Elite: Dangerous shows us the science and technology behind creating realistic planets


There is a lot to see on this hour long recorded livestream from Frontier Developments. It opens with that camera pan away from the surface of a rocky planet – you know, the one that was teased recently – but soon shows us new footage and delves into the technical process behind its creation.

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We are shown an early version of an ice planet, complete with icy mountains and frozen plains. I imagine skidding across a frozen planet like this to provide hours of fun – especially with other players.

Planets are being built in layers, making sure they look good both up close and at a distance. For example, the ice planets will have Europa lines at a distance (curved scarring created by shifting ice). Rocky planets on the other hand are peppered with craters, but each of these is actually a dip in the terrain once you land.

The procedural planet generation creates planets based on science, from the elements they’re made out of to the tectonic activity beneath the surface – even the canyons and mountains above. Some high impact craters can even throw below surface elements outwards, spreading them across the planet’s surface in a splat.

There won’t be any caves yet, however, which is a shame. Although the developers promise plenty of interesting features on planets without exploring underground. Like Earth-like worlds, they could perhaps come later.

It’s just rocky and icy planets and planetoids for now, with the exception of the moon. You won’t be looking at the Earth in these horizons. Landable planets will make up 61% of the total in Elite’s universe, so the other [insert really big number here] planets will have to wait. For now.

What you are getting are full-scale planets, each with its own characteristics, quirks, and its own gravity.

The planetary landing itself looks a bit jittery in the videos, but that’s down to the camera speed being faster than the in-game ships. The videos are also missing the in-game lighting and the stars on the horizons, too. Keep that in mind as you watch the footage. When it’s finished, planetary landing will apparently be seamless.

See the footage for yourself below: