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Elite: Dangerous Newsletter #14 - From Frontier Developments
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Hi Commander,

Welcome to newsletter number 14, the latest communication from the Elite: Dangerous team!

The most important item this month is the news that on Friday December 6th the existing online Backers App will be frozen, as we are transitioning to a new ‘retail store’ framework that will eventually become the online portal through which you download the game.  So we are calling ‘last orders’ on the Backers App, as not all rewards will be available in the new store.

Amongst the other fascinating items we take a look at some intriguing images of space suits and how we are preparing to get you up out of your pilot’s seat and moving around your ship!

Table of Contents (click subject to jump forward):

Asteroids: Hide and Seek in the Rocks

Space is big. And mainly empty. However, as part of the upcoming alpha combat test we will have scenarios that include more populated regions such as a dense ring filled with massive asteroids.

For the combat test such a region provides an important environment in which we can (with our Alpha testers’ help!), check out ship handling and combat in close quarters. In the screenshot image below we can see the latest work in progress on the Alpha test.

 
In the final game there will, of course, be different types of asteroid field with varying asteroid types and densities depending on how the field was formed.

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Pilots: Suited and Booted

Although we are focussed on the alpha testing and then beta through to the retail release of the game, we are also making good progress with planning for the subsequent expansions that will enable you to leave the cockpit.

Even now, the work we are doing with the Oculus Rift support means that you can look around the cockpit – and of course see some parts of yourself in the game as you pilot your ship!.

Players/pilots are a group who have spent the bulk of their lives in space.  You are readily identifiable by your practical attire  for life in space ready for action and the occasional emergency!

Below we see a common example of the pilot’s suit. Unlike current spacesuits these benefit from technology advances in materials within the tight body-hugging garments  - advanced materials provide environmental protection from extreme temperature variations and common hazards like exposure to hard vacuum in depressurisation ‘incidents’, but also aid movement.

Such suits are worn by ship’s crew and even passengers on smaller vessels – in much the same way as people might wear a lifejacket in a small boat today. Passengers on dedicated liners and similar vessels would generally wear their regular clothing, although access to these specialised suits is still available for dangerous situations – like an ‘abandon ship’ alert.

The suits can also be augmented with harnesses and vests to provide pockets and suitable attachments for tools and other useful items.



Operating in space has many dangers, one of which is loss of atmosphere. For planned space walks solid helmets are used that provide more sturdy functionality and protection from accidental knocks, but for emergencies the the suit includes a Remlok survival mask that will deploy almost instantly in an emergency. A development sketch illustrates the concept below:



As well as protection the suits provide performance enhancement by aligning with muscle groups and providing support and augmentation. This not only helps the wearer in microgravity, it also provides some protection against common stresses and strains provoked by high-G manoeuvring, extremes of temperature, and the odd depressurisation.

The suits also deal with more serious injury, as illustrated in the sketch below. In the event of trauma such as limb loss the suit seals itself and the wound.



Another avenue for exploration is how the pilot or crew navigates within the starship, when in free space. There is no ‘magical’ anti-gravity, but walkways/floors designed to be stood upon are ferromagnetic, and tiny electromagnets built in to the soles of shoes (they are very small indeed, so shoes are still elegant, lightweight affairs –heavy boots are not needed). Additionally the ship has many convenient handholds for easy manoeuvring. The less basic suits include micro thrusters, to aid zero-G movement – and providing a useful edge in zero-G combat!





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The Cockpit: Your Home from Home

The new generation of hyperdrives have reduced travel times dramatically, but you will likely still be spending extended periods in space, even in the smaller ships like Sidewinders. Although somewhat cramped, careful design and advanced materials mean that the basics can be provided for those long journeys.

Below we have a work in progress render of the Sidewinder cockpit (please note that the image of the pilot is placeholder!) and how the space is used. It’s important for us to establish this setup early on, firstly because you can look around your cockpit, but also to allow for later expansions to the game when you can get out of the pilot’s seat and move around your ship.



