There are a number of big ticket items along with many quality of life fixes in the works for the next regular update of Elite: Dangerous (E:D). All of which can be read and studied here.
That being said, I am going to mostly focus on two big items. The first is important to the ongoing story of the Thargoid activity and reveal. The second is a major change that could prove to drive an even greater wedge between two major player groups in E:D.
The notes have been intentionally vague again concerning the alien menace. In the vol 188 news letter Frontier Development (FD) warned pilots: “Remember, The Return will play out different to previous updates as it focuses largely around narrative, so a large amount of what you’ll see in 2.4, The Return won’t be included in the Beta change log.” The statement in and of itself isn’t all that odd on its face; however it is a change from the previous tones set for other content patches where FD didn’t resort to much smoke and hand waving to prepare a surprise.
For my vote, the breadcrumbs that we have been given, along with the name of the release, make the next step ridiculously obvious. We have had the Salome book, the trailer hints, and the “RETURN” as the title. Come on now FD, how thick do you think we are. In fact it almost makes me worry that the note in the newsletter is FD trying to temper expectations or stall for time on content that they don’t want to admit isn’t ready.
Only time will tell.
Now onto the second item which I fear is going to be a big deal. For a long time, there have been two big extremes of thought in E:D. There are players who believe that the game should be as ultra immersive as possible – even at the expense of having a fun an engaging game. Then there is the group that wants the game to be a quick action content sim with as little of the grind as possible.
As always, reality is somewhere in the middle. FD has thrown bones from time to time to one or another of these groups. Well, in this case there is a major shift towards the grind. In 2.4 E:D is doing away with a major mechanic that many players used to combat the grind called mission stacking.
Mission stacking is where a player could, through mission board manipulation, get a large number of missions to more or less do the same thing. The player would go out to do that thing and all of the missions would be completed at the same time. So a player could basically satisfy 20 missions at a time for their substantial rewards, thus greatly cutting down grind time.
In 2.4 however, those missions more or less require pilots to do the same action each time to get credit. So if you have 20 missions, you have to repeat the same action 20 times to fulfill all of them. In my opinion, this kind of feels right in so much that to get it to work players had to log in and out over and over to get the mission board to cooperate in the first place. So the fix in this “loop hole” kind of passes the smell test. That being said the grind is far too painful to ignore the impact of this adjustment.
Elite is a game where a player can literally spend thousands of hours. I am over 1500, pretty casual, and not really be getting ahead of the curve in terms of funds and equipment. If FD wants to have a healthy community balanced between the forces of self flagellation and the forces of instant gratification, they will need to find something to push the ball back a bit towards making money and moving on with things again.