Beyond: Chapter Four

Updated: 21st June 2018

Beyond: Chapter 4 is said by Frontier to be the largest of the two major updates in 2018. It is scheduled for release between October and December 2018. Much of the below text is taken from Frontier’s own release information.

Frontier have confirmed that they will be opening up the Focused Feedback Forums for players to debate specific issues. These estimated dates can be seen below.

> Squadrons Discussion
Focused Feedback Live Stream #1
8th May

> Mining Discussion
Lavencon Recap & Mining Focused Feedback
21st June 2018

> Exploration/Codex 
TBC


> Squadrons
>

Frontier have released of the first details about Squadrons. You can read them below, or on the Focused Feedback Forum here. More details will be added here when they are known.

What is a Squadron?

A Squadron is a group of Commanders who want to band together and organise themselves in-game. This might be to play together, or to focus on certain types of gameplay such as bounty hunting, Community Goals, or perhaps rescuing Commanders who find themselves out of fuel.

The idea of Squadrons is to provide a series of features that support multiplayer organisation and gameplay.

How do I create a Squadron?

Creating your own Squadron will involve paying a credit fee (amount to be decided) and then setting the following values and once introduced they will have their own full screen GUI page within the game. When opening this screen you will have the option to search for a Squadron to join or to create your own. Squadron leaders will not gain extra credits or resources for forming a Squadron and there will be no rank requirement in order to form one. The minimum requirement for forming a Squadron is one commander but more than that number will be required for other features (ie a Fleet Carrier, see later).  At present Frontier have said the limit will be 250 people per Squadron, but they are looking at increasing this or allowing players to form alliances/connections between them.

  • Squadron name: This has to be a unique name that cannot be changed once the Squadron is created.
  • Squadron ID: A short ID or tag.
  • Language: The primary language the Squadron will communicate in.
  • Attitude: Choose from a pre-set list of attitudes. The list is currently – Relaxed, Family, and Devoted.
  • Tags: Each Squadron will be able to select a few tags from a wider list. This list includes elements such as “PvP”, “Bounty Hunting” and time zones such as “UTC+3”.
  • Superpower: Choose one of the following: Empire, Federation, Alliance or Independent.

Once all of these values have been set and the Commander is happy, the credit fee is paid and the Squadron is created. The Commander who creates the Squadron will be automatically assigned as the Squadron leader. Frontier will allow Squadron names to be reserved in advance to avoid ‘name sniping’.

How do I find/join a Squadron?

As I mentioned previously, if a Commander accesses the Squadron page and is not currently part of Squadron, they will have the option to search for one to join. Using the same fields as listed above the Commander can search by whatever is important to them and will receive a list of Squadrons based on that criteria.

The Commander will be able to look a set of Squadron statistics and use this to decide which Squadron they want to apply to. Joining one will be free.

Once the Commander finds a Squadron they like, they can send an application. This application will include a small amount of text that, by default, will include some information on the Commander (highest Elite rank, for example) but can also be edited if required.

The Squadron Leader (and Officers) will be able to see a list of all Commander applicants and, at this point, can send the applicants an invite. Both the invitee and inviter must be online at the same time for the invitation to be sent and accepted. This option to invite will also be available on other areas of the HUD where Commanders can select other Commanders, for example a Commander’s friend list.

We are currently considering capping Squadron membership at 250 Commanders, but we’re interested to hear your feedback on the matter.

Can I leave a Squadron?

Commanders can leave a Squadron at any time. If a leader chooses to leave a Squadron then they must pass the leadership mantle onto another Commander. If all members leave a Squadron then it will be disbanded and any assets the Squadron holds will also be lost.

The only time the leader can leave and not pass on the mantle of leader is when they are the last member to leave (and the Squadron is disbanded).

The Squadron hierarchy and privileges.

There are currently three classes of Squadron member. Frontier are looking at introducing a couple more of these to allow greater flexibility.

  • Leader: The Squadron Leader has all privileges and can set which privileges officers have.
  • Officer: The Officers have whatever privileges the leader has set for them.
  • Pilot: This is the standard level, and the majority of Squadron members will be pilots. They have whatever privileges the leader has set for them.

What privileges can the leader set?

