Last revised: 10 January 2017. Now updated to reflect the changes introduced in 1.7/2.2
Let’s be honest, Elite: Dangerous (ED) doesn’t exactly go out of its way to explain things to players and as such it can be quite daunting to the newcomer, particularly those unfamiliar with the previous Elite games or space sims in general. I actually find this approach quite refreshing as for me it’s highly rewarding to figure out game mechanics for myself through a process of discovery and experimentation, but others may find this simply frustrating.
In light of this I thought I’d put together a guide for Commanders just starting out in ED or those looking for a relatively simple resource for the game’s core mechanics. It’s broken down into sections that you can jump to using the contents list below. I will attempt to update the guide from time to time to reflect changes to the game.
I hope the guide is useful and I’m happy to answer any questions posted in the comments. Also please feel free to inform me of any errors, typos, glaring omissions, out of date info, or broken links. However, if you don’t like ED or have issues with Frontier Developments, I totally respect that, but the comments section of this guide is not a place to vent your feelings.
- Useful resources to get you started
- Choosing a game mode
- Controls and general flight
- Normal flight fundamentals
- Supercruise, interdiction and low and high waking
- Hyperspace, FSD supercharging, and the galaxy map
- Ships, modules and power management
- Combat, weapon and distributor fundamentals
- Ship transfer and module storage
- Death and insurance
- Crime, punishment and system security
- Reputation, rank, factions and civil wars
- Making money early on and signal sources
- The endgame and career paths:
- PowerPlay (a little out of date!)
- Elite Dangerous: Horizons expansion
If you haven’t already, I recommend checking out the community page on the ED website, where you will find a series of tutorial videos, patch notes and a comprehensive old-school game manual in PDF format that does a good job of covering controls, HUD, flight, travel, combat and basic game mechanics/concepts.
Other excellent resources include Galnet News (an unofficial ED community site), Elite Dangerous Wiki and Lave Wiki (another ED wiki site). It’s also worth signing up to the official forums as you will find a wealth of information and advice there, plus it’s the best place to keep yourself informed about any changes or additions to the game. Members are generally quite helpful if you have any questions, but always remember to do a search first before posting a query.
Currently there are four main game modes, all of which are online with everyone playing within the same persistent universe. There is no fully offline mode nor are there any plans to implement one. You can switch between these game modes at any time:
- Open Play – this “instances” you with up to 32 other players who happen to be present within the same area of space; other players (i.e. Commanders) appear on you scanner as hollow markers.
- Private Group – only instances you with members of a private group
- Solo – effectively a single player mode, as you will never be instanced with other players. It’s worth noting that this mode requires significantly less internet bandwidth than the other two.
- Arena – a PvP mode (previously branded CQC Championship) that is entirely independent of the main game – i.e. separate to the above three game modes.
Flight can be tricky at first, particularly if you have little experience of flight/space sims, but practice makes perfect. Before you do anything, it’s important to choose and configure a controller set-up that’s right for you. The best place to experiment (without risk) is within the in-game tutorials that can be found in the “Training Missions” menu – here you can learn how to dock, travel and dogfight. There are also tutorials related to mining, SRV driving and ship-launched fighters, while advanced combat scenarios can be found under “Challenge Scenarios”.
Personally, I prefer to play the game on keyboard and mouse (kb/m) but you might want to consider using an Xbox controller or similar, or investing in a HOTAS (Hands On Throttle-And-Stick) joystick – these start at around £40 (e.g. the Thrustmaster T-Flight Hotas X), but the better ones can set you back up to £350, which is a pretty serious investment.
For those trying out kb/m, I’d definitely recommend setting pitch/yaw to mouse and roll to A and D. I’d also advise trying both relative mouse control on and off (I prefer on these days), playing about with mouse sensitivity/deadzone, and binding spacebar to pitch up (a neat trick I learnt from flying jets in Battlefield). You’ll definitely want to configure key bindings to your own taste and as a guide I’ve listed my own below (any controls not stated are set to default):
|increase throttle||+ mouse wheel|
|decrease throttle||– mouse wheel|
|set speed to 0%||1|
|set speed to 25%||2|
|set speed to 50%||3|
|set speed to 75%||4|
|set speed to 100%||5|
|disable flight assist||mouse 5 (toggle)|
|toggle frame shift drive||J|
|enable frame shift drive to supercruise||–|
|toggle orbit lines||O|
|select target ahead||T|
|cycle next ship||G|
|select highest threat||H|
|cycle next hostile ship||]|
|cycle previous hostile ship||[|
|select wingman 1||F1|
|select wingman 2||F2|
|select wingman 3||F3|
|select wingman’s target||F5|
|cycle next subsystem||Y|
|cycle previous subsystem||U|
|target next system in route||P|
|primary fire||mouse 1|
|secondary fire||mouse 2|
|cycle next fire group||N|
|deploy hardpoints||mouse 4|
|firing deploys hardpoints||off|
|silent running||delete (toggle)|
|deploy heat sink||V|
|use shield cell||B|
|use chaff launcher||C|
|open galaxy map||M|
|open system map||K|
Don’t forget to back up the file containing your control settings! For the standard 64-bit Windows version, this can be found at: C:\Users\%username%\AppData\Local\Frontier Developments\Elite Dangerous\Options\Bindings. I have no idea where this is stored on the Steam, Occulus, Mac or Xbox One versions.
Whether you use kb/m or a dedicated controller, I’d also recommend checking out Voice Attack, a piece of software that allows you to bind keys to voice commands. It works surprisingly well and there’s a 21 day free trial available (it only costs $8 USD anyway).
4. Normal flight fundamentals
Normal flight is the low velocity flight mode (sub-light speed) you enter when you drop out of supercruise (see Supercruise, interdiction and low and high waking). It is used for docking and landing on planets (Horizons expansion only), dogfighting, mining and exploring points of interest, such as signal sources, navigation beacons, and asteroid fields – i.e. all the fun stuff.
Right, I’ll try to explain this as best as I am able! Your ship has forward (main), reverse, lateral, and vertical thrusters, as well as thrusters for rotating the ship in three dimensions. These thrusters work in pairs to counter each other so, relative to your current orientation, you can accelerate forwards or backwards, left or right, up or down. However, for gameplay reasons, each direction has a maximum speed that can be reached (in m/s), which is determined by the ship you’re flying, your total mass, the rating of your thrusters and the number of pips you assign to the engines capacitor (see Combat, weapon and distributor fundamentals).
The sweet-spot for manoeuvrability is 50% throttle (blue section on your speed indicator). Overall manoeuvrability is increased by putting more pips into engines. Be aware that yaw has been deliberately limited in ED and only allows for minor adjustments, so you will need to get used to using roll and pitch for turning – think WWII fighter planes or the X-wings/tie fighters from Star Wars.
Boosting, applies a very large amount of forward thrust in a very short space of time, to quickly and temporarily accelerate your ship well beyond your normal maximum speed. Boosting drains the engines capacitor and generates a considerable amount of heat (see Combat, weapon and distributor fundamentals), reducing its spamability.
With flight assist (FA) on, the default flight mode, the computer will maintain a constant forward or reverse velocity (as set by you) and will automatically counter any lateral or vertical acceleration applied by the pilot. So if you apply throttle to the right thrusters, you will start heading left, but as soon as you release the throttle, the computer will apply an equal amount of thrust in the opposite direction to restore a purely forward or reverse velocity. In a similar manner, the computer will stabilise the pitch, yaw and roll of the ship. This means that the ship’s velocity and orientation will always be one in the same, i.e. the ship is moving towards wherever you point the nose (or at least will always try to!).
With flight assist (FA) off, the computer will not counter your movements. So if you apply thrust to the right, you will keep heading left until you apply an equal of thrust to the left. If you roll the ship, you will keep rolling in that direction until you counter the movement. As such, it is much trickier and more laborious to control your ship with FA off. However, this means that the ship’s orientation can be different from it’s current velocity (your current velocity is indicated by the direction and speed of the space dust). This can be quite useful during a dogfight, allowing you to travel in one direction and shoot in another. It also potentially allows for quicker turning and a few fancy manoeuvre, which I won’t go into here. To learn more, check out the useful video tutorials here and here.
Docking is something you will need to become proficient at as you’ll be doing it constantly. Plus being able to enter a starport at speed is crucial to avoiding scans for criminal status and illegal cargo. Don’t waste an internal slot on a docking computer – it’s quite slow and a little bit wobbly (though you do get to listen to Strauss’ Blue Danube for a bit of nostalgia). Once you’ve got the hang of the flight controls it’s really not that difficult.
Request docking permission (you can do so from ≤7.5km) via the contacts tab of the targets panel. You will be then designated a specific landing pad, the location of which will be indicated by the nav compass on your dashboard. There are three main types of port:
1. Starports. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but the principal is always the same. You’ll also probably be dealing with these the most. The entrance, affectionately referred to as the “mail slot”, will always be facing towards the planetary body the station orbits. When flying through the mail slot (on the green side), you will need to match its rotation (especially in larger ships). Once inside, your ship will automatically correct it’s orientation to match the rotation of the station.
2. Orbital outposts. These are small orbital platforms on which you land on an exterior pad. They do not rotate. As such, they are generally easier and quicker to dock at. However, they often have fewer facilities available than at starports (check the system map for details).
3. Planetary settlements. Horizons expansion only. Landing at these is covered in Planetary flight and landing
During your approach, always watch for on-coming traffic (check your scanner as well), and don’t block the mail slot or loiter over other pads, otherwise you may land a fine or worse (stations resort to quite drastic measures when dealing with “blockages”!). When over a landing pad, your scanner will change to display a schematic of your ship relative to the pad. You need to line up the centre of your ship with the centre of the pad and then touch down. And remember to lower your landing gear first. Doing so also reduces your max speed and prevents you from boosting.
