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Elite: Dangerous Newsletter #20 - From Frontier Developments
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Hi Commander,

Welcome to Elite: Dangerous Newsletter #20!

In this issue we’ll be taking a look at one of the most important features of Elite: Dangerous; Trading. We go into detail on how we have been able to handle the complexities of developing a galactic trading market with the help of ‘MiniElite’  and the economies and commodities you can expect to encounter and trade with in Alpha 4.

This weekend is also your last chance to purchase Alpha access. Details of this are in the ‘Start Playing Today’ section.

In this newsletter:
 

Table of Contents (click subject to jump forward):

 

 Trading Places

 
So far we have talked about and shown glimpses of the Elite: Dangerous Milky Way galaxy and we know for sure that our Alpha backers are enjoying blowing each other to bits in combat.  But there is a hugely important part Elite: Dangerous that we haven’t given much attention to yet.
Trading!

The rules are, of course, simple and universal - buy goods cheaply, where they are made and there is plentiful supply, and then sell them where prices are high, in a location that has a high demand for your cargo.  Of course that may be easier said than done because of people who have honed their combat skills and are not averse to a little piracy as they spot you travelling from A to B - but let’s not worry about that for now…!



In Elite: Dangerous there are thousands of star systems with commodities markets – and some with multiple markets. Each of these markets exist in a starport – generally an orbital station or stations far above the planet surface.

Each star system has a different basic type of economy – for example Agricultural, Industrial, Hi-tech, Extraction, Refining or Service, and some have a mix of these basics – such as extraction and refining are often (but not always) in the same system.  From a commodities perspective all but a service economy produce items for consumption.  This creates an active trade network.

The core economies also have further variety, as there are more specialized sub-economies - for example an Aquatic Agricultural economy is focused on marine activities and will not produce Grain or Meat – though the locals may still consume it, so there will be demand for those goods.
Most markets will only produce a few of the many different possible types of core commodities – and in some places exotic variants of them – so of course you need to explore this fabulous galaxy and discover your own favourite trade runs!  
 
The makeup of each market is governed by several factors:  Its galactic location typically indicates which of the main factions the system belongs to; whether Federal, Imperial, Alliance or Independent.

The type of government in each system helps define the legality of individual goods in that particular market; ranging from anarchies where ‘anything goes’, to theocracies who have their own idiosyncratic strict proscriptions, and many points in between.

The kind of planets, chemical composition, temperature, presence of asteroid fields, and other celestial bodies govern the resources that are prevalent in system, and hence what drives the economy and what goods are produced.

The system population determines the scale of production and consumption and capacity of the market - this can be modified by the type of government, too.
 
As in today’s world, supply and demand drive prices.  Elite: Dangerous’ galactic market uses a server-based background trading simulation as a foundation.  Initial supply and demand levels are influenced via trading between local systems.  In this way, markets are not isolated but affect their near neighbours; if there is an increase or decrease in the supply of a particular commodity it will have a knock on effect on the pricing in other local systems too, as traders (AI or player) rapidly level the prices a little based on supply and demand.

Of course your actions will also contribute to such market activity.  The smaller the market the more you will be able to influence that market through trading. The more valuable a commodity the more rare it will be, and therefore the more susceptible to your influence.

All your individual trades are added to the whole, and even mid-sized economies can be influenced by concerted efforts between groups of like-minded individuals.  So you may find your ‘milk run’ dries up for a time, forcing you to look elsewhere for the deal.  Or you could engineer a fat profit for yourself by cooperating with your friends…

We’re really looking forward to starting to roll out trading in Alpha 4 – there really is no substitute for enthusiastic testing!

Before then, we have been developing the trading system with the help of ‘MiniElite’ – a stand-alone program that enables us to quickly iterate on and refine the galactic economic market. It uses AIs to test the optimal trade routes at any one time, packing weeks of gameplay into just a few seconds.


MiniElite in action!

‘MiniElite’ draws on data from thousands of populated systems and their economies, and shows us exactly the supply capacity, stock level, buy and sell price for each commodity.  Then it unleashes AI traders at the markets, who travel between systems, buying and selling according to certain sets of behaviour profiles, upgrading their ships as they are able.

The resulting logs of what was bought and sold where have been invaluable in tuning trading, in preparation for its forthcoming debut!

In Alpha 4 there are five stellar systems, with five different local markets representing a variety of economies and a wide range of goods to trade.  As we’ve described, buying and selling goods in the markets will affect the price of goods at those markets for all other players too.

We can’t wait to see how you compare against those ‘MiniElite’ AIs!

 
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Sneak Peek- Planetary Rings


Here is an early glimpse of one of the first planetary rings to appear in the game!




Here we see different views of a rocky ring system around a small planet. This sort of thing can happen when a rocky body is ripped apart by gravitational forces as it passes close to a planet (technically it passes within the Roche limit) and much of the debris is captured. A few tens of thousands of years later – a blink in cosmic time - the debris will form a beautiful disc as shown here.


