Elite: Dangerous Newsletter #4- From Frontier Developments
Hi Commander,

Welcome to the fourth Elite: Dangerous Newsletter. March and April has seen the size of our team increase even further as we welcomed our Canadian office to the project, officially making the game a transatlantic undertaking!

In this edition we’ll be taking some of the elements from previous newsletters into their final stage, as well as showing you a bunch of new things that we have not shared with you yet. So kick back in your cockpit and chew over this week’s features:

Table of Contents (click subject to jump forward):

Sidewinder: From Model to Engine

A consistent theme of the newsletters so far has been an update on the progress of the Sidewinder. From concept art to model and then onwards to texturing, we have tried to show you as much of the development process as possible. Well the time finally came to take the training wheels off the Sidewinder and put the model into the game as a useable ship!

The picture above is a screen shot from the current build of Elite: Dangerous, with a few small elements added as a paint-over layer. This image has been produced as a visual bench mark for the continued development of the Sidewinder, which still requires lighting and particle effects to be created for it. The model itself is also not the final version of the Sidewinder that will ultimately end up in the game. This will also go through additional stages of refinement before release, to make it look even better.

As an added bonus, our team have also been finalising all of the specifications and fiction related to each of the ships in Elite: Dangerous. As part of this our art team put together the schematic below, which gives you a brief look at the Sidewinder’s origins, as well as some of its key statistics.

With the development of the Sidewinder now down to the finer details, future newsletters may focus on a new ship entirely. Be sure to check in with us for the next newsletter to find out what this will be!

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A Brave New World: Procedural Planet Design

Planets come in a vast range of shapes, sizes and compositions, and one of the many challenges in making Elite: Dangerous a convincing Space Sim is to recreate as many of these as humanly possible. As with previous renditions of Elite, the solution is to once again turn to procedural generation.

Like most other areas of the game, the first step of the process was for the team to create some benchmark images, to help inform how the finished articles should look. As part of this process our team experimented with procedural techniques to create a range of planet types as 3D models. This exploration has already started to produce some great results, which you can see below.

The images above only cover a selection of the planet types that we intend to include in the final game, so look out for more to be confirmed in future newsletters. The level of detail on these planets is also not representative of what will be in Elite: Dangerous at launch, as this is just an exploration into the techniques required to produce the various planet types at this stage. 

By having different classes for planets though, and then having procedural scripts to texture each one depending on those classifications, it should be relatively straight forward for us to make every planet in the galaxy completely unique!

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Beasts of Burden: Designing Freighters

Not every ship can be an apex-predator. If you need to transport 100 tonnes of Jonty Bass from one system to another, then that jumped up roller skate you call a Cobra MK III will not do the job!

Freighters are of course a vital ship class for players that want to make their career in trading (as well as those pirates looking for a sweet target!). For this reason the amount of concept work that has gone into fully fleshing out the designs for a few playable freighters has been vast.

Whilst no solid decisions have been made yet, here is a small selection of the concept art that has been produced so far. Maybe there are some designs in here that you like or maybe you think we’re completely off the mark, why not let us know your opinion on the forum!

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An Efficient Death: Deciding on a Federal Fighter

Much like with the imperial fighter, you may remember that way back in the first edition of the newsletter we shared with you some early concept thumbnails for what federal fighters may look like. Well these have since been used to inform the design of the Federation’s staple fighter-class ship.

It is easy to see the aesthetic similarities between the Federation’s Capital Ship and their fighter of choice. Whilst we don’t have more than a block-out of the basic shape to show you right now, progress on the Federal Fighter is also well under way and we should be able to update you with how it is getting on in the future.

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Design Discussion: Shields

The most recent subject tackled by the Design Decision Forum has been shield systems. After going through multiple proposals and considering a number of ways that shields could be made a more dynamic feature for Elite: Dangerous, a proposal for the alpha has finally been agreed upon. You can see a summary of this proposal below, or head over to our forum for the full proposal:

Shield Systems:

  • At launch a shield system has either 1 or 2 zones for playable ships.
  • In shield systems with 2 zones the coverage is split between the fore and aft of the ship.
  • Larger NPC ships can have more shield zones.
  • Each zone describes an area of hull coverage, with the sum total of the zones fully covering a ship.
  • The player must assign shield generator modules to the shield system. Generator modules have two attributes:
  • Health determines how much damage can be absorbed by a shield before it collapses.
  • Resistance determines how much damage the shield soaks up before it begins to affect the shield health.
  • The shield system determines shield recharge rate: how much shield health is replenished over time when the shield is not under attack.
  • Shield generator modules have a number of secondary parameters: Cost, Grid Footprint, Power Draw, Heat Generation and Module Health.
  • Additional shield generators create redundancy but generally speaking, two smaller shield generators are less efficient than a single, larger shield generator module.
  • During flight the player is able to use a simple interface to tactically push shields fore/aft.
  • As an attacker, a player is able to (whilst a shield is collapsed) target and attack shield emitters.
  • During flight the player can tactically deploy cells from a shield bank to stabilize damaged shields before they collapse.
  • Players can augment their shields performance by equipping their ship with an (optional) Shield Cell Bank.

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Pledge Extras: First Fulfilment

The first batch of pledge extras are ready to be dispatched! If you ordered a concept art print, an Elite: Dangerous mug, or the T-shirt & Mug combo, and had your delivery details arranged in the web app before April, then your items should be dispatched within the next week.

If you did not get your order details confirmed before April, or have ordered one of these items this month, we plan to do another batch of deliveries this summer.

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Elite Fiction- The First Time

This week’s Drabble comes from community member Matthew Benson, who will be flying under the Moniker ‘Commander Chonty’ when the game is released next year. So if you come across him on one of your trade runs, be sure to hail him (or fire at him if you’re that way inclined!):

The first time, by Matthew "Commander Chonty" Benson
She’s there in front of me. More beautiful than I had imagined. The sunlight casting shadows, creating reflections that make me squint, but I won’t take my eyes off her. She waits, watching, wondering when I’ll make my move.

Others have been there before, but not me. Not yet. But my time will come. Soon. Very soon.

I start to edge forwards, unsure how she’ll react given my reputation.

She’s Lave station. And she’s all I ever dreamed of. All I want to do is to dock first time, safely, without scraping my Cobra MkIII across her docking bay doors.

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Thank you again for reading this week’s newsletter. We’re now less than a year away from our estimated release date and production is moving at a rapid speed. Like always, if there is anything in particular that you fancy hearing about in future newsletters then feel free to email me at and I’ll do my best to include it in future editions.

Thanks again,

Our mailing address is:
Frontier Developments plc
306 Science Park
Milton Road
Cambridge, England CB4 0WG
United Kingdom

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