- lateral and vertical thrusters are your friends; use forward and reverse thrusters for minor adjustments
- it’s generally not a good idea to boost inside the starport or when going through the slot
- if you’re worried about collisions stick 4 pips to systems (i.e shields) and 2 pips to engines (you don’t need power to weapons when not fighting)
- crashing into another ship while “speeding” (>100m/s) can land you a fine or even a murder bounty if you manage to destroy them (and live)
SC is the mechanism for travelling within star systems – distances to starports and points of interest (POIs) can be enormous (I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist, but that’s just peanuts to space). Trust me, you’ll be spending a lot of time in this mode. Essentially, it’s a faster-than light mode and works in similar a vein to normal flight with FA on, but with no reverse, lateral or vertical movement possible. Careful control of acceleration and deceleration (the computer assists you in both) is required in order not to overshoot your destination.
The trick to SC is following the “6-second rule”: lock onto your destination and set throttle to 100%, when you are 6-seconds away (or just before) drop it to 75%. This way you will never overshoot. When both lines are in the blue zones of the alignment scales in the target panel, the “Safe Disengage” message will appear above your scanner and pressing the SC key drops you at your destination.
Possible destinations are listed in the navigation tab of the systems panel and can be filtered by type. More information about planetary bodies, starports and the system in general can be viewed in the system map, which can be accessed via the navigation tab or through the galaxy map. Though I recommend setting up a hotkey for quick access.
Unidentified signal sources (USSs) will appear at random, though are more likely to occur in shipping lanes and near starports and planets (see Making money early on and signal sources for more detail on these). Other POIs such as navigation beacons and resource extractions sites are permanent, whereas POIs such as conflicts zones and military checkpoints are dependent on the political and economic situation of the system, which will change over time.
- even with 0% throttle you will still be travelling at 30km/s
- to safely disengage you need to be travelling <1000km/s
- you can perform an emergency stop (>1000km/s) at any time by pressing the SC key twice, but this will cause damage to your ship and its modules
- keep your distance from stars and planetary bodies, etc, as these will slow you down and if you get too close your ship will automatically perform an emergency stop
- orbital lines can be turned off in the functions tab of the system panel (you can also bind a key for this)
- obscured destinations with appear as grey hashed circle in your HUD
- the frame shift drive (FSD) is responsible for both SC and hyperspace jumps; however, you can set separate keys for both
Interdiction and low and high waking
Interdiction is a mechanic that allows pilots to force other ships out of SC (and into normal flight), and requires a special module (installed in an optional internal slot). This module needs to be assigned to a fire group and is “fired” like a weapon, but first you must get close and approach from behind. This triggers a mini-game where the aggressor has to remain on the tail of the target ship for success, whereas the target can evade interdiction by remaining aligned with the escape vector. Be warned, pulling a ship with a clean criminal status out of SC will land you a 400cr fine (see Crime and punishment).
A successful interdiction results in both ships taking damage and spinning out of control as they enter normal flight. And, as the aggressor, you will also take damage and drop out of SC if you lose the battle, whereas the evader will carry on in SC unharmed. As a safer alternative to interdiction, you can follow ships in and out of SC by targeting and travelling to the low energy wakes they leave behind.
When being interdicted, you can “submit” by setting the throttle to 0%. This way you receive no damage, have full control of your ship when you drop out and the FSD cooldown timer will be much reduced. More importantly, it leaves you in a much better position for both fighting and fleeing. When fleeing from a larger ship, it is usually much quicker/safer to hyperspace jump to a new system (known as high waking), especially if you are unable to outrun your aggressor. This is because larger ships will mass lock you when you attempt to transition to SC, significantly increasing the time it takes for your FSD to charge. This does not happen for hyperspace jumps.
Hyperspace is the mechanism for jumping from one system to another. The distance you can jump is dependent on the type of ship and its total mass, frame shift drive (FSD) class/rating, and available fuel. Upgrading your FSD, installing lighter modules and emptying your cargo hold can significantly increase jump range.
Journeys are planned through the galaxy map, but you can also select nearby systems quickly via the bottom of the navigation tab. The galaxy map allows you to plot multi-jump routes of up to 1000LY. Remember to select between economical and fastest route computation via the route tab; it’s far more fuel efficient to perform multiple short jumps than a single long-distance jump, but doing so will dramatically increase journey time. When plotting a route: a solid line indicates you have enough fuel to make the jump, whereas a dashed line means you have insufficient fuel (see screenshot below).
The galaxy map is also able to display trade routes (see trading) and you can filter systems by things like allegiance, economy, government, state, security and star class. These filters can be applied to the route plotter in real time. You will also be informed of a system’s security, economic state and star class on your HUD just prior to jumping. And don’t forget to bookmark your favourite systems!
It is important to properly plan your journeys, especially if you have a small fuel tank. For long trips, you may want to consider installing a fuel scoop (see exploration). Oh, and don’t try to super cruise from one system to another; it’s not actually possible and you will run out of gas trying. If you do ever run out of fuel and get stranded, don’t hesitate to contact the Fuel Rats. These selfless heroes will dispatch a ship to refuel you and get you back on your way.
- it’s worth setting a hotkey for quick access to the galaxy map;
- jumps can be cancelled, up until the drive finishes charging, by pressing the relevant key a second time
- an FSD cooldown timer will appear underneath the fuel indicator after jumping
- your ship will heat up while the FSD is charging, so you may need to allow your ship to cool between successive jumps or move away from that giant ball of fire you’re orbiting (see the “module damage, targeting subsystems and heat” subsection underneath Combat and weapon fundamentals)
- you don’t get mass locked by other ships when hyperspace jumping (high waking), but you do when transitioning to SC (low waking); therefore, if being chased by a hostile, it is usually quicker/safer to jump to a new system than enter SC
- with a wake shift scanner you can analyse high energy wakes to follow pilots through hyperspace
Supercharging your FSD
If you’re feeling brave, you can attempt to “supercharge” your FSD at white dwarfs and neutron stars, a process that can potentially triple the range of your next jump. Be warned, it’s risky and it will cause minor damage to your FSD. If it goes wrong you could also seriously damage or destroy your ship. You also need an active fuel scoop.
To begin the process, simply head into one of the polar jets while in SC. You’ll be warned that your FSD is operating beyond safety limits and your ship will become difficult to control. It takes a little while, but you’ll be notified when the supercharge is complete. Leave the polar jet and then check the galaxy map to see what the range of your next jump will be.
The trick is to fly slowly and remain as far from the star as possible. If you drop out of SC, your ship will start spinning out of control, heating up and taking damage. Without a stack of heat sinks, you’ll be lucky to survive. White dwarfs seem to provide around a 50% boost and neutron stars around 300%.
You can also boost a single jump by up to 100%, if you have the right materials, using the FSD injection function in the synthesis menu (Horizons only, see Synthesis and materials). However, the supercharging and FSD injection processes cannot be combined, that would just be silly!
New ships are purchased via shipyards and new modules via the outfitting menu. Note that these facilities are not always present at smaller outposts (check the system for details) and that the availability of ships and modules varies considerably from system to system. Generally, high populations systems with a high-tech economy are your best bet. However, Sola Prospect in the Brestla system and the Jameson Memorial in the Shinrarta Dezhra system (permit required) always stock all ships and modules.
When buying a new ship or module, you will be given the choice to either store or part exchange the old one (see Ship transfer and module storage). You can experiment with different ships and module loadouts using the online tools at ED Shipyard and Coriolis. Before buying and outfitting a new ship, it’s important to think what do you actually want to do with it. Some ships are dedicated fighters (Eagle, Viper, Vulture, etc), others dedicated haulers (e.g. Hauler, Type-6, Keelback). Some are better equipped for exploration (e.g. Diamondback and Asp variants), some perform well as multi-role ships (e.g. Adder, Cobra, Imperial Courier). Multi-role ships are well suited to things like mining, pirating, and taking on a variety of missions, or just generally being a jack of all trades.
Modules are broken down into several main categories:
- hardpoints – weapon systems
- utility mounts – scanners, counter measures and shield boosters
- core internal – essential components such as thrusters, power plant, FSD, etc
- military compartments – a subset of core internal and only available on some ships, these provide additional slots specifically for hull and module reinforcement packages and shield cell banks
- optional internal – shields, cargo racks, fuel scoops, limpet controllers, etc
- livery – cosmetic features (i.e. skins, decals and bobbleheads) for your ships and auxiliary vehicles; most of these must be purchased (for real money) from the ED store.
Modules and module slots come in different sizes, with class 1 being the smallest (and lightest) and class 8 the largest (and heaviest). Larger slots are compatible with smaller modules. In general, modules are also rated A to E, with A being the best and most expensive and E being the cheapest and least effective. And, within a specific class, B-rated modules are always the heaviest and D-rated the lightest; A,C and E will all have the same mass.
Note that this rating system does not apply to all module types. For instance, all cargo racks are E rated and hardpoints are rated according to size and targeting system (see Combat and weapon fundamentals).
Module power management
Each ship has a total power capacity based on the output of its power plant and bigger and better modules need more juice. If this capacity is exceeded then modules will be turned off automatically according to the priority set (1-5) in the modules tab of the system panel (see screenshot below). Modules assigned a lower priority (higher number), will be switched off first. You can also choose to manually deactivate modules not currently in use. Don’t forget to turn them back on when needed and remember that most modules have a boot up time.
As weapons and scanners only require power when deployed, it is possible to exceed the total capacity of your power plant (within reason) with careful management and planning. For instance, modules such as the FSD, interdictor, fuel scoop, cargo hatch, etc, are not used during combat, so by assigning them a low priority, they will be automatically disabled when you deploy hardpoints, freeing up the power needed for your weapon systems.
You will generally want to avoid combat until you can afford some more effective weapons/modules or a better ship. You certainly won’t want to take on anything bigger than a Cobra in your Sidewinder, or ships working together in a wing. That said solitary NPC ships are generally not very challenging and you’re not really losing anything if your free Sidewinder gets wrecked (see Death and insurance). Be aware that the skill of NPC pilots and the strength of their loadout correlates directly with their combat rank (the ranks are listed here); however, low ranking Commanders are less likely to encounter high-ranking NPCs.
Generally, to destroy another ship, you need to knock out its shield and reduce the hull integrity to 0%. Ideally, you want to be on your opponents tail as much as possible; throttle control is very important, once you get on a target’s tail you need to closely match their velocity in order to stay there.
