Elite Dangerous Hints and Tips, by Brrokk

Quick links:
Brokk Home
Useful Key Bindings
Game Mode
Launching from Station
Supercruise and Hyperspace
Approaching Destination in Supercruise
Docking at a Station
Landing at a Planetary Base
Star Map Route Plotting
Fuel Scooping
Ship Outfitting
Fire Groups
Wake Scanner
Finding Latitude/Longitude on a Planet
Starting Engineering
Using the Full Spectrum System Scanner
Using the Detailed Surface Scanner


Introduction

Thinking back over how I started playing Elite Dangerous, this is is a list of the topics which I had trouble figuring out and my initial solutions to them. I hope it will be useful to others. I’ve made the list basically by trying to remember the things that frustrated me or wasted a lot of time.

Training

Elite Dangerous is different from many other games in that the learning curve is really, really steep. In the early stages your ship can be destroyed by things you haven’t heard of in ways you don’t understand. It’s really important to do the training exercises (although the Advanced Combat one is quite difficult and you perhaps don’t need to beat it, just understand it). There are also good training videos on YouTube for many specific topics. Advice can be obtained in many online communities such as the official game forum and Facebook groups.

Useful Key Bindings

In the Controls menu there is a huge number of possible key bindings and to start with the options are overwhelming. People use different controllers and may have a joystick with a few buttons; what should those be assigned to? I won’t give a detailed plan here, just suggest some general principles.

For general flying you will want buttons or control movements for roll, pitch, yaw and for thrust forward/backward, left/right and up/down. The exact setup depends on your controller.

If assigning axes such as left/right or yaw to secondary joystick movements as I did, beware that there are two ways of doing so in the menu. If you assign “left” to one control movement and “right” to another you will achieve only an on/off thrust control with a large dead zone in the centre. Assigning the control to an axis in one line in the Control menu gives a better, proportional response.

Other controls which will be frequently used and are beneficial to bind to keys or buttons are:
Less frequently used but still useful:
Bind supercruise and hyperspace jump to different keys. They are inexplicably bound to the same key by default.

Until you are sure about silent running, bind it to a key you will never press by accident or unbind it. Silent running turns off your shields and causes your ship to heat up rapidly.

As part of initial familiarisation, go through the menu screens accessible by pressing 1,2,3,4 and tab switching with Q,E and have a good idea of the options in each one.

Game Mode

Selecting Start in the main menu gives you a choice of which mode to play in. This is fairly straightforward: Open means you meet other players, Solo means you don’t, and Private Group means you only play with friends. Opinions about Open vary; I would just mention that there are unfortunately players in powerful ships who enjoy blowing up Sidewinders in starter systems. Solo is therefore a good option for an initial foray.
 
There are private groups run by Mobius whose members are forbidden to attack one another; one of those is a good option if your preferred play is PvE.

Launching from Station

To carry out an initial launch from inside a station, select Launch on the main screen menu. Your ship will be transported up to the pad if it’s in the hangar and then released.

Once released, thrust upwards to leave the pad and retract landing gear. (Landing gear restricts your speed so some people leave it down until clear of the station).

Move vertically upwards until you are almost level with the station exit. (Pads near the back of the station can have a central spike from the back wall of the station above them).

Roll until the station exit slot is horizontal.

Thrust forwards until your speed is in the range 70-90m/s. Always keep the speed below 100m/s until well clear of the station. Above this speed, “SPEEDING” will be shown in red at bottom right and any collisions will attract fines or, if the other ship is destroyed, death.

Notice that the slot has green lights on one side and red on the other. Using roll, pitch and yaw, aim to exit on the green side with your ship horizontal in the slot.

That works well for small ships. Larger ships require knowledge of where your cockpit is situated on the ship and careful positioning in the slot. For example, an Anaconda has the cockpit right at the top and there’s lots of ship below you.

Supercruise and Hyperspace

These are NOT the same, but they are strangely linked. After taking off from a station your ship is in normal space. Supercruise enables you to travel much faster within a system. Hyperspace enables you to jump to another system.

The strange linkage arises from the facts that:
So, travel away from the station at under 100m/s until you have left the no-fire zone. Then increase speed to maximum (maybe boost) and continue until the Mass Lock light goes out. If you haven’t already selected a destination in either the system map or galaxy map, do so. Then align your ship with the destination and select supercruise or hyperspace. Keep throttle at 100% until the charging countdown starts.