The Squadron leader can set the following privileges:

  • Officers can invite Commanders into the Squadron (yes/no) (greyed out if new members cannot join)
  • Officers can kick Pilots from the Squadron (yes/no)
  • Officers can plot a jump for a Fleet Carrier (yes/no)
  • Officers can select purchase upgrades for a Fleet Carrier (yes/no)
  • Officers can set the ‘Message of the Day’ (yes/no)

This is the current list of privileges but we expect to add more as development progresses and we discover the need for them!

Squadron communication

One of the most important features that Squadrons adds is the ability for groups of Commanders to communicate with each other via text. This will largely be done by a new GUI cockpit screen which Frontier have said will be similar in size to the Commodities Market screen in the main game. This will have the following features:

  • Group Comms – A new feature that will be used by Squadrons is group comms, this will add channels and other functionality to the chat panel. When a Squadron is created, the Squadron channel and the Squadron officer channel (which is only available to Officers and the Leader) are automatically created and any Squadron members are added to the relevant channels. This allows Squadron members to communicate regardless of where they are in the galaxy.
  • The Feed – The Squadron overview page (which becomes available once a Commander joins a Squadron) will have a list of automated posts that are added to a feed. This feed will provide essential feedback on the Squadron, the fleet carrier and their activities. For example when a player joins the Squadron a message will automatically be added to the feed. The feed is limited to a certain amount of posts (amount TBD). Those members with the correct privileges will also be able to add a message of the day to the feed, the latest message will always remain stickied to the top of the feed. This provides a place for Officers to provides orders for the rest of the Squadron.

We are investigating the possibility of an external Squadrons website. We would love to hear what functionality you would like to see on a Squadrons website.

The Fleet Carrier

Squadrons will be able to possess a Fleet Carrier and this will be the discussion point in a future Focused Feedback discussion. So far this is known about Fleet Carriers.

  • Fleet Carrier will not be bought solely by the Squadron Leader (the issue of a Squadron bank will be talked about in a future focused discussion).
  • Moving fleet carriers can be moved providing the ship has the relevant resources to jump.
  • Carriers will be able to be upgraded.


Squadrons, Factions &
Notoriety 

We are aware that some groups will want to align their Squadron with a faction. We are currently looking at how we can make this work and allow Squadrons to ‘fly the flag’ of a faction. This is something we will be discussing during a latter Focused Feedback thread, so please avoid discussing this for now. Frontier will be discussing the issue of notoriety and Squadrons in a future feedback discussion.


> Exploration
>

Frontier have said that they will re-visit exploration and ‘build on the systems and processes by which exploration takes place with the aim of making exploration more engaging’. It was said this would also touch upon missions, commodities and resources. One new feature would be the Codex. This would not only log exploration discoveries but also act as an encyclopedia to give more depth and context to what you find as well as possibly hinting at other things that could be found in the galaxy. At Lavecon 2018 Sandro Sammarco gave some new information on one part of the Exploration update.

Frontier want to make exploration a satisfying process and include ‘cool things to find’.

  • The Detailed surface scanner will remain available to players but will be enhanced to allow players to launch probes at planets planets and rings whilst in super-cruise.
  • The probes will follow a partially guided orbit around the body you wish to scan and are affected by gravity, so the larger the mass of the body the more they will arc towards it. This will allow players to do ‘trick shots’ and lob them around the planet and by doing so return date from the far-side of the planet.
  • When they get close enough to the surface they will send back details from a larger area around them – the idea being that players ‘paint coverage of a body’.
  • Probes can be synthesised in the same way other items can be. Players if they wish can launch a high number to cover all the surface area of a body, however Frontier have said they will add ‘mechanical rewards’ for doing so in an efficient manner.
  • The use of the detailed surface scanner can be used by all players in a multi-crew ship, the idea being players can work together as a team to efficiently map stellar bodies. Multi-crew players will also receive increased payouts for exploration based activities.
  • Frontier will remove the need to eye-ball planets in order to make discoveries. Instead things such as Thargoid activity, brain trees etc. will be shown to the player so they can make an informed decision about whether they wish to be guided towards them either “through markers or a breadcrumb trail (to be decided).
  • Frontier are going to “seed the galaxy with a series of unique things to find”. These will be in the form of geological, biological, and other phenomena. Frontier showed a video of some form of lightening which you can see below or here.
  • The galaxy will be divided into regions to help you plot, in conjunction with the Codex, where the discoveries are.