To use weapons and scanners, they must first be assigned to a fire group via the systems panel. However, some counter measures can be given a hotkey and therefore don’t actually need to be assigned to any fire group to be used. For each fire group you can set individual weapons or utilities to either primary fire, secondary fire or none. Multiple groups can be created and these are cycled through sequentially when you press the fire group key. Current weapon groupings are displayed on your HUD if your hardpoints are deployed.
Weapons are installed at hardpoints and are rated by size/class – small (class 1), medium (class 2), large (class 3), huge (class 4). Generally, larger weapons do greater damage and penetration, but cost more, require extra power, generate additional heat and put a bigger drain on your distributor. Utility mounts are used for installing scanners, counter measures, shield boosters and heat sinks. For further details about weapon and utility types, classes and ratings see this comprehensive guide on Lave Wiki.
In terms of weaponry, lasers are best for taking down shields, but overheat more quickly than kinetic weapons. Burst and beam lasers have a higher DPS (damage per second) than pulse lasers, but require more power and cooling, and will heat up your ship more quickly. Projectile/kinetic-based weapons (e.g. multicanons, canons, fragment cannons) will wreak havoc on an unshielded hull, but require ammo and have a travel time (you need to lead targets – the HUD will show you where to aim). Ideally you want a combination of both weapon types.
Rail guns and plasma accelerators are more specialist weapons, effective for both shields and hull, but are generally expensive; they have limited ammo, longish reload times, high power consumption and require practice for effective use. Missiles are good for targeting subsystems but are expensive, limited by small ammo capacities, and can be thwarted by countermeasure (see below). Mines are more of a defensive option and useful for hindering pursuers.
Fixed, gimballed or turreted?
Many weapon types also come in fixed, gimballed and turreted flavours and this affects how they are aimed and used. Fixed weapon variants must be aimed manually, essentially by pointing the nose of your ship at the target (or slightly leading them if using kinetic weapons). Note that, depending on the hardpoint placement on your ship, your weapons may not all converge to a single point.
Gimballed variants are semi-automated and autotrack targets within a limited radius, meaning all you have to do is get the target in front of you and press fire. These are very useful on less nimble ships or those with less effective hardpoint placement. However, they do reduced damage per hit compared to their fixed counterparts and some gimballed variants have increased distributor draw or reduced clip sizes and/or increased reload times. They’re also less reliable at range and their ability to target accurately can be temporarily disrupted by chaff.
Turreted weapons are fully automated and have a wide targeting arc, allowing them to also engage enemies that are not directly in front of you. But they have the least damage and accuracy of the three and are also affected by chaff. They are more of a defensive solution and better suited to large ships with numerous hardpoints. Turrets must be assigned to a fire group and are activated by pressing fire once. If you switch to a fire group in which the turrets are not present, they will stop firing. They can be set (via the “functions” tab of the systems panel) either to only engage your current target (“target only”) or to engage any hostile target in range (“fire at will”). Setting them to “forward fire” effectively turns them into fixed, manually-fired weapons.
Utilities and countermeasures
These modules are installed in a utility mount slot. Scanners must be assigned to a fire group and are fired like weapons. Countermeasures can be assigned to a fire group or activated by a hotkey.
- kill warrant scanner – scans target for bounties in other jurisdictions
- manifest scanner – scans target for cargo
- wake scanner – scans high wakes to determine jump destination
- chaff – temporarily disrupts targeting of gimbals and turrets and possibly missiles, requires ammo
- ECM – breaks missile locks and counters limpets, 10 second cooldown
- heat sink – temporarily dissipates all heat from the ship, requires ammo
- shield booster (passive) – strengthens shield by a set percentage and stack additively; fill unused slots with the highest rated you are capable of powering and can afford
- point defence turrets (passive) – attempt to shoot down incoming missiles and hatch breakers, require ammo
The secret to dogfighting is good power distribution management. Firing your guns drains the weapons capacitor, replenishing your shield drains the systems capacitor and boosting drains the engines capacitor. There is a total of 6 pips to be allocated between the three capacitors; a max of 4 pips can be placed in any one. Allocating more pips increases the recharge rate of that capacitor.
So for sustained firing you will need to put more pips into weapons. If you’re under fire, putting more pips into systems will strengthen your shields, though this has no effect on replenish or reactivation rate (unless the capacitor empties). If you’re in pursuit or trying to make a hasty retreat you will need to put more pips into engines – this increases your max speed, manoeuvrability and boost recharge rate.
Shields and SCBs
Shields slowly replenish when not being hit. Once the shields are down, they will take a while to reboot and come back online; the bigger the shields, the longer this will take. Shields reactivate and replenish twice as fast when in SC, and even quicker when docked. Knocked out shields can now be “bump-started” by running the reboot/repair sequence in the functions panel, significantly reducing downtime. However, this is of no use during combat scenarios as you need to be travelling <50m/s and must avoid being hit for it to work. Note that shields will also protect you from collisions.
Shield cell banks (SCBs), installed in an optional internal slot, can partially or fully restore active shields in a short space of time, but also generate significant heat when triggered (that can damage your modules) so you many need to also simultaneously deploy a heat sink. You can install multiple SCBs – keep one activated in the modules tab and switch between them as they run out of “ammo”.
Module damage, targeting subsystems and heat
Once a ship’s shields are down, modules will start taking damage if directly hit. In fact, specifically targeting subsystems (either via the “sub-targets” tab of the targets panel or cycling through them using a hotkey) can be a very effective tactic. Damaged modules have a chance of malfunctioning and if completely destroyed will cease to function all together. For instance, disabling drives will leave them stranded, whereas taking out the powerplant halves their power output (which can potentially leave them stranded and/or defenceless) and has a small probability of instant destruction.
However, this applies to your own ship as well, which is why it’s very risky to continue fighting after your shields go down (know when it’s time to do a Sir Robin!). Also, if your canopy is shot out, you’ll switch to emergency life support and lose some HUD functionality. With only an E-rated life support module, that gives you just five minutes to get to a starport.
Modules also take damage from excessive heat. This can be from getting too close to a star, being attacked by certain engineer-modified weapons, boosting too much, and the heat generated from firing your own guns. You will receive a warning when close to the temperature damage threshold; beyond this internal modules will start taking damage, increasing the chance of malfunction. One way to counter this is by popping a heat sink.
If your own drives or FSD get destroyed, then you’re pretty much up shit creek without a paddle. However, as a last desperate measure, you can run the emergency repair sequence (“reboot/repair” in the functions tab), which will cannibalise non-essential modules in order to fix your drives. This will take a little time and you will be entirely at the mercy of any hostiles. Failing that, you can always self-destruct 🙂
It is possible (and fun) to own multiple ships (up to 30 per station I believe) and these can be stored, free of charge, at any starport or settlement with a shipyard. For a fee, it is possible to request the transfer of a remote ship to the port you’re currently docked at. The cost and duration (in real time) of this procedure is dependent on ship type and distance, and can get quite expensive and lengthy. Generally, it will be quicker to fly it yourself. If money is an issue and you want all your ships in one place, then you can always purchase a cheap ship as a taxi and sell it when you switch to the stored ship. It is also possible to sell stored ships remotely.
Module storage and transfers
In a similar manner, it also possible to store up to 60 modules. This is particularly useful for changing or trying out new loadouts, especially if your modules have been modified by an engineer (Horizons expansion only, see Engineers). When purchasing a new module you will be given the choice to either store or part exchange the old one (if present). When you select an installed module in the outfitting menu, the “Transfer Options” drop down allows you to store it or you can swap it with either another installed module (“Swap”) or one presently stored at that station (“Transfer”).
All your stored modules can be reviewed via the outfitting menu, where it is also possible to select and store multiple non-essential modules from your current ship – essential modules include things like cargo racks that are in use, your powerplant and thrusters.
Remotely stored modules can also be transferred to your current station. Like ship transfers, this takes time and money, dependent on type and distance.
Good news: there’s life after death (brace yourself: it’s just a game, you’re not actually Jesus). Following ship destruction you magically respawn at the last starport you visited and are able buy back your old ship plus upgrades for a fraction of the total cost (around 5%); if you can’t afford this, or choose not to pay this, then it’s back to the free Sidewinder. Bad news is you lose all cargo, exploration data, bounty claims and combat bonds, but any stored ships will be safe.
Your current rebuy cost is displayed in the status tab of the systems panel. I can’t stress this enough: always make sure you keep at least this amount in reserve. Ideally, two or three times this in case you have a run of bad luck. You’ll also still need to be in a position to purchase cargo, fuel and munitions following respawn. However, if you can’t afford the insurance fee, the game does offer a loan of up to 600,000cr (more if you increase any of your Pilot’s Federation ranks) to enable you to buy back your old ship. If you do take this option, 10% will be deducted from all credits you make until the loan is paid back.
It’s not very difficult to get on the wrong side of the law in ED. You can receive a fine for simply loitering inside a starport or accidentally discharging your weapons within a no-fire zone. You have 24 hours (real time) to pay off fines before they turn into a bounty and you attain a wanted status. More serious crimes (e.g. attacking/destroying a ship with a clean status) result in a instant bounty being placed on you. A wanted status is a green light for anyone to legally attack you and NPC bounty hunters may pursue you. Note that attacking a ship before you’ve ascertained its criminal status (simply target and point your ship towards it to scan), will be considered assault, regardless of whether or not they turn out to be wanted.
Your criminal status is subject to the jurisdiction you are currently travelling in, so you will be “wanted” whenever you travel through space controlled by a faction that has issued a bounty against you – the word “wanted” will appear above your fuel gage in the bottom right corner of your screen. At present, bounties and fines are only issued by minor/local factions so are usually valid in space that they control. Be aware that random scans are performed on ships entering and leaving starports, so if you are caught with a criminal status you’ll be vaporised before you can say “bollocks” (see Pirating, smuggling and silent running).
