Elite: Dangerous is about to shed its alpha chrysalis and emerge a beautiful beta butterfly. Frontier have announced that Premium Beta players will now be able to download and play a single player combat build of Elite: Dangerous, ahead of the Beta's full launch on May 30th.
They've also hinted at what's coming next for Alpha backers: travel, trading and trousers. No, not trousers, I mean "in-system super cruise" speeds that let you zip around within a solar system without hyperspace jumping to another neighbourhood entirely.
Those who backed the Elite: Dangerous Kickstarter to the tune of £200 or more became the lucky few to be permitted access to the first round of alpha testing. This new phase of beta testing now extends the privilege to those who pledged £100 or more, boosting the online population of Elite: Dangerous from "thousands" to "many thousands".
Before the Premium Beta properly launches on May 30th, Beta players can pootle around inside the same single player combat demo Alpha backers enjoyed a few months back. Also before then, Frontier will be advancing the Alpha version into its final form, phase 4.
In Alpha 4, you'll be granted two distinct means of faster-than-light travel. The first is hyperspace, which pokes a hole in space-time and dumps you into your chosen star system. The second and newest mode will be a super-cruise speed used to explore systems and, presumably, travel from planet to planet.
More details are promised soon, with mention of some new trading features to be introduced. The Elite store is currently selling upgrades to anybody who's bought into the basic beta and is now looking to upgrade themselves into premium-town.
I've been playing the current version of the Elite: Dangerous Alpha, it's a spectacular and surprisingly faithful sequel to the hallowed space postman simulator.