The Elitist: Warping back to Elite Dangerous

elite-dangerous-profile-main

A photon checks into a hotel and the receptionist asks him: “Any luggage, sir?”

“No,” he says, “I’m travelling light.”

This is just one of the jokes pilots were broadcasting over the comms channel as I collected my wages in Grant Dock. There was one joke about the Higgs boson walking into a bar, or maybe it was a synagogue, I don’t remember. All I care about is getting that sweet Palladium money, which I take from the pale-faced man who runs this station. He doesn’t do much, the pale-faced man. Imagine a profile pic stuck on a postbox, with a little slot where money comes out. I prefer the people sounding off in local chat, they’re at least human beings. Not that you’d know it, listening to their jokes.

I load up my spaceship with power generators. It’s good to be back.

When Elite Dangerous first hovered into existence, I went on a series of misadventures. I tried to pull off impossible manoeuvres, or rob innocent traders. I even tried living the simple life of a humble space trucker. Today, I’m going back to space. The game has added a lot in my absence – planetary landing, deployable fighters, new mission types, the ability to captain a ship while your friend screams in the chair beside you. But in many ways, it’s the same old scrap delivery sim. I just want to know if it’s better.

Let’s start with vanity. The commander creator.

Roy Batty, but hungrier

As you can see, I opted for the preset which most matched Willem Dafoe, then made some alterations to his nose, neck, hair and eyeballs. Then I put him in a white suit and painted some red stripes on his shoulders. That’s how you end up with a guy who looks like Roy Batty, if Roy Batty were human and the inmate of a forced labour camp.

But fiddling around with the creator, there’s a surprisingly good range of faces. You can also have:

Shit Harrington

Winter is almost here

Space Ghandi

Not really

Theresa May

The Brexit Club

Your mate Gaz.

Oi oi!

A gender-flipped version of the engineer from the new Star Trek Discovery.

Antoinette Rapp

These are just a few of the 50 presets for each gender, or slight variations on them. There’s actually a whole lot of choice and variation, as character creators go. Most of the extra spacesuit stuff and accessories cost real money. But there’s still some nice free stuff – you can give your commander a robot eye, or a whole bunch of garish face tattoos, for the discerning space menace. I settled for some simple heterochromia of the eye, because it is the future and asymmetry is probably fashionable.

The only downside is that these are still basically profile pictures, just like the pale-faced man who runs Grant Dock. Most other players will only see you as a small square photo. Only those who plonk themselves next to you using the new mutli-crew feature will see the detail. You still can’t get out of your pilot’s chair and walk around.

For now, I’ll settle with being a passport photo. I have some power generators to deliver.

The Elitist will continue.

56 Comments

  1. duquessheep says:

    I’m curious to see if there will ever be things worth really coming back for. I burned out about a year ago about 17k ly from Sol and haven’t logged in since.

    Being a Fuel Rat was really fun and rewarding but only carried the game so far for me, which is a shame.

    • Asurmen says:

      I would say no. I find my fun where I can, but it’s in on and off spurts, a few weeks here and there.

      I want the next series of patches, the ones they’ve said they’re revisiting the base mechanics, to really shake things up a bit.

    • Psychomorph says:

      Totally burnt out on it, too.

      I launch it up some times, because using free head look in the cockpit while flying around is fun, but I really need to motivate myself to go back to playing ED.

    • BobbyDylan says:

      After grinding out about 500 hours in the game, I’ve not played it seriously for over a year now. I was really hoping that space legs would be a thing, and add a whole new layer and perspective to the game, but I am interested to see what “beyond” holds. I can’t see myself returning anytime soon, though. I might pack my HOTAS away and clear up some desk space….

  2. Gabriele Svelto says:

    I’ve had a pretty troublesome relationship with ED. Having spent a disproportionate amount of time playing Frontier as a kid I backed it on Kickstarter so early I could lock down “Guybrush Threepwood” as my commander’s name… and then proceeded to hate the game when it launched because it was sparse, clunky, slow and seemed to be mostly about grinding, grinding and grinding.

