Frontier Developments, makers of the space-fighting simulation game Elite: Dangerous, announced a second season of expansions today at Gamescom in Germany. Titled Elite Dangerous: Horizons, season two will launch this Holiday with its first expansion Planetary Landings, featuring a seamless landing experience, without loading times, or breaks in gameplay.
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Players will be able to land anywhere on airless and uninhabited worlds, rocky or icy, moon sized or planetary sized. Gas giants and inhabited worlds will come in the future. These celestial bodies have already been generated to be as realistic as possible, using real data where available. All solar systems already released in season one were created after real-world principles, taking aggregation of matter in a system, planets colliding with each other, tidal heatings and bodies orbiting, into account. Volcanoes in Elite Dangerous are not random nor are they procedurally generated, but placed for a reason. Just like on earth, volcanoes can bring valuable resources to the surface to be exploited. Or “someone else can mine it for you and you can steal it from them”, David Braben, Founder and CEO of Frontier Developments, described merrily.
For transportation on the ground, vehicles will be used, ant-sized compared to Elite Dangerous’ current spaceships. The first revealed vehicle is the Scarab, a Surface Recon Vehicle. Buggies will be able to go up to around 100 miles per hour. Therefore driving around the equator of an earth-sized world would take you more than 10 days. On worlds with lesser gravity, driving at that speed and hitting a rock could be disastrous: You’d become airborne within moments. For that reason the Scarab has thrusters in its wheels, allowing you to slam back to the ground.
Planetary Landings is a seamless experience – spaceship pilots in orbit will be able to damage vehicles on the ground. Although too small to lock onto, a lucky strafing run could spell instant death for a buggy driver. Adventurous drivers can even try to damage spaceships.
In order to maintain a single community, players will be able to form wings across seasons. Elite Dangerous: Horizons content will affect Power play, therefore also affecting players without the second season. After all, everyone is inhabiting the same universe.
But planetary landings are not the only thing coming to Elite Dangerous, Braben also let us in on what coming with patches beyond this one, “we have get hinted at things that are coming to like crafting and [a] loot system, that will be in 2.1.” Brabren continued, “then there are lot of new things to come which we haven’t announced through the whole season.” So it looks like we will also be getting loot and crafting, and potentially a whole new slew of other features.
Elite: Dangerous is already one of the most complete VR enabled games available. While the title was not built for VR from the ground up like a number of the other games that will be launching with the headsets in the next six to eight months, it transitions well to VR because of its cockpit nature which severely cuts down on motion sickness potential. The game shows some of the warts associated with a port to VR, things like a difficult to read UI – but the game’s fans have found ways to help improve that experience by changing the color of the interface displays in the ship to green. Even with things like this in mind, Elite: Dangerous is one hell of a game at a mindboggling scale, which just got a whole lot bigger.