Remember scanning planets in Mass Effect 2? Launching a probe, watching it curve towards the surface. Tricia Helfer saying "Probe away." The spectrometer clicking wildly when you discovered a big pocket of Element Zero. That mellow galaxy map music. Some people hated it. I loved it.
Sandbox space sim Elite Dangerous has something similar. Equip your ship with a DSS, or Detailed Surface Scanner, and you can launch probes at planetary bodies to gather data on them. Data that can then be sold for a tidy profit, if the target of your probing is particularly valuable.
But while launching probes in Mass Effect 2 was pretty much just point and shoot, it's a lot more involved in Elite. The slow, boring way to map a planet is to fly a circle around it, launching probes as you go.
The cool, efficient way is using a planet's gravity well to curve your probes around it. This means you can map the opposite side without having to move your ship at all. Watching a probe arc elegantly around a planet then slam into an unmapped region on the other side feels amazing.
There's a nice skill-based element too. You can haphazardly fling dozens of probes at a body until your mapping percentage reaches 100. But every planet has an efficiency target, and if you hit that—say, mapping a whole planet with six or fewer probes—you get a credit bonus.
Probing relatively common planet types like icy bodies and gas giants will earn you credits, but the real money is in mapping the rarer ones. Earth-like, water, and metal-rich planets are particularly lucrative. A handful of these, fully mapped, can earn you a few million credits.
It's incredibly satisfying docking at a station with a computer full of mapping data and selling it to Universal Cartographics for a small fortune. Just make sure you don't get blown up on the way there, otherwise all the precious data you've gathered will be lost in the dust.
But how do you find good planets to scan? Well, you could use an FSS, or Full Spectrum Scanner, to identify them. Or an external tool like this to locate them. Either way, once you start probing, the money will start rolling in. It's a great way for newer players to fatten their bank accounts. And, if you enjoy the mapping process as much as I do, a fun one too.
It's not all about the money, of course. Hunting for planets to scan, you'll find yourself in corners of the galaxy you might not have visited otherwise. And there's some beautiful scenery to see out there. Of the many ways to make money in Elite, I've enjoyed this the most. Trading is fun, but you don't see much other than stars and space stations.
So if you miss scanning planets in Mass Effect 2, or you're just looking for a way to make a few extra credits in Elite, consider investing in a Detailed Surface Scanner and doing some probing. Hitting the perfect arc and watching one land exactly where you aimed never gets old.