Elite Dangerous' long-awaited 16-person Fleet Carriers, which have seen plentiful delays since their unveiling back in 2017, are finally almost ready to launch and will be entering a period of beta testing for PC players later this month.
Fleet Carriers - which were initially set to arrive as part of 2018's Beyond update before they were "reprioritised" by developer Frontier - are capital ships designed to act as a base of operations for large, organised Squadrons
Described as "mobile starships and trading hubs capable of transporting multiple allies", Fleet Carriers have a jump range of 500 light years and feature 16 landing pads to accommodate a full complement of players. They can be owned and piloted single Commander, but don't come cheap, setting players back an eye-watering 5,000,000,000 credits.
Dedicated players that manage to scrape together sufficient space cash will be able to customise their mega-vessels to suit their preferred play style, and have the option to invest in and open services including repair docks, refuelling stations, shipyards, and more.
Notably, Fleet Carriers introduce player-to-player commerce, enabling Carrier owners to set tariffs on all goods traded through onboard services. That money'll come in handy for covering weekly upkeep costs, ship maintenance, and crew wages, and to purchase Tritium, a new fuel commodity required to power megaships.
Frontier stresses that it's vital for Fleet Carrier owners to plan and balance their finances in order to cover running costs, as persistent debt exceeding the debt threshold may see carriers decommissioned and sold for parts. So basically, don't stop playing Elite Dangerous, ever.
Fleet Carriers are expected to finally go live on all platforms in June this year, but those wishing to experience them ahead of release (which sounds like it could be the only opportunity some players will have, given Fleet Carriers' spectacularly prohibitive costs), can join in Frontier's initial beta on 7th April. That's for PC players only, but a second beta, currently scheduled for May, will fling the doors open for Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
More details will be shared on Frontier's special Fleet-Carrier-focussed livestream, which kicks off next Thursday, 2nd April at 6pm GMT/11am PST.
Alongside work on Fleet Carriers, Frontier is currently preparing Elite Dangerous' mysterious next "major milestone" update for release in the latter half of this year, which it previously described as "a defining moment in the history of the game".