As I’m sure you can imagine work on the Elite Dangerous: Horizons Planetary Landings release is continuing at pace and this week – one of the major new features is the ability to drive the SRV on the surface. We’ve approached adding the SRV in the same way that we did when originally adding the flight controls into the game. They key here is to have the driving as a fun experience in itself as well as with the gameplay elements layered on top of it. As with the ships we have a robust physics system at the core and it’s with the controls we turn that into a fun experience.
The SRV has some cool advantages over normal vehicles you get to drive in game, the most obvious of which are the thrusters. These provide two key features, the first is the ability to boost of the surface allowing for powered jumps to get out of craters or to cross chasms. While in the air you can you can manually adjust the thrusters in the same way as in a ship with Flight Assist turned off. This allows for some amazing acrobatics as well as allowing you to reach locations that would be difficult to reach with normal driving. It’s also useful if you get yourself stuck!
As with the rest of the game the surface of the worlds you can land on is recreated on a 1:1 scale, not only spatially but with gravity as well. Gravity has a big effect on the handling of the SRV and here the thrusters provide their second major function. When testing the SRV in different environments there are edge cases with very low gravity and extremely high gravity where the SRV becomes impossible to handle. The thrusters help compensate for these extremes in handling, but only to a limited degree – it feels very different driving on a tiny moon compared to a massive terrestrial planet.
As already mentioned making the driving fun in itself is an important goal for us. While the thrusters do add to a large extent (there’s something quite magical with boosting out of a crater and into the sunrise!) the actual contact with the vehicle and the surface provides a lot of feedback. Similar to sand buggies, if you try to push the SRV’s performance then you need to work harder to keep it under control. Feedback is very important here – the ships audio and VFX, along with the handling, create the response you need to let you know what’s going on.
The SRV is equipped with a turret optimised for engaging local opponents like skimmers (see last week’s dev update for more information on these) and other SRV’s (if hostile players are in the area). In theory you could take on a ship, but ship mounted weapons are much more powerful than the SRV’s so it’s best not to! You should also beware some of large defensive turrets – these are equipped to tackle low flying ships, but pose a threat to SRV’s as well.
Combat is just one feature of the SRV, it’s capable of carrying a small number of cargo canisters and also has a new device for finding things on the surface – more on that in a couple of weeks time!
Next week the second batch of player group backed minor factions should go live. Thanks to some brilliant feedback from our players, we’ve made progress with fixing some odd behaviour with influence levels – we hope to address this next week.
Exploration data should be operating smoothly now after some issues since the 1.4 release. If you do encounter a further issue then make sure to raise a bug and we’ll investigate.
We are currently working on a client update for PC/Mac and Xbox One, all being well these will be released next week. As well as various fixes we’re adjusting the NPC interdiction so it isn’t quite as punishing as it is at the moment.