Elite / Frontier Frontier: Elite 2 - but flying more like Elite / Elite: Dangerous

After achieving my original-flavour Elite goal the other day, I've now turned my attention back to its sequel. My current game started last year after being inspired by Isinona's FE2 videos to try Engines Off flight - like many others when I first played FE2 back in '93 I was doing combat all wrong :)

So for a few months I tweaked my play style and ship until I was fairly happy - I'd stick to a Cobra III like the original, and eventually settled on a 1MW beam laser as being the closest to the original game "Military Laser" - 5MW pulse lasers just made unshielded things pop in one shot but were not quick enough to take down the shields on ships like the Imp Courier - higher power beam lasers again made things too point'n'click, so the 1MW beam became the happy medium. Using the "controls mod" to add lateral thrusters gave me almost FAoff style control, so actual flying and dogfighting became much more fun.

Though I was enjoying it much more, there was still some je ne sais quoi missing from the combat - and it suddenly clicked when rewatching one of Isinona's vids a couple of months ago: they don't use the mouse when flying. I was still whipping my ships around quicksharp like I had Level 8 Engineered Thrusters with inertialess experimental effect. Thankfully, I'd recently purchased a Bluetooth gamepad to use with my iPad games, so I was able to use the key-mapper function in DOSbox to put the keyboard flight controls onto it, along with a few other most-used keys:
FE2pad.jpg

...and although combat takes a bit longer now, it feels much more like original Elite and more importantly, I'm enjoying it :)
Source: https://youtu.be/SO1VsTNGKcA
 
The two maxims I stuck to during my recent ZX Spectrum Elite play have carried over into Frontier:
  • Try to survive - use hyperjumps, energy bombs or escape pods in hairy situations.
  • Roll with the punches - if something inconvenient happens, like the autopilot gets destroyed or engines damaged, the game must go on!
So far this has led to some great limping-into-dock moments without functioning port + reverse thrusters on one occasion, and an unusual situation where several passengers, upset at an extended traversal of a quintenary system, staged a sit-in protest (this is actually a bug that can only be solved with an Escape Pod, which led me to discover something new about the game - more on that in a future post). Also, I’m only saving at Stations (like the original game) which certainly adds a bit of a thrill towards the end of journeys through systems like Riedquat. Not really “iron man” style, but it still gives me the feeling of something to lose.
 
As per my previous post, I had two groups of troublesome passengers - my journey had taken over a month and they totally got the 'ump and demanded to be dropped at the nearest station.

I docked at what happened to be their desired destination but they refused to pay up, stated they were going to get the authorities on the case, and then didn't disembark from the ship.

I was unable to sell occupied cabins, and the prospect of continuing the game with only a few cargo spaces available and continuous grumbling from sit-in protesters didn't appeal - the solution is rather a drastic one...
Source: https://youtu.be/nzdITNnd2mQ

...but this did lead me to discover that FE2 Escape Pods require the player to pilot the Pod to a local station. I must admit the first couple of times I tried the Escape Pod (press "X") I thought the game was bugged - my scanner stopped working and for some reason I wasn't teleporting back to the nearest station (like in the original Elite) - it was only when I tried manoeuvring that I glimpsed my recently-ejected-from Cobra and the credit dropped.
 
I haven't posted here in years. I haven't played FE2 for even longer. I used to play on an Amiga4000. But, whatever..

When I used to do the missions with tight schedules, after I'd jumped in to the target system, I'd autopilot to get the course & wait for the heading to settle. Disengage the autopilot & go manual. Start accelerating & pump up the stardreamer to max whilst still accelerating. Keep a finger on the accelerator the whole time & watch the distance counter. Then, when the counter got down to a number that you'll have to experiment with, hit the engine icon again to get autopilot back on. At this point, I can't remember if you immediately docked, or if the stardreamer went back to normal time & had to hit it again to get it to dock super quick (instead of crashing in to the station, or planet).

I mean, it can't be cheating, surely ?. Exploitative ?. Maybe. Well, that's what 20something me used to do to carve days, weeks, months from a mission.
 
I haven't posted here in years. I haven't played FE2 for even longer. I used to play on an Amiga4000. But, whatever..

