Frontier Expo 2017: Elite Dangerous goes ‘Beyond’ with big plans for 2018

When I spoke to Elite Dangerous’ devs at this year’s Frontier Expo 2017, the company’s first fan expo, they admitted that communication went dark for a time. But it wasn’t for any worry-worthy reason: No, it was because the devs were preparing for Beyond, the big update road map for 2018 that was revealed on stage at the con. And what a reveal it was! The crowd was quite excited about the announced features spanning four updates throughout the year, including squadrons, fleet carrier ships, a codex, new ships, improved mining, revamped planetary graphics, and more. As Lead Designer Sandro Sammarco said, “Elite is an ongoing project. It’s not finishing any time soon.”

Along with  the big news reveal, I also spoke with Chief Creative Officer Jonny Watts and Producer Adam Woods about these updates that focus on three areas — core game, narrative, and new features. This is what I learned.

Going ‘Beyond’

Anyone remotely worried that Elite Dangerous is “done” can breathe a sigh or two of relief. Watts told me that the team has a long, long conceptual road map of plans that could stretch into decades if it includes everything. Of course, he cautioned, anything too far out is simply an outline or thought; any and all development up until that time could alter the details or even feasibility of said plans. But the closer the time frame, the better fleshed out the road map is. And 2018 is admittedly pretty close.

Players have four main updates to look forward to during 2018. Collectively called Beyond, Q1 and Q4 have very significant expansion-esque updates, and two smaller ones fall in between. Q1 will focus on a number of quality of life improvements to core gameplay, expand the narrative, and add new features. The non-exhaustive list includes making sure engineering upgrades always turn out better that what players have, giving system authority ships “more teeth and tactics to much better support the concept of consequences and criminality across human space,” and access to much better trade data. Additionally, challenging wing missions will be introduced. Expect even more and more details revealed over time.

Mid-year break

Things won’t end there. During the year the two smaller content updates will roll out, not the least of which is new ships and even more narrative. Devs emphasized that there are many ways that players can and will participate in the various narrative threads, and one focus of Beyond will be continuing the Guardians narrative thread. Sammarco explained on stage, “When we’re talking about narrative, we’re talking not about just words, we’re talking about experiences, we’re talking about people engaging in groups — having CGs, going out there hunting, working together, uncovering things.” One of the great things being added into this global narrative progression is a personal narrative progression. The devs teased a few images of items that players could be unlocking as their personal progression unfolds, but didn’t explain anything about their purpose; players will discover that later.

Did you think that would be the end of it? Nope. Galnet news will be voiced with Galnet audio, enabling players to listen to it as they traverse the universe. More new ships will also be involved, “a lot more ships” according to the devs (Alliance ships, plural, was noted, eliciting excitement from the audience.). FX17 attendees (and those viewing via Twitch at home) got to see a sneak peak of the Chieftain and Krait ship concepts.

The big 2018 finale

Coming at the end of next year, the Q4 update may understandably not be quite as fleshed out as the first update but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a boatload of content goodness included. On stage, devs described it as the biggest update of the year.

A very exciting feature is the implementation of squadrons. Basically large clans/guilds, these will bring enhanced communication options for groups. Folks will be able to modify the structure and management of squadrons. More than that, squadrons will be able to purchase fleet carriers, massive dockable ships that will be mobile bases of operations. Squadrons will be able to dock and refuel, respawn, and rearm.

As perhaps one of the most fascinating and enticing new features to me, I spoke with Sammarco and Woods to learn more details about fleet carriers. Sammarco indicated that the idea is that squadrons could encompass hundreds of players, and that fleet carriers will be able to support all those ships. So we’re talking about a massive ship! Could these carriers be self-sufficient, allowing a group of explorers to just continually push out into space? Possibly. Could there be smaller versions for smaller groups? That’s an idea. But devs don’t know the answers yet.

