The latest Elite Dangerous: Horizons beta test is in full swing, with updates that will have a big impact on the core mechanics of the game. The update aims to balance the game even further, whilst giving Powerplay some love at the same time.

Once again, Frontier has taken into consideration a lot of community feedback, especially tweaks and suggestions that are tied to PvP and player interaction. Among other things, PowerPlay is getting the first round of overhauls in hope that it comes back as an actual relevant part of the game, and not something people keep avoiding due to illogical NPC behaviour.

Also, in this patch iteration, some Engineering items and blueprints will be changed so their use is more spread, with focus on combat related items.

Powerplay

Logistics consolidation

Issue: Players have limited means to combat internal sabotage by preparing expensive systems that drag a power into a CC deficit.

Fix: Allow players a democratic vote to slow, or even stop preparation for the cycle.

  • The preparation top ten becomes a top nine.
  • In place of position ten is a new entry that looks substantially different from the other system preparation entries.
  • This new entry is called logistics consolidation. It signifies a brake for expansion on any systems placed below it in the top ten.
  • Players can no longer nominate systems to increase their preparation in the top ten.
  • Instead, in the overview selection screen, players can vote for either continued expansion or logistics consolidation.
  • The ratio of votes determines the position of the logistics consolidation entry in the top ten.
  • At 25% votes in favour of logistics consolidation, the maker reaches 5th position.
  • At 50% votes the marker sits at 2nd position.
  • At 75% votes the marker sits in the number 1 position.
  • A small number of expansion votes are precast to ensure that the marker does not jump straight to position one after one vote.
  • At the end of the cycle when the power is spending CC to purchase expansion attempts, when it reaches the logistics marker all remaining CC is used up, preventing the purchase of expansion attempts further down the list.
  • For each 10 CC consumed in this manner, the success trigger for undermining control systems belonging to the power increases by 1%, up to a cap of 50% (assuming 1000 CC was consumed) in the following cycle.
  • The overview selection screen also clearly explains how logistics works and shows the current voting ratio for logistics consolidation versus continued preparation.

Powerplay AI and system security updates

Issue: players pledging to a power are constantly targeted by NPC power ships regardless of their intentions. Additionally, police response in high security systems makes Powerplay activities overly dangerous.

Fix: Powerplay NPCs use more discerning rules to decide when to engage pledged players, only doing so if the player is actively taking part in a Powerplay activity. In addition, Powerplay NPC ship spawn rates are rebalanced to use less traffic, and authority response to Powerplay crimes are rebalanced to allow Powerplay activities in high security systems.

  • Replace Powerplay pirates and assassins with a single pirate archetype that can perform both duties, reducing the number of Powerplay ships needed to spawn in a system.
  • Ensure that Powerplay aggressive ships (essentially defence ships and assassins/pirates) will only decide to attack players if the following criteria are met:
    • The player is pledged to an opposing power
    • The player is carrying Powerplay commodities of the controlling system‘s power OR the player has unclaimed kill vouchers for Powerplay ships of the controlling system’s power OR the player is wanted in the system
      • The NPC ship must perform a manifest (cargo) scan to gain knowledge of carried Powerplay commodities and Powerplay kill vouchers.
      • The NPC ship must perform a basic scan to gain knowledge of wanted status, as per normal.
      • Additional comms responses are used to inform the player of proceedings.
  • When a player pledged to an opposing power commits a violent crime against a ship (NPC or human) pledged to the power controlling the system, the security rating of the system is halved (or reduced even more if necessary) when considering how fast police arrive and the strength of the police. This allows players to carry out illegal but necessary Powerplay activities in high security systems without being mobbed by overwhelming authority forces, whilst still retaining high security for non-Powerplay crimes.
  • Aggressive Powerplay ships now all have interdictors.
  • Powerplay pirates will only visit control systems.

Success value tweaks

Issue: players were able to gain success in opposition and undermining through undesirable exploits, such as collusion piracy.

Fix: success value tweak and bug fix.

  • Powerplay commodities will only be worth a single unit of success when used for undermining.
  • Powerplay undermining and opposition vouchers can only be obtained from ships belonging to the Power expanding in to or controlling the system.