> Mining
>

mining
Asteroid Blasting – Concept Art.

At Lavecon 2018 Mark Allen announced the following in respect to the upcoming mining changes in Chapter 4 of Beyond. You can read those initial comments below.

  • In addition to the current mining laser and prospector limpet there will be a suite of new tools available to players that will bring some significant changes to the process of discovering and mining asteroids.
  • One of these tools will be the use of probes fired by the detailed surface scanner, as mentioned in the exploration section above.
  • There will be a new in-ring scanning mechanism to help you find the most valuable asteroids and what they contain.
  • There will be new asteroid types containing new materials, some of which will require careful mining as it could cause the asteroid to break up.
  • Others will be beneath the surface and will require the new tools to extract them safely. Additionally some asteroids will need to be cracked wide open to get to the materials inside.
  • This will require the placement of blasting charges on the asteroid and with the use of the prospector limpet which will give information on where the weak points of the asteroid are in order to best set the blast charges.
  • This process will lead to increased payouts and the support of wings and multi-crew give the opportunity for one player to set the charges, another to collect the surface materials before it is blown up and a third player could prospect further asteroids in the ring.
  • Mining will also be a dangerous process with potentially some asteroids releasing dust to obscure your sensors, or corrosive materials to damage your ship. Others may violently explode risking damage from flying debris.
  • In some of the less explored areas there are “all sorts of other things you might find”. Frontier say these dangerous will be able to be mitigated by skilled players using the equipment correctly.

Then on the 21st June 2018 Frontier fleshed these details out via their focused feedback forum and games designer Barry Clark.


“For this Focused Feedback topic, we’ll be looking at an update for mining.

“When I say mining, I’m talking specifically about asteroids found in belts and rings. Currently, the extent of mining is shooting a big rock with a mining laser, so we’re looking to improve the activities available to those wishing to mine.

“Bear in mind that there won’t be any concrete detail on numbers here, and everything here may be subject to change as we develop the feature. This particular focus will be more about describing potential mechanics and ideas than anything else.”

“This update to mining will cover new ways for miners to interact with asteroids and gain resources from them. It’s worth mentioning early that this will be an additive update, we will not be taking away any of the current gameplay for miners. The standard mining laser will maintain its functionality on all asteroids, as will the prospector limpet (although this will also be gaining additional functionality).”

New stuff:

There will be 3 new types of resource “deposits” available to find in rings/belts:

Surface – dense areas of material on the surface of particular asteroids, needing to be carefully broken off to recover. Some concept art of these can be seen below.

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Sub-surface – high-yield deposits that sit just below the surface of an asteroid, requiring blasting charges to dig out

Deep core – an asteroid with a treasure trove of resources at its core, needing to be cracked open to reach.

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  • Each of these will provide increasingly better rewards/materials as a return for the increase in challenge and time
  • Each of these will be distributed within asteroid fields at a tiered rarity; surface being the most common, sub-surface being less so and deep core being the hardest to find
  • New modules will be available to mine these new deposit types, allowing us to introduce new gameplay based around each
  • Discovering and interacting with these deposits will be aided by using a new HUD mode called “Analysis Mode” and a new active scanner
  • Finally, the Prospector Limpet will be getting a small update within analysis mode, to help locate and highlight areas of interest on asteroids

The idea is to flesh out the role of the miner allowing room to specialise as well as giving options for the more casual mining participant.

HUNTING ASTEROIDS

To understand the new concepts, we’ll run through the flow of finding the asteroids with these new deposit types on. They will not be entirely visible when first entering an asteroid field, especially at range, and in most cases they will require some amount of investigation to locate.

Analysis mode

The first thing to talk about is Analysis Mode, a new HUD mode allowing players to locate these new deposits, as well as granting access to all the new modules and functionality.

  • Every ship will automatically gain this mode, no purchase or module is required to use it
  • Quickly switches between modes, so players can quickly adapt to situations as they arise
  • Will allow space for new HUD elements and avoid cluttering up the current cockpit HUD

This mode is still somewhat in flux at the moment (it’s a big change), so this is just a preview of the idea. Hopefully we’ll be able to fill in more details at a later date.

