The gigantic space exploration MMO Elite Dangerous is holding a beta to test its new fleet carriers from Monday 11th May up until the 26th.
Carriers are, as you'd expect, massive capital ships (the largest available to players) capable of accommodating up to 16 smaller ships, and selectively allowing other people to dock and do business. Or, more funly, shutting them out just to be petty.
Any player with an account is welcome, and even if you're not interested in the carriers (or haven't saved up the space cash to buy one), the beta is a good opportunity to experiment with the game. If you opt in, see, your account will split off into two branches, so you can play on in the beta without it affecting your regular game. Ever wanted to try a bit of piracy but didn't want to mess up your reputation or lose all your money when it turns out you're hopeless at it? Now you can try without risk.
This weekend is a good time to jump into the cockpit and start saving, even if you're new - from the 22nd to the 26th of May, carriers will be sold at an absurd 99% discount to make sure everyone can get in on the capital ship funtimes. It's actually the second beta for the carriers, so will likely be more finely tuned. I unfortunately missed the first one due to, well, everything, but I'll be happily jetting about in space this weekend. Keep your eyes peeled for 1 (one) weirdo stubbornly piloting the worst ship in the game.
The main changes are about money and player convenience, as the carriers will be more efficient with jumpdrive fuel, and scrapping one will refund the ship's full cost (minus a static service fee). Carriers will also give access to Universal Cartographics, the literally-named mapping corporation, and a limited shipyard. Assuming this beta goes smoothly, the carriers are due to come to the regular game world in June, as immortal news wizard Natalie Clayton recently reported. Either way, Elite Dangerous is already one of the best space games, so the worst case scenario still means a good time for all.
All this is in preparation for the upcoming The Next Era expansion, which Frontier Developments have been working on since 2018. They've been somewhat tight-lipped about details of that expansion, but described their expectations of it last year as "a defining moment in the history of the game and it will be our biggest update yet." Its release was recently, sensibly pushed back to early 2021 due to the Covid-19 situation.
Players who want to try can opt in to the beta now at the Elite Dangerous store. If you don't have the game, it's available on Steam for £40/€50/$60 including all five of its DLC packs, or about half that for the base game. If you have any trouble, Frontier have put together a handy guide to signing up on their foum.