When I used to do the missions with tight schedules, after I'd jumped in to the target system, I'd autopilot to get the course & wait for the heading to settle. Disengage the autopilot & go manual. Start accelerating & pump up the stardreamer to max whilst still accelerating. Keep a finger on the accelerator the whole time & watch the distance counter. Then, when the counter got down to a number that you'll have to experiment with, hit the engine icon again to get autopilot back on. At this point, I can't remember if you immediately docked, or if the stardreamer went back to normal time & had to hit it again to get it to dock super quick (instead of crashing in to the station, or planet).

I mean, it can't be cheating, surely ?. Exploitative ?. Maybe. Well, that's what 20something me used to do to carve days, weeks, months from a mission.
That’s definitely a known issue - you can thrust towards your target, get up to a decent percentage of the speed of light, then click on the autopilot when close to your destination and magically survive several thousand G’s worth of deceleration :)

I do the non-cheaty version - thrust towards my target then flip’n’burn at the halfway point - in single-star systems this can cut down the usual 3 day autopilot transit by about half. I like doing the mental back-of-the-ciggy-packet (or napkin, if you’re posh) calculations for the missions, it adds to my enjoyment. Twenty-something me was also a right exploiter though :D

When I’m not running missions I let the computer take me along as I found out pirates were having a hard time intercepting speedy-me.
 
There is another "cheat" method of doing drop-offs - in deep space no less...

If you're going to an intermediate system to do other drop-offs (the more the better), dock in a space station, then after the first drop-off message pops up, launch and monitor your cargo / passengers. The ones bound for the system you're in will still be unloading. The moment the last one for that system has left, immediately jump to the next destination - and despite being in deep space, all your other drop-offs, whether they be parcels or passengers, will happily leave your ship even though you're nowhere near any stations or even signs of life. This is particularly fun to do with the military systems around Archenar with all the military deliveries you can get there. If you're going to a large binary system then it completely bypasses the in-system travel just to drop off the stuff as long as you've previously dropped off multiple items at a place within 1 jump from there.
 
There is another "cheat" method of doing drop-offs - in deep space no less...

If you're going to an intermediate system to do other drop-offs (the more the better), dock in a space station, then after the first drop-off message pops up, launch and monitor your cargo / passengers. The ones bound for the system you're in will still be unloading. The moment the last one for that system has left, immediately jump to the next destination - and despite being in deep space, all your other drop-offs, whether they be parcels or passengers, will happily leave your ship even though you're nowhere near any stations or even signs of life. This is particularly fun to do with the military systems around Archenar with all the military deliveries you can get there. If you're going to a large binary system then it completely bypasses the in-system travel just to drop off the stuff as long as you've previously dropped off multiple items at a place within 1 jump from there.
That's interesting info that I've not seen before on any of the FE2 fan sites - thanks for posting it, I'm always happy to find out something new about the game even though I'm on an exploit-free play through :)

I've now transferred my game onto a portable device - I found I could play a lot more of original Elite once I'd got it on my Nintendo DS, so I wanted something similar for FE2. Years ago I'd flirted with the PSP's conversion of Atari ST FE2, Frontier 1337, but it was only really playable on minimum settings and when staying in outer space, and I wanted to play the full experience - after a quick browse of the internet it seemed that Magic DOSbox on Android devices would be the solution I was looking for.

An Amazon Prime purchase later, I've got FE2 up and running at 60fps and maximum settings with the same controls mapped to my Bluetooth gamepad. The few controls left are usable via the touchscreen - either the game icons themselves or a handful of virtual buttons I've put on the screen for when I'm navigating the Galaxy map or altering the external ship view. The following vid is only captured at 30fps and the quality isn't great, but it gives an idea of what it's like:
Source: https://youtu.be/Y3m1j05Kb3A
 
I'm on an exploit-free play through :)
I can appreciate that. I wish I could find the time to replay F:E2 again. A number of years ago now, I used to play it with winuae. But of course, forgot all about keeping the save file when I built a new pc. There's always something I forget with a new build.
How far in to the game are you ?
 
...How far in to the game are you ?
I started playing again last year and I’m currently on my 196th save file and just over 6.5 years in-game; usually I managed about 20~30 minutes on my laptop per play session. Hand-held gaming is much more family friendly for me as I’m not sequestered behind a computer, so I’m getting a bit more playtime now :)

Mostly been doing delivery/passenger missions and trading around the Old Worlds (I liked the Riedquat system map when I was improving my combat rank - I called it “pirate confetti” 😁) though recently I’ve been doing Fed Mil missions with the aim of eventually accessing the photo & bombing stuff which I never did back in the day. I reached “Dangerous” a couple of weeks ago and have just been promoted “Sergeant” - I’ve quite a bit further to go!

