A Beginner’s frustration with Elite:Dangerous

I recently started getting into Elite:Dangerous. TL;DR: Yes, it’s a great game but incredibly complex and confusing for beginners.

If you want to play E:D in VR my first recommendation is do not play in VR until you’ve had several days experience playing E:D on your monitor. You will spend a lot of time Googling and watching YouTube videos.  I’m in an Oculus Facebook group and people were talking about how E:D was on sale at 76% off the normal price. One person quipped “I will not buy this as the amount of time you have to spend watching YouTube vidoes goes into the hours and that’s not fun”. I thought he was just whinging, but it has a ring of truth to it.

First off, if you’re playing in VR or don’t want to shell out for a HOTAS, I highly recommend getting an XBox One wireless controller. I have a PlayStation 4 DualShock controller but the game doesn’t know this and will not tell you buttons to press for actions in-game. It does guide you with what keyboard key to press and what XBox controller button to press, but if you are in VR and have a PS4 controller nothing will make sense. If you do use a PS4 controller, print out the layout from a previous post on this blog and use it to refer to while playing the game on a monitor — at least until you are comfortable with what to do.  Having to stop the game, take off your Rift headset, go to the computer and Google for answers is a lesson in frustration, itself.

The in-game tutorials leave a lot to be desired. I played Vendetta Online which is a similar game and I understood how to do things, what to press and where I was going. E:D leaves you confused with terminology it doesn’t explain and the NPC assisting and training you doesn’t know: A) When you’ve done something and B) That you haven’t done what it asked but moves onto the next thing anyway.  This is very frustrating.

An example: When doing Combat training the mission instructor (NPC) will tell you to “Deploy Hardpoints” — what are they? I had no idea. It turns out they are a nickname for your weapons. OK so you deploy the hardpoints. Make sure you don’t accidentally un-target the ship you’re trying to shoot or you will find yourself dead (probably goes without saying but I accidentally did this many times without knowing).  The next part you need to shoot down a guy using your Secondary Weapons — Pulse cannons. How do I select them? Well a text-line appears at the top of your screen/headset telling you the key or XBox button to press. I didn’t notice this until I’d died a couple of times, but when you’re on a PS4 controller again it’s difficult to know how to switch. Stick with XBox! Also, please immediately remap the control actioned by pressing the left joystick in. It’s mapped to Flight Assist mode and while you’re in combat it’s incredibly easy to switch modes, then suddenly your YAW doesn’t work! Took me a while to figure that one.  There’s already a button combo which lets you switch modes, if you really want to. I remapped the “Press down left joystick” action to “Reset HUD” which is incredibly handy in VR, in particular because it starts your cabin chair in the middle of your VR standing room and I sit on a chair so it looked like my legs were coming out of my shoulders! Heh! Reset the HUD to where you’re sitting and everything will line up nicely.

Docking training: The confusing thing here is the Landing Gear takes 5-8 seconds to deploy. This is weird when you first figure out how to deploy them and the NPC keeps saying “You’ll need to deploy that Landing Gear” and you are sure you already have, so you try pressing again and it retracts the Landing Gear, so you hit the button combo to deploy again and nothing happens. If you wait the 5-8 seconds eventually it will happen. Just be patient on that one!

Mining training: Hoo boy! Well this one drove me nuts until I Googled the issue. You fly to an asteroid and the NPC says to shoot it with your mining laser. Well, I pressed the Primary Weapon Fire button and the NPC said “Good job! Now go get that fragment which you shot off the asteroid!”. Hmm. I look around and fly around for a while but do not see a fragment of anything!  In reality, I had not shot off anything from the asteroid at all! The NPC somehow thinks I did. I Googled that one and found a forum where someone said “Yeah. You just have to keep shooting at it even though it nags you to go pick up the fragment. Eventually one will break off!”. Oh, ok. So I keep pressing that button. But nothing happens. I look up in the corner of the screen and see “Module Cannot Be Used In This Cockpit Mode”. Weird. I wonder why not? What Module and what Cockpit Mode? The NPC has not told me anything about this at all. Googling lead me to this forum post which lead me to understand there’s a Scanning Mode and a Combat Mode. Now what do I do? Well, it turns out you need to change the HUD Context to Analysis/Scanning Mode and now you can shoot that asteroid with your mining laser. The training will not tell you this. Great! How do I know a chunk has been mined from the asteroid? Well, more Googling shows that on your radar you will see a little white box go flying off in a random direction from the asteroid. You need to go after it to get it. I have never seen an actual piece break off an asteroid, but maybe I’m too close to the asteroid to see it?  I fly over to the piece on the radar and it appears in my view. How do I get it? No idea. The NPC doesn’t say. Randomly tried deploying my Scoop and it turns out that was the right thing to do. I also discovered the little radar which shows the fragment and you need to line it up with the center of the radar and at some point it’ll automatically pick it up with the scoop.  I’m still not sure of the exact place to get it.

