-trucking my way to a Cobra.

    The emphasis on grind I think has come from two places. Firstly, people used to playing a certain lame spreadsheets-in-space MMO – or perhaps just MMOs in general? – who instantly assume the point must be to own the biggest ship. Secondly, and more reasonably, traders and explorers start grinding towards bigger and better ships because there isn’t that much to do … at least not yet.

    That is also the problem I’ve had with trading. I’ve seen some awe-inspiring astronomical scenery, but when you aren’t experiencing that, you’re undocking, hyperspacing and docking yet again. Frontier need to deliver the ability to do the stuff that will make the universe more interesting, lots of examples of which have been given by other commentators above. We need a more populated universe with more to do at the micro and gameplay level – and I don’t mean a FPS tacked onto the engine.

    As someone who was playing and enjoying games in 1984, the points made above about Elite Dangerous still being stuck in 1984 actually resonate. I see what Braben has been doing and why, but the hard limits on content and complexity that we accepted back then have been long since overcome and gaming has moved on. I’d still rather play ED than some 5-star kill-the-brown-people rail shooter, but perhaps “Elite with amazing graphics” isn’t good enough anymore, even for those of us who were there for it the first time around?

    I’m still going to get back into it for a bit, but I’m really hoping things develop meaningfully beyond fixing multiplayer matching/private groups.

    • Drunk Si says:

      “You absolutely are not forced to grind. You can fly around doing whatever the fuck you like in your sidewinder”

      Like what?