Elite Dangerous has been out for just over a month, and while it isn't quite as belligerently opaque as something like Eve Online, there are certainly esoteric elements that can make the game quite hard to get to grips with. Thank goodness for the Christmas break, then, and a chance to wrap our heads around the finer details of life in space.
Based on that experience, we've put together a guide to Elite that will give you all the information you need to get out there, and get sampling all of the core activities in the game. We're not covering every facet of the game in minute detail, as there are plenty of detailed guides out there for those who wish to dig deeper, but if you work through all of the items covered in this article you'll get a quick taste of what the game's about, and what might tickle your fancy in the long run.
On this page
Elite Dangerous - Getting to grips with the cockpit panels
Elite Dangerous - how to travel within and between star systems
A quick guide to travelling between different star systems, making journeys within those systems, and getting in and out of Stations safely.
Elite Dangerous - how to use maps and plan routes
How to scope out space using the game's map systems, use Elite's route-planning tools, and generally make your way from over here to over there.
Elite Dangerous - how to make money from missions
Making the most of the game's mission system to make the most money.
Elite Dangerous - dogfighting and combat survival
How to get to grips with the basics of dogfighting in Elite Dangerous, and live to fight another day.
Elite Dangerous - trading tips and tricks
A quick guide to the science of tracking down cheap goods, finding lucrative markets to offload them in, and making profit as efficiently as possible.
Elite Dangerous - how to make money
Bored of missions? Here's a quick run-down of some of the other profitable ways of making money in the game.
Elite Dangerous - how to smuggle goods and get started with piracy
Bored of being nice? There are dark arts a-plenty in Elite Dangerous.
Elite Dangerous - how to choose the best ship and upgrade it
A handy reference guide to all of the ships currently available in the game, and which areas of the game each one excels at.
Mastering the Elite Dangerous UI
Getting around the UI in Elite Dangerous takes a little getting used to but it soon becomes second-nature. By default, you use 1 and 4 to open up your left and right-hand cockpit panels respectively. The right-hand panel is very specific to the ship you're flying right now, while the one on the left focuses more on the bigger picture - getting around the galaxy, finding contacts and so on.
Slap bang in the middle of your ship are some very important additional elements. Over on the far left you can see the details of your current location, while just to the right of that is a representation of your current target. Objects like Stations will appear here, with arrows indicating the entrance bay. When targeting a star for the purposes of travel, it'll appear as a dot - solid and bright when it's directly in front of you, and dim when it's to your rear.
In the centre of your dashboard is your radar scanner which helps you keep track of local celestial objects, be they little bits of mining ore or enemy ships. To the right of this is a representation of your ship and its hull integrity. To the right of that is an indicator of where ship power is currently being focused, while you can check whether your landing gear or cargo scoop has been deployed to the far right of the screen. If Mass Locked is lit up, this means you're too close to a massive celestial object to engage your star-drive - get further away and try again when the light goes out.
Here's a closer look at the other two main panels to consider.
Using the left-hand Target panel
Press 1 to bring up the left-hand element of your ship's control panel. You can cycle through the different tabs with Q and E, while the WASD keys move you around within each tab. Hit the Spacebar to choose an option. Trust us, it gets more intuitive with practise.
1. Navigation - This is where you'll look up interesting star systems, plot a course to reach them and investigate local oddities (see our guide to navigation for more information).
2. Transactions - Here you'll find details of any missions you've taken, fines you owe, or any bounty claims you can make.
3. Contacts - Use this to lock onto various ships and objects in space, and request docking at space stations.
4. Sub-Targets - If your prey has sub-targets that you can zero in on, you'll find them detailed here.
5. Cargo - Assuming you have the technology to do so, this is where you'll see the results of any cargo scans you perform on a target ship.
Making sense of the right-hand System panel
Hit 4 to bring up the right-hand panel which focuses mainly on the nitty-gritty details of the ship you're flying right now. Once again it's Q and E to cycle left and right through the different tabs, WASD to move around in each tab, and Spacebar to select an option.
1. Status - This default tab gives you a basic overview of your progress through Elite's professions, the repurchase cost of your ship should you accidentally blow it up, and details of your standing with Elite's various factions.
2. Modules - Beginners should probably leave this section of the interface alone for now, but you can manage system priorities here, should you find yourself short on power for whatever reason. One to worry about later on.
3. Fire Groups - You can assign different weapons and utility hardware to different attacking groups. Useful when you want to pop your scanner on using one mouse button, and your lasers with another.
4. Cargo - This simply displays what's currently sat in your cargo hold. If you fail a mission in space, make sure you jettison any goods you were given before going near authorities. The goods become classified as stolen, and they won't like you for it.
5. Functions - If there are certain functions you use infrequently enough that you can't be bothered to keybind them, you can manually activate or deactivate them using this list.