For a hyperspace jump it’s good practice to zero the throttle during the countdown so that you won’t arrive and immediately accelerate in supercruise into a star. Don’t be tempted to use the time during a jump by minimising the game and looking up something on a web site. When the game doesn’t have focus it doesn’t receive control inputs, so if you zeroed the throttle during the countdown or jump this will go unnoticed!

Approaching Destination in Supercruise

Approaching a destination without wasting time or overshooting can be done by making use of the automatic speed control provided in supercruise. The destination must be selected. With the ship aligned with the selected destination there are three main arrival stages.

(1) Beside the selected target symbol the distance to the destination and the arrival time are shown. The arrival time can seem confusing as it often doesn’t count down at one second per second. This is because supercruise speed is automatically varied by your ship and the arrival time expressed only the instantaneous speed. While accelerating you see the time reducing rapidly; while decelerating it may stop changing or even increase. (Slowing down can be caused by passing near a planet. The message “Slow Down” will then be displayed; this is a description of what’s happening, not an instruction). A good basic strategy is to apply full throttle while travelling, until the arrival time shows 10 seconds. Then go to (2).

(2) The throttle setting bar on the right of the radar has a blue region. In various modes, this shows the “optimum” throttle setting for whatever is happening. Having got the arrival time down to 10 seconds, throttle back to the middle of the blue region. The arrival time will continue reducing until it stabilises at about 6 seconds. Going below this will probably mean overshooting, although 5 seconds is do-able. Maintain 6 seconds on approach until indicated by (3).

(3) On the left above the information panels, your distance and speed are shown by two coloured scales. To arrive cleanly, you need both measures to be in their blue regions at the same time. If the 6 second rule is followed this should be automatic. Finally, a message “Safe Disengage Ready” is displayed: press the supercruise button once to drop into normal space. Hint: once the speed is in its blue region and the distance is fairly close, the speed will be capped if you throttle up again, shaving a few seconds off the final approach.

If an overshoot is inevitable, the method of dealing with it depends on your speed. It may be enough to take a corkscrew course while shedding speed. Failing that, pitch straight up or down for a whole loop, known as the “loop of shame”.

Docking at a Station

Dropping out of supercruise should put you about 10km from a station. To dock, proceed as follows.

Target the station. This will show the station as a hologram at bottom left so you can see where the entrance is. A Coriolis station will be illustrated with arrows on some of the sides pointing to the side which has the entrance. Get onto the axis and face the station entrance.

Approach to within 7.5km and request docking using your Contacts menu. If you forget this, death is assured!
Once you have approach clearance, entering the station is the reverse of leaving. Keep speed below 100m/s within the no-fire zone.

Inside the station your assigned pad will be illuminated and your small direction radar will indicate where it is. Deploy landing gear and approach the pad carefully. When you are near enough, your radar will be replaced by a hologram of your ship above the pad. Use roll, pitch and yaw to orient the ship so that it’s facing away in the hologram. Use forward/back and left/right thrust to position it at the centre. Finally use down thrust to land.

Landing at a Planetary Base

Approaching a planetary base is more complex than landing at a station. The following is my method:

(1) Approach the planet in supercruise at full speed, but slow right down once the arrival time reaches about 12 seconds. Now make sure you have the actual planetary base selected, not just the planet.

(2) Roll until the base you want to land at is below the centre of the planet. Now get onto a shallow approach. If the base symbol is dashed, the base is on the other side of the planet; pitch down so that the planet limb is at the top of the screen and approach on a spiral path until the base comes over the horizon. If the base is near the centre, pitch up and fly towards the upper limb of the planet. You should now have the base near the edge of the planet, above its lower limb.

(3) Point the ship exactly at the base and roll 180 degrees. Approach with the throttle in the blue region. This stage and the last don’t need to be followed exactly; they are just my method for making an easy approach with good visibility.

(4) Two circles appear around the planet and a vertical height indicator with two markers appears on the right. The two height marks correspond to the two circles. Your aim is to enter the first circle with your speed in blue.

