Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Elite: Dangerous Premium Beta 1 & 2 Beginners Guide...

Due to my ever increasing impatience I literally played Elite: Dangerous on my desktop and then between deaths and desktop crashes I explored the Internet for tips and tricks on being a better Eliter. I've put together this post to help you ease your way quickly into the Premium Beta of Elite: Dangerous without having to review countless forum posts, blogs, FAQ's and the not so constructive feedback of forum trolls.

It's probably best to take you through this as a noob from the start. 

First, download and installation.
So once you have downloaded the installer, fire it up and login, you should have registered at some point, I registered when I purchased the £100 Premium Beta. I was tempted to get the £200ish Alpha but my fanboy status doesn't extend to that value. You'll get a e-mail from Frontier with a security code that you'll need to enter before the download kicks off.

The launcher will download the installation files, my net connection ran at about an average of 5mb/s and it took about 5 - 10 minutes. I got caught out at the next step, the launcher launches the installation package, and because during the download I'd clicked around a fair bit I didn't notice the installation launcher icon in my taskbar, so if your sitting there waiting with for the launcher thinking "Boy this is taking a longggggg time", check your taskbar for the installation shell.

Fire 'er up...
Once the game is installed the launcher Install button will change to Play, click Play and off we go. Hold your breath whilst the splash screen passes leading you to the main menu.

From here you have a few options, if this is the first time your firing up the game then you should probably start with a single player mission so you can setup your control preferences and generally get used to controlling your ship before you enter multiplayer (where a more 'dangerous' player may turn you into frozen space mince). 

The first mission in Premium Beta is basically blowing up space canisters, as you complete each mission another will be unlocked for you. Remember you have limited ammo in the first mission so don't blow it all on one canister, although ironically if you do you could just fly your Sidewinder into the canisters at high speed which equally obliterates them, not sure if that equals a mission pass since I never actually completed any single player missions, I was to eager to head out into the galaxy with other commanders.

Controls or lack there of...
If your initial reaction to controlling your ship is that you might have just wasted 100 quid (bucks) on the premise you'll never last long enough to turn a profit thereby having a considerably poor gaming experience at the hands of greedy NPC pirates and just plain nasty ego deprived human players (more of which I'll explain later), never fear, your probably just used to up being down and down being up, i.e. inverted control systems. 

The default control configuration for E:D is that when you push the mouse forward your ship will pitch back (nose up) and therefore your ship will roll forward (nose down) when you pull the mouse back. For many of us we are used to flying both terrestrial and cosmic vehicles with the axis inverted so when we pull back on the mouse our ship equally pitches back and therefore we fly 'up' and vice versa when you move your mouse forward (although technically in space there is no up or down).

If like me you don't know your Pitch from your Yaw here's a handy little diagram I dug out from Wikipedia:

Are we mice or (wo)men?
For I soon realised that flying anything in E:D is gonna need more then the mouse I use to burn holes in my wallet on Steam. Never been a big joystick fan but then I figured after a few intercepted journeys by space pirates (Pirates 6 - Me 0) I probably need to find a better way of piloting my ship to at least win one NPC pirate engagement, let alone any PVP encounters (which I had yet to witness).

When your in the midst of heated battle the last thing you want to worry about is how to control your velocity with the keyboard whilst pitching up behind an enemy with your mouse, by having the majority of core controls on a single device like a joystick you don't have to flutter between your mouse and keyboard. There are so many controls, as with most sims, that you won't be able to get them all on the joystick but by having the key controls mapped it will make you a more agile pilot. I didn't play much with the keyboard and mouse but what I did play I got annihilated every time, since I got a joystick I typically win out every dog fight, and I'll explain how as we move through this guide.

A joystick isn't essential but it sure as hell helps with blowing stuff up and especially docking, which we'll come to later.

So here is the joystick I specifically purchased for E:D, the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro:
A key benefit of using a joystick is the granular control you have over flight, when you have an enemy in your cross hairs it's likely they will try and put some distance between you for a flanking move, a combination of small Yawing and Pitching movements will allow you to keep the bad guy in your cross hairs at longer distances.