Medium range active scanner

Once in Analysis Mode, the first new mining module is the Medium Range Active Scanner (MRA Scanner). This scanner will allow players to locate deposits within an asteroid field:

Available in Analysis Mode

  • On triggering, it will fire out a scanning pulse from your ship, passing over any asteroids within range
  • Any asteroids in range that contain any of the 3 new types of deposit will be highlighted as the pulse passes over it
  • The highlights glow size will be defined by the distance from the ship; the further away the larger, more diffuse the glow, the closer the more focused and precise it will become

The MRA Scanner is created with an eye to introducing an amount of interpretive game play. Miners should be able to learn to interpret the information in this view, allowing them to become more effective over time.

Prospector limpet changes

Once a deposit has been located, getting more information and targeting data requires a Prospector Limpet to be used. Firing one into an asteroid will do the following:

  • Deposits and fissures (more on these later) will become targetable by your ship
  • Any deposits will be highlighted and any associated target elements/useful information will become available
  • Current prospector functionality will still be available

This is the only way to gain extra knowledge on particular deposit types, more on this later.

EXTRACTION PROCESS

Deposit type: surface

Surface deposits are dense outcrops of material that are partially visible on the asteroids surface. These require a new tool in order to crack and collect: the Abrasion Blaster.

  • A hardpoint module, usable in Analysis Mode
  • When active in a fire group, holding the trigger will charge up the Blaster, releasing the trigger will fire off a shot
-The shots strength will depend on how long the trigger is held for and each shot will reduce the health of a deposit by an amount
  • If a deposit gets below approximately 10% health, it will break off
  • If a shot would push a deposit below 0% health, it will be destroyed and the materials will be lost

For example, if a deposit has only 11% health remaining, firing a high charged shot into it would have a good chance of destroying it (by overkilling it).

To make this even more interesting, each deposit will have a density value, which affects the damage received per shot:

  • A Prospector Limpet can be used to give a general idea of the deposits density, otherwise it will be hidden from players
  • The shots strength will be multiplied by this density value, meaning denser deposits will take more power to dislodge, and weaker deposits will break off more easily
  • Care should be taken, as certain deposits can easily be destroyed in one shot if the strength is too high

Assuming destruction is avoided, the material will be dislodged and create a single collectable chunk.

  • Each chunk will consist of only one material
  • They will be a high percentage of that material
  • It will require a refinery in order to produce a cargo canister of that resource

Deposit type: sub-surface

Sub-surface deposits are materials hidden below the surface of an asteroid, too deep for the Abrasion Blaster to reach. In this case, a Sub-surface Displacement Missile is required.

  • A hardpoint module, usable in Analysis Mode with new HUD elements
  • Firing the missile acts similarly to the Flak Launcher, the button is held until a desired distance is reached, then released to detonate the warhead
  • It will fly the same as a standard flak round until it hits the surface of an asteroid, once it hits it will do the following:
  • Begin to drill into the asteroids surface
  • Drill for a set maximum time/to a set maximum depth and then detonate
  • If the player releases the trigger whilst it is drilling, the depth will determine what happens next

Hitting the surface of an asteroid, directly over a sub-surface deposit, a new HUD display will appear to help guide the player. As long as the trigger is held, there are 3 possible outcomes in this situation:

  • Miss – the detonation hit nothing of use
  • Proximity Hit – the detonation was close enough to the deposit to partially dislodge it, a second proximity hit (or direct hit) will dislodge it
  • Direct Hit – the detonation was spot on and the deposit will be instantly dislodged

The following is a (very) basic example representation of the new UI:

As the missile is drilling down, a bar will move from left to right. If it reaches the far right it will detonate automatically (maximum depth reached). Timing is required to get the resources out in one go, in order to avoid the secondary effects to detonating a Displacement Missile:

  • All sub-surface deposits on an asteroid will have an integrity/health value (we’re still investigating the best way to display this information); the lower the value, the lower the amount of its material that will be retrieved when blown out
  • Detonations inside of an asteroid will lower the health of all sub-surface deposits in it by an amount
  • If they hit 0% health, they will be destroyed and become unrecoverable
  • The first chunk blown out will always provide the largest return to players

Successfully dislodging a deposit will shoot out a small number of chunks to be collected. This can be collectible as per surface chunks, but in this case the health value will determine the percentage of the particular material in the chunk, the higher the health, the better the quality of the material that can be collected.

