I mentioned in the last post how important immersion is for me as a player of video games. It’s why I spent as much time as I did in EVE Online and why I loved Vanguard so much despite its many problems. So when I start talking about Elite: Dangerous it’s worth starting to break down why it works so well in this capacity. Also I want to yammer a bit about approaching the game.
To start, though, I should probably talk about my setup, because that can make a huge difference to a game like this. I am not playing in VR, nor with head-tracking, a fancy projector setup or a cool custom cockpit. All that stuff would be awesome, to be sure. But I am playing using Voice Attack along with one of the HCS Voice Packs, and I have a HOTAS. This last is the relatively affordable Thrustmaster T-Flight X model rather than any of the Saitek rigs or the crazy-expensive Warthog. While I would like more buttons and maybe some switches, the T-Flight X is quite decent and has served me well so far. I also just have the one monitor, which is a 31.5″ 1080p television. And my rig itself is nothing special, an $800 off-the-shelf Asus running Windows 10 (as I recall, you need at least Windows 8 to run Voice Attack.) Elite: Dangerous runs on it with no performance issues.
Not counting the PC all this cost maybe $125, including the game itself and the Horizons expansion pass. If you wait for a sale through Steam you can get both for something like $30, although to be honest I would recommend that a newbie grab the base game first and feel it out for a bit before dropping the extra dough on the expansion. Horizons does add a great deal to the game, even three-fifths finished as it is, but some of that (in the form of improved missions, more ships and the passenger stuff) is available to everybody anyway.
Probably the single biggest addition to immersion is the HOTAS. The game is playable with the mouse and keyboard, is improved by the addition of a flight stick but is better still after adding a throttle. There is a significant learning curve to the HOTAS controls, mind, and you may also be fussing with your bindings for a while. But the conceit of Elite: Dangerous, that you are a pilot flying a spaceship, is immeasurably enhanced by the addition of actual flight controls. Skilled FPS folks might say that they get better performance using the keyboard and mouse, and they may be right. But the experience is vastly superior with the HOTAS.
I also preferentially play in a dark room. And when I’m making trade runs I have the game’s music off and my own tunes in the background. I installed the lightweight mp3 player AIMP3 for this. It handles playlists so I have put together a few containing suitable music; Blue Öyster Cult, Hawkwind, Tangerine Dream, Ozric Tentacles and Amon Düül II have featured prominently. Last night was Yes.
My in-game activities have been mostly non-combat ones. I did do some early bounty hunting, but of late have been trading and running missions. My eventual goal is exploration; the rig that I’m shooting for will cost another 4 million credits or so, but I’m earning pretty well right now. A single mission can net me over 100k, and I found a single-hop trade run carting medical supplied to an Outbreak system that was pulling in about 70k per round trip. But that did dry up after a few days.
As a starting player some will have you believe that bounty hunting is the way to go. And indeed you can make a good amount of money at it even in the starter ship. But you need to find good places to hunt in (look for resource extraction sites in systems with ringed planets,) you run the risk of getting in over your head and relying on the authorities for help, and there’s a fair bit of waiting around for hostiles in the low-intensity areas that are suitable for newbie bounty hunters. Right out of the gate, though, you can add to this income with some low-volume cargo runs and running your Discovery Scanner in every system you visit. And I strongly recommend doing some travel, just to see the sights.
I should caution that Elite: Dangerous can be grindy. It’s not the grindiest thing I’ve played by a long shot; you can do a lot with 200K, and unlike in EVE Online you’re never all that far behind anybody else except in credits. But comparing ED to EVE is a something that really warrants a whole series of posts, and here I am just trying to get back into the routine of having something for the blog once a week. If nothing else Elite: Dangerous has rekindled my interest in online games again.