For straight up dog fights against other Sidewinders or Cobra type ships using Yaw, Pitch and Roll will usually keep you on top of things. In the Premium Beta you'll also see larger ships, such as Federation Anaconda's, these ships are bigger and from what I can make out have full 360 degree turrets, I got caught out alone with one of these bad boys and was dead before I could create enough distance to jump out of the fight. BUT, they have a blind spot, sometimes it's easy to stay in the blind spot and other times, not so much.

The blind spot is directly behind the ship, so your facing it's thrusters, if it's trying to escape then you can be pretty sure it'll just head in a straight line while it tries to re-route energy to it's engines and get the hell out of there. However, if she's banking all over the place then you need to be using your Hat Switch (on top of most joysticks) to control your vertical and horizontal thrust, if you've ever played Counter Strike or any other FPS this is basically strafing left, right, up or down, this allows you to keep your cross hairs on the target while keeping in the Anaconda's blind spot - in most cases the Anaconda will simply jump when in serious trouble.

Right, so your next question is probably going to be, how do I configure my joystick. Well, I knew you would ask so I dug out the guide from the E:D forums that helped me, it's designed for the Logitech Extreme 3D Pro but the concepts apply to any joystick, use the image of the stick in this post combined with the following guide to get your own joystick working:

Many thanks to Zieman for this.

One final thing on controls, make sure you have your target buttons setup, it's best to use the buttons nearest your fire trigger, especially map Hostile Target and Cycle Enemies (they might be called something else but you'll figure it out).

That sweet spot...
There are some key concepts in E:D you need to be aware of, this is a basic guide so I'm only going to cover the high level stuff, I'll probably write more blogs as I figure stuff out.

But anyway, here's a picture of our cockpit and what the different controls mean:

  1. This is your current destination lock, this is an Alpha screen so it's changed a bit since then, usually this will be populated by your celestial target such as a planet, star, base or place of interest, such as a High Conflict Zone;
  2. This is your current target halo, notice the blue rings around the halo and also the bar below the target, the rings indicate the targets shields and bar at the button is the targets hull strength;
  3. This is your internal temperature gauge, if it maxes out basically your ship blows up. One thing that will destroy your ship is trying to jump with hyperdrive or superdrive (needs revising) without throttling up, which is what activates the jump sequence (more on that shortly);
  4. This is your average targeting radar, objects with the line trailing them (going down) means they are above you where as in the opposite direction they are behind you, use the single player missions to get used to this;
  5. This is your throttle, see that little blue indicator on the throttle? Well that's your turning sweet spot, when your in a dogfight and you need to do some tight banking or turning moves, make sure your throttle is in the blue and you'll turn at least 50% more effectively - this is reallllllyyyyyyy important for battles. Thanks to Xzanron for this image on the forums. The "What is this?" part indicates the available power/throttle range. Can't push the throttle further than the length of that line - thanks to RCKJD (and Robbie) for that:
  6. This is your ships shields and hull status, keep an eye on this during battle, when you start out in a basic Sidewinder and lose your shields, you'll be dead pretty soon so you might want to consider a quick exit. Your shields will change red from the outside circle in, when all circles are red your shields are gone and now your hull is getting beaten into oblivion, your shields will recharge depending on how much energy you have allocated them, but they will NOT recharge when your ship is taking fire;
  7. This is your capacitor or power allocation, SYS is basically shields, ENG is your engine and WEP is your weapons. I kept the default setting for controlling these, which is the keyboard. Left Arrow key is allocate power to shields, Up Arrow is Engines and Right Arrow is Weapons. If you've taken a beaten and your shields are low or gone then divert full power to the shields, if you took a dogfight several kilometers from your desired position give full power to Engines and use Thrust/Turbo to obtain short increases in speed and if your feeling pretty safe in the blind spot of an Anaconda give full power to weapons and keep pounding her with your lasers (no pun intended).
  8. This is your signature, i.e. how loud you are, fully powered up your ship can be targeted and will show up nicely on enemy radar. As I understand it you can go into Silent Running mode which means your signature is reduced and I assume you can no longer be targeted, if this is not the case then I'm not sure what the point of Silent Running would be. Worth noting that when your in silent running mode your temperate increases, so should keep an eye on this unless you want to end up a commander toastie.
  9. Alarms for when something bad is about to happen, i.e. crash into a star.
For a more comprehensive guide check out this great article on Elite Dangerous Wikia: 

