Elite Dangerous has a massive scope and Frontier Developments have ambitious development plans. Frontier takes an iterative approach to Elite Dangerous content, gradually building upon features to expand and improve the game.
During an interview at Lavecon 2015, David Braben stated that he had a clear intention of a 10 year development plan for the game, which includes smaller free updates, paid major updates, and expansions. On March 1, 2019, Frontier stated they have a continued and unwavering commitment to making Elite Dangerous the most authentic, ambitious, and expansive evolving space game in the world.
Below is an overview of updates and expansions, both released and planned.
- 1 Season 1: Post-Launch
- 2 Season 2: Horizons
- 3 Season 3: Beyond
- 4 2019-2020 Updates
- 5 Season 4: Odyssey
- 6 Roadmap
- 7 10 Year Development Plan
- 8 Lifetime Expansion Pass
- 9 Developer Comments
- 10 Development Team
- 11 Elite Dangerous Sequel
- 12 Related Links
- 13 Videos
- 14 Gallery
- 15 References
Season 1: Post-Launch
The first season added various new features and content. It was released after Elite Dangerous launched on December 16, 2014 through 2015. Notable features are:
- 1.1 Community Goals
- 1.2 Wings
- 1.3 Powerplay
- 1.4 CQC
- 1.5 Ships expansion added many new ships
- 1.6 Mission System
- New mission types
- Module storage
- Beautiful station interiors
- New navigation filters
- Ship transfer
Season 2: Horizons
Elite Dangerous: Horizons is the second season of expansions for Elite Dangerous. It introduced a variety of new features and gameplay content. Horizons v2.0 was released on PC on the 15th of December 2015. Subsequent major updates were released in 2016 and 2017. The most notable are:
- Planetary Landings on airless planets and moons
- Ship Launched Fighters
- Passenger transport
- Camera Suite
For detailed information about this season see the Horizons page.
Season 3: Beyond
Elite Dangerous: Beyond is the third season of expansions planned for Elite Dangerous through the year of 2018. The main focus is core gameplay, existing features, quality of life and other improvements. Beyond updates are free for all Horizons owners. The most notable are:
- New ships: Alliance Challenger, Alliance Chieftain, Alliance Crusader, Krait MkII, Krait Phantom, Mamba
- New hybrid fighters: XG7 Trident, XG8 Javelin, XG9 Lance
- New weapons
- GalNet Audio: text-to-audio feature for GalNet reports
- Wing Missions
- Planet tech improvements: Planetary Visual Improvements
- Revised trade data in the Commodities Market and Galaxy Map
- Engineers improvements and 4 new Engineers in the Colonia Region
- Material Traders
- Technology Brokers
- Crime & Punishment improvements: Notoriety, Advanced Tactical Response, Detention Centres
- Megaship and Installation activities
- Guardian Beacons, new Guardian Structure layouts, and new Guardian tech modules
- Pirate Activity Detected signal sources for challenging combat
- Improved Lighting Model with adaptive lighting, color grades, fog and god rays
- Scenario Missions
- Mining gameplay improvements, including Hotspots and new mining modules
- Exploration gameplay improvements, including Notable Stellar Phenomena, Galactic regions, and new scanners
- Streamlined cockpit layout and interface with new Combat Mode and Analysis Mode
- Orrery Mode in the System Map
- Night Vision
- Codex, which tracks discoveries and includes the lore-rich Knowledge Base
- Incursions and AX Conflict Zones
For detailed information about this season of updates see the Beyond page.