    I tried it again just a few weeks back and was rather pleased about the improvements to the control system and UI. So I decided to give the tutorials another shot… and got stuck in the third one which I seemed to be unable to complete. I haven’t touched it since and I fear I won’t ever touch it again.

    • Neutrino says:

      I kickstarted it and never even bothered installing it. I wanted Elite with 21st century graphics, not WOW in space (but with less to do).

      • Troubletcat says:

        …except the game’s not like WOW at all. And is pretty similar to Elite ’84 – it’s a big free-form sandbox where you fly around in space and trade, fight, etc… all the same stuff you could do in the first game, but with 21st century graphics.

        Not sure where you got the idea that it could be compared to WOW in any meaningful way. Because you can choose to play in a mode where you occasionally see another player? Aside from the fact that both games have multiplayer I don’t really see any commonality between the two at all.

        • causticnl says:

          on the surface it may look like Elite 1984, but it really isnt. In the 1984 version you could follow npc’s across the galaxy while they were flying in convoys, traders flying from station to station. Pirates who are based around to the sun. In ED all NPC’s are only spawned the moment a player jumps in a pocket of space, random NPC’s, who just fly around randomly. For me thats an enormous immersion breaker, in the 1984 version you had a living and breathing galaxy, in ED its just a backdrop, nothing more.

          • Neutrino says:

            You said it much better than I did. This is what I missed… and the storyline missions too. With all the money they’ve spent they still don’t have even basic storyline missions AFAIK. That’s pretty depressing.

          • Werthead says:

            “In the 1984 version you could follow npc’s across the galaxy while they were flying in convoys,” “in the 1984 version you had a living and breathing galaxy.”

            No, you couldn’t (NPCs were randomly generated and flew around for a bit and vanished) and no, you’d didn’t (the game didn’t change or evolve in any way whatsoever, apart from slightly fluctuating prices). The original game couldn’t even remotely handle any of that, not in 32K of RAM. The original game was so basic and bare bones it was beyond belief and suggesting that Elite: Dangerous, warts and all, has less content than the original game is hyperbole taken to an extreme.

            Also, Elite didn’t remotely have any kind of storyline. It had 8 missions that were availably on the floppy disc version only and that was all you got. The original game was just the sandbox, nothing else, and you couldn’t even change ships.

          • Asurmen says:

            You can follow convoys everywhere in ED…

            Still doesn’t change the fact that there’s more to do in ED than Elite.

          • causticnl says:

            clearly some people never played the 1984 version, it had persistant NPC’s, you could follow convoy’s to the next system (yes you could also fly without jumping to a next system, unlike ED wich needs jump to load assets, so each system has a loadscreen). In ED the closest thing you come to persistant NPC’s when pirates try to interdict you in a system, and they may follow you to the next system. But again , those only spawn for you, npc’s arent flying around when there arent any players.

            Its quite mind boggling that a 32k game has more immersion then a 2014 8 Gb game.

          • Werthead says:

            “clearly some people never played the 1984 version, it had persistant NPC’s, you could follow convoy’s to the next system (yes you could also fly without jumping to a next system, unlike ED wich needs jump to load assets, so each system has a loadscreen).”

            I bought (well, my dad bought and I played) Elite on the BBC Micro on day of release in 1984, all waiting-for-seven-minutes-whilst-the-cassette-loads-of-it. The features you describe do not exist in the game.

            Elite+, released on the PC (and I believe Archimedes) in 1990, did have ships doing their own thing off in the distance etc, but that was not the original Elite. But even Elite+ did not have the ability to follow shows through hyperspace from one system to another. Elite was arranged as a series of discrete instances you had to hyperspace between, with each space consisting of one star, one planet, one space station and a few randomly-generated ships and asteroids and that’s it.