Here's a E:D PB2 HUD Shot:

Super Hyper...
Now we'll focus on how to travel from within and to other star systems. I struggled with this a little at first as I didn't understand the difference between Hyperspeed and Supercruise, so let me enlighten you:

  • Hyperspeed is required to travel between star systems, you need to have a lock on another system before you can engage Hyperspeed, it's fully automated so you can't steer your ship or anything, just sit back and enjoy (improved in PB2);
  • Supercruise is for travelling between points of interest within your current star system, so if you want to head to a station or a Federation Distress signal this is the mode of travel you will use. You can steer your ship in supercruise, the minimum speed is 30km/s in a sidewinder, I've never actually needed to remain in supercruise long enough to determine the maximum speed.
So, the big question is how do you engage hyperspeed or supercruise, it's not difficult but equally it's not entirely obvious. You can map buttons to engage supercruise and I think you can do the same with hyperdrive, although I've only done it with supercruise. But to be honest, assuming your not getting your hynie handed to you on at the time your probably better engaging supercruise from your on-board computer. You can also jump to hyperdrive while in super cruise.

Unfortunately I can't find much material on the correct names for the on-board computers, so feel free to comment and provide that information. For now, we'll refer to the on-board systems using the following terms:

  1. Navigation and Targeting - Default key for this is number [1] on your keyboard;
  2. Sensors and Radar- Default key for this is number [2] on your keyboard (zooms in basically);
  3. Ships Systems - Default key for this is number [3] on your keyboard.
Okay, so now you know how to access your computer you need to know how to interact with it.

The default keys for moving around your computer are [W] to scroll up, [S] to scroll down, [Q] to tab left, [E] to tab right and [Space] to select. 

To engage Hyperdrive press [1] on your keyboard, using the aforementioned keys scroll to a new star system (always at the bottom of the list), hit the [Space] button and then you are presented with two options (usually), it's not very perplexing and is fairly self explanatory "Lock" or "Lock and Engage Hyperdrive". Scroll down to "Lock and Engage Hyperdrive", increase your throttle to maximum speed and then sit back and enjoy the view. 

You need to have your target system in view before hyperdrive will engage, align the rectangular yellow or blue object into the centre of your circular targeting recticle, which is the yellow circle next to your ships halo.

Caution: Do not forget to throttle up, otherwise your ship will overheat and explode (after taking damage that is)

Navigation Computer

Lock and Engage Super Cruise

Right, so now you know. The good news is that engaging supercruise is done in pretty much the same way. Bear in mind you need supercruise to move between points of interest in your current star system. Use the same guide above but this time instead of choosing another star system select a location in your current star system. I'll have to note down the currently available star systems but if my memory serves me correctly (from last night) your starting system is Eranin, this is a good system as it has a couple of conflict zones. Select a Low Intensity Conflict zone from your Navigation computer, then select "Lock and Engage Supercruise" and finally throttle up to max.

In supercruise you can use your throttle to move faster or slower and your turning sweet spot also applies here (the blue bars on your throttle bar). Focus on your locked target location and head towards it, your speed will gradually increase over time, I've managed to get up to 25c before in a Sidewinder but be careful as you approach your target, if your going too fast you'll just go straight past it. PB2 added a 'Slow Down' warning.

So your cruising along toward your target, your nearly ready to jump out of supercruise and murder some bad guys, but how do you drop out of supercruise? Ironically the answer is almost the same way as you got into supercruise, except you used your navigation computer to engage supercruise when what you need right now is a button mapped to supercruise, if you haven't already done it. The default button is [C] on your keyboard, so if you can't be bothered to map another key just use that one.

You must be travelling at less then 1000km/s and be close to your target, PB2 added a panel that shows you when your close enough and slow enough to drop out of supercruise. If you drop out too early or late you won't arrive at your destination and will probably have to enter supercruise again. So wait until your left panel tells you it's safe to exit, can't remember the exact message (I'll find out), but it's a blue message across your left speed/distance panel, just hit the supercruise mapped button when you see it. If your travelling at a reasonable speed (aim for 30km/s to start with) on your approach you'll have plenty of time to react.

