Right now, Elite: Dangerous could effectively be renamed Space Trucking Simulator 3300. Yes, there's combat, but the beta's existing systems feel more suited to serenely travelling between the stars to profit from an incredibly basic economy. That's a consequence of the game's still-early development status, and, through Frontier's regular newsletter, they've been explaining what we can eventually expect. The latest update details interstellar exploration, and it sounds like a mighty fine career for adventurers and pirates alike.
"The great thing about exploration is it is many-layered," writes Frontier's newsletter scribe, "one person might be the first to visit a system – but this is an easy thing to do, and one person can visit a great many systems in a short period of time, so rapidly the 'frontier' of unvisited systems will quickly recede.
"Visiting a system is not really exploring it except on an extremely superficial level, so our plan is, we will not count the system as explored at that point."
To fully explore a system, players will need to first scan it at a basic level, and then use that data to further scan the system's planets and moons.
Here comes the crime bit: to claim the reward from a scanned planet or moon, players will need to return their data to a Federation or Imperial planet with a data claim registration facility. This mean competing explorers can attack each other to be first back with their information, and even lets pirates attempt to steal the data from an exploration ship.
I like the sound of this. Previously, I'd resigned myself to living out a space fantasy as a glorified trucker. Which is all fine and well, but there's something appealing about a mission to seek out new life and new civilisations. I mean, you could make a TV show out of that sort of premise.