Elite Dangerous has been dangling the tantalising space carrot of 16-person Fleet Carriers for three years now, but finally, following a succession of lengthy delays, they're almost here - and developer Frontier has offered a closer look in a brand-new livestream and trailer.
Fleet Carriers, which were initially planned for 2018's Beyond update, are described as "mobile starships and trading hubs capable of transporting multiple allies", and can accommodate up to 16 players, thanks to their eight large, four medium, and four small landing pads.
While they have the potential to be a bustling hive of social activity for multiple space pals, Fleet Carriers are owned and piloted by a single Commander - one who'll need to cough up 5,000,000,000 credits for the privilege of owning the basic model, although that does include a Commodity Market and a Tritium Depot for the price.
Frontier has, of course, outlined Fleet Carriers' basic utilities previously - and has now gone into considerably more detail in its latest hour-long developer livestream - but you'll find the key elements, and a brisk trailer, below, for those in need of a quick refresher.
Owners can, for example, tailor a Fleet Carrier's abilities to suit their preferred play style by deploying various Optional Services. It's also possible to set landing permissions, spruce them up with premium cosmetics, even make a jump of up to 500 light years, although that requires gathering Tritium fuel, mineable from asteroids or purchasable from starports.
Those wealthy enough to acquire a Fleet Carrier will also need to have a solid pile of cash in reserve; there are weekly maintenance fees for operating the vessels, with Optional Services contributing to running costs, as does restocking, purchasing commodities from visitors, and more. Thankfully, owners can get some supplementary income by charging for onboard services or by selling goods to visitors.
And if you're wondering what happens if you can't afford your weekly fees, well it's not good news I'm afraid. Get far enough behind on your payments and your Fleet Carrier could well be decommissioned, which sounds like an entirely monumental pain in the arse. Frontier does insist, however, that smart revenue generation strategies, and minimising services to reduce running costs, should go some way to preventing that eventuality.
If you fancy taking a look at Fleet Carriers, they'll be available as part of Frontier's PC beta from Tuesday, 7th April, and a second beta for PC and console players is currently planned for May. All being well, a full launch will take place in June, at which point your thrilling journey toward absolute destitution will commence.