You'll get a message telling you your locked on target and then you'll jump straight into the action. 

There be gold out there...
So now you've mastered the basics of your ship you probably want to get out there and earn some credits to buy new ships and weapons. Subsequent versions of the game will include mining, assassination contracts, bounty hunting, diplomacy and humanitarian aid to name a few, but right now you got trading and dog fighting.

Currently E:D is in beta so you should expect bugs, this is particularly apparent in dog fighting battles, suck it up and accept this is how the gods created the universe until they develop the next release in Olympus. Personally, and it is only my humble opinion, but you shouldn't go into a beta and expect a polished game. PB2 brought major improvements, especially around crashes, but be aware bugs do exist so if something is not happening as you expect and you think your doing something wrong it might just be a bug.

Right, let's get onto dog fighting. Here are some key points about dog fighting:

  • You MUST choose a faction to get in the fight, if your new to E:D do not choose the losing side, the losing side in Eranin and Dahan is the Federation, in fact, I'm guessing the losing side is always the Federation in this part of space, apparently Federation space is quite far away from the PB2 systems;
  • Make sure you know your targeting controls;
  • Once you have chosen a faction your radar which started with all yellow contacts (other ships) will change to green and red (with limited yellow as other players join the fight);
  • You will earn either 400 or 500 credits per kill, so you have chosen Eranin as your faction and destroy a Federation ship you'll get credits for the kill;
  • The last ship to land a shot on a critically damaged enemy ship get's the reward, this is a little annoying as you could spend 10 minutes pounding an Anaconda with your single laser only for a NPC to come along, land one shot destroying your enemy and ripping your bounty away from you;
  • If you are in trouble and your hull is getting chewed up jump out, I'll cover this in more detail;
  • If you accidentally chose the wrong faction and realise you are seriously out numbered, again, jump out. Your faction status will reset when you jump back in or to another conflict zone.
So far I've racked up around 9000 credits, all in dog fights, over two sessions of two hours each. Unfortunately a lot of the ships I beat never blow up due to a bug, they just spin off into the blackness of space.

To get into a fight you need to first choose a conflict zone. You could end up doing battle by being dragged out of supercruise by a greedy NPC pirate, checking out an unidentified signal source and generally being a nuisance around space stations but if you want to make some money the best places are as follows:
  • Low Intensity Conflict Zone;
  • High Intensity Conflict Zone;
  • Federation Distress Signal;
  • Extraction Zones - I've only battled in one extraction zone which is literally right next to (in cosmic distances) the Freeport station in Anarchy controlled space. The rewards here are much higher but equally the NPC's are harder then the conflict zones. You DO NOT need to join a faction here. You simply target other ships, scan them and if one of them is wanted you take them out and, if they have cargo, steal their haul which you can sell on the black market. I've made over 5000 credits in a single visit to the extraction zone, one of the bounties I collected hit 2,150. I'll do a video demonstration for this sometime this week;
  • Unidentified Signal Source - What you get when you jump into the unknown varies, I've come across small squadrons of pirates, large 'wanted' cargo vessels (which you can destroy and steal the cargo without becoming wanted yourself) and sometimes just empty space with low value cargo laying around. Typically these areas have more then one bad guy, so you can visit these locations without being attacked (as long as you don't have cargo) and have a look around, but making money here requires a bigger ship and bigger guns, I plan to hit there areas once I have my Cobra.
I'm sure there are others I just haven't found them out, part of the fun is exploring.

Using the information from this blog on finding a location and engaging supercruise, find a suitable battle location (you should probably start with a low intensity conflict zone) from your navigation computer, select it, lock onto it and then enter supercruise. 

When you arrive in your chosen location you'll notice all of your contacts are yellow on your radar, this is because you are currently neutral until you choose a faction. Remember, once you have chosen a faction you instantly become space bait, so hit the fire button to deploy your weapon hardpoints if they are not already deployed now. 

To chose a faction we're going to use your Ships Systems computer, so select that computer using the key you have mapped (default key is number [3]). Tab right to the last screen on this computer (default key is [E]), you'll now notice there is a Faction option, select it (default key is [Space]) and then select your faction. If your in Eranin or Dahan choose Eranin as your faction otherwise you will be seriously outnumbered and dead in moments.

