Elite: Dangerous Newsletter #10- From Frontier Developments
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Hi Commander,

Welcome to the 10th development newsletter. In this edition we will be sharing with you our plans for trading in Elite: Dangerous.

Alongside this we will be providing you with a look at what has been going on in our growing community recently, sharing another drabble with you, and even introducing you to a completely new class of ships for Elite: Dangerous. So without further ado, here are this week’s features!

Table of Contents (click subject to jump forward):

Buy Low, Sell High: Trading Design in Elite: Dangerous

Trading has always been a massive component of the Elite experience and with the capabilities of our event system at our disposal, as well as online multiplayer, we have the opportunity in Elite: Dangerous to make a trading system that is more dynamic and detailed than ever before.

Today we would like to share with you some details on the initial design of trading, which has been revised and refined with the help of our Design Decision Forum members. So let’s get started where the majority of transactions will take place, at Markets.

Markets exist in a range of locations, both mobile and static; something we plan to expand further overtime. There are also a variety of different market types available to visit, each type helping to determine what goods may be available to buy:
  • Space Stations: Trades legal commodities and essential ship supplies.
  • Shipyards: Trades limited commodities relating to ships, ship modules, ship supplies and specialist enhancements.
  • Factories: Specialist markets for particular commodities, relating to the factory and generally at a discount.
  • Black Markets: Private markets only accessible based on player reputation. Trades illegal commodities, requires contact to access, and can be a hidden part of a legal market.
  • Pirate Bases: Ignores fines and bounties, trades both legal and illegal commodities, and requires a contact to locate.
  • Smuggler Bases: ignores fines but not bounties, trades legal and illegal commodities, and requires contact for location.
We have been experimenting with different trading screens. There is still a lot of discussion taking place in regards to balancing what information players are given so that they can be an effective trader.

The supply and demand (and as a result, the prices) of commodities at a specific market will be heavily determined by its location and the events taking place close by. Here are some possible examples of how the properties of a market might be affected by its location:
  • Markets near an agricultural planet will have low demand and a low price for food or other organic produce, but might have a high demand for machinery and fertiliser.
  • If a disaster hit the same planet (perhaps blight hits the planet’s crops), chemicals to produce fungicides as well as food and medical supplies to survive the destroyed harvest might sky-rocket in demand.
  • Politics/laws determine the legality of specific commodities. So a system that prohibits alcohol consumption would be a difficult place to shift Lavian Brandy, but if you could establish black market contacts then you could set yourself up with a lucrative (albeit illegal) trade route.
  • Newly colonised planets might demand a wide range of supplies to begin settlement building. If this planet later became populated by affluent citizens then a range of luxury resources might fetch a high price.
Alongside the main trading screen each commodity will have its own data panel, allowing players to make more informed trading decisions. We are still investigating how best this will work, and the data that is most helpful to a trader, while allowing some element of skill to make this work. For example only showing the last known price of a commodity at a given remote market, instead of a fully up to date price list.

In Elite: Dangerous information will also be a commodity in itself, with players able to buy and sell data packets to automatically update their galaxy map. These will open up a range of possibilities to the buyer, for general gameplay as well as trading, for example sharing more up to date market information on a distant system. Data packets can contain information on the following things:
  • System locations
  • Market locations
  • Resource gathering locations
  • Mission/event locations
There are many elements to the design of trading in Elite: Dangerous that can be seen in the design summary over on our forums. If you’re interested in some of the finer details of the proposal, such as information on player-to-player trading or commodities that require special equipment to transport, then head over now and check it out.

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Moving Mountains: A Look at Our Planet Generation Tools

In previous newsletters we have shared with you the results of our art team working to procedurally generate planets (for those that missed it click here). This time we’d like to show you a little more of the tool used at Frontier to achieve these results, and the process involved.

