First things first, the Coriolis Station, the familiar floating cube with its letterbox entrance that’s been in Elite since its inception, will still feature. Don’t worry on that front. But stations are changing in Elite: Dangerous. Rather than have a set of stock models developer Frontier will have the game procedurally build stations from a bag of different station bits.
“Beyond making it easier to provide variation throughout the galaxy, a modular approach allows for several other advantages,” writes Ashley Barley. “One such benefit is that players will be able to see stations expand over time, or in response to player-driven events.
“Beyond designs for more conventional stations, we also plan to have a few specialist station types that fulfill specific roles; each constructed using their own sets of rules and modules. This will help to establish some stylistic differences between the stations, which will make it easier for players to define what the role of one is upon approach.”
Where this system starts to get extremely cool is the way Frontier are tying space stations into the game’s events engine. In Elite: Dangerous missions are created within the game dynamically. For instance, if a station is low on food it will raise its buying price of food, which will attract NPC traders from other systems, which will attract pirates, which will attract bounties. All of this the player can be involved in – either acting as a trader, a pirate, or a bounty hunter. Stations will use this system to determine how they expand. It might add a agricultural pod module so it can begin growing its own food, say.
Frontier want players to see the whole thing as it takes place, too. “A precursor to a new station would be the arrival of a large ship that would fulfil the role of a temporary station, or colony ship to a specific system. This would then act as the primary hub for trade and missions, until work on an adjacent static station was complete.
“The construction of a station would be managed by the events system and as such would generate missions and opportunities for the players, allowing you to help or hinder the progress of a station. By helping the station you would advance its construction, opening up a potentially lucrative new trade and mission hub.
“You would be able to see firstly the framework structure, constructed of metals from local asteroids or brought from afar, and gradually the station would build up from that point. The station would become habitable (and trade could start with it) long before it is fully complete- much like a house development, the extra space would gradually be built as it was needed.
“Players could also opt to undertake more insidious tasks that would damage the station’s progress for personal profit. If enough players choose this route there is a chance that it will affect the project so negatively that the construction team would cut their losses and move onto the next project, leaving a half-finished station behind.”
Originally I was sceptical about Elite: Dangerous. It seemed like a bit of a cash grab by Braben. Yet, as the project has gone on it’s sounding to be as interesting a project as Star Citizen.