Over the course of 2019 and 2020, in between Season 3 and Season 4, Frontier Developments planned a series of smaller content updates with various quality of life improvements: the April Update, September Update, January Update, and Fleet Carriers Update. Notable changes and additions include:
- The Pilots' Federation District
- Advanced Docking Computer & Supercruise Assist modules
- The Pilot's Handbook
- Interstellar Initiatives
- Revamped training and challenge tutorial missions
- New starter Sidewinder MkI tutorial mission
- Integration of the web-based Frontier Store into the game itself
- Livery can be previewed within the Store and managed from the main menu
- ARX currency introduced for Livery purchases
- Various bug fixes and minor quality of life improvements
- The Drake-Class Carrier
- The ability to queue for CQC matchmaking within the main game mode
- The merging of Elite Dangerous: Horizons into the base game
- Re-balancing of the profitability of mining, trading, combat, and exploration
Season 4: Odyssey
- atmospheric landings on planets with tenuous atmospheres. The old planets have refreshed visuals.
- Explore planets and moons by walking in first person
- Public outposts and settlements
- Take on contracts
- Multiple play styles: diplomacy, commerce, stealth, first-person combat and more.
- Explore with unrestricted freedom.
- Diverse settings, objectives and NPCs
- NPCs offer endless mission variety and a near infinite amount of content to enjoy
- Social hubs
- Form alliances
- Procure services and support from Engineers.
- Personal weapons
- Gear: jet pack etc.
- New spacesuit
- Coordinate with teammates
- Multi-layered, tactical environment with commanders, SRVs and starships.
- No virtual reality support at launch
The expansions will include significant new features such as seamless freeform (manual pitch/yaw/roll) atmospheric flight and landings (atmospheric landings) and on-foot and out-of-ship activities (space legs) such as FPS combat, walking around and boarding ships, walking in stations and walking and driving vehicles on entire 1:1 scale populated living planets (procedural cities) with multi-player crew and player executive controlled capital ships.
Frontier said "we plan to follow that same incremental development philosophy that we’ve done throughout our Alpha and Beta phases, and continue to significantly enhance the game via further expansions post-launch."
Frontier intends to release small, free updates after launch. Expansions that include significant new features and content will have to be purchased.
- Landing / driving / prospecting on airless rocky planets, moons & asteroids- this was added with Elite Dangerous: Horizons, see Planetary Landings.
- Walking around interiors and combative boarding of other ships. - see Space Legs.
- Combat and other interactions with other players and AIs in the internal areas of star ports
- Accessing richly detailed planetary surfaces - see Atmospheric Landings and Procedural Cities.
- Availability of giant ‘executive control’ ships to players. - see Capital Ships.
The scope of Elite is huge, so a sensible strategy is used to add to the game in stages. "The core release of the game focuses on the ships and space. We'll then be working to expand the game. This includes exploring your ship and space stations. The potential content for Elite is huge, so we're keeping a sensible strategy to add to the game in stages."
Keep in mind that the game has been well planned and designed from the start with all these features in mind (it is not an afterthought) and Frontier Developments already has the technology for this.
David Braben commented in an AMA on 11 April 2017: “I don’t think people liked having to pay for multiple updates in one go, so that is something we are going to move away from. At this end of the ‘season’ it makes sense, as people can see the huge number of features we are delivering, but it makes for a higher price.”
10 Year Development Plan
During the 2016 Elite Dangerous 24 Hour Charity Livestream! David Braben confirmed a 10 year development plan and he hopes it'll be a lot longer than that. "Looking back at those (developer videos), you can see what we've done, we're executing on the plan. There's still a lot of things that are to come and those are very exciting. We do have a long plan. It would take us a long time to deliver all the things that we want to do. The great thing is the more things get added to the end of it. So it may well be never ending. I've said sort of 8 years, 10 years, but actually it could end up and I'm hoping it'll be a lot longer than that. The key point is we'll keep doing exciting things and we'll work out how best to do that."
Lifetime Expansion Pass
The LEP was included for Kickstarter backers who purchased the £80 "Digital Download Pack" tier in 2012. It was also available during the pre-launch beta period in 2014 and for a final time from August 6, 2015 to September 14, 2015.