Much of the development depends on what the community wants. Everyone emphasized that the details are just getting hammered out and it will be a joint venture with the community; community input is crucial. “It’s all about giving players the tools that they want so they can enjoy the game as much as possible,” Sammarco said. Even though there are bound to be restrictions and development barriers/technical challenges, Woods added that it is a tool for the groups and they want to make sure to get it right.

I even asked whether Frontier has a plan for making sure to get full community feedback for these things and not just the “vocal minority” that tends to represent loudly on forums and such. Woods admitted, “I think it’s going to be a challenge to make sure we do get the right medium of feedback. There are ways like with the ship transfer where we went a step further and actually actively mailed out to people because we knew it would affect so many people.” Woods also emphasized that the devs work very closely with their community team that knows players very well. “Together I think we can come up with a good idea on how to get a good response from the players,” he said.Q4 also has an art target of improved planet graphics. This includes not just a more color variations and better lighting model but also more details — details such as dramatic detailed topography to “make the environments much more compelling to navigate.” Additionally devs will be working to implement localized ambient effects like fog and vapor to increase depth. The frozen landscape image above is concept art that demonstrates the target devs are aiming for this update.

All this additional beauty sounds great, but even better for an explorer-at-heart like yours truly is that the beauty will extend out well beyond known space; a plethora of new anomalies and phenomenon will be out there waiting to be discovered and experienced. A new feature called the codex will compliment exploration, logging players’ discoveries. Beyond just recording, the codex will offer players more details of their discoveries as well as provide hints as to what else they could possibly find out in the black.

On top of all this, mining will be receiving love and attention, fleshing the feature out with better detecting and extracting methods and tools and more get situational experiences to elicit more of a wild west prospecting feel. Imaging finding a mother load! In all it will be a more “fully fledged feature that players can aspire to progress through.”

As huge as all this is, this list of features for the year is nowhere near complete! Players can expect to learn more with even more details as the updates get closer, so be sure to stay tuned to MOP to keep up-to-date on the Beyond series of updates that will all be completely free to Horizons’ players.

Disclosure: In accordance with Massively OP’s ethics policy, we must disclose that Frontier Developments is paying for our writer’s travel, accommodation, and ticket for this event along with several other members of the gaming press. Frontier has neither requested nor been granted any control or influence over our coverage of the event, and the writer is paid exclusively by Massively OP for her work.
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43 Comments on "Frontier Expo 2017: Elite Dangerous goes ‘Beyond’ with big plans for 2018"

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zeko_rena

Was not overly impressed to be honest, felt some of the stuff coming could just be in a .0.0.1 patch, like voiced Galnet, and the different color variations in planets.

New ships is at least interesting and glad to hear mining changes are on the way, but its going to be a pretty dull year next year by the looks of it.

Still they did say they have not announced everything.

I was really hoping we might finally be able to change our HUD color in game next year instead of having to edit a bloody config file but I guess my expectations are just too high……………………………………………………………………

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Tazuras

I just want to be able to switch ships without having to sell cargo.

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PhoenixDfire

You can. Just make sure the new ship has the same amount of cargo space or bigger.

hjaish
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hjaish

> not actual gameplay

The story of Elite Dangerous’s life. What a tragic waste of potential this project has been.

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Sheryl Lard

((Deleted by mod. Sockpuppetry/trolling.))

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shear

Frontier is actually terrible at marketing, and that video is not misleading as it clearly states that it’s not in-game footage. How much more clearly did they have to spell it out for you?

cmdr_cotic
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cmdr_cotic

Funny but sad watching you reply to your other account Ursus.

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DoomSayer

Because it’s always best to judge leaked NDA footage of testers, you know, testing one aspect of the game. Wait until 3.0 gets released to live before judging it. My understanding is the Evocati don’t have a full 3.0 build because it’s not ready yet.

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Teala Te'Jir

Shame, this EXPO was a let down. As an initial backer and supporter of ED I was expecting them to finally announce space-legs, atmospheric flight and landings, habitable world exploration(yes, these are things they promised us backers during the initial crowd funding). Instead we’re getting stuff that should have been fixed(beige planets – this was brought about by a screw-up in their graphics engine) or added in the first couple of years. Squadrons? Really, you’re only just now thinking of adding what is basically guilds to the game after 4 years?