As of update 1.3, bounties are valid for a specified amount of time (real time not game time) and can no longer be simply paid off. The more serious the crime, the longer this period will be – up to a maximum of seven days. Perpetrating additional crimes in that jurisdiction will add to the bounty and increase the timer or reset it back to seven days. Once the bounty expires it becomes “dormant”, turning into a “legacy fine” that can be paid off at a starport under the control of issuing faction. Dormant bounties are reactivated by authority scans or committing a crime in the relevant jurisdiction. All current bounties and fines can be reviewed under the transactions tab, whereas those relevant to the current system will be displayed under “reputation” in the status tab..
If you die with an active bounty and respawn at starport under the jurisdiction of the faction that issued it, you will have to pay off the bounty on top of your ship rebuy cost. Bounties outside of that faction’s jurisdiction will become dormant.
In general, fines can only be paid off at a starport where the issuing faction is present. However, for a 25% commission, the Interstellar Factors Contact, found only in low security systems, allows Commanders to pay off fines, claim bounties, and hand in combat bonds that relate to any system or jurisdiction.
There are four levels of system security: high, medium, low, and lawless/anarchy. This relates to the amount of time it takes for the authorities to respond to a crime. So if you get attacked in a high security system, the cavalry will appear on the scene fairly quickly (around 30 seconds), but will take ages to arrive in a low security system (two or three minutes I think). There is no rule of law in anarchy systems (the same applies to conflict zones) and therefore no police response at all.
As such, some systems are far safer to travel through than others, while those wanting to indulge their violent misanthropic fantasies will fare better in low security and anarchy systems. By disabling “report crimes against me” (in the functions tab), the cops will not show up at all if you get attacked (but will still appear if you light up someone with a clean status), which can be useful is you’re wanted or carrying illegal goods. There is also no police response at hazardous resource extraction sites or compromised navigation beacons, though any crimes you commit will still be recorded.
This is a little complicated, so I’ve tried to keep it simple (for a far more in-depth guide see here). The are three major factions (superpowers) in ED: the Federation, Empire and Alliance. You hold a rank and a reputation with both the Federation and Empire, though currently just a reputation with the Alliance. By increasing your reputation and rank with the Federation and Empire you will be rewarded with permits to restricted systems (e.g. Sol or Achenar) and allowed to purchase faction-specific ships such as the Imperial Clipper or Federal Drop Ship. You gain rank by taking on naval ascension opportunities that appear on mission boards.
There are also hundreds of minor factions, up to five in any one system. Many of these are aligned to one of the three superpowers, while others are independent. Whichever faction owns the largest starport is deemed the controlling faction for the system and their political leaning determines the government type. In some instances this will be an anarchy government and the system will be lawless. Be aware that smaller starports may be owned by rival factions. Information about the system’s factions and control of starports can be found in the system map, as well as in the the reputation section of the status tab in the system panel. The target information panel of your HUD (bottom left) also displays info about the controlling faction and government type.
Your reputation with a faction is affected by all your interactions with them – e.g. selling exploration data and trading at their starports, bringing pilots wanted by those factions to justice, criminal activity in their jurisdictions, failing or completing missions, etc. As your reputation increases with a faction they will offer you more lucrative missions. By working for one faction it is possible to negatively affect your reputation with another, so it’s important to select missions carefully; if you develop too negative a reputation with a faction, they will become hostile towards you and their NPCs may attack on site.
It’s worth noting that reputation with the superpowers decays over time and as a consequence with all aligned minor factions. This works in both directions, so hostile superpowers and minor factions will slowly forgive you. Also, reputation increases faster when working for minors factions aligned to superpowers with which you have a good standing.
By working for factions you help to increase their influence, which can in turn can affect the economic/political state of the system. If non-controlling factions become too influential, this may spark a war for control of a starport and potentially the entire system. These wars are determined at conflict zones which will pop up around the system. That said, it’s very difficult for a single player to have much affect on the background simulation.
As a member of the Pilot’s Federation you hold separate ranks with them for combat, trade and explorer, which are independent of any faction (the ranks are detailed here). These ranks as used a guide for mission difficulty. Taking on a mission above your current rank can be risky but lucrative (you will be warned of this in the mission briefing). Improving any of these ranks also increases the maximum loan available to you upon ship destruction.
The CQC rank is solely from playing the CGC Championship game mode and has no bearing on the main game.
With only 4T cargo space in the Sidewinder, you’re not going to make much of a living doing trade runs. The best place to start is by taking on work from the missions board.
Another good way to make easy money is by investigating unidentified signal sources (USSs) that you come across in SC (see below for types). At these you’ll encounter other ships (some may be hostile/wanted), but you will often also find abandoned commodities just floating around in the void, as well as rarer items such as black boxes, prototypes, rebel transmissions, rare artwork, etc. These can be salvaged by using your cargo scoop to hoover them up or deploying cargo limpets (see section on mining). Note that anything you find at a signal source will usually be considered stolen so you won’t be able to sell them on the normal commodity market; however, they can all be sold on the black market (see Pirating, smuggling and silent running).
- if you bought the Mercenary Edition of ED, click on the shipyard contact in starport services and select the ship locations tab, then head to the system shown to collect your free Eagle (or Freagle as the cool kids are calling it); it’s a nimble ship and well suited to bounty hunting, which can be good of source of income early in the game (see the sections on Combat and Bounty Hunting)
- your ship will be installed with a basic discovery-scanner (D-scanner) – there are many “unexplored” systems within the bubble (inhabited space), so use it for easy money! (see Exploration)
- new missions can very occasionally be obtained at signal sources
Signal source types
USSs now come in multiple flavours and are automatically scanned when facing them with your ship. This will reveal both their identity and a threat level (0-4). Zero is usually safe, but watch out for the occasional pirate ambush.
- Encoded/Degraded Emissions are ship wrecks where you are likely to find cargo cannisters and things like occupied escape pods, black boxes, data caches, etc, which can be sold on the black market or used to fulfil certain missions; sometimes you will have to contend with rescue ships who may become hostile if you attempt to plunder the wreckage; if you have the Horizons expansion, you may also find materials and data beacons at these
- Weapons Fire Detected will usually contain pirates, bounty hunters and system authority ships battling it out; these are good for bounty hunting
- Combat aftermath/High grade emissions (Horizons expansion only) contain manufactured materials
- Convoy Dispersal Patterns will contain a convoy of ships (obviously) and these can sometimes be hostile or wanted; these have potential for bounty hunting but are probably best avoided early on
- Ceremonial Comms will contain a convoy of wedding, funeral, party ships; not much use really
- Trading Beacons will contain a trade ship; if you have want they want, it will be automatically transferred to their ship and you will be compensated with credits (usually well above the galactic average)
- Distress Calls are usually NPCs in need of fuel or under attack by pirates. For the former you will require fuel limpets and will receive no reward for assisting. For the latter you will potentially face a large number of well-armed pirates – fun but challenging, and you will receive no reward expect that of the bounties collected.
Let’s get down to brass tacks: there is no real endgame in ED other than that you set for yourself. There is no central narrative, no story missions, no objectives set by the game. You are not some chilsed-jaw action hero on a quest to save humanity. In fact, in the grand scheme of the Elite universe, you’re pretty damn insignificant. Get over it.
ED is all about creating your own journey and setting your own goals. Do you want to be a trader, bounty hunter, smuggler, psychopath, professional assassin, courier, mercenary, miner, pirate, explorer or jack of all trades? It’s completely up to you – the Milky Way is your rather large oyster.
15.1. A note on missions
Missions come in a variety of forms and feed into all career paths. They are primarily obtained from missions boards at ports. The type of missions available at a particular station will generally reflect the local economy and the political leaning of the issuing faction. Missions can also be given to you in space by NPCs, sometimes as an alternative proposal to a currently active mission. These can be accepted or rejected through your comms panel.
All missions timers are in real time so never take on what you can’t complete (extensions are occasionally granted) and some carry a fine for completion failure. Also note that any undelivered cargo will become classed as stolen upon mission failure and therefore can only be sold on the black market.
Read missions briefings very carefully. Some will require you to break the law (killing, piracy, illegal salvage, trespass) or may result in hostile ships being sent after you. Others may require you to meet a contact in space at specified time to receive your instructions. Also take note of the stated mission rank as this an indication of the relative difficulty. Taking on a mission above your current rank can be lucrative but also risky, i.e. you my be attacked/interdicted by very strong ships.
Mission objectives can change after accepting them, these are known as wrinkles. You may be given a new deadline, destination or bonus objective, or told to meet a contact for further details. You will be informed of these changes via the comms panel.
Mission targets can be found either by using a discovery scanner (see Exploration) or by dropping out of SC at a nav beacon and targetting it for a passive scan. You will be informed of the details via your comms and transactions panels. This usually involves travelling to a named planetary body and waiting for a mission-related signal source to appear (see screenshot below). This can sometimes take a little while. Also note that mission-related signal sources will keep respawning until you complete your objective. For surface missions (Horizons expansion only), a search zone will appear on the planet once you get close enough (see Surface missions).
Trading can be very profitable if you can find some good trade routes, and requires a little research (imperial slaves and precious metals are a good place to start once you have the necessary capital). Basically, you want to buy commodities in medium to high supply and transport them to where they are in demand (i.e. low supply). Use the galactic average as a rough guide to the type of return you can expect and the galaxy map to see trade routes for specific goods. Note that you can only see trade routes for systems you’ve docked in within the past 24 hours, but you can buy trade data (while docked) for any system through the galaxy map at 100cr a pop. See the two screenshots below for a very simple example of how to research a trade run.
The trick is to learn the imports and exports of different economy types. For instance, extraction systems produce minerals; these are needed by refinery systems, which in turn produce metals required in industrial and high-tech economies. Trade prices and production are affected by supply and demand as well as government type, wealth and population size of the system as well its general status (e.g. civil war, lockdown, boom). The EDDB is a great site for researching trade runs or finding systems that import or export specific commodities.