Choose a faction
Your contacts on your radar will now be green, red and some yellow. As you've probably guessed by now the red contacts are bad guys. Using your assigned targeting keys (this is where joysticks are useful) select your nearest enemy target. On your radar square brackets will surround your selected target and red target arrows will wrap around your target on your HUD, use these to find your target.

I cannot stress the importance of using the correct throttle position to turn and bank therefore outmaneuvering your opponent, make sure you always where possible have your throttle in the blue sweet spot on your throttle indicator whenever banking, most NPCs will be at least matched, if not bettered by you if you learn how to turn and bank correctly.

Basic Dog Fighting Guide (choosing a faction)

Keep an eye on your shield and weapons, If your starting out with a charity sidewinder (the free one we all get when we start the game) then you'll only have one laser so you can afford to assign plenty of power to it. I would suggest having all of your power assigned to your shields and weapons when in battle.

If you get into trouble don't panic and remember/do the following:
  • Press (default key) the left arrow key until your shields are fully powered;
  • Retract your hardpoints (default key is [Return] I think, will check);
  • Use your turbo thrusters (default is [Tab] I think, I remapped both of these you see) to put some distance between you and your aggressor, the more the better, bank and roll to avoid further hits;
  • Engage your supercruise as soon as your can, if anything is near you, i.e. ships, asteroids or planets you may get mass locked or be inhibited, this means either you will not be able to engage supercruise or it will power up slowly, meaning you are vulnerable for longer and the longer you are charging your engines the more heat your ship will generate and the last thing you need right now is heat damage, so try and get as far away from everything as possible, head away from the fight, make sure your engines have power.
If you've taken some damage it's a good idea to head back to the nearest station and get your ship repaired, although your decision to do this should depend on if you have outfitted your ship with new tech, what ship your flying and how much damage you've taken.

If your flying a charity Sidewinder, have no additional tech (second hardpoint) and have taken a lot of damage then there's no point in wasting your hard earned (or starting 1k) on repairing a ship your going to get for free when you die anyway. You may as well Kamikaze into the nearest bag guy where you'll start a new game with a brand new ship at the nearest station to your destruction.

Here's some dog fighting madness:

Mo Credits Mo Problems...
That reminds me, we should talk a little bit about credits. When your starting out and you've earned a little credit through faction battles it's tempting to go off and spend all your credits on a new laser. That's what I did. I brought a brand new laser and was dribbling over my keyboard with the prospect of doubling my money using my newly installed laser duo. So I undocked from my station and headed to a conflict zone, half way I got hit with an interdiction (ripped out of space by greedy pirates) and I thought...huh, your no match for my double lasers, I'll make little work of both of you, so I started firing my two lasers gleefully at these two pirates.

I hurt the first one pretty bad but two things happened to me very quickly, first I ran out of energy twice as fast as I normally do (duh, two lasers!) and then whilst I was wiping the floor with the first pirate his pirate buddy circled around me as I powerlessly observed his actions and started firing at me from the rear, I managed to get myself out of his angle of fire but this gave the other bad guy time to recharge his shields, then a message pops up on my HUD "Danger: Incoming Missle". This was unfortunate as I didn't even know E:D has missles in the beta's and I was powerless to stop my ensuing demise.

But the thing that really hurt, I lost my ship and it's new laser. I could have brought back my ship with it's new laser for 1,850 credits but I'd just spent all my credits on the new laser so had nothing to buy it back with. To re-buy the extra laser I need 2,200 credits but having spent all my money I was back to square one.

So, moral of this unnecessarily long story is build up your credits before outfitting your ship. I saved around 9000 credits before I brought another laser. To be fair two lasers is obviously twice as powerful as one and it does make short work of most NPC's in conflict zones but having one laser is good training and credits (so far) are transferred during upgrade wipes.

I've been talking with other commanders on the E:D forums and have done some research for the benefit of my transient readers, I'm going to quote the responses directly:

Originally Posted by me!
Does anybody have any advice for earning credits in a sidey?

(A sidey is the charity Sidewinder you get when you first start the game.)

"It depends. If you are a good pilot, then you will probably favour fighting for it. But sometimes doing so can be a quick way of getting killed: there are CMDRs who kill other CMDRs on sight, no matter what colour they are.