(5) If this is done right you get the message “Orbital flight engaged”. This is a slower version of supercruise which transitions between the two marked heights. Continue to approach the base. Your speed will automatically decrease with throttle in the blue. Your pitch relative to the ground is now also shown by angular scales right and left. When you reach the inner circle and lower mark, speed needs to be 2.5km/s and pitch needs to be between -5 and -60 degrees.

(6) You drop from orbital cruise into “Glide”. This is mis-named as it’s not aerodynamic and it’s still faster than normal flight. Throttle now has no effect and your speed is fixed at 2.5km/s as you approach the base. You will drop from glide to normal flight about 7.5km from the base. Request docking and land as in a station.

If you got the speed or pitch wrong in (5) you won’t enter glide but will just drop to normal space with some damage and an FSD cooldown. In that case the quickest recovery is to wait out the cooldown and then fly away from the planet and get back into supercruise for another approach.

Star Map Route Plotting

Tutorials cover star map route plotting quite well. Here are just a few hints.

When a route is plotted, the type of line shows how far along it you can get with the fuel on board. The line is dotted beyond that; the change is subtle but crucial!

Scoopable star classes are O B A F G K M, in order of decreasing temperature (so M are the nicest). It’s possible to colour the stars according to whether they are fuel-scoopable in the third tab. This setting is hard to find; there’s a scroll bar giving access to more filters than immediately appear.

It’s also possible to restrict route plotting to the coloured stars, so making sure that all stars you visit are fuel-scoopable.

Another use of that restriction is to filter stars so that only unvisited ones are coloured, to maximise exploration data payouts.

Fuel Scooping

If using a fuel scoop, make it the biggest and best you can afford. Higher scooping speed means less problems with overheating.

On arriving at a scoopable star, point the ship just outside the boundary circle around the star, then make a straight fly-past in supercruise at a speed which gets you the amount of fuel you want. Learn this by trial and error; with a good fuel scoop this can be maximum speed. Scooping is automatic. Don’t manoeuvre or engage hyperspace countdown until the fuel scoop is disengaged or you will gain heat. If you didn’t get enough fuel it’s possible to go round for another pass.

Whether scooping or just passing a star, be aware of the meaning of the star's stalk in the radar. In supercruise you are never stopped. If the stalk joins the horizontal plane in front of the centre point (you), you are approaching the star, even if you can't see it in front of you. If it joins the horizontal plane behind you, you are increasing your distance from the star. To fly around the star at constant distance, slowly pitch so that the stalk stays on the horizontal centre line of the radar.

Ship Outfitting

Some random bits of information:

All modules in outfitting have a number and a letter. The number is size and the letter is quality. You can fit a module smaller than the size of the slot in your ship but not larger.

The letters generally have the following meanings. E=cheapest, D=lightest, C=intermediate, B=toughest, A=best performance. The price usually rises through this sequence.

The power plant provides power to everything and at the same time produces heat proportional to its output.

Three special categories of module are powered through the power distributor. Sys=shields, eng=thrusters, wep=weapons. The distributor maintains three reservoirs of power for these three purposes and apportioning charge to these is what the “pips” do.

Some guidance:

Fit the best quality power plant you can afford (giving less heat) and the smallest size which will provide the power you want.

Fit the biggest and best FSD you can afford.

For longest jump range  choose minimum weight everywhere else (D-rated thrusters, power distributor, life support).

For combat effectiveness fit the biggest and best power distributor you can afford.

Don’t fit weapons unless you need them. A transport or explorer ship will rarely benefit from fighting an attacker and carrying weapons will reduce your top speed. No weapons and enough weapons are both OK; anything in between is bad!

Think twice about A-rating things like shield boosters, scanners, etc. The power consumption is not always worthwhile.

Fire Groups

After fitting modules which need to be in a fire group you get a reminder to assign them, which is done in the Fire Groups tab.
You can have as many fire groups as you wish (but the fewer the better). Each fire group can contain modules assigned to fire button 1 or fire button 2.

Some modules (e.g. heat sinks or chaff) can function even if they’re not in a fire group as long as you bind them to a key or button. Others (e.g. weapons or discovery scanner) cannot be activated except by one of the fire buttons in a fire group.

Modules can appear in more than one fire group. This is useful if you want something to be always available in any fire group.