Weapons

Fixed vs Gimbal Weapons

We think there’s still too big a gap between fixed and gimballed weapons – fixed weapons do have a substantially higher damage in most cases, but this isn’t offsetting the current benefit to time-on-target the gimbals provide. We’d like to make the choice between these two more interesting, but without making the raw damage gap wider. To do this we’re looking at giving fixed weapons improvements to efficiency and their ability to sustain fire, and making gimbals less of a guarantee to hit – they will still perform the intended job of levelling the playing field a little for new players or those using less accurate control systems, but do so in a hopefully more interesting way and to a slightly lesser extent.

  • Increase Clip sizes for all fixed Multicannons to 100 (from 90).
  • Clean up reload time for all fixed multicannons, it is now 4 for fixed and 5 for gimbals.
  • Clip size for all fixed cannons increased to 6 from 5.
  • Reload time for all fixed cannons reduced to 3 from 4.
  • Increase Ammo reserve sizes for all fixed cannons (100 -> 120).
  • Reduce weapon capacitor drain by 10% for all fixed pulse/burst/beam weapons.
  • Gimbal weapons tracking angle now linked to the ship sensors, and rebalanced.

In general with a high-end sensor you should have similar gimbal tracking as before, but with the maximum angle reduced from 30 degrees to 22.5 degrees (approximately the same size as the hardpoint HUD ring). With weaker sensors the tracking angle reduces, in a similar way to how distant/cold targets currently reduce this size, in the worst case with the weakest sensors the angle will be slightly more than half of what it is currently. Broken sensors will also disable gimbals - In a future build we’d like to make sensors explicitly targetable, but need more time to think through the ramifications.

Defending modules

We want players to have a little more choices available to defend their modules once shields are down, and reduce the reliance on a shield-heavy metagame.

  • Add Module Defence Packs purchasable in outfitting.

These modules are a lot like Hull Reinforcement Packs, but provide no hull health and instead act to protect modules. Each Module Defence Pack has two key stats: what percentage of damage it can absorb, and its own health. When weapon damage would hit a module the defence pack will absorb a portion of that damage to its own health pool, until it becomes broken and no longer functions. Multiple Module Defence Packs will apply multiplicatively (so two 60% absorption packs will absorb a total of 84% of damage (1-0.4*0.4). However they will only protect against direct damage that penetrates the hull, and cannot help against indirect sources like emergency drops or heat. These packs can be repaired by AFMs. Hardpoints only receive half protection from these modules.

We’re hoping that this addition gives people a way of defending their key modules once shields are down, and continue the fight past this point. It’ll be interesting to see if this opens up options in the meta that move away from relying on titanic shields and fleeing as soon as they burst.

Cannons

These weapons are relatively powerful, but generally not enough to offset their current downsides. They’re also one of the weapons that have the highest difficulty to use when fixed rather than gimballed, so we’d like to reward players that can do so successfully a little more.

  • As mentioned in Fixed vs Gimbal Weapons, all fixed cannons have increased clip size, reload time and ammo reserve. These changes work out to an 8% sustained DPS boost.
  • All Gimbal/Turreted Cannon damage increased by 15%.
  • All Fixed Cannon damage increased by 25%.

Plasma Accelerators

These weapons have many of the same drawbacks as cannons, with the added cost that they are very power hungry and hot. Rather than just buffing them to be “hot purple cannons” we’d like to carve out a distinct role for these powerful weapons – breaking through the heavy damage resistance of tough engineered vessels.

The Buff here was probably a bit too large, the calculations for how big a penalty the switch to Absolute damage would be for non-engineered targets was done with some changes to shield resistance in mind (which we've since decided aren't a good idea), and not updated correctly. This is still a buff in all cases (of 16% sustained DPS in the smallest case), but it's baseline damage isn't high enough to make it a clear choice over alternatives against all targets.

  • Plasma Accelerators now have access to the Plasma Slug special effect, which allows them to consume fuel rather than ammo.
  • Reload time for all plasma accelerators has been reduced to 6 seconds from 8. Which is about an 11% increase to sustained DPS.
  • All Plasma Accelerator damage increased by 35%.
  • All Plasma Accelerator damage increased by 10%.
  • Plasma Accelerators now totally ignore damage resistances and deal Absolute damage.


