I’m going to do it. I am joining the Distant Worlds Expedition in Elite: Dangerous. The reasons for this are quite simple. I’d pretty much decided my next focus in Elite would be a significant exploration trip. I thought this would be a series of nebula visits or a journey to Sag*A. I figure I might as well go all the way and journey to the other side of the galaxy. Like any good long and expensive endeavour, it has some good exit points, but I hope to see it through.
In order to see it through I need to prepare. Preparations focuses on a few areas:-
- Should I take my Asp or Anaconda?
- How should I outfit the ship?
- How to land the vessel on planets reliably?
All these things are variables on the odds of me returning early. I’ve been experimenting a bit to come to a decision on some of these factors.
What ship to take? Asp or Anaconda?
The fleet will have a whole host of ships within it, including people accepting the personal challenge of doing it in a Sidewinder, through everything in between, and onto the obvious choices of Asp Explorer and Anaconda. This is great. It would be even better if the game allowed us to see the whole fleet moving and jumping in the same instance, as it would show all the different types, but alas no.
I’m not going to do anything to make my life difficult as I have an Asp and an Anaconda.
If I was to base the decision purely on the maths, then it would be the Anaconda. The Anaconda has plenty of internal space for outfitting. It potentially has the largest jump range. It can actually do most of what you want as a primary goal and then be outfitted to do support activities, like allowing you to refuel ships. I’ll admit, it would be pretty cool to be able to do something other than just ‘get there’. If I rescued a few ships along the way it would feel great. The disadvantage of the Anaconda is it’s big. This means it’s harder to take great photos with and it’s harder to land.
It also has a terrible cockpit view.
The Asp is a great explorer. It does what it says on the tin. It has enough internals but with the advent of Horizons you almost wish one of them was a bit bigger. The cockpit view is spectacular, allowing you to look around the grand vista of space or out across the horizon of a planet relatively uninhibited. It’s also lighter, so is easier to land on planets. I also think it looks better. You’re going to be looking at it for a long while.
Ultimately, I’ve chosen the Asp. Mainly because I’ve used the Anaconda extensively, but I’ve used the Asp for nothing but ferrying myself between other ships. I’m a bit sick of looking at the Anaconda, while my ice coloured Asp is a thing of beauty. I also love the cockpit view. I also suspect a bad landing is one of my biggest risks of having to return so I might as well take the easier ship to land.
How should I outfit the Asp?
The strategy for outfitting the ship, at the moment, can basically be described as the NASA stratagem: redundancy wherever I can get it. There are those that say I’m being too cautious, they may well be right, but I don’t want to be tens of thousands of light years in and feel the impending need to turn around.
The redundancy comes in the form of me carrying two surface reconnaissance vehicles and two automatic repair units. If I lose an SRV then I can’t drive around on planets until I return from the trip. The repair units allow me to repair various parts of my ship while I’m out in the black. I have two so one can repair the other. While some recommend this others believe I’m over compensating.
If I didn’t stick with the redundancy what would I do? Well, I could use the class 4 internal for shields instead of the SRV as the single SRV unit is a class 3 internal, but then do I really need the class 4 shield? I could also potentially fit something else completely, but I’m not really sure what that would be? I could use the weight to put weapons on it, but I figure you either go big with weapons or don’t bother. It’s not a do it by half thing. I’m betting on just not meeting anything dangerous out there.
I may change this, but at the moment I’m sticking with the redundancy.
Landing the vessel reliably?
Assuming there is no falling asleep ‘at the wheel’ and thus ramming a star, the biggest risk in the journey is landing on planets. If you get it wrong, you can blow through your shields and suddenly have your hull down to 60 or so percent. That’s a hard thing to take if you still have 40K ly to go or something stupid.
The higher the gravity on the planet the higher the risk. As a result, I’ve been practice on a 6.75 gravity planet, I figure anything more than that I’d just choose another option.
Landing on a zero gravity world is easy. Landing on a 6.75 gravity world takes some patience and finesse. You can’t rely on your thrusters to allow you to fly around the landscape like you’re in a plane, at least not in thrusters I’m sporting to keep my ships weight down. I can maintain a hover with my downward facing thrusters, but if I try to bank or do anything clever there isn’t enough thrust and the vessel starts to drop. This makes the approach a slow and steady one using the degree of ‘downward bank’ to control the vessels velocity, which I got wrong first time and bounced off the surface.
The take-off takes bit of a combination between the downward facing thrusters and the boost. Since you can’t just fly and then pull up like a plane I have to use the downward thrusters to gain height, then boost and begin to bank upwards. It takes a few boosts to get out of the planet’s mass lock so I can engage super cruise. In short, you feel the drag of the planet on you when leaving the surface.
At the moment I’ve tried two extremes, I’ll need to try a few 1-3G worlds as they might be more typical. I figure any skills learned on 6.75G world are applicable on all, you just might be exercising too much caution.
The Preparation Will Continue
The aim is to prepare for the trip more over Christmas. I can think of a number of things I need to do. The aforementioned experiments with different gravity. The issue of landing at a specific point on the surface, as at the moment I’ve just landed anywhere. It also occurs to me I can reduce my need to search for materials on the surfaces of worlds by stocking up before I leave! That should be something I certainly do.
I want to be in the best position possible with the time I have. I really want to make the full trip. I suspect many people will drop out and only small percentage will make it all the way. It would be great to be one of them.