Another key aspect for the cockpit is of course the controls. You’ll have noted from our previously released concept the heads-up displays are holographic in nature. However, tactile input is still important – particularly when a cockpit is full of smoke, or systems are failing.

The exploration below shows that consideration.  Also note the sturdy grab rail on the main panel; similar hand holds would be located at regular spacing throughout the interior of the vessel to allow easier traversal.



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Alpha Inbound

The first alpha release is on its way!  In the initial phase we’re focusing on single player combat, using a number of different scenarios.  This will let us work with the Alpha testers to hone the flight controls in a relatively controlled way, before letting them all loose against each other in player vs player mayhem!

We know that everyone is eager to learn the required system specs. We’re in the process of testing and putting in as many optimisations as we can so that we can finalise the specs needed for the Alpha test for those backers who are taking part.

The minimum specs for the alpha builds has been discussed on our forums.  These specs are, naturally, higher than we anticipate for the release of the game as the Alpha builds are work in progress. To find out more and join in the discussion visit:

http://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php?t=8598

As David explained in the last Dev Diary video, new alpha test builds will be released periodically adding new features and content until the alpha process is complete and we’re ready to move into Beta. Our goal is to make this right and we will take what time is needed in each phase to get it right.

There are still spaces in the Alpha test, so if you’d like to take part then you can upgrade your pledge through the backers app (before 6th December!), or if you aren’t a backer yet through our website:

http://elite.frontier.co.uk

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Comms Chatter

Many of our community members charged up their hyper-drives this month and plotted courses to Manchester for the first ‘Elite Meet’; a community-hosted event to celebrate Elite: Dangerous and all other things set in the Elite-verse.

Besides general discussion and merriment attendees got the chance to try out the Oculus Rift, as well as take part in two of our regular community productions; The Conclave & Barnard’s Star News. As with LaveCon earlier in the year the event went down a storm with all who attended and another community event is already being proposed for some time next year. We’d like to thank all of the people that helped to make this event happen, as well as those who attended!




We’re also happy to announce that season 2 of Escape Velocity, the fan-made audio drama based on the Elite universe is now out. Episode 1 ‘Trading Run’ starts with Commander Thane, reeling from the events in Imperial Space at the end of the last season, trading and fighting for survival with enemies close behind. To listen to this new episode or catch up on season 1 head over to Escape Velocity’s official site now.

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Official Fiction News

A new section has been created on our forums dedicated to the various officially licensed books.  You can find out about each of the books and chat with their creators here:

http://forums.frontier.co.uk/forumdisplay.php?f=45

Fantastic Books is now publishing four of the books from the writers pack from the game’s original Kickstarter. These are:
  • Elite: Reclamation by Drew Wagar
  • Elite: Lave Revolution by Allen Stroud
  • Elite: And Here the Wheel by John Harper
  • Elite: Tales from the Frontier by various authors
Fantastic Books have also started a new Kickstarter of their own to produce audio books as well as paperback and hardback editions of all of these books. You can support their project here:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/fantasticbooks/official-elite-fiction-release-in-audio-and-print

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Backers App Closing and a Store is Born

The online Backers App that has served us well this year will be retired on 6th December.  A new store will take its place on 9th December, as we transition to preparation for the eventual ‘retail’ release of the game.
All your details from the Backers App will be transferred automatically to the new store, and you will need to use the new store instead of the Backers App.

To start with, only the following will be available in the store:

Alpha demo access
1st Round Beta access – pre-order
2nd Round Beta access – pre-order
Elite: Dangerous game (digital copy) – pre-order
Each Alpha/Beta access will also allow access to later tests and the full game when released.

PLEASE NOTE These products will NOT be the same as the Backer reward tiers, which include other features such as starting credits, decals etc.

The online Backers App will be ‘frozen’ after  Friday December 6th, so if you are planning to upgrade your rewards please do so before then!

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As always we are grateful for your continued support, and we are now getting excited to start the Alpha testing! 

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

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