Exploring the Universe with Elite Dangerous: Beta 2 is going to be ‘hard to 2 beta’ (chortle)

We are getting closer and closer to launch and the excitement is growing proportionally. I all but squee’d when I read Frontier Development’s  41st newsletter last week and saw that they would be releasing a feature packed Beta 2 at the end of September. Beta 1 has been fun but it’s also been a wee bit frustrating at times as the range of activities available has been limited (because of the testing phase nature, not because of any deficiency in game design I hasten to add).

Reading through the newsletter several things jumped out, wrapped their arms around me noggin’ and french-kissed me in to a stupor. In order of interest to me, they are…

A bigger bubble to play in. A much bigger bubble of around 500 systems which is roughly ten times larger than Beta 1. Hell I never got to visit every system in Beta 1 so adding another 450 will keep me entertained for quite some time, I reckon. More than this though, I’m hoping that Beta 2’s expanded bubble contains some real gems of planet and system design with some unusual stars and gas giants really standing out and begging to be photographed at 4k.

A system star map. The galaxy star map is amazing, a work of art and engineering in itself, but the view we have all been waiting for since we saw this concept is the orrery-style system map. I hope we get a system map that provides me with data on in-system bodies and is useful and engaging and immersive. I doubt I’ll be disappointed.

Exploring becoming a ‘thing’. Back at the start of the funding campaign Frontier made vague comments about explorers being able to sell data on trade routes and the like but no one knew how this would work until a very good article in a recent newsletter expanded these plans for . Well in Beta 2 we will see the start of this as the expanded bubble of play has been opened into unexplored space. Personally I want to load up my ship, point it out into the black and see what I can map. My dream would be to find the remains of an ancient civilization, but a gold rich asteroid belt would do for now…

A lovely Asp is a thing to behold… I love my Cobra. Love it like I love my phone, and that’s a lot. But I don’t think it’s going to be up to the task of long range exploring. I could be wrong. Hell, I hope I am, but I suspect real explorers will need a bigger ship, one with the engine capability for long distance travel, the heat tolerance for multiple jumps, the cargo space for essential supplies as well as samples gathered. It’ll need to be tough to withstand long periods away from repair facilities as well as well armed to fight off any data-stealing scum. It’ll need to be capable of carrying a great deal of scanning and processing equipment as well as keeping at least two people alive for prolong periods. In short, it probably needs to be the Asp Explorer

Upgrades for all! Given that we are now looking at a larger bubble of playable space and many ships found themselves ‘land-locked’ in Beta 1 by inadequate drive systems, it would seem logical that players could upgrade their engines. Well in Beta 2 you can – and your shields, sensors, jump drives and much, much more can all up be upgraded. I want to get my Asp and bolt on the best stuff I can because once I leave known space behind my survival will depend on the quality and capability of that stuff.

Outposts, the tiniest oasis in the biggest desert. Way back in newsletter 37 outposts were revealed and ever since I’ve been dying to see one! Currently we only have one starport per system and although that is set to change with not only multiple starports but also planetary landings at some point in the future, what I find exciting is knowing that there are small, out-of-the-way pit stops than can both save your life and provide an excellent opportunity for more immersive gameplay. Imagine setting up an illegal trade, or planning an assassination – well where better than a small dive out in the middle of nowhere with no security forces for light minutes. And they’ll serve up the finest square pig on rye! Delicious!

Mobile Space Stations for an expanding universe. In newsletter 38 we saw the Ocellus station, a huge structure that isn’t content with merely orbiting a body but likes to move through space and help colonize entire systems! I expect we’ll see the first use of this brute in Eranin if the federation are successful in their current take-over bid but what this means is that the current number of human-owned systems is not fixed and that the universe will expand and grow. First a player explores a new system, then they sell the data on and the political bodies take notice and begin to explore and exploit until the point when they move in a Ocellus and colonize. This may take a while, in fact I hope it does, but what it means is that the game will continually evolve and that, to me at least, is wonderful news.

Other stuffs: There will be a greater variety of ring types around planets (I wonder if we will see more planetary details too?). Solo missions will become simulator training sessions (something I’ve wanted from before I started playing – combat is fun but hard and you need to practice but in practicing you run the risk of financial ruin so I’ve always wanted a simulator mode for combat practice with both players and NPC in a variety of ship – I don’t think they’ll go that far but this sounds a good start). The start of player interdiction in hyperspace with the ability to track players in hyperspace. A system to steal cargo without blowing a ship up. And, excitingly, an evolving news network is starting to appear with Galnet updates moving from the emailed newsletters to the ED website (the plans are to move it into the game itself along with more diverse news feeds as they had in Frontier & First Encounters).

So all in all, come September 30th I’ll be flying high in hog heaven = why not join me, the beta price is only £50 nowadays.

Update (28/09/14): I totally missed off the Elite Ranking and Fraction Reputation features – as you can tell, they don’t mean all that much to me. yet…

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