Hello Commanders!

Our second outing in the focused feedback forum we’re taking another look at engineering, first introduced in the Horizons season.

For the uninitiated, engineering allows Commanders to visit a variety of eccentric scientists and mechanics. These brilliant recluses are able to upgrade ship modules beyond what’s possible through standard manufacturing techniques.

The idea behind Engineers was to give players additional rewards for taking part in the various game activities in Elite Dangerous, with said activities awarding materials, a de-facto currency for obtaining upgrades, separate from credits to prevent a path of least resistance.

Current Engineering Rules
A quick recap of how the system currently operates:

  • You unlock access to various Engineers:
    • First the Engineer must be discovered
      • Some Engineers are automatically discovered, others are revealed once you befriend Engineers that know them
    • Secondly, you must earn an invite
      • Engineers have different invite requirements, ranging from gaining a specific combat rank to mining an amount of resources to increasing reputation with a particular superpower
  • Once you have an invitation you can dock at an Engineer’s base, but before they will agree to upgrade your vessel you will need to perform a favour for them
    • Again, each Engineer will ask for a different favour
  • After completing an Engineer’s favour they will be able to craft upgrades for modules using special blueprints
    • Each blueprint has a materials cost, once paid the Engineer will apply the appropriate modification
    • Engineer blueprints are customized to down to individual components already fitted, relying on almost arcane levels of knowledge – the effectiveness of the result is open to vagaries, making no two applications identical, and even potentially hurting some aspects of the module in question
    • There are two types of statistical changes: known, which you can see the potentially ranges for, and unknown, which are applied at the end of the crafting process
  • Each time you work with an Engineer to upgrade a module using their blueprints you gain reputation with them
    • Once your reputation increases enough you will unlock access to higher graded blueprints, allowing you to make even greater improvements to your ship’s modules
    • Some Engineers allow you to increase reputation via additional methods, such as by handing in exploration data or selling commodities at their bases
  • In addition, some modules can be modified even more fundamentally, altering even the way they work, by applying experimental effects
    • Each time a module that can support a special effect is upgraded there is a small chance that the Engineer is able to apply an experimental effect
    • You can coerce an Engineer to push and apply a specific experimental effect at the cost of losing reputation ranks with them

Issues with the current system
There are a few of areas that we’d like to improve, in no small way influenced by player feedback:

  • Potential for Failure. Whilst it’s cool to have pros and cons in an upgrade system, the statistical level of variety in many blueprints ends up meaning that there is a chance of an upgrade being wrecked entirely, and basically not an upgrade, which undermines the whole process
  • Too much Random. There are multiple points where the player is left at the mercy of chance. Whilst some amount of randomness is not a bad thing, and can lead to interesting variety, in our crafting process we have three: the likelihood of correct materials being generated during associated activities, the range of known statistical options, and a final hidden set of statistical options. It can been argued that this is simply too much and makes everything unnecessarily complicated
  • Too Long. Elite Dangerous is a game where scale is very important, and very cool. It also means that processes tend to take longer. This includes the engineering loop. The grand scale acts to exacerbate when the results aren’t great and even when they are it can be argued that it’s just too slow a process.

Suggested Improvements to Engineering
With this in mind, we’re looking to overhaul the system to try to achieve the following goals:

  • Guaranteed improvement. We want to make sure that when you upgrade a module the end result is always better. There’s a significant time/resource investment in engineering so we want to make sure that you feel it’s worthwhile before you even begin, so you can make informed decisions on whether to take part or not.
  • Increase efficiency. There’s always going to be a significant time cost to upgrading your ship, but we want to look at ways of sometimes mitigating where we think it’s appropriate.

These are the changes that we’re currently investigating.

  • We are removing all hidden statistical variables from the upgrade process. Whilst there is still a range of success when you craft, you will be able to see the range before you commit
    • One cool thing that secondary hidden statistical pros and cons did was ensure variety. Because we are losing this, we will try to ensure that each module has a set of experimental effects that allow you to tweak your module in a variety of ways, hopefully ensuring that there are a number of different options to aim for
  • We are removing any potential for the crafting process to result in an upgrade that is worse than what is currently fitted. Every time you pay for an upgrade, an upgrade is what you will get
    • All penalties in blueprints are fixed and only applied once per rank
    • You will need to maximize benefits from an upgrade before you can start applying higher rank versions to a module. We still want to reward the process of upgrading modules
  • You will be able to craft pinned blueprints at any starport that has outfitting. You won’t be able to gain reputation with the Engineer for doing this, and you won’t be able to fit experimental effects at this point, but it can considerably reduce the upgrading crafting loop
  • Experimental effects will no longer have a chance to occur during the upgrade process. Instead, each experimental effect will simply have a materials cost that you can pay to have it fitted to an appropriate module
    • This means that there is no way you can lose reputation ranks with an Engineer
  • We will institute a materials trader at specific starports. These contacts will allow you to trade (at loss) materials within the same class, allowing you to convert unwanted materials into useful ones
  • We will introduce a per material storage cap, probably around the 100 mark, to remove inventory shuffling
  • We’ll add quality and quantity indicators for materials in the game world, so you’ll be able to see at a glance how much you have of a material without having to check your inventory
  • We’ll add an ignore function for materials (and commodities, incidentally), allowing you to mine and collect more efficiently by preventing collector limpets from picking up ignored items and auto-venting refineries

A lot of you will already have engineered items. We will “grandfather” these. This means you can still use them, their statistics and effects won’t be changed.
However, if you want to apply further upgrades to them, they will have to be converted. Conversion will place them at the top of the previous rank (so a rank 4 upgrade would become maxed rank 3 upgrade) and would change all statistics and effects to represent the new blueprint.

In general, we will try to make sure that the new blueprints can max out slightly better than the old system (we want to encourage conversion).

Focused Feedback!
As with the crime update, please use the three threads that will accompany this one:

Issues: you have spotted a potential problem with these changes – let us know here! Try to be as concise as possible.
Suggestions and Support: it’s very important that you let us know what you like as well as any issues! Use this thread for support and suggestions for improvements. Try to keep suggestions within the framework of the system where possible.
Detail Requests: Use this thread to ask specific questions about the feature where you think information is missing.

And that’s that! We look forward to your comments, observations and critiques!

Remember the Golden Rule: direct your comments and questions directly to us in the sticky threads, use non-sticky threads to discuss the proposal with other Commanders.

Expect this topic to stay open for at least a week, and thanks in advance for your support!