From today, us PC players are able to dive into the open beta for Elite Dangerous: Beyond - Chapter One, the first of this year’s major updates to Frontier’s multiplayer space game. The update changes many aspects of the game but the aspect that we wanted a closer look at was crime.
We spoke with Elite Dangerous’s lead designer Sandy Sammarco about how crime and bounties are changing.
With the release of Chapter One, if you attack other players in policed space you will build ‘heat’ on your ship, generating bounties that other players can collect by hunting you down. The heat is tied to the ship you were piloting when committing the crime, so you can swap into another ship to travel about space without being jumped by bounty hunters, but the heat doesn’t go away by itself. If you want to use that ship again you will have to deal with the consequences of your actions.
“The changes we’re making to criminality have been some of the most requested features by the community,” Sammarco tells us, explaining the changes. “We want to make Open Play more welcoming for new players and more daunting for skilled pilots who like to compete with other players.
“We introduced hot ships to dismiss situations where pilots might switch to different ships before being detected and damaged but they also provide more options for criminals as they can store and swap between ships and use them at their convenience.”
These changes won’t necessarily mark the end of changes to crime, either. “We’re constantly improving and balancing the systems in Elite Dangerous so as the galaxy evolves and players take part in Open Play more and more we might introduce additional changes to crime and punishment,” Sammarco says.
When I initially saw the plans Frontier had for bounties and notoriety I worried that it would discourage players from hunting one another. However, it turns out that the changes actually correct an imbalance. “Alongside community feedback, we feel that bounties for murder, for instance, were a little too low to present a risk for skilled players,” Sammarco says.
One of the features of the update, Interstellar Bounties - which sees high-level AI hit squads hunting down particularly violent players across systems - is not actually new at all. “Interstellar bounties are a feature that is returning from early Elite Dangerous,” Sammarco explains. “We believe they bring an additional level of consequences for the serial offenders. The changes to notoriety ensure that part of the risks of crime cannot simply be shaken off by changing one's ship.”
Sammarco hopes these changes will make PvP areas “fairer without punishing those that choose to take part but are coming with different levels of experience.” He thinks most of the changes coming in Chapter One will be welcomed by the community, but admits the changes to crime and punishment may bring “mixed feedback.”
“The new Crime and punishment features will bring a foundational change to Elite Dangerous and we expect we’ll get a lot of mixed feedback on it from players used to the existing rules and structure,” Sammarco says.
“So far, the overall sentiment of the community has been very positive. I think players understand why the changes are necessary and how the game should work - the important thing is to keep taking their feedback to make sure our new solutions give players the experience they want from Elite Dangerous.”
We will know soon enough. You will be able to get stuck into the new crime and punishment system later today.