Cargo space is everything, though vessels geared towards freightage (e.g. the Hauler and Lakon transporters) handle poorly and have limited combat capabilities, so you will be easy prey for pirates and nutjobs. That said interdictions are relatively rare and NPC pirates are relatively easy to give the slip – simply submit to their interdiction, stick 4 pips to engines and keep boosting until you’re able to high wake out of there (see Supercruise and interdiction). Encounters with pirate Commanders are infrequent; however, they probably won’t be so hopeless (see pirating, smuggling and silent running) and it might be in your best interests to give into their demands.
Note that hatch breaker limpets, fired like a missile, penetrate shields and attach themselves to your cargo hatch, releasing some of your precious wares into the void. These can be effectively countered with point defence turrets (PDTs) and activating ECM, which will remove any attached limpets from your hull. You do not need to deploy weapons for these systems to work; however, while PDTs are passive, ECM must be activated manually and has a 10 second cool down.
Some players swap out shields for more cargo space; it’s a risky gambit – you’re only one accidental boost away from being space garbage and an even easier target for freebooters and psychos.
There are also commodities in the game that are classed as “rare” and which behave differently to standard commodities. Each one is unique to a single starport and cannot be purchased anywhere else in the universe. They can be sold at any starport (though some are considered illegal and must be sold on the black market), but the further you travel from the source the higher the return you will make. However, this relationship is not linear and you will need travel in excess of 100LY from the source to make it worth the effort – the sweet spot seems to be around 125LY and the returns beyond this distance are diminishing. Also each rare has a maximum allocation and you cannot purchase more until you sell what you currently hold. See here for a list of rare goods and here for a map of their locations across the galaxy.
15.3. Couriering, procurement and salvage
Become a space postie! Usually pretty straightforward: accept jobs from the missions boards, take cargo from A to B. Some missions do not require the use of any cargo space, e.g. messages, small packages, etc. Be aware that you will sometimes be requested to transport cargo that is considered illegal at the intended destination, but this will be spelt out in the mission description. If this is the case you will need to avoid been scanned by the authorities (see pirating, smuggling and silent running). Also, some missions will result in hostile ships being sent after you. Again, you’ll be warned of this in the description.
A variation on this is procurement contracts, where you will be tasked with sourcing x tonnes of a particular commodity and delivering within a specified time frame (the EDDB great for sourcing commodities). Sometimes it will specify these must be stolen and sometimes this will be from a specific target (see pirating, smuggling and silent running), so read the briefing carefully. Whereas salvage missions require you to recover items found at a specific signal source (see a note on missions) or to head to a search zone on a planetary surface (see Surface missions).
15.4. Bounty hunting
Kill criminal scum for their bounties, which are then cashed in at starports in the relevant jurisdiction (see below). Their wanted status needs to appear in your target panel before you open fire (target and point your ship at them to scan), otherwise you’ll also find yourself on the wrong side of the law. Accidents, i.e. friendly fire, can also land you with an assault bounty of 400cr. However, this will only last for 7 minutes – simply jump out of the system and return when the timer expires.
Remember all bounty vouchers are lost when you die. Good hunting spots are nav beacons (NAVs), resource extraction sites (RES) and certain types of signal source. Compromised NAVs and hazardous RESs are the most dangerous with no security forces present, but also by far the most lucrative. You can also find contracts for killing a specified number of pirates in a named system. Scanning targets with a kill warrant scanner will allow you to claim additional bounties from other jurisdictions, significantly increasing your income.
Once you get a better ship/loadout (at least a well kitted-out Viper or Cobra, but ideally a Vulture), you’ll be able to go after juicer but more challenging targets. In particular, convoys and distress calls often contain large pirate wings or you can interdict valuable targets in SC – claiming a bounty on a wanted Python or Anaconda can net you anywhere up to 300,000cr.
In general, bounty payments can only be collected at starports where the issuing faction is present. However, for a 25% commission, the Interstellar Factors Contact, found only in low security systems, allows Commanders to pay off fines, claim bounties, and hand in combat bonds that relate to any system or jurisdiction.
Take on hit contracts from the missions boards. Normally, the target is found at a mission-related signal source (see a note on missions). You’ll need a decent ship, kitted out for combat. The bigger the reward and higher the recommended combat rank, the tougher the target. Some may also have a wingmen to contend with. Bear in mind that if they have a clean criminal status you will be committing murder unless in a lawless system.
In a similar vein you can also take on contracts to kill x number of pirates/traders/authority vessels/etc in a certain system. The advantage of these is you can find your targets anywhere (nav beacons, resource extraction sites, flying around in SC, signal sources, etc).
Fly to a conflict zone and choose a side to fight for by going into the functions tab of the systems panel. You’ll receive a combat bond for each kill worth 4,000cr–80,000cr, depending on ship type, that you can cash in at a relevant starport (see below); but like bounty claims these are all lost if you die. You only need to get the last shot on the ship to claim the kill. You can also find contracts that pay for a specified number of warzone kills in a stated system. Lists of systems with active conflict zones can be found in the Galnet news feed or found in the galaxy map by using the “war” state filter.
In general, combats bonds can only be redeemed at starports where the issuing faction is present. However, for a 25% commission, the Interstellar Factors Contact, found only in low security systems, allows Commanders to pay off fines, claim bounties, and hand in combat bonds that relate to any system or jurisdiction.
I don’t think I really need to explain this. In the immortal words of the Talking Heads:
15.8. Mining and collection drones
Hi ho, hi ho… and all that crap. Mining involves extracting minerals and metals from asteroids. Individual belt clusters (usually in close proximity to stars) comprise just a handful of asteroids, so you’re better off at a planetary ring where the supply of asteroids is virtually infinite. Ideally you want to head to somewhere with pristine reverses and metallic (best) or metal rich asteroids (this information is displayed on the system map, though you may need to buy exploration data from a starport) as these are more likely to yield the most profitable precious metals/minerals such as painite, platinum, palladium, gold, beryllium and osmium (listed in order of value – see here for a rough price guide). You can now also mine icy rings. Again you want to head to somewhere with pristine reverses and it’s only really worth bothering with low temperature diamonds. Mining is very time consuming, so it’s not worth pursuing less valuable minerals/metals, especially if you have little cargo space.
Pirates hang around at designated mining locations (known as resource extraction sites or RESs), so you will need to be able to defend yourself or be ready to make a hasty retreat; you are more likely to be attacked at a high-intensity RES and there will be no security forces to protect you at a hazardous RES. However, if you fly far away from the centre of the RES (>40km) you are far less likely to be bothered. Or, even better, simply drop out of SC at a random spot in the ring and mine undisturbed (mostly).
To do the actual mining you will need to install a mining laser and refinery module. Simply get close to a floating turd and shoot it with your lasers. Fragments liberated from the same asteroid will normally have a similar composition and can be analysed by targeting them. These fragments need to be collected either manually using your cargo scoop or by using drones (see below). Collected fragments are processed by your refinery module.
Refinery modules house a number of bins (more expensive versions will have additional bins). As you scoop up fragments, minerals/metals will be automatically assigned to an empty bin; you will need to vent anything you are not interested in refining further. When a hopper reaches capacity it will generate 1T of that commodity, which will transfer to your cargo hold and free up the bin (see screenshots below). The refinery module is accessed through the inventory tab of the systems panel (see screenshot below).
To improve efficiency I strongly urge investment in a collection drones – particularly as mining fragments will eventually dematerialise, so speed is of the essence. This requires a collection limpet controller to be installed (in an optional internal slot); the limpet drones are bought separately from the restock menu at starports and take up cargo space. These are fired like a weapon (you need to assign to a fire group) and have two modes: targeted and automatic. If you target an ore fragment and launch a drone it will quickly collect that fragment and then immediately expire. If you have no collection target selected the drone will slowly collect all the fragments (or cargo cannisters) in range for a set period of time. At the end of this period it will expire and you will need to launch another drone. Investing in a better controller will increase both the number of simultaneous drones you can launch and their life-span.
You can also buy prospector limpets to investigate the content of nearby asteroids (one can be seen in use in the screenshot above). Like the collection drones these require a controller and a supply of limpets. Simply fire a prospector at a nearby asteroid and target it. When it reaches the asteroid the target panel will display information on the content of the asteroid. Prospectors are single use (when you fire a new one the previous one will automatically expire), slow and have limited range. However, using one doubles the quantity of fragments you can liberate from an asteroid and so are also highly recommended.
A solitary life that involves heading out to uncharted systems (i.e. with little/no information about them on the galaxy map), discover stuff and then sell the data to the Universal Cartographics contact at a starport. It’s a simple process that involves using a discovery scanner (D-scanner) while in SC to find astronomical bodies. If successful, you will receive a message on your HUD (see screenshot below) and one or more “unexplored” contacts will appear in the navigation panel. If you target one of these and head towards it your ship will automatically scan it when you get close enough. The scan will take about 30 seconds and the body will be named upon completion.
If you’re heading well out into uninhabited space you will need to install a fuel scoop (optional internal slot). As the name suggests, these are used to replenish your fuel reserves by skimming the corona of stars. Bigger and more expensive versions scoop at a faster rate – always buy the best one you can afford as it will save you a lot of time, especially in ships with larger fuel capacities.
Bear in mind that you can only scoop at KGB FOAM class stars (these can be filtered on the galaxy map). Scooping is not difficult, but if you get it wrong your ship will overheat – you’re safe up to 100% on the heat gauge, but after that your modules will take damage (heat sinks are your friend!). Simply approach the corona slowly (e.g. >25% throttle) until the scoop engages. Personally, I keep going until I reach around 60-70% of my possible scoop rate, with the heat level also kept between 60 and 70%. Then I drop the throttle to zero and sit there until my tank is full. If you start getting too hot, don’t panic, fly away from the star and begin the procedure again. Be careful when scooping at binaries and trinaries, as your ship is likely to get much hotter than normal.
