Choose My Adventure: The lonesome job of star charting in Elite Dangerous

    
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Today’s edition of Choose My Adventure features results that were both a landslide and extremely close. On the one hand, most people suggested that I trade in my current ship for a new one. On the other hand, by a margin of one vote, exploration won out as the activity. So it is that I continued my quest to map out the Elite Dangerous galaxy, or at least part of it anyway.

As for the new wings, almost every suggestion in the comments was for the Cobra Mk III, which was described as a ship that was just as versatile as the Sidewinder I started with. That prevailing opinion was right; the thing even looked quite a bit like the Sidewinder, only larger and flatter. To that end, I named it “Cheesegreater” to both honor the old ship and because I am extremely clever.

After the expense and a couple of new item installs for Cheesegreater, I picked a random star — Wolf 620 stuck out for obvious reasons, perhaps — and took the new ship for a spin to see what felt different. While this new spaceship didn’t have a lot of visual interest, its performance change was immediately apparent, especially in terms of fuel economy. While Cheesewedge crushed through fuel like a Hungry Hungry Hippo, Cheesegreater sipped on it like a debutante at a fancy ball.

Of course, this had the side effect of also requiring me to orbit a star for fuel scooping purposes longer. Making that many orbits around a star and slurping up its energy made me very good at the process, however. I managed to find a butter zone where I could scoop at 10.5 to 12.5 units a second without heating my ship up, which built up my personal confidence in managing Elite Dangerous’ many little underlying layers.

Mastery would soon give way to drudgery, unfortunately. After a certain point, I stopped orbiting stars for fuel at every jump and instead just leaped forward into the black as far as my range would take me, mapped out new destinations, and simply arrived to the closest station to refuel. This was significantly more efficient both in terms of time and expense, since the cartographic data I was selling was much greater than the cost of refueling.

In order to combat my building apathy towards the task of exploration, I tried a few things on top of skipping fuel scooping. I elected to mostly head to the center of the galaxy, where more stars were located. I put on some chill tunes and shut down the game’s otherwise mediocre soundtrack. I popped out of cockpit view at every open opportunity to see if I could snag some pretty pictures. No matter what I did, however, I wasn’t really able to jar myself out of the funk.

Perhaps the biggest issue I’m having with exploring in Elite Dangerous is the sense that I’m not trailblazing. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at this, since I am arriving to the game rather late in its life and am playing on a PvE server besides. Still, the thrill of discovery is… well… actually discovering something. There are a lot of stars around me, but even so it feels like most of them have been charted.

Worse yet is the feeling of emptiness. Again, probably not surprising because this is outer space, but the job of exploration really is a lonesome thing. That’s not to infer that I don’t see other folks online — there were more than a few ships at nearly every station I docked at, and we’ve been covering the massive event that many players are currently engaged in — but when the most exciting thing to happen to you is an attempted interdiction, perhaps it’s best to stop.

Ultimately, my exploration flying in Elite Dangerous has been valuable for a number of reasons. It’s absolutely made me plenty of credits and it was probably the best way to figure out how to play the game at a brass tacks level. After a certain point, though, you stop feeling like an explorer and more like you’re in an overly long tutorial, which isn’t helped by the fact that your discoveries technically aren’t.

Still, I get the impression that perhaps I’m doing exploration “wrong” somehow. Even with my perceptions about the activity, maybe there’s some piece of the puzzle that’s lost. Maybe I should have flown a whole lot deeper. Maybe I should have just sought out other explorers regardless. And even so, I feel like I’ve gotten the most out of this particular part of the game.

If players in Elite Dangerous needs some time to themselves to just chill and make some easy money, exploring comes highly recommended. Personally, though, I think it’s about time for me to press on to something different. Especially since the greatest bulk of my enjoyment while doing the Star Citizen CMA came from doing things with others.

Of course, what happens to me next in that regard is in the hands of voting fate. The first poll question seeks to address the loneliness that I’ve experienced in-game. Should I look for other folks in some way, or is it really just better to suck it up and continue to fly solo?

How should I seek out new people in Elite Dangerous, if at all?

  • Multi-Crew. Take your Holo-Me out for some holo-adventures. (17%, 22 Votes)
  • Wings. Find or form a wing and join in on some stuff. (56%, 70 Votes)
  • Fly solo. It ain't worth the time or trouble. (27%, 34 Votes)

Total Voters: 126

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Next poll, unsurprisingly, is the next activity to pursue. I’m going to leave exploration from the selections for what should be obvious reasons, and what I do next will pretty much depend on how the voting goes in the first question. Even so, I’m not against merging the whims of the polls into my activities. If either mining or trucking wins out, for example, I’ll certainly split that up between whatever group activities I may be asked to do.

Incidentally, if group activities do win out, I’m wide open to suggestions of wings to join or friend invites for Multi-Crew shenanigans. So long as you don’t mind me taking screenshotted evidence of our shared experiences.

So, how about it, CMDRs? What next?

What should I do next in Elite Dangerous?