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Cool Running part 2 


Following on from last week’s newsletter piece about the heat-related features on offer in Elite: Dangerous, this fantastic YouTube video by Isinona has come to our attention.  It has a nice text-based commentary that really highlights how heat awareness becomes a natural, integral part of your Elite: Dangerous experience.

 

Nice work Isinona!  - but not using Flight Assist is just showing off.. ;)


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Start Playing Today! 




Alpha Access – extended over the weekend!
Today – April 25th is officially the last day to buy access to the Alpha, however due to popular demand we will keep the Alpha available on the shop until Monday to give everyone who wants to join the opportunity to complete their purchase over the weekend.

- All Alpha players will be granted a life time discount of 50% on ship insurance in game as a ‘thank you’ for your support.
- Alpha players continue to get early access to Beta builds to test before they are more widely released.

New Alpha players will have immediate access to the Alpha 3 multiplayer build, which includes both single and multiplayer combat, docking and ship outfitting, and of course Alpha 4 as soon as its released.
Join the Alpha Here!

Premium Beta Access
The first Premium Beta build is released on May 30th  - and you can immediately download and play a Single Player Combat build today so you can practice your Sidewinder skills!

You can upgrade from your current purchase to Premium Beta - just checkout with Premium Beta in your shopping cart and the correct discount is automatically applied.
Join the Premium Beta Here!


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Comms Chatter 


- Forum user Gibbonici is putting together a team of explorers to reach the far reaches of the Milky Way galaxy in Elite: Dangerous. Read about his proposed campaign and sign up to the expedition!

So what I'm proposing here is the First Great Expedition in Elite Dangerous.
A group of explorers who are willing to commit one of their commanders to an expedition into the deepest regions of the galaxy. It won't always be fun: we'll need supply runners as well as surveyors, we'll almost certainly need traders to provide funds for equipment and ships, we'll be visiting many dull and similar systems along the way, and will certainly face obstacles that will sap our resolve to continue. We don't even know how lucrative the rewards will be.

But we'll be the first and only people to see some of the places we visit. We will own the galaxy in ways far more profound and permanent than mere contestable, temporary domination.
 
Join the expedition here

- TwitchTV!



Last week saw our very first official Twitch stream, where Mark Boss and Adam Woods played through single player combat scenarios whilst answering your questions. A huge thanks to all those that submitted their questions to us, we managed to answer a many of them and Adam only crashed once…

Our second stream will be next week, Thursday 1st May,  7:30pm BST, which you can watch here - www.twitch.tv/elitedangerous

So send us your questions on Twitter @EliteDangerous, our Facebook page or leave them on our forum thread

- And finally we want to say thanks to the community for this fantastic t-shirt Executive Producer Michael Brookes received in the post recently, Michael is delighted with it!




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  Mostly Harmless Questions

In the Private Backers forum we have a thread where you can pose questions for the development team. Here are a couple of selected questions with answers from Executive Producer Michael Brookes.
 
  • JohnStabler: Are we going to see the return of the Imperial Trader and Courier?
The Imperial Courier is planned for initial release, the Imperial Trader isn’t, although may make a later expansion.
 
  • bsivko: I would like to ask a question about support of reality in E: D Universe. As you mentioned, you will include into release all of possible data of real Universe. But what will be after release?  For example, if humanity discover thousand planets more, or find new objects like wandering planets between stars. Do you plan to change the E: D Universe according to that kind of events or not?
Yes, we will be changing the galaxy to keep up to date with the latest discoveries and observations - its one of the benefits of the connected world we now live in that we can update the game as needed!  But hopefully, we won't need to update things *too* often; we think the physics we have used to predict new exo-planets is pretty good - it'll be fascinating to see how close we are! 
 
  • Slawkenbergius: Will Elite: Dangerous use a physically-based shading/rendering system?
Short answer: yes it does.
Elite: Dangerous adopted a physically-based rendering (PBR) model right from the start - we want it to look as good as possible under a variety of lighting conditions (and space certainly gives you that!). We expect the visual quality of Elite: Dangerous will continue to improve as we progress through development. 
It's worth mentioning though that PBR isn't a one-size-fits-all solution as much as it's the start of a discussion that could probably occupy someone for their entire career - kind of like the way "High Dynamic Range" was quickly adopted by everyone years ago but people are still arguing over the fine details!


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That’s it for newsletter #20 - thank you again for reading and supporting the development of Elite: Dangerous so far!

If you are new to the newsletters you can read all our previous newsletters here

As always if there is anything in particular that you’d like to hear more about, or ask a question, then please contact us at elite-newsletter@frontier.co.uk


The Frontier Team
Our mailing address is:
Frontier Developments plc
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Cambridge, England CB4 0WG
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