            Elite II: Frontier did allow you to track ships and convoys from one system to another (with the hyperspace cloud tracking device), but that was also instanced, the difference being that the instances were much bigger (consisting of the entire star system).

            Neither Elite nor Elite II allow you to fly from one star system to another in realspace. Elite: Dangerous actually kind of does (if you don’t mind leaving your PC on for about nine hours), but it lamely doesn’t generate the instance (the planets, space stations, etc) around the star unless you hyperspace in, as that’s the loading screen.

        • Neutrino says:

          I just meant it’s an MMO rather than any deeper similarities with WOW.

          I was hoping for something that built on Elite Frontiers, procedurally generated planets with cities, spaceports, weather and a great storyline. Don’t see anything like that in ED, unless I missed it?

          • Werthead says:

            Frontier didn’t have a storyline either, it had a ton of procedurally-generated mission which were all variations on a theme.

            Elite III/Frontier II: First Encounters did have a storyline, but it wasn’t very good.

          • Neutrino says:

            FFE, that’s the one I’m talking about. And yes the storyline was excellent, although whether you thought the storyline was good or not hardly seems pertinent when comparing it to a game that has no story at all.

          • Asurmen says:

            ED does have a story?

          • Werthead says:

            The storylines in Elite: Dangerous are hardly the most gripping ever told, but they’re there, they exist, they evolve over time and they have a lot more going on than the incredibly bare-bones narratives in the earlier games (and whilst Elite could excuse it, the latter two games, contemporaries of X-Wing and Wing Commander, could not).

            I get the criticisms about Elite: Dangerous and its somewhat limited narrative content, but saying that Elite, Frontier or First Encounters have “better stories” or “better gameplay” than Dangerous is just silly.

          • Neutrino says:

            I don’t see why it’s silly. There’s nothing about storylines having been added to ED on their website, and I’ve never seen any mention of them here either. So if you’re saying ED now has better storylines than FFE then great, do you know where can we find out about them?

          • JDoyle64 says:

            Registered to post this, it’s something that I have internal debates about. There is a LOT of story that has happened in Elite: Dangerous, they never seem to feel the need to tell players when they’ve added large story sections though. (“Mysterious things added” reads every change log.) (I only recently realized that info points can hold audio-logs, most with some pretty decent voice acting.)

            If you want to experience the story without actively playing, I’d suggest ObsidianAnt’s youtube series. If you want the story from the game itself though, it WILL NOT hold your hand to find it. You’re going to most likely have to start off catching up on galnet articles referencing the events and follow the trail of breadcrumbs from there. This is not your personal story, it is a story happening within the galaxy you inhabit. That being said, personal player narratives have been mentioned as coming within the next year.

          • Nest says:

            @JDoyle64: The story is not in the game and it’s not accessible in-game. Sorry but you’re just plain wrong.

            Your comment about “hand-holding” is incredibly misleading because it implies that you as a player can piece together the story by yourself if you’re willing to pore through GalNet and follow the clues and do the work. Not true. Galnet doesn’t archive its material very far back, and the majority of story items do not have trails that start at GalNet. Furthermore the majority of audio logs and interesting planetary sites have no clues pointing towards them anywhere in the game, and are only found by massive brute force efforts carried out by huge groups of players who exploit graphical glitches and hack the game files in order to find these things.

            The limited number of clue-trails which might be connected to audio logs, are usually dead ends which culminate in “hey we found something somewhere on the surface of Planet A3 in system X.” And then you go to Planet A3 in system X and realize that everything in the game is at real-life scale which means it would take an entire human lifetime to circumnavigate a planet multiple times at the altitude necessary to visually scour its entire surface. There are no sensors or other in-game ways of detecting these sites.

            The only way to experience the “story” in Elite: Dangerous is by watching YouTube videos that other people have made about it, or reading forum posts about it. The story is not at all accessible in the game through playing it, no matter how little “hand-holding” you require.