  • Mining. Shoot the space rocks and see if you're good at cargo scooping. (14%, 20 Votes)
  • Space trucker. Use the Cheesegreater as a hauler for profit. (12%, 18 Votes)
  • Combat. Whether nav beacons or missions, blow up ALL the things. (43%, 62 Votes)
  • Piracy. Do illegal stuff and see where being a dirty, dirty pirate takes you. (31%, 45 Votes)

Total Voters: 145

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As usual, polls will be closing up at 1:00 p.m. EST this coming Friday, January 18th. For the time being, I’m going to perhaps press on with my exploratory efforts and see if maybe I’ve missed something. See you then!

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Chris each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures – and you get to decide his fate. Which is good because he can often be a pretty indecisive person unless he’s ordering a burger.

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Tara Wadsworth

As one of the many community admins for the PvE group that you are playing in, my recommendation is for you to connect with the community, join the discussions and connect with players in your time zone. From there, get into wings to complete community goals, go bounty hunting or just have some shenanigans.

I hope you don’t mind, but after stumbling across your column, I kind of plugged it on our Facebook page.

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PhoenixDfire

As other commentators have pointed out, in order to make your mark, you need to fly out at least 2000ly away from Earth and not in the direction of the centre of the galaxy. That is a well trod path and you’ll feel that you’re going where everyone has gone before (Que jokes about ex-partners here). Taking the detailed surface scanner with the probe launcher is also a necessity. But you learn’t the hard way, that if you have the fuel tank space, jump until you need to scoop, otherwise it does you’re head in.

Yes I would recommend a combat in a wing next. When it works, it can show off the game at it’s best. Get a wing, head to a low conflict zone or bounty hunt at a resource zone and cash in those bounties. If there is one thing that Elite:Dangerous does right is Ship to Ship combat. If you loved the X-wing/Tie Fighter games, then this is part of the game for you.

Chestnut Bowl
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Chestnut Bowl

Exploration really is for people who just like to see what’s out there, or for people who want to see how far they can travel. Certainly, some may not like the amount of solo time, but I love it.

I don’t know what to recommend, as I prefer to play Elite solo (and exploration is the best for that: no griefers, no pirates, no annoying chatter). Maybe look up the Anti-Xeno Initiative (AXI) and learn to fight against thargoids.

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Annoyed badger

exploration is elite is about finding the great screenshot, a tripple star sunrise over the bleak surface of a barren mood, emerging from teh umbra of a gas giant as you skim the surface of its ring system, pushing the boundaries of your ships heat capacity as you try to get to that tiny world in close orbit round a massive star…..

There are plenty of undiscovered stars out there, it would take lifetimes for the entire playerbase to map everything….but close to the bubble its going to be charted. you probably want an ASP explorer as teh first ship you really take out to chart really new stuff. Its jump range, even the non-engineered version, is just so much better .

That said, i’d try a few different things out, sticking to one thing is not really going to keep you engaged imo.

Space is big, its empty and its lonely….Elite is pretty good at simulation, so you are buying into the fantasy, if you want thrilling excitement, explortation in elite is not for you, you’d be better with a more fantasy based Sci fi space game.

Xijit
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Xijit

This weekend I was watching Game Of Thrones on my phone while I had my Asp parked next to a Sun with my Fuel Scoop open.

It was sort of an epic RP moment when I looked up from my phone to check my heat level and fuel gauge … Like if I was a real spaceship pilot, I could totally see myself slacking off to watch a movie with my feet up on on the console instead of dutifully monitoring my gauges as the tank fills.

Xijit
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Xijit

See how big of a passenger cabin you can fit and then take on a tourist mission: they are generally good money & will give you a sinse of direction to your exploration.

They will give you a series of systems they want to visit, and maybe a side objective or two, and you can scan the systems you jump through along the way for extra cash on top of the mission reward.

(Just be careful about reading the mission descriptions to see if you are taking on a passenger who is a wanted criminal or you will have a very bad time when the cops scan you)

Xijit
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Xijit

Also, try out the Arena mode to get a better taste of combat … I thought I would hate it, but it isn’t bad.

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Tobasco da Gama

Still, I get the impression that perhaps I’m doing exploration “wrong” somehow.

I mean… not particularly.

Only a handful of players get to truly “discover” anything beyond “oh, hey, this system has an Earth-like world in it!” Even with as rare as those are, even that thrill gets old after a while.

The Lagrangian Clouds stuff is properly new, but I’m pretty sure it’s all been thoroughly catalogued by now. You might discover a Lagrangian Cloud in a system where nobody knew there were Lagrangian Clouds before, but that’s about it.

That being said, you need to go pretty far out to actually find Undiscovered systems and planets, if that’s what you’re looking for. Almost everything within 1500 light years or so has been scanned already.

