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Sunday 11 March 2018

Elite Dangerous - things I needed to know

I refrained from buying Elite Dangerous for a long time because I found the demo difficult to pick up.

The trouble is that this type of space game appeals to me, so eventually, when the price was reduced due to a special offer, I bought it.

Now this is when it got complicated. It is a very difficult game to learn and, in my opinion, the built-in tutorials are inadequate. It's one of those games where you need the Internet at hand beside you to learn even some of the basics!

The training missions only barely gave me enough confidence to start playing but I am glad I did.

There are plenty of guides and tutorials available on the internet, I'm not trying to repeat those. I have the Horizons add-on, the Commander edition and play on the Xbox One. Some of these comments may be specific to any or all of those.

This is a list of the things that I found confusing when starting out. I'll update this as things happen to me:

Lock on to a base before docking - the tutorial says, "get the speed and distance indicators in to the blue to approach a station." I could not see any blue for those on my HUD.

The training mission had neglected to highlight that you need to lock on to the space station using your target panel before the approach details will display at the bottom left of your main HUD.

Docking - Everyone needs to request docking. You can only do this when you get to less than 7.5km from the base or station.
Use the target panel, in the contacts tab, select the station name and select the request docking option.
I find manual docking tedious. The Auto-dock can do it much more accurately and a lot faster than I can.

Scanners need to be setup like weapons - you need to assign them to a weapons group. Target an object and hold down whatever fire button you assigned.

Discovery scanner - all ships start equipped with the basic one of those. Takes a while to charge while you hold down the trigger. Information about new planets etc. can be sold when you get over 20LY's away.

Planetary scanner - get close to a planet in super-cruise and you can scan the planet which is worth credits. [TBC: is the scan automatic?]

Scan a Nav Beacon - don't ignore them, they provide useful information about the system,  specifically where the bases are. I spent ages trying to find bases to drop deliveries off at before I read about Nav Beacons.
Drop out of super-cruise close to the Nav Beacon. The actual beacon will be near to where you originally targeted but for some reason not the actual position the target lock claims. Look on your scanner for a blue square. Aim your ship towards that and when in sight target it (press the 'A' key.) If it is the Nav Beacon your HUD should put pale blue chevrons either side. Get close, I'm not sure how close but I know it works at 50m. I keep bumping in to them I get so close! A message will display to let you know it is reading the data. It does not take long and the message will change when it is complete.
I have not confirmed but apparently an Advanced Discovery Scanner will do this at a longer distance.
Nav Beacons are a magnet for the unscrupulous so I tend to only use them when I don't already have enough information about a system.

Drop cargo - when a pirate asks for money you need to drop cargo to that value. There is no way to hand over cash, as far as I know. When you only get 10 seconds to do this, learning what and how is not an option!

Planetary flight - I found this very confusing to start with. I had assumed that super-cruise did not work for planetary flight. I was wrong.
As you approach a planet and pass under the blue line you enter orbital cruise automatically. This is super-cruise but with a different name!
If you deviate from about -5 to +60 degrees from the horizontal, for too long, you will drop out of orbital cruise and go slower.
If you stay within the light blue -5 to +5 scale you will orbit the planet very quickly. The closer to 0 degrees you can keep your flight the faster you go. Very easy to overshoot the target.
I found I had to keep dipping the nose down to see the target base. If there is a way to see it in the scanner I have not worked that out yet. When the angle to the base is greater than 45 degrees I tend to head down.
After a while, if you keep the correct angle, you will enter glide. This is also a fast means of travel. If you deviate too much you will drop out of glide and slow down considerably.
If you drop out too soon you need to decide if you want to escape orbit and try again or just keep going for the painfully slow approach in normal flight!
When approaching the planet surface you may need to brake rather than accelerate.

Mass Locked - This is the indicator under the fuel gauge and is on when near stations. It stops you charging your Frame Shift Drive (FSD) while it is lit. Once it goes out you can enter super-cruise or hyperdrive to jump out of the system.
There is also a Mass Lock factor explained in this linked article.

Combat - I've played the game for many, many hours and I've bought and equipped my third ship yet I have only been in three combat situations. The first, I was helped by a system defence vessel, which did all the hard work. The second I got destroyed before I even managed to enable my weapons but by the third I had equipped a fast ship that allowed me to run away when things got out of hand.

Guides, tips and tutorials that I found useful:

Starting out

HUD and controls - includes Xbox controls

Ship components


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