As you can all imagine, it’s been a busy week here and I’m sure that you’re all as excited by the announcement for Elite Dangerous: Horizons as we are! We’ve been working hard on this release for some time now so it’s a good feeling to be able finally talk about it. I hope you’ll indulge me a little if I take this week’s dev update to talk more about the teaser trailer and what’s coming with the new Elite Dangerous: Horizons season, and the first expansion of that season, Planetary Landings.
This first expansion kicks off with the ability to land on airless planets and moons. It’s a great technical step forward, and more adds a huge amount of gameplay.
Gameplay extends seamlessly from space to the surface, so that you and your Wing can take a mix and match approach to tackling missions. It also adds new types of missions to engage in. Scanning planets and moons from space is used to detect signals, crashed ships, mineral deposits, outposts and fortresses. Playing alone or with friends on the ground and in the skies above, you can explore, mine and engage hostile forces as you attempt to infiltrate strongholds guarding valuable rewards.
While flying above the surface in Orbital Cruise you can discover points of interest like landed ships and surface installations. There will be star ports on the surface which can be docked at, although you can land anywhere on the surface that takes your fancy long as the terrain is appropriate, all without loading screens or breaks in gameplay.
As you approach the planet surface the effect of gravity kicks in and changes the flight model and so giving you a new set of flying skills to master. And the 1:1 scale planets and moons take our fantastic simulation to a new level, allowing you to swoop though canyons and skim mountain-tops.
For closer interaction you can deploy a Surface Recon Vehicle (SRV) and drive to locations to discover new points of interest. The SRV allows you to get to places where your ship can’t and to interact with new elements for mining, exploration, combat and missions. This really extends the scale of the game downwards to something more human-sized – and you can appreciate how big even a Sidewinder is compared to the SRV, and how truly huge the planets are.
The first SRV is the Scarab that you see at the end of the teaser trailer. The Scarab is designed to cross the roughest terrain and has some very cool features, such as thrusters to help jump gulleys and surmount obstacles. The thrusters are also very useful for pushing you down onto the surface in low gravity environments, to give you grip where you need it.
Of course its a lot of fun just to blast round, explore and just take in the views, but again it’s both a new set of skills to learn and gameplay possibilities to integrate with the rest of Elite Dangerous. SRVs are very small, and difficult to track by flying spacecraft, and enable you to tackle some of the fortifications you’ll find planetside in a different way from what you can do in a spaceship.
There is a lot for even the most experienced pilots to get their teeth into, and of course there’s also the simple joy in being on the surface and watching the sun rise above the horizon (hence the name!). I’m looking forward to seeing the incredible new screenshots people will be able to share.
As with our previous major updates, the Elite Dangerous: Horizons season of content is more than just the headline features. We will also continue to expand and build upon what is already in game. This will include missions, player roles and events in the galaxy, and many other features we have not yet discussed.
Some of these additions will be exclusive to Elite Dangerous: Horizons’ season owners (and if you have the lifetime expansion pass then you of course get it automatically). Others may be more fundamental, or are needed for the whole player-base so will be available to all players.
Throughout the season there will be major updates adding features and content. One example, which we will be talking more about in the near future, is a new loot and crafting system which again we expect to transform the gameplay experience.
For now this is just a quick dip into what’s coming. We’ll reveal more details as we progress.
We have always been very clear about our intentions for paid major gameplay updates like this as we continue to deliver on our roadmap, and so developing the game towards our long term goals. And in 2015 we still have CQC to release on PC and Mac in September alongside the full Xbox release, and a further update at the time of Elite Dangerous: Horizons’ launch that will bring our total of playable ships up to 30!
What we are doing is new in many ways, both technically and in terms of how we are realizing our long term ambitions for Elite Dangerous. As we evolve the game we are trying to give the best value we can to both existing and new players, for the long term benefit of everyone. That’s why we’ve worked hard to keep backwards compatibility for the Elite Dangerous: Horizons season, and are continuing to release updates for ‘season one’ players. Everyone will continue to fly in the same galaxy, and be impacted by, participate in and help to drive the same events.