Then let’s talk about carriers…seriously, are you trying to turn ED into a frakking EVE knock-off? Because the further we look into these updates the more EVE like they sound. I didn’t back and support this game for the last 4 years so it could be turned into just another space MMO that is centered around ships.

::sigh:: Saying I’m disappointed with the direction this game is going is an understatement. Hell right now in NMS there are more immersive game play options than ED. And Star Citizen not only has space-legs but soon it’ll have everything ED should have had. ED could be a great space MMO, it could have been more than it’s previous incarnations. Instead we get a watered down version – hell in the original version there were alien species – we don’t even have that. So disappointed.

cmdr_cotic
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cmdr_cotic

They did say some time before the expo that spacelegs was not part of the upcoming content, however it is something further down the roadmap.

I think it’s a good thing tbh, I’d much rather them focus their attention on these things than add in spacelegs at this time. The amount of work involved to make walking about useful, interesting and worthwhile is ridiculous.

Your complaint about squadrons is misplaced, it’s nothing about competing with EVE, it’s providing a highly requested feature for Elite. One only has to look at the groups on inara to see that it’ll be welcome.

Whether SC will soon have everything that Elite should have remains to be seen, the leaked videos of 3.0 are not promising and seem rather devoid of any actual gameplay.

hjaish
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hjaish

> They did say some time before the expo that spacelegs was not part of the upcoming content, however it is something further down the roadmap.

They didn’t say it was “further down the roadmap”. They stopped saying spacelegs and roadmap in the same sentence way back.

Here’s them weaseling out of it a couple of months ago.

https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php/381918-Frontier-Expo-ED-Speculation?p=5990260&viewfull=1#post5990260

“There’s been extensive discussions about space legs all over the forums, and it’s a difficult one to answer from our perspective. It’s something we really, really want to do…. but if it doesn’t add any long-term value, it’s a lot of work for something that lacks meaningful gameplay.”

It’s still something we’d like to do, but the focus after 2.4 will be improvements of core gameplay mechanics. To add this rather heavy feature without meaningful activities around it would be a disservice to you guys, and it’s a hell of a lot of work for the dev team. My advice would be to work on the assumption that it’ll be a ways off yet, because as has been mentioned many times before: to do it properly would be a whole new game within ED.”

cmdr_cotic
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cmdr_cotic

LOL, all that selective bolding to try and make an innocuous comment fit your agenda….

Here’s the relevant part with no selective bolding

Spacelegs (as the community are dubbing them) is something that David B and the development team are very excited by and it’s certainly high on the list of features they would like to make. However, as we’ve mentioned before, “Spacelegs” is something further down the line.

Try again Wormtongue

hjaish
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hjaish

No, the selective bolding is to help people like you see what I’m referring to.

As for the Frontier spokesman’s: “David B and the development team are very excited by and it’s certainly high on the list of features they would like to make.” , quite some climb down since it was promised by Braben and shown on the roadmap, eh?

But hey, keep on buying the bobbleheads and flightsuits, and if you buy a million, and Frontier might give you one space foot.

cmdr_cotic
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cmdr_cotic

The selective bolding is to try and make the comment read the way you want it to read, it’s to draw attention to select parts while ignoring the larger context. Do you think people are stupid?

There was never any promise, it was always a case of “this is what we would like to do” and that hasn’t changed, they’ve just decided that there are other bits that should take precedence, which is the smart move. Better to have more tools and deeper game mechanics than lesser tools, shallower mechanics and walking (with nothing else to do).

You need to pull your head out of your arse.

hjaish
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hjaish

> There was never any promise, it was always a case of “this is what we would like to do”

Promised by Braben in one of his 2012 advert videos.
“You will be able to walk around inside your ship. You will be able to get out of your ship, walk around inside space stations, other vehicles, all of that sort of thing. All of these will be done as updates. You will be able walk around a space port. You will be able to see gold being loaded into someone else’s ship. You will be able to sneak in and hide amongst the cargo.”