General exploration tips
- the D-scanner needs to be assigned to a fire group and is used like any other scanner
- the basic D-scanner has a range of 500 Ls; intermediate (1000 Ls) and advanced scanners (entire system) have an increased range, but they’re not cheap
- installing a detailed surface scanner (DSS) in addition to the D-scanner will provide more data about the body, which can then be sold for a better price
- you need to find a starport more than 20LY from the system to sell the data
- after discovering new bodies they will appear on the system map, use this to look for candidates to scan
- earth-like worlds, water worlds and terraform candidates generate the best income, metallic planets are worth a look (if within reasonable range), but don’t waste your time on featureless rocks and you get no money for belt clusters (see here for a price list and here for a visual guide of what to look for)
- if you’re the first to scan a body you will receive 50% extra money and you will be credited with the discovery on the system map (only after selling the data)
- the Diamondback and ASP variants are relatively affordable and well suited to exploration due to their large jump ranges and fuel tanks
- there are many systems within the bubble, both inhabited and uninhabited, where you can scan “unexplored” bodies for easy money and rank progression
Install a manifest scanner and relieve evil capitalist traders of their precious cargo – yaaaaaarrrrrr! At present you can’t make demands to NPCs and destroying a ship usually yields zero cargo (other than materials for Engineer upgrades, see Horizons section), which leaves three ways to approach this:
- Find/interdict a human player and use the comms system to demand they drop some cargo. Good luck with this as most are extremely unreceptive to being pirated. The ED forums are awash with anti-pirating sentiment (with many equating it to griefing) and many players will combat log (i.e. kill their game process to escape combat; an exploit that is supposedly being looked into by FD), which begs the question: why play in Open then?
- Using a hatch breaker limpet mine (see below).
- Targeting the cargo hatch through the subsystems panel (or press Y). If you damage the hatch enough, cargo will starting being vomited out into space. The trick is not to destroy the ship in the process, which can be a problem against smaller vessels like the Hauler or Cobra. Low-damage gimballed weapons (e.g. pulse/burst lasers) work well for this purpose.
Obviously some will try to flee while others may counter-attack, so you might consider disabling their drives before attempting one of the above. Be aware that if you take too long the local space rozzers may show up and try to ruin your day. Note that jettisoned cargo will eventually dematerialise, so don’t mess around when collecting your precious booty. You may want to consider using collector drones for speed and convenience (see mining).
Like bounty hunting, nav beacons and RESs are good places to pirate. Alternatively, you can pull fat transporters out of SC using an interdiction module (see Supercruise and interdiction). Ideally you want to research trade routes using the galaxy map to find juicy hauls. You can also take on missions that require you to acquire stolen commodities, sometimes from a specific target.
These are basically homing missiles that you fire at your prey. If successful, they latch onto the cargo hatch of the target and try to break it open. First you need to install a hatch breaker limpet controller (optional internal slot); the limpets are purchased separately from the restock menu at starports.
They’re much better than they used to be, especially as they now penetrate/ignore shields. However, each limpet only yields a small fraction of the target’s cargo (and it’s pot luck what cargo it liberates), which gets strewn over a large area. They’re also slow and can be outrun, and can be destroyed by point defence turrets and ECM (once attached to the hull). Also, carrying limpets takes up precious cargo space on your ship. Better controller modules increase the change of success and allow you to fire more limpets simultaneously
Smuggling stolen goods and prohibited items
Any loot you acquire as a pirate or anything found at a signal source will usually be classed as stolen and will need to be sold to a black market contact – not all stations have one, but anarchy systems are usually a safe bet. You can use this tool to locate black markets in nearby systems (though it’s not always up to date). Black markets are also listed on the starport facilities list on the system map.
Outside of anarchy regions you will need to avoid authority scans when entering a starport if you don’t want to be landed with a hefty fine. The same goes for goods considered illegal at that starport (visit the system map for a list of prohibited items). Your HUD will display an “Illicit Cargo” warning above the fuel gage if you are carrying anything that could get you into trouble in that particular system. However, being caught with stolen goods is not the end of the world – you will not be fired upon and you will only be fined. The fine will be proportional to the quantity and value of the goods, which will not be confiscated and sometimes (especially for specific smuggling missions) you are still able to turn a profit.
The best tactic to avoid being caught is to enter the starport at speed, so that there isn’t enough time to complete the scan before you’re inside. Remember, crashing into another ship while “speeding” can land you a fine or murder bounty. Watch for patrolling authority ships and time your entry accordingly.
Curiously, you very rarely get scanned at outposts so these can be a convenient refuge for outlaws, though they tend to provide fewer services than starports – some don’t even offer repairs or munitions resupply (available facilities are listed on the system map).
Also, if you’re carrying illegal wares, you may want to consider turning off the “report crimes against me” option in the functions tab. Otherwise, if you get attacked outside of an anarchy system, the cops will eventually show up and you might get scanned.
“Silent running” is a useful tactic for evading scans when entering ports. With silent running enabled you become unresolved on the scanners of other ships/starports, meaning they can’t lock onto you to perform a scan, unless very close. The downside is that your shields go offline (so don’t crash) and the ship vents are closed off so the cockpit gradually heats up. If it gets too hot, equipment will begin to take damage and malfunction (you’re fine up to 100% on the temperature gauge).
There are two ways to deal with this. Firstly, you can turn off non-essential ship modules (e.g. shield boosters, FSD, cargo hatch, etc) in the systems panel to reduce total heat output, which will give you more time before overheating. Secondly, you can deploy a heat sink (of which you can carry a very limited number and require launcher to be installed in a utility slot). These instantly draw all the heat from the ship, reducing the temperature to 0%, but only last a few seconds. Also, the colder your ship the harder you become to detect; at 0% you become virtually invisible to all but the closest of ships.
Become a glorified taxi service! A bit like couriering, but the cargo talks back and starts to get shirty when you get shot at or have a slight mental breakdown and decide to set the controls for the heart of the sun. Passenger missions are taken on from the passenger the lounge and will only be available to you if you have the capacity and meet the minimum accommodation requirement of the client.
Installing cabins and accommodating your passengers
First you’ll need to install some cabins in an optional internal slot. These come in four accommodation classes: economy, business, first, and luxury. Though, only the Beluga and Orca, which are dedicated passenger liners (and rather plush looking), can install luxury cabins. The capacity of each cabin varies according to accommodation type and module size. So, for instance, a class 6 first-class cabin has a capacity for 12 passengers, whereas class 6 economy can hold 32. Obviously, some potential clients have standards and will refuse to travel in cattle class, or even business or first for that matter. But it is always possible upgrade the scum, I mean less discerning clients.
When accepting a mission, you must then choose which cabin to place the party. Note that named passengers (crown symbol in the missions list) will not share cabins with other parties. Remaining cabin capacity can be reviewed via the inventory tab.
Before taking on a job, it is important to properly read the brief and learn the passenger’s traits. Some passengers will not react well to danger or illegal activity, others will not appreciate delays or being scanned by authority vessels. Prima donna kebab types are likely to make sudden and whimsical demands, such as stopping off at a conflict zone or wanting you to find them some wine. Shadier characters might be pursued by hostile forces or be wanted in some systems. Be warned, security forces will open fire if you’re caught harbouring a criminal (see pirating, smuggling and silent running).
If a passenger becomes too dissatisfied, they may demand you dock at the nearest starport, where they will promptly disembark, while less stable types may suddenly abandon ship using the escape pods; either way you don’t get paid and will lose reputation with the associated faction. You also fail the mission upon ship destruction, though apparently your passengers do survive (unlike NPC crew!). You can review passenger traits and their current level of satisfaction at any time via the transactions tab.
Passenger mission types
Passenger missions come in three basic varieties:
1. Ferrying from A to B. Simply transport the passengers to the required destination within a set amount of time.
2. Tourism. Take passengers to a sequence of visitor beacons in a number of systems then return home. Visitor beacons usually appear as POIs in the navigations tab, otherwise will appear when you approach a specified planetary body. These behave similar to nav beacons. Simply drop out of SC at them, then target the beacon, it will be scanned automatically and you will receive a short history of the site via the comms panel. Once the passengers are satisfied, you will be informed of your next destination. These missions can be quite time consuming and may involve travelling hundreds of light years, so a fuel scoop is advisable.
3. Long distance round trips. These involve taking clients out to distance systems to scan for data, then returning home. The pay is high, but can involve travelling thousands or even tens of thousands of light years. As such, they are best suited to experienced explorers with properly outfitted ships. A fuel scoop is a must. See exploration.
PowerPlay (PP) allows you to pledge your allegiance to one of 10 galactic personalities/powers and support them in their quest for territorial expansion. By visiting the PP interface, either through the navigation panel or galaxy map, you can see what each of these powers stands for, what effects they have on the systems they control, their current status and what you can do to help them. You can support your power in three main ways:
- preparation – prepare systems for an expansion attempt by delivering “power commodities” to stations in the 10 expansion candidates
- expansion – attempt to take control of a system by fighting for your power in special conflict zones in targeted systems
- control – fortify control systems by transporting “power commodities” between the control systems and the power’s headquarters
The name of the power commodities and special conflict zones varies between the different powers – see the PP interface for specific details.
You can also target rival powers by:
- opposing their expansion efforts by fighting for the defenders in the special conflict zones
- undermining their attempts to fortify their control systems by pirating/killing supply ships in those systems – note that you will be punished (docked merits) for targeting ships from a power aligned with the same major faction (see below)
All these actions are rewarded with “merits” and a very small amount of credits. If you gain enough merits your rating with the power will increase (determined at the end of each PP cycle). A higher rating will improve your weekly rewards/salary, as well as increase your power commodity quota and the number of votes you can cast for nominating preparation systems for an expansion attempt. Each PP cycle lasts a week, at the end of which all preparation, expansion and control actions are resolved and your new rating is determined and salary paid. Each week you will lose half of your merits. Note that if you’re looking to make money, then PP is not the place. You will need to grind extremely hard to achieve a rating with lucrative rewards and your time would be far better spent bounty hunting, trading, etc.
You can choose to leave a power at any time, but you will lose all of your merits and will not be able to pledge to another power for 12 hours. If you choose to defect, you will transfer half of your merits over to the new power, but will be hunted down by the old power’s agents for a period of time (dependent on your rating).
It’s also important to realise that by pledging allegiance to a power you will be considered “hostile” (you will be informed by your HUD) when travelling through systems controlled by a rival power not aligned to the same major faction as your own power – e.g. Hudson (Federation) versus Lavigny-Duval (Empire). This means that NPCs/Commanders aligned to that power can legally attack you in those systems. This is not the same as being wanted and you will be left alone by the police and will be able to dock/trade freely.