Also got my first assassination contract coming up in Wolf 359, so I’ll see how my Cobra will fare against a Lion.

Edit: did you get good performance on the Amiga 4000? I first got FE2 when it released on my A500 but it wasn’t great in the frame rate department - I eventually bought a 486 sx25 the year after and FE2 looked glorious on it.
 
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Edit: did you get good performance on the Amiga 4000? I first got FE2 when it released on my A500 but it wasn’t great in the frame rate department - I eventually bought a 486 sx25 the year after and FE2 looked glorious on it.
I remember the 4000 as being more than playable. It was only the 030 version. But I don't remember it being so slow that it was unplayable, to me. I had access to an 040 for a short while back then, but I don't remember it being that drastically different, so I was happy with an 030.
I remember doing to the bombing/photo missions. I can't remember what status I got to, though I got to Elite on the family (my) C64. I remember being able to load up Panther Clippers with shield generators & being able to fly through stars. I went to PC's in 1995 & got a boxed version of FFE, but couldn't get in to it. That was around the time I got online, so I was probably busy reading alt.fan.elite trying to find out if anyone else saw the mysterious ship in '64 Elite.
Anyway, I played a load of FE2 on the 4k. But not enough to get Elite status..
 
I remember the 4000 as being more than playable. It was only the 030 version. But I don't remember it being so slow that it was unplayable, to me. I had access to an 040 for a short while back then, but I don't remember it being that drastically different, so I was happy with an 030.
I remember doing to the bombing/photo missions. I can't remember what status I got to, though I got to Elite on the family (my) C64. I remember being able to load up Panther Clippers with shield generators & being able to fly through stars. I went to PC's in 1995 & got a boxed version of FFE, but couldn't get in to it. That was around the time I got online, so I was probably busy reading alt.fan.elite trying to find out if anyone else saw the mysterious ship in '64 Elite.
Anyway, I played a load of FE2 on the 4k. But not enough to get Elite status..
I never got further than Competent in any of the original 3 games (though I’ve recently rectified that for the first!) - I played more FE2 than the others but I was happy mainly just pootling around doing easy stuff. My bezzie mate back then was also playing on an A500 and had the impervious Panther Clipper - he just autopiloted into enemy ships with the StarDreamer - I suppose these days he’d be called a min/max player, he was definitely Elite with the best ship in the game and a credit balance that made my eyes water while I was still wondering whether to buy the Naval ECM :D

I also never got on with FFE (probably didn’t help that I had the bugged first release) as I thought the graphics were a step down from FE2; didn’t like the new planets or the cockpit UI. I think I moved on to Tie Fighter CD-ROM and Wing Commander 3 around that time for my space fix. I am going to revisit it though, I’ve got AndyJ’s modded version looking almost how I want it and I fancy having a go at the missions.
 
Also got my first assassination contract coming up in Wolf 359, so I’ll see how my Cobra will fare against a Lion.
Apart from misreading the contract target - I’d got my felines confused; it was a Tiger, not a Lion - the hit went fairly easily, even though the game sought to make things a bit more interesting...

I wanted to arrive with three or so days in hand but after jumping into Wolf 359 I was intercepted by a Cobra Mk1 that managed to hit me with a Navy-grade missile that my ECM couldn’t touch - this dropped my shields, took out a third of my hull strength and rendered my autopilot inoperative in one fell swoop.

As I was already travelling at a few thousand km’s per second and with about 7.5 AUs to go, I had to do a bit of guesstimation for my Engines-Off approach - break too much or overshoot too far and I could miss my target’s departure. Thankfully I guesstimated just about right and touched down at the planetary port with 28 hours to spare - so after some speedy repairs, I launched and rough-landed a few km’s away from the starport.
7EFC0EDD-AAC7-48DA-95BC-19C7A380EE5C.jpeg

Kicking in the StarDreamer gave me a wonderfully accelerated view of the local day/night cycle, with Wolf 359 scooting overhead chased by the Milky Way during the brief night - each full day being about 10 hours.
Source: https://youtu.be/skNE9-nT3Yw

My target launched at the designated time and soon after jumped out - my hyperspace analyser letting me know they’d done a fairly short jump to Tau Ceti - I was confident my Class 3 Military Drive would get me there ahead of them.