  3. Det. Bullock says:

    “You still can’t get out of your pilot’s chair and walk around.”
    I never quite understood this kind of comment regarding spacesims, nobody is complaining about Morrowind not letting you pilot a Silt Strider or Deus Ex not allowing to pilot a helicopter.

    It’s a bit I don’t play it because my internet turned to shit this summer and for some reason was never completely fixed even though the new wi-fi spot is the exact the same model as the one that got fried during a particularly bad storm.
    Also getting a fullHD screen has highlighted that my video card is too old so I’m getting some frame rate hiccups too many to play anyway, at least until I get a new video card.

    • Darloth says:

      I have actually complained about both of those things, I think?

      Certainly, the silt strider. Certainly, transit vehicles in other games.

      I also continually ask why there isn’t an option to just have the skyranger come and pick us up from right HERE, or, indeed, do a strafing run on that building THERE.

    • jeremyalexander says:

      There’s no mystery to the comment. A very long time ago, the game’s makers said that we would be able to get out and explore our ships, stations, interact with others in a first person mode, among a million other features that are still not part of the game. On top of that, why wouldn’t you want more gameplay. I just saw the latest build of Star Citizen and while I’m still skeptical it will ever release, it sure was an impressive demo and ED has been out for years and all we’ve gotten is the ability to ride a buggy around a few planets. Even being the disaster it was at launch, a few people gave us more in No Man’s Sky with planets full of life, fully explorable, now with vehicles, base building, capital ships, trading, a new story, etc. The problem with ED updates is that they move at such a snails pace that they are going to get lapped by the competition and the game will end up just fading away.

    • hippy says:

      > “You still can’t get out of your pilot’s chair and walk around.” I never quite understood this kind of comment regarding spacesims

      It is an integral feature of the game that David Braben advertised when raising funds for Elite Dangerous on Kickstarter.

      “You will be able to walk around, you will be able to get out of your ship … walk around inside space stations, other vehicles, all of that sort of thing.” link to youtube.com

      This was to be one of the post-launch expansions for which backers pre-paid up to $195 extra. It was on the game roadmap in 2014, but since then most Frontier mentions have been simply to talk it down. It is completely absent from the 2017/18 roadmap.

  4. aircool says:

    I’d like to maybe give it a try again, but I got tired of fighting with a right-handed joystick and throttle, because, hey, fuck 10% of the population, right?

  5. B3tanTyronne says:

    I recently started replaying it after forgetting that it could be played with the vive – Bloody hell that was eye opening as the sense of scale you get is amazing. Sitting in your ship and looking around as you depart stations had me sitting there with my mouth open and that was just the start.
    I really wish I could spend more time on it but the gaming time I have now in my 40`s is not a patch on what I had 20 plus years ago.

    • King_Rocket says:

      I only started playing E:D in VR this year, even though I backed the KS and had a Rift since launch.

      After 100 or so hours my GTX 1080 burned out so I tried playing it without VR… I could not do it.
      Everything felt wrong and flat and I was unable to even navigate the maillot properly, Gosh I hope My RMA card turns up soon.

  6. Fade2Gray says:

    I had a bit of fun with this game last year when I got it on a good discount. I got fairly bored before long though. Then, less than a month after I bought the game they announced a major expansion. Cool! More content right when I was loosing interest. Wait, it’ll cost as much as the full price of the base game at launch!? Never mind…

  7. smg77 says:

    It’s too bad that Star Citizen ended up being a scam. Elite Dangerous could use some competition.

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      phuzz says:

      The fact that this comment hasn’t immediately been swamped by one hundred angry replies from SC fans, is a good demonstration of how moribund that game has become.

      • gpown says:

        More like it’s a very weak bait. If it’s a scam, it’s the most inefficient one in the history of scams.

        Plus, I have a friend working on it. He’s the last person in the world to be working on something he doesn’t have faith in.

        So yeah, it’s morbidly mismanaged, but not much else.