On 12 March 2015 David Braben said: "We’ve said things like going down to planet surfaces, walking around inside your spaceship, getting out of your ship, all of those things would be part of paid updates. And we would phase it, we wouldn’t necessarily do them as part of one big thing, there would be multiple over time. Cause each of those, if you think of the work to do each one, it’s a major new-game-level of content. And so we’re just trying to take that seriously. We don’t want to do half-baked solutions."
On 20 March 2015 David Braben was asked about the long roadmap ahead and he said: "Well I'm very excited. I've said over a long time I'm very excited about some features that we will do down the road including things like landing on planets, walking around inside your spaceship, getting out of your spaceship, all of those things I think are very very exciting and obviously those are in the long-term roadmap."
26 July 2018, Braben said "We’ve continued to support and nurture the existing franchises. Elite Dangerous has continued to grow, the team size is actually getting bigger. The plan was – beyond the current season for Elite, which is mostly announced – there are a lot of things that we will be announcing that are really exciting, some of which will be free, some of which will be paid."
This is a traders quote from the investment firm Liberum in 2019 "The company is working on a number of exciting updates for both franchies and our expectation is that we could see a big refresh release of ED in FY20, five years after launch (we expect Elite Dangerous to be closing in on £100m of life-time revenue by the end of this financial year)."
On 26 May 2017, Frontier's Lloyd Morgan-Moore said "The Elite Dangerous team is over a hundred people strong."
On 31 August 2018, Zac Antonaci reaffirmed that more than 100 people are working on Elite Dangerous"The Beyond season was always something that we wanted to do in order to bring even more enhancements to the core experience of Elite and being able to dedicate a full development team (over 100 people!) for a full year of free content was specifically to gear ourselves up to support our long term vision for the game."
On 27 September 2018, a small group of community guests visited the Frontier headquarters in Cambridge to check features of Beyond Chapter Four. Vingtetun said: "For the record, yes, the numbers of people working JUST on ED are what they say, their other games were on other floors and no, jobs like HR and finance etc staff weren't part of that number. It was all people actively working on Elite. Compared to my last visit, they aren't kidding when they say the team has never been bigger. The sweeping improvements and changes have satisfied me that they haven't been idle in the last year of the free 'Beyond' update."
Elite Dangerous Sequel
In an interview with PCGN at E3 2018, Frontier's founder and CEO, David Braben, said that while he would not rule out a sequel to the deep-space adventure, fans should not expect to see anything on that topic soon.
Braben said “the world has changed. We’re coming to the end of the fourth year of Elite Dangerous.” That's “a wonderful place to be in,” but “isn’t to say there won’t be something at some point.” A sequel is a “long time off and there is lots to do in the Elite Dangerous world.”
- The Future of Elite: Dangerous
- Elite: Dangerous - Development Plan video
- Q&A about Development Plan
- In-depth Yahoo interview with David Braben about the scope of Elite.
- In-depth Edge article with David Braben and Jonny Watts about the scope of Elite.
- Important Community Update (01/03)
- Frontier Forums: April Update - Coming 23 April 2019
- Frontier Forums: Lavecon 2019 Content Reveal
- Frontier Forums: Elite Dangerous: Horizons Set to Land for All Commanders
- Frontier Forums: Game Balancing
- Frontier Forums: Community Update (01/05)
- Elite Dangerous: Odyssey Announcement
- Frontier talks about Elite's new on-foot exploration update, Odyssey
- Frontier live stream on Twitch, June 4, 2020.
- Elite Dangerous Newsletter #29
- Elite: Dangerous Development Plan
- Frontier’s Next Game To Be Unveiled in Late 2018/Early 2019; Elite Dangerous Is Getting Exciting Things - July 26, 2018
- Elite Dangerous 24 Hour Charity Livestream! Part 1! 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KS33cyq6Z_A&t=21m00s
- Interview: David Braben On Fan Anger And Expectations
- Elite: Dangerous - David Braben Interview, Gamereactor, 5:20
- Frontier's Financial Position and the Future of Elite Dangerous