With the Frontier Expo slowly closing down, we finally know what the future brings for the universe of Elite Dangerous…

The reveal of plans for Elite Dangerous definitely made the finale of Frontier Expo, and by the sound of it – Frontier made a sound decision not to set anything in stone like they did for Horizons. There are no dates, no patch names or specific highlights – but there’s a solid idea and a plan for the upcoming year.

Starting off the bat – we are promised major changes to the engineers. Nothing was mentioned about requirements and material grinding, however – every roll will be better than the previous one. This surely won’t be stackable to infinity, but it’s great to hear we won’t have to spend hundreds of rolls only to get a decent upgrade.

Next up – the crime and punishment system. Again, no details are currently known, but it looks like the base of it will be in the hands of a highly buffed and responsive local system authority that will intervene when commanders start being mischievous.

Elite Dangerous Ice planet artwork

Traders will be pleased to hear that the game will be updated with new ways of finding out the relevant materials, as well as new tools that will show accurate and up-to-date info on commodity prices. This means we can finally stay ingame to do the trade runs instead of toggling various websites searching for trade data that might not even be accurate by the time you reach the destination system.

For all combat oriented pilots, Frontier is preparing new types of missions that will require full wings and have challenging objectives. Planets are also getting some love with the new and improved planet textures that will feature more varieties and be powered by new shaders.

Narrative

Players will be given a “personal progression” system that will enable commanders to unlock unique ship modules and weapons. Some new items were shown, but no details were provided during the event. One of the cool new features that will be implemented in the game is definitely Galnet Audio – a feature that was requested many times by the community. Basically, it will be possible to browse galaxy news while flying your ship. The best part – it will be completely voiced over so you can freely keep on doing whatever you’re doing.

New ships

The design team has been working on (quote) “A lot more ships” for the upcoming major update next year. The majority of the ships will be a combined effort by the Alliance and Lakon. So far, only two new ships have been revealed: The Chieftain, which is more of a combat vessel designed with the new Thargoid threat in mind, and the Krait – which will be familiar to Elite veterans and the early games in the series.

Elite Dangerous Chieftain

The biggest update is planned for Q4 2018 which will bring the so much needed social aspect to the game that Frontier calls “Squadrons”. Basically it’s a form of ingame community, a guild, a corporation if you like. Squadrons will have a full-featured membership system with a hierarchy, enhanced methods of communications and even the option to buy and own fleed carriers that will serve as large dockable vessels with refuel, rearm and respawn abilities.

Mining and exploration

As promised before – Frontier is going back to fix the core basics of the game this time, rather than adding more shallow features. Mining will be the first on the list with revisited modules and new mining-specific tech that will enable new ways of finding and extracting ore. Explorers will also be very happy to hear that Frontier will be implementing a personal exploration codex which will serve as an encyclopedia which will log new discoveries, give more details about discoveries and provide hints on more things out in the black that the players will be able to find. One of the examples were new spatial anomalies.

The universe itself will also get a graphics bump with new improved lighting, new way the environments are generated (especially on planet surfaces), and new effects like fog and vapour.

There were no mentions of any new planet types or station/ship walking.

Elite Dangerous Thargoid

Now… the bad news is, most of these changes won’t be available for at least one more full year. The good news is that everything mentioned will be completely free for all Horizons owners. Also, even though the majority of the features listed in the upcoming yearly plan is nothing “major” like planetary landings was – it’s probably for the best for Frontier to not overpromise or overcomplicate their own promises at this point and just stick to something that is actually doable in the given time, something that will be polished and tested before pushing into production.