These changes relate to each other: against stock ships, switching to Absolute damage is a penalty that offsets the damage buff a bit. Against heavily hardened ships it is a huge win. In practice we expect this to work out to between a 15% and 250% (yes, 250%) 200% damage buff depending on your target, with the upper end requiring massive damage resistance from multiple engineered defences. Note that ignoring damage resistances means that any kinetic/thermal/explosive multipliers are ignored, but currently damage resistance from SYS pips still applies, this is under consideration.

Beam vs Burst Lasers

At the moment these two weapons fill a similar role in a lot of ways. Beams see a fair amount of use but there is not a clear reason for people to choose burst laser. We’d like to adjust the trio of Pulse/Burst/Beam so that there is a clear choice that leads to each weapon: Pulse is the efficient compromise, Burst is the most efficient at turning WEP energy into damage but requires a lot of reactor power and increases heat, Beam generates substantially the most DPS, but drains WEP heavily and generates the most heat.

  • As mentioned in Fixed vs Gimbal Weapons, all fixed pulse/burst/beam weapons have 10% reduced draw from the WEP capacitor.
  • Reduce main reactor power requirements of Beam weapons (10%).
  • Reduce WEP draw of burst weapons by 15%, (fixed get both buffs and have a total reduction of 23.5%). Burst lasers are now the most Damage-per-Energy efficient of these three weapons.


A few people are validly concerned that the efficiency boost to burst lasers makes them a new de-facto choice over pulse lasers, which while they do need a buff isn't the intent. For now we're not making changes but are keeping an eye on it and would appreciate feedback when you get access. One compromise might be to give them near-equivalent efficiency but leave the burst laser as a trade of slightly more damage for substantially more heat/power.

Torpedos

These weapons are punished too heavily by ECM at the moment. We’re going to make a focused change and see how things settle before further adjustments.

  • Rather than ECM permanently breaking a torpedo’s guidance, it will now lose tracking for (2-8 seconds) and then re-acquire a target. ECM will buy you time, but it won’t stop the danger by itself.

Slugshots: Frag Cannons

Slugshots: Frag Cannons have immense burst DPS until their clip runs dry, but were not pulling their weight in most combat situations. Their current incarnation has lead to them being used by a very small number of people, and most commonly in ambush/griefing attacks. We’d like to make them more widely useful without losing their distinguishing traits.

  • Slugshots: Frag Cannons all have their reload time reduced to 2.5 seconds from 5 seconds.
  • Slugshots: Frag Cannons all have their armour piercing reduced (to 15/25/35 for Small/Medium/Large, from 20/35/52)
  • Slugshot: Frag Cannon ammo capacity increase from 90 to 180.

The Effect of this is that their burst DPS against shields is unaffected, but because of the reduced armour piercing they lose a fair bit of burst damage against hull, which should reduce the “one-shotting” nature they can have, while retaining full damage against shields. The reload time reduction gives them an 85% increase to sustained damage, and doubling their reserve means they can keep this up for longer. Slugshots: Frag Cannons are now one of the highest raw DPS weapons available - offset by their short range, the difficulty of hitting small targets with multiple projectiles and their reduced ability to damage hulls.

Railguns

These weapons are very under-used at the moment, but we’re holding off on changes to them until we see how related changes take effect. Already in this build the Module Defence Packs will likely increase the reliance on hull and make module sniping more useful, and changes to NPC accuracy with railguns should make them less uncannily good with them. Our best guess is that they need a heat reduction, and the ability to pierce all or some of the absorption of Module Defence Packs, but this will be considered later.

Missiles

Missiles feel like they need some improvements again, but as with railguns, we need to see how things settle again before changing things further – they could be extremely powerful if hull-tanking becomes more common.

Reboot/Repair and Shields

We’re making a change to reboot/repair and how it interacts with shields - primarily as an experiment to see how it reduces downtime between combats, especially for ships with very large shields.

We agree there are potential in-combat abuses of this generally by faster ships FA-OFF boosting and then repairing, so we're making a small tweak to how this process works. Reboot/repair still behaves as normal, if you're near-stationary (below 50 m/s) when the process completes you'll get your shields back, if you're moving too fast this will disrupt the process and you'll be left shieldless.

  • Reboot/Repair will now jump-start shields to 50% on completion, if moving slowly.