Significant mission improvements coming in Elite: Dangerous

python asteroid belt external camIn their weekly dev update, Frontier Developments (FD) have outlined upcoming changes to the oft-maligned missions system for space trading and combat sim Elite: Dangerous.

Although executive producer Michael Brookes put an emphasis on the word “variety”, in reality the focus was on increasing accessibility, primarily by “ensuring that more missions are available at the neutral reputation stage”. Improving your reputation will still unlock more valuable missions, but there will no longer be a rank requirement – this will only be an indication of risk and reward.

He also stated that the majority of missions will make sense within the location they are offered. The will be effected by three factors: the state of the minor faction (e.g. war, famine), the economic activity of the market and the government type (e.g. dictatorship vs democracy). Briefings will now also explain why the mission was spawned and what effect it will have.

FD are also revising USSs (unidentified signal sources) and how they feed into missions. Currently, these spawn almost completely randomly (often directly in front of you) and make little sense within the context of the background simulation (BGS). They’re arguably one of the weakest mechanics in the game; however, mission objectives are frequently found at them and so they play a crucial role in the ED universe. Promisingly, in future these will be more likely found at specific bodies and will be located with a discovery scanner.

The general distribution of USSs will also be tweaked, their generation to be more determined by their location within a system. Apparently “you can no longer just sit and wait for one to appear, you will need to look for it” and it will be possible to scan USSs to reveal more information about them.

It also sounds like nav beacons will finally be given a purpose beyond somewhere to grind out bounty kills or pirate hapless NPC traders. These too will be able to be scanned to provide mission information as well as exploration data for that system.

All worthy enhancements and it’s great that FD are attempting to integrate missions more meaningfully into the BGS as well as adding more depth and logic to USSs, which at present feel too much like a placeholder mechanic. However, the real test will be in creating genuine quest variety – i.e. increased depth and engagement, not just more taking package/commodity from A to B, find/kill this in system X, etc.

These changes will be included in the upcoming 2.1 release – “The Engineers”, part of the Horizons season pass expansion that will continue throughout 2016. Brooks described his weekly update as his “penultimate”, so we can logically assume that the 2.1 beta will launch in around two weeks. FD have repeatedly stated their commitment to the base game, so one can only presume that some of the mission tweaks will filter through to non-Horizons players. Though more clarity on this would be no doubt welcome.

Other changes to be introduced with 2.1 will include the introduction of engineer characters who will fit into the loot and crafting system, some new big-ass guns, and persistent mission contacts who will affect your interaction and progression with minor factions.

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