Deposit type: deep core

The final deposit type is the deep core deposit, this is the rarest and largest form of deposit and is actually more of a cluster of deposits rather than a single instance. It requires players to crack open the asteroid to reach. To do this, Seismic Charge Warheads are required to break it without destroying the deposit inside.

  • This asteroid type will look like a normal asteroid
  • It will have fissures on the surface that must be used to crack it open
  • Using a Prospector Limpet will make these fissures targetable

Seismic charges need to be fired into fissures and detonated in order to break it open and reach the deposits inside:

  • A hard-point module, usable in Analysis Mode
  • Holding the trigger will set the level of charge: low, medium or high
  • Releasing the trigger will fire the warhead, as a dumb-fire projectile
  • When they strike an asteroid, they will embed themselves into the rock
  • Once a charge hits an asteroid, it activates and a timer to detonation will begin
  • There are fail-safe systems on the charges, hitting something triggers the timer & enforces detonation, so highly dangerous mining charges cannot remain active within asteroid fields
  • Cockpit warnings will be given to players whenever an active seismic charge is within “danger close” range of their ship
  • Hitting a fissure will cause the charge to embed into the rock, missing will cause the charge to bounce off
  • Targeting the charge will display the time to detonation
  • Any further warheads that are fired into other fissures on the same asteroid will be synched up and detonate at the end of that initial timer
  • (TBD) The will be a way to disarm/render charges inert, using the data link

Once the timer reaches zero all charges will detonate, and depending on the charge level set & the quality of the fissure, each warhead will do a set amount of structural damage to the asteroid. All warheads will be added together to create a total, which will determine whether the asteroid will break open.

  • Fissure quality can be varied and will only appear once a Prospector Limpet is used on the asteroid
  • Fissure quality will act as a multiplier to the charge strength of the Seismic Charge fired into it
  • WARNING: the detonation of these charges creates a sizeable destruction radius around the asteroid, which will cause heavy damage to any ships caught in the blast
  • There will be supporting HUD elements that will warn the player of the risks and the calculated safety distance.

To help players judge how many warheads they require to break open any asteroid, a predictive wave-form HUD will attempt to assess the seismic charges effect on the asteroids structure:

  • When the first seismic charge in an asteroid activates, this wave form display will appear
  • Each active warhead will push the wave up based on its destructive value (seismic charge x fissure quality
  • The wave will take a small amount of time to settle each time a new charge is set
  • The target is to get the wave within the top (approximately) 10% of the graph; below this amount and the asteroid will not crack, above this and the contents will be destroyed

Finally, each of these deep core asteroids will have an integrity value, chosen from a range of values for that particular type of asteroid; Icy, Rocky and Metallic. This will be invisible to players, but will create variety amongst the different types of asteroid in the game.

Not managing to crack open the asteroid will have a negative effect on its integrity, and ruin the fissures used. Details are still to be determined on this, so no more on this just yet.

Once cracked open, inside will be a plethora of collectable chunks & surface deposits that can be gathered up, and will give by far the most materials out of all 3 of the new deposit types.


> Planetary Changes & Lighting
>

The quarter four update will also see the introduction of some new technology in the game. Specifically this will be a new global lighting model for the entire game affecting both planetary surfaces and how lighting is seen in space. Additionally Frontier will re-work their ‘scatter-rock’ technology. This is the way the system displays both rocks and boulders on the planetary surfaces. This will hopefully give a greater variety in the size, shape, scale and forms of rocks on the surfaces. The hope is that this will make the ‘environments more compelling to navigate’. They will also look at localised ambient affects for both fog and vapour which will bring ‘an increased depth to the visuals’ in the game.

At Lavecon 2018 Frontier showed some more details regarding changes to the lighting model. Part of the challenge for Frontier’s art team is to “curate the look of the game” throughout its large game area. As a result they have developed some tools to help them do a better job of adapting the contrast, toning and exposure as well as adding a post effect on top of it. This will enhance the “look, feel, mood and tone of the game” and allow surfaces to be coloured for the various sun temperatures in the game. The lighting changes will affect all parts of the game and below are some examples of these changes showing the current lighting against adaptive lighting and adaptive with colour grade lighting.

 

 

 

 

At Frontier Expo 2017 they released this concept art image showing how they would like to progress the game visually in terms of surface changes to ice planets.

iceicebaby

Then at LaveCon 2018 they showed a short video showing just a small part of the changes (made to the shaders) on some ice planets. You can see the video below