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Elite: Dangerous Newsletter #8- From Frontier Developments
Hi Commander,

Welcome to the 8th Elite: Dangerous newsletter. The focus of this newsletter will be the Cockpit, as we look at it from both the perspective of the art team and the designers.  Aside from the cockpit we’ll also have a few other features to share with you, so let’s see what we have in store:

Table of Contents (click subject to jump forward):


‘You ever been in a cockpit before?’: Bringing a New Perspective to Elite

One of the biggest challenges in Elite: Dangerous (and indeed any space game) is the implementation of the cockpit. The cockpit is the core of the player’s experience while they are flying their ship. Before delving into the look and feel the first task was to isolate what are the core requirements for the cockpit. These are summarised in these key goals:
  • Provide all the relevant and essential information required to effectively fly the ship in a combat environment.
  • Allow the player to monitor, customize and set up various aspects of the ship’s functionality through a more detailed set of interfaces in addition to the essential items above.
  • Provide a standardised system of UI elements across different ship types.
  • Minimize or remove all forms of non-diegetic UI (that which is removed from the fiction and geometry of the world) and rely on the more immersive diegetic, spatial and Meta UI elements to provide feedback and functionality to the player.
  • Provide feedback to the player through audio and visual effects as to the state of the ship and their avatar in addition to those provided by the cockpit UI.
  • Allow the player to hang up fluffy dice within the cockpit canopy (We’ll see!).



As you can see from the screen mock-up above we’re building a 3D cockpit. The cockpit functionality is built in three layers:
  1. In the World: holograms attach to items beyond the cockpit. So ships and points of interest are identified with suitable markers in their actual locations, with guides to help the player locate them.
  2. Cockpit Panel: these holograms are situated where you would expect cockpit controls, but the holographic nature provides the easy to read functionality with the flexibility of multi-functional displays, like we're starting to see in modern aircraft.
  3. Pilot’s Eye: some elements are fixed to the pilot’s viewpoint. These are elements that would follow you as you look around, such as the communications panel.



The next step of course is in-game implementation which we’ll update you with in a future newsletter. We’re also looking forward to everyone’s feedback when they get their hands on the evolution of this design in the Alpha and Beta tests.

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A Sense of Scale: The Size of Ships in Elite: Dangerous

Many of you have been asking about the scale of ships in Elite: Dangerous, so the art team have put together a few images to show you how the smallest and largest playable ships in the Elite galaxy compare against some visual references.
Below you can see the scale of our smallest playable ship, the Sidewinder, compared to a 6 foot human model.




At the other side of the scale we have a couple of our larger playable ships in the Anaconda and the Panther Clipper LX. To give you a sense of their size we have added a scale model of Big Ben clock tower.



As you can see the playable ships in Elite: Dangerous will come in a broad range of dimensions, we’ll show you more of the ships and how they fit with each other as we progress through development.

The greatest challenge facing the designers by having a range of ship sizes is balancing them all so that there are ways for all combinations of ships to engage in combat effectively. We have identified a number of methods to keep combat interesting for the different sizes of ships and that is something else that the Alpha and Beta testers will help provide useful feedback on.


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Elite Fiction: Faction Insignias

As many of you know by now Elite has three major political factions, all with their own distinctive culture and corresponding aesthetics. This is communicated through the designs of the ships and even in the layout of cities, as seen from space.
A more direct method of differentiating between factions however will be through the time-honoured tradition of flags and emblems. Below you can see the current pin-badge insignia designs for the 3 main factions.
We will create different versions for flags, for ship insignia, and for stencils, which will be in future newsletters.



Each insignia has a simple design that helps evoke the culture and ethos of the corresponding faction.

The left-most badge is for the Federation, this flag evolved over hundreds of years from the US dominance on Earth, and is designed to incorporate the feel of the UN and NATO too.
The stars and planets represent the states that form the Federation, with particular attention to Earth and Mars as the historical and political heritage centres of the Federation.

In the centre is The Empire’s logo, representing an Eagle within an eye. The Eagle is a piece of heraldry that has been adopted by many of the largest empires in history, including the Roman, Holy Roman, Byzantine and French empires. It is one of the most recognisable symbols of Imperial power in human history and is therefore perfect for the insignia of the Empire in Elite: Dangerous.

Finally on the right we have the Independent Alliance. This symbol simply shows a single form made up of its constituent parts. The Alliance has elements in common with the current European Union, in that it is a pact of friendship between a variety of different cultures and societies, but they are forever disagreeing with each other too! This emphasis on strength through unity is therefore extremely important to the identity of the faction.
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This week’s drabble is by Lave Radio regular and Writer’s Pack pledger, Allen Stroud. You can find out more about his book and short film ‘Lave: Revolution’, at www.allenstroud.com.

Childish Dreams, by Allen Stroud
It’s beautiful, up there, in the stars.

When I was a child, I used to watch the spaceships. Mother bought me a book, and I learned about Cobras, Vipers, Asps and Pythons, named from old Earth animals, they say.

I asked Father if we could ride on a spaceship, he said no. They scan your eyes, to make sure you’re the owner. “Retina scanning," he said.

I went to the spaceport and asked if I could fly. The pilot man laughed and told me to get lost.

I took his eyes and his ship. Now I fly anytime I want.


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Comms Chatter: The Power of Three

In our recent fiction diary David answered a few more questions about Elite: Dangerous from the community, as well as making an important announcement that positively impacts the future development of the game. You can check out that Fiction Diary here.

Over on the forums our design team are curious to know exactly what multiplayer means to our community, by posting three identical polls to the Design Decision Forum, Private Backers Forum, and the Elite General Forum simultaneously. This discussion, affectionately known as the ‘Tri-poll’, is still open for voting and we’d love to hear the views of as many of you as possible on what you hope to get from a multiplayer Elite. Head over to General forum now to cast your vote!

In the Fan Creations part of the forum the Elite Drabble thread is still going strong, if you fancy penning your own piece of Elite fan fiction then I’d thoroughly advise heading there. Episode 5 of the unofficial Elite radio play ‘Escape Velocity’ was also released recently, to hear that and more from the team at Lave Radio why not head over to their site now.


For something lighter, the current trend on the forums seems to be photo-shopping anything and everything ‘Elite’ into popular culture, with not even the writers Pack Pledgers nor the Frontier Dev Team safe. If you would like to see more of this dubious activity and don’t mind your eyes bleeding a little, then why not check out the Elite Twilight and Taking the Mickey threads as the two major hotspots!


 
Since the last newsletter we have started a new set of updates, giving everyone the opportunity to learn more about the development team working on Elite: Dangerous with weekly ‘Meet the Team’ interviews. The first member of the team to go under the microscope was veteran programmer, Mark Allen, followed by concept artist Josh Atack. You can read that interview Mark's Interview here and Josh's interview here!

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That’s it for this edition of the newsletter. As usual if you have any feedback or requests then please don’t hesitate to contact me at abarley@frontier.co.uk. We’ll see you next time with a new topic and a load more from the development of Elite: Dangerous to share with you!

Thanks, Ashley








 

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