Elite: Dangerous – The Engineers

Love them or Hate them they are now an integral part of out-fitting your ship. Who would build an explorer-conda and not have a grade 5 upgrade on the FSD!  There was much gnashing of teeth when they were released and a dislike of the RNG nature and one-armed bandit style mechanic.

When the mechanic first came out, many people who had been playing since Alpha rushed to acquire the materials for engineer upgrades. This rush to get the latest shiny probably tarnished the mechanic in some people’s eyes. In my eyes the Engineers is supposed to allow you to gently tweak your ships as you progress, not be done all at once. That is why people didn’t like the engineers because of the rush and the earning of rarer materials.  It’s a process which rewards time spent playing. If you are just looking for certain bits for an upgrade it can seem infuriating. For example If you need Modular Terminals and your hunting for them they can be a cause of pain. Or they have been abundant until you need them then they become scarce. Knowing that you have been selling that one item you now need because you didn’t want it cluttering up your cargo hold. Another problem was the amount of drawback’s for each blueprint. For example the overcharged Multi-Cannon, the bonus was improved DPS, but the  negative effects where Thermal load, reduced accuracy and increased power draw.

With the update ‘The Guardians’ the drawback of not officially been able to transfer an upgraded module has been removed by the ability to store modules in a station. The release also gave more data types relating to alien architectures, which at present is not used in a blueprint, maybe something for later down the line…

With materials and data you can acquire them as you  play with no real need to worry about what you are acquiring because of their special storage. The only real tasks to be aware of is keeping the common items stacks at a low-level, you don’t want to end up with 100 iron or nickel and not been able to pick up polonium when you come across this rare item needed for “jumponium.” When running missions if I see any firmware acquiring missions I always do these just because they seem to be a very low spawning commodity. I have not done any base data hacking, but I should add this type of mission to my to do-list. Another detail that greatly improved looking for materials was the addition on the system map of the minerals you could find on the surface of planets. I spent ages looking for Polonium at one point, not cause I needed it at the time, but I was exploring and it gave me a goal for all my planetary exploration. I try very hard not to just look up things directly, I didn’t want to know exactly which planet to search, that for me removes the fun out of things. This was before I knew about the Galnet news at the engineers that points you in the direction of local planets that contain minerals.

I love crafting and the engineers is E:D’s version, I like the fact that I can be just pottering around and still pick up minerals and data without going out-of-the-way to ‘grind’ for certain items. Every endeavor in Elite rewards you with materials, the only classic way of gaining resources I would say is when your hunting nodes in your SRV, on a planetary/moon surface.


Once you get to the point that you want to upgrade your item and have all the resources required, it’s not a quick and easy process. There is an amount of RNG to the upgrade process, but generally the better the buff the bigger the nerf unless you get lucky with secondary effects. Then for weapons there is a slight chance of gaining an experimental , in the above picture I gained incendiary rounds for my Cobra which is very nice shame it is only a grade 1 upgrade. It does feel like it’s RNG stacked on RNG stacked on RNG, by which I mean primary, secondary and then experimental rolls. For example in STO if I want to get the best beam laser which is a mark XIV epic, I take a mark  XII rare, I put in a chunk of materials and it slowly improves in quality with a small chance in improving in rarity. But that small chance of improving increases the more materials I put into upgrading. But once I upgrade I know what my stats will become. It’s a resource sink but I know the outcome, but in elite it’s a resource sink, I don’t know the outcome and have to get lucky with the roll of the dice multiple times to get an outcome that I desire. With STO the upgrades are time gated by using a resource that you can gain a maximum of 8000 a day each upgrade can cost a few thousand of these resources for each try. It might take over 20 attempts to go from a MK XIV very rare to a Mk XIV epic, you might have 8 weapons on a cruiser to upgrade. But with STO you know what you are getting with the input of your resources, unlike with Elite, you have a chance at getting an improvement but that improvement is very vague.

For me the engineer though I like the idea of upgrading my ship just screams game-mechanic, how to keep people playing a game. Time gating the upgrade process is important that you don’t get the best upgrades within an hour of so of starting to play.  But the way the engineers are displayed just reminds me of a one arm bandit, you pump the resources in hopping to get all the gold bars. The idea behind the engineers feels to me more about the underlying game mechanic than making the experience worthwhile.

I will give a few examples. Before computer controlled engines if I wanted to improve performance there where a few simple things to do. Probably the easiest was to shove on an aftermarket air filter. A nice shiny K & N air filter might improve HP by about 5, not a great deal but a significant jump. If I want my computer to run cooler, I would add a water cooler, with the side effect that my system is quieter. If I want to reduce the noise even further on my computer I buy a case with sound deadening lining. So I now have a computer that runs cooler and quieter and draws less power because I’ve reduced the CPU temperature and VRM’s by about 15 degrees. Using this example air cooling would cost about £30 but liquid cooling costs about £100. I didn’t know the exact result I would get for using liquid cooling but I had a fair idea of the temperature range. Now if I wanted to increase the speed of my processor, I could do a small increase addin cycles and voltage that would just increase the temperature, if I pushed the speed higher eventually I could increase the pump speed and fans therefore increasing the noisebut keeping the cpu cool.  Taking the level back to what it would be at air cooling but with an improved performance. Going back to the car another way to improve performance with modern cars is to alter the computer timings, get the best performance you can, performance been speed, it ruins fuel efficiency your car drinks fuel but you get to go very fast. If you are really daring rich and brave, you can take a car, put NOX in there and get massive performance increase for a short period of time but with inherent dangers and massive wear on the engine. All these real world examples of upgrading something, this is what we are doing with our space pixels. If Frontier had delivered the Engineers with less of the mechanics showing, less obvious RNG, people would have not feel so cheated with engineering their ships. Even if they went as far as removing the bouncing bars as you find out what improvement you’re getting, hide the mechanic. Players don’t want to see that the random buff they are getting is tied to direct nerfs in other systems. Well I don’t, I’m suspending my disbelief, I am Cmdr Utah Santiago, flying through the galaxy taking odd jobs and running cargo/data for many syndicates, avoiding pirates and rival syndicates. I’d rather be left  in my immersion while I play and not be brought out of my fun by a Las Vegas roulette wheel.

The engineers feed my need to collect resources just like in Skyrim or Fallout 4, getting the best modules/weapons like in Borderlands. It’s delivery is just lacking in my humble opinion and for a game that delivers so many great things it just feels wrong that the RNG mechanic is so obvious and is seen as a benefit to the game. I doubt that Frontier will ever remove that part of the Engineers with the bouncing bars, because to them it’s a great design, for me every time I use the engineers it will always just jolt me out of immersion and taint my enjoyment slightly. I don’t have to use engineers, but the game is designed around the use of engineers to improve important parts of your ship performance. If I dont tweak the speed of my Cobra, I will come across a player in open who wants to kill me and I wont be able to run away. They will have a faster ship, with better shields and improved weapons, I could not play in open for this reason, but then again NPC’s get the benefit of Engineer mods. It’s all just food for thought really.

See you on the other side…


About tothebreach

Gaming both on the PC and the Xbox One general game chat and including guides and coaching.
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