Much like the examples shared in Newsletter 4, the above planet is a sample of what was created by our in-house planet editor. The editor allows our team to set a wide range of parameters and environmental options in order to create the planetary maps based on conditions on that system (temperature, temperature range, chemical and atmospheric composition, age, history, plate tectonics, erosion, tidal locking, etc). When combined, these maps create a material that can be wrapped around a model to produce a planet with a tremendous amount of detail. Here are some of the maps that are procedurally created in this process:
  • Height Map: used to map out the landscape
  • Liquid Map (seen in the blue texture above): adds liquid to the landscape by setting variables such as 'sea' level, based on the temperatures and the chemical composition.
  • Colour Map: sets the colour ranges for the planet, and then determines the relationship these colours have with the other maps depending on what classification of planet you’re trying to create and its composition.
  • Liquid Colour: Set the colour and then how this colouration changes depending on the environment (for example darkening in relation to the liquid’s depth, depending on its opacity and temperature - e.g. if the poles are cooler than the equator).
  • Cloud Map: Determines the level of cloud coverage over a planet.
  • Flow Maps: An invisible layer that maps out how the clouds move and at what rate. This is affected by the local height of mountains and by temperature differentials.
  • Impacts: Add craters to the planet’s surface. This is dependent on its age. If for example, if has been recently terraformed, then there may still be craters, but these will be surrounded by vegetation and possible seas or lakes and rivers.
  • Rivers and Lakes: Add water sources to the planet’s surface in areas above sea level and dictates how these systems might modify/erode the landscape.

The beauty of this method is that once you find an array of inputs and modifiers that work together to create a convincing planet of a particular classification, you can then generate a countless number of planets of the same classification by just changing the procedural elements. This is how Elite: Dangerous will be able to have billions of unique planets that are not only rich in detail, but also scientifically accurate.

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‘We're Taking on Passengers at Persephone?’: Introducing A New Ship Class

Historically ships in Elite could be separated into one of three categories; combat ships, traders, or more general multi-role vessels.  With Elite: Dangerous we will be adding an entirely new range of ships, specifically designed for transporting passengers.

The above image represents our current direction for passenger ships, which are meant to evoke the same feeling as a yacht or luxury liner. The two ships above represent the low and middle range passenger ships, named the Dolphin and Orca Class Yachts respectively. As well as these there will also be a third Passenger-Class ship available, which will be the largest in its class and manufactured by the Imperial Gutamaya shipyards.

Passenger ships will generally be lightly armed but fast and luxurious, providing players with the lucrative potential to carry wealthy passengers (assuming you can get your passengers to their destination safely!). This could be in cooperation with other players, by them providing you with an escort, or by risking the journey alone for greater reward. We look forward to sharing more with you on Passenger-Class Ships and how they will work in Elite: Dangerous in future updates.

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Elite Drabble: Today

This episode’s drabble is by Elite: Anthology writer, Lisa Wolf. To find out more about Lisa’s short story ‘A Question of Intelligence’, as well as the other stories from the Elite: Anthology ‘Tales from the Frontier’, why not head over to their website now!

Today, by Lisa Wolf
The planet below came into view as the Asp emerged from the docking bay. She took a moment to study it; enjoying its beauty from this altitude, though she knew it was now barren and uninhabitable at the surface.

She brought herself back to reality and urged the Asp out of the way of other traffic. Perhaps one day she'd return to the planet she once called home. Perhaps one day it would be habitable again.

Today, however, was not that day. Today a new life began. Today she had her own ship and cargo.

Today she owned the Universe.

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Comms Chatter: You Can't Stop The Rock

Our most recent Meet the Team interview with designer Mike Evans went into peculiar territory recently, over a stray comment about rocks in Elite: Dangerous. Before long a Pseudo-Cult had been born, not only spawning strange prophecies but also some particularly inspired artwork from forum member Mobius; a sample of which can be seen above!

Our recent Meet the Team features have been extremely well received and we’re proud to be able to share with all of you more about the talented team that are working on this game. If you have not seen our Meet the Team interviews yet (or are curious about becoming an acolyte of The Holy Elite Rock!), then why not head over to our Elite: Dangerous Updates sub-forum to catch up on these weekly interviews with key members of our team across all departments.

In less disturbing news, we have another Elite: Dangerous community event to announce! Veteran forum member Alien is organising a community gathering in Manchester on Saturday 2nd November (almost a whole year since the Kickstarter Campaign began!). The event, aptly named ‘EliteMeet’, is an opportunity for like-minded community members to meet up over some drinks and discuss all things Elite. If you’d like to find out more then why not head over to our forums and check out the official event thread.

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That’s it for another newsletter, thank you all again for reading it and supporting the development of this fantastic project. As we edge closer to the game’s alpha test we grow more excited about the things that we have to share with you, some of which are being prepared even as you read this. Until that time we hope as many of you as possible will take part in our ever-growing forum community and continue to make this journey that we have embarked upon as memorable as possible!

Thanks again, Ashley

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