Wake Scanner

I had a lot of trouble getting a wake scanner to work. It seems to count as a weapon, so it has to have enough power, it has to be in a fire group and hardpoints have to be deployed for it to work. The last point is counter-intuitive as it’s not fitted in a hardpoint, and it annoys the station if you’re in the no-fire zone. (Annoyance is confined to giving a telling-off as long as you don’t fire any weapons though – be very careful setting up the fire groups!)

Finding Latitude/Longitude on a Planet

This is not easy to do, even though you have a constant display of latitude and longitude when in orbital cruise. The basic movements are obvious:

The simplest approach is to get your longitude right first and then head 0 or 180 to the correct latitude. However this is complicated by the fact that you can’t actually stop in orbital cruise, so you are likely to overshoot. Then there’s also the need to enter glide at a shallow angle to descend.

Once you arrive at a location such as a crashed ship or a base by this method, there’s often a data point you can scan in SRV to be able to have a marker on the planet next time you return.

Starting Engineering

Engineering can seem bewildering. Before you have complete understanding, always do the following mods, usually to the highest grade you can. More options can be considered once you understand the effects.

The following is a list of materials needed for the most popular mods.

FRAME SHIFT DRIVE - INCREASED RANGE (GRADE 5)
Arsenic
Chemical Manipulators
Datamined Wake Exceptions
Felicity Farseer
 
Any LASER - EFFICIENT (GRADE 5)
Cadmium
Proto Heat Radiators
Unexpected Emission Data
Broo Tarquin
 
MULTI-CANNON - OVERCHARGED (GRADE 5)
Zirconium
Conductive Polymers
Modified Embedded Firmware
Tod "The Blaster" McQuinn
 
MULTI-CANNON - LIGHTWEIGHT (GRADE 5)
Conductive Ceramics
Proto Light Alloys
Proto Radiolic Alloys
Tod "The Blaster" McQuinn
 
SHIELD BOOSTER - RESISTANCE AUGMENTED (GRADE 5)
Conductive Ceramics
Imperial Shielding
Refined Focus Crystals
Didi Vatermann
 
SHIELD GENERATOR - THERMAL RESISTANT (GRADE 5)
Ruthenium
Refined Focus Crystals
Untypical Shield Scans
Lei Cheung
 
ARMOUR - LIGHTWEIGHT (GRADE 5)
Tin
Conductive Ceramics
Military Grade Alloys
Selene Jean
 
ARMOUR - HEAVY DUTY (GRADE 5)
Compound Shielding
Core Dynamics Composites
Tungsten
Selene Jean

POWER PLANT - OVERCHARGED (GRADE 5)
Tellurium
Chemical Manipulators
Conductive Ceramics
Hera Tani
 
POWER DISTRIBUTOR - CHARGE ENHANCED (GRADE 5)
Chemical Manipulators
Exquisite Focus Crystals
Cracked Industrial Firmware
The Dweller
 
THRUSTERS - DIRTY (GRADE 5) (Op.mass 25-30%)
Cadmium
Pharmaceutical Isolators
Cracked Industrial Firmware
Professor Palin
 
THRUSTERS - CLEAN (GRADE 5)  (Op.mass 10-18%)
Tin
Conductive Ceramics
Abnormal Compact Emissions Data
Professor Palin

Using the Full Spectrum System Scanner

The FSS can seem bewildering, but really it's a simple idea. After a discovery scan (using from a fire group the Discovery Scanner which every ship now has built in), you can enter FSS mode. This shows you a view of the sky in the system you're in, with the orbital plane marked by a line. You can pan around the sky looking for things; when you get near something it will appear as a fuzzy blue blob. You also have a "Tuner" along the bottom, which will let you select the type of object you're searching for.

First, bind some controls in the "Controls" menu:

In “Mode Switches” choose a key for “Switch HUD Mode”. This key will switch your HUD between Combat Mode (having orange curved lines) and Analysis Mode (straight blue lines). M is a logical choice because it’s next to N which you're probably using to switch between fire groups.

In “Full Spectrum System Scanner”:-

Choose a key for “Enter FSS mode”. Use the same one for “Leave FSS”.