Horizons, released December 2015, is the 2016 expansion (or “Season 2”) to Elite: Dangerous. It brings new features to the base game, most notably the ability to land on planets and explore their surfaces, characters known as Engineers, who can attempt to upgrade ship modules, and ship-launched fighters. Further content will be added throughout the next year or so. Elite Dangerous: Horizons can be purchased as a season pass for those who already own the base game or as part of Elite Dangerous: Deluxe Edition, which includes both the base game and the Horizons season pass. Horizons is free to those who purchased the Lifetime Expansion Pass.
A useful quick start guide can be found on the Elite:Dangerous community site.
17.1. Planetary flight and landing
At present only planets without an atmosphere (i.e. rocks/moons) can be landed on. If landing is possible, the planet will have a blue ship icon next to it the navigation tab of the target panel and a blue halo around it in the system map. The system map and navigation tab will also list any outposts (small buildings icon) and settlements (skyscraper icon) present on the surface. Settlements can be docked at and behave in similar way to starports, whereas outposts are points of interest (POIs) that can be explored and raided, and are the targets of certain missions. To explore the surface of a planet you will need to purchase a surface reconnaissance vehicle (SRV), see SRV basics for more details.
Whether you intend to land directly on a planet’s surface or dock at a settlement, the initial steps are the same. First you need to target and approach the planet (or settlement/outpost) in SC. I still use the “6-second rule” for this (see Supercruise and interdiction) and never go above 75% throttle once over the planet. As you get close (around 2Mm), your HUD will change to display your altitude and speed of descent. At an altitude of 600km you will enter a special form of SC known as orbital cruise (OC) and your HUD will now also display a pitch ladder (see annotated screenshot below).
At an altitude of around 25km your ship will drop from OC into normal flight. If your ship’s pitch is between -60 degrees and +5 degrees when this happens, you will enter glide mode and cruise at speed of 2500m/s until near to the surface. To abort this and enter normal flight immediately, simply raise the pitch to above 5 degrees. Note that while in normal flight above a planetary surface, your ship will have reduced manoeuvrability at slow speeds, as more thrust power is diverted into vertical thrusters in order to maintain your current altitude.
Landing at a settlement
Docking at a settlement is very similar to docking at an orbital outpost. However, you now have gravity to contend with and the stronger the gravity, the more careful (i.e. slower) you should be with your approach. Anything under 1G should be fairly straightforward. The trick is to drop out of OC between 50 and 80km from the settlement and glide in the rest of the way. If you drop out too early, you’ll end up too far away, and if you drop out too late you will overshoot or smash into the ground. Once within 7.5km, request docking then head over to your pad and land normally. See video below for a basic demonstration of settlement docking.
Landing on a planetary surface
Similar to above but when you drop out of OC, head to where you want to land (ideally somewhere relatively flat), reduce your altitude to less than 1km and disengage forward thrusters. When you deploy your landing gear, the scanner will display a surface relief map with a representation of your ship above it (see screenshot below). The projection disc will turn blue when above suitable terrain. Align the pitch ladder with the alignment bar using pitch and roll (it will turn blue when ok) and ascend slowly to the surface using your vertical thrusters. And remember, the higher the gravity, the slower and more careful you need to proceed. See video below for a basic demonstration of surface landing.
Taking off again
Sooner or later you’ll want to head back into the endless void. Simply use your vertical thrusters to leave the surface, point the ship upwards and then engage forward thrusters. Once you’re a few km above the surface you will no longer be mass locked and should be able to engage your FSD to either enter SC or perform a hyperspace jump (if your destination is not obstructed by the planet surface).
Finding points of interest (POIs) from the air
A variety of POIs can be found on the surface of planets, including small outposts, mining facilities, crash sites and stashes that can all be scavenged or pillaged for cargo. Curiously, nearly everything you encounter on the surface is considered “legal salvage”. Like signal sources in space, planetary POIs are randomly generated and not persistent.
When flying above 1.5km there general location will appear on your scanner as large blue circles, it helps if you zoom out your scanner. If you fly low enough, larger POIs can actually be seen from the air (turning your lights on helps with this). Alternatively you can touch down and search for them with the SRV (see Finding materials and POIs using the SRV wave scanner). Be warned that some POIs are protected by turrets and mobile sentries that will turn hostile if you get too close (you will see a warning on your HUD first) and that entering some outposts may count as trespass and land you a fine or bounty (again you will be warned first).
Purchasing and deploying an SRV
To explore the surface you need a surface reconnaissance vehicle (SRV), essentially a moon buggy with guns and shields. And who doesn’t want a moon buggy with guns and shields? These are purchased through the outfitting menu at ports, but first you need to install a planetary vehicle hanger in a module slot. More expensive versions will house multiple SRVs. Once you’ve done this, click on one of the vehicle bay slots to purchase an SRV (see screenshot below).
SRVs are deployed once securely touched down on a planet’s surface, they can also be deployed when docked at settlements if you fancy a drive around town. The SRV deployment menu is found underneath your scanner by using UI focus + down or you can bind a key to “sensors panel”, which will also bring up the SRV menu (see screenshot below).
Controlling an SRV
First you will probably need to configure your controls – you’ll find the SRV options under the “driving” tabs in the control options. I use a keyboard and mouse setup and have copied in my bindings below as a guide (any controls not stated are set to default); obviously you will want to set these to your own taste.
|drive assist||mouse 5 [hold]|
|srv pitch mouse y-axis roll||pitch|
|steering left button||A|
|steering right button||D|
|roll left button||Q|
|roll right button||E|
|vertical thrusters||left ctrl|
|fire SRV weapon||mouse 1|
|operate datalink scanner||G|
|toggle SRV turret||mouse 4|
|select target ahead||T|
|Driving turret controls:|
|turret mouse x-axis||yaw|
|turret mouse y-axis||pitch inverted|
|SRV throttle increments||continuous|
Controlling an SRV is very similar to driving a car. However, you also have vertical thrusters that allow you to perform jumps and to slow your descent if you go over an edge. While airborne you can control both pitch and roll, useful for making sure you land on your wheels. Note that thrusters drain your engine capacitor. Be warned, the SRV is pretty fragile and will take hull damage (regardless of shield condition) from falls and collisions. Hitting a rock at speed, especially on a low gravity planet, can send you flying up into the air. It’s also prone to powersliding, especially on icy terrain. Drive assist allows you to maintain a constant speed of your choice (simply set the throttle while engaged) and is actually pretty useful.
The SRV’s cockpit looks and operates almost identically to a ship’s cockpit during OC, right down to having the same three-way power distributor. It is equipped with duel gimballed plasma repeaters, which have a limited supply of ammo. These can be fired from the normal cockpit view or from the turret camera, which sits on top of the SRV. You can still drive the SRV while in turret mode.
To scoop up materials and cargo, deploy your cargo scoop, target the item and simply drive over it. The SRV can only carry 2T of cargo, though you can carry up to 1000 materials (see Synthesis and materials). The datalink scanner is for scanning data points and terminals that are found at outposts and POIs (see Using the SRV datalink scanner).
Your SRV is magically repaired upon rejoining your ship; however, it will only be refuelled and rearmed when you dock at a port. Fortunately you can repair, refuel and rearm your SRV from materials found on your travels (see Synthesis and materials). If your SRV is destroyed, you will be given the option to rejoin your ship in orbit on the death/insurance screen at no cost, though you will need to head to a starport in order to purchase a new SRV.
Rejoining your ship
When you get too far away from your ship (more than 2km I think) it will take off and enter orbit (i.e. despawns, so is 100% safe). This will also happen if you quit the game. You can also dismiss your ship manually from the SRV menu (same place as in the ship’s cockpit). Use the SRV menu to recall your ship from orbit. It will touch down on the nearest piece of suitable terrain. To board your ship, drive under the illuminated bay – when in position the “board ship” indicator will light up (underneath the fuel gage on your dashboard). Then simply bring up the SRV menu and select board ship. Instead of boarding, you can choose to just transfer across your cargo.
Horizons introduced a looting and crafting mechanic that revolves around collecting materials, which come in three flavours: elements, manufactured materials and data materials. Materials take up no cargo space, you can carry up to 1000 elements plus manufactured materials, and up to 500 data materials. They are retained when your ship or SRV is destroyed. You can review collected materials in the inventory panel.
See below for a description on how to obtain each type. Note that they are sometimes also awarded for completing missions.
Elements and synthesis
Elemental materials are primarily found on planetary surfaces (see Using the SRV datalink scanner) and are required for both synthesis and Engineer upgrades. Synthesis allows you to restock ship munitions or increase FSD range for a single jump, as well as refuel, rearm and repair your SRV. Common materials are used for basic versions, but rarer materials can be used for “standard” and “premium” versions that provide certain bonuses such as increased damage for a single reload.
Elements are harvested from the outcrops and meteorites scattered across planetary surfaces (see see Finding materials and POIs using the SRV wave scanner). Simply shoot them, target the fragments and drive over them with your cargo hatch deployed. A list of the materials you are carrying and the synthesis menu can be found in the inventory tab of the systems panel.
You can now use the system map to determine the available elements and their relative abundance on a specific planet (see screenshot below).
Manufactured materials are ingredients for Engineer upgrades. These are found at signal sources and planetary POIs; ships also drop them upon destruction. Which materials spawn is dependent on ship type and system state. For instance, pharmaceutical isolators only tend to spawn at signal sources in “outbreak” systems, whereas polymer capacitors only tend to be dropped by military and authority ships (in fact, a good but risky place to obtain these is at conflict zones).
Data materials are ingredients for Engineer upgrades and can be acquired in several ways.
- scanning ships – this is performed automatically when you target a ship and have visual on your HUD, and works in both SC and normal flight; it does not require any special modules.