Wrong! Their Class 6 Hyperdrive got them there about 90 seconds ahead of me (after a 3 day hyperspace jump), so after a fairly panicked good-look-all-round I spotted the Tiger 60km’s away and burning hard for the inner planets...it was at this point I realised I should’ve read up on the Tiger Trader‘s specs, as I didn’t know if I’d be able to catch them (pulling out the FE2 manual later shows the Tiger has 12G acceleration whilst my Cobra has 20G, so no worries!) - they managed to get about 180km’s away from me before I started to close the distance, during which I had to do small but frequent burns to ensure I didn’t overshoot at high speed.

When I was within a few hundred metres, I lit the target up and watched as they started spinning wildly as if they were trying to visually acquire me (although it was probably just AI having a moment, it certainly looked like my first shot had damaged their sensors, or perhaps they didn’t have a scanner fitted) but even though they finally managed to lock on to my ship, it was but a few moments before they became a rapidly expanding debris cloud.

I enjoyed that, I think I might take a few more of these contracts... :)
 
Several weeks ago on Drew Wagar's Retro livestream he purchased and used an Energy Bomb in the ZX Spectrum version of Elite - this causes all surrounding ships to immediately explode (though it has limited effect on groups of Thargoid ships) and the question was posed about how the game would be if NPCs could also use the EB...although I'm playing the sequel, today I found out the answer:

Source: https://youtu.be/QJGWKGOh9R0


...thankfully my shields absorbed most of the energy burst, but I should imagine unshielded player ships would have a hard time of it. I initially didn't have a clue as to what the sparkling was - definitely not an ECM activating...it was only after reloading to replay the interception that I noticed that the Radar Mapper listed an EB as part of the Moray's equipment.

The manual states: "Energy Bomb Causes the drive systems of smaller ships to overload and explode, but not your own as it is very specific. It can be withstood if a ship has a strong enough shield"

I'm now curious to see what effect EBs have on ships with larger hull mass - what percentage will it damage, and will it take out the drive system itself? This might be a useful method for hobbling assassination targets :devilish:
 
On this week's "That's New To Me & I've Played Since '93" ~ I was calling back at the starter location of Sirocco Station at the behest of the Federal Military and was denied docking permission due to full landing pads:
Sirocco1.jpg

...whilst I've encountered this several times over the years, what I've never seen before is an NPC ship faffing around because they've also been denied a landing go-ahead:
Sirocco3.jpg

Nice to see a bit of life around ports, something that's been massively improved upon in ED.

I decided to have a bit of a fly around prior rough landing and engaging the StarDreamer - I remembered old posts on these forums saying how the old games managed to have landable atmospheric worlds etc. and the usual reply of "yeah, but they were just plain spheres", and that has always been my impression - you usually see a few objects at a surface port on approach and then the random surface clutter & clouds kick in at about 20km altitude (sometimes with annoying results, like plopping a mountain right over the landing pad for goodness sake grrrr! But hurrah! for no collision detection on them, I suppose), but always within a fairly small radius of the surface installation.

Having flown away from Sirocco Station for a while, admiring the scenic view remembered from old:
Sirocco4.jpg

...there was a little flicker of a pop-in right at the edge of my screen. I quickly flicked to my rear-view camera and oh hello there:
Sirocco6.jpg
Sirocco5.jpg

...it looks like random clutter is generating but unfortunately only once you're already past it. I've since tried this on an Earth-like world, and forests, fields and mountain ranges are appearing but in a bit of a haphazard fashion, sometimes blinking in and out depending on the camera angle. I've also seen impact craters and the like appearing on barren moons.

Looks like planets are probably not plain spheres after all, but the generation code isn't getting things quite right :/
 
I've finally got around to trying out an Energy Bomb on a 'retirement' job - unfortunately my hoped for result (damaging the jump drives so that the target would be stranded at its start position) didn't happen; while some hull damage was inflicted before they got their shields up, the hyperdrive was unaffected :( The local port authorities took a dim view of my "it was an accidental button press, Officer" and launched en masse, so things got a bit hairy before my target finally jumped and I was able to track them down for a bit of closure to the mission.

For a bit of experimentation I reverted my save to see if there was a better way of using the Energy Bomb - turns out it's quite useful for dealing with the Police Vipers, so you can take out the target on its landing pad and then EB your pursuers while making for jump altitude. Handy if you don't fancy hanging around for several days waiting for the retiree to launch.