Promised in newsletter #32, reported by Engaget
“Major new features will include planetary landings and even walking around inside ships, stations, and planet surfaces,” the firm says. Elite users with a lifetime expansion pass will get “all such significant expansions” at no extra charge. The LEP is currently packaged with the game’s premium beta access or available separately via the Frontier store.

More promises from that newsletter
“Of course walking round your ship will be nice, but it is the just springboard for a very significant expansion of gameplay – you will be able to experience the inside of starports and interact with other players and AI characters, and even board other people’s ships in space and take them by force, as shown in this concept piece.”

> they’ve just decided that there are other bits that should take precedence

Yes, they decided that instead of delivering promised paid-for features such as walking around, cash-shop gimmicks and cosmetics should take precedence.

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shear

They will do it, eventually, they haven’t said they aren’t so I am not sure what’s the issue here, ED will get there. They never ones claimed all those features will be there on launch day or even soon.

I’d wager doing spacelegs right would be a megaton of work.

They also need that revenue to continue to work on the game and it’s all cosmetic you don’t like it you don’t have to buy it.

hjaish
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hjaish

> They will do it, eventually, they haven’t said they aren’t

They’ve stopped saying they are doing it.

And started making excuses like these https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php/381918-Frontier-Expo-ED-Speculation?p=5990260&viewfull=1#post5990260

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shear

That’s hardly an excuse of any kind, it’s not a secret that the parts they want to expand on in the game have been left untouched for years, and in my opinion, they better tighten up the core game before moving on to adding new features.

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PhoenixDfire

Aw MJ. I was on the Lave Radio Stand. Wish you could have said Hello!

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PhoenixDfire

Seriously though….

I was not expecting elite feet ( or space legs as some people call them) or atmospheric landings because both Sandro and DB-OBE dropped hints that they were still a long way off. What I wanted to know was if frontier was still committed to Elite:Dangerous and the presentation reassured me a lot.

Personally, I’m not that bothered about space legs. When ‘the other game’ moved from being less about being a space game and more of a FPS with spaceships, I kind of lost interest ( And felt a little ripped off to be honest). Just because the other games (including NMS) have Walking around, doesn’t mean Elite : Dangerous should rush it out. I want elite dangerous to be about space ships and we’re getting a lot more of them over the next year.

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shear

I still want space legs though, I get why they wouldn’t want to do it now, it does seem like an incredible amount of work and there are other more pressing matters. One day.

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PhoenixDfire

Oh we do all want space legs. ;-)

But I think they’ve got the priority right by. I think they’re now preparing the engine to allow for atmospherics in 2019.

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shear

I think so too, I think that’s partly why they are redoing the procedural generation and adding propper clutter, new planets will hopefully look much better.

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shear

Honestly, I am very excited for the next year but man it’s kinda scarce for the next 15 months. Will just have to be patient I guess.

Can’t wait for the new lighting plus planetary tech and Galnet audio, they can do so much cool stuff with an in-game text to speech. The game will become a lot more lively.

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BalsBigBrother

Cool that they have plans for the live game into 2018 and beyond. I have been wanting to jump back into Elite Dangerous for a while but I have been waiting on some updates to the HCS voice packs for voice attack, which have now finally arrived. So I now just have to find some spare time to dedicate to it.

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connor_jones

Been watching this one from the sidelines for a couple years now. It does indeed seem that as many here have stated, they are doing what CIG should have done with Star Citizen; get the bare-bones game officially launched and keep adding content and improvements with expansions. That said, I’m waiting for ‘space legs’ before taking the plunge, though from what I understand that won’t be anytime soon.

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Sheryl Lard

yes! Launching as barebones is awesome. This ED game is such a best business practices example of barebones launches!
It’s mindboggling what genius strategy it is to postpone the implementation of base features forever, instead of actually working and showing progress. Frantic applause.

hurbster
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hurbster

Like bleedin’ clockwork, innit ?

cmdr_cotic
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cmdr_cotic

Nice, comprehensive write up MJ.