To look around I use the mouse. To do this, bind “Mouse X-axis” to “YAW” and “Mouse Y-axis” to “PITCH INVERTED”. Make both of those “RELATIVE”.

I use the mouse wheel to “Zoom In to Target” and “Zoom Out” (in its + and – directions).

For tuning you can use a joystick axis. I use the left and right arrow keys; bind them for “Tuning”, not “Absolute Tuning”.

It’s possible to bind a key (or mouse button) to “Discovery Scan”, although I prefer to do that from the HUD before entering the FSS.

It’s sometimes useful to have a key or mouse button bound to “Target Current Signal”; for use if you decide to fly there next.

After entering a new system, slow down in supercruise, make sure your HUD is in Analysis Mode, do the discovery scan, then enter FSS mode. Look at the line along the Tuner. Any squiggles indicate a body or signal source you haven't yet resolved. Move the Tuner to one of these. The type of body/signal you've selected will be named at the right-hand end of the Tuner and one or more patterns of chevron arrows which identify this type of body/signal will be shown.

Now pan around the sky looking for fuzzy blue blobs. They are likely to be near the orbital plane which is shown by a line. When you have one near the centre a chevron pattern will point towards it. Make sure this matches the chevron pattern you're tuned to and pan to the centre of the blob. If it doesn't match, either ignore it for now or adjust the Tuner. If it's the type of body/signal you've selected in the Tuner, a white circle will appear at the centre and you can then zoom in. Zooming in may require more than one stage if there are distant bodies close together. Zoom will fail if the body/signal you have centred isn't the type you've set the Tuner to (and you won't see the central white circle). Zooming can also fail if one body is behind another.

When zooming succeeds, you will discover the body or signal. Information about it will be displayed and its squiggle will be removed from the Tuner. At bottom left, the percentage of bodies you've discovered in the system is displayed. Once this reaches 100% any remaining squiggles are signal sources.


Using the Detailed Surface Scanner

The DSS is really just another cockpit view in which you can launch discovery probes onto a planet surface.

Key bindings:

You are going to enter the DSS from the HUD by having it in a fire group, so no key is needed to enter it.

Bind a key to “Exit Mode” to get back to the HUD; the default is Backspace.

“Toggle Front/Back View” is useful; it makes the planet temporarily transparent. “Button Mode” “HOLD” is best for this as you only want it to be a temporary effect.

I bind normal joystick movements to “Third Person Yaw Axis” and “… Pitch Axis”. (I don’t see what’s “third person” about these).

Finding the fire button for launching a probe was tricky. It turns out to be the same fire button as you used to activate the DSS.

Travel towards the planet in supercruise. Make sure your HUD is in Analysis Mode and the DSS is in the selected fire group. Approach until the DSS no longer says "Out of Range" and then go closer until the planet appears a decent size on the screen. Zero the throttle but stay in supercruise. Activate the DSS from its fire group.

Pressing the fire button again will now launch probes towards the planet and when each one hits it will fill a circular region on the surface which has now been mapped. Fire one right at the centre of the planet to see the effect. You carry an infinite number of probes but there is an efficiency bonus for not using too many; the expected number is displayed near bottom right and depends on the size of the planet.

An easy way to completely map a small planet is as follows. Fire one probe directly towards the centre. Now yaw until you're aiming off the planet. You'll see a small mark on the line out from the planet. Aim at this mark and fire another probe - the mark seems to indicate an aim direction which will make a probe hit the planet at right-angles from where you're looking (nothing says so, but I've found that it works with various sizes of planets). Yaw to the same mark on the other side of the planet and fire a third probe. Now do the same at top and bottom (probes four and five). Finally, pitch or yaw slowly away from the planet centre until the aim point says "Miss" and then turn back until "Miss" disappears. Fire probe six; it will go beyond the planet and impact on the side away from you. At any time, "Toggle Front/Back View" will make the planet transparent so that you can see how much of the back you've covered.

A ringed planet needs the ring to be hit with one probe. The presence of a ring might make it difficult to position some of the probes described above: you may need to fly to the other side of the rung to complete the mapping.

The percentage of the planet you've covered so far is shown at bottom left. Once this reaches 90% it will jump to 100% and you'll have completely mapped the planet. Now anything interesting on its surface will be shown as a POI in your Navigation menu.
 
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