One of the Engineers requires you to go at least 5000 LY from your starting point anyway, and once you get that far out almost every system you visit will have that Undiscovered tag on it. My big recommendation to new explorers is to get like a Diamondback or Asp Explorer, get some basic engineering upgrades from Felicity Farseer, and plan a long-haul trip past the 5k line. Or just do the Colonia or Colonia-Core circuit like I did. But that requires a ton of patience and would cut out a lot of time for doing other stuff you’ll want to do for your column.

StuartGT
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StuartGT

Still, I get the impression that perhaps I’m doing exploration “wrong” somehow.

Yes. Overall, this was an odd article – it reads like you were purposefully trying to “explore” in the most boring fashion possible and actively avoiding finding anything interesting to see.

In your previous CMA Exploration article you describe visiting stations, mining outpost, and an asteroid base. The available facilities, the ATC voices and environment details. And includes multiple screenshots of things you’ve seen.

In this article it appears you’ve avoided seeing (describing at least, or including pictures of): the many different stations & interiors, including ones in asteroids; orbiting outposts; planetary stations, installations, and Engineers bases; Guardian ruins; Thargoid bases; lore sites like Davs Hope; eclipses like Mitterand Hollow; nebulae; Neutron stars and black holes. The variety of NPCs going about their activities (since you seemed to mostly confine yourself to the Human Bubble). And one screenshot of actual exploration (your Cobra and a star in backdrop).

Quick searches for “best places to visit in Elite Dangerous” or “places to visit in the Elite Dangerous bubble”, joining a player-group for guidance, asking in any of the social forums (official, Reddit, Discord, etc) for suggestions, or even contacting the multiple players who offered to help via previous articles’ comment sections, would all have enabled you to not hamper (nerf? ha!) your gametime and sight-seeing activities. All very normal researching to do when experiencing a new MMO in a short timeframe because article series.

A very unusual write-up.

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agemyth 😩

My brief experience with multi-crew a few months ago was laughable, and a bad experience for trying to play a video game. I don’t follow the game closely so I don’t know how common that experience was, but it seemed more proof-of-concept than fully implemented feature.

Flying with a group seems like an obvious good idea here.

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Matt Comstock

I gave Elite: Dangerous a try on my PS4 last weekend. I am a terrible pilot, and worse at combat– likely a function of my poor piloting skills. Although, I likely just need more practice getting comfortable with the controls. The game did feel lonely, so I would suggest you try to find some others and form a wing or group or whatever its called for this game. Next weekend, I plan to give mining a try, so, clearly, you should too.

CapnLan
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CapnLan

Good to see you like the Cobra. It’s a solid ship through and through and will serve you well on your journey.

The main reason you feel like you aren’t trailblazing is because you aren’t. In order to actually discover new things you need to leave “The Bubble”. The Bubble is a term we use for human populated space. It looks like a bubble on the map when you set filters on the power play tab. You need to leave that space if you want to be an explorer.

I would say at least 5,000 light years away is a good place to start. Less that 1% of the galaxy has been explored at current date. There is plenty left to explore but you have to leave populated space to go and see it. That means no more space stations to refuel at. So get a larger fuel scoop and get out in “The Black” if you really want to explore. I would say the next ship on the line is a Diamond Back Explorer if you really want to get into exploration. It has longer jump range and can fit a good fuel scoop. Asp Explorer is a classic and the new Krait Phantom is outstanding but most likely outside your budget.

Real exploration takes time though. For example on my exploration journey to Colonia (22,000 light years from The Bubble) took me 2 weeks real time as I didn’t take a direct route and stopped to map unexplored systems that looked interesting. I also had a beefy engineered Anaconda which helps so for an unengineered Cobra it might be rough. It’s doable though. People have made it to Beagle Point (64,000 light years from The Bubble) in a Sidewinder. Those people suffer from the Space Madness though.

As for what you should do next, try some combat to spice things up. Fit out your Cobra with some nice guns and shields (or maybe consider saving up for a Vulture) and go shoot things in Low Res sites. Do NOT go into Hazardous Res sites right no unless you have a decent Wing with you right now. Haz Res has no cops to help you whereas Low Res does. You can shoot a wanted ship and then the cops will help you when they shoot you back. Basic low level combat tactics is to tag a wanted ship and then let the cops help you. Do not shoot the cops though. They WILL attack you back as a criminal as you assaulted an officer. So learn to check you fire.

For PVE I rather like Pulse lasers and multicannons. I do use Beam lasers after I’ve engineered them though. PVE isn’t terribly difficult though so you can use whatever you like. It doesn’t matter too much as long as the enemy ship explodes. To start, use Gimballed weapons as they track the enemy. Fixed weapons do not. You have to manually point and aim. Gimballs are good to start with as flying in combat will take a bit to get used to. PVP is a completely different animal and you need a different loadout to deal with that but I’m not the guy to ask on those.

So yeah, grab a buddy or two and hit up some shooty space laser combat would be my suggestion this time around. Just make sure you NEVER FLY WITHOUT REBUY. If you can’t cover the cost of your ship exploding then DO NOT FLY IT. Do some light trucking or whatever to cover your insurance costs. THEN you can go do shooty space lasers.