I think what surprised me the most was they said all of this was free for people that owned the Horizons expansion, that’s a pretty good deal tbh.

I really like the plans for squadrons and being able to purchase your own carrier, I hope that they do offer some sort of self suficiency although it would need some sort of limiting.
It’s great that they are going back over a number of features and fleshing them out and I can’t wait to see the changes to how planets look, what they showed in the stream was really cool https://imgur.com/a/9PMJ1

hjaish
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hjaish

> I really like the plans for squadrons

Given every other co-op multiplayer improvement FD added turned out severely broken and/or utterly lame (Wings, PowerPlay, Multicrew) it will be a miracle if this squadrons feature is any better.

> I think what surprised me the most was they said all of this was free for people that owned the Horizons expansion

You’d be less surprised if you considered how few people own Horizons. And then subtract those of them that are lifetime pass owners so are owed all updates free anyway.

Frontier really had no choice but to downgrade ED development to a few free minor improvements, as the have done. With the game earning very little apart from microtransaction cosmetics, it had no realistic chance of being able to fund a paid-for expansion that attained even the low bar set by Horizons, let alone attract sufficient players to make it worth the bother.

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shear

The game must be doing just fine financially for them to even consider rewriting planet generation, adding clutter generation and rewriting lighting in-game, these aren’t small tasks.

Them giving it away content updates for free is an apology for how badly Horizons were received.

These updates whilst scarce for the next year are definitely not “minor” improvements.

cmdr_cotic
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cmdr_cotic

Sorry but this sounds like complete supposition, you aren’t privvy to who owns what and how many copies of Horizons has sold.

Their financials shows them in very good place, ergo they are selling their games, but I guess they must be lying to their shareholders and it’s DOOM all the way down eh!

I find it exceedingly ironic that because they are giving this content away for free it somehow means it’s all falling apart for them, what sort of deluded logic is that? If it was any other game you’d be praising the developer’s appreciation towards its playerbase but because it’s Frontier and Elite you take the opposite stance….

hjaish
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hjaish

> you aren’t privvy to who owns what and how many copies of Horizons has sold.

Frontier told investors the uptake was disappointing. The Steam figures showed the same, before Frontier hid them by relisting Horizons as a DLC. The web stores show the number of people rating Horizons is tiny compared to the number rating the base game. Industry data shows the recent Legendary Edition including Horizons sold only a few thousand copies. If all that isn’t a good indicator of how few own Horizons, what is??

> Their financials shows them in very good place, ergo they are selling their games

No, no, no. Their financials show them in a good place because two months ago they sold a large chunk of the company to a Chinese free-to-play publisher. That sell-out was their only way to ensure they had enough money to finish their next game before going bust.

> I find it exceedingly ironic that because they are giving this content away for free it somehow means it’s all falling apart for them, what sort of deluded logic is that?

You missed the point. Giving some ED updates for free is not new and is not a problem. Being unable to produce any paid-for expansions (including the two big ones promised since 2014) for a whole year or more is a problem. Being unable to show a roadmap including ANY future substantial paid-for ED content is a problem.

This is a stockexchange-quoted company in business to make money and maintaining, supporting and running ED costs money, so if ED doesn’t pay its way, do you really think they are going to cover those losses out of pure generosity to a dwindling number of players? I don’t.

cmdr_cotic
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cmdr_cotic

Oh piss off with your completely made up bullshit.
You got banned from the Frontier forums for posting this nonsense recently, nobody is falling for your shit OldSchoolShadowrunner/Ursus or whatever else you choose to call your legion of alt accounts.

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CMDR Crow

I’m quite psyched for the next year. Baseline improvements and expansions coupled with a higher focus on more sticky narrative content sounds divine. Getting back to the Guardians and how everything will unfold vis-a-vis the Thargoids gets me excited.