- scanning the data points you find at planetary outposts and crash sites
- scanning private beacons you find at degraded/encoded emission signal sources
- wake echoes are obtained by using a wake scanner (works the same as cargo or kill warrant scanner) to analyse the high energy wakes that are left behind by ships entering hyperspace; a good place to do this is just outside of starports
Your SRV is equipped with a wave scanner that can be used to find both outcrops/meteorites and POIs. It’s a little bit daunting at first, but once you know what to look out for it’s actually quite easy. You’re looking for single bands or bands of two or three parallel lines. At range they will appear as indeterminate blobs, slowly resolving into distinct bands that decrease in size as you get closer. Also, the closer you get to an object, the more frequently the scanner will beep. Bands that appear in the lower half of the scanner tend to be outcrops/meteorites and those in the upper half tend to be POIs (see screenshots below).
Different meteorite and POI types have slightly different banding patterns and sounds. As mentioned earlier, some POIs are guarded by turrets and mobile sentries that will open fire if you trespass (you will receive a warning first). Curiously, any cargo found on the surface is usually considered “legal salvage”.
Data points and terminals can be found at some outposts and crash sites. Terminals are scanned to fulfil certain missions, whereas data points can be scanned to generate intel packages, as well as data materials. These packages will be of relevance to one of the three superpowers (check the transactions tab) and can be sold at a local security office in one of their ports. Scanning certain terminals can also be used to override security systems.
To scan a data point or terminal, simply target it and hold the assigned key until the process is complete (it will take a few seconds) – the scanner works in both normal and turret view. If there is more than one data point at a site, you will need to scan all of them within a given time frame to generate the intel package. If the timer expires you will need to start again – they can be attempted in any order and you receive a time extension for each one you scan. Note that scanning private data points is illegal – this info is displayed in turret view (see screenshot below).
With Horizons comes surface-specific missions. These are listed separately on missions boards and normally include a planetary horizon icon to the right of the description (see screenshot below). Note that some surface missions will send you to undiscovered planets and that you will need to either scan a nav beacon or use a discovery scanner to find your objective.
The variety of missions is very similar to that of space missions with a few notable exceptions, which I have listed below.
These involve finding and delivering specific items found on planetary surfaces. Like other missions, using a discovery scanner or scanning a nav beacon reveals which planet to head out to. Once close enough, a search zone will spawn. As you head towards it, it will move several times, until the exact site is located. Land there, deploy your SRV and scoop up the cargo. Some sites will be protected by skimmers.
Cut the power missions
These involve heading to a named/persistent outpost then locating and destroying a specific power generator. Generators can sometimes be tricky to find as they don’t appear on your scanner until quite close. Also there are often several generators in an outpost and you need to destroy the correct one to complete the mission. These missions normally involve breaking the law (trespass and assault) and most outposts are defended by both turrets and mobile sentries (skimmers); these can be taken out by either your SRV or ship. High security outposts will also scramble fighters to protect themselves.
Sometimes access will be barred by a security forcefield; these can be disabled by either destroying the relevant power generator or using your datalink scanner on the associated terminal. The navigations tab provides an indication of the size and security level of persistent outposts.
Similar to the cut the power missions, but instead you need to use your datalink scanner on a specific terminal.
Pretty simple, destroy a specified number of skimmers (i.e. mobile sentry drones). The mission will name a specific planetary outpost, some of which will be heavily defended by numerous turrets and NPC ships as well as the skimmers themselves. Normally it will be a crime to attack to any of these. So, the trick to completing these missions with a minimum of risk is not going to directly to the stated base, but landing near it (within 10-50km). Search for POIs in the area, either with your ship or SRV wave scanner. Any skimmers found at these will belong to the mission target faction and most will be wanted, meaning you can destroy them without receiving a bounty. You can actually make a lot of money doing these missions.
Engineers, introduced in 2.1, are persistent characters who are capable of modifying your ship’s weapons and modules. There are 30 in total, each with their own backstory and speciality, such as kinetic weapons or exploration equipment. Engineers reside in remote planetary base scattered across the galaxy and access to them is by invitation only. To acquire an invite you must first learn about them and then meet their basic criteria. At first, only five will be known to you; contact with others is established by working with known Engineers and possibly other sources, as of yet undetermined. Once you gain access you will then need to complete a specific task in order to start working with them, such as providing them with a specified quantity of a rare or difficult to find commodity (e.g. meta-alloys or Soontill relics) or handing over a specified value of bounties vouchers or combat bonds. You can review known Engineers from the tab at the bottom of the systems panel.
See here for a list of the currently known Engineers, their specialities and blueprints, the possible outcomes of the modifications, and how to receive an invite and unlock their services. You can also read more about the engineers here.
Engineer modifications are rated by grade, with grade 5 being the highest. Initially you only have access to grade 1. To gain access to the higher level modifications you need to increase your reputation with the Engineer. This is primarily achieved by repeatedly crafting with them. Since you can reject the results, the trick is to craft numerous low-grade modifications, even those which you have no interest in. That said, crafting at higher grades increases reputation significantly faster.
However, you can also improve your reputation by performing certain tasks relevant to that particular Engineer. For instance, you can sell your exploration data to Felicity Farseer or collect bounties on criminals wanted by Tod McQuinn. A particular Engineer may not go up to grade 5 for all their available modifications.
For each modification you wish to craft, you must first acquire the necessary ingredients. These include a wide variety of materials (see Synthesis and materials) and commodities, with higher level modifications requiring rarer items. Be warned, finding and collecting these can be very time consuming! However, you can find some information on how to find these by hovering your cursor over the ingredient name on the Engineers screen and by reading local news articles at the Engineers bases. Some of the commodities can only be obtained as mission rewards.
Modifications can produce both positive and negative effects. For some modifications (usually weapons related), there is also a small chance of generating a highly-advantageous experimental effect (about 5% chance); however, you can spend reputation to guarantee receiving one. See here for a list of the possible experimental effects.
Before “purchasing” a modification, you will be shown the possible upper and lower ranges for each attribute affected. The process is randomised and you may not always end up with a desirable result. However, you do not have to accept the outcome and modifications can also be later removed (permanently) in the outfitting menu. You can retry as many times as you like, even on modules that have already been modified, assuming you have the necessary ingredients.
As of 2.2, the following ships can install hangars that allow you to store and deploy ship-launched fighters (SLFs):
- Imperial Cutter
- Federal Corvette
- Federal Gunship
- Type-9 Heavy
Fighter hangars are installed like any other ship module and come in two classes, the 5D and 6D, having capacity for one and two fighters respectively. Like SRVs, clicking on the available fighter bay slots in the outfitting menu allows you to purchase SLFs. These come in three main flavours, each with their own strengths and weaknesses: the Federal F63 Condor, the Imperial Fighter, and the independent Taipan. Availability of these types will be system dependent. In turn, each individual model comes in several varieties, according to weapon loadout.
Although the 6D hanger has capacity for two SLFs, only a single fighter can be deployed at any one time. In addition to the current fighter occupying the bay, each individual slot is able to produce an additional seven fighters (via 3D printing or something). So if a fighter is lost, that bay will starting constructing a replacement. However, this takes a few minutes. Therefore, by having a second slot you are able to immediately launch another fighter if the previous one is vaporised. Lost fighters and the components to construct new ones can be replenished at starports via the restocking menu.
For the sake of clarity, it is worth pointing out here that SLFs are flown remotely by “telepresence”. Apparently the body in the cockpit doesn’t belong to anyone! So when a fighter is destroyed, no one dies. Controversial, I know, but let’s not get into a discussion about that now!
To make the most of your SLF, you need to hire some crew. You can launch a fighter without an active crew member, but you’ll only be able to order it to either follow you or hold position, and it will not partake in combat. The same applies to the mothership when you take controls of the fighter.
NPC pilots are hired at starports via the Crew Lounge. You can hire up to three, but currently you can only set one active crew member (and this can only be done at starports). In addition to an initial one-off hiring cost, each crew member you take on board, regardless of whether they are active or not, will take a set percentage off all profits. Like you, NPC pilots hold a combat rank with the Pilot’s Federation, which will improve through active duty (i.e. dogfighting). This not only determines their ability, but also their salary demands.
Lower ranking pilots are cheaper to hire and will take a smaller share of your profits. But as they rank up, they will demand a bigger cut. Crucially, a pilot “trained” from scratch will be less of a financial burden than one hired at a higher rank. For instance, a pilot hired at expert level will take a 12% share of your income. Whereas a harmless-ranked pilot will start at a 4% cut, increasing to 7% when they eventually reach the rank of expert. However, NPC pilots are lost when the mothership is destroyed (no escape pod for you peasant!), meaning you’ll have to train another one up or spend a bit extra to take on someone who can actually fly and shoot.
Note that you can only set active crew at the Crew Lounge in ports. And when you switch to a non-fighter ship and then back, you will need to set the active crew member again.
Launching fighters and issuing orders
Fighters are deployed and orders are issued through the same interface as SRVs, i.e. the panel below the sensors area (UI focus + down, or you can set a specific key). When you first launch a fighter, you need to choose which one to deploy (if you have two bays) and who’s going to fly it, you or your NPC pilot. Once deployed, you can switch between controlling the fighter and the mothership at any time. If you have an active crew member they will take over the controls of the other vessel.
The fighter is flown like any other ship in the game and has a near identical cockpit interface and layout. Note that the fighter will be lost if it veers more than 30km away from the mothership. It’s also lost if it doesn’t return to the ship before engaging your FSD. However, it doesn’t need to be docked before exiting the game.
A variety of orders can be issued either to your fighter or the mothership, depending on which one you are presently in control of. These include things like defensive and aggressive (engage at will) stances, holding position or to focus attack on your current target (usefully, they will continue to engage this ship even when you switch to a new target). Most of these can be assigned their own hotkeys. Regardless of whether or not you are flying the fighter, the docking sequence must be initiated before it can return to the ship. To dock manually, simply fly to the end of the blue holographic tunnel on the underside of the mothership.
The ship you’re not directly controlling will appear on your scanner as a green contact and an icon on the HUD will indicate current distance and direction. It’s shield/hull status and current orders are displayed on the right side of the dashboard, just above the status of the one you’re flying.