        • smg77 says:

          It’s raised over $160 million dollars and there still isn’t even a hint of actual gameplay. The pre-rendered demos do look impressive but there’s never going to be a real game that you can play. It’s the most impressive scam in gaming history.

          • Nest says:

            There are real playable modules and alpha software that backers are able to download and play with. This has been the case for quite a while now, so I don’t know where you think it’s valid to say that there hasn’t been even a “hint” of gameplay.

    • jeremyalexander says:

      I used to be a hardcore skeptic when it came to Star Citizen, but the recent demos they’ve shown are really impressive. I don’t know if the game will ever release, but the tech they’ve created will end up in something. It’s far too impressive not to. But yeah, at this point I think even the hard core SC backers are having trouble defending a game that is still obviously many years away from release.

    • criskywalker says:

      To be honest, even at its current state, Star Citizen seems much more interesting than Elite Dangerous.

  8. batraz says:

    I wonder if the problem with such space sims is not that we overestimate our capacity to fill up the sand box. VR boredom isn’t more immersive than regular boredom, it turns out.

    • Alberto says:

      Thing is, there’s a lot of things you could do, right now, without major alterations to the game. You just need some writers to flesh out interesting missions with some personality.

      I mean, there’s the main thargoid arc story and all that, but no way I’m clocking +100h of spacetrucking to get a ship that can take me to the relevant places (and buy the “season”).

  9. Rindan says:

    I wish they had added worthwhile player interaction. Elite Dangerous has its virtues in terms of controls, and it absolutely nails the look, but there is just nothing to do. If they had just given players ANYTHING to conflict with each other over, it could have been a little minny Eve with fun combat.

    Oh well. One day someone will make a space game to match the Free Space games or Tie Fighter.

  10. Alberto says:

    Bought the base game and had my time around, but a lot of quality-of-life decisions (like the inexistence of auto-pilot or a flight log where I can check just what systems I’ve been in, etc) made me bounce.
    That, and the shallow content, lack of visual difference between bases, etc.

    I’d like to turn back and re-start a new career, but I’ll wait until it’s more fleshed (and on sale).

    If you’re not combat-prone, playing it with a gamepad is not bad at all, btw.

    • Asurmen says:

      There will never be anything but a docking auto pilot.

      Why would there be visual differences between bases

      I think there is some kind of log in the game, but I still use a 3Rd party app for it.

      • Alberto says:

        Frontier: First Encounters was my, well first encounter with Elite.

        The models were poor, there Were only a few space station models, and yet you could land in places really different from others, find gigantic cargo ships waiting in the most industrialized systems, etc.

        And I recall several different missions, some related to the story, some for flavour only.

        The no autopilot or ship log decision is painful. I spent hours getting in good terms with a faction in a system and after a delivery mission I couldn’t find it back. The prospect of having to start again and going / coming to the same spaceport for 50 times with no autopilot made me uninstall the game.

        • Asurmen says:

          With the complete lack of textures or decent models, everything always looked the same to me, but I also wouldn’t expect absolutely everything to look different. Why would it? Everything is constructed from standard template, and no developer has time for that sort of detail anyway.

          FE was the only one of the four Elite games to have a mission based storyline. ED does have a storyline, but it doesn’t play out through missions.

          Like I said, I’m sure there’s a log of some kind in the game now.

        • JDoyle64 says:

          At first I would have agreed with you, the more I explore the more unique stations (and especially planet bases) I discover. You can find said giant cargo ships (And research + military vessels each with a seemingly unique model per ship (Equal in size to stations themselves)) in super cruise as well as sometimes parked up next to stations. Capital ship docks also appear to be part of some of the large stations now too.

          There is countless stories unfolding in the universe at the moment, multiple shady government run (or sponsored) organizations and plenty of secrets (and missions) related to both of the two currently discovered alien races. You’ll have to dock at specific stations to get these missions, and you’ll receive them as an inbox message rather than taking them from the mission board. What I believe you’re after is personal player narratives(be the hero type missions) which are coming at some point during 2018, so far everything has been a story happening in a universe you happen to inhabit, the story does not care if you’re not keeping up.

