Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Byte: Elite: Dangerous - Beta 2 thoughts incoming

Just a short post to reassure anyone looking for updates/tutorials about the new systems and features in Elite: Dangerous Beta 2, I will be writing about them soon. Things have been rather hectic here with the day (and, all too often, night) job - one of the disadvantages of being a teacher is that around certain crunch times (such as the UCAS application deadline) you have more work than can fit into a 70 hour week, let alone the 40 hour week that I'm paid for. Not that I'm moaning, you understand - I love my job, especially the work I get to do with Sixth Formers, trying to ensure that they make it into appropriate university courses or apprenticeships, but when you add that to all the lesson planning, admin and marking you have to do, boy, it cuts down on your gaming time. Unless, of course, you choose to sacrifice sleepy time, which is a bit of a false economy, anyway, because if I'm asleep, at least I could be dreaming about flying around in my Iron Ass Cobra Mark III...

Oh, yes. The in-game 3D engine dreams have started, which is a sure sign that I've been playing the game too much, but it has been one of the only ways I've been able to get flying time over the last week or two since Beta 2 was released. Tonight I downloaded the 2.06 patch, but I've not had chance to try it yet, but I'm hoping that it will give me a few more frames per second in the resource gathering sites, as between 2.03 and 2.05 I've noticed a big performance hit (up to 20fps) in the rings, which makes bounty hunting (my primary source of income at the moment) a risky proposition, particularly in terms of lag making you collide with asteroids, or (even worse) accidentally hitting Federation Eagles as they swoop into your line of fire in pursuit of a Wanted felon.

I've not checked all my stats recently, but I must be knocking on for over 200 hours played so far, and I've got over 850 kills on the board, but I'm just as taken with the game now as I was when I first started playing the Premium Beta. The Outposts add variety and make the galaxy feel a little more populated, plus the revised bulletin board mission system gives you an extra career path to build up the initial capital to allow you to ditch the Sidewinder for something rather more combat-worthy. I loved my time in the Eagle in Beta 2. It was a wretched little ship in Beta 1 - hobbled by a poor hyperspace range and a substandard power plant - but the ship upgrade system has transformed all that - it's a vicious little thug of a ship now, though unfortunately a little too fragile to try taking on Elite Anacondas... I'll talk more about the ship upgrades when I do a proper update summarising all the changes, but broadly speaking, I've found Beta 2 to be a bigger, richer, more vibrant place than Beta 1.
They all say that...

I probably won't be able to raise enough cash to trial the new Asp Explorer before Beta 3 is due at the end of the month, but it looks like an epic ship. Six weapon hardpoints, a bigger cargo capacity than a Type 6 Transporter and pretty agile in the hands of a good combateer, especially if you upgrade the power plant and thruster modules. I can't wait to fly one, but I'm going to have to, as I'm about 2.5 million credits short of being able to buy one, and finding good trade routes these days is much harder than it was in the 1,200Cr profit per tonne days of early Beta 1. Instead, the blood of many a Wanted NPC is going to have to lubricate my way into the cockpit of the Asp, and even with the much better bounties in Beta 2, that's going to take a while.

I have been able to spend some time exploring the outer reaches of "The Pill", the expanded region of space, containing over 550 systems (compared to Beta 1's 55 star systems), and it would appear that my ambition of being able to circumnavigate the Milky Way in the full release of the game is a) somewhat ambitious, and b) going to be a massive time sink. I'm still going to try it, though. As soon as they implement fuel scoops and I can find a frame shift drive that will increase the hyperspace range of my ship to something of the order of 20-25 light years. Currently, I can get 15 l.y. out of my Cobra, which is pretty good, but in the far recesses of the galactic arms, I suspect that some of the gaps between star systems might be a bit further than that. I guess I'll find out when I get there. Even with a relatively tiny fraction of the galaxy to play with so far, I've still managed to find some interesting features in the star systems you can reach now. I think my favourite so far is the sun-grazing ring system at Wunjo 1, which might possibly be the brightest ring system in the entire universe.
Lying in wait
A Convocation of Eagles
The brightest planetary ring in the universe

I've no idea what those rings are made of (surely too close to the star for them to be ice?), but, crikey, that's one hell of a view.

I've also been trying to keep up making a few combat videos, while I've been testing some of the new weapons in Beta 2 (again, more on those in future posts), so I thought I'd add in the widgets to my last two videos, where you can see me testing out the beastly overcharged gimballed multi-cannons, firstly using an Eagle, and then with my trusty, Sucker Squadron Classic Wireframe Cobra Mark III. Enjoy, and good hunting, Commanders!

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