Gaming

Thoughts on Elite Dangerous updates in September 2019

While the announcement of Fleet Carriers coming in December got most of my attention, the information flowing from Lavecon about what’s coming up in the September update is still worth covering. Below I’ve quoted a couple of sections of the full announcement covering onboarding and the new currency system and what I think it’ll mean. Feel free to share your own thoughts too in the comments below. 🙂

NEW “IN SHIP” STARTER EXPERIENCE

Following on from what we set out to achieve with this year’s initial updates, we will be introducing a whole new starting experience right from the cockpit of a commander’s first ship, a loaned Sidewinder.

With clearer instructions and guidance during the beginning of Elite Dangerous, we believe this will lead to a more engaging way to learn the basics and help commanders understand the tools they have at their disposal to become fully-fledged pilots.

Getting players over that initial hurdle when starting the game has always been one of the biggest challenges for the developers and it’s likely to remain that way but each step they take is helping.

Just remember: the launch game’s tutorial missions were pretty minimal and the game also relied on YouTube videos for anyone wanting to dive deeper into how to play. Watching a video and playing the game at the same time is not easy for everyone… it can take a bit of practise too. 😉

At the start of the experience, commanders will be guided through essential pilot training by a flight instructor from the Pilots Federation. During this training, a number of lessons will be taught to commanders, from space flight to combat.

* Basic flight controls and scanning.

* Supercruise and navigation.

* A combat exercise around a megaship.

* Culminating with the final lesson: completing one’s first Hyperspace Jump and docking at a starport.

This sounds like it could a fun little introduction that throws something neat at players in the form of a megaship. Giving players a taste of what they might find “out there” hopefully helps incentivise players to take some time to do a little exploring of their own.

NEW LIVERY SYSTEM AND VIRTUAL CURRENCY: ARX

Those on consoles will already be familiar with the concept of Frontier Points and, as part of the September Update, we’re reworking and rebranding them as Arx, across all platforms (including PC), ensuring the experience to acquire cosmetics is shared equally for commanders on any platform. This new currency can be purchased, as well as earned by simply playing the game, to acquire Game Extras such as Paint Jobs, Ship Kits, Bobbleheads and more!

As always with our optional additional purchases, Arx can only be used to buy cosmetic Game Extras and will not be used to introduce and acquire pay-to-win purchases. Ultimately, Arx will enable us to…

Bring parity across all of our platforms

As it currently stands, PC commanders purchase cosmetics directly from the Frontier Store with real world currency, while those on consoles must first purchase Frontier Points before acquiring that new and shiny Paint Job. With the introduction of Arx, the method of purchasing and spending Arx will be the same experience regardless of what platform you’re on.

PC gamers may be more annoyed by this as they’ve been able to purchase cosmetic items fairly easily through the Frontier Store. For console players it’s just a new name. With this move to a common currency system between platforms it likely simplifies the work of the developers as they’ll no longer be maintaining two different styles of storefront. So initially it may be more to their benefit than ours but as the dust settles hopefully everyone will accept it and move on.

It’s sad to think that the damage caused by other games and their unfortunate use of microtransactions means every company now has to include assurances of no “pay to win” mechanics. For what it’s worth, Elite Dangerous has always had this aspect of the game focused entirely on cosmetics.

Allow commanders to earn customisation items through gameplay

As part of the update to the livery system and the introduction of Arx, commanders will be able to acquire cosmetic items by simply playing the game! We won’t ask commanders to change how they play, simply being an active player and engaging with the game is all that’s required. A number of Arx can be earned each week and will be instantly added to a player’s Arx balance and can be spent there and then, or saved for later. We’ll have more details on how these can be earned in-game and the amount you can earn, closer to the release of the September Update.

The game at times did offer cosmetic items as rewards (such as a unique logo for Xbox Game Preview) but that it didn’t happen often suggesting the game never easily supported it. This appears to be changing now and with players potentially earning Arx credits just by playing the game it gives everyone a chance to make their ship unique.

I’d expect that this would be used a lot to help give players a reason to get involved more in the community driven aspects (Interstellar Initiatives) such as community goals. Earning credits is one thing but earning a cool badge or paint job to brag with is another.

Introduce a new, flexible and informed choice when purchasing Game Extras

We’ve made improvements to the entire in-game ship livery system, providing commanders with previews of all the different customisation options for their ships and multiple angles!

Commanders will be able to purchase individual Game Extras that were previously only available in entire packs. For example, if you wanted the Anaconda White Pharaoh Paint Job, you would no longer need to purchase the entire Anaconda Horus Paint Pack to obtain it. We’re still going to be putting together bundles and packages, but this new system will allow commanders to buy the majority of Game Extras individually.

This could entice a lot of players who don’t normally buy cosmetic items to take the plunge. If the pricing of the single items moves further into the impulse buy range it might work out nicely for them.

Offering commanders the ability to change their ship’s appearance from the main menu

One of the biggest improvements we are introducing is the ability to access the ship livery from the main menu, so even explorers out in the black will be able to change up their ship’s appearance without needing to head all the way back to civilization!

Maybe it’s no longer “realistic” but since cosmetic items have no impact on the game it makes sense to not let players be held back by having to be docked in a station for a change to their ship’s colour or styling. It will certainly be a boon for players who (like me) enjoy taking screenshots… 🙂

Still a few more months ago until these changes go live so hopefully we’ll see more in livestreams covering them and other changes closer to the date.

Elite Dangerous is out now for PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

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