          If you want to make a system your temporary home, bookmark it. That being said, space very quickly starts to feel small and you’ll likely start to identify each dock by name.

          Standard docking computer removes all of the hassle of stations, auto-piloting your ship in to dock from within 7.5km of the station/base (Including entry through the mailslot.)

    • Nest says:

      Don’t know when you stopped playing, but some of your complaints have been addressed in various updates to the game:
      • There is more visual variation in how stations look, including station interiors which are specific to different industries, as well as stations built into hollowed out asteroids. A coriolis station is still always going to look like a coriolis station though. (There are a couple variants with long appendages sticking out of them, though)
      • There are a lot more unique structures to find besides just the stations. There are giant freighters, military outposts, capital ship docks, black sites, secret comms relays, shipwrecks, etc. Some are static, some are dockable, some have loot, some have story oriented audio logs.
      • There’s a player journal. It’s just a text document log that the game generates, but there are all kinds of 3rd party applications that can pull from this document to give you all the info you could possibly want regarding where you’ve been and what you’ve done at what time, etc.
      • In-game, the galaxy map now includes a grey line which shows the path you’ve taken for the last dozen or so hyperspace jumps, which can help you retrace your steps back to an area recently visited.
      • The galaxy map also now lets you filter systems by “visited” and “not visited”
      • Still no autopilot for Supercruise or hyperspace between systems. But if you weren’t already aware, there’s a docking computer module you can install which takes care of landing at stations.

      Game is still a mess and somewhat of a shell. But there have been some good quality of life improvements.

  11. Jaykera says:

    I registered almost 1000 hours when it launched but ED is the only game I know that is getting less appealing to me with every update.

  12. Der Zeitgeist says:

    I’m playing this quite heavily again for a few weeks now, after a long pause of about a year.

    I think the most important thing is basically to try to ignore progression as much as you can and never start grinding obsessively towards a particular goal. There’s a lot of mission mechanics that promote repeating the same mission types over and over again, because they’re the most effective at maxing a stat or making money.

    I just don’t do it any longer. I have a nice mid-level ship now, and bigger ships don’t make the game better in any way. They just allow you to make more money to buy even larger ships, while the activities stay mostly the same.

    Just avoid the grind, and try to do everything the game has to offer, and it can be lots of fun.

  13. skyturnedred says:

    I have the base game but never really had the time to really get into it. Is the season pass mandatory for enjoying the game?

    • Der Zeitgeist says:

      The Horizons expansion doesn’t fundamentally change the game into something different. It adds planetary landings and associated activities, which I find great, and I wouldn’t want to play the game without it.

      But if you really don’t like the base game, Horizons won’t make you love it. I suggest you just try out the current version you have, and see if you’d want more.

    • Nest says:

      Playing with the Horizons season pass will give you a much fuller experience (at this point just about all the content for the “season” has been released so you won’t be waiting for anything to be added).

      But if you’re not sure about the game yet, definitely play the vanilla game for a little while and see what you think. At least run through the tutorials and try flying a few missions.

      The core experience is still essentially the same in both versions, so if you don’t like the base game, you aren’t going to suddenly start liking it by adding Horizons on top of it.

      That being said, if you *do* like the core experience, you’ll definitely want to play with the Horizons expansion as well, because it really opens up the possibilities for where you can go and how you can do things.

  14. geldonyetich says:

    Out of all the games in the world, it’s Elite: Dangerous I still find myself digging out and playing from time to time. The game features boring, unvaried gameplay and there’s ultimately nothing worth getting at the end of the grind. But I’m a sucker for an immersive simulation, and few games have nailed that feature better. That’s my best guess why I bother. Second guess is I’m boring, too.

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