Additional ships are greatly desired, here. I’m very much looking forward to trying out some new hulls. The Engineering buff should make for an EASY engineering process. Guess I should finally unlock Palin… *grumble grumble*

Audio GalNet is going to be amazing. Expansion and codification of the Squadrons alongside more interactive-sandbox-y elements is going to be amazing at the end of the year. Here’s hoping that includes BGS functionality to make the political/group elements better represented in the galaxy.

Exploration updates have me the most stoked (as an explorer, primarily.) Enough so that I may hold off on going into the black until they more-or-less hit. I have plenty of combat FA-off practice and a bit of Trading to do to get my other Elite ranks, still.

Right now I’m still chugging back from Colonia with only about 6k LY left. I’m actually on my way back because of the surprise addition of “Search and Rescue” in 2.4. I’m going to outfit a small craft and literally rescue hapless npcs for awhile.

hjaish
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hjaish

You made a mistake in the title. “big plans for 2018” should read “small plans for 2018”. Never before has ED got so little from one whole year of development.

And “all very significant expansion-esque updates”?? What’s significant is no mention of Braben’s long-promised space legs and atmospheric landings expansions.

In fact no mention of seasons or expansions at all. Or any major paid updates.

This feeble list of fixes and minor improvements is all Frontier can afford out of its micro-transaction cosmetic sales?

And what does it give Lifetime Expansion Pass owners who paid $195? Nothing.

Elite Dangerous R.I.P. 2018.

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PhoenixDfire

I was quite excited by the new ships, mechanics and new storylines they’re going to put in. I think you’re just upset because they’ve made a commitment for the next year and beyond.

Never Mind SC.3.0 will be coming soon, you can go away and play that instead.

hjaish
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hjaish

> they’ve made a commitment for the next year and beyond.

They made a commitment for next year (worth very little if their past commitments are anything to go by) but nothing for beyond.

Here is their own write-up of what they said, and it stops at the end of next year. https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php/383217-Frontier-Expo-2017-Recap

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PhoenixDfire

If you’d seen the footage then it’s pretty obvious from the planetary stuff that they’re preparing and overhauling the engine for Atmospherics probably sometime in 2019. That will probably be the next paid update, which LEPs and kickstarters will get for free.

hjaish
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hjaish

No-one in their right mind believes what they see in ED promo footage or preview photos. Three years of experience has taught us what Frontier eventually delivers is hugely inferior, every single time.

> it’s pretty obvious from the planetary stuff that they’re preparing and overhauling the engine for Atmospherics probably sometime in 2019.

Not obvious at all. All they’ve said is “We are revisiting the shaders and the graphs that generate our planets. We’ll be adding detail, contrast and colour for a richer more detailed, more realistic look.”

> That will probably be the next paid update,

Only an idiot would believe that. Frontier cancelled the season model and stopped talking about paid updates yonks ago. There’s nothing in this latest reveal of theirs even suggesting there will ever be another update big enough to charge for.

> which LEPs and kickstarters will get for free.

Kickstarters DON’T get paid expansions for free unless they paid extra for a LEP.

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PhoenixDfire

Sigh. You aren’t convincing anyone. You hate the game and the company because for some reason you feel they short changed you. Three years have taught me that the majority of the time, frontier knock it out of the park but that’s probably because I actually play the game not cry like a baby because they don’t design something exactly to your specifications.

You don’t like Elite or Frontier, we get that. Now please go away and play something that you can intellectually handle, like Angry Birds or Freelancer.

hjaish
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hjaish

> Three years have taught me that the majority of the time, frontier knock it out of the park

Do you wonder why so few people share that opinion? Elite Dangerous’ recent review ratings put in the bottom 20% of all Steam games. It’s DLCs average in the bottom 5%. There’s good reason for that.

> Now please go away

Now please grow up.

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PhoenixDfire

Sorry, I can’t hear you, I’m too busy enjoying playing Elite: Dangerous, Those new Thargoid encounters are awseome and you’re missing out. What a shame.

I take back that freelancer comment, go play BC3K (unpatched) instead, that’s more your level.

wpDiscuz