I fought until I could afford expensive cargo, then traded with occasional fights just for a change of scene.
Commander Chuck Schwammerl"

"Go bounty hunting in the resource extraction zone in the anarchy. Not only do you get good bounties (1600cr was my highest) but you can collect any cargo they drop when you destroy them.

If you're not great at combat, it's a good chance to learn because even if you intend to trade, explore or mine in the final game, you'll still need to defend yourself at some point. Best learn during the beta rather than when it matters...

PS. Is it unethical to wait for a pirate to finish destroying their prey before you take them out so you get a higher bounty? *shrug*
Commander Ol, Bamford's Station, Lily May World. Alpha videos:"

Originally Posted by gerrelli View Post
Judging by the profits mentioned in your post for a charity sidewinder, based on my own experience, I'm guessing (depending on skill, as I have no basis for comparison - feel free to judge my skillz or lack off on my blog) I find that dog fighting earns me the most credits, I can get 1500 credits in 5 minutes, the downside is I might take some damage therefore costing me a loss in my profits. Does anybody have any advice for earning credits in a sidey?
Posted by Duckfather
You're not wrong. Taking out wanted NPC's can most certainly make more money. I just thought I'd post the comparison there as there are some wannabe traders out there who haven't had much luck recently with the flattened market 

When I had my starter sidey (no upgrades), I never used to pay for repairs. I'd fly it till it fell apart or ram it into an obstacle so I got a shiny new one every time 

"Posted by M4MKey
I used to make most of my starting money with battle. On sidey then Eagle, pretty easy to make 10 thousands in half an hour maybe.

Once you can grap the Cobra, do it and start trading, it may look slower, but you gain so much more."

"Posted by James Kirk
When i had a Sidey i found scooping up 4x Personal weapons or Gold was the best and quickest way forward, about 14K profit a time. Quickly progressed to an Eagle then Cobra from doing that."

So there you have it, some useful tips from the pro's on grinding some credits. See you out there (don't kill me)!

Docking Video Tutorial

Here's a docking video with annotations to help you dock your ship.

There's been a fair bit of chatter on the forums recently about docking, lot's of people struggling to land on the pad. 

The above video tutorial covers what you need to know but here's a quick list as reference:

  1. Request docking permission as soon as your in range, using your navigation computer select Contacts and then select your target station and choose Request Docking Permission;
  2. Once you have docking permission head for the docking gate. It took me a while to figure it out but you can identify the docking gate in three ways with varying success. Open your navigation computer and select Contacts (tab right one), select the station and then select lock. A halo of the station will appear in your halo targeting system, the docking gate will appear as a letterbox type indent on the halo. The second aid in finding the docking entrance is the lights on the station, the bottom (opposite side of the docking gate) will have red lights flashing whilst the entrance will have blue lights flashing. So if you come up against a flat surface with red flashing lights you need to find the opposite side. The third clue is ships entering and leaving the docking entrance. Ships leave a trail of plasma/smoke behind them which is usually visible for up to about 3km (maybe more), so once your within 3km of the station keep an eye out for ship exhaust and note the direction it comes from.
  3. Approach the docking entrance slowly, use the cage to guide yourself in, if you keep the full glowing blue entrance centered on your windscreen and head in a straight line you should be okay, use vertical and horizontal thrust for course corrections;
  4. Make a note of your landing pad, as multiple pads might be highlighted as you come in;
  5. Deploy your landing gear on the Ships Systems computer;
  6. Make sure you land your ship facing the control tower, you cannot dock facing the wrong direction;
  7. Use the docking guide that replaces your target halo to align your ship to the pad, remember, left and right thrust (strafe) will allow you to make minor adjustments to your horizontal position, thereby making it easier to land;
  8. Once you are aligned, again using your vertical thrust, slowly thrust down to the landing pad and you should lock on, as shown in the video.
There's really not much else to tell apart from that. Since PB2.01 I've never had a landing glitch.

This concludes the beginners guide to Elite: Dangerous, this blog is getting a bit on the large side so future blogs will be separated into more blogs. 

Next E:D blog will be a more detailed version of earning credits through NPC grinding (killing NPC's for credits) and trading (I got myself and Hauler and had a go, will report on my findings).