[source: Rexly Peñaflorida - TomsHardware]
At PAX Prime, Frontier Development’s executive producer Ben Dowie provided some details about the Planetary Landings feature coming as part of Elite: Dangerous’ Horizons expansion. With the months dwindling down to Horizons’ release later this year, the development team revealed more about the transition from outer space to the surface of a planet in its weekly newsletter.
Prior to touchdown, Dowie said that a sub-orbital speed will slow down the ship for an easy and safe landing, but in fact, the process goes through stages before your ship makes its mark on the planet. After entering a new system, your ship enters supercruise speed to quickly travel around the area, but once you get close to a planet, the ship will automatically stop to prevent crashing to its surface.
In Horizons, this will change with a new module automatically attached to your ship, which slows it down to a new speed called Orbital Cruise at a certain altitude. At this height, you’ll still be able to zip around the planet at high speeds if you’re scouting for a suitable area to land. In terms of the UI, it will also change to show the height limit for Orbital Cruise.
Go below a certain mark on the screen during Orbital Cruise, and you’ll immediately switch to surface speed. Prior to landing, the plane will change its movements based on the planet’s gravity as well as your thrusters compensating to stay airborne to avoid crashing. The UI also changes once again to show information such as altitude and pitch.
At the moment, players can land only on various starports that orbit planets. However, implementing these docking areas are easier compared to the gargantuan size of planets. The challenge now for the developers is to make the transition from supercruise to surface landing a seamless experience. In the following weeks, more details about interaction on the surface will also come to light — specifically, the landing process and how to set up a defensive base against enemy players.