Elite Dangerous: Odyssey is a 'layer across the whole game'


Frontier doesn’t want the expansion to feel ‘compartmentalized’

Frontier Developments is starting to open up about Elite Dangerous: Odyssey, the next step in the space sim’s ongoing adventures. In this “early 2021” expansion, you’ll be able to ditch your ship for a bit of otherworldly on-foot exploration. Better yet, you’ll be able to scan alien vegetation and sell the data.

I recently spoke with a pair of developers working on Odyssey to try and fill in a few of the blanks.

Art director Jonathan Bottone called Odyssey “one of the largest updates where we’ve taken the technology that we had originally, reworked it based on the simulation, and created an even more immersive experience than before.” Players have been losing themselves in Elite Dangerous since 2014.

Odyssey is a visible new entry point for the long-running game but “not at the expense of the existing player base,” according to lead designer Gareth Hughes. Frontier is sticking to the “fundamentals” of Elite. “For us, it’s combat, trade, exploration, and all the blurry bits in between that merge,” he said.

“It’s ‘How can we take those things from the space game and transpose those into on-foot so it doesn’t feel like we’re making a compartmentalized addition?’ It feels like a layer across the whole game.”

Planetary exploration will be a matter of “How far can I go before my suit energy starts to run out? Am I going to be able to make it back to my ship? Am I going to be ambushed while I’m out there?”

“We’re playing around with how heat, gravity, and radiation will affect the player,” said Hughes.

“We’re still balancing that stuff. It has to be enough of a threat without suppressing your ability to actually go out and explore. It’s a really fine balance to make these environmental factors meaningful without them affecting the gameplay loop so severely that it’s no longer fun.”

Whatever it takes to fill in Codex entries, I’m probably in. They’ll claw away at my mind.

Aside from your pilot’s scanner – a tool used to “identify organics in your locality on the planet surface” and extract “genetic information that can be sold back at port” – I had to ask about outposts.

Hughes told me that human settlements are “populated by the factions you’re used to seeing.” You can accept missions from NPCs, trade with them, “massacre them,” play the role of pirate – the usual. Elite Dangerous “doesn’t tell you who you have to be and when you have to be that.”

Players will also be able to disembark at ports. They’re intended to be “social hubs where you can meet other players, find mission givers that you might not otherwise experience, and create a safe space where pilots can meet and do piloty things,” according to Hughes. “The social element is important.”

I’m curious to see how on-foot combat shapes up – it wasn’t shown during the remote press event – and how well Frontier will manage to keep planets feeling distinct from one another given the scope of Elite in general and this DLC in particular. Odyssey seems like a challenge, but it’s one worth taking on.