Flying between areas. Wow. This one is nuts. OK so it turns out that your Frame Shift Drive (someone said sounds like FriendShip Drive — it really does! haha!) is used for travelling in Supercruise mode but also Hyperdrive mode. You can’t pick one, it does that automatically and it can get it wrong, which is confusing and frustrating. You’re ready to do your first mission so you pick a place to fly to, launch out of the bay and select it in your Nav Panel. To get there, you need to charge your Frame Shift Drive. You will now start heading to your destination. However — and here’s the tricky bit — it could have started you out in Supercruise mode but you didn’t realise it!  I picked a station about 4.7 Light Years away (4.7 Ly). I turned on the Frame Shift Drive and it charged and boosted me! Away I go! Stars streaming past me like Han Solo’s cockpit in Star Wars. The ETA for getting to my destination started off at “> 1 year” and quickly the days counted down. It was in the hundreds, then the tens, then it gets to about 5.6 days and sits there for a minute. You check your speed and it’s still going up. You’re doing 300c (300 times the speed of light!) and it ticks over to 5.5d then a minute later 5.4d. You find something to do. You can play news recordings on your Comms panel, so I listened to about 10 of those. You look at your display after 15-20 minutes and it says 4.3d and now every 0.1d ticks over about every 5-7 minutes! What’s going on? No idea. You’re now doing 1,024c! Isn’t that fast enough? I’m going faster yet it’s taking longer?  I sit there for another 10 minutes before deciding to give up on my mission. I slow down, turn off the Frame Shift Drive and plot a course for the place I just left. I turn around, charge the FSD and head home. The ETA says 5:04 which is 5 minutes and I’m soon home again. Very strange since I’d been flying for about 30 minutes and getting nowhere. What happened? Well, it seems depending on how you select things the FSD will try to fly you to another station in Supercruise mode which will never, ever get you there. You need to plot your destination on the Galaxy Map and when you select the FSD (which is called Supercruise in the button layouts) it will use the Hyperdrive and you reach your destination in 1-2 minutes.  Why is this not in the training? No idea.  You need to watch YouTube videos to learn. Lots and lots of YouTube videos.  Also, it’s handy to know that some places you will visit will require you to plot a route and it may take 2-3 “jumps” (hyperdrive travel) to get there. So, don’t just select it in your Galaxy Map and try to get there — it’s not possible. You need to look at the route and first jump to the first station. When you arrive at that station, select the next jump in your navigation panel and jump to that one.  It takes some getting used to.

I’ve recently been trying missions which can confuse as well. I get to the destination and have to scan a Nav Beacon (which usually happens the second I drop out of Hyperdrive) then try to find some cargo. I’m not sure how exactly to find the cargo. I get a cryptic message in my mission window which says something like “Nav Beacon scanning complete! We’ve added a new possible location to your Transaction Panel!”. Good luck figuring that out! If I look in the Transaction Panel it lists my mission and tells me what it is. I do see a Target location, but for the mission I was doing it was a star and when you get close to them you start burning up! But I flew around it and the only thing that happened is my fuel scoop automatically deployed and started scooping fuel. It said the target was Eravate, which is a giant hot gas ball of fire Star. I’m not sure how the military secrets are near that. I did find a blackbox in another area which was floating in space and turn that in, but flying next to a star which starts cooking my Sidewinder is a bit scary. Gave up on that one after a while.

Is this game frustrating and complex? Yes. But if you stick with it, it can be really rewarding when you finally figure out how to perform an action which has been annoying you. There definitely needs to be a lot of work on the training missions and explain things properly and with terminology you can understand. Also once again: Use an XBox controller and play on the pancake monitor screen before going into VR or else you’re gonna have a bad time!

Note: If you’re using a gamepad (Steelseries), PS4 or XBox controller there’s so many buttons which need to be mapped that sometimes you’ll need to hold down the X/Y/A/B (or shapes on PS4) buttons and press a directional-pad button in combo to perform an action.

Also note: If you bought E:D – Horizons on Steam you will need to launch it and copy a keycode then go to the Frontier website and paste in the key so it knows you have the expansion. I did that and played Horizons for a while but when I next came to play it, I kept getting a message saying E:D needs updating, please right-click E:D in Steam and go to Updates and change to Highest Priority and restart Steam. Well, I’ve done that several times but it doesn’t work. Now I cannot start E:D from Steam. I have to start “Steam VR” and once I’m in that home-room select E:D and it launches Horizons. It used to be I could start it from Steam then it says “Start Elite:Dangerous, Start Elite:Dangerous Horizons, Start Elite:Dangerous in Steam VR Mode” – which one do I use to start Horizons in VR mode? Not sure because it no longer works for any of them, just keeps popping up that the game needs updating.

Here’s a really good guide for beginners: Elite: Dangerous – a comprehensive guide.

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