I then turned my thoughts to XB13 Proximity Mines - everything I've ever read about them has said "don't bother" but I wondered if they might have uses other than taking up a better-fitted missile's space on a pylon. I decided to mine the jump exit cloud - 3 mines within 50m of the exit point:
Mines2.jpg

...and here is the Transporter approximately one second after jumping in:
Mines3.jpg

"Great!" was my initial reaction, but upon closer inspection all 3 mines were still there. Reverting back to the mission's starting system, I was able to see the Transporter charging its shields after launching, and here it was a few seconds before entering WitchSpace:
Mines8.jpg

Hmmm, looks like due to the XB13 requiring a target lock before being launched it will only detonate when in proximity to its target - makes sense I suppose, and would explain the very minor shield damage I've taken when running into my own mines, about the same as running into a cargo canister. As the hyperspace cloud was the target, the Transporter just skipped on past with nary a blink from the trio of mines.

Plan B: get in front of my target and drop the mine in its path. This turned out to be not exactly easy. I may have swore several times.

I had to manoeuvre in front of a constantly accelerating target that would quite happily smash through my Cobra III without worrying its shields too much, and drop a mine that would maintain whatever momentum my ship had upon launch. By the time I got into a semi-decent position, we were both nearly at a speed of 60km per second. After a quick save, what followed was roughly 3 dozen attempts at getting the mine to intersect with the Transporter.

Did I say I may have swore several times?

I think that the "proximity" code is not functioning correctly - quite a few times I had the mine slide on past the target without anything happening - with a quick pause and jump to the external camera I was able to see the mines almost touching the target:
Mines7.jpg

...and after almost reaching the point of saying "caress the gentle out of this" I finally managed to hit the bleedin' thing!
Mines5.jpg

The curious thing being that the mine exploded only a short distance behind my ship with its target being 890m away, but still knocking 83% of its shields down. So instead of the proximity trigger being a sphere around the target, it looks instead like it's a kilometre-long needle coming from the nose of the enemy ship :/

I'll not be using them in future, thanksverymuch :D
 
My continued (slow) progress in the Federation military - next stop, Sergeant Major (“Stand still! you ‘orrible lot of prettyboys!” /Windsor Davies) - was interrupted by another ‘retirement’ mission today...I’d taken the mission, which had a two month lead time, then continued on with my Sergeant Delivery Boy tasks until about a fortnight prior to the “Wish You All The Best” departure party.

I then jumped to the mission-giver system (Vega) instead of the target system (Altair). Oh dear.

I had only loaded enough military fuel for the jump so I could maximise my trading profit. Oh dear.

So I had to do a high speed manual approach (flip’n’burn at the half-way point), dock with the Station, refuel and jump to Altair quicksharp. I dropped into the system just under 8AUs from where I wanted to be, with roughly 4 days to when I wanted to be there.

Autopilot would take about 3.5 days so I kicked it in and plonked on the StarDreamer.

Despite being rudely awakened by 2 Imp Couriers and an Asp, I finally arrived in the vicinity of my target planet travelling at 130km/s and with 3 hours to go. (Record scratch) wait, what? 3 hours?! Oh #&*£!.

Of course the target Starport was on the other side of the planet so I executed a high speed approach and the sort of in-atmo breaking that would rattle more than a few greenhouses, and finally touched down on the pad next to the soon-to-be ex-Mafia boss, sat in their Anaconda with comically HUGE landing gear:
8D6E0F73-564E-44BE-A1CB-FDA259214501.jpeg

...2 hours and 2 seconds left on the clock! Totally nailed it 😅

Edit: it seems the hit didn’t go as smoothly as I thought - I waited until the ‘conda lifted off, then launched two Smart Missiles at it (this gets you a 600cred fine for unlawfully discharging a weapon instead of a 10,000cred fine for piracy&murder) - watched the vessel disintegrate before hightailing it for jump altitude as I remote paid my fine and dodged the beam lasers of the angry local Police Vipers.

When I got back to my mission-giver in Vega, all I got was a curt “you failed” type message instead of my 14k payday :( The only thing I think it could be is that the Anaconda conducted extreme missile avoidance manoeuvres straight into the ground - target suicide doesn’t count on assassination missions.
 
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